Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/22/2016

Guests: Karen Tumulty, Ted Johnson, Lizz Winstead, William Barber, Matt Vella

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 22, 2016 Guest: Karen Tumulty, Ted Johnson, Lizz Winstead, William Barber, Matt Vella

JOY REID, GUEST HOST: The reality TV White House.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Joy Reid in New York, in tonight for Chris Matthews.

In the 1980s, it was getting his name in the paper any way he could. Then it was reality TV. These days, Donald Trump`s go-to medium and his communication tool of choice is Twitter. He used it to announce appointments, suggest policy, and mainly, to start beefs with politicians, late-night comedy shows, former beauty pageant winners, and of course, the casts of Broadway shows.

Twitter has also given us a window into Trump`s thought process, mainly how frenetic it often can be. For example, this morning, with the span of 10 minutes, Trump tweeted out a rebuke of one of his staunchest supporters, and an unprecedented call to expand the nuclear arsenal.

At 11:41 AM, Trump tweeted in an apparent response to Newt Gingrich, quote, "Someone incorrectly stated that the phrase `drain the swamp` was no longer being used by me. Actually, we will always be trying to drain the swamp."

Nine minutes later on a very different topic, Trump said, "The U.S. -- the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

The call to expand the country`s nuclear capabilities is something no president has suggested in decades. In fact, quite the opposite. Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan to Obama have called for reducing the threat of nuclear war.

Meanwhile, there was news today about the coming Trump administration`s Trump -- the coming Trump administration. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will take on the role of presidential counselor and former RNC spokesman Sean Spicer was named press secretary.

One person who has not been named to a post in the administration is former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. But his absence apparently is not due to his controversial views, such as his advocacy for bombing Iran. According to "The Washington Post," Donald Trump believes that those who aspire to be in the most visible spots in his administration should not just be able to do the job, but also look the part.

And for Trump, Bolton did not look the part. Quote, "Several of Trump`s associates said they thought that John Bolton`s brush-like mustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassadors in the sweepstakes for secretary of state. `Donald was not going to like that mustache, said one associate,` who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. I can`t think of anyone that`s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes."

I`m joined now by "The Washington Post`s" Karen Tumulty, who co-wrote that article, also former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele and Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" David Corn, and both are MSNBC political analysts.

Karen, I have to go to you first on this because this is your story. This is kind of remarkable. I think we`ve heard lots of reasons for presidents choosing members of their team, but looks has not been among them. Talk a little bit about that.

KAREN TUMULTY, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, first of all, I am so happy that you balanced this panel with a man with a mustache.


REID: It`s important. We have to defend the stache. This is what we have to do. Very important.


REID: There you go. Rock it, Michael, rock it.


TUMULTY: Well, I mean, we certainly knew all the way through the campaign how important appearance was to Donald Trump. Don`t forget, near the end of the campaign, he said that people wouldn`t vote for Hillary Clinton because she didn`t have a, quote, unquote, "presidential look."

He talked -- in introducing his running mate, he said that, you know, he might -- Mike Pence`s economic record was the reason he picked him, on top of the fact that he looked good and had a good family.

And certainly, this focus on looks, his own team acknowledges is a factor in who he picks and why he picks them, that he really does believe that the way a person presents themselves publicly is sort of part of the message that he is trying to send as he builds this team.

REID: Yes, well, John Bolton actually had a response to this. He tweeted this afternoon, "I appreciate the grooming advice from the totally unbiased mainstream media, but I will not be shaving my mustache."

Michael Steele...

TUMULTY: Well, and for the record, by the way, we were quoting people near Trump. That was not our own opinion. I think his mustache is perfectly fine.


REID: Yes, no, the stache -- I don`t know if the mustache has its own Twitter account yet, but I`m quite sure someone is working on that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It probably will.

REID: ... even as we speak. I`m going to go to...

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Here we go. I`m doing this right now, Joy.

REID: Absolutely. Let`s go to our mustache panelist, Michael Steele, because Michael, indeed, it was not the mainstream media`s suggestion, the shaving of the mustache, it was more Donald Trump.

But what do you make of this? I mean, you know, you, as chairman of the RNC, one of the sort of great things about what you were able to accomplish was that you are good on TV. You`re somebody that could be interviewed that can present yourself well. I mean, it`s not irrelevant to doing a person`s job in this modern and very visual era.

But does it mean that Donald Trump cast aside, let`s say -- you know, can we then draw the conclusion that maybe a Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani, that maybe -- or a Newt Gingrich -- maybe the reason they didn`t make it into final dance after having been really staunch supporters, is that Donald Trump, despite their loyalty, may have looked at them and said, No, wrong visual image?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think that`s a valid part of the packaging that Donald Trump is looking to present to the country as he rolls out his administration. It does matter, just as much how you look as well as how you sound and what you say. And I think that`s consistent with what Donald -- what we`ve seen Donald Trump do.

And the way you opened the segment -- in the 1980s, he was about one thing, getting his brand up and running. And since that time, it has always been about building on and expanding that brand. And the reality television market was where that all came together for him.

So when he sat around that conference table and you were on the hot seat, it mattered how you look as much as what your product was or what you were saying or what you were doing. So yes, I think that plays a little bit into this job-hunting process that he`s unfolded.

REID: But David Corn, does that mean that qualifications for the position are taking a back seat to aesthetics?

CORN: Yes.



CORN: Next question.



CORN: Listen, I am happy that a mustache saved America from John Bolton. That`s a good development, even though it comes about from the wrong reasons.

But I do think it shows that he`s a superficial guy. You know, he rates women on numbers. He said Carly Fiorina looked bad. He made fun of Rand Paul`s -- not his ideas, which would be fair to do, but of his looks. This is a guy who is, you know, a sexist, misogynist, a lookist, whatever you want to call it.

And so yes, Rick Perry may look like he should be, you know, in government somewhere because he comes from central casting, but the last two secretaries of energy have been nuclear scientists, scientists who understand the hard issues of handling nuclear weapons, which brings us back to the other tweet today in which Donald Trump shows that he knows nothing about bipartisan policy on nuclear arms control.

REID: Yes.

CORN: So everything with him is superficial. It`s about impressions, impressions, impressions. Good for politics, maybe really bad for nuclear war.

REID: Yes, and it also sort of casts new light on Ben Carson for HUD. I wonder if the stereotype may be driving that. I hope that`s not the case.

Karen, let`s go back to you for a second because according to your story, there`s more to that. People close to Trump have also been eager to appoint a, quote, "telegenic woman" as press secretary or some other public-facing role in the White House both because he thinks that it would attract viewers, which is an interest way to put it, and would help inoculate him from the charges of sexism that trailed his presidential campaign.

Some names under consideration at the time were Laura Ingraham, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Monica Crowley, all of whom are conservative pundits familiar to Fox News viewers.

But Karen, we do know now that Sean Spicer is going to be the press secretary. So he didn`t go for a sort of pretty blond woman. But what do you make, Karen, of this idea that he`s trying to cast -- and it really is sort of casting -- to cast his administration with attractive women?

TUMULTY: Well, in fact, what we were told is that "central casting" is actually a phrase he uses quite a bit behind the scenes. It was -- for the exact two reasons that I mentioned, it was important. His first preference for the job, I have from multiple sources, was Kellyanne Conway. She was not interested in doing the job. She wanted another post, which she got. Again, it is a way of sort of, in Donald Trump`s mind, putting yourself forward.

And when it comes to the credentials of people, he`s putting a lot of non- traditional choices in jobs. You know, Nikki Haley is not somebody you would normally have thought of, the governor of South Carolina, for U.N. representative. Rex Tillerson is the first secretary of state in modern history to come to the job with absolutely no government experience -- by the way, as does the president-elect.

This is a strategy. These are people who -- you know, he`s determined to shake things up, and he really thinks that going by the old standards of what constitutes a resume, what constitutes qualifications, is not the way to do that.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, one of the people who was passed over got into a little bit of a contretemps with Donald Trump apparently this morning via Twitter. Donald Trump promised throughout his campaign to, quote, "drain the swamp" in Washington, but in the last 24 hours, a couple of his supporters have downplayed that language.

Here`s Trump`s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where does "drain the swamp" stack up on things to adhere to in the Trump camp?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, TRUMP`S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, I think if you had to put them in a chronological order, "drain the swamp" is probably somewhere down at the bottom, as opposed to getting tax reform done, making sure middle class people have more jobs. So draining the swamp is a larger narrative, but what it`s really about is putting people back to work.


REID: And yesterday, Newt Gingrich had a similar message to NPR. Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say you`ve been working on these issues. Others might say you`ve been working in the swamp, to use Donald Trump`s language.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Although he -- I`m told he now disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn`t want to use it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t want to us "drain the swamp" anymore?

GINGRICH: I don`t know. (INAUDIBLE) somebody sent me that note last night because I had written a -- what I thought was a very cute tweet about the alligators are complaining, and somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing the stuff.


REID: Well, as I said explained earlier, that message got a rebuke from Donald Trump on twitter this morning, saying "drain the swamp" is here to stay, and a chastised Newt Gingrich took to Facebook to walk it back. Let`s take a look.


GINGRICH: I want to report that I made a big boo-boo. I talked this morning with President-elect Donald Trump and he reminded me he likes "drain the swamp." I mischaracterized it the other day. He intends to drain the swamp. So I want all of you to know I goofed. Draining the swamp is in. The alligators should be worried.


REID: David Corn, what does it say that, you know, a very cowed Newt Gingrich had to walk that back?

CORN: It`s kind of like a hostage tape, right?

But you know, let`s go back to what Corey Lewandowski was saying because this -- yesterday, he announced he was becoming an alligator. He`s opening a lobbying shop one block away from the White House.

You know, when he was running the Trump campaign, he was going on and on of how he had to drain the swamp of consultants and influence peddlers and lobbyists. So I`m waiting to see Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich or anybody else start rebuking Corey Lewandowski. I don`t expect Fox News to do it, but others might.

And we see people from Goldman Sachs and all the other folks who seemed to be part of the swamp before the election now getting high-powered jobs. So I really think that, you know, Trump, whose hotel here in D.C. is in the middle of the swamp and makes money off the swamp, doesn`t really care much about this.

REID: Well, we needed more time to continue talking about mustaches and swamps. We are out of time. Karen Tumulty -- Michael Steele, keep that stache forever -- and David Corn.

STEELE: You got it. Ho, ho, hey (ph).

REID: Hey, hey!


REID: Coming up -- Donald Trump`s dream of being the celebrity president is turning into the nightmare of being a president shunned by celebrities. We will talk the star-free inauguration and rumors of a star-studded alternative event on the same day.

And later, "Time" magazine`s top stories of the year and our panel`s top stories, too.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: In a House Intelligence report released today, Congress called Edward Snowden a liar, accusing him of being a serial exaggerator and fabricator, arguing that he isn`t the whistleblower he claims to be, and adding that he continues to be in contact with Russian intelligence. Snowden pushed back against the report, tweeting that the report`s, quote, "core claims are made without evidence," unquote.

Here to explain, NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. All right, Pete, explain what that report said today.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, we`d seen a preview of it in September when we got an unclassified summary of what it would say. Now we`ve gotten the unclassified report, although it`s got heavy redactions to remove classified material.

This supposedly is a list of 13 things the Defense Department identified in the material that he took from the NSA that could jeopardize troops overseas, but we don`t know what they are because it`s redacted.

But the report does say, as you note, that it believes that Snowden is still in contact with the Russians. It says, "Since Snowden`s arrival in Moscow, he has had and continues to have contact with the Russian intelligence services." Now, Snowden today says that`s not true. His lawyer says it`s not true.

But there`s some interesting new things in the report, Joy. It says, for example, that when he was working in the government, he repeatedly failed a test about how one of the programs worked for doing surveillance on e- mails, a program that Snowden would later leak material about and seriously criticize. The report says the part he failed was the part about privacy protections for Americans.

So the theme of the report is that he took a lot more than what he said he was all about, that he said he was a whistleblower, that he wanted to alert Americans to civil liberty violations, but the report says the 1.5 million documents that he took, that if printed out would be three miles high, dealt with a lot more than that, and that only about less than 1 percent that have been published talk about the kind of civil liberties protections that he was worried about.

So they say he`s been misleading, casts himself as a whistleblower, but they say that`s not true. Both he and his lawyer pushed back against it today.

REID: All right. Very interesting. Pete Williams, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: You bet.

REID: And HARDBALL returns after this.


REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was how Donald Trump presented himself to the country when he was merely a reality TV star on "The Apprentice."

Now, having been elected to this country`s highest office, he`s set to reintroduce himself as the 45th president of the United States. And as we saw with his Trump Tower escalator announcement and his over-the-top entrance at the Republican national convention, it wouldn`t be a Trump production without high drama and showmanship.

In planning his inauguration, Trump has again teamed up with the executive producer of "The Apprentice," Mark Burnett, but according to The Wrap, the preparations so far have fallen short of Trump`s high expectations. Quote, "Donald Trump is so displeased with his team`s inability to lock in A-list talent for his inauguration events next month that he`s ordered a `hail Mary` shakeup of his recruiters to try to book performers."

Among those who have declined requests to perform, Elton John, Garth Brooks and opera singer Andrea Bocelli. The Wrap also reports they couldn`t book Celine Dion. TMZ reports that the band KISS turned down a request, too. And "The Washington Post" reports that David Foster has also declined. However, "The New York Post" reported that the Beach Boys have been asked and have yet to make a decision.

I`m joined now by Lizz Winstead, comedian and co-creator of "The Daily Show," as well as Ted Johnson, senior editor at "Variety," sitting next to each other, I believe, in Minneapolis.


REID: ... you guys about that while you`re there.

But Ted, let`s start off with this because it does look like this is shaping up to be an inauguration free of celebrities, which would be kind of unprecedented. I mean, Barack Obama had every celebrity imaginable, and Hillary Clinton did at her convention.

TED JOHNSON, "VARIETY": Yes, I keep on thinking back to 2009, when President Obama had a concert at the Lincoln Memorial and it was just A- list talent after A-list talent. Bruce Springsteen was there. Beyonce was there. U2 was there. Pete Seger was there.

It`s just not going to happen for Donald Trump because where we are right now is -- Hollywood leans left. There was a lot of people who showed up for Hillary Clinton, and they still have a lot of hurt feelings. They`re not going to all of a sudden say, Well, in the name of unity, I`m going to show up in Washington. That seems to be the mentality right now. I mean, they`re more worried about how -- what -- what`s going to happen under a Donald Trump presidency than, Oh, well, maybe we should show up and -- and support his White House.

I think that Hollywood will probably turn out to be kind of a voice of opposition in large part.

REID: And you know that`s ironic given the fact that Donald Trump was a celebrity, right, until not too long ago.

Lizz Winstead, for these artists, when you talk to people in the media world and celeb world, are they more concerned about the underlying issues, things like, you know, the potential for a Muslim ban, the wall, the comments about Mexican-Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, that kind of thing, or are they more concerned about a backlash for themselves, meaning boycotts of them if they show up to this event?

WINSTEAD: I mean, I think when you look at -- first of all, when you look at "Celebrity Apprentice," those were crummy celebrities. So, like, the basis of his celebrity outreach is terrible.

But I think to your point, so when you think of the A-list celebrities that are out there now, women, black and brown people, immigrants, like, for somebody who ran a campaign and won an election saying the rights -- I`m going to strip rights away from you, I think they`re human beings who said, you want to know what, I don`t think I`m going to celebrate you when you want to literally destroy the lives of me and my family.

REID: Yes, and Ted, you know what I find really sort of fascinating about this, and it does say a lot about Donald Trump`s psyche, right, I mean, every biography of him describes him as the Queens rich guy who wanted the Manhattan wealthy folks to respect him, that sort of craves the adulation of the press and of Hollywood.

But the reporting that we`re hearing is that he`s blaming his team for not being able to pull these celebrities in, and looking to shake up the team. Why is it that Donald Trump does not reflect back and say, maybe the reason these celebrities don`t want to be involved in his inauguration is something about his campaign and his own brand?

JOHNSON: Well, yes, there`s a naivete to Donald Trump and thinking that all these A-listers, especially people who showed up for Hillary Clinton, like Elton John, is going to actually show up for the inauguration.

Look back in 2001 when George W. Bush was inaugurated that year. And there weren`t a whole lot of celebrities who showed up. You did see country music stars, the people you would expect to show up for a Republican president or an incoming Republican president.

One of the few that kind of diverged was Ricky Martin. And Ricky Martin got a lot of flack for it. And I often look back to that and think, well, that was actually slightly less controversial than Donald Trump`s candidacy, where you have, you know, genuine concerns about what it`s going to mean for a number of these groups, Muslims, what he said during the campaign.

And there hasn`t been any kind of, kind of a unifying speech that has come from Donald Trump since then, since his victory. Maybe that will come in the inaugural address, but I think that a lot of these celebrities want to see something like that, if they`re even going to probably consider showing up to the swearing in or the inaugural festivities.

WINSTEAD: Well, and remember, Elton John performed at Rush Limbaugh`s wedding, and it was the same thing, horrible backlash. It`s like, why would you help celebrate somebody who literally, completely criticizes everything that you`re about and your way of life.

REID: Yes. Let`s talk about some of the people that they have been able to secure in Trump world. So far, the team has announced 16-year-old Jackie Evancho, whose career was launched on "America`s Got Talent," a reality show, will sing the national anthem.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is interesting, because Mormons seemed so resistant to Trump during the primary. They have announced that they`re going to perform. And also the Radio City Rockettes will participate in the inaugural festivities.

Of course, that`s a huge contrast since Barack Obama had Aretha Franklin perform at his swearing in back in 2009, and, of course, had Beyonce at the second inaugural.

Ted, you know, for those on the right who sort of look at celebrities as unwanted intruders into the political process, for their side of the aisle, so what, right? If there are no celebrities at Donald Trump`s inauguration, if his inauguration is basically a couple of people from "America`s Got Talent," et cetera, does that have a broader meaning in some way?

JOHNSON: Well, actually, you know, if I were Donald Trump`s camp -- or Donald Trump`s team, I would say, why don`t we just go for a traditional inauguration? Don`t obsess so much about getting these A-list celebrities.

Have the Marine Band play a few more hymns or numbers, you know, out there at the swearing-in ceremony and just make it as traditional as possible and just kind of move on and don`t be so obsessed over which big name actually shows up and really get that message out there.

REID: Yes, and I have to ask you about this, Lizz Winstead. There is word that there might be a counter concert. According to Politico, Mark Ross, who is a concert promoter and the son of the late Time Warner CEO Steve Ross, is in the process of putting together a large-scale concert called "We the People" which would directly counter this inauguration.

And according to Ted Ross (ph), he`s saying that celebrities are actually clamoring to get in. He said the talent is banging on our doors to do this, said a source familiar to the planning.

I Googled, in my geekery, Lizz Winstead, that back in 1973, in January of 1973, Leonard Bernstein did a peace concert to counter the Nixon inauguration. So it`s not like it`s unprecedented.

But what do you make of this attempt to get all the stars Trump couldn`t get and have them in Miami doing their own concert?

WINSTEAD: I mean, I think it`s great for a number of reasons. I think it shows solidarity. I think it gives people who literally don`t want to watch this person get sworn in something to watch.

I think it`s always nice to gather around and feel like, hey, we can move forward. And I think it`s a reminder that Trump couldn`t get people. I mean, not only could he not get A-listers, he can barely get B-listers. I don`t think he can get Craigslisters at this point.

So I think -- I`m thrilled that people are trying to do anything to counter this.

REID: Yes, it is surprising that he can`t get people that are alum of the "Celebrity Apprentice." They would seem to be the obvious first people to call. But we will wait and see. Lizz Winstead and Ted Johnson, thank you guys both very much. We`ll figure out why you guys are in Minneapolis later.

WINSTEAD: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

All right. Up next, North Carolina`s lawmakers voted down an attempt to repeal the law limiting bathroom access for transgender people. Well, now there are some who want the NAACP to call for an economic boycott against the state of North Carolina. Will it happen? We will ask the man pushing for that boycott. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on you! Shame!

CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame!


REID: That was the scene at the North Carolina statehouse last night after lawmakers failed to repeal the state`s controversial HB2 law which limits bathroom access to transgender people, among other things.

Despite previous agreements between members of both parties to revoke the law, which has cost the state potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and sporting events, the special session ended after nine hours, preserving the status quo.

In reaction, Reverend William Barber, the North Carolina president of the NAACP, announced today that he will ask the national board of the organization to consider a national economic boycott of the state until HB2 is repealed.

And I`m joined now by the Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

So Reverend Barber, walk me through, first of all, how the deal fell apart to repeal HB2, if you could, quickly.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Well, there probably was never really a deal that they intended to honor. Charlotte should have never had to repeal their good ordinance in order for the state to repeal a bad unconstitutional bill in the first place.

But you just have this out-of-control extremism that has been operating in our state now for more than four years. And they do not have integrity when it comes to keeping their word and they do not care about fundamental rights.

Thirteen times, Joy, this legislature has voted on things that have been proven to be unconstitutional.

REID: And so tell us, sir, what you plan to ask the NAACP. Walk us through what your request will be and how likely you think it is that they will do it?

BARBER: Yes, well, I feel very good about it. In fact, it`s broader than the HB2. We are going to go into serious deliberations after Christmas and put before the national board a formal request to engage in an economic boycott of the state for four different reasons.

Number one, we believe that until they repeal the policy coup d`etat, that we -- that after we won our fight against voter suppression, they then changed the state board of elections across the state, local boards of election, and changed access to the supreme court after now two African- Americans are placed on the supreme court. That`s a fundamental violation.

Number two, we want an economic boycott until they repeal the changes they made to the state board of elections that undermined the power of the people.

We want to boycott until they pass non-race-based redistricting plans that give the people a fair chance at elections and complies with the rulings of the federal court, which is due before March of next year. They haven`t even begun to work on it.

And then, we want a full repeal of all aspects of HB2. It never was just about bathrooms. We want them to repeal the anti-living wage that doesn`t allow cities and municipalities to raise to living wages. We want them to repeal the anti-civil and -employment rights portion of that bill that denies access to even straight people, even veterans to state court.

And we want them to repeal all of the LGBT part that denies equal protection under the law, and undermines it for a host of people, not just the LGBT community.

So we have this attempt to have a kind of -- one lady called it today a rising of kind of a new policy Confederacy. And we have to stop it here in North Carolina, otherwise, other state legislatures will feel like they have the freedom to do it.

So we`re going to fight them legally, Joy. We`re going to have a mass march on Raleigh February the 11th. We invite people to come too. But we believe we need to ask for an economic boycott.

REID: Well, Reverend Dr. William Barber, thank you so much for being here. We will definitely be following your progress and we`ll talk to you again after Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you, sir, and thank you.

BARBER: Thank you so much. Take care, have a great day.

REID: Thank you.

And up next, a look back at 2016, a year filled with political highs and lows. So which were the best moments and which were the worst? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damned emails.


SANDERS: You know?

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.

CLINTON: And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful.


REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a highlight reel, if you will, of some of the more memorable moments of 2016 in the presidential campaign. This past year in politics was filled with plenty of memorable highs and lows, so which were the most notable and what can we expect from 2017? Let`s bring in our roundtable.

Joan Walsh, MSNBC political analyst and national affairs correspondent for The Nation; Matt Vella, executive director of TIME magazine; and former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

And you usually get up super early for "Morning Joe," so thank you for hanging around. Have you been working like 18 hours today?

HAROLD FORD JR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: When it`s you calling, it`s easy to yes.

REID: Oh, well, that`s very kind. Very kind. And but I`m going to start with Matt first, as much I enjoyed the compliment, I`m going to go to Matt first.



REID: That was good. OK, that`s OK.

Top stories of the year. What does TIME determine to be the top story of the year, the high and the low?

VELLA: Sure. Well, we had a presidential election. You may have heard.

REID: Did that happen?

VELLA: Yes, certainly. But I think in general, the rise of populism in the United States, but all over the world, really sort of shook a lot of people up and will be a story that`s definitely going to continue into 2017.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Joan, you know, that is something that I think Americans -- you know, we`re very compartmentalized in our own country, but there really is a broader trend that`s taking place of these nationalist movements. They`re very anti-immigrant. They have these common threads.

They`re all sort of triggered by the flood, the exodus of migrants and refugees out of Syria and that part of the world and of Muslim immigrants. What do we make of that in the United States, that we`re just a part of that wave?

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we have to be clear that we`re a part of that wave. And I think what we saw happen in this election for the first time outside of the South is that you had a cohort of white people who really did vote as white people, who self-consciously chose Donald Trump because he promised to make things great again, make things white again, however you want to phrase that.

And I think it`s really important, as you say, to put it in the context of a global movement, a global white nationalist movement against Muslims, that`s also being aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin.


WALSH: Putin has links to a lot of these far-right characters, and has sponsored meetings in St. Petersburg for some of these same folks. So, I think it`s something that we really -- in terms of looking backwards and looking forwards, we really have to be walking and also thinking about what to call it.

REID: You know, Harold Ford, Jr., I think that the rise of Russia, sort of out of nowhere, Russia certainly roaring back to the sort of front row of world dominant, world leadership, it`s got to also be considered a big story for 2016.

HAROLD FORD, JR. (D-TN), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Huge, obviously, so much of this began with the vote in Great Britain, around Brexit, and we now have a few other votes that will take place next year in some important nations that can help determine the stability there and the kind of policy we`ll have towards there.

I also think, in addition to the election and the rise of populism, and we`ve seen a kind of tribal kind of approach and focus on voting and elections, politics in the Democratic Party, in the Republican Party, have changed dramatically, and it`s going to cause a rethinking and I think almost a re-imagination and reinvention for Democrats.

If we were hitting here six to eight weeks ago, we would say, the Republicans are going to think long and hard about what their party looks like next year. In fact, it`s the Democrats, my party, that`s having to do that. So, I think there are a lot of stories and pivot off Matt`s primary point, politics, and the outcome of this election.

REID: Absolutely. And speaking of Donald Trump, here`s Donald Trump back in July during the Republican National Convention, accepting his party`s nomination.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.


Nobody knows the system better than me -- which is why I alone can fix it.


REID: Matt, you know the rise of the American strong man form of politics, where it`s all about, I am the state, I alone can fix it, which is a bigger story? That rise of the strong man form of politics, or the sort of flipping of that on its head, now that Donald Trump is putting together an administration that mostly is comprised of the 0.1 percent.

MATT VELLA, TIME: Well, I think the conventions are really interesting thing to look back at this year, because that point, specifically, that line, "I alone can fix it," I think was misread by so many people. So many people after that said, it looks like the performance of power. It looks like the performance of competence. It`s not the same thing.

But that message really cut through, as we saw during the election. And actually, both conventions, if you look back at the coverage, there was a lot of negative coverage of the Republican convention for being kind of haphazard, compared to the Democrats, more well-planned convention.

But I think if 25 years of reality television has taught us anything, it`s that the hot mess is always way more interesting to watch than the pageantry. And I think we`ve seen that in the rollout of his cabinet, we`ve seen that in the Twitter statements about the nuclear arsenal. This sort of chaotic and unconventional approach to messaging is something that has captivated people in a way that the traditional --

FORD: And the role.

REID: Haven`t.

WALSH: And again, you know, in terms of how politics change this year, there used to be a truism that the party with the more forward-looking, optimistic message did better. And I remember thinking, and I think, saying to you, in Cleveland, it was a hot mess and it was a really dark, dystopic mess, you know? It was not morning in America, anymore. It was midnight. Or, you know --

REID: It was called the "midnight in America" speech.

WALSH: Right. It was really designed to scare you. You had people who had lost their children to -- allegedly to violence by illegal immigrants. And it was really, really just kind of scary and creepy. And I really -- you know, again, I missed a lot last year, I`ve got to admit it. I felt that this was going to bode really poorly for them.

But that message carried.

REID: Well, let`s talk about the other thing I personally think was the big one of the campaign. People thought it was the "Access Hollywood" tape, Harold Ford, Jr., but it turned out it was James Comey. Do we have time to play James Comey in July?

Let`s play James Comey talking about Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.


REID: Harold Ford, Jr., that was certainly unprecedented. When we look back on the 2016 election, will the FBI director making himself a part of the campaign be looked at as the moment or one of the top moments that changed the outcome of the campaign?

FORD: It would have to be viewed as one of the top moments. And I actually think that moment was bigger than a moment a few days before the election, because I thought it was unprecedented for an FBI director whose job is not to do -- he did his job and made the recommendation, his job was not to come out and then explain that, because it was still up to the Justice Department to do whatever they chose to do. They didn`t have to follow the recommendation. But there`s no doubt that that was one of the pivotal moments.

In addition, I think, unfortunately, for my team, two moments that rank with that, unfortunately, one was that we didn`t have an economic message that was clearly understood by a vast majority of the country, and it didn`t resonate. We had a position on every position you can imagine. But we didn`t have a coherent, cohesive message.

REID: Yes.

FORD: And two, I don`t think Secretary Clinton meant as much harm as it was perceived, but when she used the term to describe some of his supporters as being deplorables.

REID: Right.

FORD: If you look at the data, that move more independent-leaning voters, that moment more than any moment in the last 30 to 40 days of the campaign.

REID: Yes, it also changed Twitter. About 4,000 gazillion Twitter handles with deplorable were born.

Thank you very much. Everybody is staying right here.

When we come back, our panel is going to tell us, we`re going to completely change the tone and have these three tell of their favorite movie of the holiday season.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: Tonight, Rachel Maddow sits down one-on-one with Kellyanne Conway, to discuss the Trump transition and her newly announced role in the Trump White House. That`s tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW", right here on MSNBC.

HARDBALL`s back right after this.



MACAULAY CULKIN AS KEVIN MCCALLISTER: I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap, including all my major crevices, including in between my toes and in my belly button, which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just washed shine. I can`t seem to find my toothbrush so I`ll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I`m in good shape.



REID: We are back.

That was a scene from 1990s classic "Home Alone", where Kevin McCallister famously made his family disappear.

Some of you won`t be that fortunate. But before we father our families together, we really like to celebrate the holidays and consume massive amounts of eggnog, we want to talk about our favorite Christmas movies.

And for that, I`m back with our panel, Joan Walsh, Matt Vella and Harold Ford.

All right. Matt, you`re the newbie at this table. What`s your favorite Christmas movie?

VELLA: It`s "Home Alone."

REID: That is your favorite.

VELLA: What kid doesn`t dream about --

REID: We`re geniuses in putting together the opening sound bite.


VELLA: Yes. But what kid doesn`t dream about being emancipated from his family for Christmas.

REID: Yes, but only for like a day or two until you realize no one will cook your food or do your laundry.

VELLA: But then it`s a story about him and his relationship with old man Marley and the power of forgiveness.

REID: And he was so adorable back then.

WALSH: He was super adorable.

REID: Joan, what`s your favorite Christmas movie?

WALSH: "Elf." Can`t beat "Elf." He`s a little big to be an elf. And just hooks up with his father, who`s, you know, kind of a Grinch figure and melts his heart and brings us Christmas spirit. We watch it every year at least once.

REID: Yes, absolutely. It is a very heart-warming movie. I will say the executive producers of my other gig have designated him an elf, because his middle name is Olaf and that`s a very elfy name. So James is an Elf.

How about you, Harold Ford?

FORD: Mine is a little unusual, "Trading Places." It`s a Christmas movie. You had the rich guys take on the little guys and the little guys won. It`s a little complicated how they became little guys together, but it takes on stereotypes and if you provide people a little opportunity, they can overcome things. I`m a big Eddie Murphy fan. So --

REID: Yes, absolutely. I actually got two entries in. One I think is important is all of the different versions of "A Christmas Carol", right? I mean, it`s a classic tale of the haves and have-nots and finding your humanity after cruelty and greed. I think we`re also going back to the Dickens era so we might as well go ahead and start watching it.

But my favorite Christmas movie is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I think we might have a clip of my favorite scene of it. Oh, I can -- there it is. Do you hear that? Do you hear them singing?

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. That is my favorite scene in the movie. My kids and I sing that version of that song around our house.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? What do you do that`s special?

WALSH: We watch "Elf." We do stockings the night before and I guess that`s mainly it.

REID: Yes, how about you, Matt?

VELLA: Well, I actually like to put on the Vince Giraldi album of that movie.

REID: Yes, a Charlie Brown has one of the greatest soundtracks ever.

FORD: My kids are little so we`re starting -- my daughter turned 3 today, happy birthday, sweetheart. She`s watching. And my son is 1 1/2.

We go to church at 11:00. I go to church at 11:00, my wife and I do. The kids, we play with them. We get home, my wife and I listen to a "Little Silent Night" by the Temptations, which I did as a kid. And we continue that tradition.

REID: Absolutely.

All right. The roundtable is going to stay with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: All right. And we are back.

Joan, tell me something I don`t know.

WALSH: The DNC chair race is shaping up. Ilyse Hogue of NARAL decided not to run this week.

REID: Yes.

WALSH: And unfortunately, it really is being set up as a proxy battle between Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Congressman Keith Ellison, which I think is unfortunate because I think they`re great people. There are other great people --

REID: Like a proxy for Bernie versus --

WALSH: Sanders/Clinton or, you know, President Obama versus Sanders.

And Keith Ellison stepped out to try to take himself out of that box, I believe it was this morning, tweeting a story about how people have to stop passing on right wing memes about Hillary Clinton being corrupt or losing the election because she was corrupt. And he was completely attacked by a lot of people, a lot of former supporters on Twitter. He got a lot of support but he also got a lot of negativity.

REID: He`s his own person. He existed before Bernie Sanders. Hello?

WALSH: There are two great people. There are four or five great people in the race. It should be interesting.

REID: Should be very interesting.


VELLA: Well, over 1,000 babies were born this year in refugee camps in Greece of Syrians who fled the conflict there. The refugee crisis is an easy story to forget when there`s not something like the fall of Aleppo happening. But I certainly think it`s going to be important next year and that`s why "Time" is following four families, four children throughout the year next year to see what happens.

REID: It`s an important story in and of itself. It is also the thing that`s feeding the rise of right wing nationalism in Europe. It`s a huge story. It`s very important.

Harold Ford?

FORD: I think one of the things that will strengthen the Democratic Party over the next year, picking the right chairman. That market will work itself out. But I think the re-emergence of something in the party that speaks to the middle of the country and middle class voters, not in antagonistic way to the DNC, but something that speaks directly to voters, and it could be run by somebody that might have run against Nancy Pelosi in the Congress who tries to give voice to how we expand this party.

REID: Tim Ryan.

FORD: Tim Ryan.

REID: But I think you cannot leave behind the real base of the party, which is African-Americans, which is people of color. I think any message that spurns black and brown people --

FORD: But that message is -- I`m one of those people, too. No doubt about it.

REID: Absolutely.

Well, thank you very much, Joan, Matt and Harold.

That is HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. And from all of us at HARDBALL to all of you, our wonderful crew here and everyone, merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy Hanukkah, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.