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Guest: Representative Tammy Duckworth

By Hardball, Hardball - January 24, 2013

HARDBALLJanuary 24, 2013

Guests: Neera Tanden, John Feehery, Bob Shrum, Zoe Bedell, Tammy Duckworth, Steve McMahon, Robert Costa

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The jackals attack Hillary!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" with this. Is this the day of the jackals? Is this the day in January of 2013 that the right decided to go all out attacking Hillary Clinton? You had a pair of back-bench senators jabbering nonsense at her yesterday. You`ve got Rush and Hannity barking from the sidelines at the secretary of state.

Who shot the starting pistol? Who said this person is fair game, that she`s the new Valerie Wilson, the new target of all their angry venom and fulminating? Where do they decide this stuff?

Hillary Clinton`s the most popular woman in the world right now. We`ve got the new numbers to show it. Democrats love her. A lot of Republicans like her. She`s not running for anything, certainly not now. She`s retiring from a tough job. People agree she`s done a pretty darn good job. And yet she`s getting hauled before the firing squad.

Don`t we want any more -- don`t people anymore wait a bit before they start to say, Ready, aim, fire? Don`t we give a person, even an important person, a little time-out before we start the attack, loose the dogs, start ripping at the skin?

Look, I know politics. I don`t know this politics. Obama`s the president. He will be for four years. He`s the guy who will make the calls politically until 2016. Is this about just attacking Democrats? Is this about trying to convince her, Mrs. Clinton, not to run? If so, it might just be the easiest way to guarantee she runs. Don`t you think?

Neera Tanden`s president of the Center for American Progress and a former policy director to Hillary Clinton, and Ron Reagan is an MSNBC political analyst.

Both of you are good people to have on right now. I just want to get a comment from Neera, and I want a gut reaction. This disgusting attack that`s so -- the back benchers -- and we`re going to get to each one of these nuts in a minute here. They are nutty in their behavior, certainly here -- Hannity, "The New York Post with a disgusting front page today, Rush Limbaugh with his usual "feminazi" nonsense coming out -- do you think this all will make Secretary Clinton more likely to run for president or less likely, that all the jackals are attacking her?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: Less or more?

TANDEN: I don`t think Rush Limbaugh or any of these people are going to have a dime`s bit of difference effect on Hillary Clinton. I mean, she`s been dealing with their ilk for 20 years. And she`ll make the decision she`s going to make about her future...

MATTHEWS: So you don`t think the attack...

TANDEN: ... regardless of what they do.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) I want to get a yes or no. You really don`t believe that she will have a fighting spirit coming out of this assault on her?

TANDEN: Oh, she has a fighting spirit, but whether Rush Limbaugh has an affect on what she decides to do with her life -- I`m just telling you I don`t think so. I think, you know -- I think she showed yesterday she has a fighting spirit. I think she showed yesterday what people were really enthusiastic about in her performance, is that she gave as good as she could get. You know? I mean, they...

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: ... they thought that they were going to yell her down, and they didn`t. And so my view of that is -- look, she is a superstar. She`s done a fantastic job, but she doesn`t live her life by the decisions other people make. She lives her life by the decisions she wants to make for her and her future.

MATTHEWS: Ron, let me ask you this, then. Let`s switch the question around to another way of looking at it. Do you think these people were doing a preemptive attack, thinking she may well decide to run? If they trash her up front, she might decide not to. Why else they would be going after her so far ahead of an election -- so far ahead of an election? What`s the politics here? I don`t get it.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I imagine that the Republicans, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson on that committee were thinking to themselves -- thinking ahead to 2016 and thinking, You know, we could -- we can get -- we can get some footage here that can be used in attack ads against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

MATTHEWS: Oh!

REAGAN: Now, instead, what happened was that Hillary Clinton ate their lunch and walked out of that hearing room with a highlight reel of her own. She can use those in ads.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

REAGAN: Now, I agree that, you know, Rand Paul and Rush Limbaugh and people like that are not going to make up Hillary Clinton`s mind for her, but she did look like somebody who was, you know, up for the fight, if you want to say that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let`s show some of it to remind people how good it was yesterday. Here`s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a tour de force at the House and Senate Benghazi hearings, which is probably what has the right so exercised. As I said yesterday, she showed acuity, eloquence, humanity and charm. Her Republican questioners, not so much. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin prompted Secretary Clinton`s most heated defense. Here`s where Clinton gives the senator no quarter. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: When you`re in these positions, the last thing you want do is interfere with any other process going...

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, that`s...

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