Show: HARDBALL Date: December 9, 2015 Guest: Robert Costa, Michael Duffy, John Brabender, Gregory Angelo, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Donald Trump versus America.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
Something`s just happened in this country. It`s not about Donald Trump or his wild and woolly campaign, it`s about this country and what we hold dear -- freedom, freedom of spirit, freedom to believe what you do, especially about the important things, the meaning of life, the purpose of human experience, our most basic notion of what it`s all about.
Well, this is the freedom we hold dear. We do it in our Constitution, which protects us in the 1st Amendment, in our democracy, which refuses all religious tests for elective office. Why? Well, a lot of reasons, the Enlightenment, but mostly, I guess, because so many of the people who started the country, the Puritans, the Quakers, the Huguenots and the rest, came here to practice their religion, leaving countries where they couldn`t, countries where there was an accepted religion, and the rest were not, where the rest were either illegal or harshly suppressed.
Can you imagine America, this country built on religious freedom, banning people from this country because of their religion? That`s the proposition now before the country. It`s not so important who did it. This is bigger than that, bigger, yes, than Donald Trump. This isn`t about him. It`s about us. Will we entertain the idea of electing someone as our president who is ready to sacrifice freedom and tolerance of religion in order to get himself elected president?
And here`s a thought. I learned it in religion class, is that the end doesn`t justify the means. No matter how Trump`s proposal goes over with this base and elsewhere, it`s still a tearing down of America`s basic foundation, religious tolerance.
Look, Christmas is in the air. I felt it up in New York yesterday. It`s a quiet, wonderful celebration of what so many of us believe about the coming of our savior. It`s about the hope and joy of life that faith can bring to us, that the free spirit of religious belief can bring.
It`s a lot more important than whether Donald Trump can beat Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses. If he doesn`t know it, thank God, we do.
Well, now let`s talk about the politics of all this stuff. Today, Donald Trump continued to defend his call to ban Muslim travelers to the U.S. during an appearance on "Live with Kelly and Michael."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, we have a problem in this country. The World Trade Center happened to come down, and lots of other things have happened. Then last week, you had the terrible shooting in California. And frankly, a lot of people knew that was going to happen. A lot of people knew he had those guns and the rifles and the bombs, bombs all over the apartment.
We`re going to have tremendous problems. It`s getting worse and work. And those problems are coming from a certain sector. And we want to make America great again, but we need safety in our country. So this is nothing...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But wouldn`t a ban on Muslims, though -- wouldn`t it violate the Constitution`s, you know, freedom of religion?
TRUMP: No because we don`t have a -- these are people that aren`t in the country. I mean, the people that are in the country, they`re in the country. We`re not talking about them. These are people that are outside of the country, so we`re really not talking about the Constitution. And it`s not about religion. This is about safety. This has nothing to do with religion. It`s about safety. A lot of problems are happening in our country and...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, keep trying there, Donald. As the Associated Press put it this morning, Donald Trump`s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States is shoving the Republican Party to the edge of chaos, abruptly pitting GOP leaders against their own presidential front-runner and jeopardizing the party`s long-time drive to attract minorities.
And there`s no end in sight for the Republican chaos. Trump insists he`s going nowhere. In an interview with "The Washington Post," Robert Costa, who`s with us right now, and Steven Ginsberg (ph), published today, Trump said, I will never leave the race. Well, the reporters noted he wanted to make the point very clearly. They write, "He waves one arm over his head as if to clear away everything and remove any doubt." Then Trump repeats, "I will never leave this race."
Robert Costa joins us right now, along with MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid and "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson.
Three things I think scare the heck out of the Republican Party and are causing this chaos. One, they`re scared to death he`ll leave and run third party. So they can`t say they won`t back him if he wins the nomination because you can`t say, I`m not backing the guy if he wins the nomination and expect him to stay in the party.
Two, he`s going to be in next Tuesday`s debate. And once again, we`ll see huge ratings. And everybody will be talking about him. Chris Christie will have his Sunday punch. Everybody will be aiming at this guy.
Three, and this is important. And people may not like this, but there`s a lot of Trump people out there, white working guys, whatever you want to call them. They`re not all -- by the way, he does just as well among college people as everybody else, but he`s got this whole other cadre of people behind him. Where are they going to go?
Robert, isn`t that the fear of people like his majesty Reince Priebus and people like that in the party, scared to death he`ll walk?
ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST": Treading very carefully right now around Trump. They`re not talking about deserting him, should he win the nomination. They`re...
MATTHEWS: Well, doesn`t that put them in a problem, if they totally disagree, Gene, with the principle of denying religious tolerance in this country? How can they deny that principle -- let him deny that principle and still say, of course, he`ll be a great nominee for our party?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you can`t say that yet. That`s what they must say, right, because, really, if -- I think the calculation has to be for the Republican establishment that if at this point you say you`re not going to support Trump, then you are definitely increasing the odds that he walks, that he takes a bunch of support with him and that you lose big. And so...
MATTHEWS: What about his thing saying, If you`re unfair to me, I`ll leave?
ROBINSON: Well, exactly!
MATTHEWS: They`re already being unfair to him, he could argue, by saying, We won`t live with this doctrine of his.
ROBINSON: Well (INAUDIBLE) but it`s definitely unfair, from his point of view, if they say, We`re not going to support you if you`re the nominee of our party. Therefore, they can`t say this. I think, you know, they`re basically treading water and going to have to figure this out later.
MATTHEWS: Joy, hold on. I want your thoughts in full, but I want to hear from Robert one more point. When you report around on this thing, do you hear any -- any -- any crumbling in the base of Trump?
COSTA: Not at all. I mean, I see the evangelical base in Iowa perhaps shifting toward Cruz, but the angry part of the Republican electorate, the conservative flank, who`s populist more than movement conservative, they`re still with him.
MATTHEWS: And Katy Tur told us (INAUDIBLE) Joy, let`s back to you on this. Big picture question. Well, let`s talk the politics for a minute. Do you see the problem the Republican Party has, the party of Lincoln, on this one? They have a -- they don`t like to admit they have religious prejudice because they don`t generally have it, but on this issue, it`s a problem.
JOY REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, for every, you know, outrageous thing that Donald Trump says, and really, frankly, antithetical to the American idea, there are a lot of people who cheer him on.
And the Republican Party has been courting, quite frankly, that angry base of white working-class voters all the way back to the Palin-ites, all the way through the Tea Party. It`s been quite useful to them in midterm elections to court that anger, to encourage, frankly, that anger.
And now that same party leadership finds that it has lost control because that anger has turned on them. So anytime institutional leadership within the Republican Party -- if they were to turn on Trump, that would just infuriate the base more because remember, Chris, part of what this base is angry at is them. They`re angry at the leadership of the Republican Party, too.
So if the leadership tries to stand up and sort of not give up gaining (ph) the world and trying to save its soul to speak back to Donald Trump, they`re just going to infuriate that base more.
But really quickly, I guess the real question for them is, are these Trump supporters people who are so angry that they`re outside of the political process, or are they voting Republicans? And I think because the leadership of the party isn`t sure about that, they can`t take a chance on turning them off.
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s one reason Trump might not lose much support because of his comments about keeping Muslim people out of the country, many Republicans agree with him. A brand-new on-line poll from Bloomberg Politics and Purple Strategies shows that while only 37 percent of voters generally say they agree with a temporary ban on Muslims coming from foreign countries, more than two thirds of Republicans back the idea. Look at that. The poll was conducted yesterday.
In fact, a separate poll released yesterday showed that 68 percent of Trump supporters say they would follow him from the party if he ran on a third-party ticket. Trump was asked about that possibility just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The people have been phenomenal. The party, I`ll let you know about that. And if I don`t get treated fairly, I would certainly consider that. In fact, they did a poll in one of the -- I think it was "USA Today," where they said 68 percent of the people that were Republicans...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TRUMP: ... would follow Trump if he went independent. I don`t want to do that. Number one, when you`re leading by 20 and 21 points, you don`t do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was BS by Trump there. Not 68 percent of the Republicans, 68 percent of his...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to -- can we put back up that poll that we showed from Bloomberg because there`s a number that jumps off that poll that grabbed me, and it`s what I -- look at that. The biggest number on that -- Joy, you can`t see this, but the biggest number is Democrats who oppose this talk of banning Muslim people from coming into the country. It`s a bigger number than the GOP supporting Trump on this.
So I think that is the big phenomenon that`s been awoken by this comment by him. Robert...
MATTHEWS: ... more people out there angry at bringing down something we believe in in this country, our freedom of religion, then they are excited about how great Trump is today.
COSTA: Right. Everyone in the Republican Party is gaming out the primary consequences of Trump`s move, but what about the general election consequences? This is going to cost Republicans votes likely in a general election. Everyone in the party leadership I talk to says, This hurts us regardless of who wins the nomination.
MATTHEWS: OK, I`ve watched this thing, like we all have, since Monday. Monday, when he first made the comment -- he, it -- Trump made the comment...
MATTHEWS: ... it settled in as much more of his stuff, one more thing. But over the last -- this is now Wednesday, two days, 48 hours -- it has grown and grown and grown as the country waking up to this and not liking it.
ROBINSON: Well, it was -- it was a big deal when he said it in that it was so antithetical to what this country has stood for and what everyone understands, freedom of religion, no religious test. That`s something that people broadly understand, people broadly get.
There was a big initial reaction, and it has mushroomed. So people...
ROBINSON: At the same time, there was recently an attack. There`s a lot of sort of misunderstanding about Islam and what a Muslim is in this country in general. And so as you saw from the numbers on Republicans, and even a percentage of Democrats -- not a huge percentage, but a percentage of Democrats who say, yes, that`s not a bad idea, you know? So it -- I mean, there is a...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. (INAUDIBLE) Joy, I think that -- I think something`s been awoken. First of all, I do think that we live in a country that`s very segregated geographically, not always by purpose, but geographically, people who live their whole lives and probably never say hello to a Muslim person.
In big cities like this, we meet a lot of people who are. And we know they come from places like Kosovo. They come from Europe. They come from Africa. They come from Indonesia, Pak -- only about a fifth of them are Arabs. I mean, it`s just a fact.
And then we -- I think when they see a picture in the paper of a scary picture of this guy, you know, who did the attack the other day with his wife, they get -- the picture looks pretty scary, and they go, Oh, that`s what a Muslim in. I mean, I guess. How else do you explain this -- this antipathy?
REID: Well, I think that part of what you`re seeing on the Democratic side is an accumulation of Trump moments that -- I think there was a retired general, I believe, that gave this speech where he paraphrased the post-World War II poem, where he said, essentially, first, Trump came for the African-Americans -- he came for the blacks in New York. Then he came for the Mexican-Americans. Then he came for the Mexican migrants. Now he`s coming for the Muslims.
And remember, for Democrats, the larger context of this is that four days or so before the attack in San Bernardino in California, you had an attack on a Planned Parenthood committee by -- on the Planned Parenthood clinic...
REID: ... by a Christian radical. And so that, you know, I think for a lot of Democrats, the conversation you`re hearing is that we`ve had so many horrific massacres in this country that have had nothing to do with the Islamic faith, nothing to do with Muslims at all. And you heard absolute silence on the part of conservatives, even when the victims were children, even when the victims were people in church, and even when the victims were people just going to get health care at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
And then suddenly, Donald Trump wants to shut the borders and seal off the airports and start asking people their religion after this horrific shooting in California.
And so I think that there is for Democrats finally a galvanizing sort of pressure to say, Look, we need to stop what a lot of Democrats -- and you know, there`s some Republicans who are saying that this is fascism, right? -- and saying that the embrace of this kind of Trumpian idea...
REID: ... as some kind of entertaining thing...
MATTHEWS: Look, I want to see...
REID: ... has got to stop.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at what the Republicans have been saying. There`s been a lot of chaos out there, and Republicans, as you said, Joy, are very confused right now. Let`s hear what they have to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think Donald Trump is serious, and (INAUDIBLE) We live in a serious time. We need real leadership.
I will support the Republican nominee, and I`m working hard to make sure I`m it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you will support the Republican nominee, no matter what the voters decide.
Absolutely. It`s not going to be Donald Trump, though.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it`s not what the country stands for.
QUESTION: If Trump is the nominee, can you back him?
RYAN: I`m going to support whoever the Republican nominee is, and I`m going to stand up for what I believe in as I do that.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This suggestion is completely and totally inconsistent with American values.
QUESTION: Would you still be supporting Donald Trump if he were your party`s nominee for president?
MCCONNELL: Well, I`m certainly going to support the Republican nominee for president. I think that wouldn`t surprise anyone.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump always plays on everyone`s worst instincts and fears, and saying we`re not going to let a single Muslim into this country is a dangerous overreaction.
That is what I said. I`m a Republican. I will support the Republican nominee. I do not believe Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s the new Republican way of responding. You go like this, like, she goes, I`m a Republican. Like, you shirk (ph). You shirk when you say it. Jeb goes like this. Well, you know -- they are so embarrassed to be what they are -- by the way, you told us something before we went on the air. I want you to tell now as (ph) a report. Trump`s going to lay low?
COSTA: Between now and the debate next week in Las Vegas, Trump`s going to have an event up in New Hampshire, but not much else. His campaign sees this debate as the key moment in December. If he can get through it, remain the front-runner, that`s going to catapult him (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: So he wants to hang fire next Tuesday because he`s going to be the target.
MATTHEWS: He wants that.
COSTA: He`s going to hang fire.
ROBINSON: And he`ll be the focus. Once again, Donald Trump will be the focus...
MATTHEWS: And reason for the audience.
ROBINSON: ... focus -- exactly, the reason for the audience.
MATTHEWS: I still think something happened this week.
MATTHEWS: Joy, I think something happened. Last thought for you, quickly. I think something happened. I think when you go after people`s religion, that`s everybody -- it`s not just people of color or minorities - - everybody`s got a religion. Everybody`s got a stake in freedom of religion. He`s messing with it. That`s what I think. Your thoughts.
REID: Well, you know, and obviously, what he said is reprehensible, but I`ll say what I said before. I don`t think this hurts him with his base. They`re loyal to him. There`s nothing he can say to turn them off.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what? We`re all going to know because numbers, numbers, numbers come out next week, as Tim Russert used to say, numbers, and we`ll find out. Anyway, Robert Costa, thank you, Eugene Robinson and Joy Red.
Coming up -- Donald Trump`s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country has reopened some dark American history, don`t you think? The Trump plan reminds a lot of people of the Japanese internment camps during WW 2.
Plus, the Republican establishment may hate Trump`s Muslim ban, but his supporters are eating it up, as Joy Reid just said. Who are these diehard Trumpians? We`re going to meet some of them. And why do they remain so loyal no matter what the guy says?
And Hillary Clinton`s strategy on Trump is clear. She`s trying to -- well, she`s trying to go after the entire Republican field and blame them all on Trump, so if he loses the nomination fight, she can still run against Trump. She says their language may be different but their ideas are the same.
Finally "Let Me Finish" with this line that Trump has now crossed.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Collective outrage over Donald Trump`s total and complete ban on Muslims entering this country is reaching a crescendo right now. "The New York Daily News" today featured a provocative cover with a cartoon of Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty.
The text, which is based on an anti-Nazi poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, reads: "When Trump came for the Mexicans, I did not speak out, as I was not a Mexican. When he came for the Muslims, I did not speak out, as I was not a Muslim. And then he came for me."
Well, Trump`s latest plan has drawn comparison to the practices this country used during World War II.
On NBC News`s "Nightly News" last night, Tom Brokaw spoke about how the rhetoric echoes some dark chapters in American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump`s statement, even in this season of extremes, is a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law and the foundation of America itself.
In my lifetime alone, we have been witness to the consequences of paranoia overriding reason. During World War II, law-abiding Japanese citizens were herded into remote internment camps, losing their jobs, businesses and social standing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Donald Trump himself compared his proposal that was carried under Franklin Roosevelt`s wartime authority, though he stopped short of backing internment camps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at Franklin Roosevelt, a respected president, highly respected, take a look at presidential proclamations back a long time ago, 2525, 2526, and 2527, what he was doing with Germans, Italians and Japanese, because he had to do it, because, look, we are at war with radical Islam.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: You certainly aren`t proposing internment camps?
TRUMP: No, by the way, I am not proposing that, and that`s what -- not what this -- you have to look at his presidential proclamations. It was tough stuff, but it wasn`t internment. We`re not talking about the Japanese internment camps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: No, we`re not talking about the Japanese internment camps. We`re talking about the proclamation that Trump is citing here. It was known as the Enemy Alien Control Program, which allowed the United States government to arrest and detain suspected enemy agents.
The difference is, Roosevelt`s policies were directed against belligerent nations who had attacked or declared war against us and targeted people based on their nationality, not their religion. If you were German, or Italian or Japanese trying to move around in this country and you weren`t a citizen, you were subject to detention.
That`s different than saying everyone who has a certain religion -- like Mussolini was a Catholic -- every Catholic in the world would be rounded up.
Anyway, I`m joined right now by Michael Duffy, deputy managing editor for "TIME" magazine, as well as NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
By the way, congratulations on your person of the year, Angela Merkel.
Did you get some trash talk from Donald Trump about that?
MICHAEL DUFFY, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Well, I think he was actually hoping to be person of the year a few days ago, but, today, when he said -- I think he tweeted out something like, I told you they weren`t going to name me.
So, it`s just hard to keep up.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to be always about Michael -- I mean, always about Trump.
Let me to go this. Michael Beschloss, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: A pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Why did Trump keep citing historical precedents for something that have never happened before? We have never banned a religion in this country. This is where you come to, as I said in the beginning of the show, when you have an unpopular religion, whether it`s Jewish, or it`s Huguenot, or it`s Quaker, or it`s Puritan or whatever. This is the country you can kind of find refuge in. BESCHLOSS: Yes, that`s for sure.
And I think you find politicians in history who do not use historical comparisons very well. But this may sort of break the bank in terms of doing that. You were so right, because when he says that he would like to do what Roosevelt did with that presidential proclamation about alien control, those were countries that we were fighting, we Americans, in a war that had been declared by Congress.
These were people in this country who held passports from Nazi Germany and Mussolini...
MATTHEWS: Sure. But isn`t that sort of -- by the way, that is sort of normal. If you`re at war with a country, you`re rounded up.
BESCHLOSS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Why would you want somebody wandering around your country that was from the other side?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, earlier this week, the co-chairman of Trump`s veterans coalition up in New Hampshire drew a favorable parallel between Trump`s plans and Japanese internment -- quote -- "What Trump is saying is no different than the situation during World War II when we put the Japanese in camps," he said on Monday.
And when asked in an interview with "TIME" magazine whether he would have supported Japanese internment camps, Trump himself said, "I certainly hate the concept of it, but I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer."
Michael Duffy, that`s a cute answer. That`s a cute answer.
MATTHEWS: I would have to be -- we have been looking at that throughout our history. And I`m sure we all look back and say, was there was any real justification to believe that Japanese Americans were on the other side? Were there really a significant or any semblance of an agent crowd in that crowd helping the Japanese Empire?
But I don`t think so. I think mainly these are all loyal Americans who were very much settled here, in fact, Americans to the hilt.
DUFFY: Yes. And Michael Beschloss would know better than I about whether Roosevelt would have liked to have had that one back to do it over again. It`s certainly a dark spot on his legacy.
And -- but don`t forget Trump is aiming this at a segment of the electorate that is teed up pretty early in the primaries to come up early next year. Short-term, it`s working for him, though, as you pointed out in an earlier segment, there`s a backlash now forming that probably puts a ceiling on him, we presume. We may be wrong.
Other candidates who have tried this kind of rhetoric over the last 50 years have somehow -- sometimes surprised pollsters with their support that is not measurable. So, while we can make some guesses about what this does to his support, we really won`t know until they start voting.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Dana Milbank. He`s on the show a lot. Today, he called Trump America`s modern Mussolini, writing: "Trump uses many of the fascist`s tools: a contempt for facts, spreading a pervasive sense of fear and overwhelming crisis, portraying his backers as victims, assigning blame to foreign or alien actors and suggesting only his powerful personality can transcend the crisis."
I thought it was well-written by him. I may not like the word fascist, but Dana Milbank knows how to put words together. And that sounds like a definition of fascism.
BESCHLOSS: He does.
And one thing I thought, Chris, was that horrible 9/11, horrible Pearl Harbor, which we`re observing the 74th anniversary of this week, but maybe the only mitigating thing, thank God those things did not happen during a presidential campaign with people who were eager to exploit them. That`s happening right now.
MATTHEWS: And I wonder if we had stopped a guy named Eisenhower from leading the invasion of Europe because he was German American , do you think that would have been a smart move?
MATTHEWS: He received the Nazi surrender. I`m sure the Germans noticed that.
BESCHLOSS: They absolutely noticed that.
MATTHEWS: I`m sure they did.
Thank you so much.
You cannot judge people always by where their parents came from or their grandparents. And you shouldn`t judge somebody by their religion. That is un-American.
BESCHLOSS: For sure.
MATTHEWS: It is.
You hear me, Donald? Un-American. Stop it. But you won`t.
Thank you, Michael Duffy. Thank you, Michael Beschloss, for the historic perspective.
And congratulations on Angela Merkel. I have always been a fan.
Still ahead -- we all have -- still ahead, the Republican establishment is aghast at Trump`s Muslim plan, but his core supporters have no problem with it, apparently. We are going to look at who`s backing the GOP front-runner and why coming up.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say ship them all back, seriously.
QUESTION: And he`s saying don`t let any more come in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t let any more come in. Ship them all back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s a good idea, with everything that is going on in the world right now. Is sounds harsh, but reality is reality.
There`s so much hatred out there toward us, and in that culture especially, and not to make a blanket statement myself, but -- so I`m OK with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is cutting off people`s heads? Who is bombing buildings? Who is bombing airplanes? It`s not the Christians. It`s not the Jewish. It`s not the Buddhists. It`s the Muslims. You got that on camera, sport?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You got it, sport?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Those are some of Donald Trump`s enthusiastic supporters. No matter how you try and adjust your focus on the Republican presidential race, one thing is clear. Trump is on top right now, with about 30 percent of the Republican vote in most of the polls out there.
A new online poll shows strong GOP support, 65 percent, for Trump`s proposed temporary ban on the entry of Muslims from other countries coming into the U.S. The GOP establishment may be outraged, but the Republican grassroots and Trump supporters in particular are standing solid behind him.
Joining me right now are Republican strategist John Brabender -- thank you, John -- a Rick Santorum adviser, and Gregory Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Let me start with John and your sense of the stalwartness of the Trump vote. Will it go through this storm, which I think is of a different quality than the ones he`s faced in the last couple months? Your thoughts.
JOHN BRABENDER, SANTORUM CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, I think there`s two answers to that.
First of all, you do have to start with the understanding that Trump supporters are unlike anything we have seen before. They`re generally very blue-collar. They`re very much more on the high school educated, and they are not having any real affinity for the party itself or Washington.
So they`re different than -- they`re not a quintessential Republican voter. Number two is, I do believe that this is a little bit different. I do believe that, for the first time, it is possible that he`s gone too far where even his own supporters are going to say, this is outrageous, this isn`t what America is about, and hopefully find it very troubling.
GREGORY ANGELO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Yes. Well...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe this is a Rubicon, this is a crossing over from populism to un-Americanism?
ANGELO: I don`t know that I would say that.
We definitely put out a statement yesterday admonishing Mr. Trump for this fanciful...
MATTHEWS: Suppose he said no gays can come into the country?
ANGELO: But he wouldn`t say that.
MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t he?
ANGELO: Because Donald Trump -- your viewers might not believe it -- is actually the most pro-gay...
(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I said if he would. I said if he would. But I said if he would. He hasn`t come for you guys yet, but he`s going for a lot of other people.
ANGELO: But he has a record of not doing that. He supports amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation on discrimination. He has been to a gay wedding, is friends with George Takei. His record doesn`t -- doesn`t bear out that he would be...
MATTHEWS: How do you explain his tolerance on orientation, but not tolerance on ethnicity?
ANGELO: Because what he`s doing right now is playing to people`s fears, Chris.
And when you talk about the numbers that are coming out right now about all these Republican voters who are supporting Trump`s plan, a fanciful plan that could never be realized, keep in mind -- this would never happen -- but to ban all Muslims from this country, they`re not so much, in my estimation, supporting Trump`s plans, as they are the lack of plan and vision from President Obama.
MATTHEWS: Suppose you were a Muslim. What would you think? What would you think if you were a Muslim? What would you think if you were a Muslim and you heard that Muslims can`t come in the country?
ANGELO: This was an un-American plan. It`s an un-Republican plan. And that`s essentially what we said in our statement yesterday. I`m not being an apologist for Trump in that regard, but I would just point that if we, as Log Cabin Republicans, are advocating for a more inclusive Republican Party, it doesn`t begin and end with members of the gay community.
In fact, one of the most challenging things, if you`re fighting for equal rights, it`s easy to fight for you own equal rights, right?
MATTHEWS: That is well said. Thank you for saying it.
Following the attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, many Americans have security as a top priority, of course, you said, guiding their presidential pick.
Here`s a woman outside a Trump event this week in South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s too much going on in the world. I think we need to protect America first.
QUESTION: And do you feel that this is -- you`re saying that this is a main issue that you`re focused on when you`re considering who to vote for president?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, definitely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: John, let`s get to this thing, because I`m not going to put down the Trump voter, by the way, because they`re Americans. And their vote is as valid as anybody else`s. That is a fact.
But, number two, I have noticed that even though a lot of people -- he has a bulk of his support from people who didn`t get to go to college, which is an privilege, by the way, an economic privilege, he does do well basically among people with college degrees.
In fact, he`s in the running with them. I`m looking at the numbers. It`s only in that larger group that he benefits from people who didn`t get the breaks.
My feeling is about not getting the breaks, does that mean they`re less willing to support American values?
BRABENDER: Well, see, I think what this really comes down to is, it`s really not about Donald Trump. It`s really having a better understanding of who these people are.
They very much feel disenfranchised from the American political process.
MATTHEWS: I agree with them. They are.
BRABENDER: And they`re angry. And they`re angry.
MATTHEWS: They are.
BRABENDER: This is the network news movie from 1976, where they`re mad at hell.
And the irony is they`re picking a billionaire to be their voice. That`s the irony in all of this. The question is, is Donald Trump taking them down a path which there`s no return? And then it`s a paradox for the Republican Party. These are voters that we certainly want, but we don`t want the anger and the policies of Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: You know, I posited something the other night.
I think there`s a great vacuum out there that this guy has filled. I don`t like what he said here. I think it`s un-American. But on the economic front, they don`t see anybody serious about illegal immigration. People change the word to undocumented workers. Well, that`s nice to call people that. That`s a better phrase than illegal aliens or illegal immigrants even.
But it doesn`t solve the problem of illegal immigration, nor does these trade issues. They see every city in this country, every small town, there`s nothing left. The industry is gone. The jobs that people used to have coming out of high school don`t exist, and nobody has ever explained that to them.
No leader has come forward and said we have something better for you, because they don`t.
John Brabender, thank you for joining us. I think we know there`s a reality here economically and there`s a reality socially that has got to be filled by somebody. Trump is filling in. But let`s still keep our American values.
Thank you, Gregory Angelo, for that well-thought-out answer.
And thank you, John Brabender, as always. Keep coming on.
ANGELO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, we turn to the Democratic race for 2016. Yes, it`s still going on, as Bill -- Hillary Clinton -- why did I say Bill? Hillary Clinton tries to tie Donald Trump`s inflammatory rhetoric to all Republicans. Watch what she is doing here. She wants Trump around to beat up come next November. She doesn`t want him fading from the field. She wants to keep the face and the words and the positions of Trump as something she can run against next November.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(NEWSBREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This election is not only about choosing a president, but choosing a commander in chief. Donald Trump, he does traffic in prejudice and paranoia. It`s not only shameful. It`s dangerous. Now, some of the other Republican candidates have finally said these latest comments have gone too far, but the truth is a lot of them have said some pretty extreme things, too. (END VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Hillary Clinton campaigning earlier today in Waterloo, Iowa, and calling out GOP frontrunner. Clinton has also been trying to paint the entire Republican field with the same broad brush. Of course, that makes sense, forcing them into a corner and making them own all of Trump`s extreme rhetoric. Her campaign released this web ad just today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz is now proposing a bill that would ban any Syrian refugees or Muslims. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeb Bush saying we should let in Christian refugees. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you`re a Christian, you can prove you`re a Christian. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if they were orphans under the age of 5? CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think orphans under 5 should be admitted into the United States. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution? BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want surveillance of certain mosques, okay? SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s about closing down any place, whether it`s a cafe, a diner, an Internet site. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s time to wake up and smell the falafel. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So whether Trump wins the nomination or not, Hillary Clinton has made it clear she plans to run against him, regardless of who she faces in the general election. Time for the HARDBALL roundtable: Jonathan Capehart, he`s opinion writer for "The Washington Post", Sabrina Siddiqui is a reporter with "The Guardian" newspaper, and Jonathan Allen is co-author of the book "HRC." So, let me go to you, expert, a biographer of Hillary. Is she going to get away -- it looks like a good ad. I like it. Can she plaster them with the same sort of what were you call it, abusive, racist, whatever things she`s tagging him with? JONATHAN ALLEN, CO-AUTHOR, "HRC": No, I don`t think she is. She tried it on immigration. I think it works better on that, because there`s less of a distinction among a lot of the Republican candidates. But I think what we saw yesterday, the reaction from the Republican Party to Donald Trump was a pretty strong rebuke. You saw presidential candidates distancing themselves from him on his particular issue of banning Muslims from coming into the country. I think when voters are hearing something else from so many Republican leaders than what Donald Trump said, it actually strains her credibility a little bit. MATTHEWS: Sabrina? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Here`s where I disagree to an extent. MATTHEWS: Disagree with him? SIDDIQUI: Yes. MATTHEWS: Make it clear who you disagree with. SIDDIQUI: Here`s what happened, you go through all of the statements where they condemn Donald Trump. All they said is that his proposal is not serious. It`s not constitutional. They didn`t actually condemn the rhetoric, the substance of what he was saying. MATTHEWS: Well, saying it`s unconstitutional -- SIDDIQUI: They don`t want to stand up for and defend -- MATTHEWS: What do you want them to say? SIDDIQUI: Well, I think, what the president said the other night, what Paul Ryan said yesterday, that Muslim Americans, the majority of them contribute a lot to the society, that they serve with our -- MATTHEWS: How about saying it`s immoral? SIDDIQUI: That it`s immoral. But no one is willing to say that because 30 percent of their supporters agree with Donald Trump. JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: But you know what? There is a Republican out there who did say exactly all of these things, unfortunately, he`s not running for president and that`s former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge on with Chuck Todd yesterday, who flat out said, I will not support Trump if he`s the nominee. What he`s doing is -- MATTHEWS: Where is the Ridge portion of the Republican Party these days? Because I like that portion. CAPEHART: I know. They`re not anywhere to be found. But unfortunately, here`s where I disagree with Jonathan as well. MATTHEWS: Oh! CAPEHART: I think that Hillary Clinton -- MATTHEWS: You`re in a barrel here tonight. CAPEHART: In the clip you saw. ALLEN: Jonathan upon Jonathan violence. (LAUGHTER) CAPEHART: The ad where you showed that Hillary Clinton is trying to make it clear that Donald Trump is not the only one, none of the people she showed said that Muslims should be barred from entering the United States. But all those clips were almost as extreme. So, whether, you know -- while you`re saying it`s going to injure to her -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The two best bets -- ALLEN: They`re all tarred with this brush. MATTHEWS: The two best bets to beat I think right now, I think we agree, the two best bets are probably Cruz and Rubio. Cruz is very close to Trump on a lot of these things emotional politically and ethnically and all that stuff. I don`t think Rubio will be accused of being a racist. (CROSSTALK) SIDDIQUI: He came out against what Donald Trump said. He said it was offensive. He said it was unconstitutional. We do not take religious test. And he`s actually said I don`t support allowing Syrian refugees in because we can`t vet them, but you never said we should prioritize Christians and have a religious test for refugees either. MATTHEWS: Jeb did say that. SIDDIQUI: But you know, what Rubio has done is he still talks a lot about radical Islam, he still plays this up. MATTHEWS: There is such a thing as radical Islam. SIDDIQUI: And he plays up in the clashes of civilization. I think he may tone some of that down in a general election, but he`s trying to walk a finer line. ALLEN: There is a big difference here between talking about fighting terrorists and saying we`re going to ban anyone who is Muslim from coming into the country, as if you could tell who was Muslim by like asking questions. Not to mention the -- MATTHEWS: What or somebody over in Europe becomes a Muslim, are they banned? Or if somebody over in Europe becomes a Muslim, are they banned? What if somebody was born a Muslim, are they banned? We don`t have it on the passports. It doesn`t say. How would you even know -- if some guy at the door in New York, and you`ve got to decide who gets in off the plane, how would you possibly decide it? CAPEHART: I don`t know. ALLEN: Our country is founded on the idea you can escape religious persecution by coming here. MATTHEWS: Yes. ALLEN: Right? MATTHEWS: I don`t know -- that was in my opening if you got here earlier. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: "The Hill" reports that the Clinton world wants to knock Bernie Sanders out of the Democratic presidential race with a resounding win in the Iowa caucuses. The one hurdle that Clinton campaign faces, New Hampshire, where the former first lady and the Vermont senator have been locked in a tight race for month. Clinton could effectively slam the door on Sanders with a win there on February 9th, but that might be easier said than done. A brand-new CNN/WMUR poll from New Hampshire out today a few hours ago shows Sanders leading Clinton by ten points up there. It`s Sanders 50, Clinton 40, guys. It`s hard to knock the guy out when he`s beating you. ALLEN: It`s hard to knock the guy out when he`s beating you. But it`s the one place where you see him ahead in the polls right now. MATTHEWS: If he loses there, is he dead? ALLEN: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: You agree? SIDDIQUI: I do agree. CAPEHART: Yes, it`s the next -- MATTHEWS: If he wins Iowa. ALLEN: Ooh. MATTHEWS: Is she dead? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: She`s down 20 there. ALLEN: The question for Bernie Sanders is, how do you keep Democrats voting in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire when you`ve got all of this going on in the Republican primary? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You can pick your ballot up there. ALLEN: That`s right. You can pick your ballot on the day of the election. MATTHEWS: That`s pretty frisky. Anyway, thank you, guys. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, tell me something I don`t know, which is always my favorite part. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out against Donald Trump`s Muslim ban. His official Twitter account noted he rejected Trump`s comments and the state of Israel respects all religions. In the U.K., British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Trump as well, calling the plan divisive, unhelpful, and quite simply wrong. And an online petition hoping to bar Trump from the U.K. personally has racked up a quarter million signatures passing the 100,000 threshold that requires British parliament to consider the matter. So they`re going to look at it. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable. Sabrina, tell me something I don`t think. SIDDIQUI: We`re talking about Muslims and Republicans. I kind of want to draw attention to something that didn`t get a lot of attention, which is Rand Paul successfully secured a vote just the other day to put a pause on immigration from 30 Muslim majority countries. That would have included tourists, it would have included students, and it was overwhelmingly defeated. But the reason that a lot of people gave for it was that it extended to travelers from Germany, it extended to visitors from Europe, not because they were supportive of the principle of blocking or pausing immigration from Muslim majority countries. In fact, Marco Rubio said if it had done just that he would have supported it, too. So, I actually don`t think you are seeing a lot of distance -- MATTHEWS: Why don`t we really dump on the countries that have been with us for years like Algeria, and Morocco, and Egypt, and Jordan? Let`s really dump on them. Jonathan? CAPEHART: OK. So -- MATTHEWS: That would be a great way to build friendship. By the way, who are these people ground fighters supposedly we`re using to fight ISIS? They`re all Islamic. SIDDIQUI: Right. MATTHEWS: They`re all Islamic. We`re not letting them in the country, but they only get them and fight ISIS for us. CAPEHART: Well, speaking of fighting ISIS, one of the things people say, Republicans say is that we should cut off the financing. All the money that ISIS is using to fund itself. Well, in the United States government treasury, there is a job called the under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial crimes. The person in the job right now is acting. His name is Adam Szubin. He`s been acting for 233 days. Today one of the -- MATTHEWS: Who`s holding this up? CAPEHART: Well, I`m about to tell you. Senator Sherrod Brown put in a request for unanimous consent and it was blocked by Senator Shelby. And so, now, the person whose job it is to figure out ways -- all sorts of ways to cut off money from ISIS is being held up. MATTHEWS: OK, what`s Shelby want? CAPEHART: I don`t know. MATTHEWS: Find out. CAPEHART: All right. (LAUGHTER) ALLEN: Somebody called Senator Shelby`s office. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan yesterday what I thought -- MATTHEWS: What`s with the beard by the way? Is he playing baseball now? What is that beard about? (CROSSTALK) CAPEHART: What`s wrong with the beard? MATTHEWS: I just don`t get it. ALLEN: So, yesterday, a strong rebuke of Donald Trump`s policy about strong terms, you can have, talked about the Muslim members of the House of Representatives. But he`s being criticized for not going so far as to say he wouldn`t support Trump if Trump was the nominee. He`s got a pretty strong prohibition on that as a member of the official Republican convention. He`s the head of the presidential trust for Republicans. If you remember speaker of the House then Nancy Pelosi refused to endorse in the Democratic primary 2008, even though she was helping Barack Obama for pretty much the same reason, which is, if you`re running the convention and part of the running convention, you got to stay neutral. MATTHEWS: That`s why Tipton had endorsement between Carter and Ted Kennedy. Sometimes you seek those positions so you don`t have to endorse. Anyway, thank you to the roundtable. There`s nothing wrong with designer stubble. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Jonathan Allen. When we return -- for you at least -- let me finish with this line, this line that Trump has clearly crossed now about banning people because of their religion. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight where I began. Yes, to get it on the record again, there are things we believe and care about believing that are more important than current political needs of a presidential candidate. Donald Trump can say anything he wants. He can believe anything he wants. That`s America. What he can`t do is say what America stands for or what it no longer stands for. This country believes in religious tolerance. We don`t close our shores to people of faiths we do not share because this country was founded on being a home for people whose religions drove them from countries who do not believe in tolerance. Trump doesn`t, we do. The time for choosing is at hand. 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