January 15, 2014
Guests: John Wisniewski, Heather Haddon, Cynthia Tucker
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The battle of Fort Lee.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The web begins to tighten tonight as the
investigators of the New Jersey governor select a counsel and move toward
the issuance of subpoenas, getting Christie`s people in the chair, putting
them under oath is now the main engine of this story of tough-guy politics
and back-alley revenge.
What the investigators need to ask is why every single member of the
Christie team, without exception, thought it was in the governor`s interest
to jam shut the commuter traffic lanes to New York, to render a whole
community freeze-fried for four days while his gang tittered with glee,
like they were high schoolers pulling off a prank on the school principal.
This is what we know. Nobody in the Christie crew said a word against the
caper, not a one. Even when facing resistance from the professionals on
the bridge authority and New York appointees, they pounded their way full
speed ahead. No matter what anybody said, they proceeded enthusiastically
and nastily with their plan to punish the people of Fort Lee.
And now the governor himself says he will support an inquiry if -- "if" is
his word -- he finds it appropriate. Does this mean he reserves judgment
and the right to claim executive privilege should the New Jersey assembly,
for example, demand to hear from the two Christie people the governor
admits to dealing with, his chief of staff, Kevin O`Dowd, and his counsel,
Charles McKenna? Or would asking them what they know be inappropriate, by
the governor`s decree?
We will see. I will be looking personally for the first time the governor
puts up his hand and says, No more. That is when probers, I believe, need
to probe with all the power they possess because people need the truth.
And the governor asked the question himself best of all. What made all
these people, all these Christie people, these people he hand picked and
put in their positions, so determined to stop the traffic, screw the
drivers and chuckle about what they had done?
Well, New Jersey state assemblyman John Wisniewski is the chairman of the
transportation committee, joins us now, and he`s the one investigating the
bridge closure, his committee. And Heather Haddon is covering this story
for "The Wall Street Journal," which has been doing a hell of a job on the
Let me go to Mr. Wisniewski. Assemblyman, what do you make of the new --
you`ve named a fellow here, Reid Schar. He`s got experience prosecuting
Blagojevich successfully out in Illinois. You went national in your search
to get a top-flight prosecutor, investigator.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NJ ASSEMBLY TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We
went national. We wanted to get the best counsel we could get. This has
become a very complicated issue. We started in a very simple investigation
into the Port Authority, and we followed the trail right into the
governor`s office. And so now we have a lot of issues we have to deal
with. We want to make sure they`re dealt with properly.
We want to make sure that we`re not crossing any lines, but we`re doing it
effectively. And we believe having somebody like Reid Schar on our team is
going to give us the guidance and the counsel we need to make sure this is
done well, quickly and effectively.
MATTHEWS: I`ve been watching the former U.S. prosecutor in that state,
that`s Chris Christie, very carefully construct his defense. Now, true or
not, assume we can assume it`s true, perhaps, as he offers it up -- he made
a point to say he thought the whole bridge thing was about the traffic
survey. Then he said, of course, I quizzed my staff for an hour, they
didn`t come clean, so don`t blame me.
And then he points to the fact he only had two direct reports, O`Dowd and
McKenna. Do you think he`s going to try executive privilege on those two
people that he admits to having talked to during these months?
WISNIEWSKI: I don`t know what his tack will be. I mean, I`m curious about
his choice of the word "appropriate" yesterday. I mean, the day he made
his apology, he said he wanted to cooperate. Yesterday in the state of the
state, he said he was going to cooperate with all appropriate inquiries.
I hope he`s not parsing his words or starting to construct some kind of
defense. The assembly committee is an appropriate inquiry, and he has to
cooperate with that. We would expect his cooperation.
We have a lot of questions to ask, and Mr. McKenna and Mr. O`Dowd are among
many people that we need to hear from. What really perplexes me here,
Chris, is the lack of curiosity by this governor --
WISNIEWSKI: -- who is a former U.S. attorney, a lack of curiosity when
Bridget Kelly was terminated and he never asked her a question, lack of
curiosity when he asked his entire staff but he gave them a total of 60
minutes to report to him. It just seems like he doesn`t want to know or
maybe he`s afraid that there`s something he knows that he doesn`t want to
MATTHEWS: And also, when Wildstein went down, and of course, when Baroni
went down, and also that questioning of his staff, which looked to me like
it was Nixon with John Dean. I`m telling you, it had this -- it smacked of
it. If he wanted the truth, he would have asked for it anonymously. He
would have said, Anybody who knows anything, put it in this box, tell me
what I ought to know. No, he said, Unless you`re willing to come forward
and take the personal blame for this, I don`t want to hear from you.
That was an amazing way to get not to the truth, but to be able to blame
his staff for not giving him the truth. It seems to me he set a very high
wall there. My thought. Your -- what`s yours?
WISNIEWSKI: Very high wall. But I think the thing that`s most amazing is
he knows now exactly the name of the staff member on his team that sent the
e-mail that closed the lanes, Bridget Kelly.
MATTHEWS: And who authorized her to do it?
WISNIEWSKI: And when she was terminated, he didn`t want to hear from her.
MATTHEWS: OK --
WISNIEWSKI: -- Charlie McKenna didn`t want to hear from her. I would
have wanted to ask the question, What gave you the impression that you
could close these lanes? Who told you you could close these lanes? And
that`s very disturbing. As I said, a man who`s a former U.S. attorney for
New Jersey, a lack of curiosity on a very important issue for him really
raises my suspicions.
MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let me go to Heather Haddon, who`s covering this
well. Thank you, Ms. Haddon, for joining us. Tell me about your "Journal"
and -- and "The Wall Street Journal" and how you`re covering this. Where
are you headed with this, and how many people are working on it?
HEATHER HADDON, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, there`s me and another
reporter who`s been working on this, mostly Ted Mann, but we`ve also put
additional resources on it as we need to.
And tomorrow will be a big day for coverage, so we have the assembly super-
committee that`s going to be formed tomorrow. We also have a potential
Senate joint committee that`s also going to be looking into this. So
there`s going to be quite a few investigations going on, and we`re going to
be covering that tomorrow in Trenton.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about the possibility of a mishmash, a
mishmash between the two -- the house and the senate in Trenton? We keep
hearing, or I -- the reading I`m getting and the reporting I`m getting is
the senate`s much more closer -- much closer to the governor, even though
they`re Democrats, that they like the governor, and he might be able to
play it a little that way -- you know, get them to -- they get them to
subpoena witnesses and hold them, rather than really exploit the
opportunity to get the information, just kill the story slowly if they`re
more (ph) favorable to Christie, and kill the chances of the house getting
its job done.
HADDON: Well, the senate president -- senate President Sweeney put out a
very strong statement about this yesterday -- on Monday -- in terms of
forming that committee. And he said that, you know, he also thinks that
it`s time to get to the bottom of this. And senate majority leader
Weinberg has also taken a lead role with Assemblyman Wisniewski in trying
to look -- to get to the bottom of this. Fort Lee is in her district. She
cares about those commuters. And she wrote one of the initial letters to
Port Authority commissioner asking for answers to this.
So think, at this point, there is a lot of fuel behind this fire. I mean,
you know, lawmakers also have to go around about their own business. You
know, they have a budget that`s going to be introduced next month. They
have laws to pass. But this is, I think, getting serious attention now and
I think it`s (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: OK, what about the reporting challenges? As a reporter, you`re
a straight reporter for a big paper, one of the two biggest in the country,
national papers. How do you -- are you -- just in general, without giving
away problems here, were people -- are people talking in the Christie world
or not talking?
HADDON: Well, I mean, things have become complicated now, right? I mean,
we have legal investigations going on and some of the -- you know, more and
MATTHEWS: Do people answer the phone?
HADDON: Do people answer the phone? Well, you know, the governor`s
spokesmen have continued to respond to inquiries in this. I mean, what is
difficult -- and one person who might be subpoenaed eventually is Michael
Juniak (ph), who is Governor Christie`s spokesman, has been his right-hand
man, and is also mentioned in those documents. So obviously, he`s now in a
tricky position. He will potentially get subpoenaed and will have to
But you know, he`s still working for the administration. He has not
stepped down. So it`s -- it`s tricky. I mean, just now, about half an
hour ago, we reported that Bill Stepien, who was his -- Governor Christie`s
former campaign manager -- he now has an attorney. We`re still waiting for
-- to see when Bridget Anne Kelly gets an attorney.
So as this investigation continues, there`s more and more legal counsel
involved in this and makes it tricky and complicated to continue to get
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Let me go back to Mr. Wisniewski. Mr. Wisniewski,
it seems to me -- Wisniewski, rather -- it seems to me you`re in a position
-- and I was somewhat familiar with this back then, when Peter Rodino was
in -- back when the great congressman who was chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, U.S. House, had to handle the impeachment of Richard
Nixon. He was no left-wing guy. He was a very regular Democrat, a very
patriotic guy, as we know, Peter Rodino.
WISNIEWSKI: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And he wanted to make sure -- as you know the history, I`m sure
you know. It`s so -- it`s so proud, New Jersey must be, the way Rodino
handled it. Tip O`Neill, my old boss, pushed him and pushed him and pushed
him. Finally, he said, I`m going to pick a guy who`s going to be above
reproach, and he got John Doar to handle those hearings.
You pick -- it seems like you`re taking this damn seriously, to pick the
best guy you got, or best woman -- in this case, a guy, that looked like
you`re going to take this -- this is going to a big deal for New Jersey,
one way or the other. Either you`re going to get a good case here, get the
information out, or you will fail to get all the information out. It`s a
high -- it`s high -- high stakes.
WISNIEWSKI: It`s a serious matter. It`s a serious matter because public
resources were abused, and then there was a real effort to conceal that
abuse of resources. We need to get to the bottom of it.
This really did one important thing that`s not good, and it erodes public
confidence in government when they see people can use the George Washington
Bridge essentially as a plaything to stymie a town or to exact political
And so our responsibility is serious because, number one, we have to make
sure it doesn`t happen again. We have to restore public trust, and that`s
a very big task for us to do. And so we have to do it right. We have to
WISNIEWSKI: -- the right resources, and having the right legal counsel -
- as Heather pointed out, this has become a lot more complicated because
we`re now in the governor`s office, because we`re now looking at possibly
more agencies to look at and more people to talk to. We need to make sure
we get it right.
There`s also other investigations going on. We want to make sure we
respect all the jurisdictional boundaries that are applicable. And so we
need the help that we can get. We looked for the best help, and we think
we found it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you`re on the right course. Thank you so much for
taking this time to be with us. Thank you, Assemblyman John Wisniewski --
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: -- and Heather Haddon of "The Wall Street Journal."
Coming up, a mean-spirited political trickster trying to run up the score
in an easy reelection. Sound familiar? Well, this is not yet a Watergate,
but the more we learn about Chris Christie, the more he does look like
Richard Nixon. Two of the best minds in politics coming up to talk about
the comparison between these two guys, Howard Fineman and David Corn.
They`re going to weigh in.
Also, President Obama`s meeting today with almost all 55 Democratic U.S.
senators with one goal in mind, preventing the Republicans from winning a
majority in November of the U.S. Senate and shutting (ph) them (ph) out of
the Congress. This year, not only are more Democratic seats up, but the
Rove and the Koch money machines, Republican money machines, are already
spending and spending big against the Democratic incumbents.
And imagine if an American president`s girlfriend wound up broken-hearted
in a hospital when she found out he was cheating on her with an actress.
It`s happening in France, where the first lady`s not married to the first
guy. Anyway, and the president of France says it`s all a private matter.
We`ll see. Would that sell here?
And "Let Me Finish" tonight with that very question. What`s in and what`s
out, by the way, for us when it comes to covering sex and politics?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Another retirement from Congress, and it`s a notable one.
Virginia Democrat Jim Moran, a friend of mine and a frequent guest on this
program, has announced he`s not running for reelection this year. The 12-
term congressman represents Alexandria, Virginia, which is considered
generally a safe district for Democrats, but you never know, not this year.
He`s the third Democrat this week to announce his retirement, following New
York`s Bill Owens and George Miller of California, who`s in his 20th term.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So far, there`s been no direct
evidence that ties Governor Chris Christie directly, as I said, to the lane
closures at George Washington Bridge, and he`s strongly denied any
involvement, of course. But the entire scandal has an eerily familiar
ring, doesn`t it? When Christie defended himself last week, he strongly
denied any wrongdoing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Politics ain`t beanbag, OK? And
everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other
hand, that`s very, very different than saying that, you know, someone`s a
bully. I am who I am, but I am not a bully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "I am not a bully." In declaring he wasn`t a bully, the
government echoed -- the governor echoed the words of another leader in the
middle of a major scandal, of course, President Richard Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I welcome this kind of
examination because people have got to know whether or not their president
is a crook. Well, I`m not a crook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Not a crook, not a bully.
Anyway, the scandals, of course, are quite different, but there are
similarities. George Packer wrote in "The New Yorker" magazine, quote,
"Some of the parallels are weirdly exact. Whether or not he ordered the
Watergate bugging, Richard Nixon -- bugging -- Richard Nixon ran a campaign
of dirty tricks for two reasons. He wanted to run up the score going into
his second term, and he was supremely mean-spirited man -- a mean-spirited
man." Well, that`s an argument.
Anyway, Governor Christie also sought to run up the score by going after
Democratic endorsements, especially from mayors, even though, like Nixon,
he was gliding towards a victory.
According to "The Wall Street Journal," quote, "Interviews with mayors and
other New Jersey Democratic officials shows that Mr. Christie`s allies, in
conversation that -- that swung from friendly to persistent, fostered a
perception of better access to the governor`s office and state commissions
for those who cooperated, while a few who stayed neutral or endorsed Mr.
Christie`s opponent -- Democratic opponent -- they said they felt locked
out. Others suffered no harm."
Anyway, the parallels don`t end there. We`re going to talk about them.
Howard Fineman is editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and David Corn
is Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones." Both are prized MSNBC
Anyway, I`m fascinated by a couple things. I love personalities in
politics. I love people that are on the stand, they got the 5:00 o`clock
shadow, they`re scared to death. They don`t know what`s going to happen,
but you want to know who`s telling the truth. It`s like the old quiz shows
in the `60s, Who`s telling the truth?
I`m looking at Bridget Kelly. Maybe her name grabs me, the name Bridget
Kelly -- sounds like something out of a -- a -- I don`t know, a -- a
MATTHEWS: Raymond Chandler. Exactly, Raymond Chandlers. And I was
thinking, like -- like "The Maltese Falcon." There`s somebody really named
Bridget Kelly. OK.
Is she telling the truth? Or let me put it (INAUDIBLE) We don`t know what
she`s saying because she`s not talking!
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We
don`t know what she`s saying.
MATTHEWS: Everything she knows is everything. She knows it all!
FINEMAN: Well, that is one of the weird parallels that George Packer was
talking about. Not only do you have a guy who, like Richard Nixon, began
as a prosecutor, began as an investigator, not only do you have a guy who
prides himself on his tough guy image -- this is an administration that put
out YouTube videos about him yelling at people.
FINEMAN: I mean, they took pride in that. You also have a sort of
insecure guy on the periphery of the establishment, the Republican
establishment. And you`ve got a guy who is determined to tough it out, I
think, surrounded by people, who with one word, I think, could possibly
take him down. Bridget Kelly`s an example. Wildstein is an example.
Baroni is an example.
FINEMAN: Stepien is an example.
MATTHEWS: And all the other people who haven`t talked!
FINEMAN: Samson -- Samson, the guy who`s running -- the chair of the Port
Authority, who met with -- who was in the same picture with Christie after
the bridge closings began --
MATTHEWS: Let me get through some Nixon comparisons. Nixon denied
ordering the break-in at the Democratic National Committee, but he had
fostered a culture in his office for dirty tricks against his enemies. And
he had a history, let`s face it -- it`s all on the record -- of condoning
break-ins in the past. He`s on tape authorizing one at the Brookings
Institution -- I read it years ago -- just nine months before Watergate.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute safe
cleaned out, and have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, if you`re working for Richard Nixon and he`s ordering break-
ins all over the place -- by the way, one time, he ordered the break-in of
the Republican national headquarters, so it would look like the Democrats
It is all on tape.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: I`m not a Nixon hater. It is all on tape.
CORN: Yes, yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: So, if you`re working for the guy, you might figure, maybe it is
all right to knock off the DNC, because he says knock off all these other
CORN: Yes, but you got to -- Christie --
MATTHEWS: Christie says, let`s get this bozo 400 times, and you`re
hearing, and you`re figure it might be OK to knock off another bozo.
CORN: But Christie with Bridgegate at best is minor-league Nixon.
Nixon, he swung for the fences. He secretly bombed a country. He talked
about bombing -- he talked about bombing --
MATTHEWS: Have you been saving this for 50 years?
CORN: No, no, he talked about bombing, bombing --
MATTHEWS: I know. But we are talking about Watergate.
CORN: No, no, no, no. Listen --
FINEMAN: We`re talking about character.
CORN: What we have -- Christie still has a long way to go to reach
Nixonian levels of mendacity. I mean, he --
MATTHEWS: I hate to break it to you, but if everybody in the country knew
that Nixon had bombed Cambodia, he still would win the reelection.
CORN: Yes. Of course he -- but at the same point, this is what I think is
so bizarre about the Christie thing, is that they were only playing for
small stakes at this point.
Maybe that shows that he is even more of a bully or his judgment is even
more perverted than Nixon. Nixon at least was playing for -- on the global
stage. But to go and do what he -- what -- what -- what his aides are
accused of doing, it is about as cheap and about as small-minded --
MATTHEWS: It seems to me two things were done, Howard.
FINEMAN: I think that is -- I think that is true.
But I think what we are looking at here is character. We don`t yet really
know the full story of Chris Christie`s character. That is what makes this
compelling and that is what made his speech yesterday compelling. And, by
the way, it was more interesting after he started talking about what he
wanted to do in New Jersey.
But that performance was about this guy who thinks he can tough it out
through this thing, who said -- who said, at one point, of course I will
cooperate -- we will cooperate with all appropriate --
MATTHEWS: Well, how did you read that?
FINEMAN: That means they are going to try not to cooperate to the extent
MATTHEWS: It sounds to me like executive privilege has just been hung up
on the wall.
FINEMAN: Yes. That is a loophole as big as a six-lane stop on the New
MATTHEWS: Who decides what is appropriate?
FINEMAN: Who decides what is appropriate?
FINEMAN: And then he`s surrounded -- and then what it is that, like Nixon,
it is a prosecutor, it`s a guy who became known for investigations who is
now in an executive position trying to use what he learned as an
investigator to protect himself in this situation. That`s exactly like
CORN: But if he -- this would make him really like Nixon. Nixon tried not
to release the tapes and he tried to kill the investigations and he got the
CIA involved to tell the FBI to lay off. That`s why he was impeached.
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at the comparison here on tape.
CORN: The question is whether Christie will do stuff like that.
MATTHEWS: This is the famous June 23, 1972, tape.
And you can hear the president telling his top aid, H.R. Haldeman, to
obstruct the investigation and how to do it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: When you get in these people when you -- get these people in, say,
look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs
thing, and the President just feels that without going into the details --
don`t, don`t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but
just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into
it, the president believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs
thing up again.
And because these people are plugging for -- for keeps and that they should
call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don`t go any further
into this case, period!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So there you have the president of the United States telling
people go over to the CIA and tell them to stop the FBI investigation
because it is interfering with what they are up to and keeping secrets
about the Bay of Pigs.
In Christie`s case, "The Wall Street Journal" reported last month that he
had tried the heat taken off in his way. Here`s how he did it: "Mr.
Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to New Jersey
Governor Andrew Cuomo, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to
the bottom of why the number of toll lanes into the bridge from Fort Lee,
New Jersey, were cut off three to one in early September, according to a
person familiar with the matter."
For the record, Christie denied the "Wall Street Journal" report.
But there you have another way of going to somebody else in government
saying, let`s kind of cut this off. So, he to me has his hands on this.
Why would a governor call another governor and say use your offices and
stop this damn investigation?
CORN: Yes. Listen, we know there was a --
MATTHEWS: Why would he do it?
CORN: We know there was a cover-up. They came up with a cover story, a
And his chief associates at the Port Authority stuck to this. So, like you
want to keep with the Watergate theory.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean keep with it?
CORN: They came up with this stonewall, with a cover-up, and it kind of
stuck for a couple of months. And that is part of the investigation.
But I think, at the end of the day --
MATTHEWS: Why would he risk calling Cuomo up? Did he think Cuomo would
cover for him?
CORN: Because -- because he -- because he probably thinks there is
something at risk here.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but why would he risk telling a Democrat he was afraid of
CORN: Because he`s afraid of an investigation, Chris.
FINEMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: Howard, what do you think?
FINEMAN: To me, to me, the most Nixonian moment of this whole thing so far
was at the press conference last week when Chris Christie said, against all
evidence, he said, and, by the way, maybe there really was a traffic study.
FINEMAN: That was a Nixonian moment, if there was ever one.
MATTHEWS: The same way here he used other government officials, the way
that Nixon did, here he is using the same attack to the press.
Christie and Nixon both took a snarky attitude toward the press when the
scandals broke and got big.
MATTHEWS: Remember Christie last month? Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Yes, I worked the cones actually,
Matt. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was
in overalls and a hat, so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working
the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In other words, shut up, clowns.
MATTHEWS: In October of `73, Nixon had his own way of trashing the press.
He was asked in a press conference about the TV coverage and whether it
angered him or not.
MATTHEWS: Here is his classic Nixon response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIXON: I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted
reporting in 27 years of public life. And, yet, don`t get the impression
that you aroused my anger.
QUESTION: I`m afraid, sir, that I have that impression.
NIXON: You see, one can only be angry with those he respects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you like that smile?
MATTHEWS: One -- one -- objectifying it, one can only be angry at someone
he respects, a direct shot at everybody that`s covering him.
CORN: Listen, I still think this -- this comparison works, but you are
comparing for plays for the Toledo Mud Hens to someone playing for the
CORN: But the question is, at the end of the day, does he think he can do
what Nixon tried to do, which is really mount a cover-up and keep an
investigation at bay?
MATTHEWS: We will see.
CORN: I think things have changed so much, and I think he is so far out on
the limb that he is not going to be able to stop these investigations and
that eventually we`re going to have more information.
FINEMAN: Well, of course, on one level, the comparison to Nixon is
But on the other more -- the other more important level, you have to
examine a politician in the --
MATTHEWS: Do you know those "Austin Powers" chairs where if, you say the
wrong thing, your chair takes you underground?
FINEMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, but just let me --
FINEMAN: Let me finish.
FINEMAN: You have to evaluate a politician in the environment they`re in.
FINEMAN: For Chris Christie, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
MATTHEWS: It`s all he had.
FINEMAN: -- is the Pentagon.
CORN: It`s like Cambodia.
FINEMAN: Just wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, there are more high-paying jobs there, it
seems, than there are in the government.
FINEMAN: Of course there are.
FINEMAN: It is a huge cash cow. It is a question of character.
CORN: Doing what?
FINEMAN: It is a question of character. That`s what this is about.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s about this. And I think it is going to get big.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman, and thank you, David Corn, the
MATTHEWS: Up next: It goes from bad to worst for Chris Christie. His
idol, Bruce Springsteen, teams up with Jimmy Fallon to parody the bridge
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON (singing): Some day,
Governor, I don`t know when, this we will all end. But until then, you`re
killing the working man who is stuck in the Governor Chris Christie-Fort
Lee, New Jersey, traffic jam.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."
After a weeklong tsunami of damaging headlines, Chris Christie might be
asking himself whether he really is in fact stronger than the storm. And
the bruising he took on late night last evening couldn`t have helped.
Jimmy Fallon was joined on set by rock legend and famous New Jerseyan Bruce
Springsteen, who also happens to be Chris Christie`s idol. Today, Fallon
and Boss performed a remarkable Christie-themed parody of "Born to Run."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")
FALLON (singing): Highway jammed with pissed-off drivers with no place
left to go. And the press conference went on and on.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MUSICIAN (singing): It was longer than one of my own
FALLON (singing): Some day, Governor, I don`t know when, this we will all
end. But until then, you`re killing the working man who is stuck in the
Governor Chris Christie-Fort Lee, New Jersey, traffic jam.
SPRINGSTEEN: I got to take a leak.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s what I was thinking. Well, that is going to be around
for a while.
Well, Chris Christie may be known for his thick skin, but this one must
have cut deep. He has made no secret for his love for Springsteen, which
borders on infatuation. He`s attended, by the way -- get this -- 132
Springsteen concerts, the governor has, and even cried tears of joy after
finally meeting the Boss backstage at a concert for Hurricane Sandy victims
back in 2012. Let`s hope he doesn`t -- that doesn`t put him over the edge
last night. What a show.
And, finally, everyone knows that elected officials take a lot of heat from
their detractors online. And if you have ever read the comments section on
any Web site, you probably know how nasty those critics can be. Well, it`s
something that all public figures learn to endure. A few -- a few
congressmen recently made light of some of those mean tweets in a series of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: "Clairecmc, you really suck a pig`s
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: "Paul Ryan has such pretty blue eyes.
Sometimes it`s easy to forget he`s Satan incarnate."
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: "@RepSwalwell, When was the last time
you heard voices? It`s important to take your medicine regularly."
What was that?
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: "RepSeanDuffy was a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bag
on `Real World` MTV. He`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bag now."
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: "I saw David Vitter in Starbucks this
morning -- #loser."
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: "ChrisMurphyCT, your ignorance is
overshadowed only by your naivete. #LMAO," which I assume means legislators
make America outstanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Up next: President Obama`s fight to keep the Senate in Democratic control.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
The House approved a massive $1.1 trillion compromise spending bill
earlier. It is expected to pass the Senate later this week. President
Obama traveled to North Carolina today to announce the creation of a new
manufacturing innovation institute. This is the first of three high-tech
hubs aimed at reenergizing the economy. Meanwhile, J.C. Penney says it is
closing dozens of stores and cutting thousands of jobs. The company has
struggled to turn itself around and boost sales.
Now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The far right is doubling down in their mission to destroy President Obama,
of course. They want to kill affordable care, annihilate the president`s
agenda, and make it harder for minorities, African-Americans especially, to
vote. Their path to victory in 2014, we now know it, is to take over the
Republicans need to win six seats to take control of the Senate and six-
year midterms are historically rough for the party in power. That`s the
Democrats this time. Since World War II, the party that controls the White
House has lost an average of, you guessed it, six seats, the six seats the
Republicans need to win.
To make sure that doesn`t happen, President Obama has outlined a three-
pronged assault to defeat his enemies this time and protect his friends.
Here it is. At the center of that plan is a populist message to turn out
the base. You know what that is. It`s about economic inequality. Then
there`s work to continually improve the Affordable Care Act, which would
give vulnerable swing state incumbents at least some cover against those
attack ads. And perhaps most important is the fund-raising.
Conservative rainmakers like the billionaire Koch brothers are unloading
millions into local races right now. Democrats will need a rainmaker of
their own. And that`s the guy we`re looking at, the president.
MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann is the co-author of "Double Down."
And Cynthia Tucker is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist now with the
University of Georgia.
By the way, Republicans are favored in at least three races where Democrats
are retiring. But what ultimately decides control of the Senate could come
down to personalities in several critically important contests. Here they
are. And I like these races.
Republicans are going after at least three vulnerable Democrats, including
Kay Hagan, who ought to get reelected, in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu,
who has been reelected many times in Louisiana, and Mark Pryor with that
famous name in Arkansas.
And Democrats are looking to flip to their side at least two Republican
seats, including and especially Kentucky`s Mitch McConnell, who has to
navigate a primary and then face a very formidable Democratic challenger in
Alison Lundergan Grimes.
And then there`s Georgia, where Republican Saxby Chambliss is retiring.
Democrats are pinning their hopes there on Michelle Nunn, a centrist who
has quickly amassed a $3 million war chest for her campaign.
John Heilemann, it looks to me, the way I`m doing this, I`m focusing on
people that I think a lot of the viewers that watch right now will be
watching and caring about. People care about Michelle Nunn. They care
about Allison Grimes, want to knock off McConnell. A lot of people do.
I think Kay Hagan in North Carolina looks to me like a very attractive
incumbent who should get reelected if there wasn`t the weird, nasty swing
to the right that might be looming out there.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, yes, Chris, I think
all of that`s true. I mean, look, the Republicans have to basically -- the
electoral map is kind of running in their favor right now. They have to
pick up six seats, at least six vulnerable Democrats out there. As you
point out, there are some vulnerable Republicans, as well.
You know, if you have the elections today, given the bad fall that the
administration had, the president`s sagging approval ratings, the national
tide against Obamacare right now, Republicans would have a pretty decent
chance of running the table and picking up the Senate. But we`ve got a
long way to play.
MATTHEWS: What can change?
HEILEMANN: But he has a lot of control or some degree of control at least
over that key element, which is making sure the Affordable Care Act looks
not like a disaster 10 months from now, but like it`s improving and getting
on stable footing. That might get a lot of air out of the Republican tide.
That`s a mix metaphor and a hardly mix one. But you know what I`m saying.
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, do you think the glass ceiling is gone? It`s risen
about the Senate. Is it -- I pointed out a lot of these women because I
know a lot of them and I root for some of them certainly. And I`ve got a
feeling that they are in good shape as candidates.
I mean, Allison Grimes looks like a damn strong candidate. So, is Michelle
Nunn, and certainly Kay Hagan.
(INAUDIBLE) glass ceiling for being a senator for women? Are they equal
terms now with men?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, I wouldn`t say equal terms
but women are doing well in the Senate, first of all. Patty Murray,
senator from Washington who brokered the budget deal, which looks bound to
pass, which is going to end the sequester, more or less.
MATTHEWS: Yes, good work.
TUCKER: So, many women senators are doing well. But it also depends on
having good candidates. And Grimes in Kentucky and Nunn in Georgia are
both excellent candidates.
You know, Michelle Nunn grew up in a political family. She knows what she
is doing. She is raising money well. And all of that matters.
It also matters that President Obama is finally paying attention. He now
understands that he has to get involved in these midterm races. He has to
level the player field as much as he can and he has to run as much money as
he can and that matters, too.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to John Heilemann. How does this president
regain his heroic stature? I`m not saying he was super popular with more
than 50 some percent of the country.
But he was seen as a hero to a lot of people. I think he`s lost that for a
while. And I`m trying to figure out how does he champion the election and
re-election of his friends in the Senate, especially in the South in red
states, even in the case of Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, North
Carolina, all red states.
MATTHEWS: How does he go down -- like today he`s down to visit North
Carolina and talk about employment and Kay Hagan says she is in Washington,
too busy to join him. It`s only an hour ride in a plane.
HEILEMANN: Well, look, he`s -- I mean, the unfortunate truth is that in a
lot of those states that are up for grabs, a lot of the states the
Republicans are going to spend a lot of money and try to take Democratic
seats away, those states are places where the president has never been all
that popular and now he`s even less popular.
It`s hard for me, Chris, to see among persuadable voters that he`s going to
have that if he ever had heroic stature, that he`s gong to be able to get
it back in those places. What he can do is he can raise a lot of money.
He`s certainly heroic on the fundraising circuit, we know that, and he can
help to drive Democratic turnout in those states.
But it`s going to be the case that in a lot of those places, some of the
incumbents are not going to want to stand up for the president. You cited
one example. I`m not sure he`s going to be all that welcome in a lot of
those states going forward. But he can do what he can.
And I think that Cynthia is right. The fact that he understands how
important this is, something he has not done or taken much interest in in
the past, got campaigning for or even fundraising for down-ticket
Democrats, he understands how important this is, and that if he doesn`t
hold on to the Senate, Democrats aren`t going to hold on to the Senate,
he`s going to have a harder time, and even harder time, as hard as it`s
been, and even harder time getting anything done in his last two years in
the White House.
MATTHEWS: That`s a bad sign. If he loses the Senate, he`s lost the
Congress. By the way, if the people voted in `08 vote again, it would be a
good year. If the people voted in `10 vote again, he`s screwed.
Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann --
TUCKER: That`s exactly, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t it? That`s the story. You and I talk about all the time,
who shows up cast the verdict. If you sit at home, you didn`t help this
Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann. Thank you, Cynthia Tucker.
Up next, talk about scandals. A president`s affair with an actress sends
his girlfriend, his country`s first lady, to the hospital broken-hearted.
Well, this is HARDBALL.
That`s the story of France. Doesn`t seem to bother the people over there.
We`ll be back and talk about why it doesn`t and why it wouldn`t bother us -
- or would normally bother us.
MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary Clinton may be facing token competition should she
decide to run for the Democratic nomination this time. That`s because her
list of possible challengers is shrinking. California Governor Jerry Brown
is the latest to say, no way. He ruled out a fourth campaign for president
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren already rejected a run and Maryland
Governor Martin O`Malley says he won`t run if Clinton does.
Who`s that leave? Vice President Joe Biden, of course. And possibly
someone on the left like Howard Dean or former Montana Governor Brian
Schweitzer. I`m not sure he`s on the left, but Dean is.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last couple of months suggested the president of
this country was to certain extent about character, and although I`m not
willing to engage on his attacks, I have been here three years and three
days. And I can tell you without hesitation, being president of this
country is entirely about character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Entirely about character.
That was a popular scene from that great movie "The American president."
When the widowed president played by Michael Douglas responds to attacks on
his character from a Republican played by Richard Dreyfus for having a
girlfriend. He actually had an affair going.
Anyway, yesterday, France`s President Francois Hollande spoke out for the
first time in response to revelations made by a tabloid that he`s been
having a relationship with an actress on the side from his relationship
with his girlfriend who lives with them. Anyway, news of the affair sent
Hollande`s long time girlfriend who`s considered France`s first lady to the
hospital. Hollande said afterwards, quote, "Everyone in their personal
life goes through trials. This is our case. These are painful moments. I
don`t know how painful they are for him. I have a principle that private
affairs are dealt with in private. This is neither the place nor the time
to do it."
My question to tonight`s panel, do you think that would fly here in the
Anyway, Eugene Robinson was editing the post for years to style pages,
especially. He`s had a deal with these. He`s, of course, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning writer and columnist for "The Washington Post", and Michelle
Kosinski covers Europe. She`s NBC correspondent over in London.
Let`s get the facts first from Michelle from straight report. I love
watching your reports from London. I always want to be where you`re at,
Michelle. You`re always in a great place, someplace delightfully
Explain if you can in short hand how the French are able to deal with
matters that we would consider sticky, they say, c`est la vie?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS: Yes, I know. Nice choice of words there,
But I think they like to say, they love to say that these are personal
matters, this is private, they don`t care, and they do take certain things
Things like public nudity or someone is photographed sun bathing topless,
like the duchess of Cambridge was. Remember when that French newspaper
published those photos and was sued successfully by the royal family. But
something like this is different. I mean, they will tell you on the
street, that we don`t care what he does in his private life, but this is
the biggest story over there.
I was in Paris two days ago, really while this was all developing. And it
was wall-to-wall coverage. I mean, this is what everybody was talking
about, from intellectuals to taxi drivers.
KOSINSKI: I think just the details of it. First of all, he is hugely
unpopular now. His ratings are down to, I don`t know, by some estimates,
15 percent. And also, the nature of it, the fact that he was photographed
being not very discrete. Because, you know, to the French, discretion is
everything. They want to at least be tasteful about it and then they`ll
cut you a lot more slack.
But he was photographed with this motorcycle helmet on, showing up very
late at night with very little security, just his recognizable personal
bodyguard. You know, supposedly, according to the photographer, the
actress shows up, he shows up a short time later to this apartment that
reportedly is owned by somebody with ties to the mafia, et cetera, et
cetera. I mean, the story has many bad layers.
And then he`s photographed the next morning leaving.
And the French just don`t really tolerate the boldness of this, especially
for someone so unpopular, and, by the way, the first lady or shall we say
first girlfriend is equally unpopular there.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to the question, when we were growing up,
there were things called the European version of a movie. My wife and I
went over to Africa, I`m watching a movie. She`s watching a French movie.
It`s a new one.
What goes on in these movies is unbelievable by our standards. So, they`re
different culture. In this country, supposed a president of the United
States, Bill Clinton, or Spitzer or one of these guys, Edwards, one of
them, came out and said, my principle is that private life factors should
stay with the private life.
What would the reporters --
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Good luck with that. I mean --
MATTHEWS: How come, what is the new line? It used to be, Gene, it was sex
plus, you didn`t just write about it. If a guy is gay, you never cut him a
slack you never brought it up, you didn`t out people, for example, and you
didn`t out girlfriends -- unless there was a lobbyist or something in the
office place that really broke the rules.
What are the rules now for covering?
ROBINSON: Well, things have changed. I mean, the big change started I
think with Gary Hart, when he said, you know, follow me, right? And so --
MATTHEWS: And then your colleagues said -- have you ever cheated on your
wife. And Ben Bradley said, you sent back journalism 20 years with that
question. That went on.
ROBINSON: Yes, I think the ball has moved, even in France. I think, I
mean -- can you imagine anyone asking that question at a press conference,
(INAUDIBLE), for example? We had a whole second family.
ROBINSON: And so, I think attitudes have changed over there, it may have
something too do with the way the media works now, with the instantaneous
nature of the coverage. Ubiquity of cameras, and also in this case, the
sort of Inspector Clouseau factor of the motorcycle helmet and everything.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Thank you. It`s great having you on.
Michelle Kosinski, we need this story to get you on. We just came up with
this so we can get you on. But thank you so much, Michelle Kosinski.
We`ll be watching the "Nightly News" every night from a nice place like
Anyway, Eugene Robinson, who had (INAUDIBLE) these stories back in the day.
Anyway, we`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
Say this for the French, they know their standards. President after
president has had an affair during his term of office. The people have
known, and they haven`t cared. That`s what I`ve told pollsters. That`s
how they voted.
Here in this country, this new world -- it`s not at all clear what should
be considered within the circle of political and press coverage. It used
to be that a sexual relationship of itself wasn`t enough to warrant open
media scrutiny. There had to be a plus factor, something to do with
conflict of interest, a tryst, for example, with a lobbyist or a situation
in the office.
Well, today, I don`t know what`s in and what`s out. Perhaps there`s one
guide post that`s visible, even in the mirth (ph). Whatever else is true,
it`s vital to know once you run for president, everything gets thrown into
the hopper. What goes unreported for senators or even governors becomes
front page news once you`re in the presidential world. And that means we
can expect more episodes of candidates who thought they new the rules at a
lower level of play getting hung up and ruined once they upgraded their
hopes and ambitions and enjoying the rivalry and the dangers of a run for
the White House. Not much to go on there, but a useful bit of reality for
those thinking of jumping into the run for 2016.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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