Date: January 21, 2015
Guest: Jonathan Darman, Jonathan Chait, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Emanuel
Cleaver, Jackie Kucinich
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama shoots for the history books.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Like a ball player shooting from beyond the three-point line,
President Obama last night gave it his best for history. He laid out his
legacy, what he believes he`s done and wants still to do with the time
left, with what power he can send to his successors to do.
Well, we know some of it, the historic economic recovery since W.`s
financial disaster back in 2008, the turn against endless ground wars in
the Middle East, the health care program, his support for marriage
equality, the climate deal with China, the executive orders on immigration,
the opening to Cuba. But thee are a lot of questions about what else is he
going to do? Will he close Gitmo, prevent war with Iran while keeping from
the ability to wage nuclear war?
And last night, Barack Obama took the first step, gave us the first
draft, if you will, of his claim to history -- equal pay, paid sick leave,
free community college, middle class economics. Well, those were the
buzzwords in last night`s address where president Obama made clear that the
fourth quarter of his presidency is a commitment to cementing his liberal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The verdict is clear.
Middle-class economics works.
It`s time we stop treating child care as a side issue or as a woman`s
issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: This Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a
woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the
opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It`s the right thing to
OBAMA: I`m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of
community college to zero!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: To zero. That`s pretty strong.
Jonathan Chait`s the man behind the truly great piece of work in this
month`s "New York" magazine called "The Obama History Project." What an
edition to that magazine. And Jonathan Darman`s an historian, and of
course, author of "Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New
Gentlemen, let`s talk, first of all -- I`m going to give you free rein
right here to talk about what you heard last night and what`s the claim
he`s making. It seemed like it was his most -- his boldest State of the
Union, I thought.
JONATHAN CHAIT, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Right. It was. It was his
moment of vindication because his program has been in place for a long
time. Most of it was passed in his first two years, when he had Democrats
in Congress, but the economy has been terrible, so it`s been really hard
for him to take credit the way he feels he deserves credit for the long-
term changes to America that he`s been able to enact.
But now that the economy has really turned up -- and this is something
that`s only become evident in the last month or two, that the economy seems
to be really entering this rapid growth phase, where people finally feel
good about it, now...
MATTHEWS: And wages are getting stronger.
CHAIT: Wages are getting stronger. Jobs are really going up at a
fast rate. So now he can say, Look, I`ve done it all. Look back at my
works, ye mighty, and despair.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over to Jonathan -- the other Jonathan,
Jonathan Darman. He also -- you know, he`s not playing the Clinton "third
way." He`s not being Tony Blair. He`s being what we`ve always called
being grown up. I always called it liberal, a guy who believes in the
positive role of government and the positive role of government to move a
better advantage to people at the lower end of the food chain, if you will,
at the expense, oftentimes, of people at the top, but saying it
declaratively and saying, This is the way I think, this is what I think
government should be doing.
JONATHAN DARMAN, HISTORIAN: Yes. I mean, I was really struck
listening and watching the speech last night by how overtly he was really
saying, This is how I want my historical narrative to be shaped. I mean,
the first line of the speech was, My fellow Americans, we are now in the
15th year of this new century. So there was right off the bat this sort of
grand historical sweep.
And every issue that he talked about, he really framed in this idea of
transformation. The country, when he took hold of it, was, you know, on
the brink of economic collapse. It`s now heading into an economic boom.
Energy -- you know, people -- we had this dependence on foreign oil. Now
we have this huge energy boom in this country. An issue like same-sex
marriage -- he talked about it as -- not long ago, it was a wedge issue
used to divide people, now it`s the law of the land in the majority of
And he really, I think, was saying to people, This is how I want you
to think of me, as someone who came to this -- took hold of this country as
president and really turned it into something different in my time here in
a positive way. And that`s the president he wants to be remembered as.
MATTHEWS: Don`t say "comes to this country."
DARMAN: I`m sorry. I didn`t mean in it that sense.
MATTHEWS: There are -- there are Donald Trumps out there waiting to
hear you said that. He`ll probably be quoting you tomorrow, even though it
was a slip, which I know it was.
Anyway, Jonathan Chait, you write about President Obama`s -- here`s a
great phrase because I`ve felt this -- his infuriating serenity. First, I
want you to tell what that means. But we`ve seen that this president has
no patience for public hysteria or the theater of the office, which I may
be part of, whether it`s the Ebola panic, the border crisis, his joy in
golfing after that ISIS beheading -- that was a bad moment for him -- or
the state of American politics generally.
Let`s watch him, the infuriating -- what`s it called -- serenity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s a serious disease, but we can`t give in to hysteria or
fear because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate
information they need.
This isn`t theater. This is a problem. I`m not interested in photo
ops, I`m interested in solving a problem.
Part of this job is also the theater. Part of it is, you know, how
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hate (INAUDIBLE)
OBAMA: ... how are you -- well, it`s not something that -- that
always comes naturally to me.
The important thing is, in addition to that, is am I getting the
Many of you have told me that this isn`t what you signed up for,
arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fund-raising, always
looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true. I think politicians -- I can`t believe
they love all the time raising money on the phone. I can`t believe
sometimes they have to be cartoonish on shows like this when they come on
and say -- when they know it`s complicated, pretend it`s not.
MATTHEWS: You know?
CHAIT: Right. Well, there`s...
MATTHEWS: But I want to ask you about this -- what`s the word called,
your phrase, "infuriating serenity" because, you know, when he was 20
points behind Hillary in the fall of 2007, I was going nuts.
MATTHEWS: I said, When are you going to turn on the gas? When are
you going to get going here? She`s killing you!
MATTHEWS: And of course, he and David Plouffe and Axelrod and those
people and Gibbs were planning and strategizing how to win all the
CHAIT: Right. It is not -- it`s not infuriating to me. It`s
infuriating to a lot of people in the national media who are covering
politics as a day-to-day drama because there`s always something happening,
and whatever`s happening that day seems really, really important. In fact,
part of it`s your job to make it important and explain the importance to
people so that politics is an engaging drama that...
MATTHEWS: And he`s always, on the other hand, taking the exclamation
points off everything.
CHAIT: That`s right.
DARMAN: That`s what he does.
CHAIT: That`s not how his mind works. He`s a placid guy. He`s
analytical. He thinks long-term. He keeps -- he keeps his cool. And I
think that actually has helped him understand what`s important in the long
run, and he hopes that people will see things the same way over the long
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Darman, what`s your take on the guy`s cadence, his
way of living? It`s almost -- almost different than us. We`re occidental
(ph). It`s everything that happens every 10 seconds. He`s so (INAUDIBLE)
he`s much more comfortable with the deliberative, the long-term, I`ll wait
for it, you know, and we`re all pretty anxious. Your thoughts. Why is he
-- he seems to have a different pace than we do, or at least I do.
DARMAN: He does. And I think what we saw last night is sort of the
up side of that. That same serenity is what allows him to sort of take
those risks in a room like that, which is an incredibly, you know, high-
pressure situation and play off the crowd and have those great moments like
he did when he made -- you know, when he -- when he talked back to the
people who clapped about him not having any more campaigns.
That really takes a certain poise within you to be able to do that,
and he`s remarkable at it. And I think that`s actually an element of the
theater that he likes. I was reminded, watching that speech last night,
that this is a guy who likes politics. He`s a competitive guy, and he
likes this sort of show aspect of it when he feels like he`s playing it on
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you`re right. He certainly liked putting down
the other side last night, let`s face it, when he said, yes it`s because I
won both of them. That will go down in his scrapbook, I`m sure.
Anyway, there`s no end to the feeding, by the way, to feeding the
historian (ph) when it comes to the president`s critics, his enemies out
there, whether it`s the scandals, the public health scares with Ebola or
wild conspiracy theories that never seem to end with this president.
Let`s watch some of them, just remind ourselves what he`s up against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: People need to know how serious this
is. To me, this (INAUDIBLE) may be starting to use the "I" word before too
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, "I" word meaning impeachment?
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This is a
problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington
headquarters, and we`re getting to proving it. We have 18 more transcribed
interviews to do.
DR. BEN CARSON, RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: You know, "Obama care" is
really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Can you imagine if a whole ship full of
our soldiers gets Ebola. It`s a big mistake to downplay it and act as if,
Oh, this is not a big deal, we can control all this. This could get beyond
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that he is a Muslim.
FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: You do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
LUNTZ: How many you believe that here? Wow.
DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR: As the speaker of the
House, as a leader, do you not think it`s your responsibility to stand up
to that kind of ignorance?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: David, it`s not my job
to tell the American people what to think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Darman, I think that little display of crazy
attitude against the president shows what kind of static he`s faced in
trying to explain his role as president of the United States and his role
in history. But it also shows that no matter how disembodied the
Republican Party is, no matter how many voices they put on last night, they
all hurt (ph) a little bit. They all distract a little bit, whether it`s
the -- Donald Trump saying he`s not from this country, whatever, it does --
has slowed his ability to tell his story, it seems.
DARMAN: It has. And I think, you know, one of the things that we`re
going to see when he has a successor is -- are other presidents able to
more connect than he has been in this fractionalized universe, or is this
just the normal in this country now? The president last night expressed
this really noble idea of, We`re still one America. But we do all live in
very different media landscapes and we talk to each other in sort of closed
silos, and we`re really going to have to wait and see how the presidents
that follow Obama deal with that, as to whether this is a...
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a long way off...
DARMAN: ... problem that`s specific to him or not.
MATTHEWS: ... Jonathan Darman. That`s -- you`re talking the spring
of `017. (sic) I want to work around (ph) now. I got the spring of `015
(sic) that we`re thinking about right now.
Jonathan Chait, what I loved about your article and the whole spread
of articles in "New York" magazine -- because people like me, who do live
day to day and week to week -- a lot of us do, daily journalists -- what I
didn`t realize is how much power there was in what he`s done so far and how
some of the times that we`ve gotten all excited, like over Ebola, not a
single, you know, casualty really here after something we thought was going
to be a pandemic!
MATTHEWS: And we`re all jumping up and down like jumping beans!
CHAIT: It`s easy to forget these episodes after they recede into the
past, even if (INAUDIBLE) were terrified about at the time. There`s been
episode after episode like Ebola, where people are freaking out and saying,
This is going to define Obama`s presidency, this is it, this is his
Watergate moment, this is his Katrina moment, it`s now or never. And then
nothing happens, sometimes because they handle it well, sometimes it`s just
not that important. And people are not keeping their eye on the major
pieces of legislation, the major executive changes that he`s really doing
to change American life.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, we`re going to talk a lot more about that. I
thought this week was an important week. Anyway, Jonathan Chait, Jonathan
Darman, great to have you on to play (ph) a real big perspective on what
happened last night and what we should have been thinking about before last
Coming up: After the president`s defiant speech last night, look who`s
got a newfound concern. I don`t know if it`s right or not or true or not -
- income inequality. All of a sudden, Mitt Romney, Joni Ernst, of course,
the castrator, Rand Paul, the liberator, or libertarian, and Ted Cruz, the
least able to believe that one, I`ll tell you. They`re all talking
populism like they`re all Democrats. We`ll see. Are they for real? Are
the Republicans populists?
Plus, the president`s progressive call to action was so much about him
as it was about the future. And for Democrats, the future may well be,
let`s face it, Hillary Clinton. Is the president urging Hillary to run as
a true liberal like he is now identifying himself?
And in politics and in sports, how far is too far to go to win? The
New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl under a cloud of
controversy that they may have deflated game balls to get an edge. Do you
believe it? We`ll see.
Finally, let`s get to the finish tonight to that devilish question.
Are the Republicans -- is Mitt Romney serious about closing the income gap
between the little people and him? Does he want that to happen? Really?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama hit the road after last night`s State
of the Union, and he`s going to some uncharted territory, at least for him.
His first stop was Boise, Idaho, today. It`s a state that`s as red as they
get, and Obama`s never been there as president, at all. And his next stop,
Kansas, isn`t any friendlier for Democrats. Neither state has voted for a
Democrat for president since LBJ`s landslide in `64.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, watching the president`s
State of the Union last night and the Republican responses that followed,
one theme emerged. Everyone is a populist now.
On last night`s show, New York senator Chuck Schumer previewed it and
pointed out that Republicans now are fighting here on Democrats` turf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: You know what`s so interesting,
Chris? They`re no longer using their old rhetoric -- deficit reduction,
cut the government, everything`s too out of control. Instead, they`re
appropriating the president`s rhetoric. They`re talking about the middle
class. They`re talking about job growth. Now they`re on our playing
field. You know, for a few years, we had to play on their playing field.
They`re playing on our playing field. And I wouldn`t be surprised, if
things continue the way they are -- and I have no reason to think they
won`t -- that they`re going to come and compromise with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s optimistic.
The varied Republican responses last night all emphasized populism,
like Senator Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: President Obama offers more of the same
policies, policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Even if this president is not willing to
help solve the fiscal and economic problems facing this country, then it`s
time to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And newly elected Senator Joni Ernst, of course, shared a
story about shoes and bread bags.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Growing up, I had only one good pair of
shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over
them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed because the school bus
would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped
over their feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So why are both parties now talking populism, and of
course, talking about the 47 percent, an infamous term from the last
Joining me right now is South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney and
Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver.
Congressman Mulvaney, it is true, and Mitt Romney has honestly
portrayed it in his confessional, basically, since the election of 2012,
that his being caught, recorded -- and in fact, recorded, talking about how
the Republicans shouldn`t bother with that bottom 47 percent because
they`re already takers. They live off the government. They`ll never
listen to us.
Is this an attempt to repair that damage by talking, as Mitt Romney is
doing, about the need to talk about income inequality?
REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, Chris, I was surprised
by that clip you just played by Senator Schumer who says that we`re now
playing on his grounds because we`re talking about things like fairness and
opportunity and job creation. We`ve been having that conversation as
Republicans for a long time, so I`m not really sure if this is new. It may
be new for Mr. Romney in particular, but Republicans have been talking
about exactly those things in the four years I`ve been in Congress.
MATTHEWS: But have you ever talked as a party about the problem of
the gap between rich and the people less well-off...
MATTHEWS: ... the gap itself as being -- I have never heard
Republicans talk about, there is something wrong with the gap.
Maybe they have -- certainly, they have been for tax cuts to stimulate
the economy. We know all that. But they never seemed to be bothered, your
party, as a party, by the problem that some people are zooming into super
wealth right now, while most people are stuck with wages that haven`t
MULVANEY: Yes, I think you`re -- I think you`re misconstruing a
discusses about that gap with a discussion about redistribution, which we
don`t talk about which -- because we don`t believe in, and if we do talk
about it, it`s in a negative sense.
We don`t believe in redistribution of wealth. But if you have
followed Republican politics, as you have, you know we have talked for
many, many years about trying to raise hardworking Americans, raising
ordinary folks, raising the middle class through various policies. So, no,
it`s not new for us by any stretch of the imagination.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Congressman Cleaver.
Thank you, sir, for coming on as well.
And it seems like the Democratic Party is very much supportive of a
progressive tax system, where you tax the people with the most ability to
pay taxes. And that has been a part of the tradition of the progressives.
It`s also consistent with the word progressive tax.
The president is pushing that now, $3,000 child tax care credits for
people who need them and then, of course, being paid for by hitting the 1
percent at the top. He`s being very clear about it. It seems to me that
is a prescription for dealing with income inequality. That`s a real one.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Well, two things.
First of all, I don`t know any Democrats who are talking about income
redistribution. But if I can just go back just a second -- and I will do
it quickly, Chris -- you mentioned earlier the president going into Idaho
and then into Kansas, red states.
CLEAVER: As is his faith tradition, you want to concentrate on people
who you want to convert.
And so I think that`s why he goes into those areas. But he has also
been magnificent in converting people because now Mitt Romney, who I think
has been converted, is doing the same thing that the president did in the
Look, people who are wealthy ought to thank God that they have gained
that wealth in this fabulous nation of ours. And because they have been so
blessed, they believe that they ought to share more with the well-being of
That`s not wealth distribution. It`s called, you know, paying your
taxes equally. So I hope that we look at the -- at what`s going on now as
a conversion. People are -- have been converted to the populism that we
have been presenting, I think, now for decades.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president was successful last night in
moving the Republicans to compromise, or was he too sarcastic toward them
in that little joke back and forth about winning two elections? Do you
think he primed them for a deal or ticked them off?
CLEAVER: Well, I don`t think what he said last night is going to have
any impact at all.
But what I think is important, though -- and I wish he hadn`t said it,
but it`s irrelevant now -- Ronald Reagan, people need to remember, in 1985
talked about all the bills he was going to veto, and then said to the
Democrats, make my day.
CLEAVER: Now, if that`s if -- if what the president did last night
was taunting, so was what Reagan said.
And if I had a name for this place where we work, it would be, in a
religious term, the taunting tabernacle.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over to Congressman Mulvaney about that.
The taunting went on last night. I saw the president had a piece of
the action there, too, taunting back to the people who were doing their
sarcastic clap at him. He went back and whacked them by saying, I don`t
have to run again because I have won twice.
MATTHEWS: And then he put that beautiful little smile he knows how to
do it back on it to try make up for it.
But what kind of mood is your caucus in right now? Are you a little
ticked off that he sort of won the night, that he was doing a victory lap
in the end zone? Or what was your mood? I don`t want to tell you what it
is. You tell me.
MULVANEY: Well, the funny part about the clapping yesterday when he
said he wasn`t going to run again is it actually came from the audience in
the balcony and not from the members on the floor.
MULVANEY: I don`t think that was really widely reported.
MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t know it. That`s why I didn`t report it. I
thought it was coming from your caucus.
Our attitude is probably more disappointment than anything else. The
president could have done two things last night. He could have said, look,
I just got waxed in a midterm election. Maybe it`s time for me to start
working with these folks. Or he could have said, I have only got two years
and I don`t care about you folks and here`s what I would like to do in a
And he did the latter. I just don`t think it set the tone. We will
ignore it. I enjoy working with gentlemen like Mr. Cleaver. We will
continue to work through that in the House.
MULVANEY: But if the president was trying to set the tone last night,
it wasn`t very productive.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think Joni Ernst, the new senator from Iowa,
had a -- made a good appearance last night. I don`t think she hurt herself
at all at home in Iowa.
But I did wonder why it was such a narrow prescription she offered.
She said, the Keystone pipeline, we`re going to -- Keystone pipeline,
that`s probably going to become law at some point.
But why is that the main and really only thing she really pushed as
MULVANEY: No, I actually -- I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: Give me some other things she was for.
MATTHEWS: Well, give me something else that you were willing to say
you were for last night.
MULVANEY: Oh, sure.
Well, we have already passed a 40-hour workweek. We`re going to pass
a repeal of the IPAB in the next couple of weeks. We`re going to pass
things that deal with tax fairness. We haven`t talked about tax fairness.
Mr. Cleaver mentioned the rich paying more. The top 1 percent already earn
-- only earn 20 percent of the income. That`s a lot. But they pay 40
percent of the tax.
We want to talk about tax fairness. But back to Joni`s speech last
night, I think the message was, we`re willing to focus on things that are
actually accomplishable in this Congress. And we sort of opened the door
to the president, look, why don`t you work with us on Keystone?
If he wants to go and solve the larger problems, how do you solve the
larger problems if we can`t agree on Keystone? So I think Joni`s speech
last night was as much an invitation to work as anything else. And I`m
again disappointed that that hasn`t been accepted by that -- as that by the
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Cleaver for a listen point.
Do you see compromise here? I don`t believe there`s a lot of common
ground between the two parties. But you have got Keystone, which the
Republicans want and some Democrats. You have got infrastructure spending
which creates jobs in all the big cities around the country. And it seems
Democrats -- is there a compromise there? Is there a compromise on
infrastructure with Keystone? Is there a compromise about tax reform that
somehow gives a break to the middle?
CLEAVER: I think so.
You know, one of the best parts of the speech last night was when the
president talked about working together and about all of the chaos and, you
know, partisanship that we see today. But I do think we can work together.
You know, I would compromise on some things that I don`t feel really
strongly about seeing approved, such as Keystone, if we could get something
like the transportation bill, where we can catch up with China on
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said.
CLEAVER: I would do that in a heartbeat.
MULVANEY: Hard to do when the president...
MATTHEWS: Boy, that sounds like -- that sounds like what I would love
You know, I think of this country and having been to China recently,
gentlemen, and to see how those trains go 300 miles an hour, you don`t hear
a sound, and that country knows how to get around, and we`re still running
Amtrak here, which is OK, but it`s not state-of-the-art.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Congressman
Up next, Ted Cruz gave an impromptu response of his own to President
Obama`s State of the Union last night. It didn`t exactly go as planned. A
little fun here we`re going to have with Mr. Cruz in the "Sideshow," where
actually he belongs.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": The Obamas
invited 22 guests to the speech, including a former Cuban prisoner, an
astronaut, and a doctor. Another one of the guests was the CEO of CVS.
He was there, yes, which explains why this year Obama`s speech was
printed on one long CVS receipt.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FALLON: All right. I`m holding half-a-tree in my hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love those CVS receipts. They always come with a deal.
Anyway, time now for the "Sideshow."
That was Jimmy Fallon, of course, on what was obviously a big night in
Washington. But while the State of the Union is generally a serious
affair, there were some amusing highlights.
Earlier in the evening, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer seized an
opportunity to taunt the Republicans over an incident from last summer.
Back in August, many Republicans had expressed their outrage over the
president`s wardrobe choice when he dared to wear a tan suit at a press
conference. They didn`t like the president`s tan suit.
So in a clear attempt to belittle Republican criticism last night,
Pfeiffer tweeted out this photograph, supposedly from the president`s
dressing room, implying that the president would in fact double down on the
tan suit for the State of the Union.
The caption reads, "The president`s suiting up for the big speech..
tune into at 9:00. #yeswetan."
Anyway, meanwhile, while delivering the Republican response, Senator
Joni Ernst spoke poignantly about wearing bread bags over her shoes to keep
them dry in the rain when she was a child. But her choice of footwear last
night also made a big impression. She was wearing a pair of camouflage
heels, a fashion statement that may well have played well to her gun-toting
In addition to that official rebuttal, by the way, Republican Senator
Ted Cruz forewarned that he would release what his office called an
impromptu response of his own last night. However, Cruz might have been a
little too hurried or harried because the video he posted accidentally
included a botched line that he meant to edit out, but didn`t.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The president tried to say his policies are
lifting the middle class. And yet, today, median incomes have stagnated
for over a decade.
Let me start over.
Tonight, America saw a powerful demonstration that it is time to move
on beyond President Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator, once more with feeling.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Obama`s triumphant and progressive
speech last night sharpens the battle line for 2016 and possibly hands the
baton to Hillary Clinton. We will get to that next with the roundtable
coming up here in a minute.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
President Obama traveled to Boise, Idaho, on his first post-State of
the Union trip. The president focused on middle-class economics like
affordable education and tax breaks, which will face an uphill battle in
the Republican-controlled Congress.
Two bodies have been found at the scene of a four-alarm fire that
destroyed a Maryland mansion. Six people were unaccounted for after that
And a massive fire is burning at this hour at a residential building
in Edgewater, New Jersey. No injuries have been reported -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The president took some steps last night to shape and define the
fights important to his party, to the Democrats in the years to come, and
especially the 2016 election, which is coming on strong, by pushing issues
like paid sick leave, free tuition for community college, infrastructure
investments, tax cuts for the middle and working class, tax increases for
President Obama is starting to pass the baton, I think, to his
successor, who is probably going to be Hillary Clinton. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next
fifteen years, and for decades to come.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly
well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising
incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that sounded like Democratic applause coming from one
half of the room there.
Anyway, the former secretary of state showed her support for the man
she`d like to replace by tweeting, "Barack Obama`s State of the Union
pointed the way," she said, "to an economy that works for all. And now we
need to step up and deliver for the middle class #fairshot #fairshare."
As President Obama continues to pave a populist path forward, it
appears Hillary Clinton is likely to embrace those same policies.
Joining me right now to talk about it, our roundtable, Joe Madison,
SiriusXM radio talk show host, Jackie Kucinich, senior politics editor for
The Daily Beast, and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother
Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.
Jackie, I want you to start on this.
It seems to me that the president gave a -- Cokie Roberts said this, s
morning on "MORNING JOE." She it`s a Democratic speech. Of course it was.
It wasn`t aimed at, we`re all in this together. It was saying, basically,
the government has got to play a positive role, it`s got to do things which
are going to bother rich people, raise them taxes, give more of a tax break
to regular people, get people into jobs, technical education through
community college, stuff for people that vote Democrat.
Is this something Hillary Clinton is being -- is he saying to Hillary
Clinton, I want you to do the same thing, we got to do it together?
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it`s a really familiar baton
If you look back at what she pushed in 2008, she talked about making
the tax rate go back to the same one in the `90s and she talked a lot about
the middle class and she talked a lot about the same themes. So, I don`t
know if it`s an unfamiliar baton for her to take anyway. And she`s been --
we have seen her start talking more and more and more about the middle
class, since Senator Warren has been around.
MATTHEWS: And 85 percent of Democrats say they want Hillary to run.
I get the feeling that this party, which is usually in disarray -- you know
the old alliteration, Democrats in disarray? It doesn`t seem to be
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the interesting
thing about Obama is that I think he has always played the long game.
He seems to have this vision that extends beyond the immediate
horizon. This has been throughout his presidency. You have probably
talked to him about it. I know I have. And I think what he`s doing now,
he said the next 15 years. He`s only president for the next two years.
And he`s always had this idea that there is this debate in this
country over values.
CORN: This is how he beat Mitt Romney.
He turned the 2012 campaign into a debate about political values and
what we do as a community, as a government together. And he applied that
to the speech last night, a progressive, somewhat populistic, Democratic
And so, I mean, he -- Hillary Clinton doesn`t have to do this, but I
think you`re right. She gave a speech at the New America Foundation a few
months ago, which she sounded just like, who? Elizabeth Warren.
CORN: So, this is not an unfamiliar territory. He`s sort of paving
the way because he wants his legacy to be this continuing discussion.
MADISON: He also knows that he`s got a Republican Party in disarray.
MADISON: I mean, the reality is --
MATTHEWS: Five voices last night.
MADISON: Five. They are divided but this is the most important but
not diverse. They -- I mean, really. They are divided but not diverse.
So, I think --
MATTHEWS: You know, that`s so true. They are all hawks. I mean,
they are all hawks.
CORN: Except Rand Paul.
MATTHEWS: OK, one out of 150 guys. We`re going to war. We`re going
to fight here, we`re going to fight there, we`re going to fight in Syria,
we`re going to fight in Iran, we`re fighting everywhere.
MADISON: Yes. So I think he has them. He really absolutely has them
right where he wants them. And --
CORN: And after losing this election, it`s kind of a weird thing to
MADISON: Well, but he has. He does, because now they have to govern
and this is what the American people are -- what are you going to deliver?
You can`t just keep saying no to -- you are not now saying no to the
president. You`re now saying no to values.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Bill Clinton used to do this really well, and I think
the president was doing it last night. People work hard and play by the
rules. If a young kid, 17 years old, is thinking of his future, if he has
one, so he needs one, a guy.
I think of boys especially and I`m thinking -- because I was one in
some of those neighborhoods before they changed, these are tough
neighborhoods. The chance to go into crime is easy. There`s always going
to be someone selling you on that.
But the chance to go and actually imagine yourself making really good
money, you know, as a technical guy, a kid who can really imagine having --
being proud to have it, there`s no doorway for that now. There just isn`t.
You know, he says community college, I wish they would bring it home and
say not going back for photography classes or catching up with Shakespeare,
but this is going to get you a job up to $100,000 a year.
CORN: Or get you to another school. A lot of pathway for kids to
college now, real college and university. It`s through the community
college system. It`s a back-doorway to getting more education because the
manufacturing jobs are somewhat coming back. They`re not going to be able
to give those type of kids, those high incomes.
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: But here`s the thing. If you`re a
Republican buy-in here, you can`t just make attacks on the wealthy. It`s
like the fundamental reason that some people are Republicans and Democrats,
some of these tax issues. And so, I think there`s a little bit too much
stick and not enough carrots in some of these proposals, which is why
they`re not going to go anywhere.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think this going after Wall Street and
just whacking it the way Elizabeth Warren. She doesn`t just go to help the
little people, she says let`s screw the big people. I mean, that`s a big
part of her theme.
MADISON: Well, I don`t know if she`s saying, let`s screw them all.
MATTHEWS: She doesn`t say it that way. Let me tell you, Joe --
MADISON: She wants to play by the rules.
MATTHEWS: If you had to draw a line, you`d say, Republicans don`t
like government and you`d say Democrats really don`t like big business.
They don`t like it. Big corporations have a too easy ride, they`re not
regulated enough, they make too much, and the average guy is getting hurt
MADISON: I draw the line differently. I draw the line -- Republicans
always talk about personal responsibility. Personal responsibility. I
mean, they do this to the black community all the time. Personal
Now, progressives, unfortunately, spend too much time talking about
public policy, public policy. The reality is, all of us sitting here know
it`s a combination of both. That`s the reality.
So, it`s public policy to say we`ve got 12 years public education
which made this country what it is today. It`s now 12 years plus, too,
because that`s the only way this country and it is young people are going
to compete in a global economy, and that`s what I heard --
MATTHEWS: Well, put that together because that`s a well -- good --
suppose a family is working hard, they`re making very moderate income,
husband and wife are both working. The kids get to the point where they`ve
finished high school, they`ve done their homework, they got B`s, maybe B-
pluses, maybe not. How`s the government supposed to be right there meeting
them at the age of 17? What`s the government going to be? When the
parents have done their job and is this kid going to do a liftoff or drop
down, where has the government got to be there?
MADISON: Well, the government has got to be where it was when G.I.s
came home from the war.
MADISON: That`s what it has to be.
CORN: But the countries we compete with, if you look at other Western
democracies and emerging nations, a lot of them, they actually go to
college with tuition assistance or there`s much more free public colleges.
In-state tuitions have exploded in this country. You used to be able to go
to an in-state university or college, really at a very cheap rate. That`s
becoming part of that --
MATTHEWS: Let`s make an opportunity for all. Will Joe Biden
challenge Hillary Clinton? Because he said he hasn`t decided yet.
KUCINICH: I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: Why is he saying that he hasn`t decided it?
KUCINICH: I think he wants to be relevant. The minute he says that,
you know what, I`m not doing this, it will be like, OK, thanks, Uncle Joe.
MADISON: It`s true.
KUCINICH: He wants to stay relevant.
CORN: It`s his chance. He didn`t say he was 2 percent but he said
there`s a chance.
MATTHEWS: When will he say I`ve decided?
CORN: After she gets in.
MATTHEWS: The latest testament, if she gets in April, he`s got a few
months. If it wasn`t for Hillary Clinton --
MATTHEWS: I think he`d be one of the very possible candidates if it
wasn`t for Hillary. But she does -- look at these numbers, 85 percent of
the people are rooting for her to get in this thing of the Democrats.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.
And, by they way, up next, from politics to sports -- we`re going to
get into this amazingly complicated for some people, maybe me, the New
England Patriots and whether they took the air out of the footballs to help
them get to the football. This is fascinating politics. And what`s it
going to mean?
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Late today, the Senate voted down two amendments to the
Keystone pipeline bill stating that human activity does contribute to
climate change. The first amendment read, climate change is real and human
activity contributes to climate change. It failed 59 to 40. The second
amendment went a step further saying climate change is real and human
activity significantly contributes to it. It failed 50 to 49.
But the Senate did pass an amendment acknowledging the simple fact
that climate changes over time. Well, it does, doesn`t it? That passed 98
to 1. What a meaningless waste of time.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back right now, with a question every football
fan out there is asking today. Did the New England Patriots cheat?
The Super Bowl, the country`s biggest sports and cultural event of the
year, is just 11 days away right now. But questions are swirling already
about one of the teams set to take the field.
According to ESPN, the NFL has found that 11 of the New England
Patriots 12-game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL`s
requirements at last Sunday`s AFC championship game. There`s been no
official from the league which says it`s still investigating.
The Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team will cooperate with
But in the sports media, the scandal has been dubbed deflate-gate. As
"USA Today`s" sports columnist Jarrett Bell wrote today, "One might be an
accident, and three could be a coincidence. Yet, when the New England
Patriots come to the game with 11 of their 12 footballs deemed to be
illegal by NFL standards, it looks to be seriously shady."
We`re back now with our panel. Of course, Joe, David, and Jackie.
Joe, I want you to answer this because apparently two hours before the
game, the balls are weighed, they`re tested for air pressure, they made
sure that they were official. This is what it`s supposed to be. It`s not
MATTHEWS: Because it affects how you handle the ball.
MATTHEWS: Apparently in that two hours, 11 of the 12 game balls were
deflated significantly. Somebody did it.
MADISON: Yes, I`ll give you 11 balls, I`ll give you 11 balls, and
then what will happen is, you`re now in control of them, the team.
CORN: Each team controls its own ball.
In the NFL, there`s an honor system. Go figure.
MADISON: Well, and at that time you can do -- apparently whatever you
want to them. Now, this is about physics. Because what happens is, one,
it`s easier to catch.
MATTHEWS: If it`s less inflated.
MADISON: Because it`s palatable.
MADISON: And in cold weather quite honestly, it`s easier to throw.
So, look, who was it, Hal Davis said, if you`re not cheating, you`re not
trying to win.
MATTHEWS: Let`s not --
MADISON: That`s what you hear on sports talk a lot.
MATTHEWS: But the referees are getting their hands on the ball every
MADISON: That`s the other thing. You would have to sit back and say,
wait a minute, if throughout that entire game every time a play is run I
throw it to the referee. And the referee, no one said anything. Not one
MATTHEWS: So, it took the safety who intercepted Brady a couple of
times to notice the ball seemed to be more supple. Something was going on
MADISON: Right, and then he went over and they tested it. That`s
when they said something`s not right here.
CORN: What`s interesting is they test the balls two hours and 15
minutes before the game. Then they give them back to the teams. That
means in those two hours, someone had to take, let`s say proactive steps,
to get the ball --
MATTHEWS: But you`re talking about expediency here and it ends just
by me (ph).
Bottom line, they won the game big. They walked away with the game
KUCINICH: I think we talked about earlier, it could have been
MATTHEWS: But what about now? Suppose this turned out -- OK, I
deflated the ball. It helped us win the game. What can they do? They
fine. But still the message is to the ball players and to the team, if you
get fined, you still get to the Super Bowl.
KUCINICH: And right ahead of the Super Bowl, too. This is all going
right into the Super Bowl.
CORN: Last time Bill Belichick got caught for cheating, which is a
big deal, he personally got fined half a million dollars and Patriots lost
several draft picks, one of two, I think.
MATTHEWS: So, it could be draft picks. It could be down the road.
It`s not the Super Bowl.
MADISON: But the sad thing now is, now, the Super Bowl is going to be
about deflated balls. I guarantee you, that`s what you`re going to see.
MATTHEWS: Will it take the air out of the game?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joe Madison, Jackie Kucinich, David Corn -
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with that devilish question:
are Republicans serious about closing the income gap? Really?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
I think the Republicans, a lot of them at least, are getting the word
on income and equality. In 2012, Rick Santorum got it. Recently, Mitt
Romney picked up on it.
The reason for these conversions differ. Santorum running against
Romney the last time could obviously see the inability of his wealthy,
well-born rival to appeal to regular income Republicans. He saw the
opportunity to reach for what he called, what he used to cloth coat
Republicans, those of moderate income who believe in the conservative
Mitt Romney`s conversion came after his defeat for president. He
confessed that his failure to defeat the president in 2012 had much to do
with his being recorded deriding what he called the 47 percent of Americans
who depend on government, the takers. He said he didn`t have anything to
offer them. He was therefore had to win over the voters who make the top
53 percent of the country.
Well, anyway, the word is out now. If you`re a Republican and still
wants to be president, and so many of them do obviously, don`t let the
Democrats get easy dibs on votes of people who find themselves in economic
difficulty. If you want to actually win, you need to contest for the votes
of people who are not better off.
Well, this, one could argue, is how democracy is supposed to work. It
forces all candidates to submit to popular thinking. The country thinks
working people need a break, if they think there`s too much inequality in
the country, they`re going to vote that way. They`re going to pick leaders
If you want to be a leader, start talking about income inequality.
And so, we have today a Mitt Romney of all people out there talking like
he`s a GOP version of Senator Elizabeth Warren or Pope Francis or whoever
else you think of as caring about this rich getting richer thing and poor
Jesus, of course, said, that the poor we have always with us. They`re
not new to the scene, the poor people. What`s new is the political appeal
of noticing them and at least offering to do something about their standing
in this country.
Well, let`s be pragmatic, this isn`t much of a bad thing, actually
having the two parties out there talking the right talk at least about the
income gap between the top and those worse off. The trick is to get both
parties actually doing something together, or more likely competing to come
up with the best program for people. We`ve got problems. It could be that
someone, the president, the speaker, Senator McConnell, Mitt, someone in
these conversations will come up with something that grabs not just the
headlines, but truly gets to the problem of income inequality, because
unlike some of the talk, it`s real.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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