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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/17/2015

Guests: David Ignatius, Heidi Przybyla, David Drucker, Robert Costa, Chris Shelton, Anne Gearan, Michael Tomasky, Francesca Chambers

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 17, 2015 Guest: David Ignatius, Heidi Przybyla, David Drucker, Robert Costa, Chris Shelton, Anne Gearan, Michael Tomasky, Francesca Chambers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Scared enough?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Had enough? Well, that was the two-word slogan, campaign slogan, that brought the Republicans victory in the first election after World War II. And listening to their presidential candidates these days, you`d expect their 2016 slogan to be "Scared enough?" Every one of them is out there shouting their fear and loathing of terrorism.

While trying to calm nerves, President Obama spoke to the country this Thursday for the third time in 10 days.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re hitting ISIL harder than ever in Syria and Iraq. We are taking out their leaders. Our partners on the ground are fighting to push ISIL back, and ISIL has been losing territory.

And we`re sending a message. If you target Americans, you will have no safe haven. We will find out, and we will defend our nation. We`ve prevailed over much greater threats than this. We will prevail again.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Did you notice the president`s tone and demeanor there? It stands in sharpest possible contrast to what we`re hearing on the campaign trail, particularly on the Republican side. They have responded with a combination of tough talk and bravado. They`re declared war on the president`s manner itself.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to bomb the (EXPLETIVE) out of them!


TRUMP: It`s true. I don`t care. I don`t care. They`ve got to be stopped!

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will carpet bomb them into oblivion!

I don`t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we`re going to find out!


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don`t realize we`re already in World War III. If he doesn`t understand that we`re already in that war, then it`s just another example of why he`s so unfit to be president of the United States.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are at war with radical Islam, and we have been for a very long time. And if you refuse to call it for what it is, you are doing a great disservice to the American people.


MATTHEWS: Well, David Ignatius is a columnist for "The Washington Post." Heidi Przybyla is the senior political reporter with "USA Today." And Ron Reagan is the MSNBC contributor.

Ron, I want to start with you out in Seattle. This is really a battle of style. The Republicans seem to think that "too cool for school" is our problem, and not that terrorism`s a problem, or a new one, but that all we have to do is yell like Jackie Gleason did in the old days, and everything`s going to be just fine.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, people are anxious here in the country. People are scared. And that`s red meat to the Republicans. They trade in fear and loathing, of course, especially during an election year.

But what`s not happening here -- and I have to say this applies to both sides, it seems to me, to some extent, but more to the Republicans. Nobody is having a realistic conversation with the American public about what it would really take if we -- and mostly us alone, or even us with some allies -- really wanted to defeat ISIS and wipe them into oblivion, as Ted Cruz was talking about there.

They`re talking about carpet bombing. They`re talking about bomb the -- out of them. You know, do any of those people actually consult with military people? Does Ted Cruz, for instance, even know what carpet bombing is and how wildly inappropriate and useless it would be to fight ISIS in the Middle East?

So -- but also, on the Democratic side, also on the president`s side. More of more of the same is not going to defeat ISIS here.


REAGAN: This is a complicated problem, and the American people need to know how complex the dynamics are in the Middle East -- Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sunni, Shia, and what that all means before we -- you know, before they make any judgments about what we ought to be doing.

MATTHEWS: You know, David, it looks to me like we`ve been bombing people of the Islamic faith since the first Iraq war, since the Gulf war with George, Sr. We did it in Afghanistan. The world sees pictures of us bombing the hell out of it, or whatever he`s calling it, the bad word he wants to use there, all kinds of Arabs, people -- carpet -- that`s all we`ve been doing!


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) that, Oh, that`s the solution. Let`s put more TV pictures up in the world of how much the United States is willing to kill Arabs. I don`t see that as the solution.

IGNATIUS: ... bombing and tough talk would have done the job, it would have been done a long time ago. I think President Obama`s problem is that his demeanor, this Mr. Cool, detached, not hot, red hot temperament, has left the public feeling unprotected. So the president...

MATTHEWS: You think it -- you think it is a problem. He should heat it up.

IGNATIUS: I think that the White House made a decision this week that they have to look more engaged. I don`t think they...

MATTHEWS: We saw him today!

IGNATIUS: ... want to change policies. So that`s exactly -- that`s a new thing. So this week, the president went to the Pentagon. It was basically a photo op there. They could have had that briefing in the Situation Room.

Today, the president went to the NCTC, the counterterrorism center, same reason -- to be seen by the public as being engaged, monitoring the situation, reassuring the public. And I think that reflects a correct assessment. The public is scared, and they need more direct reassurance from the commander-in-chief.

MATTHEWS: If you got a robber outside your house, do you want your husband or somebody else in the house to start screaming out the window? I mean, is that -- that -- it sounds like what people seem to want.

And by the way, Islamic radical terrorism, as if the words themself were some kind of voodoo magic, you got to call them by certain names, and then they`ll melt.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": That`s the problem, is they`re focusing on rhetoric and rhetoric alone because, Chris, I`ve called and reached out to some of the most preeminent conservative national security experts -- Jim Jeffries (ph), Bush`s former deputy national security director. He said there`s no material difference between what they`re proposing in terms of the actual strategy and what`s happening right now. There might be tweaks around the margins...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I want to get to.

PRZYBYLA: ... but it`s essentially the same -- the same (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: So they`re sowing (ph) noise.

PRZYBYLA: Yes. I mean, it`s like "shock and awe." Remember "shock and awe"...


PRZYBYLA: ... how good that made us feel? It was the rhetoric (INAUDIBLE)


PRZYBYLA: It was the strong man. It was the brass knuckles versus the professor, right?

MATTHEWS: Ron, back to you. It seems like they also -- I remember FDR once said the Republicans always say they`ll do exactly what you`re doing, and they`ll do it for nothing and it won`t cost you anything.

Now we have -- there`s certainly not going to be a draft. Nobody`s talking about a draft. The way of keeping our people fighting, men and women out there, is to re-up them, whether they like it or not, back door draft, making people have another tour of duty. That`s how we`re fighting these wars, fourth and fifth tours of duty.

We`re not going to have a draft because that would mean making actually Republicans have to fight, or Democrats. Number two, we`re not going to raise taxes a nickel. So we`re not going to let the war cost us in any way.

I`m trying to think -- oh, we`re not going to have any casualties, either, because we`re not going to put troops on the ground, we`re going to do this all through magic wand kind of fighting.

They`re not offering up a more vigorous campaign against the enemy, as we can identify it. They`re offering up rate.

REAGAN: They`re offering up rage...

MATTHEWS: I think that`s what they`re offering.

REAGAN: Well, the Donald Trumps and the Ted Cruzes and a few others are offering up rage. Some of the more rational players even on the Republican side, like Jeb Bush, are, as we`ve just heard, essentially proposing what -- what Barack Obama is proposing and what Hillary Clinton had proposed. It`s more of more of the same.

Nobody, though, is coming to grips with the fact that if we really want to take care of ISIS, if we really want to do something about these people over there in Syria, in Iraq, it means boots on the ground for years and years. So what we`re going to do is just enough to be able to say we`re doing something, but not enough to take care of the problem.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and I wonder whether boots on the ground, a big infantry attempt`s going to make -- anyway, we`re seeing a brand of no-cost toughness -- that`s what it is, no-cost toughness -- emerge on the campaign trail, and there`s no better example than Trump. He is the epitome of tough. Here he is.


TRUMP: I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them!


TRUMP: I`d blow up the pipes! I`d blow up the -- I`d blow up every single inch! There would be nothing left!

You have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.


MATTHEWS: Heidi, what do you make of that, We got to take out their families? Now, that would really be getting into the metered (ph) -- Middle Eastern sensibility. Don`t just kill the guy, say, We`re going after your children and your grandchildren.

PRZYBYLA: Do you think -- what I think about actually the practical impact that that would have, or as a policy or what -- how that`s resonating with the people because, Chris, I`ve looked at the polls today. It`s -- it`s incredible how much support there is for some of these things...


MATTHEWS: What, go get the children?

PRZYBYLA: ... the Muslim -- well, we haven`t polled that one specifically yet, but like, the Muslim ban. And it`s really resonating and...

MATTHEWS: Because the people can get mad and say their for those things and know that it will not cause any danger to themselves, or cost to them.

PRZYBYLA: The problem is, the polls also tell us that they don`t believe it`s going to make us any safer. So where does that lead you? What road does that lead you down in terms of just the hate and the xenophobia that that is promulgating in our national discourse?

MATTHEWS: Why do people blow their car horns in the traffic all the time? It doesn`t make the traffic go any faster.

IGNATIUS: Well, this...

MATTHEWS: It makes them feel better sitting in their car to honk the horn.

IGNATIUS: This is a frightened...

MATTHEWS: I think that`s what it is.

IGNATIUS: This is a frightened country, and when people are frightened, they will fall prey to this kind of rhetoric.

The truth is, the sorts of things that the Republican candidates are saying couldn`t make the problem worse. If you carpet bomb the Sunni areas of Syria and Iraq, it would be impossible to stabilize those areas for decades. You won`t have anybody to work with. You`ll just have a pile of rubble. That`s not a good idea.

Similarly, if we`re going to get through this, it`s because we`ll have Muslim allies. The kind of rhetoric we`re hearing from Trump and others makes it much harder to get Muslim allies in our communities here who will report terrorist incidents (ph), or Muslim allies overseas who will work with us.

So the rhetoric may make people feel better, but it`s making the situation worse. And that`s the dilemma that President Obama I think understands clearly. He`s trying to amp it up without deviating from a policy that...

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s hard to say, though, this is as good as it gets, though, isn`t it. It`s pretty hard.

IGNATIUS: This is not -- he does need to do more. As you know, Chris, I`ve felt for three years that there`s more that he should be doing. Right now, he`s trying to resist the impulse to do things the country really won`t be willing to see through. You know, major ground --


PRZYBYLA: ... so shallow.

IGNATIUS: Major ground war...

PRZYBYLA: It`s so shallow.

IGNATIUS: ... in the Middle East, returning to Iraq, sending thousands of troops into Syria. I think the country really, as much as -- as frightened as people are, they`re not ready (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Have to do this now. With the Republican field in shambles and foreign policy dominating, of course, the conversation right now, this is a golden moment for Hillary Clinton, but she must convince voters that she`s stronger than Obama. Only 36 percent of the country now approves of Obama`s handling of ISIS. And voters have seen her at times alternate between a hawkish and a dovish tone.

Let`s listen to Hillary Clinton.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... because it is not enough to contain ISIS. We must defeat ISIS, break its momentum and then its back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it fair for people to expect that you would be a more aggressive commander-in-chief than President Obama has been?



MATTHEWS: Ron, again back to you. I think it`s very hard to -- I`ve always thought, watching her position on the EP-3 (ph), on the Iraq war over the years, that Hillary, I would say, a notch or two more hawkish than Obama, which certainly doesn`t mean she`s hawkish, it just means she`s much further over from him. And now the question is, does she want to be seen that way, as she approaches what will be a very close presidential election next year?

REAGAN: Well, Hillary Clinton is a political animal. She reads the political winds as well as anybody. And with the country feeling anxious about terrorists and ISIS and all of that sort of thing, I would think that she`ll tack a bit to the right and take a slightly more aggressive tone there.

But again, she`s stuck with the same dilemma that every other sensible person is stuck with here, which is what exactly do you do about the situation? There just is no easy answer.

As far as sort of the optics for her, though, I don`t think too many people think of her as a big softy. They may not trust her entirely. They may...

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m with you, Ron.

REAGAN: ... think she`s really political. They think she`s pretty steely, though.

MATTHEWS: I think watching her in the sit room or anywhere else (INAUDIBLE) Heidi, here`s the tough one for you. Journalistically, the morning after the 2016 election -- I always like to think ahead to try to figure out what`s going to happen. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, which I think she has an edge right now, it will say something like she was able to convince voters, although she`s from the same political party as President Obama, she will be something that gave them confidence she could be a great president. What would it be on foreign policy she would have to fill in the blanks there?

PRZYBYLA: She wouldn`t be as much of a -- I mean, the word that people use to describe Obama, unfortunately, and the word that Republicans are trying to attach to him right now is "weak."


PRZYBYLA: And she`s got to project that strength, and I think that`s the problem for her right now is she`s still in a Democratic primary, and she`s got a general election and the problem...

MATTHEWS: She can`t fill in that blank.

PRZYBYLA: ... that will -- that will carry through to her presidency, if she`s elected.

MATTHEWS: Is that right, David, that she has to fill in that blank, which why you picked her? Most people try to vote for change when they vote. They always want something better. That`s how we are as Americans. What`s the words that Hillary needs to fill in there?

REAGAN: In crisis, people vote for security, and she has to be the person who makes you feel that her judgment is good, that she`s tough, she knows -- she`s willing to use military power. Hillary Clinton has a very good relationship with the U.S. military. She has since she was in the Senate. She has to find a way to project that to voters.

MATTHEWS: I think she has to look strong, too. I think we all know the situation.

Thank you, David, and thank you, Heidi, and thank you, Ron. Merry Christmas out there in Seattle.

And coming up -- there`s growing worry among Main Street Republicans that Donald Trump could tank their chances of keeping control of Congress. You know what they`re afraid of? He`s going to win. He`s going to be the nominee. And Republican senators in key swing states, the purple states, are afraid they might get dragged down by him. But who knows.

Plus, the Democrats debate for the third time this Saturday night, two nights from now, and Hillary Clinton may be the prohibitive favorite right now, but Bernie Sanders just got a big boost to his campaign. We`re going to have the guy on that just boosted him.

And Russian president Vladimir Putin praises Donald Trump. They like each other! Big bromance here -- calls him talented, bright and outstanding. That`s an endorsement you may not want from Vlad, the impaler! Anyway, to get an idea what a Trump presidency might look like, look to Putin`s Russia with its hyper-nationalism, saber-rattling and macho talk.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the simple thought that every election`s an attempt to solve the problem presented by the president we have.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC ANCHOR: I`m Milissa Rehberger in New York with breaking news. We now have the first charges relating to that San Bernardino attack. Enrique Marquez, a friend and former neighbor of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, has been charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Marquez is in federal court at this hour in Riverside, California.

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now from Washington -- Pete.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, these charges give us a much more complete picture of what the FBI believes happened here. They believe that Syed Farook, one of the shooters, radicalized Marquez, got him interested in al Qaeda, got him interested in radical Islam and that the two began plotting as early as 2010 to carry out terror attacks in the area, plotting to throw pipe bombs into a community college and then shoot people, plotting to throw pipe bombs onto a busy state highway to stop traffic and then shoot people in their cars.

After that, the FBI says, they continued plotting for unknown attacks and training at shooting ranges. And these court documents say that when Enrique Marquez bought the two assault rifles that were ultimately used in the San Bernardino shootings, he knew that the rifles were being bought for terror attacks, and that he also bought components to make pipe bombs that could also be used for terror attacks.

Now, the charges say he did not seem to know anything about the San Bernardino attacks themselves. He`s in court now. He faces these charges.

The government also accuses him of a sham marriage, defrauding the federal government by agreeing to marry a relative of Farook`s to get her into the country. She, according to the FBI, in return for the favor, was paying him $200 a month. So these are the only charges filed in connection with the shooting, but they don`t accuse Marquez of having any role in the San Bernardino shootings.

REHBERGER: Supposedly, Pete, he checked himself into a psychiatric facility after the shooting. What do we know about that?

WILLIAMS: Yes, we`ve reported that, and there`s more detail here. They say that he`d been drinking, he`d had several beers, and then checked himself into this facility, made a 911 call in which he said that he thought that it was his friend using the guns that he bought that carried out the San Bernardino shootings and that he was extremely upset.

REHBERGER: Do we know what kind of time he could be facing?

WILLIAMS: Well, the maximum here would be about 30, 35 years in prison. But on the other hand, he`s been cooperating with the FBI. Indeed, many of the allegations here against him are based on statements that he made to the FBI. Authorities say they gave him his warnings, his Miranda warnings, and he chose to talk without a lawyer. But that may affect the sentencing here, if he`s ultimately convicted, because he was cooperating to help the authorities learn more about the San Bernardino shootings.

REHBERGER: Now, clearly, they were much more than neighbors. They had become friends. They`d spent a lot of time together. Is there evidence that they had had some sort of falling out?

WILLIAMS: Not a falling out, but what the government says here is that in late 2012, while they were in the midst of all their talk about plotting terror attacks, there was an arrest, an unrelated to them arrest in southern California of some people who wanted to get folks to go over to Syria or Afghanistan and attack American soldiers.

They got cold feet and he says -- the court documents say that from 2013 on, they basically stopped talking about terrorism.

REHBERGER: NBC`s Pete Williams, thank you very much.

HARDBALL returns after this.



KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: I also don`t believe in the end that he`s going to be our nominee.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: OK, but you would support him if he were?

AYOTTE: You know, I don`t support what he has done and I don`t think he will be our nominee so I don`t think I`ll have to worry about supporting him.


MATTHEWS: Oh, there`s some hedging by Kelly A. out up in New Hampshire and now it`s going to answer Senator Kelly A. just a few months ago saying she didn`t think she`d have to support, have to support Donald Trump because he would not be the nominee. Well, that`s not certainly so sure anymore.

But a lot of has changed since then and every day it looks more likely that Trump could be -- could well be the man at the top of the ticket next summer. And Trump head winds are giving anxiety to Republican senators up for re-election in purple states like Ayotte up there in New Hampshire, Wisconsin`s Ryan Johnson but probably should lose anyway. Illinois`s Mark Kirk probably shoots this anyway. Ohio`s Rob Portman has already in trouble and Pat Toomey could win, we`ll see.

Not to mention GOP prospects in that wild card opened seats down in Florida where right now there`s a three-way Republican primary fight. Anyway, the Washington post Phil Rucker and Robert Costa report, "All are states where polls predicted that Trump which struggle in a general action and where analysts believe the shrapnel from Trump atop the ticket would injure Republican lawmakers in difficult reelection fights thus giving democrats the senate majority."

Well, here`s why these senators are very nervous about Trump in 2016. According to NBC News as Mark Murray, "In the 40 Senate seats since 2004 rated by the cock political report as either a toss up or lean race, 32 times or 80 percent of the time the Senate contest went the same way as the presidential contest did in the same state."

Robert Costa`s a "Washington Post" political reporter, MSNBC political analyst. And David Drucker, is senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner".

David, do you believe that the coat tails of a presidential candidate are strong enough to decide four out of five senate races or do you not?

DAVID DRUCKER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, no. They`re strong enough but I think that if you look.

MATTHEWS: Who are that five? They can decide the race.

DRUCKER: I think if you look at this map, it depends on the map we`re dealing with but particularly because there`s less ticket splitting than there use to be and you name the states. I mean, you`re looking at Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, all states that have gone democratic in resent years and this is where the battle for senate control is going to be fought.

Clearly, the top of the ticket could have strong coat tails and that`s why Trump is a huge liability for Republicans and why down that republican that they`re going to be candid are really scared.

MATTHEWS: So why would the Republican Party pick a candidate who`s going to bring them down to the feet?

DRUCKER: Well, because you have voters and you have members of congress who are up for reelection and.

MATTHEWS: By different points of view.

DRUCKER: That`s correct. Look, I was in Nevada a couple of days ago. I spoke to Governor Brian Sandoval and Senator Dean Heller you got Harry Reed`s open senate seat there. You got some congressional races that could go either way and in a state where 20 percent of the electorate could be Hispanic and 2016 if not more that`s very ethically diverse. They`re worried that all of the republican credit that they have build up over the past couple of years could be for nothing with Trump at the top.

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. So that you buy this instance the economy at difference between how republican voters vote and what`s good for the party in the election race that there are another voters are voting for a candidate they vote for Trump. So what hurt the party? Why would they do that?

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: It doesn`t matter why they would do it, what the campaigns are preparing for the campaign they get definitely a possibility that the party is going to move in a different direction not in a electable direction that was going to help all this vulnerable senator. That`s why for me he`s already reaching out to minority voters. He`s already reaching out to center or left people to say I need to build the different kind of coalition in case Trump comes up.

MATTHEWS: Why did they probably going to establish or thinking it`s about two year ago stable running -- instead of running dodos. The reason Trump`s doing well is he`s running against dead people. These are terrible candidates.


MATTHEWS: Give me the establishment candidates it will do better.

DRUCKER: Look, I don`t think all look. I don`t think all.

MATTHEWS: They are terrible.

DRUCKER: I don`t think all -- they are terrible. Let me tell you.

MATTHEWS: Establishment ones Rubio, right.

DRUCKER: They think that Rubio.


DRUCKER: Let me tell you the biggest problem Republicans are having.

MATTHEWS: Oh yeah, so yeah, well, democratic presidents have no executive experience they said it per years. No executive experience. We shouldn`t have elected him president but he can give a good speech. So they come along with this government to governor have presented a term whose never had an executive experience, Marco Rubio who just this under Obama was to say, "I would put him in there. What hypocrites.

DRUCKER: It`s the same -- yeah, they are hypocrites. It`s the same for Ted Cruz. Republicans are having their own version of hope and change but this is the biggest reason why they`re in the position, they are with Trump. Republican voters in particular, have lost faith and institutions faith in the government. They think that all the people that are so smart, that are supposed to know everything that we`ve been electing for all these years, have messed it all up. So, why shouldn`t I take a chance on somebody who`s never done anything?

MATTHEWS: The establishment thought they`re going to have a.


MATTHEWS: By the way, you have me on a show before but that`s exactly what I think. I think they say, they can`t do worse than dodos that took us into Iraq, the guys, who would use our patriotism, some people patriotism and soldiers lives and limbs, to fight a stupid war. They did it. And they never say they`re sorry, they never say they`ve made a mistake, they just keep at it.

And Jeb`s out there selling W. this weekend. Right. I`m sorry, W. is selling, W. is selling Jeb to the money people.

One more worst.

DRUCKER: Well, well look, W still has a lot to play with the money people and Jeb needs money. I think.

MATTHEWS: That`s why Trump is doing well.

DRUCKER: . and I think a lot of this is also that Republican voters had an unrealistic expectation of what 2010 and 2014 could deliver and they`re angry that they didn`t deliver more. And that`s part of this anti- establishment backlash.

MATTHEWS: So, what do they do? They`re stuck because they can stop Trump by saying, "Oh, he`s going to cause this pad to me in Pennsylvania. No, it is not going to stop for that.

COSTA: And I think your point about the hoax, the base is in hawkish as the party leadership is.


COSTA: The under camp -- turn of the Trump campaign, this is not intervention his stance. I think the biggest disappointment of the party, at least, is that these governors always governors elected in 2010, 2014, they didn`t pan out as presidential candidates. They`re left with the two youthful senators not by choice but because of how the race unfolded.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that Democratic Party will face to face eventually, to Hillary Clinton will be as weak in establishment as the Republican established early.

She had some special reserves. I`m opening this question here. And she`ll come on and say ,"Yeah, I may be part of this party, the Democratic Party that`s been around for a long time but I`ve got something to offer here".

DRUCKER: Well, I think, part of it is who she faces in the general election. If she faces a weak candidate or bad candidate like Trump, I think, she`s going to look a lot better then if she faces Rubio or even to Ted Cruz, who for all his tough positions and conservative positions that could be difficult in the general election, is going to be the youthful and new and fresh.


DRUCKER: And so, it just sort of depends.

COSTA: But I speak to Democrats, I think, they must rather run against Senator Cruz because they can pan him as extreme to the right.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you, I agree with you in that. I think in a way, hoping they`re diminishing the guy because he doesn`t deserve it.

I think Rubio is cute and young. And I think people find him not too frightening. I think when they look at Cruz, they`ll go, this guy`s frightening, he really believes and he`s a man of the right, a very hard right and I think that maybe easier for Democrats to lie against anyway and Hillary to run against. We`ll see.

Robert Costa, David Drucker, great reporting here today.

Coming up, as Democrats head into their weekend debate, Bernie Sanders has walk in with one big endorsement but this isn`t enough to stop her with his momentum?

We`ll have the guy here to talk about why endorse president of CWA, Communication Workers of America.

Now, if you`re a Republican that`s not a big deal, if you`re Democrat, that`s a big deal.

This is Hardball. The place for politics.


REHBERGER: I `m Milissa Rehberger with breaking news. A friend of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook was arrested earlier and charged with three terror related accounts. Authorities say for Farook and Enrique Marquez plotted attacks at two nearby locations including river side community college where they plan to throw pipe bombs in the cafeteria and then shoot people as they fled. They also hoped to attack a California highway by throwing pipe bombs to stop traffic and open fire on disabled cars and first responders.

The plans were never carried out. Marquez is also accused of illegally buying were buying the two assault rifles used in the shootings early this month. And the explosive used in a pipe bombs.

And attorney Dennis Hastert says the former house speaker has been hospitalized for six weeks following a stroke. Hastert is awaiting sentencing in a mush money case.

And defense secretary Ash Carter is under fire for using his personal e-mail for work related communications. Carter says he should have known better. Back to hardball.


BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what we are seeing is a lot of grassroots support in union after union throughout this country. That support has not necessarily tripled up to the leadership in some cases. What I know about the CWA is that your endorsement is not just a paper endorsement. It`s not just a press release endorsement. So we`re going to have thousands of people on the ground knocking on doors and making phone calls and helping us as we do what needs to be done in this country and that is create a political revolution.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. That was Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders receiving the endorsement from the Communication Workers of America, one of the largest labor unions in the country early today. While the CWA is 700,000 members strong, represent workers in the telecom media and airline industry and Sanders` third big labor endorsement but it does tail behind former secretary state Hillary Clinton who has received 18 national labor endorsements according to her campaign.

Joining me right now is the president of the Communication Workers of America, Chris Shelton. Mr. President thanks for joining us and thank you for putting the show on. And all the other things that the communication workers do, engineers who work here in NBC and MS, and NBC especially.

Anyway, let me ask you about this. Why Hillary Clinton -- I`m sorry, why Bernie Sanders with Hillary Clinton leading so far?

CHRIS SHELTON, PRESIDENT OF THE COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA: You know, we did an exhaustive poll of our members since September and we had tens of thousands of our members vote in that poll and they voted for Bernie Sanders. They voted first of all whether we should endorse or not and they chose Bernie Sanders as the person that we should endorse.

MATTHEWS: Give me the voice of the average member, the CWA and what he would say if he were here, why Bernie?

SHELTON: Why Bernie because he`s the guy that we think is going to stand up for the middle class, going to stand up for working people in the country better than any other candidate.

MATTHEWS: Now, let me ask you, do you think he has a prayer?

SHELTON: I think he does. I think that with our help and with the help of the American people and when you look at his town hall meetings, you just see thousands of people coming out to support him, it looks to me like he`s got more than a shot.

MATTHEWS: OK, he`s a progressive. He`s a social -- in European say social democrat. Here we say democrat, is he more progressive than Hillary?

SHELTON: I don`t know if he more progressive than Hillary but his stance on working people is certainly what we want to hear and what most unions I believe want to hear even though a lot of unions are backing Hillary but stands on working people is certainly what we want to hear and what most unions I believe want to hear even though a lot of unions are backing Hillary. But, you know, we thought we needed somebody who was not ready for politics as usual and that happens to be Bernie Sanders.

MATTHEWS: I love your activity here. Thanks so much, Mr. President, Chris Shelton of CWA. And CWA endorsement was the only big announcement from the Senator`s campaign today. In Vermont Senator`s also received the endorsement from a 1 million liberal organizing group. Democracy for American, aids to Sanders also say he has amassed more than 2 million contributions and the wash of 2 million people contributing.

And the Washington Post reports today that expect -- they expect to out pace President Obama`s 2012 reelection effort on that count by the end of the year. More contributors to Bernie that there were to Obama. So, heading into Saturday`s Democratic debate up in Manchester, New Hampshire is this Democratic race really over or is it just beginning?

Jay Newton-Small is a correspondent with TIME magazine. You`ve just got a new addition, a new segment on Hillary Clinton. Some people said, where did I read today she`s winning but it doesn`t feel like she`s winning. How do you assess that statement?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT: I think they want her to feel like she`s winning right now. Her own campaign wants us to feel like it`s an actual race that she`s earning their votes and that it`s not in marks inevitability. So, to them, I mean, I don`t think it`s a bad thing that Bernie is getting a little bit of steam.

I mean I think it`s really bad if they lose Iowa and lose New Hampshire and we`re going in to South Carolina but contest is a good thing and it excites Democrats in the days. And they`re not that worried because if you look at polls Hillary is still very poplar amongst Democrats. So, it`s not as a kind of anti establishment thing here. It`s just a healthy debate that they`re having and that they`re going to get to have.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Hillary Clinton is exposing herself to real give and take in the interviews that she has chosen to give? I watched a lot they`re doing. I understand why they do this but I`m not sure it`s the way to get a candidate ready fort a big fight. And it`s going to be a close general election. I remember George Bush Sr. he went out and fought, you know, he went out and fought with Dan Rather. He went out and found media people that were going to take him on and he looks stronger because that`s like getting ready for a big battle. You get into sparing partner situations.

Hillary Clinton doesn`t seem like she wants to do that. She wants to not do that. Your thoughts?

SMALL: Well, are you saying that Bernie isn`t enough, a good enough debate partner for her coming in tonight in the debate this weekend?


SMALL: Well, I mean it`s true that she have not had any really tough interviews. A lot of the interviews have been pretty soft at. They do maybe one round of questions a week, from journalist, the reporters that travel with her in the campaign trail. So, it isn`t that to the nail but at the same time they`re kind of more than happy to lay back and let the Republicans do their thing. Let them fight it out and sort to see who is last standing but you`re right. The danger is that then she goes to the general election very soft, very weak with a very big under belly.

MATTHEWS: I think she looked great in that fist debate. Not so good in the second debate. I think it`s a thing you have to learn. It`s like playing the piano. Everything else you`re doing like playing baseball, you know, before every baseball game they go out and practice for an hour. So, they practice every night before the game.

These are pros. They shoot baskets in the NBA before the game. Pros have to go practice every night. You`ve got to learn this game and you got to keep practicing and you can`t lay back and say, I`ll win the next game I`m great.

Anyway, thank you Jay Newton-Small. That`s my lesson for tonight. Anyway, a reminder let me -- we`re going to have live coverage this Saturday night, the Democratic debate, Saturday night here. I`m coming to work 10:00 Eastern to tell you what we thing and what happened the debate this Saturday between -- among Bernie and O`Malley and Hillary Clinton.

Coming up, by the way, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, this is so weird to say but, had the same kind of way of talking. Talking, but is that a good thing? I mean, why does Trump, why does Vladimir like Trump so much? We`re going to ask you to pick out who said what because you can tell whether it`s Trump or Vladimir who just said this. This is going to be fun and also weird and a little scary. You`re watching Hardball. Place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump seems to have a fan over in the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin told Russian journalist today, quote, "Trump is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. But it is not up to us to appraise his positive sides. It`s up to the U.S. voters. But as we can see it, he`s an absolute leader in the presidential race." Well, the admiration appears to be mutual while most try to out do each other talking about how tough they will get confronting the Russian leader. Donald Trump is going in the opposite direction. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I would get along well with Putin. I think so. People say what do you mean? I think I would get along well with him. I think in terms of leadership he`s getting an A and our president is not doing so well. They do not look good together. I would get along with Putin. I`ve dealt with Russia. Putin hates -- ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: You think you`d get along with Putin? TRUMP: I think I`d get along with him fine. He does not like Obama at all. He doesn`t respect Obama at all. And I`m sure that Obama doesn`t like him very much. But I think that I would probably get along with him very well, and I don`t think he`d be having the kind of problems that you`re having right now. And I got to know him well because we were both on "60 Minutes". We were stable mates. We did well that night. But you know that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I don`t think he`s ever met him. Anyway, I`m joined by tonight`s roundtable, Anne Gearan is political reporter with "Washington Post", Michael Tomasky is a columnist with "The Daily Beast", and Francesca Chambers is a White House reporter for "The Daily Mail". Francesca, what is this thing? Are they going to the same Russian health club and fights it out naked or something, looking that movie? FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: When you read the loud what Putin said, it sounded like a Trump press release, quite honestly. You know, he`s absolutely winning this race from what we can see. But I think that what they do have in common is they`re both aggressive. I think they`re both playing off a populist sentiment and they`re both very colorful. And so, they have a lot in common, as Trump pointed out. MATTHEWS: Does this mean peace for mankind if they get together? MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, well, it means peace for Putin. And you know, the psycho drama of this is interesting. It`s more interesting. There`s geopolitics here too, Chris. Trump said he doesn`t care if Ukraine and Georgia get into NATO, and he has also said the Ukraine -- the fighting in Ukraine is Europe`s problem. Putin loves to hear those things. So -- MATTHEWS: What Americans want to fight over Georgia and Ukraine? Maybe the Baltic states I think will fight for it, to be in NATO. Do we really want Georgia -- TOMASKY: John McCain hasn`t said that? MATTHEWS: Yes, but do you think the average American wants to take part of the inner empire and give it to Europe? TOMASKY: Some of the other Republican presidential candidates. MATTHEWS: Well, that would be fighting words. Anyway, Anne, you can start the game. We`re going to play a little game tonight. It`s like Jimmy Fallon stopped here. "BuzzFeed" had an online quiz asking who said it, Trump or Putin. I`m going to read quotes now and you`re going to have to decide who said what. First off, "There`s an old German proverb to the fact that fear makes the wolf bigger than he is, and that is true." Who said that? Well, the answer is Donald Trump. We got that wrong completely. Next, the White House has mush for brains. We`re all wrong again. It`s Putin. Next quote, "We`re losing a lot of people because of the Internet and we have to do something, maybe in certain areas closing to Internet up in some ways." It`s Trump. Trump. The answer finally got one right. One for three. Next quote, "Partnerships must have loyalty and integrity at their core." Three of us are wrong. Another disaster. Here`s another one. You got that one. You got it right. Here`s another one, "Terrorist are using civilians as shields. But we`re fighting a very politically correct war." We know. Putin knows what politically correct means anyway. Finally, "You know what`s bad? Not bad but a tragedy, there`s just one of me. There`s nobody else like me in the world." I think that`s Putin. OK. We got Putin. Two of us got Putin right. It`s getting very tricky. Anyway, the round table is staying with us and they`re going to tell us, all three of them, tell me something I don`t know. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table. Anne, tell me something I don`t know. ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Hollywood is embracing Hillary Clinton and she is embracing Hollywood. And Hollywood is doing this in more ways than writing checks. Today in New York City, Drew Barrymore and her husband are hosting a family holiday party, $2,700 ticket gets you, a spouse and your kids in. Last weekend, Tony Goldwyn, President Fitz from "Scandal," spent the entire weekend campaigning for Hillary in Iowa. And then on January 9th, we`ve learned that Lena Dunham will also be in Iowa for Hillary. MATTHEWS: Yes, but after all that is said and done, Michael Bay`s movie`s coming out early next year blasting her. GEARAN: Yes, right exactly when she`s going to -- MATTHEWS: That`s going to hurt more than anything. Go ahead, Michael. TOMASKY: I learned today that this week for the first time some serious Republicans started talking about their nominee, Paul Ryan, at a brokered convention. MATTHEWS: Oh, really? TOMASKY: I`m not saying it`s going to happen. I`m saying they started talking about it. MATTHEWS: You want to bet? Ha! TOMASKY: I don`t want to bet. I`m just telling you. MATTHEWS: Francesca. CHAMBERS: Yesterday, President Barack Obama had a secret meeting with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the White House ended up giving out details of that to reporters but wasn`t originally going to. It wasn`t on his schedule. Apparently, the White House and President Obama invited Bloomberg over to talk about gun control. As you may know, the president may take executive actions on gun control next year. So, I`d love to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting. MATTHEWS: Maybe he wants an ad campaign to go along with an executive order. CHAMBERS: Possibly. MATTHEWS: An ad campaign might make it work. Without it he`s out there all alone again. And Bloomberg does have some money. Thank you to my roundtable tonight, Anne Gearan, Michael Tomasky and Francesca Chambers. When we return with a simple thought that every election is an attempt to solve the problem represented personally by the president we happen to have. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a simple thought that every election is an attempt to solve the problem represented by the president we have. And this is the norm. And it makes perfect sense. For the voter, it`s a matter of figuring out what is the most important thing they want changed. Is it a problem to have a president as we have now who tends to be cool in his manner, you know, the no drama Obama thing? Do we want our president to express outrage? Do we want him to show anger in his voice and his face? Do we want loud shouts of anger and contortions in his face? Do we want to see the veins in the guy`s neck start to bulge? Then we`ve got the wrong man. Just as we`ve got the wrong man if we want a politician in the White House who just loves the company of other politicians. This one certainly doesn`t, just like he certainly doesn`t show his reactions to things. Somehow I think there are other areas of improvement we might like to think about. I`ll keep thinking, but I believe Barack Obama has been right about the economy, right about war policy, right and courageous about health care, social justice, and a whole wide range of issues. And so far, I think he`s been precisely the president we wanted when most of us voted for him. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.