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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, December 19th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Friday show

December 19, 2014

Guest: Sean Penn, April Ryan, Susan Page, Christopher Andersen, Charles
Ellison, Katie Zezima, John Stanton

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: They made a mistake.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

I have never heard Barack Obama so black or white, so Manichean in his
judgment. Sony Pictures was wrong in letting the North Koreans close down
an American movie, wrong in acting to let the bad guys in that closed-in
country censor a motion picture it doesn`t like, wrong in not calling him
first before buckling before the dictator in North Korea.

This is Obama laying it out and on the line today in a press
conference that signaled all the audacity he`s packed into the weeks since
the November election -- the deal with China on climate change, the
executive order giving legal protection to millions of people who came into
this country illegally, the decision this week to restore full (INAUDIBLE)
including the posting of an American ambassador with the communist
government in Cuba, even to taking questions from only women reporters in
today`s press conference.

Where will this Obama audacity take us? If he keeps this up for two
years, could the sky be the limit? I`m joined right now by David Corn,
Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst,
and by actor, writer and director Sean Penn, who joins me now by phone.

First of all, here`s the president speaking today about Sony`s
decision to pull "The Interview," the movie that inspired the hacking.
Let`s watch.


It, you know, suffered significant damage. There were threats against its
employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said
all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start
imposing censorship here in the United States. Or even worse, imagine if
producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship
because they don`t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose
sensibilities probably need to be offended.


MATTHEWS: Sean Penn is in Los Angeles by phone. Mr. Penn, what do
you make of the president`s position? What`s your position?

SEAN PENN, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST (via telephone): Well, I would agree
with the president. I think that -- you know, I`m not speaking as an
advocate for the motion picture industry or as a critic. But I think that
we have to realize that this is a genuine emergency. This is the
popularization of cyber-war, and it requires an alternate threshold on this
-- on the thinking and the language that we use.

So I think that when Sony or representatives of Sony deny that they
pulled the film and put it on distributors, it really is not recognizing
the kind of -- the same responsibility a parent has to drive the show on
response when something threatens their child.

In this case, it doesn`t matter whether it`s an individual, a
government or a company, the response from Sony should have been to
immediately say, We`ll make our apologies later, and we`re putting it on
line, open and free for the world to see.

So I would say that it`d be a cop-out for Sony to hide behind the
distributors. And on the other hand, the distributors themselves could
have been boycotted by all the studios. And I think that should be
considered, that all the studios should say, Well, we won`t put any films
out until you`re ready to distribute the films that are made through free
speech and free thinking.

MATTHEWS: What do you think? You worked in the movie industry.
You`ve been involved in production and everything. You know both ends of
it, the creative end and the money end.

What stopped these guys from doing something that would have looked
gutsy and courageous and Churchillian, like Winston Churchill in World War
II, instead of looking like Neville Chamberlain? They looked like the guys
holding the umbrella. They must have known through their PR guys they`d
look terrible. Why`d they choose to look terrible rather than courageous?

PENN: Well, I would (ph) have joined them in looking terrible in the
sense that, I think (INAUDIBLE) and the government, and then we all look
terrible because we (INAUDIBLE) U.N. Security Council to sit down, get the
Chinese, the Russians all at a table with us and say, This is a threat to
all of us.

You know, it`s very similar to what happened in the University of
Texas tower, once Charles Whitman popularized, you know, taking a weapon
and shooting it at civilians on the street. It showed the possibilities.
And once those possibilities go out into the culture, it`s like guns.
We`ve got a computer in every household. And this is not technology that
is far from the hands of anyone.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Corn. Your view on this, as a guy who
writes about -- writes all the time and -- it does seem to be an easy call.
Why do they -- as Sean Penn just said, they could have gone other routes
besides the Regal Theater chain...


MATTHEWS: ... said, We`re going to put this on a network. They could
have put it out themselves on a Web site.

you know, they could have said, you know, We take these threats serious to
the theaters, and if they feel like they can`t have security, we`re going
to do it another way.

I mean, at the end of the day, unless they put it -- they still can
put it out. They can put it out tonight on a Web site. They make it for -
- put it out for free or they could set up their own Web site and anyone
who wants to see it pays 10 bucks, and that`s it.

If they don`t do that, at some point -- and probably some point soon -
- it just sends the message that this works. I overheard some
conservatives today criticize the president for, you know, saying what he
did too late after Sony already did what it`s done. And the question,
though, is, is this going to set a precedent or not?

And that`s why I think it`s right for the president and for the others
to say, We don`t agree, and try to give them some more spine, give them
some support, back them up a bit. And so Sony still has a chance to make
this right.

MATTHEWS: But they`re engaged now in what looks to be -- and Sean
Penn, I want to bring you in here. Sony Pictures is now engaged in kind of
a dialogue with Pyongyang now, with the Koreans, North Koreans. The North
Koreans thanked them today in some sort of transmission, a statement
saying, Thank you for doing what we told you to do. If you keep doing what
we told you to do, don`t show this picture. Don`t exhibit this picture any
way or anyhow. Then we won`t cause you any more trouble. We won`t release
any more of the information from the hacking.

It seems like they`re almost in league now because they`re being
thanked for it and being told, If you keep being a good boy now by our
lights -- by our lights, we won`t bother you anymore. It`s an engagement
of relations now, it seems.

PENN: Yes. I mean, I think that the -- you know, Sony has made
themselves almost irrelevant in what`s going to be a much, much bigger and
more dangerous story. They might have been, you know, the trigger that
participated in what was a mistake here.

But again, I think that if we don`t take this on at the United Nations
level, if it isn`t coming -- if we aren`t waking up and recognize that what
happens once -- Pandora`s box is opened at this level and recognize that we
just got hit by a truck and we can`t tell ourselves that, you know, we`ve
got a mild headache and then go home and go to bed because we`re going to
wake up with blood in the brain. And that`s where we are on this cyber-war

The declaration has been said. And it`s not even -- it`s not Sony.
It`s not even North Korea. North Korea is the size of Mississippi. That
could be handled by the mean-spirited in a day. It`s the indirect
promotion of this, and it`s also that which gets into the minds of a
culture with a lot of disease in it.

MATTHEWS: Is there any way that the creative community, meaning the
directors, the writers, the actors, are able to leverage this? Can you --
I mean, it`s always dangerous in a very tricky career to make demands
beyond just, Pay me and put me to work. But is there any way actors or
writers, for example, could say, I`m -- you`re going to green light this
movie? OK, when you green light it, it stays green, and no dictator`s
going to stop it.

Do you think there`s any chance, or is that just too far a hope that
the creative community will say, I`m not making movies to be stopped by the
bad guys?

PENN: Well, I think it`s sure that there will be discussions and
there will be attempts to put lobbies together on that basis. But I think
that the very first thing that those -- whether they`re in Hollywood or
Wisconsin -- can do is stand up as a country and stand up as united
countries in demanding that this be taken with a -- in the kind of serious
way that its threat represents.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me show you more of the president. Here`s
President Obama today. I thought it was a really a first-rate press
conference. Clarity, as I said, Manichean, good guys, bad guys. It wasn`t
the soft line he sometimes has taken before, here talking about North
Korean and the Sony hacking. Let`s watch again the president today.


OBAMA: I think it says something interesting about North Korea that
they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio
because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen...


OBAMA: -- and James Franco. I love Seth and I love -- and I love
James. But the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you
some sense of the kind of regime we`re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond
proportionally and we`ll respond in a place and time and manner that we


MATTHEWS: I wonder, when you make a movie -- and you`ve made some
really important films. And I was thinking part of the decision to make a
movie is that you want the bad guy to hear it. It isn`t just a joke by a
Seth Rogen, kind of a satire movie, but it wouldn`t bother you a bit to
know that the people being satirized, being lampooned, hear it. And it
hurts them. And it humiliates them.

What did you make of the president there saying that it`s Seth Rogen`s
movie, it`s a bit of over the top to begin with (INAUDIBLE) an over-the-top
movie, that it would scare them?

PENN: Well, you know, I go back to -- I think it was 1997, when
Martin Scorsese`s "Kundun" was coming out, the film on Tibet. And the
Chinese were in negotiations with Disney, who backed down tremendously on
the release of that film as a result.

And whether or not it`s the president`s, you know, framing it as a
marginalized threat based on it being a humorous movie or -- it really goes
deeper than all of that to me. And I think that when Eisner was
interviewed and he said that Disney was not in the human rights business,
they were in the entertainment business, that he really missed the mark.

We all are in the human rights business today, whether in our economy
or in our homes. And I do think that Sony does have an opportunity now to
do something heroic.

But I think it all -- but more importantly, I think that Moscow and
Beijing and Washington have something to do that`s very important because
this is something that threatens all governments, all corporations. It
calls into question, you know, where we divide our capitalism and our
recognition of human rights.

And I think it`s a really, really big historic moment, and if it`s not
taken by the reins by some brave people, then we`re going to be heading
into a world we had never imagined.

MATTHEWS: Sean, thank you for coming on. And thank you for the great
work you`ve done, whether it was "Harvey Milk" or it was "Joe Wilson," a
particular movie I cared about, or it was all the other -- "Mystic River,"
all the great performances, "Dead Man Walking," every one, it seemed, dealt
with an important issue and you were on the good side.

Thanks so much for you. And thank you, David Corn, and thank you for
our (ph) help in getting Sean here today.

Coming up: President Obama showed off a real sense of elan, I think is
the right word, in his press conference today. It was kind of a quiet
confidence. It wasn`t the swagger, sometimes idiotic swagger of W. It was
real. It was human. This is a changed president, I`m arguing, a confident
president, and you can see it in the way he talks and acts right now.
Something good has developed since the election.

And if you watched today`s press conference, you may have noticed that
the president made some history today. He called only on women reporters -
- Didn`t mention it, it just happened. I noticed it halfway through. In
fact, somebody called it to my attention when we were covering it live.
More on that sort of decision in a minute.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the organization,
released a statement that said the studio did not cave to the threats from
the hackers. The studio says that when theater owners refused to run the
movie, "The Interview," they had no choice but to pull it. Well, we`ll
decide (ph). The statement adds that the studio is surveying other
platforms in which to release the film. I`ll believe it when I see it.

And we`ll be right back after this.



really got a full house today, huh? Well, all I want for Christmas is to
take your questions.


MATTHEWS: Well, since the midterm, we`ve seen there again a self-
confident, forward-leaning president with a new elan. And in today`s final
press conference of the year that he hopes will capture the year, he
commanded the room, ticking off his accomplishments. Here he is.


OBAMA: All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created
nearly 11 million new jobs. America`s now the number one producer of oil,
the number one producer of natural gas. Our rescue of the auto industry is
officially over. We`ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my
administration committed. We`ve created about half a million new jobs in
the auto industry alone.

About 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past
year. We`re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in
Afghanistan will be over.


MATTHEWS: Well, there he is talking about his successes. Joining me
right now is Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and April
Ryan, who covers the White House for National Urban Radio. Her upcoming
book is, "The Presidency in Black and White." We`ll have you on to talk
about that, if you`d like, April.

Let`s go -- April, first of all, you were there today. And I want to
know what the reaction was from your male colleagues to the fact that not
one -- I mean, I could be a male and say, Why did you invite us if you
weren`t going to let us involve ourselves in the Q&A process, Mr.
President? Your thoughts and feelings.

thing for sure, in this town, it`s a male-dominated town, a white male-
dominated town. And I know for a fact -- I just walked out of the White
House and the press area -- many of our male colleagues have been going in
to the press secretary, very upset that they were not called on today.

But let me say this to you. As a woman, as someone who`s been
covering the White House, it`s nice, and someone who sits in the third row,
not the first row or the second row but the third row. It`s nice to see a
change of pace.

And from some of our White House sources that I talked to tonight,
apparently there was a plan not to go -- and this is not the first time,
but not to go to the networks.


RYAN: This is not the first time that this has happened. But they
said, OK, well, since we see that we`ve got a lot of women in the audience
who are really good at what they do, let`s call on the women. So, I mean,
it happened this one time...

MATTHEWS: He didn`t call on you!

RYAN: Yes, he did call on me.

MATTHEWS: After you called on him!


RYAN: Chris, I raised my hand like a reporter`s supposed to!

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, well, I`ve been talking for months and years, why
don`t they have the old tradition of reporters waving their hands and then
the -- sort of the reporters get the attention of the president? He came

RYAN: I raised my hand.

MATTHEWS: Yes, OK. That...

RYAN: That started during the Bush years. I raised my hand...


RYAN: ... like a good reporter is supposed to. Look at the tape.

MATTHEWS: Who else -- who else got -- who else raised their hand
besides you?

RYAN: I don`t know. I didn`t see behind me.



MATTHEWS: Nobody else.

RYAN: ... but I know I raised my hand.

MATTHEWS: OK. Anyway, good for you, your chutzpah. And by the way,
how would you describe the men`s attitude (INAUDIBLE) Were they whining?
Were the bitchy? How would you describe their reaction to the fact they
didn`t get called on today? How would you describe it?

RYAN: Let me tell you something. For the camera...

MATTHEWS: Whining?

RYAN: The cameras were on the front row. They`re going to always
keep that cool and decorum. But behind the scenes, they are not happy.
Phone calls are being made. They`ve walked up to Josh Earnest`s office.
But they`re going to be cool. I mean, you`re going to always see cool, a
cool demeanor, but they`re not happy with it.


What do you think of that, Susan?

- what was the...


MATTHEWS: I didn`t even notice for the first six or seven. Then
somebody pointed out -- we were doing it live -- and said, my God, it`s all
women. And he`s going to keep this up. And he went right to the end and
even -- we even got from April, who insisted upon a Q&A.

Go ahead.

PAGE: I think, clearly, they had a plan to do this. And I think
maybe just...


MATTHEWS: What`s the point?

PAGE: A little mischief. Why not?

MATTHEWS: What`s the frequency, Kenneth? What`s the purpose of this

PAGE: What was the quality of the questions?


MATTHEWS: I have to tell you...


PAGE: Did all the right questions get asked?


MATTHEWS: I`m not playing Mr. Nice or a good guy, but I have to tell
you, I didn`t notice anything was going on. In fact, if that had ended, I
probably wouldn`t have noticed they were all women. I probably wouldn`t
have noticed it.

PAGE: Yes. Yes. So that`s a great thing.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the president today.

April, you cover him all the time, and Susan. There`s something
different about the president. I wouldn`t call it swagger, because I hate
swagger. I hate it. And some presidents being like W. swagger sitting
down. I don`t know how they do it, but they do.

I don`t like guys who swagger, especially. There was a certain -- I
think the French word that I like is elan, a quiet self-confidence in the
president he didn`t have before this election. Something liberated this
guy. I don`t know what it is.

RYAN: I don`t know if it was liberation, but I think it was more so
what he had to present to America, an optimism, because they got a
shellacking in November.

And he had to come out, like, look, everything is changing, I`m
optimistic, we are Americans, we can fix problems. And that`s what he said
towards the end to sum it up. We can fix things as Americans. So I think
he wanted to come out with an optimistic tone, moving forward and looking
forward to the positive.


RYAN: And one thing that I really took away was when he said with the
Democrats and the Republicans, the fight, he said, yes, we are fighting,
but there are things that we also agree on. So he`s trying to look toward
the positive as we move into 2015, closing out 2014.

MATTHEWS: How did you react to his answer to your question? I loved
it, but I`m not you, about -- he talked about the quality of -- in fact,
let`s watch him respond to you.



been a healthy conversation that we`ve had. These are not new phenomenon.
The fact that they`re now surfacing, in part because people are able to
film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen
table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations. And
you`re not going to solve a problem if it`s not being talked about.


MATTHEWS: Did you buy the fact that most people are not bad about
race relations, most people try to be good? Did you buy that? Did you
agree with that?

RYAN: I saw his optimism and his hope.

But you have to remember, when you talk about race in this country,
the president did get it right. This is centuries` old, centuries, plural,
centuries. And it stems from slavery. Went to Jim Crow and it`s moved on.

But the thing that we have to remember, it`s not just a legislative
issue. It`s a heart issue as well.


RYAN: So, I do think that people want to see a better day, but are
there still vestiges and residue of the past? Oh, yes.


RYAN: Now, as a reporter, on the reporter aspect, I did like the fact
that he did kind of change his answer, because I asked him six years ago
this month in the Oval Office about the state of black America, and he
hearkened to Charles Dickens talking about it`s a tale of two Americas, a
good -- for the best and the worst.

MATTHEWS: Best of times, worst of times, yes.

RYAN: Yes.

So, he talked about the -- for those, for African-Americans who have a
good education, it`s a good time. But for those who don`t, it`s the worst
of times because of unemployment and the economy and lack of opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I agree.

RYAN: And then when he talked about black America as well as all
America is better in the aggregate since his administration, it was
interesting to hear that vs. six years ago this month in the Oval Office
from my interview that I had with him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, last answer, thank you so much.


PAGE: You know, one thing that struck me about his answer was how
much difference just cell phone technology makes.

That picture, the video of Eric Garner makes all the difference in
settling the he said/he said debate.


MATTHEWS: Isn`t it great to have facts on the table?

PAGE: It makes all the difference for people who might have denied
what had happened there. There was no denying it.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know anybody that thought that was a proper
decision. Sometimes, you have to have a trial before you have a jury
decision. That needed to have a trial.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Susan Page. And thank -- of "USA

And, thank you, April Ryan. And congratulations on getting in the
powerful last question of the day for the president`s last presser.

RYAN: I raised my hand, Chris.



By the way, I love the weather today. Did you like the weather today?

RYAN: It was OK.

MATTHEWS: See, you have to disagree with me. I proved it now.


MATTHEWS: Every time I say something, this reporter has to find a
different conclusion. It`s style.

Anyway, thank you very much, April Ryan. Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And that is style.

Coming up, a new biography of John F. Kennedy Jr. reveals new details
about the relationship with his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, the beautiful
father. The author is Christopher Andersen. And he joins us next for a
few minutes to talk about a little bit of glamour here in politics.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As many of you know, I have written a lot of biographies of John F.
Kennedy. It was "Kennedy and Nixon," which did really well, and "Jack
Kennedy: Elusive Hero." And it`s Christmastime, and I don`t mind saying,
go out and buy these books. I think they`re the best things I have
written, anyway, great Christmas gifts.

But back in `96, I had the opportunity personally to interview the
35th president`s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., who was once thought to be the
heir to his father`s political legacy. Of course, that was before his
tragic death in 1999. Here`s a bit from that interview.


MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about fun. I think you are trying to
bring fun back into politics, aren`t you, because it`s been missing for
about 25 years. All the polls show people used to say -- people used to
say when they worked for President Kennedy in the White House they had a
great time. People loved politics. It was a positive thing. And that`s
been missing.

it`s like anything else.

If -- you know, the trick is catching people`s attention.


KENNEDY: And if the only thing that people see are a bunch of men
fighting on television all the time, or a lot -- or negative commercials on
television, or acerbic editorials, then they are going to turn their
attention somewhere else. And so we want to try to kind of bring a little
bit more fun back into it, a little levity, and not -- but be serious-
minded at the same time.



Well, "New York Times" bestselling author Christopher Andersen joins
us now. He`s out with a masterful biography called "The Good Son: JFK Jr.
and the Mother He Loved."

Author Christopher Andersen joins us right now.

Christopher, thank you for joining us.

LOVED": It`s great to be here, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And I always ask that question, what didn`t we get right at
the time? What did we miss about the upbringing of John Kennedy Jr.?

Andersen: Well, first of all, I have to say, you look much better
today than you did back then, even better.


MATTHEWS: Aren`t you cute?


ANDERSEN: And I love those -- all your books as well.

Look, what we didn`t get right about JFK Jr. is that he was more
Bouvier than Kennedy. He wasn`t dumb by any means. That was a wonderful
interview. I think it showed -- you mentioned elan and President Obama and
something -- a transformation that`s taken place there.

That is a quality that both JFK Jr. and his father had in spades, but
I think more so in the case of JFK Jr., because he was really a natural
politician in many ways. His dad was a little reluctant about the kissing-
babies aspect. But John could connect with people in a natural way. He
was self-effacing and at the same time incredibly articulate.

And from -- if you look at the pictures of the relationship with his
mother, and the reason I wrote this book is because that was a phenomenal
relationship he had with Jackie. They were each other`s protector from the
very beginning.



MATTHEWS: Did he ever think of becoming like a European movie star?
Because he seems like a Jean-Louis Trintignant or one of other famous names
over there.

He looks like European movie star. He looks French.


ANDERSEN: Absolutely. There`s the Bouvier, like...


ANDERSEN: ... Bouvier.

If you see pictures of his grandfather on his mother`s side, he looks
quite a bit like that side of the family. He did want to act, as you may
recall. And Jackie pulled him back from the brink. She did say one of the
most wonderful things was seeing him act, and she did on several occasions
when he was at Brown University and afterwards, but she wanted -- she
thought there were greater things ahead for him.

Her whole attitude, she was very hands-on. She said if you bungle
raising your children, nothing else you do in life matters anymore. So she
made sure that he grew up to be somebody who didn`t have the problems of
the rest of the Kennedys. She kept him away from...


MATTHEWS: Well, look, Chris, for people who are going to go out and
buy this book right now, because it looks like candy for Christmas,
especially for those of us who grew up with the Kennedys loving the whole
thing, especially -- I have to tell -- the pictures in this book are

ANDERSEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about his possible running for politics. I
once talked to Robert Kennedy Jr., who said his numbers were very good in
New York. If he had ran statewide or even run for Congress, he would have


MATTHEWS: And my question here is, John F. Kennedy Jr., did he ever
get polling done? Did he ever see if he could beat Hillary Clinton for
that seat in 200 or just thought about it?

ANDERSEN: Indeed, there was a private poll, and it was taken just
before his tragic crash, his death.

And he -- by all accounts, his close friends said he intended to seek
the seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He had gone to Judith Hope, the New
York chairwoman of the Republican -- of the Democratic Party. He was
intent on beginning his political career.

And I think -- Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, told me, look,
even if Hillary had tried, she could never have wrested that seat from JFK
Jr. That Senate seat was his for the asking. I think he was right.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the horrible ending. I read somewhere
along the line that Jacqueline Kennedy was very concerned about her son`s -
- her beautiful son John`s interest in aviation and wanting to be a pilot

ANDERSEN: Yes, absolutely.


MATTHEWS: And it`s so unbelievable. It`s a premonition from hell,
but go ahead.

ANDERSEN: She shared that with Maurice Tempelsman, the last really
significant relationship she had in her life.

Yes, but look at the Kennedy track record. His uncle Joe died in a
plane crash, his aunt Kathleen, just a whole slew of them.

MATTHEWS: Uncle Teddy almost killed. Teddy was almost killed.

ANDERSEN: Right, exactly.

Alexander Onassis, the son of John`s stepfather, was killed in a plane
crash. So there`s a long and terrifying list. And that was the one thing
that she worried about. And it was only after she passed away that he
finally went ahead with his plans to get his license. And we see the
tragic consequences.

MATTHEWS: It`s a great book. I know it is.

ANDERSEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: The book is called "The Good Son," about that incredibly
attractive son of the great President John F. Kennedy and his namesake.

Thank you so much, Christopher Andersen. You have a great son-in-law,
by the way, running a good part of this network.


ANDERSEN: Thank you. He`s a great guy.

MATTHEWS: He sure is.

Up next, the big fight on the right between Rand Paul and Marco Rubio
over President Obama`s historic shift of policy on Cuba.

Plus, Stephen Colbert says farewell, what a show it was last night, at
least for now.

All that straight ahead with the roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, where you hear the


Here`s what`s happening.

President Obama and the first family have left Washington and are
heading to Hawaii for the holidays. No public events are scheduled for the
duration of his trip.

It won`t be a white Christmas for most of the East Coast, but it will
be a wet one. A storm system is expected to bring rain from Florida to
Maine along with high winds. The Midwest will see snow and ice.

And health officials say the flu is now widespread in 29 states. The
strain seen in most cases is not covered by this year`s shot -- back to


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: At a minimum, I would say this.
Barack Obama is the worst negotiator of president -- that we have had as
president since at least Jimmy Carter and maybe in the modern history of
this country.

I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel
as many of these changes as possible.

This was all one-sided. And that`s what happens when you send a
speechwriter to negotiate a deal with an experienced dictator.

I think it sends a horrifying message to civil society within Cuba and
across the hemisphere that the U.S. under this president is no longer a
reliable ally in the fight for freedom and democracy.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As you saw there, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is
jockeying for a position in a crowded Republican field of presidential
possibilities, is now launching an all-out assault on President Obama`s
deal to restore full relations with Cuba.

Rubio now has a second big fight on his hands with fellow Republican
presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and things are getting
personal. Yesterday, Rand Paul bucked Rubio by publicly declaring his
support for President Obama`s goal to end the Cuban embargo.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I mean, if the goal was regime change,
it sure doesn`t seem to be working.

And probably it punishes the people more than the regime, because the
regime can blame the embargo for hardship. And if there`s open trade, I
think the people will see what it`s like to -- all of the things that we
produce under capitalism. So, in the end, I think probably opening up Cuba
is a good idea.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Rubio with his somewhat lesser abilities going
back at Paul on FOX last night.


RUBIO: Like many people that have been opining, he has no idea what
he`s talking about.

The embargo is not what`s hurting the Cuban people. It`s the lack of
freedom and the lack of competent leaders.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, Paul, the senator, unloaded on Rubio, saying:
"I`m a proponent of peace through commerce. And I believe engaging Cuba
can lead to positive change. Seems to me Senator Rubio is acting like an
isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.
I reject this isolationism."

Katie Zezima is a reporter with "The Washington Post" covering the
White House. And John Stanton is BuzzFeed`s Washington bureau chief.

First of all, I get to get a shot here against -- against Rubio. He
was 7 years old during Camp David, when Jimmy Carter, the guy he said
wasn`t a very good negotiator, brought together Israel with its then major
strategic enemy, Egypt, and forced a permanent peace treaty between the two
of them.

Match that, Marco. Just do something like that in your lifetime.
Anyway -- maybe because he was a kid at the time.

Let`s talk about this interesting fight on the right. Is -- we grew
up with the idea -- we all did -- that the Republican Party was the hawkish
party. They were always anti-communist, anti-everything, anti-everybody,
let`s go to war. The neocons picked up on that.

And now, you see an interesting intramural battle where you see Marco
Rubio, of course, carrying the traditional baggage of the hawks. But then
you see Rand Paul, who`s got to be the most spontaneous, and I have to say
scrambling arguer I`ve ever seen. He doesn`t say in the pocket. He`s out
there scrambling like RG3. He`s always got something, you know?

battle between conservatives and libertarians --

MATTHEWS: But it`s epic, but it`s new, isn`t it?

ELLISON: It`s fairly fresh and new. It`s been there. It`s simmering
for sometime, but now, it`s kind of coming out before the 2016 cycle and
Rand Paul is playing on that and he`s also playing on the fact that this is
Marco Rubio`s sort of token Cuban kid moment.

You know, hey, Cuba is on the headlines. Oh, I`m Cuban-American.
Hey, mom, let me get some headlines here ahead f the 2016 elections cycle.

So, this is his way to come out and say really outrageous things,
whether they`d be right or wrong, just so he can say, I`m out in front of
the pack, because he knows someone like Rand Paul who is playing it
effectively ahead of that cycle. And it`s also -- you know, one thing
about Rand Paul is doing, why he`s taking Obama`s position on this, like
he`s saying, we do need to change up our strategy on this, it`s because he
knows there`s young voters out there, they all want to go, they want to
vacation in Cuba. They know the strategy is outdated.


MATTHEWS: Just a little more tough about it, I think the Cuban vote
in America, the Cuban-American vote is about 50/50 now. You could argue in
brutal political terms. It`s a wash. So don`t assume you have to move in
the direction of the red hots.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Well, also, you know, I think the issue of
Cuba is no longer a defining issue for Republicans. I mean, you go back 20
years ago, every Republican sort of came down hard. A lot of the
Republicans in the House and in the Senate don`t care, frankly, I think,
about this one way or the other. It`s something from ancient history for a
lot of them. They`re more concerned about domestic policy, with spending.

So, this is a fight that I think you`re going to -- it`s going to be
much more difficult for Marco Rubio to try to push Rand Paul to the side
than maybe five or 10 years ago.

MATTHEWS: How`s the White House size up the strange bedfellows

KATIE ZEZIMA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, President Obama
today said that he will continue to push this on. Yu know, he made -- he
had a press conference this afternoon and he said, you know, he was
planning to do what he wanted to do despite Congress`s opposition, and this
is obviously one of those things. But he`d rather work with Congress. But
this is definitely something they`ve come out for and they are full
throttle just go ahead and do what they want to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is, he fired back on critics of the Cuba
deal. Let`s watch him.


bones is that if you`ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing`s
changed, you should try something different, if you want a different
outcome. And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome.
Through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change than
we would have otherwise.

Change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They`ve got an economy
that doesn`t work.


MATTHEWS: You know, that sounds so millennial. The old guys didn`t
get it right. We`ll try something new.

STANTON: Yes. I think it is, you know, a reflection of the
administration trying to sort of -- to pivot into this kind of a mode. I
think it`s going to be, people want to get everything they want on this
deal. I think Republicans may be able to force their hands on a few things
like opening an embassy or something like that. But again, I think it`s --
this is an issue that --

MATTHEWS: How do you do that? How do you stop the president who has
the right to declare diplomatic relations with another country?

STANTON: They`re going to go to go to Congress to approve shifting
money within the State Department to open up the embassy.


STANTON: Congress will say no. They`re going to need that. And
without that, that could have an impact on some of this. But it depends on
how much having a physical embassy matters.

MATTHEWS: Is that the Senate and the House, or just the Senate?

STANTON: I think both. I think both.

ELLISON: Yes. But Obama was very clever about this. Notice he made
this announcement a week after they pass a $1.3 trillion budget. So, it`s
like, he has the seed funding to go ahead and move forward on putting the
staff, putting all --

MATTHEWS: It strikes me as, to use a crude word, a little pissant.
To not let the guy name an ambassador. I mean, it just seems so petty --

ZEZIMA: Well --

MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s not like debating an issue or policy. You`re
saying you can`t do what you have a right to do, because we got this little
thing. We can stop you with, the funding. It`s like saying we`re not
going to pay for the White House meals anymore, or are we going to close
down the electricity in the executive branch. I mean, it just seems so
small-minded to use your power that way.

ZEZIMA: Well, Congress will do everything they can to stop it the way
they think they can. But, you know, in Cuba, as we said in our story
today, they called the man who is down there already ambassador. So, there
may not be an actual ambassador there, but there`s a U.S. presence --


MATTHEWS: -- ambassador rank.

STANTON: I think it`s going to be very difficult for them to really -
- the fundamental change has already happened, right? We are now talking
about having normalized relationships with Cuba. It`s a fundamental shift
and there`s not a lot Republicans are going to be able to do other than --


MATTHEWS: -- the Cuban Americans, Jose Diaz-Balart, or, you know, one
of the other well-known that would be hard for the Republicans to shoot
that down, I would think.

ZEZIMA: Well, in many ways, there are things that have ticked down
over the years. You know, the president has, you know, loosened travel
restrictions. Like I said, there`s a pretty robust U.S. presence there,
and the U.S. interest office, where they route things through the Swiss
government. So, there`s a presence there --


ELLISON: Really quickly, the sort of underreported political dynamic,
Russia is about to build a spy base right outside of Havana, and then also
the Cuban relationship with Venezuela, and relationships with other people
like Iran, North Korea. So, it`s a very clever move. It`s a very clever
by the president.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s allowing the facet that could continue in
the wrong direction for a while. But I will go the other day, I don`t want
to deal with the communist government, because always ends up, you`re
trying to arrange trip, they just want you to meet with somebody.

I don`t want to meet with these guys. I`ll go with a travel agent.
I`m not going to meet with the communists. To hell with that.

Anyway, their time is up, by the way.

The roundtable is staying with us. Coming up, Stephen Colbert`s big
send-off last night. Looked like a lot of fun. Alan Alda, there he is,
George Lucas, what a crowd. We`re going to talk about the goodbye, and the
beautiful song they sang on the way out the door last night.



MATTHEWS: Well, mark your calendar for politics. President Obama`s
State of the Union Address will take place on Tuesday, that`s usual day,
January 20th, that`s fairly early. That`s the date that House Speaker John
Boehner chose for him. And he issued the invitation today for the
president to address a joint session of Congress.

We`ll be right back after this.



STEPHEN COLBERT, THE COLBERT REPORT: If this is your first time
tuning into "The Colbert Report," I have some terrible news. This, in
fact, this in fact, is your last time tuning into "The Colbert Report,"
until -- no, no, no. Folks, until 10 years from now, when they reboot it
directed by J.J. Abrams.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It`s officially the end of the era. Stephen Colbert signed off last
night for the final time, and the satirist did it in style, including
leading a massive chorus of celebrities at his sing-along.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with our great round table, Charles and Katie
and John.

Did you realize what was going on is there? The last music from "Dr.
Strangelove" at the end, "We`ll Meet Again", when the bombs are dropping,
Slim Pickens is riding the rocket down to blow up the world, and then Henry
Kissinger while they`re singing "We`ll Meet Again."

What did you think? I was -- I was supposed to be there but I had a
brother-in-law party last night.

STANTON: I`m curious to see what happens when he goes --

MATTHEWS: Will he be a new personality?

STANTON: Well, he`s going to have to do, right?

MATTHEWS: He can`t be himself, though.

STANTON: Yes. But I think -- I want to see how much of the politics
he`s able to bring into late night sort of basic television. I think that
that will be an interesting thing -- because he`s done such a great job of
helping along with Jon Stewart, create this sort of new brand on cable.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and Fallon is real show business entertainment. It`s
almost back to the old days, I`m a shooter, action, entertainment, dancing.
It`s not a lot topical.

And yet, I noticed Kimmel is getting better. Isn`t he? He`s just
getting better. I mean, so I don`t know what the competition will be. But
I have a feeling that he`s a really nice guy when you meet him but he`s a
regular guy. I think he`s going to have to develop a hybrid of the guy he
plays because Chevy Chase, as I said the other night, didn`t work as Chevy
Chase. He just disappeared because when he wasn`t playing that character -
- like Jerry Lewis played a character, the jerk, he called him. Most guys
play somebody.

ELLISON: Right, right.


ELLISON: He made political news reporting more approachable, the
whole game of politics more approachable. You know, he represents that rat
pack of political news.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch more from Colbert`s sendoff last night. He
reflected on some of his major accomplishments over the last nine years.


COLBERT: The truthiness is all those things people say I did, running
for president, saving the Olympics, Colbert super PAC, treadmill in space,
the rally to restore sanity and/or for fear and/or Cat Stevens` career --
none of that, none of that was really me. You, the nation, did all of
that. I just got paid for it. Thanks. Thanks.


That was really cool of you guys.


MATTHEWS: It`s nice when good things happen to a good guy. And he is
a good guy.

Thank you all, Charles Ellison, Katie Zezima, and John Stanton.

And when we return, let me finish with President Obama today and how
things are going racially in this country. I`m going to let the president
speak for the president.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight by offering the HARDBALL stage to the
president. Here`s what he said today about how things are going racially
in this country.


America, Black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when
I came into the office. The jobs that have been created, the people who
have gotten health insurance, the housing equity that`s been recovered, the
401 pensions that have been recovered -- a lot of those folks are African-
American. They`re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of White and Black America persists.
And we`ve got more work to do on that front. I`ve been consistent in
saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and
slavery. That`s not an excuse for black folks.

And I think the overall majority of black people understand it`s not
an excuse. They`re working hard. They`re out there hustling and trying to
get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But, you know,
they`re starting behind oftentimes in the race.

And what`s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide
people a hand up. Not a hand up but help folks get that good, early
childhood education. Help them graduate from high school. Help them
afford college. If they do, they`re going to be able to succeed and that`s
going to be good for all of us.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s HARDBALL this week. And I`ll see you Monday
as we head toward Christmas Eve.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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