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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/15/2016

Guests: Jay Newton-Small, Cornell Belcher, John Feehery, Robert Reich, John Stanton, Colleen McCain Nelson, Sabrina Siddiqui

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 15, 2016 Guest: Jay Newton-Small, Cornell Belcher, John Feehery, Robert Reich, John Stanton, Colleen McCain Nelson, Sabrina Siddiqui

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This race is even.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

(SINGING) Back in the saddle again. Our friend is a friend...

Well, kind of. Hillary Clinton made her first appearance back on the campaign trail today after taking time off to rest up with her pneumonia. She`s back facing new polls that show the wind at the back of her opponent, Donald Trump.

They include a brand-new "New York Times"/CBS poll out today that has the race, catch this, 42-42. Meanwhile, Trump is regaining ground in battleground states. He`s up 2 in Nevada. He`s up 3 in both Florida and in Ohio. And he`s up 8 in Iowa.

You might say Trump himself is back today, taking time off from the teleprompter to hit back at Colin Powell, hit back at a pastor of a church in Flint who stopped him talking politics in her church, and to put down Hillary Clinton for her health.

The attack on Powell came after some of his e-mails were hacked and released. Powell said that with African-Americans, Trump will never overcome his birther past. He called Trump a "national disgrace." Overnight, Trump tweeted, "I was never a fan of Colin Powell after his weak understanding of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq equaled disaster."

Well, last night, after being careful to avoid it for the past few days, Trump knocked Hillary Clinton on her health.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is hot! And it`s always hot when I perform because the crowds are so big! These rooms were not designed for this kind of a crowd!


TRUMP: I don`t know, folks. You think Hillary would be able to stand up here for an hour and do this?


TRUMP: I don`t know. I don`t think so. Now we have one left, and in all fairness, she`s lying in bed getting better. And we want her better. We want her back on the trail, right? We want her back on the trail!


MATTHEWS: Well, as I said, Trump mocked a pastor from a church in Flint that he visited yesterday. The pastor had interrupted Trump when he started criticizing Hillary Clinton in the church.


TRUMP: Hillary failed on the economy, just like she`s failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn`t work out. Nothing. Now Hillary Clinton...


TRUMP: Oh, oh. OK. OK.

TIMMONS: ... not to give a political speech.

TRUMP: OK. That`s good. And I`m going to go back (INAUDIBLE)


MATTHEWS: Well, that was tough. Today, Trump said that reverend -- that was Reverend Faith Green Timmons -- - was a nervous mess. That`s Trump on her. Let`s watch that.


TRUMP: When she got up to introduce me, she was so nervous, she was shaking. And I said, Wow, this is sort of strange. And then she came up. So she had that in mind. There`s no question about it. And I`ll tell you, the audience was fantastic, but she was so nervous. She was, like, a nervous mess.


TRUMP: And so I figured something -- I figured something was up, really.


MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon, Donald Trump slammed -- or actually, Hillary Clinton slammed Trump for what he said about that pastor.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: His latest target is a pastor in Flint, Michigan, who respectfully asked him not to use her pulpit for political attacks. He called her a "nervous mess." That`s not only insulting, it`s dead wrong. Reverend Faith Green Timmons is not a nervous mess. She`s a rock for her community in trying times. She deserves better than that. And Flint deserves better. In fact, so does America.


MATTHEWS: Well, none of this, of course, is likely to surprise or certainly disturb the voter now looking to vote for Trump. Perhaps it will actually to remind him of his brand. Well, the fact is, the country right now is divided, with Trump on one side of what is today, September 15th, an equal divide.

Joining me right now to talk about it, "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, and "Time" magazine`s Jay Newton-Small.

Robert, what`s new on this? I mean, Trump seems to go back and forth between the teleprompter and being Donald Trump. What brought him back to being Trump today, because Hillary`s back?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I was with Trump all day yesterday in Flint, Michigan, and Canton, Ohio, and I got the sense, shadowing him for about 10 hours, that this is a candidate who`s very optimistic about the polls and is going with his gut. It`s his instincts right now running this campaign -- Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, of course, around him. But this is a candidate driving his own ship, driving his own car.

MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense that has he thinks these polls are a trend? Because I heard about that today, listening to the other discussions on other programs. I keep saying, When is a blip on the screen a cycle? When does it become a trend, something that`s moving in one direction unless stopped?

COSTA: Well, I said to Trump, Chris, as he was looking over all these polls on his plane, they were piling up, and he reviews them very carefully. I said, Well, some of the polls show you are up nationally and in swing states.

And he looked at me incredulous, and he said, Some? Some? All of them are up. So he`s very confident as he looks at the data. We`ll see if it lasts. He thinks part of the reason is the comment by Secretary Clinton about Trump supporters being deplorable.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go about -- let`s talk about that with Michael Steele and Jay Newton-Small. With these polls, "The New York Times"/"Wall Street" -- "The New York Times"/CBS poll, which closed yesterday, I believe -- that`s been -- that`s barely covered the whole weekend. So it certainly went as late as Tuesday night. So that does cover the period of people (ph) we were all blabbing about that. Do you think that was a changer?


MATTHEWS: "Deplorables" moved people to Trump column?

STEELE: I think the combination of the "deplorable" and then, of course, just the general feel around the campaign, the Clinton campaign. People are sensitive to that.

I mean, you -- it`s funny. You get beyond Labor Day, and the dynamic in the races change. I mean, people get more connected to it.


STEELE: Reporters can tell you on the ground that, you know, there`s a different kind of energy. And the voters are more sensitive. They pick up stuff. They don`t -- they may not articulate it directly, but there is a sense that, Well, there`s something not quite right.


STEELE: And I think that was reflected in this "New York Times" (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: That`s like me and the NBA. When the playoffs come, in a couple of nights, I begin to learn all the names.


MATTHEWS: I get to decide who I like, who I`m rooting for, you know, the individual players.


MATTHEWS: And the regular season is too darn long, 82 games.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, your thoughts about this. Is something in the air that makes people more grabbable, that they actually might move now?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I think there`s definitely a feeling of people finally paying, you know, attention, although people have been paying attention, frankly, all summer. But there`s a huge group of the silent majority. You know, the independents are finally sort of now really paying attention.

But I have to disagree a little bit with you, Mr. Steele, in the sense that I think what hurt Hillary more was the fainting spell, was the pneumonia, was sort of covering up. You know, it`s all the things that people don`t like about the Clintons, is the sense of not being honest, not being forthright, of sort of hiding things.

MATTHEWS: She blamed that -- let`s -- I`m not going to be critical, but just factually, she blamed that on her staff, saying they weren`t quick enough. But the staff is trained by her.


MATTHEWS: They know what they`re supposed to -- I`ve always said in politics, never, ever blame staff people...

STEELE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: ... because everything comes from the top. They`re taught how to behave...

NEWTON-SMALL: The buck stops here.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s the way it works.

Anyway, Clinton -- Secretary Clinton used her first appearance -- we`ll go back to you in a minute -- on the trail today to slam Donald Trump as a loose cannon. I thought she worked very well today coming back from a -- by the way, she`s not back from pneumonia, she`s got it. And she, I thought, performed really well and strong, and I thought gutsy today. Let`s watch.


CLINTON: People accuse me of all kinds of things. You probably have seen that. But nobody ever accuses me of quitting. And I will never give up. I`ll never walk away, no matter how tough the going gets!


CLINTON: I`m actually asking Americans to hold me accountable for my ideas and hold my opponent accountable for his.

Are we going to bring people together, or pit Americans against each other and rip our country apart? Are we going to work with our allies to keep us safe, or are we going to put a loose cannon in charge who would risk everything generations of Americans have worked so hard to build?


MATTHEWS: I think Hillary Clinton is shaping the battlefield, like Schwarzkopf used to say.


MATTHEWS: She`s setting it up, going into this debate, to be the kind of debate that she`d like to win, and she should win -- preparation, seriousness, no pizzazz, no showing off, no wild, crazy stuff, simple, I know my stuff, this guy`s not ready, at all, and never will be.

NEWTON-SMALL: And if you`re talking about substance, then she absolutely wins. Wherever we talk about substantive things, you know, Hillary does better in the polls than Donald Trump. And I will say what I was going to say earlier, is that...

MATTHEWS: Can she shape the way we look at this debate?

NEWTON-SMALL: I don`t think the "deplorable" thing actually hurt her because I -- you know, I have this group of independent women that I`ve been following the entire campaign from the various states that I`ve traveled to, and the independent women that I`ve been speaking to have said that they actually -- this is a debate they`re having amongst themselves. Like, is it really -- am I deplorable person? Am I in that basket of voters that are racist and sexist and xenophobic if I vote for Trump?

MATTHEWS: What`s worse, being in a basket or a binder?


MATTHEWS: Where do they get these metaphors from? People don`t fit in baskets or in binders. Why do they say baskets of -- I never thought of people in a basket. Roses are in a basket, flowers...


NEWTON-SMALL: That`s the debate that the Clinton campaign wants women to have.


STEELE: Here`s the problem. I take your point and I see where you`re going, Chris, and listening to...


STEELE: I do see where you`re going.

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure I do!


MATTHEWS: I`m trying to figure this thing out.

STEELE: Well, but here`s the rub. Here`s the thing. She`s setting this up. You know, Hold me accountable for my ideas. Well, this isn`t that election. It has not been this election. It has -- this is -- no one is...

MATTHEWS: Well, what is the debate going to be about...


STEELE: The debate is about actions. You`re going to be held accountable for your actions. That`s her problem. It is her problem with the way her staff and she handled what happened on Friday and Sunday. It`s the words that she has used to describe the American people. Similarly for Donald Trump. But here`s the rub that really rubs them the wrong way. He pays less of a price for it than she does.

MATTHEWS: That`s called the curve.

STEELE: And that`s called the curve.


MATTHEWS: I was saying to her, to all of you, I guess -- I`ll go back to Robert now -- I think the Hillary people are plainly -- as Brian said today -- what`s his last name?


MATTHEWS: Fallon. Brian Fallon. Brian Fallon said today, We don`t want to be judged on a curve. He said that with Thomas Roberts (INAUDIBLE)

Robert, I think that`s what`s going on here. I think most people will judge us on a curve. If Donald Trump comes out there and is calm and serious and matches her point by point, people will say he won. That could happen. I`m just saying I think that`s what the Clinton people are deadly afraid of. An even match, he wins.

COSTA: Trump`s told me he`s not doing formal debate prep, as we know. Roger Ailes is playing a role, not a formal role, in getting Trump ready for the debates. Trump said Ailes is walking him through the history of debates, about how former candidates, people he`s worked with, Nixon and others have handled these debates.

And one thing Trump`s looking for is, does Clinton attack him? He said he`s ready to be the statesmen, if that`s the tone of the debate. He`s also ready to be the attack dog. So it will be interesting to see how Clinton handles him. Does she bait him? Does bring him out, or keep it on a different level?

MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump, Jr., a top surrogate for his father, of course, was interviewed on a local Philadelphia radio station today. He made this point about how the media treats his father versus how they treat Hillary Clinton. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP`S SON: And the media has been her number one surrogate in this. Without the media, this wouldn`t even be a contest. But the media has built her up. They`ve let her slide on every, you know, indiscrepancy, on every lie, on every, you know, DNC, you know, game, trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing. I mean, if Republicans were doing that, they`d be warming up the gas chamber right now.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Donald Trump, Jr. He said he was referring in that case or that reference to the gas chamber to capital punishment. He pointed out that he`s made similar remarks in the past, except he normally uses the phrase the electric chair.

For example, here he was in July.


TRUMP, JR.: If Republicans did that, it would be disgusting, and that`s what you`re going to see in a Clinton administration. This sort of divisiveness has to stop. They should be ashamed of themselves. And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father`s campaign did that, they`d be calling for people to get the electric chair.


MATTHEWS: Any comment on that, anybody?

NEWTON-SMALL: I -- I just think calling -- first of all, calling the media -- like, it`s like appealing to the refs at this point. It`s totally useless. And, like, and they`ve actually benefited -- Donald Trump has benefited from almost $2 billion of free media. He is essentially a beast of cable. And, like, and of reality TV. So to say that she`s somehow benefited more than he has is sort of crazy.

MATTHEWS: I want to go back to something you guys were saying a moment ago, and I`ll start with Robert. First of all, it seems to me, if you look at all the history of debates, and we`re hearing that he is at least studying, thanks to your reporting there -- he`s studying the history of debates with an expert, Roger Ailes -- that the trick in winning a presidential debate -- we`re going to be talking a lot about this next week on the show. On Tuesday, we`re going to go back and look at a lot of them with some people that study this -- experts.

And what you notice is the winner of most debates is not somebody who comes in there loaded for bear and makes an attack on the other person. They`re the president or Ronald Reagan, when he was governor, had been governor, who comes on and waits for his opponent to take a predictable shot at him, or her in this case, and retorts because the public always respects and roots for the person who`s defending himself.

So Jimmy Carter quite appropriately went after Reagan for being opposed to Medicare when it came out, and it was a debated point back in the `60s. And Reagan said, "There you go again."

COSTA: "There you go again."

MATTHEWS: And that "There you go again" line wasn`t accurate, but it was a great way of saying, We`re tired of you, President Carter. We`re tired of you clinging to office. And this is so true.

I mean, of course, Lloyd Benson, "You`re no Jack Kennedy"...

COSTA: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... respond to the charge, and people say, yes, yes, we`re with that guy. So how does Trump get Hillary to attack him? Or does he say -- Hillary just has to say to Donald Trump, Well, usually you address me not as Madam Secretary, but as crooked Hillary, and then she can respond to that.

and it seems to me they ought to set it up like in basketball, you call the foul. And when you call the foul, people, you know, are rooting for you.

Your thoughts quick, everybody on that, this point. Isn`t that what you`re looking for in preparation for these debates, to attack from a defensive position and to hit them when they hit you?

COSTA: And one of the things Trump said to me, Chris, is he -- as a former producer, host of a reality show, he understands the theatrics of television. It`s not about winning on points throughout the whole hour- and-a-half, it`s sometimes about the theater and maybe even one or two lines.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you. Jay?

NEWTON-SMALL: I think...

MATTHEWS: The bite that we replay in infinitum afterwards.

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes. I think the Khans really highlighted the weakness with Donald Trump, and that is if you get under his skin...

MATTHEWS: The Gold Medal (sic) family, the Gold...

NEWTON-SMALL: ... and insult him -- the Gold Medal (sic) family -- you insult him, you kind of dig at that, he cannot let it go, and he`s going to attack and he`s going to attack (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: So Hillary will try to hook him into some...


MATTHEWS: ... angry retort.

NEWTON-SMALL: Exactly. And then he`ll just (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I noticed you were overnight the other night, Donald, is that bothering you?


STEELE: Here`s the problem. He knows that and he understands that sensibility. And her problem is going to be when he comes back.

MATTHEWS: The surrebuttal.

STEELE: So taking your -- yes, exactly. Take your example, Well, you know, you said this, and he comes back, you know, You used to call me crooked Hillary, now you`re saying secretary of state -- Well, that`s because you are crooked. And then what do you -- where does she go then? And so that`s the -- that`s the danger here.

MATTHEWS: I love it. I love the game because even though the stakes are the future of this country and the world in many ways, it is a contest.

STEELE: It is.

MATTHEWS: And there`s going to be a winner.

STEELE: There will be.

NEWTON-SMALL: And record viewership.

MATTHEWS: And Ronald Reagan proved that a lot of -- with the help of Roger Ailes.


MATTHEWS: I won`t use my opponent`s youth and immaturity against him. It shouldn`t have meant anything. It meant everything.

STEELE: It defined the race.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. Anyway, Robert Costa, thank you, sir, for the reporting, Michael Steele and Jay Newton-Small here.

Coming up, a divided America. New polling from Virginia shows that Trump supporters don`t really know any Clinton voters. The same is true for Clinton voters. They don`t even know any Trump supporters. How`d this country get so starkly divided? People don`t know each other anymore. That`s ahead.

Plus, another day, another excuse from the Trump campaign about why Donald Trump won`t -- don`t say can`t -- won`t release his taxes. Today, his son said it`s because doing so would cause too much of a distraction.

Wait a minute. I thought Trump says he couldn`t release because he was under audit. You mean it`s up to him? We`re going to get to that. There`s a lot of contradiction coming out of that camp.

And the hardest -- the HARDBALL roundtable will be here -- maybe the hardest -- to tell three things I don`t know. We`ll be right there as this race has gotten as tight -- as tight as a what?


MATTHEWS: As a drum.

Finally today, my "Election Diary" on where this race stands today, September 15th. Mid-September, we`re already there.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some more new polling, new polling on the presidential race. And for that, we check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

First to Virginia, where Hillary Clinton`s lead is now 3 points up from Donald Trump -- again, this is the new way of doing it -- among likely voters. In a new poll from University of Mary Washington, Clinton 40, Trump 37, Gary Johnson 8. Not enough to make the debates.

Next to Georgia. According to a new poll from Fox 5 down in Atlanta, Trump leads Clinton by 4 points. Trump 46 in that state, Clinton 42, Johnson up at 10.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Not singing this time.

The Commonwealth of Virginia used to be a reliable Republican state, a commonwealth, of course, until Barack Obama captured its 13 electoral votes in 2008, and then again Obama won Virginia again in 2012.

Well, Obama turned Virginia into a purple battleground, but as "The Washington Post" reports today, voters there are divided far beyond expected. The latest Virginia poll shows that Hillary Clinton has a three- point lead down there. But that`s not the whole story.

A recent "Post" survey of Virginians found that many voters seem entirely isolated from one another, living in their own bubbles of political agreement, even in an increasingly diverse commonwealth; 60 percent of Clinton voters in Virginia say they do not have close friends or family members who support Trump. Three out of five don`t know anybody close to them who is for the other side; 54 percent of Trump voters don`t have a family member or close friend who supports Clinton.

Why is there so much isolation between supporters of the two major political parties?

Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster. John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

This isn`t exactly the world we grew up in. I know it`s been polarizing. My dad had a best friend, Gene Shields (ph). They played golf every couple weeks. They were regular guys, middle income and all. They went to church, same church, went to the bakery every Saturday after church, regularly like that. Never discussed politics. I have no idea.

But today, you go around looking for people that agree with you to invite for supper. It seems like nobody wants to have people over to dinner that might disagree with them.

Isn`t that true?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: I think we are becoming more ideologically segregated. Right.

I think we`re a segregated society. And I think some of this actually started with, I think, for me, with white flight out of the urban areas. Right now, if you look at Virginia, the state we were talking about right now, you have three pockets of blue, Northern Virginia, around Richmond, and around the Tidewater, and the rest is red.

MATTHEWS: Some of that`s because of ethnicity, because of race, but a lot of it I think is like single women who live in Alexandria and Arlington. They work in Washington. It`s a bedroom community. They all are pro- choice and Democrats.

BELCHER: But I also think social media plays a part in this as well, because we are getting into our bubbles.

And the more that social media is a vehicle for communication, they don`t have to listen to you anymore, Chris. They can actually just go on to a social media site and just listen to people that are like-minded.


MATTHEWS: Yes, but they also can watch me.

BELCHER: I hope they`re watching you.



FEEHERY: It`s not necessarily a new phenomenon.

Remember, Pauline Kael said she didn`t know anybody who voted for Richard Nixon in 1968.

MATTHEWS: Remember that?

FEEHERY: And, of course, he won twice.

MATTHEWS: I think that is possible.

I said the other night with Ed Rendell here, who knows Pennsylvania pretty well, three-quarters geographically of Pennsylvania, you could walk through and not know anybody who`s a Clinton supporter. But then you go to Philly or Pittsburgh or Penn State, up in Center County, it`s all Hillary.

FEEHERY: But I would say in the Republican Party, it`s a little bit more interesting a phenomena.

MATTHEWS: Tell us why.

FEEHERY: And that is, it breaks down by gender.

Women do not like Donald Trump and men do. And that`s the problem at the dinner table. People aren`t talking politics anymore, because they don`t want to get in a big family fight. And this is a problem for Donald Trump.

The other thing that`s interesting is, more educated voters are really trending against Donald Trump. And that`s a problem.


MATTHEWS: Let`s look at some of the aspects of voting. Let`s look at it now, this thing about gun ownership, you have a friend who`s gay or lesbian. Of course, you don`t always know what somebody is in their orientation.

Different attitudes towards hybrid cars.


MATTHEWS: "The Washington Post" survey found some major cultural differences between Clinton and Trump supporters out in Virginia; 71 percent of Trump supporters live in gun-owning households. I love that. The household doesn`t own the gun. You do.


MATTHEWS: But just 35 percent of Clinton supporters live in a house where there`s guns; 74 percent of Clinton supporters have a close friend or a family member who is I guess known to be gay or lesbian, 49 percent of Trump. So there`s a big difference there.

BELCHER: By the way, I think that number`s wrong. I`m going to guess they know more gay people than they think they know.



MATTHEWS: I think it`s a question of recognition or something anyway.

And 40 percent of Clinton supporters have a friend or a family member who drives a hybrid car. I love this one; 26 percent of -- so, no smart cars on the right wing these days, like my wife`s.

What do you think of that? This isn`t just male vs. female. This is...

FEEHERY: I don`t know. I think you could have seen the same thing with Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: You think?

FEEHERY: I think that the fact is that what happened with the Democratic Party is, it became much more diverse, and the Republican Party became much less diverse.


MATTHEWS: Are you in -- one of these nothing new under the sun people now?


MATTHEWS: Every time we bring a topic up, you are going to say, it`s like everything else?

FEEHERY: I want to give a little historical...


MATTHEWS: I think it`s worse than ever, because I think -- let me just tell you, from the progressive side, a lot of people I hang out with socially, they really, really don`t like Trump.

They really -- it`s not like they`re arguing about Mitt Romney`s being uncool or too conservative or too big business. They really don`t like the guy. So, I think it`s different than it used to be.

BELCHER: But I think you have two visceral sort of reactions on the right. There are certainly -- I would make the argument there`s a visceral reaction to President Obama that we hadn`t seen before. And I think...

MATTHEWS: Is that worse than Hillary, their reaction to Hillary?

They hate Hillary.

BELCHER: But, no, you didn`t have, you know, he`s Hitler, he`s a fascist, he is not even American, which is something you talk a lot about. No one says Hillary`s not American.

So, I think -- and right now, I think you do see that same sort of visceral dislike of Trump on the...


MATTHEWS: I think it`s very personal. And I think it`s counter to -- I think we are going to get a lot of voters going into that booth going, I have to vote. I have to vote. We are going to get some surprises in this polling.

You`re the pollster, right? They are finally going to have to decide.

BELCHER: But your point, I think this race gets closer when those college- educated Republicans come back home to them. And that`s the question to me. Are they going to come back home?


And you see Trump trying to that, offering some policy proposals that are not -- not the typical Republican...


MATTHEWS: I want to learn something from you.

The white people that go back, they have the money, they move back into big cities. A lot of people move into big cities. They love moving downtown, when the kids are gone, the empty nesters. Are they more likely to be liberals? I think they are.

BELCHER: They are, because the Pew study that was done I think a year or so ago said 77 percent of liberals actually want to be in smaller houses that are closer to stores and shops; 77 or 78 percent of conservatives want to be in larger houses that are further away...


FEEHERY: They`re not always. And I think that`s changing, because I know a lot of conservatives are moving back into big cities because they like walking around. And I think that`s happening a lot more than you think.

MATTHEWS: OK, but not according to statistics.

FEEHERY: I know.


MATTHEWS: Not in actual reality.

Cornell Belcher, John Feehery.

They`re the lone conservative living on the tough block.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next: Donald Trump outlined his economic plan today, but how do the numbers sound? This is going to be great. We`re checking out what Trump is promising, 4 percent growth rate a year. Never seen it. Well, maybe we won`t.

The Trump campaign has two more alibis, by the way, for not releasing their tax returns. They keep coming up with new reasons not to do what they say they could do if they wanted to do it.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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

Police say a man with a meat cleaver attacked two officers near New York`s Penn Station. The attacker was shot and wounded by police. Several officials have been taken to the hospital, but their injuries are believed -- not believed, rather, to be life-threatening.

Law enforcement officials tell NBC News the suspect identified as Akram Joudeh of Queens seemed to be in the process of committing a nonviolent crime when he attacked the officers. The FBI is sending agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force as a precaution -- back to HARDBALL.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s time to start thinking big, once again. That`s why I believe it`s time to establish a national goal of reaching 4 percent economic growth. My great economists don`t want me to say this, but I think we can do better than that. Now they`re upset. They will be very upset, but I think we can do it, and maybe substantially better than that.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump today outlining, you might say, his economic plans, saying, against the advice of his own economists, that his policies can achieve 4 percent growth in the government, in the American economy, a rate that`s more than double the 21st century average.

Trump`s plan includes a $4.4 trillion tax cut that slashes business taxes by more than half, which he says he can do without increasing the deficit. And he says he will deliver 25 million new jobs as president.

But Trump also billed the plan as a new policy of Americanism, saying its foundation is trade, which begins with renegotiating or terminating NAFTA, for example. He also attacked Hillary Clinton, saying her policies favor foreign countries over the American middle class.


TRUMP: In Hillary Clinton`s America, she has surrendered our status as the world`s great economy, and we have surrendered our middle class to the whims of foreign countries. The only thing she can offer is a welfare check.


MATTHEWS: Well, well, this comes as the Census Bureau reports that 2015 was the best year of economic improvement in decades, when it comes to middle class incomes.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll last week also found that 53 percent of Americans say that economic conditions in this country are good. That`s surprisingly upbeat, an uptick of 8 percentage points just since June of this summer.

Joining me right now is Robert reich, the former secretary of labor. And Larry Kudlow is the informal Trump adviser and of course senior contributor at CNBC. He`s also author of a new book, "JFK and the Reagan Revolution."

I want to just talk to you guys about optimism. Can we have a 4 percent growth rate? By that, my God, that would create so much economic activity in the country above the average.

Lawrence, do you believe that?

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I`m one of the lesser economists in the Trump group that pushed for 4 to 5 percent economic growth.

I`m a JFK tax-cutter. I`m a Ronald Reagan tax-cutter. That`s what our book is about. Those guys had 4 to 5 percent growth. When Bill Clinton finally settled in and cut the cap gains tax and had some free trade, he got himself 4 to 5 percent growth.

With the right policy, it can absolutely be done. And last thought, Trump is focusing on a massive business tax cut, which you correctly described. I think that`s exactly where he should go. That will pick up jobs and wages and productivity and business investment, all of which, by the way, are slumping.

MATTHEWS: Robert, let me ask you, first of all, when Jack Kennedy was president, he went into office, and left office when he was assassinated, with about a 90 percent personal income tax top rate. And he wanted to bring it all the way down to 65 percent.

So, these ranges are obviously very different from where we are right now, in the mid-30s, going down below that for Trump.

But let me ask you about, how do you put together a low-tax policy, with deficits, of course, with a trade policy which is basically protectionist? What happens when you do both? Do they whack against each other?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Listen, Chris, I have absolutely no idea how you can do that.

I have never heard of isolationism, kind of Smoot-Hawley isolationism, in terms of withdrawing from the global market, at the same time, you are cutting taxes, mostly on the wealthy. And this is old trickle-down exhibition. At the same time, you are embarking on a huge military buildup, which Trump also wants to do.

How do you do this? And, at the same time, how do you get 25 million jobs and growth out of this? This is wishful thinking beyond wishful thinking. This is fairyland.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to the two questions you raised there, deficits and, of course, this problem of trade.

Trade, if you go with a protectionist, then you`re basically raising taxes on imports. You may be a little more discretionary about it, but you`re raising taxes.


MATTHEWS: ... punish imports. So, what are we talking about here?

REICH: Larry Kudlow, are you -- I thought you were a free trader. What happened to you?

KUDLOW: I am. I am. I am a free trader.

MATTHEWS: What`s Trump? What`s Trump?

KUDLOW: And I have my disagreements with Mr. Trump on certain things, not enforcement. He`s right about enforcing deals. And I think he`s also right about staying away from the Pacific deal. My regret, Chris Matthews...

MATTHEWS: But Jack Kennedy was a free trader. Jack Kennedy was a free trader.

KUDLOW: Jack Kennedy was a free trader. Thank you for that.

My great, Chris Matthews, is, down through the years, I cannot convince my very good friend, Robert Reich, that lower tax rates create incentives and rewards to grow the economy. I have tried.


REICH: The reason you can`t -- the reason you can`t...

KUDLOW: I`m really trying tonight. I love the guy, but he`s never understood the growth model.


REICH: Can I just say something?

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Robert. Your thoughts.

REICH: Larry Kudlow, the reason you haven`t been able to convince me is because trickle-down economic, nothing has trickled down.

We have been trying. Every time we have had a Republican administration, starting the Ronald Reagan, we tried trickle-down economics. And what happened to the middle class?

I mean, median wages, median household income has almost gone nowhere with regard to big tax cuts at the top. How can you keep on, after all these years of believing this stuff?


REICH: We`re just going to create more massive deficits.


MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the most recent Republican president, George W. Bush, who took us into a war we can argue about forever, and we will, and he also pushed through right off the bat a big tax cut.

That left us with what happened in 2008, Larry. And I don`t understand why you would brag about such a record. Big tax cuts and a war pushed us to where we got that brought us into -- brought Barack Obama into the presidency probably.

KUDLOW: Look, I probably don`t disagree with you on the war, by the way.

But Bush had very small tax cuts, and they were delayed, and that didn`t really work. The dollar crashed, which Kennedy disapproved of and so did Reagan. W. didn`t get it.

And I understand that. But it didn`t work. Under Kennedy and under Reagan, Robert Reich, incomes rose substantially. The problem is, under Bush and under Obama -- I`m going to be bipartisan about this -- under Bush and Obama...


MATTHEWS: Yes, but Kennedy got his tax cut through. So, I don`t know why you`re talking about his tax cut record. He didn`t have a tax cut record.


KUDLOW: There have been no real wage increases since the year 2000, OK? That`s a fact.

I`m glad, in 2015, incomes did better. That`s great. But they`re still lower than they were at the peak of the last economy, not since the 2000s. This has to be changed. This is why America is in a bad mood.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask Robert.


MATTHEWS: Robert, can you get into a bidding war here?

How does Hillary Clinton, who I assume you support, how does she get the economy operating at a stronger level? Can she do that? Or are we just about at the peak now?

REICH: The way she does it is the way we did it under the first Clinton administration. That is public investment.

You have got to have good education, world-class education, infrastructure, an infrastructure that is not crumbling. You have got to have research and development. You have got to Innovate, and you have got to make sure that our companies have the capacity to innovate.

This is not rocket science. We did it. And this is what Hillary Clinton wants to do again and also provide additional child care and also make it easier for working people to...


MATTHEWS: Jack Kennedy`s infrastructure program was defense and space.


MATTHEWS: And he got the government to spend money. That`s what he did.


KUDLOW: ... to you on this JFK argument. You`re exactly right.

Look, Obama tried the massive government stimulus, and it didn`t work. That`s why this is the worst recovery since World War II.

MATTHEWS: Well, it got us here.

KUDLOW: The trouble with Mrs. Clinton, she doesn`t a tax cut plan. She doesn`t have a corporate tax reform plan.

Even Obama has a corporate tax reform plan. She`s basically saying, she`s going to raise taxes across the board and that`s going to put us into recovery. And I defy economist to agreement with that.

MATTHEWS: The trouble, Larry, is that your crowd put us in the dumpster, and now you`re complaining it took us too long to get out of the dumpster.

KUDLOW: We have been in the dumpster under both crowds for 15 years.


MATTHEWS: I`m glad you didn`t defend W.

Look, we have got to go. This is just...


REICH: I want to say one quick thing.

MATTHEWS: Sure. Yes.

REICH: And that is, Chris, you were talking about liberals and Democrats not having anybody who they know and like who is a Trump supporter.


REICH: I like Larry Kudlow. And I don`t understand why he`s a Trump supporter.



KUDLOW: Robert Reich, I like you too, as always, my friend.

MATTHEWS: You know this isn`t it? It`s not "The Dating Game." It`s HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Robert Reich and Larry Kudlow.

Just kidding.

Up next: The Trump campaign has another reason now why Donald Trump isn`t releasing his tax returns. He keeps coming up with new alibis. His son said it would distract from his father`s message.

And that`s ahead with the roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I released mine. I think we should release ours. I`ll leave it to him when to do it.



That was Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, calling on Donald Trump to release his tax returns. For months, the press and fellow Republicans have asked Trump to do the same thing. In fact, the Quinnipiac poll out today shows that 75 percent of Americans agree that Trump should publicly release his tax returns, 60 percent, three out of five Republicans say the same thing, release the returns.

So far what Trump has done, is release a number of excuses for why he won`t. Yesterday he told FOX News that he would release his taxes immediately, but only if Hillary Clinton released her e-mails. Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She has 33,000 e-mails that she deleted. When is she going to release her e-mails? She probably knows how to find it. Let her release her e-mails and I`ll release my tax returns immediately.


MATTHEWS: And this week, Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager, told CNN that she doubted he would make public his charitable contributions. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of why people are calling for him to release his taxes is so we do know how much he himself has given to charity. Will you or the campaign release exactly what that number is? And the reason I ask --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you doubt it?

CONWAY: I doubt it, because, this is like badgering. In other words, I don`t see it as journalism. I see it as badgering.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, Donald Trump Jr. seemed to put the kibosh on the public seeing his father`s returns by this. Here`s what he told "The Pittsburgh Tribune".


DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: He has a 12,000 page tax return. That would create probably 300 million independent financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that are going to distract from his main message.


MATTHEWS: Well, right now, I`m joined by our roundtable tonight. John Stanton, he`s in the middle, Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed, Colleen McCain Nelson is right here. She`s White House correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal," and Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter for "The Guardian."

This is a mound of growing alibis. First of all, he says he`s under audit, so he can`t do it. But then he says he can do it, but he`s only going to do it if she releases her e-mails. Then the son comes along, Donald Trump Jr., and says, well it would distract from dad`s message.

If he -- here`s the contradiction, he says he can`t do it, then says he won`t do it. Why does he keep saying he`ll do it if something else says he`s under audit can`t do it? It`s not honest.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: The question is not whether or not it will distract from his message, but whether it undercuts one of the central themes of his campaign, which has been economic frustration among working class Americans by pointing to the ways in which corporate executives have skirted tax reform.


MATTHEWS: Therefore, so he`s right to hide them.

SIDDIQUI: So is it possible that Donald Trump is exploiting the same loopholes --

MATTHEWS: But is he right politically to hide them?

SIDDIQUI: It could become an issue. It could become untenable for Mitt Romney. It did. So far, he`s able too get away with it.

MATTHEWS: Bernie Sanders got away with it. Much lower income, obviously. He got away wit.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: But I would actually argue that may not be what he`s really worried about. He came out and said, I took advantage of lobbying and giving money to politicians to get them to give me what I wanted and now I`m here to change the system. But, of course, I took advantage of it. I think if he shows up --

MATTHEWS: Where would that show up in his tax returns?

STANTON: If it shows up like because of loopholes that he`s not paying any taxes and he would say, look --

MATTHEWS: Of course, you know he does that!

STANTON: As a good American, I`m taking advantage of the rules and now I`m here to change them.

I think the bigger thing for him though may end up being, if it show that he`s not giving money to all these charities he claims he`s giving to, that could hurt him because he`s not also arguing --

SIDDIQUI: And exaggerating as well.

MATTHEWS: You know, the other argument is that he`s afraid to show he`s not as rich as he says he is. I don`t know.

COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right, and that`s just the ego argument. And that`s probably the best-case scenario.

MATTHEWS: It`s the little hands thing. It`s like the little hands thing.

NELSON: Right. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It means something to him.

NELSON: But he managed to get away with this for a long time. It wasn`t front and center. In part, that was because he was seeing so many controversial things. So, we were focused on whatever controversial thing he said the last time. And now that he`s using a teleprompter, we have time --

MATTHEWS: The guy is stubborn. Robert Costa has a report coming to "Washington Post" at midnight tonight that he asked him, basically, was the president born in this country and Trump refuses to take back birtherism, which bothers so many people, not just African-Americans. The statement that the president we have right now is somehow illegitimate.

SIDDIQUI: Well, that`s such a core part of his following. That`s how he built himself to be where he is, by seizing on all of these supporters of his, who do not believe that this president was born in the United States. And that`s not something he`s going to give up.

And we know that Donald Trump doesn`t take statements back. The one time he expressed so-called regret, he refused to specify which one of the dozens of comments he`s made that are controversial was the one he was expressing regret for and he didn`t apologize for anything in the course of this campaign.

MATTHEWS: In the course of sequence in the future, what do we first release his tax returns or admit that Barack Obama is American?

STANTON: His head will explode before either of those two.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, earlier this week, at a rally for Hillary Clinton, President Obama questioned why Donald Trump hasn`t released his tax returns.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He calls himself a business guy, but America`s got a lot of businessmen and women who succeeded without hiding their tax returns or leaving a trail of lawsuits or workers who didn`t get paid, people feeling like they got cheated.


MATTHEWS: He`s got a whole style of irony here, that definitely works. It worked in Philly, because Philly thinks like that. They love this stuff up there.

NELSON: Right. Well, Obama also talked about why Trump has been able to kind of get away with this.

MATTHEWS: Hiding`s a good word.

NELSON: And he said, you know, in politics, voters are restless and they`re attracted to the new, shiny object. And Obama said he benefited from that in 2008 and Trump is benefiting from that now.

And also, Trump is running this whole campaign based on upending the rules and just kind of throwing out all the rules, not just on transparency --

MATTHEWS: OK. Quickly, Nick Kristof today in "The New York Times," he`s a liberal guy, smart, progressive guy. He said, why does Trump get the credit, get the problems for being honest, more than Hillary? How can that be? He says, look at all the facts. There`s no argument that Trump`s more honest than Hillary.

SIDDIQUI: I think there`s a -- you were pointing to the president`s speech. He actually went on a tear about this issue because of the double standards he believes the media are applying to these two candidates, where anytime there`s any negative press about Hillary, even if it`s deserved, it brings up notions about trust and transparency. Whereas Donald Trump, Colleen is saying, has defied all the rules, and I think it is incumbent on the media, the way David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post" has been focusing on his charitable giving, and done stellar reporting around that, the lack thereof, the media needs to keep pressing on the tax returns and the fact that he hasn`t disclosed what presidential candidates have long done.

STANTON: He also just doesn`t care what anybody thinks, right? That`s the problem.

Democrats always seem to care, particularly Hillary and these people around her. They care what people think, so they get super secretive and they box themselves in. Whereas he`s just like, I don`t really care what you think about me. I think that translates into some people`s minds as honest, right? Straightforwardness, is that he just --


MATTHEWS: We think Dick Cheney was honest because he won`t respond to any reasonable criticism.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump is Jimmy Fallon`s guest tonight on "The Tonight Show" and here`s a preview.


JIMMY FALLON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Can I mess your hair up?


FALLON: I`ll be gentle. I`ll be gentle.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: As long -- the answer is yes, but the people of New Hampshire where I`m going to be in about an hour from now, I hope they`re going to understand, okay?

FALLON: You said yes?

TRUMP: Go ahead.

FALLON: Yes! Donald Trump, everybody. I`ll do it as well. Donald Trump, everybody.


MATTHEWS: That`s why Donald Trump is what he is and that`s certainly why Jimmy Fallon is who he is.

Catch "The Tonight Show" on your local NBC station tonight usually around 11:30.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: As you can see on our separate screen there, President Obama is on stage at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala down here in Washington.

Hillary Clinton is also expected to speak there. Let`s listen to the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I`ve got to admit that I`m having trouble accepting that this is my final trip here as president. But on the bright side, Michelle is not having trouble accepting it.

I love you, too, but it is hard to believe it was eight years ago I came here as a candidate for this office, and I had no gray hair. I said that we could create opportunity not just for those at the very top, but for everybody who`s willing to work hard. So they could afford health care and college and retirement and give their kids a better life -- what Sarah Palin called that hopey-changey stuff.

Well, tonight I`m back here as president to say thank you. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your tireless efforts to deliver on that promise.

Because for all the places that we`ve fallen short, and for all the work that remains to be done, I am back here tonight more optimistic about the future of America than I have ever been. And why not?

Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years. We turned around an economic freefall. We helped lift our auto industry to set new records. Our businesses created more than 15 million new jobs.

Together, we declared health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody. And we have secured health insurance for another 20 million Americans including 4 million Hispanic-Americans.


Our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. More Hispanic students are graduating high school and college than ever before. We strengthened our relationship with Mexico and Central America and opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba.


We brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save our planet. We affirmed that love has no limits and marriage equality is now the law of the land.


Just this week, we discovered how much our efforts are starting to pay off in ways that really matter to American families.


OBAMA: Thanks, Obama.


We learn that last year across every race, across every age group in America, incomes rose and poverty fell.

The typical household income grew by about $2,800 which is the single biggest one-year increase on record. We lifted 3.5 million people out of poverty, the largest one-year drop since 1968. The number of Americans without health insurance continues to fall and in each of these areas, Latino Americans made some of the largest gains, the fastest income growth, the biggest drop in the poverty rate, the greatest gains in insurance coverage.

That`s why all in all, Hispanic families are feeling more optimistic about their prospects today than they did eight years ago.

By so many measures, our country`s stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started this journey together. And we couldn`t have done it without the congressional Hispanic caucus who has been with me every step of the way.

Now, none of this was easy. There was some tough years in there. You had fiscal showdowns and government shutdowns and pandemics and oil spills and pirates. You all remember the pirates?

I mean, the only thing we haven`t had to deal with is, like, the asteroid, you know, or aliens. That`s true, good point.

MATTHEWS: That`s President Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Hillary Clinton will be speaking there in just a few minutes.

Anyway, time now for my election diary. Thursday, September 15th 2016.

So, in mid-September, this wild and woolly campaign went to a dead even heat. Clinton 42 percent in a new CBS/"New York Times" poll, Donald Trump at 42 percent. It went to dead-even on the same day that Hillary Clinton came back on the campaign trail trying for a second time to power through her pneumonia. The same day that Donald Trump some say reverted to being more Trump, less teleprompter taking a swing at the Flint, Michigan pastor, who told him to take his politicking outside and came on the same day "The Washington Post" used a survey to show how Hillary Clinton and Trump people live in distance worlds from each other.

So, check the date. Here we are. The United States, anything but a country divided, a people divided between a well-known figure of the center left, that would be Hillary Clinton, and a well-known figure of business and reality TV whose outsider positioning of himself defines his politics. A neat choice, many would say, between what many would call a contest between the too familiar and the too bizarre.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.