November 19, 2014
Guest: John Feehery, Clarence Page, Sen. John McCain, Jonathan Alter,
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama throws the long ball.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
And today, President Obama made it official, announcing plans to unveil his
executive actions on immigration in a speech tomorrow night. It`s a move
that could reportedly give legal status to five million undocumented
The political risks are huge. Republicans seem to be gearing up for war
with threats of lawsuits and all-out legislative confrontation. Ted Cruz
today said Congress should refuse to confirm executive and judicial
nominees unless the president reverses course. Paul Ryan called it a
partisan bomb that will sour relations with Congress on major issues like
As part of a wide-ranging interview today, Senator John McCain of Arizona
told me the president should delay his executive action until next year.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My question to the president is, Why
couldn`t you wait and see what this new Congress does? Give them some time
-- not a deadline but some time. You`ll know whether they`re going to be
able to move forward or not. You don`t have to set a timetable. And see
then. But obviously, that`s not going to be the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a lot more of that interview, which we`ll play in
full right after the immigration fight tonight, including Senator McCain`s
tough talk about his colleague, Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Do I think that she is good on foreign policy issues? I think
it`s -- this is a legitimate question. It`s well known that Hillary
Clinton and I have a good relationship. We have...
MATTHEWS: Well, don`t you agree on a lot?
MCCAIN: Yes, we do agree on a lot. But I think it`s a legitimate
question, if you said, Secretary Clinton, tell me a concrete accomplishment
while your -- during your tour as secretary of state, I think she may have
trouble answering that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, we`ve got more coming up from Senator McCain.
But we begin tonight with the big news out of the White House on
immigration. Clarence Page is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The
Chicago Tribune" and John Feehery`s a Republican strategist.
I want to talk with John. I wonder what kind of firepower this is going to
unleash on the Republican side if the president goes it alone here and
says, OK, Congress won`t do this, I`m doing it alone. What the historic
impacts coming down the road the next years, in the years ahead?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think this is a tremendous mistake
that the president is making. I think, actually, it hurts him not only
with the Republicans, but I think it`s very -- going to be proved to be
very unpopular with the American people. I think it`s going to have
ramifications long-term for Democrats and for the power of the presidency.
And I think that this is going to be a key battle between the Congress, the
executive branch and the legislative branch. And how it is resolved is
going to be important in trying to scale back the imperial presidency. The
more the president reaches -- I mean, this is really unprecedented! We
know that there have been other executive amnesties, but not to this level
and not at this -- for this extent.
And I think that for the president, who has been on record saying that he
couldn`t do this, that he`d be -- he`s not the king, and then for him to
turn around and do this, I think it`s a tremendous mistake.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, your view generally?
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, John makes a very good argument.
I mean, it sounds good, but it would sound better if the president were
getting some cooperation from the Republicans, or was on the brink of it.
We see him on the brink of quite the opposite. We haven`t seen anything
get done with the Republican Congress to speak of for the last couple of
years, more lack of cooperation coming down the road. His appointments are
already being delayed. There`s John Boehner considering a lawsuit against
him. I mean, it can go on and on.
President Obama made a promise that he was going to do something about
immigration. He`s been blocked at every turn, partly by the Republicans
divided among themselves on the immigration question. So he`s taking
action by executive order and saying that if the Republicans will come
together with an alternative piece of legislation, then he`ll rescind his
order. That`s where it stands now.
MATTHEWS: Clarence and John, here he is. The big announcement comes
tomorrow, but the White House began aggressively selling the move today.
Here`s President Obama posting a video on Facebook which was taped at the
Oval Office today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, I`m going to
be announcing here from the White House some steps that I can take to start
fixing our broken immigration system. Everybody agrees that our
immigration system broken. Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the
problem to fester for too long.
And so what I`m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my
lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I
continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan
comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest pitched the
executive order to reporters today. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know that these steps are
going to strengthen national security. They`re going to strengthen
security at the border. They are going to strengthen our economy.
And they will do something to address a lingering problem, which is the
millions of people who currently live in this country who can come out of
the shadows, can get right with the law. They can pay their taxes. They
can go back to the line -- go to the back of the line, but also sort of
become fully contributing members of communities, large and small all
across the country. And you know, this is an important step that will have
a pretty profound impact on the lives of millions of people who live here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the latest numbers from NBC and "The Wall Street
Journal." The president has the support of his base on this move, but
that`s about it. According to "The New York Times -- "The Wall Street
Journal" and the NBC polling just out, only 32 percent of the American
public approves of the president`s plan of taking executive action, less
than a third. And the other 69 either oppose it or aren`t sure what to
think. Support is highest among his partisan base, of course, with 62
percent, about three fifths of Democrats supporting the move, 37 of
independents, a minority of independents, support it, just 11 percent of
The resistance appears to be an issue of method, however, because 57
percent of the American people support some kind of pathway to citizenship
for people here illegally. Only 40 percent oppose the idea.
Clarence, I want to get back to you. The American people are not resolute
against people who`ve come here illegally finding a way to become legal and
even citizens. They have a good heart about that.
They don`t like this method, according to our poll today. Your thinking.
PAGE: Well, Americans don`t like executive action because it does sound
like monarchy. That`s why President Obama said, I`m a president and not an
emperor. But he`s been driven to this.
Everybody wants immigration reform, as you mentioned -- not everybody, but
a large group of Americans want to see a pathway to citizenship. Obama
can`t bring that, but he can at least call a temporary halt by executive
order to the deportations. And then it`s up to the next president if they
want to renew this or not.
But in the meantime, Congress still can do something to bring about
comprehension immigration reform, if they can pull themselves together,
which doesn`t appear to be in the offing right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s been mixed on this. He`s said he couldn`t
do it. He`s also said he would do it. Here he is. He`s got to convince
people that he was wrong when he previously said he didn`t have the legal
authority to protect people from the threat of deportation.
These are some past comments from the president himself. Let`s pay
attention to these tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Given the resources we have, we can`t do everything that Congress
has asked us to do. What we can do is then carve out the Dream Act folks.
But if we start broadening that, then, essentially, I would be ignoring the
law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So
that`s not an option.
I`m the president of the United States, I`m not the emperor of the United
States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.
We have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place, even if
we think that in many cases, the results may be tragic.
The notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order --
that`s just not the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: John and Clarence, did he get a new lawyer?
MATTHEWS: I mean, these are 180 from what he`s going to say tomorrow
night, apparently. I`m just curious where this new...
FEEHERY: Hey, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... this new dispensation has come from. Go ahead.
FEEHERY: I`m stunned but it. And I am a huge supporter, as you know, of
immigration reform. I`ve been pushing it in all kinds of places. For him
to do it this way is exactly the wrong thing, though. And I actually think
it`s -- because it`s only temporary, you`re not going to get a solution
that is long-term. And I think, actually, by this action, he`s making it
more difficult for the Republicans to get to an immigration bill.
And my conversation with the Republicans is they wanted to do something on
immigration soon. The president is screwing it up by this executive order,
which he himself said he didn`t have the authority to do.
MATTHEWS: Let me talk to...
PAGE: Where are they, John? Where are they?
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Clarence. Your thoughts.
PAGE: No, I`m asking John, where are those Republicans who want
immigration reform? I agree that they are out there, but they haven`t made
much progress, have they, over the last couple of years.
FEEHERY: Well, they haven`t...
PAGE: What`s changing?
FEEHERY: You know, I think it was a lack of trust between -- between the
House Republicans and the Senate Democrats. Now the Republicans finally
have a chance to run the thing, the whole Congress. And the president
says, No, I`m not going to give them a chance to do immigration reform.
MATTHEWS: Let me throw it at you, John...
FEEHERY: I think it`s -- I think it`s tragic.
MATTHEWS: John, let me (INAUDIBLE) and I`m a skeptic. I`ll make it clear
later in the show, I`m a skeptic of this approach, deeply. But John McCain
-- I interviewed him today. We`ll show the full interview in a couple
minutes on HARDBALL tonight.
And he said he wants the president to hold back a month or two. He didn`t
say specifically (INAUDIBLE) he said just a little bit to see if the new
Congress has more freedom for John Boehner, the speaker, less real red-hot
rejectionists, that he might be able to get a vote on a real bill which
deals with immigration, stopping illegal hiring, stopping people from
crossing the border, making it a real comprehensive bill, not just relief
for the people here illegally.
And do you think that`s a thing that`s reasonable? And I want Clarence to
jump in here, too. Do you think it`s reasonable to assume that in a month
or two of the new Congress, that John McCain will be able to -- or John
Boehner will be able to get a vote on immigration reform?
FEEHERY: I think it`s -- I think if you gave them three or four or five
months, I think it`s definitely a possibility. But by doing this executive
order, you guarantee that it`s not going to happen. I think, you know, the
president could have done this six months ago, when he promised to do it,
but he didn`t want to do it for political reasons.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FEEHERY: Now he seems that he does want to do it for political reasons.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, do you think there`s any chance...
PAGE: Yes. Well...
MATTHEWS: Is there any chance the Republicans will actually belly up, face
the fact that people are here, that a lot of them on an average of 12 years
-- they`ve been here a long time. They`re not going home. Nobody`s
checking them out. Why don`t they -- but they can do something. They can
stop the flow of illegal immigration tomorrow morning, but they don`t seem
to want to do it for some reason. They are losing the fight of illegal
immigration every day they don`t act because more and more people come in
the country illegally, and eventually, they`re going to be legalized. You
know the politics of the thing. Go ahead.
PAGE: Yes. Chris, I was there at CPAC back in 2007, when John McCain was
booed by conservatives because he advanced comprehensive immigration
reform, and it`s been downhill ever since. I mean, the Republicans are
divided among themselves on this. Democrats aren`t. It`s very obvious
who`s holding things up, and I don`t see any light at the end of that
tunnel right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, only three fifths of the Democratic Party, according to
our new poll, likes this approach he`s taking, but I think you`re right
about the spirit of it. They do want something positive done for the
people here in the United States who came here illegally many years ago.
Clarence, Page, thank you. John Feehery, thank you. A good discussion.
Coming up, John McCain plays HARDBALL. I asked him about the politics of
immigration, about Hillary Clinton running for president, and of course,
Rand Paul`s influence on the Republican Party. Here it is.
MATTHEWS: Rand Paul, who appeals to people like me because he`s pretty
dovish -- he referred to Hillary Clinton as a war hawk. What`s that make
MATTHEWS: It just seems odd we might have a hawkish...
MCCAIN: I`m not sure if it`s in the dictionary.
MATTHEWS: I`m not sure it`s in the dictionary. It`s all in my big
interview with John McCain, the man who ran against President Obama.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the 114th Congress has picked its House Committee chairs.
Take a look at the graphic. Only one woman has been recommended to a
committee chair, and that`s Republican congresswoman Candace Miller of
Michigan, who`s all the way at the bottom there of your screen. She`ll be
head of the House Administration Committee.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan moves over to the Ways and Means
Committee, a gavel he`s always wanted. So I don`t think he`s running for
president, and he wants to be chairman of the Ways and Means.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As I told you up front, there`s lots
of good stuff from my interview today with John McCain. We talked about
the president`s actions on immigration, which are coming tomorrow night,
the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as his views on Hillary Clinton and
I started by asking him about his new book, "13 Soldiers," and the lessons
he learned fighting in Vietnam, as well as his opposition to the
administration`s restrained approach to fighting the war against ISIS.
Here it comes.
MATTHEWS: What struck me was the part about Vietnam. I mean, people think
of you as a veteran of Vietnam. You were shot down. You`ve been through
it all. The resentment you talked about in the book is toward the
government, Lyndon Johnson in that case, who had ridiculous rules of
engagement, restricted targeting so that the guy flying the plane, you,
were endangered, and Hanoi was safe.
Do you -- does that -- well, talk about that, and then I`d like to know how
it reflects on your thinking about what`s going on today.
MCCAIN: Well, very briefly, we watched Russian ships coming into the port
of Haiphong, offload surface-to-air missiles, put them on trucks, take them
miles and miles and miles up roads and then be put in place, and we were
not allowed to go after them. And then they were shot at us. One of them
shot me down. And that was terribly frustrating.
The targets were decided, literally, in the Oval Office as to which ones
would be hit. They had this idea that if they -- McNamara, Johnson, Rusk,
et cetera -- that if they gradually escalated, then it would squeeze the
North Vietnamese and they would come to the bargaining table.
Well, it had the opposite effect. You know, the Vietnamese -- Well, look,
we stood up against that. We stood up -- and so we saw a gradual
escalation in the South. You know, first it was some perimeter guards and
then it was submarines and then it was -- you know, and it got built up and
But we lost the war, and that`s just a fact. And so I`m seeing this same
kind of gradualism in this present White House, and I`m also seeing a
micromanagement from the White House, as well, and it`s really disturbing.
MATTHEWS: In your book, you talk about how the other side, in that case,
the Viet -- no, the North Vietnamese -- would adapt. Every time we
escalated or we increased our response, they`d build (ph) more AAA fire.
They`d have more SAMs. They would -- so that -- as the more -- the slower
we went in fighting the war, the faster they went.
MCCAIN: Yes, and...
MATTHEWS: Is that happening over there now with the ISIS people?
MCCAIN: And now what -- and now what we`re seeing is a gradual escalation.
The president just announced 1,500 more. And mark my words, he will have
to announce some more within a certain period of time because no military
strategist that I know believes that what we`re doing now will defeat,
degrade and defeat ISIS.
In other words, in the words of former secretary Panetta and former
secretary Gates, both of them -- I was there last weekend -- that the
capabilities and the strategy does not match up with the goal of degrading
and ultimately destroying ISIS.
And one other thing that I need to get off my chest, Chris, if I could.
We`re telling the Free Syrian Army we`re going to train them in Saudi
Arabia and send them into the fight. Meanwhile, Bashar Assad is barrel-
bombing them. He is intensifying his attacks on the Free Syrian Army, and
we aren`t doing anything to inhibit Bashar Assad for doing that, the same
guy that`s responsible for 200,000 deaths in Syria. That`s immoral!
MATTHEWS: So we have to fight both sides at the same time.
MCCAIN: I think you have to go after both, yes...
MCCAIN: ... if you want to defeat ISIS and do what the president also
said, that Bashar Assad must go. Remember, he said that on numerous
MATTHEWS: I know.
MCCAIN: So right now, we are leaving -- giving Bashar Assad free rein to
decimate the Free Syrian Army, and that`s what`s happening. They`re being
And by the way, some of them are crossing over to another extremist outfit
because they`re not getting the help that we had promised them on many
occasions. It is a serious, serious threat to the United States of America
MATTHEWS: You write about this book -- you write in this book from the
soldier`s point of view. This isn`t about the generals or the admirals.
MATTHEWS: This is about like this guy Joseph Martin.
MATTHEWS: Unbelievable you found this guy who fought in the Battle of New
York up in Long Island. He ends up fighting in Yorktown. He follows the
campaign all the way through that year of...
MCCAIN: He joins at 15. He joins at age 15.
MATTHEWS: And he somehow manages to stay in the war until the end.
MCCAIN: And almost starves to death.
One of the -- because the conditions -- we hear about Valley Forge and all
that. The conditions, they were literally starving. And, by the way,
also, we point out something that, frankly, I didn`t know much about. It
was 30 years before they gave a pension to these soldiers. And he was very
angry and bitter about it. And I`m...
MATTHEWS: Was it $90 a year or something?
MCCAIN: Something like that.
MCCAIN: But now, thank God, no matter how we feel about America`s
involvement in these conflicts, we honor our veterans.
Just not that long ago, everywhere in America, we honored our veterans.
And it is very uplifting to me, because you and I are old enough to recall
the Vietnam veterans did not get the welcome home that they deserved.
MCCAIN: But they got later on -- but, later on, we have given the Vietnam
veterans what they deserve.
Finally, one other point. One of the great things we do in America from
each of these states is this Honor Flight. You have seen it. They land
here and they take them down to the World War II memorial, the World War II
veterans. It is so moving. It is wonderful.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the soldier, because I have heard recently
from a friend of a friend that soldiers don`t like this boots-on-the-ground
reference. Hey, we`re people. We`re G.I.s. We`re not just boots.
But look at what is going on right now. We`re talking about putting 1,500,
as you said, more advisers in. But that`s not going to do it. So then the
question is, will we put them out in companies, embedded with companies?
Then they get captured. What are we going to do if one of our guys gets
captured over there by ISIS and they start beheading these guys?
MCCAIN: I think it is -- I think it would be really terrible. But, as you
know, ISIS is beheading American citizens. They just don`t happen to be in
uniform, which really is...
MATTHEWS: Can we put with that? Can we, American people stand the idea of
a uniformed soldier beheaded?
MCCAIN: Being captured.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t that just escalate this war to a fury?
MCCAIN: I think it would obviously complicate things because of the value
that we place on American lives, no matter whether citizens or noncitizens.
But, look, nothing is for certain in warfare. And there is a great --
that`s why they call it the fog of war. But what we`re doing now, every
military officer that I know outside of the present hierarchy believes that
we need to -- what we`re doing will not achieve the goal.
MATTHEWS: What do you think we need to do, if you were commander in chief?
MCCAIN: Oh, the first thing I would do is a no-fly zone in Syria. I would
treat Syria and Iraq the same. ISIS treats them the same.
I would give weapons to the Peshmerga. I would send more forward air
controllers, special forces, some others, not divisions and that kind of
thing. I would dramatically accelerate the arming and equipping of the
Free Syrian Army, which you could do with a no-fly zone much more easily.
But I understand the American people do not want the massive influx of
troops again. in fact, I think that would not be productive. But what
we`re going to have to do is be a lot more involved. And to say ISIS in
Iraq can be treated in one fashion, with one strategy, and ISIS in Syria
with another, that`s crazy. And, by the way, the air -- air -- what we`re
doing from the air now is absolutely minimal.
We`re talking about four or five strikes a day. In Desert Storm, there was
1,000 strikes a day.
MATTHEWS: What`s the hesitance about? Are we afraid of hitting hospitals,
MCCAIN: We don`t have the target information.
MATTHEWS: How do we get the target information without troops there?
MCCAIN: Because you have people on the ground. You have support air
controllers on the ground.
MATTHEWS: Do we have -- how do we get them without Americans there?
MCCAIN: It would have to be Americans.
MATTHEWS: That`s risky.
MCCAIN: I agree. There is no good options. There is no good options.
MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds right.
Let me ask you about your party in this regard. Rand Paul, who appeals to
people like me because he is pretty dovish, he referred to Hillary Clinton
as a war hawk. What`s that make you?
MATTHEWS: It just seems odd we might have a hawkish Democratic candidate.
MCCAIN: I`m not sure if it`s in the dictionary.
MATTHEWS: Could we have a hawkish Democratic candidate against a dovish
Republican candidate? Is that too weird? You wouldn`t like that.
MCCAIN: Well, let me give you a -- good news from my standpoint.
And that is the McCain-Graham wing had some real victories, Joni Ernst,
Sullivan in Alaska, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, and some others like in North
Carolina and Georgia. So there are much more -- I hate to use the word --
the word is internationalists and then isolationists.
MCCAIN: And so I think we have strengthened our ranks.
And, by the way, ever since these beheadings, as you well know because you
pay close attention, American public opinion has swung rather dramatically,
which has changed some of...
MATTHEWS: I agree.
MCCAIN: I have seen the change in some of Rand Paul`s rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: And, coming up, more of my interview with Senator John McCain as
we moved on the path to war with nuclear Iran. Anyway, the White House is
facing -- or racing against clock on a deal to stop Iran from making a
bomb. We are going to hear what Senator McCain has to think about that,
also what he says about stopping illegal immigration in this country,
especially what he has to say about Hillary Clinton and what it takes to be
president. Wait until you catch this commentary about his colleague
Much more coming up with Senator McCain.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and for the last, but not least of my
interview with Senator John McCain, whose new book is called "Thirteen
We talked about whether Hillary Clinton would make a good president or not.
That`s coming up in just a minute.
But I began by asking Senator McCain about the hot issue of the week,
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about an issue you have been out front on,
besides the issue about foreign policy -- and you are an internationalist -
- this question of immigration reform.
You were one of the gang of eight. You were one of the Republicans who
voted for the Senate bill, which I thought had teeth in it. And where are
MCCAIN: And I have tried once before, as you might remember.
MATTHEWS: Well, Simpson-Mazzoli way back in `86.
MATTHEWS: They had a good bill, but it wasn`t enforced.
This bill has got teeth in it. I keep telling my liberal audience it has
got teeth in it. It says you can`t work here illegally after four years.
You have got an I.D. card. You have to be who you say you are. What more
do you want?
MCCAIN: You have to pay thousands of dollars in fees. You have to get in
line behind everybody else.
MATTHEWS: What more does that right want?
MCCAIN: I don`t know, Chris, except that there is a legitimate concern
about border security.
MATTHEWS: Well, can`t that be met?
MCCAIN: It can be. And I believe it is done with technology and not so
much with -- with personnel.
But if we could get 90 percent effective control of the border and 100
percent surveillance, which we could, situational awareness, then I think
that that would ease the path to...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
Well, if Obama did that, from his end of the deal, from the progressive
edge, liberal end...
MATTHEWS: ... and the other side, would they be willing to give on
eventual path to citizenship for people who have been 12 years?
MCCAIN: I believe that the majority of the members of the House of
Representatives would approve a path to citizenship with a border security
-- a secure border, and pay back taxes, learn English. Get in line behind
How about a majority of your caucus on the House side?
MCCAIN: I really believe that, if presented in the way that we can assure
people -- you referred to Simpson-Mazzoli.
MCCAIN: We -- the reason why Simpson-Mazzoli failed was because we didn`t
secure the border.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MCCAIN: And so if we could assure the American people, and no matter how
conservative they are, that we have a secure border, I believe they would
be really agreeable to moving forward with...
MATTHEWS: Why can`t you be -- you ran against him, but why can`t you be
the interlocutor here? Why can`t there somebody that stands up and says,
Mr. President, you`re a reasonable man? I think you really do want reform.
You`re not just here for the issue. And the other side, Boehner side
really wants an issue. Why can`t they get in the room and hammer it out?
MCCAIN: I don`t know the answer to that.
But I do believe that there is a legitimate question now, with the
president going to act, as to whether he wants a political result or
whether -- which would help them in the 2016 election or not. My question
to the president is, why couldn`t you wait and see what this new Congress
Give them some time, not a deadline, but some time. You will know whether
they are going to be able to move forward or not. You don`t to have set a
timetable. And see then. But, obviously, that is not going to be the
And in my home state, there is deep awareness and concern about border
security. OK? But, still, 70 percent of the people in Arizona are for a
path to citizenship.
MCCAIN: If we have a secure border.
MCCAIN: That`s their -- that`s the litmus test.
MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why grownups can`t get together. I think the
Senate did the right thing, anyway, on this.
Let me ask you about 2016. Are you running again?
MCCAIN: I`m certainly leaning that way.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re running again.
MATTHEWS: How about this?
If you have to choose -- because I have seen your office -- I think you are
like Barry Goldwater`s permanent replacement in the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about Hillary Clinton.
Would you think she -- this is obviously our headline question tonight. By
the way, the book is "Thirteen Soldiers." It`s really a good read about
our history. And I think it really does talk about the foot soldier, the
regular guy out there. And all your resentments about our -- an
experience, I think, in Vietnam are really healthy for people to read.
Let me ask you about this race. Do you think it is going to be -- do you
think Hillary has got the competence to be president?
MCCAIN: Oh, I`m sure that whoever the American people select, I have to --
I would support that.
Do I think that she is good on foreign policy issues? I think it`s a --
this is a legitimate question. Look, it is well-known that Secretary --
Hillary Clinton and I have a good relationship. We have...
MATTHEWS: Well, don`t you agree on a lot?
MCCAIN: But -- yes, we do agree on a lot.
But I think it is a legitimate question if you said, Secretary Clinton,
tell me a concrete accomplishment while you`re -- during your tour -- your
tour as secretary of state, I think she may have trouble answering that.
MATTHEWS: You mean a lot of input, but not output?
MCCAIN: Well, she traveled to a lot of countries.
MCCAIN: She is a great representative of America, kind of a rock star
status. She visited more countries than any other secretary of state.
But what concrete policy or decision or whatever it is that she -- was she
MCCAIN: And I think she would have trouble answering that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the toughest question maybe of our current
period, which is Iran. Last question.
Negotiations continue through the 20 -- 24th, I guess it is, next week.
Oh, next week, yes. And do you think there`s any home for a deal that
keeps them from having a weapon or anywhere near a weapon?
MCCAIN: I worry very much that the administration is so -- wants so badly
a foreign policy success that I`m afraid that they may give up a -- make an
agreement that is really bad, including thousands of centrifuges.
I`m very, very worried about that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Iran is talking while it is building a bomb?
MCCAIN: Well, that`s been their history. That`s been their history
I would like to see it treated for what it really is. It walks like a duck
and quacks like a duck. It looks like a treaty, it acts like treaty. Then
the Senate of the United States should debate and ratify or not ratify.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
MCCAIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for your time, Senator.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Well, John McCain`s book is called "Thirteen Soldiers: A
Personal History of Americans at War."
Again, our thanks to Senator John McCain.
Up next, the gang`s all here. The Republican Party`s big shot governors
gather in Florida right now to show off their presidential pedigree. And
the big guy, Chris Christie, steals the show. We will talk about him
coming up next.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
As Buffalo, New York, struggles to dig out from a giant winter blast, it
will have some help. Neighboring Connecticut says it will send equipment
and personnel to assist with that cleanup.
An Iowa man arrested near the White House earlier had a rifle, ammunition
and a knife in his vehicle. The man was taken into custody after
approaching a Secret Service officer.
And some unwelcome news this holiday travel season. JetBlue will be
reducing leg room and adding baggage fees to boost its bottom line -- back
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and time now for the roundtable. They
have got a lot to chew on tonight.
President Obama today announced he will unveil an executive order on
immigration tomorrow night. And the partisan wars begin, of course, with
the Republicans using words like emperor and monarch.
Then we will break down an interview today with Senator John McCain,
including what he really thinks of Hillary Clinton, his old pal. Plus, New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie is leading the annuals Republican Governors
Conference, where topic A apparently is anger over Obama`s immigration
move. Another issue is of course Christie and who is going to be running
for president from the governor`s chairs.
The roundtable joins me right now.
Mike Paul, a former aid to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York
Senator Alfonse D`Amato. I love doing it like a fight -- a ring announcer.
Anyway, Beth Fouhy, of course is senior editor of MSNBC.com. And Jonathan
Alter is my friend. He`s the MSNBC political analyst and great author.
He`s also columnist for The Daily Beast, which is a very important news
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you, because we were having a fight in the
hallway. Here`s your pitch.
Is the president smart to go with the E.O. tomorrow, to just basically say,
Congress ain`t going to do it; I`m going to do it?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he -- at this point, he
really has no choice.
Look, John Boehner had an opportunity to say he would let this bill come up
for a vote, the Senate bill. He hasn`t taken that opportunity. Nobody is
saying that Boehner has to be for it or anybody has to be for it. But let
And so, Obama can legitimately, I think argue that they had a chance for a
year and a half. They haven`t voted. You`ve got 5 million families that
You know, if your parents are about to get deported, that`s real suffering.
The president has to take that under consideration. And then from a
political perspective, it is really hard ball, because what it does is it
increases the chances that the Republicans in 2016 won`t get up close to 40
percent of the Latino vote, which they need to do in order to take the
White House. If they get 29 percent like Mitt Romney, they`re screwed in
MATTHEWS: Beth Fouhy, five years from now, ten years from now, will this
look more like the emancipation proclamation in or more like the packing of
the Supreme Court by FDR back in the late `30s?
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM SR. EDITOR: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Will it be good or bad in the long run politically?
FOUHY: I don`t --
MATTHEWS: Too hard a question?
FOUHY: No, I don`t know that the process of getting there is all that
exciting. I mean, it`s going to be very big short term explosions on
Capitol Hill for sure. But he`s doing the right thing. That`s the point.
He`s been saying he`s going to do it. He`s got to go ahead and do it.
We`ve got 5 million people.
MATTHEWS: But that`s your view, but 32 percent of the people agree with
MIKE PAUL, FORMER AIDE TO MAYOR GIULIANI: Exactly. What`s right about it?
MATTHEWS: Thirty-two percent agree.
FOUHY: Because of exactly what Jon said. A bipartisan bill passed the
Senate overwhelmingly. The Congress has had multiple chances to weigh in
on this since then, have not --
MATTHEWS: Why don`t the people support this action?
FOUHY: They support a path to citizenship. That`s my point about the
process. I don`t think it`s about the process.
MATTHEWS: Just ask him about the process, but they didn`t like it.
PAUL: The key number is 32 percent. That means there are a lot of people
who don`t like it. Not just the Congress but the American people. And
yes, if there was such suffering, the number would be higher. And they`re
not higher now.
ALTER: You know what? That number --
MATTHEWS: They do support a path to citizenship.
ALTER: The number will be irrelevant in the long sweep of time and you`re
going to say in 20 years --
MATTHEWS: So, you`re saying it`s going to work.
ALTER: Absolutely. You`re going to see Latino families, remember in the
hollows, in West Virginia, they used to have the FDR and JFK`s pictures.
In Latino homes in this country over the next 50 years, a lot of them are
going to have a picture of Barack Obama --
MATTHEWS: This tape will last until then. The tape will be available.
Senator John McCain has some harsh words for Hillary, and this surprised me
of my interview with him today, because they were sort of shots buddy.
They were pulling back shots together a while ago. Let`s watch him talk
about her now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it`s a legitimate question if you
said, Secretary Clinton, tell me a concrete accomplishment while your --
during your tour as secretary of state. I think she may have trouble
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s hard ball.
FOUHY: It`s hard ball. I think he is teeing up a line of argument that`s
going to be the main point of argument Republicans have against Hillary
She didn`t get anything done. She is a celebrity. She is a rock star.
All those sort of buzz words that he just used. What did he accomplish?
Then, of course, they`ll lump on Benghazi.
MATTHEWS: What will her answer then?
PAUL: What is her answer?
FOUHY: What is her answer? You know what? I don`t know what her answer
is. The point is that that`s going to be their main point of argument.
She`s going to say she carried the American flag across hundreds of
nations, which is --
PAUL: That`s input. Not output.
FOUHY: Right. That was your term --
MATTHEWS: Let me try something about -- in all fairness, I did the same
question to Barack Obama`s surrogate on national television when he was
running. The guy from Texas, the mayor of Austin. I said, name one
accomplishment legislatively this guy has pull as senator. I kept asking
him. I kept asking him.
It`s a tough question. What have you done?
ALTER: Well, you know what? It didn`t hurt Obama politically.
MATTHEWS: It didn`t hurt him at all. I hurt that guy a little bit, that
ALTER: Remember the rock star ad in the summer of 2008 when they tried to
go after Obama for being a rock star, not a president?
MATTHEWS: You`ve jumped on the rock star part. The harder was name an
Anyway, Chris Christie, we know his accomplishment had to go with the
bridge. Anyway, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, led his
group`s annual conference in Boca Raton today, where President Obama`s
immigration announcement was met with derision.
Let`s watch the reaction out there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: He promised in the 2008 that this
would be the top of his agenda. He had the Congress in his complete veto-
proof control in the Senate, at least, for the first couple years of his
presidency. I mean, he did nothing about this exempt, you know, blow hot
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: The president talked years ago about the
audacity of hope. It`s the audacity of the power grab. I think it`s a
horrible precedent and I think the Congress should take him to court over
it, because it`s a clear separation of powers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, Governor Christie is wrong. The president
never had a veto-proofed anything. Veto proof means 290 House members and
67 senators, and everybody knows what that means.
He had nowhere near that number, right? Do we all agree? So he`s wrong.
Go ahead. Your thoughts? Why is Christie saying this stuff?
ALTER: Well, he`s just trying to lay down.
MATTHEWS: Like it was easy for him to do the immigration reform.
ALTER: The interesting thing was he was cautious on immigration today. He
did not denounce Obama as an emperor, because he realizes, like Jeb Bush,
if he actually wants to win the White House, he has to move to the center
PAUL: And he also realizes that he works -- lives in a state, next to
bigger state, ours here in New York, New Jersey has also quite a bit of
what? People of color.
MATTHEWS: Right, and also a lot of Cubans, among other people.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. We`ll be right back.
And when we come back, that record breaking snowfall in Buffalo is a
reminder that snow can kill a political career. We`re going to have some
fun with this baby because a lot of mayors have met their demise under
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: More information on Hillary Clinton`s campaign plans. According
to our colleague Perry Bacon, it looks like Clinton will announce her
candidacy this coming January. That`s pretty specific. And this time
around, she`ll play up the prospect of the country electing its first
female president, more so than she did in 2008. Also, she`ll make her
campaign headquarters in the New York suburbs. I`m thinking White Plains?
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
A punishing snow storm has left towns near Buffalo, New York, buried under
as much as six feet of snow, right now, leaving hundreds trapped and seven
But Mother Nature can also become an unexpected opponent for some
politicians whose fates have been determined by their responses or failed
responses to a snow storm and could throw their careers into the deep
In 1979, Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic was defeated primarily for what was
seen as his mishandling of a blizzard that struck the city.
New York City Mayors John Lindsay, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill de Blasio,
the current mayor, faced heavy blowback for response to the snowstorms
under their watch, as did mayors of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry, who had
other problems, and Adrian Fenty.
During a 2010 blizzard, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was criticized
from barking on and refusing to return home from a Disney world vacation
down in Florida. Meanwhile, his lieutenant governor stayed on vacation in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I was not going to rescind my child`s Christmas gift, especially
when I was convinced that we had a plan in place that this is not like in
the 1800s, when, you know, no one would be able to get me. Believe me, my
cell phone was ringing where I was much more than I would have preferred it
to under normal circumstances when I`m away out of family vacation. But,
you know, I was not going to look at my children and say, no, we`re not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s not about the snow. It`s about me.
Back now at the roundtable, Mike, Beth and Jon.
Who wants to take on the big guy. Mike? Come on. He`s a Republican. But
I`m going to tell you something, that idea is more important than doing my
job. Your job`s your job.
PAUL: Well, Chris, as you know, I moved from politics to crisis PR. And
if he were my client, I`d say horrible message.
MATTHEWS: Get on the plane.
PAUL: You`re always thinking from the people`s perspective. And you know
that there are things two things when you`re governing that you take care
of, besides the big issues, garbage and snow. And you got to be there.
ALTER: Or weather more broadly. And Christie`s in trouble in New Jersey
and this could be a factor in his presidential campaign, because there`s a
lot of people who think he didn`t get it done on Sandy relief. When he
said sit down and shut up, that was to a heckler who was bringing up some
very valid points about how a lot of the money hadn`t gotten to the people
MATTHEWS: Do prosecutors go to work on snowy days? I think they do go to
work on snowy days.
ALTER: Jane Byrne, who just died this past week, is the one who beat Mike
Bilandic in Chicago when I was growing up there. And she called him the
abominable snowman and he never recovered.
FOUHY: Yes. But, you know, Chris, I actually think politicians are over-
learning this lesson at this point. I mean, I`ve been following Andrew
Cuomo, the governor of New York, on Twitter today. He`s on there like
every five seconds saying where Buffalonians can go to do this.
PAUL: And, good, he should.
MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with that?
FOUHY: No, he totally should. Except that, we get to the point, De Blasio
last year was frightened into running around with his plows.
PAUL: A mess. He didn`t know what he was doing.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I love about the old politics of the police
commissioner and the mayor out on the curb when there`s a fire. I want to
know they`re there. I want them to show up.
PAUL: My old boss used to make sure -- Rudy Giuliani, never had an issue
when it came to snow. Put plows on the front of sanitation trucks as well.
Called the governor and said, hey, we need to call out the National Guard,
which we did and make sure it was taken care of.
You got to make sure that you know how to -- as you say all the time,
Chris, govern --
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mike. It`s great to have you here.
PAUL: Pleasure to be here.
MATTEHWS: Great journalist and great historian, Jonathan Alter.
Beth Fouhy, thank you. History behind her.
When we return, let me finish this action by the president on immigration.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
President Obama`s about to pull the pin from the grenade. All signs are
that he`s about the grant legal status to millions of workers here in this
country without proper documentation. The explosion this will cause makes
me wonder if this is the best we can do in what everyone realizes is a
historic challenge. Will blowing up the debate over legal immigration
which this action will clearly achieve serve to fix the problem of illegal
immigration? Will it, really?
It would have immediate benefits certainly. It would be a compassionate
move on the part of the president. It will give families who have been
here for many years the opportunity to live, work and save in the open air
of American life. And for many, that`s the heart of it, and the verdict on
the worthiness of this action.
But what the executive order would not do is give the affected people a
path to citizenship nor would it end the flow of future illegal immigration
and the national strife that come with that. We would have the same
reality of people racing across the border on the way to exploiters (ph) of
jobs. We`d have the same national division over the country`s failure to
get reasonable control over who is eligible to reside and work here.
And let`s be real here: the chief exploiters of jobs in this country are
the most powerful magnet for illegal immigration. This executive order
will upgrade that magnate, it will say that if you can get into this
country somehow and find an illegal job, eventually, the president will
issue you a work permit.
And this is the central fact, an executive order by the president will not
fix the failed U.S. immigration law. The only way to do that is by law,
law passed by the U.S. Congress, signed by the president, ideally in a
nationally televised ceremony attended by the country`s wide spectrum of
leaders left to right. And the way the national policy is supposed to be
That would be the American way to do something like this. It would be, by
its nature, it would require compromise. By those who don`t think anyone
who comes here illegally should ever be accepted as legal and by pro-
immigration groups who would need to accept stronger immigration
enforcement to work here. You`d have to be here legally. You`d have to be
who you say you are.
And getting a new immigration law accepted and enforced sure beats what`s
coming, which is more anger, more illegal immigration and degradation in
the quality of our self government. And this is not, by the way, how we
passed the Civil Rights Act. That was passed by strong bipartisan support.
This action by the president is supported according to a new NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" poll by less than a third of the American people. And
that`s, of course, a reason not to do it. But it is a reason to push the
opponents of legalization to say why they do. And that`s what is still --
that`s what I`m still hoping for, a clear-cut out in the open discussion on
national television where both sides explain why they cannot reach
agreement on something so historically important.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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