'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

December 4, 2013
Guest: Dana Milbank, Steve Israel, Ryan Grim, James Clyburn, Stephanie

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: President Obama comes here tomorrow.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. I got the Christmas Eve excitement
brewing right here at HARDBALL because tomorrow night at precisely this
time, 7:00 o`clock Eastern, the president of the United States is going to
join us here on HARDBALL.

It`s going to be a powerful night of serious questions, certainly from me,
about the political dysfunction at the top of our government these days,
questions about executive management methods in light of the health care
rollout, questions about voter suppression efforts across the country. I`m
also going to ask the president about war and peace questions, the moral
issues involved with the use of drone strikes, how we can avert war with

We`ve been hitting these issues on HARDBALL. I`m hopeful the president
will be responsive to the current concerns that you and I certainly share
and I hope that we have for this -- and the hopes, of course, we have for
this country for the next three years.

Unfortunately, America`s still being assaulted by the bizarre politics of
Benghazi, birtherism and bingo (ph), crazed notions that this president
should be removed from office, either because he`s committed unclear crimes
or because he is somehow an illegal alien who should never have been
elected in the first place, someone who deserves not just to be thrown from
office but deported to East Africa or somewhere more distant.

Yes, we`ve got a wild and woolly right wing out there that cares darn thing
about facts, only about the need to strike a blow for, as I said, Benghazi,
birtherism or bingo (ph). They`re talking impeachment.

Jonathan Martin -- actually, Jonathan Capehart joins us. He`s an opinion
writer with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. And Dana
Milbank is a columnist with "The Washington Post."

Yesterday, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee held a hearing
called -- you`ll love this name -- "The president`s constitutional duty to
faithfully execute the laws."

Well, as Dana Milbank, who`s with us right now, pointed out in his column
today in "The Washington Post," this was an impeachment hearing. Time and
again, the redhots on the far right blew the bugle for driving the
president from office.

Let`s listen to them.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R), GEORGIA: What can you do? I`m often asked this.
You got to go up there and you just impeach him or you go up there and you
just impeach the president or you go up there and you just cut funds off.
You shut everything down.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If a president is ignoring entire
categories of the law, whether it be immigration, marijuana, mandatory
minimum, the ACA, what is the remedy for the legislative branch?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: The next recourse is, I think as Mr.
Rosencrantz (ph) said, the word that we don`t like to say in this
committee, and I`m not about to utter here in this particular hearing --

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: We`ve also talked about the "I" word,
impeachment, which, again, I don`t think would get past the Senate in the
current climate. Am I missing anything? Is there anything else we can --
anything else we can do?


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the guy, Farenthold. By the way, is it Howdy
Doody time around here with these people?


MATTHEWS: think I`m watching Buffalo Bob and the peanut gallery. I`m too
old not to remember that stuff.

But let me ask you this. That guy, Farenthold -- let`s not forget his
provenance, where he comes from. He was the guy on this show not too long
ago who said, I will not say the president was legitimately elected
president. He wouldn`t say it. I gave him three shots at that baby, and
he wouldn`t do it.

So not only is he impeachable, according to the latest plans of these
jokers, but he`s also illegitimate. I don`t know if you can impeach a guy
that wasn`t even there legitimately (INAUDIBLE) double down to me. Your

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. And he is on record now
saying that the House (INAUDIBLE) vote to impeach this president if they
were allowed to have this vote. And he said, you know, What else can we
do? What`s our remedy? Well, there really isn`t one. So they can just
have one of these show hearings. And it`s -- yes, it`s an impeachment
hearing, but you can picture John Boehner --

MATTHEWS: You mean they`re stymied by a lack of facts?

MILBANK: Well, no, they were --


MATTHEWS: -- there`s nothing we can do.

MILBANK: Well, what do you do? You can win an election. Well, they
didn`t do that last year. You try to cut off the power of the purse.
Well, they lost the fight on, you know, the default and the budget
showdown. You take him to court. That`s not going to work. Well, they
know they`re not going to impeach him --



MATTHEWS: You`re a little young. You maybe remember it as a toddler.
There was an impeachment hearing one time in this country. It was very
solemn. It was held at night, the House Judiciary Committee under Peter
Rodino. And Democrat and Republican alike very solemnly looked at the
question of Richard Nixon`s misbehavior. And they did it very carefully.
They had articles of impeachment. They had a long investigation by John
Doar ahead of time, who was Bobby Kennedy`s top guy. And they really took
it seriously. They weren`t laughing. They weren`t smiling. They weren`t
making stupid, snarky remarks.

This clown show, this is what they`re doing.


MATTHEWS: They don`t have a case.

CAPEHART: But Chris, these folks who are part of this clown show, they
take this very seriously.

MATTHEWS: They do?

CAPEHART: Yes, they do.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t showing off?

CAPEHART: No, no, no. Well, keep something in mind, though, Chris. That
hearing that happened yesterday, that`s the first sort of public iteration
here in Washington in an official capacity of this impeachment talk.
During the summer, in August, when they were all out on the hustings at
their town hall meetings, this came up time and time again, where --

MATTHEWS: Do you think they`re dropping the dime? They`re trying to get
the word out there and trying to get it in play, the word? Do you think
this is systematic?

CAPEHART: Well, I think the word is -- the word is already out there. I
mean, people started talking about this because they`re still pushing the
notion that the president is in the White House illegitimately, that his
birth certificate is fraudulent, and therefore, he should be impeached and
gotten rid of. That`s -- that was behind the scenes. Now --

MATTHEWS: These are the people --


MATTHEWS: -- Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother,
just like the president was, no matter where he was born.

CAPEHART: Right. But --

MATTHEWS: Even though he was born in Honolulu.


MATTHEWS: Which is just a simple fact. By the way, that`s part of the
United States, something a lot of these people don`t know.

CAPEHART: But the thing, though -- the moment we should start to take the
folks in this clown show really seriously is when you have serious people
within the House, more serious people in the Senate --

MATTHEWS: Well, I`ve never heard anybody being serious about something

CAPEHART: Exactly. Well, no, but you don`t see anyone other -- you know,
any other Republican in the Senate -- you don`t see John McCain talking
about -- or Lindsey Graham talking about impeachment, do you?

MILBANK: No, I mean, you do hear Tom Coburn talking about it, Jim Inhofe
talking about it, and well, Ted Cruz is I guess -- that answers the


MATTHEWS: Well, they`re playing to the patch back home, Oklahoma and Texas

MILBANK: They are, and --


MATTHEWS: -- to their base.

MILBANK: They can rile up the base wit this. I mean, the giveaway, of
course, is they know the end result that they want, which is impeachment,
but they have, like, a dozen different reasons for it. Was it Fast and
Furious? Was it Benghazi? Is it the birth certificate? Is it "Obama
care"? They don`t care.


MILBANK: They don`t care. Any policy disagreement --



MATTHEWS: There once was a word named decency.

Anyway, the impeachment battle cry isn`t about policy, of course, or any
intelligible standard of the law. It`s about attacking the president`s,
let`s face it, right to be president. Here`s a bit of proof.

Earlier this summer, the president`s enemies threatened impeachment if the
president did act to raise the debt limit if Congress didn`t go along with
him. Senator Tim Scott, Republican from South Carolina, said, quote, "This
president is looking to usurp congressional oversight to find a way to get
it done" -- to raise the debt limit -- "without us" -- the Congress. "My
position is that that`s an impeachable act, from my perspective."

Well, then the far right threatened impeachment if the president did not
act to raise the debt. Here`s U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert down in


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you allow us to default on our debt?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: That would be an impeachable offense by the


MATTHEWS: Well, that would be an impeachable if he didn`t act. I mean,
either way. So either way, raise the debt limit or not, the result`s the
same, impeachment. These guys can teach it round or teach it flat.

CAPEHART: Right, and damned -- look, the president is damned if he does,
damned if he doesn`t.

MATTHEWS: But it`s so ludicrous!

CAPEHART: And it`s not like this is an organized -- an organized thing
going on here. You think that Tim Scott and Gohmert got together and said,
OK, you say this, and then I`ll say that. They`re all just --

MATTHEWS: How about this line? You say neither, I say neither, but let`s
call the whole thing off.

CAPEHART: Well, they`re not going to call the whole thing off.

MATTHEWS: I`ll just call him off.


MATTHEWS: Well, what is it? I`ve never seen anything like this.

MILBANK: It is -- it is --

MATTHEWS: What is it, Dana? You`re good at satire.

MILBANK: It is --

MATTHEWS: It`s hard to beat this bunch.

MILBANK: Well, you can`t satirize this because it`s a parody of itself.
But the idea -- it`s a primal scream. They are very frustrated. This is
the same, you know, like, third of the Republican electorate that blames
President Obama for Hurricane Katrina`s response. It`s irrational. They
need to give voice to it. The leadership said, Please don`t have an
impeachment hearing, so they say, Oh, let`s have an impeachment hearing,
but just say it`s the "I" word.


MATTHEWS: OK, what I really find -- no -- of course, no talk about
impeachment would be complete without bringing up that magic bingo word,
Benghazi. Despite the fact there`s no evidence whatever of any sort of
cover-up or crime committed by the president, redhots do salivate over the
issue when it comes to impeachment.

Here it comes again. Let`s listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Jason Chaffetz of Utah is joining us right now. Among
other things, he`s suggested that perhaps, perhaps President Obama`s
handling of the Benghazi terror attack could be -- could be -- an
impeachable offense.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I was simply asked, Is that within the
realm of possibilities? And I would say yes. I`m not willing to take that
off the table.

LT. GOV. DAVID DEWHURST (R), TEXAS: Barack Obama ought to be impeached.


DEWHURST: Not only -- not only trampling on our liberties, but what he did
in Benghazi is just -- it`s a crime. It`s just a crime.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: People may be starting to use the "I"
word before too long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The "I" word meaning impeachment?



MATTHEWS: OK. Help me out, guys. I`m open to any information. I say
this about all conspiracy theories. Give me the facts. I`ll look at them.
I`m not against facts.

Is it about the fact that that facility wasn`t adequately protected? Fine.
That`s a problem of incompetence, certainly not an impeachable crime. Was
it a problem of not answer the phone when the phone rang at 3:00 o`clock in
the morning or whatever it rang and they didn`t really try to save the guy?
Well, that would be impeachable if there`s any evidence of that. I never
heard any evidence at all.

Or is about the argument over what Susan Rice said on "MEET THE PRESS" and
whether she told the full truth or didn`t know the full truth at the time
she was talking. None of that seems to get to the president or even the
secretary of state personally that I can think about unless somebody proves

CAPEHART: And on that third point, they spent weeks hammering Susan Rice
and the president over what she said on a Sunday show, rather than focusing
in on the real issue because --

MATTHEWS: How would it be impeachable if somebody --


MATTHEWS: -- told the story they way they wanted to tell it politically.

MILBANK: But we`re --

MATTHEWS: Let`s be honest.

MILBANK: We`re --

MATTHEWS: They tell the story they wanted to tell politically. That`s
impeachable? Well, this whole country wouldn`t have begun in the first
place if that was the case.

MILBANK: We`re barking up the wrong tree asking for facts. The goal
that`s wanted is impeachment. It has nothing to do with the issues here.
That`s why 13 to 25 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have asked for
some form of impeachment for whatever reason and why maybe two dozen, three
dozen other lawmakers have asked for that same thing. The reasons are all
over the lot because it doesn`t --

MATTHEWS: Is this like recall? Is this like recalling Gray Davis in
California or trying to recall Scott Walker?

MILBANK: They would do it if they could.

MATTHEWS: If it doesn`t have anything to do with incompetence, maybe it
has to with we just don`t like the guy`s policies?

CAPEHART: Well, that`s it. They don`t like the guy`s policies. They
don`t like the guy. That`s the foundation of everything. They do not like
the president. They -- a lot of them hate the president. And anything to,
as you always say, put an asterisk next to his presidency --


MILBANK: And they have suggested impeaching Eric Holder for implementing
the president`s policies. They`ve even talked of impeaching Harry Reid, as
if that were possible, for enacting the president`s policies in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen. It`s only fun because it`s crazy. But we
shouldn`t laugh at crazy, but we do, especially when it`s political
craziness by people who I think are performing seals. I think they`re not
racists. I think they`re performing for the people they think are on the
hard right. (INAUDIBLE) guarantee the caboose of their political party
stays on the train. Do you like that metaphor?

CAPEHART: That`s good.


CAPEHART: And it`s good to keep the clown show visible.

MATTHEWS: The clown show is busy in the caboose. One of my favorite
words. Anyway, thank you. Any word with an "O-O" in it is funny. Anyway,
Jonathan Capehart, Dana Milbank, a great satirist, great column again.

Coming up: The audacity of no. Well, some Republicans are now saying their
party has to do more than just say no, as in no on health care, no to
immigration reform, no to anything President Obama has his name on.

Plus, game change. In health care, yes, the president and the Democrats
are taking the initiative now, and there`s some good reason. More people
reportedly signed up for insurance in two days this month than in all of

And on the subject of the Affordable Care Act, it`s not enough for
conservatives to call it incorrectly a total government takeover of health
care, now one big-name radio talk show host is calling "Obama care"
supporters "Nazi brown shirts." Got to stop referring to people as Nazis.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with our big show tomorrow with President
Obama. He`s coming here 24 hours from now, live. Well, it won`t be live,
it`ll be that afternoon in American University with all those students
around us. It`s going to be right on television for us (ph) tomorrow night
at 7:00.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: President Obama will be joining me on the "HARDBALL College
Tour" from American University tomorrow. And if you have any questions for
him, just go to the HARDBALL page on MSNBC.com, join the "Let`s Play
HARDBALL" group and submit your proposed question on the comments section.

And we`ll be right back.



"Obama care," and I know you don`t, even though it`s built on market-based
ideas of choice and competition in the private sector, then you should
explain how exactly you`d cut costs and cover more people and make
insurance more secure. You owe it to the American people to tell us what
you are for, not just what you`re against.



MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the president with a plaintive plea to the hard
right of this country, Come up with your own plan or help me make mine

Anyway, today the president did make clear again that Republicans have to
do more than simply be against whatever he`s for. They`ve got to come up
with a plan or at least something to help. He called out Republican
minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell for his fight to repeal the
Affordable Care Act.

Here he is talking to McConnell -- indirectly.


OBAMA: If the Senate Republican leader still thinks he`s going to be able
to repeal this some day, he might want to check with the more than 60,000
people in his home state who are already set to finally have coverage that
frees them from the fear of financial ruin and lets them afford to take
their kids to see a doctor!



MATTHEWS: Well, some on the right are now pointing out that the
Republicans` negative message, especially contrasted with President Obama`s
positive message and his hopeful one, is a political loser for the GOP.

Today Kathleen Parker, who`s right here, writes in "The Washington Post,"
"When Republicans say the health care plan is doomed, a train wreck, a
disaster, et cetera, and offer no helpful options, they appear to be
rooting only for failure. And if there`s one thing American voters have
proven again and again, they reject negativity in their politicians and
generally support the positive, hopeful messages of leaders like Ronald
Reagan, of course, and well before him, FDR, and of course, President Obama
when he ran for president.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for "The Washington Post." Ed Rendell is
former Pennsylvania governor. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Governor Rendell, when you look at -- I think -- I don`t want to get too
optimistic because it`s very tricky and I don`t know the interstices, but
it looks like the Web site situation is a hell of a lot better than it was
when it was supposed to be great back on October 1.

And is the Republican Party getting a little antsy about maybe total no
isn`t enough? I don`t know. Are guys like Fitzpatrick and Meehan and
those guys around Philly getting a little nervous? They can`t join the
real angry, hating Southerners down there that just score every time they
attack Obama personally.

Chris remember, the affordable health care act is playing out in the
context of other things, like immigration reform, like the farm bill,
things where there`s been nothing but negativity, nothing but, We hate what
President Obama is for. We have no solution on our own. And that`s a
(INAUDIBLE) destined to bring nothing but doom and gloom to the Republican
Party. They`ve got to start talking about it realistically.

I was on a show on our network where some Republican said, Well, we`re for
making sure that people don`t get disqualified for preexisting conditions.
We`re for eliminating lifetime caps, et cetera, but they`re not for the

And I pointed out you can`t have the insurance reforms without putting
healthy people in the pool. They should just check with their private
insurance companies. They`re the ones who say that`s a disaster.

So they have no proposal. They flounder when they try to explain what
they`re for. And eventually, that`s going to sink in.

MATTHEWS: You know what I find interesting? We were just talking about
it, Kathleen, about impeachment. And I was thinking, Wait a minute,
they`re impeaching the president -- and I don`t know what grounds they`re
using -- for delaying some of the implementation of "Obama care," not
meeting its deadlines, its starting dates. And then they attack him for
pushing it out too early, the rollout of the exchange on October 1st.

And I said, Wait a minute. Is he guilty in both directions? Is this guy
bad for bringing something on time and bad also for bringing it out later
because he wasn`t ready? But if he isn`t ready, he shouldn`t have brought
it out?

These guys should check with each other about their indictments --


MATTHEWS: -- because they`re 180 from each other and they offset each


MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

PARKER: -- it makes them --

MATTHEWS: Maybe they don`t think.

PARKER: Yes, well, it makes them look silly. They kind of remind me right
now of -- you know how when we go to the conventions, we have the
protesters caged?

MATTHEWS: Right outside.

PARKER: And you just let them vent and get that out of their system.

MATTHEWS: Usually some gravely former parking lot, yes.

PARKER: (INAUDIBLE) stick your finger in the cage. Well, I -- obviously,
I totally agree that the negative is getting them nowhere because I wrote a
column about just that.

And President Obama is wise to that. I mean, he understands, They said no
all along, and I`m just going to be Mr. Positive, Mr. Hope and Change
again. It`s worked before.

But he`s also distracting people from the legitimate points that the
Republicans have raised, during the rollout especially, and particularly
with the -- you know, with the misleading of the American people about
keeping what you want, keeping your plan --


PARKER: -- keeping your doctor. All those things are still out there --

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s smart to call him a liar?

PARKER: Well, I don`t use that word.

MATTHEWS: Well, are they smart to do that?

PARKER: I think --

MATTHEWS: I avoid that word.

PARKER: I think they`re very wrong --

MATTHEWS: I`m sure somebody will find me using it, but I don`t like the
word because it ends the conversation.

PARKER: Well --

MATTHEWS: It`s sort of undemocratic because once you call the other side a
liar, what`s further to talk about?

PARKER: Exactly. And I think probably you and were both raised not to
call people liars. It`s the worst thing you can do to somebody, completely
indict their character. It`s the worst charge you can make.

So no, it doesn`t help them. And by the way, "No, no, no" not only insults
the president, it insults the American people, because they put him in
office. They put the Democrats in charge.


PARKER: And so when you are constantly badgering, essentially, the leader
of the country, you`re badgering all those people. And, again, eventually,
it just becomes a raw kind of wound that you can`t finish -- you know, you
can`t heal.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is today. The president`s going to widen the
issue, Governor and Kathleen. He`s gone wider. He says, you want to fight
me on principle, I have got a bigger argument for you.

President Obama included, by the way, today the Affordable Care Act in a
larger system of social responsibility he laid out today which he says
benefits us all. And he uses his story as living proof. Let`s listen to
the president once again step back to his strength, his biography, his
larger argument for a broader America, which is a more inclusive America, a
more just America, not just arguing over one program. Here he is.


country educated my grandfather on the G.I. Bill. When my father left and
my mom hit hard times trying to raise my sister and me while she was going
to school, this country helped make sure we didn`t go hungry.

When Michelle, the daughter of a shift worker at a water plant and a
secretary, wanted to go to college, just like me, this country helped us
afford it, until we could pay it back. So what drives me as a grandson, a
son, a father, as an American, is to make sure that every striving,
hardworking, optimistic kid in America has the same incredible chance that
this country gave me.


MATTHEWS: Governor, this is why he was elected, right then, because that
grabbed the American -- it certainly grabbed me, the combination of the
immigrant experience, which a lot of us share, the idea that we came here
and got on the escalator and got up better off in this country than we
would have gotten off back where we came from, wherever that was.

And this country really does give opportunities for people, whether it`s
the G.I. Bill my father had, whether it was National Defense Education
Acts, which paid for my college and it almost paid for my whole grad
school. These are opportunities that we get in this country to move up
that escalator.

And he was saying, I was one of the people like you that went up that way.
We can`t stop that escalator.

That grabbed me. But I get the feeling sometimes, Governor, they`re afraid
to talk about poor people, because they`re afraid it will turn off the
middle class. You have always been good politically in -- in building a
coalition between poor people, less off -- less well-off people and better-
off people. It seems like the president`s not afraid of it anymore. I
don`t know what -- what do you think`s changed?

RENDELL: No, I think he`s decided he`s going to fight for what he believes
in. And he`s going to spend the next three years taking the case to the
American people.

And, interestingly, the president got a huge help in the last two weeks
from the pope.


RENDELL: The pope, who sounded the same message for Catholics all over the
word, and not just Catholics, for people all over the world, we are
supposed to take care of each other. That`s what made this country great.
We`re supposed to look after each other.

When one falls down, all the rest are supposed to pick him up. That`s a
great message. It is a hopeful message. People want their better angels
appealed to. I always believe that. People want to be good. They want to
be giving.

And the president`s now sounding -- sounding -- you know, sounding the
right tone. Now, Kathleen`s right. He`s been able to, in the last day or
two, switch the dialogue away from some of the problems with
implementation, with the mistake about, if you like your health care plan,
you can keep it. He`s now broadening the dialogue. And he`s smart to do
that, because it`s a winning proposition. People want to do it.

And especially as we get into the holidays, it`s a great time to be
delivering that message.

MATTHEWS: It`s an all political move, too, by the way. I got to be honest
about it.


MATTHEWS: When you`re in trouble over efficiency, make the issue, what
side are you on?

RENDELL: That`s right.

PARKER: Absolutely.

And he`s making this call to citizenship and unity, which is always lovely
to the ears. And I can make all the same statements that he has made about
his family. But, you know, we -- the Affordable Care Act was passed
without any Republican votes, and this all comes at a time we`re as divided
as we have been certainly in my lifetime, well, since the `60s at least.

And it`s not -- he`s leaving out a certain percentage of the American
people, about half, who don`t think we`re on the right track, and he`s --
by the way, meanwhile, there`s a new Harvard political poll out that shows
that President Obama is losing the support of the millennials, who -- who
put him in office.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I heard that.

By the way, to make you feel good at this season of the year, how many
newspapers do you have now in your syndication?


MATTHEWS: I was speaking about the American escalator. Where are you at

PARKER: I -- I need three more to hit 500, the magic number.

RENDELL: There you go.

MATTHEWS: You are like one of the most successful -- isn`t she amazing?
This is one of the most successful columnists in the country. I`m so glad
you have hooked up with MSNBC.

PARKER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you, Kathleen Parker of Charleston, South
Carolina, I believe.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Governor Rendell of Philadelphia.

Up next: Bill Clinton clarifies his infamous comment about smoking
marijuana and not inhaling. It`s so interesting how this stuff comes back
to bite you. By the way, what a harmless thing for him to say anyway.

But this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and now for the "Sideshow."

Bill Clinton shed some new light on one of his most enduring quotes from
his 1992 campaign. No, it`s not a place called hope or the comeback kid,
but his unforgettable defense about smoking pot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New controversy is swirling around the Democratic
campaign trail, this time in the form of marijuana smoke. Bill Clinton was
in New York Sunday for a broadcast debate with Jerry Brown. It was during
this appearance that he was asked point blank about illegal drugs.

BILL CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And that when I was in England,
I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn`t like it and
didn`t inhale and never tried it again.


MATTHEWS: Don`t you love that word experimented, like with test tubes?

Anyway, to many at the time, his explanation was a matter of semantics.
They thought it was a clever denial. And since then, "I didn`t inhale" has
become one of the most quoted remarks in politics.

But this week, the former president clarified what he really meant in an
interview with Fusion TV. Let`s take a look.


CLINTON: Like many things in the press, that whole thing has been totally
twisted. I didn`t say I was holier than thou. I said I tried. I didn`t
deny I never did anything.


QUESTION: That you didn`t inhale, yes.

CLINTON: I never denied that I used marijuana. I told the truth. I
thought it was funny.

And with -- the only journalist who was there said I told the truth. So,
everyone else had to cover that up because that`s not the story they wanted
to tell. So that`s a silly thing.


MATTHEWS: Well, you could say that many on the hard right have been
overzealous with their criticism of President Obama and the Affordable Care
Act, but some just don`t know where to stop.

Conservative radio host Mark Levin is the latest to cross the line. This
time, he`s likening supporters of the ACA to Nazi Brown Shirts, the storm
troopers that Hitler used to disrupt, harass, kill or intimidate his
opponents during his rise to power in the early 1930.


headline at the McClatchy Washington bureau: "Obama Strives to Pivot From
Health Care Woes."

Obama told hundreds of handpicked supporters gathered at the White House
complex that America needed to move beyond the health care Web site to
focus on the benefits of the law.

A handpicked group of supporters. All they need is special uniforms, Mr.
Producer, and learn how to march and salute and carry flags. I think brown
would be good, you know, Brown Shirts.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m sure Mark Levin is waiting for my interview with the
president tomorrow night.

Anyway up next: President Obama says his health care plan will work, while
the Republicans are running out of ammunition to attack it, it seems.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



Radioactive material that was stolen from a truck in Mexico has been found
outside of its container. Nuclear officials are maintaining their distance
while they conduct safety tests.

And an arctic blast of winter is sweeping across the Rockies and Midwest,
affecting 27 states. Parts of Minnesota saw nearly three feet of snow in
two days. The storm is blamed for six deaths.

Vice President Biden is in China meeting with leaders there in an effort to
resolve a disputed area of airspace.

I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Call him the turnaround man perhaps, and with more good news about
enrollment numbers today, the president continued to play offense on health


than once that we didn`t roll out parts of this law as well as we should --
should have, but the law`s already working in major ways that benefit
millions of Americans right now, even as we have begun to slow the rise in
health care costs, which is good for family budgets, good for federal and
state budgets, and good for the budgets of businesses small and large.

This law is going to work. And for the sake of our economic security, it
needs to work.


MATTHEWS: NBC News reports that 29,000 people signed up through the
healthcare.gov site on Sunday and Monday alone. That`s good news for the
White House and supporters of the law and bad news, perhaps, for its
conservative critics.

According to NBC`s political blog "First Read," they seem to be running out
of ammunition on the other side. Quote: "It does seem as though we have
entered a new stage in the health care battle with Democrats regrouping and
dare we say unified and with Republicans running out of new attacks."

U.S. Congressman Steve Israel is the chair of the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee. He joins us now.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

I am amazed that the president -- well, let me just say I am amazed by the
whole thing, the screwups starting October 1, the relatively quick recovery
in his efforts, his new focus on execution, bringing in the right people,
where they weren`t there before.

How`s this moving politically? That`s just the administration. I will
talk to the president about that tomorrow night, but what about the
politics? Is he able to turn this thing around in time to protect the
seats he has in Congress next year?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Yes, because what the American people
want is not a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They want it to be fixed.
They want it to be successful.

And they`re sick and tired of Republicans who have been rooting for defeat,
who have been voting to repeal, to ambush and to sabotage the Affordable
Care Act. And, Chris, on your point about running out of ammunition, now
these Republicans are just getting downright desperate.

We now know from today that Speaker Boehner has been willfully misleading
the American people, talking about this family in New York that couldn`t
get coverage for their 18-month-old daughter. And it turns out that the
reason that they had problems is because the person who applied in that
family happens to be a Republican politician in New York, screwed up the
application, and forgot that he had four children, and only put down three

Now, I don`t know what`s worse, that Speaker Boehner willfully misled the
American people or that this guy forgot how many children he has.

MATTHEWS: Has there been a lot of this rain-dancing by Republicans,
running around and trying to rain on the president`s parade by their own
P.R. efforts?

I sense there is. They seem to be saying to young people, be careful.
They`re spooking around looking at your private life. And to other people,
it`s all this concern about whatever. It`s like, be careful, it`s going to
hurt you as a woman, it`s going to hurt you as a young person, this effort
to try to play down the natural urge to participate in a fair, grownup

ISRAEL: Well, they have engaged in a campaign of fear and smear.

They know that they cannot afford as Republicans politically for the
Affordable Care Act to succeed. And you know what? We`re going on offense
now. We`re going to let the American people know that every single
Republican who talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act is imposing,
for example, a $1,200 tax on seniors by reopening the doughnut hole.

So when these Republicans talk about repeal, what they`re talking about is
hitting the middle class and seniors in their pocketbooks. When they talk
about repeal, they`re talking about a new surcharge on young people who
will no longer be able to stay on their parents` insurance plans.

We have been on defense. We`re going on offense. We are going to make
sure that we want to focus on the success of this program, while
Republicans continue to focus on its demise, because they want to go back
to a system where health insurance companies had free rein over people`s
health care and Americans were led into bankruptcy when they got sick.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m going to leave it to you and your Web site to explain
the doughnut fully, but not here.

Anyway, a new Gallup poll shows that the majority of uninsured Americans
plan on signing up for insurance rather than paying the fine. And 63
percent say they will get insured. However, there`s a strong partisan
breakdown here. This is fascinating. Eighty percent of uninsured
Democrats say they plan to sign up. And 58 percent of independents say
they will as well.

Among Republicans -- look at these numbers -- just 46 percent say they`re
going to get insured, vs. 45 percent who say they will pay the fine. It
sound to me they`re listening -- they`re listening to their party,
grownups, leaders -- not grownups, but political leaders telling them,
don`t sign up. Why are Republicans not playing ball here, the voters, the
regular people?

ISRAEL: Well, that`s now, Chris. We will see what happens as we approach
the deadline.

I think what`s going to happen is likely to resemble what happened in
Massachusetts, when you had an almost identical plan. And Republicans and
Democrats and progressives and conservatives signed up for the plan,
because they may have their ideology. But at the end of the day, they want
to know that if, God forbid, they get sick, they`re not going to get

They want to know that they are able to afford health care and that no
insurance company ever again is going to tell them, if they`re a woman with
breast cancer, we just can`t afford to cover your breast cancer.


ISRAEL: So, right now, they may have a certain view of things, but it
worked in Massachusetts, and I think that people are going to make a very
similar calculation with the Affordable Care Act nationally.

MATTHEWS: OK. U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, please tell your troops to
watch tomorrow night at 7:00. We got the president on.

ISRAEL: Will do.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us tonight, you, sir.

Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim joins us right now.

Ryan, this -- this -- what do you sense? Just talk politics right now.
Where`s the president stand? He`s agreed to do our show tomorrow night,
and he`s out talking generally about social justice, economic justice. We
will talk about that in a minute.

What`s his approach to this difficult couple of weeks right now

RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, this -- I mean, this is one of those
rare issues where reality really matters. You know, what happens on the
ground drives the politics. And so, as people were unable to sign up, he
was naturally on the defensive.

But the last two months, people have been organizing. People have been
getting (AUDIO GAP) together and now that the Web site finally works, you
know, they`re going for it. And tens of thousands of people are signing
up. And so, the reality is driving the politics now, and that`s why he`s
on the offensive.

MATTHEWS: You reported on "The Huffington Post" today that the law will
work thanks in part to a virtual army of advocates on the ground in certain
tightly concentrated areas that have a large number of uninsured people.
You call them the uninsured hotspots.

Take a look at this map we`ve got here. In this 12 urban areas alone,
there were 7 million uninsured people. Not surprisingly, top
administration officials have visited these hotspots in recent weeks and
they`ve coordinating outreach efforts by unions and non-profits.

I`m looking at those areas, some of them, Atlanta, have poor areas, pockets
of poverty, but people who are in pockets of poverty generally have
Medicaid going for them, a government program.

So, are these people who are working poor, who go to work but don`t have
health insurance? Is that the idea of these areas we`re looking at right

GRIM: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Where Democrats can encourage participation?

GRIM: That`s exactly right. Some of the organizers that we`ve a talked to
said that, you know, they`d go to a neighborhood and find almost every
person that they would meet in an area was uninsured and was eligible for
Obamacare. Now, in states like Texas, Dallas, Houston, a lot of them won`t
be eligible because there was no Medicaid expansion.

But in states like California or places like Chicago they`re finding these
pockets of people where they can just kind of round them up and sign them
up. So, you can have -- you can have a meeting and you can sign up 300
people at once. That`s as happened in Sacramento.

But it doesn`t stop there. Those 300 people go home. Obamacare`s in the
news. They`re talking to their friends about Obamacare.

MATTHEWS: Word of mouth.

GRIM: And they mention to their neighbor, hey, you know, I just signed up
for Obamacare. And that`s how this starts to spread.

MATTHEWS: That`s how the word gets out in the movies sometimes. But they
don`t make it in the first rung because of inadequate PR. But the word
gets out.

GRIM: Right.

MATTHEWS: This thing`s working. Go see it. In this case, it`s far more
important. It`s life and death.

Thank you, Ryan Grim for that.

GRIM: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, President Obama returns to a theme we`ll probably hear
often over the next three years of his presidency, economic inequality,
economic justice and how to have everyone benefit in the American dream.
This is the way he came in. It looks like it`s the way he`s going to go

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Former Vice President Dick Cheney -- and that`s how he
pronounces it, Cheney -- has spoken out about that rift between his
daughters. You remember that Mary Cheney, a lesbian who`s on the same sex
marriage, took to Facebook to criticize her sister Liz who`s running for
the Senate out in Wyoming.

Here`s what Mr. Cheney said about it.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We`re surprised when there was an
attack launched against Liz on her Facebook. And wished it hadn`t happened
and do believe we`ve lived with their situation for many years. And it`s
always been dealt with within the context of the family, and frankly,
that`s our preferences.


MATTHEWS: Well, the feud begun last month when Liz Cheney, in a tough
Republican primary fight against Senator Mike Enzi, told NBC`s David
Gregory of "Meet of Press" that she believes in the traditional definition
of marriage.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

At what is being billed as a preview to his coming up State of the Union
speech, president spoke today in one of the poorest neighborhoods here in
Washington. He spoke about the growing income equality gap in the United
States. Echoing similar things from his 2012 reelection campaign, the
president shifted to offense by laying out his agenda on how he will spend
the next three years of his presidency working to narrow the income gap,
expanding opportunity, growing the economy, and building what he says will
be a thriving middle class.


combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a
fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand
for around the globe. And it is not simply a moral claim that I`m making
here. There are practical consequences to rising inequality and reduced

It has been the driving force between everything we`ve done these past five
years. And over the course of the next year and for the rest of my
presidency, that`s where you should expect my administration to focus all
our efforts.



MATTHEWS: President Obama said he wants America to be a magnet for a good
middle class and good middle class jobs in manufacturing, infrastructure
and energy, and made his most vocal push today for an increase in the
minimum wage, from seven bucks an hour to 25 cents right now, $7.25 to
$10.10. That`s quite a leap.

But for those who work hard and play by the rules, is the American dream
still achievable or have the rules changed to benefit the privilege few at
the expense of many?

U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn is a South Carolina Democrat, and Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake is, of course, mayor of Baltimore.

Thank you both for joining us.

Congressman Clyburn, you know all about what`s going on in the House of
Representatives. It`s run by Republicans. The Republicans are run by
their hard right.

How do you get through a real big bill onto highway construction, the kinds
of infrastructure jobs that would benefit so many millions of people
potentially, when you have a Republican Congress that says no? Everything
that President Obama proposes, probably the minimum wage, as well.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, it`s going to be very tough.
But the fact of the matter is much of this can begin in the Senate. And I
really believe if we can get the Senate to act on some of this, much of it,
it will force the House to really react.

They are not going to originate any of this stuff. And I`m very pleased
that the president has now laid down a foundation that hopefully we will
begin to build upon, a foundation that tells us that this is not just about
a moral question. This is about income inequality that exists in this

You know, of all of the counties in this country, 488 of them are what we
call persistently poverty-laden counties.


CLYBURN: And this is not about skin color, as the president said, or
ethnicity. If you go into Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas,
those are not Hispanic or African-Americans or Native Americans. Those are
white Americans and they have the same problem with this inequality that
African Americans have in South Carolina or North Carolina or Mississippi
and Alabama.

MATTHEWS: Madam Mayor, whenever I give a motivational speech like a
commencement address, I usually try to point out something that I think is
particularly wrong I think to minorities and women, but -- I`m a white
male, but I do think there is a validity to this argument -- never say no
to yourself. Always make the other person say no to you.

The one thing about the president that bugs me, one of the things, is that
he doesn`t come out with a major infrastructure proposal that really grabs
the people, grabs or blows our lights out and says, wow, this is a great
idea. We`re going to unite this country by a fast speed rail. We`re going
to rebuild our highways so this country is truly united geographically.

It`s going to cost a lot of money, but it`s not going to be throwing it
away. It`s going to be a capital investment where we have low interest
rates and lots of unemployed people. We`re going to think big, and we`re
going to make the Republicans say no big.

Instead, he`s got this sort of infrastructure highway bill that floats
around and never gets any attention.

Why -- isn`t there an argument that can be made, I know you`re a Democrat,
why this president just doesn`t just jam the Republicans with a really big
proposal that grabs the imagination of people across the country and he
doesn`t do it?

state of the union address last year, and what you`re talking about was in
that speech. The fact that we`re not playing for second, that it`s
important for us to invest in infrastructure.

I think what you`re seeing is the fact that the president is putting
forward what he thinks he can get through. When you have a Republican
Congress that believes that investing in jobs and investing infrastructure
and making sure that we are competitive on the world stage is pork, you
know, do you want them to do, you know, to make them say, no big for show?


RAWLINGS-BLAKE: We don`t have a show horse. We don`t have a show horse as
a president. We have work horse and I believe he`s putting forward things
that he thinks that he can build coalition around. And I for one --

MATTHEWS: We disagree.


MATTHEWS: I disagree, because I think the American people ought to know
the difference between the two parties. They ought to know in big block
letters. They ought to know this president believes in infrastructure, he
believes in big capital budget, borrowing the money to do something big for
the future, because that`s what we did in the past, and not to let the
Republicans to benefit by his being intimidated by the fact they`re going
to say no, so why even ask?

Your thoughts, Congressman, because you`re an expert not just on political
leadership but on the House of Representatives. How would it hurt to
challenge the Republicans with a big proposal like he -- he is putting the
words together in his speech today. But does it have to be a legislative
proposals that give concrete action to it?

CLYBURN: I agree with you. I think that -- that`s what I`m saying at the
top of the show, that this lays a foundation, and he mentioned in his
speech today that this was not his State of the Union. I hope he was
saying he would be fleshing all of this out in his State of the Union
Address, and I really believe there is a case to be made that the state of
our union is of such that we`ve got to rebuild our infrastructures, we`ve
got to put people back to work, we`ve got to get our young people educated,
we`ve got to make sure that folks who are unemployed have some hope, and
some safety net upon which they can begin to find some community while
they`re looking for work.

And that`s why tomorrow here on the Hill, our committee is going to be
looking at unemployment insurance and what we should do. Because 1.3
million Americans are going to lose their unemployment insurance
compensation as of the 28th, I believe, of December. And we need to get
their needs helped, so while they`re looking for work they can feed their
children. I think the president is going to flesh all of this out in his
State of the Union.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, sir. We`re going to stop right now.

We`ll get back to this conversation later with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-
Blake of Baltimore and U.S. Congressman and leader of the House, Jim
Clyburn. Thank you.

We`ll be right back. And don`t forget, President Obama is our guest
tomorrow in the HARDBALL college tour from American University here in

And we`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I`m going to be short in closing tonight except to say I look forward with
hope and a little bit of a concern about tomorrow night`s visit by the
president. I`m hopeful we can discuss the real concerns people have today,
not just the specifics but the fundamentals of whether this country can
govern itself effectively, with two parties, the Democrats and Republicans,
warring with each other, whether we can regain our confidence in the
ability of the government, especially here in Washington, to deliver on its
promises? And can we, the American people, really do what we set out to
do? Big questions.

As I said big night, big questions, big opportunity. I hope the president
names or actually makes the best of tomorrow night.

I hope there is no way in the world my loyal HARDBALLers out there -- that
means you -- are going to miss a minute of it. Please watch. So, set your
watches, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and you will see the president right next to me
right here on HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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