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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/21/15

Guests: Sen. Chris Coons, Kathleen Parker; Rep. Steve King, Ryan Grim, AnneGearan, Bob Woodward

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No more bidin` his time. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Philadelphia. Joe Biden wants to run for president. He made clear today that he dearly wants to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. What is stopping him, he said today in the White House Rose Garden, is not the commitment but the timing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I`ve said all along what I`ve said time and again to others, that it may very well be that that process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president -- that it might close. I`ve concluded it has closed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Biden said the clock simply ran out to mount a successful campaign. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    BIDEN: Unfortunately, I believe we`re out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination. But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So it`s simply too late. If it weren`t too late, he said - - he made it crystal clear today -- he`d be in there defending the Obama record against anyone, including Hillary, who tries breaking with it, hedging on it, trimming in her fidelity by an iota. Yes, Joe Biden showed a lot of attitude today. He took a shot at those who treat him as "middle class Joe," who say he`s not sophisticated enough. He took a shot at those Democrats who call Republicans enemies and all those who depend on super-PACs. You could argue that his attack lines were not directed exclusively at Hillary Clinton. You cannot argue that his lines did not include Hillary as the target, starting with the threat to call out, if not take down, anyone who attacks the record of the president we saw today standing at Biden`s side. So the Hillary surrogates are out there now after Biden`s noon statement of non-candidacy, saying they wish Biden had gotten into the race. Well, that`s the line, and I can see its bravado, but let`s not forget so quickly that as a few days ago, that if Biden dared enter the race, he would be hurting the chances of the first woman to be president. That`s what they said then, that he would be the villain of the race, the spoiler for cutting into her advantage over Bernie Sanders. Well, the contradiction between the pro-Clinton line before and after is hard to square. Either they wanted him in the race as a spoiler or wanted him there as a chippy (ph), an easy rival. One or the other is true. I tend to believe Hillary Clinton herself is quite happy with the news today that her only rival is the socialist senator from Ben and Jerry`s country. What she may have to worry about is faced with a choice between Hillary and Donald Trump, a portion of the Biden vote might be lost to the sort side. Certainly, Biden`s statement today would not discourage that. What`s clear today, too, is that Joe Biden has no love for Hillary Clinton and certainly no endorsement to offer. What he offered instead was a threat. He offered himself, Joe Biden, to the campaign as a kind of Irish wolfhound, a predator on any and all who threaten the Democratic administration. U.S. senator Chris Coons is a Democrat from Biden`s home state of Delaware. Senator, it sounded to me like he had written the speech today and delivered it as if he were running for president, but decided relatively recently -- in the last several hours, I suppose today -- that he couldn`t run at this point, it was too late. SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, Chris, I thought that his comments today made it clear that Joe Biden still has a lot to offer America, that he`s going to be a strong and a forceful and a clear and a positive voice in this election campaign in the defense of his record and the Obama administration`s record. And I expect he`ll continue to contribute to our national politics for many years to come.    Joe Biden has, as you know, been a great leader in the Senate for 36 years, has been a great and strong and effective vice president. And you heard him today coming out strong, making it clear why his big heart, his commitment to the middle class, his willingness to embrace a broad range of ideas and solutions, from a moon shot to curing cancer to fighting hard for restoring manufacturing -- these are the sorts of things he was ready to run on, and I think had he done so, he would have run a very strong campaign. MATTHEWS: Well, Vice President Biden had a message for Democrats -- Don`t run away from the president`s legacy. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we`re now on the cusp of resurgence. And I`m proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy. Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Senator Coons, who was he talking to then, if not to Hillary Clinton, when he says, You better defend this record and run on it? COONS: I think he`s talking to the whole country. I think he`s talking to Democrats who are up for election in this cycle, and I think he`s talking to the different candidates for president. So I do think that the vice president is proud of the president and of the record they have together. I think as he reflects back on the mess that they inherited in `08, the economic ruins, the challenges in terms of national security, the environmental and cultural and economic challenges of having lost a lot of our manufacturing base and having a hollowed-out middle class, the vice president, Joe, was standing up and saying, Here`s the things I fought for. Here`s the things I`m proud of. And here`s the things I`m going to defend going forward from all comers. It was classic Joe. MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought it was classic (INAUDIBLE) you know him much better than I, but I do know him a bit, and I was impressed by his reference to the "middle class Joe," calling himself the "middle class Joe" and knocking the people who thought he wasn`t sophisticated enough. Let`s watch that. I want your reaction to that, Senator. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    BIDEN: It all starts with giving the middle class a fighting chance. I know you in the press love to call me "middle class Joe," and I know in Washington, that`s not usually meant as a compliment. It means you`re not that sophisticated. But it is about the middle class. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We had -- Senator, we had Harold Schaitberger of the firefighters on last night talking about how much they in that group, that union group, labor group, likes Biden because they see him as a kind of a fellow street corner guy. Who`s going to fill that? Do you think Hillary Clinton can get down in the dirty, if you will, get down to regular people and connect with -- you know, the working class guy on the corner, black or white or Hispanic? COONS: Well, I think what has always been Joe`s strength is his big heart. He`s somebody who just connects with folks, who people understand has been an underdog himself, who`s seen life from the hard side. That`s why, from cops to firefighters, from working people, unions in Delaware, they`ve always loved him. He`s got a really strong record on civil rights, on equality. He`s fought for LGBT rights. There`s a lot of people in Delaware and our country who see Joe and who see a man with a big heart and a willingness to fight for them. Part of what was hard today about his announcement, Chris, was you could also see that he`s -- he`s been nursing a heavy heart, that the loss... MATTHEWS: Yes, I understand. COONS: ... of his hero and his treasured son, Beau, has really been hard for him and his family. Joe`s always put his family first, and I think he did the right thing, the only thing he could do to give his family the time to work through this. And I do think it`s going to be challenge. If we`re going to have a successful nominee, whoever that nominee is, they`ve got to connect with the middle class of America. They`ve got to make it clear why we`re fighting for them and they`ve got to believe that we absolutely, as a Democratic Party, fight for, connect for, believe in the working people of this country, the folks who feel like they`ve been left behind in the great recovery. MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Chris Coons of Delaware.    The latest polling all show Biden at a distant third, behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the NBC News/""Wall Street Journal" poll released just this week. Clinton had increased her lead to nearly 50 percent. Sanders came in second at 29, down 6 points since last month. Vice President Biden was also down 2 points. He was at 15 before he withdrew. Kathleen Parker`s a syndicated columnist and Howard Fineman is global editorial director for the HuffingtonPost. Howard, on this thing -- there was a lot of push for why he should be president, why he wanted to take on Hillary Clinton. On every point, I think he targeted her, I think most personally. He didn`t like the sophisticated elitist attitude, the cultural elite he identifies with her. He didn`t like the big super-PAC behind her, didn`t like the fighting image of "we`re all hating each other across the aisle" in this political world. He didn`t seem to say anything about her especially. He seems to be doubting her trustworthiness to back the Obama record. Your thoughts. HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, I think that`s one of the reasons why, even though my reporting showed that he was never really likely to do this at all, but he -- among other things, he couldn`t stomach the Clintons, to put it bluntly... MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: ... to put it bluntly, because to him, they represent what he doesn`t like about politics -- the empire building, the search for personal wealth, as well as self-aggrandizement, the manipulativeness, the use of partisanship to protect yourself against attack. All of that stuff, some of which you just mentioned, are things that I know that Joe Biden doesn`t like. And I think had circumstances been slightly different, had he been maybe a little younger, had he not lost his son, had the angle of attack been a little different, I think he would be in it both because he thinks he would be a better president but also because I don`t think he`s real enamored of the idea of the Clintons. Now, the paradox here is that I think President Obama, who was standing next to him in the Rose Garden, has concluded that Hillary Clinton is the best chance the Democrats have of holding the White House. MATTHEWS: It is (INAUDIBLE) FINEMAN: He hasn`t said it publically, but I think that`s the case. That`s got to be a tough pill for Joe Biden to swallow, as well. There were a lot of complexities and emotions swirling around there in the Rose Garden today. MATTHEWS: So well said. Kathleen, your view of this thing.    KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I agree with everything Howard said. And you know, it was a very touching moment, but it was also an odd experience just to see Joe Biden at the lecturn actually giving what sounded an awful lot like a speech you would give if you were running for president... MATTHEWS: RIght. PARKER: ... and having the president next to him sort of, you know, as his wingman. But you know, what he said was that he wanted to continue to be a voice for the party. And I think, in some sense, he may have a very important role in that regard. It reminds me a little bit of Mitt Romney, who obviously didn`t win the presidency, but he`s actually played a very important role for the Republican Party in articulating their positions and doing it better than most of them do routinely. And Joe Biden can do the same thing for his party. I know that it must have been a tough decision for him to the extent he really gave it hard thought, but you know, Hillary Clinton -- I think, as you said, she`s probably just thrilled to death that he has made this decision. And by the way, a lot of women, a lot of other people who think that Hillary Clinton is their best candidate and who think also that a woman ought to be president before too long, would have been very mad at him for taking away some of her steam. And this way, everybody gets to keep loving Joe. So... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... isn`t it neat how the talking points, Kathleen and Howard -- isn`t it great how the talking points closed overnight from being he`s a spoiler and a bad guy and a villain if he goes in, hurting the first woman`s chances, and now he`s obviously -- sure wish we had him to beat up a little bit because that would have been fun. FINEMAN: Oh, it`s... MATTHEWS: Anyway, in his announcement today... FINEMAN: That is such baloney. Yes.    MATTHEWS: Yes. Biden seemed to take a dig at Hillary Clinton at last week`s -- at last week`s presidential debate, Clinton was asked -- she was -- which enemy she was most proud of having. She listed, among others, Republicans. And here was Biden today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I don`t believe, like some do, that it`s naive to talk to Republicans. I don`t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition. They`re not our enemies. And for the sake of the country, we have to work together. As the president said many times, compromise is not a dirty word. Four more years of this kind of pitched battle may be more than this country can take. We have to change it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK, prediction time. Kathleen first, then Howard. How many months will have to pass before we get a full-throated endorsement from Joe Biden for Hillary Rodham Clinton for president? Kathleen first. PARKER: I`m guessing it`ll be way down the line at the very last minute, with big frog in his throat. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: OK, Howard, your thinking. FINEMAN: I should know the date of the Democratic convention in Philly. I think it`s going to go down to that. And I think it`s going to be a big, dramatic moment, and Joe Biden is going to draw it out as long as possible. And if I were the Clintons, I would deploy their best diplomats to bring Joe Biden in as quickly and as efficiently as they can. He`s going to be a tough one to land, and I bet it goes all the way to the convention. MATTHEWS: Well, if they want that, they better stop flacking it out there that they wished...    FINEMAN: Right. MATTHEWS: ... he would have ran against her so they could have beaten him up a little bit. FINEMAN: It`s stupid, really stupid tactically. MATTHEWS: That is not helpful. FINEMAN: No. MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Kathleen Parker. Thank you, Howard Fineman. FINEMAN: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Coming up -- Paul Ryan says he`ll run for speaker with conditions. With the House voting (INAUDIBLE) next week`s coming, will a fractured GOP take Ryan on in his offer, or are they no longer able to come together, even as a political party? Plus, with Biden out, Hillary Clinton likely further secures her spot as the Democratic front-runner, this as Donald Trump reaches his 100th day on top of the Republican polls. That`s today. Are we staring down a Clinton/Trump general election matchup? Also, legendary "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward is here to reveal new secrets about what led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. And on this busy news night, I challenge three reporters tonight to tell me something I don`t know.    And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: New numbers out of New Hampshire about how Republican voters view their GOP candidates. According to a Bloomber-St. Anselm poll, Trump leads the field in the Granite State. He`s at 24 percent, Ben Carson at 17 percent, Jeb Bush at 10. As for who`s ready to be president, Trump and Bush are tied at 22 percent. When asked who cares most about people like me, Ben Carson`s on top with 22 percent. And finally, who`s the most authentic candidate, meaning what you see is what you get? New Hampshire Republicans overwhelmingly pick Donald Trump. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan maintained for weeks that he was uninterested in becoming speaker of the House. But in a meeting last night with House Republicans, Ryan said he`d be willing to serve only if the entire conference unites behind him. "The Washington Post" reported, quote, "According to several lawmakers present, Ryan said, I`m willing to take arrows in the chest, but not in the back." The 45-year-old Ways and Means chairman laid out conditions under which he would take the top job in the House. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), FMR. VICE PRES. CANDIDATE: First, we need to move from an opposition party to being a proposition party. Second, we need to update House rules and we need to include fixes that ensure that we do not experience constant leadership challenges and crises. Third, we as a conference should unify now and not after a divisive speaker election.    Last point is personal. I cannot and I will not give up my family time. I may not be on the road as often as previous speakers, but I pledge to try and make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message. What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, according to Politico, Ryan wants vision, unity, family, regular order and do away with the motion to vacate, a procedural tactic to force a floor vote on his speakership should he antagonize the far right of his caucus. But Ryan will do this only if the entire GOP conference is in sync. Bearing the minimum -- actually, clearing minimum 218 votes on the House floor would get him the job, but he wants more than that. He wants a mandate. Ryan is demanding the endorsement of all the major caucuses within the GOP conference, the Republican Study Group, the Tuesday Group and the House Freedom Caucus. Anything short of that, Ryan said, and he will gladly walk away. The bigger question tonight, as "The Washington Examiner" recently put it -- Is the GOP really still a party? Joining me now is Iowa Congressman Steve King. Mr. King, just tell me how you are reacting right now to all that is going on here with the Ryan candidacy out there with conditions. REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, I smiled when I heard your lead-in to this, Chris. First, we are not having a party here, but we are a party. And we are functioning. There is debate going on, on the floor right now. And there will be votes and committee meetings have been continuing. But my reaction is that there are a couple of things in there that are fairly high hurdles. And one of them is the idea of changing the House rules, that the Congress only says the House shall choose a speaker. That means the Democrats and Republicans shall to -- write a rule that prohibits members from removing let`s just say a rogue speaker and still be able to impeach the president of the United States by a simple majority vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, that strikes me as a bridge too far.    And so I think that is one of those requests that is going to be very hard to get the members to agree to. And I don`t think the Democrats will agree to that either, Chris. MATTHEWS: What do you make of -- well, does he ask for a rule change or merely a -- sort of a verbal commitment from the caucus? What is he asking for in terms of... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... a vote to vacate? KING: Well, he is asking for a real -- an actual -- the motion to vacate the chair is a rule. And so he is asking for a rule change. He has today voiced that he might consider some modifications to that, but the essence of this remains the same. And I don`t think it is something endemic. It has only happened twice in all the history of the United States House of Representatives. And I think especially these members` experience with this will probably restrain them from thinking about using such a rule at least within the next 10 to 20 years. MATTHEWS: Well, you talk about the party being together and unified. Let me ask you about the things that have all caused all this frisson, all this fracturing over the last couple of weeks, the downfall of Boehner, the failure of McCarthy to get a majority of the caucus and -- or getting what he wanted, well over 218 he wanted, of the whole House, which is a big chunk of the Republican Party. These questions about whether you stop the government for issues like spending, whether you go along with the debt ceiling extension, things like that, Planned Parenthood, are they going to come up in this argument? KING: Well, they are and they have. They have come up in reasonable discussions that are taking place in sometimes multiple meetings around the Capitol. I think at the core of this is the Article I authority of the United States Congress that`s been handed over to the executive branch of government and to a lesser degree to the Supreme Court itself, rules and regulations that supplant the legislation itself pushed by the executive branch, would be one.    MATTHEWS: Yes. KING: The power of the purse that has been sacrificed under Obamacare, executive amnesty, Planned Parenthood would be another. If this Congress won`t say no to the president of the United States with the Article I authority that we have, power of the purse, then it is rendered redundant. And I think that is one of the two biggest issues at the core of this division that we have right now, Chris. MATTHEWS: You have been out there on the issue of immigration. And I always think some people are partially right and others are partially wrong. But let me get to the question of the procedure. Would you oppose him as speaker, Paul Ryan, if he said he was going to bring up, say, the Senate -- a new version of the Senate version of a couple of years ago on immigration, which included the path to a citizenship? Would you oppose him doing that, bringing that up? KING: Well, that is a big problem for me, Chris. I do want to say, in defense of Paul Ryan, he said that he would not consider large immigration initiative while President Obama is still in office. That does take care of a share of those concerns between now and the end of President Obama`s term. But it doesn`t take care of concerns in the next Congress, which likely would have the same speaker as this one. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. U.S. Congressman Steve King, thanks for coming on tonight. MATTHEWS: Right now, let`s go to Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post. Ryan, your thinking about this objectively. Is the Republican Party - - it doesn`t sound there like they have got a deal made at all, with King, Steve King there of Iowa saying basically he is not into a lot of these conditions that the potential speaker, Paul Ryan, is demanding. RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Paul Ryan holds the cards here, because there`s a huge part of him that doesn`t want this job because it`s so toxic.    (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. If he doesn`t take it, what is left? If he says these conditions like you can`t vote to vacate the chair, you can`t vote no confidence, and they say no way to that, who is going to take the chair if they`re exposed to being dumped at any moment? GRIM: The question was asked of John Boehner earlier and he shrugged. There is no plan B at this point. So, I think Paul Ryan feels like he -- the party will suffer more and the Freedom Caucus will suffer the most, because they will be blamed for whatever ensuing chaos comes. And he thinks that they`re going to cave. And on the rules change, I think he would probably settle for some tweaks and some type of a commitment to not overthrow him. MATTHEWS: Well, how does that -- just get to the bottom line. How does any of this stop the stuff that has been going on? Is there any indication we are not going to have a government shutdown over the government spending issue come December 11, that we`re not going to have a fight over the debt ceiling again, that we`re not going to have issues like Planned Parenthood stopping everything, thanks to Paul -- to Ted Cruz and the rest of them? It sounds to me like they are still in revolutionary spirit on the Republican side. GRIM: There is, but there is counter-revolutionary spirit too. Look at that discharge petition that pulled the Ex-Im Bank out of the Financial Services Committee. That got 218 members of the House, which they flexed their muscle and they showed that they have kind of a governing centrist majority if they want. Those 218 can continue to get together. And you might see some coalition-style politics. MATTHEWS: Yes. GRIM: But the time is running short. You`re right. You`re two weeks from the debt ceiling.    MATTHEWS: You can`t pick a speaker with a coalition. It has got to be a party vote, at least unless history is going to dump -- just drop out of our sights and start all over again, which I don`t think it will. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Republicans have to pick a leader. Don`t they? GRIM: Yes. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Ryan Grim. Thanks for joining us. Up next, the Republicans on Capitol Hill are in crisis, but Republican voters have now for 100 days held Donald Trump atop their 2016 polls, way up top there. Are we now staring down a Trump/Clinton presidential matchup? Well, that would be interesting, wouldn`t it, Hillary vs. Don. Donald? Dare I can call you Don? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden is a man who has devoted his entire life to public service and to the well-being of working families and the middle class. He made a difficult decision based on the needs of his family and his view of his future. And I respect the decision that he made.    (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont today up in New York. With Vice President Joe Biden announcing he won`t run, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination intensifies and narrows. And a new poll shows now Hillary Clinton with a 31-point lead over Bernie Sanders among Democrats. That`s very strong. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is consolidating his support among Republican voters. In a new "Washington Post"/ABC news poll of Republican voters, catch this, 42 percent of the Republicans believe he is most likely nominee right now of the party for president. In that same poll, 32 percent of Republicans choose him as their pick for the nominee. Carson, Dr. Carson, is second, followed by Marco Rubio in third. Jeb Bush is down in single digits at 7. We`re joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Anne Gearan of "The Washington Post," "Washington Post" opinion writer Jonathan Capehart and MSNBC political reporter Kasie Hunt. I want to start with Ann. It looks like Joe Biden, even though he formally said he was a non- candidate today, squared off against Hillary Clinton, saying he is going to be the watchdog of the Obama legacy presumably against her. ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, he actually managed to take a couple of shots at her, sort of sideways shots at her during the speech today. And he put her on warning that he is not going away. And if he thinks that the race and the party and her candidacy are going against the ideals that he articulated today, that he wouldn`t be shy in saying so. She, for her part, put out a very magnanimous statement praising him and saying that she is confident that history isn`t done with him. And she is probably right. And he`s probably not done with her.    MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I would bet that Trump in his wiliness -- and you may think this is too extraordinary to comprehend, but I think you will be able to handle this one -- I think Trump is thinking about picking up some of the Biden vote here. I know it`s only 15-plus or so percent, regular guys. What does he call himself, middle-class Joe? Those kind of guys, white guys, many of them, not all of them certainly, might be thinking maybe I`m going to be against Hillary the same way Joe was clearly against Hillary and I may be looking at Trump and Trump may be looking at me. What do you think? JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That might be possible, but, remember, when they were doing polls with Vice President Biden in the race, it`s not like he was number one among all the candidates. He was number three, and in a lot of those polls, he was taking equally from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. So while I can see how some middle-class Joes, as the vice president said today, might find some appeal in Donald Trump, I don`t envision some sort of mass exodus from the Democratic Party to a Republican nominee that`s Donald Trump. MATTHEWS: No, I don`t either. I don`t mean mass. I mean significant. Anyway, Donald Trump got his digs in against -- in the Rose Garden today -- quote -- "I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him and his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad." Oh, that is trash talk, Kasie, but it is trash talk. Let`s put it -- I wish people on this network would point out when somebody is flacking, it`s just flackery and to sort of ignore it except for comedy value. But it seems to me that the numbers showing Biden -- and I`m not pushing Biden. I know he wouldn`t have been necessarily a strong candidate at all. And it`s way too late for him, clearly, and he agrees with that -- is that he did pretty well in the matchups against Donald Trump in a way Hillary didn`t. He does surprisingly good in those matchups. Something was going on there in the middle, I think, politically. KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: He does do well, Chris. And I think to a certain extent, you are playing into all of the troops questions about whether the country is having legacy fatigue, whether that`s vis-a-vis Clinton or vis-a-vis Bush. But, look, I think in the long run, you are right. This is trash talk.    The long game here is that Hillary Clinton is largely avoiding an establishment protracted primary that is going to go into the spring. And the Republicans, it looks like, even if Trump does do well in the beginning, there is no way the establishment is going to let him waltz to that nomination. They`re looking at a long, protracted nominating fight. At the end of the day, this move is good for Hillary Clinton now and it`s good for her in six months. MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Anne. What does the shape of the race look like to you now? GEARAN: Well, I think it has really been clarified. Biden was a giant wild card out there that really had greater risk for Hillary Clinton than for Bernie Sanders. And so it`s a much clearer race now. It`s Hillary vs. Bernie. And the voters who have already made some pretty stark choices between the two now have a very clear path between now and the Iowa caucus as to which candidate and which part of the party they want to support. MATTHEWS: Jon, do you think that Bernie Sanders is actually running for the nomination, or as a protest candidate? And I know I`m going back to this and I sound so old-school. I will admit it. But when he jumped over that net the other night in that debate and basically said we are taking the e-mails off the table, that helped Hillary out. She smiled. And it was smart to smile. Is he going to try to grab some of the Biden vote? And if so, how does he do it, grab that -- if he can grab that 15 points, that would put him in contention. It`s as simple as that, if he could do it. CAPEHART: Yes, right, if he could do it. But the latest polls show that he can`t. MATTHEWS: How does he get it? He`s got to try. How does he try?    CAPEHART: Well, look, I don`t think that Bernie Sanders is a protest vote, in that he is just running to run. I think he really does want to become the nominee and to run against the Republican. I`m not exactly sure how Bernie Sanders, in a party where Hillary Clinton has a 31-point lead over him, how he can turn his insurgency campaign into one that overtakes her. I just don`t see it right now. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You are just saying he is giving up. CAPEHART: Well, I`m not saying he`s... MATTHEWS: Look, everybody -- Kasie, everybody has to try to find a way to win. And if he is not going to take advantage of phony scandals or real scandals or whatever vis-a-vis e-mails -- back to you, Jonathan -- he has got to grab some of that moderate Democratic local Joe, middle-class Joe thing. CAPEHART: Sure. MATTHEWS: Or else he`s not going to ever catch her. How does he catch her? I`m asking you. You say he can`t do it? CAPEHART: Well, look, but, Chris, here is the thing. I think what Bernie Sanders did in that debate was a terrific thing, in that he decided here is a scandal that I could possibly take advantage of to make it possible for me to overtake Hillary Clinton, but it`s a phony scandal. It`s one that my own party faithful don`t even care about. So why am I going to climb all over her on something phony, unless there is something real there? And there is no -- nothing real there that we have seen yet. So I`m not sure how Bernie Sanders can overtake Hillary at this point. MATTHEWS: I hear you.    Up next, the roundtable is sticking with us with these top reporters. They`re going to tell me something I don`t know. Maybe you won`t know it. News coming. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. Donald Trump is holding a rally in Burlington, Iowa, where he weighed in on Joe Biden`s decision not to run. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had some news today that Biden is not running. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: And -- and I think he did the smart thing, because, frankly, I don`t know that he would have won. He wouldn`t have gotten the nomination. I don`t think he probably would have. And, frankly, I really want to run against Hillary. (END VIDEO CLIP)    REHBERGER: Now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: We`re back with some scoops. Anne, tell me something I don`t know. ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: OK. So, the House Select Committee on Benghazi before which Hillary Clinton will testify tomorrow had through the end of July spent more money this year than the standing committees on intelligence, veterans affairs, ethics and rules. MATTHEWS: I`m sure we got our money`s worth. Jonathan -- (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Jonathan? JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: OK. Chris, the thing that you don`t know and most American people don`t know is that there are just eight working days for Congress to raise the debt ceiling. We don`t have a speaker of the House which isn`t going to come until -- the nominee won`t come until 28th. The person won`t be voted in until the 29th. Boehner leaves the 30th and debt ceiling, we would crash according to the Department of the Treasury, on November 3rd and between 10th and 19th -- the bipartisan Policy Center says that is when the United States government for the first time in history will run out of money to pay for bills due. MATTHEWS: And that`s when the country`s furniture is found on the front lawn for everybody to see, right? It`s going to look like an eviction. CAPEHART: Exactly.    MATTHEWS: I do fear it someday. I fear it happening. Kasie? KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, Jeb Bush`s campaign team is on something of a damage control tour with donors, with the press. And in early states, his top advisers recently travelled to early states to try to reassure folks, talk to some local newspapers there. They`re also doing it with donors in New York and reporters here in Washington, D.C. Their argument is that the slow and steady wins the race and he is going to be the steady candidate throughout, and that he`s going to get through those March Super Tuesday primaries and be the last establishment candidate standing. The problem with that, of course, is that they are having trouble identifying which early state they`re going to win. As you know, no modern Republican candidates ever won the nomination without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire. So, a little bit of a tough way to see him get ahead. He would have to take out all other establishment candidates in his lane. That`s Kasich, that`s Rubio, that`s Christie. That`s a heavy lift, Chris. MATTHEWS: I think it`s like setting the dish washer to low energy. Anyway, thank you to the round table, Anne Gearan, Jonathan Capehart and Kasie Hunt. I love this segment. Coming up, more than four decades after Watergate, "Washington Post" investigative reporter Bob Woodward digs up new details on the downfall of President Nixon. This is fascinating stuff. The long time reporter joins us here coming up in a minute or so. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)    MATTHEWS: Be sure to join in tomorrow when I`ll join MSNBC`s special coverage of Hillary Clinton`s testimony before the House Benghazi committee. That`s 9:00 a.m. tomorrow right here on MSNBC. HARDBALL back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president? ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, FORMER NIXON TOP AIDE: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir. They were installed, of course, for historical purposes to record the president`s business and they were installed in his two offices, the Oval Office and the EOB office. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That was Alexander Butterfield, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, revealing for the first time to the Senate Watergate committee the existence of a secret taping system inside the White House. Butterfield was responsible for the installation of that taping system and was one of the very few people who even knew its existence. His testimony in July 1973 changed the course of American political history as the tapes would ultimately implicate Richard Nixon`s involvement in the Watergate cover-up and lead to resignation. Forty-one years after Nixon resigned, the legendary who journalist who uncovered and reported the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein who brought a president, Bob Woodward is out with his 18th book. It`s called "The Last of the President`s Men". It reveals the untold story of Nixon aide, Alexander Butterfield, author and associate editor to "The Washington Post". Bob Woodward joins us now. Bob, it`s an honor to have you on the show.    BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you. MATTHEWS: And it`s just an amazing story. It`s unlike your other books. It`s really a kind of fine narrative of a person and how they got involved with this weird job of being hired by Nixon, going in and then have the weird job of putting in the taping system, and the equally weird role in history of revealing it. It`s almost a Zoellick story and yet it`s true. WOODWARD: Yes, and he had the office right next to Nixon for three years. And so, he was the witness. He had the front row seat. Of course, we have the Nixon tapes which show so much criminality. But here, you see the power of the witness. And quite frankly, having spent many decades on Nixon, I was really surprised and even shocked by some of the documents out of the thousands that Butterfield carted out of the White House and some of his stories of interaction with Nixon. MATTHEWS: And you have a lot of them in the back of the book, which is great. A lot of glossary material about it. You know, I thought it was fascinating. For the first time, you said Nixon not only had an enemies list, which you guys uncovered, but here you have thanks to witness inside Nixon insisting on it being enforced, I think there`s a line in there like why do we have this list if we are not going to use it? It`s so brazen. WOODWARD: Right. And it`s an opponents list and there`s a freeze list in other words keep people out and then people who came in who weren`t supposed to, like the president of Harvard. Nixon threw a fit and there is this rage and inability to forget the slights that have occurred earlier in his life. You kind of want to give him a valium gargle, slow him down kind of -- MATTHEWS: What does Kissinger think of your book? Every time something is revealed, it shows the treachery going on between Nixon and he`s supposed best friend/adviser, and your book shows more of it. Has Henry K. called you up and nailed you for this new information? WOODWARD: No, but I did talk to him about this one memo, showing massive deception about the bombing in Vietnam. You know, this is the sacred duty of the president, to take care of the military and he acknowledges in his own handwriting saying, you know, it accomplished zilch. It is a failure. And, publicly, of course, Nixon was always saying the bombing was essentially to wins the war, and it is really ugly story of -- we have so many ugly stories of Nixon, but this one is -- you feel it in your bones and Butterfield has such a fabulous memory and in all of these documents. He told me some of these stories, and I said, no, you know, that can`t quite be true, and then there`s a document showing how Nixon thought having JFK pictures in the staff offices was an infestation. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You also talk about the oddness of Nixon. Oddness is one thing, but I`ve never seen it portrayed this wonderfully where he goes to meet Nixon, and he almost has cat has his tongue. He can`t issue the words. He makes these sounds.    Explain. What did you make of it? WOODWARD: Well, I made it in Butterfield`s explanation, unless there was a memo or talking point telling nixes this is who you`ll meet, this is what you should say, he is speechless, and he was speechless at this moment, and in other cases that are part of this story. And at the same time, Nixon is so lonely. I mean, here he works in the Oval Office when he`s in Washington, and then it`s time to knock off work and what does he do? He goes up to the residence? No. He goes to the staff offices in the EOB, has his man servant Manolo cook him dinner, keeps his jacket on, puts his feet up on the stool, gets out the inevitable yellow legal pad and starts saying, well, you know, I want Campari in not only the Oval Office but on Air Force One and Camp David. And so much of this is trivial, and you wonder why it`s absorbing time and this level of emotional energy. MATTHEWS: You don`t usually write about it, but you wrote in this book, "Seen up close through Butterfield`s eyes and documents, Nixon is both smaller and larger." What do you mean? What is it? Tell me about that. WOODWARD: He`s small because he`s worried about all kinds of things in the past and details that a president should not be spending time on, but he`s larger because you realize he`s the commander in chief in the middle of the Vietnam War, and he has a strategy that he knows is a fraud, and he writes that it`s a fraud, and that`s about the largest thing a president can do and, you know, I feel sorry for the country, quite frankly, that we would have commander in chief who would do these things and actually try to exploit the bombing, which was popular in the public polling, exploit that to win reelection. MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he once says in the book I feel sorry for some of these kids killed in the bombing. You know, but he just -- wait until you see it. When you buy the book, look at it, it says zilch in Nixon`s handwriting after he`s selling the bombing in the North, and he says it`s accomplishing zero. To use his word in the book, zilch. It`s amazing to see his handwritten there. More with legendary "Post" reporter Bob Woodward right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with author Bob Woodward, "The Last of the President`s Men."    One of the things that came through again, Bob, and maybe it`s useful to all politicians, from Hillary all over to the right wing of this country, about covering up. In your book, you point out in "The Last of the President`s Men", you point out it was the cover-up itself, attempting to challenge the testimony of John Dean under oath by coming out with a verbatim account of what they said really happened in the Oval Office itself divulged the existence of a taping system because how else would they have had a verbatim transcript. WOODWARD: Yes, the overreach caused people on the Senate Watergate staff to say, well, no, where did this come from and it`s a former FBI agent who asked the question, and Butterfield -- I mean, there`s a 30-page psychodrama in the book about how Butterfield is trying to figure on whether to tell the truth. And, of course, he is one of a small group of people who know about the tapes. He`s certain it will nail Nixon, and he wonders what his moral responsibility, his legal responsibility. And you see the interior debate he`s having with himself. MATTHEWS: It seemed like he was a complex -- he is a complex guy, Alexander Butterfield. WOODWARD: He certainly is, and you see that there are mixed motives, he`s up and down on one of the things I asked is to go talk to his ex-wife, Charlotte, who is his wife when Butterfield was in the White House. And, you know, asking somebody, you know, I`d like to talk to your ex- wife, that`s hard to ask, but -- he said fine, he came along, and she said, oh, I knew Alex wanted to tell about the secret taping system. And instead of objecting at that point, he was sitting in in the interview down at the other end of the room, and said, I`ll let that stand. So, there`s part of him that wants to get this out. MATTHEWS: I`m glad you went back and got him to do it on the record. The whole incredible story, how it created the monster that brought him down, and the guy that helped him do it, and then was the guy, again, like Zoellick, who put out the story that had happened, and then the guy who told you the whole story, "The Last of the President`s Men", an another ingenious piece of work by the great, brilliant, good guy, Bob Woodward. The book is called "The Last of President`s Men." And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us, everybody. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 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