IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, January 12

Read the transcript to the Monday show

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bush to world:  You were wrong.  I was right. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, from the inaugural city of Washington, D.C.

Leading off tonight, eight days before the world curtain up—goes up on a new America, we witness the last curtain call of the old regime.  And what a pungent moment it was, when a reporter asked President Bush for his reaction to Barack Obama‘s promise to restore this country‘s moral standing in the world. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have heard all that.  I have heard all that. 

My view is, is that most people around the world, they respect America.  And some of them doesn‘t like me—I understand that—some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that.  That‘s fine.  That‘s part of the deal.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It recalled, with its self-defending passion, the words of the late Richard Nixon that bad morning after in 1962, when he faced down that beating in the California governor‘s race, when he told an equally critical press, “You won‘t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” 

Today, President George W. Bush said essentially the same thing.  His news conference was one of the great moments in American politics.  He was emotional, defiant, proud, and, at times, reflective.  Most of all, he defended his administration‘s record and stood his ground against its critics.

But here‘s a big one for us.  Roland Burris, winner of Friday‘s first ever HARDBALL award, won his battle today to become a U.S. senator from Illinois.  Thanks to a long delayed, but valid signature from the Illinois secretary of state, Burris will become the 100th member of the world‘s greatest deliberative body, filling the seat of president-elect Barack Obama. 

Add to that today more news, some extremely hot news—tonight, president-elect Obama will act next week‘s—next week to close the Guantanamo prison camp.  You heard it here.  He is going to act to close it next week.  This is the end of the Bush-Cheney era of torture and interrogation.

Plus, wherever you go here in Washington, there‘s excitement and mounting preparation for next Tuesday‘s inaugural ceremonies.  There‘s a new era about to unfold that could be something like the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Reagan Revolution, you know, a new chapter in American history.  We are going to talk about that phenomenal national change in tonight‘s “Politics Fix.”

And, speaking of inauguration, wait until you hear Bill Cosby on what it meant for him to vote for Barack Obama on Election Day—what an emotional story.  And we will have here for you and we will hear it together in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight. 

But, first, President Bush‘s final news conference. 

“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst.  And Ron Suskind is the author of “The Way of the World.”

Gentlemen, thank you for joining me.

I want you to look at a bite now from the president today.  This was, to me, the most exciting press conference in a long, long time.  Here he is defending himself against the charge that he‘s presided over eight years of moral decline in America‘s standing in the world. 


BUSH:  I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. 

It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. 

No questions, parts of Europe have said that we shouldn‘t have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate, but those are few a countries.

I have told people, “Yes, you can try to be popular.”  In certain quarters in Europe, you can be popular by blaming every Middle Eastern problem on Israel.  Or you could be popular by joining the International Criminal Court. 

I guess I could have been popular by accepting Kyoto, which I felt was a flawed treaty, and proposed something different and more constructive. 


MATTHEWS:  A moment of Nixon there, Howard, defending himself with a lot of self-pity, but a lot of—well, let‘s call it defiance, tough. 


I know why you liked this press conference.  And I loved it, too.  Because this is politics at its rawest level.  This is a guy who‘s been there for eight years, finally, at the end, being asked in grand terms to defend himself. 

And his defense is a defiant one.  It‘s based on the idea that he made a couple of big right moral decisions, by his lights, moral decisions to attack, not only in Afghanistan, but to attack in Iraq, even though he said it was disappointing.  He said that today.  It was a disappointment that there were no weapons of mass destruction. 

MATTHEWS:  That was a strange use of logic.

FINEMAN:  It wasn‘t just a disappointment.  It was a catastrophe, given what the justification was for going in.

But, be that as it may, that‘s George Bush trying to be West Texas.  His problem is, I think he has a fundamental understanding of West Texas, at least according to the Texans I talk to.  In West Texas, you try the handshake first, before you pull out the gun.  He did the opposite. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ron Suskind, you have been a great chronicler of this administration and its get-tough, 1 percent solution attitude.  If there‘s the slightest threat facing us, blow them apart. 

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST:  You know, draw the line between defiance and denial. 

I think this is a denial press conference.  Denial is the last note of

the Bush presidency.  The fact is, this man was overwhelmed before, in the

middle, and at the end of his presidency.  And the fact is, is that the

post-9/11 moment, where Bush acted with strength, as he says, you know, to

to confront the world, ultimately, is his one bright spot. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is defending it.  I want you to pick up on this, because I think there‘s two sides to every argument.  His side of the argument is, look, I came in.  We were hit.  We were hit on my watch.  All I could think about is, never get hit again.  Never again.  So, I put everything the United States had into the cause of defending this country.  OK.  Maybe I made mistakes.  There wasn‘t WMD there.  I didn‘t—perhaps I tortured.  Perhaps I did this.  Perhaps I had Gitmo.  But, look, we haven‘t been hit again. 

Here he is making his case.  I‘m not making it.  He is. 


BUSH:  And in terms of the decisions that I had made to protect the homeland, I wouldn‘t worry about popularity.  What I would worry about is the Constitution of the United States and putting plans in place that makes it easier to find out what the enemy is thinking., because all these debates will matter naught if there‘s another attack on the homeland.  The question won‘t be, you know, “Were you critical of this plan or not?” The question‘s going to be, “Why didn‘t you do something?”


MATTHEWS:  Has he got a point? 

SUSKIND:  I don‘t think he has a point.  Here‘s why. 

What the president knows, from his own intelligence briefing, is that al Qaeda has not been in an attack mode in the United States.  There were attacks that have been called off.  And they have said, we will be patient.  The next attack will be bigger than 9/11.  Bush knows that from his own briefings.  To say the country has been safe, we haven‘t been attacked...

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  Let‘s go back here.

SUSKIND:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  Back to August of 2001, he got a memo that said bin Laden to attack inside the United States.  He didn‘t act on that.  And look what happened. 

SUSKIND:  Well, I‘m just saying, no one should be patting themselves on the back that al Qaeda has not reattacked the United States.  Bush knows that.  He knows the al Qaeda playbook.

MATTHEWS:  Why haven‘t—why haven‘t they attacked again? 

SUSKIND:  Because al Qaeda has said and we have picked up on signal intelligence they are going to wait until they can get a bigger WMD attack in the United States.  They have called off attacks in the U.S.

This is the—something the president and the vice president knows.  My point is that to say we haven‘t been attacked and that‘s a mark of victory, Bush himself knows, is not coherent. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it‘s politically potent, however.  Let‘s be frank here.  Let‘s be frank here. 

If he goes out of Washington, if he leaves Washington for Dallas, Texas, on the 20th, and he‘s going to say, there‘s been no attack, there was no attack on the homeland, a term that came to burden us...


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t even like that word. 

FINEMAN:  I can‘t stand the word.

MATTHEWS:  How about America? 

FINEMAN:  Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t we just say hitting America?

FINEMAN:  This country. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, this country. 

FINEMAN:  How about the country?

All right.  From 9/11 until January 20, 2009, that is what George W.

Bush is going to cling to, personally and politically. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 

And he‘s basically putting down that acid test for the guy coming in, Barack Obama.  I defended us since 9/11.  You better be as good as me and successful as me.  And, therefore, I would recommend you be as tough as me. 


SUSKIND:  Right.  Look...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that what he‘s saying to him?  You be tough on prisoners.  You be tough on intel.  And you do some eavesdropping, because the price of not doing all that stuff is, you may get hit, and then they will blame you for not doing what I did. 


MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that what‘s coming? 

SUSKIND:  Well, they have mistaken this sort of brand of toughness for a real strategy.  The fact is, what everybody understands, it has bled away America‘s moral authority, which is a source of true power.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what is the problem here.

SUSKIND:  And Bush knows it.  And he knows it in his gut.


FINEMAN:  I don‘t think he does know.  I don‘t think...


FINEMAN:  I don‘t think he knows it. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think he thinks the European over in Belgium or Paris have a right to tell us who‘s right.  That‘s what he thinks. 


FINEMAN:  He doesn‘t know it. 


SUSKIND:  I think he is in denial.  I think he is in denial.  I think we agree on that.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s the president again.

Let‘s let the president speak for himself.  This was his cri de coeur, his goodbye kiss to his worst critics.  Here he is, today‘s last press conference. 


BUSH:  Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here?  People were saying, “How come they didn‘t see it?  How come they didn‘t connect the dots?”

Do you remember what the environment was like in Washington?  I do.

I have heard all that.  I have heard all that. 

My view is, is that most people around the world, they respect America.  And some of them doesn‘t like me—I understand that—some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that.  That‘s fine.  That‘s part of the deal.

But I‘m more concerned about the country and—and how people view the United States of America.  They view us as strong, compassionate people who care deeply about the universality of freedom. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was the closest thing to fine rhetoric we have heard from that guy.  And it was off the cuff.

I think that‘s the passion.  He could well be dead wrong, Ron.  And a lot of people—and I think I generally agree with that, with you. 

SUSKIND:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But I have to tell you, he was—he was passionate. 

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think he was. 

I think his—his—his mistake is in thinking that it‘s an either/or proposition between shooting and talking.  The fact is, the world is more complicated than that.  And George Bush has never accepted the proposition that the world is complicated. 


FINEMAN:  He thinks that people who like complexity are writers, opiners...

MATTHEWS:  Bad guys. 

FINEMAN:  ... elites, parts of Europe. 


FINEMAN:  Me, you, yes.


FINEMAN:  Anyway.

And he doesn‘t understand that you need both things and that you can‘t just say, I‘m standing on this principle.  You have to talk to the world about it constantly.  And he has no appreciation...


FINEMAN:  He has no appreciation for the world that his father inhabited.


MATTHEWS:  ... join you with this.


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s where I think I‘m going to take your side more openly. 

Here he is talking about the tone in Washington.  I believe this president and Karl Rove have a lot to do with the nasty tone in this town.  I think they jammed the U.S. Congress back in 2002, forcing them to vote for that Iraq war by saying, here‘s the election next week.  Better vote now.  In other words, get your war in on time.  Here he is, the president saying it wasn‘t his fault. 


BUSH:  I hope the tone is different for him than it has been for me. 

I am disappointed by the tone in Washington, D.C.

It‘s just the rhetoric got out of control at times.


BUSH:  I don‘t know why.  You need to ask those who—those who used the words they used.

And I would hope that—that, frankly, for the sake of the system itself, that, if people disagree with president-elect Obama, they treat him with respect.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, tell that to Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War, who they turned into a traitor because it was politically convenient for them. 

I mean, that kind of stuff, that kind of nasty politics, Karl Rove stuff, divide and conquer, goes with your base against the center, is his fault, isn‘t it?  Is that a fair assessment? 


SUSKIND:  One of the great R&D developments of this administration is to build a political tactical machine, the likes of which we haven‘t seen, in terms of message discipline and punitive action...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SUSKIND:  ... all across the—the landscape.  And the fact is, is to say the sun rises in the west and the west and the west, when everyone sees it‘s the east, is to...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


FINEMAN:  ... the war.

SUSKIND:  No, it‘s not just the war.  They did it from the beginning. 

And the war gave them added opportunity to execute on a wider scale. 


FINEMAN:  My point is, it wouldn‘t have worked as long as it did without the war...

SUSKIND:  I agree with you. 

FINEMAN:  Because the war was the rocket fuel for this machine that you‘re talking about.

SUSKIND:  I agree.

FINEMAN:  And, don‘t forget, right after 9/11 -- most people have forgotten this—right after 9/11, there were pictures that were sent out as a fund-raising device by the Republican National Committee showing George W. Bush as commander in chief on Air Force One. 

Remember that?  Karl Rove got slapped on the wrist for it.  He took it down.  He denied that he had anything to do with it in the end.  But that, in essence, was the Bush political strategy for all eight years of his presidency.  They didn‘t have a strategy until then, not until then.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What about this sort of general no-nothingism about you don‘t call them french fries anymore; you call them freedom fries; everybody else in the world is wrong; we‘re right; that sort of idiocy that was perpetrated for the last eight years?

Now we‘re rejoining the world.  Hey, the French are no day at the beach.  Beautiful country.  They‘re not always the greatest people.  But I have got to tell you—nor are we—but this idea, America is right, everybody else is wrong, as a public doctrine?

It‘s one thing to root for your country every day.  It is another one to believe that you‘re always right and everybody else is always wrong? 

SUSKIND:  We will always be a country of enormous strength.  That is not going to change.  When you match it, as other presidents have, with humility, you have got the right mix, instead of my way or the highway. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I remember one thing.  By the way, he campaigned in 1990 -- or the year 2000, 1990 and 2000, on a promise that we would be a humble country in the world; we would not stomp around, like the British used to do, right?

SUSKIND:  Well, and it‘s all...


MATTHEWS:  He promised that.

FINEMAN:  Humble. 

MATTHEWS:  Humble.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I liked it. 

SUSKIND:  And it‘s only been arrogance.

MATTHEWS:  I was take with that promise.  He did not deliver. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard. 

Lots more to say, but what an amazing moment today.  It was a Nixon-like press conference.  I‘m not putting him down.  What a moment of passion.  We heard—well, maybe you think I am. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s put it this way.  Michael...


MATTHEWS:  ... of “The Washington Post” certainly ripped the scab off with that package: “You tore this country down for eight years, buddy.” 

He had a response.

Coming up:  Roland Burris, I mean, telling you, we gave him the HARDBALL—first ever HARDBALL award last Friday, not knowing the results.  It looks like this guy, the appointee of B-Rod, Rod Blagojevich, his appointee to the U.S. Senate, is now going to be a full-fledged United States senator. 

Well, plus, a big story here, a disaster in 2008 -- how much trouble is the republican party in, in 2010?  It looks like they‘re going to lose four more Senate seats.  They could be back to the bad old days of the mid-‘60s, when the Democrats had two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.  Our strategists are going to come here right now and talk about B-Rod‘s latest hit, the success of Roland Burris, and what looks to be the slow decline in the next couple years of the Republican Party.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up:  Just eight days from now, and counting, a new era in American history begins, sparked by an event unlike any we have seen in history.  Washington gets ready for the inauguration of Barack Obama—coming but later, when HARDBALL returns.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Roland Burris is poised to take Barack Obama‘s Senate‘s seat.  You heard it here.  Today, Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, who are the top Democrats, agreed that Burris‘ paperwork is in order.  Talk about political strategists.  It was less than a week ago that Burris showed up in Washington, only to be denied entry, to be—quote—in the biblical sense, “turned away.”

Joining me now, the strategists.  Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.  And Todd Harris is a Republican strategist.

You guys had more fun with this, Republicans. 


MATTHEWS:  Why did you guys become the amen chorus for Roland Burris? 

Why did you love this one?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Because for the same reason that Harry Reid didn‘t want him in the Senate.  Because we see Roland Burris as a number-one target in two years in a state—in a race...

MATTHEWS:  Ah.  Why is that? 

HARRIS:  Because we think we can beat him.  The reason Harry Reid didn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you think he will be the nominee next time? 

HARRIS:  If he—yes, I mean, he will be the—he will be the incumbent. 


MATTHEWS:  ... knocked off in the primary?


STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Who is going to tell him he can‘t run? 



HARRIS:  Even if it becomes a bloody primary, the reason why Harry Reid didn‘t want him in the Senate was because he felt that he wasn‘t electable in the downstate part of Illinois, in...


MATTHEWS:  Oh, really?  That‘s—I don‘t know how to read minds.

What do you think? 

MCMAHON:  I‘m...


MATTHEWS:  I think Burris made his way in by—by basically demanding that he be seated, because he was properly appointed, whatever you think of Rod Blagojevich.  And he showed up with the two guys with the umbrellas.  He said, let me in.

And they were afraid, in the end, to say no. 

HARRIS:  They were afraid. 

MCMAHON:  You‘re right.  You‘re absolutely right.  That‘s what happened. 

And the ironic thing—and we talked about this last week—is that, after 50 or so United States senators, Democratic senators, said that Blagojevich‘s pick will not be seated, that person would have been seated, had it not been for the fact that he was an African-American. 

MATTHEWS:  You think so?

MCMAHON:  I‘m glad he was able to run home over the weekend and get his papers in order... 


MATTHEWS:  No, he got—he got Jesse White...

MCMAHON:  Jesse White...

MATTHEWS:  ... the secretary of state, to finally sign a document. 


MCMAHON:  Signed the document, not the document originally that the Senate was looking for.  And, in fact, the Senate originally wasn‘t looking for a document.


MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  I detect a bitterness here.


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think he should be the senator from Illinois.

MCMAHON:  I don‘t.  I don‘t. 

I think—I think that Harry Reid and the Democratic senators at the beginning who said this pick is tainted were right.  And I think they were within their—their rights under the Constitution and I think they were within their rights under the Senate rules.  And they, frankly, just rolled over. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this guy is tainted? 

MCMAHON:  Yes.  He is tainted.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree? 

HARRIS:  Absolutely.  The biggest loser in all this is Danny Davis, who was offered it first, and said no, because...

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.  


MATTHEWS:  So, you wanted a Democratic senator to be seated who was tainted? 

HARRIS:  Oh, absolutely, yes.


HARRIS:  Because we think we can knock him off in two years.  Look, we don‘t have a lot of...

MATTHEWS:  Have you no pride, no shame? 


MATTHEWS:  Are you admitting that this is a game?

HARRIS:  Look, I think—I‘m a political consultant.  Doesn‘t that go without saying? 


HARRIS:  Right.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about...


MATTHEWS:  We have got a new senator from Illinois.  You believe he is vulnerable next time, right? 

HARRIS:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about some other things that are developing.  George Voinovich of Ohio, pretty respected guy, former—long-time governor, very respected, sort of a centrist Republican, not a right-winger, not a moderate, you wouldn‘t call him, somewhere in the middle.  He‘s not running again.  Kit Bond of Missouri had a great line the other day.  He said, I was the youngest governor in the history of Missouri, I‘m not going to be the oldest senator.  He‘s quitting at the age of 69.  We‘re hearing that Brownback—Brown...

HARRIS:  Brownback.

MATTHEWS:  ... Brownback of Kansas might leave.  Martinez of Florida has already said he‘s leaving.  Why are so many people leaving the U.S.  Senate, especially Republicans?

HARRIS:  Because we‘re in the minority now and...

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s no fun.

HARRIS:  It‘s not fun for anyone.  No, there‘s...


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t get to chair a committee.  You don‘t get the plane for junkets.  You don‘t get any of the bennies of being there, right?

HARRIS:  Right.  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re being so obvious.  I mean, you‘re killing people‘s belief in the system here.

HARRIS:  The answer is...

MATTHEWS:  In other words, get Democrats in the Senate who can be beaten, and leave if you don‘t get the perks.

HARRIS:  Yes.  That‘s what they—look, I‘m not in the Senate, but I think it‘s pretty obvious that that‘s what they do.

MATTHEWS:  Is it that bad?

MCMAHON:  Well, I mean, it‘s—you know, being in the minority isn‘t much fun, particularly after you‘re used to being in the majority.  And if you look at the people who are leaving, they‘re all leaving from states where the state is trending Democratic, whether it‘s Ohio or even Kansas.

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t want to (INAUDIBLE) they don‘t want to raise money and lose.

MCMAHON:  A lot of these guys are in toss-up races to begin with, and they‘re choosing—rather than to fight, they‘re choosing to leave.  And then there are a couple that are in toss-up races, like Senator Vitter, a man who...

MATTHEWS:  How can he...

MCMAHON:  ... frequented prostitutes when he was...

MATTHEWS:  ... get reelected?

MCMAHON:  Well, I don‘t know.  And I frankly...

MATTHEWS:  He was the guy that was...

MCMAHON:  ... don‘t think he will...

MATTHEWS:  ... involved with prostitutes both in Washington and in Louisiana.  Isn‘t that usually a career killer in the normal—I mean, I‘m serious.


MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t that usually kill you?

MCMAHON:  Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Is he running again?

MCMAHON:  Well, he seems to be running again, but he‘s in one of those...

MATTHEWS:  You want him to run again, too.  He would (INAUDIBLE) the perfect Democrat.


MCMAHON:  ... very difficult to hold.

MATTHEWS:  You love these tainted—in other words, if he‘s tainted either because of the way he was appointed or the appointments he‘s made?

HARRIS:  Well, I don‘t like the David Vitter taint.  I don‘t think that anybody does, does...

MATTHEWS:  You‘d like to run against him.

HARRIS:  Well, he‘s a Republican, so I wouldn‘t run against him.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I‘m sorry.  (INAUDIBLE) different standards.

MCMAHON:  So you think—you think that somebody who frequents prostitutes both in Washington and at home...

HARRIS:  No, I just said—I just said I thought the guy was tainted.

MATTHEWS:  Would you vote for him?

MCMAHON:  But you said (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  For reelection?

HARRIS:  Who I vote for is...

MATTHEWS:  Would you vote for David Vitter for reelection if he had the involvement with prostitutes?

HARRIS:  Probably not.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Would you?

MCMAHON:  God, no!  I wouldn‘t vote for him...

MATTHEWS:  If he was a Democrat?

MCMAHON:  ... because he‘s a Republican.

MATTHEWS:  But how about if he‘s a Democrat, would you do it?

MCMAHON:  No, I wouldn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Good.  Let‘s talk about the fact the Republican Party, you know, has had a pretty good run for 20, 30 years.  Its bad time, of course, was back in the mid-‘60s.  Following the Kennedy assassination, it went down to something like 35 seats.  It was almost the Whig Party.  It really lost all its power.  It wasn‘t a competitive political party after the Goldwater defeat.  Do you think your party risks going back down to that nadir again?

HARRIS:  Well, these are a very important couple of years for us.  We‘re going to—the party‘s going to have to find a compelling economic message to appeal...

MATTHEWS:  So that was what you recommend?

HARRIS:  ... to the middle class—absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Finding (ph) tax cut message, something that appeals to...

HARRIS:  An economic message that appeals to the working class, to middle class voters.  President Bush...

MATTHEWS:  Here he is.  Here‘s the president today, a Republican.  In fact, he‘s still head of the Republican Party, President Bush today saying what your party needs to do to come back.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Yes, you see, I am concerned that in the wake of the defeat that the temptation‘ll be to look inward and to say, Well, here‘s a litmus test you must adhere to.  This party will come back and—but the party‘s message has got to be that different points of view are included in the party.


MATTHEWS:  Does he mean different points of view on abortion rights, different points of view on trade?

HARRIS:  On immigration.

MATTHEWS:  Different points of view on immigration.  Is he really meaning that, to build a tent that big?

HARRIS:  If you look at the Democrats who won in 2008, it‘s not like there‘s this huge flood of hard-core liberal Democrats coming to Washington.  The Democratic Party did a very good job of finding candidates that either fit their state or fit their district in terms of its political profile.  The Republican Party needs to do an equally good job...

MATTHEWS:  Kay Hagan down in North Carolina.

HARRIS:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  They were able to find...

HARRIS:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  ... people that mixed—what do you think of that?  Is that (INAUDIBLE)

MCMAHON:  Well, I think the Democrats were successful and I think President-elect Obama was successful because they ran where people are, in the middle.  It wasn‘t a litmus test on the left...

MATTHEWS:  Well, your party found Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.

MCMAHON:  Our party found Bob Casey...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a pro-lifer.  You were going to find somebody who could beat a pro-lifer, Rick Santorum.  You matched him up well.  He won dramatically.  Big-time.

MCMAHON:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  We found people who could appeal to the middle, and we ran—decided to run races in the middle.  That‘s where races...

MATTHEWS:  So are we going to...

MCMAHON:  ... are won and lost...

MATTHEWS:  ... get back to the two kinds of parties we had in the ‘60s and ‘70s, where you‘re going to have two parties which are both partially centrist parties, not left/right, left party, right party, but center-left and center-right parties?  Are we going to get back to that?

HARRIS:  On behalf of Republicans, I think that we need to be able to field centrist candidates in centrist districts, conservatives where conservatives can get elected, moderates...

MATTHEWS:  Or else...

HARRIS:  ... where moderates can get election.

MATTHEWS:  ... you‘re going to lose the Northeast.


HARRIS:  And out west.

MCMAHON:  But as long as people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have the voice that they have in the responsibility and they‘re out there saying, We need to be more conservative, we need to stick to our values...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re not running.

MCMAHON:  No, I know they‘re not running, but they‘re pulling the party to the right.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, that they hurt your party by pulling it too far right?

HARRIS:  I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  Sean and Rush?

HARRIS:  I don‘t think they pulled the party any more to the right than Air America was pulling the Democratic Party to the left and...

MATTHEWS:  They got more pull, though.

HARRIS:  They do have more pull.  They have more listeners.  But you know, you‘ve progressive groups on the left pulling the Democratic Party to the left and...

MATTHEWS:  What states could Rush win in?

HARRIS:  Texas.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Steve—maybe not.  Steve McMahon...


MATTHEWS:  All right, let‘s try it, then.  Come on, Rush!  Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, thank you.

Up next: As Washington gets ready for the inauguration, President-elect Obama says his family is closer to making a big decision, what kind of White House dog to get.  Little “Sideshow.”  Not everything‘s important, but you know, we‘re going to be watching that dog for four to eight years.  We better get a good look at it.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”  I don‘t know whether you caught Bill Cosby yesterday on “Meet the Press” talking about the election and what he did in that voting booth, but here he is.  It‘s quite a story.


BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN:  Well, I took my father‘s picture, I took my mother‘s picture, and I took my brother, James‘s.  He died when he was 7.  I was 8.  And I took the three of them into the voting booth in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and I pulled the curtain.  I took the pictures out and I said, And now we‘re going to vote.


MATTHEWS:  Amazing stuff.  I think we all need to stop and think more than once about this incredible week that‘s coming up and about this inauguration what it means not just to African-Americans but all Americans, and let‘s face it, to the world.

Interesting side point.  This new president, Barack Obama, is actually going to live in Washington.  He‘s not just going to go in and out of—in and out of the city in a helicopter.  In fact, there he is at Ben‘s Chili Dog down at 12th and U.  By the way, that‘s not in swanky Georgetown, that‘s in a regular part of the city.  He‘s going to be out about, seen by people, actually going to go out and get lunch once in a while and be part of this capital city.  That is a big change from the Bushes, who were somewhat isolated behind that iron fence that he—the president used to helicopter in and out of.

Anyway, next up: The Obama effect hits Hollywood.  Check out this scene from the Golden Globes last night when NBC‘s “30 Rock” won for best comedy.


TRACY MORGAN, “30 ROCK“:  Thank you.  Tina Fey and I had an agreement that if Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on.


MORGAN:  Welcome to post-racial America.  I‘m the face of post-racial America!  Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!


MATTHEWS:  That‘s Tracy Morgan, the inimitable.

Anyway, plus: What kind of White House dog will we be talking about for the next four or eight years?  And get used to it.  If we get a dog, that‘s all we‘re going to be looking at.  Here it is, that issue right now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, “MEET THE PRESS”:  What kind of a dog are we getting and when are we getting it?

OBAMA:  The—they seem to have narrowed it down to a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So you‘re closing in on it?

OBAMA:  We‘re closing in on it.  This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary.


MATTHEWS:  Can‘t they get a regular dog?

Anyway, time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”  By now, everyone‘s seen these pictures of the president-elect with his beloved BlackBerry, but catch this interesting nugget.  “The New York Times” reports that Obama‘s Edition is actually worth big money to makers of the device.  That‘s an Edition he‘s carrying around.  According to marketers, what‘s the value of the Obama‘s high-profile BlackBerry and the plugs he‘s doing for it by going around, showing it like that?  Fifty million dollars.  That‘s what it‘s worth in advertising to BlackBerry.

Of course, Obama‘s role as public official bars him from becoming an actual pitch man for the product, but it does remind me of Eleanor Roosevelt back in the old days, out there pitching for Good Luck margarine.  I‘ll never forget it.  I think that was to raise money for the former first lady‘s main cause, which was the U.N. children‘s charities.

Either way, the Obama pictures talk, his BlackBerry, as I said, worth $50 million in advertising for that company.  That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Big number it is, in fact.

Up next: President-elect Obama says closing Guantanamo Bay is a top priority.  He‘s going to do it by executive order very quickly upon taking office, perhaps next week.  How fast can he actually get it done?  And what about the roughly 250 al Qaeda and Taliban people that are in that prison?  Some of them are convictable.  Some aren‘t convictable.  What he‘s do with the unconvictables where there‘s no evidence, they‘re just clearly no friends?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.




STEVE KROFT, “60 MINUTES”:  There are a number of different things that you could do early pertaining to executive orders.

OBAMA:  Right.

KROFT:  One of them is to shut down Guantanamo Bay.  Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops.  Are those things that you plan to take early action on?

OBAMA:  Yes.  I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That‘s, of course, President-elect Obama on “60 Minutes” shortly after he won the election.  The Associated Press reports late today that Obama advisers say he is expected to issue an executive order during his first week as president, and possibly on his first day, directing his administration to figure out what to do with the detainees.  But how long it will be before Gitmo shuts down is a question mark.

Michael Smerconish is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and MSNBC political analyst, and David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and contributor a to “GQ”—or rather, not “GQ.”


MATTHEWS:  Michael, it seems—and you‘re the attorney here.  And both of you, it seems to me there‘s three kinds of prisoners being held on Guantanamo now, and we have to deal with all three.  The first issue, before we get to those three types of prisoners, is the symbolism.  To a lot of people, Gitmo or the Guantanamo prison station down there, where we‘re keeping these prisoners in the war on terror, is bad.  We shouldn‘t have it.  It shouldn‘t be there.

Your thoughts first, Michael, and then David respond.  Should we get rid of Gitmo just because of what it responds in the world?


No, we shouldn‘t.  And I agree with you the symbolism is all bad, much like Abu Ghraib.  You had what, 10, 12 knuckleheads out of a 140,000 who were serving, who besmirched the reputation of all soldiers in uniform at the time.


SMERCONISH:  And Gitmo, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ve got to...

SMERCONISH:  ... three individuals have been waterboarded.  That‘s it.

MATTHEWS:  Just a break.  We‘re going to go right now to Roland Burris‘s news conference.  He‘s holding it right now in Chicago.  Here he is, the new senator from Illinois.

ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS SENATOR-DESIGNATE:  ... from the great state of Illinois.  I believe that had I relinquished that title after being legally appointed, I would have also signaled that our state had surrendered its own right to send to Congress a senator of our own choosing and in accordance with our laws, as protected by the United States Constitution.

My passion truly is to serve you.  I look forward to providing that every chance that I get.  I cannot say enough for—or enough about how humbled and honored I am to be afforded this opportunity to serve.

And finally, if you are among the many in Illinois who are disheartened by the cloud that hangs over—overhead and darkens our state‘s image, I ask that you join me in remembering the old saying, “It‘s always the darkest before the dawn.”  I believe that dawn is near and brighter days are ahead in Illinois.  And I‘m looking forward to serving in the United States Senate.

God bless you, and thank you all very much for giving me that chance. 

Thank you.  Yes, Maria? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You did not—what about the governor?  Do you thank him, as well?  Today, Republican leaders have said the Democrats chose to trust a mad man over the people of Illinois?  What is your reaction to that? 

BURRIS:  No, there‘s no reaction to that.  The governor carried out constitutional duties.  He had no choice but to carry out the duties that were—that he took an oath to carry out when he was sworn in as governor.  That is my response. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Burris, every senator has a set of pet issues, things that—issues that he wants to bring forward and concentrate on and work for.  Can you give us some idea of the issues that you want to concentrate on during this next two years? 

BURRIS:  Well, I certainly will.  But right now I‘m going to go to the Senate, certainly learn the procedures and operations and be there to help pass the stimulus package that they‘ll be working on, that‘s on the plate right now.  But I will certainly have my pet issues to come out with. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you explain the turn around in six days? 

BURRIS:  Well, I think after all the procedures were—excuse me—were brought together, then people recognized that we should get—move forward and get this action behind us.  Yes? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- any deal about 2010?   

BURRIS:  The only requests that were made of me from Senator Reid and Senator Durbin were that I make my testimony before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee and, secondly, that I would clear up the signature from the secretary of state‘s office and that was it.  Yes? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That was Roland Burris, who has just won his battle to be a United States senator.  I want to get back to this question—we talked about that earlier.  I want to get back to the question of Gitmo.  David Corn, is it important to get rid of Gitmo? 

CORN:  I think it is.  I think because of the symbolic reasons that you talked about earlier.  But also, it‘s a major campaign promise that Barack Obama made.  I think, right away, it is a high visible promise, and the Associated Press reported that he may sign an executive order.  It won‘t shout down Gitmo.  The order would be designed to find a way to end Gitmo and to deal with the different types of prisoners there.  And it may take months.  It may take a year to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Different type of prisoners, Michael Smerconish, the ones that are really guilty, can prove a case against, you put them on trial, whether it‘s a military court or these new kind of tribunals.  Apparently, it‘s going to be a military court-martial for them, according to people who are predicting what Barack—what do you do with the people who aren‘t guilty of a discernible crime that you can prove but are clearly dangerous?  What do you do with them?

SMERCONISH:  Sooner or later I think every one of them needs to be tried. 

MATTHEWS:  For what? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, Chris, if you don‘t have a basis to try them for something, than they ought not to be in custody.  I‘m against this open ended process that goes on for years.  Frankly, I think that seven years is plenty of time to bring someone like Khaled Sheikh Mohammed fully through the Justice system.  I just don‘t want to begin a process where we Mirandize everybody and immediately afford them a lawyer, because it‘s a battlefield conflict that has led to their arrest. 

CORN:  And Michael, you know that‘s exactly what‘s happened with Gitmo.  Gitmo has become the symbol of open-ended detention, without habeas corpus protections.  Whether you your—

MATTHEWS:  The president says we should keep them until the war on terror is over.  Is that—you don‘t think that‘s reasonable, fair or practical, right, Michael? 

SMERCONISH:  All of the above.  I think the war on terror is going to outlive the three of us.  I hope I‘m wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  So, therefore, we can‘t just keep holding people, because we believe they‘re dangerous.  What does Israel do, David, when they have people they pick up they know are dangerous, who have committed themselves to destroying Israel, but they haven‘t been caught committing an act of terrorism.  What do you do with them? 

CORN:  They usually hold them and trade them for Israelis down the road.  I don‘t think they‘ve held anybody for that long without bringing some sort of charges.  I mean, this is all about due process.  And even if you want to have a process that‘s a little bit different than you afford American citizens, it has to be sensible, has to be—

MATTHEWS:  So you think Barack would be right to use a military court-martial as an appropriate venue? 

CORN:  I think if there are enough protections.  There still have to be some due process protections.  I don‘t think Bush‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Michael?  Go with a court-martial, instead of the tribunal set-under Bush? 

SMERCONISH:  I could live with that, Chris.  What I‘m concerned about is that this becomes a conventional criminal case and that you take away some of the tools that, by all accounts, at least from this administration, have been effective.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  OK, fair enough.  We know where we stand, somewhere in the middle, courts-martial, not regular criminal trials under the American system of justice, something like a military court.  You agree with that? 

CORN:  Something in between. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  We have reached agreement here.  Michael Smerconish, David Corn.

Up next, eight days left for President Bush and eight days until President Obama.  Here in Washington there are signs everywhere signaling this historic change-over.  We‘re going to take a look at this incredible moment in American history.  By the way, you‘re seeing in town here.  Look at it, it‘s going to happen next Tuesday.  Look at it.  There it is.  That inauguration‘s going to occur with millions of people here in town.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the politics fix.  We have Michelle Bernard with you.  Thank you.  Harold Ford Jr., sir, thank you for joining us.  I want to do a little—well, a little walk back memory lane here to 2004.  This is a clip from our coverage of Barack Obama‘s Keynote Address at that Democratic Convention up in Boston.  Here it is from a little more than four years ago. 


MATTHEWS:  I have seen the first black president there.  I know—the reason I say that is because—because I think the immigrant experience, combined with the African background, combined with the incredible education, combined with his beautiful speech—now every politician gets help from the speech, but that speech was a piece of work. 


MATTHEWS:  There‘s a pugnacious Irish American making a point there, Harold Ford. 

HAROLD FORD JR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I would call it prescient.

MATTHEWS:  Either prescient and pugnacious as well, saying this guy—you‘ve just spotted him.  I was—what did you think?  Did you spot him that night?  Maybe it was going to be you that night.  I don‘t know.  Just kidding.

FORD:  I think the world and America, they were captivated with so many things.  Michelle I know has thoughts on this as well.  I think what moved me that night was to hear him talk about this divide, red and blue, and moving us to a better place.  He was able to elaborate, amplify those points.  And obviously the rest is history.  Now we‘ve got four years of what all of us hope will be a different kind of potential and a different kind of realization for this country and so much of public policy in this country. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I remember that speech.  I was absolutely captivated, had never heard of Barack Obama before.  I just remember sitting back and looking at the television and thinking, who is this man?  He electrified everyone, whether you‘re a Democrat or Republican.  You knew this man was someone who was going somewhere. 

I agree with Harold, I remember thinking when he talked at not having a red America and a blue America but one America that he was speaking to the future and this whole sense of renewal that we‘re all feeling right now. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  You know, Harold, Michelle, I have taken a lot of crap for being inspired by his words.  That‘s what it is, because anybody who is not inspired—forget his politics.  What he talks about America and how he talks about us gets to me, Harold.  He talks about us and how we can be united.  That‘s what really works with the crowds, black and white and brown, that meet him and hear him. 

But it wasn‘t until I actually heard him.  I also heard that African name, that Swahili name, Barack Obama, and said, what, this is a country that‘s lucky to elect an O‘Malley, let alone Barack Obama.  Then I heard him—did you have to hear him to know it? 

FORD:  I think it was a combination.  If Americans were told seven years ago, or almost eight years ago now, on September the 12th or December 12th 2001 that you would elect a president named Barack Hussein Obama versus Stan Johnson, who happened to be African-American, I think most people would have said a Stan Johnson way before a Barack Obama. 

Barack‘s experience, Barack‘s oratory, more importantly, the way he inspires and touches people, is what has allowed him to reach this point.  He‘s like that number one draft choice for the NBA, NFL, or any sport.  He‘s done so well in the combines.  He‘s done so well in gaining a great contract.  His family is beautiful.  He‘s laid out a wonderful offensive plan for the team. 

Now he‘s got to go execute.  If you look at the team he‘s put around him, you‘ve got to be inspired by a lot of those things.  I, as one American, not only look forward to rooting for him, but look forward to following him and sacrificing as he asks so many Americans to do things differently, as we embark upon four years of challenge and opportunity here. 

MATTHEWS:  There he is at Ben‘s Chili Bowl in downtown Washington.  That‘s not the exclusive section.  That‘s the regular, working class part of town, 12th street.  I have to tell you, I wouldn‘t eat that food every night for health reasons. 

BERNARD:  It is good. 

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re a diabetic, it wouldn‘t be at the top of your preferred eating habits.  Once in a while, I think a meal there is quite a treat if you come to Washington.  There he is, having it.  He said, what are you here for?  He said, I came for the hot dog. 

I would like you all to look at this.  We can put it up again.  Every once in a while, I‘m taken by something in this business of politics.  This is what, of course, the great Bill Cosby had to say on “Meet the Press.”  It wasn‘t your usual “Meet the Press” discourse.  It was something beyond that.  Here he is. 


BILL COSBY, “THE COSBY SHOW”:  Well, I took my father‘s picture, I

took my mother‘s picture, and I took my brother, James—he died when he

was seven.  I was eight.  And I took three of them into the voting booth in

Shelbon Falls, Massachusetts, and I pulled the curtain.  I took their

pictures out.  And I said, ‘and now we‘re going to vote.‘ 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  We‘ll be right back to get the reaction from our two guests, Harold Ford Jr., and, of course, Michelle Bernard on that amazing description of what this moment meant to so many millions of Americans, this fact we‘re going to have an African-American president from a unique background.  We‘ll be back with more of HARDBALL.  We can‘t forget what is coming this week, amidst the news.  History is being made.  We‘ll be right back with MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Harold Ford Jr. and Michelle Bernard with the politics fix.  Harold, Harold—I have that Philly accent.  I can‘t tell Harold from Howard.  Anyway, but you‘re Harold.  What did you think of Bill Cosby?  He‘s such a deep guy.  I was taken. 

FORD:  Look, listening to him had to move any American.  I‘m African-American.  Knowing that I‘m 38 years old, and I‘m recently married.  I‘m in an interracial marriage.  When I have my first child, and I can‘t wait, I look forward to looking him or her in the eye and being able to honestly say, there‘s no office in America, political office, that you can‘t attain.  Barack Obama made those words real. 

For Bill Cosby and that generation—I‘ll take this liberty here.  Michelle Bernard and I have known each other for a long time.  Our parents know each other.  I know her siblings.  For us to have this opportunity in a lifetime, and for them to be able to see it is a special moment for a group of Americans who are as proud of this country as any, and a special moment for, I dare say, those in a generation ahead of us.  For Bill Cosby to say that, I think he captured the sentiment of a lot of African-Americans.  It doesn‘t matter, a lot of older Americans. 

BERNARD:  I think all African-Americans, but, as we talked about on election night, to me, it was such an important moment, particularly for black men.  He spoke to manhood—you noticed that every person that Bill Cosby said he brought into the voting booth was a relative, and it was a man.  Black men, particularly, have had it so difficult in this country.  To be able to look at Bill Cosby—he looked like he was on the verge of tears.  It was a very emotional moment.

You and I talked before about Frederick Douglas‘ speech about what does July 4th mean to the American Negro?  For me, November 4th was our July 4th.  It was our independence day.  It was just wonderful to watch Bill Cosby and know so many men, particularly of his generation, feel so happy and feel renewed. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t want to miss the forest from the trees.  I want to talk about this the rest of the week a lot, whenever we can.  We take a break and talk about—we don‘t want to miss the forest for the trees.  By the way, Douglas gave that speech at the Athaneum (ph), up in Nantucket. 

Anyway, thank you Harold Ford Jr. and Michelle Bernard.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 an 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster.



Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight