November 13, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Guest: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Dana Milbank, Bob Shrum, John Feehery, Josh
Rogin, A.B. Stoddard
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Power grab.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. What do you do when your party is
getting smaller and your rivals out there are getting larger? What do you
do with this political party, the Republicans, when the numbers of your
conservative, older, male, white voters are shrinking and the numbers of
progressive younger and minority voters are beginning to dominate?
Well, here`s some ideas. You suppress the ability of minorities to
vote. You use redistricting to magnify the power of the more conservative
whites to keep control of the Congress. Finally, you obstruct an undermine
the power of the emerging new majority, once elected, to even run the
government. Actually, you do all three of those.
Welcome to the Republican plan for holding power in this country long
after they have receded into a minority of the population -- voter
suppression, gerrymandering and obstruction.
Tim Dickinson is a contributing editor and national affairs
correspondent for "Rolling Stone." His article in this month`s issue
chronicles all the tricks Republicans are using to retrain their dwindling
power under the headline, "How Republican rigged the game." And Ron Reagan
is an MSNBC political analyst.
Let`s start with voter suppression. Ron, you and I have talked about
it. It`s rather shameless. It`s under the tutelage, if you will, of
Reince Priebus, the RNC chair. They`re just going around now in three --
three dozens of the states, three quarters of the states, practically, and
they`re basically saying, Let`s make it really hard for older people to
vote. Let`s make it really hard for black people and other minorities to
vote. Let`s make it harder for young people to vote.
Let`s make it only older white conservatives who live in more
established or more rural areas to vote. Everyone else, good luck.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, cynicism and politics have
gone together for a long time, but the cynicism that`s inherent in this
sort of an effort -- and many of these Republican functionaries are pretty
up front about it, at least when they`re not on camera, as to what they`re
REAGAN: I mean, think about this. You`re actually -- how profoundly
anti-democratic could you get than you`re trying to eliminate the idea of
one person, one vote? And the whole democratic process becomes undermined
by this sort of effort, and you don`t care because all you care about is
Thank goodness that people like Tim have written articles like this
because, I tell you, the media as a whole has not been doing a very good
job of covering this sort of Republican tactic. It`s shameful, it`s
cynical, and it needs to be exposed.
MATTHEWS: Tim, good for you, because you know, when we look at
countries which have more -- well, less complete democracy, some places in
Africa, for example, certainly places in Iran and places like that, where
the mullahs really put the election list together, or you look at third
world countries where there really is an accepted slate of candidates, and
that`s it, and you better be on that slate -- and yet in this country, when
you see this concerted effort in places like Pennsylvania, but all across
the country I`ve seen it, where the state legislatures run by Republicans
have basically said, We can`t beat the big cities, so let`s reduce the
number of urban voters -- in other words, the number of African-American
voters -- as much as we can.
TIM DICKINSON, "ROLLING STONE": Right. I mean, there`s a difference
between using, you know, the tools at your disposal to turn out your
voters, to -- to, you know, use big data and targeting your voters and get
them to the polls and win electoral advantage that way -- and that`s not
what`s happening here.
We`re seeing a cynical effort to rig the actual machinery government
so that right now, it would take 107 Democrats to turn out for every 100
Republicans in the next mid-term election for Democrats to take control of
the House. And that`s...
MATTHEWS: I know that, and that...
DICKINSON: That`s not democracy. That`s America now.
MATTHEWS: An extra 7 percent, in other words, to even break even.
Anyway, let`s look at the redistricting you`re talking about there in
your story, Tim. It calls it hyperpartisan nationally. Nationally, House
Democrats beat House Republicans by more than a million votes in the 2012
election, yet Republicans have a stranglehold in the House. It`s a
subversion of majority rule, illustrated by results in three key states.
In my own hometown, Pennsylvania, Democratic House candidates got
83,000 more votes across the state than Republicans, yet in Congress right
now as we speak, Pennsylvania has 13 Republican congresspeople, 5
Democratic congresspeople -- 13 to 5 in a state that voted dramatically for
the Democrats is now represented dramatically by Republicans in Congress.
Call it democracy? Not really.
In Michigan, House Democrats won 240,000 more votes than Republicans,
yet in Congress, here in Washington -- or down in Washington, Michigan`s
represented by 9 Republicans, just 5 Democrats. Same in Wisconsin, where
Democratic House candidates got 43,000 more votes statewide over
Republicans. Yet again in Congress, the people of Wisconsin are now
represented by 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats.
Quickly, how do they do that? It seems to me they draw the lines a
clever way to make sure that they don`t waste Republican votes and they
make sure Democrats waste as many votes as possible by flooding the zones
of their districts.
DICKINSON: Well, they use very sophisticated efforts to pack
Democratic districts and create sort of landslide Democratic districts,
where you have urban and minority voters packed into these very tiny
geographic areas. And then you split the -- spread the wealth among
Republican-leading districts so they split, you know, maybe 55-45. So you
have just enough to sort of guarantee on an average basis that a
Republican`s going to win there.
And that way -- you know, it`s not just, you know, these states where
-- you have a state like Ohio, where, you know, you`re a 50/50, you know,
bellwether state, but Republicans control 75 percent of the seats. And it
was a very coordinated effort funded by the Chamber of Commerce, funded by
big tobacco, run by Ed Gillespie, run by Karl Rove. This was a -- you
know, a dark machination dreamed up in advance of...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, they`re also -- this is something to keep an eye
on for people who don`t think they should vote in midterm elections like
2014. They`re also planning to try to change the Electoral College which
picks our president. Instead of having it done state by state, with unit
rule -- in other words, the state goes as the state goes by majority vote.
They`re trying to do it by congressional district.
And if they can get it changed by that, to that situation, Tim, they
basically can win the presidency with a dramatically lower number of votes
than the other side had.
DICKINSON: Right. So in these same states where they redistricted so
dramatically, they`re proposed to have the Electoral College linked to a
congressional district. And if they`d that in place last election, Mitt
Romney would be president despite a popular loss of more than five million
MATTHEWS: Because they control (INAUDIBLE) by that vote, 232
congressional districts. That`s a vast majority of the number of
congressional districts, and all they have to do is use that to rubber-
stamp a victory in the House with a victory in the presidency.
DICKINSON: Right. And they`re obviously not proposing this in big
red states like Texas or South Carolina. You know, this is in only
happening in place where Republicans happen to control the state
legislature but these states to swing blue in presidential elections.
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the third way. Besides reapportionment, besides
voter suppression of black voters especially, the shrinking white minority
clings to power through this. You refer to the unprecedented
obstructionism in the Senate. The tactic was on display against yesterday,
when for a third time, one of President Obama`s picks for the D.C. circuit
court of appeals was blocked. The vote was 56 to 41. Sorry, that`s not
enough. You didn`t get 60.
This is the new tactic, by the way. I want to start with Ron -- is
Ron back? I want to start with you and get back to you on this question.
It`s not just they try to keep the other party out of power, but if they
get into power through some hard-working effort by the Obama people to win
again, winning enough votes despite all these efforts, they make sure they
don`t get to do anything.
They use the 60-vote requirement in the Senate on every little antsy
little thing, every little appointment, so that they can make them
basically be hamstrung in getting anything done. So they win by not
letting the other side win when they win.
DICKINSON: No, I think it`s -- it`s making sure that elections don`t
have consequences unless the Republicans are winning. I mean, this is, you
know, an unprecedented use of the filibuster by Mitch McConnell.
You know, in Lyndon Baines Johnson`s storied reign as majority leader,
he faced exactly one filibuster. And Harry Reid, in a tenure of about the
same duration, has faced 430. And about half of the executive appointments
that have been filibustered in the history of the Senate, the history of
this country, about half of them have come under the Obama presidency.
MATTHEWS: Ron, fill in here and then talk about all three of these
efforts. Not only is there using voter suppression shamelessly. I think
I`m the only guy sometime who`s going after Reince Priebus on this. Nobody
else seems to care that they`re just suppressing the black vote.
On the redistricting and the gerrymandering, it`s so obvious when
states like Pennsylvania (INAUDIBLE) 13 Republicans, 5 Democrats, when the
Democrats won the total overall number out there in Pennsylvania.
Same thing with the use of the filibuster. They can`t get anything
through this government unless they get 60 votes, which is the power of the
minority is outrageous now -- 40 is more powerful than 60!
REAGAN: There should be far more reporting on this, but the media as
a whole tends to do this false equivalency thing. You`d think that the
Democrats were filibustering as much as the Republicans are filibustering,
to watch, you know, many of the networks.
Another danger of this whole thing is, too, though, that the
Republican Party has now obviously decided that they cannot win the battle
of ideas. But once you decide that you can`t win the battle of ideas, you
stop having ideas. So we`ve got one political party that simply doesn`t
FINEMAN: Think about health care. Do they have an alternative to
"Obama care"? They want to eliminate it. What`s their alternative? Well,
they don`t really have one.
MATTHEWS: Darrell Issa...
REAGAN: Think about Paul Ryan`s budget plan...
MATTHEWS: They have Darrell Issa...
MATTHEWS: ... kangaroo court. That`s all they got.
REAGAN: Darrell Issa, the kangaroo court (INAUDIBLE) Paul Ryan`s
budget plan, when it was unveiled, it was like something he`d scrawled on
the back of a napkin at breakfast or something.
REAGAN: I mean, they have no ideas because they don`t think they need
them. They`re going to win another way, by cheating.
MATTHEWS: So what kind of reaction are you getting to this in
"Rolling Stone," Tim? Are people up in arms? Do they say, Wait a minute,
this is -- this is -- this is a tilting of the game from the beginning?
You can`t win a game that`s constantly tilting against you.
DICKINSON: Well, I`ve been excited by the reaction to the story
because these things have been floating out there, but I think we were able
to sort of draw these three threads together and see how they`re connected.
And I think, to Ron`s point, if you don`t have new ideas, if you`re a
party that`s, you know, tilting the playing field to win, eventually, that
game runs out. And I think the Republicans are on borrowed time here, and
when they get swamped, it`s going to look like what happened in California,
where Republicans are just irrelevant to the process now because voters got
fed up with it.
MATTHEWS: You know what it reminds me, of the old days, guys, back in
Lebanon, when the Christian population was purportedly as large as the
Muslim population, they would have all these censuses they would take over
there. I don`t know what the plural of census is. But they would take so
many, and they`d somehow come to the conclusion there were as many
Christians as there were Muslims. There weren`t, but they continued this
delusion. I wonder if the Republicans are going to do that to -- is that
the next step, tilting the polls, tilting the Census Bureau?
MATTHEWS: I mean, what are they going to do next?
DICKINSON: I mean, I don`t -- I don`t know how -- they seem to be
pulling out all of the stops right now, and I think some of the radicalism
that we`re seeing in their agenda is this sense that, This is our last shot
to -- to lock in changes that we aren`t going to be able to get, you know,
DICKINSON: ... 15 years from now because it`s -- the votes just won`t
be there, no matter how we rig the game.
MATTHEWS: Well, I hope the voters out there watching tonight are
keeping their eyes open and voting in the 2014 election because this is
when all the stinky business happens.
Thank you, Tim Dickinson. Thank you, Ron Reagan.
Coming up: Rising tension at the latest House hearing called by
Republicans to cripple the Affordable Care Act. Democrat Elijah Cummings
accuses Chairman Darrell Issa of insulting his staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Mr. Chairman, I -- let me be
clear that we have staff who work just as hard as yours.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I wasn`t insulting your staff!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Also, we all know who the shoe-in for the White House is in
2016, right? Or do we? A new poll suggests the Republicans might have a
shot after all if they pick the right candidate. And if you want to know
how Republicans plan to go after Hillary Clinton should she run for
president, remember one word, Benghazi. Rand Paul was at it yesterday, and
true to form, he misstated lots of facts.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with Sarah Palin, who has decided
that Pope Francis is too liberal.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Democrats, of course, won that big governor`s race last
week in Virginia. They took the lieutenant governorship, as well, and they
may be on the brink of going three for three now that the unofficial tally
is in for the race for attorney general.
Look at this. According to the Virginia state Board of Elections,
Democrat Mark Herring has a 164-vote lead over Republican Mark Obenshain
out of more than two million votes cast. Herring claimed victory.
Obenshain hasn`t conceded, and this race is headed for a recount.
Virginia law, by the way, says the state will foot the bill if the
margin of victory is less than .5 percent.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Jay Carney is paid to say things that
It`s the tip of the iceberg that we`re worried about is if they`re
willing to put politics into a Web site, what will they put into your
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. If you`re a fan of this show,
you might remember that face. That`s Darrell Issa, the chairman of the
House Oversight Committee. He`s become the Republicans` front man, if you
will, in an unending series of legal witch hunts that are heavy on wild
accusations, of course, and of course, fear-mongering, yet very short on
We`ve seen it with Benghazi, with Fast and Furious, with the IRS, and
now, as you saw in the clip from FOX last week, there was little reason to
think we`d see anything different when it comes to Affordable Care.
At an Oversight hearing again today, Issa continued his scare tactics.
This time, Issa tried frightening away people from even signing up for the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: Hackers, in fact, may have already or may soon find those
vulnerabilities. They may soon find your Social Security number or your
sensitive information because there was no integrated security testing
before the launch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: By the way, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius and
Healthcare.gov manager Marilyn Tavenner have both testified that there is
no way a hacker could steal your Social Security number from the site.
Anyway, defenders of the law, led by the Oversight Committee`s top
Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, were quick to denounce both Issa and
the entire Republican Party for their attacks on the president`s health
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: House Republicans shut down the
entire federal government for three weeks in October -- three weeks -- shut
down the government. They threatened to default on our national debts
unless we repealed the Affordable Care Act. Now they are attempting to use
the congressional oversight process to scare Americans away from the Web
Nobody in this room, nobody in this country believes that Republicans
want to fix the Web site. For the past three years, the number one
priority of congressional Republicans has been to bring down this law. And
that goal, ladies and gentlemen, has not changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Cummings is a Democrat from Maryland. He joins
us. now. Also with us is "The Washington Post`s" Dana Milbank.
Congressman, when you sit with those people, like your chairman of
that committee, what do you sense is his game plan? Is it cheap publicity,
which he`s normal -- that`s his normal bill of fare, or is it to actually
discourage so many people from participating in the program that he can
help kill the success of "Obama care"?
CUMMINGS: I think it`s to discourage people from signing up, and kill
it slowly, Chris. I think that`s what it`s all about, and to say as many
negative things as possible.
And then the other thing is he`s always trying to link any negative
decisions to the White House. I mean, we get so distracted by that, we
never get to reform. We never get to making sure that the system works
correctly. And that is definitely not the intention of the Republicans on
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, your chairman`s hard-line tactics came under
fire at today`s hearing. U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, Democrat from
Tennessee, of course, charged Issa with running a kangaroo court. Let`s
listen to Mr. Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: I believe in fairness, and the
American people do not want to see a kangaroo court here. And the way this
hearing has been conducted does not encourage good private sector people to
want to join the federal government.
ISSA: So I just want to understand. Kangaroo courts...
COOPER: By using...
ISSA: ... is quite an accusation. And I hope the gentleman from
Tennessee, when he uses the term "kangaroo court" in the future will think
better of making an accusation. No witness has been cut off. Every
witness has been allowed to complete their entire answer in every case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, someone who I met years ago, when I was
working for President Carter, who was an old bureaucrat in the government,
a real lover of working for the government, said, People don`t do their
best work -- and I`ll change his language here, but you`ll understand what
I meant -- when they`re being urinated on.
In other words, if you continually dump on federal employees,
continually dump on a program, you demoralize people. You demoralize
possible participants. It just seems to me these people want to make
people miserable who are trying to do their jobs.
CUMMINGS: Well, the group of people that were before us today were
experts in technology. And Mr. Todd Park, who is really working with the
team night and day, literally sleeping on floor, doing the job almost 24
hours to get this done by the end of the month, was taken away, Chris, from
And he said -- he told them -- he told Issa, he said, Look, I`m happy
to come testify after December 1st. But Issa instead handed him a
And -- but one of the good things that came out of the hearing today
is that Mr. Park testified that there has been significant progress. And
he seemed to be pretty confident that, by the end of the month, that we
will be in pretty good shape.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this charge from the Republicans out
there? This is Mitch McConnell, the head to Senate Republicans, saying
that by trying to fill these court appointments that are vacant, these are
vacancies in the federal court...
MATTHEWS: ... the president -- the president`s distracting from the
failures of his health care program? I have never heard a more -- well,
CUMMINGS: That`s ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: ... the most difficult connection I have ever heard.
CUMMINGS: That is ridiculous.
I am a lawyer. I practiced for 30 years. And I can tell you, we need
our judges on the courts. We have got people from my district, judges from
my district who are saying, that, look, we have got to fill vacancies
because we are having all kinds of backlog. And, so, no, there`s no
relationship, but they try to connect the two. And it`s absolutely
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Dana Milbank.
Excuse me, Congressman.
Let`s go to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. We read him all the
You know, it just seems to me this character, what`s his name, Darrell
Issa, he spent like $30 million trying to get elected to the Senate. That
wouldn`t work. But he wanted to get as much publicity as a senator, so he
comes over to this Oversight Committee with the -- with the expressed
intention of being acrimonious, of causing acrimony, of being a noisemaker
and basically trying to destroy anything he -- that gets in the way.
It has aspects of the old days of the witch-hunts, and he keeps
finding new witches, this guy.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
I mean, he said even before he took the job, Chris, that he viewed the
Obama administration as corrupt. And he has been seeking to demonstrate it
ever since then. We see the same pattern over and over again. You will
have something where something went wrong, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the
Obamacare rollout, and he immediately takes this leap, perhaps a kangaroo-
sized leap, if you will, and says that this is -- there`s high-level
political scandal in the White House that`s politically motivated, and
that`s what`s driving this problem.
And then what he will do after that is, he will selectively leak some
secret testimony to make it look like it`s supporting his point. Then
everything comes out in the end and it all goes poof. So, if I were the
Republicans, I would be thinking, we have a good case without Darrell Issa
going over the top.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the congressman.
Why is everything that Issa get in his target zone have to do with
moral turpitude? It can`t just be that something didn`t work the way you
would like it to look, something in life -- Murphy`s Law does apply a lot
oft time. It`s always evil or character. It`s always the president is a
Why do they have to keep making that case?
MATTHEWS: Can`t they just say, you know, he`s not the most efficient
chief executive we have had, you know, he didn`t have his eyes on the game
enough to keep charge of these people and make them work harder?
It`s always, somehow, he`s corrupt, evil, that there`s some character
problem, and it`s always a witch-hunt, looking for the witch.
CUMMINGS: Chris, I think it -- Chris, I think it goes back to what I
have said -- heard you say many times. They want to make sure that this
president has an asterisk next to his name, basically saying that he didn`t
accomplish anything significant.
And, of course, the Affordable Care Act is the most significant
accomplishment of this president or of any president, it would be. And so
this is, I think, another effort on the part of Chairman Issa to put a few
more lines under that asterisk that you -- you often talk about.
MATTHEWS: You know, like Hank Aaron really didn`t hit all those home
CUMMINGS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Therefore, he`s not Hank Aaron. Therefore, he`s not in the
Hall of Fame, therefore, therefore, therefore.
Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, holding the
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: .. on that very strange committee.
Anyway, Dana Milbank, as always, sir, thank you for joining us.
Up next: Sarah Palin takes another Alaska-sized potshot, this time at
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."
Talks with Iran on nuclear weapons may have stalled over the weekend.
But Secretary of State John Kerry`s unanticipated summit in Geneva marks
the first serious negotiations with the Islamic state since 1979, a small
but historic benchmark that wasn`t lost on Jon Stewart last night.
Here`s how he dramatized the gathering that took place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": If Iran is
willing to make a deal, let`s do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign ministers of the big Western powers led by
the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry diverted planes and canceled
meetings to fly into Geneva.
STEWART: Let the call go out to the league of unknown gentlemen.
STEWART: Diplomats, assemble!
STEWART: Yes, from all around the war, foreign ministers came to
Geneva by jet, by boat and train. John Kerry himself turned around his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, France may have been the most apprehensive about a
deal, but here`s how Steve Colbert interpreted that twist of events?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Of the six-nation team
negotiating with Iran, only France had the escargots to say no.
COLBERT: And you know it`s a bad deal if France is turning down a
COLBERT: And now our president`s been out-toughed by the French.
COLBERT: That`s like being out-sobered by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, Sarah Palin showcased her unique blend of
candor and ignorance again last night on CNN. This time, it`s her comment
about the pope`s so-called liberal statements that are raising her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER")
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: What do you make of Pope Francis? What do you
think of him?
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I`m kind of trying to follow
what his -- his agenda is. You know, I`m surprised that he -- he came out
with a couple of things in the media. But, then again, I`m not one to
trust the media`s interpretation of somebody`s message.
But having read through media outlets that he`s had some statements
that to me sound kind of liberal has taken me aback, has kind of surprised
me. But there again, you know, unless I really dig deep into what his
messaging is and do my own homework, I`m not -- I`m not just going to trust
what I hear in the media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And there she is talking on the mainstream media, which she
calls the lame-stream media, bashing people like Jake Tapper for talking to
her. I don`t get what she is talking about.
Anyway, stay tuned. I will have a lot more to say about her comments
about our pope.
Up next: For all the talk of the Tea Party out there, why can`t any
of them touch Hillary Clinton in the polls? Wait until you see it. She
kills them all. The HARDBALL strategists join us a second.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. Here`s what`s happening.
Four Marines were killed at Camp Pendleton in California. They were
clearing a training area at the time. Military officials are
The death toll in the Philippines has risen to 2,344, and that number
is expected to rise. Officials there are struggling with distributing
relief to those in need.
And six people are in custody after a shooting at a Pittsburgh high
school left three students injured. Police are investigating whether the
incident is drug-related.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It might be -- it actually is three years now -- or four years away,
but we have new polls out now this week with some insight into who voters
are throwing their support behind in the 2016 presidential election. On
Tuesday, a new NBC poll found that Hillary Clinton would get the support of
44 percent of all adults in a hypothetical matchup against the New Jersey
governor, Chris Christie. He gets just 34 percent.
Guess what? Today`s Quinnipiac University poll revealed a much
tighter race, couldn`t be tighter -- 43 percent of voters back Christie.
They put him in the nominal lied, with Hillary back a point at 42 percent.
That`s 43-42 Christie in the latest poll just out today.
Well, the former secretary of state would have a commanding lead,
however, with some more conservative Republicans. She leads Rand Paul and
Paul Ryan each by nine points. She has a 15-point lead over Ted Cruz,
maybe because a lot of people don`t know who he is yet -- fortunately for
Anyway, is Christie`s the Republicans` best shot to win the presidency
in 2016, or will they buckle to the hard right and send the Clintons back
to the White House?
John Feehery if a Republican strategist and Bob Shrum is a Democratic
Shrummy, I want you to make the fight. This is -- this is about --
this is about strategy. And you`re a strategist. So make the case that
you would like to see Hillary Clinton make about why she should be the next
president, beating all these people, including Christie. Why should I, I`m
Hillary Clinton, be president of the United States? Make the case.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think people believe
that she shares their values. She will fight for the middle class. She
will fight for -- for women and for the kinds of issues that I think have
hurt Republicans so badly in the last few elections.
Secondly, I think there is a tremendous desire, a pent-up desire in
the country to elect a woman to the presidency. And, you know, this isn`t
a case of kind of affirmative action. She is obviously supremely well-
Now, all of that said, I think she`s going to have to go out in 2016,
when she runs, and I believe she will run, and she is going to have to say
to people, this is what I want to do as president. She can`t just rest on
her record. She can`t just run on Obama`s record.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SHRUM: She is going to have to offer a vision for the future.
Now, I think she will do that because she went through that 2008
campaign. The first part of it, you and I watched it in amazement, was
when she didn`t do that. And we knew, by the way, fairly early on that
bawl was almost certain to be the nominee, but she kept going. She became
a superb candidate, really connected with voters, and I think will do that
MATTHEWS: I agree. I saw it -- I saw it especially when she was
actually under attack and losing throughout New Hampshire.
Let me go to you, Terry. This is a tough -- John. This is a tough
one. This is a tough one. How do you go after Hillary Clinton and attack
her without getting blown up yourself? There are people out in her corner.
They`re not officially with her, like David Brock. You take a shot at
Hillary Clinton these days and you are nailed. It`s a very expensive thing
to get in the business of attacking Hillary Clinton. How does a Republican
candidate do that, facing that fusillade of attack that`s going to come
back at you for being unfair? Your thoughts?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think Hillary is a
formidable candidate. There`s no doubt about that.
MATTHEWS: And the people around her who are defending her.
MATTHEWS: It`s very hard to attack her, I think. Your thoughts
again? I will you time for this.
FEEHERY: I don`t think it`s that hard to attack her.
I think that she`s pretty vulnerable on a lot of -- she`s going to be
associated with the Obama administration. And the argument will be, do you
want a third term of the Obama administration? And I think she also is
going to be attacked a little bit on the idea of, does she have real
executive experience? Has she -- can she really take over and lead this
country to a right place?
I think Bob is right in the sense of, what is her vision? And that
was her -- her biggest challenge in the last election. And I also think
that she`s going to be challenged from the left by Elizabeth Warren or
somebody like that. And that`s going to push her to the left.
And then you can just attack her on being liberal, which I think is
going to be harder than the last go-round. But, this time, if she`s pushed
far to the left, you can attack her on those grounds.
MATTHEWS: Shrummy, I didn`t hear Mr. Feehery say Benghazi. I thought
that was part of the attack campaign. Not a word on Benghazi. I will give
you a chance.
John, before I go past you here, Benghazi, do you want to say
anything? Is she guilty of something on Benghazi, yes or no?
FEEHERY: Well, listen, I think -- I think Benghazi is going to be
good for attack points to rile conservatives up. I don`t think it`s going
to have that much resonance in three years.
MATTHEWS: Shrummy, your defense?
SHRUM: I think he`s absolutely right about Benghazi.
And I think he is engaging in wishful thinking if he believes
Elizabeth Warren -- this is the hothouse media herd story of the week -- is
going to challenge Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren has signed a letter
urging Hillary Clinton to run.
I don`t think that just saying liberal, liberal, liberal is going to
get you anywhere. People have a sense of Hillary Clinton. They have a
sense that she shares their values. She fights for the middle class. They
have seen her over a long period of time.
And, by the way, I think running the State Department may actually
constitute executive experience of a very high order.
SHRUM: Maybe even higher-order executive experience on the critical
questions facing this question than, say, being governor of New Jersey or
being an optometrist.
MATTHEWS: John -- John, let`s get back to the horse race, which I
want to do here right now. I`m having some fun here. This isn`t the most
miserable time of life. I would love to talk politics for a second here.
Don`t get into policy here.
Is there anybody but Christie you think could knock Hillary off,
really? Because the polls...
FEEHERY: I don`t...
MATTHEWS: ... don`t show nothing in that regard. There`s nobody out
there even within 10 points of her, it seems, right now. Your thoughts?
FEEHERY: Well, I don`t think anybody associated with Congress can.
I do think that Jeb Bush if he decides to run could mount a very good
campaign. I think another governor like a John Kasich who has that blue-
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.
FEEHERY: ... think he could -- I think he could do it.
MATTHEWS: But nobody in the Washington game?
FEEHERY: I think it`s got to someone...
FEEHERY: Nobody who is attached to Washington can beat Hillary,
although I think that`s going to be Hillary`s biggest challenge is
disassociating herself from Washington and the Obama administration.
MATTHEWS: OK, 20 percent chance, I have heard -- you never know what
it is -- Hillary won`t run, Hillary Clinton won`t run.
Bob, do the Democrats have anybody that can beat Governor Christie,
SHRUM: Oh, sure.
SHRUM: Listen, I think, if she doesn`t run, Joe Biden is very likely
to be the nominee.
MATTHEWS: And beat Christie?
SHRUM: I think he -- and I think he can beat Christie.
He has profound appeal in those tough swing states like Ohio, where it
really matters. Remember, that`s what he did for Obama in 2008 and again
in 2012. He was the guy who went into Pennsylvania, was in charge of
carrying Pennsylvania, went into Ohio, and also, by the way, did a lot of
the heavy lifting in Florida.
MATTHEWS: Why are you so high on Biden, and he gets such a bad press?
SHRUM: Because it`s easy to caricature him. But, actually, I think
voters relate to him. They relate to him in a very real way.
And I think if he gets a presidential campaign, if he gets to go out
there and run -- I don`t think he will run if Hillary runs.
SHRUM: If he gets to go out there and run, people are going to like
what they see.
Remember when Brian Williams asked him the question, what are you
going to do about the fact that people think you talk too much? Are you
going to -- are you going to prove they`re wrong? Then he said, yes, and
SHRUM: This guy is a superb campaigner.
Your thoughts? What do you -- what do you think of Biden? Because he
gets a bad rap all the time, the gaffe stuff. What do you think, John? Is
he getting a bad rap?
FEEHERY: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: Or does he just got a problem?
FEEHERY: I think Joe Biden is the most likeable part of this
administration. I think, you know, he`s one of these nice guys. Good
storyteller. He`s almost wrong on everything he comes out for.
MATTHEWS: That`s not true.
FEEHERY: Well, for example breaking up Iraq into three-pieces. I
mean, not --
SHRUM: It has broken into three-pieces.
FEEHERY: Not killing Osama bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you something --
FEEHERY: He`s almost wrong.
MATTHEWS: When he came out against the anti-terrorism campaign in
Afghanistan in favor of -- because he didn`t believe in the
counterinsurgency program. He was dead right. Focus on the terrorism, get
out of that country. He was right. The president was wrong on that one.
FEEHERY: He was wrong about killing Osama bin Laden.
SHRUM: He actually was in favor of killing Osama bin Laden. He
didn`t know whether that mission should go forward.
FEEHERY: Well, he was wrong on that. He would have made the wrong
choice, and Osama bin Laden would still be alive.
SHRUM: So, you`re giving the president a lot of credit, John, for
making the right choice.
FEEHERY: The bigger fact -- the bigger fact is, is the Obama
administration going to be on the upswing?
MATTHEWS: We`ll see.
FEEHERY: Or is it going to continue to go down --
SHRUM: Upswing --
FEEHERY: -- this treacherous path it`s gone down.
SHRUM: Upswing`s coming.
FEEHERY: Anybody associated with this Obama administration is going
to have a tough time if we continue on this downward path.
SHRUM: Bring on.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question, one last question, Feehery.
It`s totally unfair, that`s why I`m asking you. Do you think this guy Ted
Cruz, Rafael Edward Cruz, is really a guy who the American people can look
at and say I`d like him to be leader of our country? Do you really think -
- when you look at the guy and watch him in action, you`ve seen him for the
last comment -- do you really think the American people would say he`s my
idea of a president?
FEEHERY: Well, not right now. I think he`s a very smart guy. But
he`s got a lot of maturing to do. And he`s got to get off this idea that
he`s God`s gift to the world. He`s just a guy. He puts his pants on just
like every else.
MATTHEWS: It`s a hard argument to make with Ted Cruz that he`s not
that guy. Anyway, thank you.
FEEHERY: I think he got a lot of maturity --
MATTHEWS: You are the most generous person on earth. Happy
Thanksgiving if I don`t see you sooner -- John Feehery and Bob Shrum, same
SHRUM: Same to you.
FEEHERY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, you can see this coming. Republicans are using
Benghazi to hit Hillary Clinton three years before the election.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
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We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
If you think you`ve heard a lot about Benghazi, you haven`t seen
nothing yet or heard nothing yet. As the Hillary presidential bid seems to
be gearing up more and more, Republicans have indicated they intend to
scream Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi at the top of their lungs every
opportunity they get. Case in point: Rand Paul yesterday, speaking about
foreign policy at the Citadel in South Carolina.
He took this swipe at Secretary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: When Hillary Clinton was asked for more
security, she turned the ambassador down. Under cross examination I asked
her, did you read the cables? She said she never read any of the cables.
That`s her excuse. She says, don`t blame me. Somebody beneath me
should have been reading those cables.
I find it a dereliction of duty -- a clear dereliction of duty. She
wants to blame it on somebody else? It`s absolutely irresponsibility. And
her failure to provide our ambassador and his mission with adequate
security should preclude Hillary Clinton from ever holding high office
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Senator Paul has made similar statements in the
past, this time in the wake of repeated plagiarism controversies. The
Kentucky senator followed through, by the way, with his pledge to add
citations to his speeches and post them on his Web site. What citation
does he use for this assertation, that when Hillary Clinton was asked for
more security, she turned the ambassador down?
It turns out it`s an article in the Hill newspaper that actually seems
to contradict his very statement. Here`s part of the article. Quote, "The
report may have been overreached -- the report may have overreached when it
said it had evidence that Clinton had personally signed an April 2012 cable
turning down then-Ambassador Gene Cretz`s request for more security. All
State Department from Washington bear the secretary`s automatic signature,
the State Department said."
In other words, facts aren`t going to get in a way of a good political
Josh Rogin is a senior correspondent at "Newsweek" and "The Daily
Beast"; and A.B. Stoddard is a columnist at "The Hill."
Josh and A.B., I just want to point out something I know. As a lowly,
not a lowly, but just another Peace Corps volunteer stuck out in Africa
back in `60s, every time a cable came to us or back the other way, every
time one came to us, I can tell you for sure it had Rogers written on it as
a return address. Secretary William Rogers was not talking to me, OK?
That is what they say in State Department cable language, everything
by law that comes out of Washington has the name of the secretary of state
right on it. It`s never personal. And to say that that`s evidence that
Hillary Clinton had read the cables is ludicrous, with any kind of
JOSH ROGIN, NEWSWEEK: Well, we see the evolution of the Benghazi
story as certain people try to perpetuate it, go from an attack on Obama
during the 2012 campaign, to an attack on Susan Rice when she was up for
secretary of state, to now an attack on Hillary Clinton. This could propel
the Benghazi scandal for those interested in doing that well into 2016.
That doesn`t make it accurate.
And the beauty of Rand Paul`s new love of foot notes is that we can
actually see what he says doesn`t match the reality. So, the good news is,
he is not plagiarizing. The bad news is, he`s actually inaccuracies are
out there for everybody to see.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s now footnoting his disasters.
Anyway, this isn`t the first time Republicans have mischaracterized
Secretary Clinton`s actions regarding Benghazi. Last month, Dick Cheney
criticized her, taking comments she made completely out of context.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I think the Benghazi thing is
one of the great -- not just an embarrassment of the tragedy, because we
lost four people that night, and what I always recall is her testimony
saying, "What difference does it make?" And the fact of the matter is, it
makes a huge difference, she clearly wasn`t hands on, and now she doesn`t
want to be hands on. And she is doing everything she can to avoid
responsibility for what clearly fell into her bailiwick.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Cheney there implies Hillary Clinton was talking
about the four dead people when she said what difference does it make?
Actually, she was referring to the Republican attacks on the talking points
used by Susan Rice on "Meet the Press" that Sunday.
Here`s the full context so you can see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: With all due respect, the
fact is we had four dead Americans, was it because of a protest or was it
because of guys out for a walk one night who decide they go kill some
Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to
figure out what happened and to do everything we can to prevent it from
happening again, Senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A.B. Stoddard, your thoughts about that. That is like the
stuff they did to Kerry, John Kerry back during the swiftboating. They
didn`t like his attitude against the war, after the war. So, they seemed
to be implying that he`d done something wrong in his service record.
This is conflation. It`s the old trick that got us from 9/11 into
Iraq, combining or conflating two totally separate things. Hillary Clinton
did not say her friend dying, Chris Stevens, what difference does it make
that he died? She was saying what difference does it make, whether
somebody on television said it began as a protest and turned into an
attack, or began as an attack. Now, that could be argued either way,
whether she should have said that. But she wasn`t talking about her friend
Chris Stevens getting killed.
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: You`re right. He`s taking things out of
context, Chris, is one thing. I think that not all the Republicans who are
going to go after Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi episode are going to do
what Vice President Cheney did in that interview. They`re going to talk
about the fact she was secretary of state, and she`s accountable for the
attack before, during and after.
And even if she didn`t sign cable that came from Chris Stevens, that
she was friends with him and she`s known, if she was doing her job
correctly, that he needed more security. It is a good story for
Republicans to excite donors now who believe that President Obama is
essentially buried under the weight of Obamacare and he is a lame duck
anyway. They assume she is the Democratic nominee and waiting. They don`t
know who is going to be victor on their side, in a very divided party
facing the Republican primary process.
So, they`re looking to undercut Hillary Clinton and because she is
secretary of state, she owns that event. And she is accountable. She can
say, we`re going to follow the recommendations of the accountability review
board, we`re going to learn the lessons -- they`re going to go after her
whoever the nominee is, likely, but they`re certainly going to overplay it
now, because this is the beginning of positioning themselves with donors
and supporters before their candidates in the early stage.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, former secretary -- I hear all that and I agree
you`re right, and it`s a strategy. Former Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates, a great guy, he served both President Obama and President George W.
Bush, he defended the administration early this year for charges that it
didn`t do enough on the night of the attack. Is this strong enough
Well, let`s listen to Bob Gates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Based on everything I`ve
read, people really didn`t know what was going on in Benghazi
contemporaneously. And to send some small number of Special Forces or
other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing
what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is
actually going on, on the ground, I think would have been very dangerous.
And personally, I would not have approved that because we just don`t --
it`s sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Josh.
How do we put this issue to bed? Or how can we put it to bed? Is it
possible that Hillary Clinton could say something that would allay the
attacks on her, defend herself, conclusively, that she did the best she
could do on the night of the attack to save those people?
ROGIN: Not only can we now put the issues to bed, it`s going to be
hard to have a serious discussion the -- some of the questions that are
still unanswered. The bottom line here is that the Romney campaign made a
decided effort to politicize issue, long gone are the days where politics
ended at the water`s edge, and that was perpetrated by people in Congress
and now by senators who are up for election in 2014, including Senator
ROGIN: -- insuring that the issue will be then, and it all go on to
MATTHEWS: I think it is time for the Clintons to re-open the war
Anyway, thank you, Josh Rogin, and thank you, A.B. Stoddard.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
Sarah Palin said she is concerned about Pope Francis. She said she`s
concerned that he sounds like a liberal. She said she`s been taken aback.
Well, of course a lot of people are thrilled about the new pope,
thrilled that he`s talking about the Christian commitment to helping the
poor. And although I look at things differently than former Governor
Palin, she shouldn`t be taken aback by his words.
I remember reading in school about, a much earlier pope, Leo XIII,
said about our need to look out for people who get either exploited or
overlooked economically. He called for employers to pay a living wage. He
also called for Social Security to look for people as they go old or become
Much of what Pope Leo said back in the late 19th century became part
of our social contract in the 20th century. I grew up knowing this. It`s
one result of going to all those years of Catholic schools, 16 counting
But what I learned there is the good tradition of my church to care
for the people who get overlooked, especially the poor and exploitable.
Governor Palin, you said you want to dig deeper into Pope Francis`
concerned for the poor. I think we all should, because looking out for the
poor is a Christian value we can all, liberal and conservative, Christian
and not, share together. And wouldn`t that be a good thing to share this
Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
Don`t be taken aback, Governor. This is a good thing. Pope Francis
is a good man, for all of us, not just for the poor, but for those who care
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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