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updated 12/4/2013 10:07:47 AM ET 2013-12-04T15:07:47

HARDBALL
December 3, 2013
Guest: Michelle Goldberg, Clarence Page


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Two days and counting.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Let Me Start" tonight with the big news, close to home news, and to this
show. Two nights from now, President Obama will be our guest, yours and
mine, on this show. He`s agreed to sit with me before a big group of
college students.

That`s right, the "HARDBALL College Tour" is back big-time, and the biggest
headliner, the president of the United States. We`re going to be hitting
my biggest questions with the president before the students of American
University.

My questions will be the very ones we, you and I, talk about here every
night, this destructive politics we`re facing in this country, this
inability to strike compromise and how we can fix it, this failure of tough
personal accountability in government as viewed through the lens of the
health care rollout, the attempts out there to suppress the minority vote
in three dozen states, and the life and death matters of war and peace.

You know where I stand on these matters. You know where you stand. And
two nights from now, this Thursday at this very time, we`ll know where the
president stands.

On HARDBALL tonight, escalation, the attack of the wacko-birds. Running
out of ammo, the right wing has resorted to blaring its bugle even louder.
It`s not enough to say the president and his people did a lousy job rolling
out the historic health care law. It`s even enough to say they turned in
their work sloppy. No, the screaming you hear now is, Liar, liar, pants on
fire.

It`s an escalation of the tired old alive (ph) refrain, The president`s not
who he says he is. Nobody knew him in school, went the Donald Trump rant.
He`s not from here. Now comes the charge the president`s health care law
is not on the level, that the president himself didn`t just fail to get it
right the first time, he`s a liar. And on Benghazi, he`s something else,
they say.

Howard Fineman and Sam Stein are both with the HuffingtonPost and both are,
of course, MSNBC contributors.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas and Ted Cruz`s trail buddy, has
taken the attack to new heights. During a Google Hangout with his
constituents yesterday, the Texas senator used the issues of Benghazi and
the Affordable Care Act to accuse the president of something truly
sinister.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think the current administration has taken
lying to a new level. To me, that`s the one thing that I`m -- I find most
aggravating about what`s happening in Washington these days, and
particularly about this administration, which is a lack of accountability
and the willingness to mislead people or provide them just demonstrably
false information and expect to be able to move off (ph). We`ve seen that
most recently in the health care debate over, If you like what you have,
you can keep it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard, I once heard the story that when Napoleon was running
out of infantry, he`d say, Send in more infantry, and they`d say, There is
no more infantry. He said, Send in more cavalry, and his guy said, There
is no more cavalry. And he said, Send in more flags.

I begin to think now the Republican escalation is in tone because they
really feel like they`re running out of this tired rant even about
Obamacare already. Your thoughts.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes,
well, Chris, I think that`s right. I think there`s a streak of sort of the
evil other "them," the mysterious other who is now in the person of
President Obama. And he wants to impose big government on the poor free
people of Texas and everywhere else.

I`ve known John Cornyn for years. I`ve covered him for years. I don`t
think of him, at heart, as that kind of guy. He was a corporate
Republican. He was part of the George W. Bush machine of "compassionate
conservatism" years ago. But now he`s playing to that crowd.

And the fact that it was a Google Hangout I think is significant because
one of the things that`s changed here is that you marry that long tradition
of American fear of government, of resentment of the other --

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: -- of conservative versus liberalism -- you marry that, us
versus them, with modern technology and the fact that you can speak
discreetly to your own crew and kind of stoke up your own crew, wave the
flag with them, and you have the tone of the Republican Party today.
They`re largely speaking to themselves.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And on occasion, they get caught, Sam. One thing I`ve
noticed here, the way Howard pointed that out, is that, yes, John Cornyn
was a regular conservative Republican until Ted Cruz became his trail mate.
And unfortunately, like in Gresham`s law, bad Republicans drive good
Republicans out of circulation, it seems.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, listen, you
know, this is a complex matter because to Cornyn and others` credits, they
were warning during the health care construction that there will be people
who will be left off of their plans or forced to cancel plans. A lot of
the problems that we`re seeing in the rollout they did warn about.

However, they are taking these criticisms to different extremes. It`s one
thing to warn about the failure of the rollout, about a sloppy Web site,
about people having canceled coverage. It`s another thing to call -- you
know, to warn about big government intrusion into health care reform (ph).

Keep in mind, I mean, the individual mandate -- again, to repeat ad nauseam
-- was a conservative idea chalked up in the Heritage Foundation. So it`s
not like this is rooted in some big government theory.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: And I think the other thing that should be pointed out is -- and
the president stressed it today -- is that whether you like the plan -- the
bill or not, for the next three years, it is going to be law, until
President Obama is no longer in the White House, then we can have a real
discussion about repeal. And at some point in time, he Republicans need to
stop saying, OK, we need to get it off the books and start asking, How can
we improve it in our own (ph) --

MATTHEWS: Well --

STEIN: -- ideological (ph) fashion. And we`re not there yet.

MATTHEWS: Sam, what are they accusing him of? It`s like if a baseball
batter gets a strike called on him, you don`t accuse him of not trying to
hit the ball. I mean, if you try to hit the ball and you fail, that`s what
Obama did here. He hoped to have a good rollout. It wasn`t a great
rollout.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: It wasn`t a good rollout. It was a poor rollout.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: So why -- are they accusing him of wanting to have a poor
rollout? It seems like they`re saying he lied. He really wanted this to
be lousy.

STEIN: Yes, I mean, the irony is --

MATTHEWS: What are they actually accusing him of?

STEIN: Well, that`s the irony of their criticism, which is that they`re
saying, Well, the Web site is so poor. It`s not letting all these people
buy coverage. It`s not what you promised it would be. And oh, we don`t
want people to use the Web site. We don`t want people to buy coverage. It
would be bad for them. So there is a general inconsistency to the
criticism here.

But again, you know, the president stressed it today. For the next three
years, he will be in the Oval Office. The repeal movement is for that
period of time dead. There is no repeal movement unless they can get a
veto-proof majority --

MATTHEWS: Because of the Constitution.

STEIN: -- which they`re not going to. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEIN: And so then you have to step back and you have to ask, OK, knowing
that`s the case, are there constructive ideas that you want to add to
health care reform? And if not, then, you know, maybe it`s time to step
back and let the thing work.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe we`ll hear from Jack Kingston and people like that
who do have constructive ideas, perhaps.

Anyway, if anyone knows a thing about distorting information to a new
level, it`s the president`s enemies. Here`s just a small sampling of their
recent fear-mongering campaign against the Affordable Care Act. Every one
of these clips, by the way, isn`t vintage. It`s all from this year. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You said it was the most dangerous piece of
legislation in the history of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think so.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: Let`s repeal this
failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior
citizens! Let`s not do that!

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This killing health benefits is shattering the
economy all across the country, in all 50 states!

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Of course there are death
panels in there. But the important thing to remember is that`s just one
aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil policy
of Obama`s, and that is Obamacare.

DR. BEN CARSON, NEUROSURGEON: Obamacare is really, I think, the worst
thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way
-- it is slavery, in a way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard, is this the evil empire speech reapplied to Obamacare?
I mean, I`ve never heard the word "evil" used so many times. And I love
the way that -- Sarah Palin is unbelievably delicious at this. She talks
about, And those death panels are "in there." I love the way she says the
death panels are in there somewhere --

FINEMAN: They`re in there.

MATTHEWS: -- creeping around inside the words.

FINEMAN: I mean -- I mean, Sam very rightly and logically said these
people should stop because the president said, repeated today, and reminded
them that he`s going to be in office, he can veto anything. So they ought
to calm down.

But the fact is, when you watch a few of those clips and when you talk to
people in the movement and you cover some of these groups and so forth, you
realize that there`s something else going on here. It isn`t just a piece
of legislation with these people.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: It`s a kind of crusade against some deeply evil force. And it
almost harks back to the days when people were worried about communist
infiltration, and somehow, there were these people from abroad who were
going to use government to control every aspect of your life.

And these people here today in those clips, they use words like "killing"
and "death." And they use the words of war and life and death because
that`s how they keep themselves going in this thing. They can`t be
reasoned with on this law. They just can`t. It`s beyond logic in many,
many respects.

And many members of Congress are -- talk about slavery, they`re the ones
who are shackled to the roots of the conservative movement that are
controlling the party today.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think one big difference is there actually were some
communist agents back in the bad old days of Stalin.

FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, to this point, the president`s enemies are also using
the Affordable Care Act to accuse the president of waging a radical war of
subversion, as Howard`s mentioned there, and lawlessness.

This is Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann back again. But this was
today. She was talking about the president`s handling of the health care
act rollout. Here she is, live and fresh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: We`ve been appalled at the president`s actions. They are
clearly unconstitutional. You`re not a king. You`re not a dictator. You
can`t do whatever you want. He has rewritten the Constitution for himself
as a part of his effort to fundamentally transform the United States of
America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Sam, I have a pretty good memory about these things.
Didn`t we have a long debate about the health care act? And wasn`t there a
60-vote majority at one point? And certainly, there was a majority vote at
the other point to sort of deal with the numbers problems. It was done
quite in broad daylight and passed by our U.S. Congress in both houses and
by majority votes, and supermajority in the Senate. And of course, it was
signed by the president in broad daylight.

And here she is enacting this or putting up this notion somehow, there was
something done under the table here, something unconstitutional and unknown
before this moment.

STEIN: Sure. Well, I think one of the criticisms that conservatives had,
outside of Michele Bachmann, has been that the Obama administration has
used its executive authority to delay some of these mandates, to tinker
with the law in a way that they think Congress should have a say. And I
understand their concern on that.

But some of these criticisms reach well beyond logic. For instance, let`s
go back to Sarah Palin. The whole notion that death panels are in there --
the first "death panels" that she referred to was a requirement that
Medicare provide end of life consultations to patients. That was
deliberately stripped from the legislation because of the uproar that she
caused. It`s clearly not in there now. But years later, she`s acting as
if it is.

So there`s a bit of lunacy to some of these criticisms, or it`s just not,
you know, based in fact at all. And that`s what clouds this debate is that
you don`t know what are legitimate gripes and you don`t know what are pure
fabrications.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but isn`t -- don`t you think part of the appeal, Sam --
this is a bit psychobabble, but don`t you think part of the appeal of Sarah
Palin is she doesn`t give a rat`s butt --

STEIN: Oh, yes!

MATTHEWS: -- what the facts are. And I think that is her wild
attraction. She`s almost squirrely that way in the sense that she`s
willing to say wild things. And you and I will say, Well, wait, that`s not
true. She`ll just come back and say, Well, that`s being technical or
you`re just dealing with facts there. I`ve got --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Or she`ll find some other provision to claim it`s a death panel.
For instance, the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: But you know, I agree with you. There`s sort of an allure from her
vantage point to just cause a ruckus and then step back and look at the
damage she caused --

MATTHEWS: Yes, and when Katie Couric --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Yes, I mean, but it doesn`t alleviate (ph) --

MATTHEWS: When Katie Couric asked --

STEIN: -- the need for us to call her out.

MATTHEWS: -- What are you reading --

FINEMAN: Chris, the --

MATTHEWS: When Katie Couric asked years ago, What are you reading,
everybody knew that was elitism by her standards. Asking what newspapers
you read is an elitist question. She can`t lose, this woman. She`ll be
around for a while, even if she`s not governor for very long, or wasn`t.

Anyway, thank you, guys, Howard Fineman, Sam Stein. Great leadoff tonight.

STEIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: The president`s on a mission to sell his health care
plan to the American people, of course. Can he make the sale all the way?
It`s getting close. He`s gaining on this thing.

Plus, Republicans promised to do a better job reaching out to minorities.
Remember they did that, women and younger voters, after their 2012 defeat,
the big "autopsy" they called it? Well, one year later, looks like the
autopsy report is dead itself. They`ve managed to alienate those voters
again and again. How about keeping black people from voting? That`s a
start.

And Rush Limbaugh has attacked just about everyone to his left. Who`s
next? Here you go, the pope. He went after him, called him a Marxist.

And "Let Me Start" -- or "Finish" tonight with our big show this Thursday.
As I said, the president of the United States is going to be joining us
here on HARDBALL to talk about the issues we talk about here every night.
He`s going to be joining the conversation, and I can`t wait. I know you
can`t.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Senator Patty Murray of Washington state and U.S. Congressman
Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are getting closer to a budget deal. But it won`t
be anything close to a grand bargain. But Murray, the Democratic chair of
the Senate Budget Committee and Ryan, the Republican chair of the House
committee, have until December 13th to reach a deal. That`s next Friday

And Politico reports they`re inching toward a small-scale deal, at least,
to set spending levels and replace sequester cuts for the next two years.
Perhaps most importantly, the deal would potentially reduce the threat of
another government shutdown come January 2014.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is this law
is working and will work into the future.

My main message today is we`re not going back.

That seems to be the only alternative that "Obama care`s" critics have is,
Well, let`s just go back to the status quo, because they haven`t presented
an alternative.

I`ve always said I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law
effectively. You`ve got good ideas, bring them to me. Let`s go. But
we`re not repealing it as long as I`m president.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s putting (INAUDIBLE) down (ph). Welcome back to
HARDBALL. That was the president on offense, very much so today. After
weeks of dealing with negative headlines over the Web site`s problems, the
president now spends the rest of the month, we`re told, touting the
benefits of the new health care law, urging Americans to get in it and to
enroll.

Well, the numbers so far this week have been encouraging. A million people
visited the Web site just yesterday, and the error rate was fairly low.
According to "The Washington Post," the Web site processed 18,000
enrollments in a recent 24-hour period. That`s twice the previous record.
And overall, nearly 150,000 people have been able to complete the
enrollment process.

Well, yes, there are still flaws, of course, but by now, it should be
pretty clear the law is not going away. The president made that clear.
Will conservatives get the message even today?

Chuck Todd is political director and chief White House correspondent for
NBC News, and Clarence Page is a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune."

Chuck, it seems to me that that statement the president made, It`s not
going to go away as long as I`m president, I`m not going to repeal it, is
one of those new facts. Golda Meir used to refer to "new facts." If you
put something on the table, all of a sudden, it becomes a different
reality. We`re going to make clear there`s going to be repeal, repeal,
repeal efforts, and you can try all you want, even if you get the Senate
next year and you`re not going to get the signature of the president on
anything like a repeal.

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Well, that`s
right. But what I found -- what I have found fascinating, Chris, is, you
know, we did a study -- I talked about this this morning on my show. We
did a quick little examination. Not a single Republican on a Sunday show
either last Sunday or the Sunday before even used the word "repeal."

For the most part, Republicans are moving on from that. They`re realizing
they`re not going to be able to repeal this law. Their last shot at doing
it was, somehow, this Web site not working at all, this new fix not
working. That`s not the case.

MATTHEWS: Right.

TODD: The Web site is working. They`re not going to be able to repeal it.
They`re going to have to change their messaging to some sort of, We`re the
party that`s best suited to fix it, or redo it, or things like that.

MATTHEWS: OK --

TODD: And they`re going to have to come up with something different. The
only thing I was surprised at the president today is him saying that,
"while I`m president." I`m surprised he didn`t simply say, It`s just not
going away. Because you know what, Chris? It`s just not going away,
period.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Clarence on that point because I agree with that.
But that sort of puts the Republicans, if they give up on repeal, going
into two different directions. A big bunch of them, of course, maybe the
majority, going in the direction of, We`re just going to dump on this for
the next couple of elections. That`s all we have to do.

But there might be a smaller breakout of Republicans who say, You know
what? I`ve got a responsibility to my constituents at home to make this
thing better. It`s going to be here. It`s going to be here as long as we
live. It`ll be here forever, perhaps. But I`m going to make it a little
better. There`s a couple tweaks I know about.

I`m hearing that. Maybe I heard it from Jack Kingston and maybe there`s
some people I just look more positively toward on the Republican side. Is
that likely, we`re going to hear some people who truly want to fix it?

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, you`re hearing some people speak
in those terms, Chris. But let`s face it, it`s still a fact that Obama and
Obamacare are the two words that really unify Republicans their various
factional lines, and they`re not going to give up on it very quickly. And
the minute they come up with a positive suggestion, of which there are
several floating around -- Paul Ryan and others have had free market-
oriented alternatives. But they are not popular even among Republicans.
They can`t build a consensus around them.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: We debated some of Ryan`s proposals during the last presidential
election, you will remember, you know, voucherizing Medicare, and expanding
health savings accounts, and selling insurance across state lines.

Those are still the main tenets Republicans push.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: And they get limited success with them.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, after hitting the White House for months over -- over
the Web site issue, of course, the right has pretty much shrugged off the
improvements. Their message seems to be, so what? The law`s still
unworkable.

Let`s watch the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president`s health
care law continues to wreak havoc on American families, small businesses,
and our economy. And it`s not just a broken Web site. This bill is
fundamentally flawed.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: While the White House
wants to claim that healthcare.gov is now working, we know that Obamacare
is still plagued with problems. And every American deserves relief from
it.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I still think the foundations of this plan
have some of the same kinds of problems that the rollout has had, but
they`re fundamental, very hard to -- to overcome.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: When this Web site eventually gets
fixed, the problems really begin for this administration. This is just
beginning the disaster of Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to Chuck.

You know, just studying politics, don`t you get the sense with Boehner and
Cantor, who are reasonable people -- I -- in another universe, they would
be very reasonable, I think -- they sort of acts like prisoners of war,
POWs. The way they talk, it`s mechanical.

Do you sense -- do you sense, covering this, that there`s a real passion
among the establishment Republicans, what we call the establishment --

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- that they`re really going to have to live with this, like
they have had to live with Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, and
down the road they are going to have to marry it?

TODD: I -- what I sense is this lack of passion on the whole repeal, this
isn`t going to work aspect among that establishment wing of the party,
Chris --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: -- because I think, look at -- you brought up Jack Kingston.

Let me give a little context to Jack Kingston, Republican from Georgia.
There`s a crowded primary down there. He`s running for the U.S. Senate.
He`s a member of Congress now. When he made that comment that, you know
what, it`s now time to start figuring out how to fix some parts of this --
and I forget the exact quote that he said.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: He got pummelled on the right by some folks saying, you know what,
this guy isn`t -- isn`t a real conservative. He isn`t going to go up there
and be the kind of senator that conservatives are going to want, that
they`re going to want to see. He`s not going to fight this health care.
He`s sort of throwing in the towel.

And that`s the problem that leaders in the Republican Party, the ones
you`re bringing up, that who in a -- in another time might have said, OK,
can we try this state line thing that we like or why don`t we try X or why
don`t we try Y? They can`t do that politically because it would infuriate
a big -- the most active part of the Republican base right now.

So I think that`s why you`re seeing this warmed-over conversation. They`re
not saying the words repeal anymore. They`re just simply saying, I just
don`t think the law is going to work. It`s their way of saying, hey, look,
base, I`m telling you the law is not working, but they`re also not pledging
to repeal.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the question of the Republican Party.

Clarence, you have covered it as long as I have. Do they really want to
have a national health care plan? In other words, if there weren`t an
Obama plan, would they have one? And if that`s not the case, if they
really don`t have one in mind really, they`re stuck with having to either
tweak little fixes or basically saying nothing.

I mean, they don`t have a big option plan out there because I don`t believe
they believe in one. Do you think they do?

PAGE: They don`t have a consensus that -- enough Republicans to agree on
one plan that they can say, look, here`s what we`re going to propose.
Here`s what we`re going to send over to the CBO and get some cost estimates
on. They just don`t have it.

I mean, you just heard Chuck. If Jack Kingston in Georgia is now a RINO, I
mean, they`re going to excommunicate Strom Thurmond from his grave or
something.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: I mean, the mind reels how far to the right the Republican Party has
moved since the `80s, back when Ronald Reagan, Heritage Foundation and
other groups and entities were promoting conservative problem-solving
ideas.

Nowadays, they aren`t allowed to talk about problem-solving because they
accused of being Republican in name only.

MATTHEWS: Yes, back when Nixon was supporting an employer-mandate, which
is really far part in the `70s.

PAGE: Yes, which Teddy Kennedy rejected, right?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, of course attacking -- I know. Kennedy screwed it,
unfortunately. They had a great opportunity there for a much more
aggressive plan.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, attacking the law is one thing, but putting forward your
own alternative is something else, as I said, something else entirely.
It`s easy to run against a plan than actually have one of your own.

Here`s Speaker Boehner essentially conceding that this morning. Here he
is, Speaker Boehner. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: The American people want to be able to pick their own type of
health insurance. They want to be able to pick their own doctor. They
want to be able to pick their own hospital. That`s what a patient-centered
health care system looks like.

QUESTION: Will that be up for a vote in 2014 now, a bill for that?

QUESTION: Speaker, will that be up for a vote in 2014?

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: We will see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I thought that was a good question there by Luke Russert, Chuck.
He said, nice comment, good -- good parrying there, but are you going to do
this thing? And he says, we will see.

After 40 votes to repeal in the House --

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- he won`t even say, we are going to have one vote in the
House to do what they say they believe in doing.

TODD: Because, Chris, fiscally I don`t know how they come up with
something that wouldn`t look like it would explode the deficit, that
wouldn`t look like it was going to expand government.

To do -- to basically abide by what Boehner just said there, the costs
could potentially be astronomical in some places. Now, it could end up
being that the president`s health care law ends up costing a lot more than
all of the experts have said, but for right now the best people we got, the
Congressional Budget Office insists that it`s not going to be that costly.

It`s hard for the Republicans to come up with something that will be as
fiscally neutral and responsible as the law as it is written right now that
the president has.

MATTHEWS: Yes. It was like -- it was like the speaker saying holding up
four candy canes and say, you like all these? I will give them to you.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Clarence Page.

Up next: What`s the explanation for this "Star Wars"-inspired scene on the
National Mall here in Washington? The "Sideshow"`s next. And this is
HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and time for the "Sideshow."

You may have noticed that Amazon.com is getting a lot of attention this
holiday season, not for their products, but for their proposed new drone
delivery system which founder and CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled on Sunday.

Well, it`s got everyone talking, including Steve Colbert, who came up with
an even more innovative way to get people their products faster. Take a
look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Put on your future hat, Jeff
Bezos --

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: -- because I have cooked up an idea that will bring buying as
we know it to a new level. Here`s the idea: Amazon locations that
customers can walk into and buy things.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And the inventory would be arranged not as drop-down menus, but
rows of physical merchandise the customer could actually touch.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And instead of waiting precious minutes for a drone to arrive,
they can place their selections directly into a sort of wheel basket
conveyance.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: It`s inspired by your Web site`s abstract cart graphic.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Thus, they have the products instantly. I call it Amazon Live.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love Colbert.

Anyway, of course, skeptics of Amazon`s new idea have privacy concerns.
They worry that the drones will incentivize the use of other, more
intrusive technological innovations. And the folks at Funny or Die offered
little reassurance on that issue in their latest exclusive. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FUNNY OR DIE)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Finally, you could say that Washington already has its fair
share of space cadets in the Congress, but last weekend, tourists visiting
the National Mall were surprised to see this scene in front of the U.S.
Capitol, a group of confused Storm Troopers from the movie "Star Wars"
pausing by the Reflecting Pool to consult a map.

As it turns out, the production was part of a commercial shoot actually
supporting the Museum of Science Fiction, a nonprofit initiative that plans
to build a full-scale museum in Washington by 2017. While the District
already has over 50 museums and historic sites, they say this would be the
first in the world devoted exclusively to the sci-fi genre.

Supporters are hoping to raise enough money to open a temporary preview
museum by next year.

Up next: Remember when the Republican Party promised to stop alienating
groups that didn`t vote for them? Well, apparently, the Republicans don`t.
That`s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.

A union official says the engineer of a train that derailed in New York
caught himself nodding off at the controls just before a sharp curve. Four
people were killed. More than 60 were injured.

A federal judge says Detroit can declare bankruptcy. The ruling, which is
opposed by the city`s unions and retirees, allows Detroit to cut employee
pensions.

Lawmakers in Illinois passed a bill overhauling the state`s pension system,
which is $100 billion in debt. The measure in part cuts benefits to
workers and retirees -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After the Republican Party`s second national defeat at the hands of Barack
Obama last November, some of the grownups in the party set out to decide
what went wrong. Well, the Growth and Opportunity Project, otherwise known
as the autopsy, concluded that in order to win national elections again,
the Republican Party needed to overcome the public perception that it is
intolerant, out of touch, and, to use the report`s own words, that it
simply doesn`t care.

But have the Republicans followed their own advice so far?

"Washington Post" opinion writer Jonathan Capehart wrote just today --
quote -- "Autopsies are done on dead things. And ever since its March 2013
release, the GOP has done everything possible to stay dead."

That`s pretty tough.

Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican Party and is now an MSNBC
political analyst.

Gentlemen, I want you to look at this.

Michelle Goldberg, by the way, is a senior contributor -- contributing
writer for "The Nation." She`s also with us.

The GOP has had a rough time, of course, attracting African-Americans to
their party. The autopsy report said -- quote -- "If we want ethnic
minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our
sincerity."

But Republican-led legislatures in over 30 states have enacted some form of
voter identification laws that have a disproportionate effect on
minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. It`s by far the most egregious
attempt by conservatives to depress turnout in minority communities and a
strategy unlikely to win over African-American voters, of course.

Well, this weekend, the Republican National Committee sent out a tweet
reinforcing the idea that the party may not -- actually be quite out of
touch with the concerns of African-American voters even now. It read --
quote -- "Today, we remember Rosa Parks` bold stand and her role in ending
racism."

Hmm. That was back in the early `50s. Many critics said the RNC shouldn`t
have, A., talked about racism ending, and, B., certainly not in the 1950s.

Then, during the 16-day government shutdown recently, Senator Mike Lee and
former Governor Sarah Palin led protests on the National Mall where
Republican activist Larry Klayman called on President Obama to -- quote --
"put the Koran down, get off his knees, and to figuratively come out with
his hands up."

Well, there were also images there of a protester outside the White House
waving the good-old Confederate stars and bars, the Confederate flag.

I want to start with Michael Steele here.

Your thoughts about how goes the autopsy and the resurrection, if you will,
to use that metaphor.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the body`s still dead.

So, you know, I don`t think that there`s a whole -- a whole lot that`s
really come out of this. There have been misstep after misstep. I mean,
the opening, for example, of an office in Detroit for African-American
Engagement, really? In Detroit, is that what you want to call it? It`s
just -- it`s not inviting.

It`s just not a way in which I think you say affirmatively to African-
Americans, let alone the vast majority of other communities out there that
we need to touch, that we want to have a dialogue and a conversation, and
we want you to be a part of it.

So, I don`t think the early stages of this have gone swimmingly well. I
think the misstep this past weekend was again the lack of connection the
anything that is authentically African-American, if you don`t understand
Rosa Parks` role historically, let alone what she means to African-American
-- in the context of racism.

So, there are a lot of elements there, Chris, that are still missing. The
effort, I guess, is applauded by some. But, by most, at least the African-
Americans that approach me in Giant and Safeway and places around town,
it`s a yawn, at best.

MATTHEWS: Well, one -- just to get that point, because I have been a
little bit off on that one, what do you think it was, if you had to explain
it objectively?

And you are objective on these points. How do you get across to people why
an African-American, a regular, thoughtful person who keeps up with things
and lives in this country, obviously, would -- would find objectionable
about a Republican press release or tweet, or whatever it was, coming out
and saying, we`re paying tribute to Rosa Parks today because she had --
because of her role in ending racism.

What are the objectionable references there?

STEELE: Well, racism hasn`t ended. And I think the most --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: -- immediate response I got was: it did? When? Did we miss a
memo? I mean, what happened?

So, you know, it speaks to the lack of connection. And the fact that
internally, there is no objective oversight. There`s no one looking at
that with a black voice, if you will, who can say, you know, this is not
going to -- "A," this is historically incorrect. Factually wrong.

But more importantly, it`s not going to resonate -- no, it`s not going to
resonate with the audience you`re trying to reach. We get the appeal. It
just doesn`t resonate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think that`s -- I got to say as a white person, I think
I get it because I think the idea of racism having being eliminated is a
profound notion that isn`t true.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, of course, way back in the way back machine.

Michelle, it seems to me that that`s one reason -- this is a small point
but an important one. You know how people really do support diversity as a
value regardless of its need to do it. It`s just sort of good for
everybody to have somebody in the room especially in journalism or politics
that can read something and say, "Wait a minute, I wouldn`t say that." And
I think as Michael just pointed out, what is missing in that statement is
the person in the room that would normally say, "Don`t put that one out. I
want to talk to you about how you got to talk about things like that."

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NATION: But there`s a lot more than that missing
here, right?

MATTHEWS: OK.

GOLDBERG: This isn`t a failure of management or a failure of oversight.
This is a kind of existential problem at the heart of the Republican Party,
right? The modern Republican Party is the party built on white resentment.
That is what knits it together.

So, this -- the idea of a rebranding --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Yes, the idea of rebranding.

MATTHEWS: Take that point. No, make that point, Michelle. You have to
define that terms. I agree with you generally. You mean when they picked
up the Dixiecrats.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Yes, what I would say is the kind of soul of the Republican
Party lies in the Southerners who fled the Democrats after the passage of
the Civil Rights Act and kind of precipitated the migration of the center
of gravity in the Republican Party to the South. And you see this, you
know, not just in kind of the evolution of the elected officials in the
party but also in polling of the attitudes of Republicans, you know,
Republican voters.

It`s not an accident that the Republican Party said Rosa Parks has ended
racism, because in polls, you constantly see the majorities of Republican
voters, majorities of Republican voters and conservative voters believe
that the real discrimination in this country is against white people and
that kind of all structural racism has been eradicated.

So, this wasn`t a slip of the tongue, so much as it was kind of the
accidentally revealing a basic tenant of conservative thought.

STEELE: Well, you know, I politely disagree with Michelle. I don`t know
what poll that is. I would love to get the site of the polls that are
saying that a vast majority of Republicans view that there`s reverse
discrimination. And there`s more white persons being discriminated against
in this country and that`s the real racism.

And, certainly, that was not the party that I led as chairman where, you
know, as I like to say our goal was to turn the elephant and have it face
its future as well as its past, and understand that there`s inextricable
link between African-Americans and others. But so --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But I agree with Michelle. That isn`t the whole Republican
Party. It`s not the suburban Republican Party, the moderate, northern
Republican Party. But that is the Rush Limbaugh Republican Party, that
we`re the ones being beaten up on.

STEELE: Right. I want to be clear that that`s not rank and file.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it is the Rush --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think I said Rush Bimbaugh (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Right. But you said your goal was to turn the Republican Party
around. How do you think that went? I think is clear where the Republican
Party has gone. And it`s not in the direction that you say you wanted to
take it in. It`s in precisely the opposite direction.

STEELE: Well, since --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: I think there are a lot of Republicans in the North and Midwest
and a lot of parts in the country who would hate the idea of being in a
party that was seen as racist.

STEELE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: They hate that image. And really would vote against it on
paper.

STEELE: Those were the voices we were looking to elevate in the rank and
file of the party which helped us elect the folks like Susana Martinez and
Raul Labrador, governors at their respective state, African-Americans to
Congress, a broad spectrum of folks with recognition of historic links but
importance going forward.

GOLDBERG: What African-Americans in Congress?

MATTHEWS: Too bad, Michael, you lost to a guy --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. One of the problems you`ve got there is that you were
replaced by that guy -- I forget his name right now -- who has three dozen
effort to suppress the black vote right now. Not exactly the Michael
Steele plan.

STEELE: No, it wasn`t.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Ryan Priebus, how can I forget a name like that?
Anyway, Reince Priebus, if that really is his name.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele.

STEELE: All right.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle Goldberg.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Interesting debate here.

Up next, Rush Limbaugh attacks the pope. You got to stick around for that.

What`s so bad about trying to help the poor? Does that make you a Marxist?
Is Pope Francis a Marxist because he cares about the poor? I think Jesus
spoke -- focused a lot on the poor, and I`m not a theologian.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with Rush Limbaugh`s attack on Pope Francis of all
people.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It is nearly nine months as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis
has proven to be fearless. Remember the interview he gave back in
September when he said the church had grown obsessed with talking only
about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.

Well, now, the pope is taking on trickle-down economics, a favored
conservative policy of low taxes for the wealthy that liberals derided as
paying off the rich in the empty hope that some money will trickle down to
everyone else.

And perhaps the ultimate proof that he has arrived politically, Rush
Limbaugh has taken him on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: I mentioned before, I`m not Catholic. I admire
it profoundly. And I have been tempted a number of times to delve deeper
into it.

But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here and this is pure
political. Pope Francis went further than previous comments criticizing
the global economic system attacking the idolatry of money. Somebody has
either written this for him or gotten to him, this is pure Marxism coming
out of the mouth of the pope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst Jonathan
Alter.

Talk about strange theories, Jonathan, my friend, here the pope over in
Rome, one of the most powerful in the world and even secular terms, being
somehow hoodwinked by some off-stage commie who somehow written his
speeches for him and forced him to read those speeches like he`s a POW.

Rushbaugh I think has really reached his heights with this accusation.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, when he says the
pope has gone beyond Catholicism, are we supposed to say that Rush
Limbaugh, who like me is not Catholic, is a greater authority of what
Catholicism really is than the pope?
MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALTER: You know, this just conveys how absurd it is.

In that same diatribe, he called the pope a Marxist. Now, imagine if a
liberal, you know, a few years ago called the pope a fascist. Imagine what
a field day Limbaugh would have had with that, you know?

But in this case, he is essentially saying to conservative Catholic
listeners, look, you know better than the hope does about the real
teachings of the church, which is absurd on so many levels. You know, the
New Deal was actually partly founded on a pope a papal encyclical from Pope
Leo in 1891 called "Rerum Novarum" which called for a living wage for
unions at the time --

MATTHEWS: And for Social Security. And for Social Security, it`s all in
there.

ALTER: Yes, it`s all in there in 1891. And through Ed Flynn, big aide to
FDR, FDR learned about this and he incorporated a lot of it in his
thinking.

So, this Marxism, this ultra-liberalism has been part of Catholicism,
central to Catholicism and arguably to the teachings of Jesus for hundreds
of years.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think it`s odd because I am Roman Catholic, I am
practicing, my whole family is, certainly my wife and I. I have to tell
you that the idea of Catholic charities, the charitable work that our
religion and your religions, everybody`s, really does engage, and it`s a
common goal to help poor.

ALTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: And help sick people.

Look at -- most of the religious in our country today, Christians, run
hospitals, they run orphanages, they run all these programs to help people
who are desperate, and that`s what they do. That`s what Christians and
Jews do in this country, and the idea that we have too much inequality out
there, actually he does capitalism is OK, he says being rich is fine, but
you have to focus on the people that don`t have a piece of the action.

I wasn`t` like he was running the Marxist creed here at all. Anyway,
that`s --

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER: He was talking about the idolatry of money, which I thought was a
wonderful line. He talked about the globalization of indifference. This
is what you want with the whole world Catholic or not, wants in a pope,
somebody who gets them to think about fundamental issues and that returns
them to the kinds of things that Jesus did say, you know, according to
Catholicism.

And so, what`s this --

MATTHEWS: It`s all in the book.

ALTER: What this exposes is the heartlessness and the lack of compassion
that is at the heart of modern ultra-conservatism as represented by Rush
Limbaugh.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, thank you so much. It was (INAUDIBLE), wonderful man,
expert of the Holocaust, who keep reminding us of that, who said that the
real evil is indifference, as you just said so well.

Thank you so much, Jonathan Alter.

ALTER: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

People always ask me, who I most want to have on HARDBALL. Well, Thursday
night, two nights from now, I can`t ask for more. The president of the
United States is coming to HARDBALL, or rather, we`re both going to the
HARDBALL college tour before a big crowd of students at American
University.

Tonight, I`m out here at the University of Louisville, home of the national
basketball champs and, of course, coach Rick Pitino. I`m here for the
Kentucky Authors Forum for my coming of age book "Tip and The Gipper: When
Politics Worked."

I`d be interviewed by "The Washington Post" and Georgetown University`s
E.J. Dionne. I expect the topics tonight we`re going to get are: how to
restore effective government in this country, that means effective
politics, and, of course, how to establish strong accountable and
government. Don`t you think we need that after the foul ups in this
rollout of the president`s health care bill, act rather? And by the same
topics, I`ll be asking the president to tackle Thursday night at this very
hour, 7:00 Eastern. I especially want to know how he thinks we can get
back to a politics that leads to getting things done, not simply more
politics. It`s going to be an exciting, informative, un-missable night.
And don`t you dare not show up and watch.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

END

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