IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/31/2015

Guests: Susan Page

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 31, 2015 Guest: Susan Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Nobody saw it coming.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

If you think you`ve got 2016 figured out, how well did you do predicting 2015? Well, not so well, I guess. So let`s take a look back over these past 12 months.

We begin tonight with the political man of the year. When "Time" magazine awards this distinction, there`s no moral argument that comes with it. In 1938, it was Adolf Hitler. It was Josef Stalin the next year. So it`s not about nice guys finishing first.

And this year, when you talk about the man that has rocked American politics, it`s got to be Trump, the good, the bad and ugly. He has dominated 2015 with all the tonnage and sass of his soaring mega-towers.

We know a lot about him. We`re going to show you much of it right now. But what can we get from it? Is it plausible that a majority of Republican delegates next summer will vote for this guy? In a word, yes.

My colleagues tonight, a very special HARDBALL roundtable with Howard Fineman, the global editorial director of the HuffingtonPost, "USA Today`s" Washington bureau chief Susan Page, and "The Washington Post`s" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson.

We begin with the rocket propellant that has fuelled Trump`s rise with Republican voters. His unrivalled brand of nationalism is a one-two punch fed by his assault on illegal immigration and Muslims.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.

I would build a great wall. And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.

Every time Mexico really intelligently sends people over, we charge Mexico $100,000 for every person they send over.


TRUMP: They have to go.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": What if they have no place to go?

TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country or we don`t have a country.

I want surveillance of certain mosques. I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering.

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



MATTHEWS: Either we have a country or we don`t. So that seems to be the common thread of all this. It`s nationalism, Susan. But when the -- when he -- he seemed to have broken through the membrane of what would by anybody`s definition be unacceptable, when he said, We`re going to keep the Muslims from getting into the country, that exploded for three or four days. And then, like everything else he`s said. it seemed to mellow down a bit, like we stopped talking about it all the time, and then he won because he left a flavor of, I`m the toughest guy you ever met.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": So what happened with this latest example is the same thing that happened all with the previous ones, which is there was a sense, Now he`s gone too far. This is a too -- a bridge too far. This will have a real reaction. And it didn`t. It did not, apparently, hurt his support in the polls or his position in the Republican Party. If anything, his position in the Republican -- with the Republican electorate seems to be getting stronger, not...


MATTHEWS: I don`t know the mathematical algorithm is or whatever it is, but it adds to his general, I`ll say anything, and yet he doesn`t seem to pay the price for any one thing. It`s all part of this, I`m tough -- I`m as tough as they come.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He kind of creates his own reality, his own atmosphere. And I don`t think it`s that scientific. I don`t think it`s mathematical. It`s not an algorithm, it`s instinct, I think. He has a sense of what his supporters will respond to.

And in my understanding of how he came out with the Muslim comments is that it was him. It was -- wasn`t -- you know, they didn`t try to focus-group it or talk about it all night or anything like that, it was Trump.

MATTHEWS: So he`s not fighting it out between Hillary and Bernie over who`s got the data on voters.


MATTHEWS: I think he listens with his tongue, which is an old expression. I think he -- he talks, and he`s watching the crowd reacting to every syllable. And he...


MATTHEWS: You got it. Isn`t that (INAUDIBLE) and the other guy -- he makes a mistake, say, OK, won`t do it again. How about that? And he`s always testing.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s because he is a master salesman. That`s what he did in New York in the real estate business. He was selling dreams. He was selling soaring towers...

MATTHEWS: Well, is he -- how is he picking up on people?

FINEMAN: But he picks up on it because he`s a great street salesperson, and he seems to have a particular sense for fear, for when people are weak and when they feel afraid. And he can either use that to attack people, which he does, but he could also use it to reassure people. And what he`s saying is...



MATTHEWS: He finds...


FINEMAN: ... but he can turn that around because he understands the fear among voters. And the fact is, voters, especially Republicans, are afraid of the outsider, afraid of the other.

He began with the birther theme in 2012. Then the next concentric circle were his Hispanics. Now the next concentric circle is Muslims.


FINEMAN: And -- and again, every time he does it within his orbit, it works.

MATTHEWS: Gene, I think most men, when we`re afraid, whenever we get afraid, we get mad very quickly. We get mad that somebody made us afraid. We know all this. And I think he knows that, that right after your fear, you go, Damn that guy for making me afraid!

ROBINSON: Yes, I think -- I think he -- the anger -- there`s a lot of anger out there anyhow.


ROBINSON: You know, before the latest terrorism -- terrorist attack, there was -- there was a lot -- just generalized anger...


ROBINSON: ... among predominantly white, not-college-educated Republican voters. And he has capitalized on it and exploited it.

PAGE: But you know, this is a moment that fits Trump. Not every election year would be a good moment for Trump, but this is a time when a lot of Americans, especially working class Americans, have seen stagnant wages for a decade or two decades or even three decades.

It`s a time when people are concerned about self-inspired terrorists. People are mad at the government. They feel like the government doesn`t represent them, doesn`t get things done to address the problems in their lives. So it`s a moment that fits the skills...


ROBINSON: ... they`re mad at the Republican establishment.

FINEMAN: Right. And he is...

MATTHEWS: Like the president said in his last press conference this year, when he said, basically, You can`t do much about lone wolves. Well, the public doesn`t want to hear that!


FINEMAN: Donald Trump is a version of the lone wolf himself. He is the lone, singular, personal answer. He`s saying, I am the simple answer. It is me.


FINEMAN: It is me.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, what`s your phone number for Donald Trump to call you right now? I`m just kidding!


ROBINSON: He can call me. I mean, that`s -- that`s his attitude.

MATTHEWS: It is. Anyway, Trump began his political odyssey by questioning the president`s birthplace and constitutional legitimacy. His ridicule of the president has thrived in this campaign. Here he goes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen. OK? We have a problem in this country. It`s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.

TRUMP: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know he`s not even an American.

TRUMP: We`re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.

TODD: Can you imagine supporting or being comfortable if a Muslim ever became president of the United States?


TRUMP: Some people have said it already happened, frankly. But of course, you wouldn`t agree with that.

Radical Islamic terrorism. And I`ll tell you what. We have a president that refuses to use the term. He refuses to say it. There`s something going on with him that we don`t know about.


MATTHEWS: Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama isn`t a legitimate president?

TRUMP: Here`s the story. I don`t answer it because you know what? If I do answer it, that`s all people want to talk about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... general election You`re going to have to answer it...


MATTHEWS: We Catholics believe in confession. You say you were wrong, and you move on.

TRUMP: OK, now...

MATTHEWS: You really believe this guy...


TRUMP: I don`t want to answer the question.


MATTHEWS: You know, he`s there, and I do believe this is original sin, to use a religious term. And I tell you, I think he was appealing ethnically at the time he did it, just like he`s appealing ethnically when he goes after this, We`re going to keep the Muslims out of the country. I think it`s -- it`s whatever it is, but we know what it is.

FINEMAN: Father Matthews, you did a good job of trying to get him in the confessional there...


MATTHEWS: Why won`t he drop it?

FINEMAN: He won`t drop it because it`s at the very core of his entire pitch. As I was saying, his pitch is concentric circles of fear of the other, fear of the outsider, the immigrant who`s going to take away your job, the secret Muslim president, people migrating out of -- refugees migrating so they can bomb the United States.


FINEMAN: That`s exactly what he`s playing to, and he is the answer to the...

MATTHEWS: Gene, I...


MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Your thoughts.

ROBINSON: No, I was just going to say, remember, he was a birther long before he was a candidate...

MATTHEWS: Right. Exactly.

ROBINSON: ... for president and long before it appeared to anyone that he could be a candidate for president or a legitimate candidate.

MATTHEWS: I asked him if he wanted to take the oath of office while the guy standing next to him was an illegitimate president. And he thought that through. And it`s, like, is this, like, a level of bizarreness that we don`t even -- is he asserting it as a truth?

PAGE: But...

MATTHEWS: What is he saying?

PAGE: The fact is that there`s not -- I can`t think of a single example of Donald Trump correcting himself or acknowledging something being wrong. And that is, of course, part of his appeal, right? I think -- I think there are supporters who say, Of course he was wrong on that. Of course he went to far on that. But I like the fact that he wouldn`t back down.

ROBINSON: It`s a strange thing, Chris, because Teddy Roosevelt talked about speak softly but carry a big stick. This guy is the exact opposite. He`s waving around the biggest stick he can find.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump`s rallies have a showtime quality like nothing we`ve ever seen in -- recently in American politics. They`re not stump speeches, they`re performances. Here we go.


TRUMP: It`s like puppets. Bing, bing, the bing, bing, bang, bang, boom. You know, the old days, bing, bong, bing-bing, bong, bong, bing, bing, bing. You know what that is, right?

I`m used to, you know, dealing with killers, people that go (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you fight ISIS, Mr. Trump, if you`re president?

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


TRUMP: I don`t wear a toupee. It`s my hair! I swear! It moves this way.


TRUMP: It moves this way, that way!

Oh, what a group!


MATTHEWS: You know, it`s not just that he`s beating Jeb on all kinds of ways, but the show he puts on. Jeb`s not putting on any show, and this guy...

ROBINSON: No, he`s...


ROBINSON: Let`s face it, he is -- he is an entertainer of...


ROBINSON: ... considerable skill. And you know, at the last debate, Jeb attacks him and Trump just with -- you know, with facial expressions...


MATTHEWS: ... mimicking whatever (ph). Tell me something I don`t know about him.

ROBINSON: Win or lose in the oil rich kingdoms of the President Bush, his name`s going to be mud. They`ll pulling his products off shelves and thinking about taking his name down off some of his buildings.

MATTHEWS: Who`s that?

ROBINSON: In the -- in the oil rich kingdoms of the Persian Gulf...


ROBINSON: ... Abu Dhabi...


ROBINSON: Trump, of course.


PAGE: So let`s stick with the name theme. His original name, Drumpf, his grandfather`s name when he emigrated here was D-R-U-M-P-F. He -- when he - - when they -- he -- at the -- when he emigrated into the United States, they dropped -- the D became a T, and when his grandfather became a citizen, he dropped the F and it became Trump.

MATTHEWS: And your point?

PAGE: It`s just a fun fact.

MATTHEWS: It happens every day.


MATTHEWS: It`s called Ellis Island...


FINEMAN: The point is, his family were immigrants once, is all.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) that is a larger point.

FINEMAN: That is a larger point. I think the thing to know is that he`s wanted to do this forever. Jon Meacham, in his great new book about George h.W. Bush, unearthed the fact that Donald thought he was the guy who should have been H.W.`s running mate, not Dan Quayle, and he really made an effort to get on that ticket.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he would have been better? Couldn`t have been worse. Anyway, Howard, Susan and Gene...


FINEMAN: That`s another show.


MATTHEWS: ... are sticking with me throughout the hour.

Coming up -- eight years after her loss to Barack Obama, is the country ready for Hillary Clinton now? A look at the Democratic front-runner as she fends off a challenge from the left.

And this is HARDBALL, place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, after a bruising defeat in 2008, Hillary Clinton is back in the presidential arena, of course. She started off the year 2015 in the same position that she will end it, as the Democratic Party`s front-runner.

But everything in between this year wasn`t so good for the former secretary of state. In March, for example, "The New York Times" reported that Hillary used a personal e-mail account at the State Department. And later, it was revealed that it operated under a private server. Here was her response.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal e-mail account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal e-mails instead of two.

Looking back, it would have been better if I had simply used a second e- mail account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn`t seem like an issue.


MATTHEWS: Well, the scrutiny over e-mails, however, has -- was only the beginning. It was a cruel summer for Hillary as she faced a relentless press corps determined to find out whether she broke the rules or mishandled classified material.


CLINTON: Are y`all ready? Tell me something I don`t know.

I have said repeatedly I want the e-mails out.

Everything I did was permitted. There was no law, there was no regulation, there was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing.

You know, I wasn`t that focused on my e-mail account, to be clear here.

By the way, you may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account.


CLINTON: I love it! I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves!

ED HENRY, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Did you try to wipe the whole server? (INAUDIBLE)

CLINTON: I`m -- I -- you know, I don`t -- I have no idea. That`s why we turned it over...


HENRY: ... in charge of it! You were the official in charge! Did you wipe the server?

CLINTON: What, like with a cloth or something?

QUESTION: Is this an indication that this issue isn`t going to go away for the remainder of your campaign?

CLINTON: Nobody has talked to me about it other than you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you make a mistake?

CLINTON: I did. I did. As I said, it was allowed. And there was no hiding it. It was totally aboveboard. Everybody in the government I communicated with, and that was a lot of people, knew I was using a personal e-mail.


MATTHEWS: You know, every time we talk about Hillary, it seems like she`s an inkspot and you just tell her -- tell everybody who you are when you talk about her, rather than tell you anything about here. These conversations go on and on, guys. You know, is there anything there or nothing there?

PAGE: What the -- I think what that`s saying...

MATTHEWS: Or nothing in all that conversation.

PAGE: I think what string (ph) tells you is that she lacks some political instincts. I mean, she`s got some great strengths as a candidate. But the progression she had to go through on first choosing to use a private e-mail server and then trying -- the progression of trying to explain it shows that it just took her forever to get to the place where she should have started, which is, This was a mistake. I`m sorry I did it. We`ll make it right.

MATTHEWS: Who`s in the room with her? Does (ph) anybody can tell you -- (INAUDIBLE) like to know back in the beginning, when we started covering politics back in the `60s, some cases, we knew there was a Kennedy Irish mafia, so-called. Then it was a Georgia mafia.

Who`s the mafia around Hillary Clinton that when she`s in trouble, she goes, says, What the hell do I do now? Gene?

FINEMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: Is it Tony Podesta? Is it -- I mean, not Tony, John Podesta.

FINEMAN: It`s -- it`s Podesta, it`s Huma Abedin. I actually think, if there were one consigliere, though it would be Bill.



FINEMAN: But she has...

MATTHEWS: Is that the way we can report it, you guys can report it, that she knows the phone number of the guy -- she knows that, obviously -- and that when something really hits the wall and she`s got to go (INAUDIBLE) how do I get out of this one, he calls him?

PAGE: You know, as he did with her. When he got in trouble, who was his - - except for some certain periods of scandal -- his closest and most trusted adviser? It was her. It`s not a bad thing that Bill Clinton is maybe the (INAUDIBLE) But one problem Hillary Clinton has is there`s not one room with advisers. She`s got a whole castle full of rooms with so many advisers...


MATTHEWS: I`ve heard the down side. What is it?

PAGE: The down side is that you`ve got too many voices talking at you.

MATTHEWS: And the last voice heard can be the compelling one.

FINEMAN: Well, she`s -- she`s -- she`s gathered literally generations of advisers around her now. But there is no question that Bill Clinton, Huma Abedin as you said Melanne Verveer who`s another dear friend. And some of those people are at the very core of it. And Bill Clinton is number one. There are questions about what kind of public role he plays no matter how much he goes out on campaigns.



FINEMAN: How visible he is? That`s a matter of tactics. But in terms of who, at the end of the day she talks to as (ph) though.

EUGENE ROBINSON, POLITICAL ANALYST: And by the way if you are running for president who would you want advisor? I would want Bill Clinton advisor.

MATTHEWS: The former president that was political skill. Anyway, after you some hear -- some were brutal headlines. Hillary Clinton fought her way back to the top with two commanding performances in October. And everybody agrees on this. By all it counts, Hillary Clinton exceeded expectations that first Democratic debate. Here she is taking on Bernie Sanders on the issue of guns.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it`s time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country supports background checks and even the majority of gun owners do. Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill. Since it was passed more than 2 million, prohibited purchases have been prevented.


MATTHEWS: Well, a few days later she sat through a marathon day of testimony before the house of Benghazi committee and she succeeded in confronting GOP lawmakers probing her actions during 2012 attack in Libya that left four Americans dead. Here she is.


CLINTON: And I recognize that there are many currents at work in this committee. But I can only hope that the statesmanship overcomes the partisanship. At some point, we have to do this. It is deeply unfortunate that something as serious as what happened in Benghazi could ever be used for partisan political purposes. And I would imagine I thought more about what happened than all of you put together.


MATTHEWS: I thought it was compelling testimony.

FINEMAN: Well, the back to back clips that you showed, showed Hillary at her strongest as a political figure. First of all, she signaled to Bernie Sanders. You want to fight. I`m going to fight. I`m here. I`m here. So she was on -- she got the right angle on the substance of the gun issue. But it was also a message to Bernie that I think was heard by Bernie. That`s number one.

On this other thing because the Benghazi committee did not have a smoking gun in terms of an e-mail or an incident or something that they could traumatize that allowed Hillary the range to do that appeal to patriotism and bipartisanship that she did the woe is me.

MATTHEWS: It worked.

FINEMAN: So it worked beautifully. Those back to back things have to have others away for her.

MATTHEWS: Tell me something I don`t know about Hillary.

ROBINSON: She apparently puts tabasco sauce on everything including on salad and stuff like that. And so.

MATTHEWS: Is that Arkansas? Is that Arkansas or what?

ROBINSON: That`s southern, certainly. That can make her the second black president. But it could be a good idea to sprinkle some of that on some of her political discourse for the general that thing...


ROBINSON: You got to need it.

MATTHEWS: Very interesting metaphor there.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Good terms there, yeah.

MATTHEWS: A good columnist can do that.

PAGE: So we know she is a brainiac and she is a policy one. But did you know that she failed the D.C. bar in the summer of 1973. She`s or (ph) because she passed the one in Arkansas.

FINEMAN: Did she get back to the bar again did you see?

PAGE: I don`t believe so. And the in the 9th -- December 1973. The group that took that bar when she did 67 percent of them passed.

MATTHEWS: See that gets to something interesting about it. Although she`s a brainiac and when she has prepared she`s unstoppable. Sometimes she doesn`t prepare.

PAGE: You know, what also tells you, she doesn`t talk about this. And if I were her or her adviser I would use this as an example of how I`m human. I failed. I`ve gotten back up because she comes across this as so smart and so perfect. This is an example, something happen to her that could have happened to a lot of people.

FINEMAN: Well in political terms she failed her bar in Iowa in 2008. She wasn`t prepared. And this time, I know from a reporter on the ground we have a great reporter (inaudible) post out in Iowa. She names Samantha-Jo Roth. She said that Hillary`s organization in Iowa is unbelievable, unbelievably strong.

Now Bernie is going to challenge her because Bernie`s got the progressives. But in terms of organization nobody seen anything like it on the democratic side.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the doctor is in. Look at the rise of pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and his unconventional candidacy for the Republican nomination. This is "Hardball," the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." Dr. Ben Carson is one of the most confounding candidates of the 2016 race. A world famous neurosurgeon with no experience in politics. Carson gained popularity in the Evangelical and tea party circles for his attacks on President Obama and his pension for using inflammatory language.


BEN CARSON, U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): Obama care is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been told that he said we are living in a Gestapo age. What do you mean by that?

CARSON: I mean very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany but I don`t care about political correctness.

I think I would use the bully pulpit to help people realize what we have in common. What has been used for, for the last several years is to create wars in a war on women, race wars, any kind of anything involving people of two different races.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think they have control on their sexuality?

CARSON: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think being gay is a choice?

CARSON: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you say that?

CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out they`re gay.


MATTHEWS: Well Carson, went so far as to compare President Obama to a psychopath.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama, you referred to him as a psychopath. What do you mean by that?

CARSON: I said he reminds me of a psychopath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tell me how?

CARSON: Because they tend to be extremely smooth, charming people who can tell a lie to your face.


MATTHEWS: Well, Dr. Carson told the "Washington Post" he won`t tone down his rhetoric core on. "I`m just going to continue to say what I would normally say." People keep saying "You said Nazi. You said dog. You said slavery and they`re operating on a very immature level. I`m hoping we get to a place where people will be mature enough to think I didn`t like the analogy but I like what he is trying to say."

We`re back Howard, Susan and Eugene. Let me start with Susan. I`ll get with Eugene on this but this just smattering of crazy talk of stuff that isn`t true. And everybody knows that`s not true.

PAGE: You know, it`s interesting how much the tone you use affects how people hear what you say because some of the things he says are as outrageous as things that Donald Trump has said. But he says them in a very mild voice with a mild manner. And they come across in a completely different way which is I think why he was able at least for a time to have a really significant support from -- especially from Evangelicals.

FINEMAN: But the thing is that the mood is darker and nastier than it was if he was the nicer Donald Trump. People don`t want the nicer Donald Trump. They want Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: That`s nice to know. And Carson has been screwed.

FINEMAN: Sure it is.

MATTHEWS: Carson has been criticized for his foreign policy prescriptions. At a debate in November, he laid out a simple approach to destroying ISIS.


CARSON: We`re talking about global Jihadist and their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying how do we make them look like losers? I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that, it would be in Iraq. And outside of Anbar in Iraq, there`s a big energy fill. Take that from them. Take all of that land from them. We can do that I believe fairly easily. I`ve learned from talking to several generals.


MATTHEWS: He also made this statement about the Chinese that sent fact checkers wild.


CARSON: We also must recognize that it`s a very complexed place. You know, the Chinese are there as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.


MATTHEWS: I think that is one place the Chinese aren`t. Anyway, one of his own foreign policy advisers told the New York Times, "Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East. That`s pretty strong." Eugene, it`s like they don`t even tried to build them up for a -- it doesn`t...

ROBINSON: Here, are they trying to build them up and it doesn`t take. And look, you know, we saw his support go way up. He was leading Donald Trump just briefly and then it came down some and seemed to be heading in that direction. I really think it`s because he shows such comprehensive ignorance about foreign policy. He really does and he doesn`t inspire our confidence when he talks about it because a lot of what he says, even casual observers realized it`s kind of nonsense.

MATTHEWS: Well a number of his off told stories and from his own biography have come under scrutiny including several violent episodes from his childhood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of outrageous things did you do as a kid (inaudible) you`re being questioned on and you mentioned earlier.

CARSON: Well, you know, I tried to stab someone. And that was probably the most outrageous one. You know, I accidentally, you know, put a gash in somebody`s forehead because when I hit him, I didn`t realized (inaudible). I broke somebody`s glasses and...



MATTHEWS: No one seemed more confused by the political dynamics that we`re kidding Carson`s republican rival, Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you try and hit your mother over the head with a hammer, your poll numbers go up. I never saw anything like it. This is a strange election, isn`t it? You stab somebody and the newspapers say you didn`t do it. And you said, "Yes I did. I did it." "No you didn`t." "Yes, I did. I stabbed him and it hit the belt." And they said, "You didn`t do it." If they said I didn`t do it, I`d be so happy. This is the only election in history where you`re better off if you stabbed somebody. What are we coming to?


MATTHEWS: Well, perhaps nothing Carson has said has been mocked harder than his statement about Ancient Egypt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain. And all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs` graves. But, you know, it had to be something awfully big. When you stop and think about it I don`t think it would just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.


MATTHEWS: Well that was taped from a 1998 speech. But Carson stands by those views.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still believe Joseph built the pyramids to store grain?

CARSON: I think its impossible explanation to how they get built.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fine, typically plausible?

CARSON: It`s a plausible explanation. It`s a personal belief because I happened to believe a lot of things that you may not believe because I believe in the bible.


MATTHEWS: Susan, you got to this one. I don`t know because the pyramids were built as tombs to pharaohs to deliver them to the after life. And then you go in to a tomb, you see all the paraphernalia, the boat, everything and the things that they expect to have when they get to the after life, it`s all there for a purpose. There is no grain in there.

PAGE: Well Chris that`s your theory.

FINEMAN: You claim you don`t read the bible.


MATTHEWS: And all that stuff. And it`s -- that`s when you think it`s going to be. It`s very religious it`s and about the after life.

PAGE: You know what strikes me is that Trump has defied all our political history. Carson is fitted which is that he was an appealing figure not well known, had a surge of support, questions were raised. He didn`t do a good job answering including about his capability to be commander-in-chief and his support began to fall. So in this way, it`s familiar. It`s like a series of the 2012 republican candidates we saw.


MATTHEWS: Eugene, tell me something about Dr. Carson we don`t know?

ROBINSON: You know, he said some really controversial things about guns that everybody should have guns and if we have more guns, then we had fewer shootings. It turns out, he turn -- he was a pretty good marksman when he was in high school. He was in ROTC and he was -- he scored high marks or highest marks in marksmanship.

MATTHEWS: West point material.

ROBINSON: Yes, well, quite maybe, maybe not. That is your theory.

MATTHEWS: So it`s consistent.

PAGE: You know, he`s a very famous doctor...

MATTHEWS: I knew him long before I heard him as a politician.

PAGE: That`s right. We shouldn`t forget that and a scientist. And yet, he does not believe in the theory of evolution. He says that humans are too complex. The morality of the human race is too much to think it evolved from something else.

MATTHEWS: So all those things we studied biology, the kingdoms of the animals and the forms of life is related to another and you have species...

PAGE: Which is very widely...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t believe in any of that.

PAGE: Which is very, as you know, widely accepted by scientists but not by this scientist.

MATTHEWS: Up next, feeling the burn of Iran socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders makes an unlikely bid for the democratic nomination drawing crowds of tens of thousands along the way. You`re watching Hardball, the place for politics.




Donald Trump wasn`t the only political surprise this year. By the summer of 2015, many Democrats were feeling the Bern as Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders` campaign drew large crowds from Portland, Oregon, on the West Coast, to Springfield, Mass, in New England. Nothing pumped up those rallies more than Sanders going after his favorite target. I pronounce it like him, billionaires.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The billionaire class must be told loudly and clearly that they cannot have it all, that our government belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.


Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. We have to stop worshipping people who make billions and billions and billions of dollars. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax.


MATTHEWS: By September with message in questions Sanders outpolled Hillary Clinton 43-36.

But just a few weeks later one line in the first Democratic debate had him seeming more friend than foe to Hillary Clinton.


SANDERS: Let me say something that may not be great politics. I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


SANDERS: You know?


MATTHEWS: It`s one of the debate moments that will be remembered and perhaps regretted by him.

Gene, I thought that -- I know I`m a political type. I admit that. Everybody knows that. I think you have to look like you are fighting, like she did when it came to the gun issue. That`s not the issue that separates from Bernie, but she was going to use it to let him know it, as you pointed out very strongly.

Why didn`t he say, OK, it is not my issue but it is going to cause you a problem and getting elected, so it goes?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I have no idea. It must be principle, right?


ROBINSON: You know, he wants to talk about issues.

MATTHEWS: His polls have gone down since then.

ROBINSON: The polls went down. I think that is one huge reason the polls started going down. Looked like he wasn`t going to fight for the nomination or fight her for the nomination.

The other I think really important moment was when Larry David played him on "Saturday Night Live" because it did something to the campaign. It characterized that campaign in a way that --

MATTHEWS: Caricaturized.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Here he is.


LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN (as Bernie Sander): We`re doomed. We need a revolution. Millions of people on the streets and we got to do something and we got to do it now!


HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I think you are right. I think Larry David did Bernie Sanders better than Bernie Sanders did and not to the benefit of Bernie Sanders.

I think Bernie is a fighter. I think if he was going to fight, he had to take the case to Hillary Clinton all the way along. I know why he didn`t do it, because his brand is, it`s principle, Gene, but it`s also his brand. His brand is, I`m above normal politics.

Of course, the paradox is if you want to win you have to get in normal politics. Bernie`s refusal to do that doomed him.

MATTHEWS: What`s going to happen to his issue if he doesn`t make it?

ROBINSON: Well, that`s a good question. Some of it seeped into the rest of the Democratic Party. I think he has had an influence on this campaign. He arguably I think in reality has helped move Hillary Clinton to the left, although not so far to the left that she can`t get back to the right in the general election. But I think there is a lasting influence, some of the positions she`s taken on Wall Street, for example.


SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Yes, I think he is losing the battle to get the nomination. In many ways, he won the war to change what the Democratic Party was going to stand for in 2016. It`s moved Hillary Clinton significantly to the left, and it has demonstrated -- he has demonstrated that the energy of this party is more progressive than Hillary Clinton would have predicted.

MATTHEWS: Democrats don`t -- when it comes to certain figures, like Adlai Stevenson in the past, they don`t -- and Hubert Humphrey -- they don`t dislike people that don`t make it. They like them. There is a real popularity --

FINEMAN: First of all, I still think there is a chance. You alluded to it before, that Bernie could pull off an upset in Iowa. That`s not impossible. And I think the more important point is continuing conversation that this with the left and the Democratic Party is not had ending in Iowa and New Hampshire. She`s going to have Bernie to deal with, she`s going to have Elizabeth Warren. That is Hillary, the conversation and pressure will continue.

MATTHEWS: And I think inequality is a huge issue in the Democratic Party, because of the way the wages have stiffened up.

Tell me something I don`t know about Bernie?

FINEMAN: He is not a nice guy. He looks like -- he is angry and like your lovable uncle.

He is not a lovable fellow. He is a prickly guy. He believes deeply in himself and doesn`t suffer fools at all.


Gene, do you have anything else?

ROBINSON: We all know he is not a Democrat. He`s never been a Democrat. He never belonged to any party except one, something called Liberty Union Party, which was an anti-war party.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, the man who led the government shutdown crusade two years ago now wants to be president. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is running as an outsider. But he might have the inside track to the nomination.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with Howard, Susan, Eugene.

Well, despite being a sitting U.S. senator, Ted Cruz has emerged as a formidable candidate. The breakthrough moment of his campaign came in October when he slammed the media at the third presidential debate.


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. This is not a cage match.

And if 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 people care about?



MATTHEWS: Well, as a freshman senator elected from Texas in 2012, Ted Cruz established himself as an anti-Washington demagogue in the mold of Joseph McCarthy when he explicitly suggested the secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel might have taken money from North Korea.


CRUZ: I will point out that right now this committee knows absolutely nothing about the personal compensation Chuck Hagel received in 2008, 2009, or 2010. It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea. And I have no evidence to suggest that there is or isn`t.


MATTHEWS: Well, as a social conservative, Cruz has played his cards well in the crucial state of Iowa, but he made national news when it came to making birth control accessible to women.

Here`s how he criticized the Democrats` charge that Republicans are waging a war on women when it comes to contraceptives.


CRUZ: Jiminy Cricket! This is a made-up, nonsense example. Last I checked, we don`t have a rubber shortage in America.

But look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila!


MATTHEWS: You know, I don`t know. Sometimes TMI. Trump talking about his belt, a knife going around it, and this guy. I mean, do we need to know about his rubber machine?

FINEMAN: You`re going to need to know about him because I think in the year 2015, besides Donald Trump, the person who advanced the most politically, given where he started, was that guy, Ted Cruz.

He is positioned to be the beneficiary of any problems that happen with Donald Trump. He is, as you said, he`s organized in Iowa in a way no Republican ever has been. They`ve rented dozens of apartments in Iowa so that their volunteers can have places to be when the caucuses are coming along to organize. The organization he`s done, the focus he`s done, the shameless exploitation that he`s carried out has put him in a strong position.

MATTHEWS: Well, his brand of partisan demagoguery was on full display after the Planned Parenthood shooting in November, when Cruz told radio host Hugh Hewitt that most crime in this country is committed by Democrats.


CRUZ: You know, every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating, hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies.

Now, listen, here`s the simple and undeniable fact: the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn`t report that.


MATTHEWS: No, I guess we`re guilty of that, baby. I mean, I don`t think I`ve ever done that calibration. Your thoughts about this.

ROBINSON: It`s a ridiculous thing to say. I don`t know where he gets that from.

MATTHEWS: How many people think we might end up with a Cruz-Trump fight?

ROBINSON: I think it`s quite possible.

PAGE: I think it is the most likely final outcome.

MATTHEWS: Big fight -- across the south.

FINEMAN: That`s why I said, in this year, he`s advanced from nowhere more than anyone.

MATTHEWS: I think Trump travels better than expected down South. Just a hunch.

ROBINSON: I agree.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s more homogeneous than we think. Those Southern voters, they might like his style.

Coming up in the year of voter frustration is the brash New Jersey governor the right choice to run on the Republican ticket after finding himself at the bottom of the pack? Chris Christie is making gains in New Hampshire right now, hoping to earn a ticket to South Carolina.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with Howard, Susan, and Eugene.

Well, many Republicans have pinned their hopes of stopping Donald Trump on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As a brash and outspoken force within the party, he`s getting a second look now among those who think his tough guy persona can actually take the fight to Trump.

Tell me something you don`t know about this guy anyway.

ROBINSON: Well, look, he scored well in recent debates. And so there`s a -- this whole Muslim controversy, Chris Christie appointed a Muslim as a state judge in New Jersey and defended him against criticism.

He could perhaps be a louder voice I think in this Republican field against the kind of anti-Muslim bigotry we`ve seen.

MATTHEWS: That`s good.

PAGE: If you`re thinking about something you may not know about Chris Christie, you get a two for one if he gets elected. He was class president at the University of Delaware. His successor was his wife, Mary Pat.

FINEMAN: Chris Christie is the liberal in the race. You`re looking at the liberal. And I think that`s a remarkable thing.

The fact the big newspaper in New Hampshire endorsed him, they picked him out not so much because of ideology but because they thought he had experience as a real governor and also that he could take on Donald Trump.

But I think he`s reluctant to do it. I have not seen Chris Christie really get in there and do it, and I actually don`t think he`s going to because he`d like to get on the ticket.

MATTHEWS: So, you think he might be a bridge to the 20th century Republican Party?

FINEMAN: I don`t know. Not that bridge.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman, Susan Page, and Eugene Robinson.

To you our viewers, we wish you the very best holiday season. From all of us at HARDBALL, happy New Year.