updated 2/14/2006 11:20:30 AM ET 2006-02-14T16:20:30

Guests: Jaime Powell, Jim VandeHei, Alan Simpson, Hiram Lewis, Patrick Murphy, Van Taylor

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When did the president know that the vice president was the shooter?  What time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Questions, questions, questions.  The vice president of the United States shoots someone in the face late Saturday afternoon.  Why didn‘t he tell us?  Why did Cheney wait until today, Monday, to talk to the president?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.

Tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney has some questions to answer.  This Saturday afternoon the vice president shot and wounded a man in the face while they were hunting for quail in Texas.  The hunter who was shot is Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney. 

The National Press learned about the shooting only after it was reported online Sunday by a local newspaper.  Reporters at the White House today riddled Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan with questions about the delay and why the Bush administration didn‘t disclose the vice president of the United States shot a man. 

More on this story in a moment.  We‘ll hear from NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, as well as a reporter from Texas who spoke with Katharine Armstrong, the owner of the ranch where the shooting occurred. 

But first, HARDBALL‘S David Shuster has this report on the Cheney shooting accident. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)        

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  At the White House today, Vice President Cheney went back to work amidst questions over why he did not immediately tell President Bush and senior staff he had shot somebody. 

In Texas, doctors say Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old lawyer from Austin, remains hospitalized in intensive care. 

On Saturday afternoon, 200 miles south of San Antonio, Whittington, Cheney and another man were hunting at a private ranch.  Katharine Armstrong, a witness whose family owns the ranch, says Whittington went into tall grass to retrieve a bird. 

A few minutes later, Cheney and the third man changed positions to take aim at another set of quail.  Cheney did not realize that Whittington had rejoined the Cheney group. 

KATHARINE ARMSTRONG, DAUGHTER OF RANCH OWNER:  When it flushed or a bird I think flushed and the vice president swung to shoot the bird and fired, Mr. Whittington was in the line of fire and got peppered by the bee-bees that are in shotgun shells. 

SHUSTER:  The pellets penetrated Whittington‘s chest, shoulder and face.  The vice president‘s office, however, wasn‘t the first to tell reporters about the shooting.

The vice president told the owner of the ranch to handle it herself, and the owner only called a local reporter the next morning nearly 15 hours later.  The delay and the unanswered questions prompted exceptionally tough exchanges today at the White House press briefing. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, again, this was handled by the vice president‘s office.  The vice president thought that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to give that information out since she was an eyewitness. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s just be clear here.  The vice-president of the United States accidentally shoots a man, and he feels that it‘s appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper and not the White House press corps at large or notify the public in a national way. 

MCCLELLAN:  Well, I think we all know that once it‘s made public then it is going to be news and all of you are going to be seeking that information.  And the vice president‘s office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just want to clarify one thing.  Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has shot someone? 

MCCLELLAN:  That‘s one way to provide information to the public. 

SHUSTER:  Vice President Cheney has long been an avid hunter and advocate for gun rights, appearing at rallies with the NRA‘s Charlton Heston. 

CHARLTON HESTON, FORMER NRA PRESIDENT:  From my cold dead hands. 

SHUSTER:  Previous Cheney hunting trips have also generated controversy.  Two years ago the vice president went hunting in western Pennsylvania.

And according to “The Pittsburgh Post Gazette,” “The 10-man hunting party that included Cheney shot 417 pheasants.  Cheney shot more than 70 ringneck pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks.  The birds were plucked and vacuum-packed in time for Cheney‘s afternoon flight to Washington, D.C.”

Cheney‘s hunting proficiency on that foray into the wild was knocked as being a bit excessive, and after a separate trip, the vice-president and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were criticized for hunting together while the Supreme Court was reviewing a case involving Cheney‘s secret energy task force. 

The questions coming out of this weekend though are about control.  Why did the vice president‘s staff let a witness take the lead on telling the story?  And why did it take so long for the president and then senior White House staff to learn the details? 

JIM VANDEHEI, THE WASHINGTON POST:  If the deputy chief of staff told the president that it was Cheney that pulled the trigger, who made the decision not to inform us and specifically not to inform you until that 6:00 hour the next morning? 

MCCLELLAN:  I don‘t think that‘s the way I would look at it.  I think there is additional details that were coming in.  And that‘s what we were trying to learn.

(END VIDEOTAPE)            

SHUSTER:  The vice president‘s extraordinary authority comes from President Bush.  And yet the White House says Mr. Cheney only spoke to the president directly about the shooting today, more than 36 hours after it happened. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.     

MATTHEWS:  Thank you David Shuster.

With us now is NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and Jim VandeHei of “The Washington Post.”

Jim, we just saw you at the briefing today.  I want to ask you where— you know, I was at home yesterday on Sunday.  And my cable was down and so was my computer because of the thunderstorm here in Washington, the big snowstorm. 

I only heard about it because my executive producer gave me a call.  How did we hear about this, only because of that online story that ran in that Corpus Christi newspaper on Sunday morning? 

VANDEHEI:  Absolutely, which is pretty much unprecedented.  I mean, rarely does a big event happen in this White House where it‘s not announced from the podium by Scott McClellan or somebody in that press operation.  To have a private citizen come out and tell it to a local newspaper and say that‘s the way we‘re going to do public disclosure, I‘ve never heard of anything like that. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, if we hadn‘t gotten that online report—we‘ll be talking to one of those reporters in a minute—on Sunday during the day, we would not have been told about it? 

VANDEHEI:  I don‘t know.  I mean, maybe we wouldn‘t have, because my understanding is that the ranch owner came—the vice-president said, hey.  maybe we should get this out to the press.  It‘s not that the vice president came to her and said we need to get this out.  So we don‘t know how long the vice president would have sat on this information. 

We do know that he‘s had a penchant for secrecy in the past, and it‘s not his first priority ever to release information to reporters, particularly in Washington.  So it‘s unclear when the White House actually intended to tell us at all. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the police situation?  Everybody is told that if you‘re in a car accident, certainly involving injury or you‘re in a hunting accidents, you have got to tell the authorities.  Did the vice president tell the authorities?  Did he give an interview on Saturday to the police, the local sheriffs? 

VANDEHEI:  It‘s not entirely clear.  Based on my reporting today I think that interview took place early Sunday morning and that agreement was worked out by the local sheriff and the vice president‘s office.  Now this is information that is coming from secret service. 

We don‘t know—I mean, the problem in covering this story today is that the timeline has changed a bit from what we‘re hearing from the White House.  So it‘s not crystal clear when the vice president talked to the sheriffs office. 

MATTHEWS:  But we heard earlier today on the wire coverage and I think watching the press briefing that the vice president refused to give an interview because the secret service were used as a sort of a buffer between him and the local authorities. 

VANDEHEI:  There appears to be some confusion over that point.  The secret service was telling me right before I got on air, that there had been some other deputies that were not informed of the arrangement that was made up when the local sheriff and the vice president‘s office to wait until the next morning. 

But that‘s entirely plausible.  And until we really get to talk to all of the parties involved, you know, clarity is one thing we haven‘t had yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Andrea Mitchell right now.

Andrea, does the president have a clear picture of what happened at this point? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m sure the president does, and in fact, this whole episode illustrates the relationship between this president, this vice president and basically their attitude towards public disclosure. 

The vice-president clearly wanted to leave it in the hands of his host.  They considered it a private matter.  They didn‘t realize—I don‘t think and I‘ve been talking to them for the last 24 hours.  They did not realize the severity of it, because they didn‘t think that it was a serious incident in terms of how Mr. Whittington was affected, how seriously he was injured.  I don‘t think they realized the optics of it. 

MATTHEWS:  But the word coming from Scott McClellan today in a long difficult press conference was that the first concern of the vice president was the condition of Mr. Whittington, his concern.  I imagine the guy was shot with buckshot on his face, included on his face, would be worried about the implication. 

Pardon me?

MITCHELL:  Yes.  It was shotgun pellets, a 28 gauge shotgun, which I understand is a broad pattern of pellets.  So he was peppered with not buckshot but with bird shot, and he was knocked unconscious.  He was knocked down.  And they clearly were concerned about his condition and getting him by ambulance to a hospital right away.

But that does not explain why they didn‘t release it publicly.  Basically this vice president travels, as many have before, without a press corps, without news coverage.  We don‘t know very many details about where he is and what he‘s doing. 

And when he‘s at a private ranch or a private shooting party, there is no press coverage.  So it isn‘t like in some administrations or it certainly is not like what it is with the president of the United States, when he is followed and when Scott McClellan, as he tried to point out today, would tell you when he had an accident, a biking accident in Scotland, for instance. 

This is not the case with the vice president, and they do seem to feel that they are almost private citizens.  And what they‘ve learned today is that can really blow up in terms of the public relations. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now on the phone to Jaime Powell, the reporter from “The Corpus Christi Caller-Times” in Texas, who first broke the story. 

Jamie, thank you for being on the phone with us. 

When did you first get the story? 

JAIME POWELL, CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER-TIMES:  Katherine Armstrong started calling me early yesterday morning.  I was out of town.  She was calling my cell phone and then ended up calling the office to get my home number.

MATTHEWS:  You mean early yesterday like daylight hours, yesterday?

POWELL:  Eight-ish probably.  My phone was in my car on the charger.

MATTHEWS:  But you have a Sunday paper.  Why would she break the story with someone who couldn‘t put the story out until the next day? 

POWELL:  She knew we were putting it on the web.  We put it on the web immediately. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the decision.  Were you surprised you got this scoop handed to you by—a local newspaper and here‘s the vice-president of the United States? 

Jamie? 

POWELL:  I really wasn‘t surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  This story ran—when did your paper first start getting reaction to the story that you ran Sunday morning on line? 

POWELL:  I didn‘t understand your question, I‘m sorry.  I‘m on a cell phone. 

MATTHEWS:  You must have known that you were breaking the story nationally, right? 

POWELL:  Yes I did. 

MATTHEWS:  When did people start calling your paper to confirm.  This is the hottest story of the weekend and you guys broke it. 

POWELL:  Immediately.  It was immediate. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the police situation, as far as your reporting goes, did the local sheriffs get to interview the vice-president after the accident? 

POWELL:  I still don‘t know for sure.  I know the sheriff was there Sunday morning, I talked to the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, who was one of the hunting party, and she said that she knows that the sheriff was there and the vice-president was still there, but she doesn‘t know if he was interviewed or not. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for joining us, Jamie Powell who broke the story in the paper.  We‘re going to be right back with more on this shooting accident down in Texas yesterday and the questions which have arisen about why it was reported when it was reported, when the president was informed, when the public was informed.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back to HARDBALL.  Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson has been friends with Vice President Dick Cheney for 45 years and he says that to understand the shooting accident this weekend, you have to understand the heritage of guns in the West. 

He joins us from Cody, Wyoming, a great dateline for us tonight.  Thank you, Senator.  What do you know just by knowing Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and what it‘s like to hunt with him that fills in some of the gaps in this otherwise intriguing story? 

ALAN SIMPSON, FMR. U.S. SENATOR (R-WY):  Well, it is intriguing.  I‘ve

been called by many people today but the real issue is, Chris, when you

grow up in Wyoming and you maybe get a BB gun when you‘re nine years old

and I know people are going to vomit and throw up when they hear this, then

you get a .22 rifle and your dad or your older brother tells you how to

shoot it and then a .410, which is a small shotgun, you learn how to shoot

that, how to be safe with it and then a rifle, a 30.06, then a deer

license, you learn to harvest the deer.  We used to have in my day, we had

am I cut off? 

MATTHEWS:  No, we can hear you senator. 

SIMPSON:  They actually used to have hunting week, you‘d get a whole week off so your family could go hunt, and hunting in the West is not just an elitist sport.  It‘s getting meat.  There are people out here who hunt who have nothing and people here who have everything.

But the real issue on your quail hunting, you‘re in a string.  The three people are walking and you‘re very careful.  And you say, back up, I‘m ahead of you, come back.  If you‘re in the middle you‘re saying come forward, step back. 

But when this man, the victim, the poor guy, it‘s a sad thing what happened to him, but it has less to do with Dick Cheney and much more to do with him.  He apparently went for another bird, picked it up, came back and got behind the two other hunters and didn‘t say I‘m back, I‘m behind you, I‘m here.  And if you don‘t do that, let me tell you, anything can happen. 

You do it for your own self preservation, so Cheney hunts with a 28 gauge shotgun, which is about the smallest one you can get, a light gun, the rest of us use 20‘s, if you use a 12 gauge on a quail, you just bring home a mouthful of feathers. 

So he shoots with a 28, the rest of us get nothing, Cheney has his full bag of doves and quail, he‘s an expert shot and a great hunter and a great sportsman, but if the people with him aren‘t following the laws and the protocol of quail hunting, somebody gets hurt. 

What a way to watch.  They don‘t like Cheney anyway.  It‘s going to be jokes and cartoons, hell, they‘re going to have a riotous time with my old pal.  Riotous time. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s been no riots here yet.  But you‘re the expert, let me ask you.  You say he‘s an expert shot.  Tell me about the whole thing, a lot of people who don‘t shoot quail don‘t get.  I‘ve done some skeet shooting, I‘ve shot some dead targets, but never done anything live and when you spin around like that, you define it as a guy coming up from behind him. 

The quails in front of you but He hears a noise behind him, he spins around, he brings his rifle around, his shotgun, is it common to bring it around that far and hit somebody right behind you? 

SIMPSON:  When the—you come into a covey, you know they‘re there, the dog‘s are all on alert, tails up, everybody‘s quite alert.  The quail go up, there might be 10, 12, not more than that in a covey, they go up, it‘s just a blast. 

MATTHEWS:  So you swing your shotgun around really fast? 

SIMPSON:  You pull up, and they‘re fast, they‘re coming right at you.   You might shoot one right above your head, but you don‘t shoot them after they‘ve gone over because behind you are the guys that handle the dogs.  Everybody is wearing orange, but if a guy came up on this side of me and never said anything, and there‘s no dogs behind me and no men, all I know is there‘s nobody out there then.

The quail come up, go right across your line of vision, you pull up and suddenly 30 yards away is a guy, thank heaven he wasn‘t closer, but that‘s what happens.  You‘re not expecting to see a human out there, because if he were back in the line, he would have said something. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s a good batting average for a shoot, how many times out of 10 do you get the quail when you shoot? 

SIMPSON:  Well, quail are easier to shoot than doves, but when you‘re shooting doves, they just go up and they make a zigzag.  I wait till they get in the trees—no, I don‘t.  But I‘ve seen Cheney get doubles on doves, where they go up, zigzag, see one shot, your only have two shots, you can only use two shots.  No pump shotguns, no six in the cylinder, no nothing.  And I‘ve seen Cheney pick off two doves at once.

He‘s an expert shot, he must be just beside himself to think that somebody was there but nobody told him he was there.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I want to go back and talk to you about the shot they used in these things.  Anyway, we‘ll be back in a minute with former Senator Alan Simpson, an expert in the gun out there on the quail hunt, as you can hear.  More from the expert in a moment on HARDBALL, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  The vice president knew immediately, “Oh no, I shot somebody accidentally,” and it takes 22 hours for that?

MCCLELLAN:  And you know what his first reaction was?  His first reaction was, go to Mr. Whittington and get a team in there to provide him medical care.

GREGORY:  Why is it that it took so long for the president, for you, for anybody else to know that the vice president accidentally shot somebody?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with former Senator Alan Simpson.  Senator, I know you‘re going to like this question.  Why did your friend, the vice president, Dick Cheney, not tell the press about this accident?

SIMPSON:  I tell you, if I had a ranch and I had a hunting party out there and there was an accident in the hunting party, let me tell you—I wouldn‘t want to say anything. 

That‘s the way it really is in a ranch, especially a big ranch where you‘ve invited people, they are your guests, and you don‘t want to say, “There‘s been a terrible accident at my ranch,” so obviously the hostess didn‘t want to tell that and I doubt that Cheney was going to interfere and tell it. 

But it will never be told that way.  Let me tell you, if you owned a ranch and you had a bunch of horseback riders, one of them gets bucked off and break their neck, what are you going to do, call the local paper?  You don‘t.  You try to get things sorted out and that‘s what they did.  But it will never be portrayed that way.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we just had the reporter on, we went to the source here, we went to the source.  We had the reporter on, Jaime Powell from the local Corpus Christi newspaper, said she didn‘t file the story until sometime Sunday.  She didn‘t get the story until sometime Sunday.  So you have to ask, why did they all go to bed Saturday night without telling the press?

SIMPSON:  Probably because they wanted to protect the reputation of the ranch, which would become known as a place they had a serious hunting accident.  I know it‘s a sick idea, but I just thought I would throw it in.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well then he‘s—I mean, I just think that‘s a question people say, “Doesn‘t he have a special responsibility to somebody in line to be president and vice president of the United States, to let people know that something this serious happened this Saturday?” this Saturday.

SIMPSON:  Nothing happened to the vice president, so what did the people of America need to know?  Nothing happened to the vice president, nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  But he was the shooter in an accident that shot a guy.

SIMPSON:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think that‘s newsworthy?

SIMPSON:  I—all I know, Chris, after a life in Washington, Dick Cheney, and I‘m not paranoid, is not popular with the media.  They don‘t like him because he‘s aloof and he doesn‘t answer their questions and sometimes he tells them to stuff it.  And so any time Dick Cheney makes a fluff, it‘s going to be the news of the day.  I have been called by 20 different news agencies today as if they had bombed Iraq again.  I mean, this is nuts, absolutely nuts.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, we‘re not nuts.  Thank you, you‘re a great guy.  It‘s great to have you come on.  I know it‘s an important time.  You are his friend, that‘s why we came to you, Senator.

SIMPSON:  Thank you.  It‘s always fun.

MATTHEWS:  And we appreciate you coming on.  And by the way, you‘re not aloof, you are not aloof, Sir.  Thank you very much.

SIMPSON:  No, I had a rule.  When they are after me, answer the phone.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you Senator Alan Simpson.  Up next, up next, more questioning about the accidental shooting by Vice President Cheney.  Pat Buchanan, Ron Reagan are going to give it their best estimate of what happened here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)         

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has shot someone? 

MCCLELLAN:  That‘s one way to provide information to the public.  The vice president‘s office worked with her—I should say the vice president.  And the vice president spoke with her directly and agreed that she should make it public.  And then they would provide additional information. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

What did it take—why did it take until the next day for the story of Vice President Cheney‘s hunting accident to be reported to the press? 

For more on what we know and what we need to know, we welcome MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Ron Reagan.

Pat, you‘re an old newspaper guy back in the old days.  Doesn‘t it seem odd when you have a hunting accident where somebody is shot in the face by a shotgun, to hold that story and then tell one of the hosts at your party, oh yes you can put it out tomorrow. 

So she goes to the reporters the day after incident.  That‘s the only reason we know about this.  As far as we know, there was no effort by the vice president‘s office to put this story out. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It is inexplicable, Chris.  Cheney did the right thing.  I mean you have got the guy bleeding all over the side of his face and everything.  You take him to the hospital, make sure he‘s OK and visit with the wife.

But then you should call—if you don‘t have a chief of staff and press guy with you, you call your chief of staff.  Apparently Card was informed by 7:30 at night that there had been a hunting accident.  Rove was informed by 8:00 that the president and the vice president had been involved in the shooting accident.  But McClellan was not informed until 6:00 a.m. the next morning. 

MATTHEWS:  Sounds like that was a policy decision, doesn‘t it?  Like they say keep this from the press. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, that doesn‘t make any sense. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean it makes sense.  Because obviously we know, they did not call Scott McClellan. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me speculate.  They wait until the vice president got back to Washington, D.C. in order to get all the facts and things before they let this thing out.  That‘s my judgment.  Probably because the vice president had nobody with him.

It doesn‘t sound like he had a press guy with him.  It doesn‘t sound like he had his chief of staff with him.  More than that, who told Andy Card that there was a shooting incident, but did not inform him the vice president was involved? 

It must be, my judgment, the Secret Service probably called their Secret Service.  My guess is Card calls Rove.  Rove called the president, who knew as of 8:00 there was a shooting incident, the vice-president was involved.  Why it didn‘t come out that night, I think is something that the White House has got to explain. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a couple of decisions here, Ron Reagan, one was the decision not to give the full story when they called Andy Card, the chief of staff.  Why didn‘t they just say the vice president accidentally shot somebody?  Instead of there was an accident in which he was involved.  We don‘t know what his role was.

And then it took a later call, by the way, sometime after 8:00 that night, and why, given all this information at the top, when they knew the importance of this, and these are political people, Andy Card and Karl Rove, the most political guy in the country, by the way, Rove—why did he decide to hold the story?  Why didn‘t he tell his press people to put that out on the wires immediately so they would be ahead of the story? 

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s a good question.  First of all, I think this is part of the reflexive response on the part of this White House to always suppress information.  That‘s always their first reflex.  Don‘t tell.  Don‘t be transparent.  Don‘t let the press know what the facts are right away.  Always sit on the story and try and kind of massage it, finagle it in some way. 

If I might add my speculation to Pat‘s, I think one of the reasons why they held it until later on Sunday was that it wouldn‘t end up on the Sunday morning talk shows.  We‘re talking about it now, but we wouldn‘t have spent all Sunday talking about it. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an expensive strategy though.  Ron, that‘s very expensive, because we all know the time line now...

REAGAN:  It is.

MATTHEWS:  ...and if this is the truth...

REAGAN:  You‘re absolutely right.  They should have done this.  They‘re shooting themselves in the foot, if I may have, you know, no pun intended, by doing this.  They should have come out with it.  It was in their best interest to come out with it immediately. 

MATTHEWS:  What would you do if you were the vice president at this point be already planning a press briefing tomorrow for the country, sit down before a friendly interviewer—I think he can find one—and simply sit down and say here‘s what happened in a nice folksy way, I felt terrible about it and then that story is dead. 

BUCHANAN:  I would have done it today and I agree with you tomorrow.  But again, let me defend the vice president in this sense and Rove and those guys. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  What do you do here?  I‘m Karl Rove and I‘m sitting here.  I get a call at 8:00, the vice president shot somebody in a hunting accident.  Do I call the A.P. or do I say what happened? 

MATTHEWS:  You would ask to get the vice president on the phone.

BUCHANAN:  Get this vice president on the phone.  What happened Mr.  vice president?  Here‘s what happened.  Here‘s what happened.  Do you put it altogether and put it out that night?  Maybe you put out a line, but, I mean, in other words, but get the whole story and get it out correct at once.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re missing a key ingredient.  The doctor called to the case, unless it was Cheney‘s doctor, would not be able to keep the secret.  He would have to report it. 

BUCHANAN:  Oh he could report the shooting.  But you don‘t put the vice president‘s story out until you‘ve got it down cold, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  I mean, would you?  I wouldn‘t if I... 

MATTHEWS:  No, I just have one rule.  The public doesn‘t expect rolling disclosure, they expect to get the bad news immediately. 

BUCHANAN:  But, look too, the public is not outraged by the fact that I found it out on drugs in the afternoon rather than in the morning. 

MATTHEWS:  No, here‘s the question, Ron.  Why would Cheney risk having the president hear about this from the newspapers or rather from the wires, rather than from him?  Why would he be so slow to get this story?  And this story could have broke and immediately somebody could have been on the phone in a minute to put this story out. 

REAGAN:  And I suspect that they probably were.  I don‘t believe—I have a hard time believing that the president didn‘t know Saturday evening that Vice President Cheney had been involved in this accident and that he in fact had been the shooter. 

I just don‘t believe that nobody called back there and said—and gave him that very essential fact.  I mean, that‘s really what this is all about.  The vice president shot somebody. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s check with the White House.  Here‘s Scott McClellan having a very difficult day.  Here he is talking about how it was handled by the vice president‘s office. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)         

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sunday morning you first learned...

MCCLELLAN:  Early Sunday morning, that‘s correct. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then what was your reaction about letting the public know?  Did the vice president‘s office tell you they would turn this over to Armstrong? 

MCCLELLAN:  Yes, I had additional discussions, and I knew that the vice president‘s office was working to get information out.  I‘m not going to get into all the discussions that are had, but it was the vice president‘s office that took the lead on this. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But were you aware they were just going to allow a private citizen to inform a local paper of this and not beyond that? 

MCCLELLAN:  Well, look, I‘m not going to get in to all the discussion.  I‘m not going to get the discussions.  But her suggestion that I make about specific matters like that, I can only tell you the way I‘ve done it in the past for you all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

MATTHEWS:  I guess what we come back to, Ron Reagan and Pat Buchanan, is the vice president of the United States shot someone accidentally, made sure they were taken care of for medical attention and then did nothing more except notify the White House.  There was no have attempt to notify the public.  That‘s a fact. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, that‘s a fact, but the president did know from Rove, Cheney had done it at 8:00 Saturday night.  But at the latest, by early Sunday morning, someone should have called from Cheney‘s staff and completely briefed a couple of reporters on exactly what happened. 

REAGAN:  There‘s another aspect to this too, Chris, and that is whether the vice president was interviewed by local law enforcement, whether the Secret Service intervened in that.  If you or I shoot somebody accidentally or not, we‘re going to talk to the cops about that, and they are going to ask us a few questions, among them, have you been drinking?

And apparently at least from what we‘re hearing now, they weren‘t allowed to do that to the vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, for whatever reason, maybe the Secret Service was operating on instinct as well, just to keep them protected, but clearly he is responsible as much as any other citizen. 

What I find interesting here is the way in which the White House and the vice president operate here.  They are closely knit, close knit.  Here you have the vice-president, I assume, on the phone with Karl Rove, Andy Card, the top people to the president. 

And somehow out of that conversation, their set of conversations on the phone, comes a decision not to tell the public what happened.  That was a hell of a decision. 

BUCHANAN:  I know.  We don‘t know that the vice president called Rove.  Rove called Mrs. Armstrong and found out that Cheney was involved.  How did Card know?  He didn‘t know Cheney was involved so Cheney didn‘t tell him. 

What surprises me is the vice president of the United States is travelling with his medical detail and his Secret Service detail, he doesn‘t have a single aide down there with him who would handle these things. 

MATTHEWS:  You make the point.  Not only did the vice president not tell the press, we have no indication that he told the president at any time until he met with him today. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t know that as a fact.

We‘ll be right back with Pat Buchanan, Ron Reagan after the break. 

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with MSNBC political analysts Pat Buchanan and Ron Reagan.  Ron, let‘s start with this.  There‘s three questions that I think people have a right to get an answer to if they‘re interested, if they‘re not they don‘t have to bother with this. 

One is why did the vice president of the United States, who reports to the president, informally if not in the Constitution, why didn‘t he give him a call between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning and say I have to tell you what happened in this thing, George, it‘s a real bastard.  I hated this, I actually hit this guy, some weird situation, I feel bad, he‘s going to make it, I think it will be over in a couple of days.  Why didn‘t he make that person to person call to the president? 

REAGAN:  That‘s a very good question.  Maybe they‘re not as close as everybody thinks they anymore.  There has been some talk that they are drifting apart.  But again, I think it‘s this reflexive secrecy, even when, as Pat pointed out, it is in their best interest to get this story out as quickly as possible, to express regret and all of that, they—it‘s like an instinct, particularly on the part of the vice president to hold things close to the vest.  And so maybe he didn‘t talk to the president for that reason. 

MATTHEWS:  Am I right about the protocol, if you have your job basically because the president gave it to you, the highest office he can give you, vice president of the United States, don‘t you owe him a phone call between Saturday afternoon and Monday? 

BUCHANAN:  Or at least through his guy.  Andy Card would have been the guy to call if you want to say, Andy you‘ve got to tell the president we had a hunting accidents, the guy is hurt but not badly, I was responsible.  I want you to tell the president.  That didn‘t happen because it couldn‘t have been Cheney calling Card because Card didn‘t know the vice president was involved and Rove called Mrs. Armstrong. 

MATTHEWS:  The president‘s chief political ramrod had to enterprise this—he had to go down there and dig and find out what happened because the vice president never called. 

BUCHANAN:  Why didn‘t Rove simply call the vice president himself after that and call the president.  I don‘t know why.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t the president call the vice-president and say what the hell happened down there, Dick? 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s a very good question. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the second question, the police.  The story‘s we‘re hearing—it is moving on the wires, it is moving in the media right now—the police were unable to get an interview with the vice president on Saturday because the Secret Service said no.  Is that protocol, Pat?  You‘ve been with the president. 

BUCHANAN:  Wait a minute.  You ask to interview the vice president because somebody has been shot and if secret service tells you know, secret service has been told to do that.  That was an interesting question why he didn‘t just sit down and say to the sheriff, look sheriff, here‘s what happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron, why didn‘t he just let the police interview him and get it over with? 

REAGAN:  That‘s a very good question and it‘s probably related to these other questions.  Why not just be transparent and open about this. 

The Secret Service, I‘m sure they want to protect the vice president, but

that doesn‘t include protecting him from other law enforcement.  Law

enforcement is entitled to investigate this case, to find out what

happened, to find out if he had anything against Mr. Whittington and to

find out again, and I don‘t mean to suggest anything about the -

MATTHEWS:  You just—are you crazy?  You just threw that out there.  There‘s no reason to believe this is anything but an accident, Ron and you know it. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not suggesting it wasn‘t an accident, but the police, one of the first questions they would ask anybody is has there been any drinking going on here? 

BUCHANAN:  Why didn‘t Cheney invite the sheriff in and say, sheriff here is what happened?  Why didn‘t he just invite him in?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to something we‘re more familiar with, which is the press.  My old boss Tip O‘Neill said the walls have ears.  I think a shooting of somebody by the vice president is going to get out. 

Ron, you first.  The only thing we know here, the only person to tell us about it this, the only reason we know about it is because this woman, Katherine Armstrong, the host of this hunting event or whatever you call it, said to a local reporter on Sunday morning, the next day, she calls a local paper, which had already come out, and tells these local reporters what happened.  On her own apparently. 

The vice president never officially told anyone what happened, never told his people back in Washington what happened, never told the press corps, never told us the American people.  That is an odd protocol, to feel that you don‘t have to do that I think.  That would be my one judgment tonight.  That‘s an odd thing to decide. 

REAGAN:  It is very odd, and it‘s not in the vice president‘s or the White House‘s best interest to handle it that way.  Again if the vice president had immediately informed the press office or whoever the relevant people are in the White House so they can get this to the press corps, the story gets out.  The vice president makes a statement, expresses regret, and you know, sympathy for the victim and all that sort of thing, explains everything, lays it all out, that story would be about this big.  Now it‘s this big an we‘re talking about it because he didn‘t do that. 

MATTHEWS:  If the vice-president had got shot in the same exact circumstances, we would have known about it immediately, right? 

REAGAN:  Almost immediately.  Absolutely. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, the point is though, did the vice president call his own chief of staff and his own press guy, what advice did they give him, why did he wait until he flew out of Texas back to Washington, D.C. and even then when Mrs. Armstrong is putting out the story, why didn‘t the vice president‘s staff or press guys put it out themselves?  I have to understand that.  He obviously talked to them.  Don‘t tell me ...

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he call the president, I go back to that, his boss.  He didn‘t talk to him till today.  Anybody who has ever had a boss knows you owe responsibility in a public matter like this to the boss if you embarrassed him in any way.  And I think this is a killer (ph) question: What kind of relationship do they have where he can call him on Monday about something that happened on Saturday. 

Pat Buchanan and Ron Reagan, thank you for joining us.  Up next, Iraq war veterans back from the front lines and running for office.  We‘ll talk to three of them.  They represent different parties by the way.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As U.S. troops round out their third year in Iraq, several Iraq war veterans are returning from the front lines and running for Congress.  And we have three of them with us tonight.

Hiram Lewis served as a JAG officer in Iraq in 2003.  He is now a Republican looking to challenge Senator Robert Byrd for his seat in West Virginia.  Patrick Murphy served in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq from 2003-to-2004 and earned a bronze star.  He‘s currently running against Andy Warren in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania‘s eighth district.  And Van Taylor has served in the Marine Corps fourth reconnaissance battalion in 2003 and participated in the rescue of American POW Jessica Lynch.  He‘s running in the 17th district in Texas as a Republican.  OK, we‘ve got two R‘s, one D.  Let‘s start with the first R.  Hiram Lewis, why are you proud to have served in the war in Iraq?

HIRAM LEWIS, IRAQ VETERAN:  Well, first of all, we‘re bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East.  If we‘re successful, we‘ll change the world forever.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me to go Patrick Murphy.  Why do you think it was a mistake for U.S. troops to enter and try to liberate or do whatever we‘re doing in Iraq?  Whatever our mission is there, why do you think that was the wrong mission?

PATRICK MURPHY, IRAQ VETERAN:  Because, Chris, we took our eye off the ball in the war on terror.  I saw with it my own eyes and walked in my own combat boots, so we need a change in direction, not just in Iraq but at the home front as well.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Van Taylor.  Why are you confident or why are you proud of your service in Iraq?

VAN TAYLOR, IRAQ VETERAN:  I‘m proud of my service in Iraq because we‘re making a tremendous difference to keep our families and our country more secure here at home.  I fought in Iraq for President Bush‘s foreign policy agenda and I‘m going to go fight in the U.S. Congress for President Bush‘s domestic policies.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so just to review that, get everybody square here—

Van Taylor, you‘re a Republican.  You think it was a smart move to go into Iraq in the United States.  Smart for us to do that?

TAYLOR:  It is...

MATTHEWS:  ... Smart, use that word or don‘t use it?  Challenging or accepted?

TAYLOR:  Smart, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Smart.  Let me go to Hiram Lewis.  You as well believe it was a smart geopolitical move for the United States to go into Iraq.

LEWIS:  Challenging but smart, Chris, yes.

MATTHEWS:  But smart.

LEWIS:  Yes, smart.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to you, Patrick Murphy, was it smart to go into Iraq? 

MURPHY:  Chris, unfortunately my two colleagues here have not read our own CIA reports that said Iraq has now become the No. 1 terrorist breeding ground in the entire world.  That is not smart.  That is not being smart when you fight the war on terror.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe—let me go right back to—I‘m trying to be quick here so everybody gets a chance because everybody is now getting a clear sense of where you guys stand on the war, two Republicans for the war, one Democrat against the war. 

Let me ask you, Hiram Lewis, does the fighting man or woman who sees combat have an advantage over someone who has never seen combat?

LEWIS:  I believe so, Chris.  I believe you need to be willing to serve as a grunt in the trenches to represent our nation effectively and to create a good stable democracy.  And Iraq is a very important, pivotal part of our foreign policy.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Patrick Murphy, do you believe a person who‘s fought and faced action is a better person to serve in the United States political system? 

MURPHY:  I do, Chris, think it does give you a special experience that you can‘t get anywhere else.  And I‘m proud of my service in the military.  But it did change us.  It changed us for the better, it changed us to make the next chapter in public service become a reality.

MATTHEWS:  Van Taylor, do you think a person who fought military action is better than one who didn‘t, all things considered?

TAYLOR:  The war on terrorism is going to be with us for a long time and it can only help to send people to Washington who have a deep understanding of this war on terror.

MATTHEWS:  John Kerry—I‘m going to ask you about consistency.  John Kerry fought in the Vietnam War, George Bush didn‘t.  Who‘d you vote for?

TAYLOR:  I voted for George Bush.

MATTHEWS:  But you just said that a person who has served in military combat is better than one who didn‘t.  Why did you change that rule in that case? 

TAYLOR:  That‘s a great question, Chris.  And speaking for myself, people are excited about my candidacy not just because of my service in Iraq but they are also excited to support Van Taylor and log onto my Web site, vantaylor.com.

MATTHEWS:  Right, but get to my question here.  Why did you vote for Bush, who didn‘t serve in Vietnam against Kerry who did, if the principle you just espoused is the fighting man is a better politician?

TAYLOR:  It‘s that, but it‘s also my experience as a businessman, as a business leader and it‘s also providing the right policies for our country.  Cut and run is not a way to keep America safe and secure.

MATTHEWS:  Hiram Lewis, same question to you.  You said that fighting is better than a person who didn‘t fight.  Why didn‘t you vote for Kerry or for Gore before him?  They bought fought in Vietnam and Bush didn‘t.  If you have a principle here, why didn‘t you apply it here?

LEWIS:  I believe it needs to be a willingness to serve, Chris.  I was in third ranger battalion and I was willing to serve but I didn‘t get called.  We didn‘t get called around the world.  While I was in the National Guard, six months in the National Guard, I was called up to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  It‘s a willingness to serve that‘s important because you need to be willing to serve if you‘re going to send someone, somebody else‘s son or daughter into harm‘s way.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you, Hiram, while you‘re up here, running against Bobby Byrd, he‘s been around forever.  Why do you think you‘d be a better senator than him?

LEWIS:  Well first of all, Chris, West Virginia‘s lost over 800,000 residents over the last 50 years.  We‘re near first in every good—in every bad category, near last in every good category.  I want to turn that trend around and bring our children back to the states so they can have jobs and opportunity and they can raise their families in West Virginia—pay their taxes in West Virginia and help West Virginia move forward into the next century.

MATTHEWS:  Patrick Murphy, why do you think you‘d be better than that other Irish guy that‘s in that seat now, Fitzpatrick?

MURPHY:  Well, Chris, it‘s simple.  I bring a fresh set and a new approach to Washington D.C.  The people in Bucks County want change.  People across the country want change.  They want a change and make affordable health care.  They want change and energy independent.  But more importantly, they want to change, they want to feel safe.  And by fighting the war in Iraq and taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and the real war on terror and Osama bin Laden, does not do that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I like Bucks County the way it is, but that‘s just my opinion.  Anyway, Van Taylor, why do you think you‘d do a better job than the guy you‘re running against?

TAYLOR:  I can tell you why people are excited about my candidacy.  They‘re excited to send someone to Washington who has experience in the Marine Corps and in business, that addresses the problems of our time:

winning the war on terror, securing our border, growing our economy, bringing fiscal sanity back to Washington.  And I‘m going to fight for traditional family values.

MATTHEWS:  Well I want to thank you all for your service, guys, and any women who are running.  We‘re going to try to get everybody on who‘s running.  You certainly deserve the honor to run for office and maybe you deserve to win.  It‘s great to have you on.

Hiram Lewis, good luck, you‘re going to need it.  Patrick Murphy, good luck, you‘re going to need it.  And Van Taylor, I‘m not sure what your situation is, but thank you and good luck.

And a special nod to my brother Jim Matthews, my little brother, my younger brother, who this weekend won the Republican endorsement for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.  And there he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM MATTHEWS, ENDORSED FOR LT. GOV. OF PENNSYLVANIA:  This has been an incredible ride, it‘s so wonderful, just being around Lynn and his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Our family is very proud of Jim.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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