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updated 12/16/2009 11:02:05 AM ET 2009-12-16T16:02:05

Guests: Julia Boorstin, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Irshad Manji, Susan Page,

Chris Cillizza, Tyler Drumheller, Phil Hare, Aaron Schock

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight: The president makes his call.  President Obama now says he‘s cautiously optimistic that health care will be passed this year.  Was the price of that optimism giving up on the Medicare buy-in?  He met this afternoon with the Senate Democratic caucus at the White House and then spoke to reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   We simply cannot allow differences over individual elements of this plan to prevent us from meeting our responsibility to solve a long-standing and urgent problem for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The man at the center of the storm, of course, Joe Lieberman, who is either sticking to principles or just sticking it to the Democrats.  We‘re going to talk to two Democratic senators who were at that meeting.

Plus, five Muslims who had been living in America are now in Pakistan, custody of the government over there for trying to join extremist groups and fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Are some Muslims who have come to America becoming vulnerable to radicalization?  If so, what creates this anger—and this danger?

Meanwhile, what‘s the big fuss about moving Gitmo prisoners to Illinois?  Is there a plague of prisoners just walking out of maximum security prisons across the country?  This looks like just another way for Republicans to bash Obama, no matter what he does.

Also, look out below.  A number of Democrats have decided to pack it in and now aren‘t next year is growing.  Do they sense a 2010 tsunami coming at their party?  And add one more to the list of Republicans who refuse to say whether Sarah Palin—I love this—is qualified to be president.  Cat got their tongue?  That‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Let‘s begin with the president‘s meeting today with Democratic senators at the White House for his final push on health care reform.  We‘re joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Let me start with Senator Klobuchar.  Is it true that it‘s come down to a bill that will not have either a public option or this ability to buy into Medicare at the age of 55?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  Well, Chris, we‘re still getting the numbers from the CBO.  But remember, what‘s been added to the bill now is not just the exchange, which allow people to pool their numbers and go in and buy insurance that‘s cheaper because they‘ve got greater numbers, but it has something modeled on the federal employee health care plan, which is something the president and all of us have been asking for for years, with non-profit insurance companies and really trying to bring that competition down, getting more companies in there, getting more non-profits in, so we bring up competition and bring those rates down.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the way I read that—well, let me go to Senator Shaheen because I read that that, yes, it looks like Joe Lieberman has gotten his way and we‘re not going to have either the public option or this buy-in to Medicare care at the age of 55.  Senator Shaheen, is that the way it looks right now as we go towards what looks like the last call for this bill?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Well, look, I support a public option.  I think that would have been important to have in the bill.  But I‘ve always said all along that there are a lot of ways to accomplish what we want to accomplish with a public option.  And we need to get more competition into the insurance market.  That‘s what the exchanges will do.  We‘re requiring insurance companies to spend most of their funds now providing health care for people, rather than on administrative costs.  I think that‘s important to do.  We‘re saying that they‘ve got to cover people who have preexisting conditions.  And we‘re saying that all insurance companies have to abide by those same rules when it comes to covering people.

So we may not have a public option in this plan, but what we‘re going to do is cover 31 million more -- 33 million more Americans, and I think that‘s real progress.

KLOBUCHAR:  And Chris, the other aspect of this, of course, is the cost reforms that you see in the bill, the fact that the deficit will be brought down over $100 billion, that Medicare will stay strong for another nine years—it was going to go in the red by 2017 -- that we‘re going to fill the doughnut hole for our seniors, that people are going to be able to keep their kids on their insurance until they‘re 26.  These are things that people have been working decades to accomplish.

And one of the things the president emphasized at this meeting was that not everyone is going to be pleased with every single provision.  Some people are going to be disappointed that some things aren‘t in there.  But look at what we‘ve gotten, 31 million more people covered, over $100 billion in deficit reduction, the cost reforms that Senator Shaheen was talking about, the insurance regulation, finally putting down some rules.  This is a major change.

And it‘s reform for so many people in my state.  They‘ve been calling, saying, you know, My daughter‘s basically been just kicked off her insurance, I got a letter, because her husband, the small business, they couldn‘t afford it anymore, and she‘s got cystic fibrosis, and she was crying so hard, she couldn‘t even talk on the phone.  She writes this—the mom writes at the end of the letter, We need you to be our voice.  That‘s what this bill is about.  That‘s what the president emphasized.

MATTHEWS:  So the point right now is to sell the bill and to sell the disadvantages of not passing the bill, the costs which will go up, the loss of insurance coverage which will occur.  The president made all those points today, and you senators have made the positive case for the bill as it stands.

But let me bring you back to the politics.  The front page of “The New York Times” today, which is sold heavily in Connecticut, said—look at the headline, “Lieberman gets ex-party to shift on health plan.”  It seems to me that “The New York Times,” even in its objectivity, has had it with Joe Lieberman.  Would you say that‘s the case, Senator Shaheen, that they‘re taking it to this guy and basically saying that he has muscled his way into influencing a major piece of Democratic legislation by just saying, If you don‘t have me, you don‘t have a bill and you don‘t have me, so you better dump the Medicare proposal and dump the public option or I‘m not aboard?  Is the front page of “The New York Times” accurate today, Senator Shaheen?

SHAHEEN:  Well, I think there are a lot of compromises in this bill made because a lot of people have had an influence on it.  Joe Lieberman‘s issues have been more public than many people‘s.  But regardless of where he‘s been, the bottom line is this is a bill that‘s going to make a difference for people.  It‘s going to make a difference because we‘re going to cover 33 million more Americans.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SHAHEEN:  It‘s going to make a difference because it‘s going to address the long-term costs of health care.  As Amy says, $130 billion in savings to the deficit over the first 10 years.  So it‘s a plan that we need to support.  It‘s a start.  And we‘re going to come back.  This is not an issue that‘s going to end when we pass this bill.

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, you know, I think—I think Vice President Biden said it best at that meeting.

SHAHEEN:  Yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  In his gravelly voice, Chris, you would have loved this moment, he says, Come on, people!  He said, I‘ve been there for 30 years, and these bills, major pieces of legislation, reforms get added, things get better as time goes on, but we have to get this done for the people of this country.

SHAHEEN:  And we‘ve been trying to do this for over 60 years.  This is our opportunity.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senators, let‘s listen to Joe Biden now.  The vice president was on “MORNING JOE” on this network today.  Let‘s listen.  I think he made this point in this bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What I learned from Mike Mansfield when I first got there—I told you the story—is never question another man‘s motive, question his judgment.  I think Joe‘s judgment is wrong on this.

If health care does not pass in this Congress, then—and every day

gets closer to the election, as opposed to having more breathing room to

actually have discussions and real open fights here, it is—it makes it -

it‘s going to be kicked back for a generation.

And I think any Democrat who decides for their own shallow purposes, if that were the case, to scuttle this is not going to have—you know, the southern parts of our states, Joe, not going to have a friend in the Lord.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Well, that seems to be the word from the vice president.  Senator Shaheen, it looks like the Democrats have reached some kind of agreement here to move ahead with what you‘ve got.  Is that fair to say, go with what you‘ve got?

SHAHEEN:  Well, I think it‘s fair to say that we think we‘ve got a good piece of legislation, that it‘s going to reform health care in a way that makes a difference.  Now, we‘re still negotiating around some of the points in the bill, so we don‘t have a date to vote yet.  But we‘re all working very hard, and hopefully, we‘re going to get this done.

MATTHEWS:  Do you consider, both of you, Joe Lieberman, to be a fellow Democrat?  First Senator Klobuchar.  Is Joe Lieberman a fellow Democrat, as you see it, or is he an outrider who has proven very difficult here?  Which of those two assessments would you offer?

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, you can be both.  And let me tell you this, Chris.  When you look at his voting record—I know that there are major disagreements with him on some of his positions on the Iraq war from the past, as well as this health care reform debate.  But when you look at the times that we needed 60 votes throughout this process, with the stimulus bill and with other things that we did for the people of this country, you name it, he has been there on environmental issues, he‘s been there on women‘s issues and he has voted with Democrats.

So no matter how mad people might be at him right now, when you look at his record and you say, Does he vote more like a Democrat or does he vote more like a Republican, he votes more like a Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  No, I said does he vote more like a Democrat or like an outlier who‘s been very difficult in this bill.

KLOBUCHAR:  I said you could characterize him in both ways...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... for the purpose of this discussion.

MATTHEWS:  You said other people were mad at him.  Are you mad at him?

KLOBUCHAR:  I think everyone gets irritated when you want to get to a goal line, when you want to get this thing done, and someone‘s kind of running zigzag down the field.  But in the end, Joe Lieberman today stood up and said that he—while he wants to see the details, he‘s inclined to be supportive of this bill.  And that‘s what...

SHAHEEN:  And that‘s the bottom line.

KLOBUCHAR:  We need 60 votes.

MATTHEWS:  Is it healthy to have someone, Senator Shaheen, who represents the insurance industry of Hartford, Connecticut, sculpting this bill at the end, putting the final touches on it, if you will?  Is that healthy for your party, to have a colleague, if you will, from Hartford, Connecticut, on behalf of the insurance industry, defining the final touches of the health care bill which will make your point in history for the Democratic Party right now?

SHAHEEN:  Look, we all have...

MATTHEWS:  Is it healthy?

SHAHEEN:  ... our own regional differences.  There are a number of other people who would express some of the same concerns that Joe had.  I think what‘s healthy is—no pun intended—is to make sure we get a health care reform bill that‘s going to do the kinds of changes that Amy and I have talked about.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SHAHEEN:  And I—I‘m—hope that Joe‘s going to be with us in the final count.

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, Chris, I‘d love to get the reimportation of drugs passed today.  I‘m going to vote for that.  I have been a big believer in that, and we may not pass that.  And then I will go on to fight another day with Byron Dorgan and other people to get that done.  We‘re not afraid of Canadian drugs in Minnesota.  People come from Canada all the time.  That‘s our vote tonight.

SHAHEEN:  Or New Hampshire.

KLOBUCHAR:  Or New Hampshire.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You can reach Canada in a car ride from either state, which justifies the trip, doesn‘t it.  Anyway, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, merry Christmas to both of you.  I hope you get the bill done by Christmas.

Coming up, the radicalization of some Muslims living in America.  Five people living here who come from Muslim backgrounds are in custody right now in Pakistan for trying to join our enemies over there in Afghanistan.  How can the government keep track of radical Muslims living here?  And will the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed up in New York lead to more of this kind of radicalization like we saw with Nidal Hasan down at—in the South?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC—down at Ft. Hood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Is the U.S. growing more susceptible to the radicalization of Muslims living in this country?  Five Muslims living in America are being detained in Pakistan right now by the government over there for trying to link up with radical Islamic groups and fight the United States forces over in Afghanistan.  And this incident follows, of course, the November killing of 13 people in Ft. Hood by the alleged shooter, Army major Nidal Hasan, who had publicly voiced opposition to fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So how can the United States government keep track of radical Muslims living in this country and prevent American Muslims—and some of them definitely are Americans—from falling prey to Islamic extremism?

Irshad Manji is an NYU professor of leadership and author of the book “The Trouble With Islam Today.”  And Tyler Drumheller is, of course, foreign chief of CIA operations over in Europe.

I want to start with Irshad.  And Professor, I want to ask you about this.  What is your initial impulsive reaction when you hear about five young people in their early 20s, apparently, or younger, in fact, two of them—or three of them with Pakistani background in their family, two of them from the horn of Africa, from Eritrea and from Ethiopia—what does it say to you when these five guys are over there trying to join up with our enemies?

IRSHAD MANJI, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY:  Chris, I have to say I‘m not surprised and not because I believe all of my fellow Muslims are susceptible to jihadi violence, not at all, but simply because I know from having done the research that this is happening, you know, not just in Western Europe—it‘s been going on there for years—but also in places like Canada, kind, gentle Canada, where only three years ago, 18 young Muslim men were busted for scheming to behead the prime minister and blow up the parliament buildings.

It stands to reason that from time to time, we are going to see examples like this happening in the United States.  My concern, Chris, is that the FBI, thank God, is foiling more and more of these plots in the U.S.  How many more are out there?  And of course, why aren‘t moderate Muslims doing more to challenge the religious interpretations that lead to jihadi violence?

MATTHEWS:  Are these coming from the mosques?

MANJI:  Not necessarily.  Study upon study has shown that the vast majority of Muslims in America don‘t even bother attending mosque.  And if they do, it‘s purely on ceremonial grounds.  No, I really think that there‘s something deeper going on here.  I think that the sort of challenges that need to be happening to the kinds of religious interpretations that are all over the Internet are not happening in the places that really matter—the homes, for example, of many moderate Muslims.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Tyler.  Tyler, of course, we‘ve got a history in this country of people going over to fight other battles—the Abraham Lincoln Brigade fighting the fascists in Spain in the ‘30s.  But here you have people going over to join organizations that are fighting us, killing Americans.  That scares you.

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FMR. CIA STATION CHIEF:  It is scary.  And we‘ve dodged this for a long time because of the way the Muslim community has integrated into American society.

MATTHEWS:  One-point-eight million Muslims in this country.

DRUMHELLER:  Right.  But because these wars have gone on so long, the struggle‘s gone on so long and there‘s so much press about it, and there‘s a lot of tension, I think you‘re starting to see the same situation develop that happened in Europe, where you get disaffected young people, just angry about what‘s going on.  They‘ve been angry about Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, whatever.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DRUMHELLER.  And they get together and start talking about it.  And then all it takes is one of them who has a little more background, a little more training or a little more commitment that makes them particularly dangerous.

In this case, these guys didn‘t.  They were sort of amateurs wanting to be that.  But that‘s where the danger lies, that you have a group like this that‘s around their friends or they‘re members of a club or something like that.  And then someone does come in who‘s been to Pakistan or been to Yemen and been trained, then you have a problem.

Really, the only way to protect it is the leadership of the—of the Islamic community, the Muslim community.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what—that‘s what Irshad—professor, here‘s my question.  I‘m just trying to appreciate this as someone who‘s occidental.  I‘m a Western, obviously, a Christian, and I‘m trying to figure out through common sense.

If I‘m 22 years old—some of these guys are in their early 20s—and for the last eight years, I‘ve watched television, I‘ve kept up with events, read the papers and talked to my friends.  And all I hear is Americans, rightly or wrongly, killing Islamic people—every night on television.  Every night—that‘s what we do.  I know it started with 9/11, and you could argue they started it.  You can argue also that their argument from the bin Laden crowd is we started it by putting 10,000 troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia.  I can hear all the arguments.  Race wars and religious wars don‘t need a beginning, and they rarely have an end.

MANJI:  And Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You can always come up with the other side‘s wrong.  You can always claim the other side—we can do it.  They can do it.

MANJI:  Chris, you said something very important at the beginning of that statement there, which is that all we ever hear is—and then fill in the blank.  That‘s the problem.  What we rarely hear, Chris, is that the vast majority of Muslims are killed by other Muslims. not by any foreign power.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MANJI:  For example, just this last week, Muslims came out with a report on behalf of West Point Military Academy, deriving their data from Arabic-language sources, Chris, in order to preempt charges of Western bias.

And that data showed unequivocally that, in the last few years alone, 85 percent of al Qaeda‘s victims have been Muslims...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANJI:  ... and, in the last two years, 98 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does that tell you, though?  How does that get you any further? 

MANJI:  Oh, I will tell you.  I will tell you. 

MATTHEWS:  The IRA used to kill Irish people. 

MANJI:  No, no.  I will tell you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  It didn‘t stop the wars over there for the longest time. 

MANJI:  I will tell you exactly where it gets us.

We know, news reports have pointed out routinely that one of the suspects of the Pakistani—excuse me—of the Muslim Americans now detained in Pakistan left behind a video showing Muslim carnage and then saying that we need to defend our fellow Muslims. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANJI:  Where these young men heading over to Pakistan to join an al Qaeda-driven jihad, they are not going to be defending Muslims at all.  They‘re likely going to be killing them.  That‘s the message that needs to get out broader, further, faster. 

MATTHEWS:  Tyler, does that work?  Or do they just accuse those people of being Uncle Toms, of going along with the West, more or less? 

MANJI:  Let them.  Let them. 

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF EUROPEAN OPERATIONS:  Yes.  I think that‘s—I think that‘s something that has to happen.  There has to be a commitment from the leadership, from the families of the leadership of the Muslim community. 

On the other hand, there also has to be recognition.  I think the FBI does do a good job on this.  They have to be careful to not make the problem worse, to make—yet, we also shouldn‘t overreact to this and think that all the—that there‘s hundreds of these cells all over the United States.  There probably aren‘t.  And it doesn‘t—and you—and this was good because their—the families actually turned them in, and—or the parts of—but I think...

MATTHEWS:  No, we live—you and I do.  We talked about it before.

DRUMHELLER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We all live in a world because of tradesmen in this country and the success with which the emigre communities have come over here. 

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, my druggist, the guy who is my pharmacist, and I rely on him heavily for advice.  His name is Hussein (ph).  He‘s Islamic in his background, Iranian.  We go to a lamp store on a regular basis, we go to a shop on a regular basis, you know, with people who work with us on a regular basis, all Islamic background.  We live in a world that is very mixed that way now. 

And the idea that they were our enemy is absurd. 

DRUMHELLER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, what do you do? 

DRUMHELLER:  This is the thing you have to be careful.  This is what separates us right—still from Europe.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a horrible thing to profile, when you start getting into this thing.. 

DRUMHELLER:  Because if you go into—if you go into a Muslim neighborhood in Brussels or in Frankfurt...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRUMHELLER:  And, I mean, I have lived most of my life in Europe. 

It‘s like going to Cairo, or it‘s like going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re totally isolated. 

DRUMHELLER:  You‘re totally isolated.  You stand out.  You feel like you‘re in a foreign country. 

In this country, we don‘t have that. 

MANJI:  Right. 

DRUMHELLER:  And we have to be careful not to get to that point. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I‘m fanatical about us all at least sharing a common language. 

MANJI:  And that‘s why...

MATTHEWS:  We can have our own second language or third language, but we ought to have at least one language in common.  I really think we can segment it that way, as trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Your thoughts.

MANJI:  And, by the way—by the way, gentlemen, a couple of years ago, the Pew Research Center came out with the first national study, appropriately entitled “Muslim Americans,” showing that the vast majority of Muslim Americans love living in this country, have higher standards of living than even average Americans...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANJI:  ... and believe that the American dream is alive and well.  It‘s not, however, enough merely to rely on those people to, you know, come forward when they need to come forward. 

We need to have, in this country, I believe, courtesy of the U.S.  government, some very clear guidelines of what is expected of Muslim parents, particularly immigrant parents. 

You mentioned, Tyler, that the parents of one of the suspects turned their son in.  That‘s good. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANJI:  It sets a precedent.  But the expectation needs to be made even more clear that this is part of a social contract of living in an open and democratic society like this. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this one of the byproducts of continuing and deepening the war in Afghanistan, that we‘re going to see more and more of this sort of forcing young people to choose sides in this country? 

Your thoughts on that, Irshad, final thought.  Is this continuation, just as Tyler said, the mere longevity of these wars going on and on and on, perhaps generationally now, for 20 years, doesn‘t just the sheer time factor drive some young people in this country to choose the other side? 

MANJI:  Yes, possibly. 

But let‘s remember, Chris, that the ringleader of the July 7 bombings in London, England, when he left behind his martyr video, yes, he invoked U.K. foreign policy.  But, before even going there, he stated Islam is our religion and the prophet is our role model. 

Clearly, he was deriving some of his inspiration from religious symbolism. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANJI:  So, it‘s much more complex than foreign policy. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Thank you so much, Professor Irshad Manji, for joining us.

Tyler, as always—Tyler Drumheller. 

Have a nice holiday both of you, holiday season. 

Up next:  Remember when Haley Barbour wouldn‘t tell me whether he thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be president?  Three times, I asked him.  He‘s chairman of the Republican Governors, a very smart guy, perhaps smart enough not to answer my question.  Well, that seems to be the problem that the cat has tied the tongues of Republicans.  Now another high-profile Republican refused to answer Geraldo Rivera‘s question on that very same point.  I love it.  It‘s getting viral.  They‘re all asking the Haley Barbour question. 

That‘s next in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

By the way, happy holidays, everybody, if I haven‘t said it before. 

What a great season.

First, a little trivia from Geraldo Rivera.  Last month, Haley Barbour came on HARDBALL and repeatedly refused to answer a simple question:  Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?  His non-answer to my question has apparently made its mark in political pop culture. 

Here‘s Geraldo Rivera putting what he called the Haley Barbour question to top House Republican Eric Cantor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GERALDO AT LARGE”)

GERALDO RIVERA, HOST, “GERALDO AT LARGE”:  Haley Barbour question:  Is she qualified to be president, yes or no?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  Haley Barbour is—he is an expert.  That guy is one of the smartest people I know.  And he‘s a real leader. 

RIVERA:  And he didn‘t answer the question. 

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERA:  All right.  Neither did you. 

Congressman Eric Cantor, thank you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, why won‘t top Republicans, like the head of the Republican Governors and the number-two Republican congressman, answer the simple question, is Sarah Palin qualified to be president? 

Well, here‘s another commentary on Sarah Palin.  The ex-governor of Alaska has knocked the reality of global warming.  No surprise there.  But Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, has an interesting response.  He says, she‘s playing to the crowd on this—quote—“You have to ask, what was she trying to accomplish with that answer?  Is she really interested in this subject or is she just interested in her career and in winning the nomination for president?  You have to take all these thing with a grain of salt.”

That‘s Arnold on Sarah.  Well, there‘s a man who would rather be respected, the governor of California, than get a cheap applause line.

Finally, very a curious choice of words from President Obama today.  Here he is promoting something as interesting, but not as really wild, as weatherization at a Home Depot down in Virginia. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The insulation is sexy stuff. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Here‘s what‘s—here what is sexy about it: saving money.  I know the idea may not be very glamorous, although I get really excited about it.  Yes, I told you, insulation is sexy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That‘s one way to get us to quote him on home insulation. 

Now for the “Big Number.”  Could there be a 1994-style landslide coming in 2010 -- that‘s next year—with the Republicans winning big again and maybe taking over the House?  Well, it seems like a crop of senior House Democrats think so.  They have opted to retire, instead of facing tough reelection raises, in just the past month.  That tally stands at four, Dennis Moore of Kansas, Washington state‘s Brian Baird, Tennessee‘s Bart Gordon and John Tanner.  Four House Democrats opt to bail out, rather than fight, in 2010 -- tonight‘s very telling “Big Number.”

Up next:  There‘s a big political fight erupting over President Obama‘s plan to move detainees—that‘s terrorist detainees—from Guantanamo Bay to a maximum security prison the federal government is buying in Illinois.  We are going to hear from both sides of that fight next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks falling today on worries about inflation and weakness in the financial sector, the Dow Jones industrial average down 49 points, the S&P 500 sliding six points, and the S&P and the Nasdaq finishing 10 points lower. 

Inflation at the wholesale level surging 1.8 percent in November, that‘s the largest gain in three months and more than double what analysts were expecting.  The jump comes as the Fed kicks off a two-day policy meeting.  Economists will be watching closely to see if the Fed maintains its pledge to keep interest rates low for an extended period. 

Shares in Best Buy tumbling more than 8 percent today, as investors worried that cost-cutting could drag on margins during the holiday season. 

Boeing shares falling slightly despite today‘s long-delayed first flight of its new 787 Dreamliner. 

And GE shares dragging on the Dow today, after predicting revenue will come in flat next year.  GE is the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

The Obama administration plans to move up to 100 Guantanamo detainees

those are terrorist detainees—to an Illinois prison. 

Joining me right now two U.S. congressman from Illinois with very different views on that move, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock and Democratic Congressman Phil Hare.

Congressman Schock, why are you against this decision to put these people in this new federal facility in Illinois?  These are people who will be—apparently will have been convicted by military tribunals. 

REP. AARON SCHOCK ®, ILLINOIS:  I don‘t believe all of them have been on trial yet at this point. 

And the reason I‘m opposed, as well as a majority of Illinoisans and a majority of Americans at this point, is because the president has yet to convince us, has yet to lay out a plan as to why this makes America safer. 

Moving Guantanamo Bay, changing addresses of that detention center, will not eliminate the hatred that their jihadist brothers have for our country and the detention center, regardless of where it‘s located. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t see any advantage in removing what has become an international symbol of American abuse, if you will? 

SCHOCK:  Well, first of all, let‘s get some facts straight. 

There have been no torture techniques, no alternative interrogation techniques, nothing negative in a bad way has happened at Guantanamo Bay.  It is, however, the base where the largest known al Qaeda cell still exist and the largest amount of terrorists have existed here in our—in our world. 

It once had 500 detainees.  It started under the Bush administration, came down during the Obama administration down to 200 detainees.  We processed out about 300 of them.  Some of them went on trial.  Some of them went back to their country. 

But it begs the question, who‘s left?  Who are the 200 that remain?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me get this...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me get this straight. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  On the policy issues—I got to the symbolic issue, which I‘m thinking about myself.  On the issue of Abu Ghraib, would you have closed that? 

SCHOCK:  Oh, absolutely.  Obviously, it was...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Would you have closed—would you have stopped the water-boarding? 

SCHOCK:  Well, I—I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Would you have stopped it?  If you had been president at this time, would you have done what President Obama has done and stopped the water-boarding?  Because that‘s another thing that people symbolically see as American, well, repression or tyranny or imperialism, whatever the hell they‘re calling it.  Would you have stopped the water-boarding? 

SCHOCK:  I would not—I would not limit our intelligence agencies‘ ability to get information from people.  If they have a ticking time bomb or—or some—a critical piece of information that can save American lives, I don‘t believe we should—we should limit water-boarding or, quite frankly, any other alternative torture technique if it means saving Americans‘ lives. 

But I don‘t think it should be standard practice.

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t have a—you don‘t have a principled objection to torture? 

SCHOCK:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you.  As a matter—it‘s not a matter of principle with you then; it would depend on the circumstances? 

SCHOCK:  I think, at the end of the day, our security forces are our major—our number-one goal is protecting American lives and keeping America safe.  And I don‘t see how...

MATTHEWS:  So, the end would justify the means?  In other words, you don‘t have any problem with torture? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOCK:  Chris, I don‘t know how moving Guantanamo Bay to U.S. soil makes America safer.

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘re changing—OK.  I‘m just trying to get your value system.  On torture, you say it depends on the circumstances.  You believe we should keep Gitmo? 

SCHOCK:  I do believe we should keep Gitmo.  And I believe that—that—that we should not limit our intelligence personnel‘s hands if and when they have reason to believe someone has critical some information that can save Americans‘ lives. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t believe in our adherence to the Geneva Conventions, in other words? 

SCHOCK:  Chris, you‘re putting words in my mind.  What I‘m telling you...

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking you, because you‘re putting words out there. 

SCHOCK:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You are saying we can use torture when you think it‘s necessary.  And I‘m saying, if you think it‘s necessary, then you must believe it‘s OK to violate Geneva Conventions. 

SCHOCK:  I believe it‘s important that we keep Americans safe.  And if our intelligence personnel, as they have, believe that individuals have critical information, then they need to do what they can to keep Americans safe. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

REP. PHIL HARE (D), ILLINOIS:  Chris, I would like to get in on this, if I could.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Congressman Hare. 

SCHOCK:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Your view, why is it a better move to put our detainees, some of them have been—I think most of them are going to have been convicted by tribunals...

HARE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... put them in American territory, rather than keep them out there in Cuba? 

HARE:  Well, Chris, let me just say, I think you heard from the very far right wing of the Republican Party.  Colin Powell, Secretary Gates have all said, even George Bush said, to close Guantanamo Bay. 

I don‘t support torture ever.  This is the United States of America.  We lead by example.  If someone was doing that to our troops, we would be screaming bloody murder. 

These—these are detainees that are going to be brought to a maximum security prison.  We haven‘t had a person escape from one of those in 20 years.  I don‘t subscribe to the fear factor.  I don‘t subscribe to the fact that we have to be very, very afraid. 

I will tell you what I‘m afraid of, Chris.  I‘m afraid of getting up every day and seeing 12 to 14 percent unemployment in that region. This would cut the unemployment in half.  I disagree with him.  He should go up and tour the prison, which he hasn‘t done.

And the other thing I would suggest that he does is take a look at every single county board, Republican and Democrat, every mayor, the Department of Homeland chief for the state of Illinois, the state police director for the state of Illinois; they all endorse this.  This is a one billion dollar, over four years, 250 million dollar economic effort. 

I have told my friends in the Republican aisle, if you can get me 3,000, 3,500 jobs, that‘s fine; let‘s sit down and talk about it. 

This again goes back to: be afraid, be very, very afraid; they‘re going to get you; they‘re out to nail us.  I don‘t subscribe to it.  I think that‘s a fear factor.  And I‘m not going to be a part of it. 

SCHOCK:  Yes, first of all, I have enormous respect for my good friend Phil Hare, who we share Congressional districts with.  But I would encourage him to visit Guantanamo Bay, which I have done. 

HARE:  Aaron, I don‘t need to visit Guantanamo.  We‘re going to shut it down. 

SCHOCK:  If I could make my point.  The point here is not about jobs.  The point here is national security.  The idea that closing Guantanamo Bay has become an economic stimulus package for Illinois, I think, is not the argument the administration needs to be making right now. 

(CROSS TALK) 

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, I need a fact check here.  Isn‘t it true that the local people want these jobs?  Isn‘t it true that the local people, Mr.  Schock, want—the local people in the area affected want these jobs, want that facility?  Isn‘t that true? 

SCHOCK:  Yes.  Local elected officials want it. 

HARE:  Ninety five percent of the people in the area want it. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCHOCK:  -- the state of Illinois, which shows the majority of Illinoisans are still opposed to bringing Gitmo to Illinois. 

HARE:  You haven‘t talked to them, Aaron.  I have.  Let me just say this, Chris, if I could.  I am never going to support doing away with doing away with the Geneva Convention.  I don‘t believe in torturing people under any circumstances.  This is the best country on the planet.  We lead by example here. 

Look, every Republican, every Republican mayor, every Democratic mayor, every economic person I‘ve spoken to—they‘re not going to get out of this facility.  And for heaven‘s sakes, when, oh when, are we going to get away from get up every morning America and you have to be afraid, because they‘re coming to get you. 

No, they‘re not.  We want jobs in this area.  With all due respect, if you can find 3,500 jobs for that area, I will meet you tomorrow morning for coffee.  You tell me how we go about getting them.  These are going to be good paying jobs. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to go back to Mr. Schock.  One of the issues that‘s been raised by the Republicans, by the critics of this plan, is that we don‘t have the capability to keep people in these maximum security prisons, that they‘ll escape.  Is that one of your concerns, that these people will escape? 

SCHOCK:  No.  Look. 

MATTHEWS:  No is your answer?  No is your answer? 

SCHOCK:  Let me answer it.  I have—

MATTHEWS:  You said no. 

SCHOCK:  I have enormous respect for our law enforcement folks.  I have no reason to believe that people would escape from Thompson or any other correctional facility.  But I think there‘s some important information that the public has yet to receive from the Obama administration, information that Katherine Sebelius asked for in Kansas, when they tried to bring it to Kansas, and they rejected information that Michigan asked for.  And once Michigan refused it, they said thanks, but no thanks.  Why did he have to come to his home state—

HARE:  I can tell you why, Aaron.  I can tell you why.  We already have—

SCHOCK:  Excuse me.  Here‘s the question: have detainees at Guantanamo Bay attempted to escape?  There‘s the answer to that question.  It is classified.  The president can release that information. 

Second question, have their jihadist brothers attempted to come to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba?  There‘s an answer to that question.  That information is classified.  With that information, I think the views of the residents of Thompson, and the residents of all America would question whether or not bringing that facility there does pose a risk. and is in the best interests of national security. 

HARE:  Chris, we already have 340 -- Chris, we already have 340 detainees in the United States of America.  In Marion, Illinois, we have the Blind Sheikh. 

SCHOCK:  But why are we closing Guantanamo? 

HARE:  Excuse me.  Because it‘s an eye sore that needs to be closed. 

SCHOCK:  Because it‘s the largest detention center in the world with detainees and—

(CROSS TALK)

HARE:  I allowed you to finish.  Aaron, I allowed you to finish, I hope you‘ll let me.  We need to close Guantanamo for the same reason that most of the generals have said, including General Powell: it is an eye sore.  It is—it detracts from what we ought to be doing. 

Look, we need to bring these people to justice.  But for heaven‘s sakes—look, I don‘t buy this fear factor.  I‘m not going to subscribe to it today or tomorrow.  I asked the director—I said, can you tell me in 20 years, how many people have escaped from a maximum security prison in 20 years?  The answer is zero.  Look, this is 150 million dollar building sitting empty.  We‘re just going to let it sit and run the fear clock out on everybody.  I won‘t be part of it.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Phil Hare, thank you, sir.  Congressman Aaron Schock, thank you both for joining us.  It‘s a great debate.  It will continue. 

Up next, more House democrats decide to call it quits and not run for re-election next year.  Do they sense a problem for the party, a tsunami like in ‘94, where the House was lost to the Republicans under Newt Gingrich?  The politics fix is next.  Is there a tsunami coming and that‘s why some of these fellows are leaving?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back in time for the politics fix, with the WashingtonPost.com‘s Chris Cillizza, and the “USA Today‘s” Susan Page. 

Chris, you start.  You had a big story in the “Washington Post” today, talking about these Democrats, this quartet of Democrats.  Tennessee‘s Mark Gordon, Kansas‘ Dennis Moore, Tennessee‘s John Tanner, Washington State‘s Brian Baird.  They‘re all announcing—announced just now that they‘re not going to run for re-election.  Do they sense a tsunami is coming like we saw in ‘94, where all kinds of people lose just because they‘re Democrats? 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think the first three, Baird, Moore and Tanner—and those came a little bit earlier.  Gordon was yesterday.  I think the first three—Democrats sort of attribute that to circumstances unique to them.  John Tanner‘s grandchild was sick.  He had been in Congress for a very long time, et cetera, et cetera.

Bart Gordon, I think, is the start of something worrisome.  We talked to a lot of Democratic strategists yesterday about this story.  They all said Bart Gordon, in a neutral or good political environment for Democrats, probably sticks around.  He looks at this environment, he looks at his district, which went overwhelmingly for John McCain in 2008, and he probably steps aside at least in part because he doesn‘t necessarily want to fight that fight.  He doesn‘t want to spend the next year raising money, battling over the airwaves, doing everything you need to do to win a competitive seat. 

The question is—there are lots and lots of Democrats like Bart Gordon.  Remember, Democrats have picked up 55 seats in the last two elections.  Many of those are in places like southern Alabama, northern Mississippi, not necessarily places that are friendly for Democrats.  If the political environment turns, do these members say I‘m up for the fight;

I‘m willing to take it on?  Or do they say, you know what?  There are plenty of other things I can do with my life and I step aside?  If it becomes a contagious epidemic, that‘s a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, a congressman—you know—remember Don Edwards from California all those years.  He had been an FBI guy before, great golfer, regular guy.  He said, you know these Democrats, friends of mine, Republicans as well, always take politics too personally.  He was a longtime member of Congress.  He said it‘s pattern voting.  People go into a booth; they have a certain party identification; they have a certain attitude about the two parties.  And they don‘t really focus on which Congress-person is up for re-election.  They just vote a trend, because they want to vote a point of view and they want to make a statement.  And you lose, if you happen to be an incumbent.

Is that why a lot of them may figure I‘m not going to be caught up in a wave of attitude towards the president.  Having served ten or 20 years in Congress, I‘m not going to be a loser.  I‘m going to go out on my own accord. 

SUSAN PAGE, “THE USA TODAY”:  I think there are some elections that are like that.  They‘re wave elections.  It‘s possible we‘ll see that next year.  But you don‘t always see that.  Mark Gordon has been representing this Republican, this conservative district, for 13 terms.  So he had certainly won some elections I think on his own merits. 

But one of the worrisome things for Democrats is that, you know, he seemed to be in some difficulty or have a very competitive race because he stood with Obama.  He voted for the energy bill.  He voted for the health care bill in the House committee.  I think that created some problems for him with the voters he was going to have to go out and court. 

You talked about 1994.  You know, 1994, 31 Democratic House members decided not to run for re-election, either because they retired or they decided to run for different office.  And the Republicans picked up 22 of those seats.  That‘s very worrisome numbers for Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Last thought, quickly, Chris. 

CILLIZZA:  Very quickly, to Susan‘s point, open seats are the place where if there is a breeze blowing one way or the other, it‘s felt the most.  They don‘t tend to split right down the middle.  One party tends to win a majority, not always like ‘94, when 75 percent of them went Republican.  But one party tends to win more of them based on the national political environment.  I think that‘s what worries Democratic strategists if that field gets bigger. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris and Susan, I have a very long memory.  I remember way back to 1980, when Jimmy Carter got defeated for re-election, and a huge number of big-time Democrats went with him, because people wanted to flush the toilet.  They wanted a big change.  They wanted, whoosh, everybody out of here.  It was a bad time to be an incumbent Democrat.  Probably a bad metaphor too. 

We‘ll be right back with Chris Cillizza and Susan Page more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I am absolutely confident that if the American people know what‘s in this bill and if the Senate knows what‘s in this bill, that this is going to pass, because it‘s right for America.  And I‘m feeling cautiously optimistic that we can get this done and start rolling up our sleeves and getting to work improving the lives of the American people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Susan and Chris.  Susan, remember those old Saturday morning serials, where the villain had—with the big mustache and the black hat—had the pretty girl tied to the tracks and the train was coming.  That guy‘s name is Joe Lieberman.  What do you make, Rosa Delauro, his colleague, Democratic colleague, the congresswoman from Connecticut, has called for him to be recalled, even though there‘s no provision for that up there in Connecticut.  She wants him thrown out of office.  Your thoughts?   

PAGE:  Right.  No, we call provision in Connecticut and House members don‘t get to say what members of the Senate do.  But it certainly reflects the enormous frustration a lot of Democrats are feeling toward Joe Lieberman.  It is hard to imagine this was the guy they nominated for vice president in 2000.  The breach has been pretty severe. 

MATTHEWS:  They nominated John Edwards in 2004.  They know how to pick them, don‘t they, for VP?  Anyway, you‘re right, but they‘re mad at him.  Chris, they can‘t recall him.  They can‘t dump him.  So he‘s the boss.  And when that health care bill gets signed by the president, Joe will probably be standing there and say, I helped craft this thing, which is true.  He did help craft it his way. 

CILLIZZA:  He certainly helped shape it the way he wanted it to. 

Look, I think basically—

MATTHEWS:  He gets it both ways. 

CILLIZZA:  Yes.  Democrats have no outlet until 2012.  That‘s when Joe Lieberman is up again.  I see absolutely no way he could win a Democratic primary.  Remember, he lost in 2006 and that was—

MATTHEWS:  What‘s he need a Democratic primary for? 

CILLIZZA:  He‘s going to run.  I think you‘re right, Chris.  If he runs, he‘ll run as an independent.  He hopes Republicans—and I think this could happen—don‘t really field a candidate.  And then it‘s him against whoever the Democrats put up. 

Remember, though, Connecticut went 61 percent for Barack Obama. 

Polls suggest that Connecticut voters want some sort of health care bill.  This is a Democratic state.  He‘s not running in Virginia, sort of a toss-up state, where he can go to the conservative leanings of people.  This is Connecticut.  It‘s my home state.  It‘s a blue state. 

I think Joe Lieberman may have gone too far afield to come back.  I think if Democrats nominate a credible Democrat—obviously, State Attorney General Dick Blumenthal has been waiting to run for the Senate since 1990.  If they nominate Dick Blumenthal, Dick Blumenthal/Joe Lieberman, I think Democrats have to feel good about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan Page, the men up there and the women in the big high-rise insurance companies in Hartford, Connecticut, watching this show right now at the office, are clinking their glasses, saying, good for Joe.  He‘s fighting for us.  He‘s keeping the government out of health care. 

PAGE:  This is what really bugs some Democrats.  Some Democrats think it‘s not about where Lieberman really stands on this issue, but just the pay-back. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to go.  Susan, thank you.  Chris Cillizza, Susan Page, thank you.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.  Sorry. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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