updated 1/5/2015 9:10:56 AM ET 2015-01-05T14:10:56

Date: January 2, 2015
Guest: Michelle Bernard, Ruth Marcus, Melinda Henneberger, Milissa
Rehberger, Howard Fineman, Michael Steele

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Women in charge.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, and in this holiday season, we`re
happy to give you this special edition of HARDBALL.

There are a remarkable number of TV dramas set in Washington these
days, or with political themes, that star bold, powerful, sometimes
ruthless women, and yes, I`m a fan of most of them. These characters are
fictional and have distinct foibles, but they are clearly the stars of this
holiday season. But what story is holiday (sic) really writing here,
Washington today or Washington as a coming attraction?

I`m joined now by the HARDBALL roundtable, "Washington Post" columnist
Ruth Marcus, president of the Bernard Center for Women Michelle Bernard and
"Washington Post" writer Melinda Henneberger.

Let`s start with Claire Danes and -- who stars as CIA station chief
Carrie Mathison in "Homeland." Here`s Carrie calling the shots.


CLAIRE DANES, ACTOR: I want you to stay here.


DANES: Quinn...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I need to be at these...

DANES: I`ll have special forces, two security details. I`ll be fine.
The calls (INAUDIBLE) from Bagram. It`ll be at 45,000 feet and (INAUDIBLE)
But I need you in the ops room on (INAUDIBLE)


MATTHEWS: Quinn`s one of the good guys, by the way.

Then there`s Katherine Heigl in NBC`s brand-new "State of Affairs."
She plays a former CIA agent whose job is to brief the president on the
state of terrorism around the world. And by the way, the president just
happens to be a woman here. Here`s Heigl`s character, Charlie Parker,
commanding the room when news of a terrorist capture breaks out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie, I don`t want to speak too soon, but I
think we found Fada (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, soldier! Get down!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charlie, we go to print (ph) in about 30

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Earl, where are they at with the
situation report?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just came on line. (INAUDIBLE) get back to
(INAUDIBLE) He`s got boots on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we put it in the book preemptively that we
may have found Abdul Fada (ph)?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bigger news is when we kill him.


MATTHEWS: And Tea Leoni, who plays Secretary of State Elizabeth
McCord in "Madam Secretary." Here she negotiates via teleconference with a
terrorist general and puts him in his place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Secretary, what an unexpected pleasure.

TEA LEONI, ACTOR: General, it`s time we had a talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By all means. We have so much to discuss. Where
are your beautiful legs?

LEONI: They`re under the table, where they`re going to stay.


MATTHEWS: Plus Kerry Washington, of course, who plays the top
political crisis management expert on "Scandal."

Ruth Marcus, you cover all these beats in your column in "The
Washington Post." So you know all the real -- and are we in Hollywood --
not we in -- is Hollywood ahead of the curve or about where it`s at in
terms of women in power in Washington?

RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, Chris first of all, I`m not
going to ask you where your beautiful legs are...


MARCUS: ... because I know it`s a family show. Look, Hollywood is
both reflecting Washington, being inspired by Washington, and then
influencing Washington in turn. So you know, here we have in Washington
the situation where not only have we had a succession of women secretaries
of state, there`s a bunch of boys in town who don`t think -- growing up
these days, who don`t think men can be secretaries of state. Thank
goodness for John Kerry!

MATTHEWS: Madeleine Albright...

MARCUS: Exactly.


MATTHEWS: ... Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton...

MARCUS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Before that, we missed -- who did we miss?

MARCUS: Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton.


MARCUS: And that`s the lot. And then you have the fact that the
president`s counterterrorism adviser is a woman. His national security
adviser is woman. His U.N. adviser is a woman. There`s a sort of robust
presence of women not just at the highest levels of power in Washington,
but at places of power that women have not traditionally been.

This is interesting for Hollywood. And then as Hollywood takes and
Hollywoodizes, if that`s a verb, its approach to this, then that then
influences the public perception of women as -- and you knew I was going to
get to this -- there might be a woman running for president sometime soon.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me go -- let me go to Michelle because it
seems like there`s a difference between having all these roles...


MATTHEWS: ... and being the star of the show.

BERNARD: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: And these women and these things -- what I like about --
well, I like all these. I certainly like "Good Wife." I haven`t missed an
episode of that in five-and-a-half years, where it`s a tough woman lawyer
with a husband who`s got problems. Maybe she`s got some problems, too.


MATTHEWS: But being the star -- and that`s what you were alluding to
there. Are we ahead or we hind the curve in terms of a president because -
- and there`s a new show, "State of Affairs," the woman is -- the president
is a woman.

BERNARD: Not only is the president a woman in the new show, she is an
African-American woman, which I think is a big deal for all of the
television networks.

Hollywood is ahead of the curve in that sense, but I mean, I don`t
think there -- I don`t think, in real life, we are that far behind. I
think the American public is as ready for a female president as we were for
an African-American president. Doesn`t mean that people are going to vote
for someone...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we were or we weren`t?


BERNARD: I think we were ready for the right candidate. I don`t
think anyone was ever going to say, I`m going to vote for -- for you know,
Obama because he`s black. I`m going to vote for Hillary Clinton because
she`s a woman. I think people are saying, If you`re the right candidate,
if we like you, if we like your vision for the future of the country, we`re
going to vote for you. And I think we are ready for a female president and
we`ll see it very soon.

MATTHEWS: Melinda?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, "WASHINGTON POST": I think that a lot of these
characters are based on real people, or composites of several real people.
So I don`t think Hollywood...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s...


MATTHEWS: Let`s (INAUDIBLE) "The Good Wife," Julianna Margulies, of
course, a superstar. She`s won the best actress award, actor award for
women for, like, five years running now. She`s been running that show
through all its twists and turns. Is she Hillary with a husband?


MATTHEWS: Oh, come on, there is some parallel here.

HENNEBERGER: Well, she was based On Eliot Spitzer`s wife...


MATTHEWS: ... a woman abused, a woman who got cheated on, yes.

BERNARD: The woman who traditionally has stood there in the pearls,
you know, standing by her man.

MATTHEWS: And the nice scarf. I always like a scarf.

HENNEBERGER: And now she`s becoming her husband. The interesting
thing to me -- many interesting things -- I love "The Good Wife," too -- is
how she`s becoming a politician and sort of making her Faustian bargain
pace by pace, you know, in a slow-motion kind of way.

But you know, the Christine Baranski character on that show...

MATTHEWS: Fabulous.

HENNEBERGER: ... is a version of Hillary.

MATTHEWS: And she`s a HARDBALL fan, by the way, Christine Baranski.


MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this -- you just mentioned "The Good Wife."
And while it`s not set in Washington necessarily, it`s a Chicago show, it`s
brimming with politics. Julianna Margulies`s character, Alicia Florrick,
is running for state`s attorney right now and she plays bare-knuckle
politics with her husband, the governor of Illinois. Let`s watch.


JULIANNA MARGULIES, ACTOR: Is that what I`m doing here, I`m asking
you for a favor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you are! You want something. That`s a

MARGULIES: No. And you know why it`s not? Because if you don`t show
up to endorse me, if you go off to some governors` conference instead, your
favorables will plummet through the floor!


MATTHEWS: The anger is just so inexplicable at this point! Well,
what do you guys think?


MATTHEWS: She`s so mad at this guy!

BERNARD: ... during this holiday season, so that none of the ladies
watching get angry with you, I would not use the word "angry" when we talk
about Alicia Florrick.


MATTHEWS: That woman`s not angry at her husband?

BERNARD: Well, I think he deserves it.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. That`s different.

BERNARD: I think -- I think she`s...


BERNARD: ... and I don`t think she`s being angry. I think she`s
being forceful. She`s making her point and she`s playing hardball politics
with her husband.

MATTHEWS: So he yells at her, that`s anger. But when she yells at
him, it`s not anger?

BERNARD: I don`t -- I don`t...


BERNARD: I didn`t consider that yelling. I considered that playing
hard-core politics with somebody who happens to be her husband.

MATTHEWS: OK. We strike the word "anger" from the record.


MARCUS: ... about "The Good Wife" is that we have -- it was inspired
in a moment when we saw so many of these women who were very accomplished
women but standing very meekly beside their husbands in a way that many of
us experienced as humiliating. And now with the evolution of "The Good
Wife" -- she may be good, but she is not so nice these days, and that`s
great because she has, like, taken back...

MATTHEWS: You guys are amazing! Ruthless is good now, huh?

MARCUS: Well, I can`t say that ruthless is good, given my name.


MARCUS: But I can say that toughness is good. And I think the thing
that`s fascinating about all of these different women -- Alicia Florrick,
Carrie Mathison, the wife of the protagonist on "House of Cards," Frank
Underwood`s wife...

MATTHEWS: What is that about, by the way? They stand at the window
and share a cigarette!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s their deal.


MATTHEWS: It is very Lady Macbeth, though. Let`s be honest. It`s
Lady Macbeth.

MARCUS: These are women who are tough. And Hollywood is conditioning
the public to understand and appreciate tough women and...

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Hollywood has a message here, and they`re
pushing an agenda politically?


MATTHEWS: You just said they...



MATTHEWS: Let`s go back and read the transcript. You just said
Hollywood is pushing something.

MARCUS: No, I said Hollywood is conditioning it. Hollywood`s...

MATTHEWS: Conditioning us, why?

MARCUS: Because Hollywood has always been interested in powerful,
tough, ambitious women. They`re much more interesting than the meek, mild

BERNARD: Stand by your man.


MARCUS: No, think about "All About Eve," right?


HENNEBERGER: It`s not Hollywood, it`s back to Shakespeare.


BERNARD: It is reflected in everyday life and it`s being highly
publicized through Hollywood, and people love it. Who doesn`t read the
story about Susan Rice sitting in a meeting and flipping the bird at one of
her colleagues who irritated the hell out of her because of the way he was
treating her? We see this happening with powerful women in Washington,
D.C., and all throughout the nation, and now we see it on television...

MATTHEWS: So women have babies and women live longer. And what`s the
problem here?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still make 70 cents on the dollar. That`s
the problem.

MATTHEWS: OK. All right. Let me ask you about the new show, "Madam
Secretary," which I -- I`ve always been a Tea Leoni fan. Most guys are, to
be honest. (INAUDIBLE) honest fact.


MATTHEWS: Tea Leoni is great. She`s very likable, I think more
likely (ph) than anybody I know in public life. Maybe that`s not credible.
Is it credible that a woman is as nice as the secretary of state? And her
husband, by the way, is Mr. Supportive. He`s -- you know, Tim Daly was on
the show a couple weeks ago -- completely supportive of her in her role.
In fact, she goes to him and asks him to cheat (ph) give some Russian kid
at Georgetown a better grade to help her out with her diplomacy. I
wouldn`t call that nice, but he was.

HENNEBERGER: I have seen exactly one...

MATTHEWS: Tim Daly is a good guy!

HENNEBERGER: ... minute of "Madam Secretary." I turned it on, and she
was telling her communications director, Worries about my reputation and
standing can wait -- said no one ever!



MATTHEWS: You don`t see Hillary, for example, saying, I don`t care
what people think of me.


MATTHEWS: I agree you it`s both genders. Everybody likes to be

HENNEBERGER: But these complicated characters I do think come more
from life. I mean, I think that`s Hollywood writing characters as they
really are.


MATTHEWS: OK, if you think this segment was tough, ladies and
gentlemen, wait`ll you see the next one. It`s about real politicians.
We`re going to the real thing, like Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, coming up on this special edition of HARDBALL, from the power
women of Hollywood to the real power women of Washington today. Is art
imitating life?

Later this hour, from the sublime to the ridiculous, we`ve got the
most outrageous comments from the Republican clown car. Plus the best
confrontations, what we`re calling the "Howard Beal mad as hell" moments of
the past year. And the theater of the absurd -- we`ve always got that here
on HARDBALL -- the most bizarre moments from the campaign trail that just
ended, all ahead here on HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with our panel, Ruth, Michelle and Melinda.
Well, how far off is Hollywood`s depiction of women here in Washington? Is
it real? It certainly seems like Washington has come a long way itself in
the past few years. Many of the president`s top national security
officials, in fact, are women, people like national security adviser Susan
Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, assistant to the
president for homeland security Lisa Monaco. His cabinet consists of six
women. Three of the past five secretaries of state have been women. And
oh, yes, the front-runner to be the next president of the United States is,
of course, Hillary Clinton.

Let me (INAUDIBLE) Ruth because you do this. You cover it all.
(INAUDIBLE) let`s have a firefight here. Valerie Jarrett has been getting
a lot of attention, not necessarily positive. If she were a guy, would
this be happening?

MARCUS: Less. Less. I mean, here...

MATTHEWS: And as the president`s sort of surrogate.

MARCUS: A few things about Valerie Jarrett. I mean, she is a
uniquely influential person who occupies a position of closeness to the
president, both personally and professionally, that is unusual in White
Houses. I think the fact that she is a woman just makes that a little bit
harder for people to take.

And I think it kind of goes back to something that Michelle was saying
before about whether we were ready for a black president and ready for a
woman president. Yes, we were ready for a black president. We elected him
twice. Are we ready for a woman president? Yes.

But that doesn`t mean there aren`t going to be moments of discomfort,
haven`t been moments of discomfort from some people about Barack Obama`s
race, and there`s going to be, when we have a woman president, moments of
discomfort about gender that we`re going to have to deal with.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) think about her. She doesn`t (INAUDIBLE) to
represent the president. It`s almost like she embodies him. I am here.
He is here. This is a uniquely powerful position. And I wonder whether
what bothers some people -- men, for example -- for example, since I`m the
only one here...


MATTHEWS: I think -- I think you have to choose your personality. If
you come on as a sort of John Wayne figure, like Margaret Thatcher, men
say, I get it. She`s, like, the kind of hierarchical leader we`ve always
had. Who`s the boss? She`s the boss. You get (ph) it (ph) simple. If
it`s -- if it`s -- if it`s Golda Meir, same deal -- Golda Meir, real tough.
She`s the -- I get it, she`s the boss. I salute her.

It gets complicated sometimes when women play it both ways, and
they`re both female and they cry or something, and then they`re also tough
as nails.

HENNEBERGER: That`s called being a human!


BERNARD: Exactly.


HENNEBERGER: We all have that spectrum, men and women.

MATTHEWS: When Muskie cried, he was dead. When Hillary cried, it was
-- it was seen as a sign of humanity.

HENNEBERGER: (INAUDIBLE) 30 years, 40 years later.

MATTHEWS: So if a guy cries today, it`s OK.

HENNEBERGER: Well, I think it depends on the context...


HENNEBERGER: If it`s John Boehner who cries at the drop of a hat,
people think it is a problem. When Darrell Issa has cried on the air, no

MATTHEWS: You are so smart.


MATTHEWS: ... interpret the crying of John Boehner for men.

HENNEBERGER: I don`t know why he cries all the time. I just think
that people think it is problematic. Anything that he talks about brings
tears to his eyes, and they actually seem like genuine tears and...

MATTHEWS: But what`s it say about him?

HENNEBERGER: That he cries a lot. I mean, to me, it really doesn`t
say anything.


HENNEBERGER: ... him as a leader...

MATTHEWS: Is he a strong leader?

BERNARD: I don`t -- I don`t think that -- I don`t look at him in
terms of tears and question his leadership skills.

MATTHEWS: Is he a strong leader?

BERNARD: Not because of tears or no tears. I don`t think he`s a
strong leader because he`s allowed...


HENNEBERGER: ... and it never hurt either one.


HENNEBERGER: McConnell has cried and is not...

MARCUS: I`m going to pause at something. It is more dangerous -- it
remains more dangerous in politics for a woman to cry than a man...


MARCUS: ... notwithstanding the fact that the tears humanized Hillary
Clinton in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) in the back room with Hillary Clinton and you
had to spend a couple weeks with her, getting her ready for the test of her
life, really, the chance to be president of the United States -- a very
good chance -- if she wins -- I always say, if she runs a good campaign,
she can`t be beaten. She runs a bad campaign, she can be beaten. So it`s
really -- she`s the one that has to -- what would you...

HENNEBERGER: It depends on the opponent.

MATTHEWS: No, I don`t -- I think she can beat anybody if she runs a
good campaign.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, here -- obviously, you disagree. Let me go to
this. Would you want to advise her to do anything different than she`s
done to be the best candidate for president, any changes.

MARCUS: Well, I think she had a rocky book tour. So I would advise
her to do two things that are going to sound contradictory. One is to be
more careful about her words. Don`t go getting so defensive about your
life that you say things like, "We were dead broke when we left the White
House." The other one is to be more human, right, because she -- people
liked Hillary Clinton when she got teary-eyed in New Hampshire.


BERNARD: Unless it was a Fox viewer. They did not like Hillary
Clinton when she cried coming of the heels of that loss in Iowa. It was a
very big deal there. People called her all kinds of names.

MARCUS: There are some people, if you`re Hillary Clinton, you`re
never going to be able to win over.


MATTHEWS: I think it was legitimate. I don`t even know exactly what
made her unhappy, maybe just her situation, but I think it really helped
her. And it was genuine.

HENNEBERGER: I think I would say that she needs to run a hell of a
lot better campaign than she did last time, with a lot more...


HENNEBERGER: ... discipline. And she`s a disciplined person, but...


HENNEBERGER: ... that campaign...


MATTHEWS: ... study the transcript of what you guys said. Anyway,
thank you. I`ve been outnumbered by -- pleasantly, I guess. Anyway, thank
you. I do...


MATTHEWS: I learn. I learn. And that`s the job of everybody in our

Thank you, Ruth Marcus, and Michelle Bernard, of course, who gets more
passionario every time I meet her.


MATTHEWS: And Melinda Henneberger, a Notre Dame grad.

Up, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as I said. We heard plenty of
outrageous statements from the right-wing clown car this year. We have got
some of the most ridiculous coming up next. This is sort of entertainment
for the season.

This is a special holiday edition of HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We move now from the sublime, as I said, to the ridiculous with a look
back at some of the most outrageous moments of the past year.

And as you`re about to see, there were many, from the theater of the
absurd to explosive confrontations when politicians hit their breaking

But let`s begin with the best from the hard-right clown car itself.

Joining me right now is former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst
and clown car specialist Michael Steele.


MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, and MSNBC
political analyst Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post.

Kicking it off is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who this
January wanted to push back against the accusations that Republicans were
waging a war on women. Take a look at how Huckabee tried to valiantly
defend American women from Democratic attempts to provide them with birth


insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless
without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each
month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their
reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.

Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far
more than the Democrats have played them to be.


MATTHEWS: So, who is he selling that popcorn to? I couldn`t figure
out the constituency group...


MATTHEWS: ... that think women have an overactive libido, and there`s
some guy named Uncle Sugar out there.



MATTHEWS: I don`t all this. Tell me who is he playing to. Who is he
playing to?

BERNARD: I watched -- I`m watching the clip and I`m thinking to
myself, is he saying that Republican women don`t have sex? Is that -- is
that what he`s telling the audience? I don`t know who he was talking to,
maybe somebody on the far right.

MATTHEWS: They`re more self-reliant in their sex, I guess.

BERNARD: Christian conservatives. I have absolutely no idea who that
was supposed to play to.

You would have a better idea than me.



STEELE: No, but I think -- well, the Uncle Sugar was a play on Uncle



BERNARD: Or sugar daddy.

STEELE: Or sugar daddy.

BERNARD: Or sugar daddy, women looking for sugar daddies.


way that sometimes these guys get into the clown car.


FINEMAN: Because they are trying to make -- they`re a little too
enthusiastic about the caricatures they present of the other side, to the
point where it sounds like they actually secretly believe in those


MATTHEWS: I was thinking of Sammy Davis` song "The Candy Man."

FINEMAN: That`s the problem.


BERNARD: Yes, the candy man running over with a bag of birth control
pills every month. I mean, it`s really -- it`s embarrassing for the party.

STEELE: It`s also playing to a base constituency and sort of driving
a narrative that in large measure does not resonate beyond that...


BERNARD: But who is the base?

FINEMAN: He`s pretending to denounce -- what you`re saying is, he`s
pretending to denounce it while reinforcing...


MATTHEWS: What about this line, though? I`m no expert, believe it or
not. "They can`t control their reproductive system."

BERNARD: Well, that...

MATTHEWS: What is that? Like, the -- what...

BERNARD: That`s akin to -- who was the person that talked about
legitimate rape and, if you`re legitimately raped, your body self --
somehow self-abort?


MATTHEWS: And, next, we all remember how Sarah Palin showed off her
geographical skills and knowledge when she informed the country that you
can see Russia from parts of Alaska during the 2008 campaign, of course.

But the former governor had a little more trouble when it came to the
geography of the most famous location in this country, the White House.
Here she was at the Value Voters Summit in September.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: They scream racism our way
just to end debate. Well, don`t retreat. You reload with truth, which I
know is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue anyway, truth.


MATTHEWS: What`s at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue? The city hall?


STEELE: The Willard Hotel.

MATTHEWS: The Willard Hotel.

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t she just say Pennsylvania Avenue? Why did she
put in the particularity of an error there?


STEELE: Playing on the 1600 Pennsylvania. Look, that`s just a
numeric slip.


MATTHEWS: The Willard Hotel. It is the Willard Hotel. You got it


FINEMAN: My favorite part -- my favorite part is what she says
afterward, truth.



MATTHEWS: Reload with truth.

STEELE: Reload with truth.

FINEMAN: Reload with truth.

STEELE: Well...

MATTHEWS: A little ballistic reference there.

FINEMAN: I still have my trophy from the great Sarah Palin days,
which is the -- I think it was the Alaska moose jerky that she was handing
out to people.

STEELE: Oh, that`s right, yes.

FINEMAN: When she was on the rise.


FINEMAN: Do you remember that? Do you remember that she was actually
on the ticket?


FINEMAN: She was on the...

MATTHEWS: Vice president of the United States.

FINEMAN: Vice president of the United States.

BERNARD: And at that convention, she was electrifying when she spoke.
I mean, we didn`t know then that she didn`t read magazines or newspapers or
anything like that.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was an offensive question from Katie Couric.
What do you read?

BERNARD: I don`t think it was offensive. I don`t think it was
offensive at all.

MATTHEWS: I`m kidding. I`m kidding.



BERNARD: And she did the country a huge favor.

MATTHEWS: By asking that question.

BERNARD: But she was electrifying at...


MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, a way a politician reacts to confrontation
can reveal a lot about them. Here we have Iowa Congressman Steve King
confronted on camera by dreamers while eating lunch in Iowa.

Rather than brush off the protesters, he treated them to a patronizing
lecture on what it means to be American.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For you to be fighting...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calling us names saying that we have calves like


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I don`t call you names. I say no, no,
that drug smugglers...


KING: Stop a minute, a minute. ...


KING: You are very good at English. You know what I`m saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raised in the United States.

KING: Right, so you can understand the English language.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not acting like I don`t.

KING: No, you are, because you`re saying something that is not true.


KING: As I said, I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you`re not here to
tell me you`re one of them, are you?


MATTHEWS: Well, there he is trying to defend the fact he said
Hispanic people who come here from Mexico or Latin America, some other
country, are here with cantaloupes -- I`m sorry -- what size their
cantaloupes are legs -- their legs are the size of cantaloupes, which he
now denies, that he was only referring to the drug smugglers themselves,
which is not what he said.

He said the people, the ethnic group.


MATTHEWS: What is he up to here? It`s crazy talk.

FINEMAN: Well, Steve King is the ultimate nativist American
politician from Western Iowa, and unabashedly so.

And the amazing thing about it is -- and this is only one of many
crazy statements that he`s made unabashedly -- when Republicans run for the
nomination in 2016, in Iowa, in the Iowa caucuses, every one of them would
be delighted to have the endorsement of Steve King. Am I wrong? Am I

STEELE: Well, no, that`s very true. No, that`s very true.

I mean, look, I get what Steve was trying to do then. He was engaged
in the conversation.


MATTHEWS: I love the way he said that. Like, am I right or am I



MATTHEWS: I want you to defend your Republican Party at its worst,
worst element.


MATTHEWS: No, it`s fine, because you`re pointing out the fact that
the Iowa caucus voter, who would -- who gets the first-round pick basically
on who the next president is, that person...


FINEMAN: By the way, that`s the only reason why anybody pays
attention to Steve King.


BERNARD: But, also, he`s appealing -- he`s appealing to the part of
the base throughout the country that passed these laws, like what we saw in
Arizona, and South Carolina. Show me your I.D. Prove that you`re a U.S.


BERNARD: And if you`re Hispanic, sayonara.

MATTHEWS: Like I can argue -- all these arguments are fair, except
making fun of someone ethnically by saying they have got weird kind of

This -- remember Dan Burton, the guy that was shooting cantaloupes to
prove that somebody hadn`t committed suicide?

STEELE: But this wasn`t really -- this was not about making fun of

This was probably taking a bit of information that he`d been given
somewhere along the way, misinterpreting that information or blowing it up
to something that it really didn`t represent.


BERNARD: Like how they used to say that our -- that the brains of
people like you and me were smaller because of our brown skin.

FINEMAN: Well, I feel a little guilty for making Michael try to
defend that.



MATTHEWS: The sports thing -- remember that guy who was the running
back who used to play for Navy Joe Bellino?


MATTHEWS: He had big, big calves. He could have said Joe Bellino
legs. But cantaloupe legs...



MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next -- do you have another thought on the


STEELE: This is about poor staffing. That`s all.




MATTHEWS: Up next: the best confrontation this year in politics. And
these are the Howard Beale moments, mad as hell, when politicians stand up
and said, I am mad as hell and I`m not going to take it anymore. Wait
until you catch these acts.

You`re watching HARDBALL, tonight the funny place for politics.


Here`s what`s happening.

A private funeral for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo is set for
Tuesday in Manhattan. Cuomo died yesterday at the age of 82.

A total of 30 bodies have been recovered following the crash of
AirAsia Flight 8501. Searchers have been battling bad weather as they work
to locate victims and the plane`s black boxes.

And President Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on
North Korea in response to the hacking at Sony Pictures. It`s said to be
the start of a broader response -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It was a year of wild and sometimes bizarre confrontations in
politics, of course. Some politicians absolutely lost their cool, like
Chris Christie. And sometimes the outbursts were heroic, like Democratic
Congressman Elijah Cummings standing up to the McCarthy-esque tactics of
Republican Darrell Issa.

And these are some of the best Howard Beale moments of the year, when
your elected leaders said, for better or worse, I`m mad as hell and I`m not
going to take it anymore.

We`re back with Michael, Michelle, and Howard.

Let`s start with Republican Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten
Island, New York, who managed to turn an interview about President Obama`s
State of the Union into a one-sided street fight after a reporter dared to
ask him about his alleged campaign corruption issues. After the interview
was over, the cameras kept rolling.

Watch what happens.


MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 REPORTER: Since we have you here, we haven`t had
a chance to kind of talk about some of the --

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: We`re not talking about anything
that`s off topic. This is only about the president --

SCOTTO: Well, what about -- all right, so Congressman Michael Grimm
does not want to talk about the allegations concerning his campaign
finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but, as you saw, refused
to talk about that. Back to you.

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I`ll
throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.

SCOTTO: Why, why? i just wanted to ask you?

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again.

SCOTT: Why, why? It`s a valid question. (INAUDIBLE)

GRIMM: No, no, you`re not man enough, you`re not man enough. I`ll
break you in half. Like a boy.


MATTHEWS: Howard, I always wondered about the language the guy used.
"I`m going to break you like a boy"?


MATTHEWS: What is that about?

STEELE: I don`t know what that means.

FINEMAN: Well...


MATTHEWS: Reminded me of that staffer from Idaho who has been talking
about Clinton being a naughty boy.


FINEMAN: I would observe first -- and as a warning to all of my
fellow reporters, that guy was reelected. OK.


FINEMAN: That`s the first...


MATTHEWS: Was the reporter reelected?



I have been on the Hill a long time. And I have occasionally gotten
into some shouting matches off the record.

MATTHEWS: Did you ever take lip like that from a congressman?

FINEMAN: I actually have.


FINEMAN: And it`s not a pleasant experience. And as a reporter...

MATTHEWS: Did you report what they said to you in anger?

FINEMAN: No, because they were -- that was said off the record.


FINEMAN: Totally off the record.

MATTHEWS: So they say, can I say something off the record? You`re no


FINEMAN: But that thing, the difference is -- and this is true of
everything you`re doing here, Chris.

We`re in a hyper-media age in which virtually nothing is off the
record. Virtually nothing is unrecorded. Virtually nothing is not on


FINEMAN: Everybody`s got a smartphone. Everybody`s got a way to be a
network correspondent, every single person.

So what you got there was the camera still rolling. In the old days,
that never would have seen the light of day.

MATTHEWS: Because?


FINEMAN: Well, first of all, there was an un -- probably, if the
interview was over, and the unspoken etiquette back in the day would have
been you don`t show that kind of thing. That`s the other thing that`s

The rules have changed. And everybody understands that basically the
idea of off the record has almost disappeared in American politics and
American life.

BERNARD: Well...


MATTHEWS: And Mitt Romney said that a couple weeks -- a week or so
ago that he wants everything on the record. When he was out with Mark
Leibovich of "The New York Times," he said, leave that recording on, leave
that recorder on, because I want to know that I`m on the record. I don`t
want to pretend I`m not at any point.

FINEMAN: Well, he learned his lesson.

BERNARD: And in this day and age, where you have people like Anthony
Weiner who feel like it`s appropriate to take pictures of private parts and
tweet them, no politician, no one should think that anything they do is off
the record. Why would they?

MATTHEWS: Do you think Anthony Weiner would have been normal in an
earlier age?




STEELE: To Michelle`s point, to Michelle`s point, in fact they do
think, though, that they still are -- should be treated differently, to
your point, Howard, that, yes, you`re not going to play this because I`m
the congressman. And that`s all the more reason to show it.

MATTHEWS: Next up: Republican Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa goes
rogue. Issa is known for his ruthless and often inappropriate tactics
during congressional hearings.

But he crossed the line during an IRS hearing in March, when he turned
off U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings` microphone mid-hearing. He picked
the wrong guy to try to silence. Let`s watch.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: For the past year, the central
Republican accusation in this investigation....

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: We`re adjourned. Close it down.

Thank you.

CUMMINGS: I am a member of the Congress of the United States of
America. I am tired of this!

ISSA: Well...

We have -- we have members up here each who represent 700,000 people!
You cannot just have a one-sided investigation! There is absolutely
something wrong with that, and it is absolutely un-American!



MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes, mad as hell works.

And I thought, at that moment, he was expressing what a lot of people
felt, that this guy was sort of ringleading, running this thing like a

BERNARD: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And he only wanted certain testimony.

And -- and Elijah Cummings is a very dignified fellow. We know him.
He`s been on the show many times. And when he gets that angry -- and
that`s the right word there -- it tells you there`s something really wrong

I think that was the beginning of the end for Issa being taken
seriously. I don`t think Issa had a great year.

Your thoughts?

BERNARD: Well, and he shouldn`t have. I tell you, I wanted to say, I
saw Congressman Cummings speak a few weeks ago, he accepted an award for
outstanding achievement, people with learning differences.

And he talked with such passion about growing up in the South and
being told that he was stupid and that he could never learn, he would never
learn how to read, he would never learn how to write, and that he talked --
he spoke too much. And how speaking so much would lead him to become a
great congressman and a lawyer and how his first client who was the person
-- was the first person who whoever said to him, you`re stupid and you`ll
never learn anything.

So, when you look --

MATTHEWS: His client said that?

BERNARD: This is his first client that was the first person to say
that to him as a child. So what that tells me about Elijah Cummings, he`s
come very far. He is a fighter. He`s going to force people like Darrell
Issa and anyone else in Congress who wants to disrespect him, to treat him
with the respect he deserves.

MATTHEWS: He thought that client, future client.

Let`s go right now, no list of confrontations would be complete
without the man himself. That`s, of course, New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie. It was hard to pick the governor`s most outrageous comments of
the year, but this confrontation with a city councilman stands out far
above the rest. Let`s watch.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve been here when the cameras
aren`t here, buddy, and done the work. I`ve been here when the cameras
aren`t here and did the work. Turn around, get your 15 minutes of fame,
and then maybe take your jacket off, roll up your sleeves and do something
for the people of this state.

So, listen, you want to have the conversation later, I`m happy to have
it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up.



MATTHEWS: Hey, buddy, what do you think?


HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: A little New Jersey goes a long

MATTHEWS: How far will that go beyond Philadelphia? How far will it

FINEMAN: It doesn`t. It might make it to Pittsburgh, but probably
not much farther. He was OK until the last part. It actually was a good
line when he said roll up your sleeves and do something. I was with him,
sort of. But then the sit down and shut up, which is going to be of course
his campaign slogan.

MATTHEWS: The bumper sticker.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

Up next, of course, from anger to the absurd, some of the most bizarre
moments of political history this year.

And this is HARDBALL.



SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I`m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs
on an Iowa farm. So, when I get to Washington, I`ll know how to cut pork.

AD NARRATOR: Joni Ernst, mother, soldier, conservative.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with Michael, Michelle, and Howard. It was, of
course, the year of absurdities on the campaign trail.

Joni Ernst ran away with the Iowa Senate race, thanks in part to the
wild ad you just saw.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg this year. It was one of the
nastiest midterm elections ever. Some of the big races it went from nasty
to absurd, especially toward the end.

Here`s the best of the best from the midterm theater of the absurd.
Let`s begin in Kentucky. Joni Ernst wasn`t the only candidate trying to
gain support with bizarre talk of animals. In Kentucky`s Republican
primary for Senate, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin tried to unseat Mitch
McConnell by defending the great American tradition of cockfighting.


MATT BEVIN (R), FORMER KY SENATE CANDIDATE: But it`s interesting when
you look at cockfighting and dog-fighting as well, these are -- this isn`t
something new. It wasn`t invented in Kentucky, for example. I mean, the
Founding Fathers were all, many of them, very actively involved in this and
always have been. These are things that are part of a tradition and
heritage that go back for hundreds of years and were very integral early on
in this country.


MATTHEWS: Big surprise. He lost.



FINEMAN: There`s that great painting in the capital of all the
Founding Fathers standing around watching a cockfight. I can just tell

Matt Bevin isn`t from Kentucky. That is what`s funny about it. Matt
Bevin was a businessman from New England who moved to Kentucky only in
recent years.

MATTHEWS: Who is he pandering to?

FINEMAN: He was trying to impressive people with his devotion to
Kentucky institutions. The fact is, cockfighting never was a big thing in
Kentucky. Go to the coastal states, not to Kentucky, that wasn`t a big


BERNARD: I never wanted to. Did he ever hear about Michael Vick
either? It`s very bizarre. But it`s like every guy who runs for president
tells you they`re a hunter.

FINEMAN: Trying to show he`s down-home Kentuckian. It`s absurd.

you`re out of order, you`re out of place, to Howard`s point. He very much
showed that he was not mimicking those true values of Kentucky.

MATTHEWS: Was this like Belgian endives?


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Florida gubernatorial race was full of
absurdities, of course, from switching parties to ruthlessly negative ads.
But the contest will forever be known for this debate moment when Governor
Rick Scott, the governor of the state, refused to take the debate stage as
long as the challenger, former Governor Charlie Crist, wouldn`t give away
his fan.

Here it is.


MODERATOR: Governor Rick Scott, we have been told that Governor Scott
will not be participating in this debate. Governor Crist has asked to have
a fan, a small fan placed underneath his podium. The rules of the debate
that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan.
Somehow there is a fan there. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I
am being told that Governor Scott --


MODERATOR: -- will not join us for this debate.


MODERATOR: That has to be the most unique beginning to any debate --

CRIST: I don`t think we`ll forget.

MODERATOR: -- not only in Florida but in complains about the fan?


MATTHEWS: OK. Who`s the clown here? The guy who needs the man? The
guy who complains about the fan? What`s the story? How will judge that as
a voter in Florida?

STEELE: Well, look, it was one bad moment for the governor. I mean,
he won the election, but I think it was symptomatic of his administration
in so many respects. Just a little detail about something like that,
everybody in Florida knew that Crist carries this fan with him. Whether
it`s a sit-down interview with you or a stand-up podium --

MATTHEWS: I knew ant it. Needless to say, he was the man with the
tan and the fan and a plan.


STEELE: This idea, Rick Scott has left the building. Oh, he`s back.
I mean, it just kind of showed how ridiculous it was.

MATTHEWS: Which way did it turn the election? Did it turn things?

STEELE: I don`t think it turned that much at the end, no. I really
don`t. I think for the governor, the power of clemency came into play.
This governor largely lived in the land of the 30s in popularity for most
of his four years. And, yet, he was ability to pull it out. That was the
power of incumbency. It was a matter of who do I like better.

BERNARD: Exactly. Who`s the lesser of two evils?

FINEMAN: It was all too symbolic. If you had to pick one event and
one sound byte that`s symbolic of this midterm election, that was probably
it. Neither of these guys was very palatable. The guy with the fan or the
guy with the rules, neither one. They both made themselves look small.

MATTHEWS: And let me tell you something. In Florida, you always see
this retirement place for a lot of people, not a (INAUDIBLE). But down for
the south, older people go down and retire. Nobody goes north.



MATTHEWS: And they all had these big cars down there. Everybody
likes the big caddies with the license plates that have, like, 18 letters
on them, you know, the comfortable ride. They all want a comfortable ride.

And when he said, after his retort, what`s wrong with being
comfortable -- I thought he was referring to leisure town down there,
Howard. That`s what I thought he was done.

Why not be comfortable? Go down where it`s always 80 degrees.

STEELE: Bt it`s something people can identify with because everybody
in the state knew that`s his thing.

FINEMAN: And it`s hot down there.

STEELE: And it`s hot.

MATTHES: Nobody goes north, Howard. It`s stranger than that.

Let`s take Democrats made no secret of the fact that they ran away
from President Obama this season. But one candidate made a particularly
bizarre show of it by basically pretending that the president didn`t exist.

Here`s Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky on the most
awkward election debate moment.


MODERATOR: Why are you reluctant to give an answer on whether or not
you voted for President Obama?

no reluctancy. This is a matter of principle. Our Constitution grants
here in Kentucky, the constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box
for a secret ballot.

MODERATOR: You won`t answer that question tonight?

GRIMES: Again, you have the right, Senator McConnell has the right,
every Kentuckian has the right for privacy at the ballot box. And if I was
chief of election official, Bill, don`t stand up for that right, who in
Kentucky will?


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Michelle?

BERNARD: I think it was an enormous blunder. Every time I watch it,
I still can`t believe that it really happened. Particularly for a female
candidate, she was so strong it was close. I think she actually could have
won the race until that moment.

MATTHEWS: It seemed to be a breaking point.

BERNARD: It was a breaking point. People want their elected
officials to say who they are and what they stand for. If she voted for
the president, she should have said why. If she didn`t, she should have
said why. Maybe some of the people in Kentucky would have liked that.

MATTHEWS: She should have said she voted for Hillary? Would that be

BERNARD: Probably not in Kentucky. But the issue was give us an

FINEMAN: This was so patently over-scripted --

BERNARD: And wimpy.

FINEMAN: -- and false, it made everybody cringe in the state. Chuck
Todd, our Chuck Todd, said that was disqualifying. I think, politically --
legally, he was wrong. But, politically, Chuck turned out to be absolutely



MATTHEWS: Suppose the moderator there, the older guy, had just said
who are you going to vote for in the primary? Who are you going to vote
for in the general? She would have to say, I`m going to vote for myself.
That`s not a secret.


MATTHEWS: There`s nothing secret about voting.

FINEMAN: This is the result of an aide sitting around --

STEELE: This is not aides. This is consultants that you pay a lot of
money to --

FINEMAN: There you go.

STEELE: -- come in and tell you how to run your campaign --

MATTHEWS: So, she was prepped.


STEELE: -- sitting in the room telling under no circumstances do you
get anywhere near having voted for the president. That was dumb.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, going to the strangest gubernatorial
debate you will likely ever see. Back in May, a series of third party
candidates stole the show the Republican gubernatorial contest out in
Idaho. This is Harley Brown, the leather-clad biker who loves his hog, but
hates political correctness.


political campaign is campaigning against political correctness. I don`t
like political correctness. Can I say this? It sucks. It`s bondage.

And I`m not -- I`m about as politically correct as your proverbial
turd in a punch bowl. What did you think? I`d be a Democrat? Their
proctologist called, they found their heads. I didn`t say anything false
nasty. OK, don`t think I`m crazy because I`m not.



STEELE: They need more hogs like that.

MATTHEWS: What do you, Michelle, more candidates or less candidates?
There was always a guy like that, remember the guy that held the rat up in
the McCarthy campaign back in `68? I remember everyone weirdness. Howard?

FINEMAN: I`m ashamed of the fact that I kind of thought that was

MATTHEWS: OK, good. It`s you and him.


MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Michael Steele, a great guy, Michael and
Michelle Bernard, always. Howard Fineman, my buddy forever.

We`ll be back after this.


MATTHEWS: From all of us at HARDBALL to all of you at home, we want
to wish you a joyous holiday season.

As an extra little gift here, I`d like to extend a special thanks to
the tireless work of this staff here at HARDBAL, from the guests, to the
crews, to the producers and beyond.

Thank you at home for watching us, of course, for being a part of our
family this year and every year for this long time we`ve been on. Thank


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