Guests: Howard Dean; Pat Buchanan; Willie Brown; Ronald Kessler; Vin Weber
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, DeLay effect. The congressman said here last night that his quitting would help the Republicans, that it would eliminate him as a Democratic poster boy, but didn‘t it also make the Democrats‘ case of a Republican culture of corruption in the nation‘s capital? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
The winds of change. Andy Card left the White House. Tom DeLay is leaving Congress and of course Katie Couric is leaving NBC. But tonight we focus on the political winds of change now whipping through Washington.
On Tuesday, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay rocked the Capitol with his decision to resign from Congress. Back in 1994, Tom DeLay was the man with the muscle, the person with the power, the boy with the brawn that helped end a 40-year reign of Democratic rule of Congress. Now he‘s gone.
Is there something larger in the air? Is the Republican revolution over? And could this be the end of an era? And can the Democrats step up and fill the power vacuum and seize this opportunity in the upcoming elections? Later we‘ll talk to one man who hopes they can, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
But first, HARDBALL‘S David Shuster has this report.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Battered by a lobbying scandal and facing scary poll numbers in his home district, Tom DeLay explained on HARDBALL last night he was stepping down so that Republicans can hold his seat.
REP. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS: It‘s precious to the Republican majority and it is precious to my constituents. My constituents deserve better and they deserve a Republican, not a liberal Democrat representing them.
SHUSTER: Tom DeLay personified the GOP‘s rise to power. He created new and often controversial alliances with the business lobbies and social conservative movements to solidify Republican control of Congress and imposed discipline on GOP lawmakers to bolster his party‘s power.
DeLay‘s departure creates one of the biggest power vacuums in Washington in decades. And over the last 24 hours, the battle to fill that vacuum has become a fight on many fronts, involving Democrats, congressional Republicans, President Bush and even outside groups on the Christian right that DeLay may soon lead himself.
Democrats aiming for a midterm election tidal wave have seized on the Abramoff scandal and the taint on DeLay to argue Republicans only represent insiders and corporate lobbyists.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: That philosophy pervades and the American people know in this election is whether you want to stay that course or whether you want a change. And that‘s what it‘s going to be about. It‘s not just about his personality. His philosophy is the operative philosophy for the Republican Party.
SHUSTER: Two of Tom DeLay‘s former aides have plead guilty to criminal charges.
DELAY: Evidently they mishandled that trust, and I‘m very disappointed about it.
MATTHEWS: So if they did something wrong, you weren‘t involved in it?
DELAY: Exactly right.
SHUSTER: But John Boehner, the new majority leader in the House, has now criticized his predecessor, quote, “at the end of the day, the members are responsible for what happens in their offices and responsible for their staff.”
At the White House, where officials are trying to turn around the president‘s low approval ratings, the president himself is turning the focus to the future.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our party will continue to succeed because we‘re the party of ideas.
SHUSTER: And against all of these efforts, there is DeLay‘s own attempt to be a power broker again in another way. Yesterday, DeLay told “The Washington Times” that congressional Republicans have no vision, quote, “We don‘t have an agreed agenda, breaking up our leadership has taken its toll.”
Then on HARDBALL, DeLay offered a solution, conservative activist groups led by him.
DELAY: That I have a lot friends in the conservative movement, a lot of friends that are leaders of the conservative movement, they value my talents, and they listen to me. And I think I can work with them, unify that conservative movement.
SHUSTER (on-camera): In other words, Tom DeLay is leaving Congress, but he is not planning to leave politics. And if DeLay does not get indicted in the Abramoff scandal, his opportunities may grow.
In the meantime, the fight continues over what DeLay created in recent years and nobody is certain what the end result will be.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Vin Weber was a Republican member of Congress from Minnesota for a long time.
Vin, I have to ask you about this quote you came out with yesterday that I read today, quote—you‘re talking about Tom DeLay. “He was the leader of the Republican Party at a time of maximum ideological polarization between the parties, and he was successful in that era. I think that era is coming to an end. What will replace it, I don‘t know.”
VIN WEBER, FMR. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Yes. First of all, I‘m trying to say, the rap on Tom DeLay or one of the may raps is that he created all of this polarization in Washington. I‘m saying that‘s just not true. He happened to be the leader—became the leader at a time when we see maximum polarization between the two parties.
Democrats are more ideologically left-wing. Republicans certainly more ideologically right-wing, and the polarizations between the two parties is greater than even when I was there in the 1980 when it was pretty polarized. And Tom was the leader during that period of time.
But he didn‘t create that. He was in some ways the beneficiary of that and he did a good job of leading House Republicans in that era, but that polarization would have been there whether he was the leader or not.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this fact—people watching right now
I think some people like polarization. The last thing they want to hear is the press is on one side or the other. The last thing they want to hear is that your parties are working together against the public in the back room. Isn‘t it healthier to be against each other?
WEBER: Well, when the—the country is not entirely sure what they want. They don‘t like us shooting at each other, but when they think the two parties are too cozy you get things like George Wallace who says there is not a dime‘s worth of difference between the two political parties.
Also, you know, the Republican Party was a fairly entrenched minority until you had this kind of polarization that drew a clear line of distinction between a conservative Republican Party and a liberal Democrat party. And so obviously the Democrats have a greater stake in seeing that break down a little bit because they can benefit from it.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think it‘s better for the Republicans to be black and white than it is for the Democrats to be black and white?
WEBER: Because I think that the consensus in American politics since about the 1930s on was for bigger government. There was a growing minority of Americans that didn‘t buy that consensus, but they had nobody to vote for it.
And so starting in 1964, you saw the transformation of the Republican Party, first with the Barry Goldwater candidacy and then ultimately with the election of Ronald Reagan in the 1980, from kind of a moderate or if you will business party to an ideologically conservative party that offered people an alternative to the growth of the liberal welfare state and everything that went along with it.
And that‘s how the Republicans became that parody or majority status depending on how you look at things.
MATTHEWS: Right now the Democrats are within 15 seats of winning the House from the Republicans. What would you advise the Republicans to use to keep the House?
WEBER: Well, the Republicans have to get—first of all, the Republicans are in big trouble. If today‘s circumstances prevail in November, they may well lose the House of Representatives. Now, that‘s a big if. I think they have got a lot of time to change those circumstances, and they have to act on those changes.
But first of all, they have got to start getting together. They have got to dispel this notion that every man for himself is a good strategy in an off-year election. It‘s a tempting strategy for Republicans to look at their polls and say Republicans are not doing well, the president isn‘t doing well, I‘m going to go on my own. It doesn‘t work. All it does is suppresses turnout from your own base, the Republican base, and ends up producing the very tsunami that we‘re all worried about as Republicans.
So they have got to get together as a party behind some basic issues, fiscal conservatism, tax cuts, strong national defense and traditional values. Those are sort of the four legs of the Republican stool.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about this tsunami. We look at numbers around here to a fault perhaps. We love them here at HARDBALL, and the numbers keep coming out since almost back to 9-11, the president has been going down in job approval, with some jumping up and down, but generally a downward trend. And some people in the Congress today argue that always translates into a defeat for the incumbent party, the presidential party.
WEBER: As a rule, that‘s the case. It‘s not absolutely the case, but that‘s generally the case.
MATTHEWS: So what can you do about it if you are a member of Congress on the Hill, even if you are a leader? If you see the president bogged down and the country bogged down in the war in Iraq that keeps hurting people, hurting us as a country, our morale every week, how do you turn around the politics?
WEBER: You can‘t let the election become a referendum on the incumbent president. The reason I said that it is usually the case that a low approval rating for the president results in losses for the party in power is because the election does indeed in an off-year become a referendum on the president and his party.
The Republicans have to force this to be a choice between a Democrat Party and a Republican Party, and put contrasting visions of national security and the future of our economy in front of the American people. Now is that going to turn it into a banner Republican year? That‘s just not in the cards for us, Chris, but it can even things up a lot and prevent this tsunami.
We used to talk about landslides, but since God‘s chosen form of vengeance last year has been water, we‘re now choosing tsunamis. And that is what we are trying to prevent is the tsunami.
MATTHEWS: Well, the question is—because you‘re setting up what I know in politics to be a comparison ad.
MATTHEWS: OK. Now a comparison ad usually means you show something nice about your guy, but then you nail the other side with how bad it could be if they took over. I‘ve been thinking now for a couple of days now at least that what the Democrats are going to face this fall, what the Republicans are probably going to throw at them, is you think we‘re bad, we got a guy named Safavian you never heard of and we got this guy DeLay,. He‘s gone now.
And we‘re no day at the beach, but look what they‘ve got. They‘ve got a bunch of crazy guys who are going to try to lynch the president. They are going to try to censure him, but ideally they are going to try to impeach him. They are going to use the subpoena power to go crazy. Don‘t let John Conyers of Michigan...
WEBER: And we‘re going to punch out the Capitol police.
MATTHEWS: See you‘re doing it. See what you‘re doing here, you‘re turning the Democrats into a cartoon, a vengeance of evil, and apparently in this case, assault on a police officer.
WEBER: I wouldn‘t characterize the whole Democratic Party in that way, just one member. Look, I understand what you‘re saying. I do think, first and foremost, that national security in an era in which we are in what we call the long war, the war on terror, is an appropriate issue, and we ought to talk about it. And, yes, it is going to have to get tough before the election.
For instance, you have got a lot of Democrats out there right now saying they would not have voted for or would not have supported the war in Iraq if they had known there were no weapons of mass destruction. OK. Here‘s my question for them.
We now know because of documents released from the Iraqi government that Saddam Hussein sought out and had contact with Osama bin Laden as early as 1995. My question for these Democrats, knowing, knowing that Saddam Hussein‘s government was seeking to work with Osama bin Laden directly, would you still have voted against taking him out of power? I think that‘s a legitimate question.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying that Osama bin Laden, -- that Saddam Hussein collaborated in the attack of 9/11?
MATTHEWS: Are you saying he played an active role in hurting the United States.
WEBER: I didn‘t say that. Why did you suggest I said that?
MATTHEWS: Going to war with a country can‘t be over a couple of meetings.
WEBER: So eliminate the possibility of a known enemy of the United States, Osama bin Laden, collaborating with the a states. We went in to Afghanistan why? Because we could not allow al Qaeda to have state sponsorship. The state—the state of Iraq was having discussions with Osama bin Laden in 1995 about collaboration.
MATTHEWS: You mean to tell me if a country, a sovereign country like Iraq or Pakistan or any other country, has talks with somebody who doesn‘t like us, that‘s grounds for us going to war and taking over their country, that‘s what you just said?
WEBER: Somebody who is vowing to destroy us and who has attacked our soil, not just somebody who doesn‘t like us. The French don‘t like us.
MATTHEWS: This is of before 9/11.
WEBER: Yes but we‘re talking about knowing that in retrospect obviously.
MATTHEWS: No. You‘re saying because there were meetings between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, although you‘re not saying those two men met, are you?
MATTHEWS: Because there was some kind of tie or communication, that justifies us going to war with Iraq in 2003?
WEBER: I think knowing—look, I think we had justification to go to war with Saddam Hussein for a dozen different reasons. I‘m telling you the question I‘d ask these Democrats that are now saying, the sole reason that they would have gone to war was weapons of mass destruction and they‘re now changing their mind about.
MATTHEWS: What was the reason we went to war. I‘ve never gotten that straight from anybody, why did we go to war with Iraq?
WEBER: Because we had a dangerous dictator who‘d made war on three of his neighbors and who hated the United States of America and had used weapons of mass destruction in the past.
MATTHEWS: What had he done against us?
WEBER: He invaded Kuwait. He attack Israel. They‘re our friends, our allies.
MATTHEWS: So we go with countries in the Middle East because they fight with each other. We‘ll have war forever. We will never be out of fighting wars.
WEBER: They may have never attacked the United States of America.
Neither did the Kaiser, I don‘t think.
MATTHEWS: You think in other words we have a justification as a country to take our Defense Department, all our young men and women into war because they attack somebody in the Middle East?
WEBER: If we have reason—
MATTHEWS: Where was that treaty ever signed?
WEBER: If we have seen to believe that that country wants to do serious harm to us and could be collaborating with people who want to do serious harm to us.
MATTHEWS: I think that is the reason we went to war and I think it‘s highly problematic and we‘ll be debating this for the rest of our lives.
WEBER: I hope we‘re debating this for the rest of the election cycle.
Because the Democrats should answer that question.
MATTHEWS: They‘re having a hard time responding to what you just said. I‘m not having a hard time because I love this ideological discussion, it‘s what it‘s about, ideology and the rights of this country to make war and when we make it. That‘s an argument you made.
We‘ll be right back with Vin Weber, former congressman, strong minded hawk. And later, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean responds to Tom DeLay‘s resignation. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Vin Weber, former member of Congress, a Republican from Minnesota. Let me ask you about life after Congress. You left the Congress to go into the private sector. Do you think you maintain some political influence afterwards?
WEBER: Some. It was not my primary goal and I wouldn‘t want to overstate that, but citizens can be involved in politics whether they are running businesses or work in the labor unions or lobbying in Washington.
MATTHEWS: You left completely clean. There was no question about Vin Weber. I look at people like Newt Gingrich, who left under some problems, Newt is being talked about for president, not by me but by others. Tony ended up being campaign manager for Gore. You can still have a role even if you got a little tainted on your way out.
Can Tom DeLay become a figure in your party, working in Washington through organizations not the Congress?
WEBER: First of all, regardless of what kind of problems you may have had leaving Congress, it doesn‘t negate the experience you gained while you were there, the knowledge of both the issues and the process and the players. So that‘s the fact and people take advantage of the assets they find in front of them and those assets may be a former member of Congress with a lot of knowledge of the process.
I think Tom DeLay can definitely be what he said he wants to be which is a leader of the conservative movement on the outside. That was one of his keys to success as Republican leader in the House was that he understood that he was not only the leader of conservatives inside the House, the members of Congress, but also the leader or a leader of the conservative movement outside the Congress.
When he needed help moving the guys inside the Congress, he went to the movement on the out and they put pressure back on the House. So now he can go to the conservative movement, organizations on the outside, with great legitimacy as a leader.
I would make one more point about this. The conservative movement, which back in the 1970‘s sort of came into life as the new right, was really born more in opposition to what they thought were insufficiently conservative Republican policies in the Nixon administration than they were in opposition to the Democrats. Obviously when Carter got in, Democrats were in, Republicans started—or the conservative movement took them on. But there were more and more frustrations with an insufficiently conservative Republican party.
MATTHEWS: I understand, Nixon was a very activist president and detente was all part of it and a lot of activity here at home. Let me ask you about this strategic question. If you were asked advice by the Republican leadership right now how to win the House, keep it this fall, hold at least 15 seats, would it be to warn the public of the liberals coming to impeach, censure, go after the president or would you try to push what you‘ve accomplished or a more positive agenda?
WEBER: I think we have to push an agenda. It‘s true that the Democrats will try to impeach or censure the president, I believe that, or at a minimum, investigate him to paralysis. And I think that‘s a legitimate issue, but I don‘t think that‘s going to move the country. The country is not going to buy that necessarily.
What will motivate people is the same agenda, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national security, traditional values, those are the things that motivate conservative voters. It doesn‘t change from election to election. What changes is their perception of whether or not there‘s something worth fighting for and a party fighting for them.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Vin Weber. Former U.S. member of Congress, leading voice in the Republican Party and the conservative movement and a hawk.
Up next, he‘s one of the most admired first ladies in history. We‘ll talk to the author of a new biography about Laura Bush. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Who are the real power players in the White House right now? Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Josh Bolten, and Laura Bush? That‘s the assertion author Ron Kessler makes about the traditionally spotlight-weary first lady in “Laura Bush, An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady.”
Ron, thank you for joining us. You know, I‘ve known you for years writing these really tough exposes that don‘t make the subjects very happy when you‘ve written them. Now you‘re doing two in a row on the Bushes which are both positive. What changed in your writing approach?
RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, “LAURA BUSH”: Well, first of all, after 9/11, having written about the FBI and CIA, I realized what Bush was doing to make us safer. And, you know, I—having written about the FBI and CIA, I think I understand that more than most people. But also I like a challenge, I like getting behind a very secret subject and that‘s what Laura Bush is all about.
I mean, she is even more secretive than her husband, even more secretive than the FBI and CIA. And what I was able to do was even find out what they would talk about at the dinner table, what happened when Teresa Heinz made a silly comment, “I don‘t think she‘s ever had a real job,” what they were saying at the dinner table that night.
MATTHEWS: Well, what were they staying? You‘ve whetted my appetite, Ron.
KESSLER: Well, Laura actually was saying, you know, I understand how these things are taken out of context, whereas the twins were outraged and Jenna especially was outraged and saying she‘s saying that motherhood is worthless, but Laura just chooses to take a positive approach to life. She knows exactly what Teresa was up to, but she chooses to look at things in a positive light.
Also, the day after Bush gave the go to go into Iraq, again, they were having dinner. What was Bush talking about? He was talking about Saddam‘s torture of his own people, how wives were gang raped in front of their husbands, how ears were cut off. That‘s what he was talking about, he wasn‘t talking about weapons of mass destruction. I think that‘s interesting.
MATTHEWS: What was the—what is the—she‘s the first lady now and will be through the next three years. If you had to describe her has a character in a novel, is she Lady Macbeth? Is she Blondie? Is she nice or is she though? How would you do the character description for a novel or for a play?
KESSLER: Well, I‘m not very good at novels but she—you know, on screen, she‘s nice, she‘s classy, she‘s charming, but she also has a very tough side to her. She grew up in Midland, Texas, where they have sandstorms.
She has a very tough inner core and she does have tremendous influence on her husband and the Bush administration, in fact, more so than even Karl Rove, would you believe, because on a daily basis, she influences Bush, they discuss things, they discuss policy, they discuss personnel. Because of her, some people are not appointed or are appointed. Budgets have been increased or not increased or not cut because of her influence.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about all these screw ups, things like Dubai where the president wasn‘t really told by Bob Kimmett, the head of the interagency task force from Treasury, that this Dubai thing was going to be a hot burner for them, not really getting in charge.
I always say if he had gotten down to Katrinaland down in New Orleans, the first day of the hell down there at that convention center with all the African-Americans with water and resources to help them, he would have been a hero.
Instead he was late on that game, late on this one, late on the Harriet Miers. Does she get mad? I‘m sorry. It took awhile to get to that. Tell me what she plays, what role she plays, when she sees her husband being befuddled by his own team?
KESSLER: They talk things through the way, you know, you probably do with your wife. When two spouses respect each other—and Bush respects her judgment—they talk things through. A lot of times, Laura will say, you know, are you sure you want to do this now? Have you really thought this through? If she disagrees with him, she might tease him, she might roll her eyes, so there are these sort of things.
You know, but the missteps you‘re talking about I look at as very short range issues as opposed to protecting the country from the next attack. And the fact is, we have not been attacked in almost five years and I would argue that it is mainly because of the steps that Bush has taken.
MATTHEWS: Are you a Bushie?
KESSLER: I am very impressed by what he‘s done to make us safer, and I think that‘s 95 percent of what the president should be doing.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it was right to go to war in Iraq, take our country to that country?
KESSLER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, let‘s just talk about what Bush was talking about at the dinner table. You know, 300,000 people were killed by Saddam Hussein. The Democrats who claim to be compassionate, who claim to be for human rights, just dismiss that. Oh, you know, let‘s put Saddam back in power. But getting back to Laura ...
MATTHEWS: Did the Democrats say put Saddam back in power? I haven‘t heard that one yet, Ron?
KESSLER: That is the logical conclusion of their criticism of us taking him out. If they‘re against us taking him out, that means they want him back in power, doesn‘t it? I mean, if they had their way, they would be in power.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know any Democrat, Ron, that says he wants Saddam back in power, do you?
KESSLER: No because that sounds silly and ridiculous. But if they say we shouldn‘t have gone into Iraq, what does that mean? Doesn‘t that mean that Saddam ...
MATTHEWS: Well, who knows, so you‘re right. It could suggest anything because who knows whether the eventually containment would have worked, he would have been overthrown by the people who clearly hate him over there, the political forces that have been unleashed there by our invasion. They may have acted on their own. I don‘t know, but you have a point, except I don‘t think it‘s fair to stay any Democrat has said bring back Saddam.
KESSLER: No. No. No, but I‘m saying that that‘s logical.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s get back to your principle point here. I want to really have a sense of this woman. If she thought that a person in—
I‘m thinking of Nancy Reagan and Don Regan. Remember she thought Don Regan had become so pompous that he thought he was prime minister and Ronnie was sort of a show horse? Has she ever gotten that tough on a staffer, Ron, and said get rid of him, George?
KESSLER: She has. Well, when some policies, some appointments have been proposed and she knows the person in some rare cases, she has vetoed that person or there have even been cases where there were ethical issues that were very, very close and she came out against the person and the person was gone.
And then, in addition, she‘s a very supportive wife. Andy Card told me this little anecdote. Bush was getting in Marine One, Karen Keller, Bush‘s secretary, came out and said Laura is calling. And he was a little annoyed, is it important?
But he went back in the Oval Office, he took the call, he came out smiling. And Andy Card said that Bush said she just was calling to say I love you. So that—you know, that kind of support when you‘re constantly being attacked is very reassuring.
MATTHEWS: I think we all know that experience, if we‘re lucky. Hey, Ron, thank you. Good luck, you‘re an amazing and prolific fellow here. Ronald Kessler. The name of the book is “An Intimate Portrait” of the first lady. A nice picture of her on the cover. “Laura Bush” by Ronald Kessler.
Up next, who will fill the power vacuum on Capitol Hill now that Tom DeLay has called in quits in Congress?
And later, Democratic reaction to DeLay‘s resignation from Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. He‘s coming here. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This half hour, Howard Dean, Pat Buchanan, and Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, all respond to Tom DeLay‘s quitting. But first breaking news in the case of U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
NBC‘s Mike Viqueira joins us by phone.
Mike, what‘s happening?
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well it appears that the U.S. attorneys‘ office has decided that they want to hear a little bit more testimony in that case surrounding Cynthia McKinney, whether or not she actually struck that United States Capitol Police Officer. Of course, the Capitol Police made the referral to the U.S. attorneys‘ office.
They have convened a grand jury or they will use a grand jury, I should say, to hear further testimony starting tomorrow in the allegations surrounding Congresswoman McKinney. It is not known whether the Congresswoman herself will testify tomorrow, but we do know that at least one witness to the incident, who is a staffer for a Democratic member of Congress from California, will be called to testify.
We don‘t know how many days this will go, although we do expect—everything we‘re hearing is it will not last long this grand jury phase—
MATTHEWS: Mike, what is the question here of fact, is it whether she really slugged the guy with her cell phone or whether she sort of shoved back at him?
VIQUEIRA: I think it is a question of whether an assault took place, whether or not she aggressively hit the officer, as many, including the U.S. Capitol Police allege here. Of course over the last couple of days, we‘ve seen Democratic leadership in the House try to distance themselves from McKinney.
Today, no less a personage than House Speaker Dennis Hastert took out after her saying that in this post 9-11 environment, we have to respect police officers, no matter what the situation.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much Mike Viqueira up on Capitol Hill for
We‘re joined right now by MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
Pat, we had him here last night. Tom DeLay walking away from power. He probably has to, facing one indictment already from Ronnie Earle down in Texas, facing possibly being charged with something else by one of his former staffers or Abramoff. Why did he do it, do you think?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Why did he resign?
BUCHANAN: I think one reason he feared he is going to lose the election but it would have cost him millions of dollars to win the election, and if he wins it, what has he got, Chris? He‘s not going to be in the leadership again. He is Tom DeLay as a back bencher in the Republican House.
I don‘t know why he would want to do it, take all that risk for very, very little gain, and I think the final blow was that indictment—actually, that turned state‘s evidence, the guy on his staff. I think it was too much. It was the straw that broke the camel‘s back three days before he quit.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mayor Brown. Mayor, do you think this is going to help the Republicans or the Democrats that this guy has walked right now in the middle of the storm?
WILLIE BROWN, FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Well, you know, Chris, this morning on Quake, the radio station that I now work for, we concluded that in fact it will obviously help the Democrats. It‘s an acknowledgement of the incredible interests and corruption that‘s being shown by the American people and how one needs to react in order to try to shut it down. Mr. DeLay did not shut it down by virtue of his exiting, and I think our viewers and our listeners said that.
MATTHEWS: Is he still a target, mayor?
BROWN: I think he‘s still a target. I don‘t think that you can have Scanlon and Ruby both stepping up to the plate, saying, yes, we did something in his office. We did it really badly. I don‘t think Ms. Miller will fail to be willing to testify that in fact Mr. DeLay was a part of it. I think he‘s trying to get out of dodge as quickly as he possibly can before the final shoe falls.
BUCHANAN: Chris, a big scandal needs to be fed. You have got to feed
it daily or weekly or monthly. This is six months before the election. If
the Democrats are running around talking about Ruby or Rudy, whatever his
name is, six months from now, they don‘t have an issue. But I think it may
I think Willie may be right here.
This Abramoff thing, they have got 40 guys, prosecutors and agents working on it. They‘re going to start rolling. If they roll over one indictment after another after another after another, that‘s the only thing that will make the scandal case. People have forgotten Scooter Libby.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, show me the pattern here. The Democrats call it culture of corruption, but it‘s so sundry. You have got this guy, Safavian, the personnel director at the White House, arrested at the White House. You‘ve got the guy who‘s domestic policy chief, the Ed Meese job. There‘s a guy picked up for some weird kind of complicated, state of the art, what do you call it? Shoplifting.
Then you have got this guy picked up the other day, the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security charged with defending this country, and he gets picked up for some sort of chat room perversion on an Internet site or something. It seems so sundry, and then you‘ve got this guy DeLay involved with all his imaginations. And then you‘ve got - it seems like they don‘t really connect. Do these people even know each other, all these people?
BROWN: I think that it is clear to the American public and I think every candidate running for office will want to distance themselves from any aspects of any of the things that you alleged. I think you have to run against DeLay if you‘re a Republican. I think you have to run against the White House, if you‘re a Republican. I think you have to run against homeland security, if you‘re a Republican.
There‘s nothing with pride that you can point to that these people have done, and the results are going to evidence themselves when you find everybody trying to get in front of the parade.
BUCHANAN: Willie, even you admire John Roberts and Sam Alito. There are things conservatives are really proud of.
MATTHEWS: But he put you on defense there, could you play defense—could you be goalie in a lacrosse game where those names are being thrown at you?
BUCHANAN: Let them be. If that is what they are going to do, I would say thank goodness. You have got a war going on, which is a tremendous burden on Americans and they‘re talking about some guy named Safavian. Nobody knows who they are.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t need to help you Mr. Mayor as a politician, but it isn‘t a long stretch to say that this is the president who hired Safavian. He hired the guy who is the shoplifter, they put this guy in charge of speaking for the Department of Homeland Security who‘s some sort of perv or something. I don‘t know what he is. He‘s charged with something here. Then you‘ve got the CIA leak case and Scooter Libby facing 30 years. I mean, it doesn‘t take a big leap to say the guy who picked all these people is now saying we have to be in Iraq.
BROWN: Not only that, Chris, I think when you‘re in a position where you have to explain all of that if you‘re a Republican, you‘re in really bad shape. You‘re going to lose your base. If your take the position that Democrats are going to have to take on this issue. And the results are going to be deadly for you, a Republican. I‘d hate to be a Republican in this environment.
BUCHANAN: Culture of corruption is a good issue, there‘s no doubt about it, but it‘s got to be fed. You cannot say that because DeLay resigned six months ago or some guy named Safavian or somebody else.
MATTHEWS: Pat, Nixon resigned in August and the House went overwhelmingly Democrat in November.
BUCHANAN: You had 18 months of daily hammering on Watergate to drive him from 68 percent down to 25 percent. Chris, you have to feed the scandal but I do think it‘s going to be fed.
MATTHEWS: Why did Gerry Ford lose because of a scandal that was more than two years old.
BUCHANAN: Gerry Ford lost because he was beating Carter because he came out and said Poland had been liberated. In a national debate with 50 million people. I told him not to say that.
BROWN: With all due respect Pat Buchanan, I think it‘s only going to
get worse. I don‘t think we‘ve even seen the tip of the iceberg with
reference to a whole series of these things.
BUCHANAN: You‘d better hope there‘s more than this.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the big topic in San Francisco on the radio. You‘re on every morning our there. Are people talking about this, about immigration, what are they talking about right now?
BROWN: They‘re talking about DeLay. They‘re talking about—absolutely talking about immigration, because there‘s so many people out here who represent immigrants in relationships with immigrants.
They are also talking about, believe it or not, how horrible it is to try to live in this system with no health care coverage. I‘m telling you, the Republicans are missing a tremendous opportunity. Massachusetts just said, listen, it‘s mandatory in terms of health care and you‘re going to have to show that you have it, like you do for driving an automobile. I believe—
BAUCHANAN: Massachusetts just turned down in-state tuition for illegal aliens after the talk show hosts went of a them. Here was a liberal, most liberal state in the union, turned it down. Willie is right, immigration is a big blazing issue and will be this fall.
MATTHEWS: Massachusetts is the most liberal state in the union except on ethnic matters. Thank you, Willie Brown, and thank you Pat Buchanan.
Pat is filling in for Joe Scarborough tonight at 10:00. That‘s going to be great. Up next, Democratic party Chairman Howard Dean is coming here to respond to Tom DeLay‘s resignation from Congress. Tomorrow, Senator John Kerry will be here on HARDBALL. He‘s calling for a May 15th deadline for Iraq to form a government or America should withdraw our troops.
Senator Kerry will be our guest tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern.
This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here to talk about Tom DeLay‘s Withdrawal right here last night and the upcoming presidential elections this November and presidential candidates is Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
Governor Dean, I want you to look at a tape from last night‘s interview we had with Tom DeLay, it was an exchange about the impeaching of the president.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the Republicans, if they lose the house, will turn over the subpoena power to people who will try to impeach the president?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DELAY: Absolutely. John Conyers, not too long ago, held a mock meeting of all the left and talked about impeaching the president and he‘s called for impeaching the president. Do you think when he gets the gavel on the—as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he won‘t try to impeach the president? Of course he will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor Dean, as chairman of the National Committee of the Democratic Party, do you have anything to say about the possibility, the probability or even the chance that if the Democrats get control of the House of Representatives and the subpoena power, they‘ll use it to investigate, impeach, or censure President Bush?
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CMTE.: You know, it‘s interesting, I think the real election issue in this election is do you want more of the same or do you want something different. We‘re different. We‘re not like the Republicans.
We don‘t jump to conclusions, we don‘t think impeachment is as trivial as the Republicans seemed to think it was when they tried to impeach President Clinton.
I think we ought to stick with the facts, lets find out what the facts are. But this notion is automatically we are going to raise taxes, impeach the president, this is nonsense. This is right wing stuff and that‘s why the Republicans are in such trouble. They just make this stuff up and they put it out there.
What we want to do is bring the country back together again. We want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected and when we take power back in 2006, we‘ll do that in the Senate and the House.
MATTHEWS: Let take a look at this is more of Tom DeLay last night, along the same lines I just talked about, prosecuting this president once they get in power in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You think, more modestly, they might push for censure along the lines of Russ Feingold in the Senate. Which one do you think they‘re going for, his head or a big wound.
DELAY: I think they‘ll try to go for his head. I think some of the more reasonable thinking Democrats will try to pull him down and away from walking off that cliff, but you‘ve got to know these people. John Conyers is left of the left.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that kind of campaign argument will hurt your party in the fall, the fear factor?
DEAN: No, I think these guys are out of credibility. As you were talking about with Pat Buchanan and Willie rMD+IN_rMD+IN_rMDNM_Brown, think of what these—what George Bush has brought to Washington: his own procurement officer, arrested and indicted; the chief of staff of the vice president, arrested and indicted; the Republican leader of the United States Senate, Republican Bill Frist, under investigation for insider trading; Tom DeLay, resigned.
On and on and on it goes. That is the Republicans. We‘re going to do this differently. We‘ve learned by watching the terrible mistakes that the Republicans have made. This is not so much a difference about policy, although there is one, it‘s a difference of how you treat people.
Are we going to treat people with respect? Yes. Are we going to run off and indict the president for no reason? Of course, we‘re not going to do that. We want to bring this back to the days when America was governed by people who people understood America is more important than their own political party.
And that‘s what the Republicans have made their mistake about. They think it‘s more important that Republicans hold power than it is that America be strong. We think Americans come first and parties are second.
MATTHEWS: Is Tom DeLay still a poster boy for corruption for the Democrats?
DEAN: We don‘t need Tom DeLay as a poster boy for corruption. We have Karl Rove who still has a security clearance after leaking the name of a security agent. We‘ve have got Bill Frist, we‘ve got Dick Cheney‘s chief of staff. We have got so many poster boys for corruption in the Republican Party that, you know, I think this is good for America that Tom DeLay has stepped down and now we‘re on to the next thing.
The other thing is we haven‘t even talked about the major issues. Look at security. This is a president who claims he‘s in favor of security and sends our folks to Iraq without proper body armor. How about jobs? How about some American jobs that will stay in America? How about health insurance for all Americans, just like 36 other countries have? There are big issues on the agenda out there. The Republicans haven‘t been willing to tackle them; we will be.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with Governor Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Howard Dean.
Governor, let me ask you about Russ Feingold. He is making noises about running for president. And he‘s out there, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, saying that he would like to have the president censured for the National Security Agency‘s electronic spying.
Now, do you think that‘s something Democrats should be considering doing once you get the subpoena power that comes with the majority status in the Congress?
DEAN: Again, Chris, we can certainly look into all that stuff, and we would like to know what the president knew and when he knew it. But there is a lot to do in America, and revenge against the president is not the first thing on the Democratic Party agenda.
The first thing on our agenda is dealing with Iraq—the idea the president is going to leave this to the next president, I think, is a disgrace—American jobs, healthcare, security issues which the president has really bungled his way through.
So, again, you know, sure, the president has not been honest with the American people. Undoubtedly, that is a huge problem. Something should be done about it, but that is not the first thing on our agenda.
There are real needs that have been ignored for the last five years under this president. What about balancing the budget? He has run up the largest deficit in the history of the country. He can‘t control spending. We have to deal with that, too. And these are real, important issue.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the Democratic candidates this fall you‘re going to try to get elected. You‘ve got a Web site out there called Fighting Dems. What is that about?
DEAN: A lot—an enormous number of veterans are running for Congress. There‘s about 50 in all, and there‘s 24 of them, I think, that are through their primaries now. And almost every single one—I can only think of one that‘s a Republican.
So, you know, the veterans of this country, they have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are Vietnam veterans. In fact, I‘m actually talking to you from a district right across the river from Northern Kentucky where we have a veteran running. And these folks are upset about what this president has done to the armed forces and to the veterans of this country, and they‘re running as Democrats.
And we‘re supporting that. I think this idea that the Democrats are soft on defense is not only ridiculous, but we‘ve proved it‘s now ridiculous because of all the Democrats running, only one out of, I think, 20 or 30, or maybe even 50, is a Republican. The Democrats have now become the party of Americans, returning soldiers, and we‘re proud of it.
MATTHEWS: Why does that not seem to work? I mean, it worked back in 1946 when a lot of young guys like Kennedy and Nixon ran in ‘46 after just coming back from the war. Somebody once said that World War II was their best campaign manager because it got them elected. It doesn‘t seem to work as well lately with experience in combat.
DEAN: I think it will work. I think it will work.
MATTHEWS: I mean, John Kerry got nothing out of saying—reporting for duty except the Swift Boaters coming.
DEAN: Well, I think the problem with that is we didn‘t fight back fast enough. I think we‘ve learned a lot. We‘ve never had people quite as mean and arrogant as the folks that are running the country right now. And we‘ve had to learn that we‘re going to have to be much tougher if we want to run this country. And I think we have learned that lesson.
We‘ve now got a group of really terrific people who have served their country in uniform, unlike the people who designed the Iraq war. And they‘re going to stand up for the Democratic Party. And we‘re proud to have them on board. And, you know, we need to be the party of security. We are the party of security and many of the veterans are now recognizing that.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn‘t your party talk like you just did? You said the people who got us in the war are guys who never fought. I think a lot of them were never in a schoolyard fight either. But, you know, you have a party of Lieberman and Murtha and you haven‘t been able to put it together into one voice, have you?
DEAN: We‘re pretty ...
MATTHEWS: One top voice in opposition? You‘ve got people on the right on the war, you‘ve got hawks like Lieberman, you‘ve got guys like Jack Murtha who served in combat in Vietnam who want to get us out of there very quickly. What is the Democrats‘ position on the war in Iraq?
DEAN: Our actually, position is pretty clear. And setting Joe aside, who‘s a full supporter, everybody else is pretty much on the same program. Jack Murtha, Joe Biden—we may have some disagreements about what the timetable should be, but we know that one, this needs to be a year of transition. The Iraqis need to get their act together politically because we‘re not going to continue to support this nonsense that‘s going on right now.
Two, when we send our troops over there, we need to have adequate armor and we need to equip them properly. And we need to listen to military people before we go and not get them into the kind of mess they‘re in right now so they‘re having trouble getting out. Those there things that Democrats have learned and understand, and now we‘ve got some great candidates running for Congress that will back them up with their votes.
MATTHEWS: Governor, thank you very much more coming on. Governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Tomorrow on HARDBALL, former presidential candidate John Kerry is coming here, plus Rosie O‘Donnell.
Right now it‘s time for the “ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.
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