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updated 2/10/2014 11:55:56 AM ET 2014-02-10T16:55:56

HARDBALL
February 7, 2014>

Guest: Brian Murphy

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Motive.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this Friday evening report from "The
Bergen Record." Quote, "Governor Christie`s administration orchestrated an
extensive campaign over two years that involved gifts to Fort Lee,
including a Port Authority-funded shuttle buses, snowplowing, porthole
(sic) repair and emergency radios, to convince the borough`s mayor to offer
his endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign, Mayor Mark
Sokolich said in his most extensive comments to date on the George
Washington Bridge scandal. When Sokolich did not offer his endorsement to
the governor, he says he was punished by paralyzing traffic jams at the
bridge that were ordered by Christie`s appointees at the Port Authority
during five days last September."

Also, late this Friday evening, Politico released the following story.
He`s done it again. The governor of New Jersey has denied being the
governor of New Jersey. The trend of this conduct continues, even as I
speak it. Remember that memo that the governor`s office released last week
mocking and deriding the high school behavior of Christie`s top accuser,
David Wildstein? Remember that stuff about him suing the high school kid
over something to do with his high school, how he was accused by his
teacher of being deceptive? Remember all that? Remember how it was all
proven to be a total distortion of fact?

Well, guess what? According to Politico, after a week of letting that
cheap attack on his number one accuser sit out there, people around
Christie tonight -- God knows who they are because they refuse to give
their names -- say that Christie didn`t sign off on that cheap little memo.

Well, why didn`t Christie say this all week? Why did he let it sit
out there during that radio interview he did? Why does everything coming
from Christie`s office, like closing down the bridge lanes and allegedly
threatening the mayor of Hoboken and all the rest, get so neatly denied
some time later by the governor? How come we only know it didn`t come with
the governor`s approval when it begins to stink bad enough?

This isn`t stopping, this continued effort to get stuff done because
the governor wants it done only to be told it wasn`t him, it was somebody
else. It was his deputy communications director, it was Bridget or it was
David or it was Bill or it was Christina.

When it is going to be that it happened because of the one calling the
shots over all these people? When are people going to stop taking the fall
for a governor`s office that only seems to operate under the rule that the
governor had nothing to do with anything?

Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor, and Jonathan Capehart is the
opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

I want to go over these two big bombshells tonight. The first one, of
course, is for once, finally, now the mayor, Sokolich of Fort Lee, the man
who you can say is the victim of this whole thing, has come out and said
this long wooing campaign, when all these little goodies, this cornucopia
of goodies came from Trenton, and then when they didn`t buy him,
apparently, according to him, if they didn`t get him bought...

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:

MATTHEWS: ... then they went nuts.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: And they shut down his bridge.

ROBINSON: The suggestion was that it was punishment for not giving an
endorsement, right? But we didn`t know about the wooing of Mayor Sokolich.
And so it does establish -- it certainly gives weight...

MATTHEWS: And guess what else it does?

ROBINSON: ... to this whole theory.

MATTHEWS: It kills the alibi of the governor, He wasn`t on my radar.

ROBINSON: Right, He wasn`t on my radar. Who wanted an endorsement
from him anyway? You know, they`re -- I mean...

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, this point, because we -- everybody wants the
story to be understandable. And one of the jobs I have here is to keep
them understandable, if they are. This one has come down to, from the
beginning, the seed here of this hurricane story, is that this guy punished
a mayor through his office, whether he did it by instrument or by general
habitual teaching of his staff how to behave, got it done because the guy
wouldn`t play ball with him and set him up for a national victory, which is
what Christie was after here.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST" MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And
publicly saying he had no idea, had nothing to do with it, didn`t know
anything, doesn`t know anybody, nothing. And yet it seems like every week,
there`s another story that shows that of course he knew. Last week...

MATTHEWS: Who was approving the special radios and all that stuff for
his operation, if it wasn`t the governor?

CAPEHART: Right. But Chris, last week, the story was from "The New
York Times" that Chris Christie had a binder full of mayors.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: They would hand him this binder with the mayors, the
projects in their towns...

MATTHEWS: It sounds like...

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: ... all the information he would ever need to know about...

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is in that radio interview. He had an hour
to talk about this second part of the big...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Explain it me why he would let the word go forward that he
was trashing his high school classmate, accuse him of being a D-bag, or
whatever (INAUDIBLE) Oh, he`s the kind of guy that sues over school
matters. He`s the kind of guy that lies to his teacher. And then a week
later now, he says, Oh, according to people familiar, he didn`t do that.
And he won`t even step forward and say he didn`t do it.

CAPEHART: Well, that`s the thing. He`s not saying he didn`t put it
out, it`s people familiar with the situation who say...

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t let them get away with that.

CAPEHART: ... he didn`t put this out.

MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t you insist on sourcing on this story...

CAPEHART: Well, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... if it`s the governor?

CAPEHART: And wasn`t he asked about it during that radio interview,
like, the first interview after all this? And that`s the time when you say
what was done in that memo was wrong. My staff has been punished. That`s
not the way we should do things. He was on much firmer ground Friday night
with the very terse statement that he said in reaction to Wildstein than
that two-page memo that came out the next day.

ROBINSON: This is just really weird, first of all, that these people
are unidentified who are saying this, right?

MATTHEWS: That he didn`t put the memo out.

ROBINSON: And how can you believe that he didn`t know -- that he
somehow disagreed with this statement or thought it went too far.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: He let it stand out there...

MATTHEWS: Why isn`t he...

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: ... letting it stand.

ROBINSON: And how can we believe, Chris, that any statement could
come out of the governor`s office about this issue...

MATTHEWS: I know.

ROBINSON: ... that wasn`t vetted...

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what it reminds me of...

ROBINSON: ... by Chris Christie, by his lawyers...

MATTHEWS: OK...

ROBINSON: ... by his wife, by -- I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It reminds me of the North Koreans in the Korean, war who
would send people out in the first ranks without any rifles. Just send
them out. Let them take the bullets. Anyway...

ROBINSON: No, but if it did come out without his knowing about it...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... he`s the worst administrator I`ve ever heard of!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does he read "The New York Times"? Does he pick up the
paper and know what people are putting out in his name? And all he has to
do is say, Who did that? Take that back. I had nothing to do with that --
takes a second.

Anyway, here`s the key quote from that Politico story tonight. Quote,
"Christie`s aides did not run the document, which took the extraordinary
step of highlighting incidents from Wildstein`s high school days, by the
governor before they sent out, according to two people familiar with the
matter. Instead, someone tucked the high school lines into a daily
briefing e-mail to the governor`s supporters and blasted it out earlier
than planned."

So why are we getting this little bouquet of denial a week after the
memo went out, is my question, this little bouquet coming out on a Friday
night. We just got it. It just moved.

CAPEHART: I mean, I think we`re all speechless to try to understand
what the hell is happening in Trenton.

MATTHEWS: How come the governor is not responsible for anything?

ROBINSON: I don`t understand how it could have gone out without his
approving it.

CAPEHART: Right.

ROBINSON: And I don`t understand why someone is denying it now
because it so lacks credibility and it so makes the governor seem out of
touch...

CAPEHART: Right. It actually...

ROBINSON: ... with what`s going on in his office.

CAPEHART: It actually damages the governor even more. It makes him
look -- like, out of control, actually, not him, but his administration.
The wheels are coming off the Christie administration.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s what I think`s going to be the story over the
weekend, in your paper, as well, "The Post." I think "The Times" and
everybody else in New Jersey is going to cover a story tomorrow about the
admission by the mayor of Fort Lee, the guy who`s the brunt of this attack,
or the closing down of the bridge traffic, where he for the first time
explains this attempt to woo him, this seduction campaign, which led to
this climatic moment, when they realized in Trenton, after all the
blandishments, after all the stuff we`ve sent this character, he`s still
not playing ball.

And then you go, Well, now it does make sense that they would do
something pretty horrendous to stick it at him.

ROBINSON: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... the traffic problems in Fort Lee. I mean, that follows
logically from what we now know about the courtship. And they were
disappointed suitors at that point.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And they were angry.

MATTHEWS: They probably figured they paid for -- they`d paid for
service.

ROBINSON: Yes, right. They thought they had the guy.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: They thought...

MATTHEWS: And my question -- and my question, how does the governor
now in his next interview on radio, maybe Monday again, deny he wasn`t
paying attention to the Fort Lee mayor with all this stuff they were
throwing up at him?

CAPEHART: It sort of flies in the face of everything we know, or I
should say everything we`ve been told...

ROBINSON: Right.

CAPEHART: ... by Christie`s image packagers of the way he is. He is
somebody who is take charge. He is somebody who is in control.

MATTHEWS: OK, your...

CAPEHART: He is somebody...

MATTHEWS: Jonathan...

CAPEHART: ... who knows everything that is going on. And now all of
a sudden...

MATTHEWS: Oh, there he is in his Ralph Lauren costume, whatever.
Here we go.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here we go. Here we go...

CAPEHART: ... doesn`t know what`s going on.

MATTHEWS: You`re the prosecutor in this case. You go, I want motive.
And now you`re saying, Well, they seemed to keep pushing him with stuff and
gifts and bouquets of stuff and everything they could send up there,
pothole fillers and all this little courtesies. And then he didn`t play
ball.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re putting their pieces together, aren`t they.

ROBINSON: Right. Yes. They`re putting pieces together. And you
know, it seems like a logical motive for what subsequently occurred. And
that`s a powerful narrative that makes sense that is going to have to be
countered.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Gene Robinson. What a day to spend (ph)
Friday on. This seems to be -- Friday seems to be the night that they put
out all this stuff and they`re trying to cover it up. Thank you, Gene
Robinson. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart.

Coming up, more on the man at the center of this scandal, David
Wildstein. He`s the guy Christie has been criticizing, or somebody in his
office has been doing that -- also him. But he`s also Christie`s worst
nightmare, and that`s why he`s going after this guy.

Also, it`s been done again. Rand Paul tries to smear Hillary Clinton
by going after Bill Clinton. He called him a predator again. Is this guy
just trying to curry favor with those on the right, or is what -- or does
he think this stuff will actually work in a primary situation? We`ll see.

And look, who sees no obvious reason why he shouldn`t run for
president? Joe Biden. Well, one obvious reason is Hillary Clinton. We`re
going to think about what he`s going for (ph). Is he ready to run against
Hillary Clinton? That`s my issue. I know it seems strange. I think he`s
basically wanting us to believe he`s willing to go up against her for a lot
of reasons.

Anyway, finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with how the pattern in this
Christie matter is so clear now, crystal clear.

This is HARDBALL, place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: There are two states where Democrats hope to pick up a
Senate seat this year, Georgia and Kentucky. And we have some new polling
from Kentucky. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

The Bluegrass poll shows Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes
with a now -- a 4-point lead over Mitch McConnell. She`s at 46, he`s down
to 42. How bad is it for McConnell right now? Well, his approval rating
in the state, his home state, is down to 32, 2 points lower than President
Obama`s in Kentucky.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Governor Chris Christie`s biggest headache in the bridge
scandal is an immunity-seeking David Wildstein. Now it turns out Wildstein
may be even more dangerous to Christie than we previously thought. "New
York Times" reporter Kate Zernicke reports today that Wildstein`s sources
when he wrote for the blog Politicsnj included the same players now at the
very center of this bridge scandal, including Christie himself.

Quote, "Wildstein`s sources, including the U.S. attorney at the time,
Chris Christie, plied him with tips and poured out their souls in e-mails
and instant message conversations at all hours, knowing little more about
him than an e-mail address." Bridget Anne Kelly, quote, "was one of Wally
Edge`s best sources." Bill Stepien, quote, "was one of the young
operatives whose career he nurtured."

In other words, David Wildstein knows where the bodies are buried in
Jersey, and that store of knowledge could become a very dangerous weapon
against Governor Christie in the weeks ahead.

Brian Murphy was the managing editor of Politicsnj, where he worked
for David Wildstein, who then used the pen name Wally Edge. Thank you for
joining us tonight, Brian.

And I want you to comment on two earlier stories quickly. One, it
seems like Mayor Sokolich is now talking. He put out the word with "The
Bergen Record" late today -- it`s in the paper just now, in fact, late this
evening -- that he had all kinds of motive, the governor, to basically
stick to it Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich...

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE, FMR. POLITICSNJ MANAGING EDITOR: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... because the Trenton folks, the governor, were giving
him all kinds of gifts. They were giving him shuttle buses. They`re
fixing their potholes. They`re giving him radios, every little gimme (ph)
they could give him, and then found out he wasn`t going to play ball with
them, which to me makes a motive for crashing down on the bridge there and
closing lanes.

The second big story, of course, is that Christie somehow, a week
after letting it sit out there, is denying his trashing of David Wildstein
in that memo that went out last week. And all of a sudden, after doing the
radio interview, after watching the news coverage for all week, he all of a
sudden, somebody close to him, I guess, decides -- I`m sorry, the phrase is
someone "familiar with" him has decided, Well, he had nothing to do with
that.

What is it with Christie, who never seems to be -- is he Caspar the
ghost? Is he, like, never anywhere? What is his MO -- I`m not here, I
didn`t do that, but everything I want done, damn it, gets done. Can you be
a bully and be invisible at the same time? That`s my question.

MURPHY: Yes, I think that`s -- it`s bizarre, isn`t it? I mean, the
story and the fact that it dropped on Saturday night, and now that we`re
getting the second piece of it at 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday, six days
later -- it really makes me wonder.

I had said that it couldn`t have possibly been the professional
communications staff because no professional communications specialist
would do an e-mail like that and send that kind of thing out. It`s still -
- it`s still hard for me to believe that that came out of Mike Drewniak`s
office. No matter what they`re saying now, it just doesn`t seem -- it
seemed panicky. It seemed like something that was done in haste.

MATTHEWS: Well, why does the governor -- why does the governor always
wait until something begins to stink before he denies it?

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t out there denying anything to do with the bridge
traffic when it was happening.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t denying anything about holding up, if he did --
sending the lieutenant governor down to Hoboken and to scare Mayor Zimmer
and say, If you don`t play ball on my real estate deal -- if all that
happened -- (INAUDIBLE) denying this later, but yet in real time, people
are always talking in his name.

MURPHY: Right. That`s right.

MATTHEWS: In real time...

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the lieutenant governor`s saying, The governor wants
this done.

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: In real time, the bridge gets closed because, somehow,
Bridget Kelly gets the word it`s time for a traffic problem. And Wildstein
gets the word, somehow, obey what the governor`s office wants done. So
he`s like a Frankenstein`s -- he creates this monster of activity that
keeps going on all the time. And only when it looks bad or gets caught he
says, Oh, I had nothing to do with that. Well, who`s the man behind the
curtain?

MURPHY: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: I mean, in some ways, we`re trying to figure out where --
where is the perimeter in this office, right? Is it -- like, who is going
to be the person who knows what`s going on and who`s going to be able to
tell us what Christie knew and what Christie ordered, right, and how deep
Christie was involved in this because the sense that -- the sense that I
get out of Trenton is that there are three or four people who work around
the governor, who talk to him, and that, you know, these people sort of
relay to the junior staff what`s going on.

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s O`Dowd...

MURPHY: And one of those people is...

MATTHEWS: That`s Kevin O`Dowd and that`s McKenna. Now, the question
is...

MURPHY: Right. O`Dowd...

MATTHEWS: ... they get subpoenaed...

MURPHY: ... McKenna and Stepien.

MATTHEWS: When you subpoena them, they can`t lie.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have lawyer-client.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: They`re government officials.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: So how do they protect him? He likes to say only have two
reports, as you say. But Wildstein here...

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... look at this guy! It`s in his face. I`m not going to
get screwed, that face says to me.

MURPHY: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I`m not going to be -- I`m not your fall guy, Mr. Governor.
And I did go to high school with you. And stop calling me a zero or a nerd
in this stuff. I mean, if I were Wildstein, I`d be getting a little mad
and say, Stop putting out trash talk on me.

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: If you think I`m going to be any nicer to you, you might be
nicer to me. And here comes a week later somebody around the governor
says, We better disown that trash talk against this guy because he is going
to be perhaps the star witness.

MURPHY: And Chris, have you noticed in that "Times" article, where I
should say I`m quoted and Steve Kornacki is also quoted. The one thing
that I noticed working for Wally Edge, right, working for David Wildstein,
who I called Wally Edge at the time...

MATTHEWS: Back when he was on...

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: You were like Charlie`s Angels, weren`t you. You didn`t
even know who he...

MURPHY: Yes, that`s right.

MATTHEWS: You weren`t Charlie`s Angels. You...

MURPHY: No, I didn`t know who it was.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: I never had to lie to a source. And that was easy...

MATTHEWS: And so when Governor...

MURPHY: That was a better way for me to do the job.

MATTHEWS: ... Christie was talking to you guys, talking to Wildstein,
the editor of this, the Wally Edge is his name -- all this was going on,
and they didn`t -- and the governor,, in other words, was talking to --
didn`t know he was talking to Wildstein. So he knew Wildstein better than
he admitted because he didn`t know he was talking to him all the time.
Isn`t that weird?

MURPHY: Yes. Yes, it is weird.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t know him since high school, but I was feeding him
stuff on -- for his online column for all these months.

MURPHY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And I`m not sure -- I`m not sure whether or not Christie
knew Wally`s true identity at the time. I don`t know. I mean, he
certainly knew by the time he appointed David Wildstein to the Port
Authority.

But the thing that -- the thing that I...

MATTHEWS: This is something.

MURPHY: ... I would point out in "The New York Times" article is that
one of the things about working for Wally Edge was you knew, and he
befriended people who were junior staff on campaigns. That`s how he met
me. He liked staff.

And one of the rules was, you never go after staff, right?

MATTHEWS: Because?

MURPHY: Principals are responsible for the actions of their staff.

And I would imagine that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s my value. That is my...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I worked in politics for a long time. You don`t know me.
I worked a long time in politics. And every time some staffer gets blamed,
I say, wait a minute, the fish rots from the top.

MURPHY: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: Don`t -- like Dukakis said, you can`t assume that that
person wasn`t carrying out their duties.

Even Scooter Libby with the vice president...

MURPHY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... don`t tell me he was out robbing gas stations for
himself.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: He was doing the work of the boss.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: Right. There are rules in this, right? And if you`re -- if
you operate with that ethic, if that is sort of the organizing -- that`s
one of your principles when you go into this business, you`re not going to
look kindly on letting someone like Bridget Kelly be looking at five years
in prison, and taking -- right, letting this stop at Wildstein, Baroni,
Bridget Kelly, and Bill Stepien, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does he have the fire in his belly to fight back with his
attorney? Do you think Wildstein has the -- if you were up against him
like the governor is right now and he is trashing him, and he is trashing
Bridget, and he is making statements against people, which makes me believe
they`re going to testify against him, so he has to undermine them as like a
prevent operation, a preventative war kind of thing.

MURPHY: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Would you be afraid of them as witnesses?

MURPHY: Yes.

I mean, I think the -- the claim in the letter from his attorney
wasn`t, I have evidence. It`s that evidence exists. And, presumably, he
knows -- he may not be in possession of it, or maybe it`s a copy of
something that is between two other parties that he is aware of.

But he is suggesting, right, that evidence -- he knows that there is
paper out there, that there is something out there that is implicating.
And Christie`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: Right. Their response is, well, what -- what does he have?
And the question I would like to ask is, right, well, what could he have?

MATTHEWS: Right.

MURPHY: What could -- what could be out there?

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, they would love to know before they get
into court.

MURPHY: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: They want to know as soon as they can.

MURPHY: Oh...

MATTHEWS: Hey, you`re great to come on. Thanks, Brian Murphy.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on tonight, when we have all this news
tonight.

MURPHY: OK.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t think we would have all this piling on tonight of
news, which we got so much of tonight.

Coming up next, so long to a friend. Yes, Jay Leno, what a night last
night was, very emotional and very genuine for a good guy.

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": Boy, this is the
hard part.

I want to thank you, the audience. You folks have been just
incredibly loyal.

This is tricky.

Oh.

We wouldn`t be on the air without you people.

Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Jay Leno saying goodbye to "The Tonight Show"
last night in a send-off that was ever bit as gracious as it was heartfelt.

There was much to celebrate about a guy who has been an American
institution for over two decades now. I can certainly say Jay Leno was
always at the top of his game when it came to my favorite subject,
politics, and he brought back some of those greatest hits in his final
show.

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

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, for whatever
it`s worth, that`s what I think. I would like...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I would like to say one other thing on another subject.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: This is the last thing I`m
going to say. I don`t think God`s through with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t get fooled again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can`t get fooled again.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can`t get fooled again.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look forward to
continuing this dialogue in the months ahead. Thank you very much,
everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Everybody see that? Did you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Hey, I just met you, and this is
crazy, but here`s my number, so call me maybe.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Great stuff.

Many of the folks who couldn`t be there last night put together
farewell videos with plenty of advice about what Jay should do next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: Jay, do what I do. Use your downtime to paint.
I love it. Check it out.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: You know, Jay, I was once the host of a late-
night show myself, Emmy Award-winning, critically acclaimed. But there
came a time when I was replaced by a younger guy, that no-talent Greg
Kinnear.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTAS: But you know what? You have to learn to deal with it.

Hello, Doctor.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Jay, you have made a whole lot of jokes about me over the
years, but do not worry. I`m not upset.

On a totally unrelated note, I have decided to make you my new
ambassador to Antarctica.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Hope you have got a warm coat, funnyman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the night was Jay`s, and he earned it.

In the end, his final sign-off was a fitting tribute to "The Tonight
Show" itself, the program he inherited from an idol, who made him a legend,
and it made him a legend. That show will go on, of course. But, as
emotional as Jay was, he showed real class last night.

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

LENO: It`s been it`s been a great institution for 60 years. I`m so
glad I got to be a part of it.

But it really is time to go, hand it off to the next guy. It really
is.

And, in closing, I want to quote from Johnny Carson, who was the
greatest guy to ever do this job.

And he said, "I bid you all a heartfelt good night."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

The latest figures show the economy added 113,000 jobs last month, far
fewer than expected. The unemployment rate ticked lower to 6.6 percent.
President Obama signed a farm bill into law earlier. He says the measure
will promote agriculture and ensure that children don`t go hungry. And the
State Department says it`s deeply concerned that an American held in North
Korea has been moved into a labor camp. Kenneth Bae has been held for over
a year and is in failing health -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Rand Paul has an answer to the charge that Republicans have
a problem with female voters, because their candidates keep saying stupid
things about women. Well, his response -- that is Senator Rand Paul -- is,
oh, yes? Well, you have got Bill Clinton.

Senator Paul has attacked the former president as a predator three
times in recent days. Here he is today in an interview on C-SPAN going a
step further. He says Democrats should give back any money Bill Clinton
raises for them. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The Democrats can`t say, oh, we`re the
great defenders of women`s rights in the workplace, and we will defend you
against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to
take advantage of a young woman, when the leader of their party, the leader
fund -- the leading fund-raiser in the country is Bill Clinton, who was a
perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment.

You know, so they can`t have it both ways. And so I really think that
anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fund-raiser has
a lot of explaining to do. In fact, I think they should give the money
back. If they want to take a position on women`s rights, by all means do,
but you can`t do it and take it from a guy who is using his position of
authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, earlier this week on a right-wing Web site, Senator
Paul again labeled Clinton the predator again. He used that word. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PAUL: Yes, a predator, a sexual predator, basically, repetitive.
There`s dozens or at least half-a-dozen public women who have come forward.
Some of them did sue in the job place.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it can`t go unnoticed that Senator Paul is clearly
planning to run for president in 2016 against, almost certainly, Secretary
Hillary Clinton.

So, what is Rand Paul doing here? It seems -- he seems to be trying
to build street cred with the right wing, I think, by showing he is not
afraid to take on the Clintons, both of them. Is this a smart strategy?

Joy Reid is the host of the new show "THE REID REPORT" debuting
February 24 at 2:00 Eastern here on MSNBC. That`s going to be great. And
John Heilemann is the author of "Double Down" and an MSNBC political
analyst.

I want to start -- I want to start with Joy.

And my question is, why -- I have a theory. I want to know yours.
Why is Rand Paul repeatedly now calling Bill Clinton, the former president
and possible first man or first gentleman of the next administration, a
sexual predator who continues to do it? Why is he doing this?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And it`s absolutely calculated.
You left out one. His wife actually did the same thing in an interview
with "Vogue" magazine in January. So this is a calculated move by the
Pauls.

I think reason number one, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Bill Clinton is
supposed to go down and campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is right
now beating Mitch McConnell by four points in a poll by the biggest
newspaper, "The Louisville Courier Dispatch."

And I think that Rand Paul, number one wants to get those chits in
with McConnell. If he can get credit for helping to hobble what could be
the best asset that Grimes has against McConnell, he will get a lot of
credit with the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, Joy, so what you have done here is, you thought through
the scenario. Bill Clinton, the former president, arrives in town.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: First question he gets tagged with by the local press is,
are you a predator?

REID: There you go. And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Our senator here called you a predator three times. What
is your reaction?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Then Clinton has to say -- Clinton denies being predator,
or whatever.

You know what? John, I think this is an attempt to show -- remember
Muhammad Ali when he went up against Liston? Everybody is scared to death
of Sonny Liston. He says, you big ugly bear. And everybody said, my God,
what a way to hype a fight. This guy is not afraid of him.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: And I think that`s part of the trash talk they do in weigh-
ins the old days of heavyweight boxing. Your thoughts.

HEILEMANN: I think -- Chris, I think you`re exactly right about this.

And I think if you think about where the Republican Party is right
now, it is desperate to win the presidency back in 2016. There is a fair
amount of fear at the formidableness of Hillary Clinton as the presumptive
Democratic nominee. I don`t know if we can go quite that far as to say
that. But she is certainly far and away the front-runner if she decides to
get in the race.

And he is trying to show the Republican Party that he is not afraid of
the Clintons and that he will take them on in a full-throated way. The
Republican Party likes the idea of a nominee who will take on whoever the
Democratic standard bearer is in a full-throated way. That`s what fueled
Newt Gingrich`s strength in the 2012 race.

And I think Rand Paul is trying to demonstrate to people that he can
go toe to toe with her and he will not back down. And that builds up some
degree of credibility and bona fides with the primary electorate in the
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Joy, I think one of the things you have to be concerned
about, certainly in these times, very -- sensitivity questions about men
being big shots, and too much big shots, of course, like the old days. And
the question you have to ask, is it smart to go after the husband in a way
of saying, well, he is really going to be a big role player here, I`m going
hit him, and it is somehow appropriate?

So, I think what he`s done here to cut that chance of being tagged
like that is to say, I`m not going after him as a future first husband or
first gentleman, or Hillary`s husband, however you want to put it. I`m
going after him as a fund-raiser.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: And, therefore, somehow, that gives me the free shot.

REID: No, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m just trying to figure out how smart this guy is, how
not smart he is. I don`t know smart he is.

REID: No, I think it`s very calculated. I think that he is trying to
basically take Bill Clinton, who was the best, let`s face it, surrogate
that President Barack Obama had in that reelection in 2012, but was the
worst surrogate that Hillary Clinton had in 2008, and he is trying to
hobble him as an effective surrogate and effective fund-raiser.

He is trying to make it difficult for Democrats to use Bill Clinton
the way they were able to use him in 2012. If he can make it hard for
Alison Lundergan Grimes to do it in this cycle, it will help Mitch
McConnell. If he can make it hard for Hillary Clinton to do it every time
-- Hillary Clinton, this time, is not going to do what she did in `08.

If she runs again, she is going to run full force on the fact that she
is a woman and on the aspirations of women. That is what is going to fuel
her run. This is the Rand Paul attempt to undercut that, destroy Bill
Clinton as a surrogate, and make it almost impossible for her to run in
that way.

I think, in that way, it`s very calculated. And if it works with
Grimes, I think that he is saying to the Republican Party we can roll this
out in 2016 against Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Well, the big question about this being a shot at Bill
Clinton being a sexual predator, a term that Senator Paul has now used
three times, what does any of it has to do with Secretary Clinton, who is
clearly thinking about running for president?

Well, listen to this exchange with Paul.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that, if Hillary runs, that somehow
she will have to answer for some of that in any way?

PAUL: Well, you know, all the time candidates are asked to return
money if an unsavory character gives you money. What if that unsavory
character is your husband? What if that unsavory character is Bill Clinton
raising money for people across the country?

And what if he were someone that was guilty of sexual harassment and
inappropriate behavior at the workplace? Which, obviously, having sex with
an intern in the office is inappropriate by any standard.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is going inside, John.

Unsavory, sexual harassment -- he has all the details there. It`s
like an indictment of the guy. And the question is -- I -- the question I
put to Joy, you know, Hillary Clinton, if Joy is right, this will be a lot
about the first woman president to be. It will be a lot about that. How
do you tag him -- when a tough reporter comes up to Rand Paul and says, why
are you going after the husband, and it is fair game to say, well, he will
be living in the White House?

How do you -- how do you -- I don`t know how this is going to go.

HEILEMANN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: I think any attack is generally a smart move in politics
when you`re up against somebody ahead of you. As Nixon used to say, you
always punch up.

HEILEMANN: Right. Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You punch up. You punch the big guy. But Hillary Clinton
is also punching up.

If you punch a former president, you`re taking on somebody bigger than
you. I guess they`re trying to kill the idea that Bill Clinton is some
sort of Eisenhower figure, an emeritus president who deserves respect and
reverence even, and he`s not above that. I think they`re basically saying
this guy is fair game. That`s what I think they`re up to.

HEILEMANN: Well, I think there is some of that for sure. Look, Bill
Clinton is fair game in the sense that he is, you know, one of the most
popular Democrats in the country in the Democratic Party along with
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bill
Clinton. They`re the four most popular Democrats in the country.

He is a huge superstar. He played a huge role in the 2012 race. And
he will inevitably play a big role in the 2016 race. There`s just no way
around it, not just because he is a fundraiser, but because he sucks up so
much media attention.

So, if you`re Rand Paul, the first thing you have to do is get
nominated to the Republican Party. It`s cost-free politics to attack Bill
Clinton within the Republican nominating electorate. Whether this is a
successful strategy that he would even try to carry forward if he even got
the Republican nomination, who knows? But right now, this far out, this is
what I say, a cost-free exercise as you put it in kind of preflight
theatrics of a Muhammad Ali type. And there is just no -- there is no
downside to him within the Republican Party in doing this.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Bill Clinton is going to forget that he`s --
Joy, do you think Bill Clinton is going to forget the guy called him a
sexual predator, called him an unsavory character? This is pretty strong
even by today`s standards, I thought.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, of course it is. And, first of all,
can we stop infantilizing Monica Lewinsky for a second? I mean, I don`t
know if maybe he just was mistaken. But he`s even said she was 20 years
old. She was 22.

But that implication that she was even underage, that she wasn`t even
21, infantilizing her, that`s not going to play well I don`t think with
women going after the husband instead of the actual candidate as if she
doesn`t matter more, I don`t think would play well in a general election --
with the general electorate. But I think it is true, and John is right.
That in the Republican base, this helps him, it doesn`t hurt him at all
with the religious right. He can knit together sort of his libertarian
following by saying well, we`re not libertine as he said and try to knit
that together with the religious right. So, there`s no -- there is no cost
for it I think in the primary. But it sends a message, I think, that is
infantilizing to Monica Lewinsky and dismissive of Hillary that I don`t
think helps him at all.

And, by the way, if we want to talk about family members, then it`s
fair game I guess for Democrats to look at his dad and those newsletters
that don`t really help him. He is going to Howard University, then it`s a
fair game to ask him about his dad and those newsletters.

MATTHEWS: I`m sure they`ll be talked about there.

You know what? This is politics, and it`s tough. And I`ll tell you
one thing about Rand Paul, he ain`t stupid. There is something about the
guy that makes think he is going to be the nominee. I`ll tell you. He`s
got Ted Cruz beaten by a mile in brainpower and smarts sensitivity.

And as we all agree, he may be talking to the very people he has to
talk to, the Iowa Republican caucus attendee, the New Hampshire tough
gritty type up there, and the South Carolinian who is farther to the right
than you want to know.

Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid, and thank you, John Heilemann.

REID: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, look who sees no obvious reason not to run for
president. Biden is so interesting. This is kind of like the benign
version of confronting the Clintons, if you will. Very benign. Like I`m
in this thing. Why shouldn`t I be?

As opposed to Rand Paul taking nasty shots, this guy is sort of
saying, why shouldn`t I run? I think it`s fascinating how he is
positioning himself as maybe an equal of Hillary. Maybe if something
happens, he`s there. Who knows?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, today is National Wear Red Day, and I`m wearing a red
tie, of course, to support the American Heart Association go red for women
in their fight against heart disease, a disease that affects, believe it or
not, 43 million women in the United States, making it the number one killer
of women, whoa. So, go red today to show your support and help raise
awareness for heart disease.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

As we discussed earlier, presidential hopefuls on the Republican side
like Senator Rand Paul are basically shouting to the world that they`re
gearing up to fight Hillary Clinton if she runs, like everyone expects in
2016 for president. So, why wouldn`t they? Just look at the primary
polling out there.

Hillary Clinton, secretary of state got a 60-point lead right now on
the Democratic side with the number two in that field, now this is
interest, Joe Biden. The vice president isn`t ready to anoint her as the
party`s candidate, just not yet, not without promising something of a
fight.

Biden recently joked that his love of driving cars is the one thing
that could steer him away from a run at the Oval Office. He took it a step
further today with CNN`s Kate Bolduan.

Listen to the vice president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: Other than Corvettes, give me another good reason
why you shouldn`t run.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can`t.

BOLDUAN: Yes?

BIDEN: There maybe be reasons I don`t run, but there`s no obvious
reason for me why I think I should not run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When you think of it, what Biden is doing is basically the
benign, very benign variation of what Rand Paul is doing. It`s how a
Democrat who wants to be president has to confront the Clinton
inevitability.

So, the big question is, is Biden mounting a real challenge to Hillary
Clinton should she run, or if he isn`t, then what is he doing when he said
there`s no obvious reason why he shouldn`t president?

Mark Halperin is senior political analyst at "Time" magazine, and
senior MSNBC political analyst. And he`s, of course, the co-author of
"Double Down".

Sam Stein is with "The Huffington Post" and a MSNBC contributor.

Now, if you ask Vice President Biden and you`re a regular person, and
assume he`s a regular person -- let me ask you this, Mark. You would ask
him, was there any obvious reason you wouldn`t run. And the obvious reason
not to run is Secretary Clinton is beating his butt by 60 points and she`ll
probably be the nominee.

So, he ignores that elephant in the room, if you will, the Hillary
Clinton`s inevitability and he says, no. So, why doesn`t he just say,
well, obviously, if Hillary Clinton runs, I`d have to take another look at
it. Of course, she`d be the clear front runner and, of course, I have
great respect, blah, blah, blah, the usual courtesy. Instead, he said, I
can`t think of any reason not to run. I can`t think of Hillary Clinton.

MARK HALPERIN, TIME: Because he loves politics, and he would like to
be president, and he is keeping his options open. I don`t think there are
any circumstances under which he`ll run if she runs. I really don`t.

But I also have been surprised --

MATTHEWS: Why is he leaving that possibility out there, then, by
saying, I don`t see her as an obvious obstacle?

HALPERIN: He has enjoyed being vice president for sure. But there
are frustrations. We write some of them in "Double Down" regarding the
real act, some of the policy positions. And there is a real possibility
that this president doesn`t get much more momentum going forward as he had
last year. And I think Joe Biden would like to be seen as a powerful
figure.

As we write again in the book, he floated the possibility after
basically saying he`d be a Cheney-like vice president and wouldn`t seek the
presidency after President Obama`s time in office. He then started to
float out there through Jay Carney and others who is keeping all the
options open. The more people think he might run, the more influence he
has.

And I think if she doesn`t run, he`ll be the strongest of the other
candidates, I`ve been surprised at how weak he is. And I think -- I think
he`s trying to amp that up.

MATTHEWS: I am, too.

Well, let me go to Sam on this, I`ll be back to you, Mark.

Here I`m amazed by is the reality of timing. If, as Mark says, Vice
President Biden is waiting to see what Hillary is doing. He`ll have to
wait some time, late `15 probably, because Clinton has no incentive to show
any hat -- to throw her hat in the ring early. She can wait until way
after the midterm elections.

In other words, he can`t move an inch. She hasn`t told him what she`s
going to do obviously. So, he has to wait and wait and wait until she
decides to run, at which point, he has to say, well, I`m not going to run.
I think it puts him behind the very -- it puts him behind the 8-ball here,
a very weird situation where he has to wait for her to make the call before
he has to make his call, otherwise embarrassing himself which makes me
think he may well start a run and risk humiliation because it`s his only
option.

Your thoughts.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes, I think you`re absolutely right in
the analysis. And think of the infrastructure he would have to build on a
short period of time. Not only would he have to build a campaign, but he
would likely have to get an affiliated super PAC, which Hillary Clinton
will have ready for her if she does decide to run. So, that presents a lot
of problems.

On the flip side, if he were to jump in early, he would have the
pressure of the president against him who doesn`t want to lose a vice
president, a useful tool in his administration to a campaign. And so, he`s
got a lot of things to shuffle here.

I happen to think that this is all posture. I think that he needs to
throw it out there that he`s thinking of running so that he can maintain
power and influence among the Democratic lawmakers that he`s helping to
influence legislatively. I think he`d become weak if he said he wasn`t
running, this is it, he`s a lame duck.

And so, that`s why you`re getting these types of statements from them.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, listen to what Biden said during that next
interview because it sounded like a clear shot aimed at Hillary`s hawkish
foreign policy stance. Here`s the vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: For me, the decision to run or not run is going to be
determined by me as to whether I am the best qualified person to focus on
the two things I`ve spent my whole life on -- giving ordinary people a
fighting chance to make it, and a sound foreign policy that`s based on
rational interest in the United States where we not only are known for the
power of our military, but the power of our example.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for the record, Vice President Biden has also said
that Hillary`s decision will not affect whether he runs or not.

But there you have it, Mark. I like to read things in when I`m
hearing them said. He seemed to be taking a dovish position vis-a-vis
Hillary Clinton, who most people see as a lot more hawkish and the
president and more hawkish than this guy, the vice president. Is he
positioning himself to the left of Hillary Clinton by saying he`s basically
not for wars, he`s for the other way around, in fact, he`s more dovish like
the president?

HALPERIN: Well, look, she`s been hawkish on some issues, Chris, as
you say. But she`s also a big champion of diplomacy and soft power and the
world. I`m happy to try to parse anything Joe Biden says. In this case, I
don`t think that was meant to be a shot at her.

I think one thing we haven`t discussed, which is vital, is a big
intervening event which is the midterms. She will campaign I think some
for candidates. But he will have a very robust schedule.

And every time he`s out there, he`s going to get a fingertip feel for
what country is thinking of him. He`s also going to be talking to other
Democratic candidates. He`s also very goods friend with Hillary Clinton
and I think he`ll have a better window.

MATTHEWS: I know he is.

HALPERIN: -- into what she`s going to do than having to do just like
guessing game.

MATTHEWS: But she didn`t tell him at the meal they had together a
couple weeks ago. Did you get a sense -- I know you guys report this stuff
like hell -- that she didn`t tell him, didn`t give him a heads up?

HALPERIN: I think she`s saying to him what she`s saying to people
closer to her, she hasn`t really decided but that she`s inclined to do it.
And I think he`s going to key off of that. But the midterms could be huge
and push him to a different place that where is to today, which is no
incentive to challenge her, no intention to challenge her.

MATTHEWS: Last question to you, Sam. Do you think she`s -- Joy
thinks she`s going to run as a woman and make the first ever the issue --
do you think she`ll do that overtly or, just let everybody -- well, people
know she`s a woman. Will she run on that issue?

STEIN: I don`t see why not. Remember when the primary, the 2008
primary had ended, she was on the upswing predominantly because she was
finally pitching herself as someone who was going to break the glass
ceiling. It really worked for her. It was a resonant message.

Part of the reason that people are a little bit tepid in sorts
supporting her is they feel she`s too calculating, that everything is done
with some sort of political calculus in mind. But that sort of fit
naturally and I think people really gravitated.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

STEIN: And one more thing with Biden, if he were to run against
Clinton, I`m not sure where the divides are. You were talking about
foreign policy. He also supported the Iraq war. So, I`m not sure what his
candidacy would be based on if it was against Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Mark, Sam, thank you both. Mark Halperin and Sam Stein
here, thank you so much. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with where I started.

The pattern in this Christie matter is now clear -- something happens
because the governor`s office wants it done. Then, it gets exposed, and
then the press focuses on it, and then it`s denied that the governor,
himself, had anything to do with it.

The governor`s office shuts down traffic for four days. The governor
months later denies any personal knowledge of the issue.

The mayor of Hoboken says she gets held up for not playing ball on a
real estate deal. She says the lieutenant governor delivers the message
from the governor, which the lieutenant governor later denies. The
governor also later denies.

The governor`s office puts out a memo trashing the man expected to be
a star witness against him. A week later, late today, people around the
governor put out word that governor, himself, had nothing to do with it.

Is this governor ever in his office when all this is going on in his
name? Or is his main job these days to deny he`s doing anything at all
that people find offensive?

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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