updated 5/26/2006 1:16:39 PM ET 2006-05-26T17:16:39

Guests: Howard Dean, Charlie Black, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  The Senate votes on immigration, but will it make any difference?  Will the Congress have the toughness to protect our borders?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Tonight, the president‘s chief war ally Tony Blair joins him in Washington for a press conference on the state of Iraq.  With daily death and factional fighting, will Iraq ever become its own peaceful state?  And when will American troops come home for good? 

And a major development in the CIA leak case—new court filings suggest that prosecutors may call upon the vice president himself to testify in the case.  David Shuster will have the full report. 

But first, here to share with us not only his political wisdom, but more importantly, our father‘s wisdom, is my colleague, Tim Russert, NBC News Washington bureau chief and, of course, the moderator of “Meet the Press.”  His first book was the best-selling “Big Russ and Me.” He‘s little Russ.  His brand new book is “Wisdom of our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters”—I love this part—“and Sons.”  Welcome, Tim.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk politics, because you have got to pay for your dinner here, but we ought to talk about the book.  It‘s another winner. 

Let me ask you about the big new story coming out of the “New York Times.”   Ticklish and therefore I like to start with that one.  Bill and Hillary Clinton, probably the greatest soap opera in the history of America since Martha and George Washington. 

The “New York Times,” when they make a judgment to put something right at the top of the fold, right at the banner, about the marriage the Clintons, what do you make of that judgment, news judgment?  You make judgments like this. 

RUSSERT:  All the time, but this was a very important judgment by the “Times” that this is a legitimate story.  I do think that the role of Bill Clinton in a Hillary Clinton administration or presidency is a very serious story.  Remember when Governor Clinton was first running, he would say, “you buy one and get two.  Two for the price of one.” 

And I think a lot of people are going to be asking exactly what is Bill Clinton‘s role in a campaign and in a presidency?  And people also would say if he has a lot of free time on his hands in the White House, does that become an issue? 

MATTHEWS:  I saw a honey bun for sale at a local convenience store this morning.  It said two for $1, I bought one for 50 cents.  A lot of people would rather cut the two in half, wouldn‘t they, and just take Hillary this time?  It‘s simpler, isn‘t it?

RUSSERT:  Well, but I think Hillary, part of her campaign strategy will be referring back to the, quote, “good old days,” about how the economy was, and there was deficit and there was surplus and so forth. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this statement here.  Bill Clinton, “Mr. Clinton is rarely without company in public, yet the company he keeps rarely includes his wife.”  Let me get to the more particular political question.  You can answer this one, because this is pure politics. 

“When the subject of Bill and Hillary Clinton comes up, for many prominent Democrats these days, topic A is the state of their marriage.”  My sense is people worry about the future of the relationship because they think it might have a political effect.  They don‘t know what it‘s going to do if a news story props up, somebody pops a story that could upset her train off its wheels.  You hear a lot of that, don‘t you? 

RUSSERT:  Sure.  But I also remember when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate, again, to Rick Lazio.  It was on the heels of the impeachment, the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal, and you can make a very strong case that the fallout from that scandal did not hurt Hillary Clinton politically.

MATTHEWS:  It helped her.

RUSSERT:  It helped her. 

MATTHEWS:  It helped her.

MATTHEWS:  David Broder, who is on your program a lot, “The very fact that the ‘New York Times‘ has sent a reporter out to interview 50 people about the state the Clintons‘ marriage and placed the story on the top of page one was a clear signal, if that was needed, that the drama of the Clintons‘ personal life would be a hot topic if she runs for president.” 

Do you have a sense that the big news organizations, the big print organizations, the “Times,” the “Post,” the “L.A. Times,” the “Journal,” are going to commit resources to this story now that it‘s popped here?  A pure journalistic estimate? 

RUSSERT:  If, in fact, she runs for president and I think she will, then everything will be, obviously, scrutinized and this will become part of the coverage of her campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they know that, the Clintons?  They know it‘s coming.

RUSSERT:  Oh sure, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Scrutiny is coming.

RUSSERT:  Absolutely.  You know, and don‘t forget, when Governor Clinton first thought about running for president, he sat down with his aides, and they encountered this whole notion ...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  He hired one of his aides and said check me out from the other side.  Right.

RUSSERT:  And a private eye about, quote, “bimbo eruptions.”  They were very conscious of it.  It was part of their strategy, and at one time, not to run for president and in 1992 he decided to go forward. 

MATTHEWS:  The old rule was sex plus.  It had to be something to do with a lobbyist, some conflict of interest with a staff person.  Is there a clear line anymore in what is covered?  The “New York Times” made it a very political story. 

They were very careful to make it not about gossip or sex or who is dating who, but they made it about appearances and about the implications about an incipient presidential campaign.  Is that still the rule, you have to tie it into politics in some significant way or is there a lot of wiggle room there? 

RUSSERT:  Well, what‘s the rule?  What‘s the rule for the mainstream media, what‘s the rule for cable, what‘s the rule for talk radio, what‘s the rule for the Internet?  There‘s a sliding scale I would offer, and it‘s going to be quite interesting to see how that plays out. 

Also, I think a lot of people have done a lot reflection on the coverage of the impeachment, and some of those extenuating circumstances.  This is going to be a lot of grist for conversations in news rooms all across this country. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of calls to make too.

RUSSERT:  Oh, yes and within the Democratic Party, this is going to be a big debate.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about 2006, 15 seats in the House—I know you love to do this -- 15 seats in the House—maybe not as much as I do, but I know you like to do it.  Fifteen seats in the House will change the Congress over to the Democrats.  I give them the speaker, Pelosi, assumedly, Steny Hoyer majority leader and their own agenda to challenge the president.  Likelihood, right now?  Good shot?

RUSSERT:  Today.  Yes.  Absolutely.  And talk to the Republicans.  You know, I‘m basing this on reporting.  During the election of the new majority leader of the Congress, Mr. Boehner of Ohio, a Republican Congressman stood up in the closed meeting, Chris, and said I have the polls from the 25 swing districts and we are losing every one them because in the open-ended question, we ask, what do you think of your Republican Congressman, what words come to mind?  Iraq and corruption.  There was silence in the room. 

MATTHEWS:  Killer. 

RUSSERT:  Well they know. 

MATTHEWS:  They now know they have 25 seats in play and they‘re losing every game. 

RUSSERT:  As of now. 

MATTHEWS:  And what could change?  I‘m looking at the conditions that obviously affect this election.  Bill Jefferson‘s ridiculous event the other day where they got $90,000 in cold cash literally in his refrigerator.  Guilty or not, not even indicted yet, but what‘s the imagery there?  Does that help the Republicans to show a Democrat in the sleaze pile? 

RUSSERT:  Well, sure.  The whole debate about—or argument about a culture of corruption with Republicans can point to and say in effect, it‘s bad but it‘s bipartisan.  Democrats will say no, this is a select case, but let that debate play out. 

I think this is the Republicans‘ best strategy.  One, there‘s a new government, a new prime minister in Iraq.  Can he stabilize that country, so by early fall troops come home?  If the president could ever say there‘s less than 100,000 troops in Iraq, they‘ll try to make that a big political plus. 

Two, there‘s going to be another hurricane.  Will this administration behave, perform better than they did in Katrina?  If they do, we learned our lesson, we‘ve gotten better. 

Three, corruption—can the Republican Party within itself reform Congress, pass some tough standards and show they mean business?

Four, immigration—will this president jump in, and he can‘t stand on the sidelines, and say to his congressional Republicans in the House, I am with John McCain and Chuck Hagel and Mel Martinez.  We cannot send 11 million people back home now or in a graduated way.  There has to be a path for citizenship. 

It‘s going to take presidential leadership for that to happen.  He‘ll antagonize some on the right but I think he can win over some of the middle and swing voters. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he can make a good transfer of conservatives for moderates on that one?  In other words, he‘s going to lose a lot of the red-hots out there? 

RUSSERT:  That‘s the concern. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the war and the troop discussions.  Do you think there‘s anything in the air that we might actually have a lower troop level than 100,000 by Election Day itself? 

RUSSERT:  Pretty tough.  John Murtha predicted some months ago that there would be a significant troop withdrawal in October of 2006.  If the new prime minister can get things secured, you could probably make a case for that. 

But you have to be very careful, because if there‘s still a bloody insurrection on the ground and the president says I‘m pulling troops out, then it does reek of politics. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people believe we‘re one barracks away from total destruction of the policy.  Do you believe that?

RUSSERT:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party has membership of about four out of five who oppose the war.  In fact, they say in all the polling, we shouldn‘t have gotten involved in the first place.  It‘s not about armor, it‘s not about complement of troops, how many troops, it‘s about the policy. 

You see these elections coming up, the Jane Harman race in California where she‘s being challenged.  She‘s a hawk in Southern California, a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, ranking I believe.  And you‘ve got Joe Lieberman, very famous Democrat, a hawk.  The challenge to him is interesting, because that is a state that‘s very liberal and very anti-war.  Do you think that‘s going to be a close one? 

RUSSERT:  Lamont got a third of the delegates.

MATTHEWS:  His challenger.

RUSSERT:  Yes, Ned Lamont.  I do think that Senator Lieberman will have the institutional support and the money and probably survive that primary as of now, but it‘s a real lesson and it‘s a real shot across the bow and I think it‘s going to be a key factor in the presidential nomination.  You‘ve had John Kerry, you‘ve had John Edwards, you‘ve had Chris Dodd all say that if they had to vote today, they would vote against the war not for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary hasn‘t made that change. 

RUSSERT:  All she says is I regret how the president used the authority she gave him. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you think she‘ll switch after the election in New York, when she‘s covered her base in New York, which is more hawkish, obviously, on the Middle East.  Will she give that up?   

RUSSERT:  The longer you wait, the more difficult it is.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think too.

RUSSERT:  And she now has, it seems to me, adopted a general election

strategy, that she has to be strong on national security and whether or not

that she can sustain and survive a primary is a big question. 

MATTHEWS:  As a political observer and historian, do you believe that she‘s doing what her husband did successfully in ‘91 and ‘92?  Even though they‘re Democrats, lean to the hawkish side for the general election?

RUSSERT:  Try to hold the center?  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll be right back.  Tim Russert staying with us.  We‘re going to talk about his book, which is going to be another big seller, and of course, about tonight‘s press conference with Tony Blair and the president.  Be right back with Tim Russert, and we‘ll be talking about everything, including his new book, “Wisdom of Our Fathers.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Tim Russert, moderator, “Meet the Press,” who‘s written a new book called “Wisdom of Our Fathers.”

Tim, I have to tell you, when I read that book, the first one, I was crying—about your father and working with him—it‘s powerful stuff.  I lost my father in the last year, and I read this book and I keep thinking, yes, he‘s right.  I like the page in the front, this is a book about people and their fathers, right?

RUSSERT:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Average people and you got about that.  Why did you start your book with a blank page? 

RUSSERT:  Because I have a letter from Barbara Bishop, whose dad, Dutch Bielki (ph), turned 75 years old out in Minnesota—eight kids, eight siblings.  Dad has the same shirt, the same hat, the same gloves—they never know what to buy him.  They all sat down and said, Each of us are going to write 75 reasons why we love our dad.  It was the greatest gift they could ever give their father, thanking him for their love and devotion and sacrifice.

So the first page I kept blank.  My dream is—remember your dad used to say to you, Chris, “Some day—some day you‘ll thank me for this.”

MATTHEWS:  Some version of that.

RUSSERT:  And my dream is hundreds of thousands of fathers are going to get this book on Father‘s Day, and here, a personal letter—

MATTHEWS:  What date is Father‘s Day?

RUSSERT:  June 18.

A personal letter from their sons and daughters, thanking them and—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a high price to pay, Tim.  I‘m looking at the price

it‘s a reasonably priced book—very low, less than $23, which is the cheapest book around. 

RUSSERT:  But the dad will finally say—

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘re going to do this? 

RUSSERT:  I do.  And their dad is going to say, that day is finally here, my kid is thanking me.  Because what this is, is a road map for parents, young or old, how to get it right.  It‘s not the big, expensive vacation, it‘s not the material gift, it‘s being there, the tender word, the soft touch, picking someone up.

A little girl in Ohio, Kris Wilma (ph)a worry wart, her dad built a box and said, Put all your worries, write them down and put them in this box.  Two weeks later he sat with her, opened it up, This one doesn‘t matter, this one is irrelevant.  Wilma, just focus on the big things.  She has that box to that day.  Our dads showed us how to live through their silent goodness.  Those are the lessons of life. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  Working hard without complaint.  That‘s a big part of it.

RUSSERT:  Big one. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me read you an adversarial view in your book, because you did finish the piece of the argument here.  “My dad was a beast.  The one thing I learned from him was to stay out of his way.  I learned much more about love from my dogs than I ever did from my dad.”  Why did you put that in there?  That‘s an alternative view, here.

RUSSERT:  It was important.  I got 60,000 letters and e-mails, overwhelmingly positive, but there were some like that.  And I thought it was important. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did they write letters so negative about their old man? 

Why would they give away a family secret like that?

RUSSERT:  Because they‘re bitter, and they‘re very hostile.  And they‘re somewhat resentful of seeing some other relationships and situations.  But by and large, these people love their father.  They want to emulate their father. 

Now it‘s important that also—there are a lot of letters from stepchildren, which I love because one daughter said I was never a step child, I was only a loved child.  There are a lot of letters about forgiveness.  Becky Blatton (ph) wrote a letter—she hadn‘t spoken to her father in 15 years.  Her dad‘s sister—her aunt—called her and said, Your dad is dying of cancer.  She picked up the phone and called and said, Dad, is it true?  He goes, Stage Four, Beck—I‘m going to die.  I‘m here with my accountant.  And they started—

MATTHEWS:  He said that?

RUSSERT:  Yes.  And they started talking about photography, their

passion, that they did as a young kid, and then she said, Dad, could I come

down and have dinner?  And he said, I would really like that, Beck.  And

then she said, Dad, I love you.  And she said, I could feel him blush on

the other end of the phone.  He died this summer, but they had reconciled -

15 years of bitterness set aside. 

What Big Russ did was provide an invitation, to daughters and sons all across the country, to talk about their dads, to talk about them in a way that affirmed their dad‘s life, but also said to the rest of the country, these are the lessons, respect, honor, accountability.  My interesting thing for me, Chris, going around talking about this—so many people seem to get elected and come to Washington, and forget who they are, and where they came from. 

I used to watch—you used to watch Barry Goldwater, conservative, Hubert Humphrey, liberal, debate on the floor and then go off and have a drink together.  Disagree agreeably.  What happened to that; what happened to common ground?  What happened to consensus.  That‘s what this is all about.  This is what people believe in their own families. 

MATTHEWS:  The one that got me in reading the early pages was the—and I have to finish the whole book like I did the last time.  I loved the last book.   The kid who was gay, and he—and I don‘t care if it‘s 20 years from now, it‘s probably still going to be tough to say that. 

RUSSERT:  Steve Westman (ph) in Chicago, Illinois.  He‘s sitting on

the couch watching the 10:00 news with his dad, and he said, “Dad, can I

tell you something?  I‘m gay.”  And his father just looked at him, and the

kid got up and walked away.  They pass each other four times in the house

over the next hour.  Finally his dad grabbed him and said, “Steven, I just

want you to be happy.  You‘re my son.”  And the kid embraced him, and he

said, Now we watch the Cubs game together.”  He said, don‘t ever try to

tell your day your gay during the 10:00 news, wait until it‘s over.  And he

said, “The only thing that‘s changed in our lives is, my dad says to me now

and then, ‘Have you met any good guys lately?‘”

MATTHEWS:  You had his father crying, too. 

RUSSERT:  Yeah.

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t like it came easy to him.

RUSSERT:  No, no.  But the important—and this happens all across the country.  All across the country, there are families with this kind of situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe people are going to find, if they have to confront that communication, which they‘re going to have to do in a lot of cases, maybe just reading this book and hearing what we‘re saying now is going to make it a little easier. 

RUSSERT:  I think it will. 

Also there‘s a whole chapter on loss, how to cope with that, and people give extraordinary insights.  I‘ve been talking about this book for two days, and two psychiatrists—one came in a restaurant and one on an airplane—both said to me, I‘m telling my patients to read this because it helps them cope with relationships, how to build relationships with their dad, how to embrace them or how to celebrate them.  It‘s incredible.  What a journey. 

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) generation and—these relationships, you still got your dad; it was always tricky with me.  It was always tricky. 

We‘ll be right back with Tim Russert in a moment. 

And later, will Vice President Cheney be a witness in Scooter Libby‘s trial?  Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald sure makes it sound like that could happen.  We‘ll have the latest in what‘s going on in the CIA leak probe when we come back. 

And be sure to stay with us tonight at 7:00 Eastern for our coverage of the White House press conference with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  We‘ll be getting ready before it starts and breaking it down afterwards.  You‘ll get the analysis before and after with us.  David Gregory‘s going to be with me, Andrea Mitchell from NBC both with me, Pat Buchanan, Norah O‘Donnell, Joe Scarborough.  We‘re all together to talk about the big press conference with Tony Blair and President Bush tonight.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Tim Russert, moderator of “Meet the Press.”  His new book is called “Wisdom of Our Fathers.”  It‘s already No. 1 on Amazon.  Well, god, that Imus is good, isn‘t he?

Let me ask you about—we want to break this out into situations here.  Let me shock you here.  I‘ll catch you completely off guard.  The two President Bush‘s, one was a tax raiser, the other is a tax cutter.  One was very tough on Israel, a pro-Arab foreign policy.  The son is very pro-Israeli.  One was—well, one was clearly high church Episcopalian, the other one is much more of an Evangelical.  Many changes and differences between father and son.  Do most sons rebel against their father to sort of distinguish themselves like the president has?

RUSSERT:  I‘m not a psychiatrist, but sure.  I think we all go through changes.  I mean, there are times—I remember the big debates I had with my dad about the Vietnam War.  He was a World War II veteran.  Ironically, he began to see the war very much along the lines of a lot of college kids at the end.

MATTHEWS:  At the end, by the ‘70s.

RUSSERT:  In the beginning however, it was we‘re at war, that‘s it, end of subject.

MATTHEWS:  But did he like your long hair?

RUSSERT:  No, no. 

MATTHEWS:  He thought it was a statement against him, right?

RUSSERT:  And when I grew a Fu Manchu moustache, he said, “Well, it looks like Joe Namath.”

MATTHEWS:  He did?  He didn‘t call you a Bolshevik?

RUSSERT:  Well, not quite.  He wished I would take it off.

MATTHEWS:  But when we look at this president, we do look at a lot 180‘s from the old man and they seem to be important.

RUSSERT:  But it‘s interesting.  When you talk to the president, you‘ll say, “How is your dad?”  He‘ll say, “He‘s great, and so is my mom.”  He‘s very close to his mom.  And in fact, many people who observe the Bushes will say that President Bush is very much like his mom in terms of the way he approaches problems and situations.

MATTHEWS:  Tough cookie that she is.

RUSSERT:  She‘s very tough.  You know, it‘s interesting, look at Iraq.    The former President Bush made a decision not to take it all the way to Baghdad in the PrMD+BO_rMDNM_ersian Gulf War with the advice of Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense.  Post September 11th, a very different decision, calculation was made.

MATTHEWS:  So the real policy dispute in this country that seems to clarify so much of this is not so much Democrat versus Republican across the aisle debate, as much as a difference of foreign policy between James A. Baker, Scowcroft, the national security adviser, the former president.  They are very singular in their view that we should have gone to Iraq, although they can‘t say it, because it would be abusive of the son.

RUSSERT:  Well they did say it.  Scowcroft wrote op/ed pieces about it very openly.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he did, you‘re right.  With his co-author, the former president.

RUSSERT:  I‘m not going that far.  But I do think that this debate continues and we‘re seeing it played out with Iran.  There‘s a really fascinating discussion going on within the administration, and in the circles around it, what to do about Iran.  Can we as a country negotiate our way through this?  Do sanctions work?  Or are we on a path towards military action against another Mideast country?

MATTHEWS:  I believe the president has learned his lesson.  I don‘t think he is going to attack.  I think he‘s learned these guys are not reliable as advisers.  And he‘s going to pursue a singular course by himself and not listen to the same voices he heard from before.  That‘s my assessment and my hope.  Thank you very much, Tim Russert.  The book is “Wisdom of our Fathers,” numero uno on the Amazon already.  Look out, “New York Times.”  “Meet the Press” airs Sunday mornings on your local NBC station. 

Up next, the boss of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean is coming here. 

And later, will Vice President Cheney testify in the CIA leak probe?  Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has definitely left he the door open to that event.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET WRAP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As each day passes, Democrats appear more confident that they can make significant gains in the midterm elections this November.  But can they take control of Congress?  Howard Dean was the governor of Vermont for 11 years.  He ran for president in 2004, and now he‘s the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Fair question.  It goes to you.  Can your party win control of Congress come November?

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN:  Yes.  If we campaign hard in all 435 districts with a unified message, we‘re going to be in control of the House and we may well take back the Senate as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you got that unified message?

DEAN:  I think we do.  We want openness and honesty in government, American jobs that will stay in America, a real security program which depends on telling the truth to our soldiers and citizens before we send troops abroad, a health care system that works for everybody.  These things are things that I think Americans really want, and I think they really want change and we‘ll provide that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about honesty in government.  What‘s your main bull‘s eye there in terms of dishonesty, because clearly you‘re pegging it to something in the news?

DEAN:  Well, we‘re pegging it to sort of a culture of corruption that the Republicans have brought not just to Washington, but to a lot of state governments as well.  You‘ve got the White House with Karl Rove in it, who leaked security information during a time of war, still has a security clearance. 

The procurement officer was arrested at the White House.  That hasn‘t happened for several hundred years, or 135 years.  We‘ve got the vice president‘s chief of staff indicted, the Republican leader in the House indicted.  His successor got rid of all the ethics legislation that was pending.  The Republican leader of the Senate under investigation for insider trading. 

People want a change.  They‘re tired of this.  We need honesty again in government.  We‘re not perfect, but we will pass ethics legislation in the first 100 days that prohibits free trips on planes, prohibits free lunches, and stops people from sticking things in appropriations bills after they‘ve already been passed that gives away billions of dollars to oil companies and folks like that.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you demand that the vice president come clean in his role in the CIA leak case?  He seems like he gets a free ride from your party.  You never hear anybody out there yelling.  We‘ve got Scooter Libby on trial for 30 years, facing 30 years imprisonment, all kinds of filings coming from the special prosecutor, and your side of the aisle, politically, just sits there and watches and never excoriates the man who‘s more and more at the center of this situation.

DEAN:  Chris, there‘s two reasons for that.  The first is, the American people know what Dick Cheney is.  His popularity rating is in the 20s.  Secondly, we need a positive agenda.  It‘s not enough to complain about the Republican corruption.  We need a positive agenda out there.  I wan the Democrats to ...

MATTHEWS:  You just went through an entire list, like a wanted list, of all the Republican officeholders or ex-officeholders who are guilty of corruption.

DEAN:  Right, and?

MATTHEWS:  And now you‘re saying you don‘t want to run a negative campaign.  You just did.  You just did.

DEAN:  Our major part of our message is what we‘re going to do, not what the Republicans have done wrong.  We know what the Republicans have done wrong.

MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do—what are you going to do with the Honorable Bill Jefferson?

DEAN:  I think that Leader Pelosi has made it very clear that she thinks that the congressman ought to step aside from the Ways and Means Committee.  I think we do have to understand that he‘s not indicted.  If that happens, I think he‘s going to have more serious troubles.

But we‘re going to be tough on everybody.  We‘re not just going to be tough on Republicans.  We‘re going to be tough on everybody.  The biggest failing of the Republicans is they let the Ethics Committee lapse, essentially, for years, and they don‘t police their House, and we will police it when it‘s our House.

MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do?  I mean, jobs are a big issue in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, all the industrial states.  Clearly we‘re facing a manufacturing challenge like we never did before, but what are the Dems going to do about it?  Are you going to put up barriers to trade?  Are you going to raise the minimum wage again? 

What are you going to do to get jobs that are being—have for millions of years—well, for 200 years—been done in the United States being shipped to either down below the border or offshore to South Asia?  How are you going to stop that?

DEAN:  Two major plans.  First, we are going to raise the minimum wage

it hasn‘t been raised for a long time federally—as soon as we get back in control.  We believe if you work hard, you ought to be able to make enough of a living to support your family.

Secondly, we‘re going to create a new industry, an energy independence industry who retrofit tons and tons of American houses and businesses to save by conservation and to create a new industry which produces solar wind, ethanol, anything but oil. 

We‘ve got to get ourselves off the oil industry.  And Pennsylvania, of course, with a huge coal industry, is made for a clean coal industry.  Wind power out of the plains, rebuilding the electric grid so we can carry the power from where it‘s generated by renewable means to the big cities.

There‘s a lot of jobs there and we ought to have those jobs and we can create those jobs if the willingness—if we‘re willing to have a real renewable energy program.

MATTHEWS:  Four out of five Democrats, according to most polls, say they think we should have never gone to Iraq.  I think that‘s your thinking.

DEAN:  I agree with them.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you have your party unified behind that belief?

DEAN:  Well I think there are a lot of people who would like to get us out of Iraq.  The question is how.

MATTHEWS:  Well wait a minute, can you answer that question?  Why can‘t you make your belief the belief of the Democratic Party in some sort of official statement? 

If four out of five members of your party say—and it‘s growing, as you know, it will probably be close to 100 by Election Day, 100 percent—why don‘t you simply say our party, the Democratic Party of the United States, thinks it was a mistake to go to Iraq, we don‘t like that policy.  We want to change.  Why don‘t you just say that?

DEAN:  We have said we want to change.  I think sometimes when people vote one way, they find it hard to back themselves off into a different position.  But the policy of the Democratic Party now is to turn this over to the Iraqis.  But there are many people, including myself, who was one of the most prominent folks who said we should not have gone in the first place. 

Many of us believe now that the president has created such a dangerous mess for America that you can‘t take everybody out all at once, that you‘ve got to leave some kind of a force behind in order to deal with the terrorism that‘s been there since we got there.

MATTHEWS:  Can we change our policy as long as we have the ideology—to have it governing our country that took us into this war?  Or don‘t we have to have a regime change in the sense of ideology here at home?  Can we still have this point of view of forward-leaning, aggressive, go to the other side of the world to fight war?  As long as we have that philosophy in the White House, won‘t we just have more and more wars?  Iran is next, then Syria, and just keep coming into different countries over there?

DEAN:  Chris, I think the best way to put it is the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans will be tough and smart.  We need to be tough, it‘s a dangerous world out there.  There are terrorists there, but we‘ve got to be smart.  The idea of going...

MATTHEWS:  ... Is Joe Lieberman smart?

DEAN:  Joe disagreed with me in the war, but that doesn‘t mean he‘s not smart.

MATTHEWS:  Should he be re-elected?  Should he be re-elected in Connecticut?

DEAN:  I do not get involved in primaries.  I‘m at the chair of the Democratic National Committee.  Our rule says that we do not get involved in primaries and I‘m not getting involved with that one.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re not endorsing any incumbent Democrat to re-election.

DEAN:  We never endorsed any incumbents that are challenged in the primary, even incumbent Democrats.  We have stayed out of primaries, that‘s the job of the DNC.  We don‘t get involved in primaries.  We‘re there to build the party.  It‘s not up to us to decide which Democrat, we just want to make darn sure there is a Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  Well I now want to bring up to you a topic that I thought would be something that might come up six months from now or a year from now, it‘s come up as you know, yesterday.  “The New York Times,” at the top of the page, of the front page, ran a big story on Bill and Hillary Clinton and it led with the question of this:  “When the subject of Bill and Hillary Clinton comes up for many prominent Democrats these days, topic A is the state of their marriage.”  Is that a true statement?

DEAN:  No.  I think that‘s ridiculous.  That‘s just gossip and I would expect that to be in the “New York Post,” not “The New York Times.” 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the gossip in saying that party leaders are worried about the marriage?

DEAN:  I think it‘s untrue.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re not worried?  You don‘t talk about this?

DEAN:  No, I think most people are interested in what kind of a senator Hillary Clinton is and I think they admire...

MATTHEWS:  ... Are you standing here—sitting here and telling me that when you sit down with the big mockers in the party, the guys that have to make decisions about big campaign investments in this campaign of Hillary Clinton, don‘t whisper back and forth “Is everything OK?  Are we going to get embarrassed next year by something with regard to that marriage?”  You‘re saying this story is essentially not true?

DEAN:  First of all, I don‘t sit down with those people because I

don‘t get involved in presidential primaries either.  Should Senator

Clinton decide to run for president at some point, which is not a done

deal, as much as everybody thinks—I think she‘s focused on running for

re-election and I think that‘s a good thing.

Secondly, yes, what I‘m saying is that is not Topic A on anybody‘s list that I talk to.  That is gossip.  I think most people are not going to vote on gossip.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you what my observation is—I talk to a lot of people in politics, in and out of it, journalists and everyone else, and they talk about it, because they want to know what will be coming next year.  People try to figure out what‘s coming next in American politics.

DEAN:  I—don‘t you think—

MATTHEWS:  And one of the—

DEAN:  -- most people are worried, Chris, about gas prices, how we‘re going to get out of Iraq—

MATTHEWS:  No, they‘re worried about who‘s going to get elected.  Governor, you know the questions:  who‘s going to get elected president and what things along the way are going to affect who gets elected.  It‘s not gossip; it‘s trying to figure out the lay of the land, politically.

Let me read you something from a man I know you respect, David Broder of the “Washington Post.”  Quote—in today‘s column: “The very fact that “The New York Times” has sent a reporter out to interview 50 people about the state of the Clinton‘s marriage and placed the story on the top of page one was a clear signal, if any was needed, that the drama of the Clinton‘s personal life would be a hot topic if she runs for president.”  Is that a fair statement?

DEAN:  I think that‘s also gossip.  Listen, I‘m going to be tough on this stuff.  I think gossip and silliness like that, in the long run, do not overcome the fact that somebody‘s got to do something about gas prices, that we‘ve sent a ton of jobs to China, that we have a budget that‘s so far out of balance that our kids are in debt—those are the issues that matter, not salacious gossip.  And I don‘t care who writes it—I have a lot of respect for David Broder and “The New York Times”—it‘s still gossip.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for your clear statement.

DEAN:  OK, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which does not engage in gossip.

Up next, just how involved was Vice President Dick Cheney in Scooter Libby‘s handling of the administration critic Joe Wilson?  Will the vice president be forced to testify in the CIA leak investigation?  New court filings show that‘s a real possibility now. 

Don‘t forget to join us tonight live at 7:00 Eastern for President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s press conference at the White House.  I‘ll be joined by NBC‘s David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell as well as MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough, Norah O‘Donnell and Pat Buchanan for a preview and analysis afterwards of their remarks.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, in realtime right now, the U.S. Senate has begun voting on its version of a new immigration bill.  It would beef up the border, launch a temporary worker program, and put millions of illegals on a path to become full U.S. citizens. 

House conservatives however stand in opposition to the bill.  They say it‘s amnesty.  And that fight is going to go on.  Quickly, if we get a Senate bill, does that mean we‘re going to get an overall bill? 

CHARLIE COOK, “THE COOK REPORT”:  I don‘t think so.  I think House members have crawled way out on that limb.  They have a hard time compromising to get anywhere close to that Senate bill. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think it‘s impossible—it‘s not impossible but unlikely. 

MATTHEWS:  I think—I‘m somewhere in between, but I think it‘s impossible.  I don‘t think there‘s going to be an immigration bill.  I think it‘s a lot of paper, and in the end, the only bill they‘re going to get is something that doesn‘t do anything. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  They like the issues.  They like to argue about them.

MATTHEWS:  They never have the guts to do anything in the end.  Anyway, let‘s talk about—let‘s go—on Monday, HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster first reported the likelihood that Vice President Cheney himself would be called as a witness by prosecutors in the CIA leak case against Scooter Libby, his chief of staff. 

Last night, prosecutors did file a motion formally notifying Libby and the court that Cheney may, in fact, be a prosecution witness.  The new pretrial documents underscore the central role of Vice President Cheney and his office‘s focus on an administrative critic Joe Wilson, whose wife worked at the CIA and saw her undercover status compromised.  Here now is David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The latest prosecution filings reveal Vice President Cheney had a greater role than previously known in the actions that led to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson.  It was Wilson‘s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who wrote this op-ed criticizing the Bush administration‘s main case for war with Iraq. 

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald states, quote, “As the defendant, Scooter Libby, admitted in his grand jury testimony, he communicated extensively with the vice president regarding the Wilson op-ed during the relevant period, and received direction from the vice president regarding his response.”

Fitzgerald also said this: “The state of mind of the vice president as communicated to defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether the defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury.”

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. LAW CENTER:  Everything ends up at Dick Cheney‘s desk.  His right hand man is indicted, he‘s intimately involved in the Niger allegation with weapons of mass destruction, he‘s the one that seems to have instructed Libby.  The biggest question is not whether he‘ll be called as a witness, but why he wasn‘t a co-conspirator. 

SHUSTER:  According to Libby‘s grand jury testimony about Cheney, the vice president saw Joe Wilson‘s op-ed as an attack on his credibility.  Prosecutor questioned to Libby, “Was it a topic that was discussed on a daily basis?”  Libby: “Yes, sir.” 

“And it was discussed on multiple occasions each day, in fact?”  “Yes, sir.”  And during that time, did the vice president indicate that he was upset that this article was out there which falsely in his view attacked his own credibility?”  “Yes, sir.”

“And do you recall what it is that the vice president said?”  “I recall that he was very keen to get the truth out.  He wanted to get all the facts out about what he had or hadn‘t done, what the facts were or were not.  He was very keen about that and said it repeatedly.”

One alleged fact the vice president seemed to zero in on was the idea that nepotism contributed to Joe Wilson‘s findings.  On a copy of the Wilson op-ed, Cheney wrote, quote, “did his wife send him on a junket?” 

Prosecutors are not asserting that Cheney instructed Libby to leak to reporters and then lie about it to the grand jury.  But Patrick Fitzgerald argues that Cheney‘s interactions with Libby were a key part of what motivated Libby to obstruct the investigation. 

Fitzgerald indicated that he may call Cheney as a prosecution witness.  Cheney‘s testimony would be used to prove that Libby learned Valerie Wilson‘s identity from the vice president and other government officials, not from reporters. 

SOL WISENBERG, FMR. DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL:  So if you‘re the prosecutor, you want to be looking at everything, every little thing that could get you to convince a jury this is not the kind of thing that a person would forget. 

SHUSTER:  Last week, Scooter Libby‘s defense team downplayed the significance of Vice President Cheney‘s notes on the Wilson column by declaring Libby never saw the notes until the FBI showed him a copy.  But in the actual grand jury testimony released by Fitzgerald, Libby said of the column, quote, “It‘s possible if it was sitting on his desk that, you know, my eye went across it.”

Documents released earlier in the case indicate Vice President Cheney and Libby talked about the Wilsons on the very day Libby allegedly leaked her identity to two reporters.  Is Patrick Fitzgerald trying to build a case against Vice President Cheney? 

TURLEY:  Well, sometimes prosecutors will not indict someone in the hopes that a former colleague will flip, like Scooter Libby.  But I got to tell you, they can wait till the cows come home, but Scooter Libby is not going to flip on Dick Cheney. 

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, in the investigation of Karl Rove, sources close to the presidential adviser are now confirming a story first reported in the “National Journal” that Rove, who was a source for columnist Bob Novak, later had a separate conversation with Novak after the investigation began. 

Former federal prosecutors are convinced Fitzgerald has explored whether Rove and Novak coordinated their testimony, but today a spokesman for Karl Rove said, quote, “Karl Rove has never urged anyone directly or indirectly to withhold information from the special counsel or to testify falsely.  Circulating such speculation now is nothing short of irresponsible.” 

(on camera):  But the contention is not that Karl Rove urged Bob Novak to withhold information.  Rather, it‘s that Rove was assured early in the case that Novak was not going to burn him.  Today Robert Novak was unavailable for comment.

As far as the overall investigation, including the Scooter Libby Case, there was also no comment today from an official who has now emerged as a central figure:  Vice President Cheney.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

We‘re joined right now by “Newsweek”‘s chief political correspondent Howard Fineman and NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook.  He‘s also the editor of “The Cook Report,” which tells us who‘s going to win elections.

Let‘s start with this story just to follow up there. 

We don‘t know who‘s guilty or not, I want to put that disclaimer on it.  I don‘t know everything here—I know a little bit—like you do, you know a lot. 

We‘ve been touched by this story ourselves.  We‘ve been trying to cover it, we‘ve gotten close to it at times, but it seems like so much corruption in Washington is reactive.  You think you‘re going to get caught, you start doing things to protect your friends, your bosses, you may not get direct orders, but you do things.  And then you find yourself in conflict with the boss you were fighting to protect. 

Interesting stuff, isn‘t it? 

FINEMAN:  It‘s very interesting. 

Keep in mind that the Libby case is about perjury, it‘s about whether Libby told the truth.

And in the interest of trying to figure that out, Patrick Fitzgerald looks like he‘s going to try to reel in the vice president of the United States to buttress the case that Libby was lying. 

That‘s how—and that‘s always what happens here, too.  It‘s not the original action often, it‘s what the people say to the investigators or lie about. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, you know covering the Hill and Washington politics, the chiefs of staffs especially tend to follow the implicit or explicit purposes of their bosses.  They learn to anticipate, like butlers in the old days.  They know what the boss wants done, they don‘t need a direct order.

But wouldn‘t it be ironic if somebody thought they wanted to do what the boss wanted them to do and it turns out the boss is their chief prosecution witness? 

COOK:  That would be the ultimate irony.

Although, I also have a theory that you only fry for your first boss.

(LAUGHTER)

Nobody has ever gone down for a second boss, defending a second boss or third boss, you know.  But sure.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think Haldeman and Ehrlichman were prosecuted because they were loyal to the wishes of Richard Nixon?

COOK:  Of course they were loyal to him.  But they‘re also—they had only worked for him.  But of course, and I think that‘s—in fact, you don‘t ask the boss, hey do you want me to do this?  No, you explicitly don‘t ask him.

MATTHEWS:  So you protect him, you give him deniability. 

COOK:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  What happens when his deniability turns on you like a lion and prosecutes you? 

COOK:  That‘s sort of a breach of the relationship.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s when I think you stop being loyal.  We‘ll be right back in a moment with Howard Fineman and Charlie Cook.  Let‘s talk some politics.  Some fascinating election stuff already percolating out there, including Connecticut where Joe Lieberman is being challenged by Howard Dean‘s brother, who‘s not running, but he‘s pushing this guy.  This is Howard—HARDBALL, not Howard ball, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, guys, we are back with Howard Fineman and Charlie Cook.  We are watching now for the vote.  It looks like they are conducting the vote right now.  You can see the senators gathered in the well there of the U.S. Senate chamber.  We‘re going to get a vote, perhaps by the end of the program.  A final 50 have voted so far.  They have 50 actually, they have a passed bill, right?  Yes.  It looks like the immigration bill is passing as we speak.  We‘re going to have a bill.  In no way does this indicate we‘re going to have an immigration policy coming out of the Congress because too many divisions of policy here.

COOK:  This is a very balanced package that the Senate has passed.  In the House, boy, it is really, really hard line.  And I don‘t know that either side is really going to cave enough to find that middle ground between those two positions.

MATTHEWS:  And neither side is really going to do the job, I believe, sadly.  Not being tough on immigrants but simply saying you cannot hire people illegally.  They don‘t seem to really want to do that.

FINEMAN:  If I were up in the gallery now and I love being there when they vote, I love watching them vote.  I would be seeing how many Republicans are voting no on this package.  I mean, McCain managed to do this deal.  John McCain did it with a lot of Democratic support.  The key is going to be how many Republicans voted no, because that will give you an indication of whether there are enough allies in conservative ranks to blow the deal.

MATTHEWS:  And they probably will allow as many people outside the corral as they can, right?  Once they get the 50, they‘re going to release as many as possible.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

COOK:  Looking at the sequence of votes...

MATTHEWS:  ... Let me get out of Washington politics for a second to something that‘s much more fascinating.  Hillary Clinton is married to Bill Clinton, the former president.  Hillary Clinton, everyone believes is running for president.  The question is, according to “The New York Times,” yesterday, a big front-page story top of the fold.  “When the subject of Bill and Hillary Clinton comes up, for many prominent Democrats these days, topic A is the state of their marriage.”  Is that right?  Is that a true account?

COOK:  Privately, yes.  I mean, that is—any serious conversation about the Democratic presidential nomination, it comes up in about the first 10 minutes.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, the question is—I‘ll say it indelicately.  The question is whether he is going to cause trouble in the news for her.  Not what he‘s going to do, but is he going to cause her trouble in the news by his personal behavior?  That is question.

FINEMAN:  That‘s the question and that‘s what that story was designed to take a look at.  What‘s his behavior been as a way of judging what his behavior may be like.  Charlie is right.  But it‘s a little larger than that.  The question that you hear among Democrats is, yes we can nominate her.   She may even be inevitable as a nominee.  But can she really win and as you go down the list of questions under can she win, topic A is Bill Clinton.  Her own character, her own record, her others, but topic A under that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me follow this, we only have a minute here.  If he becomes part of the news with his private life, does she have to end the relationship, the marriage, to win the presidency?  Does she have to be that brutal, that much of a butcher?  Can she simply forgive him again?

COOK:  She‘d have to say something pretty good.  But we did a poll, “Cook Political Report” and R.T. Strategies and asked Democrats only if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president in 2008, do you think she would have as good a chance as any other Democrat to win the general election or do you worry that she cannot win a general election?  Forty-seven percent says she has a good as a chance as anybody, 46 percent worried that she cannot win a general election and that‘s part of what‘s sort of baked in that cake, the parties evenly split on can she win.

MATTHEWS:  And the worries come from a combination of factors, being a female, being Bill‘s wife and having to deal with Bill is the third question, right?

COOK:  Yes.  She has an 80 percent approval—favorable rating among the Democrats.  It‘s not that they don‘t like her.  But can she win?

FINEMAN:  The hard part is there‘s a lot of people who are on that negative side of Charlie‘s poll are people who otherwise would be with Hillary big time on the issues.  It‘s kind of paradoxical.  A lot of people who agree with her on the issues are the ones who are most dubious about whether she can win the position.

MATTHEWS:  The immigration bill has been passed by the United States Senate, just as we speak, 62 for, 36 nay.  That‘s a substantial vote.  We‘ll have to wait later tonight to get the breakdown by party.  We don‘t have that quite yet.  We have to go.  I love these topics. 

Thank you Howard Fineman—because they‘re deeply political.  Howard, Charlie Cook.  Howard, as always.  HARDBALL will be back live tonight at 7:00 Eastern to get ready for MSNBC‘s live coverage of President Bush‘s joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House.  It is going to be big news tonight.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

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