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updated 12/16/2013 10:33:24 AM ET 2013-12-16T15:33:24

HARDBALL
December 13, 2013
Guest: Willie Brown, Margaret Carlson, Elijah Cummings

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Purge on the right.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" tonight with the crazy way this week is ending.
You`ve heard the news from North Korea, how the young head of that country
just executed his guardian uncle, Well, back here in America, the right
wing is acting if not as brutally, certainly as crazily.

It`s hard to tell who`s calling the shots in this crowd. Radio man
Mark Levin denounced today Speaker John Boehner as utterly feckless -- that
means weak -- for backing that little budget deal and trying to avoid
another government shutdown.

Glenn Beck condemns the Republican speaker as not just a liberal, but
get this, he`s calling him a progressive. Oh, my God. Acting like a king
of the crazies, Beck then says Ted Cruz is being a good right-wing boy in
opposing the budget deal in the Senate -- and I can`t believe the way he
says this -- because, quote, "he did what we told him to" -- "We," Glenn
Beck and company.

So now the cat`s out of the bag. The people calling the shots are the
loudest, angriest, nastiest voices in the right-wing media. The people
marching to their tune, always marching away from any deal with the
president, are the Cruzes, the Rand Pauls, and of course, the Mike Lees.

But not only them, also the Mitch McConnells, the John Cornyns, the
Lindsey Grahams, all scared to death at this moment that the Mark Levins
and the Glenn Becks of the right-wing media circus will finger them for
destruction the way Kim Jong Il -- or Kim Jong Un, rather, just fingered
his own unsuspecting guardian uncle over in Pyongyang.

Well, it`s not North Korea, but boy, is it getting tough over there on
the American right.

David Corn`s the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and
Jonathan Capehart is a columnist for "The Washington Post." Of course,
both are proud, I hope, MSNBC political analysts.

Anyway, Speaker John Boehner continues to face all-out revolt from the
Tea Party wing of his party. This is just a bit of the anger coming from
the conservative media titans like Mark Levin and Glenn Beck. As I
mentioned -- listen carefully -- what Beck says is the real reason they
love wacko-birds like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee is they`re taking orders from
them.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I find him to be utterly feckless.

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think John Boehner is one of the
prime examples of worthless, worthless Republicans. These guys are big
government progressives. They`re not liberals. They`re not RINOs.
They`re progressives.

We have to take a stand. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, they -- they -- they
did what we told them to do. Meanwhile, the John Boehners and the Mitch
McConnells of the world are trying to take Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and
destroy them. Mitch McConnell is the biggest two-faced liar I`ve ever
seen!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell, two-faced liar. I missed some of the best
stuff here. Two-faced liar, the other guys a big government -- look, what
is this about? Are there people in that radio world out there, driving in
their cars, that actually believe, as Glenn Beck just said, that Boehner is
a progressive, a big government progressive, and the other guy`s a -- ,
what, a liar, whatever the words they`re using, two-faced liar?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know
what Mark Levin and Glenn Beck believe because it`s too scary to try to
look into their souls. But the real question here is, while there`s a
fight between them and Heritage Action and Boehner and Cantor and
Republicans who want to be grown-ups in divided government, this is going
to be arbitrated not by either side, but by the Republican/conservative
base.

One reason why the party and the Tea Party, you know, have lurched to
the right is because that`s because where the votes have been for the
last...

MATTHEWS: OK, who`s got...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... let me just finish -- ever since Obama started this
gigantic backlash. So they`re still going to be fighting, whether it`s
Boehner or Rush Limbaugh, for the heart and soul of this extreme body that
has taken over...

MATTHEWS: What`s the backlash...

CORN: ... the Republican...

MATTHEWS: ... Obama backlash? What do you mean?

CORN: I mean once Obama got elected...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you do when you have a president you consider a
left-wing guy for all other (ph) ethnic perhaps (ph) reasons? Just to do
the ``left-wing`` part -- they think he`s a left-winger. So then what do
you do? Do you fight with him continually and say, "No, no, no" until he`s
gone? Eight years...

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the guy`s gone, or do you say...

CAPEHART: Yes, to that.

MATTHEWS: ... Damn it, we have (INAUDIBLE) co-govern this country?
That`s what Boehner said the other day, I`m one third of this government,
I`m the House, I don`t have the Senate, I don`t have the presidency.
Unless we beat these guys, we can`t pretend we are...

CAPEHART: In fact...

MATTHEWS: ... whereas Glenn Beck pretends and Mark Levin and the rest
of them that they are actually ruling the Western world.

CAPEHART: Well, look, these are folks who are catering to what David
talked about, the base of the Republican Party, the lifeblood energy of the
Republican Party, the part of the Republican Party that defeated long-time
Utah senator Bob Bennett, which I think was the shot across the bow that
sent a chill through every sitting...

MATTHEWS: Knocked off Dick Lugar, too.

CAPEHART: Dick Lugar. Mike Castle would have been the senator from
Delaware if Christine O`Donnell hadn`t been the far-right Tea Party, you
know, favorite...

MATTHEWS: Witch.

CAPEHART: Yes. Yes. No, she`s not a witch.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: She`s just like you!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. She was not a witch.

CAPEHART: So you know, what John -- what Speaker Boehner said the
other day, where -- you know, Are you kidding me? You know, These folks
who try to use our members. Where was that three years ago?

CORN: Yes, he`s very new to this -- Wait a second, I`m going to be an
adult...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: David Corn, I`m going to police you right now.

CORN: Oh, go ahead.

MATTHEWS: You can`t trash a guy for six years or five years for being
crazy, joining the crazies...

CORN: But wait...

MATTHEWS: ... and when he finally stands up, stops being Don
Knotts...

CORN: He just...

MATTHEWS: ... you don`t -- you don`t go after him!

CORN: But he just cost us $28 billion on the shutdown, and now he
says, Oh, my God, I can`t believe we ever did anything like that.

MATTHEWS: People can grow. People can grow.

CORN: Yes. Yes. He can grow.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: We`ll give him a few points, but...

MATTHEWS: You were relentless!

CORN: ... it`s been long in coming. Hey, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: ... Speaker Boehner had already grown, he was just hiding
it from people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s showing his stuff now. He`s the Incredible Hulk this
week.

(CROSSTALK)

Anyway, the redhots -- the redhots in the Senate have come out in
force against the budget deal, which overwhelmingly passed the House last
night. In fact, NBC`s Kasie Hunt is reporting that not a single Republican
in the entire United States Senate, the world`s greatest deliberative body,
has said they would unequivocally vote yes on this little, bitty deal, not
one of them.

The opposition is being led, as you might expect -- the Tea Party wing
are doing it, trying to match up with guys like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin.
You want proof? Just look at this wild and crazy set of reasons for
opposing this little small potatoes deal.

They oppose it because it funds the Affordable Care Act. Ted Cruz put
out that statement yesterday. Of course it does! It`s law. Anyway, the
new budget deal moves in the wrong direction. He said, "It spends more,
taxes more, and allows continued funding for `Obama care.` I cannot
support it." OK, that`s predictable.

Cruz ally Mike Lee from Utah told Fox today the deal was literally
putting lives in danger. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The greatest threat to our national security
is our debt and our deficit. It`s why -- I can`t vote for a bill that I
fundamentally disagree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Danger to our national security. In fact, the Ryan/Murray
budget was built around reversing billions of dollars in cuts in the
military. The whole idea of this deal was to protect the military.

Anyway, then there`s this bit of tortured logic from Senator Marco
Rubio, who says he`s opposing the deal in part because it would shut down
the government ultimately. He said that`s right -- he actually said that,
and you heard it right.

Here`s Senator Rubio on FOX today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don`t want a government shutdown,
and that`s why I oppose this deal, because I think this budget actually
contributes to the day that we`re going to have a real shutdown of
government, not because the Congress can`t pass a law, but because we have
a debt crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Rubio doesn`t stop there. He offered this
bit of logic about being American -- well, we all are, aren`t we? -- during
an interview with NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Why, as a conservative, do you
believe this isn`t a deal you can back.

RUBIO: It`s not as a conservative, I think it`s as an American. We
are plagued by a government that continues to spend a lot more money than
it`s taking in. This has been going on for a number of years. That`s how
you have a $17 trillion bipartisan debt. We need to start dealing with
this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Does he have his own camera over there he was working?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Instead of talk to Kelly, he was talking to somebody else
over there.

CORN: He was filming a TV ad, no doubt, for 2016.

MATTHEWS: Was he filming there? I don`t know what he was doing.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: You know -- you know, the debt actually is at a better position
than it was when Obama came into office. Revenues are up...

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: ... and they`re closing it. So all this argument...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: These are constant facts of our lives. We have a debt.

CORN: We have a debt...

MATTHEWS: We have a health care bill. And everybody just wants to
vote no. I want to get to the politics of this.

CORN: Of course.

MATTHEWS: The politics is about this. You can`t lose in the
Republican Party by opposing the president.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: It is the safest rabbit hole there is, Jonathan, right?

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: So just say no.

CAPEHART: Right. Oppose the president, yammer on "Obama care," even
though, as you said, it`s the law. I mean, these are all talking points we
have heard for the last -- for the last two years. And we`re not talking
about a grand bargain here. We`re talking about a deal that doesn`t do any
of the...

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the leadership in the House, led by John Boehner,
has declared open war on the Tea Party. They`re fighting back, these guys.
I said Don Knotts ain`t no more.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But it`s the exact opposite story in the Senate, where the
threat of the Tea Party primary is the tail wagging the dog.

Look at this. Tea Party darling Sarah Palin had this warning for any
Republican who dares to support the budget deal. "2014 is just around the
corner. If any member of Congress thinks raising taxes and increasing
wasteful spending is a winning strategy to run on, then by all means, they
should vote for the Ryan budget. We`ll be watching." Very forbidding
there.

And Matt Hoskins, the executive director...

CORN: Who`s the "we"?

MATTHEWS: ... of the Senate Conservatives Fund, took it a step
further, saying, quote, "The solution here is for conservatives to work
together to replace these Republicans in the primary elections with true
conservatives. If conservatives rise up, they can regain control of the
party. If they stay home, the establishment will remain in power and
continue to help the Democrats enact their liberal agenda."

Well, their threats appear to be working. Not a single Senate
Republican facing a primary battle next year in 2014 is supporting the
deal. Not yet, anyway. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, the best known
senator there is on the Republican side, John Cornyn, the number two guy
from Texas, with tons of money, are voting no, as is Lindsey Graham,
another incredibly well known guy, Pat Roberts, others like Lamar
Alexander. Thad Cochran and Mike Enzi have actually panned the deal, but
officially remain undecided.

David, this is what`s stunning We know politics has a lot to do with
television these days, and radio, and of course, still the newspapers and
getting your name out there. People`s names -- everybody knows Mitch
McConnell who follows American politics. Everybody knows probably Lindsey
Graham.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: These guys have spent 20 years building up their
reputation...

CORN: But you know...

MATTHEWS: No -- they`re afraid of losing to people that nobody`s ever
heard of.

CORN: Well, Mitch McConnell, in particular -- he has won several
elections in Kentucky but at really low margins for what you`d expect for a
national political leader.

MATTHEWS: Why is he afraid of Matt Bevin?

CORN: Well, because...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: ... because already, his disapproval rating...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... Mitch McConnell`s is (INAUDIBLE) But look what he gets to
do now over the past few months. When he wants to, he can say, I`m a deal
maker, I got the deal that ended the government shutdown. When he wants to
say, I`m against, you know, the budget bill, he can say that now. So
here`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: My question is, why is a guy who`s a well-known politician
by definition today in trouble? On the right, they don`t like anybody they
recognize. They like these unknown guys, like little Mike Lee comes in
from nowhere.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... vote for him. Are they going to vote for this guy
Stockman, who`s certifiable? (INAUDIBLE) he`s a birther and a nutcase! If
they vote for him, they want a birther and a nutcase.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: They know what they`re getting.

CAPEHART: Yes, they know what they`re getting. But remember, they
want people who are conservative and...

MATTHEWS: Meaning they`ve never heard of them.

CAPEHART: They`ve never heard of them. But Mitch McConnell is not
conservative enough. Speaker Boehner is not conservative enough.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: Bob Bennett was not conservative enough.

CORN: They want people who will blow things up. It`s not just
conservatives, it`s not just ideology. They want people who will disrupt.
Why? It goes back to Obama.

MATTHEWS: Exactly.

CORN: They want to blow up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... who`s never been in the room with the guy because they
consider that contaminating. To be in the room, to be near him...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... have a cup of coffee with him, is trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We got to go. This is the nature of -- this is all next
spring, guys, we`re going to be talking about this.

Thank you, David Corn and Jonathan Capehart.

Coming up: "The Return of the Welfare Queen. Conservatives are back
to using that old favorite. But guess what? It helps nobody in the end.

Plus, signs that President Obama may be going populist, pushing hard
on things like higher minimum wage and other steps to close the income gap
in this country. And progressives like what they`re hearing.

Also, spy game. When Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran almost seven
years ago, the U.S. government said he was a private businessman. We now
know he was part of a rogue CIA operation that cost three agency officials
their jobs.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the pride of finishing my 15-city
book trip across the country.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Amid the 2016 talk about Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Chris
Christie, here`s a name from the past that doesn`t want to be forgotten,
Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor told "The New York Times" he`s
open to another run for president next time around. And his evangelical
background will no doubt play well in states with high populations of
Christian conservatives, just as it did in 2008, when he won the Iowa
caucuses.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, Republicans are out there
reviving an old favorite these days, the welfare queen. Whether the issue
is extending unemployment benefits, increasing the minimum wage, expanding
Medicaid or funding food stamps, setting up makers-versus-takers conflict
appears to be a political strategy the GOP`s banking on.

Here`s Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, an old birther, sharing what
he says is his constituents` frustration with food stamp recipients.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: They talk about standing in line --
I`ve heard this story so many times -- standing in line at a grocery store
behind people with a food stamp card, and they look in their basket -- as
one individual said, I love crab legs, you know, the big king crab legs. I
love those. But we haven`t been able to have them at our house in who
knows when.

But I`m standing behind a guy who has those in his basket, and I`m
looking longingly, like, When can I ever make enough again where our family
can have something like that, and then sees the food stamp card pulled out
and provided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sounds a lot like the Tea Party Republican we told you
about yesterday, who`s challenging Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina
next year. Here`s a quick reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE BRIGHT (R-SC), SENATE CANDIDATE: You think about -- we`ve all
seen the folks in line that are using, I guess they call them 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 do they turn around and say thank you? Never!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, in Iowa, you`ve got Republican state senator Joni
Ernst (ph), who`s running for Senate, writing in her "Notes from the
capital" update that new Medicaid recipients have no personal
responsibility for their health.

And Republican Louisiana congressman Bill Cassidy, who`s also running
for the Senate, he describes a hypothetical single woman -- he gives her
the name Sharon -- who`s, quote, "not on Medicaid and might have a no good
neighbor gaming the system." Cassidy writes, quote, "Sharon suspects that
here neighbor could earn more money, but he would rather work fewer hours
or work for cash or perhaps live out of wedlock so that he and his
girlfriend both qualify for the taxpayer-provided free insurance."

Well, "The Return of the Welfare Queen" is Beth Reinhard`s cover story
in the latest issue of "National Journal," and the cover image hits all the
hot spots, the fancy sports car with the fins -- boy, this is back to the
`60s -- babies galore in the car, a tin of caviar and aforementioned king
crab legs flying out of a Whole Foods grocery bag, paperwork for welfare,
food stamps, Medicaid and Healthcare.gov blowing in the wind there, and
last but not least, an Obama/Biden bumper sticker.

Willie brown was mayor of San Francisco and Margaret Carlson writes
for Bloomberg.

Mayor, I don`t know if you laugh at the ridiculousness of it or the
stereotypical. I would love to see you in court as a prosecutor asking
this character, Lee Bright is his strangely named nickname -- name -- he`s
called Mr. Bright by his friends.

Here he`s saying that he has obviously not observed somebody with the
fingernails he thinks are really delightful or with the expensive bag,
which may well be a knockoff for all he knows, and of course, driving
around in a very zippy car.

I don`t think he`s ever watched anybody in a line at a Safeway or a
Piggly Wiggly or any place he goes shopping. I think it`s all stereotyping
and it`s all the game -- it`s called the dog whistle we know he`s blowing.
Your thoughts.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: There`s no question about
it. It`s all made up. And let me tell you, Chris, it`s going to aid
Democrats like you would not believe.

Between now and 2014, if the Republicans stick to the stupidity of all
those misrepresentations and all of those fakes and they`re forced to put
their hand and show their hand, it`s going to be embarrassing.

MATTHEWS: And you know, Margaret, when we talk about unemployment
compensation, one thing we must remind everybody listening is unemployment
compensation goes to people who have worked.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: And who want to work.

MATTHEWS: It doesn`t go -- yes, it doesn`t -- yes, who are constantly
applying for jobs. It doesn`t go to people who don`t want to work, it goes
to people who have worked, a proven work record, or you don`t get a buck.

CARLSON: Yes. It`s made to sound like welfare, like a handout, and
it`s a bunch of deadbeats who never want to work again, when we know that
you announce a job -- I saw one of these lines. When a job was announced,
you have people around the block...

MATTHEWS: In every big city.

CARLSON: ... to get the job.

MATTHEWS: And they stand there all day.

CARLSON: And they -- and they do because people actually want work.
Most people, 99 percent, want work at the center of their lives. And this
whole -- the king crab legs, Chris -- remember when -- back in Tip
O`Neill`s day, king crab legs are the new Cadillac! Remember the...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. I would have thought, no, it was the young -
- as Reagan would put it so delightfully, the young buck waiting if line
with the food stamps buying the gin.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think -- wasn`t it that, Mayor? I think he had some
image along those lines that he favored.

Was it T-bone or was it gin? I don`t know what the hell it was.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Something along those lines. By the way, I don`t think you
can buy booze with food stamps anyway. I never heard you could anyway.

CARLSON: No, you cannot.

BROWN: No, you cannot. You cannot buy -- and, by the way, most of
the people who have food stamps actually already have a job. They are the
working poor, and we assist them. To keep them working, we give them a
little bit of a handout called food stamps. Otherwise, they would be in
real trouble and they`d cost us even more.

The right-wing nuts don`t seem to know that or don`t want to admit it.
Bill Clinton took them apart when he said, we are abolishing welfare as we
know it. At that moment, it became no longer an issue.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

I was thinking, Margaret, that part of this, some people around here
think that it`s because they`re concerned not that health care, Affordable
Care Act, the president`s plan, will fail. They`d love that. What they`re
afraid of is, it will be loved.

CARLSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s what they`re -- and, therefore...

CARLSON: It could work.

MATTHEWS: ... they have to begin the drum roll now that all
government programs are bad and they`re all handouts.

CARLSON: But, also, even this one now, we`re back to the Kenyan
socialist redistributing income because some people are going to pay more
for their insurance because there`s more in there. It`s a better policy.
So you...

MATTHEWS: As opposed to paying nothing right now? That`s the weird
thing.

If you go to an E.R., the whole -- every dollar of your medical cost
is dumped on to somebody with an insurance policy.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Republicans are -- are in the position of defending the
people who don`t want to have insurance, the deadbeat kids who don`t want
to have the insurance.

You wouldn`t think -- I mean, they`re the people that are asking for
welfare, which is the welfare of the emergency room.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said.

Mayor, isn`t that interesting? It`s like -- it`s like they have
changed sides in the argument, like in a moot court. Oh, I will take the
other side now. I will come out against self-reliance. I will do that
one.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Yes.

BROWN: And, you know, the one -- one of the few red states that seems
to have embraced the idea of doing something about the health care needs
through the Affordable Care Act, Kentucky, it is the leading red state.
And in spite of that, McConnell is still on the wrong side of this issue.

MATTHEWS: Well, good for them.

And, by the way, I think the welfare queen, as Reagan described her,
never existed.

Anyway, thank you, Willie Brown. It always -- have -- have a nice
weekend, sir.

And, Margaret Carlson, my friend, thank you for coming on.

Up next: Steve Colbert may have hit on why some Republicans are
against the budget deal.

And 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": Well, in defending
the budget deal, Congressman Paul Ryan quoted the Rolling Stones. He said,
you can`t always get what you want. That`s for the budget deal.

When it comes to Congress, here`s a better Stones quote. We can`t get
no satisfaction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, time for the "Sideshow."

That was, of course, Jay Leno last night on Paul Ryan`s budget deal,
which passed the House last night.

As you might have expected, though, Steve Colbert is against the deal.
Here`s his explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Americans sent
Republicans to Washington to accomplish one thing: zero things.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: But with this bipartisan budget, we will have no chance of
another government shutdown for two whole years.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: You fools! You can`t leave our national parks open that
long.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: It will give the wolves time to unionize.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a group supporting the Affordable Care Act has come
out with a new ad to encourage young people to sign up for health care.
It`s a rap parody of Snoop Dogg`s 2004 single "Drop It Like It`s Hot."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Let me be clear. When I`m in the Oval
Office, call me President Barack, President Barack, President Barack.

If my critics get an attitude, I tell them to stop, I tell them to
stop, I tell them to stop. If you need that new health care, sign up
because it`s hot, sign up because it`s hot, sign up because it`s hot.

I`m commander in chief and I`m two terms strong. Plus, I have got
this health care which has got it going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the video is already under fire from the right, most
notably from Karl Rove, who says it crosses the line.

Well, clearly, it`s not the music that Rove objects to, though. He
liked it when people were rapping about him at the 2007 Radio and TV
Correspondents Dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he will rap it when you give him doing rapping
dance. That`s true. He`s a dancing resident. He`s a sidekick to the
president. And tell me what is your name?

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: M.C.
Rove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man will never stop. Look at him jumping up
and down ready to hop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What I`m tempted to say, I better not.

Finally, Christmas is less than two weeks away. And if you`re not yet
in the spirit, maybe this will help. It`s the latest musical mash-up to go
viral from Baracksdubs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dashing through the
snow in a one horse open sleigh. Over the fields we go, laughing all the
way.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Bells on bobtail ring making spirits bright. What fun it is
to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to
ride in a one horse open sleigh. Hey!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I like that laugh in there.

Up next, President Obama`s left-hand, well, let`s say populist turn.
Can he get his presidency back on track by becoming more progressive?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
breaking news out of Colorado.

A gunman is dead after he opened fire at Arapahoe High School in
Centennial. Authorities say the suspect, who was a student at that school,
was targeting a specific teacher. That teacher fled after the suspect
fired at him and missed. One student was critically wounded after
confronting the gunman. A second student was also injured at the scene.
Authorities believe the gunman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His
identity has not been made public -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Tonight, let`s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth,
no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty and raise the
federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We should be able to get that done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you saw Biden`s clapping and you saw the speaker not
doing nothing.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama earlier this year
in his State of the Union address calling for an increase in the minimum
wage.

Now he`s declaring his own fight to address a growing inequality gap
as a major priority for the next three years as president. The president`s
pushing progressive economic reforms that center around income inequality
and expanded opportunity.

Politico, the newspaper here in town, wrote today that -- quote --
"The president wants to sound like a different kind of Democrat. He`s
connecting to progressive populism with an aggressive, spending-oriented,
activist government approach to the economy, personified by Elizabeth
Warren and Bill de Blasio."

Of course, the president made those remarks before the big noise about
de Blasio up in New York. His populist message comes at a time when the
gap between the rich and poor is expanding, faith in the American dream is
eroding. A new Bloomberg poll shows that 64 percent agree that the
government should spend more -- or pay more attention to income inequality,
while just 27 percent prefer a focus on the needs of the market.

Progressives are cheering on the president`s economic populism.

And Congressman Elijah Cummings is a Democrat from Maryland, and Ron
Reagan an MSNBC political analyst.

Congressman, I`m looking at this and I`m thinking, the president is
going further in terms of offering now a more philosophical difference
between he and the right wing of this country. And I`m looking for, I
guess the old phrase was in the Mondale campaign, where`s the beef? What
exactly he is going to try to get through Congress that`s going to
establish a better agenda for people who are not doing well in this
economy?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Well, first of all, I think he`s
going to definitely be pushing for this minimum wage, but he has got to
push for jobs.

If you don`t have a job, you don`t have to worry about minimum wage
because you don`t have any wages. And I think there is a good sign that
came yesterday. We finally got to some kind of reasonable compromise,
Chris.

And I think it showed -- and I keep thinking about that picture of
Boehner in his press conference when he basically is saying, Tea Party, we
tried it your way. It didn`t work. Ted Cruz, we tried it your way,
shutting down the government. It didn`t work. Now it`s going to be my way
and the president`s way.

And that hopefully is a reasonable way to begin to come together to
address some of these issues. And I think -- and I actually think the
American people has emboldened -- have emboldened not only Speaker Boehner,
but also the president, hopefully to come to some type of agreements where
we can move forward.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Ron on this, because the Republicans, as I
remember them on Capitol Hill, were not squeamish about spending money when
it came to highways and things like that. They liked that kind of
construction work. It meant work for the construction companies. It also
meant labor jobs. It meant a lot of skilled, semi-skilled work out there
on the roads, and it made everybody happy because the roads were wider and
faster and they were there and they hadn`t been there before.

The bridges were safer. The tunnels were wider. Something happened
to the Republican Party where you can`t negotiate creation of jobs anymore.
I mean, President Reagan was able to do it with Tip on the highway bill.
Something`s changed. I don`t know what it is about jobs and the
Republicans.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the Republicans don`t think that
government can do anything anymore. Anything the government does is, by
definition, bad, as far as the Republicans are concerned.

So it`s nice to hear the president talking about this again, but, as
you have observed before, the proof is in the pudding. What are you
actually going to do here? We go through these cycles, these -- with the
president where we`re in an election cycle and suddenly he`s talking very
populist, it`s jobs, it`s infrastructure and things like that.

MATTHEWS: I know.

REAGAN: But then the election`s over, and suddenly we drift back into
the talking about debt and deficit, as if that`s the big problem, which it
is not.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you.

And now let me go back to the congressman, who has voting power here.

Why is that the case? I`m with Ron on this. I love the rhetoric.
And, by the way, you can`t fight it. Look what it cost Mitt Romney when he
talked the other direction about the 1 percent and then fighting the 47
percent. I mean,, clearly, the country sees the guys on Wall Street.
Every time you pick up a newspaper, you read about Wall Street and these
salaries these guys get, these golden parachutes.

They`re knocked off, they don`t run the companies anymore, they don`t
have to do anything anymore. Talk about getting paid for nothing. They`re
getting paid for failure and they`re making exponentially more money than
the people working in middle management. Your thoughts?

CUMMINGS: I think the American people are speaking very loudly.

And basically what they`re saying is that we want to make sure that
this country is properly functioning. We want to make sure that people
have jobs. And I think that, actually, Chris, puts pressure on this
president and it puts pressure on our Congress.

Keep in mind, I mean, up until yesterday, we basically -- and the
president had a group of folk who were saying, my way or the highway.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CUMMINGS: And I`m telling you, I mean, you know, Chris, I`m a
progressive, but I -- and I`m very cautiously optimistic, but I do believe
that we -- and part of the president`s shift is he sees that the population
is shifting with him.

People are tired of working their butts off, if they have a job, and
making less and less. And that divide is -- something has got to give.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk turkey.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would Boehner ever buy a vote? Would he ever let your
party vote in the House of Representatives, where he has the majority and
he sets the agenda, on a minimum wage of $10.10? Would he ever let that
come to a vote, Boehner?

CUMMINGS: I think he will. I think he, eventually, he will.

But it`s got to -- it`s got to be -- first of all, the president has
got to beat the drum as far as the public is concerned. And then -- and
he`s got to -- he`s got to make the public say, look, we have got to do
better than this.

And keep in mind, Chris, when people are paid very low wages, we all
pay in the end. We got to pay -- we pay it through food stamps. We pay
medical costs, all kinds of things. We have got to support them. So the
fact is, is that he`s got to make the case that people should have some
type of living wage to do for their families and take care of them.

And so I believe that we can get there. And I believe that with the
forces coming from the progressives, and hopefully some of the more
centrist Republicans who are now saying, you know, maybe we can work
something out, I think we can move towards that.

And I`m not trying to be Mr. Optimist, but I`m telling you, we cannot
continue to go down the road we`re going.

MATTHEWS: Well, my interview last week at American University with --
the president was speaking. Here`s when he said about the government. It
cannot stand on the sidelines, he said. He did call for a collective
effort to reduce inequality in America and provide everyone with a fair
shot.

Here he is making the case for what he ought to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: How do we do those things that reduce inequality in our
society and broaden opportunity? And government can`t solve all of that.

And we live in an economy that is global and technological and is
changing faster than ever before in history. But government can`t stand on
the sidelines when we`re doing that.

And without some faith in our capacity for collective action, those
trends are going to get worse.

So, we`ve got to -- and the young people in particular -- have to
understand government is us. Government`s not somebody else. Government`s
us.

We have the capacity to change it. Voters have the capacity to change
it. Members of Congress do, as well as the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, here`s the question, Ron. What`s
the difference between what he says there and what he`s doing? Because I
hear the words there, and I still wait for a big jobs bill.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, exactly. There isn`t
a big jobs bill.

Now, you know, as the congressman will point out, it`s very difficult
to get anything through the House, for instance, with a Republican majority
in there like a big jobs bill. But you got to keep -- you got to keep
selling the idea, it seems to me, and this president doesn`t always do
that. He sort of, you know, moves forward and then takes a step back
again. As I said, once the elections are over.

This is, you know, we talk about him taking a populist turn or a turn
to the left, he`s really turning toward reality. Income inequality, need
for infrastructure spending.

MATTHEWS: I know.

REAGAN: Those aren`t -- those aren`t subjective kind of soft touchy
feely things. Go out, drive around in this country. Go out, look at how
many people are unemployed in this country. Those are -- that`s reality
that he`s describing. Not left or populist.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s what the congressman said from the
beginning. What good is a minimum wage increase do if you don`t have a
job?

Anyway, thank you. U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, thanks for
coming on tonight as always, sir.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, of course.

Up next, missing in Iran. Unpacking, figuring out this mystery of
this fellow. And American agent who disappeared -- well, five, six years
ago and the rogue CIA operation that cost three officials their job sent
him over there. Who`s behind all this?

It seems like "Homeland." It`s really tragic. We don`t know where
this guy is, dead or alive.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: One year after the deadly shooting rampage in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, support for gun safety measures
has dropped to its lowest point in a year. According to our own NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, just 52 percent say they want stricter
laws covering the sale of firearms, 38 percent say gun laws should remain
as they are, and 8 percent say they should be made less strict.

That 52 percent is down from a peak in February when 61 percent of us
wanted stricter gun laws. This comes after a year when gun safety
advocates outspent gun rights advocates on TV ad spending by 7-1.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

A retired FBI agent vanishes after being sent on a secret and
unauthorized CIA mission inside Iran. It might sound like the latest
episode of "Homeland", but what happened to Robert Levinson made public in
a bombshell "A.P. " report yesterday is anything but fiction.

According to the report, Levinson disappeared in March 2007 after
being sent to meet with an Iranian fugitive wanted for murder. On the
morning of March 9th, he checked out of his hotel, was never seen again.
When word got out Levinson had gone missing, the U.S. publicly described
him as a private citizen on private business.

But as "A.P." reports he was being paid in secret by a team of CIA
analysts who had zero authority to run spy operations. As they described
it, it was an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules. Well, the
ordeal prompted a shakeup inside the CIA. Officials aren`t sure if
Levinson is alive or dead.

Pete Williams is NBC`s justice correspondent, and Michael Isikoff is
NBC`s national investigative correspondent.

First, you, Pete. What do we know?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what the
"A.P." story says is accurate. A lot of people confirmed the essence of
it. We now know why he was there. We also now know what happened within
CIA.

MATTHEWS: What was he looking for?

WILLIAMS: He was going to try to find out information about whether
Iranian officials were skimming the profits from oil sales and to get some
information for the CIA on what would happen or some speculation or some
analysis on what would happen if sanctions were further tightened. But we
had known he just disappeared, we just didn`t know what he was up to.

And as you say, so, there are several strands to this. One is the
fact that the people who were managing him were not in the director of
operations, they were in the analysis. They weren`t cleared to do this.
But I think one of the most fascinating things out of this story, because
frankly, there are a lot of reporters including my colleague, Michael
Isikoff, who were aware and didn`t report because of concern about what
might happen to Bob, that he was there on detail for the CIA.

But what`s fascinating about this is that after he goes missing,
according to the family members and their lawyer, they contact the CIA and
say, hey, we need help finding Bob and the CIA`s response is, well, we
didn`t send him there.

And when members of Congress asked the CIA, they said the same thing.

Finally, the CIA gets its act together and apologizes to the family,
but it was -- you can imagine the incredible emotional turmoil this is
causing in the family that their husband, their father is missing and the
government that sent him there denies to them --

MATTHEWS: But is that standard operating procedure? First, that the
government always denies having a spy somewhere?

WILLIAMS: No, he`s a contract employee. He`s not a CIA undercover
operative.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: By
the way, one thing to add here is, and the CIA didn`t play $2.5 million.
The family was threatened to sue over this because of the --

MATTHEWS: That`s an admission of responsibility.

ISIKOFF: Yes, and to settle the whole matter out of court.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Was he breaking the law over there?

ISIKOFF: No, no, first of all --

MATTHEWS: No, but was he a spy first up?

WILLIAMS: No, I don`t think so. I mean, I guess it depends on how
you define spy. But he`s there as a contract employee to gather
information. The wrong people, though, sent him there and they shouldn`t -
- they clearly --

MATTHEWS: Well, who cut the check to travel over there? Who paid for
his expenses?

ISIKOFF: This was done by the an analytical division of the CIA --

MATTHEWS: Where did they get the money for it? How did they get to
approve this travel budget?

ISIKOFF: That`s a good question.

MATTHEWS: That was my first question.

ISIKOFF: They do. I mean, analysts can fly like anybody in the
government can for authorized purchases. This was not an authorize
purpose. That was the problem.

And also, high up agency officials didn`t know about this and when
they were first asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee, they denied it.
So there were real, serious issues here. This was a real scandal within
the CIA. Three people got fired, seven got disciplined.

And the -- what I and some and other reporters, a lot of other
reporters wrestled with here, we knew about this --

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at the fine tuning here of Jay Carney.

ISIKOFF: The question is, if you air it, are you threatening his
life?

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s Jay Carney at the White House. That`s Jay
Carney here pushing back on "The A.P.`s" report, "The Associated Press"
report. Today, Jay Carney blasted the news agency for publishing the story
even though "The A.P." says they held off publishing it for three years at
the government`s request.

Here`s Jay Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Bob Levinson was not a U.S.
government employee when he went missing in Iran. I`m not going to fact
check every allegation me in the story you referenced. A story that we
believe was highly irresponsible to publish in which we strongly urged the
outlet not to publish out of concerns for Mr. Levinson`s safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Very carefully worded. Jay`s reading it for a reason. He
doesn`t want to get a single word wrong. But he said there he was not
employed when he went missing. So --

WILLIAMS: He was never a government employee, as soon as he retired
from the FBI and the DEA. He was there as a contract employee. So it`s
technically correct.

MATTHEWS: So, if somebody came here from another country as a
contract employee of the Mossad, or country of employee of what`s left of
the KGB, we`d consider them what?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know that`s not the -- that`s not the test, I
think.

MATTHEWS: Well, I would say we call him a spy.

WILLIAMS: Well, except, you know, what I don`t know is the extent to
which Jay Carney is still trying to walk a line here from the federal
government about what they`re going to publicly say he was doing. But yes,
"The A.P." knew about this and held off, but "The New York Times" had this
story shortly after he disappeared and held off.

MATTHEWS: OK. How many Iranian spies are in this country right now,
do you think?

ISIKOFF: I don`t know the answer to your question. Of course, there
are Iranian spies.

MATTHEWS: We`ve got spies everywhere.

ISIKOFF: We arrest Iranians all the time, yes.

MATTHEWS: Is there any chance this will upset the deal we`re trying
tog to cut to avoid having the --

(CROSSTALK)

ISIKOFF: That was the argument that was being used by the
administration when they were trying to plead with the A.P. not to run the
history? Delicate negotiations going on. They were trying, and that
publishing the story could upset those negotiations.

MATTHEWS: What`s the general NBC rule? You say, when the government
asks you to do something, your conscience, somebody at the highest level of
our network, has a conscience, you`ve got to protect lives of Americans,
how do these decisions get made? What not to print?

WILLIAMS: Case by case. When I was in the government, I used to ask
people to withhold information, too. And the news organization have the
make the decision.

MATTHEWS: Why would they wait three years and do the story? Why did
"The Associated Press" change their mind on keeping --

WILLIAMS: I can only tell you what "The A.P." says. What they say in
their statement is while they couldn`t be sure on what effect this would
have on the ability to get Levinson, the assumption was that he was no
longer living, that was their assumption, and that it was important to
report the CIA`s misdeeds.

ISIKOFF: I talk to Senator Nelson --

MATTHEWS: And this is considered a misdeed?

WILLIAMS: Well, the ways the CIA handled it in everyone`s view is a
misdeed that the way it was handled within the CIA, the wrong people
supervising him, not adequately clearing it through the people who should
have controlled people who go overseas.

ISIKOFF: I talked to Senator Nelson today who told me he called the
head of "A.P." yesterday and pleaded with them not to run the history. He
said the answer he got was, well, we`ve been told he`s dead. What Senator
Nelson said is that`s speculation on your part. You don`t know.

And the bottom line is we don`t know. The U.S. government doesn`t
know Levinson`s current status is. They have no current leads on where he
is. They`ve been running ads in Persian language newspapers looking for
information about him and they haven`t gotten in.

So, it`s a big question mark.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, it`s tough --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you something, United States needs to know what`s
going on in the world, especially in places like Iran. We need to know.

WILLIAMS: Sure. I will just say this very briefly, while there are
real questions about the decision to run this story, the family members
actually said they didn`t have any objection to it. They are hoping I
think that maybe this will stir things up and maybe in the end will help.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it might. We`re all talking about it.

WILLIAMS: Right.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) that works.

Thank you, Pete Williams.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Isikoff. Good weekend for all of you.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me end the show and start your weekend with this:

Tomorrow, I`ll be like a lot of you out there in the stores. I`ll be
at the Barnes and Noble in this case, in Bethesda, Maryland, at noon,
signing as many books as I can. If you`re out there, by a bookstore, I
hope you use the Christmas rush to get copies of the book yourselves.

I`ve spent a half dozen years living this story, and two years writing
it. It`s the story of when politics really worked in this country. When I
worked for a tough liberal speaker in his battle with a tough, conservative
president and we managed to get some things done for the country. "Tip and
The Gipper: When Politics Worked," I`m deeply proud of getting this story
into print and for getting the truth out there, that our leaders can do
what they promised to do. Get their promises transformed into action.

I`m just as proud that so many of you have come to meet me and hear
me. People from Boston to Seattle, and so many cities in between.
Philadelphia Baltimore, here in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami,
Louisville, Columbus, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and, of course,
you followed by trail here on HARDBALL as I`ve done this show for wherever
the book tour has taken me. I like you to go on the final trip with me and
get a copy yourself or share copies with your loved ones.

The fine fact is that this book actually looks good under the tree.
Can you see it? This really looks good. It`s got the right coloring and
feel and everything. Hope you can make it happen.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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

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