Date: January 6, 2015
Guest: Dana Milbank, John Feehery, Brian Wice, Paul Butler, Steve Israel,
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Boehner looks lamer, McDonnell goes to the
slammer, and David Duke defends Steve Scalise. Have a nice day,
And let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Put this day, January
6th, 2015, down as a bad day for Republicans. A top governor who was on
Mitt Romney`s short list for vice president is sent to prison today.
Twenty-five members of Congress, all Republicans, vote to dump John Boehner
from the speakership, a stunning rebuke for the history books. And Civil
Rights hero John Lewis demands that Boehner`s number three man apologize
for hanging out with the neo-Nazi crowd. No, it was not a good day for the
We`ve got it all for you tonight, all wrapped up as one big whoopie cushion
for a political party that tried to escape the clutches of the Tea Party
but keeps getting dragged back in, a party that says it can govern, but now
has a top governor headed to the pen and says that it wants to reach out to
minorities but has now been caught spending time with the Hitler cotillion.
Dana Milbank`s a columnist with "The Washington Post" and John Feehery is a
I`ve been reading your column today. I think you got it right. But let`s
talk about this Republican Party today. Twenty-five people -- this has
never, ever happened -- 25 members of the Republican Party in the Congress
today voted against Boehner to -- they want him out. I`ve never heard of
anything like this!
DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST" It`s the largest rebuke of a speaker
from his own party, at least, in a century. But you have to remember, two
years ago, there were, depending on how you count, 12, 16, who had a
rebellion, as well. I actually think they sort of shot their whole load
here, you know, the fringe of the Republican Party. There are 25 of those
MATTHEWS: But didn`t they shoot a line across his bow to say, Look, you
think you can escape the right wing of this party and do reasonable things.
We`re sitting here, 25 people willing to vote against you.
MILBANK: I think -- I think that was their intention, but they shot at him
and they missed. And now John Boehner`s going to say, Great, you two
dozen, I don`t need you anymore because if you`re not with me, I can get
two dozen Democrats here.
This was -- this is why the Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks were saying,
This is our last best chance to assert our will here.
MATTHEWS: Are you that optimistic about Boehner`s ability to escape this
crowd, 25 guys willing to shoot him --
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Basically --
MATTHEWS: -- you`re not our speaker.
FEEHERY: Dana stole my line. There is nothing more exhilarating than
being shot at and missed, and they missed. And John Boehner now is able --
because this is a good day for Republicans because not only did they take
the House and Mitch McConnell`s been sworn in in the Senate, John Boehner
has this opportunity to get a legacy, and he`s going to do it. And he
knows the guys are going to vote no. They were going to vote no anyway.
They voted no against him. They`re going to vote no down the line on a lot
of stuff. But John Boehner has an opportunity to work with Mitch McConnell
to get stuff done, and they`re going to do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the headline tonight. The revolt was set into
motion today largely thanks to radical birther Republican Texas congressman
Louie Gohmert. Gohmert led the charge today by announcing that he was
running against Boehner for the leadership post. Others then joined the
Gohmert was cheered on by the right-wing media and some in the grass roots.
But in case you need reminding, this is the man they were rallying behind
in their revolt against Boehner. This is Louie Gohmert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I had one guy that was particularly out of
line, and I warned him three times and then we duct-taped his head and we
didn`t hear from him until it was his turn to talk and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s when you were a judge?
GOHMERT: That was when I was a judge.
This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have
influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.
There`s no assurance that if we did that, those -- we wouldn`t end up with
mugu dog pan or mugu cat pan. There`s no way to assure that money will not
be wasted when it`s sent to foreign countries.
The attorney general failed to answer my questions --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.
GOHMERT: -- about what was --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
GOHMERT: -- in order to cast aspersions on my asparagus!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I don`t know what you think about him. What do you
think of Gohmert? He`s a Republican member of the United States Congress.
He led a revolt today, got 25 votes against John Boehner. Sane people
voted against Boehner because this guy -- now, he`s talking about -- what
did he say, if we give foreign aid to third world countries, somehow, the
Chinese will be making dog food? I`m sorry, eating -- eating dogs.
FEEHERY: As Louie Gohmert goes, three other members go with him. He only
got four votes. The guy who got --
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get through these people. Steven King, a member of
your caucus, voted against him (INAUDIBLE) What do you think of Steven
FEEHERY: Oh, well, see --
MATTHEWS: Is he completely insane?
FEEHERY: Listen, Steven King has made a name for himself being anti-
immigration. And I think that he voted against Boehner because he thinks
Boehner`s going to do something on immigration. And I think Boehner will
do something to secure the border and to get some immigration done (ph)
because we need to do something about a broken immigration --
MATTHEWS: He`s the guy with the cantaloupe legs, right?
MATTHEWS: OK. All right. Just to get this straight here. Who -- who are
this other guy, Representative Yoho? What`s his story?
FEEHERY: Well, you know --
MATTHEWS: Is he has good as his name?
FEEHERY: He used to do work with animals, right? He was a veterinarian --
MATTHEWS: These are strange people in your party.
FEEHERY: Listen, there are -- there are --
MATTHEWS: Now, you said these -- this sort of menagerie has been tamed,
that somehow, Boehner now doesn`t care about these people anymore. They
were willing to dump him from the speakership, not vote against him on some
bill. They were willing to say, You ain`t here anymore.
FEEHERY: Well, in many ways, what Boehner has done is given them a free
vote because he said there`d be no retribution. Listen, in the old days,
when Tip O`Neil was speaker, if you voted against him for Speaker, you were
in big trouble. And Boehner said, I`m not going to do it this way, which
might be a changing times --
MATTHEWS: You have a right-wing media that competes with you, by the way.
Just catch this crowd. The right-wing championed the movement to dethrone
Boehner today. They even made Louie Gohmert a hero for igniting the
revolt. Let`s watch these characters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": Is it time for new leadership in
the House of Representatives? To put it bluntly, I think it`s time for a
new speaker. If I were to ask anybody in a poll, any city, any town, big
or small in America, what is Speaker Boehner`s agenda, they`re not -- they
would not be able to answer that question.
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You got to hand it to Gohmert. I
mean, he has guts, right? The old saying, if you`re going to shoot the
king, you know, you better kill the king, right? (INAUDIBLE) to get too
graphic here. We don`t want him to shoot anybody, but you know what I`m
saying. You better -- you better actually take him out.
MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There is no regular order! They write
these massive bills under Boehner and they shove them on the floor as if
he`s Nancy Pelosi! Boehner doesn`t want a fight within the Republican
Party! He would rather kowtow to Obama!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine listening to that voice around the house?
FEEHERY: For hours a day, yes.
MATTHEWS: Mark Levin. Anyway, Matt Kibbe, the leader of the activist
group FreedomWorks -- he`s here a lot -- says Gohmert`s mission to
overthrow Boehner also whipped the grass roots into a frenzy. In your
piece, by the way, Kibbe`s quoted as saying, "From a grass roots
perspective, this is probably the hottest issue we`ve mobilized on since
`Obama care.` I think Louie Gohmert would make a great speaker."
MILBANK: Well, he would certainly make a great speaker from my point of
view because it would be endlessly entertaining!
MATTHEWS: You could write a column every day about him.
MILBANK: Yes. No. And I was in the chamber, you know, watching it from
the gallery today, and it was a circus. But you know what I noticed? Yes,
you had two dozen lunatics trying to take over the asylum, but you know
what? The guys who are actually running the asylum were laughing at them -
- Kevin McCarthy, majority leader, laughing when Gohmert voted for himself
and when these other guys are giving their nomination speeches. There was
-- I think there was open ridicule from the establishment. I think these
guys are finally saying --
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s --
MILBANK: -- They`re not going to work with --
MATTHEWS: And I like Boehner as a person, OK, because he seems like a
person, even though I disagree with him. But here he is. A poll taken at
the end of last year -- that`s, like, a few weeks ago -- shows that 60
percent, 3 of 5 Republicans nationwide, want a new speaker of the House.
Only 25 percent, 1 in 4, say they`d reelect Boehner to the post.
So in other words, the clown car, I call it, of crazies and birthers and
nutcases and Gohmerts and Steve, cantaloupe legs, and all these crazy
people like Yoho speak for the majority of Republicans in the country more
than Boehner does.
FEEHERY: Well, it`s --
MATTHEWS: Why is -- why are the crazies in the Republican Party have the
FEEHERY: Listen, this -- this poll was done by Pat Caddell, who is a big
MATTHEWS: Oh! Blame the messenger.
FEEHERY: If you add -- look in the poll -- I think you wrote about this --
look at the poll more deeply, they don`t actually have an alternative and
they didn`t have an alternative. And you know, His is not a vote that goes
to the country. It`s a vote that goes with the colleagues --
MATTHEWS: But why does the country prefer the nutcases to the Boehners?
FEEHERY: Because the country hates Congress and always hates Congress.
And that`s the way -- look at the approval ratings. That`s the way it`s
been. But that`s not -- you have John Boehner, and he`s being responsible
and he`s going to get stuff done. Two years from now, you`re going to look
at him and say, Hey, he got some stuff done.
MILBANK: And we should also remember that probably two years from now,
John Boehner is not going to be interested in being the speaker anymore,
and it`s going to be passed on, possibly, to the David Duke set. So they
don`t have too long to wait until --
MATTHEWS: By the way, before we finish this, Scalise -- I`m going to get
to it later in the show, but Stephen Scalise -- can he survive as a member
of the Republican leadership, having hung out with David Duke?
FEEHERY: I don`t -- first of all, he didn`t hang around with David Duke.
I would like --
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute!
MATTHEWS: Yes, we are.
FEEHERY: I`d like to get to the facts. Listen, Scalise is a good guy. I
like him and --
MATTHEWS: He`s apologized for doing it. So you may deny it, he`s already
apologized for it.
FEEHERY: I know he apologized. I`d like to see what the facts are on this
whole case. Scalise will survive, and I think he will do a good job.
MATTHEWS: So if the -- just so you get yourself in this corner here, John
Feehery, if the facts are, and they`ve been pretty much established, that
he spoke to a group of neo-Nazis, that he spoke to a group called the
European whatever group --
MATTHEWS: -- run and created by the co-founding -- was co -- was founded
by David Duke -- you`re saying that if he did speak at that group, then
FEEHERY: Listen, I --
MATTHEWS: No, no. You said the facts aren`t there.
FEEHERY: I -- I want to know what the -- I want to know what the facts are
MATTHEWS: If he spoke to the group that Duke spoke at --
FEEHERY: He`s already apologized --
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute. You just got yourself in a corner here. You
MATTHEWS: You`re saying he didn`t do it.
FEEHERY: Well, I don`t think he did --
FEEHERY: I think that he didn`t -- he certainly doesn`t have a clear
memory of --
MATTHEWS: Why did he apologize for doing it?
FEEHERY: Well, because, you know what? It`s better to apologize now and -
MATTHEWS: For hanging out with Nazis?
FEEHERY: He didn`t --
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on! You don`t apologize for hanging out with Nazis if
you didn`t do it.
MILBANK: The fact is, he spoke to white supremacists. He did it a dozen
years ago, but he spoke to white supremacists. I think it says volumes
that the Republican Party in the House today is trying to run out John
Boehner and not Steve Scalise.
FEEHERY: Listen, I think Scalise is a good whip. He`s a good man and he
is a good congressman, and I think that he will stick around.
MATTHEWS: You think he`s going to be around for a while.
MATTHEWS: That`s good for the Democrats. They`ll never forget this. This
is on their -- this is one their happy list. Anyway, Dana Milbank,
defending nobody. John Feehery, defending Steve Scalise.
Coming up, Bob McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party, was
on the short list to be Mitt Romney`s running mate not so long ago, like,
two years ago, is going to the federal pen for a couple years. McDonnell
was sentenced today on his corruption convictions. He`ll be spending two
years behind bars. We don`t know where. That`s ahead.
And later, more on the festering problem for Republicans that`s not going
away. As long as Steve Scalise stays in leadership, I believe the party`s
got a chronic illness. Do they really want to send the message that it`s
OK to associate with neo-Nazi groups?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is interesting. As the 114th Congress convenes
today, it looks a bit more like the rest of America, but not much. The new
Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, still strong dominance
there. That`s actually more diverse than ever before, but the population
at large is 63 percent white and more than half female. The new Congress
is also 92 percent Christian. That`s higher than the previous Congress,
which had five more Jewish members and one more Buddhist.
And we`ll be right back.
BOB MCDONNELL (R), FMR. VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: As I said in court, I am a
fallen human being. I`ve made mistakes in my life. I always tried to put
the best interests of the people first as governor. But I have failed at
times, and some of the judgments that I have made during the course of my
governorship have hurt myself, my family, and my beloved people of
Virginia. And for that, I am deeply, deeply sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s former Virginia
governor Bob McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party, who was
sentenced today to two years in prison on corruption charges for taking
bribes from a slick businessman with business interests before the state.
To put it in perspective, what an epic fall from grace this is. Consider
these items from McDonnell`s resume. He was on the short list to be Mitt
Romney`s running mate just two years ago. He was selected to give the
Republican response to President Obama`s first State of the Union address.
And he was widely considered a future presidential contender himself.
But a jury decided the gifts he accepted from a businessman Jonnie Williams
represented bribes, pictures like these of McDonnell sporting a new Rolex
watch, a gift from his wife but purchased by Williams. And McDonnell
behind the wheel of Williams`s Ferrari sealed his fate. The former
governor reports to prison on February 9th. That`s coming up fast.
Rosalind Helderman has covered this case from the start for "The Washington
Post." What do you make of this, Rosalind? Because I look at this from a
couple directions. One is, you know, was this all criminal behavior? He
obviously didn`t think he was a criminal, and yet he is. I mean, this is a
big change in the way we look at what used to be considered, I think, the
petty crap that goes on in politics, but now seen as felonious and worthy
of serious prison time.
ROSALIND HELDERMAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I mean, the prosecutors argued
in this case that there was a quid pro quo with the businessman, and the
jury heard six weeks of testimony and concluded that they agreed. You
know, the businessman gave a series of luxury gifts and $120,000 in low-
interest, undocumented loans. And the jury found at least that Mr.
McDonnell did use state government to sort of help him hawk his dietary
MATTHEWS: You know, but in the past, I think about all the people in
politics who got breaks on interest rates. They got sweetheart deals on
interest rates. And everybody -- it was a bad day at work, you know, but
it didn`t -- it didn`t put a person away for two years. What do you make
of this? Is this going to be a message that`s sent to politicians and
their friends who advise them, or consiglieris, be damn careful any time
you take anything from anybody that you didn`t earn?
HELDERMAN: Yes. I mean, absolutely. The prosecutors today said they
wanted to send a message and said that this verdict in September and the
prison sentence today did send that message, that, Look, if you`ve got a
slick businessman who wants something from state government and he`s around
you, showering you with things, offering you bank loans that you could not
get from a commercial institution, you know, he probably wants something.
And if you take it, they`re going to be watching.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Good reporting, Rosalind Helderman from "The
Joining me right now is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler and criminal
defense attorney Brian Wice, ho represented Texas congressman Tom Delay,
whose money-laundering charges were overturned. Thank you very much, Mr.
Wice, for joining us, and Mr. Butler.
You know, when I got my first job at the White House, a friend of mine
said, Have you met any new friends? And I think -- I think, Mr. Wice,
that`s what happens in politics. If you get a position of any
significance, all of a sudden, new people start hanging around you you`ve
never met before, and they want to give you stuff. They want to hang out
with you. They want to be your friend.
What`s the message here for politicians who`ve been lucky to get elected,
like the new members of Congress today?
BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it`s like our moms used to
tell us, Chris, if you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Be very
careful of the people that you let hang around you.
Look, this was a federal prosecution. This was not a state prosecution of
bogus proportion, like Delay. These guys in the eastern district of
Virginia believed, and a jury agreed, that this was more, as you said, than
just business as usual.
And it`s funny because those of us who watched the Cowboy game on Sunday
looked up in Jerry Jones`s booth and saw Chris Christie. Well, you know,
probably business as usual, probably a couple of good ol` boys, but I`m
telling you --
MATTHEWS: Is he allowed under the -- under the new -- under this new -- is
he allowed to take a free ride to a football game? Is he allowed to sit in
a booth? Is he allowed to accept those favors from an owner of a team? Is
he allowed to? There he is doing it. Is he allowed to? He must think he
WICE: Well, certainly, he thinks so, and I think he is because most states
have an exception to what we call the preexisting friendship rule. If you
and I are good friends prior to you achieving office or aspiring as some,
you know, great governmental figure, then you and I can exchange gifts and
I can go to your hospitality booth and the owner`s booth at Arlington
But again, the best advice that anybody could ever give anybody in this
business is, watch who you spend quality time with, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Butler, I want to talk about the notion of quid pro quo,
because it seems to me most people think a crime is when you do something
for somebody who did you a favor, and if they -- that`s the crime.
Now, was there a quid pro quo here? Did he actually do things, the
governor? It didn`t strike me there were the kind of things he -- he lent
his prestige to this guy, these intangibles. I never thought that would
constitute a crime. But it seems like the jury thought so in this case.
PAUL BUTLER, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: They
Chris, this was far from a slam dunk for the prosecution. The government
had a creative theory, but they persuaded 12 peers of Governor McDonnell.
So the message here is that it`s no longer busy as usual. Everyone used to
think, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. That`s how politics works.
What Attorney General Holder has said is that he wants to use federal
prosecutions to go after the big fish. Under previous attorney generals,
it`s been low-level drug offenders who have gotten a lot of attention.
He`s saying public corruption is his public enemy number one.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this is -- well, you`re saying it is. Let`s
underline this. Is this coming from Eric Holder? Is he the spirit of this
new aggressive prosecution of people -- of civil abuse?
BUTLER: I think that`s absolutely right. And I don`t think that the judge
in this case is necessarily on board, because if we consider that McDonnell
was looking at a minimum of eight years under the federal sentencing
guidelines, and he only gets two years, we have to ask whether that
reflects the gravity of his criminal conduct.
This is a man who never accepted responsibility. He lies under oath,
according to the jury. He throws his wife under the bus and then gets his
own kids throw their mom under the bus. The average Joe who steals
$175,000 gets a lot more than two years. We have to ask, if this were a
young black man, would this judge have given him the same benefit? Still
separate and unequal in criminal justice.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me talk about that. I like what you`re on to there.
You know, if you steal a car and the car is worth 50,000 bucks, that`s
grand theft auto. Right? Just having watched television all my life, that
means you go to jail for, what, five or 10 years? I don`t know.
BUTLER: Yes, absolutely.
Governor McDonnell isn`t even going to jail for as long as he was governor
of the state whose office he put up for sale.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mr. Wice on this, because I did like your defense
of Tom DeLay. I thought that Tom DeLay thing smelled of a lot of stuff
that goes on in Texas.
I wish there was a straight prosecution down there for once. It reminds me
so much of like Pakistan. You lose an election, they prosecute you down
there. It just seems like that down there. Everybody`s either hard right
or hard left and ticked off at the other side to the point they can`t even
So this case, however, it was almost like they took this pristine family,
churchgoing family, that must have thought they were perfect people in many
ways. I mean, I did like the fact the governor said today he`s not a
perfect guy, but he thought he was, I think. When he took that Rolex
watch, that`s what grabbed me.
Why would a guy walk around with a single -- there he is flashing it -- a
symbol of corruption? He knew that Jonnie Williams bought that watch, that
his wife didn`t. Why would he want to walk around flashing the damn thing
as a symbol that he`s some sort of kept person here? What`s that about?
WICE: Because the problem with being the governor of the Commonwealth of
Virginia or the owner of the Dallas Cowboys is that sometimes you actually
start to believe that you can walk between --
MATTHEWS: You have got it out for -- you have got it out for Governor
Christie. You have stuck it in twice now.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
WICE: I am -- I`m a huge Chris -- huge Chris Christie fan.
But, look, I think there`s two kinds of people in the criminal justice
system that I have learned over the last three decades. There are people
who we are afraid of, predators, legitimate thugs, and people who we`re mad
at. And I think that the governor falls into the latter category,
McDonnell, not Christie.
Look, this is a situation where he had a 21st century version of a Lady
Macbeth-type wife, Chris, who wanted to live the good life and,
unfortunately, dragged him into this relationship with a chucklehead, the
proverbial snake oil salesman. And this is a situation where this
monumental fall from grace is the ultimate tragedy.
Politicians, for whatever we may think of them, are human beings. And
whether you`re Governor McDonnell or Tom DeLay, these aren`t people who we
definitely do not need to warehouse.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, as somebody once said, we don`t always do what we
want, but we are responsible for who we are.
MATTHEWS: Boy, is that powerfully true. No matter how you did it or why
you did it, if you did it, you did it, damn it, Governor.
Thank you, Paul Butler and thank you, Brian Wice, for that knowledge.
Coming up, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel of New York and his very funny new
novel -- from the sublime to the ridiculous. We`re going right now to the
place for politics right here.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, there`s no shortage of books published by lawmakers in Washington
these days. It`s almost a prerequisite for anyone with a political career,
especially those seeking the presidency. But a book out today breaks the
mold of what you would expect from your average Beltway pol. It`s a novel.
It`s called "The Global War on Morris" by Democratic Congressman Steve
Israel of New York. It`s set in 2004. It`s the fictionalized account of
Morris Feldstein, an unambitious pharmaceutical salesman from Long Island
who is mistakenly identified as a terrorist during the Bush
administration`s war on terror.
In fact, many members of the Bush administration play central roles in this
book, including Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and of course the inimitable --
and I mean that nastily -- Vice President Dick Cheney.
It`s a laugh-out-loud political satire about government surveillance,
public paranoia and an overzealous White House using national security to
score political points. I will remind you it`s a work of fiction, but as
every good satirist knows, there`s always a grain of truth behind every
And joining me right now is the author of "The Global War on Morris," U.S.
Congressman Steve Israel of New York.
Congressman, I`m overwhelmed. I grew up with real comedians, the guys that
made you just laugh, not sort of chuckle like with Bill Cosby, but laugh
your butt off like Phil Silver. I know what funny is. This book is
really, really, really, really funny.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And I couldn`t stop laughing at it. It was outrageous.
You got a -- you got this Jewish guy from the Long Island, who you can`t
understand how everything could go wrong with this guy`s life, and yet
there`s something real about it.
Now, tell me this. Why are you so good at this writing thing, and you`re
supposed to be a politician? It doesn`t make any sense. Politicians can`t
write. What`s going on here?
ISRAEL: Well, you know, Chris, when I was growing up, I had three goals in
life. One was to serve in Congress one day. The other was to be a
novelist. And the third was to play outfield for the New York Mets.
Since I was so horrific at baseball, I focused on the other two, and they
MATTHEWS: But your sense here of the absurd, of this guy, who is a regular
guy -- he`s a traveling salesman, like a lot of guys out there and women.
They spend their day driving around with sales quotas they can`t meet, kids
that don`t respect them, oftentimes a spouse that doesn`t like them all
And yet somehow he falls under the surveillance of the National -- National
-- what is it? The National Security Agency.
ISRAEL: Security Agency.
MATTHEWS: And they go after -- NSA -- and they go after this guy.
Here`s an excerpt from your book. It`s a description of Vice President
Dick Cheney which I particularly like. Let`s go.
Here it is. Let me read it. "Well, there he was at the far end of the
room, leaning on his desk, his arms spread and his wrists locked, Vice
President Richard Cheney. The editorial cartoons didn`t do Cheney justice.
They didn`t capture the permanent sneer, the upturned lip that made it look
like he was always on the verge of spitting from the side of his face, the
way he seemed to duck his chin beneath his collar, like a turtle retreating
into its shell, the thinning white hair above the skeptical eyes. He was
all the more frightening in person."
Have you shared this with our beloved former vice president?
MATTHEWS: This perfect portrait of the guy?
ISRAEL: I have not.
And if at any time I`m missing for more than three days, he would be the
first person I would check with. I`m not sure that he`s busting down the
doors to buy this book.
That picture was actually painted, Chris, at a meeting with him. I would
attend all of these briefings with President Bush and Vice President Cheney
leading up to the war in Iraq, where they were trying to convince us that
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
And I would sit there listening to stuff that was just absurd, and I would
watch and observe exactly what was happening. And I began writing those
descriptions as soon as I came out of those meetings. And I`m taking
readers behind the scenes in Washington through the book.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to tell you, the great thing about the book is, it
sounds like it could actually happen.
Here`s a family, a middle-class family, not the happiest people in the
world, but the wife goes down to Florida. They have got a condo down there
in Florida. And she does -- this guy, who is a sleeper sell guy, an Arab
guy, who was waiting to become part of an attack on the United States --
and she gives them the use of their condo, which, of course, ties all this
together for the NSA.
It`s a gloriously funny book, up there with Thomas Wolfe, actually Tom
Wolfe, not Thomas Wolfe. It`s not that good.
So, anyway the book`s called "The Global War on Morris."
ISRAEL: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Steve Israel, what a great, fun book.
ISRAEL: Great you enjoyed it. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, what should Republicans do about Steve Scalise? He`s
their number three man in the House, and he spoke to a neo-Nazi group.
Yes, he did. And he`s apologized for it. And this is a chronic problem
for the party. It ain`t going away.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in New York with
breaking news for you.
Our NBC affiliate in El Paso, Texas, reports a shooting situation at the VA
hospital there, now under control. It was on lockdown earlier. According
to KTSM-TV, what we`re hearing from them, a gunman shot a doctor inside the
VA hospital before shooting and killing himself. No word on the doctor`s
condition as of yet. The Web site on its Web site saying it services over
3,000 patients daily.
Police just telling our affiliate a press conference is coming soon. If
that does happen, we will be following that and have any new information
here when we do get it -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
A chronic illness, that`s what House Republican Whip Steve Scalise has
become for his party. Today, Politico reported he`s been so damaged by
this scandal, his political viability is in question. They write -- quote
-- "Scalise`s job as House majority whip remains safe, but he may be too
toxic for some Republican circles. Senior figures within the party doubt
that the corporate chieftains and rich donors who bankroll Republican
candidates will him money to keep campaign coffers filled. Others say it
will be difficult for him to persuade lawmakers to support the House
And today, Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon, told The Huffington
Post: "I think somehow in some way he should come clean and say what he
did, and apologize to members of Congress, to his colleagues on both the
Republican and the Democratic side of the aisle." That`s John Lewis today.
Scalise will take part in a press conference, we just learned, with the
rest of the Republican leadership tomorrow, his first time facing reporters
since the scandal surfaced.
I`m joined right now by tonight`s roundtable, Salon editor at large and
MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh, former Republican National Committee
chair and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele, and The Huffington Post`s
I want to ask Sabrina to start with this. Despite the heft of these other
two people, I want to get your view about this.
Has this got legs, as we say in journalism? Will we be talking about this
until Scalise leaves?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Oh, absolutely.
I think that there`s palpable concern within the Republican Caucus that
this problem isn`t going to go away, especially with the amount of focus on
his background. You have reporters looking into it. You have Democratic
operatives looking into it.
And there`s always potential that they could dig up more. And I think
talking to a few rank-and-file Republicans today on Capitol Hill, they`re
concerned that there could be more information that comes out about his
association with the white supremacist group, of course, as well as the
fact that his job is, as you said, to raise money. And they don`t think
MATTHEWS: How do you go to donors, Mr. Chairman, asking them for money if
this guy has had neo-Nazi connections, that he`s worked with Holocaust
deniers, that he`s part of that world? I mean, he is -- he hasn`t denied
it, so he`s there.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: How do you do it?
STEELE: You go very carefully.
STEELE: And you do a lot of a lot --
MATTHEWS: Do you say, I have changed?
STEELE: You do a lot of prep beforehand. And there are a lot of advanced
phone calls to make sure the meeting will take place.
Yes, this is going to be an issue, I think, and the leadership -- well, the
rank-and-file members should -- are -- should be and are rightly concerned.
The rank-and-file -- the leadership doesn`t seem to be. They seem to have
sort of closed the tents on this a little bit and said, OK, we`re going to
roll with this as long as nothing else comes out.
And that remains to be seen. I think it`s going to be a very interesting
problem for the leadership to have. And I think, ultimately, Chris, it
knocks down the messaging. It takes -- it takes down a notch the
conversation that you want to have.
MATTHEWS: Sure. This isn`t the minority group they were looking to, to
reach out to, was it?
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, you mentioned something before we came on
tonight, which is that he`s basically taken the place of Eric Cantor, who
is Jewish, of course.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So, he -- this guy --
MATTHEWS: And here`s a guy identifying with the worst possible anti-
Semitic crowd around.
WALSH: -- who spoke to Neo-Nazis takes the place of the one Jewish
person in Republican leadership, which is kind of weird and tragic.
And, right, it`s stepping all over their message. This should have been a
better day. John Boehner beat back a challenge. And this -- I think this
story is sticking around. I think the real problem is, he -- despite what
he says, that he didn`t know, how do you not know that David Duke runs this
organization? The Chicago Cubs AAA team, not known for their political
expertise, they wouldn`t stay at that hotel because they knew that the
conference was going on there.
And Steve Scalise, a local assembly -- representative --
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a bad day, not a good day when David Duke himself is
out there defending you.
And last night, Duke told FOX News` Bill O`Reilly that, while he doesn`t
know if Scalise actually spoke at his group`s event in 20 -- he`s not going
to incriminate the guy -- he knows he was at least scheduled to appear. He
knew that. And the two also squared off about Duke`s racial and political
Well, let`s watch Bill O`Reilly go after David Duke here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Don`t sit here and tell me you`re not trying to
promote the cause of white people, because you are.
DAVID DUKE, FORMER KU KLUX KLAN MEMBER: Look, I am absolutely -- I love my
people, my heritage. I want to preserve my heritage like every people
O`REILLY: Preserve your heritage? What does that mean?
DUKE: How about European heritage? You know what? The people that run
the media, they`re enflaming the African-Americans against European-
Americans. And they`re inflaming a sector of European-Americans and
African-Americans. But the truth is the real people, who are repressing
and hurting all of us are the big bankers which are robbing us blind like
the Goldman Sachs of the world. They`re putting us in wars for Israel --
O`REILLY: The one thing you said, I want to get everybody on board with
this, Congressman Scalise was scheduled --
DUKE: Mr. Scalise did not go to a white supremacist meeting if he went at
O`REILLY: All right. I`m not going to say white supremacist. But he was
scheduled to speak to your group.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There you have it, Sabrina. By the way, he believes he`s a part
of the superior race. Why has he had so much plastic surgery?
If he`s one of the elite, what you call the God`s children, what happened
to this guy?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: This is the price the Republican
leaders pay, though, for trying to elect a member into leadership to kind
of serve as a bow to the hard right-wing of their caucus.
MATTHEWS: By the way, he was challenged by the hard right-wing, by the
SIDDIQUI: He was challenged by the birthers, but he was the conservative -
MATTHEWS: How do you think Louie Gohmert feels towards David Duke? How do
we know? What do you think of Yoho and that crowd? These guys believe the
president is an illegal immigrant in Africa because they can`t stand the
fact that he`s an African-American president. Let`s be honest about it.
So, they`re not that far -- not the Republicans, that group, Tea Party
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But Scalise himself has said he
agrees with David Duke on certain conservative issues and that the only
thing that`s wrong, the first thing that`s wrong with David Duke is that
MATTHEWS: Who said he said that he was David Duke without the baggage?
WALSH: A reporter, a trustworthy reporter quoted --
SIDDIQUI: It was said from the White House podium.
WALSH: It shouldn`t originate with Josh Earnest.
MATTHEWS: -- in the leadership?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Sabrina?
SIDDIQUI: Does he remain in leadership? I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look. The White House did weigh in. They
said yesterday they didn`t mind taking a question about the Scalise scandal
and here was, as you mentioned, Josh Earnest speaking out on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There`s no arguing that who
Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about
who -- what the conference`s priorities and values are. And I mean,
ultimately, Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without
the baggage. So, it will be up to Republicans to decide what that says
about their conference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Josh Earnest, as I said, referring to an account by a
Louisiana political reporter Stephanie Grace who recently wrote, "This is
what I remember about the first time I met Steve Scalise nearly 20 years
ago. He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage." Well, he`s
still got the baggage.
Our roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, is the Republican Party finally ready to give up their fight
against same-sex marriage? It`s not clear. It might be at the edge here.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: President Obama is getting out of Washington to tout good news
on the economy and preview his State of the Union. His first stop:
Detroit, where he`ll celebrate the auto industry`s big comeback. On
Thursday, it`s on to Phoenix to talk about how the housing market has
improved. And on Friday, he`ll be in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Vice
President Joe Biden to push new student loan initiatives. It`s all part of
an advance for State of the Union address coming up here actually on
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And a ban on same-sex marriage, a ban expired yesterday in the state of
Florida, making that state the 36th state in the country where gay marriage
is now legal. That state`s former Republican Governor Jeb Bush now a
likely Republican candidate in 2016, released a statement, saying, "We live
in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreement, we have to respect the
rule of law. I hope we can also show respect for the good people on all
sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue, including couples making
lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal
protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to
safeguard religious liberty."
Well, he`s trying to befriend I think the new people here. Anyway, this
marks an evolution in Bush`s thinking. Back in `94, he wrote in an op-ed
in "The Miami Herald", recently discovered by "BuzzFeed", striking a very
different tone. Jeb wrote back then, "Should sodomy be elevated to the
same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is no."
Well, as Jeb carefully tries to thread the needle right now on gay
marriage, an issue that a majority of American support, how will the rest
of his party treat same-sex marriages?
Back now with Joan, Michael and Sabrina.
Michael, my question is, how do you bridge the gap between Jeb who is now
accommodating the facts that the courts have ruled we have a right to same-
sex marriage, not the supremes, but the other courts, with a guy like Mike
Huckabee who says he`ll quit the party if they don`t keep their fight up
STEELE: Well, I guess Jeb will hand him his walking papers. What Jeb is
saying, is the party needs to be in a different space and is very much in
line and consistent with his thinking on immigration, where he talks about
it from a human perspective, real people who are going through these very
personal journeys. And what I like about what Jeb says, whether I agree or
disagree with his position on gay marriage, is irrelevant. What`s
important to note is he`s framing the conversation in a different way.
And the question is whether or not the party`s going to move into that
conversation, whether there can be an open discussion -- because the
party`s always taken the view that, hey, let the states decide. So, now,
the states are deciding --
MATTHEWS: The courts and the states.
STEELE: Let the courts and the states decide. Now that it`s being done --
MATTHEWS: Michael points out they`re doing it in a non-sexual way, which
is fairly appropriate. If you`re a Republican you say, if they want legal
protection, if somebody is in love with another person in the same person,
and they`ve been living together for a while and they wanted to be able to
visit each other and they want to have rights for, you know, Social
Security, things like that, that sounds like a Republican thing to want to
WALSH: Right, it sounds a lot --
MATTHEWS: It`s not about sexual love or anything, it`s about financial
WALSH: Well, it sounds close to civil unions, I don`t know that that`s
exactly what he`s saying.
MATTHEWS: But he`s trying to get there.
WALSH: Yes, he`s trying to get there. It`s very different from what he
said in `94.
WALSH: Yes, there`s no talk of sodomy. And it is a lot like -- it`s a lot
like what he said about immigration.
MATTHEWS: Can he stay in muster when he gets up -- I think New Hampshire
will buy this. Will they buy this in Iowa?
WALSH: In Iowa.
SIDDIQUI: It`s unclear, but I think he`s trying --
MATTHEWS: Will they buy it in South Carolina?
SIDDIQUI: -- whether it`s a compassionate conservative playbook.
WALSH: Well, his brother was super polarized on this issue. I mean --
MATTHEWS: His brother has offered constitutional amendment --
WALSH: All the bans.
MATTHEWS: The whole thing.
STEELE: But I think it does pass muster in Iowa. By the time we get to
that discussion in Iowa a year from now, I think yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Where do they get people in your Republican Party are just going
to mutiny and say enough of this crap? You know, we were born gay, we are
gay, you know I`m gay. Why do you give me this stuff?
STEELE: It`s not a question of mutiny. What a lot of gay Republicans, log
cabin Republicans within the party have done, and I think the GOProud
Republicans in particularly, if they`ve been effect at marshalling support
very quietly behind the scenes. They don`t need to be out in front, they
don`t need to wave the banners. They`ve been going to various county and
state organizations, and party functions, and establishing a presence in a
voice. And that`s a very important way.
MATTHEWS: Well, one thing -- here`s where the voice hasn`t reached, the
Republican platform right now.
MATTHEWS: "We believe that marriage, the union of one man, I don`t know
why they write like this, one man and one woman must be upheld as the
national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage and promote through laws
First of all, that weird language of one man and one woman, I don`t know
why they talk like that.
STEELE: That`s the deal with the sodomy. I mean --
MATTHEWS: You assumed that?
STEELE: Because the thinking is that the next thing, if you go with gay
marriage, the next thing is polygamy.
MATTHEWS: Is it?
SIDDIQUI: Noting that Mitt Romney did survive the primary with a very
similar position. He talked about civil unions, he talked about the need
to treat a sensitive issue with respect and that the matter should be left
up to the states. And ultimately, he still survived the primary with that
response. I think that`s why Jeb Bush is ultimately short of actually
embracing gay marriage and that`s something that we`ll have to see how it
plays in the general election.
WALSH: But the platform really will not look any different, I predict.
STEELE: No, the platform won`t look any different. That is a moral
consensus that a lot of the party leadership and activists have kind of put
in place there. That again doesn`t take how individuals and state parties
and others act up.
MATTHEWS: I`ve been thinking if Hillary runs a great campaign and I do
believe she`s going to run, if she runs a great campaign, she`s unbeatable.
But if she runs a mediocre campaign like last time, she`s beatable. But
she`s not going to lose to a guy like Huckabee on this issue. If she
stakes -- if the Republican Party is dumb enough to plant their feet in
opposition to abortion rights and opposition to same-sex marriage, they are
going to lose the general election no matter how bad a campaign Hillary
Clinton runs. They`re going to lose to her.
STEELE: It`s how Huckabee, and Jeb Bush and others in the party deal with
this issue. Jeb is setting a standard. He`s kind of put a point out
there. Now, let`s see how that`s responded to by the party officials who
want to run.
WALSH: But to go back to Romney`s example, which is a good one, the way
that Romney got through with a very conservative base was that these right
wing people fought each other. And we`re going to have that again. We`re
going to have Huckabee and Rand Paul --
MATTHEWS: How can a libertarian be against same-sex?
WALSH: Good question.
MATTHEWS: The essence of libertarianism, individual rights over state
WALSH: It`s pandering.
STEELE: Yes. But also, there is that aspect that`s also, your faith
conditioning, and all --
STEELE: That still doesn`t change my political views, necessarily, as a
libertarian or as a conservative or a liberal.
MATTHEWS: And by the way --
STEELE: It`s still my views.
MATTHEWS: -- I don`t believe in the blue plate special freedom party.
I don`t believe you have to buy the whole party line.
STEELE: You don`t. And that`s --
STEELE: A guide post. You agree with some things, you disagree with other
MATTHEWS: I have some objections to the normal fare.
Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh, you know who they are. Michael Steele,
And when we return, let me finish with the day made for Vice President Joe
Biden. Stay around for the yaks (ph). This is Joe in full cry during the
swearings in today. He is in love with this moment.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight on a lighter note.
Today, as we`ve been reporting, is opening day of the new Congress. And
having worked up there for a number of years myself, what a happy occasion
this is for senators, members of Congress, and their families, but
especially the young children and grandchildren. It`s really unlike
anything else up there in Capitol Hill.
It`s as if the politicians took the day off from the usual wars and simply
enjoyed the honor, enjoy of being elected to serve. One of the people as
you might expect who can really get into this sort of thing is Vice
President Joe Biden. His ability to simply get goofy somehow seems to fit
this occasion, opening day of congress, like no other.
Here the veep is pretending to speak for the grandson of Senate majority
leader, Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said, "Grandpa, can
I talk to a Democrat?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here he is chatting up a member of a totally different
generation. The grandmother of Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Biden, how are you? My name is Joe Biden, Vice President Biden.
How are you doing? Well, well, I know. And I just swore in your grandson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, here he is, bewailing the hard-earned
experience of fatherhood to a teenage girl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I don`t know what your experience is, but you know one night around
when they`re about twelve and a half, you tuck this beautiful butterfly in
bed and then the next morning, there`s a snake in the bed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, being a father of a teenage girl can be an exercise in
front-line combat where you never know at any given minute whether your
fast-growing child is best friend or mortal enemy.
Anyway, tomorrow is back to the political world where you really do know
who your enemies are.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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