updated 1/21/2015 9:48:47 AM ET 2015-01-21T14:48:47

HARDBALL
January 15, 2015

Guest: Michael O`Hanlon, Fred Burton, John Stanton, James Pindell, Kevin
Costner, Liz Mair, Michael Schmidt, Nia-Malika Henderson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. And once
again, we have breaking news to report.

Police in Belgium say they`ve foiled a terror plot. At least two
suspected terrorists are dead and a third is in custody. And the
prosecutor there says they were ready to pull off a terror attack on a
grand scale. We`re told the raid is part of a series of raids across
Belgium tonight.

Let`s go to MSNBC headquarters in New York now for the very latest.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you, Chris. I`m Ari Melber, and we
have an update here out of New York City.

The raid occurred in the town of Verviers. A neighbor captured the
gun battle on home video, Belgian authorities saying the suspects were
armed here with heavy weapons, opening fire on their security forces,
Belgian officials also saying these suspects had recently returned from
fighting in Syria. Both al Qaeda and ISIS have urged their followers to
carry out these kind of attacks all over the West.

NBC`s Katy Tur has been following developments for us from London late
into the night. Katy, what can tell us?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Ari. Prosecutors have
confirmed that two people are dead and one is seriously injured in that
raid on a suspected terror cell.

Now, authorities say that when they approached the home, that these
suspects immediately opened fire on them. Now, they initially called them
-- the weapons they had -- war-grade weapons. We`re learning a little bit
more about exactly what was discovered within that apartment. There were
four AK-47s, bomb-making products, and police uniforms.

Now, authorities say that they believe that these alleged terrorists
were plotting to attack police in the area of Verviers very imminently.
That`s why they had to move so quickly. They had been surveilling these
people for the past week or two, since they supposedly returned from Syria.

Now, witnesses reported hearing one large explosion, then a series of
rapid gunfire immediately following that, heavy machine gun fire
immediately following, then two or three more large explosions. You can
see in this amateur video that we were able to obtain from the scene that
there is fire actually within that apartment complex, and you can hear in
the video that people -- people screaming, yelling and the operation
ongoing, quite a hectic and pretty terrifying scene for the people of that
area during that time.

Now, we were told that they were given some warning, the people in the
area, before police came in. They said, We are here, we`re about to
conduct a raid, go inside, take cover. Unclear, though, if there was any
real warning for the people that they were conducting the raid on. Still a
pretty scary night.

About 10 raids were done simultaneously across Belgium. Police say
that they are expected to make more arrests imminently. They didn`t want
to give very many details in this emergency news comfortable because the
investigation is still ongoing. But they have raised their terror alert
level to high, the second highest level that they have there, an alert
level of 3.

Now, Belgium is a pretty small country. Only about 11 million people
are there. But per capita, they have the most foreign fighters fighting in
wars in Syria and Iraq, about 150 people so far, 150 people as of now that
they believe are fighting in these foreign wars. And that`s why there`s
such a high level of tension there at the time right now, and that`s a high
level of tension because of what was happening in Paris, as well.

Police say that by conducting this raid and stopping these people that
they suspected of plotting against police in the area, that they were able
to avoid what they`re calling a "Charlie Hebdo" style attack, a high-level
attack on the police in Belgium. Again, though, they do expect to make
more arrests...

MELBER: Right.

TUR: ... within the night. There`s another press conference tomorrow
morning at 11:00 AM local. That`s 5:00 AM Eastern. And hopefully, we`ll
get a little bit more information when that happens -- Ari.

MELBER: And Katy, just to underscore some of your reporting there,
the language we`ve heard from authorities at this point, as you just said,
"Charlie Hebdo" style attack. We`ve also heard about, quote, "an attack on
a grand scale," and you`re telling me four AK-47s, police uniforms, bomb-
making materials.

Any other insights, though, into what that would amount to? Was it
going to be an assassination-style attack with the weaponry or a bombing or
more? Do you have any idea about that, and whether any of those 10
separate type raids were connected?

TUR: We do not know much information. We don`t know what style
attack this was going to be, whether or not it was going to be an armed
assault, just a machine-gunning of a number of people, or if there were
bombs involved. It`s just unclear at the moment. I`m not sure if the
police have specific details that they want to release at this moment.

But there were bomb-making materials, and that would coincide with
what we saw in that amateur video of the explosion within that apartment.
It`s unclear, though, whether or not these suspects detonated these bombs
or if they were detonated by police. Witnesses in the area say they heard
the explosion first, and then heard gunfire. But in this emergency police
news conference, they talked about the gunfire and not the explosions.
They didn`t confirm anything of that. But we are hearing now that they did
find bomb-making materials within that.

And as for all those other raids, it`s not clear if they`re connected.
We were hearing that it was part of a larger suspected terror cell, people
that had just returned from Syria. They are still investigating whether or
not this has anything directly to do with the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks, if
these people who`d just returned from Syria, these suspects, had any
contact with these attackers in both the "Charlie Hebdo" attack and in the
supermarket attack. It`s unclear right now, but they are still looking
into it.

Certainly, though, a lot of -- a lot of tension in the area because of
the ongoing problems that they`re having with people becoming resocialized
after...

MELBER: Right.

TUR: ... coming back from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

MELBER: Katy Tur, working the phones and your sources in London,
thank you very much.

We`re going to go right now to Michael O`Hanlon, a senior fellow at
the Center for 21st Century Security and Intel at Brookings, and Fred
Burton, a terrorism analyst and vice president for intel for Stratfor.
Good evening to both of you.

Michael, is this the scenario that Western intelligence officials have
feared, a potentially major attack from returning fighters from Syria?

MICHAEL O`HANLON, BROOKINGS: Absolutely, Ari. And I think your
questions to Katy and her report were both very good in trying to estimate
what kind of thing might have been in the works. And of course, we can`t
really know and it would depend a lot on the actual mechanics of any kind
of an attack. But if there were up to 10 people or more involved,
including a number of AK-47s, as we learn more about the various raids
around Belgium tonight, you could certainly have imagined an attack that
could have involved 100 or more fatalities.

I mean, it`s been typical in the United States, not from jihadists,
but from just our own home-grown terrorists who -- or our home-grown
criminals...

MELBER: Right.

O`HANLON: ... who`ve attacked for other reasons, to often kill 10, 20
people by a single individual, in Newtown or in Columbine or Virginia Tech,
even more. And therefore, it`s not hard to imagine it could have been an
attack or a series of attacks that would have exceeded 100 fatalities.

Obviously, I`m just guesstimating, but that`s, I think, perhaps what
the Belgian authorities are alluding to when they talk about a grand scale.

MELBER: Right. We don`t know what that scale would have been. We
have no leaks or information yet about what the operational details were.
But we do have spokesmen for the prosecutor there in Belgium saying this
was imminent and this was major, as you just said.

Now, Fred, with your experience here, something we also know more
broadly is that there are thousands of foreign fighters that have been
returning from Syria over to Western Europe. Can you walk us through what
that risk is and how it differs from what a lot of Americans think of when
we fear foreign import terror, which is in the 9/11 context, people coming
from Saudi Arabia to do a mission, a command-and-control al Qaeda
operation? This is a little different, isn`t it?

FRED BURTON, TERRORISM EXPERT: It certainly is, Ari. As a former
agent, this kind of weaponry, as well as the police uniforms, certainly
resonates and tells me that perhaps they were looking at police targets,
perhaps the courts or maybe judges, for example, or perhaps even Jewish
targets. Let`s not forget in May of 2014, we had the attack on the Jewish
Museum in Brussels.

So I think within 48 hours or so, we`ll have a better handle on the
target sets. But if you look at Europe in general, for the European
services, they have their hands full. There`s simply too many jihadis to
surveill and not enough people to do the work.

We`re much better off here in the United States. You have the Muslim
community that`s much more integrated here in the United States than they
are in Europe. And in essence, it boils down to very good human
intelligence and tactical analysis. You really need both to prevent these
kinds of attacks from taking place.

MELBER: Fred, you mentioned surveillance. We are reporting tonight,
according to the Belgian authorities, that these groups, at least in the
raid, were under surveillance for just one to two weeks. We all know what
last week was like in the region. What do you read into that quick a
turnaround from surveilling to running an operation?

I should mention we`re looking at live footage here of a very
important meeting between David Cameron from the U.K. and President Obama
at the White House. Want to mention that because we`re keeping an eye on
that and looking to bring any updates from what they say in a press
availability later tonight.

But Fred, thinking about that surveillance factor, what do you make of
the turnaround time?

BURTON: Well, there`s a very specific terrorist attack cycle. And
when you move from the pre-operational phase to target acquisition and you
move into the weapons procurement phase, that`s pretty far along part of
the attack cycle. So no doubt, the Belgian, service, who I`ve worked with
in the past, they felt that this group was getting ready to go operational.
And in light of Paris, it was very prudent to strike because you`re going
to want to neutralize this cell before they go operational.

Once they start hitting the streets to go after their targets, they`re
going to have a 90 percent success rate. So it`s very important to try to
preempt and neutralize, even if there were some fatalities.

MELBER: Michael, we are seeing now, as these news reports pile up, a
lot of people pointing out what the intelligence community has known for a
while, that Belgium is a hotbed for these Islamic fundamentalists on a per
capita basis, sending more fighters to Syria per capita than any other
European nation, a fact that now is known to everyone who`s been following
this story today, but it`s still news to a lot of people. Why is that?

O`HANLON: You know, I`m not sure I`m prepared to conclude from the
statistics that Belgium is more of an incubator than certain other parts of
Europe. I certainly agree with my colleague`s point that he just made that
Europe writ large has a bigger problem than we do. Their Muslim
communities are often not as well integrated. Also, there are many more
jihadists who have gone to Syria from Western Europe than from the United
States. And then finally, they`ve got fewer barriers to returning, fewer
geographic barriers.

And so for all those reasons, Europe writ large has a bigger problem.
I`m not sure, however, that Belgium is going to wind up being any more
afflicted by this than Britain or France or certain other countries.

One other point about the scale of this. I certainly worry about it,
and as you said, there have been thousands of fighters who have gone from
Europe to Syria. I`m not sure there are thousands coming back. For one
thing, we know that some of the people who have tried to come back have
been executed as deserters by ISIS. And to the extent we can increase the
military pressure on ISIS, especially working with Iraqis, and hopefully,
some day, certain moderate Syrian groups, if we can get to that point, the
ISIS leadership is not going to be able to tolerate these kinds of returns
as easily because they`re going to need the fighters...

MELBER: Right. Well, Michael...

O`HANLON: ... to try to hold onto territory.

MELBER: Michael, you`re raising an important points that I`ll put to
Fred, which is clearly a distinction between the aggressive tactics of al
Qaeda or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIS. Al Qaeda here
obviously taking credit wherever they can because they do want to project
that force. How is ISIS different than that, Fred?

BURTON: They`re no different when it comes to this from a recruitment
standpoint. They utilize this kind of effort for propaganda, and of
course, fund-raising and recruitment.

At the end of the day, when you start looking at trying to get inside
these operational cells -- we don`t know exactly what tipped off the
Belgian authorities, but it`s our information that they`ve been watching
this group for a while, which preceded Paris, which I also find very
fascinating. And I know just from a counterterrorism perspective, once
Paris happened, that was a game changer for all the European services. So
it wouldn`t surprise me in the least to see similar roundups throughout
Europe, and especially in the United Kingdom.

MELBER: Yes, it`s an important point, Fred. And just to be clear,
NBC News hasn`t confirmed, of course, whether there is a direct operational
linkage. But we`ve been reporting, as you were mentioning, throughout the
day that the authorities obviously on higher alert in response to
everything in France.

I want to thank Fred Burton and Michael O`Hanlon for your analysis
tonight. Now, we are going to continue to follow these developments out of
Belgium throughout the evening on MSNBC.

I am Ari Melber here. I`m Ari Melber reporting out of New York. Want
to be clear, though. HARDBALL with Chris Matthews will continue with Chris
Matthews when we come back after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we got the official word today that newly elected
senator Joni Ernst will deliver the official Republican response to
President Obama`s State of the Union. Ernest was one of the big winners
last November as nine Senate seats flipped to the Republicans. The
president will deliver the State of the Union, his sixth, this Tuesday at
9:00 PM Eastern, and "the castrator" will follow.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the negative reaction from Republicans to Mitt Romney
running a third time has been sharp and intense. Take these, for instance.
"The Wall Street Journal" editorial page -- "The question the former
Massachusetts governor will have to answer is why he would be a better
candidate than he was in 2012. The answer is not obvious."

Then Rupert Murdoch followed on this -- "I rather agree with `The Wall
Street Journal` this morning" -- well, he would, it`s his paper -- "which
sort of lacerated Romney. He had his chance. He mishandled it. You know,
I thought Romney was a terrible candidate." Well, that`s pretty
convincing.

And conservative writer Jonah Goldberg in "The National Review" he
wrote, "The problem is that Romney for president is now an art house film
thinking it`s a blockbuster franchise and that there`s a huge market for
another sequel. There`s not."

Well, this is wholesale Romney tissue rejection by Republicans. Does
this deter Romney, spur him on, or does he ever care?

I`m joined right now by John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for
Buzzfeed News, and James Pindell, who covers politics for "The Boston
Globe."

I want to start with you, John. It seems to me -- something I never
saw coming, a ferocity of rejection of Romney.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Yes, I mean, I think you -- there are a lot
of Republicans, on the one hand, that are -- that feel like they had to
swallow a very bitter pill with him during the last election. They didn`t
really want him. They didn`t think...

MATTHEWS: Is that why they thought -- is that because -- I didn`t
think they would. Did they think that they could knock off Obama pretty
easily...

STANTON: I think...

MATTHEWS: ... and this guy must be a klutz not to do it?

STANTON: I think...

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s what I think a lot of progressives don`t
believe.

STANTON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They don`t think Obama was easy to beat.

STANTON: No, they looked at him and they said, Well "Obama care"
stinks, people hate it, the economy is not doing that great. And they
thought that anybody that came in there should have had a better chance...

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES PINDELL, "BOSTON GLOBE": And who else are they going to pick of
that group, right? I mean, this is, obviously, a much different
presidential primary field. There`s no Herman Cain here. There`s no -- I
mean, this is a different field this time.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be 25 people, too.

PINDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I always say to people, the first primary is in your head.
You decide to ran, and if you don`t run, you don`t have a chance. I mean,
Mario Cuomo never ran. If he`d ran -- Colin Powell never ran, you know?
People that could -- Condi Rice is not a senator from California. She
could have been there for life. But you`ve got to run. You`ve got to get
in this thing.

I think Mitt Romney has a level of self-assurance -- call it
arrogance, if you want -- which is so superior to most people because of
his education, his family, his background, his money. All that combination
gives him a sense of walking into a room and thinking he`s better than the
president of the United States. And that helped him in that first debate.
I don`t like it, but it helped -- is that what`s driving him, a sense of
personal superiority?

STANTON: I think that, and I think -- I think he`s looking at this --
I mean, think about the last years. He`s -- everywhere he`s gone, there`s
been kids taking pictures of themselves with him. He is very, very popular
with...

(CROSSTALK)

STANTON: Well, yes, but he`s just like an average guy all of a
sudden. People are not looking at him as sort of the dis-attached rich guy
anymore. They sort of see him as the guy that goes to McDonald`s or goes
to CVS. That kind of thing, I think, combined with, you know, this sort of
notion that he is very successful and (INAUDIBLE) someone`s head, would
make me think, if I was him, Maybe I can actually win this. I can
(INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t it more the popularity of that movie that came
out after he lost that showed him as a regular guy? By the way, Nixon --
I`m so old, but I remember Nixon was incredibly popular after he lost to
Kennedy. You understand? People liked -- he went on Jack Paar and played
the piano. Everybody said, You know what? He can take -- he can take a
thumping. He got the message. We didn`t like him as much as Jack. But we
didn`t like anybody as much as Jack.

Romney looked good until he announced he wanted to run again.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So, what -- does Hillary have to worry about that stuff,
too?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Once you say you want to say, all of a sudden, oh, well,
let me go look, let me take a closer look at her, you know?

PINDELL: Well, Hillary was probably more popular before the book came
out than after the book came out.

But I think one thing you have to keep in mind for Mitt Romney or
anyone who loses after being their party`s nominee is, they see those
crowds and they see the partying behind them. And they mistake that, and
people actually like me.

But what`s really going on is, they just like their political party
and they`re rallying around the troops. And that`s the mistake that Mitt
Romney may be suffering right now.

MATTHEWS: But there`s so many losers out there walking the streets
who are healthy people. Al Gore is making money doing something. He went
to a cave for a while. Bob Dole is still around. Dukakis is still around.
Do you think all those people are thinking, I almost won this baby, maybe I
should get back in?

PINDELL: Well, he`s obviously doing the trial balloon here, right?
And what he`s trying to figure out is, is he going to get smacked down or
not?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think is happening? Report. I think
he`s getting smacked down.

(CROSSTALK)

PINDELL: Well, look, the fundamentals here, though -- if we have this
invisible primary period for the next 13 months in Iowa, New Hampshire,
South Carolina, the only way we can judge who is doing well or not are on
three things, polling, which he`s doing well, money, which he has, he will
be able to raise money -- donor class still likes him -- and third is
organization.

And right now he`s ahead in that. He can pick up the phone. He still
text messages with state senators in New Hampshire.

STANTON: Well, the fact is that the money guys have told other
candidates that they`re holding back in terms of how much money they`re
willing to give them until they know what Romney is going to do. I think
that also plays very much into this.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, Rand Paul managed to take a swipe at both Mitt
Romney and Jeb Bush with these comments on Romney. Let`s listen to Rand
Paul.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If he runs to the right of Jeb Bush, he
will still be to the left of the rest of the party, so it may be a
different spot to occupy.

(LAUGHTER)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Rand continued to discount a Romney third try. Let`s
listen here in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I admire Governor Romney. I think he was a great businessman.
I think he`s a good person, a very generous person, but I think he had his
chance. I think that even with all his assets, he wasn`t able to attract a
big enough constituency to win and there was every opportunity to win last
time.

So, I respect him. I`m glad he`s part of the party. He`s an elder in
the party, but I think he`s had his chance and I think it`s time for some
fresh blood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This reminds me of Frank Mankiewicz, the late Frank
Mankiewicz, who just passed away a couple weeks ago. His great line was,
listen to everything the politician says after the word "but."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He`s a great man, blah, blah, blah, but -- and then he puts
the knife in right there. That`s a pretty direct shot.

STANTON: It is, but I think to a certain degree, that`s his greatest
strength in a way, that everybody sort of knows who Mitt Romney is. There
is not going to be anymore oppo on him. There`s not going to be questions
about where he stands.

And in that sense, that allows him to operate in a way that almost no
one else...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, there should always be questions about where Mitt
Romney stands, because it keeps changing.

Anyway, thank you, John Stanton. Thank you, James.

And he will stand where it`s important to stand. The guy is an
opportunist.

Up next: The Academy Award nominations are out and there`s a lot
being made over the fact of a lack of diversity. It`s apparently called
the most white awards ceremony in years, anyway, especially in a year that
gave us "Selma."

Anyway, coming up, my interview with two-time Oscar winner Kevin
Costner, who stars in the new movie "Black or White," which takes on the
issue of race head on.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We are back.

It wasn`t long after the Oscar nominations were announced this morning
that many began to notice the nominees were lacking in diversity. In fact,
some are calling this year`s Academy Award nominees the whitest since the
1990s.

But if Hollywood struggles with the delicate issue of race, there`s a
new film that tackles it head on. It`s called "Black or White" and it`s
set to hit theaters later this month.

And it`s not your typical Hollywood movie. In fact, the major studios
didn`t even want to make it. It got produced because Kevin Costner, who
plays the lead role, financed the film largely out of his own pocket. It`s
the story of a recently widowed upper-class grandfather locked in a legal
fight over the custody of his black granddaughter.

And here is a clip from the trailer, "Black or White" with Kevin
Costner and Octavia Spencer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK OR WHITE")

KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: This is Eloise. She`s my granddaughter. What
are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I`m going to make pancakes. Set the table,
please.

COSTNER: My wife and I raised her after my daughter died. In life,
there is a curve, and now her grandmother is gone, too, the love of my
life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you really plan on raising this girl all by
yourself?

COSTNER: This is every day?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you need to call her other grandmother?

COSTNER: Grandma Wiwi (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes.

COSTNER: The last person I need around me right now is Grandma Wiwi.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I`m thinking we need to start talking about
shared custody.

COSTNER: Not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: She has a father.

COSTNER: You live in a blind spot when it comes to your son. He`s a
junkie.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You just want her away from us, the black
people.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you dislike black people?

COSTNER: Not all of them.

This isn`t about black and white.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I love you, papa.

COSTNER: This is about Eloise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I sat down with Costner earlier today to talk about the
film and what it says about racial conflicts in our society today.

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Kevin Costner, I have seen 20 of your movies, counting "The
Big Chill," 19 not counting "The Big Chill," where you`re a dead guy.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This one is really cutting-edge about what we talk about on
this show all the time, on HARDBALL, race, and race in America today.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Why did you do it?

COSTNER: Well, I read it. You know, when I read it, I thought I want
to share it, the same way as when I hear a -- read a great book or I hear a
great piece of music. My tendency is to go, you know, I read the best book
last night. I heard the greatest piece of music, saw a movie.

And when I read a movie, my job as a storyteller, I thought -- I was
stunned that I liked it as much as I did. And I went, wow, I have got to
make this movie. It`s -- I felt that way when I read "Field of Dreams." I
felt that way when I read "Dances With Wolves." I thought, this is what I
need to do. And I didn`t see it coming, but when I read it, I couldn`t
fall out of love with it.

MATTHEWS: It`s about a white guy, a grandfather, a young grandfather
who has got a granddaughter who is black, mixed race, but in American life,
that means black.

And you`re in a custody battle that ends up with a black grandmother,
the other grandmother.

COSTNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: And that is about as close as it gets in terms of this
tribalistic black and white thing in this country. I think it`s about us
right now.

COSTNER: Yes, it is.

A lot of times, when we deal with race, the movies are -- have a
chance to look back, look at history. But this is a pretty authentic look
at where we are at today and these two disparate communities, you know?

You`re dealing with Compton, California, dealing with Brentwood. And
in the middle of it is this child. And it`s like, where should she be?
And when that -- when that issue can`t be resolved, race starts to come
into play.

And it`s a movie that really said some things that I have been
thinking about a long time. It says some things that I wish I could say.
And I think Octavia Spencer, I think Anthony Mackie both had that same
experience, went, wow, I get a chance to say something I have been wanting
to say for a long time.

And -- but it comes out through the movie, which is -- makes it more
organic than just, you know, somebody in your face. You`re actually
watching these people, and you see yourself in it.

MATTHEWS: I saw it last night, as you know, thanks to you, with a
mixed audience, black and white audience.

What was the reaction of black people especially? I was wondering,
because it`s sort of told from your perspective as a character. You`re
going through this hell.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You`re fighting the custody thing. You love this
granddaughter.

COSTNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: And you`re up against people that may love her, too, but
it`s about you.

How is the black reacting to this?

COSTNER: Well, when I made this movie, I tested it with a white
community, and I said, I`m going to have to test it with an all-black
audience, all-black.

I can put my head into the lion`s mouth, and see what happens. And I
-- everything happened I thought would. They get it completely. They
laugh at the same spots. They clap on the third slap. You know, they
understand. They get it, and mostly because they believe it`s fair and
it`s balanced.

And my character is just as flawed, if you will, as Reggie, and
there`s a lot of pain there. But the movie is propped up by an organic
sense of humor, where you just cannot -- some of the things, you kind of
cringe at and some of the things, you just laugh out at loud at.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought -- I thought -- somebody said last night at
your decision about this, that in a lot of black families in America,
there`s a lot of mixed bags.

You have got one guy with a Ph.D., one woman running a company, and
the brother is a loser. Maybe that`s true of the white families. But in
the way this movie works, it`s pretty powerful stuff when you see that
portrait.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: There are no stereotypes that are real. There are
characters, but they don`t represent the whole community.

COSTNER: Yes. Yes. It`s not a stereotype.

And both those characters call him on it. In the most critical
moment, they both call him on it. And...

MATTHEWS: The drug addict.

COSTNER: Yes, they do. They say it exactly the way it is, the way we
want to say it.

And I think that`s the strength of this movie. That was also the
worry of the movie with other people. Maybe that`s why it boiled down to
me having to pay for it, which is, are you sure you want to go that far?
And I kept thinking, what do you mean far? It`s not really that far, isn`t
it? Didn`t that seem kind of real logical, real normal?

So, for me, I wasn`t afraid of this or the language or where it would
take us, because we get nowhere when we do the dance. We get somewhere
when we sit down.

MATTHEWS: The scene where you use the N-word -- and you use it in a
very contextual way. You`re talking about a particular guy with a
particular problem, not because of his race, but who he is.

COSTNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: But it is a caricature.

COSTNER: It is.

MATTHEWS: How do you think about that?

COSTNER: Well, I told you I took this down, and to let an entire
black audience watch that movie.

And when -- and they talked about that moment and said, well, he
called him that. And 20 people stood up and said, no, he didn`t. He said
that`s how -- they said, that`s how he`s acting.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTNER: And they then owned the movie.

And the person who had said that kind of wasn`t cowed, but went like,
yes. They got it completely. You know, people go in with their back up.
They`re not sure what they`re going to see. It`s a pretty divisive title,
"Black or White.

It`s like, does it have to be black or white or can it be us? And in
reality, anybody thinking, oh, my God, I`m not sure I want to go see a
movie about race, it`s really about this little girl, and the idea that
these two families go, no, she would be happier -- she could be taken care
of here.

And the suspicion that goes back and forth and the battle that takes
place is epic, and it plays out in a -- in a manner that we see a lot on
TV, we see a lot in movies, courtroom.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTNER: But this courtroom somehow is different, beginning with the
judge.

MATTHEWS: A black woman judge, very attractive woman. And she has
got a great sense of humor. She comes off as really smart.

Let me ask you about -- because you may not have thought about this.
The president of the United States grew up in this experience...

COSTNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... a white mother, a black father who left town, went back
to Africa, had a drinking problem.

COSTNER: I actually didn`t think about that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And yet that`s -- he is our leader now.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And he knows everything you`re writing about. Everything
in this movie, he`s lived.

COSTNER: Yes, he knows about it. And maybe that`s good that I don`t
think about stuff like that.

I didn`t think that casting Whitney Houston was a big deal. It turned
out to be a big one. I just told you I thought that she was the prettiest
girl who could sing.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTNER: I -- I thought, if I`m going to do a movie about this, we
have to say these things. It`s almost to me -- it`s almost the exact
opposite for me, Chris.

It`s almost like, if we don`t say that, what are we doing?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTNER: If we don`t say that, we have no business putting this out
there. I mean, the movie`s strength is that it`s even. It goes back and
forth.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, I hope everybody sees it. I think it`s great.

I love "Dances With Wolves." That`s about white people and Indians.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is about white people and black people, about some
kind of chance at harmony.

COSTNER: The movie was a bit of a miracle for me.

And it was also something I couldn`t fall out of love with. And I
knew that, if I`m going to tell stories, if I`m going to make the romantic
comedies, make a baseball movie, make a Western, those movies -- I love
making those movies.

But, sometimes, there is a movie like this that comes along, and I
think to myself, I know this isn`t in vogue, I know this isn`t how you play
it, I don`t know what this is going to do to my stock, but I think, crap, I
have to make this.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you, Kevin Costner.

COSTNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I want everything to see this movie, "Black or White."
It`s coming out at the end of the month in all the theaters near you.

Thank you for coming on.

COSTNER: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Up next: With Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush fighting for the
middle, the odd man out, Chris Christie. Can the Jersey governor find some
running room, or will he be squeezed out of this race for 2016?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

Belgium`s terror threat level is now at its second highest, following
raids in at least four cities. As we have been reporting, two terror
suspects were killed in a shoot-out with police. A third was detained.
Meanwhile, Belgian authorities are looking at possible links between the
gunman who killed four people in a kosher market in France and a man
recently arrested for illegal weapons trading.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris to express solidarity with
the U.S.` longtime ally after last week`s attacks.

And boxing champion Muhammad Ali is back in the hospital for follow-up
care related to a recent infection. A spokesman says he hopes to be back
home this weekend to celebrate his 73rd birthday -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, there are long shots and there are underdogs and there`s New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie. What do you make of him? In addition to
the governor`s personal demons in seeking the presidential nomination, his
temper, his record, and his bridge, he`s also being squeezed from the
middle, thanks to the entrance of moderates like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

As "Politico" writes, quote, "That might be the nail on the coffin for
Christie`s donor base on Wall Street." Quote, "Many on Wall Street are
less optimistic about Christie`s chances. They may like and admire
Christie, and might even support him in a scenario without Romney and Bush,
but they now don`t see a path for the New Jersey governor."

Well, the front page of "The New York Times" reports that Christie is
telling anxious donors to, quote, "Relax. There`s no great rush to wade
into the Republican primary." Well, do you see the time (INAUDIBLE)

Anyway, the roundtable tonight, Republican strategist, Liz Mair, "New
York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt, and "The Washington Post" political
reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Who starts here?

You start. OK, Liz, it seems this is fruit for discussion here. How
many slots are there in the Republican center, to continue on, three, two
or one?

LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A lot and there are a lot of slots
there in that sort of moderately conservative center. And there`s one slot
on the libertarian side and we`ve got a couple of slots for the more social
conservative evangelical candidates.

I think the issue for Christie, though, really isn`t Romney. I think
the people who want Romney to run a third time are the diehard Romney fans
who I`m not personally really familiar with who they are.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s LDS and equity people.

MAIR: Yes, I don`t have a lot of personal affiliation or sympathy
with them, but those are people who are deeply committed to Romney, and
only Romney. And so, that`s where that`s going to come from.

For Christie, I think the real challenge is not though those guys,
because they wouldn`t have been shopping around. They already shopped
around. They didn`t like what they saw.

I think the real concern is Bush, if he does end up running, because
you have a situation where there`s a lot of donors who came out of the Jeb
Bush world who have been interested in Chris Christie and have been for a
while. But now, they`re in the position where they`ve got to pick a horse.

MATTHEWS: What is the warmth factor for a Bush? Why do they want
that family to continue in is dominant position?

MAIR: Well, I think there are a lot of people who don`t necessarily
want the family to continue in the dominant position, but really wish that
Jeb Bush had run originally instead of George W. And so, I think there are
a lot of people in the party that looked at his record and say, well. I
mean, it`s unfortunate that he`s got the Bush name and we`re doing the
whole dynasty --

MATTHEWS: But if he didn`t have the Bush name, would he be up there?

MAIR: I think he might be, I think he might be, although obviously
the gap between when he left office and where we are now is a big question
mark, right? But I think, yes, I mean, his name is obviously an asset and
a hindrance, depending on who you`re talking to.

But I do think a lot of the reason you have those donors looking at
Bush is there are sort of more moderate business types who recognize that
talking about taxes, regulation, immigration and education are all vitally
important. That`s something that Bush does, that the other candidates
don`t do in their mind.

Christie could do it, but you know, Bush had a very good track as
governor from where they`re standing. And so, if he`s the big dog in the
race, there are going to be people who will look at going there even though
they might have liked Christie originally.

MATTHEWS: Michael, these numbers coming out of Jersey, aren`t they
good for the guy? I mean, he did make a lot of noise. I sort of liked his
style on the beginning before I rise (ph). It was for real, this Jilly
Rizzo thing, this tough guy thing? Not exactly attractive when you realize
it`s for real. But the numbers in terms of his performance are about zero.
Nobody -- 19 percent of the people in Jersey say he`s been a positive
force?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He`s not fresh anymore. It goes
back to when you have a chance to run for president, run for president.

In 2012, when he was fresh, he was a new face and he could really
define himself, he didn`t run. Barack Obama doesn`t run in 2008, he`s
probably never president, because he would have had all that time in the
Senate, and all these other things --

MATTHEWS: That`s what Jack Kennedy said. He said, if I don`t run in
`60, even though he`s very young, early 40s, he said there will be other
guys next time.

SCHMIDT: Barack Obama had no Senate record to run on, which was good.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Or to run against.

MATTHEWS: The old argument is the galloping horse of history.
Galloping horse of history rides by once in your life, you jump on that
horse. Now, it would have to be a very big horse for Christie to get on,
but he could have done it.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And people wanted him to. He met with a
bunch of donors who wanted him, who didn`t want Romney, but he decided he
wanted to wait. He thought he was going to be able to ride that massive
reelection into this --

MATTHEWS: So, he was counting on Romney losing?

HENDERSON: Maybe he was. I mean --

MATTHEWS: Why wait -- if you think the guy is going to win for eight
years --

SCHMIDT: He`s under federal investigation right now. You never would
have said that, you know, back in 2012. He`s looking at that. He probably
-- nothing will probably happen, but just --

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, nothing will happen? What`s the story of
eight indictments coming?

SCHMIDT: We`re not doing indictments again, but --

MATTHEWS: What do you mean we`re not doing indictments?

SCHMIDT: We`re talking about Petraeus before. But no --

MATTHEWS: What do you mean?

SCHMIDT: No, no, I`m just saying --

HENDERSON: You mean in terms of the bridge thing, you don`t think
anything is going to happen with that.

SCHMIDT: Yes, I --

MATTHEWS: You think there will be no indictments around him?

SCHMIDT: I think it`s very difficult for them to make a case here.

HENDERSON: To tie him.

MATTHEWS: Stay tuned.

SCHMIDT: But he has a federal investigation. He`s a candidate and
that doesn`t smell good for anyone.

HENDERSON: And anyone who knows about this bridge scanned and whether
or not he`s directly tied to it almost doesn`t matter.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

HENDERSON: And is it confirms what people don`t like about him, he`s
a bully, and the whole scandal confirms that. That`s his issue. I don`t
know how he goes to donors and makes the argument that he`s a better
candidate than Jeb Bush on any of these issues, you know, Latinos, or
African-Americans --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Ken Langone had a good point. I respect this guy.
He did at Home Depot, he created it. He talked about Christie raising
money, warned him not to run a nasty campaign against his opponents like
Romney. He told "Politico", what I tell Christie is don`t make this
personal. Make this about what`s best for America, not about Romney having
an elevator in his house or a dog on his roof of his car.

Can Christie avoid that kind of personal shot if he gets in this
thing? Or is that his nature?

SCHMIDT: No, no, but if you put him in the mix and he really runs
hard, he`s going to hurt these other candidates, and they`re going to do
the same thing that they did to each other --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: And other people are going to make those arguments. I
mean, if Huckabee gets in there, it`s going to be -- Huckabee and Romney,
no love lost there. I mean, their 2008 race was terrible.

MATTHEWS: If I were Hillary, I would finance the Huckabee campaign.
I would finance it, because she will own the cultural center on issues like
same sex, abortion rights, contraception, all -- movies, everything. He
will give it away. He`ll give away the middle. Beyonce, that was
brilliant. Go after the family.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, can Hillary
Clinton`s team keep her from making the mistakes she made in 2008? That`s
going to be interesting.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama has been busy laying out proposals
ahead of the Tuesday night State of the Union coming up. Today, he`s
directing federal agencies to give employees up to six weeks of paid leave
time after the birth or adoption of a child. That`s six weeks. He says he
wants that benefit extended to all American workers.

Well, today`s push came just days after the president called for
tuition-free community college for two years. The White House says both
are the focus on improving the lives of middle class in America.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As I told you last night, Hillary Clinton is assembling an A-list
operation for 2016 and drawing topnotch talent from President Obama`s two
successful presidential campaigns to help her succeed the second time
around.

Our own NBC`s first read said today, "When you add the fact that John
Podesta is leaving the Obama White House to serve as a liaison between the
Clinton campaign and the White House, as well as to handle the Clinton old
guard, it`s pretty to include that Clinton won`t be running against Obama.
In fact, it`s looking like she will be more connected to him than ever."

Last night on HARDBALL, the two guys that helped President Obama
defeat Hillary Clinton in 2008, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, reacted to
the emerging campaign team she is assembling for her likely second White
House run. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SR. ADVISOR: 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`ll
benefit greatly from having them.

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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
they`re there to do something bigger than just themselves, I think that
will also define success in this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Back now with the roundtable now, Liz, Michael and Nia-Malika.

Nia, this campaign that Hillary is putting together, I`m impressed, as
most people are, by Podesta. A grown up, somebody in his 60s, somebody
that isn`t an enemy of Barack Obama, that, in fact, is close to him.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And also close to Bill Clinton.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Could it be that the Democratic Party will not be in
disarray in 2016? That they were actually be a United Party around the
sort of the dualing or the dual monarchy of Obama, Bill Clinton, and I
guess Hillary Clinton. It`s more than a dual monarchy, it`s a unity team.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, we`ll see. I mean, it looks like so far
Hillary Clinton is so far out ahead of anyone she`s sort of scaring away
the rest of the field because she`s built this battleship of it`s been just
waiting in port for awhile. So, it`s hard to see who is going to get in
there and challenge her.

Warren doesn`t seem like she`s going to run. You`ve got people like
Jim Webb who looks like he could be a thorn in her side. And talking about
the middle class white men, and how they`ve been a whipping post for the
Democratic Party, that could be some trouble, but in terms of a real viable
candidate in there to really sort of splinter the party, it doesn`t seem
like there`s anybody on the horizon to even channel some of that real
progressive fervor.

MATTHEWS: I think -- I do this for a living. I think every time
there is an election, the fight is in the primary on the general. For
Barack Obama it was in the primary. He`s been beating Hillary Clinton,
that was the big challenge. The general was not a great challenge for him.

With Hillary Clinton I think this time around, tell me if I`m wrong,
the battle is going to be the general election for her? She will win the
primaries, maybe not brilliantly, but she`ll win them, she has to want to
beat a Republican and hold the White House for 16 years which is very, very
historically hard to do.

SCHMIDT: Yes. I mean, the interesting thing is the idea that she
won`t run certainly against Obama at all, because I think she`ll want to
embrace him. If he stays where he is right now where people, you know,
he`s out there. He`s aggressive. More aggressive than we`ve ever seen --

MATTHEWS: High 40s --

HENDERSON: His ratings are up, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHMIDT: He has the wind at his back right now. And Democrats seem
to be pretty content with him in a way they haven`t been, you have to go
further back. So, that`s kind of interesting to me to see what role he
would have in trying to help her, because certainly, I mean --

MATTHEWS: The problem that Hillary Clinton has that I thought that
Robert Gibbs pointed out rather well is people fighting for the name on the
back of their jersey, which is their name, and not for the team jersey.
And you start hearing about this half way to a campaign, or even earlier,
back biting, people who gets to call the candidate latest at night and
screws the other people.

Candidates have to fight that. If they like it, they like hearing
from the last -- they like the scuttle on each -- they like the back
biting, they`re going to get it. Will Hillary Clinton push back and say
no, I want a team here. Stop calling me at 11:00 to screw the other
person. Stop it.

MAIR: Historically, she has been bad at doing exactly that. She has
had a camp that has been driven with these kinds of conflicts, and a lot of
this kind of leaking and trashing each other and I`m sure her
communications people have enjoyed sitting on the phone with you guys
having conversations about this kind of thing.

I don`t know how this is going to play out. I think as to the point
about Obama, I think, right now, it looks really smart for them to be on
the same page, but we`ll see how that plays out because things are
constantly up and down and moving in politics, right? A snapshot today
does not give you an indicator of what it looks like in November 2016. So,
that remains to be seen.

I think no matter where he goes and what his approvals look like, she
is a lot more tied to him than people have wanted to admit today. I mean,
they can do the whole thing of saying, our foreign policy has been run out
of the White House so don`t blame if it`s looking bad. But at the end of
the day, those two did join up --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: And Romney thinks he has an edge there, right? He is the
one who ran a somewhat credible campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do they want something fresh in 2016 or something that`s
been around?

HENDERSON: That`s the thing. We don`t know, and who embodies that.
Is it Romney? Is it Bush? Is it Clinton? Who is --

MATTHEWS: I found at Starbucks yesterday when I bought my morning bun
that if you`d come back after 2:00, you get it for a buck. So I think the
price goes down and the value goes down if somebody has been around too
long. You`re like a bun in the afternoon.

Anyway, thank you, Liz Mair. It`s always a handy metaphor at
Starbucks. Michael Schmidt and Nia-Malika Henderson.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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