updated 3/6/2006 10:20:22 AM ET 2006-03-06T15:20:22

Guest: Michael Brown, David Gergen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, Katrina once again rears her ugly head.  The man at the center of the controversy former FEMA head Michael Brown plays hardball.

Plus, the president jets through Pakistan, but in the words of the marathon man, is it safe? 

And “The HARDBALL Hot Shots” have come to town. 

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews.  And welcome to HARDBALL.

Tonight new tapes have opened up the wounds of Hurricane Katrina again.  Why didn't the Bush administration respond immediately to the urgent warnings that the hurricane would deliver a catastrophic punch to the Gulf Coast?  Was the president asleep on the job?  And will Katrina turn into a rising tide that could be a determining factor in the midterm congressional elections?

We'll show you a new video obtained by NBC News now and talk to the man at the center of the storm, former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who will be here on set. 

And later a day after a U.S. diplomat was killed by a suicide bomber in Pakistan, security is extraordinary for President Bush's visit there.  We'll talk about what it takes to protect a president and why this trip to Pakistan and India are important enough that it's worth the risk. 

Plus, HARDBALL's Friday night special, “The Hot Shots,” MSNBC's Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough on the sizzling hot stories of the week. 

But first, former FEMA Director Michael Brown. 

Mr. Brown, thank you for coming in here.

MICHAEL BROWN, FMR FEMA DIRECTOR:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  It's great to have you.

Here's what the president—here's what you said about President Bush on August 29th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN:  He's asking questions about reports of breaches.  He's asking about hospitals.  He's really engaged, asking a lot of really good questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But here's—you're talking about how the president was asking all the right questions in preparation for Katrina hitting the mainland.  But here's what the president said about the levees three days after Katrina hit.  Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.  They did anticipate a serious storm, but these levees got breached, and as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded.  And now we're having to deal with it, and will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that's a problem.  You briefed the president.  In fact, you're saying he's asking questions about reports of breaches.  You're on the record on that tape saying the president's into the issue, he's understanding your work as his manager on this project, and yet he comes out afterwards and says nobody imagined that there was ever going to be a breach of the levees.

BROWN:  And, Chris, I really think you guys are making too much of a deal of that particular clip, because knowing this president, I think what he was saying was, you know, we really didn't anticipate the breach.  We didn't think about that breach occurring.  He was just stating that, you know, we didn't want it to happen, we didn't think it was going to happen.  I'm not going to try to spin it for him, but I really do think this is what was in his head. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, in other words, he was hoping against hope it wouldn't happen even though he had been briefed. 

BROWN:  Well, I think so but that's ...

MATTHEWS:  But to say that nobody imagined it, isn't true, because you guys were putting together all the effort to try to be ready when it does happen.

BROWN:  Right, and that is true, and that's one of my frustrations, is because for two-and-a-half, three years, I'd been pushing the Department of Homeland Security to give us the money to do the kind of catastrophic planning specifically for New Orleans.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's run through this and what was in your mind.  I'm sure you've thought this over a million times as your head hits the pillow each night.  And let's say, the weekend before, the storm's coming here.  We're all watching the weather stuff every night.  Five, Category 5, down to 4, back to 5, down to 4, back to 5. 

As it's coming towards the coast, and you're looking at the city of New Orleans—and I admit I couldn't believe it was going to be flooded.  Who believed New Orleans was going to go underwater?  All those people living there, right?

BROWN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What were you thinking?

BROWN:  I was worried about it actually doing that.  You know, Max Mayfield at the Hurricane Center has this great cone that he describes where the hurricane can go anywhere, you know, within that cone.  And so my big fear—actually my big hope was the hurricane would veer further to the east and go into Mississippi—sorry about that Haley—or further to the west and go into Texas.  Sorry, Rick.

But the point is, my fear was it would hit New Orleans, because that's what everybody—every emergency management expert in the country—has feared for decades is the big one hitting New Orleans.

MATTHEWS:  Because the city is so underwater.  It's below sea level, and because it's way out there in terms of not being protected from the sea.  It's really out there in the gulf.

BROWN:  That's correct.  Plus, you have levees that are old.  You don't know about the integrity of these levees.  The pumping system—we've often described New Orleans as potentially being a fishbowl, and that was our concern, and then a fishbowl that becomes toxic because of all of the chemicals and everything else that would be caught in those waters that couldn't go anywhere.

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of those walls that were up around the city that let the canal go through the city, those canals?  They never looked like they could take much pressure.  They're just walls stuck in the ground.

BROWN:  Well, that's why ...

MATTHEWS:  It's like getting a door and jamming it in the ground and saying that will stand up.

BROWN:  Chris, that's why two or three years ago, I went to the administration and said I need $100 million to do catastrophic disaster planning.  And with all due respect to my friends Joe Allbaugh and James Lee Witt, we never did catastrophic disaster planning.  I said give me that money, and we're going to start on a plan of doing a bunch of these and ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... or were you just generally a worried type guy?

BROWN:  Well, no, because after 9/11 and going through all of that and worrying about, you know, a biological attack, I knew we were not ready for a catastrophic disaster.  So let's do the planning for that.  And my argument was, let's go to New Orleans first, because in my opinion, New Orleans—you know, everybody—California is pretty well-prepared for the big one, even though it will still be a catastrophe.

MATTHEWS:  But they talk about it all the time.

BROWN:  Right, exactly.  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  The San Andreas fault is right there, yes.

BROWN:  Exactly.  Exactly.  But New Orleans had not been struck by a major hurricane in decades, and so I am concerned that that's the place we ought to start first.  And I got the money to do the initial plan, the initial exercise, and then they cut me off.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's go to rosy scenario.  We've seen the worst scenario.

BROWN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Rosy scenario is suppose the president had given you the money.  Would you have had time to put in the stronger defenses against the water?

BROWN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so that wouldn't have happened.

BROWN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  So we're talking about potentially down the road.  If the president had been fully engaged, if you had been on target and done everything right the week before this thing, could we have gotten everybody out of New Orleans so there wouldn't be all those scared, starving, worried faces there at the Superdome?

BROWN:  We could have gotten most of them out, and in fact that's one of the things ...

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by that?  I really want to know this because Ray Nagin reported—I remember very clearly—you know, we're going to get 90 percent of the people out of this town.  That sounds like a great number, 90 percent, until you realize that leaves 50,000 people stranded.

BROWN:  Exactly, and who are those 50,000 people? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the people without cars.

BROWN:  Without cars.  They are in hospitals.  They are in prisons.  They are people that cannot get out.  Plus, some that will not get out because that home, that modest little home, they have in the lower ninth ward is their safety net.  And they don't want to leave that.  And so that's what I...

MATTHEWS:  So let me go back to the rosy scenario.  If you had a very respected mayor, a guy who knew what he was doing, and you had those buses filled with drivers—you could easily recruit drivers in an emergency situation.

BROWN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Could you have gotten all of those people out?

BROWN:  I could have gotten 99% of them out.

MATTHEWS:  So what went wrong?  How come those buses sat and got buried in the water like everybody else?

BROWN:  Well, and that is one of things that in hindsight I can just kick myself in the butt in.

MATTHEWS:  Would you have called up Nagin and said Mayor Nagin I don't want to talk to you, I want to give you some orders?  These are the orders from the federal government.  Get those bus drivers, if you have got to hire them off the street corner.  Get those buses gassed up and get those people out of town.  Could you have done that?

BROWN:  Well, I did better than that.  I called the president and said Mr. President I want you to call Nagin and Blanco and tell them.  As the president of the United States do a mandatory evacuation now.  This is on Saturday.

MATTHEWS:  And what did he say?

BROWN:  He was astonished.  He said you really want me to call them?  And I said yes, sir, I do.  And he did.  He called them and said, look guys, you have got to do it mandatory.

MATTHEWS:  So they ignored him?

BROWN:  I think they ignored him.  I think they waited too long.  I think they waited way too long.

MATTHEWS:  What kind of an order was it?  The president says I am using my executive authority here.  This is an imminent domain kind of thing.  You are going to do it.

BROWN:  He has no authority in that regard.  He has no authority. 

Federalism still lives in this country.

MATTHEWS:  So it was all just advisory?

BROWN:  That's right.  But the thing—I mean, I'll admit something to you here.  The thing that I could have done—and maybe this hindsight, which is 20-20 -- I could have seen—and I knew that the fact the mayor wasn't doing that.  Maybe what I should have done was just somehow gotten the White House or somebody to invoke the insurrection act and we just send military there.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question.  This is probably going to bug some people.  From the first time I saw Nagin, I thought he was a slow-acting, slow-talking guy.  Is that his manner or is that just the way people talk down there?  Is this that lazy kind of it's a hot day I am not going to waste my energy kind of guy? 

Because nobody down there looked like a New Yorker, some kind of urgent type-A type, let's get the hell out of dodge.  We have got to move this thing.  I never got that sense.  And people would say to me, oh, he is tired. 

You know, it's been a hard couple of days.  He's been up all night.  No wonder he is talking slow.  Is that just the manner of people down there?  Everybody seems so laid back.

BROWN:  I don't know about their manner.  But I think there was a lot of complacency.  You know, if you rewind back to 2004 in Florida—and, again, people can say well I am putting Jeb up here as a great example because he is a friend.  But they are prepared because they have been hit, and they know what they have to do.

New Orleans hasn't been hit forever.  New people living there...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You're onto business now.  By the way, what was it like to have Cheney come down there?  Did he come down and watch you for a day and then fire you?  Or how did he do it?

BROWN:  Well, he came down and watched me for a day.  And then the next day I sitting...

MATTHEWS:  Was that theater?

BROWN:  I don't know.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think he was honestly trying to assess your performance?  Or he was just to make it look like I want to let everybody know I have got to the crowbar, I can come down here the day before and whack this guy the next day, so everybody knows I am the boss?  Did Cheney fire you or did Bush do it?

BROWN:  Neither one did.  Chertoff sent me home.  Well, he said that I was tired, and I needed to go home and get some rest and get ready for the next day.

MATTHEWS:  Was he under the heat from Bush?

BROWN:  I think everybody was under heat because it wasn't as good as we wanted it to be.  And I looked Chertoff in the eye and said so this is the firing isn't it?  And he said, oh no, no, I just want you to go home and get some rest.

MATTHEWS:  But it turned out it was.

BROWN:  Well, absolutely it was.  I am no dummy.  I didn't just fall off the apple cart.  I knew exactly what he was doing.

MATTHEWS:  Why did Chertoff get cut out of the loop here?  Why did you bother to even call him and say I am calling the president?

BROWN:  Oh because I just call the president directly.  That is how we always operated.  That's how I operated in the 160 disasters I handled.  And for a man who is going to tell me to go sit in a chair in Baton Rouge and run a disaster sitting behind a desk, I am not going to waste my time.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why do you think the president didn't ask any questions when you were briefing him?

BROWN:  Because I had already talked to him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It wasn't a lack of interest.  It wasn't lack of interest.

BROWN:  No.  He is getting a bad rep on that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he is a good chief executive?

BROWN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We'll be right back with former FEMA Director Michael Brown. 

And later Condi Rice versus Hillary, what a race.  And why Governor Bill Richardson loves Jessica Simpson.  It is all ahead in the “HARDBALL Hot Shots.”  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I am here with former FEMA Director Michael Brown. 

Now, here is the exchange between you, Mr. Brown, and Brian Williams of NBC on September 1st.  Now, that's three days after Katrina hit land.  Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Where is the aid?  It is the question people keep asking us on camera.

BROWN:  Brian, it is an absolutely fair question.  And I have got to tell you from the bottom of my heart how sad I feel for those people.  The federal government just learned about those people today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think about that?  I mean, there you are three days after saying you just learned about—were you not watching TV?

BROWN:  No, we were.  I don't know how many times I have to explain this to everyone.

MATTHEWS:  Well, because people like me have been sitting—were in this chair during that.

BROWN:  Oh, I know and I was too.  And I was up for 24 hours and then Brian and Koppel and all the other guys kept asking me.  And I remember going after all these interviews and saying why do they keep asking me that.  I kept saying yes, we just learned about it.  And they said because they think you mean you just now learned about it. 

And I had been up for 24 hours, and I had learned about it exactly when they had started reporting, when they started coming out of the hotels and flooding in there.  I simply misspoke, like, four times in a row.

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by just when it was three days before it was happening?

BROWN:  Oh, no, no.  You are talking about the convention center?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh yes.  You make the distinction between the convention center and the Superdome.

BROWN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And in this medium of television where you saw those hundreds of African-American faces, poor people, sweating and scared to death, those faces, that imagery of the difference between the Superdome and the convention center is nothing.  To us it was all the same thing.

BROWN:  All the same thing, right.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it was all the same thing.

BROWN:  Yes, but the Superdome ...

MATTHEWS:  But you knew about the Superdome?

BROWN:  Well, we had planned for the Superdome, because you've heard all these tapes of me ...

MATTHEWS:  So you were aware—let me ask you about this crazy phrase the president used the other day.  It sounded like the kind of language that lawyers give you, “situational awareness.”  He said he didn't have it.  In other words, he didn't know what was going on on the ground. 

It was like the commander in chief in Washington doesn't know what's going on in the front when there is a war, which is scary because we are in a war right now.  He said he didn't have situational awareness.  What does he mean by that, the president?

BROWN:  Well, I think what he meant was he didn't understand exactly what was going on down there in New Orleans itself.

MATTHEWS:  Why did Brian Williams know?  And Shepherd Smith and Anderson Cooper all seemed to know, because they're putting it on television every night?

BROWN:  Because they're putting it on television every night.

MATTHEWS:  You didn't have people there.

BROWN:  Oh, I had lots of people there.  I had people in the Superdome.

MATTHEWS:  Then why weren't they calling up the president, saying here's what's going on here?  Watch Channel 7.

BROWN:  I was.

MATTHEWS:  Watch 63.

BROWN:  I was.

MATTHEWS:  You were telling him which channels to watch?

BROWN:  No, I was telling him exactly what was going on.  In fact ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn't he have awareness of anything?

BROWN:  ... I told ...

MATTHEWS:  If you were making him aware, why wasn't he aware?  This is the disconnect here.

BROWN:  And, in fact, I told the president on Tuesday, because I remember he was really surprised by this, that I believed that 90 percent of the New Orleans population had been displaced, and it was—I mean, I repeated myself.  I said, Mr. President, 90 percent of the population has been displaced.

MATTHEWS:  Why did he need to have a DVD shown to him that Thursday after two or three days of this hell and bedlam down there, to tell him what had been on television for two or three days?

BROWN:  I don't really think about that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That the president of the United States needs a re-up, a recap of the biggest horror in the country going on.  But he needs to say, here's what you missed, Mr. President. 

BROWN:  I don't really think about it.

MATTHEWS:  Because it's like suggesting he has some other job.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The president he has some other place he goes besides America when something like this is going on.  That's the question mark.

BROWN:  Right, but you're asking the wrong guy.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BROWN:  You're asking the wrong guy.

MATTHEWS:  In the end, how would you rate yourself one to 10, your performance?

BROWN:  Well, which way is one and which way ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, one is bad.

BROWN:  I would give myself a five, because there's a lot more I could have done.

MATTHEWS:  How about the president?  How about the president?

BROWN:  I'll give him a five.

MATTHEWS:  How about Chertoff?

BROWN:  I'll give him a two.

MATTHEWS:  Should Chertoff be relieved of duty? 

BROWN:  Well, look ...

MATTHEWS:  Of is he unfortunate to can be head of an agency that artificially has both terrorism under it—and he's a prosecutor, a judge.  That's his field, catching bad guys, preventing crime, preventing terrorism, and then saying oh by the way, you're in charge of storms, agricultural disasters and everything else?  Is that a stupid thing to put together.

BROWN:  It is.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  FEMA should not be in Homeland.

BROWN:  It should not, and I—the president put me on the transition to put FEMA in there, and I thought I could make it work.  But I've come to the conclusion it won't work and FEMA has to come out.

MATTHEWS:  Let me show you what Chertoff said about you after this thing.  It was on February 15th.  Let's take a—I'm sure this is painful and unpleasant, but here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Are we dealing with a situation where it's not just an inherent, overwhelming challenge, but that maybe despite good intentions, Mr. Brown is really not up to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN:  Yes, he's full of it.  I was up to it.  He wouldn't let me do my job.  And if I'm angry about anything, I really am angry about the fact he would not let me do my job.

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean?

BROWN:  When he told me I had to go to Baton Rouge, I'd been in Mississippi talking to Haley Barbour.  This disaster covered 90,000 square miles, and so I'm trying to cover all of that.

MATTHEWS:  Then why would he tell you to just go to one—because that was where the pressure point was, politically?

BROWN:  I don't know.  Go ask him sometime, because you cannot run a disaster sitting behind a desk and trying to make things work.  You've got to go in the field.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did he think that would be—what could you do there? 

BROWN:  I don't know.  I don't know. 

MATTHEWS:  That ended up—by the way, we were there, Michael.  That ended up being the place where all the bureaucrats were placed.

BROWN:  That's right.  The bureaucrats are not the ones that I'm worried about.  I'm worried about the guys in the field, the people who were trying to get supplies into the Superdome, the medical teams who were trying to get into Gulfport, Mississippi.

MATTHEWS:  You could probably do a national service here by writing a little handbook, say about a 50-page handbook ...

BROWN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... on how to do this job in a hurricane.

BROWN:  I'm doing that with some clients right now.

MATTHEWS:  But I mean for the next guy or woman who gets your job.

BROWN:  Nobody wants the job. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, after what happened with you there, you weren't exactly like the Paul Bunyan of this thing.  You weren't leading people into the Promised Land here.  You know, it's not a great job, look how I did it.

BROWN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Are you glad you served your country?

BROWN:  I am honored to have served my country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But your big advice is, A, break up Homeland Security.  It was created in a race after 9/11.  Take out FEMA ...

BROWN:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... and put it where?

BROWN:  Make it an independent agency.  Whether it has cabinet status or not is not important.

MATTHEWS:  Would the person who runs FEMA, under your new configuration, be a person who reports to the president?

BROWN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And he should be able to get him on the line when he wants to.

BROWN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So it should be a “friend of the president” kind of a job.  I'm serious.  Like a Joseph Allbaugh, a guy the president's comfortable dealing with.

BROWN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Not somebody he just was introduced to.

BROWN:  That's right.

MATTHEWS:  So it should be like a former governor, or a former—who would be the ideal kind of person?

BROWN:  Yeah, a former governor ...

MATTHEWS:  Military man?

BROWN:  ... a former military—you know, no—not a military guy.

MATTHEWS:  Not somebody from the Arabian Horses Racing Association.

BROWN:  But that's—see, you guys are unfair about that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, why am I unfair?

BROWN:  Because I spent a third of my career in state and local government, doing emergency management.  And I went through two Senate confirmations.  I've got a Top Secret clearance.  If I had lied on my resume, the FBI would have caught me and said something.

MATTHEWS:  So you had to put it in there.

BROWN:  So it's in there.

MATTHEWS:  Okay, can I take it back?

BROWN:  Would you please?

MATTHEWS:  I will; I'm taking it back.

BROWN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You had better preparation for the job than that job.

BROWN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  OK?

BROWN:  It's about time.

MATTHEWS:  But this is HARDBALL, and you agreed to come on.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You didn't think I was going to bring up that little sugar puff (ph).

BROWN:  No, I was actually hoping that you would.

MATTHEWS:  You had to clear the record.

What was your strongest suit, preparation for this job, then?  What would you say really prepared you to be FEMA director?

BROWN:  Management and the ability to lead people.  Ability to get people to do what needs to be done, particularly under stress.

MATTHEWS:  Would you hire Chertoff to work for you?

BROWN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Would you hire George Bush?

BROWN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  Michael Brown.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You're, as we say here, a ballsy guy.  Anyway, thank you.

When we return, President Bush is in Pakistan, a day after a U.S.  diplomat there was killed in a suicide bombing.  Can the president's safety be guaranteed over there?           

And later it is “The HARDBALL Hot Shots.”  It is Friday night of course.  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  President Bush is in Pakistan tonight.  He landed there today amid heavy security protection. 

NBC's Hasan Zaidi is in Islamabad, the capital.  And he joins us no.

Hasan, give us a sense of the weird way in which our president had to enter your country—enter that country today? 

HASAN ZAIDI, NBC NEWS, ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN:  Well, someone called it like entering something in the dead of night, like a thief.  The president came in on a plane that had its wing lights switched off.  They had to lower the shutters on the plane, so that there would be no light.  In fact, even the runway lights were switched off. 

The plane landed in the dead of night, and once the plane landed, the president and the first lady were whisked away in what actually nobody found out.  There was a motorcade traveling to the U.S. ambassador's residence as well as two choppers. 

And the media men, as well,  on the flight actually could not tell which of these two kinds of transport he was on.  He was immediately whisked away to the U.S. ambassador's residence where he will spend the night. 

This is of course indicative of the kind of security that has seen the president arrive in Islamabad.  Half the city was shut down because of the president's visit.  There's been a red zone declared, parts of which he will be traveling on which nobody can enter and which are off limits to the citizens of Islamabad. 

He will also of course be meeting—shuttling mainly between the U.S.  Embassy and the presidential palace and not be traveling outside those very secure areas.  Anti-aircraft guns all over, around Islamabad, and heavy contingent of police, army, as well as paramilitary forces, deployed all over Islamabad to prevent any kind of incident. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much Hasan Zaidi, who is in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, where the president has had to go in by cover of night. 

Let's bring in NBC News counter-terrorism analyst Roger Cressey and former White House adviser David Gergen from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. 

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

Roger, you first on the security.  This is extraordinary, isn't it? 

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST:  Yes, but it's typical for what happens when you bring the president to a very high risk country, very similar to what we did when President Clinton went into Pakistan in 2000.  Several planes...

MATTHEWS:  But he's coming in like a drug dealer.  I mean, having to sneak in like that with the lights off, with the windows slammed shut on the plane, is this a security question really, or is it a problem of that government?  Is it a problem that within the security service of Pakistan, there are people out to hurt the president? 

CRESSEY:  Well it's both.  It is a real security question, and there are parts of the Pakistani government, both the military and the intelligence service, that are sympathetic to al Qaeda. 

MATTHEWS:  So they would be ratting out the president in terms of his time of arrival, what airport, what direction he's coming in, which landing field?  In other words, he can't count on any secrecy? 

CRESSEY:  That's right.  And so the secret service in this type of environment want to move the pieces around, keep the potential adversary off balance.  The secret service is the best in the business but their pucker factor right now is really high. 

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean? 

CRESSEY:  Well, that means they're very worried because it's a high risk environment, and they cannot control the environment within which the president is in. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we afraid to share information about the president's schedule with the Pakistani host? 

CRESSEY:  We'll share it, but we'll share it with a very small group of people.  We will not publicize it in the press like we normally do when the president visits an overseas location. 

MATTHEWS:  David, you're reaction.  What's the reaction you have as a political expert as to what this message sends to the people of Pakistan?  They know how the president is coming in over there.  Guess what the leader of the greatest nation in the world, our ally in the war against terrorism, had to sneak into our country last night by cover of night. 

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER:  Hey look, they're exposed to the danger too.  I think that they probably give him credit for coming and taking the risk. 

MATTHEWS:  And coming in on Air Force One.  Clinton came in a private jet, didn't he? 

GERGEN:  I think he did the right thing by flying in here.  This is a very tough part of the world, but Pakistan, the Musharraf government, by and large, has been pretty cooperative with us.  And, you know, Musharraf has nearly been killed I think four times now. 

CRESSEY:  There have been multiple attempts against him. 

GERGEN:  There are multiple attempts on his life.  He came within an -

·         I mean, he was going across a bridge, a minutes or two later, he would have been killed.  So they've been after this guy for a long time, but yet he's one of our principal allies now.

MATTHEWS:  They've always been our ally.  We always get along with Pakistan. 

GERGEN:  Well, we need their help right now, and he just went to India. 

MATTHEWS:  Which doesn't make us too popular in Pakistan. 

GERGEN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  We'll be right back with Roger Cressey and David Gergen about the tricky situation in south Asia.

And later the “HARDBALL Hot Shots,” a little fun tonight.  Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby, Joe Scarborough speak their minds on the weakest hottest stories.  Not the weakest, the week's hottest stories.

Then on Sunday Tim Russert interviews Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace on “MEET THE PRESS.”  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  This half-hour, the “HARDBALL Hotshots” will be here:  Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, and Tucker Carlson.

But right now, we're back with NBC counterterrorism analyst, Roger Cressey, and former White House Adviser David R. Gergen who is up at the Kennedy School at Harvard. 

Gentlemen, let's talk about an ally that we've counted on through thick and thin, Musharraf, of Pakistan.  The one good surprise in the war on terrorism is that he's been on our side, right?  Can he flip? 

CRESSEY:  No he can't, because al Qaeda has been trying to kill him as well.  You see, there are a lot of people in the Middle East who think that al Qaeda is America's problem.  In the case of Musharraf, he knows he's a direct target for them.  So he's bought in.

The problem he has, Chris, is there's a large percentage of his population that hates the fact Pakistan is working with the United States against radical Islamists.

MATTHEWS:  They like bin Laden.

CRESSEY:  Well, they're sympathetic to him, they're sympathetic to the broader message and philosophy, so he has got to walk this fine line between doing enough with us and also ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why is he on our side?  Going back to the beginning, why did he choose our side in the war? 

CRESSEY:  It was a strategic decision.  We laid out for him, we're going no to Afghanistan, we're going to eliminate and destroy this regime and destroy al Qaeda.  I mean, in this case, it was either you're with us or you're against us.  And Musharraf made the strategic calculus that it was the right thing to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's get outside the box, David.  I want to ask you the biggest question, but I'm not going to waste your time here.  This is big stuff.  This is macro.  If you were to be president of the United States tomorrow advising a president tomorrow, you'd step back from the possibility of will we get hit again here or there over the next 10 years, and that's probably going to happen anyway no matter who is president.

So you step back and say I want to protect this country strategically for the next 20, 30 years.  I want to make sure we're better off in 20 years than we are now.

GERGEN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That may not have anything to do with terrorism.  It may have to do with the bigger picture question, who's got power in the world.  You're looking at India, you're looking at China, one a great democracy, one a controlled economy—a controlled state rather. 

How does the president work those relationships, at the same time ward off terrorism?  Like, in other words, you have to make friends with India, but you don't want to drop Pakistan.  You have got to deal with China.  At the same time, you deal with the local problem of another al Qaeda hitting you. 

GERGEN:  Well, as you know, the balance of forces, the balance of power in Asia has now shifted away from the United States towards China.  He's going to India as a counterweight to China, but it's really important that we not move China into sort of a long-term enemy status, that we not talk ourselves into that. 

In effect, we're maintaining a little bit of ambivalence in our relationship with China.  Our commercial people are saying let's have a really good, strong good relationship with him.  Our defense people are saying but at the same time we have to be wary of them, you know?

And I think what's really tricky for him is you shouldn't get so in bed with India that he allows the hard-liners to say our ultimate enemy is China.  If you'll remember before 9/11, the rhetoric against—anti-China rhetoric in this administration was really starting to heat up.  You had books like about our ultimate enemy, the long-term enemy.

MATTHEWS:  And also the EP-3 incident where we had the plane downed.  A lot of the red hot neoconservatives like Bill Kristol were calling for an all out struggle with them. 

GERGEN:  Right, and they sort of—and that's a self-fulfilling prophecy, but what we've discovered is that actually the Chinese way in fact want to play a responsible game.  We wouldn't be making—we haven't made a lot of progress in North Korea, but to the degree we have made progress, we owe a lot to the Chinese. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You're a soft-liner on China?  You wouldn't choose sides for India against China? 

GERGEN:  Oh yes, I don't think we ought to choose sides and I don't think you ought to bet on who's going to ...

MATTHEWS:  How come China doesn't have to worry about terrorism?  I'm dead serious.  India—they don't talk about—well, I guess they have to deal with Pakistani terrorism. 

CRESSEY:  The Indians have a significant terrorism problem. 

MATTHEWS:  With Pakistan over Kashmir.

CRESSEY:  Well, Pakistan over Kashmir, so they've had to deal with this for years now.  I mean, Chinese is a closed society.  They have a radical Islamic group called the Uighurs on their western front, but the Chinese have just kept them down, and not allowed them to grow to the point where they become a threat to the central government. 

GERGEN:  And, remember, you  know, terrorists did it in Gandhi.  This is not necessarily a peaceful nation.  I think India has been a marvelous success because they have been so diverse and they've held this together over these last years. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They've had elections going back to 1948.  It's been a democracy since the beginning.  An incredible story.

GERGEN:  It has been, but—it's an incredible story, but it's one of the interesting questions is, if you wanted to bet long term on who was going to win the economic race between India and China, you can find strong people on either side of that, smart people who say ... 

MATTHEWS:  Smart cultures too. 

GERGEN:  They're oh ...

MATTHEWS:  Really smart cultures.  I had a graduate school course in the '60s where they said, China will be the strongest country in the world economically, it was all based on—not economically, strongest country because of demographics.  Big populations help you in the long run.  So interesting. 

Roger Cressey, David Gergen.  A lot of candle (ph) power here. 

When we return, it's Friday, so that means it's time for the “HARDBALL Hot Shots.”  A little difference coming up here.  Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby and Joe Scarborough will be here to score the brilliance and buffoonery from the past week.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It's time for our Friday feature, “HARDBALL Hot Shots,” with my MSNBC colleagues.

Joe Scarborough, there he is.

Rita Cosby, there she is, looking great.

And Tucker Carlson, who always looks great. 

Our philosophy here at “HARDBALL HOTSHOTS,” send you into the weekend, which we are doing, with the best stories and the sharpest players in this week's politics.

First up, Bush's blockbuster video.  The images may be grainy, but at least to the president's critics, the message is crystal clear, that President Bush was warned about the devastating potential of Hurricane Katrina. 

Two newly surfaced videos shed light on what the president knew and when he knew it.  The first tape shows the president being warned about the strength of the levees.  The second tape shows Michael Brown praising President Bush. 

The White House says the tape show that Bush was engaged, many Americans see him being warned, but not necessarily acting on the warning. 

Joe, how lethal are these tapes and the tale they tell? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Yes, they just aren't lethal for the president.  I mean, they retell the story for all of us. 

The biggest shock for me is somebody who has been beating Michael Brown up for the past six months is, this guy was dead on about everything.  He was dead on about the size of the storm, about the levees, about what was going to happen. 

I mean, the guy even said, we're going to evacuate these people to the Superdome, it's below sea level, you're going to have a toxic dump in New Orleans.  I'm very concerned.  He was opposite of this former stallion operator or whatever. 

He was painted as a cartoon character.  Very obvious he knew exactly what was going on, and it was Chertoff and those above him that let everybody down. 

There's one image I remember as somebody who was in the path of Hurricane Katrina when it was coming up, it was President Bush.  I remember I was on my couch Saturday morning, Bush came on the TV, a remarkable Saturday press conference saying Hurricane Katrina is coming your way, Basically said get the hell out of dodge. 

So that's why it's no surprise to me.  Bush knew this was going to be a huge storm.  I've got to say the other tape though that's significant is the one that came out with Blanco telling everybody don't worry, the levees, they're not going to break.  This is three hours after the National Weather Service said the levees have broken.  Get out of New Orleans. 

MATTHEWS:  Well maybe her reelection campaign will have that remarked upon. 

Let me go to Rita.  This—we just had him on the show, and he was very—well, he was charming, convincing, far more of a human being than that sort of blank stare character we got during the crisis. 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “LIVE & DIRECT”:  He definitely—you know, Mike Brown clearly—you know what I'm surprised about you guys is that Mike Brown wasn't saying take a look at these tapes all this time because I agree with Joe. 

I think these tapes help Mike Brown tremendously, and I'm surprised that his wife or his two kids or somebody didn't try to get access to these tapes and show them to the public, because it does paint such a different Mike Brown. 

I disagree with Joe on one point.  I do think that this does hurt the president a little bit, because the president wasn't asking questions.  He didn't seem tremendously engaged.  And that's a sense that a lot of people in the public are saying.

And I think because of that, it does show him not necessarily pounding his fist and saying get out there, let's try to make sure that this doesn't happen, what you're predicting right here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it's still hard for me to read the president because Michael Brown, who was just here tonight, defends the president.  He gives him a five out of a possible 10 in terms of performance, but even that five I think is in question. 

COSBY:  Good old Brownie.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go on to Tucker, your view of the president, Brownie and Chertoff, the big three. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  If Michael Brown is defending the president, I mean, no, of course he's subtly attacking the president.  He is a shrewd political player.  He was hung out to dry by the White House, which blamed the poor federal response on him.  And he got back at them and is still getting back at them. 

They never should have cast him out of the fold because he's been doing damage to them ever since.  I think the president is disengaged in a lot of ways.  He's disengaged on Iraq. 

I think it's unfair to blame him too much for Katrina.  What was he supposed to do, stop the storm?  I mean, a lot of the criticism is ludicrous if you stand back a little bit. 

The people in New Orleans—and I have all sympathy for them—but knew it was coming.  The local government of New Orleans and the state government of Louisiana I think are the groups that failed most profoundly.  We should be honest about it.  I'm not defending Bush, but that's just true. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Chris, let me say I have sat in probably on about four or five of these phone calls as a Congressman.  Bill Clinton never got on the phone and said we're going to do this.  It was always James Lee Witt, his able FEMA director, that would say Congressman, this is what's happening, these are the supplies coming in. 

The president of the United States never got on the phone and talked to all of the delegation.  And so to expect the president to be micromanaging, you know, and getting on there and making all these statements before the storm hit, I think that's asking too much. 

COSBY:  It's interesting...         

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Next up lady in waiting.  I am sorry...

COSBY:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  We've got a lot of ground to cover.  Lady in waiting, George Bush is crazy about Condoleezza Rice.  Americans were greeted this morning by this photo if they read “The New York Times.”  The president proudly leering at Secretary of State Condi Rice in New Delhi yesterday. 

The picture tells it all.  You can't help but wonder, does Bush want Condi to be his successor?  This week Condi lifted her likability with a three-part fitness fest, a workout interview.  She's buffing up, but is she interested in the White House, Tucker Carlson? 

CARLSON:  Yes, I'll bet they are interested in having her.  I mean, clearly the president has a complicated relationship, a very close relationship with Condoleezza Rice. 

MATTHEWS:  Why complicated? 

CARLSON:  Well, I think she is an intimate of his, and I'm not implying anything untoward at all.  And I think, you know, of course there's no relationship like that between the two of them, but they clearly have a very intimate relationship. 

She spends her private time with the Bushes, Mr. and Mrs. Bush at Camp David, you know, a lot and also out in Waco.  So she knows him really, really well.  I think he would be delighted if she got the nomination. 

Let's step back one step however.  Running for president, really hard. 

Campaigning, not something you can learn in the course of a campaign.  That's why people who win the presidency have a lot of experience typically running for office. 

And you would hate to think of someone who doesn't know what she's

doing politically, and she doesn't—not an insult, merely an observation

·         get thrust into a position where she's going to fail. 

You remember really well, there was a certain famed general, CNN consultant that got pushed into running for president on the Democratic side last time, Wes Clark, who made a fool of himself, simply because he had never done it before. 

MATTHEWS:  You're so smart. 

But let me go back to the leer, Rita.  I can't get off of that.  You've seen the picture of the president looking at her as she passed.  How would you interpret that in boy-girl terms? 

COSBY:  I take it as my girl, I'm so proud of her.  I mean, when you look at it, it's sort of like oh there's Condi.  And look, she does look very elegant. 

And I disagree in some ways with Tucker.  I think that this is a woman who is extremely savvy and extremely smart.  One of the talk of course that is out there is sort of this vice-presidential issue.  You know, maybe is she not ready to be thrust into the presidency, but wouldn't it be fascinating, say if it goes to her as the v.p.? 

MATTHEWS:  I got an idea.  President Bush says I will back McCain on the background.  I will put up with him only if you take Condi to watch you. 

COSBY:  See, that would be a really fascinating issue.  And look how fascinating would it be to see Hillary on one side, a McCain-Condi ticket on the other end?  I think that could be incredible.

MATTHEWS:  OK. OK.  I have got to get back with Republican enemy number one, Hillary.  Of course, her name comes up now because we're talking Condi.  She blocks the blows with the obsessed Karl Rove all this week. 

Plus, which presidential wanna-be had a special dinner with tabloid cover girl Jessica Simpson this week? 

You're watching “HARDBALL Hot Shots” only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to “HARDBALL HOTSHOTS” with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, and Tucker Carlson. 

Next up, Republican pit off.  She's Republican enemy number one, Hillary Clinton.  This week we saw how Karl Rove and his roughneck Republican band are trying to start Hillary's campaign before she wants it started. 

Take a look at what Rove said about Hillary, “She is the dominant player on their side of the slate ... Anybody who thinks that she's not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves.” 

And here's Hillary's response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Karl Rove spends a lot of time obsessing about me ... He spends more time thinking about my political future than I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What's the strategy here, Rita?  Bring her into the race early, get people bored with her, mess her up, what is it? 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  He's trying to lock her in.  They're trying to paint her early and trying to sort of frame her and set the stage and get some bruises and poundings out there. 

But then on the flip side, we also see Hillary's not going to take it.  I mean, she often starts the debate.  I think we are going to see a lot of this back and forth. 

MATTHEWS:  Was that a lie, Joe, that she started with that nobody is going to believe by saying something manifestly untrue?  Karl Rove thinks more about my political future than I do.  Hillary Clinton says that.  Nobody believes that anybody could think about Hillary's ambition more than her.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, that is so Clintonian.  She has wanted to be president of the United States since she was helping in the Goldwater campaign in 64.  She's been obsessed about it.  She knows it.  You know it.  The American people know it. 

But let me tell you.  You know, the bottom line is she is going to run.  Karl Rove is exactly right.  And this helps her.  It helps everybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Does it help her to be out exposed this early?  This early to be taking hits? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Everybody knows she's going to run.  But here's the interesting thing about these two.  She is going to borrow a page from Karl Rove's playbook from 2004.  She's not running to the middle.  She is going to run to her base.  She is going to get those people to come out and vote.  And she doesn't care who's upset in the middle or on the right. 

(CROSSTALK)   

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, was she wrong to go for the bait?

CARLSON:  No, actually, she was right.  Look, I agree with Joe completely.  It helps her, because look the right doesn't like her.  Republicans will eat broken glass before they vote for Hillary.  That will always be true.  They are unwinnable.

Her problem is on the left.  The left is mad at Hillary.  Hillary supports the war.  Hillary is more right-wing on the war than I am, OK?  The left, the people who actually vote in the primaries, are dissatisfied with Hillary.  And every time Karl Rove and the White House attacks her or is perceived to attack her, it helps her on the left.  And so this is good for her, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  What's it like to be with me, Tucker, and have her to our right? 

CARLSON:  It's terrifying.  It makes me rethink my life. 

MATTHEWS:  Don't rethink, you're with the right side. 

Anyway thank you.

Anyway, newlyweds, Bill and Jessica.  Last week Jessica Simpson landed in the land of enchantment literally, New Mexico.  While shooting a movie in New Mexico, who did Jessica Simpson jump to have dinner with?  None other than the Governor, Bill Richardson himself.

In a report by “US WEEKLY” Jessica was in town to shoot her new movie, “Employee of the Month.”  What did the governor have to say about the spry singing knockout?  Quote, “She's quick, smart, and humorous ... My sense is that she's pretty bipartisan ... I was pleased she didn't have any dietary requirements.  Jessica said to me, 'I'm a meat-and-potatoes girl.”

Democrats may be frantically struggling to get power in Washington, but apparently their lives aren't so bad out of power.  What do we make of that? 

Rita, you are laughing. 

COSBY:  I'm laughing because, look, you know, on one hand he does what every politician does—I mean a lot of New York politicians—a big celebrity comes in town everybody is sort of attracted to celebrity. 

But I don't think, you know, he was intrigued by her dietary likes or dislikes.  She was wearing a red leather coat, blue jeans.  She is a beautiful girl.  I will say his wife was there.  So obviously—but, you know, look he was just having a fun time.  It's a fun, interesting thing to talk about. 

MATTHEWS:  So that's one of the perks Joe of being --  Joe, you should go back to politics.  Go for governor, Joe.  If you're governor, anybody comes to Florida, you get first dibs. 

SCARBOROUGH:  TV's better.  That's all I have to say, TV's better. 

MATTHEWS:  You're not talking are you?

COSBY:  Yes, they come to us. 

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, if you were governor of New Mexico, would you put her on your dance card? 

CARLSON:  If I were Bill Richardson, I would not do that.  Bill Richardson actually does have a finely honed aesthetic sense.  That's one of the things I like about him.  He's the kind of guy you would want to have dinner with. 

Let me just say, Chris, one of the things I like about you, you do not read “Us Weekly.”  I can tell you.  “Us Weekly,” good for you. 

MATTHEWS:  All I know is that Clinton sent Monica Lewinsky over to Richardson to get her a job. 

CARLSON:  I remember that very well.  He's a fixer. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, next up the 2008 presidential prospects.  Our weekly heads up of who made news, who is looking smart, who is not.

Next week, the early Republican candidates for president all head down to Memphis, Tennessee, for a rough and tumble weekend, a political theater.  We are going to be there. 

The campaign is starting quick, and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is where it all begins.  Direct from the historic Peabody Hotel, HARDBALL will be there with live shows, nonstop blogging and exclusive web cast. 

The famous Peabody Hotel ducks will be there too, John McCain, George Allen, Mitt Romney, Bill Frist and the rest will vie to win the first big straw vote of the election.  HARDBALL will be there with the results, with a special web exclusive broadcast.

On the Democratic side this week, by the way, John Kerry heads to New Hampshire for a fund-raiser.  Hillary Clinton continues to spar with Bush guru Karl Rove, as we said.  And John Edward talks foreign policy with the council on foreign relations.  He's trying to show he can talk about this stuff.

Joe, who's looking good? 

SCARBOROUGH:  It's Hillary Clinton's week.  Again, any time you can get Karl Rove—who really I think in some quarters is more despised on the left than George W. Bush, because he's always been known as Bush's brain on the left.  I think it was a big week for Hillary. 

Again, like Tucker said, she's got to start moving left.  She's got to win those liberals in the primary.  And after she does that I think she is going to stay left, again, and reverse the Karl Rove strategy from 2004.  And a warning to Republicans, again, she can win.  Don't kid yourself. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tucker, who won this week?

CARLSON:  That's just terrifying. 

I think John McCain won again, as I said last week and I think it holds true this week, by his restraint on the Dubai ports deal.  It makes John McCain, not look like the hothead he's often rumored to be, but as a statesman.  And I think he's got to be still considered the front runner Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  He took the president side.

CARLSON:  That's right.

MATTHEWS:  Rita, who won? 

COSBY:  I think Hillary, because I think she got so much attention and at this point no press is bad press for her.  She knew it was coming.  I think it is going to be interesting to watch the leadership conference to see if they go for Giuliani and McCain that could be very telling. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess it's true, Karl Rove isn't jabbing at Joe Biden.

Anyway, thank you, Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby and Joe Scarborough. 

More as “HARDBALL Hot Shots” next Friday.  We promise you.

And on Monday, next elected House Republican Leader John Boehner's coming here to be our guest on HARDBALL.

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

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

END   

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