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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/14/2016

Guests: Jamal Simmons, Molly Ball, Jason Johnson, Susan Page, Lesley Stahl

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 14, 2016 Guest: Jamal Simmons, Molly Ball, Jason Johnson, Susan Page, Lesley Stahl

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Warning signs.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

So what message is Donald Trump sending about the direction of his presidency? Over the weekend, the president-elect announced two key hires. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, will serve as his White House chief of staff. Steve Bannon, the former head of the far-right Breitbart News, will serve as his chief strategist.

Well, according to the press release, the two men will work as, quote, "equal partners," close quote, in the White House. Bannon`s appointment has rattled a number of Civil Rights groups, and even some Republicans. As NBC`s Benji Sarlin wrote, "Under Bannon`s guidance, Breitbart served as a hub for pro-Trump, anti-immigration, especially anti-Muslim agitprop."

Breitbart News appealed to the far right with headlines such as this, "Hoist it high and proud, the Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.` "Gabby Giffords, the gun control movement`s human shield." "Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?" "Planned Parenthood`s body count under Cecile Richards is up to half a Holocaust." And "Data, young Muslims in the West are a ticking time bomb, increasingly sympathizing with radicals, terror."

Well, in response to Bannon`s hire, Republican strategist John Weaver, an adviser to Governor John Kasich`s 2016 campaign for president, tweeted, "The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America."

"Weekly Standard" Bill Kristol wrote, "Is there precedent for such a disreputable and unstable extremist in the White House senior ranks before Bannon?"

Well, the heads of the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP also criticized the move of hiring Bannon.

Today, President Obama was asked about Bannon`s hire. Let`s watch his response.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the president-elect starts making.

The people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next president, the 45th president of the United States. And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies.

It takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality. Hopefully, it`s a reminder that elections matter.

I think it`s important for us to let him make his decisions, and I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see.


MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile today, protests continued against Donald Trump`s election. Students from schools in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Los Angeles simply walked out.

Joining me now, "USA Today`s" Washington bureau chief Susan Page, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief David Corn, and the former chair of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele.

I want to start with David. I`ve never really been a student of Steve Bannon. I knew Breitbart, you know, when he was trouble. What do you think of -- well, give me the gravity of this decision.


MATTHEWS: To put him right in the White House.

CORN: I think this is a stunning, historic decision in a bad way. Stephen Bannon has said -- and you`ve got to lay this out a little bit so people understand it -- that he wanted Breitbart, the news service, the far-right news service, to be a platform for the alt-right.

Now, not all of you know what the alt-right means. It`s sort of an ill- defined, loose-knit collection of a wing of the conservative movement. What do they do? The rant against immigration, Muslims, multi-culturalism, political correctness. But what they want, a lot of them, is a white America.

They say this explicitly. They`re white nationalists. Some say they`re even white supremacists. And Steve Bannon said he wanted to be a platform for...

MATTHEWS: How can you -- and let me just ask you, so people who are learning this alt-right thing now, unfortunately, have to learn it.

CORN: Unfortunately.

MATTHEWS: They have to be alert to it. How do you have an all-white American when we`re basically -- native Americans were here first and then starting in the 17th century, when the African-Americans came in here as slaves, they`re a part of America, part of the -- how do you create a white -- where do you build this white America?

CORN: They actually...

MATTHEWS: In North America, where we are now? Where do you build it?

CORN: There`s a guy named Richard Spencer (ph), who is the intellectual guru of the movement, according to Breitbart, and he says, basically -- this is the benign version -- that he wants to convince non-whites to leave America because the races can`t get along and it`s better if they`re separate.


MATTHEWS: This is Steve Bannon, the guy who`s going into the White House.

CORN: No, this is a guy who is of the alt-right movement that Steve Bannon made common cause with -- that he says -- he admits to this -- at Breitbart. And so it`s just quite stunning that a guy who -- if he`s not a white nationalist himself, played footsie and supported white nationalists while he was at Breitbart.

You know, people scream about this among Trump supporters. It is completely undeniable. I wrote this all up today at "Mother Jones." People can go look...



CORN: It`s very disgusting.

MATTHEWS: Michael, why would you put somebody with that kind of baggage and that kind of outlook on America, what defines America to him, inside the West Wing of the White House?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think in large measure because Donald Trump doesn`t look at it through that lens. He doesn`t see Bannon that way. He sees him as someone that he has confidence in, that helped him secure success at the ballot box last Tuesday and will be a part of his administration.

I just took note of the fact that he referred to Bannon and Trump as -- excuse me, and Reince Priebus as equals. And there is no equal to the chief of staff in the West Wing. But now there is. So that should be something that people also need to pay a lot of attention to. I know a lot of folks in the party are because they don`t know what that means.

But as far as Donald Trump is concerned, Bannon is his main guy. It`s his muse. It`s someone who is in his head, that he listens to, that advises him. He`s his consigliere. And unless there`s something I think that`s very overt, maybe what our friend, Mr. Corn, has written, gets publicized and more of this narrative is out there, then we`ll see how Donald Trump deals with it.

MATTHEWS: Susan, let`s get back to the reality of the Oval Office and how it works. President of the United States gets up in the morning. Somebody decides -- well, he decides what newspapers he wants to read, what morning shows he wants to watch. Knowing Trump, he`ll watch "MORNING JOE" probably and fiddle around with "Fox & Friends" or whatever, and then he`ll be deciding how he`s doing that day.

And he may look at a newspaper, but then starting around 8:00 o`clock in the morning, the president of the United States is given his daily presidential briefing. He also meets with his chief of staff, who`s already met with the under chiefs of staff, the deputies.

And so that`s his day, pretty much run by -- and now we`re finding out that in addition to Reince Priebus, there`s this other soul that`s going to be in the room all the time as a co-equal, this consigliere, this character who has these views.

Why would Trump want these views brought to him with the headlines each morning, giving him a guidance on what to do that day, who to meet with, how to be president?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": First of all...

MATTHEWS: Whether to bomb Iran!

PAGE: They won`t be equal because if Reince Priebus is, in fact, the chief of staff and operating as chief of staff, he is the most important staffer the president has.

And it is not unusual for a president to set up some competing power centers, as Ronald Reagan did, but there`s nothing like being the chief of staff, which has so much say over what the president reads, who the president sees, who`s the last person the president talks to before he makes a decision.

So that`s one reason, I think, that a lot of establishment Republicans in town were greatly reassured that Reince Priebus will be chief of staff even if they were appalled -- and I think many of them were appalled -- that Steve Bannon was named into this central position.

But remember, there`s no confirmation process for the staffers that the president puts around him at the White House. Those are the people he chooses to have around him and to listen to.

MATTHEWS: Well, how about the minorities that worry -- I mean, let me go to you, Michael, because you`re a minority. And the fact is, I`m just thinking -- I hear a lot of people are scared. Is this going to make them less scared that Breitbart`s guy, that Steve Bannon is in the White House with the president, having his ear?

STEELE: Well, apparently not. I mean, I think that`s what`s driving a lot of the angst that you hear and see out there among a lot of folks because they don`t know what this means. They take what they have learned from the Breitbart Web site and from stuff that they may, you know, associate with Steve Bannon and that sort of fuels this.

But I want to go back to something Susan said. I don`t know if that scenario plays out exactly the way you think it -- the way you said it, Susan, that you know, Reince is going to have that kind of access and control, yes, but I`m not sure if he`ll -- if he`ll be the last or the first person to get in the president`s ear with Bannon there. That`s not how this worked in the campaign.

And Bannon was someone, as I understood it, that Donald Trump really, really looked to, to help him sort of navigate some of these heavier waters. It was Reince who did the boots on the ground, the practical political stuff. But in terms of what the message was and how Donald Trump was going to lay out his campaign every day, that was Steve and the family and Trump.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, here`s something more to worry about. "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that the leading candidates for secretary of state are former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

What would that do to diplomacy? What would it look like under a Secretary of State Bolton? Last year, Bolton called on the United States to bomb Iran. Let`s watch.


JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO U.N., FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Just as Israel twice before has struck nuclear weapons programs in the hands of hostile states, I`m afraid, given the circumstances, that`s the only real option open to us now.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Right now, or are you saying leading into the future?

BOLTON: No, I would have done this five or six years ago because the earlier you strike, the more damage you can do.


MATTHEWS: That was Gretchen Carlson, by the way, the erstwhile anchor woman over there.


CORN: This is what`s bizarre. The one foreign policy issue that Trump took a stand on was that he was against the Iraq war. Even though it wasn`t true, he kept saying again and again and again...

MATTHEWS: In retrospect.

CORN: Yes, I was against the war before it started, which is not the case. Jon Bolton is the neocon`s neocon. He was a hawk straight down the line. He wanted to bomb Iran five, six years ago!

MATTHEWS: He wants to bomb every...


CORN: Donald Trump says we shouldn`t be involved in these Middle East wars, let them fight it out themselves. And yet here he is talking about literally the most hawkish guy -- maybe Frank Gaffney`s a little hawker, but...


CORN: ... the most hawkish guy around. And so it makes you wonder what Donald Trump really believes in.

MATTHEWS: That`s the big question!

CORN: And my theory is, nothing.

MATTHEWS: Susan, that does -- where do I go (INAUDIBLE) I get the feeling that every time Trump wants to do something really frightening, he softens it by saying, I might go the other way, too. So we got Reince Priebus, horse (ph) and rabbit (ph) stew (ph) they got in the White House now, but Breitbart looks pretty big to be in that stew.

And then you get this, Well, it might be -- this makes Rudy look sort of good, doesn`t it? I mean, you want Rudy, or do you want -- or do you want -- do you want King Kong? I mean, it`s just unbelievable, these choices you`re getting!


MATTHEWS: A moderate would say, I think Rudy would be more moderate. But Rudy is the one firebrand!

PAGE: So then we`d be reassured. The establishment...


PAGE: ... the Washington establishment reassured by Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state. I don`t -- you know, I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: Where`s Richard Haass and all that? Where`s Steve Hadley?


MATTHEWS: Where are the regular moderate Republicans in all this?

PAGE: Now, Steve Hadley is an interesting option because he is somebody that is, you know, familiar to power, served in the White House, and did not oppose Trump the way a lot of the Republican foreign policy establishment did. But his name was not on that list, at least at the moment.

MATTHEWS: I got to thank you all. Michael, do you want to have the last 10-second thought here because I think it`s really weird that he -- you know, you want it really bad? You know, I could go all the way with Bannon (INAUDIBLE) Oh, you think Reince Priebus (INAUDIBLE) I got Bannon (INAUDIBLE) You think Rudy`s scary? How about Bolton?

But I mean -- I`m going to talk at the end of the show about -- you know, I was at church yesterday, Leonard Cohen got sung, "Hallelujah" got sung on "Saturday Night Live" (INAUDIBLE) there`s a real mournful mood in the country, pretty widespread about (ph) the Hillary people. And I feel some of that, too.

But there`s also this scary feeling in the country, which is different than the sadness and the soulfulness. And somebody like Bolton is going to add to the size of that scared group, I`m telling you.

Michael, your thoughts?

STEELE: Well, that may be, but what I find the most intriguing is that for the candidate that ran outside the system, he`s now bringing a lot of that system inside of his administration. And I know for a lot of conservatives out there, certainly a lot of those Reagan Democrats who came back to the fold, they`re concerned about whether or not he`s really going to drain the swamp when he`s bringing some of the swamp into the house. So it`ll be interesting to see how this plays out, scary or not.

MATTHEWS: My God, which swamp we talking about?


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Susan Page. All you guys are an important part of the American voice. Michael Steele, I`m watching you!


MATTHEWS: I don`t know what you think right now. You seem to be getting soft on this guy. Are you?

STEELE: No, baby, no. Not at all.


STEELE: A lot of curiosity.

MATTHEWS: We`re all watching now. It`s one of those, like -- what (INAUDIBLE) "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." All of a sudden, you`re talking to somebody, Ee! And They`re one of them!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway both defended the hiring of Steve Bannon. Let`s watch that.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I mean, that was -- that was some articles in Breitbart. It wasn`t him. (INAUDIBLE) him...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The buck stops with him.

PRIEBUS: The guy I know...


PRIEBUS: The guy I know is a guy that isn`t any of those things. He is a guy who is pretty -- he`s very, very smart, very temperate...

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I work very closely with Steve Bannon. (INAUDIBLE) this campaign, and frankly, people should look at the full resume. He`s got a Harvard Business degree, a naval officer. He has success in entertainment. I don`t know if you`re aware of that. And he certainly was a Goldman Sachs manager and partner. Brilliant tactician.


MATTHEWS: In a press release today, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon called on the president-elect to rescind the Bannon appointment. Quote, "Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of our government."

Joining me right now is Senator Merkley. Thank you. Thank you so much, senator from Oregon.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Chris, good to be with you.

MATTHEWS: What do you -- well, what do you think -- do you think there`s a chance you could knock this guy off and get rid of him after he`s just named him? What do you think you can get done here?

MERKLEY: I think it would be very hard for Trump to reverse it immediately, but in this type of a position, someone can certainly be sidelined. And as David was speaking of him as the muse, the kind of the spiritual leader to guide President Trump, this is scary stuff and a big mistake by the president.

At the same time he`s saying he wants to unite America, pivot from the campaign, he`s proceeding to put next -- in the chair next to him an individual who is a major divider, a major driver of hate speech.

And thousands of Americans are protesting right now in cities across America because of that hate speech, the attacks on Hispanics, attacks on African-Americans. And a person who has been behind a lot of it is Steve Bannon. Yes, it`s a shocking appointment.

MATTHEWS: So let`s talk about the protesters because we saw a bunch of them up in New York coming down 5th Avenue, a powerful fight to see all these -- mostly young people in their 20s, I`d say, coming down with a lot of steam behind them.

Now, let me ask you about this. My son was out there over the weekend, down in Los Angeles. He`s out there protesting. So I understand that people are -- is it to protest the reality we now have to confront, or is it to try to turn Trump away from his worst ways? What do you think a protest can get done at this point?

MERKLEY: I think the protesters are saying, Look, we as communities in America are very anxious, very fearful. We don`t agree with the divisiveness, the driving wedges between groups in America, the attacks on Muslims, on women, on veterans, on Hispanics, on African-Americans. And it`s just a way of people using their feet in the street to urge President- elect Trump to make a pivot and actually pursue a strategy of lifting up Americans, rather tearing them down.

MATTHEWS: Well said. I love Portland, by the way. And Portland is really one of the great last -- last regiments (ph) of the left. I always figure, if the left ever dies in America, the last stand will be in Portland.

MERKLEY: There you go.

MATTHEWS: But thank you. We`re cheering them on, sir. Thank you, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Coming up, the first journalist to interview Donald Trump since the election. I`m going to talk to Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes," what she saw when she sat down with Trump and what didn`t come across on TV. My favorite question, what couldn`t you see on the tube? And does Trump understand the enormity of the job ahead of him? Can she tell that or not?

Plus, the Democrats are searching for the path forward. Who`s going to emerge as their leader in the era of Trump? And how do they deal with Republicans who now control all levers of government, the courts, the Congress, the presidency?

And with friends like these -- the HARDBALL roundtable tackles Donald Trump`s connections to some of the leading figures of the fringe right and what it means for his presidency already.

And finally, "Let Me Finish" with Trump watch.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, this hit us. Veteran journalist Gwen Ifill died today. Ifill, the co-anchor, of course, of the nightly "NewsHour" on PBS, started as a reporter with "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" before coming over to television back in the 1990s. She covered politics for us here at NBC News before moving to PBS.

Well, eight years ago, Ifill moderated the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, as well as the 2004 vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards.

Ifill -- Gwen Ifill is remembered tonight as a standard-bearer for courage, fairness and integrity.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Nearly 19 million people tuned in yesterday to watch the first sit-down interview with president-elect Donald Trump and his family.

In the wide-ranging interview, "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Trump, who will be this country`s 45th president of the United States, about the gravity of the situation and whether it has sunk in yet. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES") LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS: On election night, I heard you went completely silent. Was it a sort of realization of the enormity of this thing for you?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think so. I think so. It`s enormous.

I have done a lot of big things. I have never done anything like this. It is -- it is so big. It is so -- it`s so enormous. It`s so amazing.

STAHL: Kind of just took your breath away? Couldn`t talk?

TRUMP: A little bit. A little bit. And I think I realized that this is a whole different life for me now.


MATTHEWS: Well, just a few days later, "The New York Times" reported that Donald Trump wants to split his time between New York and D.C., because he`s still coming to grips with the fact that his life was going to change radically.

He also reported that his advisers were holding out the possibility that the president-elect may spend more time in the White House as he grows less overwhelmed and more comfortable in the job.

For more of what we saw in that interview and didn`t see, we`re joined by Lesley Stahl.

Lesley, Lesley, I just -- it`s a hell of a get.

STAHL: Chris.

MATTHEWS: And I have to ask you about my favorite question to all reporters and anchors. What didn`t you see on TV, when he came in with the family, the way he treated different members of the family, how he seemed to be?

What would you talk -- tell us anything you know that we didn`t see on the tube.

STAHL: Not really.

We put in almost every single that happened, really. We had two hours with him. We put an hour on, and, really, the things we left out were just repetitions.


STAHL: He came across both in the room and on television as someone who wanted to convey a sense of calmness, a sense that he gets the enormity, the gravity of his new job, and that he`s going to take it quite seriously.

He said -- he blamed the press for the image that was conveyed during the campaign. He blamed the press for everything that went wrong, saying that he was portrayed as a wild man.

Well, maybe that is what came through, and he wanted very much to say that -- he said it flat-out: I`m a sober person and I can take this job with complete, total seriousness.

And I think, in many ways, he may have accomplished what he set out to. I was swamped with e-mails today from people saying: I was reassured

And, then today, he goes out and he kind of steps on the message he was trying to send by naming Bannon. So, you know, it`s kind of a -- he hurt himself -- first, he helped himself, and then I don`t know about today.

MATTHEWS: There`s always two politicians. There`s the one that we get to meet backstage and the one we see on television. And it`s certainly true with Secretary Clinton.

Anybody who knows Secretary Clinton can`t believe the image of her as a stiff, because, in person, she`s not as stiff.

But Trump, would you say there`s no difference between the guy we see on the tube and the guy you saw in the room with you in those two hours?

STAHL: Well, you`re in a room. He`s not going to be on a stage screaming.

But in what he said, not just how he presented himself, which I thought was, in fact, serious, and somber almost, but even, his words, there was no hyperbole, there was no boasting.

There was very little combativeness, except towards the press, which was pretty much constant through the interview.

MATTHEWS: What`s the beef?

I mean, if anything, the people on the left have criticized us, and many people, for giving him so much airtime.

STAHL: I know.

MATTHEWS: I mean, the guy got more free time than anybody ever got because he puts on a show. It`s shtick. And the shtick is what he got in trouble with.

The playing to the audience, the wild attacks on Secretary Clinton, on everybody, is that what audience loved and made him a show business favorite.

STAHL: Well, I think, when the mainstream press started to call him out for his untruths, and really started naming them, he felt that it was unfair.

He felt that the press was siding with Hillary Clinton. And it`s gnawing at him. And, you know, he says flat-out -- he has said it many times -- if you`re nice to me, I will be nice to you. But if you attack me in any way, I`m going to come at you like a tiger.

He goes down to the White House. He`d been attacking President Obama viciously for years. And President Obama greets him, and he`s gracious and he`s generous with his time. And now Donald Trump says the most kind things about him.

And the same with Hillary. Hillary Clinton made a phone call and praised him for the kind of campaign he ran. And, boom, nice things about Hillary.

He feels the press came after him. He feels that in his heart. And he`s still going to strike out. Yes.



STAHL: He also said, Chris -- he also said that we`re over, that the way to communicate is through social media. And he believes that. He believes that`s why he won. He said that. "That`s why I won."

And we will see, though. We will see. You have said a lot tonight already about how much he wants to appeal to the establishment. And the press is part of the establishment. So, let`s see what happens on that front.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Ronald Reagan ran against the establishment, and came to Washington and had dinner with Katharine Graham and George Will and found his way.

STAHL: Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: And Bill Clinton ran to the left of center, I guess, just a little bit left, and the first thing he did was have a meeting with all those businesspeople down in Arkansas.

There are ways to jump over the fence and come out the winner.

Anyway, Lesley, you`re the greatest. What a great scoop.

I do think you made a lot of news last night, especially with Trump coming out and saying he definitely is for knocking off Roe v. Wade. And I just think...

STAHL: Wow. Wow.

MATTHEWS: Didn`t that amaze you when he said, we will let people go to different states to have the procedure?

STAHL: Well, what was interesting was...

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not stopping -- yes, go ahead.

STAHL: ... marriage equality is settled. He was very clear about that.


STAHL: But, Roe v. Wade, he didn`t go there, so, yes.


And the idea of being pro-life means simply get into the car and drive to Jersey or drive to a state that`s pro-choice didn`t sound to me the spirit of pro-life. It just means mechanical. If you have a car, go somewhere and have your abortion. It just seems strange in terms of spirituality.

Your thoughts.

STAHL: But almost -- almost on all the issues I asked about, almost, he did seem open to compromise. He did, and a whole range of them, including the lobbyists. That was the one that was the most interesting in a way, that he`s got lobbyists running his transition -- well, not running, but dominating his transition team, when he wants to clear them out, you know?

MATTHEWS: He may have been playing to your sobriety and your good sense. And he also was playing to your huge, as he would say, audience. Huge.

STAHL: Huge.


STAHL: My husband was joking today, saying the NFL is going to come to "60 Minutes" and ask us to lead into them.


MATTHEWS: Yes, well, you have done it before. You did with it Bill Clinton in -- you know, I remember that one. "I`m no Tammy Wynette." You know how to do it, you guys.

Anyway, thank you, Lesley Stahl.

STAHL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Democrats are picking up the pieces after last week`s election defeat. Tonight, they have got new plans about how they will counter Donald Trump and who will lead them. That`s going to be fascinating. Who`s going to lead the DNC? A lot of thought behind -- a lot of action and juice behind Keith Ellison from Minnesota, lots of it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When your team loses, everybody gets deflated. And it`s hard. And it`s challenging.

And so I think it`s a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to go through some reflection. You know, I think it`s important for me not to be bigfooting that conversation. I think we want to see new voices and new ideas emerge.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Obama this afternoon discussing the state of his Democratic Party. And that is his party.

The Democrats are facing a test of leadership right now, and there are potentially three hot contests all happening once to signal changes in what`s going to be the post-Obama world.

Anyway, the first is the race for Democratic National Committee chair, which is already becoming a crowded field of candidates, including Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who I said has juice behind him, officially announced his run today. Ellison has the support of Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. That`s a pretty good background.

Also interested in the race for party chair, according to NBC News, is Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley, former DNC chair and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, South Carolina party chair Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire party chair Ray Buckley, and Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. Of course, he ran for the Senate and lost to Roy Blunt.

In the Senate, Washington State Senator Patty Murray is rumored to be considering a challenge to Democratic Whip Dick Durbin. Chuck Schumer is the presumptive leader of the Senate Democrats, but now there could be a competitive race to be his number two. That`s, by the way, a secret ballot race. That`s always fascinating.

On the House side, Nancy Pelosi, who has led Democrats to victories and defeats for nearly 13 years now, could face a challenge of her own, as talk grows about a new direction for the party in the House. A group of roughly 20 House Democrats spearheaded by Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton has urged Pelosi to delay leadership elections in their conference until the party can better assess what went wrong last Tuesday and map out a pace -- path forward.

Kasie Hunt is NBC News political correspondent and a Democratic correspondent, and Jamal Simmons is a Democratic strategist.

So, you know, whenever you lose a big one, even if you win the popular vote, and you can get solace from that, you lost, and you lost the presidency, when you should have won it. The knives are out. The knives are always out for the loser, as they should be. I love this part of politics.

When your party loses, the knives come out. There must be punishment, to quote Donald Trump. There needs to be some form of punishment. There has to be.

Jamal, who`s going to get the axe? Who`s going to get hurt by this? Because they lost.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don`t know that there`s anybody left to be hurt. Everybody`s been pretty banged up.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer all backed Hillary down the line. Everybody backed Hillary against Bernie Sanders.

SIMMONS: Well, the first thing that people are going to do is that people are starting to pay more attention to the Clinton campaign and what went wrong in the Clinton campaign and the fact that the Clinton campaign didn`t have a message, all that.

So, you heard a lot from Hillary Clinton this weekend about Comey.

MATTHEWS: Did anybody say that two weeks ago? Why didn`t...


MATTHEWS: ... that two weeks ago?


MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

SIMMONS: People were saying it back behind the scenes, but nobody was listening for months about the fact they didn`t have a message, right?

So, I think this is something that`s going to be a problem in general. Now, what happens going forward? I think there`s some resistance to Keith Ellison right now. One, he`s a member of Congress. Two, I`m hearing there might be some resistance out of the White House here because they have got some tough relations that have been going on there for a couple times, some stuff about maybe some staff interaction.

So, he`s going to have a little bit of a tougher road, even though he`s out ahead. And I have been a part of DNC races before. I helped manage one when Howard Dean ran the last time. And I think this is going to be a very tough race that is decided in the country, not by Chuck Schumer and the people in D.C.

MATTHEWS: Really. Go ahead.


MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s African-American. He`s a Muslim by religion. It`s his faith. At a time they`re trying to win back the white -- angry white man, that might not be the right signal. But who knows how these things work.

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Look, I do think diversity is important to most Democrats for this particular post.

I don`t necessarily think that this is going to change it. But what I do think is that there is a reckoning coming for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and anybody who made fun of Bernie Sanders. I think there is a real sense of "I told you so" from these progressives.

And, frankly, it`s coming from the voters. And you`re seeing Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi try to make these overtures to progressives, trying to say, look, we`re going to wrap you in, we`re going to make you a part of this government.

I don`t know if people are going to buy it.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s always a good argument, because you can`t disprove it.

HUNT: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s no way to prove that Bernie couldn`t have beat Donald Trump.

Here`s Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, on "The View" earlier today talking about what went wrong with Hillary Clinton. Let`s watch.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like Hillary Clinton. And I worked -- I knocked my brains out to get her elected.

But I think it is fair to say that the working class of this country did not believe that she was prepared to stand up and fight for them.


SIMMONS: He`s right. He`s right.

And I will tell you, what it felt like was that Donald Trump was Gulliver and the rest of us were like Lilliputians trying to tie him down all the time. And, in that scenario, you want to be Gulliver, right, because, ultimately, you can pull people away.

And I think that`s something that Hillary never got ahead of. She never figured out how to get ahead of...


MATTHEWS: Thank you, because I have been thinking about Lilliputians. Do you need to live up in the air and look down on everybody else?

OK, there`s another part of the Lilliputians, you know?


HUNT: But they didn`t used to be that way.

Even in 2008, white working-class people, they were Hillary Clinton`s people. They voted for her in states like West Virginia and Kentucky in the primary against Barack Obama. And somewhere since then, the Democratic Party lost, and I think the Clintons as well, lost their way.

And she suddenly was perceived as the candidate who was more likely to go behind closed doors at Goldman Sachs and tell Lloyd Blankfein that everything was going to be OK.

MATTHEWS: I also thought that hanging around with Hollywood celebrities is fun, but it sends a signal you`re in the winner`s circle. You`re not out there in Wisconsin beating around Milwaukee and Madison trying to get the vote out.

SIMMONS: But all that`s fine. But if you have a message that says, I`m for you -- the thing about Donald Trump...


MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they go...


SIMMONS: At one point, he had one little man in a hat right? He was the only guy wearing the hat. By the time it was over, there were a million people wearing those goofy hats.

MATTHEWS: Can I tell you old Democratic thinking? Why aren`t they for working wages, jobs, jobs, jobs? He came out for infrastructure. She -- I don`t know what they`re -- I guess they`re afraid of being big spenders.

SIMMONS: Free college or college tuition.

MATTHEWS: Well, jobs.

SIMMONS: Bigger -- jobs. People want education.

MATTHEWS: Rebuild this country.


SIMMONS: She also -- she lost with younger voters. There were so many younger voters that cast protest votes, that if they had voted for her in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, she might be on the other side of this winner`s circle right now.

HUNT: I think it goes back to the lessons that the Clintons learned in the 1990s.

SIMMONS: They were bad lessons for the time.

HUNT: For this time, they were the wrong lessons.

They learned, hey, Democrats are too -- if you`re too liberal, you can`t get elected. You got to go to the center. You got to be free trade. You got to be all that stuff.

MATTHEWS: All three of us have a different interpretation.

SIMMONS: You have got to be a champion.

HUNT: And they learned those lessons.

MATTHEWS: I remember...

SIMMONS: Right. You have got to be a champion for somebody.

Everybody knows who Donald Trump was a champion for. Who was Hillary Clinton a champion for?

MATTHEWS: Well, Bill was a champion for people who work hard and play by the rules.

SIMMONS: Who was Hillary Clinton a champion for?

MATTHEWS: I don`t know.

SIMMONS: And that`s part of the problem.


Unfortunately, it looked like she was the champion of her donors. That`s what it looked like.

HUNT: I think that`s how...


SIMMONS: I think she is a champion for working people. She was. She has a great record. But she didn`t do it.


MATTHEWS: She`s in pain. And I mean that. Just think about that.

SIMMONS: That`s got to be really tough.

MATTHEWS: Anyway...

SIMMONS: But we have -- listen, but we, as Democrats, we have got to figure out what really went wrong here and have honest conversations about it.

And that`s the reason why I think more people have to talk about what really happened in the campaign and some of the bad decisions.


MATTHEWS: Why don`t you go up to Luzerne County? Go up to Luzerne County and find out what happened in Erie. Find out what happened there in Washington County.

SIMMONS: Well, find out what happened in Detroit, where 60,000 voters didn`t show up on Election Day.

HUNT: You could tell. When you went there, you could tell. You could tell.


See, everybody wants them to do it your way.

You want to say, we have got to get minorities from the city to show up with more excitement.

SIMMONS: We have to do both. But if that...

MATTHEWS: And then there`s also the people in the small towns who don`t like the Democratic Party today.

SIMMONS: But we haven`t won those voters in a long time. And I`ll tell you what, Mitt Romney won the same split on white women -- I`m sorry, Trump won the same split on white women than Hillary Clinton did. And in a more people of color election, she lost because she couldn`t get the people of color who voted for Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Are you kissing off the poor whites and the working class whites?

SIMMONS: No, we`ve got to do it, but we`ve got to do both.

Thank you -- Bobby Kennedy, he can do it.

Thank you, Kasie Hunt and Jamal Simmons. Thank you.

Up next, with Steve Bannon at the White House, here`s another thought, Donald Trump is embracing the far right, is he? But Bannon isn`t the only hard right element Trump has in this camp. We`ll get to that next with the HARDBALL roundtable. Just think about John Bolton as secretary of state.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

While it`s clear that Trump`s selection of Steve Bannon as his chief White House strategist has enraged people, Bannon is also a polarizing figure among Republicans. As "The Hill" reported last month, Bannon often told his colleagues at the conservative website Breitbart that, quote, "Paul Ryan is the enemy," writing in a 2015 memo that the long game is to have him, that`d be Ryan, gone by spring. As a source said, he thinks Paul Ryan is part of a conspiracy with George Soros and Paul Singer, in which elitists want to bring one world to government.

Even conservative commentator Glenn Beck today described the prospect of Bannon in the White House as terrifying. Let`s watch him.


GLENN BECK, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: He`s a nightmare. And he`s the chief adviser to the president of the United States now. Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists. Clear tie. He is a guy who has -- wants to tear this system down and replace it with a new system.

He is -- he is a frightening -- no, no, no. He is a terrifying man. Terrifying man.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the roundtable, Benjy Sarlin, to my left here, is an NBC News political reporter, Molly Ball covers politics for the "The Atlantic", and Jason Johnson is politics editor for "The Root."

Benjy, you can start, because you`ve been working on this all day or all week or whatever. Tell me why a person should be afraid of Steve Bannon in the White House, in the West Wing?

BENJY SARLIN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this is the concern. There hasn`t been someone like Steve Bannon in a Republican administration. He`s been this very kind of burn it all down, inflammatory site that`s had pretty aggressive efforts to play up the alt-right and try to bring in this audience that really gets into issues of white nationalism, that you discussed earlier. And that`s a scary prospect for a lot of Republicans, who really have instinctively recoiled from this.

And during the campaign, they try to paint the distinction, where, well, we love the Mike Pence part of the campaign and we love it when, you know, he sounds like a normal Republican and we can talk to those guys. And we`ll just kind of ignore that Breitbart wing that`s talking about strange Muslim conspiracies and talking about banning Muslims. You`re not going to be able to do that when it`s one of the most powerful people in the White House, who has the president`s ear every day. That`s the point where it`s going to start affecting policy, affecting how you appeal to people.

It`s -- so it`s putting them in this bind now, where once again, people are trying to put their head in the sand. I was on the Hill today. Republicans are just starting to stream in for the lame duck session, but you`re hearing nary a peep about Steve Bannon so far. So far, people don`t really want to talk about him.

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you read his nationalism? What does Bannon bring to the table every day? He`s sitting right here. He goes into the White House. He sits in the Oval Office with the president of the United States, who`s trying to figure out what to do right now, and here he is listening to this guy.

JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: Let`s be clear about this. "The New York Times" did a story about this last year. There have been more people killed in America by white nationalist extremist groups since 9/11 than jihadists, OK? That means that a website that supports those sorts of beliefs, supports white nationalism, supports the far right, you basically have a chief adviser who is a terrorist sympathizer. That is what these people are.

Now, you can call it alt-right, people want to call it alt-right, those are basically the guys who don`t want to get their knuckles bloody, but they encourage Dylann Roof to go out and do what he did. And Steven Bannon is in favor of that kind of belief. He has given a home for those sorts of people on his website.

MATTHEWS: Who are we talking about here?

JOHNSON: Bannon, Bannon.

MATTHEWS: Who`d he encourage to do what?

JOHNSON: Well, the Breitbart website provides a place for those people to speak fro them to work on their ideas and for them to disseminate their beliefs. And less smart people go out and commit violent acts, and therefore, he is a danger to domestic security.

MATTHEWS: OK. Molly, I want you to get in here, because Alex Jones, the right-wing radio host of Info Wars, who also believes the 9/11 truther conspiracy said this morning that Trump called him to thank him and his listeners. NBC News has not independently verified that conversation, but here`s how Jones described it.


ALEX JONES, INFO WARS: On my way here, Donald Trump gave me a call. And I told him, Mr. President-elect, you`re too busy, we don`t need to talk. But we still spent over five minutes, he said, listen, Alex, I just talked to kings and queens of the world, world leaders, you name it, but he said, it doesn`t matter. I want to thank you to thank your audience and I`ll be on in the next few weeks to thank.

And he said, is this a private call? He said, no. I want to thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic. We know what you did early on and throughout this campaign. Stand up what`s right. It shows.


MATTHEWS: As you can figure just listening to that guy, Jones is best known for peddling conspiracy theories about the left and last month called Obama and Hillary Clinton demons.



JONES: She is an abject, psychopathic demon from hell. I was told by people around her that they think she`s demon possessed. I`m told her and Obama just stink, stink, stink, stink. You can`t wash that evil off, man. Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur.


MATTHEWS: OK, demons, he means it. It`s not a joke. It`s not a metaphor.

BALL: He means literal demons. It`s not a metaphor. Look, I mean, we have a preview of what it sounds like when Donald Trump has Steven Bannon and Alex Jones in his ear, because it`s been the case for this entire campaign. With Steven Bannon who`s writing the rhetoric that came out of his mouth every day on the campaign trail, when he was talking about a globalist cabal of bankers and elites, that Hillary Clinton was trying to rig the system and steal the presidency.

As Benjy was saying, I think a lot of Republicans hoped that Trump would get into office and forget about all of that, that he would just sign the Ryan budget and do whatever Republicans in Congress wanted. And this is proof that these guys are coming with him to the White House. People like Steve Bannon are actually his belief system. And Steven Bannon doesn`t believe in the old left versus right paradox. It`s a totally new war for him.

MATTHEWS: The happy people now are saying, he`s transactional, you know? He only cut those deals with the crazies to get here. But it looks like he`s not transactional. It looks like these communal.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these guys will tell me more things I don`t know.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, now the presidential campaign is over, it really is, I want to invite you to stay up with HARDBALL all week long on line. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram and "like" us on Facebook. You`ll get to see some of our best interviews and videos as we continue to cover a stunning year in politics. Stunning is one word for it.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Benjy, tell me something I don`t know.

SARLIN: What you do not know? Well, we`re talking a little bit about how Trump was upending the right here with this kind of populism, right, but it`s going around the world, and right now, there`s a global celebration going on among far right leaders in Europe. There`s the Dutch world leaders, there`s the La Pen family in France.

MATTHEWS: What do they have in common? What`s the common thing? Throw out foreigners?

SARLIN: Yes, it`s anti-immigration, anti-trade, general skepticism, especially of foreign institutions where you have to surrender any kind of sovereignty or make any kind of an agreement and they`ve been celebrating Trump his entire run and now, they think it`s a sign that they, too, will soon be in power. Those who are not already.


BALL: Well, this is not --

MATTHEWS: Hold on. You first.

JOHNSON: Yes, I don`t want to steal Molly`s thunder. Of course, we`re all very sad about the passing of Gwen Ifill today. Today is also the 101 anniversary of the passing Booker T. Washington, who`s one of the greatest thinkers in African-American community, who interestingly enough and is very fitting for our current political times, who argue that we should ignore racism and discrimination from the government in favor of material wealth and advancement, because that`s the only way African-Americans can truly be accepted into society. So, it`s an interesting to think about.

MATTHEWS: To be rich.

JOHNSON: Yes, be rich, and then you`ll be fine. The Dave Chappelle thing.

MATTHEWS: It`s sort of the George Jefferson thing, "moving on up."

JOHNSON: And then you`ll be in a deluxe apartment --

MATTHEWS: In deluxe apartment in the sky.


BALL: This is nothing you don`t know, but my friend Gwen Ifill is one of the best people in Washington. And in a city full of phony, she was the least pretentious I`ve ever met. She was welcoming to everyone and I`m going to miss her so very, very much.

MATTHEWS: Aw. It shows you can be a great journalist without being a big shot.

BALL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you, Benjy Sarlin. Thank you, Molly Ball. And thank you, Jason Johnson. Great group. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: Trump watch. November 14th, 2016.

I can feel much of the country`s mood right now on "Saturday Night Live", Kate McKinnon sang Leonard Cohen`s "Hallelujah" and then I get on church on Sunday night, the choir sang it again, because much of America is in a soulful mood right now, but some of it`s all right or actually downright scared.

Our son was marching in this weekend protests against the election and through this -- right through this, I try hard to do this job, this job of bringing the news to people wanting to know what happened today, what it might mean, how I`m weighing it personally, how I`m using my knowledge of American history to put it in perspective and try to keep the boat stable as we head down the river of, yes, more history, because that is what the country is making right now -- believe it or not, like it or not, American history. Yes, this is us going through this.

Well, some moments may become like what Donald Trump said when the Electoral College showed him the victor, like his willingness to listen when the president spoke to him about the arithmetic realities of the Affordable Care Act. Well, this is what the president-elect must do, he must listen and he must learn.

And tonight, I worry about the talk that John Bolton might be Trump`s choice for sect of state. Picking Bolton would have an immediate effect, that would vastly increase the number of people who were sad at what happened last Tuesday and the number of people who are downright scared. Scared.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.