Show: HARDBALL Date: December 30, 2016 Guest: April Ryan, John Brabender, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Pharrell Williams, Ted Melfi>
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The best of HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Well, call it a political earthquake, an unraveling of the system or even a revolution, 2016 changed the face of American politics forever.
There was the nationalist and populist ascension of our next president, Donald Trump, the collapse of the Clinton dynasty, the revolutionary fervor that reshaped the Democratic Party with the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, even a growing call for a third party solution represented most effectively by Libertarian Gary Johnson. And all of these elements will rewrite the American political narrative for years to come.
Over the past months, all four of these leaders -- Trump, Clinton, Sanders and Johnson -- appeared at HARDBALL town halls and college tours. Here`s a sampling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the Beltway. I`m not an inside the Beltway guy. I am an outside the Beltway guy.
MATTHEWS: But the people that vote on taxes are inside the Beltway.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.
MATTHEWS: How about Europe, we won`t use it in Europe?
TRUMP: I`m not going to take it off the table for anything.
MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s always these political games you can play. If somebody would have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that be a good thing or not?
MATTHEWS: Name a foreign leader that you respect.
GARY JOHNSON (L-NM), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guess I`m having an Aleppo moment, and the former -- former president of Mexico...
MATTHEWS: But I`m giving you the whole world!
JOHNSON: I know. I know. I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me now, Republican strategist John Brabender, April Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks and the author of "At Mama`s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White," and "New York Times" reporter Jeremy Peters. He`s an MSNBC contributor.
We begin tonight with Donald Trump. The country`s next leader made waves in March back then when he told me he believed women who get abortions should get some form of punishment. The president-elect eventually walked that statement back -- there`s a new phrase this year, "walked it back" -- after facing unprecedented criticism from both the left and right. Well, here`s the following exchange.
It made a major news focus on the anti-Trump campaign ads for the remainder of the year. Here`s that moment from March`s HARDBALL town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?
MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge.
TRUMP: It`s a...
MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?
TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.
MATTHEWS: How about you?
TRUMP: I would say that it`s a very serious problem. And it`s a problem that we have to decide on. It`s very...
MATTHEWS: But you`re for banning it.
TRUMP: Are you going to say -- well, wait. Are you going to say put them in jail? Is that the punishment...
MATTHEWS: Well, no, I`m asking you because you say you want to ban it. What does that mean?
TRUMP: I would -- I am against -- I am pro-life, yes. I am pro-life.
MATTHEWS: What does ban -- how do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?
TRUMP: Well, you know, you`ll go back to a position like they had, where people will perhaps go to illegal places.
TRUMP: But you have to ban it.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe...
TRUMP: But you...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes. There has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents, ten years, what?
TRUMP: That I don`t know. That I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: I frankly -- I do take positions on everything else. It`s a very complicated position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: April Ryan?
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: That was a tough -- that was a major moment during this campaign season, but he got over it. But it goes back to that issue. And it still rings so vivid and so harsh, hearing him say that. It`s a crime. He basically said it was a crime.
Now, what happens is, if he goes back -- if they deal with that in 2017 at all, you know, it goes into, should women be put in jail? Should there be legal ramifications, punishments? And that`s a real tough thing because Roe v. Wade was put in place to give timelines and parameters about from what time to what time you are allowed to have an abortion.
So this is -- this is a tough issue, and it goes right back down that road that he tried to step around about women and how women are viewed. It`s a tough issue.
MATTHEWS: Jeremy, he had no problem saying the male involved in a pregnancy, if you have an abortion, should not be punished. He had a quick answer on that one.
JEREMY PETERS, "NEW YORK TIMES": He did. I think two things here. One, this whole episode is indicative of how Donald Trump ran his campaign and is likely to run his presidency, and that`s that he makes up a significant portion of it as he goes along.
You could tell, Chris, when he was responding to you, that he hadn`t thought this out. And as he thought through it, a few more clicks down the logical road there, he said, yes -- finally, when you pushed him, Yes, there must be some form of punishment. But he hadn`t thought about it, and he didn`t quite anticipate or factor in what the ramifications of making such a statement would be and just how serious that is to say -- that is a position, by the way, that not even the hardest of the hard-line abortion opponents would support, putting a woman -- punishing a woman for getting an abortion. They actually repudiated that after...
MATTHEWS: I know.
PETERS: ... he said it. And the other thing here -- and this, I think, speaks to what kind of...
MATTHEWS: What do you think -- here`s my hunch. I`m going to go over to John because John knows this world. I think what he was doing there was projecting what he thought would be the logical...
MATTHEWS: ... implication of people who believe that...
MATTHEWS: ... you`re killing human life, and not only just killing a form of human life, but killing people.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What he was saying is, I`m pro- life.
BRABENDER: If you`re pro-life, you believe that we should make abortions illegal. If you make it illegal, there`s got to be some penalty for somebody...
MATTHEWS: Or else what does it mean?
BRABENDER: Right. But here`s the key. None of this mattered in the election for Donald Trump...
MATTHEWS: Tell me why because I need to know.
BRABENDER: There`s two reasons. First thing is you have the conservative side. They want to make sure they can trust Donald Trump. He did two things, that`s all he had to do it. He put out his list of who he will nominate to the Supreme Court. He made Mike Pence his VP, his running mate.
That checked the two boxes that he had to (ph) conservatives, and he didn`t have to go down other paths on this. That let him now become the anti- Washington...
MATTHEWS: Pro-life candidate.
BRABENDER: ... reform candidate. He didn`t have to become the pro-life candidate.
RYAN: Well, but I think -- I think -- and I agree with you, but you forgot the third box, abortion. That is one of the theme pieces, you know, pro- life for the Republican Party. He had to fall up under that banner that he was pro-life.
PETERS: I think what he was mimicking...
RYAN: Yes, but at one point -- at one point -- he might have been mimicking, but at one point, there was a question, and he answered that question in one of the harshest ways possible for the Republican Party.
BRABENDER: Well, but who are you going to vote for on abortion if you weren`t going to vote for Donald Trump? I mean, Hillary Clinton?
RYAN: There was a concern in the leadership that if he fell under the banner of certain things, and that`s when he...
BRABENDER: Absolutely. He said, I`m pro-life, but then he did those other things. He checked the boxes and they were comfortable that compared to Hillary Clinton...
RYAN: I don`t think they were that comfortable.
PETERS: If you talk to social conservatives...
RYAN: He went very far with that...
PETERS: John, you probably know this, but if you talk to social conservatives in the movement about a real turning point in the campaign, it was when he stood on stage during the third debate and made that very vivid description...
BRABENDER: Partial-birth abortion.
PETERS: ... of what late-term abortion is like. And there are conservatives I spoke with who said, You know, that was it for me. I`ve never heard a candidate describe it in that graphic terms before...
BRABENDER: But he cleaned it up...
PETERS: ... and with so much conviction.
RYAN: He cleaned it up after Carly Fiorina made the mistake that she did in that debate. That`s when it became a really big issue.
MATTHEWS: In the crudest way, he became a pro-lifer, and I think he managed to do it even with this odd statement he gave to me.
Anyway, during the town hall in March, that same town hall, Donald Trump also refused to take off the table using nuclear weapons in the Middle East or even using nuclear weapons in Europe. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Why (INAUDIBLE) just say, I don`t want to talk about it? I don`t want to about nuclear weapons. Presidents don`t talk about use of nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: The question was asked. We`re talking about NATO, which, by the way, I say is obsolete and...
MATTHEWS: But you got hooked into something you shouldn`t have talked about.
TRUMP: I don`t think -- I think -- well, if it`s some day, maybe. Somebody...
TRUMP: Of course. I was against Iraq. I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: That`s sort of like the end of the ballgame.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon...
TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.
MATTHEWS: How about Europe, we won`t use it in Europe?
TRUMP: I`m not going to take it off the table for anything!
MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?
TRUMP: No! I don`t think so, but I`m not taking...
MATTHEWS: Well, just say it, I`ll never use a nuclear weapon in Europe.
TRUMP: I am not taking cards off the table!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, most of the people there were laughing because of the idea -- in Green Bay, Wisconsin -- because the people realize you don`t talk about blowing up France or Germany. Europe is a small place. You don`t drop one bomb one place and not bomb everywhere.
PETERS: Well, this is a problem that we were just getting at with that abortion answer, is that he mimics. He says what he thinks people believe, people whom he`s trying to reach. So if he`s trying to reach conservatives there, he`s trying to reach hawks who want to hear that he`s taking a hard line on nuclear weapons, he`s going to say what he thinks they believe because he doesn`t fully understand it. And because he doesn`t fully understand it, he trips himself up like that.
MATTHEWS: I thought he used the phrase, I`m not taking anything off the table, as a line that hawks use in the Middle East all the time. We`re not -- we might bomb Iran. I`m not taking anything off the table. It`s a line of coverage if you want to be appealing to the right.
BRABENDER: Here`s where I think the problem we all have, though, is contextually, we`re trying to thinking of Donald Trump as a traditional candidate. And we try to look at his answers and say, Well, why did he say that?
This is the guy that`s "The Art of the Deal." And the first thing you learn is a dealer is you never show your cards. You never take anything...
MATTHEWS: Well, so what do we do...
MATTHEWS: ... type down what he says and...
BRABENDER: Are you telling me you think that he thought the answer out ahead of time?
MATTHEWS: Brabender, do we write down what he says or do we not write down what he says?
RYAN: Let me tell you what I think what he -- what I think about Donald Trump. What I believe is that he doesn`t know what he doesn`t know, OK? That`s what I believe about Donald Trump. And that showed him early on being a very novice in this political game. He`s a businessman, and let`s give him that. He`s a shrewd businessman. He still has to learn governance and intelligence.
RYAN: That`s a piece that he still has to learn. He`s not there yet.
BRABENDER: People didn`t care! They really don`t.
BRABENDER: They didn`t care if he knew every answer. They just knew that even when he made mistakes, that made him authentic and that made him more believable that he`ll change Washington.
MATTHEWS: Remember the joke about the kid -- the guy who starts at the Post Office, and he`s the fastest mail sorter ever been at the history of the Post Office. He`s flipping the mail like this, behind his back, between his legs. He`s unbelievable.
And at lunchtime, the postman says to the kid, You are the fastest mail sorter I`ve ever seen in my life. And the guy said -- the kid says, You just wait until I learn how to read.
MATTHEWS: And I`m telling you, this guy -- yes you can do a lot of things fast, but you start screwing things up...
MATTHEWS: You screw things up when you don`t -- you have to know certain things, right?
BRABENDER: You guys want him to memorize everything because he...
RYAN: He`s going to be the leader of the free world!
BRABENDER: I understand that but...
RYAN: Intelligence is key!
BRABENDER: But this is a guy...
RYAN: Oh, my God!
BRABENDER: Believe me, he has intelligence. He just doesn`t...
RYAN: I`m talking about intelligence...
RYAN: I`m talking about...
BRABENDER: He doesn`t have political intelligence.
RYAN: No, no, no. National security, national -- global security. It`s not just about business. And that`s...
BRABENDER: Yes, it is because...
RYAN: ... concerning.
BRABENDER: This is a guy who might not know the answers, but he...
RYAN: It`s about allies and the adversaries and how we handle them.
BRABENDER: Then we must all be shocked that he won because...
RYAN: I am.
BRABENDER: ... you know, how did he win? How did he overcome all these incredible odds?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you my favorite question...
RYAN: People wanted something new.
MATTHEWS: ... because it`s my biggest fear. How do you avoid war? Because things I worry about are wars, one thing I worry about, a lot of people get killed, you can`t bring them back to life and they`re gone for their parents and their wives and their -- they`re gone. It`s over. War is final in many ways for people.
BRABENDER: It is.
MATTHEWS: And so we made mistakes in past history. Dean Acheson -- I said this the other night. Dean Acheson drew the line for north Asia and didn`t include Korea. Next thing you know, we`re in war in Korea because the Chinese and the North Koreans, and I should say Stalin, said, Well, they didn`t say they`re going to defend it. We`re going.
Same thing with April Glaspie with Iraq back in the first Gulf war. She said, Well, that`s a border issue, she said to Saddam Hussein, we`re not really involved. What do you know? What do you know? All of a sudden, we`re fighting a war we didn`t think we had to because we didn`t tell people.
I want a president to be smart to tell the people, You know what? You know what, Vladimir? We`re going to have to fight for Lithuania. It may sound odd, but if NATO gets attacked, we got a problem and it may mean war. So don`t go grabbing some of these Baltic states.
Jeremy, this is a problem. Presidents have to be clear to our rivals...
MATTHEWS: ... what not to do, what trip wires exist, or else we get into trouble.
PETERS: Well, I think part of the...
MATTHEWS: And people die.
PETERS: There`s two things there. One is Trump doesn`t know what those trip wires are because he is not familiar with geopolitics, and he is relying on his generals to do that. And that`s, I think, the second point here, is that part of the reason he surrounded himself with so many generals is the human cost you were just talking about.
He wants people around him who understand the finality, the gravity of going into war, people who -- with General Kelly, his Homeland Security chief, who lost a son in combat. This is very important to him. And I think...
MATTHEWS: Good news.
PETERS: Yes, that is. But on the other hand, you`re talking about a guy here who flies off the handle and gets into Twitter fights with people. So...
RYAN: And the moon does not bark at the dog. He is now the moon. The moon does not bark at the dog, and he does that a lot. I`m with everyone. I want to see the next president succeed, but he has a big learning curve.
MATTHEWS: The moon does not bark at the dog.
RYAN: You like that?
MATTHEWS: That`s going to be with me when I go to bed tonight. That`s in my head!
Anyway, John, April -- and I`m serious -- and April -- and April and Jeremy are all staying with us.
And coming up -- what Hillary Clinton told me about assassinating foreign leaders. This is fascinating.
And later, the star-studded cast of the new movie "Hidden Figures." They`re all coming to HARDBALL to talk about this great new movie about three African-American mathematicians who worked behind the scenes to get the American space program into orbit.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While the 2016 campaign was grueling for everyone involved, Hillary Clinton faced some headwinds when it came to her vote to authorize the war with Iraq.
In my town hall interview with Secretary Clinton in March, I had the time to question her on the danger of regime change as an instrument of foreign policy. In that discussion, we spoke about whether the assassination of foreign despots is ever a legitimate way for this country to instill change abroad.
Let`s watch the conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the whole history of the United States in your lifetime of knocking off leaders, whether it`s Mossadegh in Iran or it was Arbenz in Guatemala or knocking off Allende in Chile or knocking off Patrice Lumumba in the Congo or knocking off Trujillo or -- who else have I missed?
I mean, we`ve been doing this for a long time. That`s why I`m skeptical. But you -- what is your view of all of those assassinations...
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Look, I...
MATTHEWS: ... all those attempts to change the history of other countries? Should we be doing that kind of thing?
CLINTON: Well, I don`t think...
MATTHEWS: Knocking off leaders.
CLINTON: ... in the vast...
MATTHEWS: Diem. We knocked him off.
CLINTON: In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no. But you know, there`s always these historical games you can play. If somebody could have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that have been a good thing or not? You cannot paint with a broad brush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow! We`re back with our roundtable, John, April and Jeremy. That blew me away, her answer. I thought she`d give me a 1960s answer, which I grew up with -- we`re about the same age -- saying, Of course, we should not have assassination as part of our toolkit. And no! She said, No, what about Hitler? Her argument was, you know, we`ve got to be ready to do this. I just was amazed by that. You`re shaking your head.
RYAN: You know, I`m amazed by it, too. She was the dove. She was supposed to...
RYAN: ... diplomacy, but she wanted to show that hard line, that hard stand. And you know, the question is, is she -- she may be right, you know? If Hitler was taken out...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that wasn`t the question.
RYAN: I know, but you know...
MATTHEWS: It was Patrice Lumumba...
RYAN: We are not supposed to...
RYAN: We -- by law, we are not supposed to take out any other foreign leader. But I mean, she makes a good point, but she -- I think mostly, when it came to Hitler...
MATTHEWS: I didn`t bring up Hitler!
RYAN: But she brought up Hitler! But the issue -- Hillary Clinton brought up Hitler. But the issue is, I think she wanted to show she that could take a hard line, she could be a (INAUDIBLE) she could be a hawk and...
MATTHEWS: You think that`s because of her gender?
RYAN: Because of her gender and the fact that she was the woman of diplomacy around the world.
MATTHEWS: People like me think of her as a hawk.
RYAN: You think -- but I saw her as a woman of diplomacy.
PETERS: Yes, she is a hawk. She`s a hawk as far as the Democrats go. That -- I mean, there were a lot of things that she believed in that were more in line with the Republicans running in the primary in terms of foreign policy than they were with the Democratic Party platform.
But what`s the joke, if you bring up Hitler, you`re losing the argument?
RYAN: I`m not going to say anything.
BRABENDER: Why does it bother you that -- you know, you criticize if Donald Trump doesn`t have an answer for things like this, you ask her...
RYAN: She gave an answer.
BRABENDER: Her answer was "maybe." Her answer was, No, oh, but here`s where we could, so you don`t know. So her answer was maybe...
RYAN: But the different is...
BRABENDER: She`s a former secretary of state!
RYAN: She -- exactly! She was the former secretary of state. She dealt with...
BRABENDER: So was her answer yes or no? Was her answer yes or no?
MATTHEWS: Are we for regime change, yes or no, Madam Secretary. And I went through Libya with her...
RYAN: She said maybe.
MATTHEWS: Right. She didn`t -- she didn`t deny the need for regime...
RYAN: For certain -- for certain people.
MATTHEWS: Regime change was something Trump ran against, whether we believe him or not.
PETERS: And it`s something she pursued as secretary of state, let`s not forget.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Libya.
PETERS: In Libya.
MATTHEWS: We got involved somehow with the downfall of Mubarak, too, I think. We were rooting for his downfall. That wasn`t a smart move. Maybe we have no choice in a lot of things. We don`t rule the world.
BRABENDER: Yes, there was a lot of split decision on that one.
In fact, there`s been a lot of belief that we have made some mistakes, getting people that turned out that their enemies were worse than the enemies we thought we had.
MATTHEWS: Of course, but everybody warned us that after Assad, and there`s still an after Assad question mark, if there`s ever an after Assad, it will be worse.
RYAN: But you know what? I think, during those times, I think social media played in the immediacy, when we had to go in to see some of these leaders that we had allied with at one time.
We saw the world community and particularly the communities in those countries rise up against their leaders. And then they looked to us, this nation, to say, what are you going to do? How are you going to help us? And that was the big problem.
MATTHEWS: Well, in our interview, Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton also spoke about how she stacks up against more natural politicians, like her husband, Bill Clinton, when it comes to actually campaigning. This is telling here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I enjoy it, but I`m not deluding myself. I mean, I`m not speaking in poetry. I`m not bringing people to fever pitches of, you know, incredible admiration.
But every time I have had a job, I do it well. And I do it in my own way. And I produce results for people. You know, when I ran for the Senate, you know that, you covered that -- I ran for the Senate. People are, oh, my gosh, she can`t win. I won.
I`m somebody who believes, OK, you have a job to do, you want to help people, you want to produce results. And maybe that is more governing in prose than campaigning in poetry, but that`s what I want to do as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She`s making a reference to Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, late governor, who said that government is prose, but campaigning is poetry.
PETERS: Yes, well, one of the most eloquent men of his generation, politically speaking.
MATTHEWS: What do you think she was telling us then? That was very telling. She was saying, I`m not the Babe Ruth of public campaigning. I`m more of a policy person.
PETERS: This is the great paradox that the people who hoped Hillary Clinton would win found so frustrating.
On the one hand, she tried to be herself. She let her rougher edges show. But at the same time, she ran a campaign that was completely at odds with that, focus-grouping 85 different slogans and debating over every last sentence in a speech, and every last policy position she was going to take being endlessly litigated by her strategists.
So there was something that, while she said she was being authentic, she really wasn`t at all.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have the funny feeling. I don`t know when -- I remember watching her rise to power. I remember watching her at the Regency Hotel back in `91, when she and Bill Clinton first presented themselves in New York.
It was a freebie. It was breakfast. You could go. And it wasn`t about money or anything. And I went there and I thought, hmm, she gave the first speech, Bill gave the second. She was -- they were running as a duo, remember, two for the price of one.
So, she had an ambition somewhere in her head that she was going to rise up to -- or maybe not to the presidency, or maybe all of this just came to her, but she was never somebody who went out there and loved to shake hands. You know, she wasn`t Bill. Bill was like -- Bill was easy to take, because he had no moral pretensions.
He liked hamburgers and women, and that was it.
RYAN: Oh, my goodness.
MATTHEWS: Sorry. I`m sorry. That was -- he`s Bubba.
BRABENDER: She doesn`t like hamburgers?
MATTHEWS: I should broaden it.
RYAN: He`s gregarious.
MATTHEWS: He loved it. He would be the last guy to leave the party.
BRABENDER: Look, but I actually feel sorry for her. She had trouble connecting.
And where this was most pronounced is when the president, President Obama, would be on stage with her. You would see just people looked like groupies who were going to -- they would do anything for him.
MATTHEWS: And it`s hard. How many great politicians...
BRABENDER: That`s why I said I feel bad for her.
MATTHEWS: Reagan, Obama, Kennedy, because Walter Mondale wasn`t great. John Kerry wasn`t great.
RYAN: Let`s say Bill Clinton, too.
MATTHEWS: You know who else wasn`t great? Mitt Romney wasn`t great. It`s hard to be a politician.
BRABENDER: And they struggled because of it.
RYAN: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are great orators, but Hillary Clinton knows. It`s in her heart. She`s not the politician. And she basically admitted, I am not gregarious. I am not my husband. That`s what she said.
BRABENDER: But don`t you agree that hurt her to some degree?
RYAN: It hurt him, because you know why? She`s linked to one of the most successful politicians of modern time. And the problem is, she is not her husband. She is not that person...
MATTHEWS: Look who is a good politician. We never thought she was, did we?
MATTHEWS: Where did she come from anyway?
RYAN: She speaks truth. She`s real.
MATTHEWS: No, but she has this wonderful manner.
MATTHEWS: I also asked Secretary Clinton how she trusted polls after her surprise loss to Bernie Sanders in that Michigan primary. In hindsight, considering the general election polls predicted the wrong winner in terms of the Electoral College, her answer was certainly telling. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you trust the polls anymore?
CLINTON: No. Honestly, I don`t, Chris, and in large measure, because I think pollsters are trying to do the best job they can, but it`s very difficult to poll now.
If you have only online information, that`s been proven to be often unreliable. If you try to call landlines, you miss everybody with cell phones. If you call cell phones, you miss people often because they don`t answer.
So, no, I think it`s very difficult now to predict the outcome of elections. And somehow we`re going to have to get better at it, because people do rely on that information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That wasn`t filtered, John. That was her talking like a regular person, because she`s talking about the mechanics of the business of running for office. It was something that was real conversation.
BRABENDER: And she was likable there as well.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s what I`m saying. When you talk turkey with her, she`s great. It`s when she has to put on the show of politics, she`s not as good at the B.S. as some of the others are.
Anyway, next time -- or up next, rather, my interview with Bernie Sanders. This is great. And Gary Johnson draws a blank when I ask him about a foreign leader he respects or even heard of.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
President-elect Donald Trump has no plans to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Obama administration expelled Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions on Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Putin called the measures a provocation, but says he will not retaliate, which earned him praise from Donald Trump, who tweeted -- quote -- "Great move on delay by Vladimir Putin. I always knew he was very smart."
The Russian Embassy in the U.S. retweeted the compliment -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In February of 2016, in the heat of the Democratic primary fight, I interviewed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the HARDBALL College Tour at his alma mater, the University of Chicago.
Senator Sanders made his case for a political revolution in this country, but when I pressed him on how he could actually get his progressive platform through the U.S. Congress if he were elected president, Sanders put up a fight. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Now, you`re asking me, how do I pay for it? I will tell you how I pay for it.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t asked that. I have asked you, how do you pass it through the Senate? How do you get 60 votes for any of this?
SANDERS: We`re going to pay for it through a tax on Wall Street speculation.
MATTHEWS: Who`s going to pass that tax?
SANDERS: The American -- look, Chris.
MATTHEWS: That Senate is going to pass that?
SANDERS: Chris, Chris, you and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the Beltway. I`m not an inside-the-Beltway guy. I am an outside-the-Beltway guy.
MATTHEWS: But the people that vote on taxes are inside the Beltway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You always get the last word in this business.
Jeremy, he was saying -- I was trying to ask him, how do you win the coalition to get 60 votes for any of this big stuff? He wants to tax Wall Street a certain percentage for every stock trade to pay for student low payouts. I said, fine, but how are you going to do it?
PETERS: Yes, this was always one of the biggest and I think most indicting criticisms of Bernie Sanders` campaign, was that it sounded like a lot of great ideas, but how are you going to get it done?
And, ultimately, there`s all this revisionist history going on now. OK, so what if Bernie would have been the nominee? He could have beaten Trump.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know.
PETERS: Who knows. But it`s a pretty -- I think it`s a pretty damning thing to ask someone, how are you going to accomplish what you are promising people you will, and they don`t have an answer.
MATTHEWS: Because, by the way, I don`t know how Bernie would have done. It would have been a different general election. That`s for sure.
RYAN: Yes. Jeremy`s absolutely right.
I remember, I would go out on the street and poll grassroots people. And I would say, what do you think about Bernie Sanders? Oh, I think his ideas are great, but how are we going to pay for free education? People were very concerned about having to pay more for this free item.
MATTHEWS: And free health. It was going to be health care for everybody.
RYAN: They thought that was great.
MATTHEWS: Medicare for all.
RYAN: But it was coming out of their pocket.
MATTHEWS: By the way, we might end up with Medicare for all at some point, if this system gets anymore complicated.
BRABENDER: But he just kept going so far. He kept adding everything. And we`re going to figure out a way.
MATTHEWS: But the kids don`t hear this.
BRABENDER: And we`re going to get rid of the letter L from the alphabet and we`re going to get somebody to pay for it.
MATTHEWS: Let me give him a kudo. He got away with the word socialist, which I`m not sure it`s my word.
It may not be anybody`s here, but it`s a word that, in Europe, it`s fine. In Europe, countries are pretty much like us. They`re not as cowboy as we are, but they say social democrats. That`s the term of most of the political parties in Europe, or Labor. And they don`t -- they`re not offended. They don`t think it means communist, because, in Europe, they know socialists are the biggest rivals of the communists, Jeremy.
PETERS: No, it`s not a pejorative, you`re right. But I think it`s indicative of how thirsty people were for real change in the two-party system and that they just don`t trust either the Democrats or the Republicans.
And so when someone says socialist, they kind of overlook and discount that baggage.
RYAN: The system is broken, and people were looking for some kind of magic fix. And Bernie Sanders was welcomed. His voice was welcomed, even though he had not been a Democrat.
He came into the Democratic Party with something new, and maybe it could have fixed -- but, ultimately, he didn`t win it. But, you know, his words live on.
MATTHEWS: And, you know, young people want to know, because my kids were like this. They still are, I think. They love the `60s. Anything I tell them about the `60s, they just love. It`s rich, it`s wild.
And, Bernie -- if you want to know what the `60s were like, watch Bernie.
MATTHEWS: He`s doing a teach-in. And he`s much older, but he would -- as Howard Fineman, our buddy, said, it`s like a guy talking up the administration building with a bullhorn, making demands.
PETERS: Yes, right.
MATTHEWS: And he`s just like that. He`s just very insistent, very demanding, and clear-cut, and I`m right, and you`re wrong. It`s very much Stokely Carmichael, whatever.
Anyway, your last thought?
RYAN: Yes, for him to be the age that he was, it`s not about the age. It was about the message for him to attract the young people.
MATTHEWS: It was very youthful. It was very youthful.
MATTHEWS: Another stop on the HARDBALL College Tour coming up at the University of New Hampshire, where I sat down with libertarian candidate New Mexico Governor, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and his running mate former Massachusetts Governor,William Weld.
But Johnson was stumped when I asked one direct question. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Who is your favorite foreign leader?
GARY JOHNSON, FORMER LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who is my favorite...
MATTHEWS: Any -- just name anywhere in the country -- any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to, anybody.
BILL WELD, FORMER LIBERTARIAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Shimon Peres. MATTHEWS: No, no, OK. I`m talking about living. Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: You have got to do this. Anywhere. Any continent, Canada, Mexico, Europe over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect.
JOHNSON: I guess I`m having an Aleppo moment, in the former -- former president of Mexico...
MATTHEWS: But I`m giving you the whole world.
JOHNSON: I know, I know, I know, I know.
MATTHEWS: Anybody in the world you like, anybody. Pick any leader.
JOHNSON: The former president of Mexico.
MATTHEWS: No. Which one?
JOHNSON: I`m having a brain -- I`m having a brain...
MATTHEWS: Well, name anybody.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who is your favorite foreign leader? Get him off the hook. Name a foreign leader you respect.
JOHNSON: Fox. He`s terrific.
MATTHEWS: Any foreign leader.
MATTHEWS: OK, Merkel. OK, fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jeremy Peters.
MATTHEWS: I mean, I gave him the world.
PETERS: You gave him a lifeline. You let him pick someone from the audience, practically, to give him the answer. This was, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
RYAN: He got a phone call, too. Yes.
PETERS: And he still...
MATTHEWS: And then he put the dunce cap on himself by saying another Aleppo, because he was referring to the fact that he didn`t know what to do with Aleppo in an earlier interview.
MATTHEWS: And he`s running for president of the United States, commander in chief of our forces, head of the world -- of us in the world, and didn`t ever think about the world long enough to think about, you know, I have been looking at some of these leaders. Some of them are pretty impressive.
He could have said Merkel the first second. But nobody would have questioned it. He could have said Winston Churchill. He could have talked about the world, let me tell you, I know he`s gone now, but Winston Churchill is my -- something.
He had nothing to say.
RYAN: Nelson Mandela even.
BRABENDER: Bill Weld sitting there thinking, how do I get off?
MATTHEWS: Bill wasn`t jumping in either.
BRABENDER: That interview might have won the race for Donald Trump, because Trump was actually struggling with some Johnson voters who were anti-Washington.
MATTHEWS: That was not my intention.
PETERS: Good point.
BRABENDER: And the more that he was exposed made Trump look better. And I think some of those people gravitate.
So, congratulations. You may be responsible for the Trump victory.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what is wrong with this rigorous kind of questioning.
I never got Trump again in the campaign.
BRABENDER: I wonder why.
MATTHEWS: Never got him again. Never got Hillary Clinton again in the campaign.
And I think I did get a shot from Gary Johnson, because he`s just willing to go in the barrel and get beaten up every time. He doesn`t care.
Thank you, John Brabender. Thank you, April Ryan, and Jeremy Peters.
Still ahead, the stars of the great new movie, coming-up movie "Hidden Figures" coming at Christmastime. It`s the story of three African-American women, mathematicians who helped launch the American space program, a totally true story.
Actors Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner will be here, along with director Ted Melfi, and Pharrell Williams. What a star-studded lineup. They`re all coming here next.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the stars of the soon-to-be released movie "Hidden Figures" about the pioneering African-American mathematicians who helped launch America`s space program.
And here`s a clip from the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIDDEN FIGURES")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The pastor mentioned you`re a computer at NASA.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s pretty heady stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yes, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They let women handle that sort of -- that`s not what I mean.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just surprised that something so taxing --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson, if I were you, I`d quit talking right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t mean no disrespect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will have you know, I was the first negro female student at West Virginia university graduate school. On any given day, I analyze phenomenal levels for air displacement, friction, and velocity and compute over 10,000 calculations by hand. So, yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson, and it`s not because we wear skirts. It`s because we wear glasses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the status on that computer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s right behind you, Mr. Harrison.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can she handle analytic geometry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. And she speaks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir. I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both. Geometry and speaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruth, get me the -- do you think you can find me the frame for this data using the --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The algorithm, yes, sir. I prefer it over Euclidian coordinates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
That was the scene from the upcoming film "Hidden Figures". The true story of three African-American mathematicians and the key role they played at NASA to launch the first American into orbit. The film sets the struggle of equal rights against the space race. Recounting a time that even at NASA, African-Americans were segregated from their white counterparts. This is a film about women who broke barriers in more ways than one.
Here`s a clip for the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Katherine! We`re all going to get unemployed right around this pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ll sit in the back of the bus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have identification?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were just on our way to work at NASA, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no idea they hired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quite a few women working in the space program.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s John Glenn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you ladies do for NASA?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calculate your landing, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Engineer, and I`m proud to be working with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How we can possibly (INAUDIBLE) these white men.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s equal rights. I have a right to see fine in every color.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn`t have to. I would already be one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, "Hidden Figures" is out in select theaters at Christmastime. In fact, Christmas Day and a wider release following on January 6.
Well, I`m joined right now by those people who made this movie come to life, including the stars of the film. Taraji P. Henson is right there. She is the superstar. And Octavia Spencer, I`ve been in love with her for a long time. Janelle Monae, thank you. There you are.
And you all look very glamorous right now. In the movie, you`re just like bureaucrats.
The great Kevin Costner is here and, of course, singer-songwriter, Pharrell Williams, who composed the soundtrack for the movie and the score, and director Ted Melfi, thank you.
I love "St. Vincent" with Bill Murray.
TED MELFI, DIRECTOR: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to talk to you, Taraji, because you were -- you just dominate movie. I had to say that. And the scenes of putting up with Jim Crow and putting up with Jim Crow in a federal institution.
What grabbed me in the beginning was, the cop who stopped you guys in your `57, I love `57 Impala Chevy, I always love them. He stops you in a car and he`s got the usual color mentality going, on black/white thing going on, white/black, and all of a sudden he says you`re in the space program. And his patriotism kicks in.
TARAJI P. HENSON, ACTRESS, "HIDDEN FIGURES": Yes.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about that.
HENSON: Well, I think that`s the overall message of the story. When we put our differences aside as humans, that`s when we`re able to move the human race forward, because at the end of the day, we`re all humans. You know, a mind doesn`t have a color.
When it comes to calculating numbers, I don`t care what color you are. I don`t care who you sleep with at night. Can you find the math?
MATTHEWS: I love the score. This person that Taraji is playing, everybody has to go to the bathroom and everybody knows the experience of having to go to the bathroom now. And then she has the color, it is like a bad dream, I`ve got to go to a building where there`s a colored women`s bathroom. And you got this great music. Tell me about the music you put in there.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS, MUSIC COMPOSER, "HIDDEN FIGURES": Man, the music was largely just led by --
MATTHEWS: It`s called running.
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. That song was just based on a story. It`s like, when we got the script, it was like, OK. These women are living in the matrix of the 1960s where the physics and the gravity for African-Americans was much more heavier. And it was twice as heavier on a woman.
So, having to run to the bathroom, not only the other side of the building but the other side of the campus, and there were campus bikes. But for women, we forget as men, you know, long skirts, long dresses. So they had to run rain or shine, 30 to 45 minutes round trip to the other side of the campus just to use the bathroom.
MATTHEWS: So, Ted, and the other ladies here, high heels a big part of this for some reasons. Maybe it is the photography. The women look great, of course, but you`re always shooting the legs and the shoes. And one time they get caught. And you almost get killed. It is a wind tunnel.
You`re on a wind tunnel, you look great by the way in the wind tunnel. Your legs get caught on this, look at your legs, look at your shoes. And you get stuck and the guy says, "The shoe ain`t worth it." I mean, when you`re running to the bathroom, it`s all high heels. So women in high heels being African-American in a Jim Crow setting and wearing high heels.
JANELLE MONAE, ACTRESS, "HIDDEN FIGURES": Yes, we did it all --
MONAE: -- just like we continuously do every day. What is so inspiring about this film and these women is they did not allow the obstacles to deter them and stop them from their dreams.
Yes, you know, we were dealing with racism, we were dealing with sexism, we were dealing with classism, but the great team about when NASA and all the men and women put all those isms to bed and bury them all, that`s when they achieved the extraordinary together. They all realized that at the end of the day, we all bleed the same color.
MATTHEWS: You know, Kevin, I saw that -- great to have you on -- because I think of you all the time in a movie. I`ve seen this a lot of times, where I think I`ve seen 13 days a hundred times. And in the middle of a Cuban missile crisis, a white world, as if there wasn`t a black world out there.
And here you have a movie that`s pretty much the same time period.
KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: `61, `62. In fact, it is `62. This movie includes the reality of American high of much better.
COSTNER: Yes. Well, you know, I mean, it seems like a lot of stories don`t get told. They are in the pages of history. They don`t come out.
You can give some of that a pass because how many stories can you possibly tell? If you look beneath the surface, you will fine the story. The thing that I found disturbing was that if you are going to tell original story of John Glenn, all right? Not about the women working off to the side, like we know in segue, if you`re going to tell that story John Glenn, there is a moment when he would go or wasn`t going to go.
So, it would be like telling a joke and maybe leaving out a punch line. There was a moment where he was going to go or not go and it hung on the balance over a young woman who was going to have to do math by hand.
Now, I don`t know about you, but in great story telling, you don`t leave out that bit. So, if we don`t learn about these human computers, they were called computers, I can see that story emerging. I would have liked to know about that a long time ago.
But not knowing about that seminal moment where he was saying, I ain`t going unless I know, that should have been a part of what we knew about for a long time.
MATTHEWS: He was a good guy in the movie, right, Octavia?
OCTAVIA SPENCER, ACTRESS, "HIDDEN FIGURES": He was a good guy, period. I learned something about him that I didn`t know and it made him that much more of an American hero to me because he did something unpopular at that time. He put his hands in the life of this African-American woman. If her numbers didn`t match up, he wasn`t going to go. If her numbers matched up, of course, he went.
MATTHEWS: He wanted to know he was going to land.
MATTHEWS: That`s key information. They have to get to it with the ship. But you were in "The Help."
SPENCER: I was in "The Help."
MATTHEWS: I always remember that meal you cooked up with that white lady. We will always remember that. This tastes interesting.
So, you`ve gotten at the Jim Crow thing from a couple ways now.
SPENCER: Jim Crow is a very difficult time to immerse yourself in, but when you`re doing a period film, we have agency as contemporary women that African-American women did not have in the Jim Crow era. So there`s something wonderful to be said about the solidarity that we felt on the set, very insulated, Ted created a safe place for us to work and have fun.
MATTHEWS: I like the way, Taraji, you look up at that sign as you go out of the room, colored computers. They still designate you by your ethnicity.
Let`s take another look at the movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go find your way over there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That Colonel Jim is a tall glass of water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he is. Tall, strong, commanding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I bet he`s like that day and night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary, it`s Sunday. Please have some shame.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s coming over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, why would he be doing that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because Mary`s waving at him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fix your hair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colonel, I`m Dorothy Vaughn, that`s Ms. Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma`am. Nice to meet you all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Mrs. Katherine (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s not married. She`s a widow, with three beautiful little girls, so well-behaved. Angels on earth is like we like to call her. Dorothy, slice of pie?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You already have a slice of pie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, it`s so great you`re doing this. I`m so glad you took this project. I`m so glad you took this project. Everybody took it. Because Hollywood needs it.
It`s not a reaction to Hollywood. It`s not a redo, but it`s something.
MELFI: We need to see this story. We need little girls to see this story. We need little boys to see this story. We need people to know that history wasn`t a bunch of white guys in a room.
NASA was very diverse. NASA celebrates these women. These women are not hidden from NASA. NASA has been honoring these women for a long time.
So, it`s great to tell the general public that.
MATTHEWS: Well, guys, thank you all. It`s honor to meet you all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Pharrell, the music gets to even me.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can keep the mugs?
MATTHEWS: You can keep the mugs, we can get you hats. This is a great opportunity, because I think this is -- I said politics and culture are together. They`re the same thing. This collection, whatever you think of it, culture and politics are together. We got to put it all together.
Merry Christmas to everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: I was just going to say, you`re not Mr. Straight hour. We`ve been watching you for years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WILLIAMS: And your interviews is and the way that you keep people straight is amazing, and when people veer off and they don`t answer the question, there`s no one that slices through it better than you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
That`s not in the script. We`ll be right back. Thank you. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, here we are at the end of the year. A good time for me to thank all the people that bring HARDBALL to you night after night. You don`t see them, but I certainly do. And I know how important, supportive and valuable they are.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us and happy holidays.
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