updated 10/20/2015 9:26:38 AM ET 2015-10-20T13:26:38

Show: HARDBALL
Date: October 19, 2015
Guest: Eliana Johnson, Paul Singer, Susan Page, Steve McMahon, Adam
Schiff, Francesca Chambers, Sahil Kapur, Rebecca Berg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: He kept us safe. No, he didn`t.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. It was warm in the
sun today, but the strong chill in the shade reminds us that winter is
coming and soon it will be Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New
Year`s, and by then, we will be in the thick of picking a president.

What strikes me about the campaign so far is that it took a political
newcomer, Donald Trump, to say something we already knew but nobody had
said before, that President George W. Bush did not keep us safe in the
eight years he was president of the United States.

He didn`t keep us safe or the people on those planes, those four
planes, safe that day. He didn`t keep those safe, those men and women
forced to choose between jumping from 100-story roof and being killed by
the smoke and the fire. And he didn`t keep safe the hundreds of
firefighters killed that day doing their courageous duty.

So why did his brother make such a claim? Why did Jeb tell the
audience in a Republican debate last week, and to great and expected
applause, that his brother kept us safe? He said it because he knew he
could not only get away with it, but could trigger a wild cheer for it
because he knew the country had been told not to look at what steps were
taken and not taken in the hours, days, weeks, months before September 11,
2001.

We`ve been told not to look at the casualties we`ve taken in Iraq, a
war that had nothing to do with 9/11, except that our president and his
strong-minded advisers had used 9/11 to justify a war they wanted for their
own reasons.

Well, the partisans of President George W. Bush say we can`t say this,
any of it. His brother, Jeb, says that only those on the country`s margins
even think this. Really?

But the Bushes and their partisans can charge Hillary Clinton for what
happened in a remote building in war-torn North Africa, miles, 400 miles
from the capital of that country.

Let`s put those two events together for just a moment mentally, one on
9/11/2001, the other on the same date in 2012. New York City, the United
States` financial center is hit by two jetliners. The center of our
military command an control located in Washington, D.C., is hit by another.
Still a fourth plane is downed by courageous passengers on a course to the
Capitol. All after warning was given to the president that, quote, "Bin
laden determined to attack in the U.S."

We were hit here in our country, the homeland, as the ideologues have
gotten us to call it now, by a concerted, highly coordinated attack using
our commercial airliners and our training, and no one is to blame.

But when an outpost 400 miles from the capital city in a North African
country with nothing approaching a normal security situation, Well, then
Hillary Clinton back in the United States is painted as the villain, as if
it was she who left the window open that night.

Again, I want to thank Trump, and Jeb, of course, for finally getting
this one out in the open, by throwing out the red meat. By saying, "He
kept us safe," Jeb let us know what we knew already, that actually, W.
didn`t keep us safe, did he.

NBC`s Katy Tur is in Anderson, South Carolina, tonight, where Donald
Trump just finished a campaign rally tonight. Katy, I am not a big fan of
Donald Trump on many occasions, on many fronts, but he woke open -- I think
he woke up this campaign. He awakened us all to the fact that Jeb said
something that just isn`t true. His brother did not keep us safe.

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I got to tell you, Chris, he did not
mention that once tonight at the rally. And if he did, I just didn`t hear
it. Maybe I was doing a live shot, but he did not mention Jeb Bush or 9/11
once at this rally, which is pretty shocking. Usually, when he sees an
opening, he takes it for as long as he can.

And this Jeb opening with 9/11 has certainly got him a few headlines
and got him some attention. So I`m wondering if he just didn`t think that
this crowd was necessarily the crowd to be speaking about it with.

I did speak with some people here before the rally started and asked
them whether or not they thought it was a good idea to bring 9/11 into this
election cycle. And many of them told me, no, they didn`t believe so, but
that they would still vote for Donald Trump. But this is pretty a
conservative crowd out here. When you talk...

MATTHEWS: It`s hawkish.

TUR: ... to a number of liberals -- a number of liberals -- and you
talk to them, though, they`ll you that, yes, they do believe that Donald
Trump is right in this respect, and this is what I`ve been saying now for a
few months, that Donald Trump has the ability in some ways to cross over to
the other side because he does hold some pretty liberal positions. He
(INAUDIBLE) say things that pretty are against the grain when it comes to
conservative Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look. I think he`s probably modulating
his pitch because he`s down in hawk country of South Carolina. Anyway, on
Friday, as I said, Donald Trump took issue with Jeb Bush`s assertion that
his brother, George W. Bush kept us safe. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George
Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during
his time. If you look at...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on! You can`t blame George Bush for that.

TRUMP: Well, He was president, OK? Don`t blame him or don`t blame
him, but he was president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what that reporter meant, you can`t bring him
into this. He`s into it.

Anyway, Trump defended those comments over the weekend. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Jeb said, We were safe with my brother. We were safe. Well,
the World Trade Center just fell down. Now, am I trying to blame him? I`m
not blaming anybody, but the World Trade Center came down. So when he said
we were safe, that`s not safe. We lost 3,000 people. It was one of the
greatest -- probably the greatest catastrophe ever in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Here`s how Jeb Bush responded this weekend defending his
brother and attacking Trump. But if you listen carefully, he doesn`t quite
say what he`s saying here. Watch this. Watch how he gets around this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My brother
responded to a crisis, and he did it as you would hope a president would
do. He united the country. He organized our country and he kept us safe.
And there`s no denying that. The great majority of Americans believe that.

And I don`t know why he keeps bringing this up. It doesn`t show that
he`s a serious person as it relates to being commander-in-chief and being
the architect of a foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, again, Katy, the -- Jeb Bush`s defense is to not talk
about before 9/11, only talked as if Jeb`s brother became president -- he
was inaugurated the day after 9/11, which is certainly an discrete way to
defend (ph) your brother -- he`s not responsible for what went wrong during
his administration, only what went right. Of course, then he never talks
about the fact he took us into a war of choice in Iraq. He only mentions
that initial response, which was a uniting set of months there.

TUR: Well, Jeb really doesn`t have much of a choice here. He`s got
to defend his brother on his record. He`s kind of -- you now, it`s do or
die for him, in a certain way, when it comes to this. Seventeen of his
twenty-one foreign policy advisers are former George W. Bush foreign policy
advisers.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUR: He is in that camp. And it`s his brother. It`s his brother.
He`s got to defend his brother. He can`t be seen as going against his
brother or going against his family. So in a lot of ways, it`s a double-
edged sword for him. He has no choice here.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. You`re right. Paul Wolfowitz is unlikely
to advise him to go against his brother, since Paul Wolfowitz was key to
his brother`s mishaps. Same with John Bolton, a bunch of the rest of them.

Thank you, NBC`s Katy Tur, who`s on the magical mystery tour with
Donald Trump, by the way.

Anyway, the war of words between Trump and Bush stretched on line,
with Jeb Bush`s campaign releasing this Web ad attacking Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has said publicly that he watches cable news
and that`s one of the ways that he bones up on our national security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump says he, quote, "always felt that I was in
the military," despite never serving in the military and draft deferments
during Vietnam.

TRUMP: There`s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump tweeted today, "Jeb is fighting to defend a
catastrophic event. I`m fighting to make sure it doesn`t happen again.
Jeb is too soft. We need tougher and sharper."

I`m joined right now by Eliana Johnson, Washington editor for "The
National Review," and Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for "USA
Today."

This is an unusual opening in the campaign because the Democrats never
had the stones to go out and challenge George W. and say, Look, buddy,
don`t talk about what a warrior king you are. You left the door open,
because they probably felt that would be un-nice.

Trump isn`t (sic) un-nice. He`s willing to be tough, especially when
the guy running against him has the -- really, the stupidity to say, My
brother kept us safe, in the face of 9/11. He could have said, We did a
pretty good job of uniting after the worst catastrophe in history. That`s
not what he said. He said, He kept us safe. Eliana.

ELIANA JOHNSON, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think Trump`s going to
feature you in his first ad, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think so.

JOHNSON: You know, people like to think Trump is an off-the-cuff
communicator, and in fact, I think he`s tremendously strategic. What he
did with this attack on George Bush is, number one, he got under Jeb Bush`s
skin.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JOHNSON: The guy is a natural provocateur.

MATTHEWS: Is he thinking down the road that Jeb might be a threat to
him, maybe -- maybe March 1st? He`s no threat to him now. Jeb`s not
challenging him between now and Christmas or even perhaps between now and
Iowa, February 1st. But is he trying to knock him out now early?

JOHNSON: Well, sure. Number two, what he did is he made Jeb Bush`s
family the subject of this. What`s the one thing Bush has been trying to
avoid this entire election cycle? Talking about his family, reminding
people that he`s a Bush.

PAUL SINGER, "USA TODAY": But It also gave Jeb Bush an opening to get
into a fight with Donald Trump, which gets him in the headlines, which he
hasn`t been in three-and-a-half weeks. So there`s...

MATTHEWS: Who`s going to take his side?

SINGER: There`s a little bit of something for everybody...

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re right, but he comes in defending the Republican
establishment. And it`s in the interests of the establishment to say that
George W. Bush was a pretty good president.

SINGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Not a clown or disaster...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... 9/11 could make him. Go ahead.

SINGER: It`s the Bush family. It`s father Bush. It`s son Bush.
It`s the -- there`s something to be said for Jeb Bush to say, You can stand
by my name and trust us, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes, well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... see how well that holds up.

A brand-new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll out tonight shows Trump
continuing to lead the Republican field of candidates. Trump gets the
support of 25 percent. Ben Carson is close behind at 22 percent. They`re
followed by Marco Rubio at 13 percent. Jeb Bush is far back in fifth
place. He`s just got 8, that`s 1 in 12 -- 1 in 12 for a guy that everybody
knows.

Meanwhile, Eliana, you reported that many in the Republican
establishment are starting to believe something that was once unthinkable.
Quote -- it`s in your -- I love reading your reporting to you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: "It began as whispers in hushed corners. Could it ever
happen? Now, just three months from the Iowa caucuses, members of the
Republican establishment are starting to give voice to an increasingly
common belief that Trump, once dismissed as a joke, a carnival barker and a
circus freak, might very well win the nomination."

So are these people you`re talking to, sources, are they, like, county
and state chairs? What kind of people are they who are actually beginning
to worry that...

JOHNSON: These are people...

MATTHEWS: ... the ancien regime is falling.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Yes. I think this is a recognition that the Republican
establishment, as we knew it in the past elections, is cratering and
crumbling. And you know, look how the narrative has shifted. When Trump
got in the race in June, people were saying, We`re worried he`s going to
damage the Republican brand from his incendiary statements. Fast forward
four months. The concern is the guy`s going to get the nomination. That`s
a tremendous shift.

MATTHEWS: What is the Republican Party today? Is it -- I`m looking
at the numbers we just threw up there -- 25 for Donald Trump, 23...

SINGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... almost 50 percent right there of the top two -- neither
of them has ever held office or wanted to hold elective office. Then you
can probably throw in Fiorina`s vote, and it`s well over 50 percent. And
the establishment candidates have squat!

SINGER: Right, and you remember, This is sort of the coalition
government that we are beginning to see. It`s going on in the House of
Representatives. This is -- it`s fracturing into an unmanageable party.
And the question is...

MATTHEWS: Is it a party?

SINGER: Well, and...

MATTHEWS: The cover of -- the cover of "The Examiner" today, the big,
glossy magazine comes out once a week...

SINGER: Is it one party?

MATTHEWS: ... is it still a party? Anyway, Trump is not only
challenging George Bush over the 9/11 attacks, but also his invasion in
Iraq. Beginning to sound like me on the second one.

Today, he was challenged on both points by FOX News hosts. Let`s
watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you pick this argument? Because this is
a Michael Moore leftist, "I hate everything Republican" argument. Why
would you take this? Like, what benefit is it?

TRUMP: Well, actually, I didn`t take this argument. I`m not -- I`m
not blaming anybody. I don`t like to go back and blame. I like to look to
the future. I`m not blaming anybody. The only thing I said -- well, you
know, he said we were safe. Well, the fact is, we had the worst attack in
the history of our country during his reign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Post 9/11, many people, many Americans would say
that President George W. Bush did everything in his power and did, indeed,
keep us safe, free from another attack. You would not deny that, would
you?

TRUMP: Well, we attacked a different country, which I think was the
wrong country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sometimes reporters talk like Moonies! I mean, the
question was, was Jeb Bush right to say he kept us safe? And if you look
at the statement, over the eight years of his presidency, you can`t say
that`s accurate. So they don`t answer the question. They go back to, No
one would doubt after that -- why do they keep rephrasing the question...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGER: Well, who do we blame for Pearl Harbor, right?

MATTHEWS: Well, no. There was tremendous investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Paul, young man, there were tremendous, tremendous
conspiracy theories coming out of Pearl Harbor. There was amazing amount
of investigations. And I think a lot of admirals lost their ranks over it.
And among other people, my father and a lot of people on the conservative
side of things...

SINGER: And we still...

MATTHEWS: ... still thought he did it to set us up for a war. You
know those stories.

(CROSSTALK)

SINGER: ... a whole new Department of Homeland Security to fix the
problems of 9/11, right? It`s...

MATTHEWS: So what`s your point?

SINGER: My point is that you could make the argument...

MATTHEWS: Did he keep us safe for eight years?

SINGER: You can make the argument...

MATTHEWS: No, did he keep safe?

SINGER: We were surprise attacked and then...

MATTHEWS: Did he keep us safe?

SINGER: That`s not my job. I`m telling you...

MATTHEWS: No, you thought he kept us safe for eight years.

SINGER: I believe that after 9/11...

MATTHEWS: No. I`m just asking you...

SINGER: ... there were no more attacks...

MATTHEWS: ... parse the statement made by Jeb Bush about his brother.

SINGER: I would not...

MATTHEWS: Did he keep us safe?

SINGER: I would not say that the nation was safe for eight years
(INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, why would he -- that`s all that Trump is saying.

JOHNSON: Look, I think there -- it`s fair game to ask about what sort
of -- you know, George W. Bush kept us safe before 9/11 and as Bill Clinton
kept us safe before 9/11. However, I also think it`s fair game to ask if
Hillary Clinton kept, you know, American service people safe in Benghazi.
I don`t...

MATTHEWS: So you think that was something that she could have handled
herself personally, that she could have kept them from being attacked.

JOHNSON: I think her and all of her staff...

MATTHEWS: How could...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How could she have prevented that?

JOHNSON: I think they`re both -- I think they`re both fair game.

MATTHEWS: What do you think she did wrong that night?

JOHNSON: Well, I think the State Department could have responded to
requests for more security.

MATTHEWS: But what about that -- but about when the attack came? Do
you think she handled that wrong?

JOHNSON: I don`t know enough to answer that question. But you know,
there were requests for more service (ph). And I think both questions are
air game. I don`t think one is and the other isn`t.

MATTHEWS: OK, so now we`re back to it`s fair game to question...

SINGER: It`s part of your record.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was the main point of my opening salvo, by the
way, good for the goose, good for the gander, as they say.

JOHNSON: I`m with you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I finally got you to the truth there, Paul.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think it`s interesting. It`s very hard to think
radically, and I think that`s what that reporter had a problem with when he
first said it because we`ve been dog-trained to think, Oh, 9/11 was a
weather condition. After that, he was great. He rallied us, and then he
took us into a wrong war within a year or two. Thank you, Eliana Johnson.
This stuff matters to me.

JOHNSON: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Paul Singer -- matters to both of you, I`m sure.

Coming up next -- Joe Biden is getting very close to making his
decision about running for president. There are new clues that he`s likely
in, but we`re told he could announce within the next 48 hours. Of course,
anybody could announce in the next 48 hours.

Plus, Hillary Clinton gearing up for her testimony this Thursday
before the Benghazi committee, as the Democrats on the committee issue a
report, well, they say debunking the Republican claims that Clinton told
the military to stand down during the 2012 attack.

And this is a little light-hearted. Comedian Larry David, who`s a
genius, I think, does Bernie Sanders on "SNL." Let`s watch a bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY DAVID, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I`m the only candidate up here
who`s not a billionaire. I don`t have a super-PAC. I don`t even have a
backpack! I own one pair of underwear! That`s it!

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID: Some of these billionaires, they got three, four pairs!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s got that accent! Anyway, we`ll look at how "SNL"
impressions can sell or sabotage a presidential candidate. I don`t think
that hurt.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the wondrous fact that Donald Trump was
the one to say the emperor has no clothes.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama`s job approval has risen above the 50
percent mark for the first time since May 2013. In a new "Washington
Post"/ABC News poll, 51 percent of Americans approve the job he is doing
while 45 percent disapprove. That approval number is up 6 points since
July and up 11 from his all-time low.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the speculation over Joe Biden has hit a breaking point, as his
poll numbers have begun to fade. Here`s what we know at this hour.
Sources tell NBC News that Biden`s decision could come within the next 48
hours. Of course, I said anybody`s decision could come in 48 hours.

On Friday, Biden spoke with Harold Schaitberger, a prominent, I mean
prominent, labor leader -- he`s head of the firefighters -- about strategy,
infrastructure and fund-raising. A source told NBC News that Schaitberger,
was left with the impression that Biden likely would run.

So, there you go, impression, likely would run, a lot of possibilities
there.

Today, Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania -- he`s
from Northeast Philly and Montgomery County up there -- tweeted, "I have a
very good source close to Joe that tells me V.P. Biden will run for
president."

Well, there are other reports from anonymous sources who now say they
expect Biden to enter the race. Those reports are not confirmed by NBC
News.

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief with "USA Today." Eugene
Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The Washington Post"
and Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist. We got two people of editor
quality here, people that know how to -- the blue pencil stuff that can`t
be proven with bad sourcing or checking on sources. And now how high up is
that person?

You start it. You have worked with the great Ben Bradlee. At this
point, what is there to go with?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of conditionality.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: As Ben would say.

ROBINSON: Where`s the story?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re imitating Ben Bradlee, with the gravelly Louis
Armstrong voice. Yes.

ROBINSON: Exactly. It`s all conditioned on likely would, maybe. The
next 20 -- the next 48 hours could be crucial.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Barnicle talked to him last week, not that long ago.
This is only Monday. And he said, I talked to him a long time and I don`t
know. So, maybe that`s an honest assessment. From him, it certainly is.

ROBINSON: Yes, but where is the opening? Where is the opening for
Joe Biden?

MATTHEWS: Oh, you are being logical. We`re not going to get
anywhere.

Steve, you work with politicians. You have worked with egos.

(CROSSTALK)

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There is no logic. There is no
logic.

MATTHEWS: You know about career plans and people`s ambitions and
where they take them.

MCMAHON: Ted Kennedy used to say the condition of wanting to be
president is something that can only be cured with embalming fluid.

ROBINSON: Embalming fluid.

MCMAHON: Joe Biden has thought since he was 29 years old and elected
to Senate that he would be president some day. He`s a heartbeat away.
It`s difficult to walk away from. But the window is closing. And it`s
closing on his hand at this point.

MATTHEWS: He has to say no to the presidency himself. That is a hard
thing to do.

MCMAHON: He has to say something at some point relatively soon. It`s
clear that he has a lot of aides who want him to run. It`s clear that
there are a lot of trial balloons. It`s not clear to me that he actually
wants to run himself.

MATTHEWS: There are two reasons to one. One would be the values
reasons, you don`t think the Clintons aren`t worth it, you don`t think they
should be president.

I have heard that story, he doesn`t think they should be president.
Have you heard that one?

(CROSSTALK)

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": I think there`s the
impression he wants to run.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: I think he thinks he would be a good president and a better
president than Hillary Clinton. Yes, I think he does think that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know that.

PAGE: But can he become president is a different question. I think
he clearly wants to run.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: I meant whether he`s willing to run.

MATTHEWS: But what about throwing the dice? If you believe you
should be president and you think there`s an outside chance you should win,
how do you walk away from that to the rest of your life saying I knew there
was an outside chance I could win, I thought I should win, but I didn`t
run? It doesn`t work.

ROBINSON: Well, how outside is the chance, though? And maybe I`m
unique here, but I see it as a very outside chance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: His numbers now are about the same John Kerry`s were at
this time of the race that he won the nomination.

ROBINSON: Oh, yes, he gets in the race. Is he really going to be
competitive against Hillary Clinton after that debate performance?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about the Benghazi hearings?

ROBINSON: If, on the other hand, if she were in trouble -- now, OK,
wait until after the hearings. See what happens then.

MATTHEWS: Well, then there will be an opportunity.

ROBINSON: That`s past the 48-hour window, isn`t it?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But that would make him an opportunist. He should have
been asked after he met with Colbert.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s when he should have gone.

MCMAHON: You`re absolutely right.

For Joe Biden, the rationale always had to be, I think, he could be a
savior for the party, not a spoiler. And the problem is, a month ago, he
looked like he might have been a savior. There were a lot of Democrats who
worried about Hillary Clinton could win a general election. Many of those
Democrats don`t have that concern anymore because they saw her in the
debate.

MATTHEWS: OK. Move it a notch further. Will he be blamed if she has
trouble between now and next summer?

MCMAHON: I think that there will be people who say, oh, Joe, you
should have done it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Shouldn`t have done it.

MCMAHON: If he doesn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: What about if he does? Will he be blamed by the PUMAs?

MCMAHON: Well, I think it depends on how he runs his campaign. But
the rationale for his candidacy is if you believe that Hillary Clinton
can`t win a general election, if you think that the gains we made as
Democrats are too important to risk with a conservative Supreme Court and a
conservative president, and you don`t think Bernie Sanders can win a
general, then maybe I`m the alternative.

PAGE: But how many candidates, including Joe Biden, have run for
races people said that you can`t win and then they win them? And that
includes the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is he ready for the dirt ball coming his way? Is he ready
for the really tough, negative people out there? David Brock will be for
Hillary. Sid Blumenthal will be for Hillary. The PUMAs, the people that
were really for Hillary...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Fanatics, who will dirt ball him from now to whenever he
leaves the race?

PAGE: And it`s a much meaner race than the last time he ran for
president, right?

Running for vice president, it is different. The last time he ran for
president, it wasn`t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Has he ever faced that kind of assault that he will face
now if he goes against Hillary from her people?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: It will be massive. Of course they will go after him.

MATTHEWS: They will try to destroy him.

ROBINSON: He will be an opponent.

ROBINSON: But how does he position himself on issues? To the right
of Clinton, to the left of Clinton? Where does he -- there`s not a lot of
room.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s putting some words out.

Anyway, Biden is waiting, but his supporters aren`t. After a well-
received debate performance, Hillary Clinton has expanded her lead. She`s
up six points since last month, while Biden is down five. According to
today`s Monmouth University poll, it`s Clinton 48, Sanders 21, Biden at 17.

A new CNN poll tells the same story. She is up 3 percent, he is down
4 percent. It`s Clinton 45, Sanders 29, Biden down at 18.

Now, he does talk about now saying -- here is what he says. This is
what somebody says about him. Here`s Biden. "He really does not care
about John Podesta" -- that`s the chairman of the Clinton campaign -- "or
anybody else," a source close and confidant to him and longtime adviser.
"He does not like bullies. And he will not be bullied. He has never
really been part of the Democratic establishment and could care less about
it."

He`s the guy that is kind of a (INAUDIBLE). He used to always commute
to Washington every night when he was a senator. He doesn`t feel like he
is part of the inside crowd here. I think he isn`t listening to people
saying he shouldn`t run. I don`t think he cares what Podesta says.

PAGE: No, I think it`s -- I think you`re right that he`s not been
kind of part of the in-crowd here, which is part of his appeal, right?
It`s part of him being a regular Joe.

But I think he`s not an irrational guy. If he thinks this is going to
be harmful to him and harmful to his family, hurtful to his family, it
seems to me that would be a reason that would make...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the Beau thing?

ROBINSON: What, the report that Beau asked him to run?

MATTHEWS: What do you make of it? If it`s true, it`s real.

ROBINSON: Well, if it`s true, it`s real and it`s got to have an
effect on him. Obviously, the death of his son was a huge and tragic event
in his life. He hasn`t entirely gotten over it.

MATTHEWS: Very soulful guy.

ROBINSON: I would think about that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s a very soulful guy. I think he`s a very soulful guy.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s not whimsical about such things.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Anybody would think about it.

But you would also think, look, this could be the last big act of Joe
Biden`s political career. And how does he want to go out? He has an
illustrious career that was capped by eight years as vice president in
which -- an administration that got a lot -- accomplished a lot, a lot of
Democratic goals. So, do you risk that?

MATTHEWS: Should Hillary call him up and offer him something?

MCMAHON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. I`m an old-school politician.

MCMAHON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

PAGE: Offer him what?

MATTHEWS: Kennedy would have loved to have had Adlai Stevenson out of
that race in `60 if he -- he offered him secretary of state. He offered
him the world and the guy wasn`t take it. Would Biden take State?

MCMAHON: I think so. Listen, this is somebody who is obviously not
finished with his public career, if he has a choice.

MATTHEWS: You don`t want to go home.

MCMAHON: And, yes, what is he going to do, go home and collect his
Social Security checks?

MATTHEWS: He`s never wanted money, ever. I think -- I hate to sound
like the big machine pol from Philly, but the way to handle this, Herb, the
way to handle it is, you offer the guy something. Get him out of the race.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Well, he would be a great secretary of state too.

MATTHEWS: OK. Yes. It`s something he has prepared for all his life.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page.

Of course, the elitists wouldn`t want him in that position. They`re
looking for somebody like Claiborne Pell to come back.

Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson. Thank you, Steve McMahon.

Up next, just days before Hillary Clinton is set to testify on
Benghazi, House Democrats release a report critical of the committee`s
work, the Republicans on the committee. This is HARDBALL. That`s guy is
coming here, a member of that committee, the congressman.

This is the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Hillary Clinton is set to testify before the House Select Committee on
Benghazi this Thursday. That`s three days from now.

And with Republicans looking to score a hard hit on her candidacy,
obviously, there is sure to be fireworks on Thursday. Well, today, the
five Democratic members on the committee released a report to show how
their Republican counterparts have come up empty after a 17-month-long
investigation.

Based on the 54 interviews the committee has conducted so far, the
report said that there is no evidence that Mrs. Clinton, the secretary,
personally ordered security to be reduced prior to the attacks, nor did
they find evidence that Secretary Clinton ever issued a stand-down order on
the night of the attacks. They further found no evidence that Clinton led
an operation to scrub or destroy State Department documents in the
aftermath of the attacks.

Anyway, Clinton`s appearance before the committee Thursday will come
nearly three years after she first testified about the tragedy of Benghazi.
In her emotional opening statement at that time, Clinton spoke about the
victims of the attack and the devotion of those who serve in the State
Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stood next to
President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the
plane at Andrews.

I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and
brothers, the sons and daughters and the wives left alone to raise their
children.

It has been one of the great honors of my life to lead the men and
women of the State Department and USAID, nearly 70,000 serving here in
Washington, more than 270 posts around the world. They get up and go to
work every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, because
they believe, as we believe, the United States is the most extraordinary
force for peace and progress the world has ever known.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff
of California, one of the five Democrats on that House Select Committee on
Benghazi.

What do you react to Mrs. Clinton when you see her there?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I thought it was incredibly
powerful.

This -- the ambassador was someone she knew personally, someone I
think she helped to select. And so she is dealing with this trauma, this
tragedy. And then you compound it by people making a political football
about this, which I have to think, given what I know of the ambassador,
would be the last thing in the world that he would have wanted.

I think his mother has said as much. And then the other night, during
the debate for this offensive Stop Hillary PAC to air an ad showing
Ambassador Stevens` tombstone, every day, a new low, I`m afraid.

MATTHEWS: We have gone down the list -- I`m sure you have seen it --
of embassy officials, envoys for America around the world killed in the
last 30, 40 years. It just happens, where we post people in dangerous
places. We give them danger pay. We know these are dangerous places.
They go out and they get in their car every day not knowing if there is a
bomb in it. This is part of life out there.

We lost all those Marines in Lebanon under Reagan`s watch. Nobody
spends the rest of our lives saying, how come that happened? You try to --
the Republicans seem fixated on this. What is the worst thing they
believe? Do they believe that she just let her friend die, that she just
went to a dinner party or something that night? What is in their heads?

SCHIFF: Well, that seems to be the suggestion.

MATTHEWS: It is the suggestion.

SCHIFF: It is. It is, that somehow she conspired to reduce the
security of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Beforehand.

SCHIFF: Beforehand, for some unforeseen reason, that she wanted, I
don`t know, to make them vulnerable, or that, afterwards, she interfered
with the efforts to rescue them, as if there would be any motivation for
doing that on anyone`s part, on the secretary or the military`s.

Why would anyone want to interfere with efforts to rescue people? I
don`t understand it. It`s an irrational obsession with the secretary.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about this movie that is coming out in January? It`s
going to talk about a stand-down order, the whole...

SCHIFF: I have seen the trailer.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I have too at the movies.

SCHIFF: And I took issue with the very first part of that trailer,
which says, this is a true story, because the quintessential part of it, at
least in the trailer, is, they had to have a bad guy. It wasn`t enough
that the terrorists were the bad guy. There`s got to be some bureaucrat
standing in the way of the rescue.

That simply wasn`t the case. And I hate to see that fallacy being
propagated, even though I represent Hollywood. They are in my district. I
hate to see them doing it.

MATTHEWS: Wow. And go to see "JFK" if you have a problem. There`s
another problematic movie

Johnson had nothing to do with killing Kennedy, or the Nixon movie,
the Nixon movie. He had nothing -- Nixon had nothing to do with killing
Kennedy.

Anyway, in a radio interview Thursday, U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks of
Alabama said that if Hillary Clinton won the White House, she would
immediately be subject to impeachment because of her use of a private e-
mail server while she was secretary of state.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: With respect to Hillary Clinton, she
would be a unique president if she is elected by the public next November,
because the day she`s sworn in is the day that she is subject to
impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you like the way he jumped on that word, impeachment?
These people, what is their cartoon version of life? That Hillary is the
villainous of our time?

SCHIFF: It`s incredible.

And this is actually just what concerns me about the select committee.
We see, with the abuse of impeachment, that it becomes just another tool to
be used for partisan purposes. And now that -- this is what the select
committee has become.

In the future, I think Benghazi will become synonymous with a partisan
abuse of taxpayer dollars. People will say, should we form a Benghazi
committee on this or a Benghazi committee on that? And that is a
horrible...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you a question.

We have to go now, so now I`m going to put on the HARDBALL corner
right now. In everything you have read, all the testimony you have
gathered, everything you have heard from the Republican side and on your
own investigation, have you seen any evidence that Hillary didn`t do her
level best to save her friend?

SCHIFF: Absolutely not. Not a shred.

And I think it`s a terrible indictment of our committee that we wasted
this amount of time and money searching for something that doesn`t exist in
an effort really to smear a dedicated public servant. No.

MATTHEWS: God, you sound like Kevin McCarthy.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHIFF: I think Kevin McCarthy spoke the truth.

MATTHEWS: He let the cat out of the bag.

SCHIFF: And the thing about Kevin McCarthy that I think people need
to realize is, there`s a very small group of people that was in the room
when the speaker, against his better judgment, made the decision to form
this select committee. Kevin McCarthy was one of them. So, he is one of
the few people that actually can speak to the motive behind the formation
of the committee.

And what he said has been borne out by the facts. Our chairman says,
judge us not by what our leadership says or about what our member says or
by what the GOP whistle-blower says. Judge us by what we do.

What we have been doing in this committee is the worst indictment of
the committee. They set up interviews with a dozen witnesses this year,
canceled all of them, canceled on Joints Chief of Staff, canceled on the
defense secretary.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because?

SCHIFF: Because they are not running for president. They went after
only one person, one hearing, Secretary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch Thursday and see if you`re proven right.
I think you will be.

Thank you, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff. Thank you for coming, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Larry David performs a Bernie Sanders impression
so spot on, it rivals the senator himself. The HARDBALL roundtable is
going to look at that and see what it means, because it is funny. Look how
good he is.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY DAVID AS BERNIE SANDERS: I`m the only candidate up here who is
not a billionaire. I don`t have a super PAC. I don`t even have a
backpack.

I carry my stuff around loose in my arms like a professor, you know,
between classes. I own one pair of underwear. That`s it. Some of these
billionaires, they got three, four pairs. And I don`t have a dryer. I
have to put my clothes on the radiator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: We are back.

That was Larry David, of course, he stole the show Saturday night with
his impersonation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Anyway, that was just something. I`ll tell you over the weekend.

Here was Bernie`s, by the way, reaction yesterday to Iowa, in Iowa to
what he saw on "SNL", that spoof of his.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you have more than one pair of underwear?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question. Thank you, everybody.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, no. This
is a serious question. Yes, last week I bought my second pair of
underwear. That`s a joke, all right? Please don`t write it down. That
was a joke. I have an ample supply of underwear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That accent is great.

Anyway, bring in the round table right now: Francesca Chambers, the
White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail", Sahil Kapur is a political
reporter for "Bloomberg", and Rebecca Berg is reporter with "Real Clear
Politics", which tells us all the numbers all the time.

Thank you very much, Rebecca. And here`s the question. Bernie`s -- I
have a sense that he is very careful now about not becoming too cartoonish.
The fact he said don`t write it down, of course, it`s already written down.
Not getting too much involved in the humor of this.

I think he is worried a little bit here about the effectiveness of
"Saturday Night Live" to sort of make you more comic than is helpful.

REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Sure. Bernie Sanders cares very
much about the poll system he made that clear over the course of his
campaign that he wants to be the policy candidate, the serious candidate
here. But we have seen a little bit of his playful side lately. So, he`s
not completely spurning this opportunity. He went on Ellen DeGeneres,
danced around. He talked about his underwear, gave me more information
than I ever wanted about Bernie Sanders` underwear.

So, he is not totally rebuffing this. But you`re right, he does want
to remain a serious candidate, because that`s what he is about.

MATTHEWS: When people bust their hump in a campaign, kids, young
people go out and work door-to-door. They go to supermarkets or wherever,
and stand for hours handing out literature. They do all this stuff
campaigning which is real. They want to know the guy or woman has a shot.
And they want to know that they`re going to win. These are not protest
campaigns, these are real.

Do you think Bernie is coming across since the debate after he jumped
across the net and said to Hillary, "I`m not going to use e-mail against
you." Do you think he is acting like a candidate trying to beat her or as
some guy who`s got a protest line he wants to sell, but he`s not really
that interested whether he wins or not? I`m worried that he isn`t acting
like a politician enough. Your thoughts?

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: I think he is acting like a candidate true to
his past self. He brags frequently about the fact that he`s never run a
negative ad in his life and he likes to stay positive and focused.

MATTHEWS: He lives in Vermont.

KAPUR: That`s true. Exactly, in Vermont. And I don`t know any
presidential candidate who`s become the nominee or let alone got elected
who hasn`t gotten negative.

Now, I understand his hesitance going after Clinton`s e-mails.
Democrats are not excited about that. But if you talk about her closeness
to Wall Street --

MATTHEWS: Why he took it off the table? He didn`t not go after, he
took it off the table.

KAPUR: Right.

MATTHEWS: He just got rid, enough already about the e-mails.

KAPUR: Because I think there`s polling that shows it might be a bad
look because Democrats are not worried about her e-mail. They might be
concerned about maybe her closeness to Wall Street or various other things
or judgment on the Iraq war.

MATTHEWS: But her wobbliness as a candidate was working in his favor.
Now, the wobbliness is gone on the e-mail with the Democrats because he
just took it off the table.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: Yes, but I would absolutely agree
with that. When I`m out in the campaign trail, Chris, and I`m talking to
Democrats, I ask them, you know, if they are supporting sanders, is it
because of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails? They tell me no.

MATTHEWS: Well, no --

CHAMBERS: They tell me no, but they say it`s because of Wall Street,
it`s because of the big banks, because of a whole host of other issues.
You talk about her being wobbly. But it`s not specifically about the
emails.

So, I think he took those off the table because he does think he can
win this election, he can win this primary and win that debate if it`s not
about the e-mails.

MATTHEWS: Is he winning it?

CHAMBERS: Is he winning it?

BERG: No.

CHAMBERS: I don`t think he won the debate the other night. No, I do
not believe he won the debate the other night, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK, here is how he could have won. I thought he was
winning there.

Rebecca, I think he had a great line. I want to take the best part of
him because I do like the guy. I thought his line is when Hillary is
acting like she was the hall monitor of Wall Street, like you can tell them
what to do up there and they are paying your campaign expenses, give me a
break. They are telling you what they want you to do.

He said, "Let`s get this straight. Congress doesn`t regulate Wall
Street. Wall Street regulates Congress." I thought that was so freaking
powerful and true. We all know, Democrat or Republican, in fact, we know a
lot of big contributors up there, everybody does. There are, a lot of them
are ambassadors under Democrat presidencies, they`re paying the piper.

BERG: Right, and here`s --

MATTHEWS: And he`s right.

BERG: And here is an area of agreement between Donald Trump and
Bernie Sanders. That message is working well on the Republican side just
as well as the Democrat side in this election. And what that was, was a
very subtle way of drawing a contrast with Hillary Clinton. That`s how
Bernie Sanders makes this a real race, and that`s how he expands and
broadens his base of exporters by making those stark contrasts.

So, he can do that without going blatantly negative. But he needs to
get less subtle and really draw these distinctions as strongly as he
possibly can.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to put edge in his skis.

KAPUR: Clinton was willing to go in for the kill on the issue of
guns.

MATTHEWS: Of course, she was.

KAPUR: And the one issue where Bernie Sanders --

BERG: It knocked him off his game.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he do it to her?

KAPUR: That`s the point.

BERG: She got there first.

KAPUR: This was an initiation. This was his big introduction to the
country. Only 60 percent of Democrats are familiar with him. And he has a
very strong rating with those. He probably wanted to introduce himself in
a positive, favorable way. He`s got five more debates.

MATTHEWS: Do you think his campaign is up in the air? Yes or no,
Francesca?

CHAMBERS: I don`t think he expected her --

MATTHEWS: Can he beat her?

CHAMBERS: I don`t think he expected her to hit him.

MATTHEWS: Can he beat her?

CHAMBERS: Can he beat her? At this point? I don`t think so.

KAPUR: If Biden jumps if the race and she is damaged, yes.

BERG: I think Biden will make this even tougher.

MATTHEWS: For her?

BERG: Right now, Bernie Sanders needs to do something differently to
win if he`s going to win.

MATTHEWS: OK, I think he`s got to put some edge into it. I think he
showed it the other night.

OK, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, I want these reporters to tell me something I don`t know.
This is a new part of the show. They are going to prove it they`ve got it
to tell us something we can take home with us tonight.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former President Bill Clinton is set to make his first
official campaign appearance on behalf of Hillary. Bill Clinton was
speaking in an Iowa rally this Saturday alongside pop singer Katy Perry.
Well, later that night, Hillary Clinton and her four Democratic challengers
will appear at the Iowa Democratic Party`s Jefferson Jackson Dinner, a
long-held tradition in the Hawkeye State.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, and to something new.

Like I love getting a scoop, everyone else does, something I don`t
know. But now thanks to a great reporter, I do.

Tell me something I don`t know.

CHAMBERS: Well, you can likely rest easy tonight, Chris. Rumors in
Washington, D.C. today were that the vice president could announce his
candidacy in the next 48 hours. A senior administration official tells me
that that`s all speculation, that is not --

MATTHEWS: Not going to happen. Forty-eight hours from now will be
Wednesday. We`ll check you out by then.

Yes, sir. Sahil?

KAPUR: The story you covered earlier on the show. Jeb Bush engaging
Donald Trump on the issue of 9/11 and his brother. Believe it or not,
there`s a strategy behind this. People close to Jeb as we reported on
"Bloomberg" today, they believe that by highlighting Trump`s lack of
credibility as a commander in chief and lack of sort of experience on
foreign policy that they can damage him.

Will it work? Doubtful. Because he`s also associating himself more
closely with his brother and relitigating the aftermath of it which is the
very unpopular Iraq war.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BERG: Here`s a tidbit that I think will make you look at Donald Trump
a little bit differently. At his rally in Richmond, Virginia, last week he
had campaign volunteers on the way in and the way out grabbing people,
collecting signatures to get him on the ballot in Virginia. That event
alone drew about 5,000 people, which is the number you need to get on the
ballot.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul did it in 2012 because they were the
only campaigns who were organized enough to get them on the ballot. Donald
Trump taking --

MATTHEWS: So, he`s got a ground game.

Thank you so much, Francesca Chambers, Sahil Kapur and Rebecca Berg,
with the latest on Donald Trump`s reality.

We return -- when we return, I`m going to have some finishing words on
the wondrous fact that Donald Trump was the one to say the emperor has no
clothes.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the wondrous fact that Donald
Trump was the one to say the emperor has no clothes.

Ever since September 11th, 2001, the Democrats have joined the
Republicans in agreeing that the country would be better off if we didn`t
become divided in blame over who allowed this country`s worst attack on the
continental United States. What upset this arrangement was Jeb Bush`s
statement, deniable on its face, that his brother George, quote, "kept us
safe".

Well, actually, he didn`t. He did a good job of rallying the country
after we were hit, a quick job of tracking down the killers to Afghanistan.
From there it all came apart with his war of choice against Iraq, a country
that had nothing to do with what happened here in 2001.

In any case, what brings this matter back is the atrocious way in
which the Republican Party is trying to blame Hillary Clinton for the
deaths of four Americans serving in Libya in 2012. Three years later, they
continue to hunt her, hunt her down you can say, on the groundless argument
that someone must be to blame. Well, you follow that argument and the
trail of 9/11 and you end up with George W. Bush. As Harry Truman once
said of the American presidency, the buck stops here.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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