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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

December 27, 2012

Guests: Josh Green, Chris Frates, Ryan Grim, Glen Johnson, Rana Foroohar, Blake Zeff, David Winston


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. I have a message for the Tea Party members
everywhere: Destroying government is not good politics. You are engaged in
negative politics. You are acting against the majority rule right now.
You are trying to bring down the majority government by obstruction.

People will remember who won tax relief. We`ll all remember that. People
who believe in government will remember. The people who believe in
national defense and Social Security and Medicare will remember. They will
know which party is trying to destroy working democracy in order to pursue
its political ends. They will know who listens to the voter, who respects
the voter, and who thumbs his nose at the voter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the Tea Party right, is you. We go over
this cliff, and you will not have to ask for whom the bell tolls, it will
be tolling for you.

Leading off tonight, Josh Green of "Bloomberg Businessweek" and Chris
Frates of "National Journal." You don`t have to be as clear as I, but try,
gentlemen, tonight. It looks to me like one party. Once again, it`s
asymmetric. Both parties are not screwing around, one is. Is that true by
your lights, Josh?

JOSH GREEN, "BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK": I think, at this point, both parties
basically want to go over the cliff for different reasons.

MATTHEWS: Both want to go over the cliff?

GREEN: I think both want to go over the cliff...

MATTHEWS: Who will get blamed?

GREEN: I think Republicans will get blamed. But I think Republicans, at
this point, fear casting a career-threatening vote to raise taxes instead
of waiting four days and letting the cliff to the work for them...

MATTHEWS: And then they`d be able to...

GREEN: ... and then strike a deal.

MATTHEWS: ... technically say they`re voting...

GREEN: Technically, they`re voting for a tax cut, which Republicans are
very comfortable...

MATTHEWS: Do they -- do they presume the voters are that dumb?

GREEN: They what?

MATTHEWS: They think there`s a difference? Let me ask you -- they might
think that.

GREEN: They might.

MATTHEWS: Chris, do they think the voters are that dumb as to think three
days` difference in how you vote, with the exact same result, somehow
exonerates you from having been an apostate, on the hard-right Tea Party

CHRIS FRATES, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, I think, Chris, a lot of these
Republicans in the House aren`t worried about the general voter at large or
kind of what the national polls say. They`re looking...

MATTHEWS: Oh, they think only their base is stupid.

FRATES: Well, they think -- they think...

MATTHEWS: They think only their base is stupid...

FRATES: They`re worried...

MATTHEWS: ... is what you`re saying?

FRATES: They`re worried mostly about a primary on the right. They`re

MATTHEWS: But why would -- why would...


FRATES: ... have to worry about a Democrat coming after me in the

MATTHEWS: I know all that. I know...


MATTHEWS: I know all that! Let`s get to the bottom line. They are
arguing, in their minds, that they`re safer to vote to keep the country
going next week sometime rather than this week because they believe that
the benighted people who think they`re great on the hard right will be

FRATES: They -- they -- I don`t know that they`re betting that they`ll be
confused, but they`re betting that they`ll be, after January 1st, voting
for a tax decrease and not voting to raise taxes on anybody...


FRATES: ... and that`s really easy to explain in a bumper sticker.

MATTHEWS: OK, Josh, explain...


MATTHEWS: Explain to the voters out there who have clear minds exactly the
thinking that goes into -- if you let the government default, or whatever
goes on this weekend because, basically, defense spending will be cut and
we`ll have new payroll taxes and all the tax rates will go up on income tax
and estate taxes will go up and all the bad stuff will happen, and somehow
that`s good politics.

GREEN: It`s good -- look, creature -- politicians are creatures of narrow
self-interest. And from the self-interested standpoint of a Republican
House member from a safe district who fears a primary challenge, yes, it`s
better for them to wait three days, cast a -- go over the cliff, cast a
vote to cut taxes, and basically screw all the people who are going to be
affected by it, preserving their own jobs, than it is to agree to a tax
increase now and risk the wrath of the Tea Party right two years from now.

MATTHEWS: OK, Chris, let me ask you about another possibility. I hope it
doesn`t happen. Next Tuesday or next Wednesday, when the market reopens on
January 2nd, and they fully realize at that point that this cliff has been
gone over and the Congress has failed to meet its own targets, which it set
itself when it set this cliff up, who will pay the price if, say, the
market drops 500 or 1,000 points and keeps dropping for two or three days,
and that affects the chances -- in fact, creates the chance for a second
dip, a second recession?

Who will be responsible for that occurrence, if it happens?

FRATES: Well, I think right now, people will say Republicans will be
responsible, but it will have the effect, if that happens for, as you point
out, Chris, a couple of days, a couple of weeks, to also hurt President
Obama because he is also steering...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

FRATES: ... the ship of state. And he`s the guy, who if the markets are
tanking, people look to the president and say, Why don`t you do something,
get these guys to get on board...

MATTHEWS: I understand.

FRATES: ... and get it done?

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. I think everybody gets hurt, but mostly

Let`s take a look at what happened today, just recently, this afternoon,
late today on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid said what has
become more and more obvious, the prospect of reaching a deal to avoid the
fiscal cliff before January 1st is very unlikely. That`s putting it
lightly. Let`s watch.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There`s 435 members of the House.
What goes on in this country shouldn`t be decided by the majority, it
should be decided by the whole House of Representatives. The speaker just
has a few days left to change his mind. But I have to be very honest, Mr.
President. I don`t know time-wise how it can happen now.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was plaintive. Anyway, this afternoon, Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wasn`t willing to offer the White
House a blank check just because we`re on the edge of the cliff. Take a


president we`d be happy to look at whatever he proposes. But the truth is,
we`re coming up against a hard deadline here, and as I said, this is a
conversation we should have had months ago. And Republicans aren`t about
to write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just
because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff.


MATTHEWS: Well, actually, it`s not a blank check the president has been
pushing. And this isn`t a partisan statement. Look at the numbers in
terms of what the public thinks about what the president ran on, which is
to raise taxes for people who make over $250,000 a year. Forty-seven
percent of the country basically agrees with that, which is what he said.
Only 13 percent raise taxes for everybody. They are the real
conservatives, and fiscally hawkish, I`d say. And 35 percent say no tax

So Americans tend to agree with what the president campaigned on
relentlessly. In fact, when you go back to this campaign, Josh, there are
very few other statements he made as clearly or as relentlessly as, I`m
going to bring back tax fairness this way.

So for Mitch McConnell, who`s certainly a smart guy, to say that the
president is asking for a blank check -- he`s not. He`s asking for the
check that was written by the voters.

GREEN: Well, and the problem is, is that emphasis, that -- what voters
wanted was reemphasized in the failure of plan B, which would have at least
raised taxes on millionaires, cut everybody else...

MATTHEWS: And they couldn`t even get that.


GREEN: So the reason -- one reason that was so damaging is because it was
essentially a value statement for the Republican Party of what they`re
standing up for and who they`re standing up for. It`s going to hurt them
if we go over the cliff.

MATTHEWS: Chris, you`re up there on Capitol Hill. I can hear the
reverberations of the echoes up there, and I don`t always like them, but in
this case, it gives you dateline integrity.

How come there`s no sense of urgency? These guys are all home like it was
Boxer Day in England yesterday. They`re all enjoying the week. They`re
home, wearing their socks, walking around the house, whatever they`re
doing, enjoying life. But nobody seems to be running around like I am
wondering what the hell`s going to happen. Why -- how do you explain the
lack of worry up there?

FRATES: Well, from a Republican standpoint, the House being out is a lever
to try to get the Senate to put something on the floor, and Speaker Boehner
has been very clear it`s the Senate`s turn to act. Senate Dems aren`t
taking that bait. They often feel like they`ll put something on the floor,
if they don`t have Republican consent for it, then they`ll end up having to
either pull it or see it go down in flames, and then Republicans can point
to their failure and say, Hey, look, they failed, too.

So Democrats are wary of kind of falling into this trap that Republicans,
they feel, are trying to set for them. And so there`s this kind of staring
contest up here, Chris, where everybody`s...

MATTHEWS: I like that.

FRATES: ... looking at everybody, and it`s like watching a slow-motion car

MATTHEWS: Using that metaphor of a staring contest, can you see anybody
blinking? Everybody thought that Harry -- that -- I guess they thought,
first of all, that Boehner would blink and he`d just take on his Tea Party
and say, Look, I only want 50 or 75 votes out of this caucus. I don`t need
you crazy people out there. I just need a few normal people, and I`ll get
150 Democrats and we`ll pass something.

He didn`t blink and do that. Is there any chance he will before Monday?

FRATES: I think there`s a chance that if Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell
can blink together, that Reid and McConnell can come to agreement to bring
something to the floor and move forward, then and only then will they
blink. But both guys have to hold hands and jump into the pool at the same

MATTHEWS: But Mitch McConnell`s worried about, what, Ashley Judd running
against him. What is he really worried about? I`m just kidding because
he`s not worried about the general election.


MATTHEWS: He`s worried about a primary election like a Rand Paul.

GREEN: And the other point to keep...

MATTHEWS: By the way, he is from Rand Paul`s state. It`s possible.

GREEN: He is. The other thing to keep in mind here is that Boehner`s
speakership vote is up again on January 3rd. That`s something to keep in

MATTHEWS: But you -- you guys keep -- everybody keeps saying that, but to
vote against the speaker, who is the caucus nominee -- let`s face it, he is
the nominee of the Republican Party -- to not vote for the speaker is a
major act of betrayal on the part of any member of the Congress. You have
to that day...


GREEN: ... several dozen betray him on plan B. And the idea if he goes

MATTHEWS: But actually voting for the speaker?

GREEN: ... and forces through a tax increase, they could express their
dissatisfaction, their unhappiness, by not voting for him for speaker.
Remember, it takes a majority of the full House...


GREEN: ... for him to get elected. A couple dozen of those guys...

MATTHEWS: I know all this stuff. I know this stuff.

GREEN: But for the sake of the viewers...


MATTHEWS: ... very well said. For the sake of the viewers, but still, for
the sake of me, there used to be a sense of doing the right thing, and by
the time you`re the party nominee for speaker, you vote for the party
nominee for speaker. You don`t just screw around with this thing because
that would elect Pelosi.

GREEN: Well, if you want to see politicians doing the right thing, turn it
to TNT and you can watch "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

MATTHEWS: I mean, isn`t that -- isn`t that the craziest thing, Chris, that
the people who would actually vote against Boehner for speaker would end up
voting Pelosi into the speakership. How weird that would be.

FRATES: Well, they wouldn`t because...


FRATES: They wouldn`t have to vote for Pelosi. They could vote for...

MATTHEWS: No, just not...

FRATES: ... Newt Gingrich or somebody else.

FRATES: ... voting for their guy. It`s a...

MATTHEWS: But then Pelosi would get the most votes.

FRATES: Well, no, because you need...


FRATES: You`d need 218. So in this, they would need to find a nominee who
had 218.


FRATES: And I don`t think Boehner would ever lose, but I think it would be
a very big symbol, a very big kind of vote of dissatisfaction...

MATTHEWS: Yes, you know what we don`t need...

FRATES: ... among his Republicans.

MATTHEWS: ... right now? Chris, you know what we don`t need right now is
another symbol. How about complete chaos?

Anyway, thank you, Josh Green. These guys are -- they`re going to -- wait
until you see the headlines the next couple days in the papers because the
grown-ups who write big front pages of newspapers are going to go, These
guys are nuts. Anyway, thank you, Chris Frates...

FRATES: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... up on the Hill, and thank you, Josh Green, for enlightening
us for the purposes of the viewer.


MATTHEWS: Coming up: The man in the middle of the Republican circus, John
Boehner. Let`s figure out this guy. What`s his story? He`s the leader of
a party that doesn`t want him to be the leader -- doesn`t want to be led by
him or anybody. They don`t even -- well, it`s not even actually a
political party anymore. It`s a faction of Tea Party people who are
telling most Republicans that they`re not playing ball with them.

Also tonight, hating Hillary -- again. That was the intriguing idea behind
a Politico story this morning. When will the right learn to rekindle its
hatred for Hillary? What I mean by that is everybody played the Hillary
card lately, saying how great she was on the right so they could make Obama
look bad. At some point, they`re going to have to confront, potentially,
Hillary Clinton herself as the chief Democrat in the country. When will
they pivot? When will the Etch-a-Sketches come out?

And if you`re worried that we`ll soon be governed by sharia law, have no
fear. Republicans are keeping us safe from something that was never going
to happen anyway. That and other lowlights from 2012 in the "Sideshow."

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my hopes for the upcoming year,
especially from our president.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey announced today his
candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by John Kerry, who
President Obama, of course, has nominated for secretary of state.

Markey is a friend and respected guest on HARDBALL and has been in the
House since 1976. He`s the dean of the Massachusetts delegation, and he
has the best values of anybody I know in politics.

If he gets the Democratic nomination for the Senate, he could wind up
running against Scott Brown, who won the seat in 2010, then lost it last
month. The special election is likely to take place this June.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When John Boehner failed to bring his
so-called plan B to a vote last week because he didn`t have enough
Republican support to pass it, the speaker abdicated his role in the fiscal
cliff talks. He said it was now up to the U.S. Senate and the White House
to do something.

Well, the sad reality is that Boehner is leading a dysfunctional caucus
with a vocal minority of Tea Partiers who can hold up the chances for any
deal. Well, today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Boehner of
caring more about his reelection as speaker than getting something done.
Take a listen.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The American people I don`t think
understand the House of Representatives is operating without the House of
Representatives. It`s being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker.

John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than about
keeping the nation on firm financial footing.


MATTHEWS: So what is Boehner`s game plan? Does he even have one?

Ryan Grim is Washington bureau chief for the HuffingtonPost and Glen
Johnson is politics editor for Gentlemen, thank you for
joining us.

That -- I worked on the Hill for years. You guys cover the Hill and know
it. That was a very personal shot from Harry Reid. Is it accurate to say
-- open question -- that Speaker Boehner is worried about staying speaker?

RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTONPOST: Yes. He`s definitely -- I think he`s not
worried about his election on January 3rd, but that`s not the end of it.
You know, I think he`s worried about his speakership every day that he`s
speaker, just as he was...

MATTHEWS: Glen, you agree with that, that he`s worried that he may be
losing -- ultimately losing out or being thrown out of the speakership by
his own party? That`s his (INAUDIBLE)

GLEN JOHNSON, BOSTON.COM: For sure. I mean, he spent the first two years
of his speakership looking over his shoulder, as the camera shows, at Eric
Cantor right behind him, ready to pounce...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Cantor`s with him now, isn`t he? Hasn`t his number two
guy joined him?

JOHNSON: Well, he`s his number two guy and he`s a supporter, but he is the
spiritual leader of the Tea Party caucus there, and that is the group that
seems to be calling the shots right now in the House of Representatives.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about the Republican Party. Let`s try to be
really analytical here. You know, to me, two things happen in every
election. One, somebody wins, somebody loses. And then there`s the other
part of every election, a signal is sent which way the country wants to go.
It`s a verdict that goes out to the people who got reelected. Careful,
buddy, careful, lady, you could be next.

So isn`t there a sense in the Republican Party that Obama won a comfortable

GRIM: Right, but -- and that was based...

MATTHEWS: "yes, but."

GRIM: That was Boehner`s mistake. He...

MATTHEWS: He thought that was reality.

GRIM: He thought that was reality, and he learned the other night that it

MATTHEWS: Republicans don`t see it (INAUDIBLE). So what covers the sky in
their world?

GRIM: It`s not blue.

MATTHEWS: Fiscal red.

GRIM: It`s not blue, that`s for sure. And so, you know, when he realized
that he couldn`t round up the votes, he had to recognize that they did not
respond to the election the way that other rational factions have responded
to elections over the past decades, or centuries even.

MATTHEWS: So what do we make -- what do we make, Glen, of this Captain
Queeg we have here, a guy who seems scared to death of his own crew, scared
of weather conditions, worried about what`s going on, and still has to be

JOHNSON: Well, I mean, the simple reality is he`s the speaker of the
House, but each one of those people runs in their individual district. And
these Tea Party members in particular, the group that Cantor has the most
control over or represents the most, they answer to an electorate that
feels very much in sync with them.

So this isn`t just some issue for them. Voting for a tax increase is just
something that`s anathema to them and to their constituents...


JOHNSON: ... and that`s the problem that Boehner has had the whole time.

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m going to test you. When you`re speaker of the House and
your brain is working like this, can I make a deal with the president? I`d
like to make a deal with the president. This is good government. So
you`re thinking, Who do I have to check with? I got to check with the
president, see what the best offer I can get out of the guy is. And then
who do I check with in my own Republican land? I go to Eric Cantor. He
tells me what?

GRIM: Well, he`s already -- he`s -- he already has this covered, to
Boehner`s great credit. He brought Paul Ryan in. He brought Eric Cantor
in, brought McCarthy in, who might be the one that`s...

MATTHEWS: The guy from California.

GRIM: Yes. And he brought them all in on this plan B and all on the
negotiations. So he`s covered there. He needs McConnell. If he can get
McConnell and a couple Senate Republicans, then -- then he...

MATTHEWS: But what about the body of 40 or so Tea Partiers that are just
holdouts? How does he reach them, the ones necessary for any kind of
majority of a majority?

GRIM: Well, he doesn`t necessarily need them. If he can get the -- if he
can get Senate Republicans, then that...

MATTHEWS: Is that his game right now, to go around his hard-core right?

GRIM: It is because then the hard-core right isn`t just blaming John
Boehner for all the troubles of the world. They`re also blaming Senate

MATTHEWS: Can he get a -- can he allow the House of Representatives to
work its will with a minority of Republicans?

GRIM: Yes, he can.

MATTHEWS: Glen, is that your view? Is that your view, Glen? Because this
is really what we`re going to -- if we get a solution next week some time,
let`s agree, it`s probably going to be because the speaker allows a
minority of Republicans, maybe less than 100, to agree with some 120
Democrats, and out of that will be a deal, because it came through the
Senate somehow, that they both had to go that way. Is that how it looks
like it`ll develop here?

JOHNSON: And that was the undertone -- or the undercurrent to what Harry
Reid said today, is if this guy opens this up and tries to let some of
these House Democrats vote and some of the more moderate Republicans, they
can get a deal through that chamber, and I think that...

MATTHEWS: Can -- OK...

JOHNSON: ... that`s the calculus for a deal.

MATTHEWS: Let me -- both you guys, Ryan and Glen, first Ryan -- can a
successful resolution of this leave Boehner as a strong speaker, or will he
be inevitably weakened by any deal -- any deal?

GRIM: He`s already weak. And he can`t get any stronger through this, no.

MATTHEWS: So this is going to hurt him no, matter how it ends up?

GRIM: I think he`s already taken the damage. And I know that they`re open
to doing it with Democrats...



Your view, Glen. Does this hurt him if he`s seen as kind of -- I know this
because this happened to people like Charlie Crist and anybody who has ever
dealt with -- and it happened to Robert Bennett, when he was working out
there with another Democratic senator.

All you have to do as a conservative is to vote with a Democrat on anything
and you`re mistrusted by the right.

JOHNSON: Yes, for sure, but also -- there`s also another battle every
other day in Congress.

And so if John Boehner can get the House through this moment, you know,
Eric Cantor doesn`t necessarily want to be speaker either, because then all
these problems fall in his lip. If he has the chance to get the House
through this present crisis and then move on to other issues, there are
things that are going to empower him certainly coming down the road.

MATTHEWS: So, you think if he can get through this, he can survive.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the question is whether Speaker Boehner really is in
control of his caucus.

Earlier this month, he raised the ire of many on the right when he removed
several conservatives from top congressional committees. As Politico`s
Jonathan Allen wrote at the time: "The whole episode gave Boehner the feel
of a substitute teacher who is accountable for what happens in the
classroom, but isn`t really in control of the kids." Well, that`s pretty

After Boehner`s plan B failed, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote
this about the state of the Republican Party -- quote -- "His caucus has
rendered Boehner a nonplayer in any future fiscal negotiation because he
can no longer speak for his conference. Perhaps Boehner should quit and
let the House GOP stew and watch as the country grabs pitchforks and
torches to come after the tax hikers. This is a party acting like a
minority party or, worse, like petulant teenagers."

Listening to Jennifer, I`m not sure whether she`s saluting that kind of
wild, crazy right-wing behavior or what.

GRIM: Right. It`s not clear. She might like that.


GRIM: And they are acting as what they are. They a minority party within
the House.

You had said earlier they`re kind of a faction within a party. They`re
almost their own party at this point.

MATTHEWS: Right. But let`s go over it.


MATTHEWS: You seen "Lincoln"? You seen "Lincoln"?

Have you seen Lincoln, Glen?

JOHNSON: Yes, I have.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the same Republican Party that was founded
back in the 1850s. It seems like it`s made up of two very different groups
of people, one the Whigs or the establishment people, and that`s Boehner
and a few other guys like him. They`re reasonable Republicans from the
burbs, they don`t vote crazy right, they know we have to have a government
and they want it to work, joined by the abolitionists, the abolitionists.

Is there any way that they can reach some sort of coming together, the way
Lincoln was able to put the party together?

You first, Glen. Can this party operate as a functioning, governing party
again, or is it always going to now be a division between the
abolitionists, who just want to get rid of everything, and the Whigs, who
believe in the establishment of government?

JOHNSON: I think that`s the question of our political moment here right

I mean, you know, the proverbial chain is as strong as its weakest link.
Well, in this case, the House and the leadership that the Republican
leaders have in Congress is going to be dictated by this very hard-right
Tea Party Caucus.

And so they`re not in a position of a strength. They`re in a position --
weakness -- excuse me -- they`re in a possession of strength. And that is
really dictating what gets done, what issues get tackled, and the
interaction between Congress and the presidency right now.

MATTHEWS: So, as long as that hard right is only afraid of the hard right
back home, this further hard right, they have a lot of strength.

GRIM: Yes, and I don`t think this type of party can become a governing
party for those reasons.

MATTHEWS: Do they want it? Do they want to?

GRIM: Well, some of them don`t. Some of them would rather go down

MATTHEWS: You can survive in Congress for 30 or 40 years simply issuing
press releases trashing the government.

GRIM: Easily. Easily.

MATTHEWS: That`s all you have to do.

GRIM: There`s 100-plus that could be there forever.

MATTHEWS: The funny thing is they`re all stuck with the committee chairs.
The Democrats would love to be the committee chairs.

GRIM: Right.

MATTHEWS: And the Republicans would love to be the ranking opposite member
who doesn`t have to do anything. It`s so bad.


GRIM: Anyway, what a disgrace.

Anyway, Ryan Grim, thank you.

You guys have been really good.

Glen, you`re so smart, you two guys. Happy new year.

Up next, can you say climate change? Well, not if you`re studying the
environment in Virginia -- that and other silly Republican state laws in
the "Sideshow." This is a great "Sideshow" coming up.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow," a good one, I said.

First, the right way to legislate? ThinkProgress is out with a roundup
some of the most out-there legislative moves we saw from the Republican
side this past year.

Some HARDBALL favorites from the list? First, how about banning the terms
climate change and sea level rise from a request to study the causes of
coastal flooding? That`s exactly what happened in Virginia`s led
legislature. The study could not get approval for funding until what one
lawmaker called left-wing terms were yanked from the proposal, terms like
climate change and sea level rise.

Second, state bans on Sharia law. Both Florida and Kansas passed laws
banning Islamic law in their states. A spokesperson for Kansas Governor
Sam Brownback said -- quote -- "Kansas courts will rely exclusively on the
laws of our state and our nation when deciding cases and will not consider
the laws of foreign jurisdictions."

Well, it`s anybody`s guess why we need a law confirming that we follow the
laws of our own country. Seems redundant.

Next, Newt Gingrich gets outshined by the sound of his own cell phone.
Newt was talking about what went wrong, so wrong for Republicans this past
election when this happened.


wrong. They thought they were going to win. If you had talked to them at
5:00 on Election Day, they would have told you they honestly believed they
were going to win.

But I also think that the country -- the country is going to want to be in
a different position. And I think that we have got to understand That`s
right we are -- let me just take that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a ring tone? What ring tone was that?

GINGRICH: Well, I have two ring tones. I have -- "Dancing Queen" is my
general ring tone for most people. And then my wife`s ring tone is "Super



GINGRICH: We stay with ABBA all the way through.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was, in fact, "Dancing Queen." Anyway, it`s not the
first time ABBA has caused Newt to pause from politics.


GINGRICH: Immediately allow for implementation that day of the XL


GINGRICH: I had to cut off -- I had to cut off my song.

That was "Dancing Queen." I didn`t have to answer it.


GINGRICH: If it`s "Super Trouper," it`s my wife. I have to answer.


GINGRICH: I should have turned the phone off.


MATTHEWS: Next: what money can`t buy. The Sunlight Foundation is out with
a list of Congress -- congressional candidates, actually, who spent more
than $35 per vote in the 2012 election.

Topping the list is Michele Bachmann. She narrowly won her bid for
reelection in Minnesota and dropped $140 per vote in the process.

Right beneath Bachmann, though, it`s Florida Republican Allen West. West
spent about $110, $2 less than Michele, and lost his race.

Finally, what`s a woman in a bikini have to do with the fiscal cliff?
Well, ask "The New York Post." There she is on today`s front page leaping
off an actual cliff. "Off the fiscal cliff, this fall is really going to
hurt." That`s what they said.

Anyway, up next, it used to be a favorite Republican pastime, going after
Hillary Clinton. Well, it hasn`t happened for a while, of course, but what
if she does run for president? How could they resist doing it again?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good day, everybody. I`m Tyler
Mathisen with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks rebounded today in the last hour after word that the House of
Representatives will reconvene Sunday to deal supposedly with the fiscal
cliff. The Dow Jones industrials down by 150 points at one point during
the day recovered to lose just 18. The S&P 500 finished just two points
lower, Nasdaq down 4.25.

Commerce Department says sales of new homes went up almost 4.5 percent last
month. That`s the highest rate of growth in total sales in more than two-
and-a-half years.

That`s it from CNBC -- now back to HARDBALL.


GINGRICH: I mean, if their competitor in `16 is going to be Hillary
Clinton, supported by Bill Clinton, and presumably a still relatively
popular President Barack Obama, trying to win that will be truly the Super
Bowl. And the Republican Party today is incapable of competing at that


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Newt Gingrich`s reverence for Hillary Clinton is certainly a long way from
the near contempt Republicans held for her back in the `90s. Even as a
senator, Hillary Clinton was close with -- was close with some high-profile
Republicans. She had friends up there.

Well, this archival "L.A. Times" story`s headline, "The Secret Friendship
of Hillary Clinton and John McCain," but a piece in today`s Politico asked,
when will the right wing or the right start hating Hillary Clinton again?

It`s a fascinating story for political people.

"TIME" magazine`s Rana Foroohar joins us. She`s -- and also the host of
MSNBC`s "The Cycle," and senior writer for writer of Salon, Steve Kornacki.

Thank you, Rana. So far, it seems to me that if you listen to Newt
Gingrich, who has become a commentator every time he`s not running for
something, you get the sense that you don`t want to run against Hillary
Clinton because she`s grabbed the center. She`s quite hawkish on issues
like Iraq and the Middle East generally. In fact, I think she`s very
hawkish compared to most Democrats. And, therefore, where are the
Republican -- where is their wiggle room to go against her, Rana? I don`t
know what they run against her on if she`s so strong on national security,
which is her issue.

Your thoughts.

RANA FOROOHAR, "TIME": I completely agree with that.

I think she`s done an incredibly great job as secretary of state. She`s
been incredibly deft actually at repositioning the U.S. in a multipolar
world, in a world where we have relatively less economic power and in some
ways less willingness to intervene militarily. She`s managed through
digital statecraft, through very smart uses of technology, through
empowering women economically to project a soft power.

And it`s been a great credit to our country and I think it`s going to be a
real tough thing to put in a bad light.

MATTHEWS: You know -- and, Steve, I don`t know about your politics on
this. I think I`m a little to her left on a lot of these foreign policy
issues like Iraq and the Middle East. She`s positioned herself just where
you want to be, a notch or two to the right of Obama on foreign policy vis-
a-vis Netanyahu and the Likud Party over there, vis-a-vis the issues like
Iran and past -- she never took back her support for the Iraq war, for

So, it seems to me she`s notched pretty close to the middle there
politically, a good place to run against any Republican.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Well, let`s see about that because by that
theory ,if you go all the way back to when the Clintons first made it to
the national stage in 1992, Bill Clinton should have been the favorite of
the Republicans.

He was the guy who brought the Democratic Party away from the left and into
the middle. Instead, of course, you had -- the Bill Clinton years were
just like the Obama years.


MATTHEWS: So, you see this happening again?

KORNACKI: I`m saying they`re going to find something. It`s not always
logical, it`s not always about, well, it`s this issue and it`s this
position. It`s -- they`re going to invent it.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about -- OK, let`s get back to the visceral part, not
just we`re going to run against her because she is the competitor, could
potentially be the Democratic standard bearer, but are we going to hate


MATTHEWS: I agree with you. I agree with you about -- Rana, this is true.
We have had how many presidents in a row hated? I mean, Obama is hated by
the far right. They hate him like the Republicans used to hate Roosevelt.

Now you got the hated Clinton. You`re right, Steve.

When does the hatred get into the souls, where they say, not only will we
beat her, we`re going to kill her, we`re going to destroy her?

Your thoughts, Rana?


FOROOHAR: They`re definitely going to hate her. There`s no question about
that, but is it going to stick the way it did last time? She`s in a very
different place.


MATTHEWS: Why will they hate her?

FOROOHAR: Well, they`re going to find some reason. I don`t know what it
is now. I think it`s going to be very tough, as I said, to argue with her
foreign policy record.


MATTHEWS: Do you find reasons -- I don`t find people -- I don`t find
reasons to hate people. Why would you find a reason?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, I`m looking at the polarized politics we have in
this country, and I think that they will.

But I think that she`s in a very different position. She`s not Bill
Clinton`s wife trying to reform health care. She`s a woman that is
positioned as very smartly on the world stage and as you say has been
hawkish on many issues, tough to argue with.

MATTHEWS: Yes, my thoughts too.

Back to you Steve for the offense here. You`re making your case. How will
they pivot? When will the Etch A Sketch come out?

KORNACKI: Yes, I think it might be connected to all this Benghazi stuff.
You have started to hear some voices, some sort of snide voices.


KORNACKI: Skeptical would be the polite term.

MATTHEWS: But they nailed Susan Rice. They nailed Susan Rice. They
nailed the CIA. They were going after everybody but the secretary.

KORNACKI: Right, but then now when she had this concussion, I heard some
snide voices on the right about, is this really a concussion, that kind of

MATTHEWS: You mean John Bolton?


KORNACKI: Yes, John Bolton.


KORNACKI: And I kind of feel, look, if she ends up testifying next month,
maybe that`s the pivot point. Maybe that is when it begins.

And if it`s not then, I think it`s going to be soon. It`s not a question -
- I think it`s really just a question of you have one major political party
that devotes itself to tearing somebody down. It doesn`t mean she can`t
win in 2016. It just means that a lot of the reason she`s at 70 percent
right now, her approval rating, is because a lot of Republicans have
forgotten they`re not supposed to like the Clintons.

They will get that message in the next year or two.


MATTHEWS: My respect for the senator went right through the roof when she
ran for the Senate in Upstate New York, Rana, because she could have taken
a lot of hell from people who are not rooting for her if she had lost that


MATTHEWS: She was already first lady. She was already capable of running
for president, very popular first lady. She didn`t need to put everything
on the table in New York state. And she did it, which is the test of
political guts to run up there in Upstate New York and she won a really
good race, she won big, and she is unbeatable up there.

I think she will run for president if she wants to. I don`t think fear
will ever get in her way. I don`t see any evidence of fear. My question
is -- and I got to think of this -- I have to always bring this up.

When I`m at a dinner party with people, I always say, how many of you
secretly personally believe she`s going to run? How many secretly
personally don`t think she`s going to run? And the popular opinion, that
she`s definitely going to run.

But every time I put that to individual -- a jury of 12 people, it`s about
even. So people have their own personal reasons -- you want to -- you`re
shaking your head, Steve, so you go first here.

People think, wait a minute, 12 years of intense pressure on you, four
years of running, eight years of serving, into your late 70s. Does anybody
want to inflict that on their lives at the end of their life, basically?


MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

KORNACKI: I think there`s a compelling case that she doesn`t run. It sort
of goes like this, look, 1992 they came to the national stage and they have
been on the national stage, she and her husband, since then. For 15 of
those 20 years, all the way through 2007, she was -- she and her husband
were the top targets of the right in this country. Remember, she called it
the vast right wing conspiracy.


KORNACKI: Well, there was something to that. It`s not that they
absolutely will beat her in 2016, I think she could beat them but it`s an
issue of do you want to endure that, as you said, you want to endure that
kind of day-to-day attack politics, vicious politics for another four
years, for another eight years, or do you want to say, you know what, I
have proven enough in public life and I want to do something else?

MATTHEWS: That`s a question. Rana?

RANA FOROOHAR, TIM MAGAZINE: I don`t know. I think that she showed no
signs of her energy lagging as secretary of state and that`s a pretty tough
job, too. I`m not saying it`s as vicious as running for president, but I
didn`t see her slowing down and I think she will run.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the ideology. Where do you think she
stands politically? Would you put her where I put her on foreign policy to
the right of Obama? Rana?

FOROOHAR: I would.

MATTHEWS: And safer politically for reelection or an election in a general
election, given the fact people normally want to switch parties every eight


MATTHEWS: You don`t want to run as a Xerox of Obama. Your thoughts.

FOROOHAR: I do --I do think she`s to the right on foreign policy. I think
what`s going to be really interesting is seeing where she is economically.
She`s been, as I said, very savvy about using economic state craft to
advance foreign policy goals for the U.S.

It will be interesting to see what she brings to the economic debate
because I think that`s still going to be a debate in the next election --
jobs, how to grow, how to get the country back on track. It will be really
interesting to see where she comes out there.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have you as a feminist, and everybody is a feminist
right now. I guess they better watch out if they`re not. I mean that.
It`s a good position to be in politically.

Do you think she will have an unusually high draw among women voters? And
that`s maybe a dumb question.

FOROOHAR: Oh, she -- yes.

MATTHEWS: But could she get up to 65 percent or 70 percent of the women
voters, as opposed to 55 percent?

FOROOHAR: Wow -- I mean, that would be a high number. If anybody can do
it, she can. I see her having tremendous strength there and that`s a
demographic trend that`s already -- that train has left as we know. So I
think she can ride that.

MATTHEWS: Steve, do you think she could get up to 70 percent, say, or 65
percent? Right now, the Democrats get 55 percent to start with.


MATTHEWS: Could she go something historically that just blows the other
party out of the game because of her dominance of female voters?

KORNACKI: Yes, I`m not sure in a general election you could do that. But
I think the difference is this. If you look 2e two reasons why she lost
the Democratic primaries to Obama in 2008, one was the Iraq war, that whole
foreign policy.


KORNACKI: And the second thing was simply this idea that Democrats thought
maybe she`s too polarizing. Obama is the uniter, Clinton is the wars of
the 1990s all over again. Too many people just don`t like her.

And I think the best thing Republicans have done for Hillary Clinton in the
last four years is they have taken that argument away. No Democrat can
come along in 2016 and use that argument against her now, that she`s a
uniquely polarizing figure. Now, the argument is she`s as polarizing as
anybody else.

MATTHEWS: Here`s my view: get a whole new team around you. The team you
ran with last time was a disaster. Get people who want to enlarge your
coalition, not narrow it down, so they could be big shots, enlarge, they`ll
become exclusive. Her way team was way too exclusive, way too narrow in
their thinking, they should have built a very big national campaign the way
Bill Clinton was able to do.

Anyway, thank you, Rana Foroohar. I always get in my editorials here.

And thank you, Steve Kornacki, as always, my colleague from the network we
both serve. Thank you.

See you all in the next year.

Up next, the election is over. Now, it`s time for President Obama to get
things done and he has less time than you might think strategizing a second
term. When we come back, let`s talk the future.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: There`s been a lot of talk about gun laws since the shootings in
Newtown, Connecticut, and one result seems to be increased support four
tougher gun laws. Fifty-eight percent of Americans polled by Gallup now
say they want to see stricter gun laws as opposed to 34 percent who wants
things kept the way they are. Compare that to a year ago when only 43
percent wanted to see stricter laws.

It`s worth remembering, however, that support for tougher laws often spikes
and then fades after mass shootings.

And, of course, the NRA always stands in the way of any new or reviewed
restrictions -- but, of course, we all know that.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama has a critical period of time at the start of his second
term when he can set the course for the next four years. Presidents
traditionally have less than two years to make a mark in their second terms
before their power starts to fade and President Obama is still facing a
Republican House that acts as though this election of last November never

How will he strategize for maximum leverage on the following issues, guns,
our relationship with Iran, and immigration?

Well, joining me right now is Republican strategist David Winston and
Democratic strategist Blake Zeff.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

Let`s talk about the thing we just talked about during the cluster here.
Guns -- can the president -- will he put himself behind something on
limiting the size of these magazines, getting them down to say five or so
bullets, willing to go after what Feinstein is pushing, Dianne Feinstein,
something on assault weapons.

Is there something that he can go for and win because it seems to me losing
will not get him any points? Your thoughts? First of all, David.

clearly announced that`s the direction he`s going to go.

Look, when you have an event like this, look, I`m very pro-Second
Amendment. But when you see something like this occur, it causes you to
think through in terms of your beliefs, do you continue to hold those
beliefs given what happened? I still do.

But I think and obviously the president is going to go the different

MATTHEWS: What`s the smart move though? What`s the smart -- is it
magazine size, is it mental health and guns or is it just --


WINSTON: And, Chris, you just got to it. Actually, I would suggest where
he can make some significant process is the mental health side of it.
Look, when you look at what happened to Gabby Giffords, when you take a
look at what happened at Virginia Tech, in this situation, there was a
clear mental health problem.

MATTHEWS: And John Hinckley. Give me John -- how about John Hinckley?

WINSTON: John Hinckley, as well.

And there are some way that, in fact, we can begin to address that issue
and I think that`s where common ground can occur here. And there, he can
make some significant process -- progress.

And again, when you look at some of these situations -- I mean, the person
clearly was troubled. And there`s a real opportunity there.

MATTHEWS: Now, how do you stop a guy that wants to shoot his mother to get
her guns? That is the sickest part of this, but it`s hard to put a sign on
the guys, that says don`t give this guy a gun. I don`t care how you
identify him if he`s going to shoot his mother.

Your thoughts? I mean, I`m being gross here, but this is a horrible case.
How do you stop a person with some mental ability for doing something
really, really bad, Blake? What can the president do on guns to give
himself a point in the history books?

BLAKE ZEFF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I`ll tell you, the first thing is
-- just because something, you know, a measure can`t solve every single gun
case like the one you just mention, doesn`t mean we should impose those
measures, right?


ZEFF: And I think one way that we can get some of these cases where you`re
dealing with people who are dangerously, mentally ill is to close that gun
show loophole, right? So, 40 percent of guns are purchased at gun shows
where there are no background checks required. If we tighten that up so
that you do have background checks, I think that will stop --

MATTHEWS: Why do we have to have gun shows? It`s an oxymoron. What`s a
gun show?

Anyway, let`s go to Iran now, a tough one, I`m with you on the gun show

Let me go back to David on Iran.

I think we`re going to be united at the time we to have to make a decision
in this country on Iran. I think we`re going to decide we got scientific
evidence that they`re weaponizing or they`re just about to. And then the
question is, what does he do, would have to do, David Winston, the

WINSTON: Now, I agree. If there`s -- look, nobody in this country, right,
and wherever you are in terms of the political spectrum, think it`s a good
idea for Ahmadinejad to have a nuclear weapon, right? I mean, so I think
there`s a clear universal agreement.

MATTHEWS: Talking about gun control.

WINSTON: Right. I mean, but the dynamic here is, what`s this solution?
And I think -- I think you`re right. I think because the problem is so
huge and people are so scared of him getting a weapon of this scale, that I
think you`ll see people wanting to figure out how to solve it and coming
together make that work. So, I think that is an opportunity.

Having said that, clearly, some of the things in terms of approaches to
foreign policy have been dramatically different over the years. But,
ultimately, I think the threat here is so large that you`ll see both sides
come together on this one.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think this maybe thrust upon him, Blake, this one.
I don`t know whether he`s going to have much choice if they go to

ZEFF: I`ve got to say, Chris, this is -- as you know, this is a war-weary
nation and, you know, we`ve had neocon for over some time here. And, you
know, I was working in the Senate a decade ago when there was a case made
to the American people about weapons of mass construction.

So, I think I and many other Americans are going to be naturally skeptical
about that. And I think if it`s at all possible to avoid war, I think we
can all agree with that something that we absolute needs to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get back to the principle. If we know they have --
they`re about to build a nuclear weapon or they`ve just got it, they made
the decision. I mean, we hear stories like Mossad will know through its
various sources, its various moles, they will know when the decision is
made. Now, some people may disagree with that.

But we may have absolute certitude at the time the mullahs decide to move.
We may know right then, Blake. What do we do then?

ZEFF: Look, if -- I think any president would make the decision that if we
have to protect the nation, we`ll do what we have to do. But I just want
to be clear that we`ve been told in the past that there`s weaponization
and, you know, the case that was presented was not entirely accurate.

MATTHEWS: I`m not going to listen to Bibi. It`s not Bibi`s call, by the
way. It`s our defense we have to focus on and we have to make the right

Let`s talk about immigration. Everybody talks immigration. You hear the
pro-immigration people who represent the Latino community generally say,
let`s make -- let`s legalize everybody here at some point.

Fine. I think most people, when it comes down to the deal, it will be part
of it.

But then you never hear them talk about the teeth. You never heard them
say what law do you put in that the government of the United States is
willing to enforce to stop people from coming here at will, that they`d be
some liberal but enforceable system of deciding who gets to live in this
country? Are we ever going to get that dealt with in a reasonable period
of two years? David?

WINSTON: Well, I think clearly given this selection, there`s motivation to
sort of figure this out. First up, and I think everybody agrees, no matter
where you are, the immigration system is completely and totally broken.

You know, even if we have a policy in place, there`s way we can enforce
because we have border that there`s no ability to do that.

Two, the idea of shipping home 11 million people at this point is clearly
not something is going to occur. So, to some degree, there has to some
rational thought in terms of like how do we get to a system that works.

Having said that, both sides have got to deal with the fact, conservatives
have got to deal with the fact, what do you do with 11 million people and
how do you manage that? And liberals are going to have to deal with the
fact that how do you actually put a border in place that you can enforce a
policy? Because right now, even if we had a policy, right, there`s no way
to enforce it, because there`s nothing in place of the border to make that

MATTHEWS: We can`t even agree on a work permit. Every country -- I think
Swaziland has a work permit. We`re the only who seems to be embarrassed
about requiring a work permit to work in this country. You can`t got to
Belgium, you can`t go to France, you can`t go to anywhere in the world, you
can`t go to Mexico and work without a work permit. And we`re afraid to
have one.

Your thought, Blake? Why do we even have a basic requirement of a work
requirement -- of a work permit?

ZEFF: Yes, I think actually I agree with David in the sense that I think
that the election was actually a clarifying moment here. You know, I`m not
to often say that, oh, there were huge policy implications.

MATTHEWS: OK, got to go.

ZEFF: But -- from an election, but I agree with David that in this case, I
think it was clear that there`s going to be movement on this.

MATTHEWS: I hope so. I really do.

Thank you, David Winston. Great guest.

Thank you, Blake. Same with you.

You`re watching HARDBALL right now, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I have high hopes for President Obama`s second term. I have low hopes for
the Republican opposition in Congress. I have rising hopes for the old,
reasonable Republican Party out there in the real world, the party that
resides in the eastern big states that actually deals with the real work of
being big state governor, for example.

So here we go. We`ve got to do something about guns, especially keeping
guns from dangerous people. We have to do something about Iran -- yes, we
have to. And I`m no hawk.

And we have to do something about immigration. We need to do what any
country in the world has to do. Decide who comes into the country, decide
the terms of their staying. We need to do it in an American, progressive
way. But we have to do it.

Right now, our approach to immigration is a joke. We exploit people
economically. We exploit the issue for political purposes. We don`t give
people dignity and we need to do that, most of all.

And we`ve got to do something about the rising percentage of our national
economy that has been taken up by the cost of our unfunded government
programs. We need to find a way to contain the rising cost of health care,
because that is the number one cause of our fiscal and debt problem and
it`s not going away.

So it looks like 2013 is going to be real. It`s going to deal with issues
of peace and war, issues of national identity, issues of personal security,
especially for our young.

You think it`s not important? At your peril. Say it and you`re part of
the problem.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Have a happy and
safe New Year out there.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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