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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/21/2015

Guests: Paul Singer, Molly Ball, April Ryan, Jeanne Cummings, Jonathan Allen, Francesca Chambers

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 21, 2015 Guest: Paul Singer, Molly Ball, April Ryan, Jeanne Cummings, Jonathan Allen, Francesca Chambers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The dark side.

Anyway, good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, obviously, coming off what you might call or must call a "Star Wars" weekend.

But thanks to the Saturday night debate, the Democrats found a force of their own in Hillary Clinton`s perhaps too direct attack on Donald Trump this Saturday night. By that, I mean she may have weakened a larger accurate charge against Trump by trying to be too specific.

Here she is.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is becoming ISIS`s best recruiter. They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists!


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a good -- good-sounding line, certainly, worked with the audience, but fact checkers say it`s wrong. Politifact rated Clinton`s statement that ISIS is using videos of Trump as a recruiting tool as, quote, "false." Politico reported that there`s no evidence that radical jihadists are actually showing videos of Trump as a recruitment tool. And said there`s no evidence of that, though experts have said it`s likely.

Well, trump spotted his opening. Here he goes.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s nonsense. It`s just another Hillary lie. She lies like crazy about everything, whether it`s trips where she was being gunned down in a helicopter or an airplane. She`s a liar, and everybody knows that. I mean -- but she just made this up in thin air.

I will demand an apology from Hillary. She should apologize. She lies about e-mails. She lies about Whitewater. She lies about everything. She will be a disaster as president of the United States.


MATTHEWS: Well, Clinton`s campaign spokesman responded by broadening the charge against Trump. "Hell, no, Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing," he said, "to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists."

NBC`s Katy Tur is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, tonight, where Donald Trump is about to hold a big rally tonight. Robert Costa is national political reporter with "The Washington Post." And Paul Singer is Washington correspondent with "USA Today."

Katy, can you hear me? I just think it`s interesting that everybody in that audience agreed that Trump was not a good thing for the country in terms of his anti-Islamic rhetoric in terms of our fight with terrorists, but there is no evidence, apparently, as of this moment that any videos are being passed around in the terrorist world using Trump, in his words, as a recruitment tool.

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No, there`s no evidence as of now, but when you talk to the groups that monitor ISIS and other terror groups, they say that could it happen in the future. There`s also social media postings about Trump from known ISIS fighters, so it`s not entirely unlikely that that won`t happen in the future. It just has not happened yet.

But this has been great for Donald Trump. He`s able to point out and say, These experts are backing me. Hillary Clinton is a liar. And he`s able to get his base going on. That`s because his base of support does not like Hillary Clinton.

You come to these rallies, whenever he speaks about Hillary Clinton, talks about reinvestigating the e-mail scandal, they cheer loudly, guttural cheers from the crowd. Outside, the pin hawkers, the guys who sell the pins are selling pins that say, "Hillary for jail time." So there`s no love lost between these two candidates.

What I find interesting, though, is he`s going after his Republican opponents less right now and after Hillary Clinton more, almost as if this is a general election campaign and not a primary campaign.

And that`s partially because he really can`t go after Ted Cruz right now, who`s his main rival, at least in Iowa. Ted Cruz and him have this ceasefire going on, and he hasn`t gone after him. He`s not going to break that ceasefire because they`re going after the same supporters. So he`s biding his time, and while he bides his time, Hillary Clinton is a decent target.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this follow-up. This spokesman for Hillary Clinton`s campaign, Brian Fallon, went on our network at 4:00 o`clock this afternoon. I think you were part of that conversation.

And he said that Trump had said we should bar all Muslims, including Muslim Americans who are serving our country overseas -- in other words, in the military -- from reentering the country. Now, Trump specifically did not say that. He said, I would never stop them from coming back in the country, people in uniform.

Why would the Clinton spokesman, who came out to clear the air, create another problem?

TUR: Well, let`s lay it out. Donald Trump`s Muslim ban did not make an exception for Muslim Americans serving overseas. Initially, it said any Muslim American who was overseas would not be let back in. And as the next day progressed, they clarified that and they said Muslim athletes and Muslim dignitaries as well as Muslim Americans who are serving in the American military overseas could come back.

So there was some lag time there, and I think the Clinton campaign is seizing on that. And they`re taking a page out of the Donald Trump playbook by cherry picking what they like from a certain statement and using it to rile up their base.

I mean, Hillary Clinton`s base of support does not like Donald Trump. And so there`s no love lost and there`s nothing to lose here for either one of the candidates. They`re just pandering to each one of their bases. And it`s essentially a safe zone. Even if Hillary Clinton gets called out for not telling the truth, because certainly, Donald Trump gets called out for not telling the truth on a daily basis -- but I will venture to say that I think Hillary Clinton might suffer more in this because she`s held to a higher standard.

Donald Trump is not a politician. He hasn`t spent his life in politics. And the people I speak to say they don`t necessarily require him to always be telling the truth. They say that they like his exaggerations and they -- they think he`s just human. When it comes to Hillary Clinton, I think that she`s held to a much higher standard because she has been in the public spotlight and she has been accountable to the American public for so long now.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Hang in there, Katy. We may well be going to Trump at some point in this hour when he goes live, if we do go.

Let me ask -- let me bring in our other panelists, Robert Costa and Paul Singer. The old thing in politics was don`t mention the opponent`s name and now -- and certainly don`t help somebody else win the nomination if you don`t want them to be the nominee.

There was a famous case of Johnson, Lyndon Johnson going after Nixon when he was a nobody, finished in politics. Johnson attacked him. Next thing you know, Nixon`s coming back. I mean, Johnson really helped. Why is Hillary -- I understand why they`re all attacking Hillary because they`re all Hillary haters on the right.

Why is Hillary Clinton, who`s smart, has all these smart people around her -- why is she singling out Donald Trump now because she`s almost making him the nominee in her eyes?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats tell me, win or lose the nomination, Clinton wants to make Trump the face of the Republican Party. That`s the key...

MATTHEWS: But she may be making him the nominee.

COSTA: Well, that`s fine. Democrats are open to that fight.

MATTHEWS: They want that?

COSTA: They want it.

MATTHEWS: Would you say, from your -- you`re laughing. Paul, would you say, when you get them on background and you get him after a few drinks even, they really think Trump`s their best opponent?

PAUL SINGER, "USA TODAY": Oh, by far he`s their best opponent.


SINGER: He`s their least practiced in governing. He has the most sort of land mines in every one of his conversations...

MATTHEWS: But we`ve been saying that for months!

SINGER: Yes, but in a primary, yes. But in a general election, I think the Clinton people think this is the greatest candidate.

COSTA: Well, they do say Ted Cruz they think they could point -- cast more as a straightforward right-winger.



MATTHEWS: ... an unlikable person. And they really -- uncomplicatedly (ph) unlikable.

COSTA: Well, the thing that`s complicated about Trump is they wonder what kind of electorate would actually Trump bring out? What kind of disengaged voter who hasn`t voted for decades will come out vote for Trump?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Whereas Cruz would just bring out the sort of the usual home schooler conservative -- culturally conservative angry...

COSTA: In theory, that`s right.

MATTHEWS: ... right. Predictable.

SINGER: But you could also -- Trump is so unpredictable, in a way, you know...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I -- I wouldn`t want to bet against the joker in the deck. You just never know.


COSTA: ... a thought that -- if Trump`s the nominee, he brings out Democratic turnout. He really stokes up Democratic...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I`ll tell you one thing. He brings out the turnout for the debates because I don`t know anybody...

SINGER: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: ... on this planet, from here to Turkey or anywhere else in the world...


MATTHEWS: ... isn`t watching that.

Anyway, in an interview (INAUDIBLE) airing today on NPR, President Obama spoke about extensively about Trump`s ugly attacks against him. Obama said that part of the anger directed at him was ethnic. Let`s watch how he handles this. It`s very careful, as it often is. Let`s watch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody questioning whether I was born in the United States or not -- how do I think about that? I would say that that`s something that is actively promoted and may gain traction because of my unique demographic.

If you`re referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I`m different, I`m Muslim, I`m disloyal to the country, et cetera, that`s pretty specific to me and who I am and my background and that, in some ways, I may represent change that worries them.


MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Katy Tur. Boy, there`s the president being almost academic, talking about himself, being his father`s from Africa, from Kenya, and he`s had an American mother, black and white parents, mixed background ethnically, and refusing to get down in the ditch with the mud with Trump. It`s fascinating to me that Trump throws the mud and this guy says, You know, I`m going to treat him like a professor with a naughty student. I`m just going to try to teach this kid. Your thoughts.

TUR: Well, he has nothing to gain from getting down in the mud with Donald Trump. He`s almost out of the presidency. Democrats have been trying to take the high road in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to the birtherism. It`s a moot issue as of now. There`s no reason to really address it other than for his own sake. It`s not -- there`s no reason to get down and dirty with Donald Trump on it because it`s just -- it`s not something that`s playing on the campaign even.

Donald Trump himself even doesn`t like to talk about it. With you, when you were asking him about it...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes...


TUR: With me he doesn`t like to talk about it.

MATTHEWS: I know why he doesn`t want to talk about it because he can`t make the case that the president snuck into this country, that his mother named him Hussein, went off to Kenya to have him born, and then somehow snuck back to Hawaii and had all the birth announcements. It`s ludicrous, that charge. Ludicrous.

TUR: It might be ludicrous, but he is essentially standing by it because he refuses to back away from it. And what you hear at these rallies when he talk about President Obama, the anger towards the president from the people who show up to these things is palpable. You hear...


TUR: ... usually, one or two guys scream as loud as they can, Obama is a Muslim, or, Obama is a ISIS, or, Obama was born in Kenya. The anger towards the president is being funneled through this crowd...


TUR: Or not funneled, it`s being allowed to release itself in the people who come here. They`re allowed to come out here and say that they don`t like the president and they don`t -- not only do they not like him, but they hate him. I mean, the anger in the rooms here can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially when he talks about Hillary Clinton and when he talks about President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well, we saw some of the fiercest anti-Trump attacks yet from Jeb Bush this weekend. Let`s watch that sort of crossfire.


JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just one other thing. I`ve got to get this off my chest. Donald Trump is a jerk.


BUSH: You can`t -- you can`t -- you cannot insult your way to the presidency. You can`t disparage women, Hispanics, disabled people. Who is he kidding? A guy like that should not be the front-running candidate of our great party. That is not how we win.


BUSH: I feel better now.


MATTHEWS: Did he feel better if he drank the water or because he said that...


MATTHEWS: I think it`s so languorous.

SINGER: I don`t know, you know?

MATTHEWS: It`s not working! And you can see right in that picture why it`s not working. That audience was dutiful in its clapping.


MATTHEWS: And it was like -- by the way, if there`s a Republican NPR audience, I think he found one.

SINGER: And you know, it`s -- it`s -- he`s got a point. Are Donald Trump`s...



MATTHEWS: Why`d he call him a jerk if he`s saying, I`m against name calling?

SINGER: Right. No more name calling. I mean, you -- you -- we remember when there used to be fighting words in American politics, things you didn`t say about somebody. You didn`t call them a liar. You didn`t call them a jerk. Now...

MATTHEWS: Well, "liar" was always the worst...


COSTA: ... call out Bush for that comment. Christie -- Christie sees a lane in New Hampshire. Bush is struggling being this anti-Trump voice. New Hampshire`s mixed (ph). Lindsey Graham`s out of the race. It`s fluid up there.

MATTHEWS: It`s rare when you -- I remember Jim Rand (ph), the congressman from around here -- I went to school with him, and he -- he called the incumbent congressman a jerk, and everybody said, yes, you`re right.

SINGER: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: But for some reason, that sunk in, and this word "jerk" seems puny attacking Trump.

SINGER: Now you`ve got -- we don`t like Donald Trump and he`s a jerk, so we`re going to call him a jerk, thereby behaving like a jerk. We don`t like Donald Trump because he doesn`t tell the truth, so Hillary Clinton`s going to not tell the truth.


SINGER: I mean, it`s like...

MATTHEWS: Let`s try -- let`s try...


MATTHEWS: ... Katy, then you two guys. Katy, this argument that the best way to beat Trump, if there is a way to beat him -- and I`m sure there is conceptually -- that he can`t win the general. How would that work when with you interview people in the crowds there? Would that work or not?

COSTA: I think that they really don`t like Hillary Clinton, and I have encountered some people who say that they are worried that Donald Trump won`t be able to beat her. (INAUDIBLE) come out for these things believe that he will. They believe that he`ll be able to fire up an untold amount of people who maybe otherwise would not come out and vote. So the idea that he is not going to be able to beat Hillary Clinton is not necessarily one that resonates with the people who show up to his rallies.

I mean, we still don`t know how many of the people that show up are going to go out and vote. But this is -- you know, we have 5,000, 6,000 people here. Generally, we have at least a few thousand, up into 14,000.


TUR: You just get 10 percent of those people to show up and vote in any given state, he runs away with the vote in most of those states. You need 10 percent of the crowds he gets...


TUR: ... in Iowa, 10 percent in New Hampshire. And I think that if these people are not just coming to see the Donald Trump show and if they do come out to support him at the voting booth or caucus for him, then you`re going to see something that we have not seen in American politics, which is somebody who everybody has discounted from the beginning and continues to try and discount run away with it.

But we`ll have to see. I mean, polling is suggesting it`s going that way. But you know, it`s -- who knows? You never know where the polling`s going to go.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m looking at big numbers, guys, and I`m seeing him as high as he`s been. He`s already as high as he`s been...

SINGER: Nationally.

MATTHEWS: Nationally. Well, that`s what I`m talking about. And I think it`s interesting that we thought -- I don`t -- I didn`t think this, but most people thought he was going to die when the fall came. And then the fall came, and it`s already gone, the 21st is -- today, right? It`s gone. It`s gone. The fall is gone. And here he is, third season of Donald Trump higher than ever.

COSTA: I think Katy brings up a good point. These caucuses, Iowa an elsewhere, are going to be organizational tests. He may struggle there, doesn`t have a huge operation. But when it comes to a primary, a straight primary, New Hampshire, South Carolina, he can ride those headwinds. Those may be stronger states for Trump.

SINGER: And that`s -- I don`t know you can...

MATTHEWS: You mean tailwind.

TUR: Tailwinds.

SINGER: I don`t think you can stop Donald Trump by anything you do in the campaign other than beat him on the ground. If you -- if he loses in Iowa, then he has a black eye for the first time in the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Here`s my prediction. There`ll be a three-way race in the South, especially the SEC primaries. You`re going to see three guys (INAUDIBLE) because the hawkish money, the big money.

SINGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Cruz`ll be in it because the angry right, and Trump there because the show. It`s still the show, and I think it`s going to be close for a long time until they get into 100 percent, you know, winner-take- alls. And if he`s still in it then, look out.

Anyway, Katy Tur, as always, great coverage. Robert Costa, thank you, and Paul Singer, as well. Thank you.

SINGER: Thank you, too.

MATTHEWS: You round out this trio rather well.

SINGER: I try.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, please watch tomorrow night at 7:00 PM Eastern. This is one of the biggest things we`ve done in a while, HARDBALL time. It`s going to be at 7:00 o`clock tomorrow night Eastern time. "Citizen Trump," an inside look at this unusual political figure.

Coming up -- by the way, if you want to get into a good argument on Trump, watch this show because you`ll win the argument. You got more facts coming out of this hour than you`ll get anywhere else. You`ll get the ammo you need to win your argument.

We`re going to take, by the way, a deep listen coming up next to President Obama confronting the ugly side of his Republican critics. It`s also what we normally hear from a sitting president -- not normally -- as he looks to back -- try to make sense of why people don`t like him on the right. It`s fascinating.

Here`s Trump -- I`m sorry -- here`s Obama trying to explain why the Trump crowd are dumping on him.

Plus, Ted Cruz rising in the polls, unfortunately, and he`s doing it by sounding more and more like Donald Trump. Isn`t imitation the serious (sic) form of flattery?

Plus, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight looks at how Hillary Clinton did against Bernie and Martin -- I should call him Marty, it drives him crazy - - on Saturday night`s debate.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a tease, what`s coming in this hour tomorrow night, "Citizen Trump."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham has now dropped out of the 2016 race. He did it today. He never quite gained traction, as we say, and was relegated to the undercard, the kids` table, in most of the Republican debates.

The big question now is who`s he going to endorse ahead of the all- important primary down in his home state of South Carolina? I`ll be it`s Rubio. We`ll see. I`m not sure it`s going to matter.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama got unusually candid, I think, about his ethnic background, or racial background, if you like that, in an interview with NPR`s Steve Inskeep that aired this morning, today. He said some of the over-the-top criticism aimed at him from the right can be explained by it, his background, something we haven`t heard from him before.

And he accused Donald Trump of exploiting -- that`s his word -- the fear and anger felt by some people, especially who the president called blue-collar men, caused by a changing economy and stagnating incomes.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can buy most things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear, some of it justified, but just misdirected. And I think somebody like Mr. Trump`s taken advantage of that. That`s what he`s exploiting during the course of his campaign.


MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, I hear the president works out in the morning listening to NPR. And that caused the presence some incoming, by the way, from the right for what he just said.

The Drudge Report had this headline, "Obama Plays the Race Card on Trump."

April Ryan is Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. And Molly Ball is a staff writer for "The Atlantic."

First of all, I don`t think he played the race card if you mean like Johnnie Cochran or something like that. He wasn`t play it to get anywhere. He was simply trying to explain, I thought, why there are some people that don`t seem to like him.


And there is a real explanation out there. There is an issue of race. And he knows right now it`s being played up by certain candidates. And to talk about the birther issue, it is a very divisive issue. That was the first -- one of the first issues, the first issue for Donald Trump. And he got a resounding response.

MATTHEWS: What`s it about? Why would you say a guy is born in Africa when it`s absolutely impossible he could have been born in Africa? And why would a mother name her kid Barack Hussein Obama? Why would she go have the baby in Africa and then sneak back to Honolulu? I mean, the whole idea of the thing is crazy.

RYAN: It is very crazy.

But Donald Trump is tapping into a portion of this country that still does not like the fact that there is an African-American or a black man who has reached the pinnacle, the highest of heights in this nation.


MATTHEWS: That`s my theory. My theory, Molly...



MATTHEWS: And I`m not a person of color, but I do have a particular theory about this charge. I think the really angry guy out there, mostly guy, white guy, thinks that if he can erase him from that picture book we get as kids of the presidents -- it begins with George Washington through Lincoln and through Roosevelt -- and there is a president who is black.

They want to like make sure he is not really there. Somehow, that book has an asterisk. Like, Pete Rose, he didn`t really win the -- he didn`t really get in the Hall of Fame, that he didn`t get in there. Somehow, he`s not there. Why do they keep picking at it? Because they do. In all the polls, he`s -- 43 percent of Republicans say he`s a Muslim.

Where do they get that from?

BALL: Well, look, this is a sense which Donald Trump is pandering to a market need. Right?

There`s a number of people -- and I think that the president`s analysis that there is -- this is a time of rapid social change that he is a representative of, and there are a lot of people who feel dislocated by that, who feel uncomfortable with that, and it`s not only about this president. It`s about a lot of things happening in this country.

And it`s also about these economic woes...

MATTHEWS: Well said.


BALL: ... that he Interestingly does not associate himself with. He doesn`t see himself as part of this narrative.

MATTHEWS: Well, who doesn`t see a part of it?

BALL: He doesn`t think that the troubles the country is going through have anything to do with him. He is talking like a sociology professor, the way he explains this stuff.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, as I showed you earlier, NPR`s Steve Inskeep asked the president why some people fear he is trying to "change the country."

Well, here`s a part of the answer, to make Molly`s point. Let`s listen.


OBAMA: In a big country like this, there`s always going to be folks who are frustrated, don`t like the direction of the country, are concerned about the president.

If you are referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I`m different, I`m Muslim, I`m disloyal to the country, et cetera, which, unfortunately, is pretty far out there and gets some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party, and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials, what I would say there is that`s probably pretty specific to me and who I am and my background and that in some ways I may represent change that worries them.


MATTHEWS: That`s like Arthur Schlesinger doing play by play in a wrestling match. He`s so -- it`s so delicate.


RYAN: It`s delicate and it`s very politically correct. but let`s get to the real meat of it. The bottom line is, whether he`s a Muslim or not, who cares? The bottom line...

MATTHEWS: Well, it matters if he says he`s not and he is, obviously. But he isn`t.

RYAN: But he`s not.

MATTHEWS: I agree. We agree.

RYAN: Listen, let`s go back to Jeremiah Wright.


MATTHEWS: You say it doesn`t matter. I think it does matter. If somebody says they`re lying, you have got to fight them. You have got to fight somebody.

RYAN: Jeremiah Wright, is that enough? Remember all the craziness during the campaign? He had to come up with a great Philadelphia speech on race because of Jeremiah...

MATTHEWS: Because he went to a Protestant church.

RYAN: Christian. OK?

And -- but let`s go back even further in history. You are a great person who talks about history. Let`s remember the time when this nation was all up in an uproar about Kennedy being Catholic. Let`s remember that. Let`s go back to when we tried to make it palatable about a Mormon possibly being president.

So, we are still a nation that still thinks that it has to be this way. We have to look at it that way. And we have got to open our minds.


MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, George Romney, who`s Mitt`s father, when he was running for president, the issue never came up. So, things are getting worse in some regards.

RYAN: Yes.

BALL: Well, what I think is interesting about this, though, is what it says about sort of second-term Obama, because there`s been a lot of talk about him being sort of liberated now that he never has to run for reelection.

MATTHEWS: He looks like it. He looked liberated to me right there.


BALL: Yes, he looks so excited, so happy.

MATTHEWS: He could care less. He could care less what Donald Trump...


BALL: But he`s also resigned, right? He came in, he was going to unite the country.

His unique demographic makeup, as he calls it, was supposed to be a feature, not a bug, because it would enable him to bring all these different groups together. Now he understands that there are people who are never going to accept him, that when he thought that he could put this to rest because it wasn`t true, and by releasing the long-form birth certificate, when Donald Trump demanded it. And now he understands that that is never going to happen.

RYAN: The day he walked in that door, he knew. They knew. They knew. They understood that race and politics will always follow him.

They didn`t understand the degree that it would go to the problems. But they always understood the unique dynamic of who he was and what he brought to the White House and to this nation.

BALL: Yes. But I think they would think it would get less, not more...


MATTHEWS: Eighty percent of this country has completely accepted them, the Obama family, as the first family, totally accepted Michelle, totally accepted the kids. Is quite proud to have them in the Oval Office and in the White House living there. So, it`s still, to put it in perspective, about 20 percent, right?

RYAN: But it`s a loud minority.


MATTHEWS: And angry.

Thank you, April.

RYAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re never loud.

And thank you, Molly Ball.

We argue more in the green room than we do out here in the dressing room. Do we go to the dressing room? No, we go to the makeup room.


MATTHEWS: We will be back in a moment with a preview -- thank you, Molly -- of "Citizen Trump," which premieres here tomorrow. And you`re going to like it. If you like "Citizen Kane," which apparently Trump does, you might like this. But if you don`t like Trump, you will like this. If you do like Trump, you will like -- certainly like parts of it.

This is HARDBALL coming up, at HARDBALL time, tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. That`s "Citizen Trump."

And we`re going to show you a piece of it right now.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tomorrow night as you have been hearing on MSNBC all day today and will tomorrow, beginning with "MORNING JOE," we are going to present "Citizen Trump," our documentary on the man now out front in the Republican fight for president.

And one of our purposes is to dig into the reasons why people are saying they want Trump for president, why he has been so powerfully successful in muscling his way past the GOP establishment, what you might call the powers that be or were in the Republican Party.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump is right. And Americans know he`s right.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they are bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is acting in a very old and shameful American tradition. Every so often, like a fever, anti-immigrant feeling arises.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Sit down. You weren`t called. Sit down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you see is what you get. He`s genuine. He`s the real deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has tapped into a part of the electorate that is, I think, deeply angry about the state of the economy.

TRUMP: How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?

MIKE TYSON, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BOXER: This guy is just saying what people are thinking.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump`s statement is a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law and the foundation of America itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are getting Donald Trump full-throttle, ready to destroy anyone who gets in his way.


MATTHEWS: Well, tomorrow night, we give you the Trump story. Trump fans will cheer at some moments, boo at others. And Trump critics will cheer at the negatives, boo the undeniable achievements of the man.

What everyone watching will have at the end of the hour, the strongest possible ammunition in any argument you get into. You will know more than any other person. And not only that. You will have a great jump on what his or his arguments or her arguments are going to be in his favor. Whatever your purpose, watch tomorrow night here at HARDBALL time, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, on MSNBC.

Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable on Saturday night`s debate, the Democratic debate, and how Hillary Clinton was prepared to take on her rivals.

Plus, Ted Cruz borrows Donald Trump`s playbook. And it seems to be working for him, even though he is well back in second place.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to take power out of Washington and back to we, the people. That is what this campaign is all about.




Well, that`s the voice and face of the right wing of the Republican Party.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Ted Cruz in Georgia on part of a campaign swing through the Southern states that hold their primaries on March 1. As "The New York Times" points out, Cruz appears to be doubling down on his strategy to mimic Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Mr. Cruz has in recent days seemed to more closely resemble the man he`s been chasing, or, more precisely, quietly drafting behind for months. Perhaps most notably, Mr. Cruz has sharpened his already uncompromising language, eager to retain his own hold on popular anger against the political class.

Well, throughout his campaign, Cruz has echoed Trump`s rhetoric on issues ranging from illegal immigration to ISIS to political correctitude.

Here he is.


TRUMP: We have drug dealers coming across. We have rapists. We have killers. We have murderers.

CRUZ: In 2013 alone, the Obama administration released 36,000 illegal aliens who had criminal convictions, including 116 murderers.

TRUMP: I`m going to bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them. It`s true.


CRUZ: We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion.


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

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I don`t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And, to be honest with you, this country doesn`t have time either.

CRUZ: It`s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It`s political correctness. Political correctness is killing people.


MATTHEWS: Well, while Cruz tries to imitate Trump, we have got Trump right now on stage live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Here we go.


TRUMP: I said, tell me, who did he kill? And I go through this whole thing.

It would be so great if we could get Russia on our side and other countries on our side and knock the hell out of ISIS and knock...


TRUMP: Right? Right?

So stupid. Just knock the living hell out of them.


TRUMP: Remember, I said take the oil, right? For years, I have been saying that. For years, I have been -- and, look, we have people running this country who are stupid. They`re stupid.


TRUMP: I went to an Ivy League school. I`m very highly educated. I went to the best business school in the world, the Wharton School of Finance.

Somebody said, he`s plainspoken. I don`t have to be plainspoken. I have, like, this incredible vocabulary. But, honestly, how can I describe our leaders better than the word stupid?



TRUMP: Really, right? There`s no word. There`s no word. You know, I used to say grossly I incompetent but stupid is stronger, isn`t it? I don`t know. HECKLER: Trump, you`re racist! You`re a bigot! (BOOS) TRUMP: Bye-bye. Bye-bye. (CHEERS) Hard to believe. USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! (CHANTING) So unbelievable. But I`m really trying to be really neutral. To one guy I said, "Get him out of here now!" (CHEERS) And they said the next day, it was horrible, horrible the way Trump talked. The guy was a bad guy. He was terrible what he was doing, but what is very rough. I said, get him out of here. OK, the next day they come out and say that was horrible the way Trump -- the next day I had another big one, 21,000 people. I had one guy, one guy was like he went a little crazy. I was very nice. I said, "Please remove him, but be very nice. If he wants to come back let" -- you know what they did the next day? First day he was terrible, he was rough. The second day -- (HECKLING) MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to let Trump deal with that kerfuffle. Apparently, there are more than one heckler out there in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Jeanne Cummings is political editor at "The Wall Street Journal", Jonathan Allen is a political reporter and author, and Francesca Chambers is political reporter with "The Daily Mail", one of those hoity-hoity British newspapers. Here is what I want to talk about tonight because it seems the Republican establishment is fercockted, they`re finished. They had no candidates they can win. But the two candidates that are dominating the polls, it was Dr. Ben Carson. He`s faded dramatically. The two candidates now are Trump dramatically and number two, the guy who`s cruising up there is Ted Cruz. Both -- as we just saw in an earlier bite, incredibly anti-establishment, incredibly hard right. What`s going on? Does the Republican Party have any chance getting back in this fight? JEANNE CUMMINGS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: They do, they do. I think Lindsey Graham was trying to send a signal, led the way today when he quit. And that is a lot of these extra candidates have to get out of the space. And then -- MATTHEWS: Who is he talking to, Jeanne? Who`s he want to quit? CUMMINGS: Kasich is not doing well at all in the polls. MATTHEWS: Jeb. CUMMINGS: Well, I don`t know if that is as far as Lindsey Graham would go. MATTHEWS: He`s at 4 percent, 5 percent. CUMMINGS: But he likes Jeb Bush. Right. MATTHEWS: So he picks his favorite. CUMMINGS: So, he may not pick him. So, in any way -- MATTHEWS: Consolidate the moderate, if you will, moderate Republican voice. And then they would have enough to take on Cruz or Trump. It seems like these two guys, Jonathan, they keep growing out of what`s left. They`ve got to scramble together seven candidates and squeeze at least one decent candidate out of that. JONATHAN ALLEN, AUTHOR, "HRC": There is less than a majority out of what`s left. MATTHEWS: Apparently, Rubio doesn`t like to campaign. ALLEN: Well, he might have a stretch of run in him in Iowa before he gets to the caucuses and then New Hampshire for the primary there. But -- MATTHEWS: Who is the first moderate with a chance to win this thing? Win? (CROSSTALK) CUMMINGS: It`s going to be New Hampshire. That`s where -- whether they win or not, or that maybe where they emerge, because Cruz appears to be, in terms of organization, momentum and message, very well-established in Iowa. So, then you`ve got to go -- MATTHEWS: How many home schoolers are there in New Hampshire? CUMMINGS: Exactly. He`s not a perfect fit what do we do in New Hampshire? We test whether Trump is all rhetoric and no machine. We have candidates, mainstream candidates or the establishment candidates, Rubio doing pretty well, Christie rising. Christie`s message is perfect for New Hampshire. MATTHEWS: Which is what? East Coast, ethnic, angry, what? CUMMINGS: He would be tough on the terrorists. He`s an independent thinker. He`s a straight talker. And he has a very compelling message on drug abuse, which is a very big issue. MATTHEWS: The heroin epidemic. CUMMINGS: Exactly. MATTHEWS: Francesca, you get on this. I think Jeanne is right and I think -- having grown up in a catholic environment, we always thought before the bridge problem hit him hard that Christie had that appeal to the street corner guy. FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: It`s not just since the bridgegate thing. I do thing Trump getting into this race fundamentally changed the entire thing. You know, everyone keeps saying you`ve got Cruz mimicking Trump. Hello, a year ago, everyone was saying Cruz was the one who was bombastic. That Cruz is the one who gets on the Senate floor and calls Mitch McConnell a liar. He was the one who was willing to shut down the government because he thought he could defund Obamacare. So, Ted Cruz has always been who`s willing to get out there and tell it like it is, even if that goes against what the party wants. I think what Donald Trump has done for Ted Cruz is essentially be like a brushfire and just clear the way for Ted Cruz to be able to come -- MATTHEWS: So, right now, who is the best shot to be the voice against Trump and Cruz together? Who`s got the -- CHAMBERS: Marco Rubio. MATTHEWS: Marco Rubio? CUMMINGS: I would say he has the best shot right now. I don`t know if that is going to last. MATTHEWS: The question is where can he win? CHAMBERS: Where can Marco Rubio win? He could probably win Nevada. Possibly New Hampshire. His people got to get more organized. MATTHEWS: Nevada, I love it when people say it right, yes. ALLEN: I just was going to say, where is he sitting right now? I think the interesting thing about Cruz is he is saying the same thing as Trump is on so many issues, and yet he has a distinction in that the evangelicals, the Christian conservatives trust Ted Cruz. MATTHEWS: Do home schoolers travel? ALLEN: Not necessarily. MATTHEWS: Would they be going down south? (CROSSTALK) CHAMBERS: They live there. They send them on buses to get out the vote. They do. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Three-way fight, Cruz, Trump, Rubio. Trump would still be the best how, and it will be an exciting fight we`re going to follow for weeks. CUMMINGS: But does he have a machine? That`s what we don`t know. MATTHEWS: You know what? Pat Buchanan once said, if you win in New Hampshire, you do up there, it`s amazing, all of a sudden, you are competing in Arizona. People all watch the same TV shows. They all see the same results. We are more than we like to admit, one country where people are all watching the same TV shows. You watch. If Trump starts to win like in South Carolina, he`ll do well in the SEC fight. Anyway, meanwhile, the Democrats participated in their third debate. Yes, there really were three debates. And the primary season over this weekend. Front-runner Hillary Clinton faced attacks from both of her rivals, Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley. Sanders criticized the former Secretary of State for her support of regime change in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other words, he accused her being a neocon. But Clinton fired back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change, and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be. So, I think, yes, regime change is easy. Getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you`ve got to think about what happens the day after. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, with all due respect, Senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. You joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Gadhafi and you asked there be a Security Council validation of that with a resolution. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: In other words, she is nailing the guy for agreeing with her back then. This is really rich stuff, but it worked. She stopped him. CUMMINGS: It does work. She stopped Martin O`Malley with the same factual response when he attacked her on Wall Street. She is a hard worker. She prepares. MATTHEWS: Why did she prepare for the first and third debate but not the second one? CUMMINGS: The second one, I think, she was thrown off by the first question. That was the Obama foreign policy is really bad. You were part of it. You own it. Answer that. MATTHEWS: I think you`ve got to do your homework in this business. Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Tomorrow night as I`ve been saying, watch the premiere of our new documentary "Citizen Trump." It`s a fascinating hour on the rise of the most surprising figure on the political scene right now. And why the usual rules of politics don`t seem to apply to Donald Trump. "Citizen Trump" premiering tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern here on MSNBC at 7:00 p.m. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable. Francesca, you first. Tell me something I don`t know. CHAMBERS: Well, I was just in Iowa over the weekend with Mr. Trump. And as you know, his strategy is to try to get people who`ve never caucused before out with him to vote for him, but the problem with that strategy is everyone I talked to has never caucused before. So, they don`t know how one works, they don`t know where to go. So, if he actually wants to win Iowa, he`s going to have to do a better job of explaining that process. MATTHEWS: Trump university. Go ahead -- Jonathan. ALLEN: There`s some concern in Democratic circles that the Paris attacks and San Bernardino attacks are going to hurt recruiting for congressional candidates, some who have not yet gotten into Senate and House races are going to look into a potential national security campaign and conclude that that`s a tougher race to win. MATTHEWS: For a Democrat. ALLEN: Right. MATTHEWS: Wow. ALLEN: Some concern, not saying that that`s what`s going to happen. And, of course, could be all about the economy, like many -- MATTHEWS: There`s only about 40 seats that are really contestable, right? ALLEN: Absolutely. But you`re still -- there`s still some concern. MATTHEWS: So interesting. Jeanne? CUMMINGS: Well, we at the "Wall Street Journal" were talking demographics today, and one thing we discovered that I didn`t know was that right now, seniors and young people are at about parity when they turn out to vote. In the coming decade, seniors are going to start growing as a piece of the electorate, to as much as 30 percent several decades -- MATTHEWS: Seniors being over 65. CUMMINGS: Exactly. This should be great news for Republicans. But what they also found is that half of them will be minorities. So, how do they deal with that? MATTHEWS: I just hope they all live long. Anyway, thank you, Jeanne Cummings -- being one of them -- Jeanne Cummings, Jonathan Allen and Francesca Chambers. When we return, let me finish with a tease of what`s coming in this hour tomorrow night. And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And you see Hillary. I mean, did you watch that -- what happened to her? (BOOS) She`s terrible. She`s terrible. "Donald Trump is on video and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit." And it turned out to be a lie. She`s a liar. It turned out to be a lie. It turned out to be a lie. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Donald Trump, of course, just moments ago, unfortunately perhaps taking on Hillary Clinton. Let me finish tonight with a preview of coming attractions tomorrow night. "Citizen Trump" is all done and ready for you to see tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. That title, "Citizen Trump," struck me from the outset as a tight way to tie up this story. Trump has called "Citizen Kane" his favorite movie. It`s about a tycoon like himself, a man of controversy, huge ego, and yes, achievement. The question "Citizen Trump" seeks to answer is, who is this guy, where did he come from, how did this real estate wunderkind from Queens become who he is. People who like Trump may find themselves uneasy at some of his behavior, the serial marriages, the bankruptcies. And those who don`t like Trump will find themselves having an equally hard time denying his achievements. In this sense, the documentary and its subject are much like that of "Citizen Kane," the story of the newspaper baron based upon the real-life story of William Randolph Hearst. In that movie, the film`s hero succeeds at pretty much everything but politics. And those who watch "Citizen Trump" will wonder if in this one large regard he might just outdo his hero. Watch it tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on HARDBALL at HARDBALL time. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END