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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/15/2016

Guests: Susan Page, Mary McManamon, Larry Sabato, George Demetri, Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Berg, Jonathan Allen, Jason Noble, John Sununu, Ann Hornaday, Ted Johnson

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 15, 2016 Guest: Susan Page, Mary McManamon, Larry Sabato, George Demetri, Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Berg, Jonathan Allen, Jason Noble, John Sununu, Ann Hornaday, Ted Johnson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trumped. The GOP front-runner no longer an apprentice.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, after a summer and autumn and now a winter of dominating the polls, Donald Trump is gaining grudging acceptance as a very real prospect to be the Republican nominee for president. It`s all true and getting truer each day.

On "MORNING JOE" today, the Republican front-runner said he`s getting treated a little differently by the party these days.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST: Are you starting to notice the Republican establishment and some of the guys that have been hammering you in the past starting to change how they treat you and how they look at your candidacy?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, totally. And establishment people -- I don`t know if this is good. This could be the curse, OK? But establishment people are now calling us and saying, How do we get involved with the campaign, people who were saying terrible things, like, three months ago.


MATTHEWS: "The Washington Post`s" Dan Balz wrote, "What was unthinkable a few months ago no longer is. Trump`s durability in national polls and his standing in the early states have forced GOP leaders to confront the possibility that the New York billionaire and reality TV star could end up leading the party into the fall campaign against the Democrats."

And Rich Lowry, who`s editor of "The National Review," tweeted this week, "From my conversations, GOP establishment mood on Trump is moving from fear and loathing to resignation and rationalization -- i.e., he`d run better than Cruz and slam Hillary."

Meanwhile, an NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll found a major shift among Republican voters. Sixty-five percent now say they could see themselves supporting Donald Trump. That`s up from 32 percent in June, when he first announced his run.

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post," as well as an MSNBC political analyst.

Susan, your view. Your paper is quite broad in its readership, and "USA Today" is everywhere. And my question is, is it your sense as a bureau chief that this is all true, that somehow, Trump is now plausible?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Yes. I think it`s -- he`s not just plausible, he`s undeniable. He`s undeniably a credible prospect for the Republican nomination, although it`s not in hand yet.

And I think what Republicans are trying to figure out is how can they negotiate a world in which that`s the case. It`s a special concern, I think, to Republicans running for swing Senate seats in purple states, and also in that handful of competitive House races where having Donald Trump at the top of your ticket could really affect your prospects down the ballot.

MATTHEWS: Well, is there anything they can do about it? I mean, they can say they can -- they can, you know, wring their hands and say, Oh, gee whiz, this guy is going to be our nominee. But at this point, they`ve tried to stop him already. They`ve thrown Jeb Bush at him. They`ve thrown Rubio at him. They`ve thrown Kasich at him, and perhaps Christie, are all fighting for the old establishment, and they`re not doing too well.

PAGE: It`s not that they can stop him, but they can run independent campaigns. They can figure out ways to try to present themselves as...


MCMANAMON: ... the Republican nominee and minimize their ties to the ticket.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the problem that they have -- I think Rich Lowry is right that the establishment has gone to just sort of resignation and rationalization. What we saw on that stage last night at the debate was a front-runner who faced his most hostile Republican audience we have seen. He was booed. He was jeered...

MATTHEWS: Well, six out of seven of people in the audience were working for the other candidates.

CAPEHART: Well, right. But get this. Every time they booed -- you watched it with your own eyes -- he worked -- Donald Trump worked very hard to turn those boos into cheers and/or laughter. He succeeded every time.

And that is what the Republican establishment has to worry about...


CAPEHART: ... not only a candidate who has the ability to grab the hearts of people who don`t even like him, but someone who could actually then turn that into votes that then gets him the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Yes, what do you -- is that character, or what is that? Is it show business? What gives you the ability to withstand that assault from the audience and from your opponents?

CAPEHART: Well, as Susan just said, it`s skill. This is someone who has been in our living rooms on television, reality television, for about a decade now.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he`s the boss of those shows.

CAPEHART: But then also, you can`t underestimate the -- what it means to be a public figure in the media capital of the world. New York City, where you have tabloid newspapers gunning for you every day, "The New York Post," "The New York Daily News," at one point "New York Newsday." And in that environment, unlike any other environment in the country, you learn how to work the media, play the media, be friends with the media, be enemies with the media. And on a presidential scale, that`s incredible training.

MATTHEWS: Well, to go back to that, on Thursday`s Republican debate in South Carolina -- last night -- Donald Trump and Ted Cruz clashed over Cruz`s use of the phrase -- boy, what a mistake this was, I think -- "New York values" to attack Trump, and Trump called that insulting.


TRUMP: He insulted a lot of people. I`ve had more calls on that statement that Ted made. New York is a great place. It`s got great people. It`s got loving people, wonderful people.

When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York.

We rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.



MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, in this morning`s interview with Joe Scarborough, Trump continued to slam Cruz on that front.


TRUMP: I thought Cruz hurt himself last night very badly because he looked very strident to me. I see you gave him a B-plus. But I think you`re wrong about that because I think people are not going to like him based on that performance last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What grade would you give him?

TRUMP: I can tell you one thing. If you live in New York, you`re not going to like him. He gave up about 20 million votes last night.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump got support from surprising sources. The liberal "New York Daily News" ran this front page, which, of course, may be a bit offensive to some viewers, so be careful when looking at it. Don`t look too carefully. "Drop dead, Ted. Hey, Cruz, you don`t like New York values, got back to Canada." I love voicing "The New York Daily News" front pages.

And Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Just this once, Trump`s right. New Yorkers value hard work, diversity, tolerance, resilience and building better lives for our families."

Meanwhile, one of Ted Cruz`s main supporters, Congressman Steve King of Iowa -- out in Iowa -- this is the guy who talks about cantaloupe legs on immigrants -- said Cruz lost the fight on New York values.

Here`s Senator -- here`s Congressman King.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I didn`t think he went too far until I saw Donald Trump`s reaction. And then I thought it would have been better on the part of Ted Cruz not to have had that exchange.

He really flipped that. You know, Ted Cruz didn`t go there, but Donald Trump elected to go into the September 11 and the damage that -- and the suffering and the thousands of people that were killed, and he turned that into an emotional component of the debate. And that, I believe, was good for Trump.


MATTHEWS: You know, I was thinking, waiting for Trump to do what I would have done and have done up there for speeches, is talk about the firefighters, 225 of them dead. And they were walking up those stairs when everybody else was coming down, and that was beyond heroic.

And to make fun of a city for lack of values, you better be specific about it. You can`t just do the old Jeane Kirkpatrick trick of saying "San Francisco Democrats" -- gay, gay, gay -- you know, that old game, or Sodom and Gomorrah in New York City because New York City is made up of about 99 percent of people who grew up in there, like they grow up anywhere else. They didn`t go there because they were show business, bold-print names, you know? They just -- people who grew up in a neighborhood in the big city. And to judge them on their values is insane!

CAPEHART: As a New Yorker by adoption, living there 16 years before moving to Washington, what Donald Trump said to me -- said in that answer resonated with me as someone who was in New York City on 9/11. And the beauty of what he did there -- Donald Trump for the first time looked like a statesman. He didn`t target anybody. He stood up for an entire city of people, that polyglot that`s up there, New York. And he -- I agree with Congressman King -- I can`t believe it -- that Donald Trump won -- won decisively the debate on that answer.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to another debate which is going to be a lot more conflicting here. The other big clash between the front-runners at the debate last night was over the issue of Cruz`s constitutional eligibility to be president, an issue Trump has been hammering away for about a week.


CRUZ: I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and the law here are really quite clear. Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural born citizen.

TRUMP: And for some reason, Neil, he beats the rest of the field, I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a suit. You have a big lawsuit over your head while you`re running, and if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office.


MATTHEWS: Mary Bridger McManamon is a constitutional law professor at Widener University, Delaware Law School. Professor, so I guess the question is to you -- you`re on tonight -- who`s right? Is natural born -- does it mean what it seems to mean, you have to be born here?

MARY MCMANAMON, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROF., WIDENER UNIV. DELAWARE LAW SCHOOL: Yes, it is. It`s a very clear-cut question. So when Cruz says it`s clear-cut, he`s right, but he`s wrong as to how it cuts. You have to be born in the United States.

MATTHEWS: Well, one of the issues that have come up before, for example, with John McCain being born in the Canal Zone -- what would you make of that case?

MCMANAMON: He`s a totally different issue. The common law says that if you`re born in the territory of the sovereign, so that territorial United States would...


MCMANAMON: For example -- yes, for example, Barry Goldwater wouldn`t have had a problem, even though he was born in the territory of Arizona, as it then was.

McCain does a problem in front of him, though, but I don`t think it`s insurmountable. In the early 20th century, when we acquired our territories after the Spanish-American war, Guam -- the Canal Zone, the Philippines -- the Supreme Court was asked, Are the children born there now natural born citizens? And in a series of horribly embarrassingly racist opinions, the Supreme Court said no because, and I quote, "the people there are alien races."


MCMANAMON: Now, it seems to me that all McCain would have been able to do was to say that that should be overruled and there would be no problem because he was born in the territory of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Do you think if this went before the Supreme Court, including the members like Antonin Scalia and Judge Alito and Judge Thomas -- do you think they go with original intent here or would go with this sort of practice (ph) thing of -- like, we let George Romney get away with it, at least for a while, when he was running. He didn`t run for long.



MATTHEWS: Will they be tough about this, or would they be -- would they rigid about this and say, No, this is not what the founders intended?

MCMANAMON: I can`t tell you that because although Scalia and Thomas are especially are what they call originalists, they tend to cherry pick their history. So I`m not sure -- if they actually went with the real history, Cruz is not eligible. But I can`t predict how they would go.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Mary Bridger McManamon of Widener Law School.

Aside from the legal question, there`s new evidence that the attack has hurt Cruz politically. According to a Reuters Ipsos poll, one quarter of Republican voters already now believe Cruz should be disqualified giving (ph) his Canadian birth.

I`m back with Susan and Jonathan. I checked all the front pages today, all the leads. In every lead, in the first paragraph, it has either the Canadian-born Cruz or a reference to this debate.

This is not good for Cruz, the fact he has to defend his qualifications to run, let alone get people to vote for him.

PAGE: And of course, he was very smooth in defending himself, right?



PAGE: He uses a little humor. The problem is, he`s spending a lot of his time explaining that he`s, in fact, eligible to be president of the United States. And you know, the brilliance of Trump is that Trump doesn`t attack him on this, doesn`t declare that he`s ineligible. He says, Who knows, there`ll be a lawsuit.


PAGE: I just want to be helpful. Why don`t you go to court and get a preemptive judgment, which is a very mischievous suggestion.

MATTHEWS: Well, one thing we can all say, if this guy Cruz is elected president, he will be the first president born outside the United States.

PAGE: And would there be a big lawsuit if he got nominated?

MATTHEWS: And also, we know that he`s a natural born Canadian.

PAGE: Yes.


MATTHEWS: Which is another factor. Can you be a natural born Canadian and a natural born American?

PAGE: Well, maybe we`ll find out.

MATTHEWS: That`s a question. We`ll find out. Anyway, thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart. Great to have you on tonight.

Coming up -- ever wonder why Iowa and New Hampshire have such a dominant role in picking our president? It`s a good question. It may be too late to ask it, but why do these two states that don`t look like the rest of the country get to go first? We`ll get to that next.

Plus, the other big contest going on right now, the race to win the Academy Awards. The nominations came out this week, and we`ve got a look at the Oscar favorites, and of course, some of the snubs.

And the big announcement from President Obama`s State of the Union this week, a moon shot-like effort to conquer cancer. What will that be like, and will it likely achieve something?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a sad story of a great actor dying way too young.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: South Carolina senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham has endorsed Jeb Bush for president. Graham cited Bush`s ability to be a strong commander-in-chief. But the endorsement was quickly mocked by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who tweeted "Jeb Bush, who did poorly last night in the debate and whose chances of winning are zero, just got Graham endorsement. Graham quit at zero." Boy, Trump can be rough.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Every four years, we`re reminded of the awesome power the voters of two small states hold over our presidential elections. Those states, Iowa and New Hampshire -- look at them there -- play perhaps the most consequential role in winnowing the field of presidential contenders because they come first. And while they don`t award many delegates, a victory or a strong finish in either of those states can propel a candidate onto the national spotlight and on to the nomination. We`ve seen it every four years.

Well, according to an estimate by "The Los Angeles Times," quote, "Iowa and New Hampshire account for about half the news media coverage of the entire primary season." So it`s the media, too. The influence of New Hampshire in particular cannot be overestimated. Since 1972, no candidate has ever been the nominee of either party without a top two finish in the New Hampshire primary.

Critics have long argued that neither state should be the gatekeeper of the process because neither state is particularly diverse ethnically. For example, Iowa`s population is considerably whiter than the rest of the country, and it`s the same story in New Hampshire, which is 91 percent white.

So why do Iowa and New Hampshire deserve so much influence over who gets to be president? John Sununu is the former governor of New Hampshire, Jason Noble is a political reporter with "The Des Moines Register" -- that`s out in Iowa -- and Larry Sabato, Professor Sabato, is the director of the Center for Politics at UVA, the University of Virginia.

So I`m going to Larry Sabato, presuming, perhaps naively, he has no fight - - no dog in this fight, although I think he might be gunning for Virginia to get a shot as the first one.

You`re shaking your head. Tell me, sir, why is it wrong for us to invest so much power in the hands of the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire?

LARRY SABATO, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: Because, Chris, put them together. They`re 1.5 percent of the national population. They have a tiny minority population, as you just mentioned. They`re disproportionately rural. They don`t represent the urban, suburban, exurban nature of America as it exists today.

And most important, I think -- and I`m sorry, Governor Sununu. I know you`re (INAUDIBLE) I think they have gotten spoiled. They are the spoiled children of American politics. They throw a temper tantrum if you ever suggest they shouldn`t go first. I had a voter in Iowa tell me not too long ago that it was in the Constitution that they were supposed to go first. No, it`s not in the Constitution.

This was invented by Iowa and New Hampshire, and they stay there, Chris, because they want it more than anybody else. New Hampshire will go into the year prior to the election year. They`d have this primary on July 4th, if they had to, last year, in order to remain first.

MATTHEWS: Let me go with -- well, let me go with Governor Sununu. Why don`t we begin the primary season in a giant state that`s representative of everything, like California? Have it around the time of the Rose Bowl. The weather`s fabulous.

It`s got all the big cities, San Diego, San Francisco, LA, all the Inland Empire. It`s got Sacramento. We could all go out to California for a month or so, a huge sample of the American electorate, lots of Hispanics and African-Americans. Why not go big with our first big sample of the American opinion?

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: First of all, let me just make one quick comment to Larry.

You know, a plea for diversity coming from a guy in which the state has 90 percent of its population are federal bureaucrats. But...




SUNUNU: You have to look at the whole package. You have to look at the whole package.

SABATO: Not true, Governor.


SUNUNU: Iowa -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, that`s how the package is put together.

And when you take the four states as a total, there`s a pretty representative example of diversity. Now, New Hampshire -- the reason New Hampshire gets such support to be first is that its citizens really do the hard work.

You have been up here, Chris. They go not only to the rallies or the coffees or the town halls of the candidate they support, but they go to virtually all of them. They work hard in this process of winnowing down and selecting.

And the second reason is that New Hampshire is an unusual state. We have most of our governance at the local level. Our school boards, our budget committees, our boards of selectmen really do determine the spending of about 85 percent of your money. And you go and vote your budget at the town meeting or the school district meeting.

And in this state, every two years, those positions are up with our 400 members in the House, and 5,000 people a year are elected.


MATTHEWS: Governor, I just want to go to Jason for an equal time with Iowa.


MATTHEWS: You know, your state, I think I figured out why so many people are homeschoolers out there last week, driving across that state.

You spend hours over flatland with a farm every couple miles or a couple hundred acres or so. People really are living out in a rural environment. It`s like that scene from "North by Northwest" when the crop duster comes down and tries to kill Cary Grant. It`s wide-open spaces. But is that typical of America?

JASON NOBLE, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Well, I don`t know if that`s a fair representation of Iowa.

We have got some metropolitan areas here that have an urban feel, a suburban feel. But you get to a good point about Iowa, which is that it`s a relatively small state. It`s a state with small media markets, which makes it an inexpensive place to campaign. And that`s really valuable. That gives candidates a lot more opportunity from the start.

And a candidate can go out and prove his appeal, prove her viability, and really make a name for themselves in a way that they couldn`t in a larger state, where you`re talking about larger media markets, a TV -- or campaign that`s run through TV ads and airport tarmacs.

MATTHEWS: Do you think you`re a reliable indicator of who`s going to get the eventual nomination of either party, Iowa? You think you`re -- statistics don`t hold up that you are.

What makes you think Iowa will tell us who will be the strongest candidate to win the nomination of either party, because it doesn`t prove to be true?

NOBLE: Well, four of the last six presidents -- four of the last six presidents have won the Iowa caucuses.

Every candidate except one since 1972 placed in the top three in the Iowa caucuses. That`s a pretty good track record.

MATTHEWS: Four of the last -- I have got two of the last six, two of the last six.


NOBLE: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush won the caucuses in 1980, prior to winning the presidency in `88.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean -- I`m talking about -- which party are you talking about, Democrat or Republican?

NOBLE: Across the board.

MATTHEWS: Larry Sabato, do you think Hillary Clinton could possibly or plausibly win the Democratic nomination if she does suffer two defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire?

SABATO: Yes, she can still win, because her strength is with non-white Democrats, particularly in the South and some of the states that have large Hispanic populations.

So, not only is it possible. I think it`s still probable. But let`s be honest here. We`re talking about whether Hillary Clinton comes into Philadelphia at the convention sweeping or limping. And if she loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, and if she loses New Hampshire by a big margin, I think she will be limping.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think that`s the way I look at it too.

Thank you very much, Governor John Sununu. We will have you back again many times, Jason Noble and Larry Sabato.

Coming up, every four years, my favorite seasons collide, presidential elections and of course the Academy Awards race, a HARDBALL look at the newly announced Oscar contenders coming up next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the Oscar nominations are now out, and there were some truly amazing films recognized, many underscoring, I believe, the theme of this year, the importance of people working together to achieve common goals, something the country isn`t doing right now.

The journalists, for example, in the best picture nominee, "Spotlight."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We haven`t committed any long-term investigative resources to the case?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And that`s the kind of thing your team would do.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Guys, listen, everybody is going to be interested in this.


MATTHEWS: Great movie.

And the Cold War drama "Bridge of Spies," also up for best picture, starring Tom Hanks and directed by himself, Steven Spielberg.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The (INAUDIBLE) was right, but he`s always the boss.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you never worry?



STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: That`s great, great, great. Cut.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was Spielberg himself behind the camera.

Anyway, the quirky "The Big Short" and its star-filled ensemble cast are up for five nominations.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Banks have conditioned us to trust them. What have we got from that? Twenty-five percent interest rates on credit cards. They have screwed us on student loans. And we can never get out from under.

NARRATOR: Four outsiders risked it all to take them down.


MATTHEWS: Got to see that one, I think, tonight.

And one of my favorites this year, "The Martian" starring Matt Damon, it received seven nominations.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: This is Mark Watney, and I`m still alive, obviously. I have no way to contact NASA. I have got to figure out how to grow four years` worth of food here on a planet where nothing grows. But if I can`t figure out a way to make contact with NASA, none of this matters anyway.



Well, joining us right now is the chief film critic of "The Washington Post," Ann Hornaday, who is very smart, and from Los Angeles Ted Johnson of "Variety."

You know, my theme -- I want to know what you guys think of my theme about working together. I think one of the most magical scenes -- I was a little misty-eyed, I will admit it -- is when the Chinese come aboard during "The Martian" and save the day, the Chinese of all -- we think of them as cold- hearted, business-minded, and they do the right thing.

ANN HORNADAY, FILM CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, they do the right thing. And they also -- that had a canny eye toward the Chinese market and Chinese funding.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you are so cynical.

HORNADAY: I know, but that`s...

MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re -- pandering to the Chinese.

HORNADAY: It`s the magical space dust of Chinese money.

MATTHEWS: Has it worked?

HORNADAY: Yes. Well, I mean, the movie has done beautifully well.

I think, to your point about some of these films like "The Martian" and "Bridge of Spies," it`s a really -- and "Mad Max," another best picture nominee -- these are sort of big popcorn blockbuster movies that have been done incredibly well and very artfully. And they`re smart and they have done well. And I think that`s all good news.

MATTHEWS: Ted, I think all movies are about today. I don`t care if they`re period pieces or what. The swords and sandals movies of the `50s were really about civil rights. We know that. Really were.

This one, I get the feeling it`s about a dysfunctional society where nobody can get along with anybody and get anything done, particularly in the world we cover here, politics. Nothing gets done. Nobody can agree on anything. And yet these movies, at least the ones we have discussed tonight or brought up tonight, are about collaboration and about how squares, as we used to call them, in the space program, guys with slide rules from the old days, know how to work together, and not just fight all the time about who`s boss.


And, actually, my favorite movie of the year was actually "Bridge of Spies," which you mentioned.


JOHNSON: Just because, again, that ties right into your theme.

Here`s this unexpected figure who ended up being this great diplomat who negotiated the release of Francis Gary Powers, and really went to the mat for the United States government, kind of a story that people didn`t even know about. I mean, I love spy thrillers to begin with, but this movie was so unexpected and so well done, I thought, by just Steven Spielberg.

MATTHEWS: And the way he sympathized with the communist spy. None of us did at the time, of course, but he said, you know, he wasn`t the Rosenbergs. He wasn`t an American people -- couple that sold out the atomic secrets for money or whatever.

He`s a Russian nationalist who`s doing this for his country. Get it? He`s not a bad guy morally. He`s a bad guy politically. And I thought that was great.

What did you think about the acting awards? I`m a Jennifer Lawrence fan, of course. What about women in the pictures this year? HORNADAY: Well, the women all -- were very strong, and it was a strong year for women`s roles. It was an interesting year, because we were hearing a lot about representation behind the camera and in front of the camera and the tremendous work that is still to be done in terms of women being cast in leading roles and women taking on the directorial reins of movies.

But, at the same time, last year, we had these wonderful films that were absolutely dominated by women...


HORNADAY: ... many of whom you see in this nominees list, and then a few that didn`t manage to get nominated like a Charlize Theron in "Mad Max."

MATTHEWS: Yes, I have heard about that.

By the way, Ted, it is a year in which we had a lesbian relationship with Cate Blanchett, of course, "Carol," and also the one involving transgender. It`s interesting, all in one year. It`s coming at us fast culturally, and now it`s coming out even faster in the film industry.

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes.

And you kind of wonder whether we`re going to see kind of a turning point in women`s roles in the movie industry, because there`s been so much attention this year to diversity. And there`s a little bit of a lag time before something takes hold in Hollywood.


JOHNSON: You don`t see it for two or three more years, just because of the time it takes to make a movie. So, I would expect that we`re going to see a lot more layered performances come out in the next two or three years.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about African-Americans in the film. I mean, African-Americans have been here longer than any of us have. They`re part of America. When are they going to be a full-fledged part of the movie industry for -- because I`m going to talk about, the late Alan Rickman said the part gets the award.

HORNADAY: Yes, that`s fascinating.

MATTHEWS: When are we going to have parts? You know, Halle Berry in "Monster`s Ball," well, she`s gorgeous and she`s wonderful as an actor, but she won the award for that one.

But you give a meaty part like that to somebody, they have got a good chance of winning an award.

HORNADAY: Absolutely. And we had some meaty parts this past year. We had Michael B. Jordan in "Creed," Idris Elba...

MATTHEWS: I can`t wait to see that movie.

HORNADAY: Oh, it`s wonderful.


MATTHEWS: I think I have seen all the Rocky movies.


HORNADAY: Oh, you will just love it. It`s just terrific.

And we have Idris Elba in "Beasts of No Nation" and Will Smith in "Concussion."

MATTHEWS: Who starred at Martin Luther King, right?

HORNADAY: No, that was David Oyelowo.

MATTHEWS: Who did he play?

HORNADAY: Idris Elba, he`s -- what would he be best known for? He was on "The Wire."


MATTHEWS: Yes, "The Wire." I`m sorry. I have seen him before.

HORNADAY: He`s a wonderful actor.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know everything. You do.

Thank you so much, Ann Hornaday.

Thank you, Ted Johnson.

But, for an average guy, I know a lot.

Up next: Nearly every American knows a friend or a family member who has battled cancer. And we are going to look at the president`s new moon shot initiative being led by Vice President Joe Biden. They only got a year. Let`s see what they can get done.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked an upscale hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso, injuring at least 15 people, according to reports. The attackers also took an unknown number of hostages.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who was convicted on corruption charges two years ago.

And it was another painful sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow plummeted 391 points, after sliding more than 500 earlier in the session. The S&P dropped 41 and the Nasdaq fell 126 points -- now back to HARDBALL.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we`re willing to accept, one we aren`t willing to postpone, and one we intend to win.


MATTHEWS: And he did win.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Those are moments etched in the country`s consciousness. That was President Kennedy`s challenge to the country in 1962, seven years before we actually did make that giant leap to the moon.

Fifty-four years later, the spirit of that moon shot has been rekindled as part of Vice President Joe Biden`s final act on the national stage.

Here`s President Obama laying out the challenge.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last year, Vice President Biden said that, with a new moon shot, America can cure cancer.


OBAMA: So, tonight, I`m announcing a new national effort to get it done.

And because he`s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I`m putting Joe in charge of mission control.


For the loved ones we`ve all lost. For the families that we can still save, let`s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. What do you say, Joe? Let`s make it happen.


MATTHEWS: That was strong for the families we can still save.

For Biden this is personal, of course. The vice president lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer just last May. When Biden announced in October that he would not run for president, he said, "If I could do anything, I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer because it`s possible."

I`m joined by Dr. George Demetri, the director of Harvard`s Ludwig Center for Cancer Research. He met with Biden staff in the run-up to the moon shot announcement.

Doctor, what can you get done through some kind of Manhattan-style project like this?

DR. GEORGE DEMETRI, DANA FARBER CANCER INSTITUTE: Well, I think our community of researchers across the country and across the world can really mobilize a lot of the resources that have come from the investments we`ve made in this war on cancer since 1971. A lot can be done. And a lot of what I heard and what President Obama said was that we have the opportunity, now we can apply what we know and we can also discover new things to apply. The pace of science and the pace of application is faster than ever before.

MATTHEWS: Is there such a thing as cancer per se or are all the examples of cancer we`ve come across different among each other in ways that they are not similar?

DEMETRI: Well, I think there are thousands of different kinds of cancers, and they vary greatly. That`s like saying, is there one kind of infectious disease? Of course not. There are viruses, there are bacteria. There are other kinds of infectious diseases.

Cancer is more like that. But if we can use the available resources, apply what we know, we can make a difference for many more people with cancers today. Look at how many more cancers are cured now than even 10 or 15 years ago. The cancer death rates are dropping. We`re making advances. And I think inspiring the country to get together in something that`s nonpartisan like this is a good thing.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Doctor, for joining us.

Let`s go to Michael Tomasky, he`s on the HARDBALL roundtable, along -- he`s a special correspondent with "The Daily Beast". Also, Rebecca Berg, she`s political reporter with "Real Clear Politics", and Jonathan Allen, another familiar face, political columnist with "Roll Call."

Let`s go from your end to this end about the credibility of this program. You`ve got one calendar year left of this presidency. You`ve got the appropriations that doesn`t kick in until October, right?


MATTHEWS: So, it`s very tricky to see anything get done with the oomph that`s needed.

ALLEN: You make a great point, Chris. President Kennedy said what he said about the moon in 1962 when he was succeeded by Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson kept committed to that. We all know the famous words, Houston, you know, when they`re calling back from the moon. Big effort in Texas, Johnson`s home state to get that done.

I think what you`re talking about is a long-term proposition here and it`s something that Barack Obama and Joe Biden, if Joe Biden is to leave office, aren`t going to be the ones to actually shepherd through.

It`s aspirational. I don`t think anybody would disagree with the goal of trying to end cancer. And more funding, by the way, of the federal government. When they direct funding towards particular types of research, it brings in more private funding.

So, wherever the government decides to fund research, you see all these foundations come in and support that. When you spend more on cancer, particularly if you`re not able to get additional money, there are priorities and other things that will lose out as a result of that.

MATTHEWS: Rebecca, you know the country made a heroic effort on AIDS/HIV. It`s not cured, but it`s certainly better than it was. It`s not a death sentence.


MATTHEWS: So progress can be made.

BERG: Progress can be made. And I think that`s exactly why you see the president and the vice president going out on a limb like this trying to at the very least start this conversation, bring the technology into a more organized fashion, bring doctors together to have this discussion, try to make as much of a difference as they can.

With an issue like this, it`s not like many political issues where if you don`t fully succeed, you lose. This is an issue where if they make any steps toward success, I would say that`s a win for not only the White House, for Americans in general, for science. And it also makes the case ultimately that Democrats are trying to make, that the federal government can have a role that influences people`s lives in a positive way and makes a difference as opposed to what Republicans would say, which is usually that this is something that the private market should be dealing with.

MATTHEWS: Well, won World War II in the end, the Manhattan Project, they put a man onto the moon in the `60s, so we do have that capability in terms of oomph, in terms of national commitment.

My question is what do you think about, perhaps they`ll keep Joe Biden on in the next administration to commandeer this effort? That would a nice thing.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: That would be a nice thing to do.

MATTHEWS: Have one nonpartisan person stick around and do it. I hereby recommend it.

TOMASKY: Even President Trump or President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Either one. I think he`d accept the honor, I think.

TOMASKY: I think he would accept the honor and that would be a nice thing to do. It would be nice to think that a Republican president if a Republican gets elected this fall will continue this. You know, liberals have had a joke for the last seven and a half years that Obama could cure cancer and the Republicans would be against it. Well, this isn`t quite the equivalent of that joke.

MATTHEWS: I hate to say it but I will. The new beloved, revered speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, he doesn`t applaud anything. Did you notice the other night? What was that about?

ALLEN: Raul Ryan over time --

MATTHEWS: Paul Ryan, Peter Ryan, whatever.

ALLEN: You can read Paul Ryan very easily. I think he was -- I think he was well coached to just not --

MATTHEWS: Not to cheer anything the president said.

ALLEN: Not just cheer but the opposite side was the problem too. You could see when President Obama that he killed bin Laden, there was just this slight tightening of Paul Ryan`s lips, if you`re looking very closely, and there were a couple of other moments, tongue goes into the cheek. I think his team told him, don`t do anything that reveals emotion because you don`t have -- you generally do not have a poker face, so make sure your face doesn`t move.

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.

Anyway, Vice President Biden spoke about the challenge he`s now facing. Here he is.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Possibilities. That`s the uniqueness of this country, limitless possibilities. This is a place that the United States can make a contribution that exceeds almost anything we could and will have done so far to humanity.


MATTHEWS: Do you believe in this?

BERG: In this mission?

MATTHEWS: Do you believe it will work? Do you think come the end of this administration we`ll be talking about the progress made so far, the commitments that have been fortified to fight cancer or is this just going to be a will of the wisp?

BERG: You know, I hope so, Chris. This is one of those rare political issues where everyone can applaud the effort. If they don`t succeed, then that`s unfortunate. But if they do, it`s fantastic. It`s worth the effort, it`s worth trying.

And as the president said, everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer.

MATTHEWS: Well, by the way, the celebrities, about two out of three that have died, Alan Rickman I`m going to talk about later. You know, it just happens. It`s part of our life, cancer, the big C. Doc River, John Wayne dying of it and Nat King Cole and anybody, Humphrey Bogart. Every movie star in the `40s and `50s died of cancer.

TOMASKY: It`s going to be much harder than going to the moon.

ALLEN: One thing, I think in terms of an issue and in terms of focusing things, this is an area where the United States can be a leader in the world. And I think that`s part of --

MATTHEWS: That is what he had. That is what the president said. And actually --

ALLEN: But talking about it is a good moment for America and for bipartisanship. But if America was to find a cure for cancer writ large or to make progress on the various forms of cancer, Dr. Demetri was just talking about that, there are different forms of cancer, you can make that progress, America is a leader in the world on a major, major --

MATTHEWS: Well, it used to have been in everything, didn`t we? In everything, practically.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Play HARDBALL with us all week online. You can find us on Facebook by searching HARDBALL. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram @hardball. We`ve got the best videos, behind-the-scenes photos, and full analysis of the hottest stories of 2016.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Michael, tell me something I don`t know.

TOMASKY: Going to be a big trump thing Tuesday. He`s going for the big symbolism this Tuesday. He`s having an event at John Wayne`s birthplace. Marion, whatever his name was in real life.

MATTHEWS: Marion Morrison.

TOMASKY: Marion Morrison, yes, in Winterset, Iowa. It`s going to be huge.

MATTHEWS: And it will great again that day.

TOMASKY: Yes, that`s right.

BERG: Another Iowa fun fact for the panel. We`ve been talking about Ted Cruz`s strong campaign in Iowa. He`s favored by a lot of people to win right now. But he has a big problem. It`s called the renewable fuel standard. He`s one of the only candidates opposing it and he would be the first if he won Iowa to win the state without supporting the RFS.

So --

MATTHEWS: Who`s this?

BERG: This is Cruz.

MATTHEWS: And he doesn`t like ethanol either, does he?

BERG: He doesn`t like ethanol. He doesn`t want subsidies for anything of this. And so, the thing that I learned when I was in Iowa last week with Ted Cruz, I spoke with Steve King, Iowa congressman, who`s supporting Ted Cruz. He told me he urged Ted Cruz to support ethanol, to at least moderate his views somewhat. Ted Cruz said no way.

MATTHEWS: Where is he on ethanol in Canada? Is he all right from up there? I`m just teasing.

Go ahead, Jonathan.

ALLEN: When Donald Trump first burst on the scene, Democrats loved the idea of Donald Trump. He was very exciting for them. They sat down with popcorn and watched the fight on the Republican side. Now, suddenly, they`re very worried that Donald Trump could be president. Not only are they worried that he could win the presidency, they`re obviously worried about what he would do with it.

You saw Barack Obama the other night in the State of the Union, spent so much time, his last State of the Union Address, knocking down Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he was like a response to Donald Trump.

ALLEN: It was unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: Can you give me some indication if not the names of your sources who really fear he can beat Hillary Clinton or beat any --

ALLEN: There`s absolutely a divide among the Democrats. There are some who think he will still fail and fall and some who believe he has the lowest floor among the Republican candidates, that Hillary Clinton will wipe the floor with him if she`s the nominee. But increasingly, what I`m hearing from people is some concern that he could attract some Democrats. He has the most un-Republican positions in the Republican --

MATTHEWS: Oh, I think there`s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.

ALLEN: That`s exactly right. You look at the industrial Midwest, those are states he could really compete in. Your home state of Pennsylvania --

MATTHEWS: I think Pennsylvania might well be in play if he`s the nominee because he`s unpredictable. Whereas you get Cruz up there you put him over on the far right, Hillary takes the center back, right? And you win.

ALLEN: Trump likes the social safety net. He`s been for higher taxes in the past. He`s good on LGBT issues compared to --

MATTHEWS: And he thinks the Iraq war was insane.

ALLEN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Thanks to the great roundtable. You`re so smart tonight. Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Berg and especially the man who just spoke, Jonathan Allen.

When we return, let me finish with the sad story of a great actor dying way too young.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a sad story of a great actor dying way too young. Most people know Alan Rickman as the villain in "Die Hard" or as Snape in "Harry Potter." I think of him as the lead in Noel l Coward`s "Private Lives" or in "Seminar" which Kathleen and I saw on trips over the years up to Broadway.

And like so many millions of people, including the producers I work with, I see him every time I re-watch that incredible movie "Love Actually." There it is. He plays the husband of Emma Thompson who has his eye on his secretary. It`s a poignant role because you dearly hope the guy won`t get trapped into something that will hurt what is clearly a fabulous and potentially irretrievable marriage.

Rickman has always been stingy with his emotions, a real stiff upper lip Brit. That`s probably why we rooted for him, hoping in the end, he`ll show some heart and let us love him.

Alan Rickman, a character actor whose character got to us. Alan died this week at 69 from cancer.