updated 1/27/2006 10:54:35 AM ET 2006-01-27T15:54:35

Guest: Lawrence Eagleburger, Benjamin Netanyahu, Robin Wright, Antonio


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bush plays hardball.  He will rat out our enemies.  He will continue the NSA surveillance, he will not talk to those out to destroy Israel, he will not release pictures of him and Jack Abramoff.  Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.  Today President Bush held his 10th press conference since being reelected and offered a preview of his upcoming State of the Union address, which he'll deliver to the country on Tuesday.

The news conference was called “The Morning Of,” but the Washington press corps showed up armed with questions about pictures of the president with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the NSA domestic spy program and the victory of the militant party Hamas in the Palestinian elections.  HARDBALL's David Shuster has more with this report.


DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  While the Bush administration has spoken repeatedly about the march of democracy, the Palestinian election of the terror group Hamas was not what the White House had in mind, and so the president today spoke bluntly.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... at a political party that articulate the destruction of Israel as a part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal.

SHUSTER:  Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has used direct and simple words to address complex issues.  Under fire was domestic spying program, that Bush style was on full display.

BUSH:  And I'm going to continue using my authority.

SHUSTER:  And in case anybody forgot the stakes...

BUSH:  ... we're at war with an enemy that wants to hit us again.  Osama bin Laden made that clear the other day.  And I take his words very seriously.  And I also take my responsibility to protect the American people very seriously.

SHUSTER:  The serious issue for Democrats is whether the president broke the law.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN:  The law says that if you have an emergency reason to spy on Americans, that you can go ahead and do it, but you've got to justify it with the court afterwards.

SHUSTER:  But the president asserted, following a tough question from a reporter...

BUSH:  ... circumventing is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it because I believe what I'm doing it legally right.

SHUSTER:  Some scholars in that legal debate disagree.  But when it comes to the political debate, it's clear the White House thinks one simple word works and today the president used that word “necessary” 12 times.

BUSH:  It's designed to protect civil liberties and it's necessary.  You've got an information necessary to—decisions necessary—the troops are necessary—as necessary—what is necessary?

SHUSTER:  The president also took on Congress, saying it would be a mistake for lawmakers to revamp the surveillance law.

BUSH:  I want to make sure that people understand that if the attempts to write law makes this program—is likely to expose the nature of the program, I'll resist it.

SHUSTER:  On the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal...

BUSH:  ... I frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy.  I don't know him.

SHUSTER:  Still, the White House's is refusing to detail Abramoff's meetings with senior staffers or release photographs of Abramoff and the president together.

BUSH:  There's thousands of people that come through and get their pictures taken.  I'm also mindful that we live in a world in which those pictures will be used for pure political purposes.

SHUSTER:  But politics is why the White House often takes these photos to begin with.  And four years the White House gave this picture of the president, taken on 9/11, to the Republican National Committee, so the photo could be copied and sold in a Republican campaign fund-raiser.

The president also faced questions today about Hurricane Katrina and a congressional investigation into the government's slow response.  Top presidential advisers such as White House Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card and former FEMA director Michael Brown was recently paid to speak at a private conference, are refusing to answer any questions from Congress.

BUSH:  If people give me advice and they're forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up, I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers.

SHUSTER:  The president has long played on his jovial personal strengths and that was the case again today.


BUSH:  No, that's not fair to the other people. 

GREGORY:  ... no I'm just trying to...

BUSH:  You're trying to hoard.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  ... I'm not trying.  I just have a question about New Orleans, Sir.

BUSH:  Now this is—I agree with you, I can see the expressions on your colleagues' faces that...

GREGORY:   ... Well I hope it will be worth your time.

BUSH:  They don't think so.

SHUSTER:  There was one news conference snafu.  A wire broke, holding a remote-controlled camera, dangling the equipment from the ceiling and blocking in some shots, the president's face.

BUSH:  For those of you watching, we seem to have a mechanical flaw. 

Are you wearing your helmets?  I'll take it up with the first lady.


SHUSTER:  Yes, even in the White House press briefing room there is on occasion an equipment failure.  But even if things today in front of a national television audience didn't go quite as smoothly as President Bush had planned, the president will get another chance next week to talk about his policies and priorities when he delivers the State of the Union.  I'm David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you David Shuster.  Let's bring in now chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.  On Hamas, is this a deal breaker for any kind of peace between Israel and the Palestinians?


Absolutely.  The U.S. officials here are in a state of shock.  Now one official tonight was telling me that they're thinking that Hamas is also in a state of shock, because Hamas has worked best as an outsider. 

And that they thought they would get a major role in the new government, perhaps control some of the domestic social service cabinet ministries, but not have to run a government itself.  So they're positing that perhaps today Hamas is in the position that Robert Redford was in “The Candidate,” 1972 movie where he said, “Now what do we do?”

But that said, Hamas has actually delivered services in Gaza, at least much better than the Palestinian Authority.  Top officials, all the way up to the president, have been clearly frustrated all along.  You heard that in what the president said today, with the way Mahmoud Abbas handled the reigns of power.  He basically never wielded any power and let this vacuum be created, which let this terror group Hamas rise to the top. 

So now what do they do?  Well there was a conference call late this afternoon between Condi Rice, her European counterparts, Russia, the U.N., all talking about how you revive the peace process, when Israel clearly is not going to sit down, nor will the Europeans or the U.S., sit down and fund this Palestinian Authority or negotiate with them.

That said, one official said to me tonight, “Look, there are obvious humanitarian problems here.”  And Chris, they're not going to let people starve in the streets of the Palestinian territories, so the $415 million in American aid that went to the Palestinian Authority last year is now on temporary hold, but at some point, you've got a government, a semi- government that has been using $80 million a month.  They only have revenues of $10 million a month.  How long can they last before the U.S.  comes to their aid even though they are led by Hamas?

MATTHEWS:  Just to tie this up for tonight, Andrea, the Hamas political organization, which has won this dramatic victory in the Palestinian territory, out-voting rather, Fatah, which the Yasser Arafat organization of all these decades.  It's known to be an organization which has sent terrorists, suicide terrorists, into Israel to kill Israelis.  That's a fact and everybody shares it, right?

MITCHELL:  It's part of their national platform, their party platform, is the destruction of the state of Israel.  So the least that they have to do is acknowledge the existence of Israel, the right to exist, and no longer call for the destruction of Israel. 

That said, Joe Biden, who just got back this morning from observing the election, he said that would require an epiphany on the part of Hamas.  It might happen over the long-term, Yasser Arafat did that over the long-term and was—he recognized Israel and was on the White House lawn in 1993 after decades when we wouldn't talk to him.  That isn't going to happen overnight. 

MATTHEWS:  This would be—Andrea, this would be like Mothers Against Drunk Driving coming out for drunk driving.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the NSA spying thing.  The president held tough today in the White House press room, he's going to continue the program of surveillance, he's not to change the law, he's not going to worry about the old law.  He's going to use it, as he said, as a tool.

MITCHELL:  They are in fact—they in fact believe that most Americans support his contention that they are made safer by this eavesdropping.  They have packaged it, they've framed it, to be you're either in favor of Osama bin Laden attacking the United States or you're holding on to your personal privacy.  Which is more important to you? 

That's sort of in blunt terms, the way they have created this issue, and the Democrats have yet to counteract it.  But now they're going to face on February 6th, Arlen Specter, with a tough demand to Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, in a letter that went out yesterday, 15 questions he wants answered. 

He told Gonzales, “I expect you to stay all day until you answer this.”  Because frankly, the president's position, critics say is internally inconsistent.  Gonzalez himself said, “We would have told Congress or asked them to rewrite the law, but we didn't think we would get it.”  Well it's either you believe that you have the right inherently as a constitutional matter of authority, or you believe that you would asked for it, but you knew you wouldn't get it, so you didn't ask for it.  But those two arguments, both coming from the administration, are internally inconsistent. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, at the State Department.  Lawrence Eagleburger was secretary of state under former President Bush.  Let me bring you in now.  Lawrence Eagleburger, what do you make of this decision by the Palestinian people to elect Hamas, an organization which was been identified closely with terrorism all these years, and is a militant group that has said they want to destroy Israel?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  I think what else can you make it to be other than probably a very—I was about to say disaster.  I won't go quite that far, but it seems to me, at least that this early stage, you've got to say it could hardly be any worse. 

But you also have to remember, I think, that in my judgment, at least, a good bit of the election results were the consequence of years and years of corruption on the part of Arafat and everybody that followed him.

Apart of it at least is pure and simple disgust with the way in which the previous governments had proceeded.  I don't think it's all anti-Israeli, is my point. 

MATTHEWS:  We had Tom Aspell on, reporting from that part of the world today, after the press conference, and Tom said that the Israelis might be thinking right now they wish they had been dealing more generously, if that's possible, with Yasser Arafat, because compared to Hamas, he was a moderate. 

EAGLEBURGER:  I knew that was going to come, and if I may say so, the reason it's going to come is because there's going to be some way or another to blame the Israelis, and then us, for the this Hamas victory.  I think that's absolute nonsense. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  He didn't say that.  No, no, let me put it clear what our correspondent said.  He said the Israelis may wish they had Yasser Arafat to deal with rather than Hamas? 

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, having—maybe wishing they had Arafat to deal with rather than Hamas is probably true only in the sense that Arafat was  certainly far less possessive, is far less efficient than Hamas will be. 

And I think if Hamas carries out what they have now said they're going to do—namely, they're not going to recognize Israel, they're going to drive them into the sea and so forth—the only thing the Israelis and the United States and anybody else with a brain in their heads can do at this stage is lock them up as tightly as you can. 

And this issue of, you know, feeding people who are starving, I would even be very careful before I'd go very far there, because one way or another, Hamas now is going to have to recognize that it is responsible for what goes on in that country.  And I think maybe with a little pressure and a little time, they will begin to become more responsible.  We'll have to see, but certainly, for the short term, this is a real mess. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, not to grab at that rosy scenario, let me ask you about the one possibility—I know something about third-world countries, and certainly you do, as an expert.  And sometimes it's better to deal with at least the strong man who's the more militant one, because at least he can control his own people and he can keep a deal. 

Yasser Arafat, whatever advantage he might have been—and nobody sees much—wasn't able to keep a deal, certainly.  Do you think Hamas, if it cuts some kind of a short-term truce with Israel, will at least be able to enforce it? 

EAGLEBURGER:  Yes.  I think it's a good question.  I think it's more than just can it enforce it.  If Hamas can bring itself to decide that it has to be responsible now, it can be—and it's proved it already.  It can be far more effective and efficient within the Palestinian territories than anything that's come before it. 

If, over time, the sense of responsibility leads them to be more responsible, yes it could make a difference and a beneficial difference.  I'm just not at all sure it will ever come to that, but you can always hope. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's put it together.  Ariel Sharon is in terrible shape right now, still basically unable to speak or communicate.  He may be through politically, maybe at the edge of death for all we know.  He's in very bad shape. 

EAGLEBURGER:  Oh, he's through.  He's through.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let's talk about his legacy and put it together.  He's tried to basically say you can't deal with Palestinians effectively, so you might as well do what you need to do for your own state of Israel.  And he has said basically, give them Gaza, put up the wall, let them deal with what's on the other side of that wall. 

What does—how does that work together?  Hamas now, a militant group, controls what's on the other side of that wall, and on the West Bank.  It consolidates its power, it takes over police power.  It owns the streets. It owns the politics and all the money and all the tax money.  What do they do, stuck on that other side of the wall?  Do they build a state?  Do they just complain?  What do they do? 

EAGLEBURGER:  If they're smart—and again, we can't be sure of that

·         if they're smart, they will spend some time trying to build an effective state on the other side of that wall and will spend less time trying to attack Israel. 

Now, I don't know how that will wash out, but I do know that if they're going to be at all effective over the longer term in the Palestinian area, they're going to have to govern better than anybody—any of their predecessors have, and that may drive them into being more effective.  Certainly, as you have said, the fact that they may be able to exercise some influence and some authority can be a good thing if it's done in the right direction. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's—we're going to have Bibi Netanyahu on here on the program, the former prime minister, of course the leader of the Likud bloc, who's running himself, of course, for prime minister.  What is Israeli politics look right now before we get to him?

I want to ask you, they're facing an Iranian threat, over the next several years, of a nuclear bomb, perhaps effectively launched against Israel.  That's always a possibility.  Why else would they be building the damn thing?  And, of course, you've got the problem on the other side of the wall, the phrase I've been using in terms of the West Bank. 

So you have got rMD+IN_rMDNM_a militant enemy just elected in control of the west Bank, right across the wall from your major city, Jerusalem.  And you have within shooting distance, basically—launching distance—a country that wants to build a nuclear weapon and has also called for your destruction.  How do you fight this two-front war if you're running for prime minister of Israel right now? 

EAGLEBURGER:  You fight it as harshly as you can.  I mean by that—and by the way, this Hamas victory may make it even more likely that Bibi Netanyahu will be elected, although I don't think that's yet certain. 

But Iran, by the way, is a threat not just to Israel, but to all of us.  And if Iran gets to the point that it could do something against Israel, it will also have become so serious a problem for the rest of us, that I almost think you have to put Iran in a different category. 

As to how you deal with Hamas and deal with this problem that's now facing them on their border, on—right—their front door, that's a difference issue.  And there it seems to me, for the short run, at least—as I said, everybody kind of got to lock them up until we see what, in fact, they do.  But I don't—at this stage, they may prove to be smarter in this regard than at the moment I think they will be. 

MATTHEWS:  All right, thank you very much, Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State. 

When we come back, “Washington Post” correspondent Robin Wright will be joining us from Jerusalem. 

And a reminder.  As part of HARDBALL's “Decision 2006” coverage, and our run up to the president's State of the Union Address next week, we want to know what issues you'd like the president to address.  So go to hardball.msnbc.com and register your vote tonight. 

Here are the top three vote-getters so far.  Twenty-one percent of you want to hear the president talk about this NSA spying issue, 60 percent about making prescription drugs and health care more affordable, and 15 percent about improving ethics in government.  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I made it very clear that the United States does not support a political party that want to destroy our ally, Israel.  And that people must renounce that part of their platform.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We're talking about the dramatic results of the elections for the Palestinian Parliament, where Hamas has won over 50 percent of the seats.  Joining me right now from Tel Aviv is former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Netanyahu, what do you make of President Bush's argument today that we should not in any way talk to, negotiate, support, deal with any Palestinian group that supports the destruction of your country? 

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER:  It's perfectly sensible.  I mean, you want to encourage the peacemakers, not those who seek genocide and terror.  Unfortunately, the Palestinian people have elected a regime, a Hamas regime that seeks Israel's destruction, is allied with Iran for that same purpose and has been dispatching terrorists and suicide bombers left and right. 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of a world is it in Israel today, when you face a militant group which has taken over the Palestinian government, Hamas, that wants to destroy your country, and you have an Iranian president who's called day after day for the destruction of Israel and is building a nuclear weapon? 

NETANYAHU:  It's a major setback for peace, obviously, because—about Iran, I don't think I have to belabor any words because it's obvious that it's a clear and present danger, not only to Israel but to the peace of the world.  If the Ayatollah regime acquires nuclear weapons, the consequence is not only for Israel, but for everyone would be, I think, catastrophic. 

But now one of its subordinate organizations alongside Hezbollah and alongside the Hamas enclave that's already been established in Gaza, now they have a third enclave, which is in the West Bank and that's bad news.  Now what should we do about it?  I think we have to adopt a very clear policy that says, A) you apply international pressure and sanctions, economic sanctions, if necessary, to send a message to this regime that this kind of policy and this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. 

And second, we in Israel I think have to desist, to stop the policies of unilateral retreats under terrorist fire which catapulted Hamas to its present position.  Hamas benefited from the corruption, the endemic corruption in the Palestinian authority, but it also got over the top and got enormous support for appearing to be the party that drove Israel out.  If you retreat unilaterally, you embolden the terrorists.  I said that, I think, on your program many times, and unfortunately it's come to pass. 

I think we have to change our policy and say we don't reward terrorism anymore.  We seek a peace partner, but we don't retreat in the face of terrorists.  That's not a good policy, because that's not the way to restore hope.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Netanyahu, should Israelis feel secure because the wall is up between yourself and the Palestinian territories?

NETANYAHU:  It's a fence actually, it's not a wall—about 5 percent of it is a wall.  Most of it is a fence.  Yes, I think it adds some measure of security, but it's not sufficient in itself.  A), the Hamas is firing rockets over the fence and especially from areas that we vacated in the northern strip of Gaza.  They're firing into the city of Ashkalon and into our suburbs. 

If we make additional unilateral retreats, they'll simply fire rockets into our airports and Khassam projectiles into our cities and so on.  So I think we have to establish a security belt around the Palestinian areas.  This doesn't annex any population, it doesn't do anything except provide for stability and security, which is the first foundation of peace. 

In any case, that's the opposite of the policy of unilateral retreats, which I and others warned would lead to the present impasse.  I think we have to communicate very firmly:  We want peace, we seek peace for our children and the Palestinian children, but peace must have a peace partner.  And the Palestinians must change the direction of their policies and their government. 

MATTHEWS:  We'll come right back after this commercial and talk more with Bibi Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud bloc, who's running for prime minister of Israel in the coming elections.  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We're back with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who's also a present leader, of course, of the Likud bloc party.

Mr. Netanyahu, the Israeli government today called on Mahmoud Abbas, the man who lost the elections in the Palestinian territories to disarm the winners.  Is that a credible demand? 

NETANYAHU:  It's kind of late, don't you think? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I'm asking you.  I mean, it is their position that they want Mahmoud Abbas, who lost—his Fatah group, after decades of rule, have lost control of the Palestinian people.  And now the Israeli government is saying, you, sir, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas—Abu Mazen—should go out there and collect the rifles and other guns from the winning team, the Hamas group. 

NETANYAHU:  I think that demand should be placed on the Hamas itself and it should be clearly told that if it persists in its policies and its armed gangs and its war of terror against Israel and its policies of genocide, then it will suffer the consequences, including economic consequences.  The Palestinians receive a lot of money from the Europeans and some money from the Americans, and that money should be held back and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian regime should be told very clearly, You won't get it if you continue in the policies of terror and war.  I think that's the first thing that should be done. 

In fact that demand to dismantle the terrorist organizations, coupled with very firm sanctions has a chance of making some headway.  The last thing we should do is offer more concessions, more unilateral withdrawals.  I've been saying this, you know, ad nauseum, and explaining that this policy would lead to the present predicament.  And it has come to pass.  Because if you retreat in the face of terror, you get reality punching you in the face.  And it just did. 

I think we have to do the combination of these two things. 

MATTHEWS:  We only have a minute, sir, and of course, Ariel Sharon,

who's in terrible shape right now, took a different view from you.  He

turned away from the view you've just voiced very well.  That was his view

for many, many years—decades, in fact, as a strong Likud member.  And

then he said the demographic situation, whereby there's so many more Arab

people living within the territory under Israeli control that Israel had to

avoid becoming a colonizer by stepping back and only claiming land that it

·         where the Jewish people were in the majority.  How's your view different?

NETANYAHU:  Well no, we didn't disagree on that and I don't want to go back into the Palestinian towns, I don't want to go back to Gaza and I certainly don't want to go back into the Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

I have no intention whatsoever—we won't do that.  But the territories that are in dispute are largely empty of Palestinians, or anybody, for that matter.  Yet they could be used as launching ground for more Hamas terrorist attacks against us.

So I say first of all, provide a security cordon of these largely empty territories.  Don't annex and don't re-enter the Palestinian-populated areas.  Leave that to the Palestinians.

But build, if you will, a real defensive perimeter around the Palestinians.  Tell them that they will be rewarded for peace-making and they will be punished for terror-making.  I think that's a pretty sound policy.  I practice it as prime minister and I brought terror to its lowest level in the last decade.  It wasn't because the Hamas and Arafat became Zionists, believe me, Chris.  It was because this policy of strength and deterrence works to restore hope and peace.

MATTHEWS:  Benjamin Netanyahu, thank you very much, Sir.  Please come back on HARDBALL again.

Up next, did the president's press conference give a hint of issues he'll hit in next week's State of the Union address?  Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum are coming here in just a minute.  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The president hung tough today at his press conference.  He was the guy, by the way, I think, who beat John Kerry, who beat Al Gore.  He was right there in that room today.  Now our Hardblogger All-Stars are here, Bob Shrum and Pat Buchanan.  On every point, this guy hung tough today.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He was sharp, he was crisp.  He was as a matter of fact, impatient, cutting off questions and moving right to the answers.  He was very good.

MATTHEWS:  And your sense of the show today, Bob Shrum, the president's performance, as president?

BOB SHRUM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Oh, I thought he seemed at ease.  He just goes straight ahead and says what he wants.  I mean, sometimes he says preposterous things.  I mean, before he got to the meat of the Palestinian election, he said that the election should be commended because it was peaceful and it had a high turnout.  The truth is it was a disaster and we're going to pay for that disaster for years to come.

MATTHEWS:  So you disagree with the president's premise that democracy leads to peace?

SHRUM:  Well I think we have to be realists about this.  I mean, democracy has led in the Palestinian territories now to the rise of Hamas.  And I thought Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on your show just a few minutes ago, did a very good job of giving his basic stump speech, which is “I told you so, I told you so, I told you so.”

I think you're going to see the Kadima party of Sharon move to the right, there's a very real prospect that Netanyahu is going to win because Israelis are going to say, “Why in the world should we negotiate with or make any kind of settlement with people who only want to negotiate our destruction?  Why should we turn over territory to people who are going to let Hamas use it as a base from which to launch terrorist attacks?”

BUCHANAN:  There is no doubt, Chris, that the democracy road is leading to in the neocon terms to Islamo-fascism, quite frankly.  Take a look at Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood.  Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah wins the elections.  Hamas wins in the territories, Palestinian territories.  The Shia fundamentalists win in Iraq.  Ahmadinejad wins in Iran. 

It's one thing bin Laden, I think, and the neo-conservatives Mr. Bush have in common, they both love the idea of free elections because when the dictators fall, and when these corrupt people fall, the only group there that is organized and deals with people at the grass roots are Islamists. 

The future of this region is Islamism, where I disagree with Netanyahu is this: they're not going to talk to Hamas and the others.  The United States is a world power.  If you say we've got to have free elections, you can set conditions for talks, but you have to talk.

MATTHEWS:  You've got to talk to the winner. 

BUCHANAN:  I think you've got to talk to him.

MATTHEWS:  But you're saying this a major defeat for the president's neoconservative philosophy which is democracy leads to peace.

BUCHANAN:  We have told—well, a lot of folks have told the president of the United States, “Sir, if you're talking about free elections, I can tell you what's going to happen.”  And it has happened there.  As for Netanyahu, he took a shot at Sharon.

MATTHEWS:  Who told the president of the United States, because he came to this neoconservative philosophy in office.  Who told him that all you have to do is hold elections mechanically and somehow the people who want peace will win, whether it's Iraq or it's Saudi Arabia or it's Egypt, or in this case, the Palestinian territories?

BUCHANAN:  The president's been sold a bill of goods.  After they went in, they didn't find weapons of mass destruction, they said, “Mr.  President, it's all about democracy.”  You saw his inaugural address, Chris, his second inaugural.  He's come to believe that democracy equals peace. 

He was sold that, he went all-out for it, and it didn't happen.  And it's not happening.  He's going to have to adjust or withdraw that policy or talk with the winners.  You can't be a complete phony and say “Hold elections” and then when they come out the way you don't want them, say, “We're not talking to the winner.”

MATTHEWS:  But the problem, Bob Shrum, is the people with the intellectual firepower to win that argument with the president several years ago are out of the administration now.  Paul Wolfowitz can spend—

I've spent hours with him hearing that argument, democracy leads to moderation, moderation leads to peace.  In this case it hasn't apparently.

People—other people have shared that philosophy in and out of government.  Are they going to come out now and see the rosy side of the Hamas victory?

SHRUM:  No.  And I just think that Bush has cut himself off from the best advice consistently that he could have gotten in foreign policy, which would have been from some of the people that worked for his father.  He's had no interest in talking to them. 

Now Pat and I are supposed to be on here disagreeing, and I disagree strongly with something he said.  I do not believe that the United States should talk with, support financially, a Hamas regime in the Palestinian territories, because that is going to reward what just happened.  I think we have to look at this realistically and we have to understand when the president today naively says what we really want to back are reformers, they're the leaders of tomorrow. 

Well, Ahmadinejad ran in Iran as a reformer, and one of his reforms is that Iran should have a nuclear bomb.  We have to get realistic about this.  We have to look to our national interests. 

MATTHEWS:  We'll be right back with Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.  We'll also talk to a “Washington Post” diplomatic correspondent, Robin Wright, who's over in Jerusalem right now where the action is.  And a reminder, for the best political debate online, just go to hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  And now you can download podcasts of HARDBALL.  Just go to our Web site, hardball.msnbc.com. 


MATTHEWS:  We're back with Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.  And on the phone now from Jerusalem is “Washington Post” diplomatic correspondent Robin Wright. 

Robin, we just had Bibi Netanyahu on the phone—on the air, who said that now that Hamas has won those elections in the Palestinian territories, the only thing for Israel to do right now is to build a very good security wall between themselves—a security cordon, as he put it—between Israel and the Arab territories. 

ROBIN WRIGHT, THE “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, it may well be that a new Israeli government elected after March will make a decision to make further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank and use the fence as a border. 

But the Israelis and the Palestinians face a common reality now, and that is the fact that they have to deal with the difficult circumstances on the ground for the Palestinians. 

Sixty percent of them live below the poverty line, huge unemployment, that both of them have a common interest in dealing with the kind of social issues that have created this appetite for Hamas, because Fatah failed to deliver after 10 years.  So it's one thing to talk about imposing a solution.  It's another thing to deal with the realities on the ground. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe there will be under the table discussions between the U.S. and the new leaders of the territories? 

WRIGHT:  I—one of the things that happened here tonight is quite interesting.  Mahmoud Abbas, the president, came out and gave a press conference and said that the PLO is the interlocutor with Israel and that Hamas and those elected into government are now part of the --  fall under the PLO umbrella and, in effect, is kind of redefining the terms of who is engaged in the dialogue over the peace process and kind of reviving the PLO, which has been dormant because you had a Palestinian Authority government. 

So it will be very interesting to see if they try to reengage, using the PLO, and bringing the Hamas into the PLO process. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Robin Wright in Jerusalem.  Here's what the president said today about those unreleased Abramoff pictures. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You're asking about pictures.  I had my picture taken with him, evidently.  I've had my picture taken with a lot of people.  Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that, you know, I'm a friend with them or know them very well.  I've had my picture taken with you at holiday parties. 


MATTHEWS:   Bob Shrum, I like the way he said just because I have a picture taken with somebody doesn't mean they're my friend, for example, I've had my picture taken with you guys who are not my friends.  Let's move on to something here.  Does anybody think this is significant, these Abramoff pictures? 



BUCHANAN:  They're not significant at all.  I don't blame the president.

MATTHEWS:  Bob, OK, let's talk about something that is interesting, that's John Kerry.  The word is leaking out—somewhat unconfirmed now, though CNN's reported it—that he is going to lead a filibuster to destroy the nomination of Judge Alito.  Is that smart politics, smart governance?  Bob Shrum.

SHRUM:  I think it's the right thing to do.  I think all you have to do is look at the smile on Pat Buchanan's face every time he talks about Sam Alito to know that this guy a rubber stamp for the abuse of executive power.  He's going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade sure as we're sitting here.

And we now have this new standard people have tried to elaborate, which is if you play rope-a-dope during your confirmation hearings, you're OK.  The fact of the matter is, the real Samuel Alito wasn't the guy we saw on television, with his wife doing that tear act behind him.  The real Sam Alito is the guy who wrote the memo in 1965.  He's very far to the right, and he sure should be filibustered. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Chris, let's get back to the politics of it.  Nothing better can happen to the president than have the Democrats announce on Monday a filibuster led by John Kerry and he gets up there at the State of the Union and says this is an outstanding judge. 

All his credentials, you've got to stop it, you've got to give this man a vote—he will ram it right down their throats.  Are they nuts doing this?  He's already got Bobby Byrd and he's got one of the Nelsons, and he gets one other guy.  The Democrats ought to let it go, Chris.  I mean, they're just playing right into his hands.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you, Bob, with the parliamentary (ph) situation, will John Kerry and his forces, should he array them, gather 41 Democratic votes to be able to stop this by killing a cloture motion? 

SHRUM:  Well, first of all, we're not going to take political advice from Pat Buchanan about what's good for us.  I don't think he wishes us well.  Number two, I think there's a very real chance to get those 41 votes and I think some pressure ought to be put on moderate Republicans, like Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, who says, for example, he's pro-choice, but is under a lot of pressure from the administration to vote for Alito.

The very reason Pat Buchanan loves Alito is because he is going to vote to strike down a woman's right to choose.

BUCHANAN:  Let me tell you why I like the filibuster idea.  You will get nuked.  You will be beaten.  The whole gang of 14 has split apart.  Republicans will get Alito and they will take away the filibuster weapon, so you don't got it when Luttig comes up or Edith Jones comes up.  Are you folks crazy? 

SHRUM:  But the nuclear option, which has been sitting there in this gang of 14, doesn't mean anything if every time you have an Alito, who I think is the most extreme nominee to the Supreme Court that we've seen since Clarence Thomas, when you have that kind of guy, if you can't use the filibuster, then you can't use it any time. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, please, use it!  Use it!  Use it!

MATTHEWS:  OK, I wish you guys...

SHRUM:  I hope we do. 


MATTHEWS:  ... phony tears by Martha-Ann Alito, by the way.  And I do think she'll be up in the gallery on Tuesday night during the State of the Union as the president's guest. 

Anyway, Bob Shrum, Pat Buchanan.  When we come back, the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in 143 years, Antonio Villaraigosa, will be here.  He will deliver the Democrats' Spanish language response to the president's State of the Union address.  Let's find out if he'll sound different in Spanish than in English.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  Antonio—Antonio Villaraigosa? 


MATTHEWS:  Villaraigosa.  Is the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since, catch this, 1872.  He's also been picked, more importantly, to deliver the Spanish-speaking response to the president's State of the Union address next week.  Well, the big question is, will it sound different in a different language, your response, from the Democrats' response of the Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia? 

VILLARAIGOSA:  Well, the answer is I made it absolutely clear that I had to have control of the editorial content of this response, since it's mine.  And I thought it's important—I think any message should be a hopeful message, a positive message, one that speaks to the American dream for more people. 

MATTHEWS:  What's the difference in tenor when you speak in English and Spanish?  Is there more of a—a more of a—I don't want to be derogatory, but I know it sounds better.  It's more upbeat?  It's more positive?  What would be—call it—more romantic?

VILLARAIGOSA:  No, I try to—well, first of all, I was born in the U.S., so my English is a lot stronger than my Spanish, but I say that the message is the same.  It's a message of hope, it's a message of opportunity.  That's how I—that's why I think I won my race for mayor, and that's the message I had at the U.S. Conference of Mayors yesterday, when I spoke on power and opportunity.  And...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's talk about it.  Let's just imagine, I'm a U.N.  translator and I'm trying to—and we're transliterating the very words you're going to use, you know, transliterating, because you have particular words.

VILLARAIGOSA:  Well, first of all...

MATTHEWS:  Are there key words that you want to use on Tuesday night about the State of the Union address? 

VILLARAIGOSA:  Opportunity, hope, the American dream.  Those are key messages.  As a general—I mean, I am responding to what he's going to say, so within the context of what he's going to say, that's three points of messaging, if you will, that I want to...

MATTHEWS:  You know, I've been watching these Democratic responses for years.  I used to have a hand in them years ago, and I have to tell you that nobody ever responds.  They write this stuff ahead of time.  It's boilerplate, and they speak as if the president hadn't even spoken that night.  Are you going to actually make up your remarks after the president is done, or are you going to have them written before he speaks that night? 

VILLARAIGOSA:  We're going to have an outline, without question, written, and then fill in some blanks. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is the big thing that you can expect from the president and you will respond to? 

VILLARAIGOSA:  It's hard to say.  I mean, when you look at the record, I'm not sure this is an administration that is a focused on opportunity.  An administration that's focused, for instance, on addressing the needs of cities.  I am mayor of Los Angeles, and so the other piece is that I want to speak from the vantage point of what's happened to cities and what we need in the future. 

MATTHEWS:  The Republican Party, led by this president, believes that they will get—because they tried very hard to do it—a large percentage of the Latino vote in the United States, more each year.  They're going to continue to contest it.  They're not going to let it become like the African-American vote, where it's all one-sided, right?  They're going to go for it.  What's the advantage they might have?  What is the Republican advantage?  Let's be nonpartisan for a second.  What do Republicans offer Latino or Spanish-speaking people that Democrats don't?  There must be something they offer.

VILLARAIGOSA:  I don't know what they offer, but I'll tell you this, in concrete terms, in terms of their programmatic policies, but I'll say this, they've been able to speak to America's heart, and not just Latinos, but America's heart better than Democrats have.  We're good at speaking to her head; they speak to her heart.  They speak to America's values in a way that I think has resonated in the last two elections.  That's very clear to me.  I was a national co-chair of the Kerry campaign, and one of the things I said from the very beginning, we have to be able to talk to real people.  People aren't overly Democratic or Republican.  Yesterday, I was talking about poverty and opportunity, and I said, these aren't Republican or Democratic issues; it's an American tragedy.  We have to speak to America's heart, to her values, to things she cares about, to her aspirations.  What did Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy have in common?  They spoke to our aspirations, to our dreams.  I don't think either party does it well, but Republicans have done it a little better than Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  When I think of people who have come to this country from other countries where they speak Spanish—Puerto Rico is not another country, but it's the commonwealth—hardest working people, they are extremely entrepreneurial.  If it's just owning a flower ship, it's owning a small business, a bodega, right?  Puerto Ricans come to this country to start business.  Cubans certainly come here to start businesses.  The hardest working people in the United States are people who just got here from Mexico, the first day they get here.  Everybody knows—they don't want a big social democracy.  They want free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, don't they? 

VILLARAIGOSA:  I think what they want...

MATTHEWS:  They sound like they're natural Republicans to me.

VILLARAIGOSA:  I think what they want is the American dream and they're willing to work for it.  But this is a country that's always been predicated on the idea if you work hard and you play by the rules, that your kids will have a better life.  And it seems to me that one of the issues that we should be talking about is that, is this still a reality in the way that it's been in the past? 

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Villaraigosa, it's great to have you.  Good luck in your—in your debut, Tuesday night against the president. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  And for our new Friday special feature.  Here it comes again tomorrow night: HARDBALL hotshots.  It was fun last week.  It's going to be at least as much fun tomorrow night.  Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson, you ain't seen nothing yet.  They're going to dig into this city's top stories—the week's top stories.  And Monday, the launch of MSNBC's 2006 election coverage.  Finally, an election year.  And my exclusive interview with Tom DeLay.  Can't wait for that.

Right now, it's time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.



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