updated 2/24/2014 10:30:53 AM ET 2014-02-24T15:30:53

HARDBALL
February 21, 2014

Guests: Katie Glueck, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Allen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama to Republicans.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. President Obama lays down the law.
He`s doing what critics on the left have urged him to do for five years,
he`s saying what he wants. His new budget says no to austerity, no cuts in
Social Security. He says yes again to a big hike in the federal minimum
wage, right up there to $10.10.

Message to the Democratic base: Barack Obama is with you all the way.
Message to the Republicans: You guys had your chance. When I was talking
deal over entitlements, you said no to taxes. Now I`m saying no.

The president`s political message could be not (sic) hardly any
sharper. This is going to be one tough election year, he`s saying.
November`s going to turn on who brings out their base.

Now hear this. President Obama is going to do nothing between now and
then, meaning November, that causes anything but joy for the Democratic
base. He`s going to try to juice the base. Social Security? You`ve never
had a better friend than me, he`s saying. Higher minimum wage? Same deal.

Well, tonight we take a bold new look at a bold new president.
Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst and executive editor of
MSNBC.com. And Joy Reid is the host of "THE REID REPORT" debuting Monday -
- that`s this Monday, three days hence -- at 2:00 PM Eastern here on MSNBC.

I want to start with you, Joy, in this, the new look at the president.
No more Simpson-Bowles, we`re going down to meet down the middle. We`re
going to have a marriage of right and left. Pretty clearly identification
with the progressive wing of his party, pretty clear statement of clear-cut
old Democratic principles.

JOY REID, HOST, MSNBC "THE REID REPORT": Yes. Absolutely. And
Chris, you said it in your intro. Midterm elections, even more than any
other election, are simply about getting out the base. This is not
politics of trying to persuade the other side that you`ll work with them.
No. President Obama has got to get the base of the Democratic Party to do
what they don`t normally do, which is turn out in large numbers in a
midterm.

And to do that, he has to strip away all the compromise stuff. He`s
going to strip away everything that irritated the Democratic base over the
last five years, and he`s now giving them exactly what they want, a hard
line on Social Security. And more importantly, he`s using the "S" word,
"spending." Spending. The mother`s milk of states. He`s going to these
governors, and he did so today and said, I want to spend money on
infrastructure, job training, things Democrats, and particularly at the
state level, love.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the politics and the policy because
I think they coincide here, Richard. Richard Wolffe, thanks for joining
us.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me -- I have reason to believe this president
is not a fiscal hawk. He`s not sitting out there, thinking about ways to
reduce the debt. He thinks the deficit`s coming down quite nicely, thank
you. He also believes the government can help create demand. He`s a
Keynesian. Therefore, he`s probably said to himself, you know, I don`t
believe in cutting debt. I don`t believe in trying to cut the deficit this
current year, in the current situation of recovery. I don`t think the
Republicans want to do it, either. So why am I pretending anymore that I
believe in debt reduction and I believe that they might go along with it?

So ending the pretense, along with what Joy said and what I said
before, it looks like he`s now saying OK, you know what? I`m a
progressive. And I basically think we could use a little more stimulus.
We`re going to get it through a little more spending. And by the way, I`m
not touching Social Security. No more chained CPI or any of that stuff.
I`m going clean progressive.

Your thoughts.

WOLFFE: Look, he is a progressive, but he`s also a realist. And the
realistic view of the government finances and the economy has changed.
That`s to say the economy has bounced back better than people thought it
would at the time of Simpson-Bowles. The deficit is looking a whole lot
better because of things like the sequester cut, because health care costs
aren`t rising so quickly.

But the third element is the politics has changed. You don`t hear
people getting fired up about the deficits and debt, saying that it`s the
world`s greatest threat to American values anymore. All of that has
changed. And this president looks at all of that and said, Well, if I
don`t have a partner in terms of this compromise, then why should I get hit
from the left and the right?

The president`s aides will tell you time and again, unlike 2008, 2007,
when they said, Well, if we`re getting criticized from both sides, that
means we`re telling uncomfortable truths -- now they`ll say, after so many
years in office, If we get hit by both sides, that`s the worst position for
us to be in. He`s not going to do that again.

MATTHEWS: Joy, you know, have I another realization that`s come to
me. You know, for a long time, we thought the Republicans -- well, let me
put it the way. The Democrats are willing to tax the rich a bit more. The
Republicans were looking to cut entitlements for the working class and all
that, the middle class and everybody.

But I get the feeling Republicans have wised up to this. I don`t
think you`re going to get anybody coming forward in an election year, any
election year, even a midterm and saying, Let`s chop away at the CPI.
Let`s make it a little tougher to get -- keep up with the cost of living,
you know what I mean? Therefore, I don`t think the Republicans were going
to come to the middle and say, You know what? We`ll take that, and you
give us that cut in the entitlements and we`ll give you a little more
taxes.

I don`t think there was ever any give on either of those, not just the
taxes. I don`t think the Republicans deep down ever wanted to cut the
entitlements because there`s no politics in it. There just isn`t!

REID: Well, I mean, I think that some of the Republicans do. The
ones I would disagree with you on are people like Paul Ryan, who have a
very doctrinaire...

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: ... view of wanting to go after Medicare...

MATTHEWS: The purists.

REID: ... and Social Security. The purists, right.

MATTHEWS: What percent?

REID: Exactly. And it`s a very small minority. That`s why it was so
risky to put him on the ticket because he really is a zealot when it comes
to cutting entitlements.

But I think you`re right on. The main Republicans have decided their
best political position is just stasis where they are now. They think they
have a winning issue in the Affordable Care Act, so they would be crazy to
-- and I think they understand this -- present new policy that`s going to
irritate their base with -- let`s face, it`s older Americans.

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: Their base is much older. So they aren`t going to go after
anything that is an entitlement to seniors. They`re not going to do it
particularly when they need to get those people out in the midterm.

MATTHEWS: You know, the family that`s up there living in
Pennsylvania, you know, the rural parts of Pennsylvania, upstate Scranton,
Erie, they`re not moving to a condo down in Naples, you know? They`re
going to be up there, and they need every dollar they can get in Social
Security CPI. They don`t want to hear, Oh, he`s trimming on our stuff, if
they`re Democrats.

Anyway, here`s the president doubling down on something I really think
is smart, the minimum wage, repeating today at a meeting with Democratic
governors, what he believes and what he thinks works. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not just good
policy. It also happens to be good politics because the truth of the
matter is, is the overwhelming majority of Americans think that raising the
minimum wage is a good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Richard, here`s my theory. I don`t know if I sparked this
idea, but a while back, a week or so ago, I started talking, you know,
discharge petition, meaning wait -- don`t, Democrats, in the minority in
the House, sit around waiting for Republicans to push minimum wage.
They`re not going to do it. You guys get a petition together. Get 218
votes, you`ll get it on the floor.

But even if they fall short, imagine going into the room. It`s like
card check with the labor unions, right, that Ed Schultz stuff. They come
walk in the door, We`d like you to sign this. And then Peter King`s
waiting for them. Peter King -- does he want to have to sign that? He
doesn`t want to not sign it. Pat Meehan, Mike Fitzpatrick, Gerlach (ph) --
these other guys -- they`re going to say, Wait a minute. If I don`t sign
this thing, they`ll be able to go out and announce, the Democrats, that I,
representing a lot of working middle family -- (INAUDIBLE) I`ve said no to
minimum wage.

WOLFFE: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s a great way to screw the other side into doing
something you want them to do. And it`s a win-win because if they don`t do
it, you kill them in November.

WOLFFE: Right. If you`re going to fight about jobs, if you`re going
to talk about middle class prosperity and opportunity, if that`s what you
think the 2016 and 2014 elections are going to be fought on, this is a
great issue. It`s a little bit of the Karl Rove politics, right? You`re
not saying you really think this is going to get through, but what`s
different here, more than just the politics, is you have retailers. You
have those businesses that Republicans say they speak for, saying, Well,
I`m OK with it.

When The Gap is out there saying, We can afford this, that changes the
dynamic. Then you`ve also got not just who`s in touch with the middle
class but who`s in touch with the real economy. And that`s where I think
Democrats have an opening.

MATTHEWS: And even -- Joy, let`s be really political here. I would
bet there are more Republican employees out there than there are Republican
employers.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I know everybody likes to pretend in the Republican Party -
- my dad was one -- We`re all entrepreneurs, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They`re not. Most of them work for somebody. They may
work in a corporation, but they work maybe in a small business. They`re
not -- you know, they`re not the guy meeting the payroll, the guy on the
payroll, or woman on the payroll.

So the question I have to you is, why wouldn`t they want to do it for
their own people? Especially if they could get a tax deal for -- for what
do you call it -- small business, some little sweet -- sugar plum thrown
into the deal, which often happens.

REID: Yes, no, exactly. And the reason it is smart for Democrats to
play on this is the key word in minimum wage is "wage." You`re not talk
about people that Republicans can sort of demean as deadbeats. You`re
talking about working people, working stiffs, the average guy, who
Republicans like to message that they stand for.

And so what Democrats want to do in this election, because Republicans
don`t want to do legislation, don`t want to propose policy, they want to
stay where they are -- Democrats have to get individual Republicans on the
record on an issue that`s unpopular. So they want to get a Republican on
the record voting against the idea of raising the minimum wage because
that`s what the ads will be.

They want the ads to be this particular Republican doesn`t care about
the working man. Look at this vote that he just did or his failure to vote
on minimum wage. It`s an issue that Democrats can win on, and they would
be smart to do just what you said and try to get as many Republicans on the
record. Get that on the floor, if they can.

MATTHEWS: Yes, catch a picture of a person catching the bus 6:30 in
the morning to work a 45, 50-hour week, trying to grab enough money out of
$5 an hour or $7 an hour...

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... and say, This person doesn`t deserve a little break
here?

Anyway, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of course, of Virginia, is
readying his troops for battle. In a memo just obtained by NBC News that`s
entitled "The imperial presidency," Cantor identifies the GOP attacks
strategy on President Obama as the march to the midterm picks up. There
will be bills planned to, quote, "restore the balance of power created by
our founders." In other words, the GOP wants to do something about the
president`s executive orders, they say. And the memo also makes clear that
they`ll continue the drumbeat criticizing the president`s health care plan.

Let me ask you about how tired these ideas are, Richard. First of
all, we know they`re going to hit "Obama care." Fair enough. Pure
politics. We understand that. But going back to this constitutional
threat -- this is really ridiculous -- that President Obama is somehow
Lyndon Johnson, that he`s some sort of -- you know, a guy who stretches
arms and makes people do stuff. He sort of takes you in the back room and
beats you up and gets his way.

What is this -- this notion of him? The president has been a mild-
mannered CEO of this country. And the idea that he`s some sort of imperial
presidency -- I don`t know what -- I guess they`re really playing to their
base with that kind of talk.

WOLFFE: Yes. Well, they are. And obviously, it doesn`t stand up to
scrutiny. Just look at the number of executive orders out there.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE: ... matter of interpretation. But look at how these two
strategies of playing to the base actually stack up against each other, not
in terms of the size of the base, but whether you can reach someone,
someone who is persuadable in those suburban places where these midterms
are actually going to get decided, and what you have.

You have an imperial presidency charge against the minimum wage rise.
You know, which one is going to have more populist reach not just for your
core voters, but for some of those fringer (ph), more infrequent ones, who
(INAUDIBLE) smaller than in a presidential cycle...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WOLFFE: ... but can still make the difference. I just don`t think
these two strategies really stack up in the same way.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, we know the big one tonight, the big announcement
tonight -- Richard Wolffe and Joy Reid, thanks for joining us -- the big
news, the president is playing hardball. He`s coming out for complete
protection of Social Security benefits. Everyone watching who cares about
it should know where he stands, 100 percent support for the full cost of
living adjustments coming up, no change in that, and all out for the
working people, pushing hard for -- a real double down, I think, of the
minimum wage fight for $10.10.

Anyway -- and by the way, don`t forget, everybody out there, "THE REID
REPORT" -- interesting title -- "THE REID REPORT," 2:00 PM Eastern here on
MSNBC. Got to watch that at 2:00 o`clock Eastern. There she is, Joy Reid.
Thanks for joining us again, and thank you, Richard Wolffe.

Coming up, the tale of two Christies, the old in-your-face Jersey
tough guy -- we know him pretty well -- and now the damage control mode
he`s on right now.

Plus, the conservative clown car is back, making its turns. Among
them, U.S. Congressman Steve King is back, who says, Yes, it`s true,
illegal immigrants do have calves the size of cantaloupes from lugging pot
across the border, especially the kids.

Also, the right`s hate-love-hate relationship with Bill Clinton --
hate him when he`s president, love him when they`re bashing Obama, then
hate him again now that Hillary`s a threat to run.

And yes, that is first lady Michelle Obama on the "Tonight" show
sketch with Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell, in this case in drag.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re pretty strong. You could totally
(INAUDIBLE) in the Olympics.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you,
Sarah. I do try to exercise every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? Because I think exercise is eew.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Exercise is not eew!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: This Sunday on NBC, I`ll be one of David Gregory`s guests
on "MEET THE PRESS." We`ll be talking about the 2014 and 2016 elections,
of course, plus President Obama`s handling of foreign policy, given what`s
going on in the Ukraine. And that`s this Sunday on "MEET THE PRESS" on
NBC. Check your local listings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Chris Christie`s old empire
continues to crumble. "The New York Times" is reporting that Paul
Nunziato, the head of the Port Authority police union, who says the phony
Fort Lee traffic study was his idea, is now stepping aside from the union`s
day-to-day operations. Well, that`s according to a person briefed on the
matter. In his statement, Nunziato says he has asked one of his deputies
to take a more active role -- in other words, the story`s true.

So where`s Christie? Well, yesterday, the Jersey governor amped up
his damage control efforts at a town hall in a part of the state that`s
been friendly to him in the past. And what caught people`s attention
there, particularly reporters covering the event, was the abrupt change in
the governor`s public personality.

"The New York Times" said, quote, "The man who once commanded these
rooms just by walking into them seemed unmistakably mortal." "The
Washington Post" said it was nothing like Christie`s previous town halls.
They called this one a "deliberately low-key affair." And the Bergen
"Record" noted that the governor`s usual swagger and sarcasm was gone.
Instead, he, quote, "offered empathy and his undivided attention." What a
shocker.

And this was the image he left people with, the larger-than-life
Christie kneeling to the floor to talk to a 3-year-old. This is the
portrait of a politician in survival mode.

Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and
an MSNBC contributor, and Katie Glueck is a reporter for Politico.

Gentleman, and Katie -- let me ask you, Katie, about this picture. A
picture is worth a thousand words unless it`s a public relations stunt. I
keep going back to Nixon in my comparisons to this fellow. Nixon had a new
face. He presented it in 1968, when he ran the second time. He had town
meetings put together by Roger Ailes, in fact, in those days...

KATIE GLUECK: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... so that he could portray himself as a regular duke-it-
out kind of politician, not the dark old Nixon of old, the Herblock
cartoon.

So is this going to work?

GLUECK: Well, what we saw yesterday in the town hall certainly stood
in stark contrast to the way that we`ve seen Governor Christie really over
the last couple of years, certainly more subdued. We didn`t see too much
of that New Jersey bravado that he`s often exuded before, and instead, as
you noted, certainly displayed that kind of softer side.

At the same time, the event really seemed to serve as a bit of a
reprieve from the really tough 2014 that he`s had. You know, he didn`t
take -- he didn`t -- he wasn`t presented with too many real tough
questions. And you know, so that offered him a little bit of space to sort
of show that more empathetic side, which comes, as we`ve all, you know,
kind of seen all the reports (INAUDIBLE) are suggesting and raising
questions about whether his administration is taking a bit of a bullying
approach.

MATTHEWS: You know, the old question, Jonathan -- you`ve been around
long enough to know this -- I think the difference between politicians in
public -- and often, the public version is the one we get. They like us
all. They`re so friendly when they meet reporters or commentators, anybody
that might make them look bad or worse. That`s not really a good way to
judge a politician, by the way he treats a reporter, it`s been my
experience.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Correct.

MATTHEWS: You got to ask around. You got to ask around. You got to
do a little reporting to find out what they`re like when you`re not
watching.

So my question to you is, is the real Christie is the one that was
dancing around the floor the other day with the 3-year-old, or is he, in
fact, the guy who put together the team of Wildstein and Baroni and Bridget
Kelly and Stepien and all these people who think it`s the business of the
government of New Jersey to punish opponents?

CAPEHART: Chris, it`s both. Look, I`m one of those reporters who`s
gotten into an on-air tussle with Governor Christie, but what people didn`t
see was what happened off camera, when he complimented me on a piece that I
had written, giving him a compliment for putting the flags at half-staff
when Whitney Houston died.

And after our on-air altercation, I thanked him again, and he was very
heartfelt about sort of how he was disturbed by the reaction to his doing
that for Whitney Houston and the awful names people called people dealing
with drug addiction. He talked about it as, you know, being a disease, and
these people need to be helped.

That was when I saw the empathetic, more real, human, down-to-earth
Chris Christie than the larger-than-life, bullying Chris Christie that I
dealt with on air, and who we have come to know through all the -- the
scenes that we have seen of him at town hall meetings...

MATTHEWS: Well, what the more...

CAPEHART: ... and radio interviews.

MATTHEWS: What is the more important part of him, the part that is
effective in politics or the part that is charming to you?

CAPEHART: Well, look, the thing that is happening right now is,
politically speaking, what Chris Christie needs to do.

He is engulfed in scandal. His administration is engulfed in scandal.
And the number one thing he can do to help himself politically is to look
like he is acting normally, that he is going about the business of being
governor, of tending to the needs of the people of his state. And, yes, he
was there in a place that has always been Christie territory.

So the questions that came to him yesterday were all very friendly,
except for one moment there when he got into it with someone in the
audience. But, by and large, no one pushed him.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CAPEHART: No one tested him to bring out that bullying -- that
bullying nature.

MATTHEWS: They say pictures are worth 1,000 words. Let`s look at the
pictures. Call it a tale of two cities. This is the old Christie at town
hall events. Well, it`s his old style at work here. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If what you want to do is put on
a show and giggle every time I talk, well, then, I have no interest in
answering your question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was wondering why you think it`s fair to be
cutting school funding to public schools.

CHRISTIE: What is her name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is her name, guys? Real quick, because the
governor is talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it is?

Gail. Talk to Gail.

CHRISTIE: Hey, Gail, you know what? First off, it`s none of your
business.

Let me tell you something. After you graduate from law school, you
conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end is going to get
thrown in jail, idiot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, and here is the new image projected from yesterday`s
town hall. See if you can spot the difference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: How old are you? Three. Excellent. Do you have a
question for me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. May you -- may you fix my house? It`s
still broken.

CHRISTIE: Your house is still broken? OK, come here, Nicole. What
town -- what town do you live in, do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Jersey.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is playing Art Linkletter. What do you make
-- or Bill Cosby. Which of the two, it depends which generation you`re
from, Katie.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But it seems to me, you have got to decide. I have seen
all kinds of politicians, including Saddam Hussein, pull that number. Pat
the kid on the head -- not that he is Saddam Hussein. But it doesn`t mean
much -- it doesn`t mean much to me because he knew one thing. The camera
was looking.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And that doesn`t tell you what happens when Guadagno shows
up in Hoboken and says, I talked to the governor last night. He said if
you don`t play ball in this real estate deal, you`re dead.

And this kind of reality is what I want to find out. That`s the job
of reporting, not to be -- meet the person that you -- that he wants you to
meet. Meet the one that is there behind the scenes who is willing to do
what is necessary. And is this person so ruthless, you have got to be damn
careful of him? Your thoughts.

GLUECK: Sure.

Well, at the same time, town halls have always been a very important
part of sort of building our perception about Chris Christie. Those clips
that you showed us just now initially contributed to perceptions of him as
very much a forthright, kind of a tough leader. Some people, even at the
time, did use the term bully.

But now the town hall that we saw yesterday, and he is going to have
another one in the coming week or so, you know, his people are sort of
looking at this as an opportunity to restore a bit of normalcy to the
Christie administration, to the governor, who has really been besieged by
this scandal since the very beginning of 2014.

And so while perhaps certainly a different Chris Christie than we have
seen in previous environments, it`s sort of in the view of some of his
supporters an opportunity to show that he is taking steps to be back in the
game.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m still waiting to see what is in all the e-mails.
And I want to know what happened and I want to know everything, because
this case is getting real.

GLUECK: Sure. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: If Chris Christie was testing a new persona at yesterday`s
town hall, however, he got mixed reviews. Even though he held the event in
an area that has overwhelmingly supported his reelection in the past, there
were still bumps in the road.

For instance, a woman in the crowd held up a sign that read "Resign,
Christie." And at one point, members of the audience lost patience with
the governor`s explanations about Hurricane Sandy relief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was HGI fired? Why did you pay them $50
million?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you privatize most -- why did you
privatize most of the grant program? You didn`t have to do that.

CHRISTIE: I just disagree with you. OK, so you say we didn`t have to
privatize it. The alternative, the alternative is -- the alternative...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Answer...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Answer the question.

CHRISTIE: I`m answering the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there is a little bit of that stuff.

Let me go now -- let me go back to Jonathan and then back to Katie
quickly.

So what? This guy is facing a lot of legal action here. He`s got
investigations with the U.S. attorneys in New Jersey, maybe in New York.
He`s got the U.S. Senate committee looking at this. Of course, the Trenton
-- the Democrats controlling that committee down in Trenton are looking in
this. They have got -- they`re all lawyered up. All the people he has
pointed the finger at called liars and called stupid, they`re all lawyered
up.

This to me reminds me of Watergate in this sense, in this sense. This
has got a lot of time-release capsules waiting out there that all can go
off at different times. One can go off six months from now, three months
from now, a year from now. This is something that is beyond his control,
except he can make nice and hope that the jury pool out there will have
some impact.

But I don`t know how he changes reality, because Nixon went -- he went
with Gorbachev -- I`m sorry -- at that time Brezhnev during Watergate. He
met with Anwar Sadat, that great man. He went big parades down into
Alexandria in Egypt, big crowds. He was kicked out of office after all
because the evidence turned out against him.

Isn`t the evidence going to decide this, not the P.R., the personality
or the politics?

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Jonathan, and then Katie.

CAPEHART: Yes, absolutely, it`s going to be the evidence. And you
characterized it perfectly.

He can try to be as normal as he can be with town hall meetings and
radio interviews and going about the business of being governor of the
state of New Jersey, but as you accurately describe, the time -- the time
release of documents and subpoenas where people are combing through
thousands upon thousands of pages of e-mails looking for the smoking gun or
something that resembles it to try to tie him to that, every time a bullet
like that happens, knocks Chris Christie off-stride, diminishes the luster
that he has on the national stage and makes it more difficult for him
politically.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Jonathan and Katie. Thank you.
Please come back.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Chris.

GLUECK: Chris, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Michelle Obama, the first lady of late-night
comedy? She is pretty good at this stuff.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": And the best part of
watching the Canadians win? We got to watch Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
celebrate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: Isn`t he the cutest?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I wonder if the sound was out after that boom sound there
from him jumping up and down.

Time for the "Sideshow," of course.

That was Jimmy Kimmel and his favorite politician, Rob Ford of
Toronto.

But the main event for late-night television last night was first lady
Michelle Obama, of course, on "The Tonight Show." While she walked -- or
actually talked about the Affordable Care Act and promoted her Let`s Move
campaign, the highlight of her appearance was a sketch with Jimmy Fallon
and Will Ferrell, who both played teenaged girls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": wow,
Michelle, you`re pretty strong. You could totally be in the Olympics.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Well, thank you, Sarah. I do try to
exercise every day.

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Really? Because I think exercise is eww.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: Exercise is not eww.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

M. OBAMA: You just have to find an activity that`s right for you.

For example, I like to dance, play tennis, even do some pushups.

FALLON: Wait a second.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Dancing is exercise?

M. OBAMA: Sure, as long as you keep moving around and get your heart
rate up.

FALLON: That totally just gave me an idea.

FERRELL: Are you saying what I think you`re saying?

FALLON AND FERRELL: Eww, dance party!

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next up, they`re calling her the smartest Girl Scout in
America when it comes to selling cookies.

You could say that 13-year-old Danielle Lei of California is rolling
in the dough. Her secret? She is selling her cookies outside a marijuana
dispensary. And according to an NBC affiliate, she has been reloading --
or unloading a box a minute on average.

Here is how a spokesman for the dispensary described her success.
Quote: "It`s no secret that cannabis is an appetite stimulant, so it`s not
shocking that a lot of our patients came and purchased cannabis and then
saw the cookies and purchased them."

Though Lei may be enterprising, the Girl Scouts of Colorado have
expressed their disapproval, tweeting: "If you are wondering, we don`t
allow our Girl Scouts to sell cookies in front of marijuana shops or liquor
stores or bars."

Nevertheless, she`s gained national attention for her strategy. As
they say, it`s all about location, location, location.

Up next: Buckle your seat belts. The right-wing clown car is all
gassed up and hot-rodding it back into town.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

An agreement between Ukraine`s president and the opposition calls for
the formation of a new government and early elections. But protests
continue in the capital`s main square. President Obama and Russian
President Putin spoke earlier today about the deal reached in Kiev. The
two leaders agree it should be implemented quickly, and that all sides
should refrain from violence meanwhile.

And President Obama met today with the Dalai Lama, despite objections
from China. The meeting was off-limits to the press -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2004)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I stand here today grateful for the
diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents` dreams live on in my two
precious daughters.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of a larger American story,
that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other
country on earth is my story even possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s my definition of American exceptionalism.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was then state Senator Barack
Obama giving the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention
that inspired millions. Four years later, he would be the Democratic
nominee for president.

Well, this week, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the retiring Tea Party
congresswoman who occupies the fringiest of fringe space in American
politics, had a different explanation for Brooke`s historic win in 2008.

She told columnist Cal Thomas -- quote -- "I think there was a cachet
about having an African-American president because of guilt." But she said
people don`t hold guilt for a woman. I guess she`s talking about Hillary.
She added -- quote -- "I don`t think there is a pent-up desire for a female
president."

Well, in other words, no need to worry about Hillary Clinton for the
Republicans in 2016. Liberal guilt only extends so far. Michele Bachmann
is once again proving her clown car bona fides.

And this week, she`s got plenty of company. Clearly, the clown car is
gassed up and still out there hod-rodding.

Here to make sense of it all, Ron Reagan is an MSNBC analyst political
analyst and Dana Milbank is a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Ron, you first on Michele Bachmann. I was inspired, as everybody
knows, by what then state Senator Barack Obama said up in Boston in 2004.
Guilt, it may be around the fringes, but I got to tell you, it was not to
vote for a black, per se, to be president. It was about him and his story
that inspired people to vote for him, what he had done, blind tested
winning to become editor of "The Harvard Law Review," all that that had
nothing to do with race, and then to accomplish what he was going to
accomplish by being elected to the United States Senate.

The idea that it had something to do with guilt is a weird way to go
at this conversation, I think.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you would expect anything
different from Michele Bachmann? She`s got weird as her middle name, I
think.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: Yes, I don`t remember people voting for Barack Obama so much
out of guilt. It was out of enthusiasm, I think...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: ... and out of a recognition that the other candidate really
wasn`t so hot as a presidential candidate.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the truth.

REAGAN: Michele Bachmann sort of hit the daily double here, though.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: She has offended minorities and women, two groups that the
Republicans surely don`t need to improve their electoral chances.

But let`s give her some credit. She is partly right when she talks
about particularly women and Americans not being ready to elect another
woman.

MATTHEWS: A woman.

REAGAN: Americans fairly recently did prove that they are not ready
to elect as president a woman named Michele Bachmann. And Michele Bachmann
might just be confusing the issue there.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, she did run for president.

Anyway, Matt Bevin -- this is for you, Dana -- the Tea Party
challenger to Mitch McConnell out in Kentucky, was asked about gay marriage
this week. And let`s just say Bevin has some concerns about the
consequences of allowing such marriages to occur. You figure this out. He
took us down a rabbit hole. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MATT BEVIN (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: If it`s all right to
have same-sex marriages, why not define a marriage -- because at the end of
the day, a lot of this ends up being taxes and who can visit who in the
hospital, and there is other repercussions and things that come with it.

So a person may want to define themselves as being married to one of
their children, so that they could then in fact pass on certain things to
that child financially and otherwise. Where do you draw the line? And if
in fact a person can arbitrarily draw it here, why not could someone else
draw it arbitrarily somewhere else?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a spokesperson for Bevin later said he was not
comparing gay marriage with incest. He was discussing the implications of
the legal rights related to this issue.

Dana, why do they go in these holes? I don`t know. Your thoughts.
Campaigning -- never mind. His words -- I can`t get into his words.
They`re too difficult to navigate. Your thoughts.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It
is astonishing.

I mean, look, it`s been a while since we had Rick Santorum talk about
man on dog, making the same sort of comparison, suggesting that gay
marriage was a slippery slope. And he is doing the same thing here.

I think is a Todd Akin moment for Bevin. And I think if he -- it`s
not -- certainly not going to hurt him in his Republican primary against
Mitch McConnell. But if he gets through that, this is the sort of
candidate that I think the general electorate is going to have some
difficulty electing.

Now, you say it`s the clown car returning. They are certainly
clownish. But it`s not clear to me that they are necessarily the fringe
here. I mean, this guy is giving the Senate minority leader a serious run.
You`ve got the man who is favored to be next --

MATTHEWS: Dana, you wish. You wish.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re in heaven if he wins.

Come on. Do you really think Bevin can beat McConnell?

MILBANK: I think that he`s missed his Tea Party moment. But he
certainly has Mitch McConnell rung scared. He is running the whole Senate
that way.

MATTHEWS: What is this about marrying your son or daughter? What
wackiness are we talking about? We have more clown card memberships here.

Next up, U.S. Congressman Steve King, an old reliable. Back in July,
King explained why he was opposed to the bipartisan immigration reform
compromise. Let`s catch this golden oldie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: For everyone who is a valedictorian, there
is another 100 out there who they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves
the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana
across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He is talking about human beings who came in the country
illegally without documents. He is talking about people who somehow got
calves the size of cantaloupes from hauling 150 pounds of hash or whatever.
This guy is crazy.

I mean, this week, Congressman King was asked about the harsh rhetoric
he uses on a number of issues, including immigration. He said some of that
rhetoric he called it was about getting his colleagues to pay attention.

For example, he said --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Dick Durbin, as far as I know no longer describes the dreamers
as valedictorians. We have corrected that major flaw. And sometimes we
have to. Otherwise, it distorts the public`s understanding.

So, I`m not -- you know, I`m not going to apologize. What I said is
subjectively true. And any time that Republicans have criticized me, it`s
not because of what I said. It`s because they disagreed with my agenda.
That`s really the answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTTHEWS: Did you make that, Ron Reagan? There`s nothing
(INAUDIBLE) with making fun of the physiognomy of people that come in this
country illegally, because you`re somebody (INAUDIBLE) on that.

But the calves the size of cantaloupes -- Dan Burton shoots the
cantaloupe to prove that Vince Foster didn`t commit suicide. What is this
about cantaloupes and right wing Republicans?

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s reducing --

MATTHEWS: The fruit of choice?

REAGAN: Well, it`s turning people into animals, basically. And what
these Republicans don`t seem to understand, they would love the Hispanic
vote. They would love to get a bigger share of that vote. Yet they use
language and talk about people in a way that suggests they think that
they`re pack animals or something.

Never mind the fact that nothing he is saying is true or makes any
sense. He was talking about DREAM actors. These are children that were
brought here as children to the United States by their parents. What does
that have to do with hauling marijuana through the desert? Nothing.

MATTHEWS: It makes it a lot easier to vote against the immigration
bill, if that`s what you think.

REAGAN: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: It`s too crazy.

Anyway, this week the Republican candidate for governor of Texas
campaigned with Ted Nugent, the man who called President Obama a subhuman
mongrel. Well, some Republicans have said they have a problem with that
language, including Texas Governor Rick Perry.

But, Rand Paul took ate step further on Twitter. He wrote, quote,
"Ted Nugent`s derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and
has no place in politics. He should apologize."

Hmm. You know what? That`s why I begin to think Rand Paul is smarter
than a lot of people think.

Your thoughts, Dana. I don`t think he is one of the real whackos. I
compared yesterday the snowboarders and the skiers. Of the snowboarders,
the ones on the further out, he is going for the gold medal.

Your thoughts.

MILBANK: Yes. Well -- and good for Rand Paul to say this. I mean,
he`s got his own shall we say exotic views on certain matters, but he
recognizes that this Republican Party is going to have to reach out to
younger people, reach out to minorities. So, he`s got that part of it
right.

And, you know, I think the really astonishing thing here is that the
man who was favored in the polls to be the next governor of Texas is
actually campaign unapologetically with this guy who is using essentially
Nazi terminology to refer to the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: You got to wonder about his reading habits where he picks
up that nomenclature.

MILBANK: And it is about -- as Ron was saying, it is about making the
opposition something other than human, that we can`t even debate them on
our level because they are less than us. That`s a way of dismissing any
sort --

MATTHEWS: He took it back today and said he is just a liar now. He
said the president is just a liar.

Now anyway, thank you, Ronald Reagan. I guess you have to be a person
to be a liar.

Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank. He`s up taking (ph).

Up next, the right wing hated Bill Clinton when he was president, of
course. They loved him when they were out there bashing President Obama.
Now with Hillary mulling a presidential run, they hate him again all over
again. What is this on and off again thing? That`s next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Hate him, love him and hate him again. Why the far right
just can`t quit Bill Clinton.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

In their attempts to criticize President Obama over the last few
years, the right wing is always eager to praise the Clintons to show how
the current president doesn`t live up to their legacy. Now that the
Clintons are preparing for a return to the White House themselves, the far
right has no use for them. But the problem for conservatives who want to
use Bill to pull downhill is that their praise has been inconveniently
recorded.

Here is a sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Obama`s not your daddy`s Democrat. I
mean, he is not a mainstream Democrat like Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton
worked with both sides of the aisle. Bill Clinton was able to get some
things done. Reagan worked with both sides of the aisle.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Do you think Hillary Clinton would have been
a better president than Barack Obama?

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Perhaps. She might have been
easier for some of us who are critics of the president to work with. She
is one of the more competent members of the current administration.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Look, if we had a Clinton presidency,
if we had Erskine Bowles, chief staff of the White House, or president of
the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now.
That`s not the kind of presidency we`re dealing with right now.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Wow. They`re going to have to quit Clinton.

Anyway, the love-hate use of the Clintons over the past few years by
the Republicans is coming back to haunt them.

Joining me right now is "Bloomberg" reporter Jonathan Allen, author of
the new book "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton."

And NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, who`s show "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" on
MSNBC will air at a new time, noon. If it`s noon, it`s Andrea Mitchell.
And international news and all the news, in fact, she gives it to you
straight.

Andrea, you`ve been watching this like I have. What`s fascinating is
the uses to which the conservatives and Republicans generally use of the
Clintons. They use them as oh they were so much better than Obama and now
I`ve noticed they`re creeping back to the more familiar mode of attitude.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC`S "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" ANCHOR: Oh, I
think they`re a little flummoxed. They haven`t figured out how to best go
after Hillary Clinton.

Karl Rove suggests don`t go after the past scandals, talk about the
lack of future plan for being president. I mean, that`s his perspective.

And others like Reince Priebus and certainly Rand Paul think they can
resurrect the scandals of the `90s. I think they don`t know how to muddy
her up but they really are determined to do it because they think that she
is the front-runner and that they need to bring her down.

MATTHEWS: And what about Bill? You know him. We don`t call him by
his first name but we all know him. And it seems to me, isn`t it a mistake
to trash a guy that people have such subtle opinions about? I mean, I`m
going to talk about the end of the show.

We know he likes hamburgers. He likes girls. He`s behaved very well
over the last 15, 20 years. He hasn`t been an embarrassment ever since the
impeachment exercise.

He`s been a good public official, a great ex-president, the Clinton
Global Initiative. He`s done so many good things around the world with
Haiti and Africa.

Is he a target that makes sense to even the most, well, reasonable
Republican?

MITCHELL: Well, it`s really a debatable political strategy because it
didn`t work before, because Hillary Clinton arguably in the scandals back
in the `90s was the victim, so this would not necessarily damage her. But
there is certainly a contingent of the Republican Party that think that
throwing all this at them will bring her down a notch and remind people of
some of the unpleasantness. It remains to be seen whether it works.

MATTHEWS: OK, Jonathan, passage of time, and the power of your new
book, congratulations, by the way, "HRC." I know it`s about the Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton.

But how does the whole thing with Clinton, her husband, come into
play? And my question is this guy is really, really well known. I mean,
people have a sense of him, maybe not his brother but pretty close to it.
They physically can sense the guy in their lives.

And to come out and start saying terrible things about, yes, he had
this problem with Monica, you know? But the guy has been a great public
statesman for now almost 20 years.

JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG: Yes, I think it`s hard to move the needle
on Bill Clinton. It would take a major event, major new information to
change the public opinion about him. Would note he`s given up hamburgers,
now kind of a vegan. But like, you know, it is a difficult thing to do
with him.

It`s probably hard to move the needle on Hillary Clinton a whole lot.

MATTHEWS: Meaning?

ALLEN: That is to say impressions of her are pretty well-baked in,
too. I mean, she`s obviously a polarizing figure. It is difficult to move
that a lot without some new information.

I think, you know, in our book we`ve got some new information. We`ve
already seen Republicans grasp on some of it including behind the scenes
work on health care. Some of the stuff we`ve put out there lately.

But, you know, it`s a difficult challenge for Republicans to find new
things to say about Hillary Clinton that will convince independent voters
or Democrats if they don`t want her as president.

CLINTON: OK. let`s talk about the problem -- I want you to look at
something now, this was John McCain last night on "Piers Morgan." Let`s
watch what he had to say. This is so fascinating an admission at this
point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would bet, my friend, as much as I
hate to admit it, that right now this is why we have campaigns, but right
now, this is why we have campaigns. But right now, if the election were
tomorrow, Hillary Clinton would most likely be the president of the United
States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Andrea, what do you make of that?

MITCHELL: They got together -- they got along very well when they
were in the Senate together. They were on Armed Services Committee. He
likes Hillary Clinton.

Even though there will come a time when he`ll go after her, again, he
respects her and it`s also his way of criticizing Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: So we have an interesting election coming up, Jonathan,
with Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton probably running for
president. If she runs against somebody on the far right like Rand Paul,
which I think is credible at this point, plausible, could she grab some of
the Republican vote? Especially the women vote?

ALLEN: Absolutely think that is a credible challenge that Rand Paul
is bringing up now, and I think he`ll be a strong candidate in the
Republican primary. I do think she in that case would have an opportunity
to capture some of the Republican vote.

Look, the country is pretty polarized but Hillary Clinton has often
reached out to Republicans in the past as secretary of state, she got
credit from a lot of Republicans for being the one person in the Obama
administration who would only to the hill and work with them a lot.

And I think that there are donors, northeastern moderates in the
Republican Party that also might be swung into her column. So, absolutely,
I think it`s an opportunity for her if there`s a far right candidate.

MATTHEWS: Good luck with the book, Jonathan Allen.

Andrea Mitchell, thank you.

MITCHELL: You bet.

MATTHEWS: You can catch "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" weekdays at noon.
That`s the one. Noon Eastern. It`s better at noon.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

It being Friday and the weekend coming, things are getting a little
loose for everybody. It`s time to talk about Mr. Bill -- Bill Clinton that
is. People like him. It ain`t complicated.

Who of all the politicians around would you like to have as a pal or
brother or personal conciliary, or just a guy sitting next to you on the
next long ride somewhere, or better yet, the guy you go to when things
aren`t working out, the guy set you on the right course without being a nag
about it?

The fact is, in simple human terms, we know that Bill Clinton is when
you get down to know him, which we all have, a recognizable human being.

Here goes. He would love to chow down on hamburgers if he could, but
he doesn`t because he can`t. He always liked girls. Really likes them but
he`s also been careful going on 20 years that he caused himself and us
those troubles back then.

What else? He likes being famous, likes having been president, likes
people coming up to him and saying they like him.

So, what`s new, pussy cat? People have a pretty good fix on this
fella Bill Clinton, they decided they like him. One hell of a lot more
than they like someone like Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz.

I`m sorry. This isn`t partisan. Is there anybody out there who would
like to sit on an airplane with those guys for a cross-country flight? And
who wouldn`t want to find out the empty seat next to them is going to be
filled by none other than Mr. Bill, himself?

And that`s why the "Rs" are going after him because people like him
and they can`t stand those Republicans that we do.

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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