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Thanksgiving Edition Transcript 11/24/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Shannon Pettypiece, Dana Milbank

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 24, 2017 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Dana Milbank

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

A year after Donald Trump`s election shocked the world, he remains unpredictable. Tonight, we look at President Trump in his own words. We will examine the way he has conducted himself in the goldfish bowl of the oval office where he has delivered on the promises he made and how he has handled his many setbacks.

The Trump presidency has had, to put it charitably, mixed results. But it has never ceased to keep our attention. Let`s take a look back at some key moments of the last year.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans.

We are in the process of putting together one of the great cabinets that has ever been assembled in the history of our nation. Do you like it so far, everybody?

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.

I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those writings, OK.

We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban, but we had a bad court.

I have nothing to do with Russia. I have to tell you, it`s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

I never said repeal and replace Obamacare. You have all heard my speeches. I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days.

The world is a mess. I inherited a mess whether it`s the Middle East, whether it`s North Korea, whether it`s so many other things.

If you don`t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it`s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I will go along with Russia. Could have been China. Could have been a lot of different groups.

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn`t have had the civil war.

Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time -- how am I doing? I`m doing OK. I`m President. Hey, I`m President. Can you believe it? Right.

Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting. I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It`s called opposition research or even research into your opponent.

When we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don`t take advantage of it, so that`s disappointing.

I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office. And I would have quite simply picked somebody else.

They should have approved healthcare last night, but you can`t have everything. Boy, oh boy.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don`t have any doubt about it either. We have to close down our government, we are building that wall.

Wouldn`t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He`s fired. He`s fired!

You know, the saddest thing is that because I`m the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the justice department. I`m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I`m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing.

But let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I`m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that`s what the policy is going to be. You`ve seen that. You`ve seen it strongly.


MATTHEWS: Joining me now after all that is Shannon Pettypiece, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, Dana Milbank is a columnist, of course, for the "Washington Post" and Jason Johnson is a policy editor at the Root and an MSNBC political contributor.

I don`t know where we go on that menu. I want to start with it, but what do you think? How is history going to capsulize all that when they try to put together the first year of the Donald Trump American presidency?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, when you look at what he said in his statements, you look at that as unprecedented. No President has ever spoken like this. Made these sort of bold proclamations and statement. But when you look at his actions, what he is actually has done and accomplished I think, you know, this past year, it`s pretty modest. And history, it look --.

[19:05:09] MATTHEWS: Good modest or bad modest.

PETTYPIECE: I think modest in the sense of he hasn`t accomplished that much.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he has kept our attention, Dana. I am stunned. I want to start with his historical knowledge, and Jason`s shaking his head. I remember Dan Quayle used to make these comments, like the holocaust was the worst thing ever happened in our history, of the country`s history. What about Frederick Douglass being a guy around the corner, I mean. Way back in the 18th century we are talking about here or early 19s and this guy is talking about as one of his neighbors. What do you mean about that guy?

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: And he is being recognize more and more, day by day.


MILBANK: Frederick Douglass.

You know, of all the things you played in there, there is one that I absolutely agree with Trump, at the very end, when he said, I`m the only one that matters. And that`s the thread that`s running through all of this. It`s not so much that he is President of the United States, but it`s about Donald Trump and whether he`s unhappy with this country or happy with this country, how he is being perceived, how he is being believed, his attorney general has been, how the NFL owners are being, all about him in each case and it has, in a sense, been a magical voyage of discovery.

MATTHEWS: Does he believe the world exists or is just part of his experience and tantasms (ph) like all of this is just a dream. And it all that matters is my id, my ego. Because when he talks about things like you say, it doesn`t seem to matter that there`s nuclear weapons in North Korea. It matters how does he sized up against the leader of North Korea as a macho thing.

MILBANK: And has that short fat guy insulted me.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Like it`s a high school thing.

MILBANK: Look, I mean, we can`t put him on the couch. We don`t know. But - and I`m certainly no expert in the subject, but he is commonly described as a narcissist who can only see things from his perspective. But it is, at the very least, as we were saying, entertaining because the rest of us are watching him learn about Frederick Douglass or learning that the President`s not supposed to get involved in the justice department or learning that healthcare reform is so hard.

MATTHEWS: You know, he does have shtick too. He does have shtick too, Jason. Like he does know that he does certain techniques, like, you are fired. He knows that`s a funny line because of all those years on television, firing people. He understands there`s shtick to this act.

JASON JOHNSON, POLICY EDITOR, THE ROOT: He is a carnival barker and he`s a performer. And honestly, Chris, if we just had different music over the background, it reminded me of that old `80s video, land of confusion by Phil Collins, like it just seem like that strange video with puppets screaming and yelling, every other time you see him, he seems to be ranting about something and he`s never pleased.

And it`s so interesting. When you looked at George Bush, when you look at Obama, you look at Clinton, it seemed like these guys were like, every once in a while, you get that sense they would wake up and say, I`m the President.

MILBANK: But they are smiling.

JOHNSON: They are smiling. He doesn`t seem to like the job and he`s in a constant state of rage, and doesn`t seem to accomplish much. It`s bizarre to see for only eight months in office.

MATTHEWS: Shannon.

PETTYPIECE: I think to both of your points, they are very correct. And even people who like him, his friends, people who think he is doing a great job, would agree with your point that he is a narcissist, at the end of the day. He views the world about himself.

And to your point also that he is constantly in a state of combat. That is where he is best is as fighting and that`s something that his friends and enemies will tell you at the same time.

MATTHEWS: He wants to hold on to his 38 percent or whatever it is.

Anyway, President Trump made many promises to voters in the campaign trail and he kept some of them. Some of them. Such as ending the Paris climate deal. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: We are going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.

For every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated. Regulations are killing our country and our jobs.

We will also immediately stop the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.


MATTHEWS: Well, some of his promises were a lot harder to keep than he realized like repealing President Obama`s health care. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing Obamacare.

We will also have an efficient and responsible federal budget. No more waste. No more throwing away taxpayer dollars.

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


MATTHEWS: Well, in some issues, he did an about-face like labeling China a currency manipulator during the campaign but not now. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: We will build a great wall and Mexico will pay for the wall.

I will direct my secretary of the treasury to labor China a currency manipulator.

I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations if I take them at all. There`s no time for vacations. We are not going to be big -- we`re not going to be big on vacations.


[19:10:06] MATTHEWS: Did you see Chris Christie shaking his head, like, this is very important.

Well, I see a lot there. The wall. There isn`t no wall. There`s not going to be a wall. But it was a good demagoguery thing. Health care. He can`t seem to do it although he might try to do it this fall, this December. He is killing regulations. Business loves this stuff. He is killing all the environmental regulations. And of course China, the climate thing, he just killed it. He is trying to kill it. So some things he did that he succeeded at that nobody likes but he`s done it anyway and some things he`s never going to get done.

PETTYPIECE: At this point, what he has been most successful at accomplishing is undoing Obama`s legacy, sort of systematically going through one by one and undoing the past eight years of Obama. And on the health care front, doing as much as he possibly can to undo Obamacare, you know, just from the executive office. So he has been very successful at undoing those eight years of Obama and the deregulation front.



MATTHEWS: So why is he doing this? Why is he spending so much effort to get rid of things just because he wants to get even with Obama?

MILBANK: Well, it`s partially that. But it`s also, that`s what he can do. Like if you are looking at the categories of things he had done and things he hasn`t done, he has been able to do the destructive things, to undo things, he hasn`t been able to do the constructive things and that is to build a new policy. That`s not unique to Donald Trump. Nobody seems to be able to do that.

MATTHEWS: So it`s easy to get rid of the individual mandate for Obamacare than it is to create anything.

MILBANK: Or at least to defund the insurers which essentially kills Obamacare. But you mentioned DACA, the Iran deal, you know, the Paris, Trans-Pacific, you go down the line, it`s quite easy to take things apart and let them fall apart. It`s another thing to build it. And that`s where you ever seen any of it.

MATTHEWS: Jason, two things he wanted to do that I wanted him to do. No more stupid wars and build up this country with infrastructure. I don`t see a lot of infrastructure. And I do worry about why he seems to want to rip the scab off the Iranian deal, keep that thing hot and get that thing hopped up again, keeping the Iraq war going. I mean, he doesn`t -- or Afghanistan, I should say. He doesn`t seem to be that particularly anti- war as President.

JOHNSON: No, no. In fact, he is letting everything continue that Obama was doing, everything continue that Bush was doing.

And Chris, I agree with you. The one thing that I thought that a President Trump, who puts his name on everything, would do is I thought we would be building. I thought he would be building.

MATTHEWS: Why not? Wouldn`t the unions love it?

JOHNSON: You would think that would be the most reasonable thing in the world. The fact that he hasn`t been able to get that through, his own Congress has been probably the greatest failure of this presidency from a policy standpoint.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, President Trump argued that he would be a great President because he knows how to make deals. Let`s watch him at that.


TRUMP: I will bring America to a new level. I will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like I do. Nobody -- I know everybody that I`m running against. I mean, nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things I can do.

You know, don`t forget, I have been in business. I have made a lot of money, which I`m going to do for the country now. I have been focused on jobs and money and deals, and that`s what I do and that`s what the country needs.

It`s supposed to be, you get along with Congress and you cajole and you go back and forth and everybody gets in a room and we end up with deals.

If I get elected President, I`m going to be in the White House a lot. I`m not leaving. We have deals to make. Who the hell wants to leave?


MATTHEWS: Well, the question is, Sharon -- Shannon, when is he going to cut a deal? Because he doesn`t seem to have a better deal with the Iranians or with anybody in the world. We have no deals coming out of his Asia trip, no deals, no trade pacts, no bi-laterals, no multi-laterals, nothing. And there`s nothing going on with his Republican Congress, which he is about to lose next year probably. So if he is ever going to cut a deal, he better do it pretty soon.

PETTYPIECE: And some of these deals like trade deals take a long time to do. They take a long time to get done. He does these little incremental deals like he will get a country to buy some military equipment in exchange for something but those are very marginal deals.

The biggest thing I`m surprised about is Congress and that you would have thought that possibly with all the -- he would have been able to work out some better deals and negotiations with Congress. But obviously, unlike in past deals where you are negotiating one-on-one with someone, Congress, you are negotiating with dozens if not hundreds of people at a time and that really caught him off guard and now it`s almost like he`s given up his hands and said, I just can`t do a deal with these people.

MILBANK: The potential, I think, that he had and still theoretically has is he is not traditionally a Republican or a Democrat. He is there for himself. So he could reach across the aisle in a way that others haven`t. But you know, by my count, he has made exactly one deal across with the Democrats and that was just this temporary three-month extension of the spending deal.

MATTHEWS: Not on the tax deal.

MILBANK: He really hasn`t in any big way. And I think he just got caught up in the traditional Washington zero-sum politics and that his team is the Republican. Democrats certainly aren`t going to reach out and try to help him. And it`s been politics as usual albeit with a more flamboyant guy.

MATTHEWS: Jason, why doesn`t he cut deals with Chuck Schumer? He is also a deal maker. Why is it always stuck to that need to get 50 out of 52 Republicans in the Senate, the same old, same old every time and all it takes is three Republicans to say no and it all crashes and burns. Why doesn`t he try to reach over and grab five or ten from the other side or write a tax bill the Democrats are willing to go along with?

[19:15:18] JOHNSON: Because I don`t think Donald Trump understands how to make a deal when he is on equal footing. Most of his deal making has been, I have got money. You need me to get this thing done. He is talking to people who are like I don`t need you to get reelected. I don`t need your power. I don`t need your assistance.

What is more interesting to me is, you know, everyone around him is cutting deals. Jared Kushner is cutting deals. Paul Manafort cut deals. Papadopoulos has cut deal. Everyone around Donald Trump seems to understand how to negotiate better than he is.

MATTHEWS: Those are the (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Deals about not going to prison for a long time.

Anyway, coming up, Trump`s trouble with the truth. "The Washington Post" has been counting up Trump`s falsehoods. It`s an average of more than five a day. In fact, five and a half a day. We have got some of the biggest whoppers, his all-time favorites or our all-time favorites of his. Plus all the people, places, or things Trump has gone on twitter to insult.

This is "Hardball" where the action is.


[19:19:16] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."

"The Washington Post" has been tracking all of the President`s falsehoods since taking office in January. And last week, it reported that Trump makes an average of five and a half false or misleading claims a day. And is on track to reach 1,999 claims by the end of his first year in office. Here are a few of his favorite most-repeated claims. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it`s turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election.

The whole Russian thing was an excuse for the Democrats losing the election and it turns out to be just one excuse.

Obamacare is a disaster. It`s virtually dead as far as I`m concerned, it really is dead. And I predicted that a long time ago.

President Obama, after a long period of time, was able to finally push it through, but pushed through something that`s now failed, really failing badly.

So, the insurance companies have made a fortune with Obamacare, an absolute fortune.

Obamacare is a wreck. It`s a mess. It`s destroying lives.

Obamacare is finished. It`s dead. It`s gone. It`s no longer -- you shouldn`t even mention -- it`s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.

We`re the highest-tax country in the world.

We are having not only reform. We`re having the largest tax cuts in the history of our country.

We`re working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas. We are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut. It will be the biggest cut in the history of our country.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with our panel, Shannon Pettypiece, Dana Milbank, and Jason Johnson.

Jason, this end -- from your end, why does he do this? Does it matter? Does truth matter? Wasn`t it Moynihan who said you`re entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts? But he has his own facts.

JOHNSON: He has his own facts.

But, also, we`re in a unique place as far as his support base. He has a support base that is absolutely convinced that, no matter what Trump says, that his intentions to do it are more important than if he accomplishes it.

And almost no politician has ever had that much elasticity. He can say, I want to do this, I want to do this, and no matter what he doesn`t accomplish, his supporters are like, hey, he tried, but Congress stood in his way.

MATTHEWS: He does have a Greek chorus.


MATTHEWS: He has "FOX & Friends." He`s got Hannity at night. He does have people, Laura Ingraham. They tend to say, yes, amen, at least most of the time.


He`s operating within that echo chamber. And I also think it`s true -- and it`s not clear to me that he knows that the things he`s saying are not true. Like, he seems to believe that whatever the last thing...


MILBANK: ... he said is true.

MATTHEWS: Did he believe Obama was an illegal immigrant?

MILBANK: Who knows what is actually going on in his head.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m asking you. You said you think he might it. Did he believe that?

MILBANK: Well, he seems -- his -- the guy who wrote his autobiography with him says he`s a guy who seems to believe that whatever he says is true or at least ought to be true.

And I think that`s why, in our "Washington Post" count, you see there were 50 different lies or falsehoods that he said more than 30 times apiece. So, it`s -- it`s just part of the program. It`s what he does.

MATTHEWS: You know, down South, they say, it would like to rain? It would like to rain.

I just got to thinking, he would like it to be the truth. It like, how do you know what he`d like to believe? I think he says things in his own interest. He could sell a car that was a junker, a lemon, and tell you this is the best car that was ever on wheels.


MATTHEWS: He could sell a house like that.

PETTYPIECE: Yes. It`s the salesman`s pitch.

MATTHEWS: But I think it`s the salesman. It`s the overstatement, the claim that is only in his interest to make and it has nothing to do with the truth.


And one that kind of stuck with me from his real estate days was, he used to say he was the biggest real estate developer in New York, when he knew that wasn`t the case. And it was almost bizarre, because one of his closest friends, Richard LeFrak, was a much bigger real estate developer in New York.

MATTHEWS: Like Mort Zuckerman. They`re a lot of bigger guys than him.

PETTYPIECE: And yet he would go around saying that he was a bigger real estate developer than like his close friend.

MATTHEWS: They laugh at him when you bring it up with these guys.

PETTYPIECE: So I think some of it`s marketing.

But to Dana`s point, too, I think sometimes his staff has -- spin it and twisted it in a way that it was the biggest inauguration crowd.


MATTHEWS: I think he`s like -- Liberace was the world`s greatest pianist, anyway.

Anyway, the president has also exaggerated how great his presidency has been. No surprise there. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: There has never been a presidency that`s done so much in such a short period of time.

We`re unleashing a new era of American prosperity, perhaps like we have never seen before.

We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

In the last 10 months, we have followed through on one promise after another.


TRUMP: I didn`t have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.


MATTHEWS: I don`t have a schedule.


MATTHEWS: But if I did have a schedule, that would be also better than anybody else`s.


MATTHEWS: You wonder what this guy`s golf card looks like when he -- let`s see how I did here. Three, two, one.


MILBANK: Well, he grades himself along the way too. And he gets an A-plus for everything, including the response to the hurricane.


MATTHEWS: Is he a part of our new culture, everybody gets a trophy, starting with me for being me?

PETTYPIECE: Someone gave me the advice once on your annual performance review, you know, don`t ever be objective about, well, you know, I really could have done better. I did great. I was the best. I`m a number 10. I`m outperforming all my expectations.

Just why not? Why not say you`re doing it? Why not?

MATTHEWS: I don`t get it.

But I think this bombastic P.T. Barnum part of his personality is all part of his -- he`s his own advance man, his own up-up man, they used to say in Massachusetts, the guy who says, the governor`s here. He says, Donald Trump is here.

JOHNSON: He`s pretended to be his own P.R. guy. Remember the John Barron or whatever it is? He does this.

But also what he has perfected -- and, again, you know, his supporters believe it. And Republican, even if they don`t believe it, they go along with it -- is, whenever something doesn`t turn out to be what he wants, it`s not his fault. Right? Oh, I did this. Congress stood in my way.


MATTHEWS: I bet there are people watching right now who are saying, why are you laughing about this guy?

Because there is a part of it that is comic, as well as tragic. It is ludicrous, his behavior. And the only way you are going to react to it is to tighten your -- and go, I`m so mad, because you can`t be constantly mad about a clownish act.

Anyway, "The New York Times" has meticulously examined President Trump`s Twitter account to make a list of all the people, places and things that Trump has insulted on Twitter, projecting he`s on track to reach 650 by the end of his first term.

First? Please. How about just term, OK?

He hit nearly all his favorite targets in one tweet two weeks ago -- quote -- "Does the fake news media remember when crooked Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was begging Russia to be our friend with the misspelled reset button? Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin."

PETTYPIECE: Why aren`t the NFL players #stand for our anthem? How`d you miss the NFL players in that too?



JOHNSON: I think the greatest tragedy of Twitter going to 280 characters is, it`s doubled our chances of going to war.

The fact that the president...

MATTHEWS: And 6:30 in the morning, he starts.


MATTHEWS: You know when he gets "The Post" in the morning, "The Washington Post"? "The Times" tells me that they get it like 6:30 in the morning, and that`s when he begins.

MILBANK: Well, you can tell when he`s watching TV and when he`s reading the newspaper, because that`s when he starts the Twitter, the Twitter operation.

MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t watch much television, he says.


MILBANK: And, of course, like everything he has said, that`s 100 percent true.



MATTHEWS: Well, up next: Trump`s single-minded dismantling of all things Obama. He`s got some sort of, don`t you think, obsession with his predecessor?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s been evident ever since he pushed that bogus claim that his predecessor was born in Kenya that Donald Trump holds a deep personal grudge against former President Obama.

Even after winning the White House, Trump seems intent on upstaging his predecessor by discrediting, dismantling and otherwise denigrating Obama`s legacy.

Let`s take a look back at some of the things he said about Obama and the Obama administration over his last 10 months in office.


TRUMP: To be honest, inherited a mess. It`s a mess at home and abroad, a mess.

In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other presidents combined.

The Iran deal made by the previous administration is one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed.

I have ended the Obama administration`s war on coal.

And we have gotten rid of a lot of really bad pieces that were signed by President Obama, believe me.

Obamacare is collapsing. It`s dead. It`s gone.

They voted because they believe the lies of President Obama.

I don`t draw red lines. President Obama drew a red line, and I was the one that made it look a little bit better than it was, but that could have been done a lot sooner.

They asked me, what about race relations in the United States? Now, I have to say, they were pretty bad under Barack Obama. That, I can tell you.

You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama Obama - - Obama, he didn`t even want to talk about it. But I talk. It`s about time. Somebody has to do it.

I would like to de-nuke the world. I know that President Obama said global warming is the biggest threat. I totally disagree.

Barack Obama never said it took place because of radical Islamic terrorists.


TRUMP: He never said that, right? He doesn`t have to say.

If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn`t make calls. A lot of them didn`t make calls. I like to call when it`s appropriate.

There is another absolutely terrible deal from the previous administration. See how nice I am? I say the previous administration, as opposed to the Obama administration.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`re back with our guests, Shannon Pettypiece, Dana Milbank, and Jason Johnson.

This revenge talk against Obama, did it start with that humiliating riff that the president, former president did on him at the press dinner a couple years ago, when he made fun of him for being the moderator of that television show "Apprentice"?


Trump, as I recall, was sitting with "The Washington Post" at the time, and that was one of his lowest moments. I think it may have something to do with that.

And in fairness to Trump, previous presidents have always bashed their predecessor. That part`s not new. The obsession really is. But I think that`s something in the Trump psyche. He needs to have an opponent to go against. You could play a similar reel about Hillary Clinton. You certainly could during the campaign with little Marco and lying Ted and low-energy Jeb.

But there`s something extra about Obama and...

MATTHEWS: You noticed that you slowed down when you said low-energy Jeb?

MILBANK: Low-energy Jeb.

MATTHEWS: You got into that.

MILBANK: No, but there`s something extra about Obama.


MILBANK: And he benefits -- he -- the reason he`s president is because of a backlash to Obama.

And, unfortunately, there is, I believe, a racial component in that that drives the -- everything from the...


MATTHEWS: Well, the base of his base, yes.

You know, Shannon, it seems to me that he keeps Obama in the news. The president -- former president has sort of retired, until very recently. He hasn`t been out there beating the drum for the Democratic Party or raising a whole lot of money. He has sort of stepped back, which is the dignified way to go. But this guy keeps bringing him back.


And for those who like Obama, it, I think, even elevates Obama and the importance of his eight years and how much they like him. I think it makes them rally around Obama more.

But for those who dislike Obama, which there is a large, you know, percentage of this country that comprise Trump`s base, I think he knew there was a lot of dissatisfaction among people with Obama, and I think that`s what he has tried to tap into.

They really like his attacks on Obama.

MATTHEWS: You know, Jason, I hate to throw this at you, but I will. It just seems like he only plays to the whites.

JOHNSON: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: And like it`s with the...


MATTHEWS: No, I meant it, whether it`s immigrant people generally or it`s from below the border or it`s Latinos or it`s Muslims generally.

In fact, when he says Muslims, that audience applauds because how much they don`t like Muslims, period, just because of who they are.

JOHNSON: Oh, yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: And then, of course, African-Americans with this.

I always thought the birtherism thing was to build the first 20 percent of his coalition and then build on the hating of Mexicans and then hating of Muslims.


MATTHEWS: And you add up to the high 30s. It was pretty much confected that way, like a big cake, right?


I mean, his loathing, I mean, it`s a multilayered cake with lots of white slices and maybe some brown ones at the top.



MATTHEWS: So, this is...


JOHNSON: But here`s the thing. His antipathy towards Obama...

MATTHEWS: Angel food.

JOHNSON: Yes, exactly.


JOHNSON: He`s angry at Obama for not just being successful, for not just being popular, but for being a successful black guy.


JOHNSON: And part of that is an anathema to how Trump sees himself.

But I also think this. And this is really key. The more he goes after Obama -- was it just last week "SNL" does a sketch, Barack, we want you back. It`s "Star Wars." If you strike me down, I will come back more powerful.

The fact that he keeps talking about Obama just aggrandizes what Obama did. And he makes the president more powerful, former president, more powerful every time he talks about them.

MATTHEWS: What do make of this, Shannon?

PETTYPIECE: I do agree that there are racial tensions underneath all this Obama attacking. And maybe he doesn`t even intend it to be that way. Maybe Trump doesn`t even intend it to be that way, but it is perceived that way, and certainly by the alt-right, by racist elements in the country.

They perceive it to be about race. Same thing with the attacks, the persistent attacks, on black athletes.


MATTHEWS: Yes, I forgot, the take-the-knee guys.


MATTHEWS: Making it into SOBs, to call them -- you can say, I disagree with them. It`s a good argument on both sides.

I can see the argument. Maybe it`s not the proper way to show your anger about the way blacks have been treated in this country, but to call them SOBs because they do it, that`s their kind of patriotism.

PETTYPIECE: Right, or with the UCLA players, sort of talking down...


MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Well, we`re going to have some fun now.

If those people are deadly serious, you may want to watch something else for the next few minutes. This is -- I`m sorry -- this is what he is.

Up next: Just like Fredo Corleone in "The Godfather," Trump wants us to know he`s smart. He`s smart, Michael. I`m a smart one.

That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Another thing that separates President Trump from his predecessors is the way he talks about his own intellect. Throughout his campaign and his first year in office, President Trump has made it a point to boast about his intelligence. Let`s watch a few examples.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So here I am, great schools, great brain, great success.

I went to an Ivy League school. I`m very highly educated. I know words -- I have the best words.

Look, I went to the great Wharton School of Finance. I was very good. I was a good student and all that stuff.

I was a good student. I always hear about the elite. You know, the elite. They`re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were.

If Putin likes me and if he thinks I`m a good, smart person, which, you know, I hope he believes it. I hope I am -- actually, he`s right. I am brilliant, you know that, right?

And then they say, is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me. I`m like a smart person.


MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned before, Trump`s apparent need to prove his intelligence is reminiscent of Fredo Corleone who famously insisted that he was smart. Here he goes, Fredo.


FREDO CORLEONE: I can handle things. I`m smart! Not like everybody says! Like dumb. I`m smart and I want respect!


MATTHEWS: We`re back with our guests: Shannon Pettypiece, Dana Milbank, and Jason Johnson.

It would be ludicrous to compare that to anyone else except Donald Trump. But the fact is, Trump does keep saying it. I know words. I have great words.

What does that mean? I have great words?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: I was out doing the departure when he walks to get on Marine One and he came over this little impromptu press conference with the reporters and that was one of those moments where he looked at this big gaggle of reporters around him and said, I`m smart. You know, I went to good schools. He was still trying to convince us, like, why don`t you like me? And still trying to seek our approval and still that guy from queens who wants everyone to like him and wants everyone to think he`s smart and he`s a big deal.

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Even Fredo never challenged his brother to an IQ test, as this president did with his own secretary of state. Can you imagine?

MATTHEWS: Fredo unfortunately is not where you want to end up in the canoe with the guy behind you as you were saying the Hail Mary and all an assassination plot. It was terrible.

MILBANK: No, you don`t want to wind up that way.

MATTHEWS: Sad. Anyway, I think to have to claim you`re smart is probably the first example of your not being smart.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Look, when the emperor says, I`m the emperor, you know the empire is done. Michael Jordan never has to say he`s the best, right? When you know what you are, you don`t have to say it, and the fact that he`s constantly talking about the things that he is and the things that he does when he has nothing to show for it --

MATTHEWS: OK, I`ll give you two examples of bragging at work. First of all, Babe Ruth. He pointed to center field and hit the ball over the center field wall, 350 feet. OK, that`s one.

Ready? Muhammad Ali, six rounds. I`m sorry, he would do it. He delivered.

This guy doesn`t deliver. It`s all right to brag if you`re actually going to do it.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MILBANK: It`s not bragging if you`ve really done it.

MATTHEWS: Who said that? Muhammad Ali.

MILBANK: It was Fredo. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, though, Trump says he`s smart. It seems like health care may have outsmarted him. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I have to tell you, it`s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.


MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton taught us that in the `90s. Hillary waded into that pool first and saw how deeply confrontational it is, the doctors, the insurance companies, the pharmaceuticals, everybody`s got their hand in this thing and everybody wants a bigger piece.

PETTYPIECE: And he`s done a -- I mean, there`s been a few moments like that where he says, listen, this is tough stuff. This is harder than anyone would have thought. And yes, it is.

MATTHEWS: Except American history should have taught him all of that.

PETTYPIECE: Right, and you had no previous political experience, you never held a political office. You only knew people in Washington from fundraisers -- yes, it is difficult, and if you acknowledge that, people might give you an easier time.


MILBANK: You know, the truth is, for somebody who criticizes Trump for all kinds of things, I don`t think the guy is dumb by any stretch. You don`t get to this place by being dumb. He`s not aware of a lot of the things that he needs to do. He`s not versed in the business of governing.

MATTHEWS: For example, name the -- name the areas, Dana, you know nothing about. Come clean.

MILBANK: We could talk movies and sports, I might come up missing, or Manhattan real estate.

MATTHEWS: I`ll give you hockey. I never grew up. The flyers came to Philly after I left. I`m sorry. When Versace was killed, I said, who is he? I had no idea who he was. I know nothing about fashion or design but I`m allowed to. Anyway, I`m not a designer.

Anyway, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed a different view of President Trump`s intellect. He called President Trump a moron after a July 20th meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump`s national security team and cabinet officials. That`s according to NBC News, a pretty good source.

What do you think, Jason? Moron. Overheard the word? I`m going to speak more on that issue, remember "Saturday Night Live"? I want to talk more on that.

JOHNSON: I don`t think there was any confusion there. And part of it -- that`s why he`s constantly saying, oh, I feel so smart, oh, I feel so intelligent.

But I`ll tell you this. Especially when it comes to health care, the problem -- Trump has done some terrible things on race, he`s done some terrible things on national security, but health care is the single greatest thing that I don`t just blame him. I blame the whole Republican Party. You had eight years to have a plan. You had one job. And the fact that they couldn`t come up with a plan --

MATTHEWS: But the thing, Jason, the great irony is, Obama did their plan.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It was from Heritage Foundation. It was a conservative approach. It wasn`t single payer. It wasn`t Medicare for all. It was basically a corporate business solution.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Relying on lots of profits for the insurance world. Lots of -- and pharmaceutical business loved this thing.



PETTYPIECE: And to go back to an earlier point, maybe if he didn`t despise everything Obama did so much, he could have fixed it, and we have, you know, better health care system --

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he do what we all recognize is right to do and he doesn`t do it? Why doesn`t he do what we tell him to do?

MILBANK: You know, the best part of that Tillerson thing is he went on and on about how NBC was reporting on this nonsense but he did not actually deny that he called the president of the United States a moron.

MATTHEWS: Well, he couldn`t admit it either. There`s another character from the movies that Trump sometimes takes after. Jimmy Two Times of the film, "Goodfellas." We got President Two Times now, and that`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I mentioned before that president Trump reminds me of a character from the "Goodfellas" movie, Jimmy Two Times. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy Two Times who got that nickname because he said everything twice like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to go get the papers. Get the papers.


MATTHEWS: And here is our own President Two Times.


TRUMP: Chicago is a disaster. It`s a total disaster.

He doesn`t stop. He doesn`t stop.

Our warmest admiration for this ancient culture. It`s an ancient culture and its customs are ancient.


MATTHEWS: Jason, this is a hot potato. I think it`s street corner English in all ethnic groups. I`ve heard it before growing up in Philly. I`ve heard guys -- you know, it`s time to get out of here. It`s time to get out of here. I think it is a -- what is it -- allocution or something. I don`t know what you would call it, but it is funny to hear it from a well- educated president.

JOHNSON: Right, a very smart president. He has the best words. So much so he has to use them twice or people won`t understand him.

I think it`s a matter -- I think it`s a mixture of two things. One, he may wonder if people are really listening to him, and, two, I don`t know if he knows what to say. As much as he is, as good at being spontaneous and quick off the cuff, I think in these formal settings, he`s really anxious and repeats himself because he doesn`t know the next thing if he`s just not riffing.

MILBANK: I think that`s part of it, and there`s something else, too, because often this happens when he`s on teleprompter. So, he`s reading words that somebody else wrote for him, probably reading it for the first time. So he goes blah-blah-blah ancient culture. Oh, yes, ancient culture, really important.

So, he`s agreeing with the guy who wrote the speech, but, really, he`s just agreeing with himself.

MATTHEWS: Apparently.


PETTYPIECE: If on the --

MATTHEWS: He`s the president of the United States. We`ve got to keep reminding ourselves.

PETTYPIECE: It might also be a bit of branding, though, on some of these things. Points he wants to emphasize. Repeat it. Sometimes you`ve got to over and over and over repeat it and bang people over the heads. But I would agree, sometimes on the formal remarks.

I`ve also noticed something else he also where, yes, he`ll be reading from the teleprompter and it sounds scripted and awkward and he will take a moment where he pauses, and he`ll throw in a little Trumpian phrase like, and I tell you, it is going to be like we have never seen before.

MILBANK: Believe me.

PETTYPIECE: You believe me. And then get back into the, you know, kind -- he has to inject a little bit of him into this.

MATTHEWS: Well, the bigger question I raised at the beginning of this hour, which is this Black Friday, if you will, is the question of how he`s managed to keep our attention. I mean, every morning he gets up and he tweets. That`s his technique.

But how does he manage by 6:30 in the morning. I mean, I turned on the TV, I get in the car and I listen to the latest on Sirius XM, because it`s not in the papers at that morning. He`s already gotten ahead of the papers. He has already made news by 6:30 in the morning.

What do we make of this guy`s ability to command our attention? I mean, you can`t go to an evening in Washington, I`m on one side, on the other side is probably the same. It`s all about Trump.

We`re saying he only talks about himself. He`s the person that everybody talks about, Dana. You`re the expert. You`re the satirist. Your column is fabulous because you`ve got great material and him, too.

MILBANK: I said at the very beginning of this show -- great show. This is a great show, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We picked that up.

MILBANK: We said at the very beginning, the one true thing is it all about himself.

MATTHEWS: But how does he get us in on the story?

MILBANK: He has succeeded in gaining attention, but the whole idea of the bully pulpit is you use it to advance your agenda. So, he`s got all of your attention.

MATTHEWS: But I don`t think Jimmy Carter, who I liked -- I pay tribute to, could have kept our attention to 24/7. He`s constantly putting on a reality show that`s never stopping. When he got elected president in the Electoral College, he began a four-year reality show 24/7.

JOHNSON: A four to eight-year reality show. I`m old enough to remember when people complained that Obama gave too many speeches. Remember that?

MATTHEWS: Overexposure.

JOHNSON: He`s overexposed. No, there is no overexposure.

MATTHEWS: For Trump?

JOHNSON: Yes, exactly. He doesn`t have a policy agenda, he has a Trump agenda and the Trump agenda is to make sure it`s constantly focused on him between Twitter and our coverage --

MATTHEWS: How does he do it?

JOHNSON: Because he taps into the inexhaustible fuel of American politics, which is rage.


JOHNSON: Rage or he brings rage out from people who don`t like him.

MATTHEWS: My dad when I was growing up said I could have a 24-hour radio show. I could have one. But I don`t think it`s arresting this guy -- I`m trying to be novel and interesting and have a point, but it`s something -- it`s closer to his id talking, this thing inside him that has to constantly be enraged, constantly passionate about being him.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

PETTYPIECE: I don`t think most of us could make this up, you know. Who would have instinctively thought to go after NFL players, to go after UCLA basketball players --

MATTHEWS: Call them SOBs.

PETTYPIECE: Right, and to say you should thank the president of China, to go after this Gold Star woman, wife.

MATTHEWS: I should have left them in jail.

PETTYPIECE: Yes, to go after Gold Star families on Twitter. Most people, it would have never crossed their mind to go after some of these things. And so, yes, they are so outside of the realm of anyone`s idea of possible that we can`t stop.

MATTHEWS: That`s a hell of a list. I don`t care if African-Americans don`t like me. I don`t care if --

PETTYPIECE: Gold Star families.

MATTHEWS: I don`t care if Hispanics don`t like me. I don`t care if Muslims don`t like me. I don`t care because I`ve got Scranton, I`ve got Erie. What`s he talking about?

JOHNSON: There you go. I`ve got central Iowa. Yes.

MILBANK: But this is why they haven`t replaced Obamacare, why we still don`t have a tax bill or immigration legislation or infrastructure or anything else, it`s because we keep getting distracted. We`re very willing, particularly those of us in the media to follow the distractions he throws out there, and make it all about Donald Trump. But nothing`s happened.

MATTHEWS: But if Hillary were president, we`d be talking about full funding for Title 20 education programs.

Yes. See --


MATTHEWS: We`d be doing serious business.

Anyway, we`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: I want to thank Shannon Pettypiece and Dana Milbank and Jason Johnson.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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