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updated 12/13/2013 1:08:27 PM ET 2013-12-13T18:08:27

HARDBALL
December 12, 2013
Guest: Michelle Goldberg, Dana Milbank, Neera Tanden, Doris Kearns
Goodwin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republicans go ballistic.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this third world war in the Republican
Party. Twenty-four hours ago, it was just good old John Boehner showing
some spine against the wild ones out there on the right, the Tea Partiers
from the clown car.

Well, what a difference a day made. Tonight, there`s a real war on,
with Boehner and Paul Ryan manning the fort, defending their pint-sized
budget plan, and war-whooping and circling the fort are the wild bunch, not
just the Tea Partiers, Paul Rand and Marco Rubio, but also Senate leader
Mitch McConnell and fiscal hawks like Senator Tom Coburn.

So who are you going to bet on, the suddenly spunky speaker and his
brainy budgeteer or the wildest of the right-wing crazies joined by the
toughest of the tough conservatives? Should be quite a war, and it`s not
just over a vote in Congress, it`s over the whole anti-Obama strategy of
the American right.

Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The
Washington Post" and Michael Steele was chairman of the RNC. Both are
MSNBC political analysts.

Well, it didn`t take much to detonate this Republican World War III.
As I mentioned, you saw yesterday how Speaker John Boehner blasted
conservative groups for their knee-jerk opposition to the budget agreement
just struck between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray.

But what began as a battle between mainstream Republicans and the Tea
Party types has now escalated into all-out war. After a ferocious attack
from (sic) their party`s leadership, from groups like Heritage Action,
Senate Conservatives Fund, and Freedom Works, the leadership is fighting
back.

Well, today, Boehner unleashed a barrage of criticism aimed squarely
simply at the -- not simply at the Cruz wing of the party. Just take a
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I came here to cut
the size of government. That`s exactly what this bill does. And why
conservatives wouldn`t vote for this or criticize the bill is beyond any
recognition I can come up with.

Frankly, I think they`re misleading their followers. I think they`re
pushing our members in places where they don`t want to be. And frankly, I
just think that they`ve lost all credibility.

You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund "Obama care" and to
shut down the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn`t
exactly the strategy that I had in mind.

But if you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of
people that -- one of these groups stood up and said, Well, we never really
thought it would work.

Are you kidding me!

QUESTION: Are you asking these groups to effectively stand down?

BOEHNER: I don`t care what they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Boehner has won the first round. In the last hour, the
House passed the budget proposal with bipartisan support by an overwhelming
margin. But Boehner will have to fight more than just his party`s wacko-
birds because it appears as if the Senate`s top Republican, Mitch
McConnell, is joining those who are also fighting Boehner on the budget
deal.

"The Hill" newspaper is reporting that Boehner backs the agreement,
while McConnell doesn`t. A source close to McConnell said he will reject
the proposal.

Gene, this is not just a civil war. This is some of the top echelon
joining the mutineers, if you will. And I don`t know how this thing`s
going to come out. I think it`s a bigger fight than how a vote goes this
week or next. It comes down to what`s the strategy going to be, the tactic
of all-out war or occasionally a truce, occasionally a ceasefire to get
through Christmas at least?

It looks like the all-out buccaneers out there just want to keep
fighting, no matter what the season is.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
this is a struggle within the Republican Party that`s been going on for
some time, and it`s been taking place on the editorial page of "The Wall
Street Journal" and other places where these factions all meet to fight it
out.

But it certainly has erupted into public view in a most consequential
way over this budget deal. And you know, a lot of us wrote at the time
after the government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight, in which
Republicans lost and lost again, that John Boehner actually emerged from
that fight in a stronger position.

And he`s certainly acting as if he agrees with that. He`s acting as
if he believes he has the great conservative middle of the House Republican
caucus, that they are, in the end, going to stick with him and not go with
the crazies.

MATTHEWS: Well, why does he have to pound them for recent mistakes?
Why does it help him to trash them for having caused the shutdown and been
wrong about it and admitted they were wrong, basically? Why does he want
to open that wound again?

ROBINSON: Well, because he`s ticked off, because, number one, it`s
true. And number two, you know, they did not treat him nicely. They --
they -- he`s the Speaker of the House and they treated him like a rag doll,
and I think he resents that. I think he doesn`t like that.

And I think that now that he feels he`s in a position to carry the day
on this, and to carry the day perhaps going forward, I think he wants to
press that advantage.

MATTHEWS: Michael, give me the order of battle on both these sides.
You`ve got the speaker and the brainy budgeteer on the inside. Does he
have the numbers or the numbers on the outside among the war-whoopers
attacking this fort?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think
he does have the numbers, and I think that`s why you see the speaker taking
the position he`s taken. And I say bravo Boehner. It`s about time that he
draws the line in the sand between political hysteria and hot rhetoric and
actually governing. Someone has to come to a general consensus of
direction and solution or resolution. I think the speaker has done that.

But more importantly, Chris, and I think this is something that --
that a lot of the members, or at least those third party groups aren`t
getting -- Boehner is giving them a big CYA going into next year.

The last thing Republicans need is for the country to be mucked and
mired into a conversation about the debt ceiling, sequestration, budget
cuts, and all these things that are going to be hot button issues from an
economic standpoint, that put us much more in a defensive posture in
negotiating with this administration than an aggressive posture that we
find ourselves in now, which is why a lot of the folks on the left are a
little bit put out by this, but haven`t said too much, because they know
the Republicans have somewhat of an upper hand here.

So I think -- I think Boehner has given them a lot more
maneuverability going into next year that they don`t rightly appreciate.
This is not just about a primary.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: This is not just about, you know, that political process.
This is actually about governing in a way that helps open up greater
political opportunities down the road.

MATTHEWS: Well, one guy I know is rooting for Boehner, and that`s
Chris Christie, because if Boehner can win this fight...

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... against the wild ones, that means there`s still a
Republican Party of the center-right.

Anyway, the far right is responding to attacks from the mainstream of
their party in typical fashion, by playing victim. They love playing this
to the mean old mainstream out there.

A coalition of more than 50 high-profile conservatives known as the
Conservative Action Project put out this statement. "It is clear that the
conservative movement has come under attack on Capitol Hill."

And Matt Hoskins, the executive director of the Tea Party group Senate
Conservatives Fund took a step further with this sugar plum of a response.
Quote, "John Boehner has apparently decided to join Mitch McConnell in the
war on conservatives. McConnell called us fringe traders who should be
locked in a barn and punched in the nose. And now Boehner is lashing out
at us, too. Conservatives everywhere need to understand that the party`s
leadership has declared war on them. If they don`t fight back, they will
always regret it. We`re going to hang together or hang separately."

I don`t know here. This is American revolution talk, Gene, a bit out
of place in a budget battle over the smallest, smallest, most pissant
budget deal, and they`re making it into Bunker Hill.

ROBINSON: Well, and that`s kind of the point, Chris. That`s the way
they make everything, into Bunker Hill. You know, in any sane universe,
Mitch McConnell is a conservative, John Boehner is a conservative, yet
they`re not purely conservative enough for some on the far right, and
certainly not conservative enough for those far-right pressure groups that
are raising money in these fights...

STEELE: Right.

ROBINSON: ... and taking care of their own interests, rather than the
larger interests of the party.

And you know, I think -- I think Michael is absolutely right. If
Boehner can pull this off, he does give Republicans more maneuvering room.

And actually, that`s what my column is about for tomorrow. It says
that if Boehner pulls this off, it puts Democrats on notice, frankly, that
they need to up their game. They`ve been able just to kind of -- kind of
coast in terms of policy...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... because look what the alternative was. It was crazy,
right?

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m fascinated...

ROBINSON: And so, you know, status quo beats crazy. But if
Republicans are actually going to get back in the game, in the policy game,
then Democrats are going to have to come up with some fresher-sounding...

STEELE: Exactly.

ROBINSON: ... and looking ideas than they have, frankly, recently.

MATTHEWS: Michael, this is really wonderful, actually. And I was
thinking, if you live in a big apartment building with not really strong
walls between people, and there`s one very quiet couple upstairs -- and
they always got along and they went to church on Sunday and they never
fought, and all of a sudden, you`re hearing this racket coming from
upstairs...

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and they`re throwing dishes around, they`re screaming
at each other, cursing at each other, and we all go, Oh, we thought they
were perfect. Aren`t we happier now...

STEELE: Right!

MATTHEWS: ... because now we know they aren`t that perfect!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Your party is now dish-throwing in the kitchen. Explain.

STEELE: That`s right. And you know, there`s a healthy part of that,
as well.

MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

STEELE: Well, no, because, I mean, Chris, as you know -- and I`ve
said for a number of, you know, months now, this is cathartic. You`ve got
to work out where the lines of leadership are, what conservatism means at
this time of a very different America than the one that conservatives think
or thought it was. So I think all of that`s very good.

I think what Boehner does -- going back to the point, and Eugene`s
column tomorrow -- is he`s trying to -- he`s trying to get us through the
noise. He`s recognized, OK, we`ve thrown enough dishes, we`ve broken
enough plates.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: Now let`s get to the point where we can begin to reconcile
around some fundamentals, and that gives us a way forward.

I think, to Gene`s other point, for these third party groups, this is
about firing up a base...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... that drives money. And at the end of the day, that`s why
Boehner says, I don`t care what they do, because he knows what their
ulterior motive is, and that`s not about politics.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) anyway, not to be outdone, as you say, Speaker
-- actually, committee chair Paul Ryan is upping his assault (ph) on the
Tea Party clown car, as well. Yesterday, firebrands like Rand Paul and
Marco Rubio kept up their attack on Ryan`s budget agreement.

Well, this is Rubio on Fox News last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We`re going to have a debt crisis in
this country! It is going to continue to destroy jobs! It`s going to
disrupt the functions of our government. It`s going to threaten our
national security. When are we going to get serious about dealing with
this once and for all?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And this is what Rand Paul said just hours before Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It`s worse than the status quo. It
does not significantly alter our course. We`re still on a course for
disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And now here`s Paul Ryan`s response during an interview
earlier today on "MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE": Marco Rubio said this, though,
last night. Quote, you know, your deal "is going to make it harder for
Americans to achieve the American dream." What would you say to Marco?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), FMR. VICE PRES. CANDIDATE: Read the deal and
get back to me. The other thing is, we`re stopping these government
shutdowns. And we don`t think having two government shutdowns over the
course of the next year is in anybody`s interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That I thought profound. I know it`s pure politics, it`s
not substance, Gene...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... but I thought that was a profound statement. There`s a
statement that shutdowns hurt Republicans. Clear as a bell.

STEELE: Yes.

ROBINSON: Exactly. It does. And that should be obvious. After the
shutdown, the approval of the Republican Party went to the lowest levels
ever recorded, OK? So that should be, I think, a lesson that you don`t
want to do that again.

Yet there`s this far right that`s lobbying for exactly that. And it
doesn`t hurt them. They`re going to raise their money. But it hurts -- it
hurts the party and it certainly hurts these incumbents who paid attention
last time...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... find out, is this noise-making or is it a stickup? We
just don`t know.

Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson and Michael Steele. If I don`t see
you guys again, merry Christmas. It`s coming fast, hopefully.

STEELE: Merry Christmas.

ROBINSON: Same to you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: A Republican Senate hopeful has laid out loud --
said out loud what many assume a lot of conservatives believe. Quote,
"We`ve all seen it, the folks in line who are using food stamps, yet
they`ve got the nicest nails and the nicest pocketbook and they have the
nicest car."

OK, has this guy been studying the unemployment line? This welfare
queen talk might just give you some insight into why some on the right
oppose extending unemployment benefits, which are for people who had been
working! It`s not welfare!

Plus, stop playing defense. A Democratic pollster says people still
would prefer to fix the Affordable Care Act than kill it. By the way, the
numbers are overwhelming. Two thirds of the American people want to fix
it. About a quarter want to get rid of it. I`d say Obama somehow is
winning this one. Who says the Democrats should run on -- why not run on
"Obama care," not away from it?

And by now, you`ve probably heard -- or heard doubt -- or doubt the
heard (ph) about the story of the fraudulent sign language translator at
Nelson Mandela`s memorial service. Guess what? The late night comics have
heard that story.

"Let Me Finish" tonight with the need for more grownups in this
country, political grownups.

And this HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s some good news for Obama supporters. President
Obama and his party are still in better shape when it comes to personal
approval with the public than their counterparts across the aisle. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to our new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, President
Obama is viewed positively, personally positive, by 40 percent of the
public, and negatively by 46. That`s a 4-point spread, but very close.

The Democratic Party is viewed positively by 36 percent of the public,
negatively by 44 percent, an 8-point gap.

Now to the other side of the aisle. The Tea Party, 24 percent
positive, that`s it, and 45 percent negative. That`s a 21-point gap. And
the Republican Party itself even worse off, 26 percent positive, just about
a quarter, 51 percent negative, for a gap of 25.

So see who`s worse off. The Republicans worse off even than the Tea
Party. Best off, relatively speaking, believe it or not, the president,
after all these tough weeks.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For more than a million
Americans, this Christmas is looking particularly bleak. That`s because
conservatives are pushing to cut off long-term benefits to the unemployed
of this country, 1.3 million people of whom will immediately lose that
lifeline just after the holiday.

Well, Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that Democrats will push
for an extension and will try to provide relief retroactively if it doesn`t
get done before the December 28th deadline.

But there is little support on the right for extending those benefits.
Earlier this week, we heard Senator Rand Paul explaining his opposition by
saying it would do a "disservice" -- that`s his word -- to those unemployed
people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I do support unemployment benefits for
the 26 weeks that they`re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a
disservice to these workers.

There was a study that came out a few months ago, and it said if you
have a worker that`s been unemployed for four weeks and on unemployment
insurance and one that`s on 99 weeks, which would you hire? Every
employer, nearly 100 percent, said they will always hire the person who`s
been out of work four weeks.

When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks,
you`re causing them to be part of this perpetual unemployed group in our
economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Rand Paul was joined by another Tea Party
Republican challenging the social safety net, Lee Bright, who`s the number
one challenger to Lindsey Graham down in South Carolina next year.

Here`s what he said at a fund-raising event in Oklahoma. He argued,
if you don`t work, you don`t eat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE BRIGHT (R-SC), STATE SENATOR, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Here`s the
problem. It`s not politically correct to say this, but we`ve got a lot of
people that won`t work. And they won`t work because you`re providing them
food and we`re providing them housing and we provide them some spending
money.

When you think about it -- and we`ve all have seen it, the folks in
line that are using, I guess they call it WIC here, too, to buy their food,
but yet they got the nicest nails and the nicest pocketbook, going to get
in the nicest car. And we`re getting the bill.

And how many times have they turned around to say thank you? Never!
Able-bodied people, if they don`t work, they shouldn`t eat. It`s just that
simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joining us right now to look at the clown car is Sam Stein,
political editor of HuffingtonPost and MSNBC contributor, and Michelle
Goldberg, who writes for "The Nation."

Let me start with you, Michelle. Nobody is studying people in the
food stamp line because there isn`t a food stamp line. people may go to
Safeway or Giant or any other food store in the country -- Piggly Wiggly,
wherever they go. They might show some food stamps, but nobody`s really
paying attention.

So what`s this about with fingernails? Are they talking about
fingernail extenders? What are they talking about?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NATION": I think we know...

MATTHEWS: Well, what do we think? First of all, these are
descriptions of people, the kind of car they drive. Did somebody run
outside and see the person who had a certain kind of fingernail polish is
driving a certain kind of car, is carrying a certain kind of pocketbook to
a Safeway?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, somehow, conservatives -- somehow,
conservatives cannot go to the grocery store without getting stuck in line
behind somebody buying lobster tails with their food stamps.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOLDBERG: You know? And this is a very old trope. It goes back to
Reagan, who talked about, you know, a "strapping young buck" who was buying
a T-bone steak with his food stamps. The idea that the poor are spoiled
and lazy is very old in Republican politics.

MATTHEWS: Keep going here.

GOLDBERG: What...

MATTHEWS: What else are they saying? What else are they saying?
Let`s be blunt. What are they saying? Is there an ethnic component to
this description?

GOLDBERG: I think in this particular one, yes, with the long nails
and...

MATTHEWS: Yes, the big car, the flashy car that they guy doesn`t even
-- I always sort of wonder about these flashy -- I never see anybody that
looks poor driving a big car. I`ve never seen anybody do that.

GOLDBERG: Well, no, no. Food stamps...

MATTHEWS: Who are these people?

GOLDBERG: I mean, food stamps get you about $1.50 a meal per day.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOLDBERG: The idea that kind of people are using the excess to go out
and indulge themselves is just preposterous, and the same with unemployment
insurance.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GOLDBERG: To me, the fascinating thing is that they think -- they
believe two things simultaneously. Right?

They believe that Obama has destroyed the economy, destroyed the job
market, and they believe that there are all these jobs out there for the
taking.

MATTHEWS: Lee Bright, he comes off as something, I guess you would
call him a metrosexual.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: His knowledge of fingernail polish, his knowledge of
pocketbooks, and their price, a lot of people, by the way, I have noticed,
because they sell them in Georgetown -- the West African guys sell them on
the corner at N Street -- I can tell you where they sell them, the knockoff
pocketbooks.

You know, the idea that somebody who has studied to see this, an
authentic Prada, or an authentic like that -- I don`t even know these
names. What is -- if you actually take the words, Sam, and examine them,
you know it`s just simple ethnic racial prejudice being thrown out there
with a little more detail. That`s all it is.

SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It`s the codewords that he uses
there that send signals.

It`s quite the last name for someone to make that assumption about
people. But, you know, listen, I think if you actually go and experience
what it`s like to be on food stamps, which my colleague Arthur Delaney did,
you would recognize very quickly that it`s not easy. You`re hungry. It`s
not enough to get by just to buy food. You don`t have enough excess to
buy...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know. Let`s talk about unemployment benefits, which only
go to people who have been working. Let`s get that straight. You have to
have a number of weeks working before you get jobless benefits.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They come off -- some people do exploit them, obviously.
They take advantage with seasonal workers who work in resorts and they work
a requisite number of weeks. Then they get the unemployment off-season.

But we`re not talking about them. The charge here is against people
long-term sitting on their butts watching television seems to be the
complaint we`re getting from Mr. Rand Paul.

STEIN: Well, one thing I would say about the Rand Paul complaint is
that it`s misguided. He talks about how people who are on long-term
unemployment are less desirable to be hired for jobs.

That`s because they`re long-term unemployed. It`s not because they`re
on unemployment insurance for a long time. There`s a bias among people who
are hiring against people who have been unemployed for a long period of
time. I think he`s misdiagnosing the issue here.

But, listen, we have a political right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Explain why -- explain why a job...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... common sense here.

STEIN: It`s just -- you basically if you`re trying to hire someone,
you have a prejudice against someone who`s been unemployed for long. You
assume that there`s a reason that they haven`t been hired.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: And there`s been studies done proving this essentially. So,
it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

MATTHEWS: I got you.

STEIN: You`re unemployed for longer, you get less...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk the politics.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: How do the Democrats win on this? How do they get back
this extension come the beginning of the year or the very end of this year,
probably the beginning of next year?

STEIN: Well...

MATTHEWS: How do they jam the Republicans and get that extension, get
it done?

STEIN: It`s tough. It`s really tough.

I mean, what we`re looking at right now is a $25 billion extension for
a year-long extension of unemployment insurance. You have to figure out a
way to pay for it, at least in this environment. It wasn`t always paid
for, but in this environment you have to figure out a way to pay for it.

And they have just basically gotten to the bottom of the barrel to
figure a way to pay for sequestration relief. So, there`s not many pay-
fors out there. There`s some idea that the Democrats have. But absent a
capitulation among Republicans, it`s going to be very hard to get this
extension done.

MATTHEWS: Well, last -- well, I will get back to you.

But I want to start with this with Michelle.

What`s a better fight for the Democrats, a $10.10-an-hour minimum
wage, which costs businesses, but doesn`t cost the government -- it may
benefit obviously -- or fight this fight, or are they both important to
fight? And are they both more winnable? I get the feeling minimum wage is
an easier one to win.

GOLDBERG: I think they`re both important.

I`m not sure that anything is winnable with this Congress. You know,
this Congress doesn`t seem to want to do anything. It doesn`t believe that
people who are struggling unemployed or people who`ve been working or not,
if they`re struggling, it doesn`t believe that they are entitled to help.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So you`re betting against both successes by the government?

GOLDBERG: I`m betting against both successes.

But I think both fights are still really important to wage...

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

GOLDBERG: ... because the Democrats need to show people in this
country that we`re -- that they`re on the side of people who are working,
people who are struggling.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Who you going to call?

You agree with that, Sam? You can`t win either one, but you have got
to fight them both? Or you can with the minimum wage one, maybe?

STEIN: Yes.

Well, there -- there`s been a debate right now about why Democrats are
leaving for the break without forcing a vote on this. And when I talk to
aides on Capitol Hill, the logic that I hear from them is that they get one
shot at doing this, and they don`t want to waste it.

But I can understand why they would want to actually push a vote to at
least put Republicans on the spot to say, no, we oppose an extension of
unemployment insurance. And, yes, we are against raising the minimum wage,
whether it`s to $9 or $10.10. At least get them on the record, is the
theory. It`s a question of, when do you hold these votes? When do you
make the best case?

MATTHEWS: It sounds like it`s after the new year.

Thank you so much, Sam Stein, and that analysis.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle Goldberg, as well.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And happy holiday.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Up next, so what was that fake sign language interpreter
doing on stage at the service for Nelson Mandela? And what is this about
schizophrenia? What`s that got to with anything?

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Did you hear about
the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela`s funeral? Well, he was a
-- he was fake. You know, I knew he was fake. Did you notice later in the
speech? Watch what he did here. It`s so obvious.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Madiba would emerge as
the last great...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LENO: See, that`s -- that`s when I knew. That -- that was a red
flag. That was a red flag for me. Yes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the "Sideshow."

Well, that was Jay Leno last night on the fraudulent sign language
translator at Nelson Mandela`s memorial service on Tuesday.

But Jimmy Kimmel took it a step further and invited a real sign
language expert to explain what the bogus interpreter was really saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": But let`s watch this guy and
tell us what he seems to be signing, if anything at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Welcome so far.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, cigarettes join.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bringing in different to you. A circle.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I would like to pray this offering.
Basically, this is fun. All of these balls to prove.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is good. I`m sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: Well, at least he was sorry.

So, in your opinion, does this guy know sign language at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s good fodder for comedians.

But a report today paints a scarier picture. In an interview with the
Associated Press, the translator himself said he had a schizophrenic
episode while on stage. He started hearing voices, as he put it, and
hallucinating, claiming to have seen angels -- that was his word -- in the
audience.

What is more, he admitted to having a violent -- again, his word --
past and had been hospitalized with mental health issues for over a year.
We are going to have to learn more of that. Yet he was still able -- this
is the big one -- to get within three feet of our president and that --
their country`s president.

Next up, Bob Barker may have retired from television, but you could
say -- you certainly could say the 90-year-old former "Price Is Right" host
is making something of a comeback. He`s in a new political ad for Florida
congressman -- or congressional candidate Republican David Jolly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

BOB BARKER, FORMER GAME SHOW HOST: Folks, when you get to be as young
as I am, you call it like you see it. That`s why I`m supporting David
Jolly for Congress, because, with Jolly, the choice is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Finally, if the latest budget battle in Congress feels like watching
the rerun of a bad movie, you`re not alone. Take a look at how "Daily" --
"The Daily Show" itself portrayed it last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have seen the smash hits budget battle one,
two, three, and four. They had it all. Countdown clocks. Count-up
clocks. Counting-down and -up clocks.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now it looks like the congressional shutdown
gravy train is pulling into the station. Budget battle five, the sequel
that the 24-hour news networks demand. It`s a fight for ratings against
impossible odds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This just got real.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Actually, not really. They
have been at a stalemate for quite some time. And they`re just hoping not
to shut down the government this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe that.

TODD: Well, it`s not hard to believe. Democrats won`t deal with
entitlements. Republicans aren`t putting tax increases on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s kind of killing the momentum here, Todd.

TODD: Yes. Well, sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nice cameo there by our friend Chuck Todd.

Up next: why it`s time for the Democrats to go on offense over the
Affordable Care Act.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz.

U.N. inspectors have confirmed chemical weapons were used in an attack
near Damascus, Syria, in August. The report doesn`t identify whether
government forces or rebel fighters were responsible.

North Korea says Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, has
been executed after he was found guilty of treason.

And newlywed bride Jordan Graham pleaded guilty for second-degree
murder in the death of her husband, who was allegedly pushed from a cliff
eight days after they wed.

I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Right now, what this law is doing is helping folks, and we`re
just getting started with the exchanges, just getting started with the
marketplaces. So we`re going to walk away from it. If I have got to fight
another three yes make sure this law works, then that`s what I will do.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That`s what we will do.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama is unquestionably playing offense now on the health
care reform law. And now fellow Democrats, some of whom have been running
away from the law, are being told, stop, turn around, and run on it.

Well, the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll gives a case for that.
People want the law -- the law tweaked, not trashed. Catch these numbers.
Take them home with you tonight. Two-thirds of the American people polled
in this new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, two-thirds say the law needs
some changes. Only a quarter wanted to eliminate it altogether.

In other words, after all this negative P.R., all the foul-ups, the
screwups, the rollout, the whole thing, and still two-thirds put their
heart and their mind on the need to have adequate affordable health care
for their families. They don`t like the screwups, but they want the
program to work and be fixed. That`s a powerful inducement for Democrats
not to turn tail.

Anyway, a new survey by the progressive research organization
Democracy Corps finds that more people who live in battleground districts -
- I think these are more conservative districts -- favor implement and fix
than repeal and replace on the health care law.

Pollster Stan Greenberg interprets the survey as hopeful news for
Democrats -- quote -- "For sure, the rollout mess hurt the president and
shifted the focus away from the hated Republican Congress. But in the
battleground states, the voters are split down the middle. This is not a
wedge issue. Voters still want to implement and fix it. Democrats can and
should engage on health care."

Let`s talk about it.

Joining me is "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank and Center for
American Progress president Neera Tanden.

I want to start with Dana on this.

I watch the president. Like you, I do watch for little secondary
characteristics. He was sitting there, I noticed that he was looking down
at the podium, at the lectern as he made that point. It`s not going away.
I`m going to stick to it. I have got to three words. He`s going to stay
with -- I ain`t going to give up on this.

That was fighting words that he hadn`t been using before. Don`t think
you can push me off this. I`m fighting this ground. Here I stand, like
Martin Luther said. I`m standing here.

So, my question is, is that solid ground for him? Is it smart to say,
start punching back?

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
Absolutely.

Look, Chris, there was a period of time when he was really taking a
beating because of the Web site and because of the hullabaloo over if you
want -- if you like your plan, you can keep it. He`s moved beyond that
now. And not only is it a good idea. It`s imperative, because if you`re
not on offense here, you`re on defense. And then the Republicans, who are
opposed to the whole thing, are setting the agenda.

Every time this president has been aggressive in promoting Obamacare,
it`s done better. Every time he takes his foot off the accelerator, it`s
when the numbers start turning against it. So, he and the Democrats have a
compelling case here. And they need to continue to make it.

MATTHEWS: There was awhile, Neera, where the media out in the
country, local affiliates of different networks, were out there basically
looking for people having problems. That was the big story day after day
after day, big inside spreads in the A section of people having problems,
no questioning of anybody who liked what they were getting or were
successful. It was all the traffic accidents, basically, that they were
reporting, which is normal news coverage.

Unless the president said something, there wasn`t anything countering
that. But now, as he`s saying, the question is, will people you talk to in
the Democratic Party, will they join them and start playing offense here
and say, damn it, this is a good thing, these Republicans are chortling
along the sidelines against something that really matters to people?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. Neera, please. I`m sorry.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think
Democrats are definitely -- the temperature has gone down. There was a lot
of anxiety about a week or so ago. The Web site has changed that.

But I think there`s really been a much more fundamental change, which
is, we now have hundreds of thousands of people benefiting from this law
from coast to coast, from California, Kentucky, all throughout the country.
And those numbers are just going to grow.

And so we now have something that we haven`t really had in the past,
which is those stories of people with preexisting conditions who haven`t
been able to get health care, but now can because of this law. There`s
thousands upon thousands of people who are benefiting, hundreds of
thousands of people benefiting. And that number is going to grow to
millions.

And then it will be that Republicans want to take away benefits to
people. And that`s why I think they have a losing hand on this. And
Democrats should be more aggressive in arguing the case that it`s the
Republicans who have an extreme ideological position based on dislike of
this president and not solving the American people`s problems.

MATTHEWS: You know, the old trick back in the early `60s when Ronald
Reagan was working for the American Medical Association, offering an
alternative to Medicare back then, he said he was for an alternative. It
was really to kill it.

Again the Republicans are playing that false card of saying they`ve
got an alternative. If you heard them today on TV, I`m watching them all
day. These guys on the Republican side are saying we want to make it legal
to sell health insurance across state lines. Like that`s going to solve
the problem. They`re all but going back to tort reform.

They don`t have a health care plan. What they have are these
accidental qualities, these things around health care. But they don`t have
a plan. And I think they have -- they think they have to -- do they have
to pretend they do? Isn`t there something we should look like we`re doing
to the voters? Dana?

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s been clear that the
idea of just repeal is not appealing to the electorate. So it`s always
been repeal and replace. But OK replace with what? Then it`s sort of
like, well, yes, Paul Ryan is going to come up with some secret plan to be
unveiled on some secret date.

The problem is there isn`t something concrete in terms of alternative.
Because when it is out there and it`s concrete, well, then people can start
to pick it apart and attack it.

MATTHEWS: Oh, sure.

MILBANK: And you`ll have those schisms come out within the Republican
Party.

So they`re in this awkward position of saying, well, we`re not going
to enact anything now. We`re going to investigate. We`re just going to
have more probes.

So, it just -- you saw they come out at their press conference after
reaching this budget deal. First thing out of their mouths, Obamacare.
Except, it`s just a litany of complaints and there`s nothing that they can
-- that they have been able to put forward as an alternative that will
boost their numbers which remain historically low in the Congress.

MATTHEWS: Well, Neera, Ted Cruz, who I love to talk about here
because he`s so far out and McCarthy-esque, Joe McCarthy-esque, he`s out
there still talking repeal. I get the feeling he`s been cut off. I get
the feeling he`s not quite the leaders he was just a month ago in terms of
this issue particularly. He says get rid of it. That`s enough.

TANDEN: I think the issue with him, which I wish he would talk more,
frankly, is that his position really is what damaged the Republican Party.
His whole position of repeal the law as an extortion tactic to shut down
the government hugely backfired.

And I also would say on the issue of repeal and replace -- I mean, the
truth is that the only replace plan the Republicans have ever had was John
McCain`s plan in 2008. And that, you know, when you look at the details
that meant 20 million Americans would lose their health care coverage. So,
it`s always been disingenuous for Republicans to talk about lost coverage.

And the reason why they don`t put forward plans is because their plans
will be much worse than what the president put forth. I mean, that is the
reason why they haven`t done, they haven`t -- you know, it`s been three,
four years now people have been talking about repeal and replace and we
still haven`t seen anything, because their plans are actually much worse
for the American people.

MATTHEWS: You know as well as I do, Neera, there`s a difference
between the Republican and the Democratic Party. And I`m not saying one is
bad and one`s good. But I will say this quite simply, one party had a
health care plan and the other party doesn`t. And that`s going to be true
for a long time.

Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank, and thank you, Neera Tanden.

Up next, the bully pulpit on what the president could be doing and
should be doing to his advantage. He`s starting to do it. Speak up, make
your case, win the argument.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: A reminder you can take MSNBC with you wherever you go with
our new MSNBC app. You can stream MSNBC live on your iPad or your iPhone,
watch HARDBALL and the rest of our lineup on demand and view additional
show content. It`s free and you can get it right now at the app store.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`s some resistance out there among young people.
We`ve seen it in the polls to enrolling the exchanges and getting involved
and taking responsibility for their health care. What`s your argument why
they should do that?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand why people
have been resistant to going on a Web site that hasn`t been working right.
And, fortunately, because of some very hard work, we`ve now got it to the
point where for the vast majority of people, it`s working well. And my
message to young people is, take a look for yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was President Obama a week ago today in my interview with him at
American University, taking advantage of a powerful tool every chief
executive has at his or her disposal, the power of the bully pulpit, it`s
called. It was turned of the century, the turned of the 20th century.

In her book "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft
and the Golden Age of Journalism," Doris Kearns Goodwin paints a picture
what politics was like more than a century ago. And unintended or not, it
also draws parallels to the politics of today when it comes to the
presidency and the press.

Doris Kearns Goodwin joins us right now.

Doris, just explain to those of us who haven`t heard it all their
life, like you and I have, the bully pulpit. What`s it mean? And it isn`t
about bullying kids in the schoolyard. It means something entirely
different and how`s -- by the way, while you`re talking, tell me if
President Obama is doing a good job of using it.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, AUTHOR, "THE BULLY PULPIT": OK, well, bully at
that time meant splendid or great. It didn`t mean bullying as we think of
it. And pulpit meant that Teddy Roosevelt understood and he`s the person
to define, that the presidency has a platform unparalleled to educate the
country and to change public sentiment to force change from the outside in.

He had a similar situation to President Obama. He had a Congress,
especially a Republican old guard, who are his party, who wouldn`t pass the
legislation he needed to deal with the problems of the Industrial Age. So
he had to mobilize the country to pressure them, once the bills got to the
floor, they passed, and it was good for the party that they did so.

And I think as far as the second question you asked goes, I think
right now, it`s absolutely essential for the president to use that bully
pulpit as fully a he can. The pieces of the health care act that are there
are very popular. The act itself is not. So, he`s got to explain it in
simple terms to people.

That`s what Teddy Roosevelt was so good at doing.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOODWIN: Square deal, speak softly and carry a big stick. He even
gave Maxwell House the slogan, "Good to the very last drop."

MATTHEWS: Is he really?

GOODWIN: He was brilliant at that.

MATTHEWS: And he was an old police commissioner in New York. He had
an amazing career.

Was it -- what makes every Republican, I mean, almost, I think every
Republican and almost every Democrat I can think of love Teddy Roosevelt as
a president. Was it the rough riders, San Juan Hill, the heroism of his
youth? What was it that made him so engaged? Why is he on Mt. Rushmore?
He`s up there.

GOODWIN: He is, indeed. I think it`s a combination of things. One
is, as you say, he had a cowboy mentality and a physical sense of being a
big, active guy. But at the same time, he came from the East, so he spread
East and West.

He was just so colorful. I mean, somebody who came over from Britain
said that there were two forces of nature in America, Niagara Falls and
Teddy Roosevelt. But also, I think he knew how to speak and communicate.
He said, at one point, that his Harvard buddies might think that he talked
in too folksy language and too homely language, but he could meet people
emotionally.

And he went out on trains more than any other president had. He`d be
gone for weeks on end at whistle stop tours, stopping at every village
station, waving to people. He loved that emotional connection to the
people.

So, people loved him at the time and they still look back at one of
the most interesting characters we`ve had in the presidency.

MATTHEWS: You know, he also spoke at a Holy Cross commencement
address. He gave one of those as well. I know you don`t know this, but I
have a picture of him on my wall, in my office back home -- a big picture
of Teddy Roosevelt giving a commencement address at Holy Cross at
Worcester, Mass.

Anyway, let me ask you about the young Taft --

GOODWIN: All right.

MATTHEWS: There`s one out there today where his great grandson came
out and said that he`s so trashing the Republican Party, basically says,
here he is, John G. Taft, the grandson of Robert Taft, out there, going
after this. He had some choice words to say about the GOP in an October
op-ed.

He says -- he says, "Five generations of Taft have served the country
as stalwart Republicans." Quote, "This recent display of bomb-throwing
obstructionism by Republicans in Congress evokes another painful,
historically embarrassing chapter in the Republican Party, that of Senator
Joseph McCarthy."

So, I`m not the only one accused him when he went after Hagel, saying
he took all that money from North Korea, the communists up there. What do
you make of the Taft name? Not just -- why does the Taft name mean so much
in the Republican Party?

GOODWIN: Well, you know what`s so interesting about that op-ed piece
is that Taft was obviously, by 1912, somewhat more conservative than
Roosevelt, and yet he still believed that government had a responsibility
to ease the problems in the Industrial Age. He still believed that you had
to break up the big trusts, that you needed food and drug legislation, that
you need to undo the railroad abuses.

So, the Republican Party at that time, under the leadership of both
Teddy and even Taft, was beyond where it is today, which is a really
interesting thing to contemplate. A hundred years ago, many of the
problems the same as today, the gap between the rich and the poor, huge
corporations eating up smaller ones, ordinary people having a difficult
time, unions just developing. And yet they had an answer. The collective
will of the people had to deal with these problems.

And they have to educate the country that was feeling like laissez-
faire was a religious conviction. So, it was an even harder task then.
Although now, the distrust of government may have returned some of that
back again.

MATTHEWS: One answered question, did they mind -- people back then
mind that William Howard Taft was fat?

GOODWIN: Well, not like today, perhaps, because then -- I mean, there
were jokes about it. His campaign song was, "Get on a raft with Taft," but
there wasn`t that concern about obesity being a health problem. Indeed,
when kids were fat when they were young, it meant a sign of healthiness
rather than frailty.

So, I think that`s the one difference between today and then. But, of
course, I mean, there were cartoons endlessly, because he was 350 pounds at
his peak. That`s pretty fat.

MATTHEWS: That was a big bathtub he had back then.

Anyway, thank you. The name of the book, way at the top of the best
seller list, "The Bully Pulpit." Doris Kearns Goodwin is the best.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with again, what I`ve been hearing
out there on the 10-week book tour for "Tip and The Gipper: When Politics
Worked," my story of political coming of age.

I hear this from audience after audience, I hear it from applause, the
loud deep clap of approval when I say this one line about the condition of
our democracy in this country, this endless obstructionism, this constant
tilt towards shutdown, the war whooping for doing nothing, this inability
to act on your words, deliver what you promise.

Quote, "This country doesn`t need more Democrats, it doesn`t need more
Republicans, it needs more grown-ups." Everyone knows what that means,
including the main body of progressive who is come out to hear me.
Progressives know that they have the biggest stake in government,
delivering on their promise. When there`s a screw-up, it helps the other
side, the people who campaigned against public action. It always hurts
those who like me want to believe, believe that we as a society cannot just
promise a better country, but deliver on it.

I`ve said it before, because it`s true. We used to be able to get
things done. My book is all about how we did it, viewed by me, back then
from the inside.

As Jack Kennedy said at American University in the year he died, the
problems of man are man-made. They can be solved by man and man can be as
big as he wants. In the past, he has solved the seemingly unsolvable. And
I believe he can do again.

And so do I, and so do you.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right the now.

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

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