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updated 11/15/2013 10:37:28 AM ET 2013-11-15T15:37:28

HARDBALL
November 14, 2013

Guest: Jonathan Gruber, Willie Brown, Adrienne Batra, Lizz Winstead

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Counterpunch.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Chicago.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. President Obama took back the
health care fight tonight. He unleashed a brisk combination of punches,
both defense and offense. He declared that people who had their own health
insurance before his new bill became law have a chance to re-up for another
year with their old plans.

He then called out his critics on the Republican right for an historic
delinquency, a total failure to present even the outline of their own plan
to save the country`s 40 million uninsured from life in the emergency room.

Can the president regain control of the fight? Can he begin to stand
toe to toe with his critics, whom he has now nailed as empty-handed? Can
he win the argument that he alone is offering a solution to the country`s
health care challenge after decades of debate, logjam and failure? Can he
win this historic test?

Howard Fineman is the editorial director of the Huffington Post Media
Group and Jonathan Gruber is an MIT professor of economics. He was an
adviser to Congress and the president on the Affordable Care Act.

Anyway, President Obama has taken fire for breaking a promise he made
to the public that everyone can keep their insurance, their health
insurance plans, if they like them. The president made no excuses today
for what he`d said. He announced a move to make good on that promise.
Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I completely get how
upsetting this could be for a lot of Americans, particularly after
assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked, they
could keep it.

And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I
would do everything we can to fix this problem, and today I`m offering an
idea that will help do it.

Insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled
into 2014, and Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-
enroll in the same kind of plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The president made a larger commitment -- I will win back
your trust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think it`s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win
back some credibility on this health care law in particular, and on a whole
range of these issues in general. And you know, that`s on me. I mean, we
fumbled the rollout on this health care law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard, it seems to me -- you and I watch this stuff every
hour. It seems to me that something has gotten to the president in his
fighting stance here. He seems to have his feet firmly on the ground now.
He`s been informed, clearly, of the tough situation he`s facing and the
need to deal with it.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, he used the football metaphor, and he also said it`s a long
game. He said he`d fumbled, but it`s a long game. And he said that, The
way I am, he said, as a leader and as a person, is if I make a mistake, I
pick myself up and go ready to play hard in the next play. And that`s what
he`s doing here.

I`ve never -- I`ve covered him for a long time, really pretty much
from the beginning of his time here in the Senate. I`ve never seen him, on
the one hand, so contrite, and necessarily so, but on the other hand, very
determined.

And I think it`s possible for him, if he does this right and if they
make the fixes they need to make, and if he makes the argument he needs to
make, Chris, which he began to do here, which he hasn`t done much lately,
which is that the Republicans -- all the Republicans want to do is
dismantle this. All they want to do is repeal it. That`s what John
Boehner said again today. It`s what Mitch McConnell said again today. All
they want to do is repeal it, and all he wants to do is extend health care
to as many people as possible in the country as a matter of morals and
finance.

And that`s an argument that he has to keep making. He`s got to,
basically, reargue this whole thing all over again, and that`s something
he`s very good at.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

The president reserved his strongest language, as you said, for those
who have made it their sole mission to kill this law. Let`s listen to
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I see sometimes folks up on Capitol Hill, and Republicans
in particular, who have been suggesting, you know, Repeal, repeal, let`s
get rid of this thing, I keep on asking, What is it that you want to do?

Are you suggesting that the status quo was working? Because it
wasn`t, and everybody knows it. It wasn`t working in the individual
market, and it certainly wasn`t working for the 41 million people who
didn`t have health insurance.

I make no apologies for us taking this on because somebody sooner or
later had to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jon Gruber, give us a reading. You know the president.
You know the policy development that led to this success. We`ve got a
health care law. We need an implementation. It seems like the president`s
rejoining the situation, rejoining the fight.

Tell me how he works in these things, how he comes in and out, how he
decides when to go public, when to hold a press conference, when to make a
statement, when to make a concession? How do you read him?

JONATHAN GRUBER, ACA WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: You know, I think I read
him as frustrated because, remember, we all agree on the goal here. It`s
widely popular in America that we should fix these broken, discriminatory
insurance markets so that the sick and healthy alike can get insurance at a
fair price without exclusion of preexisting conditions. We all agree on
that.

The problem is that some people want to do that and yet not change
anything else about the system. What we have to recognize about "Obama
care" is it`s the least disruptive way -- as the president said, it`s the
least disruptive way to fix the system.

But there`s still a little disruption. And I think he`s frustrated
that that very little disruption has gotten center stage while the benefits
to the millions of Americans who are currently shut out of insurance and at
risk of medical bankruptcy is being ignored.

I think his hope today is to regain that debate. And I think once the
Web site starts working, he will, once we can create the winners that this
law does create to offset against those people who are getting all the
attention right now.

MATTHEWS: Howard, it seems to me that for years, the major media of
this country has been accused of being liberal, tilting left, and yet every
time the Republicans in the last seven or eight years, I don`t know how
many years back, have been able to create a distraction, take a small
issue, make it into the biggest issue in the world, they`ve succeeded,
whether it`s talking about Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi or not -- and
excluding Hillary`s four years as secretary and state and her Senate tenure
before that, finding one thing and going into it and making it the biggest
thing in the world.

Here you have the issue of the people who are insure themselves, not
those who get insurance from corporate or employment situations, like so
many -- overwhelming majority of people do. They`ve been able to take that
and make that the foremost issue.

How do they do it? And is the president aware now of what he`s
facing, their ability to distract to the small point away from the larger
point, that they don`t have a health care plan and he does?

FINEMAN: Well, a couple things, Chris. First of all, the president -
- as the president admitted, he gave them an opening with the sweeping
statements he made during the campaign. Now, I think he was referring --
at least in his own mind, he felt that for the most part, he was referring
to the vast majority of Americans who either have Medicare or Medicaid or
who get -- and most people, who get their health insurance through their
company. They keep their plans.

But that distinction wasn`t made. That asterisk wasn`t placed. And
the president gave an opening for just the kind of politics you`re talking
about.

And the president also has to realize, and I think now does realize,
that the same sort of media dynamics that led to the argument for health
care -- in other words, the travail of individual, who can`t -- poor people
and people who can`t get good coverage, people who are scammed in the
system, that media can put a spotlight on that. The media lens can turn
around and put a spotlight on people who are getting -- denied coverage,
which is exactly what`s happening now.

And I think the president, who is so good at the big picture, at
framing the big picture, I think, realizes that he needs to make that big
argument again because it exposes the Republicans` real game here, which is
to repeal the law. That`s their only game. And they say it openly. They
say it absolutely openly.

So all the hours of talk you hear about what`s wrong with the Web site
-- the Republicans don`t care what`s wrong with the Web site. They`re glad
the Web site`s in trouble because they see it as a way to unravel the whole
plan.

Same with the problems with individual -- people who have individual
plans. The Republicans don`t want to fix that. They want it to lead to
further problems that will lead to a political revolution that`ll somehow
dismantle the law. And the president is drawing the line on that, and I
think rightly so.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, we found out that the -- there were 12
million people out there who were basically self-insured out of the 189
(ph) people who get their policies from the other places. Anyway, about 7
percent, it works out to, are the people who have insurance policy --
anyway, the old crocodile tears coming from the usual suspects are amazing.
They`re talking about doing it all over again, starting again, amazing talk
from people who just want to kill the baby in its crib, and everybody knows
they don`t want a health care plan.

Tea Party zealot Ted Cruz said, for example, "It was only a few weeks
ago that President Obama refused to consider any changes in `Obama care,`
forcing the government to shut down for 16 days." Oh, is that what
happened? "`Obama care` must be repealed, and at the same time Republicans
and Democrats should work together to adopt policies that will truly make
health care more accessible."

You know, Jon Gruber, you`re an expert. I`m not on this. But I got
to tell you, that is BS. The Republicans don`t have a plan. Certainly Ted
Cruz does not have a plan. He calls all of this socialism. He won`t touch
a government -- organized -- even if it`s all public policy -- or rather
private insurance companies involved, he won`t support anything along this
line.

And here he is coming out, ludicrously suggesting he wants to start
over and build another alternative that will make insurance company --
insurance policies accessible. What kind of a word is accessible? Either
you can afford it or you can`t. It`s called the Affordable Care Act
because it`s helping people to afford.

He has no intention of helping people afford health care. And he just
talks like that. And the so-called mainstream media takes the dictation
down, types it, and puts it on television or radio or newspapers as if it`s
a credible statement.

Your thoughts.

GRUBER: Look, Chris, I`m going to just...

MATTHEWS: It`s not credible, what he`s saying! Some guys, I guess,
and women, in the Republican Party would like a compromise some sort of
health care program, maybe some of them. We haven`t heard from one of them
yet as to what the Republican plan is. There`s nothing in their platform.
There`s nothing on the Hill. Nowhere! Can you hear it? Who`s out there
advertising the Republican plan on health care? There is no such animal!
And yet they talk to the press as if there is one.

Your thoughts.

GRUBER: Chris, look, I`m going to disagree with you on one thing.
The Republicans did have a plan on health care. It was called "Romney
care." We did it here in Massachusetts. It was a Republican plan to
mandate individuals to buy health insurance as a way to fix insurance
markets.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GRUBER: When Governor Romney...

MATTHEWS: But he didn`t propose it!

GRUBER: When Governor Romney put that in place in Massachusetts,
there was a speaker from the Heritage Foundation on the podium with him,
talking about what a wonderful plan this was.

It only became the devil`s work the day that President Obama changed
his position -- I think he deserves a lot of credit for this -- changed his
position to say, Hey, this has worked, I`m ready to try this.

This was not his original position. This was after looking at the
success in Massachusetts. He said, You know what? Here`s a system that
works. Yes, it was originally a Republican idea, but it works. Let`s do
it.

I`ve heard this bill described as the most partisan bipartisan law in
American history, and I think that`s right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GRUBER: This is a truly bipartisan piece of legislation, borrowing
ideas from both the right and the left. Yet only because President Obama`s
name on it -- is on it, suddenly it becomes toxic.

MATTHEWS: So we agree.

GRUBER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: We agree the Republicans have no plan for the country.

(LAUGHTER)

GRUBER: They do not.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Some of the most ludicrous criticism of the president came from the
high offices, I might say -- I`m being sarcastic -- of Reince Priebus.
This is an RNC communications director -- his name is Sean Spicer --
accusing the president of the United States of blocking -- here they are --
GOP ideas to insure more than 40 million Americans. By the way, those are
ideas no one`s ever heard of. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: Every time there seems to be a
problem with "Obama care," the president unilaterally says, Well, I`m going
to delay this, I`m going to exempt this group. But when Republicans talk
about fixing or replacing it, it`s -- the cry is, How dare you? You can`t
do this. It`s a law. It was passed. But when the president does it
unilaterally, Democrats have no problem with that!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think we`ll give an entire hour some night to the
Republican plan for health care because I think we`ll dispense with it
rather quickly and we can do "Sideshow" the rest of the show.

Howard, what is that guy talking about, Sean Spicer? What`s he
talking about, the replacement plan? There is no replacement. There is no
alternative.

FINEMAN: Yes. I have no idea. But all you need to know is what John
Boehner, the speaker, the Republican speaker, said today, which was,
There`s no way to fix this. It must be repealed. Mitch McConnell, the
Republican leader in the Senate, has said that it has to be taken apart
root and branch. So that`s their position.

As a matter of fact, McConnell`s being attacked by the Tea Party for
not being strident enough on that topic. So I don`t think -- however many
problems there are with this rollout -- and I think from the Democratic
perspective, it`s inexcusable, frankly. The president knew that he was up
against a wall of opposition from the Republicans. He knew he had no
margin for error. He knew this was a complex program. And in this sense,
no good deed goes unpunished...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... because he was trying to meld the private markets and
government regulation, created a complex, vulnerable program that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Republican complaints. And he did all that to meet
Republican...

FINEMAN: Yes, he (INAUDIBLE) to met (ph) Republican complaints, even
though it was, in the end, a fool`s errand.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: The Republicans were never going to support it. So yes, he
bears blame for not executing properly so far, and he took that blame
today. I`ve got to say, Chris, I`ve never seen him quite as -- as -- in
the law, there`s a phrase "confession and avoidance." It`s an old common
law term. That`s what the president did. He confessed that the facts were
true, that it didn`t mean he should be convicted because he had other facts
to show...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... which is that he had a plan, the Republicans don`t, and
he has a desire to make whole the American people on health care, which the
Republicans evidently don`t.

MATTHEWS: OK. So people who need health insurance are now having to
choose between the ambulance that`s caught in traffic -- that`s "Obama
care"...

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... an ambulance caught in traffic, and a clown car
circling the hospital and doing nothing but belching out nonsense.

Anyway, thank you Howard Fineman. Thank you, Jonathan Gruber.

Coming up: The latest shot in the Republican civil war. Rand Paul
trashes Chris Christie for spending federal money to help victims of
Hurricane Sandy. And then he really got mean. He called Governor Christie
a liberal.

Plus, failure`s now the only option for the Republicans, failure on
health care, of course, immigration reform, failure there, failure with
court appointments. Anything President Obama wants, they want to fail.
They literally have nothing on their own agenda beyond sabotage.

And who is the one person who can make American politicians look good?
Toronto mayor Rob Ford right across the northern border. We`ve got the
latest of his very strange, soap opera, very tragic, too.

Finally, I had a great time on "The Late Show" with David Letterman
last night. We`re going to show you the highlights, and there are a lot of
them, actually.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s a big reason Democrats on Capitol Hill have called
on President Obama to up his game. Two new polls show their lead over
Republicans in the generic House ballot for 2014 have evaporated. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, the same number of people want
Republicans in charge of Congress as Democrat. It`s 39 all right now. And
Democrats are worse off in the new Fox News poll. They`ve slipped 3 points
behind Republicans in that generic House ballot.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are
now taking turns popping their heads up with new attacks against potential
2016 opponents. Rand Paul`s been relentlessly banging the Benghazi gong
against Hillary Clinton. And both Cruz and Paul are taking shots at New
Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is riding high right now after a big
win in a blue state.

Here`s Senator Paul yesterday hitting Christie and attributing his win
to getting federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think that his victory was in large
form (ph) based on that he got a lot of federal money for his state. You
know, unlimited spending is sort of a -- you could call it moderate or even
liberal, to think that there`s unlimited amount of money, even for good
causes. It shouldn`t be just this, Gimme, gimme, gimme all my money,
without any considerations or strings.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a pissant comment. Anyway, today, Ted Cruz
left no doubt that he thinks -- what he thinks of Christie`s politics,
although he was less blunt than what you just heard from Paul. Chris
Wallace interviewed him at an event at the Newseum in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": What do you think of Chris
Christie?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I like Chris Christie. I think -- I am
very glad he won reelection. I think he is brash. I think he is bold.
And I think he won in a state that historically has been very difficult for
Republicans to win.

WALLACE: Do you think he`s a real conservative? And do you think he
understands the grass roots dissatisfaction with Washington? He`s not a
Washington Republican, either.

CRUZ: You know, I am glad he won.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, "Time" magazine`s Mark Halperin and "New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann are MSNBC political analysts and are co-authors
of a great new book, "Double Down: Game Change 2012," which just debuted at
number three on "The New York Times" best-seller list.

Let me start with Mark. One thing we know about Ted Cruz, he has
absolutely no sense of humor. There`s nothing funny about his comment
there. But why is he out there rapping now against Christie, saying he`s
not -- well, certainly stating that he`s not a conservative? Why does he
want to start a fight with somebody whose help he would need if he were the
nominee?

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, CO-AUTHOR, "DOUBLE DOWN": I
think Ted Cruz is a smart guy who may well have a great future in the
Republican Party. Almost everything he`s done on the national stage since
he developed this prominence and this talk about 2016, I think`s been both
tactically and strategically unwise. This is just the latest thing.

I agree with you. No reason to pick a fight with Chris Christie on
style and vagaries. If you`ve got something to say that appeals to the
heart and soul not just of the party, but the country, do it. But this
kind of stuff I just think is another error on his part.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think -- I`ll stay with you, Mark. Why do you
think he wants it to be known that he doesn`t like Christie? I mean, this
is a statement about animosity. If you make a crack like that, you`re
basically saying, He`s not one of my crowd. He`s not somebody I agree
with. He`s not one of us. In other words, he`s not really a Republican.
I mean, if you`re not a conservative, damn it, by the new standards of the
Tea Party, you`re not a Republican.

HALPERIN: I knew Ted Cruz just a little bit before he became Ted
Cruz.

This is totally surprising to me. It`s an unnecessary picking of a
fight. I don`t think it gets him anything, but it shows he, even more than
Rand Paul, has just shown the -- the inability to resist the temptation to
score cheap points with a narrow band not just of the country, but of his
party.

I think, again, it just doesn`t serve anybody`s purpose, including his
own. I`m not sure why he`s doing it.

MATTHEWS: John, you and Mark know how to look at these things over
the long run. You have done two great jobs, two great campaigns. I hope
you do another one. But here`s the question.

How do you bridge a gap when you keep widening the river? It seems to
me if the -- the Tea Party types like Paul and more so in the case of Ted
Cruz want to make it crystal clear that anybody who is a moderate or non-
conservative in the Republican Party, anybody who`s -- quote --
"establishment," anybody who is East Coast is not one of them.

Why do they want to shrink the size of what they call the Republican
or conservative movement? Why do they want to do this now?

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, obviously,
Chris, they think it`s in their political interest to do that.

The only thing I take exception to what both -- to what Mark was
saying a second ago is, it doesn`t surprise me in this sense, that Ted Cruz
has been doing these things ever since he entered the U.S. Senate. He`s
been picking fights all along the way with potential allies in the Senate,
with potential allies in the House, and now with Chris Christie.

For whatever reason, he`s come to the conclusion that the thing you`re
talking about serves his interests. He wants to try to dominate one part
of the party. I just think that -- and now here`s where I totally agree
with Mark. It doesn`t make any strategic sense whatsoever. The only way
you`re going to win the Republican nomination in 2016 is if you fuse the
two parts of the Republican Party, if you get the Tea Party energy that
he`s pretty well tapped into, along with the credibility of the backing of
a lot of establishment Republicans and people in the donor class.

If he can`t attach himself to both of those, if he can`t be a fusion
candidate...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... he`s just going to be a fringe player and he`s not
going to win.

MATTHEWS: And you -- and you see Rand Paul doing a better effort than
that, trying to get -- to appeal to both, at least not -- not appeal to one
of the crowds?

HEILEMANN: Rand Paul has seemed to me to be reaching out considerably
more.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: He`s not picking those kinds of fights in -- not -- he`s
picked a few fights, but he`s not picking fights as willy-nilly and as
wantonly as Ted Cruz is.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: He`s also reaching out to some places in the establishment
and reaching out to some demographics like young voters that Republicans
are going to need. He`s trying to make a play to kind of break out of the
straitjacket that the party has been in for the last two election cycles.

MATTHEWS: I loved your use of the word wantonly. I love that.

Anyway, despite repeated trips to early caucus and primary states like
Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, Ted Cruz played coy today about
his 2016 ambitions.

FOX News` Chris Wallace -- FOX News` Chris Wallace was having none of
it. Let`s listen to Chris and him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I understand a lot of people are focused on
politics and potential future races. I am very much keeping my focus on
the U.S. Senate. And the reason is, the Senate is where these issues are
being fought.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": But, sir, without being -- at
the risk of something a smart aleck, for somebody who is focused on the
Senate, you`re spending a lot of time in Iowa.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that, Mark? I mean -- I mean,
the guy`s having a -- I don`t care. Every politician plays this game. I`m
sure Secretary Clinton will do it too.

But when you`re clearly making the rounds, you`re going from Iowa to
New Hampshire to South Carolina, and then you have the nerve to say you`re
not interested in running for president, well, why did you go to those
places?

HALPERIN: Well, the people there are nice. They have some pretty
good food. That`s not the reason he`s going.

This guy -- again, I know him a little bit. He`s a smart guy, but I
think he`s misplaying his politics. First of all, he`s going to Iowa.
He`s not really driving much -- much of a message when he goes, except,
again, appealing to the base of the party that already likes him quite a
bit.

I think it is almost laughable the kind of people who are being talked
about now to commander in chief in three years, particularly those who are
conducting themselves in a way that just is not presidential and it`s
not...

MATTHEWS: OK.

HALPERIN: It`s not in keeping with what the history of the way the
Republican Party has nominated people.

In 2010, the Tea Party was substantially stronger than it is now, as
best I can tell. And they ended up with Mitt Romney as their nominee. So,
catering to the Tea Party...

MATTHEWS: OK.

HALPERIN: ... and thinking you`re going to be the nominee in `16
without tending to the more mainstream, the more moderate, the more
centrist, establishment wing of the party, I just don`t get it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Making your point, Mark -- and I want to pick up on
John, last word here.

It looks to me like the grownups in this party, and I do include
Reince Priebus in this crowd, because he`s from Wisconsin, I think they`re
setting up a series of primary, including a big super-primary day in the
Midwest, in the Rust Belt, if you want to call it that. They`re trying to
win a governor for president.

I think they`re trying to make Scott Walker the middle-of-the-road
nominee between hard-right and center-right. Your thoughts on that.
They`re moving towards Scott Walker, John.

HEILEMANN: Well, I don`t know if they`re moving towards Scott Walker,
but I certainly think that there`s a lot of talent in the Republican Party
among the governors, a lot of very promising people.

MATTHEWS: John Kasich.

HEILEMANN: Whether it`s John Kasich or Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or
Bobby Jindal or Scott Walker, the party sees a lot of pragmatic -- of more
pragmatic, inventive Republican who have done things, accomplished things
in their states while also being conservative, and that governors have bee
-- in recent times, in our lifetimes, governors have had a much better
record of winning the presidency than senators or congressmen.

And I think the party really, really wants to win in 2016. And
realize that their system did not help them do that in 2012 and that they
need to make some structural adjustments if they`re going to -- if they`re
going to put themselves in the best position to win three years from now or
four years from now.

MATTHEWS: I think they need someone that`s going to bring them
together. And the only one I can of is someone like Kasich or Scott Walker
in the Midwest, industrial governor who has done something.

Anyway, the new book of yours is -- obviously, everybody knows about -
- "Double Down," another big hit for these guys, Mark Halperin and John
Heilemann.

Up next, I had a good night on "The Late Show with David Letterman."
I haven`t been on that show in a long time. I have got some highlights.
I think you`re going to like it.

This is HARDBALL, of course, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Our next
guest is the host of HARDBALL on MSNBC. He`s also the author of this "New
York Times" best-selling book entitled "Tip and the Gipper." There`s the
Gipper. There`s the Tip.

Ladies and gentlemen, here`s the bashful, the taciturn Chris Matthews.

Chris, come on out, buddy.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome to the "Sideshow."

As you just saw, I was a guest on "The Late Show With David Letterman"
last night. And as you will see, the interview was as off-the-cuff as they
come on late-night television. For instance, here was my conversation
about my time in Africa with the Peace Corps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

MATTHEWS: I always figured I was sort of teaching democracy and
capitalism, while Che Guevara is over in Latin America doing the opposite.
I felt very romantic about it. I got to hitchhike by myself all the way up
through Africa like this all alone as a white guy.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And I thought it was -- it was an experience of a lifetime.
By the way, everybody who`s ever been the Peace Corps say it was the
greatest experience of their life, the teaching and the meeting of other
people and speaking Zulu for years. It`s kind of fascinating.

LETTERMAN: Do you still speak Zulu?

MATTHEWS: I have a handle on it, yes. I can still do a little.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: About halfway through my two years, in a bar, I could fake
the whole thing. You could say, I got enough of this. But it was a tough
language.

LETTERMAN: But -- and you never know when you`re going to have to go
into the Zulu these days.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It always comes in handy.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Never not an important...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A very long night, maybe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Zulu joking aside, we got to the topic on
everyone`s mind today, health care. Here was that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

LETTERMAN: I`m sick of talking about Obamacare. It`s made me
physically sick to talk about health care.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LETTERMAN: What happened? What went haywire?

MATTHEWS: Well, I think everything. That`s the word, haywire.

I was trying to figure out, David, why do second terms suck and why do
first terms work? Well, one answer is, if you have a first term like this
second term, you don`t get a second term. That`s what I have discovered.
It ain`t complicated. It`s logical.

For some reason, this president, who`s very professorial and he`s very
inspiring and a wonderful orator, doesn`t seem to focus on executive stuff.
He`s just not focused on it. There`s no -- every good president`s had a
really strong chief of staff, a very clear chain of command.

Every time something goes wrong, you know who to blame them and you
fire them. Watch poor Sebelius testify. Well, who`s responsible? Oh, I
don`t know. And then finally somebody named Michelle. Well, she`s not
really responsible because she has had 30 other jobs.

What`s this?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, when we went into Japan after the Second World
War, we put one guy in fricking charge. His name was Douglas MacArthur.
He was the boss. That`s the way you run everything. And for some reason,
Obama, the president doesn`t like to run things that way. He likes
floaters, people moving around sort of available, old pals. Come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s all true.

Up next: From health care to immigration reform, failure seems to be
the only option for Republicans, Obama`s failure. In other words, if
President Obama wants it, the Republicans want it dead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.

Convicted mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was sentenced to two
consecutive life terms plus five years for a string of charges, including
11 murders.

The USS George Washington has arrived in the Philippines to assist
with relief efforts, this as the United Nations confirms 4,460 people dead.

In Florida, a massive sinkhole is threatening to swallow two homes.
It has already devoured a pool. Both families and neighboring residents
have evacuated.

I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

What exactly is the Republican agenda right now? Do they even have
one, beyond just being the party of no to anything President Obama
proposes? They shut down the government over the president`s health care
law that started out actually as a conservative proposal.

And even today, their goal remains the same, stop the law at all
costs.

Here was Speaker John Boehner just today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let`s be clear. The
only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and
for all. There is no way to fix this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, the Senate passed legislation last week to make
it illegal to discriminate against someone in the work force because they
are gay, lesbian, or transgender. Will John Boehner allow a vote over in
the House?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: This legislation that I have dealt with as chairman of the
Education and Workforce Committee long before I was back in leadership is
unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. I see no
basis or no need for this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The Senate passed immigration reform. Will the Republicans
in the House take that one up?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: The idea that we`re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that
no one had ever read, which is what Senate did, is not going to happen in
the House. And, frankly, I will make clear we have no intention of ever
going to conference on the Senate bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senate Republicans blocked a new gun control measure
last spring to strengthen background checks, something the overwhelming
majority of American people support. According to Boehner, the legislation
was unnecessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: We have got a system of laws that are not enforced today.
Now, I would think that before we begin to add more rules and regulations
on law-abiding citizens, that we at least expect our law enforcement
personnel and the Department of Justice to enforce the current law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You sense a pattern here?

Well, Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post"
and an MSNBC contributor, and Willie Brown is the former mayor of San
Francisco.

Mayor Brown, there is a strong pattern here, and it`s not even
comical. It`s tragic. On every issue before the American people, the
American people`s agenda, whether it`s health care, it`s immigration, it`s
actual ending the discrimination for -- because of sexual orientation or
identity, on any -- or gun control and gun safety, it seems, name the
issue, the Republican response is no.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: And, under Mr.
Boehner`s leadership, it`s so out of step with where we need to be in this
country for progress purposes and for understanding of all the things that
affects the lives of people.

It would not surprise me if the Republicans lose in the next election
cycle. There is no way in individual districts in America that anyone
would tolerate what Mr. Boehner just spoke about.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, it seems to me they have got another tactic. If
they can`t stop it from even coming to a vote, they create this kind of
poison pill situation, whether it`s with immigration reform, where they
bring up a piece of it, knowing that the Democrats can`t support the
enforcement part without the path to citizenship part, so they separate it.
They do it what they call piecemeal, which is really making sure it can`t
be passed at all.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

MATTHEWS: And they`re doing the same thing now by -- with this
improvement in health care, this Upton proposal, which basically takes a
lot of people out of the exchanges and makes them not financially feasible.

And the public doesn`t know this, but some of their -- even their sort
of helpful hints are poisonous.

CAPEHART: Yes. I mean, that -- that seems to be the Republican Party
plan.

It`s not about pushing policy. It`s all about -- well, the policy of
repealing the Affordable Care Act, I mean, that`s policy. That`s a goal of
theirs. But they don`t have anything to follow it up with. It seems like
everything that they have done, whether it`s gun control, immigration, the
Affordable Care Act, and ENDA, it`s all about stop -- about stopping
something, about keeping something from happening, and not about trying to
figure out -- well, the country, a majority of the country would like to
have background checks. What can we do to make that happen?

The majority of the country would like to see something done on
immigration reform. And for the life of the Republican Party, as we all
know something needs to be done with regard to immigration reform, and yet
they`re not doing anything.

And so, as long as they put short-term political gain ahead of sort of
long-term policy thinking, that`s not only good for the party, the
Republican Party, but good for the country. They`re not going to go
anywhere.

MATTHEWS: Here`s the way as I explained a moment ago how -- I`m going
to further explain now, I made, Mr. Mayor, how they go after destroying
health care as they exist already.

The headline of the article, by the way, is by David Drucker in "The
Washington Examiner" today says it all. "GOP strategy: Fix Obamacare to
undermine it", referring to the bill by Congressman Fred Upton that would
exempt current insurance policies, even substandard ones from the new
health care law. Drucker writes, quote, "Privately, Republicans on Capitol
Hill note if the Upton law became law, fewer Americans would purchase
insurance from the Obama health care -- Obamacare exchange, depriving these
market places of the young and healthy customers they need to finance the
laws expanded coverage guarantees. The House Republican strategy
leadership aide said to use committee oversight and targeted legislation
to, quote, `chip away`, close quote, at the Affordable Care Act. House
Speaker John Boehner outlined his approach to stop this entire law
Wednesday morning during a private caucus meeting."

So, they don`t have an alternative. They have a plan either to kill
the plan by just attacking it constantly or changing it systemically. And
the amazing thing to me is in the news coverage of this -- I`m going back
to my old saw here, Mr. Mayor. Why doesn`t anybody every time a Republican
says something against Obamacare, why don`t say, OK, it`s your inning,
buddy, you`re at bat, what`s your plan?

BROWN: Well, it would be helpful if somebody did, in fact, do that,
Chris. But the Republicans for a long period of time, a majority of them
have been opposed to universal health care of any sort. They couldn`t care
less whether or not people who are sick and in need of medical care would,
in fact, have it if they could not personally afford it.

The Republicans are there. That`s where they intend to be and that`s
where they`d like to keep this nation.

The Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act was designed to move us in a
different direction. It`s been coming over the last 30, 40, 50 years.
We`re finally there, and clearly you can`t have a plan that doesn`t include
everybody -- those who are prone to be ill, those who can get no coverage
because of pre-existing conditions, and those who are healthy. All in one
pot, it`s affordable for everybody.

MATTHEWS: I know.

You know, Jonathan, sometimes I refer to the right wing as a clown
car. And I`m thinking of the Marx brothers in this case. They say so many
crazy things, like the president`s filling vacancies on the federal bench
as a way of distracting us from the problems of health care. What? Or
they go out and they`re trying to impeach Eric Holder because they don`t
like his policies.

All of this distraction and craziness does tend to work. It creates a
turmoil and it creates what in God going on around here? Because I`m
sorry, once again, the mainstream media doesn`t simply say, this is crazy
talk.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart. And thank you, Mayor Brown from
San Francisco.

Up next, it`s been another cringe-worthy day, if you will, in the sad
saga of -- catch this -- this Toronto mayor -- boy, I thought the Canadians
were more civilized in that part of the world up there, a little calmer, a
little more, what`s it? Serene. Apparently not so up in Toronto.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: United Nations is reporting that the death toll in the
Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan is nearly 4,500 people. This afternoon,
President Obama promised to send whatever help is needed to the victims of
the typhoon. And earlier today, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington
reached the Philippines, bringing medical supplies and water, as well as
more air power to help aid in the recovery and relief effort.

If you want to help personally, you can find a list of charities on
our Web site. Just go to MSNBC.com/hardball.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Another rough day for Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto, the fourth largest
city in North America which sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It`s
100-mile drive from Buffalo. The admitted crack smoker, that`s the mayor,
announced today he`s getting help from health care professionals, he says,
but he`s still refusing to quit. Ford also spoke before city council but
council members themselves turned their backs on him and told him to step
out of office.

Yesterday in a symbolic vote, the council up in Toronto overwhelmingly
approved measures to ask Ford to take a leave of absence. Well; that`s
dainty.

And that wasn`t the worst of it. According to a new court document,
the list of accusations against the mayor extended to relations with
prostitutes and assault against his own staff members. Allegations the
mayor says he didn`t do. Once more in defending himself today against an
allegation of sexual harassment, Ford made matters worse by using what he
called -- what he called unforgivable language.

Adrienne Batra is communications director on Ford`s 2010 campaign for
mayor and is now an editor with "The Toronto Sun," the big paper up there.

Lizz Winstead is a co-creator of the "Daily Show."

Let`s look at this tirade from Mayor Ford captured on video and
published by "The Toronto Star" last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: He dies or I die, brother. Brother, you`ve
never seen me (EXPLETIVE DELETED) go. You think so, brother?

But when he`s down, I`ll rip his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) throat out. I`ll
poke his eyes out.

I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when he`s dead. I`ll make sure that mother
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead.

I need (EXPLETIVE DELETED) 10 minutes to make sure he`s dead. It`ll
be over in five minute, brother. If I`m done in 10 minutes --

It`ll be a bad scene. I`m a sick mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED), dude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That tirade against an unnamed person surfaced just days
after the mayor admitted to smoking crack cocaine, which reportedly is also
on videotape. It provides a glimpse into the public spectacle this mayor
has brought on to himself and on to Toronto and on to Canada over the last
several weeks.

Adrienne, explain this to Americans. We`ve always thought of the
Canadians as rather low-key, maybe having a lot of pressure building
inside, but definitely not the more dramatic sort of people as this guy.

ADRIENNE BATRA, THE TORONTO STAR: Yes, it`s a pretty incredible story
going on. And as you mentioned to your audience, I was the mayor`s
communication director on the campaign, and it was pretty raucous then as
well. We had scandal after scandal. But part of the reasoning and how
this guy got elected in the first place --

MATTHEWS: Why did you work for the guy -- why did you work for a guy
that was involved in scandal after scandal, Adrienne?

BATRA: Well, the stuff that`s going on right now, to be sure, was not
happening when I was there. We had other related matters. I mean, he had
got -- before he ran for mayor, he got caught with a DUI and he got caught
with a joint in his pocket. He had said some -- he got belligerent at a
hockey game years before.

But you know, every recovering political hack like me is always
looking for an opportunity and a new challenge. Well, he certainly was a
challenge.

But we have to go back and look at, you know, the previous things and
people keep asking, how did Rob Ford get elected? Well, the former mayor,
he was a big-spending liberal, he thumbed his nose at the suburbs of
Toronto. They wanted it to end.

MATTHEWS: Was he a stoner?

BATRA: They wanted a deal and Rob Ford was their guy.

MATTHEWS: Was he a stoner? You said he was found with a joint in his
pocket, did that surprise you?

BATRA: Not at the time, no, not so much. But that all happened even
before I joined his campaign.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about why I got elected because that
would come to mind here. And this country`s a little less tame than
Canada, but I think it would be tough for a guy like that even getting
elected in a city that`s pretty loosey-goosy about lifestyle. I mean,
being known as the guy -- as a doper, a stoner, somebody that`s drunk all
the time, somebody involved in DUIs. These are hurdles, politically, for
most people.

How`d he get in?

BATRA: Oh, yes. But the most incredible thing was, every time an
issue like this came up, though, during the election, for example, the
numbers went up, because Rob Ford was the right guy for Toronto at the
time.

And here`s what I mean by that: people were tired of, you know, paying
high taxes for not getting a lot of service and they didn`t feel like they
were being included. And I`m talking about the suburbs. Rob Ford comes
from the suburbs. The suburbs wanted in. They were sick and tired of the
waste. They were sick and tired of people misusing their money.

Rob Ford was the guy that stopped the gravy train. He showed an
incredible amount of discipline with his message during the election and it
was all about respecting taxpayers. And it was the right thing to say at
the right time. And that worked.

And he carried some of that through after he got elected.
Unfortunately, through all these self-inflicted wounds, all of this
nonsense and crap that`s going on, it`s pretty much diminished any of the
positive things that he did for the city. And what we see is this fiasco
and this circus carrying on.

MATTHEWS: Lizz, have you been to Toronto lately? This behavior
doesn`t seem to square with the pleasantness that I`ve seen, even in the
subways up there. It`s like you`re visiting a really nice mall.
Everything up there is clean and perfect, and here`s this guy, this
ruffian, admitting to apparently using crack cocaine or being caught with
that. That`s pretty rough drug use.

I mean, using marijuana is one thing, crack cocaine is another. We
had a mayor in Washington that basically was put in jail for that.

Your thoughts?

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, "THE DAILY SHOW": Not to mention, if
everything that she`s listed, that the big guy was a big-spending liberal,
blah, blah, blah, so you want to fix your city by getting this out-of-
control crack addict, sort of Macy`s balloon that got loose --

MATTHEWS: Ha!

BATRA: But he wasn`t an out-of-control crack addict when he ran for
mayor. Let`s be very clear about that. That admission came just a couple
of weeks ago. He`s never said by any means that this has been a long-
standing thing. He`s admitted to having issues with alcohol --

(CROSSTALK)

WINSTEAD: You said yourself he was out-of-control and had all these
problems.

BATRA: He had drug use challenges, there`s no question about that.
But, I mean, you guys aren`t up here. It`s nice that you guys are covering
this for a brief period of time --

MATTHEWS: How can we resist.

BATRA: You have to understand the political dynamics that`s going on
here.

MATTHEWS: Adrienne, I love your nationalist fervor. Now, it here
comes, I know it comes, here it is -- let me ask you, your nationalism, is
it unusual for you to hear a politician say, well, the reason I used crack
cocaine or I may have, is because I`m a drunk? I mean, that`s an unusual
cover story.

BATRA: I know. Look, and I work for the tabloid paper here in
Toronto and we splashed that all over the front page of the paper. I`m not
saying -- I`m not forgiving or excusing any of this, it`s just -- you know,
there needs to be context put into everything before we all pillory this
guy.

MATTHEWS: OK, so what`s the context?

BATRA: Pardon me?

MATTHEWS: What`s the context?

BATRA: Simply that, he is -- as far as context go, in terms of how he
got to where he is, why he became mayor of the city, he`s got an inordinate
amount of support in the suburbs and those people continue to support him.
That`s the situation we`re in.

What we saw yesterday at council -- you know, you keep talking about
how nice and kind we are up here, Chris, and we are. And many people that
watch that, even that they don`t support Rob Ford --

MATTHEWS: OK. Good point. I love the way you talk. You`re a
nationalist and you`re a tolerant person.

Thank you, just kidding, Adrienne Batra, who knows him well.

Thank you, Lizz Winstead, for joining as well.

We`ll be right back after this.

BATRA: My pleasure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I just came from addressing the Executives Club of Chicago out here in
the second city, which I often feel is the real Gotham. To me, there`s
nothing like heading down Michigan Avenue this time of year with the
Christmas feeling already in the late front air.

Well, tomorrow, I`ll be out at the University of California, where the
weather I`m told is 80 degrees and Arnold Schwarzenegger will be hosting me
at his Institute for State and Global Policy.

This Sunday, I`ll be back in Washington, D.C. for "Meet the Press." I
may be the one author who loves a book tour and the chance to speak to lots
of people in person. In this case, about my political growing up years and
how a real, life, progressive speaker got things done with a very
conservative president -- a real-life story, not just of my political
growing up years, but an inspiring lesson in how we can make our democracy
work, make politics work today.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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