February 10, 2014
Guests: Jay Newton-Small, Shawn Boburg
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bridget Kelly threatened with contempt.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. This weekend, I came across a scene of
outright Chris Christie bullying. His victim, 2012 presidential candidate
We catch the New Jersey governor threatening Romney that if he tried
raising campaign cash in Jersey, he could kiss his, Chris Christie`s,
support good-bye. He was not to collect a nickel from the Garden State fat
cats until Christie himself gave the OK. Well, the moment that warning was
issued in a back room of the New Jersey governor`s mansion, it seared
itself into Mitt Romney`s head. It struck him, according to Mark Halperin
and John Heilemann, as an outrageous strongarm move, like, quote,
"something out of `The Sopranos.`"
Well, today a current presidential wannabe is hitting Christie with the
same charge of being a bully. Quote, "It`s important that people think
that their government not be used to bully them," Rand Paul said this
weekend. He said, "Nobody wants to think their government would shut down
a bridge just because you`re a Democrat and I`m a Republican. Nobody wants
a government that thinks if I win, I`m going to punish you because you`re
in a different party." Well, holding back final judgment, Rand Paul called
the charge unsettling and serious about the bridge business.
Well, tonight, we tighten in on Chris Christie`s methods of operation, how
he gets his way with other politicians, the press and with the public. We
look at how his image is causing other Republicans across the country to
run when they see him coming -- not because they fear him, but fear being
seen with the man from New Jersey.
Mark Halperin is the co-author of "Double Down," who wrote the great
passage I mention, and Howard Fineman is the editorial director at the
Huffington Post Media Group. Both are, of course, political MSNBC
And I told you up front tonight, the New Jersey super-committee
investigating the bridge scandal has just threatened Bridget Kelly with
contempt if she does not comply with their request to turn over documents.
The committee is also warning Bill Stepien, the campaign manager, that he
too could be held in contempt if he does not honor their subpoena. Both
Kelly and Stepien claim their documents are protected by the 5th Amendment,
an argument which the committee says is invalid.
The panel has also approved more than a dozen new subpoenas, including
demands for records of the use of Governor Christie`s state helicopter.
I want to start quickly with Howard on that news item. This is how the
process is going. They`re squeezing these people.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes,
they`re squeezing -- they`re being squeezed from two directions here,
Chris. The legislative super-committee wants the documents, wants them to
testify before the state legislature in Trenton. Meanwhile, the U.S.
attorney, Paul Fishman, for the state of New Jersey, the federal attorney,
is looking at all aspects of the Christie administration, including the
actions of Kelly and Stepien.
MATTHEWS: You`re a lawyer. Which side would you talk to?
FINEMAN: Well, I would talk to the feds.
MATTHEWS: Talk to the feds.
FINEMAN: Because that`s where the serious time here, that`s where the
possibility of a RICO, you know, a conspiracy charge would be. That`s the
guy with the real legal muscle in the state of New Jersey -- ironically,
the same job that Chris Christie used to have, but a very different kind of
MATTHEWS: Mark, I want you to start right now on this piece of reporting
you guys did in your book. And I was just sorry to have read that passage
just this weekend, but I did come across -- and of course, I was looking
for anything on Christie.
In your book, "Double Down," the big best-seller about the 2012 election,
when Mitt Romney meets with Christie in 2011, seeking his endorsement, it
gets to the core, I think, of how Christie and his team do business.
Quote -- this is in your book. "During that meeting, Christie also told
Romney something else, that until Christie made up his mind, he wanted none
of the candidates, including Mitt, to raise money in New Jersey. `Look,`
Christie said, `when I decide to support someone, it will be more powerful
if I bring everyone along with me. Just be patient. I`ll be fine. But
let`s be clear.`" This is Christie talking to Romney. "`If you jump the
gun and start raising money here, you can almost certainly kiss my support
good-bye.` Romney left the meeting incredulous at Christie`s dictate and
back room delivery. It was like something out of "The Sopranos.` `Are you
kidding me,` Mitt Romney thought? Is he going to do that?`"
Your thoughts. Give us any background you can on that reporting because I
think it`s fascinating that you get called into a back room up at
Drumthwacket, the mansion up there, and you`re basically told, Buddy, don`t
go on my turf. Even though you`ve been raising money here for years,
you`re not to raise a nickel until you talk to me and I say OK.
It had a quality to it, a New Jersey quality.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, not only did
Christie -- had Romney, as you said, raised money in New Jersey in his past
campaign and had a lot of supporters there, but Christie during the same
period goes up to Massachusetts and raises money for himself because what
this illustrates to me more than anything else is Governor Christie
famously consistently plays by his own rules because he could get away with
A combination of his toughness, his stature, his standing, and his
political toughness allowed him to say that to Romney. Romney was
incredulous. The thought that a governor would say that -- I don`t know of
any other case of a governor telling a presidential candidate, Don`t you
dare raise a dollar in my state.
But his campaign manager, Romney`s campaign manager, said, You know what?
We`re going to do it. Let`s take our time. This is an important
endorsement. We`ll raise money elsewhere. And with the exception of
checks that came over transom and a few handful of people who Romney was
already working with, he did not try to raise money in New Jersey --
MATTHEWS: How did this --
HALPERIN: -- and adhered to what Christie demand.
MATTHEWS: While you`re on the case here, how did this fit with the fact
that the governor, Romney, whatever you think of him out there watching
right now -- Romney decided in vetting this guy, he didn`t want him on his
ticket with him. How did this sort of bullying tactic he got to his face
in the back room, which you guys compared to a "Sopranos" scene, to this
kind of -- the information they got on him that said, Don`t put this guy on
HALPERIN: Well, there are two things that I think are applicable here in
the vet. And again, there are some details to it we can get into, if you`d
like. One is just the general issue of temperament. One of the things
they gave Romney when they gave him the vetting document, the printed
materials, was a DVD of kind of the Christie greatest hits of lashing out
at people, including constituents, which gave Romney and some of his
advisers a lot of pause to say, Is this the kind of temperament we want to
add to the ticket?
But the other thing are some examples where, again, Governor Christie
played by his own rules, where his standards for himself were what they
were and his standards for others were what they were. And that -- that
tendency to do that is something -- there was no smoking gun that made
Romney say, This one thing means I can`t pick him. But he was worried that
there was going to be something in Christie`s past, because he played by
his own rules, that would explode.
One example real quick -- when he was the U.S. Attorney and there was an
investigation of several U.S. attorneys, he was the biggest spender. He
stayed at fancy hotels when he traveled. He violated the department rules
about where he could stay and how much he could spend -- played by his own
rules, caused some controversy. Romney was worried that that pattern could
lead to something that would be a distraction if he were on the ticket.
MATTHEWS: Howard, same question to you because you study this stuff and
the personalities of these guys. There`s a profile developing here. For
months and years even, we thought, Well, he`s occasionally smart aleck.
That doesn`t bother me. But is there something tougher and nastier behind
that scene, the stuff we don`t see in the press? You know, we always get
the best face of politicians, believe it or not.
FINEMAN: Yes. Mostly.
MATTHEWS: We get their Sunday best.
MATTHEWS: But in this case, by the way, he doesn`t show his Sunday best
even to the reporters. But your thoughts about how these things meld.
FINEMAN: Well, one of the virtues of Mark and John`s book is they get
behind that happy face on the front. And now that we -- now we`ve seen
Chris Christie introduced to the country, not in the way Chris Christie
wanted to be introduced. And what you see is a guy who, as Mark says,
plays by his own rules, who`s a bully, who has Beyonce-level travel needs,
and you know, who seems to either be oblivious to what`s going on around
him or fudging the truth on what he knew --
MATTHEWS: OK --
FINEMAN: -- and what he knew when about the bridge. And you know,
that`s -- that`s the thing. And you get the feeling of a guy who`s the
tribal leader and does it New Jersey style.
MATTHEWS: And he`s the chief.
FINEMAN: And he`s the chief. He runs that tribe.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to how he deals when people try to get
information out of him. He doesn`t just bully politicians, as we just saw
in that great scene with Romney. He bullies the press right to their face.
In other words, you`re trying to get information out of this guy, he comes
at your face.
Here he is out, clearly trying to intimidate reporters. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Governor, do you think this sort of confrontational tone that
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You know, Tom, you must be the
thinnest-skinned guy in America.
QUESTION: On Monday, are you going to be addressing the legislature?
CHRISTIE: Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic. On topic. Next
question. Thank you all very much. And I`m sorry for the idiot over
QUESTION: Governor (INAUDIBLE) September (INAUDIBLE) bridge (INAUDIBLE)
CHRISTIE: Yes, I worked the cones, actually, Matt. Unbeknownst to
everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and a hat,
so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You
really are not serious with that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Mark, one thing I`ve learned, and I`ve seen --
teachers better not talk like that to students. And especially, they
shouldn`t talk like that to fellow professionals. You`re a governor.
Reporters are professionals, too. They have jobs. You have a job. Don`t
trash them for asking questions. It seems like that`s part of his MO,
trash the reporter with a difficult question, don`t answer it.
HALPERIN: It is at times. But Chris, he wouldn`t have gotten where he is
in politics if that`s all he did. He can -- he has enormous political
gifts and strengths, including with reporters. A lot of reporters like
Christie -- Governor Christie and have given him favorable coverage in part
because he is so engaging.
When there are tougher questions at times -- and you`ve done a reel that
chose those tough moments -- he switches modes. I`m not saying this is an
exact comparison. But Governor Bush of Texas was like that, as well, had a
great relationship with his press corps most of the time, charmed them,
gave them his number, was very accessible to them. But when questions
sometimes got heated, he could be very tough and very rough with them, as
MATTHEWS: -- he also knows how to stonewall, right, Howard?
FINEMAN: Well, having covered George W. Bush closely and Chris Christie
not so much, I wouldn`t say they`re the same kind of person at all. I
think George W. always -- almost always Mark, as you know, did it sort with
a wink and a nod when he was doing it. There are no winks with this guy.
But what I find --
MATTHEWS: You mean he just mocks you.
FINEMAN: Yes. What I find interesting is that Chris Christie was a famous
leaker when he was U.S. attorney. I mean, he knows how to use the press in
certain ways --
MATTHEWS: He ain`t doing a good job now.
FINEMAN: But when he was U.S. attorney, because he wanted the publicity as
U.S. attorney, he was the reporters` best friend because he was leaking all
over the place about federal investigations.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Anyway --
HALPERIN: Chris, part of it, I think -- part of why I think he`s in such
political crisis now is he`s off his rhythm. He can`t really do the tough
guy mode anymore with reporters, but he also can`t do the charm mode very
well, either, because that would seem off-key, as well. So he`s got this
sort of flat, calm demeanor now, which is not his normal mode.
MATTHEWS: What was that thing last week we broke with at the end of the
week, where he somehow, after a week of hanging fire on it for having
dumped all over David Wildstein and his high school behavior uncoolness
back then, which we all thought was below the belt -- magically, at the end
of the week, we get the word from two people "familiar with" the situation
that Christie never saw that memo when it went out last week, a week
What do you make of that, that little technique?
HALPERIN: I mean --
MATTHEWS: True or is not, I don`t know.
HALPERIN: It`s hard for me to believe that he didn`t see the thing, and
it`s obviously in their interest to put -- put out that he didn`t say. I
got to say, it was so universally judged to be an amateurish, bone-headed
move, if he didn`t see it, I`m stunned he hasn`t fired the people who put
it out without showing it to him.
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Well, is he trying to make nice to Wildstein, he`s so scared of
FINEMAN: No, no.
MATTHEWS: What is that, Howard?
FINEMAN: No, no, no. He was -- he was trying to distance himself from it.
It`s bad either way. If he saw it, it`s bad. If he didn`t see it, it was
MATTHEWS: Well, if he saw it -- if he saw it, he`s out to trash Wildstein,
the star witness there.
FINEMAN: Yes, but as Mark said, he didn`t -- not only did he not really
earn points for trashing Wildstein. He didn`t destroy Wildstein, really --
what, by talking about his high school social studies class? But Christie
hurt himself. Whatever standing he had as this master of politics looked
ridiculous after you saw that memo. That`s why he said he never saw it.
MATTHEWS: OK, only --
HALPERIN: A lot of donors and Republicans were really unsettled by that
because it was so amateurish.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, one of the amateurish things he`s doing is his "I
don`t know nuttin"` Sergeant Schultz number of his, or he claims he knows
nothing about nothing about nothing. He doesn`t know Wildstein, doesn`t
know Baroni, doesn`t know anybody!
Anyway -- he certainly doesn`t know the mayor of Fort Lee. That`s another
one that`s hard to believe. These are wild statements by him, and he`s
apparently in a desperation mode.
Anyway, Mark Halperin, great reporting in the book, "Double Down."
HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And Howard Fineman, as always.
Coming up: Putting the piece of this scandal together. We`re going to talk
to the man who is the Woodward and Bernstein of this -- of "bridge-gate,"
the journalist who`s been ahead on this story from the start.
Plus, before you start dancing on Chris Christie`s political grave,
consider who may now be the top Republican presidential candidate. I think
it`s Rand Paul, the Rand Paul who calls Bill Clinton unsavory, a sexual
And Hillary Clinton`s enemies have dug through the files of a deceased
friend of hers for opp research on the presumed 2006 presidential candidate
herself. The most quotable moment, Hillary calling Monica Lewinsky "a
narcissistic loony tune." My question, what do you expect her to call that
Finally, "Let Me Finish Tonight" with how early the rough stuff for 2016 is
coming at us.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Chris Christie`s rolling into Chicago tomorrow for some
fundraising for the Republican Governors Association. But all four
Republicans running for governor of Illinois have no plans to be there with
him. And that`s the reception Christie`s getting from Republican
politicians across the country. He`s radioactive. Republicans don`t want
to be seen with him as long as the scandals back home in Jersey are still
churning and smelling.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Despite what some would have you
believe, the Christie scandal is not a creation of Democrats or the big
national press eager to pop the Christie balloon. The story`s been
doggedly pursued by reporters in his own back yard, and those reporters
continue to take the lead on this unfolding story.
Here`s how David Carr of "The New York Times" laid it out today. "It
started with the publisher of `The Bergen Record,` a newspaper in northern
New Jersey, who tipped off the newspaper`s editor that getting onto the
George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee was taking hours. The editor passed
the information on to the columnist at the paper who covers commuting. He
began placing calls to local law enforcement."
Later, Shawn Boburg, a reporter at "The Record" who covers the Port
Authority, quote, "dug in and tried to find out what was behind the lane
closings. After a number of articles, on December 28th, he wrote that e-
mails showed that officials at the Port Authority, in spite of their
earlier claims, knew about the closing and the resulting mayhem, some of it
potentially life-threatening. On January 8th, he was the first with an
article linking the closings directly to the staff of Governor Chris
Boburg is still on the story, still coming up with scoops. He joins us
now. Also joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for
"Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst.
Mr. Boburg, thank you very much for joining us, Shawn. And I guess the
question is, what`s your reaction to the news we broke tonight in the
beginning of the program, the fact that Bridget Kelly`s just been
threatened with a subpoena -- I`m sorry, threatened with contempt? She`s
already been served a subpoena for all those e-mails and other evidence she
apparently has that might be relevant here. And of course, the threat, the
same kind of tough action being taken against Bill Stepien, the former
campaign manager -- so this little circle.
Anything you can tell us about where this story is going right now?
SHAWN BOBURG, "BERGEN RECORD": Well, it`s definitely going to the courts.
The legislature, the legislative body, the joint committee that issued
these subpoenas and have moved to compel the production of documents from
both Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly will probably go to a judge, a superior
court judge in New Jersey, and ask a judge to intervene and force the
turnover of any relevant documents.
So we could be seeing a process that plays out over months going forward.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about these personal relationships. The
governor`s defense -- maybe it`s consistent with his personality, I don`t
know -- has been to say, I`m not going to help you. I`m going to
stonewall. I don`t know nothing. His statements of denial of any real
relationship with people like David Wildstein -- he`s had two points.
Either, I don`t know the person, or, I`m dismayed by their behavior. It
It seems like he`s so unaware of the people around him and unaware of the
people around him even that he does know a little better, of what they`re
up to. Is this credible, given what you know about his governorship?
BOBURG: Well, what we do know is David Wildstein was put at the Port
Authority, the agency that controls the George Washington Bridge, and was
considered the governor`s eyes and ears. Now, whether they had a personal
relationship and how close that relationship was, I don`t know.
But I think that you -- you heard from David Wildstein a couple weeks ago
that he -- he is accusing the governor, basically, of not being truthful
about his relationship with Wildstein, also not being truthful about his
knowledge of the lane closures as they exist.
Now, Wildstein is sort of in a corner right now. As far as we know, it
goes from Wildstein to Bridget Anne Kelly. Those are two central figures,
Bridget Anne Kelly being the deputy chief of staff in Governor -- in
Governor Christie`s office. They have not spoken out now. So if there are
inconsistencies, if the governor isn`t being truthful, I have to believe at
some point that will come to light.
MATTHEWS: Well, in an e-mail -- in an e-mail after the bridge lane
closures, Christie`s former campaign manager, the man you mentioned, Bill
Stepien, called Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich -- quote -- "an idiot."
Back in January, Christie said he asked Stepien to remove his name from
nomination for state party chair because of his tone and behavior. Let`s
ask the governor in action here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I was disturbed by the tone and
behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the e-
mails by my former campaign manager Bill Stepien. And reading that, it
made me lose my confidence in bill`s judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That is so lawyered up.
And, to me, the real question to a person or answer would be, OK, I see
these people working together here. I`m the governor. I didn`t know they
had all worked together without me being involved. I see the whole loop
here, where Stepien is obviously involved in this punishment of the mayor.
He knows all that is going on. He is laughing about it. He is enjoying
it. He is part of it.
It`s not his attitude. It`s the fact that he is involved in what look
likes a cabal, and the governor acts like, oh, it`s just his sort of
attitude I don`t like.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, wait, wait, wait.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. Whose government is this?
CORN: Well, Chris, you know, for Governor Christie to get mad with anyone
because they referred to someone as an idiot already doesn`t pass the laugh
You just looked at the clips at the beginning. That was the way that he
talked about people. So why wouldn`t he expect his aides to talk that way,
and, if they did, what`s the big deal? We still have not just the
legislative investigation that we talked about with citing Kelly for
contempt and other subpoenas, what we won`t see much of, what won`t happen
publicly is the criminal investigation, where -- like, do you remember
Patrick Fitzgerald investigating Scooter Libby?
CORN: He gathered a loft information. It didn`t come out in hearings. It
didn`t even leak. It didn`t -- it wasn`t produced until a trial.
So, there really are these two tracks going there that really has people
like Kelly, Stepien, Wildstein caught in the middle. And for Chris
Christie to be dumping on these people, I`m telling you, he better be
really confident they have nothing on him because all they have to trade is
what they know about -- is what they know about him.
MATTHEWS: You know what strikes me as totally unfair, Shawn? And that is
the governor`s legal fees are apparently being picked up by -- as official
business. And the people that he has called liars and idiots and stupid,
like Bridget Kelly, she has got to find a lawyer. She is just a public
official, with four kids, an unmarried woman.
I don`t know where she don`t -- other partner is making any money besides
the money she doesn`t make, because she is out of work now. And you have
got Stepien, who has also been attacked by -- as a pariah. These people
have to come up with their own legal fees with a very expensive, you know,
pretty high-flight case here. And where are they going to get the money?
BOBURG: Yes, that`s a huge question.
We do know that several people have requested that the state pick up their
legal bills. We don`t know exactly who yet because the governor`s office
hasn`t said. But one of the undercurrents here is, how does -- and these
are not cheap lawyers. These are high-powered attorneys that are circling
everywhere you look in this case, very expensive. And for an individual to
pick up --
MATTHEWS: Well, why does the governor get a free ride?
BOBURG: Well, the question really is, what is the governor`s attorney --
what was he hired to do? On paper, it says an internal review of the
office, presumably to make the office more well-run so that this doesn`t
Yesterday, we learned that the same attorney has asked Dawn Zimmer, the
Hoboken mayor, who has leveled some of the most explosive allegations
against the governor, for her to turn over documents that she already
provided to federal authorities.
So the question remains, is this a defense attorney? Is this someone who
is doing an internal review, or is this someone who is digging into the
background of the governor`s critics to undermine their credibility?
CORN: You know, it is --
MATTHEWS: Rough stuff.
CORN: It is beyond comprehension that you can have a representative of
Chris Christie who may be under investigation, even by a federal
prosecutor, the guy who succeeded him, having that lawyer go to people
involved in the case and say, you give me --
MATTHEWS: Give me your best stuff.
CORN: This is called tampering.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MATTHEWS: And so I can decide what to do with it.
CORN: This is beyond "Sopranos."
CORN: Tony Soprano would say, this is wrong.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Shawn Boburg and David Corn.
Up next: a political candidate who has got a novel way to quadruple his
odds at winning a House seat.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")
BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Did you see the opening
ceremonies today? Oh, my gosh.
MAHER: No? What an elaborate pageant of flamboyant costumes and
choreographed dance numbers, all aimed at one theme: no gays allowed.
MAHER: It`s a tragedy that the world`s biggest sporting event is set in a
place that is ravaged by graft and gangsterism. But enough about the Super
Bowl being in New Jersey this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Time now for the "Sideshow."
Politics is a zero sum game, but one Republican candidate for Congress
thinks he has come up with a clever way to improve his odds of getting
elected. Allan Levene is seeking the Republican nomination in Georgia.
Nothing odd about that, except that he is also running in Hawaii, Michigan,
and Minnesota. Campaigning in four separate states simultaneously may be
an unconventional approach, but it`s perfectly legal.
Each of those states only require the candidate to be an official resident
at the time of the general election, not the primary. So if Mr. Levene
wins the nomination in one of the states, he will have plenty of time to
change his registration -- or actually his residency -- before November.
However novel Levene`s strategy may be, it`s unlikely to succeed, since he
will be spreading his campaign finances so thinly. According to the FEC,
Levene only managed to raise $250 for his first one of those four campaigns
in the last quarter.
Finally, Dr. Ben Carson, the FOX News commentator and Tea Party darling, is
at it again, and this time, he`s likening the progressive movement in this
country to Nazi Germany. In a video that surfaced online today, Carson is
seen campaigning for Monica Wehby, who is running in the Republican primary
for the U.S. Senate from Oregon.
Here was this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: There comes a time when people with
values simply have to stand up.
Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what
Hitler was doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CARSON: But did they speak up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
CARSON: Did they stand up for what they believed? They did not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very few.
CARSON: And you saw what happened.
And if you believe that the same thing can`t happen again, you`re very
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CARSON: But we`re not going to let it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Haven`t we all learned by now not to go there? No Nazi
Up next: The head of the RNC declares open season on the Clintons, as a
conservative Web site digs back two decades for dirt on Hillary.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
President Obama welcomed French President Francois Hollande to Washington
earlier. The two then flew to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a tour of
Thomas Jefferson`s estate. A state dinner is set for tomorrow night.
And the Southeastern U.S. is bracing for another winter storm that is
expected to bring ice and snow to that region. Residents have been
flocking to stores to stock up on supplies. Georgia`s governor has already
declared a state of emergency and put the National Guard on standby -- now
back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Republican Chairman Reince Priebus -- that`s really his name -- declared
open season on Hillary Clinton earlier today on MSNBC, responding to a
question from Andrea Mitchell about whether Bill Clinton`s impeachment
matters and the political fights of the 1990s should be fought again in
Here is what Priebus said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Is that a
legitimate issue, rehashing the `90s, if Hillary Clinton becomes a
candidate for president?
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think everything
is on the table. I don`t see how someone just gets a pass on anything, I
mean, especially in today`s politics. So I think we`re going to have a
truckload of opposition research on Hillary Clinton. And -- and -- and
some things may be old and some things might be new. Hillary Clinton
provides a lot of opportunity for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, his comment are the first clear indication that
Republicans intend to reach back two decades, if necessary. In fact,
they`re going do this to fight old wars that have long since been settled
for most people in order to tear down Hillary Clinton.
And Priebus, the chair of the Republican Party, also said today`s report
from the conservative "Washington Free Beacon" on Hillary`s reaction to her
husband`s affair back with Monica Lewinsky and how she once felt about
singular-payer health care would also be fair game.
Jonathan Capehart is a "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC
contributor and Jay Newton-Small is the Washington correspondent for "TIME"
I guess it`s like in front of the National Archives. The past is prologue.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: I mean, like, this is what we`re going to be doing. It`s all
going to be op research going back 20 years. I don`t know. I think
they`re trying to show who has got their dukes up on the right-wing side
more than they`re going after Hillary. They`re trying to show who is going
to be the toughest brawler out there.
CAPEHART: Well, I mean, it`s -- well, keep in mind they`re not exactly
going after her just. And when I say that, I`m thinking about Rand,
Senator Paul, Rand Paul, and his bringing up, drudging up all of the sins -
MATTHEWS: Calling Bill Clinton a predator and all that.
CAPEHART: President Clinton.
And the stuff in "The Washington Free Beacon," which Jay has written about,
I mean, these -- these diaries from Senator Clinton`s friend, if you`re
going to have to go back that far and dredge up things that she already has
a history and a paper trail that can negate all of those things, then
you`re kind of desperate.
But, then again, the Republican Party is desperate to kneecap Hillary
Clinton before she even has a chance to get out of the --
I can see -- I can see them going after Secretary Clinton on the issue that
she once supported single-payer, like Ted Kennedy supported it and a lot of
people supported it. I`m beginning to think it makes sense, maybe better
sense than what we got. Who knows? But it`s not out of the question to
extend Medicare all the way through everybody. It`s worked for older
people. Why not for everybody?
But why are they going after that one? Now, forget the sex stuff for a
second. Why are they trying to nail Hillary as a lefty on health care at
this point, when everybody already -- they already took their shots at her?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Well, because it so
conveniently ties her to Obamacare, right, which is already so unpopular.
And so then you say, that was just the precursor and she is even more to
the left of -- than -- than Obama was on health care, and if she becomes
president, it`s going to be even more Obamacare, even worse than it was
MATTHEWS: I see.
NEWTON-SMALL: And so it makes it -- it ties together very neatly.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the -- OK, let`s come back to the sex stuff.
MATTHEWS: If I were the other -- if I -- I can`t imagine myself being in a
situation. I have been lucky. But if Hillary was upset about the whole
impeachment thing, the Monica thing, why wouldn`t she say something like,
the young woman is a narcissistic loony toon or whatever, which is -- that
seems the most normal, healthiest thing you could call a person who is
young and had something to do with your husband misbehaving.
MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t say anything nice.
CAPEHART: No, of course you wouldn`t.
This is someone who is involved with your husband. This is something that
you say in the heat of the moment. This isn`t something that she said five
years or six years later.
MATTHEWS: Well, what, are you going to say something nicer?
CAPEHART: No, no, no, but I`m saying -- but I`m agreeing with you in that
it adds to the veracity of the sort of power behind what she said. I don`t
fault Hillary Clinton at all for what she said --
MATTHEWS: I can see somebody saying when your husband`s age roughly, and
some young person gets involved somehow and this thing happens, whether it
should -- shouldn`t happen, obviously, but it does -- she says something
like ditzy or something like that. That`s normal. You`re not going to say
deliberate evil here. No, you`re going to say ditzy or loony toon.
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, I mean, look, she is like talking to her best friend.
These are what she -- conversations that she considers at this point
And it`s kind of like all the TV shows that we imagine her like -- and we
love the imagine her and think of all the TV shows we have done of her --
in the room, in private, really just railing on Bill Clinton. Oh, my God,
what were you thinking? This is so terrible.
And it`s basically what she is saying, is, what were you thinking? This
was really stupid, and -- and this girl is really dumb.
MATTHEWS: In a world trying to find genuine behavior in politics, that`s
MATTHEWS: A national reaction. A national reaction.
NEWTON-SMALL: A national reaction.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Republican Party is desperate to remind people of
course of the Clinton`s past.
And the latest dump of opposition research, Priebus -- that`s the chair of
the Republican Party -- said, this is important work to do. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRIEBUS: I think it`s important.
I mean, it illustrates that Hillary Clinton was for single-payer for a long
time. Hillary Clinton will present many opposition research opportunities
for us to set the record straight on what she believes and what her history
is on a lot of topics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you like the way they did that, what her history is and what
her history -- what your beliefs are?
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s 20 some years ago.
MATTHEWS: And they`re just saying, well, that`s where she is.
Has any -- she was for Barry Goldwater when she was in college. Are they
going to go back to -- there, she is a right-winger.
CAPEHART: Well, you know, the --
MATTHEWS: We nailed her true thinking. She is just a mole now on the left.
I mean, you can go crazy with this stuff.
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: And also, it`s also sort of like if you
didn`t consider every option on the table when you`re looking to overhaul
health care reform and you didn`t consider single payer, isn`t that
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. You`re being reasonable here. At some
point, I think you`re doing primary and caucus politics, as far right, as
rough as you can get on the Clintons the better in that crowd, right? And
the 20 to 30 percent elected that shows up in the caucuses, they`re not
sitting there worrying about sensitivity, about gender issues, right?
CAPEHART: Or any kind --
MATTHEWS: They`re just angry.
And then you get in the middle and you meet a lot of women who may be
Republican who may vote for Hillary as a first. We can imagine that
easily, especially in the burbs. There will be a lot of these people.
And then you move over to the liberal side of things, the progressive side
of things, and people are sensitive. They don`t want gender issues raised
per se in a political context, right? How much risk is this guy Rand Paul
takes it? How much is Reince Priebus taking as a risk?
They are going to try to get the presidency in 2016. This isn`t a game.
November does count.
So, what you`re saying -- aren`t they playing really risky politics here?
NEWTON-SMALL: Absolutely. I mean, they start already with a deficit with
women already if you look at polling numbers and Republicans versus
Democrats. 2014, it`s going to be all about women`s issues as it with us
So, you know, you go into 2016 where really having to be sort of sensitive
about women. And yet, Rand Paul is totally not doing that, because he
doesn`t have to worry about it.
CAPEHART: But here is the thing. It`s all short-term political thinking.
Of course, Rand Paul is going to go after Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Is this smart short term or a dumb --
CAPEHART: No, it`s smart short-term because if you`re running for
president, you need to get the nomination. And you can`t get the
nomination if you don`t rile up the far right.
MATTHEWS: What Secretary Clinton doing now? She lives in Washington and
she`s out giving a lot of speeches, but she has downtime. I`m sure she is
watching television, programs like this, or other programs. And I assume
she`s keeping score.
What`s this all teaching her? You first, about what`s to come? And the
decision she has to make ultimately after all the presumptions and all the
thinking, she still has to make that existential decision to jump off that
cliff or not, to go for it.
NEWTON-SMALL: Does she really want to relive all of the nastiness?
MATTHEWS: Does she want to live with the --
NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, exactly, like all the horribleness. This is going to
be three years --
MATTHEWS: Is that part of the game they`re playing? Is this possibly part
of the game?
NEWTON: Well, sure there is nothing new she has to learn. She knows what
her weaknesses are. She knows what the other side --
MATTHEWS: This is like running for mayor of New York.
MATTHEWS: The Weiner primary, the crazy primaries where all you`re talk
about is --
MATTHEWS: And crazy stuff.
CAPEHART: Right. She`s been on the national and international microscope
for 20 years. I can`t imagine that there is something out there, any kind
of scenario she hasn`t already thought of, and now, it will come down to
whether she wants it here.
MATTHEWS: It might drive her in.
NEWTON-SMALL: She`d go in fighting.
MATTHEWS: Who wants to be driven out with this stuff?
Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart. Thank you.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jay Newton-Small. Am I being too nice?
Anyway, up next, the big winner of the Chris Christie match could be the
man we mentioned, Rand Paul, the same guy who calls Bill Clinton unsavory
and a sexual predator. Well, that`s coming up.
Rand Paul playing for keeps here, I think, certainly being opportunistic,
which is a big part of politics.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: U.S. Senator Pat Roberts may represent Kansas, but he doesn`t
seem to live there anymore. "The New York Times" reported this weekend the
three-term Republican doesn`t have his own home in his home state. "The
Times" reports the house he lists as his voting address belongs to two
long-time supporters and donors.
Roberts is facing a primary challenge this year from a Tea Party activist
who has been arguing that Roberts has lost touch with his home state. And
this news is not going to help the incumbent senator.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Senator Rand Paul has made one thing abundantly clear in the past week. He
is unafraid to tangle with the Clintons, the family, the people. We have
covered these comments of him about Bill Clinton here on the show.
He has called the former president, the former president of the United
States a sexual predator numerous times. He refers to him as being
unsavory. These are quite personal shots.
And Rand Paul`s criticism of Hillary Clinton`s handling of Benghazi is
This weekend, Rand Paul expanded his reach, hitting a wounded Chris
Christie where it hurts. A local Houston reporter asked Paul, that`s the
senator for Kentucky, about Christie and the presidential race in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Nobody wants to think their government would
shut down a bridge or do something just because you`re a Democrat and I`m a
Republican. Nobody wants a government that thinks that if I win, I`m going
to punish you because you`re in a different party. So, that is unsettling
and it`s a serious charge. I don`t know if it`s true, but it`s unsettling
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know if it`s true.
Anyway, Christie`s troubles left a Republican power vacuum at the top among
2016 contenders, and Rand Paul has clearly stepped up. What an
opportunist. He could be a dream candidate for Democrats if he gets that
far, giving them 40 states perhaps or a nightmare if Hillary Clinton
doesn`t run and Paul beats a weak opponent.
I think that`s unlikely. I think Secretary Clinton is running.
Anyway, Michael Steele is former chairman of the Republican National
Committee and MSNBC political analyst, and Joy Reid will soon be hosting
her own show I would like to say at 2:00. She is going to bring in those
numbers for everybody. What an afternoon it`s going to be.
JOY REID, THE GRIO: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Just teasing.
It`s the quality that matters, not the quantity. Anyway -- tell somebody
Anyway, let`s go with Michael Steele.
Michael, I have to talk to you about this Rand Paul. Do you know this guy
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I know him well. Yes.
MATTHEWS: What is Rand Paul like? He is like a guy at a weigh-in at a
heavyweight championship. He is already trash talking the other guy. I`m
going to take on Bill Clinton.
STEELE: He is throwing down markers, and I don`t blame him. I think this
has been a definitional period for Rand Paul, going back to standing in the
well of the Senate with his filibuster, and then going immediately to
Howard University and engaging the black community.
MATTHEWS: You say markers. What do you mean?
STEELE: What he`s doing is, he is putting down the place markers to say, I
intend to engage in this presidential campaign, should I decide to do one
in a different way. I`m going to approach and go to places that I`m not
expected to go. I`m going to take on the big targets that no one else is
taking on, Chris Christie. And I`m not going to cede ground just because
the media and the establishment of the GOP like a particular the media and
MATTHEWS: Why would your party like to hear a voice like that? Why do
they want to hear a guy who basically says, I`ve got -- I`m a rooting
tooting cowboy, I`m going to go in and take down everybody in front of me
on the other side?
STEELE: Because he`s willing to fight. He`s going to go and he`s going to
fight on some important grounds, whether it`s on issues, the substance of
those issues. I mean, this guy has a very good opportunity to remake and
MATTHEWS: So, I would argue -- isn`t the street corner display of strength
and guts? I`m going to take on anybody in this block as much as its
issues? Is it more -- I think it`s more --
STEELE: I think it`s both, Chris. I really do.
MATTHEWS: Joy, let me go to Joy. Joy, my hunch is it`s more about being
tough, putting your chest out saying, you know, almost like pounding your
chest, like come at me, I`m Tarzan, go after me. You know, I can beat
It`s, to me, it`s a smart -- it`s not a mating call. It`s the opposite.
It`s the one where you demand control over the turf. This is my turf. I
think markers is a good line there.
REID: No, I think so, too. I think what Rand Paul is doing, it`s smart
politics. He`s playing sort of prevent defense.
He`s basically saying, listen, religious right, you don`t need to worry
about a Huckabee coming in. I`ve got this. I`m going to hold up the sort
of moral end by going after Bill Clinton. He`s already got the
libertarians. He`s saying I will go to Howard University and try to pick
up African-American votes. You know, highly unlikely when you`re telling
black people that the NAACP is --
MATTHEWS: What about the border issue? What about his -- how does he come
out on immigration without looking like Rubio and losing the whole party?
REID: That`s really become the third rail for a lot of people on the
right. That is what took Rubio down.
And, look, Rand Paul has a lot of history of putting himself on both sides
of subjects to give himself wiggle room. He was on both sides of the
government shutdown saying it would be a bad idea to breach the debt
ceiling but at the same time, President Obama shouldn`t expect them to
raise it for nothing.
He`s been on both sides of the sexual harassment issue, for God`s sakes.
He was a big defender of Herman Cain --
REID: -- when Herman Cain was being accused of sexual harassment when two
women came forward.
REID: He`s on both sides.
MATTHEWS: Let me try something with you first, Joy. Let`s put all
ideology aside, let`s put all values aside. Let`s just think about strange
guts. This guy seems to be fearless to me. I know he had a pullback on
the civil rights bill.
We all went through that with him because he was a complete ideologue and
didn`t want to get in to defending what`s indefensible today, which is
opposition for constitutional reasons. Nobody wants to hear that. There`s
no reason to pose civil rights these days. Nobody is going to listen to
But, generally, he`s stuck to his guns. He`s been let me go with you,
He seems like the kind of a guy a Robert de Niro should play in the movies,
a young Robert de Niro, just a guy, you know, like in "Mean Streets". Just
some guy that wants to get into fights and figures that how he`s going to
STEELE: Well, it`s not that he wants to into fights. He really is willing
to take on those fights that no one else is will to take on. He is not a
patsy for the establishment of the GOP.
MATTHEWS: There are reasons people don`t take shots at Bill Clinton. He`s
a former president. There are reasons why people don`t take shots at
Hillary Clinton. She`s female and you don`t get quite that nasty with her
as you do with other pols, maybe.
STEELE: Not just he`s the former president, Bill Clinton has got his own
baggage. As much as a lot of Dems don`t want to talk about it, there are
Democrats out there who are also legitimately --
MATTHEWS: Nobody else is taking personal shots at the Clintons.
MATTHEWS: They are personal. Unsavory? Sexual predator?
STEELE: Well, I thought McCaskill referred (ph) to -- don`t want her
daughter near him. So, she`s flip-flopped --
MATTHEWS: Why is he the only one out there getting personal with the
Clintons in a way most people would say is below the belt? I mean, you
call somebody a sexual predator, do you have a conversation with the guy
about issues then?
REID: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to go on, say, we have a lot of things in common,
REID: Especially when it leaves him open to charges of hypocrisy. I
actually think, Chris, this is classic Karl Rovian politics. He`s trying
to take off the field any strength that Democrats --
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, I heard you say opens him up to possible charges
REID: Hypocrisy. He was Herman Cain`s biggest defender. Herman Cain was
being accused of sexual harassment contemporaneous to the same 1990s period
MATTHEWS: I`m talking to a human archive. How did you remember that? How
did you remember he defended Herman Cain?
REID: He was telling the "National Review" that, you know, "Politico"
shouldn`t have written a story about it because now men are afraid to make
jokes in the workplace. So, there`s plenty of Google-worthy hypocrisy
charges out there waiting for him should he become the nominee. But I do
think he is doing something politically smart which is saying best asset
for the Democrats is Bill Clinton, I`m going to take him apart and make him
difficult to use.
The war on women is a great issue for Democrats, I`m going to destroy it.
I think he is trying to do a scorched-earth sort of Rovian path to the
nomination. I think it`s effective, by the way, as far as the nomination
MATTHEWS: What strikes me is the opportunism. A big part of politics is
not only motive, (INAUDIBLE) and their passion, but spontaneity. Can you
jump at an opportunity?
I think he`s trying to fill the gap in the next couple weeks that
STEELE: Not only that --
MATTHEWS: I think he`s at the top of the list.
STEELE: When he and Christie butted heads earlier, he stood his ground. I
don`t think the Christie folks expected him to do that. So, he has carved
out this space early on. As I said, he`s put down these markers.
MATTHEWS: One last question, because you know this stuff.
MATTHEWS: Any chance Romney is going to creep back in this thing next
STEELE: I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: I didn`t want attitude, Joy. I just wanted some scoop here.
STEELE: Rand Paul, that`s all I`m saying.
MATTHEWS: I think he might. I think he might. I think I`m saying it.
But anyway, thank you.
REID: Paul Ryan, Michael.
MATTHEWS: Once you run for president, you don`t stop. Anyway, thanks,
Joy. Good luck to you at 2:00. Not Channel 2, 2:00.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
It`s February of the year before the year before the presidential election
year. And guess what? Guess what`s happening? Things are getting very
rough and if you haven`t noticed already, very early.
Rand Paul`s leading the way, which tells me that he`s got a shrewd sense of
the times. People are angry out there. People on the right are angrier.
People on the far right, the kind who show up at caucuses are the angriest
They`re not looking for a candidate to shoot spit balls. They want to see
someone go out there and kneecap the other side.
Don`t believe me? I recommend you watch Rand Paul`s climb between now and
the next poll that comes out. He`s what you need to be in politics in this
24/7 media washer dryer. You need someone who can show he`s got the guts
to make some noise, even if it sounds a bit off key. Somebody who`s so
randied (ph) to be president, he`s willing to take down Republicans along
the way to get in shape to take on the likely Democratic candidate in 2016.
I expected this fight for 2016 is going to be rough. I can see already
that it`s going to go the full 15 rounds.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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