January 14, 2015
Guest: Michael Kay, Kim Ghattas, Brian Katulis, Willie Wilson, Susan Page,
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Al Qaeda, the killers of 9/11, claim
responsibility for the Paris atrocity.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Today, a spokesman for al Qaeda, the 9/11 terrorist group, claimed
responsibility for directing last Wednesday`s deadly attack on the Paris
satiric magazine "Charlie Hebdo." The al Qaeda spokesman said it, quote,
``chose the target, laid the plan, financed the operation.``
ISIS, the terrorist group that today controls much of Iraq and Syria,
meanwhile praised the attack in Paris and called for more of them in Europe
and in the United States.
Well, this defiance by al Qaeda and ISIS was matched by those supporting
the magazine ``Charlie Hebdo.`` The satiric publication sold out all three
million copies of its follow-up edition, which portrays the Prophet
Mohammed on the front cover.
I`m joined right now by international affairs correspondent Michael Kay,
the BBC`s Kim Ghattas and Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for
Michael Kay, just give me a sense of, how important is it that Al Qaeda in
the Arabian Peninsula, based over in Yemen, would claim responsibility for
having directed, financed, organized this attack on "Charlie Hebdo"?
MICHAEL KAY, FMR. SENIOR BRITISH OFFICER: Chris, I think it`s a quick win
for AQAP in this particular circumstance because trying to assess to what
extent AQAP were involved with their claims is something which is actually
quite difficult to do.
What we usually see when we see these sort of claims come out is there`s
usually a video of maybe one of the Kouachi brothers who are talking into
camera, talking about what it`s like to be a self-sacrificing martyr, and
you know, their thoughts before they go off and commit the atrocity, and
their allegiance to Allah. We didn`t see that.
We didn`t see any training videos, for example, of the Kouachi brothers in
Yemen. We know through intelligence communications and what we`ve heard
through-- in the subsequent aftermath, that we have an idea that the
Kouachi brothers were in Yemen or they traveled to Yemen and that were
talking with al Awlaki, but we don`t know that for sure.
So this is a quick win for AQAP in terms of being able to put together a
quick video and claim all responsibility.
KAY: I`m still not convinced to the extent of the-- the serious extent of
AQAP`s involvement in this.
MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, one last point on this very point. I`ve seen-- I
saw no professionalism in this. They had a little black car sitting
outside. It was kind of like a weird sort of a Keystone Kops thing,
getting in the car, getting-- trying to escape. There was nothing to
suggest lickity-split planning here-- I mean, going over to kill the police
If they wanted to get away, why didn`t they leave immediately? Why didn`t
they have the escape plan? Where`s the professionalism that al Qaeda would
want to claim responsibility for in this whole operation? It looks like a
lone wolf. Why are they claiming they made it-- it`s screwed up. The
whole thing-- these guys are all dead.
KAY: I think there`s two ways of looking at this, Chris. The first way
is, is that if you get inside the mind of one of these brothers and they`re
actually prepared to die for this cause, then that would sort of give you
an indication as to why there wasn`t any urgency, because they`re not
afraid to lose their life. But on the other hand, as you rightly point
out, it may give an indication to the actual lack of training.
Now, I was following this as it was breaking, and one of the first things
that instantly came to our attention was this wasn`t a Sydney siege type
scenario. These Kouachi brothers actually looked like they knew what they
were doing. But when it comes to what I call the escape and evasion, there
are two pillars to escape and evasion. I was taught escape and evasion
quite comprehensively in the military. The first one is, is that you move
by night and you hunker down by day. And the second one is, is that you
put as much distance between where you were last compromised and where you
want to get to.
And then we heard about stories of the Kouachi brothers holding up a gas
station in broad daylight, which would have given away their location. So
on the one hand, yes, they seem to have been fairly calm, methodical and
fairly well-trained. But on the other hand, as you rightly point out, when
it comes to the escape and evasion aspects, they weren`t.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go into the-- what do you-- what do you make of this-
- this whole question? Let`s start with them, what I was going over. Does
this have the look of an al Qaeda operation?
Let`s face it, 9/11 was, whatever you think of the horror and evil of it,
it had sort of an Alaister McLean (ph) aspet to it, a lot of complicated
coordination for airplane flights, getting them on, making sure there`s
very few men on the flight to fight them, right, getting the whole thing
organized, the training down in Florida all organized within the United
States, all done for what, $150,000? And this thing here didn`t have that
level of sophistication at all.
KIM GHATTAS, BBC: It`s very hard to verify to what extent Al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula directed this. I would say it inspired it. You have--
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re claiming more than that.
GHATTAS: They`re claiming it, but it`s hard to verify. I don`t think
we`re going to get an interview with them any time soon. And I think that
there is a certain level of preparedness to be able to carry out an
operation like this. But one of the details that really struck me when I
was reading about how these two guys went about it is that, initially, they
walked into the wrong building. They were looking for the building.
So you know, there is professionalism and--
MATTHEWS: They didn`t case it ahead of time.
GHATTAS: There is preparedness, but there`s also a certain aspect of
winging it. And when it`s a soft target like this and all you want to do
is really kill people, it`s unfortunately quite easy to do in the West.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, let me ask you about that because, obviously, I was
going to call this ``news you can use`` tonight, although it sounds too
whimsical. But people want to know what we can do about this. If this is
a pattern, if this is directed by somebody in Yemen, are they directing
more operations? Will they continue to direct these operations? Or were
they just exploiting a lone wolf operation?
BRIAN KATULIS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, we`re in a
different phase right now. These are, like, pop-up jihadis or self-starter
jihadis, who claim affiliation--
KATULIS: Self-starting. You know, they ju8st have emerged. ANd it`s a
new dynamic, and i think the more that we see, for instance-- Iraq and
Syria are now importing a thousand mostly men a month from the West, from
Europe and places like this. This is a phenomenon.
What we can do is what we`re already doing, which is pretty good law
enforcement and intelligence collection on this. We`ve gotten pretty good
at the defense. This is small ball. This attack, as tragic as it was, was
not the 9/11 attack. Their capabilities, I think, are diminished. I think
the other thing is that we shouldn`t do is we shouldn`t overreact--
MATTHEWS: OK, well, let`s take a look at-- feeding into what David
Ignatius argued today. He said the French response to the attacks hasn`t
gotten off to a good start. He wrote, quote, ``In the days after the
deadly attack on the Paris publication `Charlie Hebdo,` France declared,
quote, `war on terrorism.` Ten thousand French paramilitary police took to
the streets, and U.S. conservatives chided President Obama for not leading
this new war against jihadists. Sorry, but this war on terror mobilization
is the wrong response to the `Charlie Hebdo` tragedy. It would repeat
mistakes the United States made in its reaction to September 11th, 2001.``
What were those mistakes?
KATULIS: Well, look, we invaded and occupied countries for years. We
spent trillions of dollars. We had things like Abu Ghraib, which--
actually, by the way, these prisons systems helped produce and contributed
MATTHEWS: Their approach to it?
GHATTAS: Yes, and actually, some of the individuals that are part of ISIS,
for instance, were in those jails. So the unforced errors sometimes are
the biggest mistakes that are made. And i think the biggest thing is,
we`ve got to take a deep breath and, Yes, there`s a serious issue.
KATULIS: Law enforcement engagement with communities-- those sorts of
things are the tip of the spear. Yes, there`s a need for diplomacy on
KATULIS: --and a need for some military action, too.
MATTHEWS: Let`s let`s talk about fanning the flames here. I`m not an
appeaser, but I do wonder about this decision by "Charlie Hebdo" to put out
three million copies of a picture of Mohammed on the front cover, which
obviously offends generally people who are Islamic, and obviously ignites
the dangerous ones.
Is this going to be this daring-- daredevil thing on both sides now for a
while, We dare you to come after us, we`re sticking it at you-- is that
something that`s helpful?
GHATTAS: It`s very tricky because if "Charlie Hebdo" had decided to back
down, then they would have given a victory to the fanatics. On the other
hand, you`re right, depicting the Prophet Mohammed-- although I`m not quite
sure why we think this is what the Prophet looks like-- depicting--
MATTHEWS: There wasn`t very good photography back then.
GHATTAS: No, there wasn`t. Depicting the Prophet on the cover does offend
a lot of Muslims. There are also a lot of Muslims-- I have a lot of
friends in the Middle East, in Pakistan-- that don`t really care whether
the Prophet is depicted or not.
MATTHEWS: They don`t?
GHATTAS: And I--
MATTHEWS: Really? They honestly say they can live with that.
GHATTAS: Yes, they can. And so what-- what you`re seeing are the
headlines about the people who are very angry about it. And going back to
the op-ed by David Ignatius and the point that Brian was just making, I
think it`s very important that at this point, we don`t paint this as a
clash of civilizations. It is not about your values in the West and our
values in the Arab world or in the Muslim world. And I say ``our`` because
I am from the Arab world. This is--
MATTHEWS: Where are you from?
GHATTAS: I`m from Lebanon. This is all of us against a bunch of fanatics.
MATTHEWS: Are you Maronite?
GHATTAS: I`m-- I`m not religious, but I come from the Arab world, and I`ve
seen quite a bit of violence and I think--
MATTHEWS: OK, let me--
GHATTAS: --it is very important not to paint this as the West versus the
rest. It is all about--
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s--
MATTHEWS: --and I think that`s what we don`t want, is a religious
Let me go back to Michael Kay. The question, though, is does the other
side of the-- of the equation here, the people from the Middle East
(INAUDIBLE) or people from North Africa, from Algeria, when they see
"Charlie Hebdo" go out on the-- you know, front page again, three million
copies-- they used to do 30,000 copies, now it`s three million-- all over
the streets, do they see that as provoking more trouble?
KAY: I think-- I think Kim`s got a really good point in terms of there are
over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, but actually how many of that
population regard the "Charlie Hebdo" cover as offensive-- certainly the
latest one, which is ``Toute e pardon,`` which is "All is forgiven," it`s
almost like a passive reaction to what`s happened. So it`s treading the
fine line of not being overtly offensive, but at the same time, it`s not
giving in and having its freedom of expression or freedom of press
KAY: So I think they`ve thought a long time about the cover, and
obviously, within the magazine, they`re including the cartoons of the staff
that were killed.
But the interesting point in terms of fanning the flames is there is this--
there is this very fine line between religious tolerance and making arrests
for inciting hatred, violence and extremism. And I think that`s what the
legislative (ph) systems in Europe and around the world will be struggling
with in terms of-- in terms of, you know, what is freedom of expression?
What is the line? And when can you start arresting people for inciting
I actually traveled to Tripoli in north Lebanon to interview a radical
sheikh called Omar Bakri (ph), who was deported from the U.K. for doing
exactly that. The U.K. has a corner in Hyde Park called Speakers Corner.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I`ve been there.
KAY: And it is used quite vocally by people who want to come talk about
anything they want to talk about. There is very recent news about people
going into universities, some of the Ivy League universities in America,
and wanting to talk about, you know, radical Islam, or those against it.
And it`s this ongoing debate between what the line is, and I think that`s
what we`re struggling with at the moment.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Michael and everyone, I think that`s-- reading about the
reaction by some of the students in Paris in the last couple of days, in
France, who did not want to observe a moment of silence but yelled, God is
great-- this is back and forth. It`s one reason why--
GHATTAS: It`s very troubling.
MATTHEWS: --in the United States, we don`t like talking religion in
MATTHEWS: --in any away because this will become--
GHATTAS: And they don`t in France because this is a very secular country,
and that is actually one of the problems. People who are very observant
and religious in France who are Muslim feel that they are being
discriminated against if they want to wear the veil in a public space or
in, you know, government buildings. And I think that`s where some of the
tension comes from.
KAY: I`d like--
GHATTAS: And the problem of integration-- that`s-- it`s really what this
MATTHEWS: Michael, last thought, quickly, 10 seconds.
KAY: Yeah, I was going to build on what Kim was saying. France has the
largest Muslim population in Western Europe, yet at the same time, it`s got
some of the most restrictive laws when it comes to freedom of expression of
faith in public, and there`s a bit of a dichotomy going on there.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but (INAUDIBLE) dichotomy on top of it all is that most of
the people of France, 70-some percent, have no problem with the large
Muslim population. Compared to other cities-- states in Europe, they`re
sort of happy to have them.
MATTHEWS: I think they`re part of the heritage--
GHATTAS: (INAUDIBLE) part of the--
MATTHEWS: Of the history of the French empire, if you will. Anyway,
Michael Kay, Kim Ghattas, and Brian Katulis.
Coming up: Hillary Clinton is putting together an A-list team, actually.
She`s getting ready to run for president, and doing it, it looks like, the
right way. But I want to know if her team will the spark, you know, the
magic that propels people to victory, especially with Republicans like
Reince Priebus already out there talking about going after Bill`s
personally life. Big surprise from Reince Priebus.
Plus-- that`s really his name, by the way. Plus, Mitt Romney may want
another chance at the presidency, but his rationale for running again
doesn`t make a lot of sense. For one thing, he seems to want a rematch
with President Obama, who isn`t running in 2016. For another, Obama`s
numbers are now a lot better than they were a few months ago. Good luck
with that rematch, Governor.
And Mike Huckabee breaks the biggest rule in politics. He`s going after
the Obama family. He says he doesn`t get why the president and the first
lady let their daughters listen to Beyonce. Will Huckabee`s moralizing
connect or kill him?
Finally, ``Let Me Finish`` with my thoughts on this odd attack by Huckle-
Chuckle-- I`m sorry, Huckabee.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Federal authorities have filed charges against an Ohio man they
say wanted to attack the U.S. Capitol. Officials say 20-year-old
Christpopher Cornell wanted to use pipe bombs to attack the Capitol, and
then shoot people as they fled. But he was never in a position to carry
out the plot. He was under investigation the whole time and was dealing,
actually, with an undercover agent who was aware of him because of his
postings on social media.
We`ll be back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, BILL CLINTON CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Labor is a very precious
thing that you have. And any time that you can combine labor with love,
you`ve made a-- a merger. And I think we`re going to win tomorrow and I
think that the governor is going to fulfill his promise and change America,
and I think many of you are going to go on and help him. I`m a political
professional. That`s what I do for a living. I`m proud of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s James Carville. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That
was James Carville, the ``ragin` Cajun`` and Bill Clinton`s chief
strategist, in a clip from that famous political documentary "The War
Well, now Hillary Clinton is quietly building an A-list campaign machine of
her own, including political professionals who worked for her in 2008 and
for her opponent, Barack Obama. "The Washington Post" reported yesterday
that Obama pollster Joel Benenson has signed on to be Hillary`s chief
strategist for a 2016 presidential campaign. Jim Margolis, another veteran
of President Obama`s campaigns, will be her media adviser. He`ll do the
ads. He`ll be the ``Mad Men.``
And "The Wall Street Journal`` reorted today that President Obama`s senior
counselor, John Podesta, the former chief of staff of President Bill
Clinton, is expected to leave his post at the White House to take on a
senior role as Hillary Clinton`s likely campaign adviser.
Anyway, campaign operations tend to have a youthful cast, but Mr. Podesta,
who turned 66 month, would come to the job as a senior strategist and it
(ph) said (ph) a troubleshooter, according to "The Wall Street Journal."
Recruiting strategists from both Obama and Clinton universes is the first
sign that Hillary Clinton is assembling, many believe, a first-rate
campaign team with a spark that it may have lacked back in 2008.
Joining me now are the two strategists who helped Barack Obama beat Hillary
Clinton the last time. David Axelrod advised President Obama in the White
House, and of course, in his two presidential campaigns. And Robert Gibbs
was President Obama`s White House press secretary, also advised his
presidential campaigns. Both are MSNBC political analysts.
We have you guys. I`m so glad. I want to start with Rob. You know, the--
Hillary made a bunch of mistakes last-- in 2008. She didn`t understand the
importance of Iowa, didn`t understand the importance of the caucus states,
didn`t understand proportionality, and never got off her problem with Iraq,
ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE hOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Do you sense now that building this campaign with people like
Podesta, she`s putting together a group of people who are not just yes
people-- you have to be yes first (ph), ultimately, but don`t begin with
MATTHEWS: You think she`s putting together a grown-up team? What do you
GIBBS: Well, there`s no doubt that the people that she`s bringing in have
great experience, and they`ll be trusted because they were a part of that
winning team in both `08 and 2012. I think John Podesta is probably the
most important hire because he has the stature, the experience and the
personal relationship with the Clintons to make sure that if there`s a war
or an argument in the campaign, and there will be that, that once a
decision gets made, it gets implemented, it gets focused on, and you move
on to the next decision--
MATTHEWS: No more sniping.
GIBBS: No more sniping. Somebody who can be the referee and move people
MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Axelrod.
It seems to me, just reading your partner David Plouffe`s book, that a
flawed strategy is better than seven strategies.
MATTHEWS: You had a strategy, as I just said, win in Iowa, win the caucus
states, win on proportionality, win on the numbers and become the
Democratic nominee for president, which is the big challenge.
This next time for Hillary, the challenge is not so much the primaries, I
don`t think, I think that`s fair to say, as winning the general, building a
case by next November, after all of the debates and everything, that she
has a reason to be president. Is she doing that yet? Is she starting that
DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don`t think she has started
that case yet. But part of what makes this team so appealing -- and Robert
and I know them well -- is that they are very good message people and I
think they will help her develop and deliver that message as she moves
forward, because, as you say, that`s the critical thing.
The problem with the last campaign was that the rationale got out in front
of the campaign -- the campaign got out in front of the rationale. No one
really knew what it was about. Campaigns have to be about something. They
have to tell a story about where you want to take the country.
These guys know how to construct that kind of strategy and she will benefit
greatly from having them.
MATTHEWS: You know, David, you know, and, Rob, if you see a good sports
team, usually, halfway through the season, whether it`s NFL or NBA,
whatever, you hear that they are doing well, they are clicking, they like
each other, they have a spirit, they may have a song, they are together.
And you don`t have to wait to see who wins, because you can tell who is
going to win. Your team, the team we showed before, Carville and George
Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala, they had it too.
When do you know in a campaign where you have got the team?
GIBBS: Well, I think it took us a while, quite candidly, probably well
into the fall, to really get clicking and to feel...
MATTHEWS: Fall of `07?
GIBBS: Fall of `07 to really feel it moving in Iowa.
I will use your sports analogy a little bit. I think you will know also if
it`s clicking if the people that are in that campaign headquarters are
playing for the name on the front of that jersey, rather than the name on
the back of that jersey.
Do they think that they are there to do something bigger than just
themselves? I think that will also define success in this campaign. There
will be good moments and there will be bad moments, and they all have to
stick together in both.
MATTHEWS: How do you decide, David Axelrod...
AXELROD: Well, I think -- I think...
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
AXELROD: No, I was going to say that it`s -- actually, it`s the bad
moments when you really get tested.
It`s easy to hang together when things are going well. The test of a good
campaign is how it deals with adversity and whether people pick each other
up, support each other, or whether they start leaking on each other and
trying to purge each other.
AXELROD: That`s what plagued their campaign the last time. This group is
very coherent that they are putting together, including a young guy named
Robby Mook who is going to be the campaign manager. Very good guy. Ran
Terry McAuliffe`s campaign in Virginia, very good campaign manager, with a
backup of Podesta.
They should be able to hang together when you hit those speed bumps, as you
inevitably will in any campaign.
MATTHEWS: The great thing about the book -- I just read David Plouffe`s
book, your partner in all this.
And the great thing about him and all three of you guys was that when you
screwed up -- and that happens all the time. As you just said, David, you
screw up. Things happen. It`s not your fault, necessarily. Sometimes it
The candidate there, Senator Obama, didn`t make a list of who he hated that
week. He seemed to rebound pretty well.
Let me go with Rob, because you`re with him all the time. He seemed to
say, damn it, we screwed up, damn it, damn it, internalized it. And then
even the night you lost the New Hampshire primary, you would think would be
the end of the universe, he moved on.
GIBBS: Well, I can -- David and I remember knocking on the door that night
and telling the candidate, along with David Plouffe, that he was not going
to win New Hampshire.
And he thought about it, as you said. We cataloged the mistakes we made.
It`s really important that when a campaign makes mistakes, they learn from
them. But both Davids had devised a strategy that we stuck to, because we
thought that was the path to winning the nomination. And it`s about
sticking to that tragedy.
It`s about, as David said, being cohesive, playing together as a team.
MATTHEWS: OK. How do you stop the person from calling the candidate at
11:00 at night to get the last call in for the night, screwing somebody
else because he wants that top job and he doesn`t have it yet? How do you
GIBBS: Some of that is going to be, as David said, what Robby is going to
have to police, but also what John is going to have to police.
GIBBS: And I think having John there -- having John there to give Robby
backup is crucially important. Again, John has the relationships with both
Bill and Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he does.
GIBBS: And he has the stature of having been the chief of staff in a White
House and the senior adviser in the most recent White House to end that
sort of thing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the tough question.
AXELROD: He may want -- he may want -- Chris, he may want some of that
North Korean phone-jamming equipment. That could be useful as well.
MATTHEWS: I`m thinking, stop the guy from being the night stalker.
Anyway, let me ask you this question, David. This is the toughest one. I
think Hillary Clinton has got all the qualities to run for president, that
she has to come out, however, to a conversation with the American people, a
new one, a fresh conversation. We haven`t talked in a while. I want to
talk to you now. Why am I running for president, assuming she wants to
And I think she has to explain it, not I care about children or the
universe or climate change, but something personal. I have been in this
since I was in college, when I was at Wellesley. I have worked as a
leader. I want to be a leader. I think I am a leader. I care about this
country. I feel a responsibility to lead, to lead.
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t she have to do something like that? Like, remember when
she cried up there in New Hampshire and everybody said, yes, finally we
know who she is, something that`s personal, rather than too theoretical.
That`s my question. Is it right?
AXELROD: Absolutely. You`re absolutely -- this is very -- you`re
absolutely on target.
You know, I have always said she wasn`t a very good candidate in 2007. She
was a very good candidate in 2008. It was too late, but she as a good
candidate because she threw caution to the wind and she became much more
revealing of herself, she connected better with people, she identified with
And they identified with hers. And she talked about her middle-class
upbringing and so on. All of that is very important. She has to throw
caution away and be that candidate she was in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think admitting ambition of a certain kind. You
know, it can be a generous ambition. It`s not me first, like Romney
sometimes. I want to be the president, like a 3-year-old. Because I think
politicians hate to admit ambition. And it`s really the thing that drives
them in most cases.
GIBBS: Well, and it takes a certain amount of ambition to stand up in
front of a placard with your name on it and say, I can lead a country of
310 million people.
But, I think, as David said and as you said, you have got to have that
rationale and it`s got to be something bigger than just you.
AXELROD: You have got to be able to tell them where you want to lead and
why and how it connects to who you are as a person and what you have been
doing all your life.
And I think she can do that, but it requires her to be more revealing of
herself than she`s been willing to do in the past, except in that one
period of time after she lost New Hampshire and was really scuffling to
connect with people.
No, she won New Hampshire, actually. Actually, she won New Hampshire.
AXELROD: I mean won New Hampshire, yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: How can we forget?
AXELROD: I`m sorry. It`s such a...
MATTHEWS: No, but she was on the verge of losing New Hampshire.
AXELROD: After she lost the Iowa caucuses.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well...
AXELROD: No, you`re right. I try and block that whole New Hampshire thing
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. I imagine, especially the knocking on the door
to tell Obama you blew it.
Anyway, thank you. Not we. You.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod.
By the way, the more I read about that campaign, the more I like you guys
for running it so well.
Robert Gibbs, thank you.
AXELROD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Still ahead, we`re going to look at Mitt Romney`s rationale for
a rematch. His numbers just don`t add up by the -- he`s running against
Obama, against Obama`s old numbers. Obama`s new numbers can beat him. By
the way, Obama`s not running again, Governor.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A Democratic challenger to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting
a lot of attention after lending his campaign $1 million. His name is
He`s one of four contenders hoping to give Mayor Rahm Emanuel a run for his
money on February 24. That`s the primary. And his rags-to-riches life
story is getting a lot of attention out there, especially in the African-
American community. With just a middle school education, Wilson worked his
way out of poverty, eventually founding a successful medical supply
And last month, he withstood a tough legal challenge from the Emanuel
campaign about the validity of his signature petitions.
Anyway, he`s come a long way and his biography is compelling, many believe.
So, the question is, does Willie Wilson have the solutions for Chicago?
Here he is. I would like to welcome him, Willie Wilson, Democratic
candidate for mayor of Chicago.
Mr. Wilson, thank you. Your life story is so impressive, how you went from
cleaning toilets in a McDonald`s, to owning a McDonald`s, to having a
franchise, to moving on and becoming somewhat of a tycoon.
How does that help become a great mayor? How does that make you a great
mayor or a good mayor?
WILLIE WILSON (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me put it this
The mayor you have now is not a good mayor or a great mayor. I have come
through not so much of schooling, but through experience. I`m not a
politician. I`m a businessperson. And I came from out of the cotton
fields of Louisiana, up north, and came my way to working to mop the floors
to McDonald`s. And I never left the neighborhood.
I have always supported the neighborhood and still support the neighborhood
today. I put in regular common sense to a regular human being and take my
business philosophy and then put it together and know that adds up to one
thing, and that is to add up to having other people to get ahead, those who
had a disadvantage in life.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to a couple of the things we read about that are
always troubling bit cities, Chicago not alone among them.
Murders, homicide, 432 homicides last year in Chicago. How would you get
that number down?
WILSON: Well, I think what you have to do is -- there are two ways you
have to get that down.
First off, you must put -- and the superintendent of police has not done a
good job. I would put in four superintendents of policemen. I would break
the city up in four different segments. And those four police
superintendents would each have their proportion.
They can get closer to the people and the community, be more friendly. I
would take them out of the automobile, probably about 75 percent out of the
automobiles. Let them ride the street bus. Let them ride the L, the
subway. Let them walk the street with the community and get more friendly
WILSON: Now, somebody might say, how would you pay for it?
Well, you pay for it by you don`t have to buy for the automobile, you ain`t
got to pay for the gas. You ain`t got to pay for the upkeep to tune up
cars and things of that nature. That will help pay for it.
But the most important thing is that get more friendly. The thing that
causes crime and stuff in our community is economic development and
contracts. We don`t have that. You create an environment into our
neighborhood that causes problem. What has got to be done is, you have got
to get businesses into those communities to do business.
MATTHEWS: How do you do that? You have got a 7.3 percent unemployment
rate out there in Chicago. How do you get that number down? I mean,
businesses in the community, that`s people -- Rahm Emanuel do that every
day of their lives. They`re always pushing trade groups coming in.
They`re bringing people in to try to get them to invest.
He`s a business guy, like you. But how do you make that actually happen?
Would you get down the unemployment rate in four or eight years as mayor?
Would it actually come down? And how would you do it? That`s what people
-- that`s common sense. People want an answer to that question.
WILSON: Well, here`s how. Well, here`s how I would do it.
I would introduce legislation in the city council that anybody who does
business with the city of Chicago must have an equal opportunity for jobs
and contracts. That way, the money will circulate back into the community
and create economic development.
I would take the city, whatever business that the city does, it has to
reflect the population of Chicago. And I`m not talking about one
particular group. I`m thinking of all citizens.
WILSON: If you take right now and put the economic back into the
community, those communities drive down the unemployment rate.
Let`s take an example. If you look at O`Hare, if you look at Midway, those
jobs do not reflect the makeup of the community, particularly with
contracts. You would change those things there.
WILSON: The other way I would do it, I would open back up Meigs Field,
create jobs and contracts that goes back to the community.
The other way I would do it...
MATTHEWS: OK, minority set-asides, I know that`s been tried. And I hear
you. You want minority set-asides. You want the pie sliced differently.
Thank you very much for coming on, Willie Wilson, candidate for mayor of
Chicago, who has just put $1 million of his own money. His skin is in the
And we will be having on Mayor Rahm Emanuel any time he wants to come on
between now and the primary. The primary, by the way, is in March.
Actually, it`s in February.
Up next: Mitt Romney says he wants to be president, but the big things
Romney promised last time around, like unemployment under 6 percent, have
already been achieved by President Obama. So how is that rematch going for
The roundtable joins us next. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
The two climbers scaling the sheer face of Yosemite`s 3,000-foot rock
formation El Capitan have reached the summit. They are the first to do it
without using ropes, except to guard against falls.
Searchers have located the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 in the Java Sea.
Both of the plane`s black boxes have also been recovered.
Eight prisoners and two corrections officers are dead after a prison bus
hit a train in Texas.
And several people several non-life-threatening injuries when a school bus
overturned in North Carolina -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
If Mitt Romney is banking on buyer`s remorse for voters to give him another
shot at the presidency, he may have some trouble. Some of the items he
said he would accomplish as president have already been accomplished by
President Obama -- item number one, lowering the unemployment rate.
Here`s what Romney told "TIME" magazine`s Mark Halperin:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": Would you like to be more
specific about what the unemployment rate would be at the end of your first
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can`t possibly predict
precisely what the unemployment rate would be at the end of one year. I
can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies
that we`d put in place, we`d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent,
and perhaps a little lower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, 6 percent.
Well, President Obama accomplished that in half the time. The December
unemployment rate nationally was 5.6 percent, the lowest rates since June
of 2008 when the Republicans were still in the White House.
And Romney said his business experience made him the candidate to create
jobs, not Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for 25
years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created that someone who has
never spent a day in the private sector like President Obama simply doesn`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it turns out that President Obama understands a thing or
two about creating jobs, 252,000 jobs were created last December, that`s a
month ago. And the average for all of 2014 was 246,000 jobs a month, in
areas like construction, manufacturing, and professional and business
When he was running against Obama, Romney gave the president a jab about,
guess what, gas prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Gasoline prices, are people happy with those?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, yes, people are happy with the national average. I
couldn`t believe this when I saw it today, $2.10 for regular.
Anyway, joining me right now, the HARDBALL round table. Washington Post`s"
Chris Cillizza, "USA Today`s" Susan Page, "National Journal`s" Ron
Ron, I don`t know, I guess he`s running against Obama but Obama`s not
running in 2016. Guess what? Probably Hillary is running and he`s running
with old numbers.
RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: That`s exactly the problem. Plus, you
know, he`s not running with the same Republican field last time. That was
a really weak field that he was marginally the best candidate in the
Republican side. This is a much stronger field that if he does run --
MATTHEWS: Why do Republicans not like him as a candidate, not as a person,
necessarily? Although some of that. They don`t seem to -- why are they so
mad at him for losing?
FOURNIER: Well, because he lost to -- at the time, a very unpopular first-
term president who they despise and who they thought they had a very good,
credible argument against.
MATTHEWS: They think he blew it.
FOURNIER: He ran at a time when people are really upset with the economy,
really upset with the establishment, there`s a populous fervor out there,
even was two years ago. And he ran as a guy who`s -- you know, $10,000
bets, a car elevator, I like to fire people. I mean, he was like the worst
possible candidate you could have.
MATTHEWS: I like to fire people, I`m wondering who he`s playing --
FOURNIER: And now, he wants to be the guy in poverty. And if you remember
back in the election, he talked about how I don`t worry about the people
who are the poorest, I don`t worry about the richest, I only worry about
the middle class.
MATTHEWS: They`re all takers.
FOURNIER: He said, I don`t worry about the lower class.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I also think, history is telling
here. The Republican Party has never been in love with Mitt Romney. I
mean, I think Ron is right, that losing to Obama the way that he did,
pretty convincingly, given the dynamic --
MATTHEWS: But you`re a reporter. You`re a straight reporter. Did you
really think Obama was toast? I never thought he was toast.
CILLIZZA: Not toast, no. But I do think you look on paper -- look, I
would make the same argument for George W. Bush. On paper, George W. Bush
probably should have lost. The election wound up being about Lambert
Field, Swiss cheese on your cheese steak and the guy who wind surfs and
speaks French, right?
So, on paper, I think he makes the same argument. But remember, Mitt
Romney could not --
MATTHEWS: Explain the field reference, would you?
CILLIZZA: I mean, probably if you could name one place for football in
this country, if you`re not into football, right, you probably know Lambeau
Field, the Green Bay Packers.
MATTHEWS: How about the ice bowl?
MATTHEWS: OK, this is boys talk here, I`m sure you`re still up to date.
This guy, Romney, looks like he got in on this a month or two late. He
jumped the gun with Jeb. It would have felt a little different to me but
Jeb seems to have filled that slot.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Well --
MATTHEWS: The moderate, they hate that word. The centrist slot.
PAGE: Yes, the more establishment, the more mainstream Republican
candidate. But I think Jeb Bush jumping in spurred Romney to want to run
again. There`s no love lost between those two. Remember when Jeb Bush
refused to endorse Mitt Romney in the Florida primary and then said he was
glad he could vote with a secret ballot? I mean, what`s the message there?
So, I think there`s some rivalry there between those two families, between
those two individuals. And that`s one reason we`re seeing this race
MATTHEWS: Prep school boys don`t like each other.
CILLIZZA: Isn`t that what a lot of politics -- I mean, the more I cover
politics, the more I feel like the old-boy politics is like high school.
There`s rivalries. This one doesn`t like this one, because this one didn`t
endorse me. Rudy Giuliani, you could call Rudy Giuliani up right now and
say, hey, what do you think of Charlie Crist? And he would destroy Charlie
MATTHEWS: You know, it appears to be only true of southern Democrats.
There was a couple, Jimmy Carter and the guy from Florida, you know, didn`t
like him, and Mondale didn`t like him from Maryland. There`s like three
acceptable governors at one point and none of them liked each other.
Anyway, former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg who supported Romney in
2008 and 2012 provided some insight into Romney`s reason for running.
Quote, "He figures there`s a lot of buyer`s remorse now and that his
message is a good message and it will resonate."
That buyer`s remorse may have been stoked by a July 2014 CNN poll that
showed if the election were held then, this past July, Romney would beat
Obama by nine points.
But as I`ve said for the last few minutes, things have changed since this
summer and President Obama`s approval numbers have been creeping up into
the high 40s.
I want to ask you something I was ready to ask, but it`s been bugging me
since I walked over from the other table. When`s Obama going to pass 50?
If he can pass 50 the next three or four months, it seems to me the old
Republican argument which is, if you`re popular, like Reagan, then you`re
successful. And if you`re successful, then you are right.
If Obama can get above 50, it seems to me the other thing can`t be argued,
you can`t say he`s a loser, you can`t say he`s not successful and you can`t
say he`s as wrong as easy. Numbers really matter. When`s he going to get
CILLIZZA: OK. I think it`s possible for him to get above 50 but this is
not particularly to Barack Obama. It`s hard, I think at this point, for
any president of the United States to get 51, 52 and then -- because --
MATTHEWS: What is it? (INAUDIBLE) 47 to 48.
PAGE: He won two presidential elections with more than 50 percent of the
vote which is quite remarkable.
MATTHEWS: So, polls are better in election then.
PAGE: If there`s a national crisis, he`s close enough now to 50 that that
could tip him over. Or if wages start to go up, so people really feel a
better economy in their pocketbook, I think that could get him over 50 as
FOURNIER: I think it`s hard for him to get over 50 and even if he does, it
doesn`t translate to a third term of a Democratic White House. Look what
happened, look where Bill Clinton was when he finished his term and look
who won in 2000.
MATTHEWS: That`s because Gore disowned.
FOURNIER: I think that had a lot to do with it.
MATTHEWS: Who is Bill Clinton? I don`t know that guy.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, Mike Huckabee, Mr. Huckle Chuckle, is going after the
president and the first lady -- what a dumb thing to do -- because they let
their daughter listen to Beyonce, he says. This is back to Candace Bergen
again. Anyway, too much moralism. Get out of your lane.
Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, here comes Chris Christie, I suppose. "The New York
Times" reports that the New Jersey governor is set to form a leadership
PAC, a political action committee, by the end of the month. The PAC would
allow Christie to raise money for a presidential run. "The Times" reports
that Christie is not likely to make a formal announcement before the end of
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And likely presidential -- Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
is getting attention today for criticizing the president and his wife for
their associations with R&B artist Jay-Z and Beyonce. Not only does he say
Beyonce`s dance moves are, quote, "best left for the privacy of her
bedroom" and her husband Jay-Z exploits his wife as a "sex object". But he
slams the first couple, that`s Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, for their
This is Huckabee and this is from his new book, "God, Guns, Grits and
Gravy." Quote, "Jay-Z and Beyonce have been to the White House numerous
times, but how can it be that the Obamas let Sasha and Malia listen to that
trash? With the first lady so concerned about making sure her daughters`
bellies don`t ingest unhealthy food, how can she let their brains ingest
obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics? Well, if
lived out, those lyrics would be far more devastating so someone`s health
than a cupcake." That`s according to Governor Huckabee.
We`re back with our roundtable: Chris, Susan and Ron.
You know, I think there`s a general rule: leave the family alone, let the
kids alone. And getting to this yucky stuff about culture, I don`t see how
that gets to the presidency. Your thoughts? It may help him in Iowa.
CILLIZZA: OK, there are two things at work, I think. Number one is
commercial, which is, it`s from his new book. How do you get people to buy
books? You kind of play to what some people think about -- here they are,
they`re telling us how to live and then they are doing these things.
That`s number one.
Number two, which is related, it`s political. You said Iowa. Look, Mike
Huckabee, in my opinion, is unlikely to be the nominee because he showed in
2008, he was -- he coalesced social conservatives particularly in Iowa, but
could never expand beyond that. Socialist conservatives agreed with what
he`s saying and liked to hear it. This is tossing red meat to the dog.
MATTHEWS: What do they know about the lyrics of Beyonce or Jay-Z?
PAGE: Well, probably nothing but it`s true that the Christian
conservatives, who are most concerned about values and morals have been a
little sidelined by the Tea Party, which has a different kind of message.
They have a different agenda, small government, economic sort of agenda.
But these people -- this group of voters is still very powerful part of the
Republican Party and that`s who he is trying to appeal to. I do think
there are enough things to criticize President Obama about that you
probably don`t need to criticize him about his parenting skills, which I
think doesn`t work with a lot of voters.
MATTHEWS: I think he looks like a good parent, my hunch.
FOURNIER: The president?
MATTHEWS: The fact that`s the big knack, he spends too much time with his
family and kids every night instead of yakking it up with politicians.
That`s our knock her all the time at him.
FOURNIER: Mike Huckabee, for all his talents, has got a career of getting
himself caught up in his own hypocrisy. He`s got two hypocrisy problems
Number one, he`s a parent of three. Any parent knows, the last thing you
do is question somebody else`s parenting skills because we all parent in
glass houses. He`s exposing himself to getting criticized himself.
Number two, this is the guy -- the weekend that he announced he wasn`t
going to run for president in 2011, he was on the show with Ted Nugent,
anybody who`s watching the show --
MATTHEWS: Who is Ted Nugent? Help me out here.
FOURNIER: Ted Nugent is a Michigan-based raunchy rock and roll singer from
the `70s, `60s, `80s, go online and look at some of his lyrics, and see
what Mike Huckabee is condoning.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t know. I think the thing about it, I think with
people, regardless of their prejudices and everybody`s got some I suppose,
you look at the two daughters and the way they turn out and behave in
public, which is perfect, they all go to good schools, they do their
homework, never say anything stupid, you know, compared to most families in
presidents, they`ve had weird brothers, weird sisters, weird half-brothers
like the Clintons that show up and embarrass you, no embarrassment for
these kids, nor from Michelle.
Michelle`s numbers, by the way, are in the 70s. I was talking a few
minutes ago popularity. Her approval numbers are in the 70s.
CILLIZZA: And this is why -- and I could be wrong about this but this is
why I tend to think that everything with Mike Huckabee -- and I know he`s
not doing his show anymore and he`s seriously considering running -- I just
feels more to me like -- I feel it`s just a commercial play. He wants to
sell books, raise his speaking fee --
MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, Roger`s not taking him back, though. Roger --
once you`re out that swinging door, you`re out that swinging door for --
PAGE: I think he`s running. I think they think history is on their side,
Republicans can win and there`s a lot of Republicans who would like to be
the one who wins.
CILLIZZA: I was talking (ph) about Romney.
MATTHEWS: I think it belongs as we say here in the sideshow.
Anyway, Chris Cillizza, thank you. Susan Page, thank you, Ron Fournier.
When we come back, let me finish with my thoughts on this odd attack by
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that odd attack on the president and
first lady by former Governor Mike Huckabee.
There are a few rules in politics regarding what`s in and out and one is
that you leave the other guy`s family alone. They are not fair game no
matter how much you scrunch and try to make them so.
There are some great arguments you can make against this president. There
are the red lines that he laid down but failed to defend. There`s his
failure this weekend to send someone or go himself over to Paris for the
big free world defiance of terrorism.
But there`s one area you should avoid when it comes to criticizing someone
on the other side -- lay off the kids. I would think this unnecessary to
say in the case of this first family. I`ve said this before, you can hit
this president`s politics all you want, but I don`t think you can knock his
private life. He`s done everything that even the most hardened right-wing
critic would want him to do. He`s been a good husband with never a whiff
of personal scandal. He`s been a good father. Together, he and the first
lady have raised these two daughters who seemed the very picture of
What`s it about Obama that the right wing hates so much? Is it his
personal behavior? I have to ask. Or is it simply his person, who he is?
When I hear Mike Huckabee going after the Obama family`s choice of musical
friends, I sometimes wonder if it`s not the sound they make that Mr.
Huckabee wants us to hear but the signal his dog whistle is sending about
the first family`s ethnic background. Would he be talking about any other
candidate`s choice in music? It`s hard to think so.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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