Show: HARDBALL Date: January 15, 2018 Guest: Jonathan Swan, Dana Milbank, Ruth Marcus, David Jolly, Karen Bass, McKay Coppins
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad timing. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Facing backlash for his comments last week, President Trump is now denying charges of racism as he marks his first Martin Luther King Day in office. After reportedly describing immigrants from Norway as being more desirable than those from Haiti or from countries in Africa which he called s-hole countries, the President insisted that he is not a racist. Here is what he told reporters at Mar-a-Lago last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, I`m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Dick Durbin, the only Democrat who attended that oval office meeting, remains the only participant to publicly confirm that the President used that derogatory language. Late today, the President attacked Durbin on twitter, saying senator Dickey Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can`t get made when there is no trust. Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.
Well, it comes after two Republican senators appeared to revise their stories in apparent attempt to give the President some cover. At first senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue released a joint statement saying we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically. However, they now seem to remember enough to challenge Senator Bush din`s account. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying the President did not use the word that has been so widely reported?
SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: I`m telling you he did not use that word, George. And I`m telling you it`s a gross misrepresentation.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I didn`t hear that word either. I certainly didn`t hear what senator Durbin has said repeatedly. Senator Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though, so perhaps we shouldn`t be surprised by that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are saying it didn`t happen or you don`t recall?
COTTON: I didn`t hear it. And I was sit nothing further from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was. And I know what has said about the President`s repeated statements is incorrect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, on Friday, Senator Lindsey Graham who reportedly stood up to Trump in that meeting on what he had said, confirmed Durbin`s version of events to Senator Tim Scott, his colleague from South Carolina. And today he seemed to take a veiled shot at Cotton and Perdue for revising their story, Lindsey Graham did, telling a reporter with South Carolina`s Post & courier newspaper that my memory hasn`t evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said.
Well, Senator Durbin stands by his account of what happened, saying today he is stunned by the Republican defense of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I know what happened. I stand behind every word that I said. I stick with my original interpretation. I am stunned that this is their defense. That is -- that`s their choice. What the President said in that meeting was so awful and so impactful on so many people that when he denied saying it, I felt duty-bound to clarify what actually happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by Democratic congressman Karen Bass from California, David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida. Ruth Marcus is deputy editorial page editor of "the Washington Post."
Thank you, all. In that order, congresswoman, this is interesting because Lindsey Graham apparently stood up to Trump.
REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Right.
MATTHEWS: And said you can`t use that kind of a term. A lot of us came from poor countries with not many well educated people. That`s why they came here. That`s the nature of this country, you know. As somebody once said, nobody`s grandfather was the duke of Marlboro who came to this country.
Your thoughts on this press and the two senators from - well, the two of them. One is from Arkansas and one is from -- I forget -- he is from Georgia. And the two of them are just laying their bodies on the tracks saying Trump didn`t say something that it`s now pretty clear he did say.
BASS: Exactly. I think that they are flat-out lying. And maybe they are getting something from the President for it. But, you know, I applaud Lindsey Graham. I also applaud Senator Flake too because he said that he had heard about it before it went to the news. I just think that it`s another tragic moment in Trump`s presidency.
I`m headed to Africa on Friday. And believe me, I know that the heads of state that we will be meeting with will expect to hear an explanation from us about what the President said.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m glad you are going over there, because there is some really good serious leaders of Africa now. I`m so hopeful, I`m sure you are about Cyril Ramaphosa being the head of the ANC in South Africa. I have been waiting for him for a long time, to be honest. And then you got people like (INAUDIBLE) from Botswana. They are people really trying to lead their people over there.
And what do you think their reaction, what you have heard in terms of your heads up about what you are going to face over there. What has been their emotional reaction to being referred to in this way by the President of the United States?
BASS: Well, they are absolutely furious. I mean, there were statements that were released from the African union. I went to an African celebration here in Los Angeles with Ethiopians. And when I apologized on behalf of Congress and the United States, they stood up and cheered and applause.
I know that they are very offended by this. And I know that you are well aware that African immigrants are some of the highest educated immigrants. So when he is talking about merit, I don`t know what established merit more than education. So just the flat-out lying of my colleagues, I`m very disappointed in.
MATTHEWS: I tell you, I spend some time with some Nigerian parliamentarians once. What a sophisticated group. They really are, by anybody`s world standards.
Anyway, I want to go now to David Jolly. Your thoughts about this as a Republican. I think the Republican Party, I know it`s not the party of Lincoln in a long time.
FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Sure.
MATTHEWS: But what do people think when they hear the President using this word? I mean, he sounds like a real estate developer, I guess that`s what he is, talking about a rough neighborhood in the worst possible language. But he is referring to people as well, obviously.
JOLLY: Well, what it suggests is that words of Dr. King and his vision is unfulfilled. We have a President today in 2017 who judges somebody by the color of their skin, not by the content of their character. And we have Republican leaders continuing to look the other way and face policies that further that divide economic equality with people of color.
And you know, the words of Dr. King on silence teach us all something. He suggested in some very famous words that silence, beginning to be silent is the beginning of the end, if you will. And that the words of our enemies are less important than the silence of our friends. Republican leaders continue to be silent in the face of this President`s actions. They are bringing dishonor not just to Dr. King, but dishonor upon themselves as well.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m going to read from his letter from the Birmingham jail at the end of the program for my finish tonight because words, they are very powerful, those words from him about. You are either pushing ahead or you are not.
U.S. congressman John Lewis who was with Dr. King. He is of course the congressman from Georgia now. He worked with Dr. King in the civil rights fight in the 1960s. He didn`t mince words when asked the President just yesterday. Here is John Lewis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I think this man, this President has taken us back to another place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think President Trump is a racist?
LEWIS: I think he is a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Lewis further said on MSNBC that he does not plan to attend President Trump`s state of the union address later this month. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: At this junction, I do not plan to attend the state of the union.
I cannot in all good conscience be in the room with what he has said about so many Americans. I just cannot do it. I wouldn`t be honest with myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a soulful man. Have you ever spent time with him?
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I have.
MATTHEWS: He makes you feel god to be near him because of his history. I mean, his head bashed in, you know. Amazing.
MARCUS: And when he uses the racist word to describe the President, you kind of have this intake of breath. This is where we are. But this is where we are.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the President and his usual politics here going after. Let me go back to Karen Bass.
Congresswoman, he goes after quote "Dickey Durbin." That`s the classic eighth grade schoolyard way of taking on somebody who has challenged his word, you know, the diminutive Dickey, you know. He goes back to the old nicknaming he did in the campaign. That`s what an 8-year-old mind would do but here is the President of the United States doing it.
BASS: Exactly. And I think that he has just reduced the office of the presidency to such a level.
You know, and I also think about the African countries, he doesn`t seem to realize our strategic relationship with Africa especially from the military sense. And when he responds on such a juvenile level, it just leaves leaders around the world perplexed. And then members of Congress like myself we have to clean up after this regularly.
MATTHEWS: Well, I go back that, I`m going back to David Jolly.
Again, you serve with these people. Why is a guy like Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, why are they laying on the tracks for this guy? George Will is going to be coming on the program later. He argues, I can get ahead of him and say, senators should represent the legislative body which is a counter veiling power to the presidency. They shouldn`t act like his vassals.
JOLLY: This is Trump`s GOP and nobody has been successful in challenging him within the party or before the base. And what we are see right now is the Republican Party coalescing around the current immigration debate because they don`t want DACA. They know if they give in on DACA, the base will revolt. And so, they are in a very tricky situation.
But nobody has been able to challenge this President and when. And we are seeing senators fall like flies in the face of Donald Trump`s scare tactics and his bully pulpit.
MATTHEWS: Well, the President told reporters yesterday that he was the least racist person that has ever been interviewed. They have ever interviewed. It`s the same line he has used on countless occasions to defend himself of such charges.
Let`s watch the history of his defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met, believe me. The least racist person.
Well, I`m probably the least racist person there is.
By the way, I am the least, just so you know, I am the least racist person. The least racist person that you have ever seen.
I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.
I am the least racist person you have ever met.
Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What can I say? In the lives of others, that German movie, you can always tell somebody is lying when they use the exact same words every time because they don`t want to get hung up. They use the exact same words all the time.
MARCUS: Well, not only the exact same words all the time. But helpful hint, if someone finds himself constantly -- and I trace this back to 2011, I think is the first time I found the phrase. Why do you have to keep doing it? So number one, you got a problem if you find yourself constantly defending your lack of racism.
JOLLY: I agree.
MATTHEWS: Karen Bass, congresswoman, let me ask you about this. Because I think we are Americans and we come from a history of slavery and race and Jim Crow. And I think everybody is a bit tribal. Look, it`s just part of our being as Americans. And everybody, good people fight it from the time they are born. They work against it. They try to outthink it. They work against all the prejudices of their grandparents. And I got them. I know grandparents. I know where they were.
And for Trump to say he is the least, I mean, isn`t that a little arguing too strongly against the charge? How about saying I am working on it or I have been better than my parents or I`m like a lot of people. I really don`t want to be a bad guy. No he is the least, the least racist. I just wonder than as a defense mechanism.
BASS: I wonder about it too. But it also makes me wonder what is racist to him. What does it mean?
MATTHEWS: Oh my God.
BASS: Do you have to be in a sheet? Do you have - I mean, what would it be? And for people who say, try to excuse the words and say well, that`s just the way people talk, I remember people saying that about the use of the "n" word years ago too. Well, it`s just a word. So what would a racist be to Trump? Who knows?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he started doing this with neighborhoods, remember?
BASS: Exactly, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: A new thing for him. I think he thinks like a really gross land developer who thinks in terms of real estate, not in terms of humanity.
Anyway, Congresswoman Karen Bass, it`s always great to have you on.
BASS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Also former congressman a David Jolly from Florida and Ruth Marcus, one of our legal here.
Coming up, according to close friends, Mitt Romney is running for the Senate Utah. And now the question is whether he is going to be running against Trump in the United States Senate. This could a real advice and consent moment from U.S. - a real leader like John McCain has been taking on Trump. Well, today, we got an early clue that he might be looking to take on the man in the White House.
Plus, Trump promised to be so Presidential, we would get bored. That`s not exactly what happened over the past year, you think, especially not this week.
And now George Will is coming here. He is calling Trump the worst President we have ever had. He is going to come here and explain that. Doesn`t take much explaining.
And with the government shutdown looming this weekend coming up Friday at midnight, Trump is out there blaming the Democrats for not getting a deal on DACA after he moved the goalpost. He wants more than the wall, apparently.
And what about that nuclear strike warning in Hawaii? Boy is that scary.
Finally, let me finish tonight with the handwritten words of the Dr. Martin Luther King from jail in Birmingham. I`m going to read some of these amazing words he wrote down on a newspaper he had, because he didn`t have any paper in that jail.
This is "Hardball," where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, against the backdrop of Trump`s latest controversy, we are hearing more about President Obama`s views on racism. His comments were taped last fall and released on Friday as part of David Letterman`s new Netflix show. My next guest needs no introduction. It was really good. Here is part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It turns out that we come up with all kinds of reasons to try to put ourselves over other people. You know, racism is a profound example of that. But obviously, biologically, there is no actual reality to it other than we made this thing up. We made it up. Over time what happens is because it manifests itself in very concrete ways, slavery, Jim Crow, subjugation, it becomes a social reality. And it ends up having very real impacts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You miss that guy?
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, and of course the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, is telling friends he plans to run for U.S. Senate from Utah. Over the weekend, "The New York Times" report that Utah governor Gary Herbert, who is eager to find senator Hatch`s replacement pressed one of Romney`s closest allies who answered by reading the governor a text from Romney that said "I`m running." I guess that`s how we do these things.
Donald Trump carried the beehive state back in 2016 by a small margin and past Republicans. But a majority of Mormon support the President`s policies but many are unhappy with his style. We will get to that.
Airing this month, U.S. News report that Governor Romney if elected would try to emulate John McCain, even telling the Utah congressional delegation quote "there`s got to be somebody who can stand up to the President."
And today he did just that, taking the President to task for his recent comments about immigrants, tweeting, this is Romney, the poverty of an aspiring immigrant`s nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race. The sentiment attributed to the President is inconsistent with America`s history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness, and charity for all.
For more I`m joined McKay Coppins, by the staff writer for the "Atlantic" and Dana Milbank, columnist for "the Washington Post."
Gentlemen, first of all, give me some good news, alright, McKay, and then you. I want to know why Romney in the U.S. Senate will be good for this country.
MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, first of all I think that he does see himself kind of fighting for the soul of his party. He has been an outspoken critic of Trump ever since Trump launched his campaign basically. He is also somebody who has a lot of friends already on Capitol Hill. He has kind of been an elder statesman of the Republican Party and sees a leadership vacuum in the party that he thinks he can fill.
He is not just running to be -- stand up to Trump, though I think he will do that. He also thinks that the Republican Party needs a leader, and he wants to stand up for kind of the old-line, main-line Republicanism that isn`t being represented by the president right now.
MATTHEWS: He always offers himself.
He went to St. Paul`s and Yale. He has that sort of veneer. I don`t always like it. But it`s OK.
MATTHEWS: Can he maintain that sort of aristocratic veneer, a guy who talked down to the 47 percent, and at the same time talk up against Trump? Can he do both?
COPPINS: Well, it`s funny. I don`t know about the first part. I do think the second...
MATTHEWS: I don`t like the first part. So get rid of that.
COPPINS: I don`t think he`s ever going to be like the working man`s guy, right? But what he is good at -- and this has been true even when he was running for president -- he is good at battling with fellow 1 percenters, right?
He`s good at -- on the debate stage with Barack Obama, when he gets one-on- one with these -- with fellow elites, frankly.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but Obama beat him.
COPPINS: Well, of course he did. But remember that...
MATTHEWS: My favorite line. Proceed, Governor.
COPPINS: Proceed, Governor. Yes. Go, yes. Exactly. It was laying the perfect trap.
But think about -- he is going to be somebody who is going to thrive or at least relish the opportunity to stand on the Senate floor and berate the president when he thinks that he has been out of line.
MATTHEWS: Dana, you`re a man of the progressive sort. And I wonder how you look at this guy, because he is going to be a Republican.
DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Mitt Romney I think could be my hero. And I think he is doing something very heroic right now.
I think this is Mitt Romney`s moment. And the country needs him. He is going to have this coronation. He comes into the Senate with immediate stature, the leader of the party, de facto, if not actually, according to seniority.
The country`s very sick. The Republican Party is very sick. You have had a couple of brave people like Flake, Corker. They`re gone. McCain is not well. That party needs to save itself. We need to have a healthy two- party system. They`re not going to send a Democrat to the Senate from Utah anyway.
MATTHEWS: That`s true, not since Frank Moss, who I worked for.
MILBANK: This is exactly the right moment. And Romney is made for this.
COPPINS: People don`t -- people shouldn`t expect him to be like a member of the resistance, though. Mitt Romney is not going to be out there fighting every piece of Republican legislation.
MATTHEWS: Will he a character out of my favorite political novel, "Advise and Consent," and stand up to the president?
COPPINS: I think he will. I think that`s a big thing that is motivating him.
MILBANK: He will vote with the president 95 percent of the time, as Orrin Hatch did.
MATTHEWS: You`re killing me. You`re killing me.
OK, you know what I like about him? He does have sort of an LDS sense -- I shouldn`t say LDS, but a sense of humor.
MATTHEWS: I was interviewing him. He was out at -- he was riding high in Iowa back in `12 and he was running for president. He looked great. It was raining. But it was great. He`s in a great mood.
I walked up to him and he`s signing his name to some posters. And I go -- because I knew he had been a missionary in Paris. I say, "Can you say let them eat cake in French?"
And he just whispers to me, "I can, but I won`t."
MATTHEWS: Anyway, during the night -- the 2016 campaign, Trump and Romney had a very acrimonious relationship, to say the least. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Think of Donald Trump`s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.
He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Poor Mitt Romney. Poor Mitt. He choked like a dog you. You ever seen in -- in athletics? He is a choker. And he walks like a penguin on to the stage. You ever see -- like a penguin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is the state of American politics now. You`re a satirist. You can`t outdo this.
MATTHEWS: "SNL" can`t outdo this. These guys, with the penguin, the penguin walk and the choke and the choke.
And then there is Romney with this cerebral kind of putdown.
MILBANK: That`s why I think this moment is made for this.
Isn`t America crying out for this? Surely, conservatives and surely Republicans do not want a president saying that word and do not want a president doing the sort of things he has been doing.
But you can`t -- you know, the Democrats may well take over the Senate, but you`re not going to have Chuck Schumer as an acceptable counterweight, in the eyes of most Americans or many Americans, to Donald Trump. You need somebody like Mitt Romney, who has got nothing -- well, sure, he has some glory in doing it. But he is not going to be the president.
He may not serve another term.
COPPINS: He is already 70 years old.
MATTHEWS: And there is no reason for him to suck up to the contributors...
MILBANK: No downside whatsoever.
MATTHEWS: ... or even the hard right, because I think, the Utahans -- you know the culture out there -- the prominence of the Romney family and him personally is so high, because he saved the Winter Olympics out there. He cleaned up that whole thing and made them proud.
He gives the Mormon community, the LDS community real pride.
COPPINS: Absolutely, the first Mormon to win a major party presidential nomination. He is a Mormon hero.
In Utah, I mean, this is going to be a coronation if he runs. Everyone expects he will. And no one is going to run against him seriously.
And he`s -- this is probably the most natural consistency he will ever have, right, more so than in Massachusetts, when he had to pretend to be more moderate than he was.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you`re right. It`s going to be good for Park City, too, and all those ski places. They don`t have enough snow right now.
COPPINS: Right. That`s right.
MATTHEWS: So, let me leave it at this. This is good for America. Finally going to have counterweight, somebody to stand up to Trump.
MATTHEWS: Because it`s Athens vs. Sparta, from what I can see.
MILBANK: I think having a Republican of conscience may be even more important than electing a Democrat.
MATTHEWS: I was hoping this would be good news. I hope it is, because you`re right. You`re not going get a liberal out of Utah. You would be better off getting a fairly heroic conservative.
Anyway, McKay Coppins, who is LDS, and I think speaks with authority on this topic.
COPPINS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: I do love -- I do admire that community in so many ways.
Anyway, McKay Coppins and Dana Milbank.
I respect your community too, Mil, of "The Washington Post."
MATTHEWS: Up next: Donald Trump promised voters that he would be so presidential, we`d get bored with him. You think so? Well, there has been little evidence of the boredom. Sometimes, you pray for boredom.
And now two top Republicans say the president`s nonstop controversies are causing us to lose our standing on the world stage. Duh.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: At some point, I`m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored, and I will come back as a presidential person.
And instead of 10,000 people, I will have about 150 people. And they will say, but, boy, he really looks presidential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump on the campaign trail, promising he would be so presidential that we who are watching him would be bored with him.
Well, now Trump marks his first Martin Luther King holiday in office battling against charges he is racist after reportedly referring to countries in Africa as "S-hole countries."
Chuck Hagel, President Obama`s defense secretary and a former Republican U.S. senator, had a blunt opinion of those comments, telling "The Lincoln Journal" out there in Nebraska -- "The Lincoln Journal Star" -- quote -- "Donald Trump is doing great damage to our country internationally. He is an embarrassment." Well, in December, my next guest, George F. Will, wrote that by endorsing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore , President Trump had -- quote -- "sunk the presidency to unplumbed depths."
Will added that Trump -- quote -- "completed his remarkably swift -- it has taken less than 11 months -- rescue of Andrew Johnson from the ignominy of ranking as the nation`s worst president."
So, does the past week cap that assessment of Trump as the nation`s worst president?
George F. Will, columnist for "The Washington Post" and as MSNBC contributor, joins us now.
George, is he the worst president, based on his first 11 months?
GEORGE WILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
Now, Andrew Johnson was an alcoholic racist who celebrated the Klan and disrupted Reconstruction. But it was easier to repeal and replace that kind of behavior than it will be to repeal and replace what`s being done to the standards of discourse.
MATTHEWS: Well, the vote in the U.S. Senate, I recall, for Andrew Johnson when it came to convicting him and removing him from office was rather close. Do you think it will get that -- yes, will we get that close for Trump if the Democrats get control of the Congress next year?
WILL: No, because he`s committed no impeachable offense. Being a lout is not a high crime or misdemeanor.
MATTHEWS: It`s not a political crime?
MATTHEWS: So, you think he is protected by the fact that he hasn`t committed felonies or misdemeanors even?
WILL: He has committed no behavior, looking forward, that impeachment would be used as a prophylactic measure to stop him.
MATTHEWS: Wow, interesting word.
Anyway, let`s talk about...
WILL: Besides, the country voted for this. They ought to have the experience intensely and protractedly, so they`re not tempted to do it again.
MATTHEWS: OK. You think about the various hats a president gets to wear once he is elected. One of them is sort of head of his political party.
One is head of the executive branch, chief executive. One of them is commander in chief. It comes with the title. And we descended it -- it`s descended from George Washington. And the other is head of state, where he is the very symbol and person of our country.
WILL: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: But that has been the case.
WILL: I know it has. And I think we have began to go down the wrong road, A, when Woodrow Wilson was elected and said the president`s job is to interpret the inner longings and feelings of the American people.
That`s expanding the Jacksonian desire, which was, I`m the only elected official elected by the whole country; therefore, I`m really special.
WILL: Then came Franklin Roosevelt, who began his fireside chat, dear friends, my friends.
He is not my friend. He is my employee. I don`t want a president who is a friend. The Article II, Chris, of the Constitution is very spare. Most of the words are about how to select a president or how to get rid of them.
His job is summed up in the take care clause. The presidency shall see that -- take care that the laws are faithfully executed.
MATTHEWS: How can you say this, when we grew up with Ike, who was a father figure?
WILL: You had a father, Chris. How many fathers do you need?
MATTHEWS: Well, Ike was. He was the good -- you didn`t have to agree with his politics, but he was a man who helped -- he won the war in Europe against Hitler and he came into office as a figure of respect and even admiration. And we looked up to him.
And, of course, Jack Kennedy had that for a while, and Reagan had it certainly. Reagan was a moral leader. You thought so.
WILL: Looking on the bright side, as I am disinclined to do, one of the good things Trump is going to do is puncture the balloon of the president that has grown so grotesquely swollen, so encrusted with non-Article II functions to represent our inner lives, to be our moral tutor. Nonsense.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, we`re going to end up with Danish prime ministers, boring presidents who don`t have any charisma. They don`t represent us. They`re just caretaker governments.
We`re going to have people like lower than Jerry Ford, just people that are OK. Do you want that?
WILL: I would say -- wouldn`t you look around -- or wouldn`t you settle for OK right? You have got a non-boring president. Wouldn`t boring be good?
Let`s go to the moral issue. He has failed as this week, because he fails to represent what`s in our constitutional about -- and what`s in our Declaration of Independence, which is equality of all men and women. He doesn`t seem to talk like that.
As I said a few moments ago, he talks likes a real estate developer. He judges people`s value by the value of their real estate. That`s how he thinks. They live in S-holes. Therefore, they deserve to live in S-holes. And we shouldn`t want them in our country.
That`s the way he thinks.
WILL: He is behaving now as he did before he was elected.
This is not a surprise. He is an open book who has been reading himself to the country for 30 years. Fifty years ago this year, the last populist president to receive electoral votes, George Wallace, who got 46 of them, said, there is too much dignity in our politics. We need some meanness.
That is the authentic voice of populism, and it`s represented by this president.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the Republican Party.
Why don`t people talk like you in that party? Why do they act like lemmings? As I said, like North Korean infantrymen, they march to this guy`s tune. They vote with him on taxes. They support him when he says terrible words in meetings. They lie for him.
WILL: Because congressional Republicans have forgotten their duty, which is to be institutionally loyal, to think of themselves as representatives of the first branch of government, the legislative branch, which is, for a reason, Article I of the Constitution.
MATTHEWS: Do you have hope in Romney as a senator?
MATTHEWS: Good. Thank you very much.
This show has cohesiveness.
Thank you, George F. Will, for coming on.
Up next: We`re just days from a government shutdown, perhaps this Friday midnight. And the president is setting up Democrats to take the fall for the shutdown. He is blaming them for the lack of progress on immigration reform, saying they don`t really want a deal.
I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Oh, we`re ready, willing and able to make a deal on DACA, but I don`t think the Democrats want to make a deal. And the folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones that aren`t going to make a deal, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump down in Florida last night blaming Democrats for the lack of a deal on DACA.
He also tweeted yesterday: "DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don`t really want it. They just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from the military."
I don`t know what that`s about.
Congress has until midnight, as I said, this Friday night to avoid a government shutdown. They can`t do it without Democratic votes.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don`t really want it. They just want the talk and take desperately needed money away from the military. I don`t know what that`s about.
Congress has until midnight this Friday night to avoid a shutdown. They can`t do it without Democratic votes. It takes 60 votes.
Democrats are demanding a deal to protect DACA recipients, of course, the Dreamers. Republicans don`t want to vote for a DACA unless it contains border security -- in other words, the wall. The president says it`s got to include a wall, and the end to a visa lottery system, something else he doesn`t want because that means more poor people coming into the country from those places he describes so eloquently last week.
While both sides appear to have come close to a deal last week, negotiations were upended following reporting on the president`s vulgar comment, which I mentioned.
Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL round table. They`ve got to be swift tonight. A lot to discuss.
Jonathan Swan is national political reporter for "Axios", Vivian Salama is national political reporter for NBC News, and Jason Johnson, who is on a lot, is politics editor for "The Root" and MSNBC political reporter.
So, starting along the line in order, first of all, Jonathan, what are the issues between now and Friday night to get done and the deal with immigration?
JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, they`re not going to get it done by Friday night. And it`s just not true that they were close to a deal last week.
This group that was sort of fated as the bipartisan gang of six, it was a fantasy. It was Dick Durbin picked the most squishy Republicans on this issue, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, who do not represent their conference. They`re very, very moderate and sympathetic on the issue of immigration. And unbeknownst to the hard-liners, this deal was carved out which didn`t satisfy any of their demands.
MATTHEWS: Any deal that will satisfy people like Perdue?
SWAN: Well, you certainly won`t by this Friday. You certainly won`t by this Friday.
MATTHEWS: OK. Vivian, your thoughts. Are you as pessimistic? Are we going to watch all the parks and zoos close down?
VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It`s not looking good, Chris. Every single funding extension that we`ve seen so far under the Trump administration has gotten harder and harder to find a resolution to. And here you have a very contentious example on the table. I mean, immigration is a hot issue, DACA especially. And so, you have the difference in politics, plus money involved.
It`s going to be really --
MATTHEWS: Do Republicans really want to die on the issue of DACA, these kids who were brought here by their parents? They didn`t break any laws. It seems that would be the soft most Republicans I would think would give on that and say they`re not the bad guys.
SALAMA: You have you to think about it in the terms of constituencies, though. The majority of Democratic districts are where a lot of these DACA recipients reside. And so, it really boils down to that. And especially now, we`re in the midterm election year.
MATTHEWS: No sympathy, Jason?
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: This is a game of chicken for Friday. But it`s not just chicken for this Friday and the government shutdown. It`s really about 2018. It`s really about which message is going to work better. The Democrats saying, hey, this shutdown happened because trump wanted a wall. Trump saying this shutdown happened because they want a bunch --
MATTHEWS: Well, what about "The Post"? It`s not as liberal as it used to be, but came out, cut a deal, it said, the lead editorial last week. Cut a deal, give them some wall and get these huge numbers of people, hundreds of thousands of young people protected.
Isn`t that a decent deal?
SALAMA: There is a lot of people that really want just the full DACA resolution to go out as it was untouched. But the Republicans want to rip it up.
MATTHEWS: That takes 60 votes.
SALAMA: Border security, that`s a lot of money is what it is. That`s a lot of money, border security.
SWAN: There is the deadline for DACA this Friday. This is a deadline imposed by Democrats and frankly imposed by the Democratic base. There are a lot of Democrats in states that Trump won, Claire McCaskill being one of them, who feel actually quite uncomfortable about the idea --
MATTHEWS: Yes, but the liberals I think, progressives think they`ve got Trump by the shorts on this one.
SWAN: That`s absolutely right. But the Democratic Party is divided between those --
JOHNSON: -- those two will be eaten alive.
MATTHEWS: So, will we have a government shutdown Friday night?
SWAN: No, I think they`d do a two-week short-term.
MATTHEWS: Short term.
OK, let`s go to this question what happened in Hawaii. On Saturday in the morning, it was eight income the morning. Hawaii residents received an alert that read ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.
Well, the message sent Hawaiians scrambling. It will make us all scramble, there they all go, to a shelter. But it ended up being a false alarm, thank God. Look at that, caused by an employee mistakenly sending the alert out during an internal exercise, a drill. And it took the government an astonishing 38 minutes to fix.
Here is how the president responded hours later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that was a state thing. But we`re going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility. But we`re going to get involved. Their attitude and their -- what they want to do, I think it`s terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake.
We hope it won`t happen again. But part of it is that people are on edge. But maybe eventually we`ll solve the problem so they won`t have to be so on edge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: As Harry Truman would not have said, the buck stops in Honolulu. I mean, he wasn`t going to -- Jason, wouldn`t take any responsibility for it.
JOHNSON: He took no responsibility for it. He could have a said something comforting. And I`m thinking like --
MATTHEWS: He is the head of state.
JOHNSON: Yes, he is the head of state. He could say, hey, look, we`re going to make sure Korea is not a threat. I`m thinking like, if Reagan had said, oh, this is --
MATTHEWS: He did sort of say that. He said we hope it won`t happen again, but part of it is people are on edge, but maybe eventually we`ll solve the problem so they won`t have to be on edge.
JOHNSON: Which is like government gobbledygook. I don`t know what that means if I live in Honolulu. I want to hear government say, I`ll keep you safe no matter the circumstances. He didn`t do that.
MATTHEWS: Those people were running, Vivian.
SALAMA: They were terrified, rightfully. And you know what I keep on thinking about is President Trump has a tendency now to respond quicker to states where he pulled off a win in 2016. And so, here you have Hawaii.
MATTHEWS: You mean like Texas?
SALAMA: Texas, Florida. Not Puerto Rico. That`s for sure. Not California.
And so, here you have a situation in Hawaii where first of all he did not get a win there. And second of all that, they also voted against the travel ban. They`re one of the states that has filed a lawsuit against the travel ban. I think a number of factors may be at play here.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about -- look, I`m not big on this completely, the Trump bashing. But I do have -- sometimes I am. What do you make of this playing golf on Martin Luther King Day? Treating it as a sunny holiday in Florida, not as anything respectful or honoring of a difficult challenge to our country which has been race and civil rights, and it`s still a challenge. And treated as a sort of day to bask in the sun.
JOHNSON: I -- well, first off, a lot of people do that. Not just the president of the United States. A lot of people barbecue. Look, I`m of the opinion, I would rather Trump be himself than continue to dishonor Martin Luther King by giving disingenuous speeches in front of people who don`t believe it.
MATTHEWS: You don`t want him at the statue?
JOHNSON: I would rather him not be a statue, I would rather him not be a at museum jumbling throughout history that he didn`t care, only check the Wikipedia.
MATTHEWS: Vivian, your thoughts? Are you that tough?
SALAMA: I don`t -- this is who he is. I mean, I kind of agree in the sense of, you know, as --
MATTHEWS: Let him be Trump.
SALAMA: Let him be Trump. But also let him genuinely take some actions to show that he is sympathetic toward the history and will kind of progress our history forward.
MATTHEWS: He is not teaching and he is not progressing.
Anyway, thank you. I`m letting you out of this. The roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next, they`re going to give me some scoops on this national holiday. But we`re here. They`re going to tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump this weekend accused the "Wall Street Journal" of purposely misquoting comments he made during an interview with the newspaper. "The Journal" reported last week that Trump had bragged about being on good terms with the North Korean dictator, saying, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. Well, Trump insists he didn`t say I, but I`d, meaning he would have a good relationship with the dictator if he wanted one.
Well, in Sunday, "The Wall Street Journal" stated falsely that I said to them I have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un on North Korea. Obviously, I didn`t say that. They just wanted a story. Fake news.
Well, "The Wall Street Journal" stands by its reporting. Both the newspaper and the White House have released the audio in question. You watch. You listen. Here it comes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe, Japan. And I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un of North Korea. I would -- I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I didn`t hear that apostrophe, did you? It was I have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un, which is a ridiculous statement.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Of course, Jonathan, tell me something I don`t.
SWAN: 2018 midterm elections.
SWAN: I`ve noticed are a very dramatic change in the White House and top Republicans on Capitol Hill. Two weeks ago, a lot of optimism. They were cautiously hopeful about the midterms after the tax reform. Now, it`s just pure fatalism. There is an assumption now they`re going to lose the House.
MATTHEWS: Is that why so many are quitting?
SWAN: I think that`s part of it. I think a lot of these guys are seeing their internal polls and just --
MATTHEWS: It`s no fun being in the minority once you`ve been in the majority. It`s no fun.
SWAN: A lot of people are making post-career plans.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and you want to get out in your early 60s while there is still time to do something else in life. That`s when they see the chance.
SALAMA: A little history lesson. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin warned of German immigrants coming to the United States. He wanted them to be nowhere near Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: But they were all over Pennsylvania.
SALAMA: Thomas Jefferson warned that the Germans would come and push their language, their habits and their principles of government. One hundred years later, the anti-German sentiment subsided. The Chinese were the rejected immigrant population du jour. It was that time that a young man from modern day Germany named Friedrich Trump immigrated to the United States. That man is President Trump`s grandfather.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever hear the tape of cabinet member, I think in Wilson`s cabinet, who told the Germans when we went into war in Europe to go back where they came from with their wooden shoes and their rags. I mean, it was really awful.
SALAMA: It just shows you that we all come from somewhere.
JOHNSON: So, what you do know is, of course, last year, Donald Trump made an off-color joke calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas when he was supposed to be honoring Native Americans. What you might not know is last Saturday, after a 30-year battle, the Senate passed a bill to recognize six American Indian tribes in Virginia.
Those six tribes made up the Powhatan Nation. The Powhatan Nation is where Pocahontas actually came from when they welcome the Pilgrims of the United States.
So, if Trump wants to make up for what he said and possibly change an error from last week, maybe he should sign that bill and recognize that nation.
MATTHEWS: I think we like Pocahontas. We don`t want to see it used as a slur word.
Anyway, Jonathan Swan, Vivian Salama and Jason, great predictions for a national holiday.
When we return, let me finish up with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King from a Birmingham jail where he wrote them by hand.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with words from Dr. Martin Luther King. He wrote them from jail in Birmingham, Alabama. The year was 1963.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor and must be demanded by the oppressed. For years now, I`ve heard the word wait. It rings with piercing familiarity. This wait has almost always meant never.
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say wait.
But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim, when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse and kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters. When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can`t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that fun town is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people. When you have to concoct an answer for a 5-year-old son who is asking daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?
When you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you, when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored. When you`re harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you`re living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next in our plague with inner fears and outer resentments. When you`re forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness. I hope, sir, as you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Well, on this day for Martin Luther King, let`s get our head and hearts around the reality, that we`re either making progress on race or we are falling back. Our leaders need to stand for progress. This is me talking, as we`ve seen as standing against it.
Saying you`re not a racist is not enough, Mr. Trump.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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