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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/18/2015

Guests: Susan Page, Dana Milbank, Abby Philip, David Catanese

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 18, 2015 Guest: Susan Page, Dana Milbank, Abby Philip, David Catanese

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama grabs the mike.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Today, President Obama tried to fight his way into the news before saying "Merry Christmas" and heading off to Hawaii. He pushed his successes -- the climate change agreement in Paris, the opening to Cuba, the nuclear deal with Iran, the initial trans-Pacific trade accord. But he first had to push past the country`s concern over terrorism, a topic on which he had little good news to share today.

What we heard today from the president was a tale, of course, of two cities, the Paris of the climate talks, the Paris of the terrorist attacks. He wanted to talk about the first Paris, and the media and the public were focused on the latter, on the attacks. For better or worse, nothing has concentrated the public mind these days like the prospect of another imminent attack.

Perry Bacon is NBC News senior political reporter, Susan Page is "USA Today" Washington bureau chief, and Michael Beschloss is the NBC News presidential historian.

Let me get to this whole thing about the president, and this was the parting shot from the president to the American people, his final press conference of the year. He asked the American public to stay vigilant because some attacks, like mass shootings and lone wolf attacks, may be nearly impossible to detect ahead of time.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is very difficult for us to detect lone wolf plots, or plots involving a husband and wife in this case, because despite the incredible vigilance and professionalism of all our law enforcement, Homeland Security, et cetera, it`s not that different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter.

You don`t always see it. They`re not always communicating publicly. And if you`re not catching what they say publicly, then it becomes a challenge.

This is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like al Qaeda that involved highly trained operatives who are working as cells or as a network.

It does mean that they`re less likely to be able to carry out large, complex attacks, but as we saw in San Bernardino, obviously, you can still do enormous damage.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president also characterized the ISIS threat, the terror threat, as dangerous for quite some time to come. Here he is.


OBAMA: ISIL`s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with people who`ve traveled to Syria or traveled to Iraq and the savviness of their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who may be French or British or U.S. citizens, will continue to make them dangerous for quite some time.


MATTHEWS: You know, Perry, I didn`t hear much to calm the nerves there because he said we can`t catch lone wolves ahead of time. They`re like almost family disputes or a lone shooter who may be a mental case. We can`t tell if they got the problem because they don`t talk to anybody. And then he went on and said ISIL, as he calls it, is going to be there a long time and dangerous for a long time because they`re recruiting even in this country.

PERRY BACON, NBC SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He was careful of saying -- you know, in the past, he said ISIS was contained and he got criticized, so he was very much trying to avoid using phrases like that. And he all but said this could happen again.

He really does not want to -- you know, George Bush made his presidency about the war on terror, I`m fighting terror. You can tell Obama does not want to do that. He wants to keep talking about Iran, climate change. He hasn`t changed and adjusted his presidency in a way to say terrorism is the number one and the number two and the number three thing. It`s a very (INAUDIBLE) He wants it to be broader than terrorism.

MATTHEWS: I agree completely. The question is, can you get away with it and still be in the American conversation?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": You know, the problem is, he is undoubtedly correct, accurate in saying it`s impossible to stop these lone wolf attacks, these self-inspired terrorists, very difficult, you can`t stop them all. It is politically really unsatisfying. And that is not an argument you`re going to hear from the people running for president because they`re going to try to the case that there is something you can do, and if you elect them, they will do it, whatever it is.

MATTHEWS: And there`s no way for them to be accountable in the whole campaign.

PAGE: Not until they`re elected.

MATTHEWS: They can make any promise they want.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Michael?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. And historically, it`s a problem of a president in a political year trying to be the one who is restrained. I mean, you saw this at close hand, Chris, with President Carter in 1980. A lot of were people saying, Why don`t you bomb the Iranians and get the hostages out? Why aren`t you tougher against the Soviets in Afghanistan? And he was in the position of saying no.

But unlike Carter in `80, Barack Obama next year, although he`s not running, is going to be confronted with the specter of, at least for part of that year, Donald Trump, who`s not going to be as polite as Ronald Reagan was in 1980. He`s going to say a lot harsher things that are going to gin this up.

MATTHEWS: Well, the first reporter today in the presser was basically challenging him on his ability to say, We have -- we understand there`s nothing planned right now, right?


MATTHEWS: But then he admitted, Well, we can`t tell if there`s anything planned, so when we say there`s nothing planned, we don`t know of anything planned, it`s meaningless!

BACON: It`s not a very -- he keeps saying that we -- there`s nothing currently that know of that`s planned. It`s not a very comforting answer because...


BACON: ... we don`t know what happens tomorrow or the next day...

MATTHEWS: Because we didn`t know what happened last week.

BACON: ... or we didn`t know what happened in Paris, either...


BACON: ... more importantly.

MATTHEWS: Problem (ph).

PAGE: Sure, it`s...

MATTHEWS: It is a real conundrum for this president.

PAGE: And so it`s the difficulty of being actually in power as opposed to seeking power.

MATTHEWS: Anyway -- well, that`s right. That`s the advantage of the out party. Anyway -- all the time (ph) -- the threat of terrorism in the wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks dominated the news conference today. It was clear that President Obama wanted to talk about the other Paris, where the U.S. and world leaders recently inked a massive climate deal. The president slammed his Republican rivals for their resistance to that deal. Here he is.


OBAMA: Right now, the American Republican Party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it`s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments. Even the far-right parties in many of these countries -- they may not like immigrants, for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us we got to do something about climate change.


MATTHEWS: You know, somebody once said -- it must have been in "Readers Digest" -- I care more about my toothache than the starving in Ethiopia, because when it`s close at hand, it bugs you, all right? You`re thinking about what maybe you shouldn`t be thinking about, the starving in Ethiopia, but you`re thinking about that toothache.

Terrorism has grabbed our attention, and it`s almost like everybody sits down who went to college and they go, yes, I believe in science. I took biology. I took chemistry. Yes, there`s climate change. I agree with the scientists.

But what am I thinking about right now? That airplane I`m getting on, that train I`m taking, that movie theater I`m going to.

BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And that`s why it`s so hard for him to make this argument. I think that if he were running for election this next year, what we`ve heard today that would not be a very powerful selling point.

PAGE: You know, I think there`s something else at play here, and that`s that climate change has become part of the partisan battle in Washington, so that if you`re a Democrat, you`re more likely to believe in -- in climate change, and if you`re a Republican, it`s become part of being a Republican to question that.


MATTHEWS: Susan, is that business talking? We don`t want to told we want more regulation, we don`t want to be told anything.

PAGE: Well, it may be partly that, but I think it`s also just that we -- there`s just this big divide down the middle of American politics, and you`re either on one side or you`re on the other.

MATTHEWS: It`s a test of party loyalty.

We heard a very hawkish tone from President Obama today when the subject turned to the dangers of Syria and its leader, Bashar Assad.


OBAMA: When you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and say nothing is contrary to who we are. And that does not serve our interests because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president went a step further, saying that ISIS could not be stamped out unless Assad was first taken out.


OBAMA: In order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam.

Our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don`t have any safe haven. And so long as Assad is there, we cannot achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria.


MATTHEWS: You know, compared to Trump, everybody begins to seem like Jeb Bush because you turn your head a little bit to this side and you go, Well, you know, first thing got to do is get rid of Assad. And everybody does, Well, that`s not going to happen for 20 years. And then after that, we`ll get around to getting rid of ISIS. The people, what are they thinking out there? They want to get rid of ISIS next Tuesday!

BACON: The reporter asks the president a great question. The reporter asks, Is Assad going to be leading his country longer than you are?


BACON: And the reporter asked twice. And if you noticed, Obama never answered, and he conceded that in some ways -- like, Trump would have said, We`re getting rid of him tomorrow.


BACON: The president, accurately, I would argue, is suggesting now Assad may have -- be there longer than he will.

MATTHEWS: But Susan, that puts us in a position of having to wait for all these things to happen before we feel safe.

PAGE: And it...

MATTHEWS: Long way down the road.

PAGE: And it means Americans -- you know, it makes Americans more uneasy, not...


PAGE: ... more comforted, and it makes the political election to succeed him have even more turmoil and even more perils for Hillary Clinton, who I assume is his candidate.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s turned the page already, the president?

BESCHLOSS: You mean in terms of thinking of his post-presidency?

MATTHEWS: Well (INAUDIBLE) what he worries about going to bed at night, what he worries about getting up in the morning. Is he already focused on the larger legacy question?

BESCHLOSS: Probably, but he also knows that part of that, even, is going to be electing a Democratic president. But the problem here is that -- look over the last 43 years. The way Republicans get elected is -- president oftentimes is to say, We are stronger than the Democrats are, who are weak, and this is a moment of national crisis.

MATTHEWS: Except in `60.

BESCHLOSS: Nixon, the two Bushes, did that...


MATTHEWS: ... in `60, though. Jack Kennedy ran off...


BESCHLOSS: That`s why I`m saying 43 years, and not going further back.


BESCHLOSS: But they do that extremely well, and this is getting set up to make it very easy for...

MATTHEWS: OK, another card...

BESCHLOSS: ... whether it`s Donald Trump or someone else...


MATTHEWS: ... this little hint that they`re not really loyal, that the Democrats are really secretly Muslim, secretly this, they don`t really want to call them Islamic radical terrorism because there`s some question about -- this is Trump talking. So it`s not just they`re not strong, they may not be on our side.

BESCHLOSS: And that`s why next year may be something like we have never seen before because you had politer people, like a Ronald Reagan or even a Richard Nixon, than someone like Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they used to call Carter weak, but they never suggested he was working on the other side! This a fifth column argument here.

BACON: It`s not just Trump. Every Republican candidate says, Why won`t he call it radical Islam, as if there`s some great mystery. I think every knows what religion the terrorists are.

But I do think Hillary Clinton does not come off to people as weak. I think that`s one thing about her. She`s known for being tough, known for being strong. So it`ll be hard to run and say she -- Obama talks like an academic all the time...


BACON: ... constantly. Hillary does not do that as much. It`s a different campaign. Obama...


MATTHEWS: ... even the guys who are the most chauvinist -- older guys are convinced Hillary is a tough person.

BESCHLOSS: No question.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think anybody thinks she`s weak.


PAGE: Used to be, like last year, that people would say the one problem women will have running for president is looking tough enough to be commander-in-chief. Not Hillary Clinton`s problem. Hillary Clinton was more muscular on military affairs than Barack Obama when she was secretary of state. She has that quality of toughness. She`ll have other problems, but that`s not going to be (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: There`s an edge there.

Anyway, thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, Susan Page. And thank you, Michael Beschloss.

Coming up -- Mitt Romney is now leading the establishment charge to stop Trump. Bet on Trump! But as Richard Nixon once said, If ever you hear of a "stop X" movement, bet on X. That`s next.

Plus, Jeb Bush is on the ropes right now. He`s desperate, and now he`s taking what may be his last best shot, going in with an all-out attack on the front-runner, Trump. Will this be Jeb`s ticket out of mediocrity, or will it be his exit strategy, a way to get off the stage.

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here tonight. We`ve got three top reporters. They`ll tell me something I don`t know, in addition to talking Jeb Bush`s exit strategy.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a tale of two cities. I`ve mentioned it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Bernie Sanders`s presidential campaign has filed suit against the Democratic National Committee, accusing the party of trying to undermine his campaign and aid Hillary Clinton`s.

NBC News learned four Sanders staffers allegedly accessed Clinton information on voters after a glitch on a DNC database left it vulnerable to a breach. The party suspended the Sanders campaign`s use of that system pending an investigation.

The Sanders campaign has fired one staffer, but this afternoon, the Sanders campaign filed a federal lawsuit to regain their access to voter data.

Both DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver spoke on the issue earlier today.


DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIR: What we are doing is following our memorandum of understanding, our agreement that we have with each presidential campaign. They are prohibited from accessing another campaign`s proprietary information, and we have the ability to suspend that campaign`s access to the voter files in order to make sure that we can preserve the integrity of the voter files and ensure that there is confidence in it.

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: By their actions, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable! Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign, one of the strongest grass root campaigns in modern history!


MATTHEWS: And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Last night, we had a little quiz here on HARDBALL. We asked our roundtable if they could tell the difference between statements made by Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin. And in nearly every instance, we -- myself included -- got it wrong because you cannot tell these guys apart.

Yesterday, in his year-end press conference, Putin praised Donald Trump, calling him, quote, "bright and talented" and "the absolute leader of the presidential race."

Well, today, Trump took his bromance with Putin into overdrive. In an interview with "MORNING JOE," Trump praised Putin despite being confronted with Putin`s awful human rights record. He also took his vitriol towards President Obama to new levels by stating that a leader said to have killed journalists and invaded countries is a better leader than President Obama.

Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you like Vladimir Putin`s comments about you?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. When people call you brilliant, it`s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST: Well, I mean, he also is a person that kills journalists, political opponents and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invades countries.

SCARBOROUGH: ... and invades countries. Obviously, that -- it would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He`s running his country, and at least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.

TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know...

SCARBOROUGH: Well, but...

TRUMP: But a lot of -- there`s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity. And that`s the way it is.


MATTHEWS: Well, David Corn`s the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones" and Howard Fineman is the global editorial director of the HuffingtonPost.

Anyway, Howard, I did like to be reminded occasionally that we are overseas in other countries killing people. That`s not -- not civilian killing. It`s not picking out somebody you don`t like you bumped into the other day. But we do kill lots of people. We killed maybe 100,000 in Iraq because we decided to invade that country and kill people who got in our way. We did that decision, our president, George W. Bush.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but that -- but the point that Donald Trump was making, I think, was that there is`s lot of stupidity and killing going on in the world, so what`s wrong with some more of that?


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) some more of that.

FINEMAN: What`s wrong with some more stupidity and killing?

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s one interpretation.

FINEMAN: Well, that`s -- well, basically, he is selling unbridled strength in -- at least in talk.


FINEMAN: That`s Trump`s brand. And the other brand is to attack Barack Obama and everything about Barack Obama any possible way he can. And when he does that, those are both things that play directly to the base and the emotions of the Republican Party. And those kinds of comments, including this one, are why he`s in the lead.

MATTHEWS: David Corn, is this the sophisticated or Trump version of you think you are better than me? Because he is basically saying, you so- called liberal Democrats, you`ve knocked off governments over there. You are involved with Syria and Libya and Bush W. was knocking off the government in Iraq. Go ahead. Your reaction. DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I don`t know what he was talking about. He said we do killings overseas, comparing drone strikes to what Putin does. I don`t know what he was at. But -- MATTHEWS: Maybe he did mean that. CORN: Well, he didn`t tell us what he really means. He throws out rhetoric. My theory here is that Donald Trump sees the world, his world, as one big green room with bold face celebrities. And if you are one of those guys like Putin, that`s good enough. It doesn`t matter that you are a thug, corrupt, and oligarch, whatever it might be, you are a leader, you are big, just the way Donald Trump is big. Being big is what counts the most here. And so, he sees himself on the level with the big Vladimir Putin even if he is a repressive leader. It is absolutely ridiculous saying, I`m glad that Joe brought that up again, but really, there is something that Trump that lets him get away with this stuff. Anybody else had said this, you know, anything positive about Putin they would be laughed out of town. Imagine what Hillary good gets just the thought of having to improve relations with Russia. FINEMAN: It`s not just bigness. It`s the type of leadership. He is basically -- MATTHEWS: Hugeness. FINEMAN: He is saying I`m going to be the American Vladimir Putin. I`m going to be the American Vladimir Putin and I`m not going to listen to any guff from anybody and I`m not going to worry about the niceties. I`m going to shut out the Muslims and I`m going to do this stuff that is borderline dictatorial because that is what America needs and they need me personally to do it. It is a cult of personality. MATTHEWS: You guys both know foreign policy. You first, Howard. Is this what goes on a lot of these "stans" over the world, these former Soviet republics? They`ve got leaders like that. FINEMAN: Yes. This is what goes on all over the world. In much of the world, he is the strongman is the model and he is basically taking the Latin American or Kazakhstan model of political leadership and applying it to the United States and it is working. CORN: In the early days of fascism in the `30s, there were leaders here or politicians here who looked at people like Mussolini and even Hitler, and said, listen, I like a strong leader over there. They are cracking down on unions. These guys are strong. And then people wanting to see a strong leader here during the Depression when things felt very chaotic and the country looked like it was going to hell in a basket. MATTHEWS: That`s why we`re looking at Huey Long in the United States. CORN: Yes, exactly. So, here you have Donald Trump playing the same game with Putin. I don`t care what he does to people, he is strong. I mean, Howard is right. And he wants to say, listen, I won`t take my shirt off to ride on a horse. FINEMAN: We can only hope, David. CORN: We can hope. Now, that might hurt him. That might hurt him. He wants to be tough and strong and have nobody get in his way and say, you can`t really do that. MATTHEWS: I remember he said look at my stomach. Look how it works when the knife comes at me. That was a little un-macho. Anyway, after hearing Trump`s high regard for the Russian president, the establishment is heading after Trump. Today, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney tweeted, "Important distinction, thug Putin kills journalists and opponents. Our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants." Well, that sort of positive about our presidents. Trump`s Republican rivals added to the backlash. Jeb Bush tweeted, "This is what Donald Trump thinks is strong leadership. #chaoscandidate." Lindsey Graham joined in, tweeting, "I suggest Mr. Trump visit Ukraine and Syrian refugee camps to see if President Putin is really respected and deserves praise." John Kasich weighed in, tweeting, "Putin is a thug and a bully. Candidates should know it and say it. Our next president needs to stand up to him and not befriend him." FINEMAN: Well, I hate to say it, Chris, but the people you just mentioned, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Lindsey Graham are the people that Trump enjoys rolling over like a Mack truck, OK? And you didn`t hear -- you didn`t hear Ted Cruz and the other candidates castigating Donald Trump because they understand that he is going after Obama and when you inferential go after Obama in this way, that`s what sells like popcorn at the Republican base. The strong and this whole notion that Barack Obama is not only weak but there`s something mysterious about him where he is deliberately being weak because he`s got another agenda that -- MATTHEWS: Because he is one of them. FINEMAN: Because he`s one of them. MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. I think that`s the sneaky dirty part. You know, even at the worst moments of the Carter presidency when people will say anything against Carter, they said he was weak. But they never said he was secretly one of the Iranians. FINEMAN: Right. MATTHEWS: They never poll that number -- CORN: And they never said that the Russian leader was better than the U.S. president. I mean, that`s really what Trump is saying here. MATTHEWS: No, they never said Ayatollah Khoemeni was better anybody else. Anyway -- CORN: They`re comparing Putin to Obama and Trump saying I would rather have Putin. He is a leader. MATTHEWS: I think he is going for the right here. Just guessing. CORN: You think so? You think so? A little red meat, Chris? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman. David, happy holidays. I want to invite you to join me Tuesday, at 7:00 Eastern, for a special hour, "Citizen Trump". Why don`t the rules apply to Donald Trump? Join me Tuesday night at 7:00 Eastern for the premiere of our documentary, "Citizen Trump". Wait until you see this thing. Up next, a look at the movie "Spotlight", a true life story of how "Boston Globe" reporters exposed to scandal within the Catholic Church and it`s already receiving critical acclaim. We might be looking at the Oscar winner right here. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cover up story, unless I get confirmation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you out of your mind? Come on. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our town. Everybody knew something was going on and no one did a thing. We have to put an end to it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t tell me what I got to do. I helped defend these scum bags, but that`s my job, Robbie. I was doing my job. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You and everyone else. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a great scene from "Spotlight" out in theaters right now and hailed as one of the best journalistic dramas since "All the President`s Men." "Spotlight" is a story of how a team of "Boston Globe" investigative reporters exposed the widespread sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests in the Boston archdiocese, and the decades long cover up by church officials. The movie takes us behind the scenes behind the scenes of the newsroom where these journalists and editors uncovered a systemic pattern of abuse carefully navigated around the city of Boston`s sensitivities, when it came to the sins of one of its greatest institutions. Here is another scene from "Spotlight." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? Why are we hesitating? Barry told us to get law. This is law. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barry told us to get the system. We need the full scope. That is the only thing to put an end to this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s take it up to Ben and let him decide. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll take it to Ben when I say it is time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time, Robbie. It`s time. They knew and they let it happen to kids, OK? It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been any of us. We`ve got to nail these scum bags and show people that nobody can get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. It stars an ensemble cast of actors including Michael Keaton, you saw him there, Mark Ruffalo, you saw him there, Rachel McAdams, just saw her. Liev Schreiber fantastic as Marty Baron, and, of course, Stanley Tucci played the lawyer there, and John Slatter who plays our guest coming up. "Spotlight" was also nominated for three Golden Globe awards including best picture, best director, best screenplay. Joining me right now is Ben Bradlee Jr., was the deputy managing editor at "The Boston Globe", but oversaw the group of journalists investigating the Catholic Church known as the "Spotlight" team at "The Globe". He`s played by John Slatter in this movie. Mr. Bradlee, it`s an honor to have you on. You know, what we liked about it is the low key way. It`s called a procedural. You talk, it seems to me from a dramatic point of view the way journalism works at its best. You are thinking about the film as reality. BEN BRADLEE, JR., FORMER BOSTON GLOBE REPORTER: Yes, who would have thought, Chris, that a procedural investigative reporting in the raw if you will, looking at documents, spreadsheets, working the phones, the making of the journalistic sausage, so to speak, could be interesting on film even riveting. But these guys, Tom McCarthy, the director, and Josh Singer, the screenwriter, really found a way to tell a powerful movie. MATTHEWS: I love the way they showed where you have to tie the thing down and go inside on the other camp, the church camp, if you will, the lawyers protecting the church, and finally get somebody to wave you in the right direction. Somebody has to secretly outside somewhere say you got it. You got the goods here and you can go with it. BRADLEE: That was a key moment in the film. And a source of Walter Robinsons, the lead reporter on the "Spotlight" team. And, yes, we were at a critical stage when we needed confirmation. And as Keaton said in that great scene, we weren`t going to run it without that confirmation. And he picked a very dramatic way to confirm by circling those names. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Marty Baron who I think has played brilliantly by this guy, Liev Schreiber, I mean, he`s got the personality that where have seen from Marty Baron. I thought it was good the way they showed his class and his guts. The idea of an outside guy coming into the Boston world, where people say, when you live in Boston, you got to buy into Red Sox thing, you got to buy into the Patriots, you got to buy into the whole culture, including church dominance. Here is a guy who is not part of that and he sees is criminality. He doesn`t see the sanctimonious nature of the church or the respect for the cardinal. He sees criminality and this is a secular issue which is fair game for a secular press. BRADLEE: Well, sometimes, you know, it does take a pair of fresh eyes and Marty had that. This was not an unfamiliar story to us. We had gone after sexual abuse in the church quite aggressively, but were never able to get internal church documents that we were able to get in this case which made the story bullet proof. The church couldn`t allege Catholic bias or anything of the sort by "The Globe". I was -- I might have been a little skeptical initially because we had made a very aggressive run at another priest referenced in the film, Father Porter, and we did very good work there but we couldn`t get the internal documents. So I was a little concerned about overkill initially and being fair. But Marty had this idea and it wasn`t long before the "Spotlight" team was uncovering some incredible stuff. So, we were all in. MATTHEWS: It`s a powerful statement for a print guy. Thank you so much, Ben Bradlee. Print looked very good in that movie, better than TV, because you had time and the effort, and you had an owner and a publisher and editor willing to commit the resource and talent to get the goods on a very important story that wasn`t going to may be sell newspaper, but would certainly improve the credentials of everybody in journalism. Thank you so much for the movie, "Spotlight". Ben, thank you for the story behind the movie. It`s in theaters right now. And, by the way, if you want to see a good movie, go see this one. Up next, circular firing squad, Jeb Bush takes on Trump. Marco Rubio takes on Ted Cruz. But will it narrow down the field? You know, I hope so. I want to see a narrow field of people who could be elected president. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Jeb Bush has been languishing in the polls nationally and in early voting states. And now, he is hoping some fraternal support will bolster his base. Former President George W. Bush said on a private conference call with big donors that, quote, "Jeb is a candidate who is peaking at the right time I guess is the best way to put it. As we head into the actual voting season, I feel very good about our chances." That`s W. talking. And the Jeb campaign put out this ad knocking Donald Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is another example of the lack of seriousness. We are at war. Two months ago, Donald Trump said that ISIS was not our fight. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why are we -- BUSH: He said Hillary Clinton would be a great negotiator with Iran. TRUMP: I think Hillary would have -- Hillary always surrounded with very good people. I think Hillary would do a good job. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are fighting each other for the second spot in the GOP race, you can say, with the first primaries just around the corner. It`s about all the battle that`s just coming in close enough to Trump to be in the running. I`m joined now by the HARDBALL round table this Friday night, Washington columnist Dana Milbank, and political reporter Abby Philip, "U.S. News and World Report" senior politics reporter David Catanese. Thank you all, in order, right across the table here. Should Jeb just get out? What is he fighting for? Is there honor in fourth and fifth place showing in, say, New Hampshire if you`re coming in eighth or ninth in Iowa? DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: I go further and say he should get out and it is his patriotic duty to get out. Not just him, several others, Christie, Kasich, they may have made -- MATTHEWS: Why are these stray cats still in this thing? MILBANK: Well, because there is unlimited funding basically. You know, it used to be you`d be doing poorly in the polls, your money would dry up. It doesn`t dry up anymore because you can be propped by these -- MATTHEWS: Why is Carly Fiorina in this -- not just Jeb, but I want to single out Jeb. Why is Carly Fiorina in the race, because she has enough money for bus fare or airplane fare to the next, Abby? Why are they staying in? ABBY PHILIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: There is theory that this is all about New Hampshire, that after New Hampshire, reality will hit voters, and that all these people who are milling around in the middle and at the bottom are finally going to have some oxygen, that New Hampshire voters are going to eventually get rid of Trump, the field will open up. MATTHEWS: Get rid of Trump? PHILIP: Or -- MATTHEWS: Who says that? PHILIP: Or the alternatives are that the Republican insiders will rise up in rebellion after New Hampshire. There is that theory, too. DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: They all think they have a shot because they don`t believe Trump is real. They don`t think Cruz can be the nominee. So, they think, hey, I can be the last guy or gal left standing. The problem is if Jeb -- MATTHEWS: Jim Gilmore, is that his thinking? CATANESE: He`s not running, some of these guys. But take the second tier. They think Christie, Kasich, Jeb, Marco, they are going to be the guy. The problem is, if Jeb is not within the top three in New Hampshire, he is going to get embarrassed in South Carolina. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Jeb. What do you think of his chances? PHILIP: What`s worse about Jeb is that the more he flounders now, the more voters are saying, you know what, I don`t really want a Bush/Clinton matchup. He is kind of the weak link. As long as that keeps up, I think that dynamic is going to come to play here. MILBANK: What you`re seeing here is, I call it the march of the narcissist. Everybody believes he`s the best, or she`s the best possible person. If you put their support together -- Rubio, Bush, Christie, all of them, then you have a viable contender to defeat Trump. I don`t think they can afford to wait. MATTHEWS: Or Cruz. MILBANK: Well, Cruz will go down of his own volition. But I think they can`t afford to wait. MATTHEWS: Let me put your words together. Are you suggesting you think Trump is a plausible nominee? It could happen? MILBANK: If the sensible -- the party is still sensible if you put them all together. If they fracture that then -- MATTHEWS: You seem to be saying that, too. CATANESE: Absolutely he can be plausible. You ask me this in August, I thought it was sort of a joke like everybody else. MATTHEWS: Not everybody else. CATANESE: But the consultants and campaigns I talked to said this will end in September. Voters will come back, they`ll go back to school -- it is late December. We`re about to go into Christmas. They are a month out and I didn`t see any urgency in this last debate from these guys. They still think he is going to self implode. All going to go out a way. Guess what? There is a new poll out today. He is still at 34 percent nationally. He has gone up since the debate. MATTHEWS: You think he`s going to explode? PHILIP: No, I actually think that voters are warming to Trump, even Republican voters. I used to talk to voters and they would say I really dislike Trump. Now, some of them are saying, you know, he has a point about terrorism or these other things. I think that is a phenomenon that Republicans are worried about. MATTHEWS: I think Paris and San Bernardino did a lot to him. Anyway, Donald Trump struck back at Jeb and the whole Bush family today. He tweeted. I don`t like tweet. Say it. "The last thing our country needs is another Bush, dumb as a rock." Something about tweeting and the word tweet that just plays to school yard stuff. It is all one-liners. And then you type it. You don`t have to answer for it right away. You send it out. MILBANK: And, of course, that was Trump`s genius, if you want to call it that in this campaign. You can see in the debate -- MATTHEWS: Dumb as a rock. MILBANK: They weren`t tweeting in the debate, but they were basically insulting each other like they were on the playground taunting each other. And that`s what this campaign has become. It`s become a series of insults directed at each other. MATTHEWS: I went to school with a lot of tough kids from the city. They talk like that. You know, who is moose? You talk to moose? He is the tough kid. Who`s the kid from K&A, you have to talk to the neighborhood kids. It was all about toughness. PHILIP: This is all about political correctness for Republicans, right? I mean -- MATTHEWS: Do you think they are politically correct? PHILIP: I think Trump is speaking to a desire to get rid of political correctness. MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with that. MILBANK: He`s succeeded at that. PHILIP: He has the most fun on Twitter. One of the things folks love about him. MATTHEWS: I mean, Abby, dumb as a rock is a campaign message to the American voters to be president of the United States. Dumb as a rock. CATANESE: It can go unfiltered to 5 million followers and not have to respond. It`s not like an interviewer where you have to take flack -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: All weekend we are talking about it. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are clumped together behind Trump in a poll out today. Those three are climbing but Jeb Bush isn`t making head way with voters in the state. Conservative Peggy Noon writes in her latest "Wall Street Journal" column, I love her column, it`s coming tomorrow, "If after New Hampshire, Mr. Trump is trumping Republican candidate whose aren`t going to make it, should he be pressed to sacrifice himself to narrow the field and let the viable non-Trumps rise." And she called out Jeb Bush to do the right thing, if he doesn`t win the Granite State, adding, quote, "Jeb Bush, by stepping down, could become what he wanted to be this year, a hero, a history changer, a man who enhanced his own and his family`s legacy." She wants to walk off the stage. PHILIP: Yes, I think that is the biggest concern. His legacy is taking a blow right now. I think people, the longer he stays out there, the more damage he does to himself. When you watched last Tuesday`s debate, he stumbled. He stammered. CATANESE: That`s better -- PHILIP: That was better than his previous ones. That is a problem. CATANESE: To play devil`s advocate -- MATTHEWS: Don`t play devil`s advocate. Say what you believe. CATANESE: Why does he think have to get out? Why don`t Christie or Kasich get out? MATTHEWS: Because he was carrying the banner for the establishment into the fight and he can`t win. CATANESE: They all, but I also think New Hampshire may be too late. If Trump rolls through New Hampshire with 34 percent and has beaten these guys, two, three to one, how are they going to coalesce? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The reason he is in this race is his name and the reason he is going to lose is probably his name. I don`t think there was a nod between the two Bushes. MILBANK: You lose a lot less if he gets out now in a statesman like way, than if he waits until he gets pummeled in New Hampshire. MATTHEWS: Ted Kennedy walked out in 1980 with Jimmy Carter and gave a speech where he gave a liberal speech what he believed in, even if it wasn`t popular at the time. I think Jeb should talk about being married to a woman from Mexico, having a Hispanic kids, be a Hispanic family, be very proud of the assimilation process in America and say, I`m not going to walk away from that. That`s what I believe in this country. Anyway, the round table is staying with us. Up next these, three tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, Florida`s own Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio combined can`t match Donald Trump`s latest showing in the Sunshine State. In a new "Florida Times-Union" poll Trump is on top with 30 percent of Republican support. Ted Cruz is second at 20 percent. Rubio at 15, Bush at 13. Also, among these Florida voters polled, 30 percent said Jeb Bush had the worst debate performance this week. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable. David, tell me something I don`t know. CATANESE: Chris, we`re talking about the winnowing process. When does this Republican field get smaller? Well, it`s not going to get smaller after Iowa. A lot of these establishment candidates are ditching Iowa. They`re going all in in New Hampshire. So, I think after New Hampshire, February 9th, February 10th, we`ll have a lot smaller field. Christie, Kasich, Jeb are going to have to make some hard decisions. And Lindsey Graham, who gets out afterwards and endorses before South Carolina. MATTHEWS: Somebody else. CATANESE: Somebody else. MATTHEWS: OK. Abby? PHILIP: I think voters` eyes are glazing over in this fight between Bernie Sanders and the Clinton campaign over allegedly stolen data. I`ve been told that situations like this have occurred in the past, 2008 and 2012. We`ve never heard about it. The fact that we`re hearing about this now tells us a little something about where the Clinton campaign is in terms of how they feel about the Sanders campaign and how they`re doing, how the DNC as well. MATTHEWS: Wow. Dana? MILBANK: Well, I`m going to tell you something you don`t know because I didn`t know it until the last couple of weeks in criticizing Trump I`ve received a number of e-mails, messages and other things from the Trump supporters out there informing me that among other things I am a commie (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) supremacist and that because I am Jewish I am loyal to a foreign state and I want to kill Christians to get their gold. I`ve also been -- I`ve had many ugly words used about me suggesting that I am gay, while also suggesting that my girlfriend is a gross Jewess. Now, I`m saying all these terrible things on your air because I think it needs to be said that this is what Donald Trump is stirring up and that conservatives and Republicans need to ask themselves if this is what they want conservatism to be and what they want the Republican Party to be. MATTHEWS: A little more information. There`s a word we never would like spoken but you speak it in context. MILBANK: I`ve never uttered these words before. MATTHEWS: And politically important I think. How wide is this? When you look at your e-mail is there 50 of these? Twenty of these? Thirty of these? How many of that sort have come in? MILBANK: It`s a proportion of them. Certainly not all of the Trump supporters. But a significant minority of them are quite vulgar. And it`s about me. It`s about Muslims. It`s about women. It`s about Latinos. It`s about African-Americans. MATTHEWS: I`m glad you reported it. You know, maybe this will stifle it a bit. But that has no place anywhere in our politics. And that word especially. Thank you, brother, for coming on. Thank you to the roundtable, Dana, Abby Philip, thank you, come again, of course. David Catanese, you`ve been back. I`m in a good mood right now. When we return, let me finish with a tale two of cities. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a tale of two cities. In fact, both tales are about Paris. The Paris of the terror attacks. And then there is the Paris of the world climate talks. What was clear today, that the media at President Obama`s press conference wanted to speak first and foremost about that first Paris, the one hit by the historic attack of this autumn. It was clear that the president had no good news for them. He said that lone wolf attacks like the one that struck here in San Bernardino, killing 14 people, is very, very hard to detect ahead of time. If the killers don`t communicate with anyone else as they may not have in the San Bernardino case, the government has no way of knowing what people are up to or even that they are people to be worried about. The president also threw water on the notion of sifting through the social media traffic of those applying for visas to the U.S. he said we can only see what they put up on social, on public sites, but there`s really no way of getting to look at what they do on e-mail or other private transmissions. So, not much good for the president to report there. Certainly not for a country on edge about a future attack because if we don`t know if someone is going to attack some lone wolf, how can we say they`re not? What brightened up the president today was the question about the other Paris story, the successful talks on climate change. Clearly, Barack Obama wants to be the president who achieved a number of historic breakthroughs. Climate change is near the top of the list along with of course Obamacare, the opening to Cuba, the initial transpacific trade deal, which is yet to get congressional approval. These are legacy achievements placing him on the world stage for saving the planet, working for peace among nations as the accord with Iran and Cuba and enhancing trade relationships among countries. And, clearly, this president wants to think about the long-term matters affecting his time in history while the country itself, led by the Republican presidential candidates wants to focus on the hour to hour issues in the news reports. We`ll see who wins this battle for the country`s attention, and for its respect. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.