updated 12/19/2014 10:20:10 AM ET 2014-12-19T15:20:10

Show: HARDBALL
Date: December 16, 2014

Guest: Michael Crowley, Stephen Hess, Sam Stein, Steve McMahon, Susan
Milligan, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bush Three.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, suddenly, the 2016 presidential election campaign is under way. No
more will he or won`t he, Jeb Bush is in the race for president. While the
other hopefuls are still milling around and talking up their chances and
selling themselves, the former Florida governor has entered the starting
gate, his ears perked for the starting gun.

This is a game-changer today. In declaring that he will actively explore a
presidential run, Jeb has made himself the third Bush to put himself in
line for the presidency.

The only thing keeping him from the White House now is a candidate who`s
not yet entered the race, either another Republican, or more likely,
Democrat Hillary Clinton. A number of those potential Republicans may have
been scratched from the race by the mere fact of Jeb Bush entering it
today. I think of Mitt Romney, whose best argument for running was if Jeb
decided not to. Same for Chris Christie, who has enough baggage clinging
to him already from that bridge mischief. Same for Marco Rubio, the young
Floridian, who may now be forced to wait his turn down along that I-4
corridor.

Yes, the announcement today that Jeb Bush has taken the first step toward
presidential candidacy gives this race a shape it doesn`t have just
yesterday. It`s now Bush against the hard right, and a Bush in the race
well ahead of a Clinton. A year from now, we may know how all this
matters.

Anyway, Michael Steele was chair of the Republican National Committee and
Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for Salon. Both are MSNBC political
analysts.

I want you both to talk about analysis first, then attitude, OK?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: OK!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: First of all -- and I want -- I`ll start with Joan now that you
said yes.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: Thanks, Joan.

MATTHEWS: When you look at this as a person who studies politics, as well
as having a view, what do you see happening because of this pretty much
statement, I`m running for president, today out of nowhere it came?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think,
obviously, he`s trying to line up big donors behind him. There`s been a
lot of talk, Chris, about the donors want to coalesce around someone. They
don`t want Mitt to run against Jeb to run against Christie. He`s stepped
out. He`s not going to wait for anybody to anoint someone. He says, you
know, Hold onto your money, give it to me, don`t give it to those other
guys. So that`s one thing.

I think this really does make it almost impossible for Rubio to run, or
certainly to win, or to run credibly. Jeb is leading him in Florida. You
know, he`s more likely to beat Hillary Clinton even in the state of
Florida. So I think this really leaves Rubio in the dust.

I don`t know what it does to the right wing of the party. I believe that
even though he`s a conservative -- as far as I`m concerned, he`s very
conservative -- he`s too moderate for the Republican base. So I don`t -- I
see a path for him to win the nomination of the big party donors. Winning
over the base is another question.

MATTHEWS: Well, he certainly doesn`t hate Hispanics.

WALSH: No.

MATTHEWS: I mean, he`s married to one.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s probably the most pro-immigration guy in either party that
I`ve come across.

WALSH: That`s the point.

STEELE: In quite some time.

MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me ask you about the -- about the deep-down
reason. Running for president -- we can be cynical, if we want to. I
don`t want to be. The decision to run for president, to stick your head in
the furnace -- this is what he`s doing --

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He`s going to get hit from the hard right --

STEELE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: -- real hard, on all kinds of reasons -- his family. They`ll
go after everything. They will (ph) find everything. Why is he -- is it -
- I -- from listening to him for years, and I sort of like him.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: But -- immigration is real with him. It`s his family.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: His wife`s from Mexico. His kids are Hispanic in many ways. I
mean, you just -- he`s very much in love with the Hispanic people. He is
part of that -- that culture. Education, he really believes --

STEELE: Very important (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: -- in -- in things that I may like, but -- you know, vouchers.
He`s for -- he`s for Common Core. He wants our educational system to
really advance people --

STEELE: He wants to shake it up.

MATTHEWS: -- and to assimilate people.

STEELE: Right. He wants to shake it up.

MATTHEWS: He wants it to be a vehicle for America to become more America.

STEELE: Right. Right. And I think you lay out exactly some of the
motivations that have sort of shaped -- certainly, since he`s been governor
of Florida, shaped his politics, if you will, over the last seven years or
so.

So now the test for Jeb is to navigate the early and tricky waters in the
conservative base. They`ve already started coming out. I mean, even a few
weeks ago, there were folks sort of lobbing the bombs. I think Jeb Bush
right now, by coming out today before Christmas, has the opportunity to
create a sort of Sister Souljah moment within the party to -- on those two
points, immigration and education, and personalize the narrative in a way
that no Republican has been able to do so far.

MATTHEWS: Why did the underwater walrus speak so quick today?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Why did -- why did Limbaugh --

STEELE: Hey, could you clarify who that may be?

MATTHEWS: -- immediately -- Rush Limbaugh. Why did he feel the need to
make that burping sound from underwater (INAUDIBLE) Here he is, Rush
Limbaugh, has already cooked up a conspiracy theory, if you will, on why
Jeb is running for president of the United States. And it came out
immediately this morning from that underwater world he lives in down in
Florida. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You want to know why Jeb Bush is
thinking of running? I`ll give you -- including the fact he may actually
want to be president. He may actually want to do this. But he`s also
being looked at as a savior by the big money donor class and the consultant
class, the establishment of the party, to head off the Tea Party. They`re
going to pull out all the stops to make sure that a Tea Party type
conservative doesn`t get the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But why would -- let me ask you a question. And maybe it`s too
logical to ask a question about Rush Limbaugh, except ratings, I suppose,
or whatever. I`m not a media critic, but my God, I don`t get this guy.
He`s the leader of the Republican Party to many people`s minds.

Rush Limbaugh says there`s something wrong with heading off the Tea Party,
when everybody watching this program and probably watching Fox, even, knows
a Tea Party person per se cannot be elected president of the United States
against Hillary Clinton, a Tea Party person, somebody who buys the whole
pile of that stuff.

Why would he want a Tea Party person to be the nominee if they will almost
certainly lose?

WALSH: Because --

MATTHEWS: Why would Rush want that, because he`s better in opposition?
It`s better for his audience if they`re really, really angry they got
Hillary as president?

WALSH: I don`t --

MATTHEWS: Is that better for him?

WALSH: I don`t think any of us have any idea what that man really believes
deep in his soul. But this is the role that he plays within the party --

MATTHEWS: Soul?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You gave him soul. That`s --

WALSH: I did. I`m just being charitable tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s a leap of faith before Christmas! Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: It`s the holiday season, Chris. I`m feeling kind. But I don`t
know what he really believes, but this is the role he plays. And this is
the role that he wants to play, is to rile up the base, is to represent the
Tea Party wing of the party.

And you know, on one thing, I hate to say it, but I kind of agree with him
that Jeb Bush is the candidate of the desperate party donors who really
don`t want to see, God forbid, Ted Cruz or maybe even worse to them, a Rand
Paul. And they really do want to head that off.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I would argue -- that`s all true, I think. But Michael, isn`t
he also the hope of the suburban moderate Republicans who read newspapers
and actually believe in a little less government than Democrats? I mean --

STEELE: I think Jeb touches on a number of, you know, elements in the
Republican Party, not just, you know, the suburban moderate Republican.
And I think when you hear a Rush Limbaugh and you juxtapose it against a
Jeb Bush, that exactly goes to my first point. That`s what he`s got to
navigate. And he`s got --

MATTHEWS: How many states would Rush Limbaugh carry if he ran?

STEELE: Well, but that`s not the point. That`s not the point. It`s what
a Rush Limbaugh can do to frame an argument that Jeb Bush doesn`t want to
make, or shouldn`t have to make. And so the question is, how does he get
out in front of that --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: -- and pull the party towards him, as opposed to having it
pulled away from --

MATTHEWS: Well, he is out front. Is that smart?

STEELE: I think it`s very smart. I think -- you know, I was looking for
that thing that would start this engine and change the paradigm. This is
it. The other element is Rand Paul. That`s another piece that`s out there
--

WALSH: Right.

STEELE: -- that could have a very interesting --

MATTHEWS: OK --

STEELE: -- juxtaposition in terms of the base.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: I think they`re the two strongest candidates right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think so. And interesting, I think a -- I don`t know who`s
going to win the general election. It`s two years from now. We don`t know
how well Hillary Clinton will do as a candidate again. We don`t know. We
just don`t know.

WALSH: We don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Maybe she doesn`t. But we now know that there`s one guy in the
race. And as they say in Massachusetts politics, usually Democratic
politics, the shape of the field determines the victor. Depends who`s
running. I mean, that`s so obvious, but it depends who`s running.

Now we know he`s running. That means that Mitt Romney`s probably not
running. It means Rubio`s probably not running.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: It probably means that Christie has any taint on him from any
kind of indictments of people around him, he probably can`t run, which
means it`s going to be Jeb Bush, in all likelihood now, against somebody on
the right, now somebody that may not be despicable on the right.
Certainly, Rand Paul is not despicable. I think Ted Cruz fits that
category. This could be interesting. This could be interesting.

WALSH: Well, I think --

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

WALSH: Certainly, one way that he does win the nomination is the way Mitt
Romney did. If a bunch of Tea Party folks or right-wing folks jump in, and
you know, if Ted Cruz and Rand Paul start firing at each other --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: -- and Rubio gets in because he`s kind of mad that this happened,
you could again see that right-wing base, which definitely outnumbers the -
- at this point, the Jeb Bush wing of the party, split the vote, circular
firing squad again, and make room for, you know --

MATTHEWS: OK --

WALSH: -- another relative moderate. He`s not a moderate to me.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re on the (INAUDIBLE) What do you make of the fact
that -- that, let`s see, we`ve now got Howard Dean endorsing last week and
this week, Al Franken, who`s just been reelected from Minnesota -- he`s
become a really serious legislator, obviously. He`s endorsed Hillary.
These people are -- they`re not in the middle of the road. They`re on the
liberal side of things, the progressive side of things, both of them, the
Democratic -- he used to say the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: They`re backing Hillary. Is this a way to staunch, or stanch,
or however you pronounce that thing, the blood flow to Elizabeth Warren?
Are they building a case now to stop that movement to Warren?

WALSH: I think they -- I think they are. I think they also, you know --
Senator Franken said today he knows Elizabeth Warren. He truly believes,
as I do, that she doesn`t want to run and she`s not going to run. And so
you know, it`s a way to get people to get serious about who`s in the race.

I don`t know who else may run, and Hillary Clinton may well have a
challenger, but I think it also means that -- you know, Senator Franken
speaks for me in a lot of ways at this point. Hillary Clinton is probably
the most progressive person in the party who could get elected president.
There may be people that are closer to us ideologically, but they would
have a harder time running.

MATTHEWS: I like the way you talk.

STEELE: Well, but --

WALSH: Let`s listen to Franken for a second, then you respond. Here`s Al
Franken. He seemed very -- almost like Spencer Tracy today, listening to
him.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He was very -- no, really, he`s become quite the grandee, the
eminence grise. Here he is on "THE CYCLE" on MSNBC today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I think that Hillary would make a great
president. I think that, you know, she -- I`m -- I`m ready for Hillary. I
mean, I`m -- I -- I think that we -- we`ve not had someone this
experienced, this tough, and as -- she`s -- she`s very, very impressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why is it smart for Jeb to get in early and Hillary to wait?

STEELE: Well, look, if that was enthusiasm, OK, I`ll take it from Franken
--

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, it was cerebral.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: But -- oh, is that what that was?

MATTHEWS: It was Spencer Tracy --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Oh, that was cerebral. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: But -- you know, I want to pick up with what -- what --

MATTHEWS: I think he`s -- by the way, I think he`s very purposeful in the
way he --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s not cracking jokes.

STEELE: He was very deliberate. He was -- he was very -- you know, Let me
be careful with every word I say. I got it. But this, I want to pick up
on. I want to pick up on what Joan just said about -- about Hillary and
her situation. The problem that Hillary has right now is that, you know,
everyone wants to focus on my conservatives, you know, my Ted Cruzes and
all the folks on the right -- on the right.

She`s got a similar problem on the left. As much as, you know, you can get
Franken out there and others to sort of, you know, be that liberal, that
progressive voice on the left, that`s not necessarily reflective of
Hillary`s base. And so Hillary still has to navigate on the war. She`s
going to have to navigate on Wall Street, just as Jeb Bush is going to have
to navigate on education and immigration.

WALSH: You`re right, Michael.

STEELE: So this is not a -- this is not a --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- fighting with you.

STEELE: Huh?

MATTHEWS: Hillary`s fighting with you.

STEELE: I know. But I just feel like I want to fight right now.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Oh, OK.

MATTHEWS: Merry Christmas, buddy. And by the way, you`re right. I do
think that she`s got to reconcile herself with people like me on the war,
perhaps people like Joan more on Wall Street.

STEELE: Yes.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think you can be a moderate Democrat without being in bed with
Wall Street. I don`t think you have to be left to prove yourself. But you
better not be too entangled with them socially and the rest of the
business. Anyway, thank you --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And it looks like you`re showing for them if you start hanging
out with them. Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Joan Walsh, as
always. I think you`re very smart tonight.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, a horrific scene in Pakistan, where the Taliban
attacked a school and killed more than 140 people, most of them children.
We`ll have the latest on this nightmare next.

And the big debate in this country over torture. We`ve got new polling on
what may be the biggest issue of our time, torture.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Chris Christie`s taking a pounding on Twitter because he sat at
a luxury box with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Sunday`s Cowboys-
Eagles game up in Philly. Christie, a lifelong Cowboys fan, has been under
attack by Eagles fans, who are known to get easily riled up. One
Philadelphia city councilman called Christie a creep and told him to go
home, and the New Jersey governor took to the radio to fight back.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was his quote. "When you`re across the river from
Philadelphia as a neighbor, you should have a little more common sense and
little more respect for the rest of us. I have a big nose. He`s got a fat
"bleep." It`s what life deals you."

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don`t know what that has to do with
whether you root for the Cowboys or the Eagles, though. And again, I don`t
know about his nose because I don`t even know who this guy is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHRISTIE: But listen, you know, there`s lots of people who attempt to use
me to increase their own fame. And this guy, obviously, today has used me
to increase his own fame. He`s in, you know, newspapers all over the
country today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHRISTIE: Good for him. I mean, you know, that`s his job. He`s got to
get somebody beside his parents to know who he is. So that`s good.

(LAUGHTER)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was classic Christie, to go after somebody`s motives.
That`s pretty restrained, however, by his standards, some might say.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, we`re learning more about that
nightmarish attack on a school in Pakistan today. At least seven Pakistani
Taliban militants stormed the military-run school and killed 145 people,
nearly all of them young students. As one parent described it to the
Associated Press, "My son was in uniform in the morning. He`s in a casket
now. My son was my dream. My dream has been killed."

The Taliban claimed responsibility and said it was retaliation for the
military`s campaign against them, which began in the summer. In London,
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The images are absolutely gut-wrenching --
young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front
of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable
horror. And Prime Minister Sharif said, "These are my children, it is my
loss." Well, this morning, wherever you live, wherever you are, those are
our children. And this is the world`s loss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And President Obama said in a statement, "Our hearts and prayers
go out to the victims, their families and loved ones. By targeting
students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again
shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan and we
reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the government of
Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote
peace and stability in the region."

Richard Engel is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, and Michael Crowley`s a
senior foreign policy reporter for Politico.

Richard, if you can, tell us what happened in that school about 17 hours
ago.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: We`ve spoken to military officials.
We`ve spoken to survivors, witnesses. This attack unfolded -- and it was a
massacre, it was a bloodbath -- unfolded over about eight hours. It began
local time around 10:40 in the morning. And a lot of the students were in
assembly. Some were taking an exam. Others were attending a -- kind of a
career fair.

And gunmen, seven at least, all of them wearing suicide belts, cut through
a fence, climbed over a fence, stormed into the assembly. At least one of
the suicide attackers blew up his device. And then the others, at least
six at this point, started opening fire indiscriminately.

Then they fanned out through the classrooms. This was a large compound
that had grades 1 through the end of high school. Most of the classrooms
that they went to were of the older students, the ones who were 16 to 18.
And the militants just went room to room, firing as students tried to hide
under their desks. They were shot in the legs. They were shot in the
head. A lot of the students tried to barricade themselves into the
classrooms.

The militants forced their way in and continued their murder spree for
about an hour, until the commandos arrived in helicopter. They landed in a
soccer stadium not far away. They commenced an assault on the compound.

But a lot of the rooms had been booby-trapped, and it was difficult to
enter. And a gunfight then lasted for the next seven hours or so, as the
military tried to clear the building. And then, ultimately, they did kill
all of the militants, but the death toll was horrific, about 142 killed,
over 130 of them students.

MATTHEWS: While you`re on, I just want to ask you. You have lived in that
region. You`re a great reporter over there. And what can you tell us
about the thinking of a person who would do this and believe they were the
good guy?

ENGEL: The -- the logic is one of an eye for an eye, at least in their
minds.

The Pakistani military, about six months ago, in the spring, began an
offensive in Northern Waziristan. And this offensive in North Waziristan
has been devastating. We have seen images come out of there of some
villages that have been flattened, all of the people forced out.

And this part of North Waziristan is a Taliban stronghold. So from their
perspective, they believe that the Pakistani military is killing our
children. We`re going to respond by targeting their children. And this
school, we have called it an army-run school. It`s not a military academy.
The students there aren`t learning to be cadets.

It is a school that is a public school. It`s open to civilians. But,
primarily, it is for the children of the military. So, you asked what the
logic is. The logic is, you kill us, we will go find your children.

MATTHEWS: Michael Crowley, your view and feelings about this.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Well, Chris, it goes without saying my feelings
are horror and astonishment, and just deep depression also that this is --
just seems to be something we`re spending, almost on a daily basis, talking
about stories like this, where suicidal fanatics are killing innocent
people in places like schools or in, you know, coffee shops, as we saw in
Sydney.

This is the product of something that, you know, from the -- this is sort
of the backlash to something that the U.S. thinks is a good thing, which is
this military offensive in Waziristan. This is something that we have been
wanting the Pakistanis to do, which is to take on their domestic Taliban.

And, in fact, that offensive killed a very senior al Qaeda leader several
days ago, which is something that Obama officials were pretty pleased
about. I think they have -- I think they have either killed or captured
some other al Qaeda leaders in that region recently as well.

So this is a horrible byproduct of something that does fit with our basic
U.S. policy goals, but it`s clear that Pakistan does not really have its
arms around this problem. And when you`re talking about a country with
nuclear weapons, I think that it`s -- I think it`s a foreign policy problem
that doesn`t command the headlines, except in cases of atrocities like
this, but really remains one of the lingering unsolved problems in American
foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: I will have something to say about it later in the program.

But, today, NBC released a new poll that shows significant support in this
country for torture. Fifty-one percent of Americans say harsh
interrogation practices following the 9/11 attacks were acceptable under
the circumstances. And 45 percent say that harsh interrogation tactics
acceptable enough to gain -- to use again in the future.

Richard, what do you make of this? I must tell you that, in terms of the
partisan breakdown, the cross-tabs, the Democrats are against torture as a
party, people in the party who identify as Democrats, whereas Republicans
are 80 percent for torture, and it`s more mixed, of course, as it often is,
among independents.

Your view. Does that surprise you, this sort of -- it`s not eye for an eye
and it certainly doesn`t compare to what we`re talking about and what
happened just less than a day ago in Pakistan in terms of violence and
cruelty.

ENGEL: No, no, there`s no comparison there.

But I was -- I was somewhat surprised by it. And I would be curious to
know how exactly that poll was worded. Were people asked, if your life is
on the line and a suspect is holding the trigger to a nuclear bomb, do you
think he should be interrogated harshly or beaten up?

But that`s not necessarily the way these programs worked. People were
held, they were interned, they were abused and humiliated, sexually
humiliated, for years at a time. So I`m not sure if the public really
understands the -- what happened here extends, what -- how these kind of
interrogations would work.

And, if they do, it`s revealing about the state of thinking in this
country. But torture is still illegal. It`s basic in the Bill of Rights.
You shouldn`t have cruel and unusual punishment. So what the public thinks
on this necessarily probably shouldn`t have a bearing.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Thanks so much, Richard Engel. Thank you, Michael Crowley. We will hear
from you later on other topics.

We will much more on the torture debate on this program tonight and the
politics of that fight.

Coming up with the roundtable, all that is coming back here, a lot more on
torture tonight.

And this is HARDBALL, where you hear the debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Well, there`s an old saying in politics that politics makes strange
bedfellows. And while it`s rare to see political opponents cross party
lines to go work for the other side, no relationship better embodied that
proverb than the unlikely coupling of President Richard Nixon and one of my
heroes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

This new book out, "The Professor and the President," tells the story of
how a conservative president whose disdain for academia, especially
Harvard, was well-known, put a liberal intellectual into his White House
staff in 1969 and listened to the guy. Strangely enough, the friendship
that developed between these two guys was as genuine as it was unlikely.

Nixon was socially awkward, as we all know, came to appreciate Moynihan`s
wit and ebullience and turn. And Moynihan returned the favor, giving the
respect he so craved from the so-called Northeastern liberal elite. And he
certainly was a member of that.


Author Stephen Hess, who is a friend of mine, worked for both men. And he
joins me now.

You were probably one of the few people in the world that was friends, got
along with Nixon when you were working for him. You were very much
disappointed with what the guy did, of course, I know, because you`re a
good guy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But Moynihan, tell me -- tell me, what is it in the some
sometimes squirrelly psyche of Richard Nixon led him to this prince of the
Harvard establishment and made him one of his confidants

STEPHEN HESS, AUTHOR, "THE PROFESSOR AND THE PRESIDENT": Initially, I
think it was one big mistake.

You have been through transitions. Transitions are -- you`re exhausted.
It`s all secretive. You don`t know the future. And I think he just made -
- plain made a mistake in picking him, because he wanted oppositionists.
He had -- he needed -- he had barely won the election.

He had -- coming in with an opposition Congress, and you put him in the
Cabinet. That`s easy. Then you can fire him if you don`t like him. But
to put them right up next to you in the White House? That`s a high risk.
And I don`t think that the Nixon people knew what they were doing. And,
boy, were they lucky.

MATTHEWS: And Moynihan was pushing for a basic -- a minimal income that
people in the American -- sort of like a right, almost a blue right, it was
a red right, and it said, nobody should live below a certain level of life
in this country, and got Nixon to back it.

HESS: Because Nixon had opposed it in the campaign.

And what happened was, somehow, both of these guys, poor boys, and that and
Nixon had no interest in domestic affairs. All he wanted to do was sit in
the corner with Henry Kissinger.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HESS: And he turns it over to Pat Moynihan.

And I think that I think connected was that their -- was their childhood,
the fact of dependency, the fact that Nixon could remember poor boys coming
into his father`s store whose parents were on relief, and how it affected
them for the rest of their lives.

I think that was where Pat drilled into the president --

MATTHEWS: I meant to ask you about the Kennedy connection.

HESS: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: And Moynihan was one of the guys, a real Irishman, who said when
Jack was killed in `63, we will never smile again.

HESS: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: And Nixon was a known rival of Kennedy`s.

HESS: You`re right.

MATTHEWS: Was Nixon sort of interested in bringing in a Kennedy guy,
somebody close to him?

HESS: No, I don`t think so. I think -- you know, you wrote the book.

MATTHEWS: I know.

HESS: It was a terrific book.

You`re telling me, by this point, I think that that -- the -- Kennedy was
the guy up on the hill that he could never reach, Pat -- Nixon. And to
bring in somebody close to Kennedy was a real odd bit of history.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HESS: So I don`t think that was it at all.

MATTHEWS: Well, if anybody comes -- and I got to finish up with selling
this book, "The President and the" -- "The Professor and the President,"
because it`s great for anybody who loves politics and the way people relate
to each other, surprisingly.

But if you ever come to Washington, which is to say -- I always to people,
you have already paid for it, please visit it. All the museums are free.
All the buildings are free. You paid for this with your tax dollar. Come
to Washington.

And one thing you will appreciate is the beauty of Pennsylvania Avenue
today. It used to be all waffle shops and firecracker stores. And now
it`s a beautiful Champs Elysees practically. It`s like the French avenues.
It`s gorgeous, because of Pat Moynihan.

Anyway, thank you. The book`s called "The Professor and the President."

And, thank you, Stephen Hess, my friend, a great speechwriter, actually, as
well as book writer.

Up next, the big debate of our time, torture. And it is a debate. Polls
show people are fine with what the CIA did after 9/11. So, is this a
debate Democrats want to have? Could this be one the Republicans win?
People are so angry at terrorism, especially what happened in the last 24
hours over in Pakistan, they don`t really care what happens to these
people. That`s next on the roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui. Here`s what`s
happening this hour.

The suspect in the shooting deaths of six people in Pennsylvania has been
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The L.A. district attorney`s office will not file charges against Bill
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the limitations has long expired.

And if you`re hitting the road for the holidays, you will have a lot of
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end-of-the-year holiday season. That`s the most since 2009 -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It worked. It
worked now for 13 years. It absolutely did work. I would do it again in a
minute.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Wouldn`t give it a
thought.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: And that, ladies and gentlemen, that is the best thing about Dick
Cheney. He`s impervious to doubt. It never enters his mind.

Just because he`s bitter and angry doesn`t mean I have to be. I`m going to
end on a note of gratitude, something I never thought that I would say.

George W. Bush, thank you for not dying while you were in office.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was rough, but maybe true.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was "The Daily Show"`s Jon Stewart, of course, mocking former Vice
President Dick Cheney for his resolve over the issue of torture. Cheney
doesn`t have the best track record when it comes to the facts, of course.

Nevertheless, the debate over whether the United States tortures its
enemies for intelligence doesn`t seem to be going away.

Today, NBC released a brand-new poll that shows significant support for
torture, if you look at it this way -- 51 percent of Americans overall say
harsh interrogation practices following the 9/11 attacks were acceptable
under the circumstances. The phrase was harsh interrogation tactics; 45
percent say that harsh interrogation tactics, the phrase again, are
acceptable enough to use again in the future, so generally useful.

But the numbers get more interesting when you see the partisan breakdown.
You wouldn`t be surprised. Now 80 percent, four out of five Republicans
say these practices are just fine; 44 percent of Democrats, however, say
they went too far.

So there`s a partisan breakdown, not clear-cut, but it`s there. Certainly,
Republicans have no problem with torture. These numbers follow the release
of a scathing report, of course, from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence
Committee on their investigation into the CIA`s interrogation program
itself. The committee concluded that the program was not effective as a
means of collecting intelligence.

Joining me right now is our roundtable tonight. Steve McMahon is a
Democratic strategist. Susan Milligan is contributing editor at "U.S. News
& World Report." And Sam Stein is political editor at The Huffington Post.

Sam, you start.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: This question of torture and the American people, why do you
think that, in the main, 41 -- 51 percent, people accept the need to be
really rough? You can argue the word torture all you want. Really rough
with suspected terrorists?

STEIN: You know, what was interesting to me, I look at the stats. I went
back a little bit.

You would presume that the closer you were to 9/11, the more favorable you
would be towards these interrogation methods and torture. We had just gone
through that tragedy. We wanted to get these guys. It was an immediate
threat.

But what has ended up being the case is that the further we have gotten
away, the more the public has been OK with this.

MATTHEWS: That`s --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: And, basically, it`s a partisan split.

The moment where it became a slight majority of Americans favoring torture
was roughly November of 2009, if you look at the polling averages. That`s
basically a year into the Obama presidency. He had ran against torture,
saying he was going to end it.

MATTHEWS: I get it. I get it.

STEIN: No, I`m dead serious.

MATTHEWS: So, every time -- it`s like the Vietnam War became very
unpopular among Democrats the minute Nixon was elected.

STEIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: They were supporting it right up until then.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And then, all of a sudden, "Oh, we can`t be for this war."

Same war.

MCMAHON: Sam is absolutely --

MATTHEWS: Same torture.

MCMAHON: Same is absolutely right. The --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, everything now is, if you don`t like Obama, you like Putin.
I mean, it`s -- anybody`s at war with Obama now is your new nationalist
buddy.

MCMAHON: That`s right. It shows you exactly how far petty partisanship
has gone in Washington. And if you look at the numbers, it`s about the
same time that the president`s numbers, his favorability rating, his job
approval, was also having a little bit of a problem. So, it does -- it is
in this town --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I was going to say, it torturously went up to 45 percent. Does
that mean torture`s going to come down a little?

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON: No, but the other thing is, the wording of these things really --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Harsh interrogation techniques is pretty well stated, right.

MCMAHON: It`s pretty well, it`s not torture. So I think the numbers would
be a little different if you had used the word torture.

MATTHEWS: You know they were trying to find something in the middle there.

STEIN: Of course, but the descriptions you put in the procedures totally
change the perception.

MATTHEWS: I think harsh interrogation is a fair enough way of putting it.
Harsh, I guess to the point. You`re sitting in a coffin for four or five
days. Sitting on the cold floor, chained, naked, that might capture the
heart --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Or molestation, all these sex crimes. Tell us what happened.
We can handle it. Describe it and we`ll tell you what we think of this --

MCMAHON: That`s right. if you put water -- I mean, my wife was a former
prosecutor. You know her. She`s a very tough woman.

Harsh interrogations occur every single day all across America.
Waterboarding and the kinds of things that were occurring that are torture,
you know, it`s --

MATTHEWS: What is harsh interrogation? What happened nowadays?

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: First of all, they`re there for a long time. Secondly, often
times the police officers and prosecutors aren`t honest with the subject
because they`re trying to get them to confess. They`re trying to get them
to implicate their co-conspirators, their co-defendants. So there are a
lot of things that occur in those rooms that you might consider to be harsh
interrogation, including the length of time they have to sit there without
food and water, and often without a lawyer.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, I think though that that`s
the thing. You say harsh interrogation techniques and it sounds like
you`re sweating the suspect on a "Law & Order" episode --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who`s that guy (INAUDIBLE) always be the tough guy in the room?

MILLIGAN: Well, yes, that`s a little bit different than pureeing someone`s
lunch and putting it in their rectum, or having them stand naked --

MCMAHON: We just had to go there, didn`t we?

STEIN: He said describe it to the public. They deserve to know. She did.

MILLIGAN: That`s what McCain said, the American people has a right to know
what was done --

MATTHEWS: But he would say with his snarled lip, that was medically
approved.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Medically necessary.

MATTHEWS: Politically, you have a sense that this will come up, because
it`s the perfect thing to come up, if a regular moderator gets to ask the
question. This will come up in debate.

STEIN: Oh, sure. I was thinking about this today when Jeb Bush dip his
toes in, Hillary Clinton will have to answer for all the Obama policies.
Well, everyone was going to go up to Jeb Bush, your brother did this, what
do you think of that? Of course, on top of that list is going to be stuff
like --

MATTHEWS: Is he going to have to do this? Is this what the life mission
is now? As of today, he is running. He`s now going to have to eat crap
for the next year. Every time they say, are you for torture or not? Are
you in or out, you know?

STEIN: They`re going to try to find the division between him and his
brother because it`s the easiest story to write.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But the right wanted to be right.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`ll try to pull him over.

MCMAHON: The same thing is going to happen on the left with Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama. So, in some ways --

MATTHEWS: Or Elizabeth Warren.

MCMAHON: Well, no, it will be Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: No, not running, but just the standard. Do you hate Wall
Street? Do you hate Wall Street?

MCMAHON: As much as Elizabeth Warren does. But what will happen, this
might actually give Hillary Clinton a little bit of freedom to, (a),
separate herself where she`d like to and, (b) --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You mean Sister Warren, like Sister Soulja?

MILLIGAN: I think Elizabeth Warren does her service in a primary --

MATTHEWS: OK. All I can tell you this, the American people are basically
probably in most elections slightly center right. And some years where
they`re tired of that, they go to slightly center right or right. They go
to the slightly center left. I don`t know that we`ve gone hard either way
in my lifetime.

MCMAHON: Bad news for Ted Cruz.

MATTHEWS: The only time we would have been ready is `32, but we had a
moderate Democrat running in Roosevelt. I know, moderate Democrat.

Anyway, roundtable is staying with us.

When we come back, remember when the conservatives in this country loved
Vladimir Putin? I know -- well, back then they celebrated Putin as a way
to bash President Obama. That`s happening. It`s so weird. His enemies
are their friends.

But with Russia`s economy in total chaos right now, how is the right wing
love affair with Putin going right now?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the U.S. Congress has wrapped up its work for the year.
We can tell you that it`s on record now as the least productive of modern
times. The 113th Congress, that`s the one expanding the past two years,
passed 203 bills that were signed into law. The previous record low was
283 by the 112th Congress.

The public opinion of Congress is hovering near record lows as well.
According to Gallup poll, the approval rating of Congress this year
averaged 15 percent, up just one point from last year`s record low average.
That`s one in six.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Vladimir Putin, don`t you love the guy? Has blazed a path of scorched
earth in the international world. His defiance against the U.S. and the
West as a whole has heightened his popularity back home in Russia. It`s
made him a hero to some of the right in this country, believe it or not,
who want to stick it to President Obama`s leadership by backing him.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): One other key point, Vladimir
Putin believes in Russia. He believes in Russia`s destiny, its mission.
Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: But he makes a decision and he
executes it, quickly, then everybody reacts. That`s what you call a
leader. President Obama, he`s got to think about it, he`s got to go over
it again, he`s got to talk to more people about it.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: I think Putin is playing chess and I think
we`re playing marbles. And I don`t think it`s even close.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: People are looking at Putin as
one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as
one who wears mom jeans and equivocate and bloviate.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Well, what is this? Is this the enemy of my enemy is friend?
It`s got to be that.

MILLIGAN: I think that`s exactly what it is. To not understand what a
dangerous person Putin is and that the only reason he hasn`t gone further
into Ukraine is that he can`t afford it, which is in part because of the
sanction.

MATTHEWS: So, if we grab Canada tomorrow morning, will we ever cool as
Putin? I mean, that`s the standard, grab the nearest country.

MILLIGAN: Chris, I met, the first time I was in the room with him was not
long after I`ve been finishing covering the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
So, I was pretty tough at that point. And I`m in the room with him, I was
like in the third row and he`s like --

MATTHEWS: You`re taller than him, aren`t you?

MCMAHON: Did he steal your Super Bowl?

MILLIGAN: No, but I`m looking in his eyes, and the coldness --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLIGAN: Cut your heart with a butter knife and go to hamburger
afterward. I`ve never felt a chill, even after covering wars, I had never
felt a physical chill as I did when I saw those eyes. And all I kept
thinking was for how many members was the last thing I saw. So --

MATTHEWS: See, torture wasn`t a tough call for him.

MILLIGAN: I don`t think so.

And what it`s really tragic, it`s not just Russia. I mean, I lived in
Eastern Europe for five years and was there during the transition. It`s so
painful for me now to see this region of the world which has struggled so
hard after communism, to sort of get together politically and economically
and seeing it falling apart. And he`s so central to that. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Sam, some people the argument is, sophisticated argument, what
the right wing in this country, I don`t mean the conservatives, the right
wing who are nationalist and ethnically conscious, let`s put it that way.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: They like the idea that he thinks Russia is an ethnic identity.
Nationalism doesn`t mean loyalty to a country. It means a particular
birth, a particular background you come from ethnically. And people look
about America that way. You know what I mean?

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You get the point? And that they like him on that, because he`s
a pure nationalist.

STEIN: First of all, I can`t believe you`re making me follow that story.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You never looked him in the eyes?

STEIN: No.

MATTHEWS: I mean, Susan saw and there wasn`t one there.

STEIN: I actually think, you know, those clips that you played were all
around the time that they invaded Crimea.

And the general attack on Obama was he was letting this land go to the
Russians.

MATTHEWS: What was he supposed to do?

STEIN: Well, that`s the (INAUDIBLE). There was a very short term
mentality about what he could do, and all of a sudden, Obama was this great
weakling, because he wasn`t going to invade Russia over Crimea, God forbid.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: Well, they took a long game ,and it looks at this point -- now,
things can change -- they look at this point that the long game actually
has worked. The Russian economy is tanking. Obviously, a lot of it has to
do with oil and the international oil prices. Some of it has to do with
sanctions. And Putin has barely any cards he can play now except maybe
even more belligerent.

MATTHEWS: And the West is united. Angela Merkel, they`re all against
this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Solidarity, that`s what we always wanted. Stand against the bad
guys.

MCMAHON: That`s right. And you know, last time this has happened, Boris
Yeltsin was in charge, and who he put in as prime minister but Putin.

STEIN: Yes.

MCMAHON: It`s sort of a cycle. But it busted Yeltsin. But it looks like
right now, if the oil price decline continues and if the situation with the
sanctions continues, you know, Putin has got a real problem. When those
grocery stores are empty --

STEIN: It still is a big economy in the globe. And its complete tanking
could become our problem.

MATTHEWS: Catch this -- some journalists are raising the idea of
revolution over there in Russia. Here`s what the editor of "The
Interpreter", Michael Weiss told HARDBALL today, "Will he withstand another
protest movement if the economy implodes, if, as in the `90s, people are
trying to withdraw all of their money from ATMs and taking duffel bags full
of rubles to buy a loaf of bread? My fear is that the next cataclysm in
Russian politics -- and it may be a revolution or a Kremlin coup followed
by a revolution will be incredibly nasty and incredibly bloody. People
will be shot dead in the street. This is no longer be on the realm of
possibility."

Susan?

MILLIGAN: I agree with that. And I think that we have to remember that as
distasteful as Putin is, we still have to deal with him. And remember what
makes him, you know, what makes him click is that it`s not -- he doesn`t
have a nostalgia just for the old Soviet Union. He has a nostalgia for the
Russia of (INAUDIBLE). He wants the great Russia back and it`s not coming
back.

But you have to remember that when you`re dealing with him, which is one of
the reasons why, you know, you can`t just go in there and try to blow him
out.

MATTHEWS: I want America to stick together when we have enemies in the
world. I mean, if you`ve got a guy like him, we shouldn`t be debating this
about who`s dumping on him from the right. We`ve got to just say, on this,
I`m sticking with Obama.

MCMAHON: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, guys. Thanks, Steve McMahon. Thank you,
Susan Milligan, I can spot you easily. And, Sam Stein, thank you.

When we return, let me finish with the horror in Pakistan. It`s going to
be pretty tough coming back.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this horror in Pakistan.

Think if you dare about a group getting together and deciding to kill
schoolchildren. Consider again if you dare the reasoning, the moral
reasoning that would go in such a meeting. And consider the individuals in
the group and their separate, personal reasons that this is a good and
worthy cause. That killing innocent children is justified by their shared
goal, that it is part of pursuing something good on this earth.

Again, they planned it and planned to kill kids. Two, they went to bed at
night knowing they were going to do it the next day. And three, they went
and did it.

I recall the conclusion of the film "Apocalypse Now" when the Marlon Brando
character said that he realized we were losing the Vietnam War, when he
learned that the Viet Cong have gone on to a village where the Americans
had inoculated the kids against disease and the V.C. had cut off their
arms. It was then that he realized the full evil at work on the other
side, the purity of what was at work here, where human being were so clear
in their purpose, so tied to it morally that they could go about doing such
a thing in their cost, that they would just about do anything, to advance
the cause of getting the Americans out of Vietnam, almost anything, I said.

In Pakistan, at 1:00 a.m. East Coast Time, about 18 hours ago, as we went
on the air tonight, Taliban members went about shooting young kids because
their fathers were in an army unit that had dared make war on them. They
killed the kids as some form of after-fact deterrence to the war being
waged against them.

We are looking here at pure evil. Way past anything we`ve come across in
the world of politics. The frightening question is whether anyone, the
Pakistan government or the Afghanistan government or any government has the
fire of purpose to stop them. And certainly, that`s food for thought these
days before Christmas.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


END

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