Show: HARDBALL Date: December 27, 2018 Guest: Gwenda Blair, Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried, David Cicilline, Indira Lakshmanan
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: What`s Trump`s end game on the shutdown? Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
Today marks the sixth day of the partial government shutdown and the prospects for a deal, they are bleak. Fresh off his whirlwind trip to Iraq yesterday, the President renewed his shutdown demands on twitter. Quote "have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need border security and a wall on the southern border?" Trump went on add quote "do the Democrats realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" This is coming two days after Trump said that federal workers support his stand on the shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But many of those workers have said to me and communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn`t want the wall are the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It was twitter where the battle over the wall largely played out today, though. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner responding to the President. Quote "this is outrageous. Federal employees don`t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They are public servants. And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos."
Minnesota`s Amy Klobuchar, another Democrat, adding, these shutdown workers work for the FBI and TSA, not GOP or DNC. They signed up to protect us and work for America regardless of party.
Later in the day, the President firing off a pair of tweets accusing Democrats of obstruction on what he calls the needed wall, underscoring just how far apart both parties remain on this standoff. Illinois`s Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, he wrote, no end in sight to the President`s government shutdown.
Now, technically, both Houses of Congress were in session today, although both the House and the Senate convened for only a few minutes. Both took no steps to end the partial shutdown.
House members were advised there would be no more votes this week while the Senate adjourned until Monday at 4:00 p.m. effectively ensuring the shutdown continues through the weekend and at least to the brink of the New Year.
I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor, correspondent for the PBS News Hour, Eugene Robinson, columnist for the "Washington Post" and Gwenda Blair, author of "the Trumps: three generations of builders and a President." Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Yamiche, let me just start with you. Trying to get to sort of the bottom line, the key players in this. You have got the President, you have got the Republicans on Capitol Hill, and you have got the Democrats on Capitol Hill. Who has the appetite to extend this the longest and who the shortest right now, would you say?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: I just got off the phone with a Democratic aide who says that Democrats are not going to budge on what the Senate already passed, which is this idea that essentially there will be no border funding in the CR. So, Democrats are digging in and saying they are not going to do this.
President Trump through his incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has already signaled that the White House is willing to come down on the initial $5 billion ask, but the President himself has not fully endorsed that.
So, the key thing here, of course, is that the House is going to turn into democratically controlled House and Nancy Pelosi`s going to likely become speaker, and that`s going to make it even harder for President Trump to get what he wants.
KORNACKI: Yes, Eugene Robinson, there is a school of thought that from the Democratic standpoint, that transfer of power on January 3rd gives them a new negotiating, new bargaining position, so perhaps there is a political incentive for them to wait until January 3rd to really make their move.
There`s also a school of thought that there are Republicans in Congress who might also prefer if that`s the case, because that potentially gives them somebody they can say, hey, the Democrats, you know, they have got some extra leverage here. Maybe it gives them room to carve out a deal they couldn`t right now.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think that`s kind of right, Steven, in that right now Democrats have no power. Republicans are in charge of everything. They managed to shut down the government all by themselves, controlling the presidency and both Houses of Congress, and this is where we are. Come January 3rd, Democrats will have some power. They will have the House. And so, I expect that they will pass a funding bill without wall funding. And the President will say that`s unacceptable.
And who knows where we go from there. There isn`t a lot of incentives for Democrats to start putting offers on the table, particularly since, as we have seen, you can get a deal signed, sealed and delivered, except when it comes to it, Donald Trump won`t sign it. And so, why should they put something out and then have the rug pulled out from under them? And that`s going to be the question for Democrats.
Plus, the wall is really a stupid idea. And you just have to, let`s deal with reality for a second. It`s really a dumb idea. And that ought to count, too.
KORNACKI: Well, Gwenda Blair, you know how the President thinks and approaches situations like this, negotiations, stalemates, public posturing, all of the elements we are seeing right here. So, if you have got Democrats who want to pass something when they get control of the House that`s going to have no wall money, you have seen before this shutdown and certainly on the Senate side, it seemed a willingness on the part of Republicans to try to come to some accommodations, some kind of deal here.
The wild card is, Gene was just saying, becomes the President. If there`s a willingness on the part of Republicans to compromise with Democrats on something, what about the President? Is there -- do you see somebody here who is executing some kind of long-game strategy, who has an end game in mind? Is this somebody who is just winging it, who is just improvising it? How is he approaching this?
GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, DONALD TRUMP; THE CANDIDATE: The long game for him is the same as the short game, really -- disruption, distraction, always pulling the rug out. Somebody was just referring to pulling the rug out. That`s his place, pulling the rug out so that nobody knows what to expect, and he is at the center always and everybody`s on the edge of their seat waiting to see what`s going to happen.
KORNACKI: Does he know, though, what -- I mean, obviously, he will say it`s the wall, it`s the wall. Does he have a very specific bottom line on this? Is there something -- do you sense that it`s something he`s thought out? Look, I can settle for this, I can sell it as a wall, I can sell it as close enough. Do you think he`s that specific in his approach here?
BLAIR: He has to come out seeming like the winner, and he has to have his supporters, his constituency come out seeming like they have won. And so, does it have to be the wall? I`m not sure -- I don`t think so. I think it has to be that his won, that he came out on top, that he has vindicated, and that -- it`s all about anger, keeping that anger stoked. It`s the Democrats` fault, it`s somebody`s fault. He has to keep the anger thing going and he has to come out on top and seem like the winner.
If there can be a way that he can be the winner and the word w-a-l-l somehow isn`t there or it`s a picket fence or a bunch of slats or some bricks, or maybe it`s just like, you know, some kind of imaginary wall, whatever, it`s OK as long as he is the winner.
KORNACKI: Right. We have heard him using the terms steal, slat fence, you know, fence, wall. We have heard him using a variety of terms in the last week. Late today as well, the President using a tweet from his predecessor to try to make a point, tweeting out quote "I totally agree!" in response to a linked video -- a 2001 tweet, I should say from President Obama -- 2011 tweet from President Obama, in which Obama said "I strongly believe that we should take on once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration." That was a quote from Obama`s 2011 state of the union speech. Obama calling in that speech for a negotiated bipartisan fix for illegal immigration.
Well, another thing we saw, Yamiche, today from the President, he was very active on twitter. That`s what this is. We aren`t seeing press conferences and rallies and marches like we have seen in shutdowns before. We are seeing everything out there on twitter. It`s very interesting. But one of the things the President seemed to float was that idea that was out there a couple months ago, one of the last times we went through this, telling the Democrats, essentially, DACA fix and wall. Pair those two things together. He seemed to walk away from that at the end the last time around. Is that now dead on arrival for Democrats, or is there any willingness on Democrats` part to entertain something like that?
ALCINDOR: I think now because Democrats have more control when you have Nancy Pelosi likely coming to be the speaker of the House, Democrats are likely not going to want to negotiate about that anymore. Dick Durbin already said on this network to Chuck Todd that he felt as though his hand had already been burnt, that he had already tried touching that stove and that President Trump had essentially made promises and then pulled back.
The President is the one who ended DACA, and in this idea that young immigrants who were brought here as children, as minors, that they don`t have any wrongdoing. The President took that program away. So essentially, what you have is Democrats who are already weary of negotiating with President Trump because they have power and they got that power by basically saying that they were going to push back on President Trump. And now you have President Trump essentially not able to negotiate in a way because people don`t really trust him on Capitol Hill.
Add to that I think, what is the President`s issue here, which is that as other guests said, he wants to be a winner. He wants to be able to physically say I got this wall. He has already saying while he was coming back from visiting the troops in Iraq, he said that he was going to go to a groundbreaking before the state of the union to see the groundbreaking of the wall.
What we really know is that there hasn`t been any funding for the wall. That the President doesn`t have the money to build the wall, and that whatever he does, he might be standing next to a prototype just for twitter and for Rush Limbaugh and maybe Laura Ingraham. But the reality is going to be that he is not going to get his wall and that`s going not to be a hard thing for him to admit to.
KORNACKI: Well, speaking to supporters in Iraq yesterday, Trump laid the blame to the ongoing impasse, the feed of Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck. And Chuck wants to have this done. I really believe that. He wants to have this done. But she is calling the shots and she is calling them because she wants the votes. And probably if they do something, she is not going to get the votes and she is not going to be speaker of the House. And that would be not so good for her.
So, Nancy is calling the shots, and they all know -- look, politically speaking, I don`t do it for politics. I`m doing nothing for politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And this weekend, "The New York Times" reported on Trump`s border wall battle, noting quote "a partisan war may be just what he wants. He is privately told the associates he is glad Democrats won the House in last month`s midterm elections, saying he thinks that guarantees his reelection because they will serve as a useful antagonist."
In fact, late today, Trump tweeted, this isn`t about the wall, this is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump and Republicans have a win. They may have the ten Senate votes, but we have the issue, border security 2020.
Gene Robinson, the way he is talking there, and we will see, but the way he is talking there suggests this may be a President who is comfortable letting this stretch out farther into the future than maybe we initially thought, well into January. Who knows how far?
From the standpoint of Democrats, January 3rd, they are taking control of the House for the first time in eight years. They have got plans. They have got investigations they want to focus on. They have got bills they want to try to get through to put Republicans in certain positions. How much appetite do you think Democrats have politically once they take over the House? How far does their appetite go to have this shutdown issue hanging there, looming there?
ROBINSON: Well, look, I think Democrats would rather have the shutdown over, but you know, Nancy Pelosi will be speaker and she will be in a sense calling the shots, and certainly for the House, and I think she is very comfortable doing that.
Democrats I think will continue to pass legislation opening the government and leave it to the Senate, which may or may not go along, and then ultimately to the President, who will have to decide whether or not he wants his government open.
I, too, noticed that DACA for wall tweet today. I thought that sounded like a trial balloon from the President, if he wants to go that route, there would have to be something more than an ironclad guarantee. I don`t think you can pre-sign legislation, but there would have to be something, you know, very public and very guaranteed that Ann Coulter couldn`t torpedo with a tweet. And I don`t know if -- you know, I don`t think that`s ripe. I just don`t think that`s happening any time soon. So, this could last a while.
KORNACKI: Hey Gwenda, two interesting in the tweet - in that comments from the President there in Iraq, trying to bring Nancy Pelosi sort of to the forefront in this thing. It looks like somebody there who is looking for a foil. You think back to 2016. We talked about this last night, that very narrow margin of victory that Trump had in 2016, how crucial -- the crucial ingredient there was how unpopular Hillary Clinton ended up by the end of that campaign. Last two years -- the next two years of his presidency, he has had Republicans running the House, had Republicans running the Senate. Seems this is somebody who is eager to have the other party with a little bit more skin in the game here.
ROBINSON: Yes, but be careful what you wish for. You know, this is a very, very different House of Representatives that he`s going to be dealing with. And beyond the shutdown, there are things that every President wants and needs out of Congress, and he`s going to have to -- you know, he`s not just going to get it automatically the way he got it from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.
Now Mitch is still there, but now he`s got to deal with Nancy Pelosi. And remember, Congress has the power of the purse. And that is -- you know, it`s the article one institution. It is Congress is important. And I think we are going to see just how important and just how powerful in the coming months.
KORNACKI: What do you think, Gwenda? How do you think that dynamic, that Trump/Pelosi dynamic -- we got a taste of it in the oval office a couple weeks ago? How do you think that`s going to look in the next couple years to the country?
BLAIR: He is trying to make a voodoo doll of her right now. He is trying - he hasn`t quite said lock her up, but I think there is going to be some parallel chant when he goes on these campaign trips, campaign stops. We are going to hear something, another chant is going to somehow or other materialize. Ease that anger to stoke people. That`s what he runs on. He really needs that. And without that, without that foil, he is lost. So, he is going to - somebody is going to have to be the person, and right now it`s Nancy that`s in the hot seat.
KORNACKI: Yes, we talked about this last night a little bit. This is a President for the last two years who is not done what former, previous Presidents have done, trying to expand that base, expand that coalition. This is somebody who looks like he is intent on trying to win in 2020 the exact same way he won in 2016, and that would require everything, everything to break his way and go right for him again, just as it did.
Yamiche Alcindor, Eugene Robinson, Gwenda Blair, thank you for being with us.
And coming up, President Trump telling U.S. troops in Iraq quote "we are no longer suckers of the world." Is this Trump`s foreign policy in a nutshell? Is it working?
Plus, new poling page a stark image of a divided America. Is there any room left for big-picture bipartisanship? And Michael Bloomberg, what about his quip that the President is not an entry-level position? Was that aimed at Trump? Was that an opening (INAUDIBLE) against Democratic primary opponents?
And finally, let me finish tonight with a government shutdown that feels a whole lot different than shutdowns we have been through before.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: America shouldn`t be doing the fighting for every nation on earth.
If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price, and sometimes that`s also a monetary price, so we are not the suckers of the world.
Under my administration, we are winning now. We are not playing to lose slowly like they have been doing for 19 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In defending his decision to pull American troops from Syria, President Trump took a shot at his predecessors yesterday, telling U.S. troops in Iraq that the United States will no longer be the sucker of the world.
Today "The New York Times" notes that in making that decision so abruptly last week quote "President Trump managed to unite the left and right against a plan to extract the United States from two long costly and increasingly futile conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan."
Moreover, the President now appears more determined to deliver on his promise of an America first foreign policy, even if it means rejecting the expert advice of his generals.
Ever since his campaign, Trump has advocated for a diminished role abroad, saying the U.S. should get more out of its commitments overseas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our failed establishment has brought us nothing but poverty at home and disaster overseas. That is what we have, disaster, the wars we never win.
We go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils.
I didn`t want to go there in the first place, but now we take the oil. We should have kept the oil.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: What you`re saying is, Assad can stay in power. That`s not your interest. Your interest is...
TRUMP: No, what I`m saying, we have bigger problems than Assad.
Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why do we care?
So, now you have -- what, are we going to start World War III over Syria?
The United States cannot afford to be the policeman of the world anymore, folks.
From now on, it`s going to be America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I`m joined now by Indira Lakshmanan, columnist with "The Boston Globe," and Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. He sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, I will start with you.
And just listening to those lines there, those speeches from Donald Trump pressing that idea of the United States not being the policeman of the world, he says, comparing it to that "The New York Times" article we`re reading from where you talk about policy-makers, military experts, a lot of national security experts in both parties kind of being united against this, I guess, let me ask you the question this way.
What would you say to somebody, a voter out there, an American citizen out there who maybe likes what he hears, what she hears when Donald Trump talks the way we just played there and says, you know what, I have been burned by the experts, I was burned by them on Iraq, I was burned by them on Afghanistan, our country was burned by them, maybe we`re listening to them too much?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think, look, the national security establishment, I think, always has an inclination to suggest military action.
I think that`s sort of part of their DNA. What we need is a president who can listen to that and account for that in making decisions. But the process is beneficial, because it ensures that the president has the most complete and most accurate and most current information when making a decision.
It`s also important because it includes our allies, so that they understand what we`re doing. And, as Jim Mattis said in his letter to the president resigning, America`s strength, in part, is because of our strong alliances and partnerships around the world, and because America can be trusted.
And so, when you don`t have a national security process that engages or at least alerts our allies, you undermine that as well.
KORNACKI: Well, talking about the process there, here was an interesting argument I read in "The Week" magazine from Damon Linker.
He said that objections to Trump`s decision to withdraw from Syria are more about process than policy, writing -- quote -- "Like everything Trump does, these decisions appear to have been made in an impulsive way, without consultation with Congress, allies, or Pentagon advisers. That`s what policy-makers call process, but that isn`t a reason," he says, "to reject the policy shift."
Damon Linker goes on to point out that -- quote -- "Process is good, but it doesn`t guarantee wisdom."
Indira Lakshmanan, I just thought this was an interesting piece, and I`m curious to get your reaction to it, because, essentially, what he`s arguing is the process as it commonly plays out, he seems to be arguing, sort of inevitably leads presidents to defer to military voices, to defer to longer military commitments, and maybe by being ignorant of traditional processes, Trump gets the country out of something that maybe the country wants to be out of.
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well, Steve, I would argue it this way, that process is necessary, but not sufficient.
You need to have a process. The whole point of a democratic form of government, the way we do things, having a Congress who advises and consents, and having a Cabinet that is there full of experts, in an ideal situation, to advise the president, is that you want the president to get good advice.
I listened to that incredible montage that you showed, and I was reminded of, during the campaign, I think it was during a debate, that then- candidate Trump was asked, you know, who are you listening to, who do you take advice from? And he said, well, first of all, I listen to myself because I have a very good brain.
You know, so the whole problem with that is, once you get to the White House, great. You -- it is your job to then listen to all the expert advice around you, but that`s not enough. Sure, expert advice can lead you in the wrong direction. I mean, I think we could have an entire show just talking about the pros and cons of being in Syria.
But I`m not sure that the president has thought through the fact that the U.N. just said a couple of months ago that there are 20 (sic) to 30 (sic) ISIS fighters still in Syria and Iraq. The whole point of the policy of having troops over there and in Iraq and in Afghanistan, for that matter, was to fight terrorists over there, so that we wouldn`t have to fight them back here at home.
So, I think he`s done this kind of hastily. And what really stays with me, from listening to what he said out there on Iraq, is, he used the term suckers. He has this obsession with whether we`re being duped or conned or something like that.
And then he also says, you know, what really matters to him is, everybody needs to pay for it. He`s incredibly transactional in his policies and, above all, in his foreign policy. But what he`s forgetting is that U.S. interests aren`t just about money. It`s also about values. It`s also about the leadership and the voice that we have gotten to have in these last, you know, 60-plus years, post-World War II.
So, I think he`s throwing, you know, a lot of baby out with the bath water, if all he`s concerned about is the money that we spend on alliances and defense.
KORNACKI: Congressman, on this theme of process, I wonder, is there part of the process here or something that maybe ought to be part of the process that predates Trump that`s part of this equation, too, and that is getting buy-in from the American public?
I`m wondering how many people heard the news of what the president announced last week and said, wait a second, we had troops in Syria, this wasn`t something that went through Congress?
KORNACKI: I`m wondering if it`s kind of news to Americans, and if that`s a critical piece here that`s just been neglected.
CICILLINE: No, absolutely.
I have been part of a group of members of Congress who have been pressing hard, demanding that the president seek authorization from Congress before engaging in military action in Syria. That would give the president the responsibility of communicating to Congress and to the American people, what is our objective in Syria, what is necessary to achieve that objective, and then to persuade Congress that it was a worthwhile investment of American treasure and American lives.
The president doesn`t have a strategy in Syria, so pulling out may seem like a great idea, in the absence of a coherent, thoughtful strategy with a set of objectives and really an articulation of how you`re going to achieve those objectives.
So, I think this has been something we have been clamoring for, insisting on, and the president hasn`t requested it, and hasn`t articulated to the Congress or to the American people exactly what we`re doing in Syria and what`s the end plan.
KORNACKI: But what do you think the end plan should be? And what would you tell somebody out there saying, OK, if Trump is wrong about this, if this is the wrong time, how much longer?
Because he said -- one of the things he said yesterday was, they asked me for six months. I said OK. They asked me for six months. I said OK.
What would you tell the sort of skeptical person out there, how much longer?
CICILLINE: I think we don`t want -- we don`t -- right.
We don`t want American troops to be there one day longer than is absolutely necessary to protect the national security interests of our own country. So, I think, again, it`s incumbent on the president to articulate, what`s the plan, what`s the purpose of our engagement there, what does he need to achieve that mission, and then to persuade members of Congress to devote the resources necessary to do that.
That`s why Congress has the authority to authorize the use of military force, not the president alone. Our founders put that in the Constitution as we are the only body that can declare war. We have been pressing for that for precisely this reason, to force the president to develop and then articulate exactly what the purpose is there.
If he can`t do that, then we wouldn`t vote for it. But that`s the role Congress should be playing. That`s the role that many of the Democrats have been demanding. And I suspect that, when we take the majority, you will see Congress, in fact, require that of the administration.
And, Indira, you were citing some statistics there a minute ago about why you say there is a need for a continued involvement there. What would you say. I ask the same question to you in terms of, how much longer?
LAKSHMANAN: Look, I think there are arguments on both sides, but I think it`s interesting that the two countries that were really celebrating the U.S. announcement of pulling troops out of Syria were Russia and Iran.
And what does that tell us? You know, the president claims that he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal because he wanted to, because he doesn`t trust Iran and he, you know, doesn`t trust their motives. Well, in fact, they are the biggest beneficiaries, in a way, along with Russia, who`s a big ally and supporter, who`s been propping up Bashar al-Assad`s murderous regime all this time.
So, you know, there`s that whole problem that he`s not taking into account. I do think it`s something that should have been discussed more with the American people, more with Congress, and deciding, what are the pros and cons and lining them up.
But I don`t think that just pulling out willy-nilly is a great idea. And I just want to remind people, a lot of Americans may not realize that there was a group called al Qaeda in Iraq, and they were pretty powerful. And when they were finally diminished in 2011, when the Obama administration completed the pullout from Iraq that the Bush administration had started, at that point, they reformed themselves as ISIS, what we now know.
So, we do know that we pull out, problems are also created in that respect as well.
KORNACKI: All right, Indira Lakshmanan, Congressman David Cicilline from Rhode Island, thank you both for being with us.
Up next: Heading over to the big board, we`re going to break down the surprising extent to which our party affiliation is shaping our world view in the Trump era.
It was the best year, it was the worst year, depending on what party you were in.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are just days away from the start of 2019, the end of 2018, everybody taking stock of what`s happened over the last 12 months, how their lives changed, how the world changed, how their families changed. Was it better? Was it worse?
Well, here`s an interesting way to think about, to look at how people all across the country are looking at and thinking about the year we just lived through, the year 2018. We talk all the time about a red-blue divide in our politics. Does it extend to how people think about their lives, the country`s life in any given year?
Interesting new polling data here. Morning Consult just came out with this one. And let me show you. First of all, check this out. Asking people about the year 2018 in their personal lives, their professional lives per, what do you see?
People generally, Democrat, Republican, they agree, things got better. By an 18-point margin, Democrats said their personal life got better, not worse over the last 12 months. By a 29-point margin, Republicans saying the thing -- the professional life, a 24-point margin for Republicans, an 18-point margin for Democrats.
A little bit disparity on personal finances. By a 7 percent margin, Democrats saying theirs actually got worse, Republicans saying theirs got better.
But, again you see there is a lot of overlap here. You see a lot of plus signs, a little bit higher on the Republican side. But, generally, when you talk about personal, professional life, Democrats and Republicans saying, hey, our lives, my life, my family`s life, it did get better in 2018, compared to 2017.
So, use that as a baseline, and then start asking about our politics, and check this out. So, compared to 2017, 2018, as a whole, the country, the year, Democrats said, oh, no, no, no, 51 percent, a clear majority, said the year itself was worse than 2017.
You ask Republicans about this, complete opposite -- 58 percent, clear majority there, say, no, things got better, 2018 was a better year than 2017.
Ask folks, ask Democrats here, compared to last year, the economy. Look, again, more than 2-1 margin, Democrats say, no, the economy worse in 2018 than it was in 2017. Same question to Republicans, completely different answer, 56 percent of Republicans saying economy better, 26 percent saying it`s worse.
Ask them about national security, Democrats, again, better than 2-1 margin saying it`s gotten worse, Republicans about a 2-1 margin saying it`s gotten better.
So, that personal -- when it came to personal and professional status, there was some consistency. When you broadened it out, started talking about politics, totally different universes, except one question, one question where both parties were in almost total and complete agreement.
Check this one out. Asked folks, compared to 2017, the party divide in this country, Democrats, 57 percent of them say it`s gotten worse. Only 10 percent say it`s gotten better. Republicans, virtually identical, 57 percent say the partisan divide, the red-blue divide, got worse this year. Only 12 percent say it got better.
So they don`t agree on how the economy is doing. They don`t agree on the direction of the country. They don`t agree on whether this was a good or bad year compared to last year. But they do agree that they`re disagreeing more. So I guess they can see those numbers that we just took you through there.
Anyway, we will see 12 months from now how folks assess 2019, what the next 12 months bring.
Up next, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounding serious about a run for president in 2020. Will his $100 million war chest or more, maybe much more, give him an edge somehow in what`s shaping up to be a very crowded field of candidates?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Believe it or not, the start of the 2020 presidential race just around the corner. Dozens of Democrats ready to jump in, potentially. Watch for official announcements to start coming over the next few weeks, months -- hey, maybe even the next few days, who knows?
One of the Democrats weighing a run, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is a Democrat now. Certainly, he sounded like a probable candidate in an interview with Chuck Todd that`s going to air on "Meet the Press" this weekend.
The two were discussing climate change. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Look, Chuck, the presidency is not an entry-level job, OK? We have some real problems. If you don`t come in with some real concrete answers, I think the public is tired of listening to the same platitudes that they get -- we`re in favor of god, mother and apple pie, and trust me, I`ll have a plan when I get there. No, you have to have a plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, if Bloomberg decides to run, CNBC is reporting that he is prepared to spend at least $100 million of his own money. Fund-raising may not be an issue for him. Voters are not signaling excitement for a Bloomberg candidacy. This new Suffolk University/"USA Today" poll we talked about, Bloomberg under water with Democratic and independent voters on the subject of a potential candidacy, more saying they don`t think he should run than saying they`re excited about the idea of a Bloomberg bid for president.
For more, I`m joined by tonight`s HARDBALL round table. Philip Bump, political reporter for "The Washington Post," Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic strategist, Evan Siegfried, Republican strategist.
Aisha, I`ll start with you. Climate change, gun control, Mayors Against Gun Violence, one of his issues as mayor, two issues important to the Democratic base. Obviously, he tried to run on that. The question asked in that poll, do you not want him to run or are you excited about the idea of a Bloomberg candidacy?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Here`s the thing: he is still a centrist billionaire, completely out of touch with the Democratic base, as it is today.
KORNACKI: This sounds like I don`t want him to run.
MOODIE-MILLS: Look, my wife works with the Bloomberg administration when he was mayor of New York. I have a lot of respect for him and some of the things he did. But let`s not forget, that he also is a guy who stood firmly behind stop and frisk that incarcerated so many black and Latino people here and he continues to champion that to some degree, actually. He has always loved the banks. He`s always stood up for deregulation, completely out of touch with the populist tone that we`re seeing on the progressive side of the party. I don`t think that he connects with the base and I don`t think he has far to go.
KORNACKI: Philip, we say $100 million. That`s about what he spent running for mayor of New York. Eight million people in New York, a couple hundred million nationally. But let`s say he`s just a limitless war chest if he runs. How far does that get you these days?
PHILIP BUMP, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a great question. The last guy who raised $100 million to run for president is Jeb Bush, who did not do very well. People remember that. The Democratic Party had a very successful 2018 midterm season in part with candidates who focused solely on small donors contributing to their campaigns, and I think that that proved effective in a lot of ways. I think that every single point that was just made is absolutely dead on the money.
This is not the Democratic party of 15 years ago. This is not the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton and moving to the center and so on and so forth. Democrats on the whole have grown more liberal over time. Michael Bloomberg -- there`s a sense, I think, among Republicans in particular, that because Donald Trump is so far to the right and so conservative, that there must be space in the middle within the Democratic Party because it is the opposite pole to the Republicans.
But that definitely misses the change within the Democratic party itself. I think this is a massive waste of $100 million. Look, I`ve been wrong. I was wrong in 2016. I don`t see how investing $1 trillion in this race does what Michael Bloomberg wants it to.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting, you`ve seen him in New York, as a Republican, an independent, now a Democrat. A Democrat way back to begin with, too. The one constant there, he`s looked at running for president a bunch of time, 2008, 2012, 2016. Here we go again. He`s 78 years old, I think now.
What do you make of it?
EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there is the curse of city hall in New York City. We`ve had prior mayors try to run, going back to Lindsey and Lindsey couldn`t do it in the `60s and `70s and Rudy Giuliani failed in --
KORNACKI: A combined one delegate between those two.
SIEGFRIED: My question is what`s the constituency for Bloomberg? Everybody -- we`re all in agreement. I think Bloomberg`s looking at it the way that Ted Cruz looked at it in 2016 and same with Donald Trump. To try to just get a plurality of votes here and there that picks off delegates left and right and doesn`t get there, but I don`t see it.
The argument he`s making is, well, we need experience. That`s san argument for several governors who are looking at the race as well as Joe Biden. At the same time, he said to Chuck Todd, well, he wants to put out a message that voters will listen to and not offer the same platitudes. Well, so far in his visits to Iowa, he says he`s just listening. And that`s nothing there.
And the other thing are Bloomberg`s #metoo problems. Not only has he bashed the movement, but the Bloomberg itself has a company has been sued multiple times from the `90s on for sexual harassment. He himself has been sued for sexual harassment.
"The Atlantic" did an expose in September where it said, quote, Bloomberg is insidious manifestations of misogyny. He`s made some very crude remarks, and I would expect this would be a huge thing. He doesn`t have a constituency. He can`t run as an independent because it would hand the re- election to Donald Trump.
So, is it a vanity project?
MOODIE-MILLS: He doesn`t have a message.
KORNACKI: It seems like the message that he`s -- I don`t know if this is accurate or not, but it seems like the message he would try to sell the Democrats is one of pragmatism, I could win. I would be seen as a centrist. I would be seen as a businessman who can match Trump, get things done, just in generally, the market for pragmatic -- I always think back, 2004, Democrats, remember their hearts were with Dean, the heads were with Kerry. You saw how it worked out in November, but pragmatically, Democratic voters, there seemed to be a turn in the campaign. We`re going to be pragmatic and go with John Kerry.
Is that pragmatism there in 2020? Is that part of the equation?
MOODIE-MILLS: That message in a Democratic primary will fall flat because the entire field will be talking about Medicare for all. They`re going to be talking about free college education. They`re going to be talking about what we do to disrupt in some way the 1 percent and bridge the divide between the wealth gap.
There`s going to be a much deeper populist conversation happening that everything he`s saying is going to kind of wonk, wonk, wonk, and nobody`s going to be paying attention to that at all. And so, I don`t think he has a message and narrative that resonates in a Democratic primary. Now, he can take his centrist act on the road and maybe run as a third-party candidate or maybe try to run against Donald Trump in a Republican primary, but that`s not going to sell for the Dems.
KORNACKI: All right. Meanwhile, Gallup releasing its poll of the most admired men and women in the country. Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama take the top spots. It marks the 11th year in a row that Barack Obama`s been number one on that list. It`s also the first year for Michelle Obama. She unseats Hillary Clinton, who held that spot for the past 16 years. President Trump coming in second for the fourth year in a row.
Philip, we`re talking 20 here. The role of Barack Obama in the 2020 Democratic primaries, how do you see it?
BUMP: Yes, it`s a fascinating question. He`s sort of the de facto leader of the party at this point in time for a variety of reasons. We`ll see if that changes once Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker.
But he doesn`t seem to be someone who has a track record of king-making, right? He tried in 2010, in 2014 to really shape what the congressional elections look like, unsuccessfully. There have been conversations, apparently, between himself and Beto O`Rourke and potentially other folks as well.
It`s going to be interesting to see how much weight that carries. I mean, I think this Gallup poll is mostly a reflection of partisanship and other things. I don`t know that that carries much weight, but it will be fascinating to so where he comes down on this.
In the midterms, he waited pretty late in the cycle and mostly backed people you might expect him to back, so I don`t know how he really gets into this thing.
KORNACKI: I`m wondering, too, Evan, just, what is the formula? Do you have a sense just looking at Trump`s political standing where you see his vulnerabilities in 2020? What do you see is the formula that would be the most sellable for Democrats in a candidate? Do you see one?
SIEGFRIED: No drama and solutions. That`s basically the slogan you want to have. Government isn`t functioning properly. You have the wheels going off the rails right now with the way government is working. And also, every morning we wake up to a tweet storm, and a lot of people are tuning it out.
But we also saw in 2018 a lot of voters say you know, I`m tired of this. This is just too much. I get my kids ready for school, et cetera.
But there`s one thing about, you know, the kingmaker aspect of Barack Obama. The longer he stays neutral in this, the worse it is for Joe Biden, because it creates that question of why hasn`t he done his best buddy, Joe Biden, and it`s going to be a question that will linger in the minds of first the press, and it will trickle down to the voters.
KORNACKI: And you got the sense all through 2015 that Biden was just waiting for Obama to come to him and say, I`m with you, Joe, if you go, and he never got that message from him. Obama, it seemed, maybe like a lot of other Democrats, thought Hillary was the most electable candidate.
MOODIE-MILLS: Don`t rule out Michelle. It`s not the Obama factor. It`s the Michelle Obama factor. She just broke records with her book. She is selling out stadiums with her tour.
KORNACKI: You think she makes an endorsement --
MOODIE-MILLS: I think that Michelle Obama`s effect on the electorate inspiring people to show up and participate, in the same way that Oprah did, is game changing for the Democrats in a lot of ways and mobilizing the base. And it`s not just about one candidate yet, but I think she`s the X factor we should be looking at much more than Barack.
KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is staying with us.
Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Phillip, tell me something I don`t know.
BUMP: So, it`s sort of a fascinating subtext, this whole debate over government funding and the border wall. Donald Trump wants $5 billion for the wall. Overall, it`s estimated it will cost $18 billion. So far this year, because of the tax cuts passed on year ago, corporate taxes are down $92 billion from 2017. You take -- you know, one fifth of that and you could have paid for the entire border wall if you wanted to. But that`s not the --
KORNACKI: All right. Aisha?
MOODIE-MILLS: OK. So, if you`re walking along Capitol Hill, when this new Congress comes in and you run into a white man who`s a member, it`s likely, two to one, he`s going to be Republican. If you run into a woman of color, who`s also a member of Congress, 20 to 1 likely that she`s a Democrat. I think that says a lot about who the base of the Democratic Party is and what 2020`s conversation is going to look like.
KORNACKI: OK. And, Evan?
SIEGFRIED: The Rick Santorum of 2020, Bernie Sanders, has been having many of his associates go out and attack Beto O`Rourke because they see him as the biggest threat in the progressive party. He`s being called uber conservative and voting with Trump 70 plus percent of the time.
KORNACKI: OK. Well, that Bernie-Beto stuff, on Twitter, that`s always fun to watch.
All right. Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried. When we return -- thank you for being with us.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a surprisingly low key government shutdown. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with a government shutdown that feels different than we`re used to.
The president is firing away on Twitter, but there`s no sign of any serious negotiations, no votes looming, no loud rallies, no dueling press conferences, a lot of members of Congress aren`t even in Washington. They`re away for the holidays. Democrats may be content to wait until the New Year, that`s when they take control of the House to make their move. Republicans, they`ve been burned by the White House already. They may be fine with waiting until then too.
As "Politico" puts it today, quote, this episode is remarkably low key. We`ve seen the opposite of low key with he has shutdowns before, go back two decades to November of 1995, Newt Gingrich, the first Republican House speaker in a 40 years, locked in a staring contest with Bill Clinton. That government shutdown was all anyone talked about for days. It led every newscast, there were big speeches, rallies, primetime addresses, a sense across the country that something major was happening.
Remember when Newt seemed to suggest he wasn`t negotiating because Clinton had ignored him on Air Force One. One of the all-time political gifts the public sided decisively with Clinton and against the Republicans. Less than a year later, Clinton cruised to reelection, running against the Gingrich Congress. That, he said, had shut down the government.
More recently, there was Obama versus the Tea Party in 2013. Remember that one? Ted Cruz told Republicans to close the government down and not to blink until Obamacare was defunded. They held out for 16 days, but that was it. Obamacare survived. Although Cruz`s star with the Republican base did rise.
But now, this shutdown is very real obviously to the federal workers who are affected. But on Capitol Hill, and around the country, this one is different, so far. It`s a partial shutdown, only a quarter of the government. It`s also happening during the holidays. These are definitely factors that come into play here.
It`s also probably a sign, though, that in the Trump era, what used to be shocking, so often now ends up feeling like not much at all.
That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.
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