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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/23/2015

Guests: Heidi Przybyla, Caitlyn Huey-Burns, Jeremy Peters, Carrie Rickey, David Poland, Stephen Hess, Michelle Bernard

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 23, 2015 Guest: Heidi Przybyla, Caitlyn Huey-Burns, Jeremy Peters, Carrie Rickey, David Poland, Stephen Hess, Michelle Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump versus Clinton. Has the main bout already begun?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

On this eve of Christmas eve, in this last full week before election year, the mother of all battles may well be upon us. Over the last 48 hours, we`ve seen the two dominant forces in presidential politics, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, matching jab for jab. What could be next year`s marquee matchup may already be in round one.

Well, the line of attack from Trump is what you`d expect. It`s nasty, vulgar and personal. He goes after Clinton`s bathroom break during the Democratic debate with a bathroom slur at her about her loss in the 2008 primaries.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m watching the debate, and she disappeared! Where did she go? Where did she go? I thought she quit! I know where she went! It`s disgusting! I don`t want to talk about it. No, it`s too disgusting. Don`t say it. It`s disgusting. Let`s not - - we want to be very, very straight up, OK?

Hillary -- that`s not a president. That`s not -- she`s not taking us -- everything that`s been involved in Hillary has been losses. You take a look -- even her race to (ph) Obama -- she was going to beat Obama! She was favored to win, and she got schlonged. She lost. I mean, she lost.


MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary Clinton executed her jujitsu just yesterday.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We shouldn`t let anybody bully his way into the presidency because that is not who we are as Americans.



MATTHEWS: And she spoke extensively about Trump`s language to "The Des Moines Register."


CLINTON: I really deplore the tone of his campaign and the inflammatory rhetoric that he is using to divide people and his going after groups of people with hateful, incendiary rhetoric. So nothing really surprises me anymore. I don`t know that he has any boundaries at all. And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign, and he has to keep sort of upping the stakes and going even further.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson, "The "Washington Post`s" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Eugene Robinson, and "USA Today" senior political reporter Heidi Przybyla.

Let me ask you, Hallie -- you`re out there a lot with Cruz, and this guy, as well. It seems to me that he was using what I`ve been told -- I didn`t know this -- is a Long Island slang use of that word. Apparently, you know...



MATTHEWS: ... they use it around the neighborhood. Somebody else from NPR said -- I`ve never heard it. I know the word. I never knew it as...

JACKSON: In that context...

MATTHEWS: ... a transitive verb in that context. Is that going to get it past -- will he get past that part of it, with most people, or will it still be seen as a grossity beyond the bounds?

JACKSON: Oh, I think to be asking the question, when you look at Donald Trump`s pattern of behavior, is almost a moot point right now. People are...

MATTHEWS: Who are you, Jesse Jackson? The question is moot?



JACKSON: ... question, will this (INAUDIBLE) -- no, of course (INAUDIBLE) People don`t care, right?


JACKSON: And his supporters don`t believe that any -- you know, anything the media says. We can say over and over again -- Donald Trump insists this is a commonly used...


MATTHEWS: ... Hillary Clinton is making this a big deal. She`s saying this proves the guy is unfit for the presidency. You can`t be clearer than we just heard her. She`s taking...

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": She`s said that...

MATTHEWS: ... it as a mortal sin.

PRZYBYLA: ... all along about everything that he says that`s supposedly inflammatory. But I think we do -- first of all, in a primary, no question he can say whatever he wants, ain`t going to hurt him. Once we get into a general election context, I think the narrative is false right now that a lot of the media are talking about that, somehow, she has to learn from what Jeb did and she`s got to punch back hard because this is going to be fundamentally different than a male-on-male kind of cage -- alpha male cage match when you have a male candidate...



MATTHEWS: How`s it different for -- how`s it different?

PRZYBYLA: It`s different because Hillary Clinton has always benefited from when she`s in a position of being a victim. And unfortunately, in our electorate today, I think there`s still a tendency for people to like men who are perceived as strong and to like women who have that kind of more vulnerable side to them. So whenever he walks into her traps, it could help her if it`s legitimately seen as sexism.


PRZYBYLA: Now, if she...

MATTHEWS: How about Bernie Sanders when he said people shout about gun control, it`s not going to get anything done and she said that`s sexist?

PRZYBYLA: OK, I was there, and that helped her with a lot of...

MATTHEWS: Was it...


PRZYBYLA: ... voters in the audience.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) how did you call it? Did you call it fair -- foul or not a foul?

PRZYBYLA: I called it from Bernie`s perspective as a foul. However, if she had never heard him say that before, she wouldn`t know that that was necessarily one of his main stump lines, so I kind of called it even. But it helped her, OK? I was at the rally when she said it.



MATTHEWS: ... jujitsu that will always work against a big-mouth opponent like Trump?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it has a good chance of working. And I think it`s more than just a sexism angle. I think it`s -- it`s, in fact -- she wants to sound like a reasonable, experienced, in-charge person as opposed to this maniac, Donald Trump.

And -- you know, and -- and so a certain contrast is set up when he`s using language like that and she`s being calm and maybe even a little boring, you know? Maybe...


ROBINSON: ... I mean, you can get into general election...

MATTHEWS: Well, I want to...

ROBINSON: ... and people have...

MATTHEWS: ... get into this because I think...

ROBINSON: ... a binary choice to make, right? Are you going to take wacky or...

MATTHEWS: Gene, you`re so smart at (INAUDIBLE)

ROBINSON: ... are you going to take...

MATTHEWS: The way she slowed down her cadence -- you know, like most politicians, you can talk quickly or not. She slowed it way down. And she has the beautiful, cultured voice of hers. I call it Karen Carpenter voice.


MATTHEWS: A perfect voice. And she did it so well, almost like she was, like, doing a sidelines estimate of what`s going on.

Anyway, Hillary`s staff, of course, is being much more blunt going after Trump as a sexist. "The Des Moines Register" reports that Clinton declined to say if she believed Trump was targeting her as a woman when he used that term on Monday, which we can`t say here on NBC. But she said, "I don`t respond to him personally" -- this is Hillary -- "because he thrives on that kind of exchange." But then Hillary added, "It`s not the first time he`s demonstrated a penchant for sexism" -- getting in the jab.

Clinton`s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, was more direct. Quote, "We are not responding to Trump, but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should." Well, there they made their point. I love...


MATTHEWS: ... and her senior spokesperson said that, "Resorting to disgusting sexist slurs is not leadership, Mr. Trump." Well, Trump responded again today with a warning -- and this may be a faux warning -- to the Clinton campaign. "Be careful, Hillary, as you play the war on women or women being degraded card."

Now, let`s be politically astute here. Trump may feel that he`s losing this round. And when he says, Be careful not to play the woman card or sexist card, he may be afraid it`s working.

JACKSON: Look at -- look at who Hillary Clinton`s base is, all right? Look out who`s going to come out to support Hillary Clinton in the primary and in the general election. It`s women. So...

MATTHEWS: Women our age, my women -- my age and Hillary`s, yes.


MATTHEWS: Older women...

JACKSON: When women hear this...

MATTHEWS: ... who`ve seen this crap for years, yes.

JACKSON: And they see (INAUDIBLE) from a guy like Donald Trump, it does a little bit play right into Hillary Clinton`s hands.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Trump`s -- first of all, Trump is back in terms of numbers. So whenever we`re talking about these words that I can`t even say here, Gene...


MATTHEWS: We have lists of words -- it`s like, we can`t use them, but he`s winning with these words! Anyway, he remains the top dog on the right. A new Quinnipiac poll has Trump with much more narrow lead in recent polls, with him at 28 and Cruz at 24 and Rubio down at 12 and Carson at 10.

But a new CNN poll out today falls more in line with most of the polls out there taken over the past couple weeks. It shows Trump with a big lead, up there at 39, pushing 40, Cruz 18, not so impressive, Carson at 10, Rubio at 10.

And Gene, what shakes this up is they all say the country -- I listened on the radio coming out -- I`m not going to say what network it was -- If only those establishment Republicans would get together, they could beat them. No!


MATTHEWS: Their total number`s in the teens, total number!

ROBINSON: The outsiders are, like, 67 percent if you put together Trump and Carson...

MATTHEWS: So this anger against...

ROBINSON: ... and Cruz.

MATTHEWS: ... the establishment is so strong that I believe they`ll put up with some bad language, some grossness, some bathroom talk or we used to call it water closet language that Trump uses because there`s a bigger issue at stake here. They don`t like the political establishment.

JACKSON: And you hear that when you`re out on the campaign trail.

MATTHEWS: They don`t want to hear it.

JACKSON: Even if they`re not Trump supporters -- I go to a lot of these events with, for example, Christie people or Cruz people or Rubio people. Regardless of who they support, when you ask them about Trump, they say, yes, I might not like every single thing he says, but I at least like that he says it.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask this...


MATTHEWS: You got to go. We all have to go. Let me ask you. I don`t have to go, I`ll be here forever, but let me ask you this -- Knock wood.


MATTHEWS: How does this campaign -- should Trump win the nomination, which most people in the media would like to see because it would be one of the great battles in history -- Hillary`s very prepared, in-the-pocket quarterbacking, his scrambling, very different styles completely.


MATTHEWS: Does he make her the establishment?

JACKSON: Sure. Why wouldn`t he?

MATTHEWS: Then how would that be good for her?

JACKSON: Well, play right into his hands. It`s good for him to be seen as the...


MATTHEWS: Hillary becomes the defender of the way things are in America.

ROBINSON: Well, he makes her the establishment, but she redefines establishment. She redefines establishment as...

MATTHEWS: What, civilization?


ROBINSON: ... sane, as civilized, as opposed to this wild man who -- you know, on the other side.

MATTHEWS: So she`s the safer candidate. Is that what people want?

ROBINSON: She becomes safer...

MATTHEWS: Do we want the safer candidate? It`s a question I ask at the end of the show. Do we want safer candidates or take a risk on a gross slugger?

PRZYBYLA: Even if she`s the establishment, he`s always going to be the alternative. And she`ll just bring people back to that. She just sets up the traps and lets him walk right into them.

And in terms of the vulgar language, I mean, yes, we`re talking about two very different races once we get into a general election. While people in the Republican primary may, you know, accept that or even thrive off of it, we`re talking about independent voters now who are going to demand more from him than just personal attacks when we get into (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Where are the independent voters now? Are they for changing what we have or defending what we have?

PRZYBYLA: I don`t think it`s that simple.

MATTHEWS: It`s got to be defending what we have, if you ask them.

PRZYBYLA: Yes, I mean, I -- I think they`re probably going to be more for a quote, unquote, "mainstream" candidate, whether it`s on the Republican side or the Democratic side, in this case, Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Well, there are plenty of the mainstream -- those mainstream candidates out there are ending up at 2 percent and 3 percent right now...

PRZYBYLA: Asterisks (ph).

MATTHEWS: ... the ones that couldn`t -- remember?


MATTHEWS: ... Scott Walker. Scott Walker, Rick Perry, good-bye!


MATTHEWS: Now we`re about to lose maybe Kasich in the next two weeks on the next debate stage. We may be losing one after another of these so- called mainstream candidates.

JACKSON: Independent voters are obviously going to be important in the general, but remember, some of these campaigns are banking on huge conservative turnout. You look at somebody like a Ted Cruz. He doesn`t care about the independent voters in a general election necessarily. He talks about wanting to bring...

MATTHEWS: Can he win Ohio and Virginia and Colorado with that kind of right-wing vote?

JACKSON: ... question...


JACKSON: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Can you argue you can win a middle-of-the-road...

JACKSON: (INAUDIBLE) demographics...

MATTHEWS: How do you win a middle-of-the road state with a right-wing constituency?

ROBINSON: I don`t think you can do that. You`ve got to get those -- the suburbs of Philadelphia, the suburbs of Cleveland. You`ve got to get those voter-rich...

MATTHEWS: Will Shaker Heights vote for Cruz?

ROBINSON: ... where there are a lot of independents who are not Ted Cruz voters.


ROBINSON: And I don`t think they`re Donald Trump voters, but...

PRZYBYLA: And if you`re just looking at demographics, states like, you know, bread basket states like Ohio have changed just from the last election. You`ve got to win a much larger percentage of the white vote just to get your numbers up because so many -- you know, it`s being full now with so many minority voters, who tend to vote for...

MATTHEWS: I know what will get 100 million people to watch the debates next fall.


MATTHEWS: Trump versus...

JACKSON: Oh, off the charts.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) just one of the viewers, Trump versus Hillary. Nobody will be independent on that race.

Anyway, thank you, Hallie. Merry Christmas to you guys.


JACKSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Heidi Przybyla, thank you so much -- very impressive institutions here, "The Washington Post," MSNBC and NBC and "USA Today." I`m surrounded by greatness. Eugene Robinson, thank you, sir. Thank you, Heidi, and thank you, Hallie.

Coming up, Ted Cruz is already coming on strong in the Republican race. Now he`s been handed an early Christmas gift. He`s attacking the media, his favorite path (ph), and he`s going after "The Washington Post" cartoonist who portrayed his two daughters as monkeys. Well, that should be a pretty yard (ph) fight. That`s a good family fight.

And HARDBALL goes to Hollywood tonight. Everyone knows I love the movies almost as much as I love politics. I`m going to have my favorites and the best movies of the year. I have seen such a string of great movies the last couple months, Kathleen and I. They are all great. I`m going to talk about a bunch of them. Plus -- especially "Spotlight."

Plus, two days to go before Christmas, just 40 days before the Iowa caucuses, what are voters looking for heading into 2016? Do they want a flawed slugger who`s swinging for the fences or a safer bet? We`re going to tell you something or everything you need to know as you look ahead to the new year 2016.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight and the year with some thoughts about our country and our politics.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: The Republican debate stage is about to get smaller. Fox Business Network just announced the criteria for the next debate. And candidates have to be in the top six nationally or in the top five in either Iowa or New Hampshire.

So who would be invited? As of now, according to the RealClear polling averages, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Bush and Christie are the only ones who meet the new criteria. Everyone else will be relegated to earlier undercard debate. The next debates are coming up on January 14th.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Ted Cruz is slamming "The Washington Post" today for an editorial cartoon published on line last night. The image shows Cruz dressed as Santa Claus, playing a street organ, and it depicts his children as monkeys, showing them as political props.

The cartoon was a criticism of the TV ad the Cruz campaign debuted over the weekend in Iowa. It`s a Christmas-themed attack ad, by the way, cleverly disguised as self-parody, and it features Cruz`s daughters. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine the greatest Christmas stories told by the senator who once read "Green Eggs and Ham" from the Senate floor.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: `Twas the night before the shutdown, and all through the house, not a bill was stirring, not even to fund a mouse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Proven Record presents a record of timeless Christmas classics read by the trusted conservative leader Ted Cruz, favorites such as "How Obama Care Stole Christmas." The whole family will enjoy reading stories like "The Grinch Who Lost Her E-mails."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know just what I`ll do, she said with a snicker. I`ll use my own servers and no one will be the wiser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you act now, we`ll throw in the inspiring new Christmas story soon to be an instant classic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please read this one, Daddy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Senator Who Saved Christmas."


MATTHEWS: Well, reacting to that cartoon on Twitter, Cruz said, "Stick with the attacking me. Caroline and Catherine are out of your league." And the cartoon was later retracted by "The Washington Post`s" editorial page editor.

Anyway, the Cruz campaign is now fund-raising off the cartoon with e- mails to its supporters. He further expressed outrage today at a campaign spot -- or stop out in Oklahoma.


CRUZ: Everyone expects the mainstream media to be liberal, to be biased. Folks want to attack me, knock yourself out. That`s part of the process. I signed up for that. That`s fine. But my girls didn`t sign up for that. And I have to say, you know, when people ask me what`s the hardest part of the campaign, the single hardest part of the campaign is being away from my daughters, is getting up and getting on an airplane and leaving and not being able to kiss my daughters good night, not being able to read them a bedtime story.

And so it used to be for a long time, the rules across the board, that kids are off limits -- that should be the rules. Don`t mess with our kids.


MATTHEWS: Jeremy Peters is with "The New York Times" and Caitlyn Huey-Burns is with RealClearPolitics.

Caitlyn, what crowd`s going to buy that from him?


MATTHEWS: I mean, he`s used his kids in an ad, a pointed attack ad against Obama and everybody else, and Hillary, with all the nasty attacks put in the language of a little kid. He did the whole thing. And then he gets mad because "The Post" does a bad -- they do a commercial makes his kid look like (INAUDIBLE) make his kids look like monkeys. They went too far, obviously.

But he`s the guy running for president, not the cartoonist at "The Washington Post." How is he behaving here?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, the conservative base loves going after the media. They love when candidates do it...

MATTHEWS: Do they think "The Washington Post" is still a liberal newspaper, I guess.

HUEY-BURNS: Oh, sure. And we`ve seen them -- we`ve seen all the sorts of candidates fund-raise off stories they thought were unfair. So I really think it could have been -- it didn`t even have to be this egregious for him to go after "The Washington Post" and use it to fuel his supporters. And you know, he was fund-raising off of it today. And it really speaks to that base in Iowa that he`s trying to cultivate support with.

MATTHEWS: If this was a basketball game, all we would be watching are foul calls. Hillary is calling fouls. This guy is calling fouls. It seems like the way you get attention is call a foul on the opponent or the media. Blame the ref.

JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think what this really plays into among conservatives is that sense of grievance.

I mean, conservatives are very good at feeling offended, especially when the liberal media is involved. That happens all the time. And Trump has done this. Cruz, we have seen has done this. Rubio has done this. Rubio has fund-raised off of I don`t know how many "New York Times" stories.


MATTHEWS: But when it comes to hating Cruz, the liberal media, if you will, are last in line.



MATTHEWS: His fellow Republican colleagues can`t stand the guy.

PETERS: No, that is absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: That`s out there. Go report. It`s there. Ask any one of them. Find a friend of Ted Cruz. I would say that is a good sidebar piece, a friend of Ted Cruz.

Go ahead.

PETERS: rMDNM_No, it`s just there is a complex. And this is why I think Trump does so well in the Republican base right now, is because there is a feeling, a sense that the country has slipped away from them, a sense that the deck has been stacked against them. This is just one other element that feeds into that.

MATTHEWS: This humor is so low-brow, but let`s go. Here is Ted Cruz tweeting out a Photoshopped picture of Hillary Clinton walking a pair of dogs and one labeled "The New York Times," the other labeled "The Washington Post." The caption reads, "Seems like a better idea for a cartoon, Hillary and her lapdogs."

So, having made fun -- I don`t even know how to do this. You play -- you yell foul and then you go back and makes fun of her.

HUEY-BURNS: Do the same thing, right.

MATTHEWS: The dog lovers aren`t going to like this, are they? There are a lot of dog lovers watching right now. And I`ll tell you, making fun of dogs as lapdogs.


PETERS: It trumps Romney, when he put that dog on the car.

MATTHEWS: He put him on the roof all the way to Canada.


HUEY-BURNS: It`s a cycle. Right?

So, he -- this is certainly a gift to him. He is going to tweet out things like that. And supporters eat it up.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch him in the ad. This is where he did pull a brilliant number that night in that debate. And he did. He called out the media. Our new phrase, calling out. And he did it. Nothing new.

But here`s -- he turned out -- the turning point in that campaign came in late October when he slammed the moderators of that CNBC debate. Watch how he did this. It showed his I.Q. at work, actually. He is a smart guy. Here he is.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don`t trust the media.


CRUZ: This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions -- "Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?" "Ben Carson, can you do math?" "John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?" "Marco Rubio, why don`t you resign?" "Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?"

How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?



MATTHEWS: There he is, a champion debater, being able to quickly recount, from memory apparently, all the shots taken by the media and their implicit shots in those questions and reeling them back after setting it up like a bow and arrow, pulling it back and then whacking the media. It was so powerful.

HUEY-BURNS: And it really I think was a turning point in the campaign. Right? Everyone was talking about...


MATTHEWS: His campaign against the media and therefore for himself, a champion.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. And after that, everyone was talking about Ted Cruz. That clip was played over and over. And then he went out on the campaign trail and talked about it and he talked about having more conservative media moderate the debate, talking about Mark Levin and those types of people having in the debate. It certainly was to his advantage.

MATTHEWS: He has really got the hate chorus out there behind him, Mark Levin.

Where is Michael Savage on this list? The whole crowd of them. He has got Sean Hannity, who I get along with, but, boy, he plays to the very hard right, very hard right. And these people are so angry. And Rush. Rush knows exactly what he is talking...

(CROSSTALK) PETERS: And that`s thing. And the way that you watched them turn on Rubio during the whole immigration debate, the conservatives went and they lined up behind Cruz, because what do they hate more than "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post"? Amnesty.

There was that. But going back to our theme of the media being this kind of chew toy for conservatives, remember what happened to Newt Gingrich after he had a moment just like that in 2012, when he went after John King in that CNN debate and said this is why people hate the media, because John King asked him a question about his marital infidelity.

And look what happened. Newt skyrocketed to the top of the polls and won South Carolina.

HUEY-BURNS: And actually the Republican candidates, they like this fight. They like -- they love having the CNBC -- be able to campaign off of that afterwards.

MATTHEWS: The idea that "The Washington Post" is a liberal newspaper is a joke. It`s a conservative newspaper on many issues, liberal on some. It is a mixed bag. It`s very much like a lot of newspapers. It has different opinions on different subjects.

The idea that it is a knee-jerk liberal press is way out of date.

Anyway, anybody who reads it would know that. Thank you, Jeremy.

PETERS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: "The New York Times," however, is still a liberal newspaper.

(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And, Caitlin Huey-Burns, thank you.

On the education -- education -- there`s a -- the editorial pages, same as education.

Much more. Thank you for coming on.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Much more on the presidential race coming up. We are headed into the new year, of course, coming up with the HARDBALL roundtable any minute now.

But, up next, my other love, the movies, a little fun now, my favorites. There are so many great movies out there right now. If you don`t go very often, it is a good time to go now. And I`m not talking about the long line at "Star Wars."

This is the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When it comes to Hollywood hits this year, "Star Wars" is the king of the galaxy. The latest episode in the space epic broke records last weekend. And in just days, it`s earned $700 million worldwide. Movies make -- $700 million is just beyond anything.

But, aside from this massive box office hit, Hollywood has put out some really impressive movies of late. I have seen them all. Watch this.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: This will come as quite a shock to my crewmates and to NASA and to the entire world, but I`m still alive. Surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How come 10 times in a day I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I play the orchestra, and you are a good musician. You sit right there. You are the best in your row.

ISABELLA ROSSELLINI, ACTRESS: You are in a room, and there is a gun on the table. And the only other person in the room is an adversary in commerce. Only one of you can prevail. Do you pick up the gun, Joy?


MARK RUFFALO, ACTOR: They knew, and they let it happen to kids. OK? It could have been you. It could have been any of us. We have got to nail these scumbags. We have got to show people that nobody can get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope.


MATTHEWS: That`s Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. What a scene from "Spotlight."

David Poland is editor at And Carrie Rickey is a former movie critic for "The Philadelphia Inquirer."

Thank you both for joining us.

I want to start with a movie I think we agree on, "Spotlight." We just saw it. It is called a procedural, like a television -- TV sitcom -- not a sitcom -- a detective kind of thing, because it is kind of a detective story, but we know the results and we know the bad thing.

And there is something wonderful, David, about watching real journalists in action.

DAVID POLAND, MOVIECITYNEWS.COM: And these journalists, the real-life journalists are actually almost more interesting than the ones in the movie, amazingly enough. I have met them a number of times, and they`re kind of great people.

It is a really good movie. I know almost nobody who doesn`t like it a lot. but it is also a little like John Kasich. It`s not quite as sexy as some oft other movies. And that`s -- it will definitely be nominated across the board, but what happens to it with the Oscars is really kind of up for grabs, I think.

MATTHEWS: Well, I love seeing Michael Keaton back in the movies again after "Birdman."

Let me ask you, Carrie. I liked it because it was a tricky subject, the Catholic Church. We have seen that before with the movie "Verdict" years ago, the Newman movie with Jack Warden. And now you see it again.

CARRIE RICKEY, FILM CRITIC: And the movie "Doubt."

MATTHEWS: And "Doubt," of course. What am I saying? Of course, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But the whole question about priests being bad guys, sick guys, but the story this is really about is the cover-up. It`s the power of a diocese to cover up horrible situations of rape, molestation to the nth degree of young altar boys by priests who have in loco parentis authority over these kids, an absolute authority, and how they abuse it, and how top big shots in Boston covered up, and the establishment did, too, not just the priests and the cardinals.

RICKEY: It`s just a tragedy on so many levels, institutional cover- up, lives totally torn apart, lost, derailed.

And also, if you are a newspaper person or a media person, you watch this movie and think, oh my God, that is the end of an era. There will never be that many resources to uncover such a cover-up again.

MATTHEWS: Yes. It takes a paper with the money and the commitment to put months into this.

Let me ask you. What I liked about it was the sense of teamwork, David. And teamwork is something we don`t have much of in this country anymore.


POLAND: No. We can`t afford to have that many people do anything anymore, newspapers.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s right. Let`s look at "Martian."

I know I get a little emotional in the movie theater. I`m the guy that cries in the movie. But there was a scene in "Martian" when they were all working together. The human race was working together in this movie. When the Chinese jumped in and saved the day, it was just an amazing -- and I said, can the world operate like this ever again?

POLAND: Well, the world wants to operate like that. The world wants to operate like that. It just gets caught up in all the other stuff.

And then we see a moment like Paris, for instance, where everybody really does come together, in spite of everybody`s fights and our little issues here and there. We all come together. "The Martian" is one of those movies that truly is kind of loved by everybody. It had such a great performance in the center of it. Ridley Scott does such a great job without being showy.


POLAND: It`s not a showy effects movie. It`s just a great movie.

RICKEY: And a Ridley Scott comedy.

POLAND: It is so not a comedy, but it is funny.

And great performances all along and just a great story. It`s one of those movies -- I think this will be the movie that people watch over and over and over again for decades to come.

MATTHEWS: I remember the great line by Russell Crowe when he won the award for the "Gladiator." "I owe this award to one bloke, Mr. Ridley Scott." Anyway, again, there`s going to be some awards for this.

Let me ask you, Carrie, about women. There`s at least two or three of these movies this year which I think are fabulous about women and the plight they face just trying to make it in a tough world.

I`m going to start with "Brooklyn," but of course "The Intern" and of course "Joy." But let`s start with "Brooklyn," a small, perfect movie with no weird twists in it. There is no Alfred Hitchcock in this movie. It is just what it is, an early 1950s movie that is great. Go ahead. Tell me about it.

Sell it.


RICKEY: It is from a wonderful novel by Colm Toibin.

And it`s a girl from a very homogeneous country, Ireland, coming to the United States, this very heterogeneous country. And she is turned on. She was dim before and, suddenly, being with all of these people and all these different people excites her and makes her a different person. She is a different person in the United States than she is in Ireland. And what a performance by Saoirse Ronan.

POLAND: And very personal for Saoirse.

RICKEY: Yes, because she was from Ireland and grew up in the United States.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Carrie. You are on my list. Share this list with me. Why is "The Intern," which I loved, not popped onto any of these lists? I loved it. It`s on your list. It`s on my list.

Why? I thought De Niro was spectacular. I thought Anne Hathaway -- some people don`t like Anne Hathaway. I like her. But go ahead.

RICKEY: Well, I thought it was De Niro`s greatest performance and most nuanced performance in maybe 15 years.

I think it`s about -- like "Joy," it`s about a female entrepreneur and things that female entrepreneurs face that the men who know the game don`t understand. And it`s just -- it was really interesting about -- also a movie set in Brooklyn -- about Brooklyn, about making the best product you could make, and not knowing that there are other people who think they know more than you and more about your product.

And it was a very -- it was funny and it was very serious at the same time.

MATTHEWS: And it was about generation. It was about -- in the most positive, nonsexual way. I loved it. I loved that movie.

Anyway, thank you, David Poland. Please come back. Carrie Rickey.

I know you have your own list, David. It`s not my list. But you know what you`re talking about.

Up next -- so do I, in my own way.

The 2016 race, it`s two days before Christmas, and the final sprint to Iowa and New Hampshire is about to begin. It`s about to begin, like in days now. And where is this thing heading? And what do voters want, a flawed slugger swinging for the fences like Trump, or a safer bet next year for president?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think that he is going to create an environment where we lose the presidency. He is not going to be president. And he will do damage to the conservative cause. And we need to take a stand. And, for some odd reason, I`m the only guy willing to do it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Jeb Bush making the argument that Donald Trump is damaging the Republican Party`s chance of winning the election next year. But it seems his warning has fallen on deaf ears, if you will, as prospects for establishment candidates like him grows dimmer and dimmer. According to latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll out today, the combined support for outsider candidates, that would be Donald Trump, of course, Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson, represents 67 percent of the Republican electorate right now. Two thirds of Republicans out there saying they want somebody besides establishment candidates. The establishment candidates, if you make a long list of them, including everybody possible to put on that list is Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush together, all together garnered well about 18 percent. They are still in the teens altogether. Well, last April, Senator Cruz implored his party not to choose another establishment candidate in 2016. And now, Republican voters seem to be heeding that advice. Here`s Cruz. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we nominate another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole or a John McCain or a Mitt Romney, and all three are good, honorable, decent men. They`re heroes. But what they didn`t work. And if we do it again, the same voters who stayed home in `08 and `12 will stay home in `16, and Hillary Clinton will be the next president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: With just 40 days now until the first contest, the Republican electorate at least in 2016 seems ready to nominate a candidate who swings for the fences, rather than more conventional and safer choice of years past. Joining me now to talk about it, my HARDBALL roundtable tonight: Steven Hess is a respected political analyst and author of the brand new book, "America`s Political Dynasties From Adams to Clinton". I think he may have it with Clinton. Michelle Bernard is president of Bernard Center for Women, and David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones". I want to start with you, Michelle. Why is the -- I know you are a moderate Republican at heart. (LAUGHTER) MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: You can`t figure me out. MATTHEWS: That reasonable, northeastern party seem to be withered down to Jeb Bush is getting 3 percent today in the polls. What happened? BERNARD: As a very firm independent thinker -- (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) BERNARD: What I would say is that, you know, large part of the Republican electorate has had it. Actually, it`s not even just Republicans. It`s Republicans, it`s Democrats, it`s independents. Everything that people had been promised has not been delivered. So, they are excited by someone. MATTHEWS: Well, the Hillary establishment is strong. BERNARD: Well, the Hillary establishment, but being a woman makes her an outsider. MATTHEWS: Ooh. DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: That`s what she says. MATTHEWS: David, do you buy that? BERNARD: And that`s what I say. MATTHEWS: Do you buy that gender makes her an outsider? (CROSSTALK) CORN: I think to a certain extent. Not as much as Ben Carson is an outsider. But I do think that you have those Republican numbers -- you show that the Republican base -- I think Republican base is not reflective of the whole country. Republicans make 28 percent of the nation overall. Two- thirds of that would be, what, you know, 20 percent or so. So, you got 20 percent of the public that is ticked off. They are angry, they hate Barack Obama. They believe he is a secret socialist Muslim from Kenya who wants to destroy the country through Obamacare and black helicopters and take your guns away. And they have been exploited by the Republican Party and empowered by the Republican Party for the last eight, 10, 12 years, and now, they are basically saying, OK, time for you guys to put up or shut-up. If you are not giving us what we want -- MATTHEWS: Like we are at war with the French and the well-perfumed French soldiers with their Iroquois, and then they hear that the Iroquois are taking scalps because they taught them how to do. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: And they, oh, we can`t believe that`s going on. CORN: I think this guy knows about that history. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Steve, tell me about this, because the Republican Party has been made up of the extreme, of course, the isolationists -- I`m sorry, the abolitionists originally before the civil war and the establishment wigs like the Bushes. This year the Bushes are 3 percent. How do you explain it? You wrote the book. Did you think Bush would be a three? STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I wrote the book because I thought this was going to be the year of Bush versus Clinton. Hey, it was a good precedence to go on. MATTHEWS: You got the Clinton part. HESS: I got the Clinton part, right. I came with Dwight Eisenhower, as his speechwriter. I`m waiting for -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But, Steve, I`m sitting next to you, and I`m remembering because I know the history and you were there. In 1952, Everett Dirksen gave the same speech that we just heard Cruz give. You moderates, you centrists are taking this down the road. They gave us Eisenhower and you worked with Eisenhower and he won big as a moderate. HESS: I was there. That was the last time we had a brokered convention, meaning when we went into the hall on day one, we didn`t know who the nominee was going to be on day three. And if people are looking for that today, let me tell you they haven`t seen chaos yet. MATTHEWS: You think we`re heading there? HESS: I have no idea if we are heading there. but if you want to have fun ask for a brokered convention. There were fights on the floor of the convention. Excuse me, go ahead. BERNARD: No, no, I`m sorry. I was going to say -- MATTHEWS: Are you used to that kind of politeness here? (LAUGHTER) BERNARD: I know, yes, sir. You need to rev up on Chris a little bit. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Go ahead. BERNARD: I was going to say, I can see it coming down the line but wanted to go to the point of Hillary Clinton as an outsider simply because if you look at the rhetoric that Donald Trump uses, if you look at the rhetoric that Ted Cruz uses and the people who love them, these are people who are anti-everybody, anti-women, anti-blacks, anti-Hispanics. Imagine a Donald Trump debate against Hillary Clinton. This is a man who says anything that comes to his mind. There is nothing PC about him. Imagine what he will say about Hillary Clinton and her husband. MATTHEWS: Can you say Hillary Clinton is totally safe? She goes with all the pressure groups. She never does anything surprising. It`s pretty much. She is with the union. She`s with foreign policy. Hillary Clinton goes with the party. BERNARD: On some things. But I will say post-Paris, if you are sitting at home watching television and wondering who you feel safe with in the White House, it`s not going to be Donald Trump. MATTHEWS: Do you think American people in the end come November next year, October, and they begin to make up their mind, will root for the way things are? Is that too cool? CORN: Right now, the polls show -- MATTHEWS: Hillary is very close to Obama. CORN: The polls show that most people think we`re on the wrong track. MATTHEWS: Right. CORN: And then we talk -- that the economy, even though it`s picked up, is not doing well for everybody which is why Trump is doing well with people, Republicans who don`t have college degrees. He is two to one. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do you think some Democrats ready for vote for him? CORN: I think very few. MATTHEWS: Are you sure? CORN: Very few, oh yes. MATTHEWS: Eighteen percent of Democrats agreed with him about keeping Muslims from entering the country. (CROSSTALK) CORN: They may agree with him on certain points but I think in temperament, he is not going to be -- (CROSSTALK) CORN: Listen, he and Cruz, they may try to get conservatives, but they have to do it in a way that appeals to the middle the way that Reagan did and the way that Bush did as a conservative candidate in 2000. If they can`t do that -- MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going back and I am going to ask for something surprising. I don`t know about dynasties in America, a chance to plug this really important book. Roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three are going to do what I told them to do, tell me something I don`t know. You like the way I said that. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: With all the heat that Marco Rubio is catching for missing key votes in the Senate, C-Span takes a look at which presidential candidates have been keeping busy on Capitol Hill and which have not. According to C-Span, Rand Paul has taken part of the most Senate votes, 94 percent of the total votes this year. Bernie Sanders second with 91 percent. Ted Cruz is next at 76 percent followed by Lindsey Graham who ended his campaign Monday at 71 percent. Marco Rubio, no surprise here, finished last. He voted just 64 percent of the time this year. He took his full pay home with him. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable. Stephen Hess, your new book is called "America`s Political Dynasties", tell me something I don`t know about dynasties. It`s a great book. I love this stuff. The Adams family, Clintons, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts. It`s amazing how many dynasties we`ve had. HESS: Yes, right, right. There are 16 in the book and lots of them you`ve never heard of, like the Tuckers or Washburns, family from Maine in which there were four brothers in Congress from four different states. Hey, it`s a way of telling the history of the United States through families and families are fascinating. MATTHEWS: It`s a great read. It`s a great read. By the way, you can read it piece by piece. You can do the Kennedys one night. The Roosevelts another night. Take it to the bathroom, whatever you need to do. It`s amazing. It`s a great book. I know, by the way, you could kill somebody with this book. HESS: Or kick your door open. MATTHEWS: Michelle, tell us something we don`t know. BERNARD: If you really thought Ben Carson was really running for president, it look like you might be wrong. Ben Carson is burning through money using direct mail, which is -- MATTHEWS: What is his mission? BERNARD: His mission is to build the Ben Carson brand, sell books, join a speaker`s bureau, get paid $100,000, $200,000 a speech, yada yada yada. MATTHEWS: Oh my God! CORN: Speaking of brand, back earlier this year, before Jeb Bush announced he was going to run for president, he through a secret shell company trademarked the term "Jeb!" In the application, they said they wanted to put it on key chains, towels, I don`t know, maybe toilet seat covers. Well, it turns out, I`m not sure this means anything. But in November, he let the trademark application lapse. So, you or anybody else can go for "Jeb!" But it also makes me wonder what he thinks about the future of the brand. MATTHEWS: Did you ever see anybody sell that stuff after a football game? You`re going out the door and nobody is buying anything. $1 for the t-shirts, $1, ten t-shirts for a dollar. Anyway, thank you, Steven Hess. HESS: Two kids coming up behind him. MATTHEWS: America`s political, he knows all the future, "America`s Political Dynasties", Stephen Hess of Brookings, Michelle, thank you, Michelle Bernard, reelect president next year for the Bernard Center, and David Corn, always great. When we return, let me finish tonight and the end -- actually, we`re ending the year tonight with some thoughts about our country and how we`re going to pick our president next year. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight and the year with some thoughts about our country. The American presidency is not a slot in the U.S. government. It`s an office of the people, with all the constitutional rigmarole of the electoral votes, and some archaic meeting of the Electoral College, the presidency belongs to the American people. There`s not a person in the country doesn`t have some personal attitude, some feeling, some notion about the person who is our president. I say all this because there`s a reason one person rises high in the polls, heading into a presidential year, a reason why another falls flat or never rises at all, and why still another, many others, oftentimes just sit there, exciting no one, inspiring no one, presenting a compelling future to no one. Well, like me, you probably can`t stand the person who simply puts their name on the ballot and says all the pressure groups one politician agreed to, to accept the positions on labor and business and foreign policy. And this is precisely why when someone like Donald Trump comes along, we pay attention. We`re supposed to pay attention when Congress has 535 voting members and most people can`t name three of them. What we`re supposed to talk about when those 535 members of Congress and 50 governors basically say such predictable nothingness, we can`t remember it a minute later. So, yes, we go to Christmas and the New Year, and we come back in early January, heading to the first big test, Iowa and New Hampshire, with the country watching, listening and wondering why this guy, Donald Trump, is getting all the air time. It`s because all the others have forfeited by the same old paint by numbers politics, reciting in chorus just what they`re supposed to say to keep their positions of very little influence in our lives. Trump isn`t the problem. He`s the symptom. He fills the gap between what we want and dream of from our leaders, of what we hope we do and the dull creatures of survival that they actually are. With the U.S. Congress in single digits of total approval from across the country, what did you expect 2016 to bring us? Someone has to be out there in Iowa and New Hampshire, screaming "I`m sick and tired and not going to take it anymore" and someone has to be out there and reminding us that this used to be a country that promised big things and did them. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. From someone -- actually from everyone here at HARDBALL, have a very merry Christmas. And "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