updated 5/26/2006 7:35:15 PM ET 2006-05-26T23:35:15

Guests: Bob Bennett, Jonathan Alter, Anne Kornblut, Robert Dallek

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  Witness for the prosecution—will Vice President Dick Cheney testify against his own chief of staff?  Will loyalist Scooter Libby be condemned by the very man he served? 

Let’s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I’m Chris Matthews. 

To enter or not enter, that seems to be the question top Republicans in Congress were asking themselves this week as they protested against the FBI raid into Democrat William Jefferson’s congressional office.  They say the executive branch went way too far.  Now Republicans in Congress are angry that their leaders are defending a Democrat. 

Plus, the Senate passed an immigration bill.  But will the House go along with amnesty for millions of illegals? 

And our favorite weekly treat, tonight, the HARDBALL Hot Shots have come to town. 

But first here to take on FBI raids and CIA leaks is Washington attorney Bob Bennett.  He’s a former federal prosecutor and lawyer for former “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller, one of the journalists at the center of the CIA leak case. 

Welcome. 

Bob, you understand politics as well as the law.  Why do you think the special prosecutor keeps circling the vice president?  In the latest filings, for example, you’ve got a conversation, some dialogue with the vice president and his chief of staff, who has been indicted, talking about Valerie Plame over and over again, five times a day, an incessant conversation. 

Why hasn’t the vice president been nailed yet as part of this problem? 

BOB BENNETT, JUDITH MILLER’S ATTORNEY:  Well, I don’t know, Chris, that the vice president is a target. 

But I think what Fitzgerald is doing is he’s trying to undercut the defense that Mr. Libby’s lawyers have very publicly raised, that he didn’t really remember, he made a mistake.  And I think what Fitzgerald is trying to say, if the vice president was actively involved and told you to do some things and wrote notes on newspapers or whatever to give to you, that’s not something you’d forget. 

So I think it’s really largely a tactical thing. 

MATTHEWS:  If the prosecution establishes that the vice president was all wired up on this thing, all upset about the charges made by Joe Wilson, all upset about the possibility that he could perhaps blame the whole trip to Africa on a junket and not be held responsible himself, does that prove that Scooter Libby, the chief of staff, lied? 

BENNETT:  No.  I don’t think it proves it one way or another. 

I think what we keep forgetting is it’s a very narrow charge against Scooter Libby, but the context of the charge is very broad.  And so, no, I don’t...

MATTHEWS:  Here’s what I don’t understand. 

Scooter Libby is a pretty smart guy, he’s a foreign policy expert, he’s not only, you know, national security adviser to the vice president, he’s not only chief of staff to the vice president, he was assistant to the president.  And here he is faced with knowledge, his own knowledge purportedly, I think reasonably to assume, he had seven conversations in which the evidence, knowledge of Valerie Plame’s identity at the CIA.  And then subsequent to those seven conversations, he had a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC.

And after seven conversations in which he shows knowledge to each of the other persons he talked to, of knowledge of Valerie Plame’s undercover identity at the CIA, he claims he learned that information from Tim Russert in a subsequent conversation. 

That’s a pretty bold denial, isn’t it, or assertion? 

BENNETT:  Yes, and I can’t explain it.

But I always say to clients when they come in, don’t flunk the investigation, you know.  If much of what Mr. Libby is now saying he had said at the front end, we wouldn’t be here talking about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense that at the end of all this prosecution, whether or not it includes more than Scooter Libby, we’ll know what happened in the vice president’s office and in the White House in terms of trying to destroy the public testimony of Joe Wilson about the war in Iraq?

BENNETT:  I don’t think so, Chris.  And the reason for that is when I appeared last (inaudible) weeks ago before the district court (inaudible) on the motions (inaudible), Judge Walton made it very clear a number of times to Mr. Libby’s lawyer, was that he wasn’t going to try a broader case, that he was going to try the narrow charges. 

MATTHEWS:  And so we’ll simply find out whether someone perjured themselves or obstructed justice? 

BENNETT:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  We won’t find out whether the vice president’s office engaged in a cabal to cover up a bad case for war?

BENNETT:  I do not think so. 

MATTHEWS:  So it’ll be very unsatisfactory as a mystery story in the end?

BENNETT:  I think it will be very unsatisfying.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Where are we going to end up on the shield situation? 

You’ve defended Judith Miller. “Time” magazine is now being asked to provide evidence to the court by the special prosecutor. “The New York Times” may well have to provide documentation. 

Where are we at in terms of a reporter’s right to keep a secret relationship with a source? 

BENNETT:  Well, let me add to your litany there. 

We on behalf of Judy Miller don’t have to produce anything.  He was—he granted our motion in its entirety. 

I think the reporters’ rights here are all but extinct. 

MATTHEWS:  Extinct.

BENNETT:  All but extinct.

MATTHEWS:  Unless there’s legislation at this point. 

BENNETT:  Unless there’s legislation.

And I think any legislation will have a number of qualifiers in it, a number of exceptions in it. 

So I really think at the end of the day, reporters are going to have to depend on the good judgment of prosecuting authorities and judges not enforcing various requests for documents. 

MATTHEWS:  So if one of us says, I’ll keep it on background or I’ll keep it off—well, off the record never made much sense to me—keep it on background, we won’t say who I got the information from, that we won’t be able to carry out that ourselves; we’ll still have to make it contingent on the courts obviously? 

BENNETT:  I think that that’s right.

And I think one unfortunate thing about this case is this was not a very good case.  You know, they say bad facts make bad law.  Supreme Court many years ago decided the issue and there have been—has been some softening over the years by some courts.  But this was not a good factual case to have the courts take a step back from the Supreme Court. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Ted Wells can get an acquittal here on Scooter Libby? 

BENNETT:  You know, I never want to predict what juries will or...

MATTHEWS:  Are juries in this city still predominantly Democrat and minority, anti-Republican? 

BENNETT:  No, it’s really changed a lot since I was a federal prosecutor. 

I think you have much more mixed juries here. 

I don’t have much doubt that Scooter Libby will get a fair trial, but I do think they would be more Democratically oriented, and I think a jury here will be very troubled about the background noise of this case, the outing of an agent. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, and also the war too. 

By the way, I never think I’d ask this, but I was fascinated by the front page of the newspaper today about the Enron case.  Here’s a huge rich guy, who’s a friend of the president, Kenny boy, we know all that, sort of an iconic symbol of all the corruption in the corporate world, you know, screwing the stockholders—what do you call it—looting the business at the expense of the stockholders and the employees who get stuck without pensions. 

That jury certainly made a character assessment of these guys, didn’t it?  They were saying we thought one guy—you know what they were saying. 

BENNETT:  Yes, I have to be careful, because, you know, I represented Enron in the case, and fortunately, the Justice Department agreed not to charge the company, which enabled us to do some...

MATTHEWS:  But were you surprised by the jurors’ comments as they came out saying, I thought one guy was too much of a big shot, he was telling the courtroom how to behave; the other guy knew too much about accounting to be ignorant of the crime itself? 

Very sort of seat of the pants kind of judgments about people. 

BENNETT:  Well, I think that’s what juries do, they do make seat of the pants judgments.

And I think it’s very difficult for a CEO of a company or chairman of a board of a company with the sterling resumes and degree after degree and all sorts of business acumen and to say, well, I didn’t know this or I didn’t know that or I didn’t think this was wrong. 

I think what was more troubling to the jury from what I’ve read is one of the initial premises of the whole defense, which it did surprise me a little bit to be candid with you, because I did represent the company, was the assertion that nothing wrong occurred at all and that this was just the product of news reports and things like that. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  Too much noise there to believe that there was nothing there. 

BENNETT:  I think so.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you quickly about this—last—about this interesting supposedly constitutional case. 

For some reason, the wagons are being circled on Capitol Hill to include Democrats and Republicans, people have got a real mess on their hands like Bill Jefferson with this, you know, the marked bills in the refrigerator.  And they sting him and then they go prove they’ve stung him by going into his fridge and finding $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. 

Why do you think Hastert is standing up and how good a case does he have as speaker to say institutionally because of the checks and balances, you cannot have a raid on a congressman’s office? 

BENNETT:  Well, that’s just constitutionally absurd. 

There’s nothing in the Constitution either under separation of powers or the speech and debate clause which prohibits the FBI, under the auspices of the Justice Department, from doing what they did.

One thing that I’m very concerned about is that this will be intimidation of the FBI and the Justice Department.  And if they are to keep their credibility with the American people, they had better not capitulate on this one.  You have several investigations taking place involving members of Congress and staff.  And this would be a very, very bad precedent.

You know, the Supreme Court decided in the Brewster case, Senator Brewster...

MATTHEWS:  Of Maryland.

BENNETT:   ... in 1972 that bribery was not a part of the legislative process, and so I think these arguments are silly. 

And I guess the final point I would make is, you know, Congress itself does a horrendously bad job in watching the ethics and—of its own people.  The ethics committees or committees on standards, which have this responsibility, while they have some very good staff people, their hands are tied.  It’s a laughing stock.  So I find it more of a political move than anything. 

MATTHEWS:  A safe harbor for Congress on Capitol Hill then, right? 

BENNETT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Thank you, Bob Bennett, as always. 

Coming up, the Senate passes an immigration reform bill, but it’s very different than the House version that was passed a couple months ago.  Can Congress agree on a real bill to stop illegal immigration?  I am skeptical. 

And later, our special Friday night feature, “The HARDBALL Hot Shots” sound off on whether Dick Cheney could take the stand in Scooter Libby’s trial and how Hillary will deal with Bill if she runs for president.  You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It’s been a busy and strange week in politics with new developments in the CIA leak case.  The speaker of the House standing up for a Democrat and now a glimmer of hope, there may be an agreement on an immigration bill and a very small glimmer it is before the midterm elections.

So let’s get to it.  Anne Kornblut is with “The New York Times” and Jonathan Alter reports for “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  His new book is called “The Defining Moment:  FDR’S 100 Days and the Triumph of Hope.”

Welcome.  Well, let’s try to talk about hope.  The Clintons, can they avoid a focus between now and the election on their private life?  Your paper broke a big story this week. 

ANNE KORNBLUT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  We do have a story this week about the state of their marriage.  I think that since impeachment, it’s been part of the Clinton narrative and one that will be inescapable for them, just as part of the story line going forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you’re covering Hillary.  What have they done in reaction to “The Times” piece?  Have they sniffed and said this is below you and this is some kind of a gossip column writing?  What’s been the reaction to that piece? 

KORNBLUT:  There’s been a pretty full range of reaction.  I would say that the strongest reaction has come from the blogosphere.  I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised, but there was a pretty fierce reaction online, especially from the left.  I think one of the surprising responses has been that it’s rallied the left, which had been carping a little...

MATTHEWS:  With rallied to what? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, her defense.  If you read through a lot of the criticisms of the story...

MATTHEWS:  What’s their defense of why you guys shouldn’t have reported what you did?  Is there any factual mistake in the piece that they point to? 

KORNBLUT:  I haven’t seen it.  That isn’t to say it isn’t there.  I haven’t seen it.  But I am assuming it is not there.   

MATTHEWS:  I know there’s a liberal or to the left sense of a protection racket about Hillary.  You can’t say anything against her or Bill Clinton.  This sort of—I call it the glass menagerie liberalism, it’s very fragile.  You can’t take any offense or else you’re being crushed by your enemy.

But isn’t it now fair game to talk about somebody running for president and their marriage?  Isn’t that fair game? 

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  It is fair game, and I don’t think actually the blogosphere was so upset by jumping on the Clintons.  They were coming to Hillary’s defense, because the only thing that they distrust more than the Clintons is “The New York Times.”  And you had to be Dan Brown to decode the story, no offense to your newspaper, but I mean, it was kind of written in code.  And...

MATTHEWS:  It was a hint-, wasn’t it John? 

ALTER:  I think that a lot of readers—even though this was an important story, made a big splash.  I don’t have an problem with it as journalism.  But readers get annoyed when a newspaper doesn’t just come out and say what they know.  There was a kind hinting...

MATTHEWS:  But then there was the factor saying...

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  ...get them both ways.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let’s be blunt about this.  Your paper, not your piece, it was Paul Healy, top of the fold, right at the top of the newspaper, front page this Tuesday, named a third party, the former Canadian minister.  I have never—this is a pretty bold statement by the paper of record that there’s a third party in question here, who’s caused concern among Democratic leaders, money people, consultants, that this marriage may be itself the issue going into 2008. 

KORNBLUT:  Well, look, I mean, it was acknowledging that there had been speculation in tabloids in New York about this third party, but I think what we found is that people were attacking the paper for being too prurient, nosy about their personal lives, but not being prurient enough by not coming out and saying more.  It really is a case of you can’t win. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the public respect the press for keeping stories like this to themselves?  After you—you know, what I’m asking. 

ALTER:  rMDNM_No, absolutely not. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Nobody gets any brownie points for saying we never told you that this whole marriage is a joke or this guy is a drunk or this guy is taking drugs.  I would like to know when anybody has been given any awards for keeping secrets, because you know what they say then, which hurts me more than anything?  You’re in with those guys.  That’s the worst charge against a journalist that you’re covering them up. 

ALTER:  There are these unwritten rules.  And I think the unwritten rule in this case is that it won’t be off to the races on this story until she decides that she’s running for president.  As long as she’s in the Senate and hasn’t actually made the decision, I don’t think you’re going to see a big feeding frenzy on this.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you this question.

ALTER:  First of all, we don’t know what there is to this story, but if there were something to it, if there were, then I think at the point that she announces for president, it will become a very large story. 

MATTHEWS:  Anne Kornblut, do you think there’s still an outside chance that Hillary Clinton looking at this kind of press scrutiny, which is clear from your paper—like it or not it’s there, no more delusion on their part, they’re not going to be covered in this regard. 

She says if I’m going to have this facing me for the next 10 years, two presidential terms, two years of campaigning, whether my husband and I have a regular marriage, a regular faithful marriage like people think of it, if that’s going to be the topic, I’m not going there. 

KORNBLUT:  I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that in conversations I’ve had with a lot of people who talk to her directly about this all the time that she almost is concerned about jinxing the presidential race, that she talks about the Senate race really seriously.  She isn’t running for president as much as people around her are running her for president.  I am telling you, she doesn’t talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  She doesn’t talk about it because she doesn’t honestly state much about herself. 

KORNBLUT:  She doesn’t have to.

MATTHEWS:  She’s very, very shrouded, isn’t she?  Hooded as a person. 

She would never tell you what she wants. 

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  ...immense scrutiny.  Which is it? 

MATTHEWS:  No, I am saying, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is going to make public announcements, nor would any politician, about what their ambitions are because the one thing politicians never talk about is what they want.  They talk about the public interest.  They talk about public service.  They talk about the country.  They talk about the world.  They never talk about what they want.

ALTER:  Even privately she isn’t right now.  I mean, there is this thing they call Hillary land, which is working day and night to lay the groundwork for a race, but it won’t be until the midterm elections that they actually sit down and face the issue squarely of whether she’s going to run for president.  So it sounds like B.S., but it’s actually true that she has not made a formal decision to run for president where she sits with her advisers. 

MATTHEWS:  Hold on for a second.  But that’s a redundancy.  She hasn’t made a formal decision. 

ALTER:  Not really, because the issues like this have not been raised for debate. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I make money betting that Hillary won’t run? 

ALTER:  It’s all subtext.

MATTHEWS:  Can I make money betting Hillary won’t run?

ALTER:  Yes, if you get the right odds, you could make a lot of money. 

MATTHEWS:  The right odds, about 40-1 or 50-1.  We’ll be right back with Jonathan Alter and Anne Kornblut.  You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We’re back with Anne Kornblut of the “New York Times,” and Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek.”  And you’ve heard—name the—give me the name of your book, the big one ... 

ALTER:  “The Defining Moment: FDR’s 100 days and the Triumph of Hope.” 

A rare commodity nowadays, right?

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about something that’s pretty tricky here on the question of presidential honesty.  I think all politicians—I think I made that point before the break—are not honest.  They just don’t tell you everything.  They wouldn’t be successful, maybe. 

They have strong reserves of restraint about what they tell you about themselves.  Certainly, their number one ambition is to get ahead and have power and be famous.  They never tell you that. 

They never say, you know, I’d really like to president because that would make me a real success in life and I’d be a her.  I’d be in the history books.  So they say, no, what I really want to do is do health care when I get there. 

ALTER:  But the point is if they’re not good.

MATTHEWS:  Are you challenging this? 

KORNBLUT:  I’m just—I’m amazed at your cynicism, Chris, that people might just not want to just change the world. 

ALTER:  It’s a mix.  They have mixed motives.  All the good ones have mixed motives, personal motives.  I mean, Roosevelt was a very conniving politician in a lot of ways, but if he hadn’t have been a good politician, he couldn’t have been a great leader. 

I mean, this idea that somehow we have this marbleized idea of these guys who come down and are above politics and somehow serve the people, you can only serve the people if you master the art of politics, so that’s why we shouldn’t be too hard on these guys. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it’s not being hard.  It’s being aware of who’s leading us.  Anne Kornblut, for example, I would do a paper trail on every politician that runs for office that he just wants to serve the people and see how many times he ran for student or class president during his entire life.  He ran seven or eight times, so don’t tell me it’s not just for public service.  It’s for acclaim.  It’s acclaim.

KORNBLUT:  Well, and there’s people, but there are also people who engage and participate.  I mean, I think—Sure, I agree.  I think it’s all those things, and if you really—if all you wanted was acclaim and riches, you’d go do something else.  You’d go be a Hollywood starlet.  I mean, there’s plenty of other things you can do besides politics.

MATTHEWS:  There may be other reasons, but they fill us with that information.  What they never tell us about is the ambition part, all the things you talk about they tell you about.  What’s interesting to me is the hidden motives of politicians and why they want what they want.  And their public speeches are generally glowing about their goals, but the private interest is more fascinating. 

Let me ask you about this Blair.  Are you stunned that the president apologized last night for being such a cowboy during the Iraq war so far? 

KORNBLUT:  I wasn’t surprised.  If anything, I was surprised it took him so long over all these years to figure out what his answer was to the have you made any mistake question.  He got it years ago, and it was a disaster.  He fumbled, he paused.  He couldn’t think of anything. 

Finally last night he seemed to have thought about it and come up with an answer that he was not ashamed to say and that, you know, was going to work for him politically. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it is too paltry what he said? 

ALTER:  No, I think it was actually the first time in months that I’ve been able to look at him and say, you know what?  That was a smart thing to do.  He looked like he had a dose of humility and he’s needed that had for so long.  I mean, this idea of being this arrogant, my way or the highway attitude has just been killing him, not just overseas but at home as well. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I agree. 

ALTER:  So it was a small step, but he had to take it.

KORNBLUT:  And what better place?

MATTHEWS:  It was honest too, because I don’t think he would honestly say going to Iraq was a mistake. 

ALTER:  No, he doesn’t believe that. 

KORNBLUT:  Well, I don’t think there’s evidence that he believes that, but I was thinking, you know, when I was listening to it again this morning, that what better place to deliver that kind of sympathetic message than standing next to Tony Blair?

MATTHEWS:  Who we all like

KORNBLUT:  Who Americans have consistently liked and who has been, in

some instances, a far better articulator of the reasons for going to war

than Bush himself and I think especially in that context, I think, you know

...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if Bush looked more like Hugh Grant he would be more popular? 

KORNBLUT:  I have never thought about that.  What do you think?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jonathan.  Good luck with the book.  And Anne Kornblut, of the “New York Times”, thank you. 

Up next, it’s Friday and that means it’s time for the “HARDBALL Hotshots” to take a swing at the big stories of the week. 

And on Sunday on NBC, join Tim Russert from “Meet the Press” and an immigration debate between Senator Chuck Hagel and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. 

You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It is right.  Yes, it’s that time, time for our special Friday feature, “HARDBALL Hot Shots.”  My colleagues this week, Tucker Carlson, Norah O’Donnell and Craig Crawford, who is sitting right with me now.  He has got some kind of arm in his thing here.  But let’s dig in. 

First up, breaking in is hard to do.  If you didn’t know better, you’d actually think the congressional Republicans are defending a congressional Democrat.  Dennis Hastert, Bill Frist and a growing band of Republicans are up in arms over the FBI’s raid of Representative William Jefferson’s congressional office.

Even though Jefferson is under investigation for bribery, Congress says that the executive brand is out of bounds and over the line in this breaking.  First, warrantless spying, now this, what gives? 

Norah O’Donnell, is this a real argument or just the leadership trying to show solidarity in circling the wagons? 

NORAH O’DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, this is a very tough one, because in filings in court, the FBI and Justice Department says that they have videotape that Congressman Jefferson from Louisiana, a Democrat, took bribes of over $100,000, and then he stuck them in aluminum foil and other things in his freezer and such.  and so then of course they raided the Capitol. 

The president has essentially stepped in, in what is an unprecedented manner—and this search was an unprecedented manner—to say timeout. 

And what really, I think, is most fascinating about this is that many members of Congress think this is just one more example of an executive branch that has overstepped its bounds and that the president responded so quickly to when the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert called and said you have got to do something about this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, which is it, is he chicken with Congress or is he too tough with them? 

O’DONNELL:  Well, I think he stepped in for a minute and said let’s take a timeout wile we look through this, but I think that the motive of Speaker Hastert, is, you know, he’s been attacked by conservatives.  It is like why are we helping this Democrat, who’s obviously involved in some corruption here? 

MATTHEWS:  I don’t get that either. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY:  I get that one. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?

CRAWFORD:  I mean, this isn’t bipartisan spirit, this is self-protection.  With all of the Republicans under investigation up there, they need to establish a precedent that the government can’t do this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask Tucker that.  Tucker, how can you have as a principle that the government, the executive branch, the judiciary, the law enforcement officials, cannot in principle enter even with a warrant, a Congressman’s office?  How can you make that case? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  Well, I mean, the federal zone, the zone around Capitol Hill is supposed to be policed by Congress itself.  That’s why you have—I think you were a Capitol policeman.  I mean, you know this, right?  So it’s separation of powers question. 

MATTHEWS:  If it is Jeffrey Dahmer sitting up there on Capitol Hill, they are going to damn well go into his office. 

CARLSON:  He’s not a member of Congress.  And that is the key point. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but if a member of Congress—you’re saying that there’s an actual principle of law here under the constitution that the judiciary—the judicial branch or judicial executive cannot go into an office to checkup up on a crime. 

CARLSON:  It’s not clear to me that it’s settled, but it is clear that members of Congress have a kind of immunity or at least a self-policing when they’re on Capitol Hill, as you know. 

But I think this is a cool story because here you have the Republicans standing up on principle.  Maybe there is some motive, as Craig said, of self-protection here, but I think the clear motive is just to tell the executive branch, no matter who is in it, back off, we police our own Capitol. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I think it is a cool story.

MATTHEWS:  That’s an absolutely ludicrous argument because... 

CARLSON:  No it’s not. 

MATTHEWS:  ...the Capitol Police do not look into bribery cases.  They look into drunken driving maybe.  They don’t do bribery. 

CRAWFORD:  It’s when these things are taken to the extreme.  It’s like the notion that the guilty go free to protect the innocent. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Wait a second. 

CRAWFORD:  If you have a president...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Capitol Police find out whether a congressman has been bribed or not? 

CRAWFORD:  Once the principle is established that the government can do this, they can do it in much more...

MATTHEWS:  Let Tucker finish.

CARLSON:  No, Craig makes a really good point.  You don’t need to be a libertarian whacko or a constitutional scholar to see the potential problem here with an executive branch swooping into Congress into the physical boundaries of Congress, and, you know, raiding offices for instance or serving this law enforcement function. 

I mean, it would be a pretty easy way for the president to intimidate members, and that’s why the founders were wary of that.  They wanted the powers to be separated.

MATTHEWS:  If that’s true than any Congressman who is a crook—and a number are—will now keep all of their dirty stuff on the Hill because it is impenetrable by the executive or the judicial branch.  That would be an interesting situation, where you’d have basically a hiding place for criminality up on Capitol Hill. 

Anyway, let’s move on.  We may disagree here.  I don’t even have an opinion.  Next up, will Cheney take the stand?  The newest court filings from the leak case, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald show what may be a call upon the vice president to testify in Scooter Libby’s trial, if he can prove that Cheney was focused on Valerie Wilson.  Can he prove that his chief of staff was too? 

Let me go to Craig here.  The vice president of the United States sitting in the witness chair against his chief of staff.  What a moment. 

CRAWFORD:  Key thing is here, he’ll probably be under oath and that matters because if he wants to avoid exposure to a perjury charge himself, he’s going to have to tell the truth.  This is his version of inconvenient truth perhaps. 

MATTHEWS:  Can he take the fifth? 

CRAWFORD:  I think that would be tough.  Because the will get out, and it will make him look guilty, as anyone who takes the fifth looks, which is OK in the legal setting, but in the public it is different.  But they might have to run him through a magnetometer to check for heat. 

MATTHEWS:  Norah, what is interesting here is they are asking—it looks like they are going to do bring—if they do—the vice president of the United State in to testify against his former chief of staff by confirming the testimony given by the former chief of staff about the number of conversations per day the two of them had about Valerie Plame and what work she may have done against the interests of this administration. 

O’DONNELL:  First, sources close to the vice president tell NBC News and my colleague, Lisa Myers, that the vice president does in fact think that he will have to testify eventually in this case. 

Second, the reason that the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wants to compel perhaps Cheney to testify is because he says that it can go directly to the state of mind of his chief of staff, Scooter Libby. 

Remember that Joseph Wilson’s op-ed was published on July 6, 2003.  And then we learned from these court documents that Cheney scribbled on “The New York Times” op-ed.  They have got a clip of this.  It’s in the filings, where he said what is this, did his wife send him on a junket, of course is the key phrase. 

Libby testifies in the grand jury testimony that we have read that he became—that Cheney, the vice president, wanted to, quote, unquote, “get the truth out,” and that it was discussed on a daily basis multiple times.  Eight days after Wilson’s op-ed was published that was when Novak outed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as the CIA operative.

So the special prosecutor says this goes directly to the state of mind that there was an obsession—that’s not his words—that there was an obsession about this particular article within the White House.  It was discussed daily and multiple times a day. 

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, it seems like the trail of evidence, at least in connecting the dots, is that the vice president from the time he told Scooter about the identity of Valerie Plame on June 12, all the way to July 12, when he said—apparently gave him some instructions on how to deal with the press in this matter, was trying to push the story out of her identity. 

CARLSON:  No doubt.  And there’s no question, and I think he will be compelled to testify. 

But three quick questions, one, is anybody ever going to be charged with the leak of Valerie Plame’s name?  No.

CRAWFORD:  Absolutely, yes.

CARLSON:  Two, does anybody actually care other than the blogosphere?  Probably not.  And three, will any president ever impanel a prosecutor without strings like Patrick Fitzgerald in the future?  Will anybody ever be dumb enough to impanel another special prosecutor?  I suspect not. 

I mean, this was a ridiculous decision on the Bush administration’s part in the first place.  They should have hung tough and said, look, if you can—no crime was committed with this leak, but instead in the interest of good government or to appease somebody. 

Who knew—God knows why, they impaneled this guy Fitzgerald, who did what they all do, which is become obsessed.  And this thing has like spun into some bizarre direction.  Ultimately, back up a second and ask yourself if you care.  No, you don’t.

MATTHEWS:  But you remember how it started because the attorney general, Ashcroft...

CARLSON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ...had a relationship previously with Karl Rove. 

Therefore, he couldn’t handle the case.

CARLSON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He recused himself as A.G. and turned it over to Fitzgerald for that reason.  It wasn’t like they decided at first impulse, let’s get a special prosecutor.  He had a conflict problem, the A.G. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Some people said he did. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... important to remember the CIA initiated this investigation.  It was the CIA’s concern about what had happened that started this... 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... and there was a split there between the White House and the CIA.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you completely, Tucker, except they had a problem here, that was the relationship between Ashcroft...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and the possible targets here. 

I’ll be right back with much more. 

You’re watching HARDBALL Hot Shots, only on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We’re back with the HARDBALL Hot Shots, Tucker Carlson, Norah O’Donnell and Craig Crawford. 

Next up, the dis you couldn’t miss—as we look forward to a big 2008 presidential election, we’re reminded once again just how lethal the perfect one liner can be and just how damaging or career-making political debates can be. 

This week, former Clinton treasury secretary and former V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen died at age 85. 

After decades of public service, he’ll be best remembered, however, for the rhetorical putdown of the century. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE ®, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. 

LLOYD BENTSEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. 

Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Tucker, it’s best remembered as the killing—the public killing of a career. 

CARLSON:  Yes, that was the high point of Bentsen’s career, I mean, pretty much. 

And it shows—actually, the deep lesson here is that preparation pays off in the end.  I mean, these guys always retreat, you know, to the basement of some hotel, you know, there in the Columbus Room at the Marriott for a week beforehand doing the rehearsals and there’s a good reason.  I mean, he had this—if you watch that tape and watch Bentsen’s face carefully, you can see, oh, wait, I’ve got a rejoinder, and then he just masterfully sent it in.  It was impressive.

MATTHEWS:  Well, poor Dan Quayle looked like he just got an arrow in his neck. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... even a rank amateur could put down Dan Quayle.  I mean, if you watched Quayle before Bentsen’s comments, he looked so bad. 

But we’ve got to remember, who became vice president after that election?  Dan Quayle, not Bentsen. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Norah, this Dan Quayle guy, I’ve always thought that this was an example of a fellow who should have stayed where he was.  If he had stayed in the Senate from Indiana, he would have probably been re-elected term after term.  By now he would have been a wizened, old long-time chairman of the Armed Services Committee.  Instead, he was hung out to dry at a very bad point. 

Anyway—go ahead.

O’DONNELL:  Yes.

And his youth and inexperience essentially became the moniker that, you know, dogged him throughout his entire vice presidency. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he was Bill Kristol’s favorite boy. 

Any way, coming up, how can Hill deal with Bill? 

First, the top of the fold—front page “New York Times” story this Tuesday.  Then a David Broder “Washington Post” column.  Both take on the question of political king makers, political junkies and (inaudible) else can’t avoid.

If and when Hillary Clinton runs for president, what will Bill be doing in that campaign?  How does the Clinton marriage fit into the long-term political plan here? 

“The Times” article says, quote, “When the subject of Bill and Hillary Clinton comes up, for many prominent Democrats these days, Topic A is the state of their marriage and how the most dissected relationship in American life might affect Mrs. Clinton’s possible bid for the presidency in 2008.  Democrats say it’s inevitable that in a campaign that could return the former president to the White House, some voters would be concerned or distracted by Mr. Clinton’s political role and the episode that led the House to vote for his impeachment in 1998.” 

Tucker, was “The Times” right to report this big story of something we should be looking at?  I think that was the theme of it.

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean, I have no doubt.

I mean, look, this story was written with the help of the staffs of former President Clinton and Senator Clinton.  They, you know, gave facts that the story couldn’t have been written without.

So you’ve got to wonder to what degree this is a calculation on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s forming presidential campaign, let’s get this out early. 

I’m just struck by all the liberals I know—and I know a lot of them

how lukewarm they are about Hillary Rodham Clinton, and though they like her husband a great deal, how many of them seem uncomfortable at—you know, once you start thinking it through, she’s elected president and he’s in the White House—what does that mean?  What would that look like?  It’s pretty weird at very least, I think. 

O’DONNELL:  Well, Chris, it’s the most fascinating story in journalism and politics today. 

I mean, this is the most interesting political couple out there.  She was a fascinating first lady and now she’s the first first lady turned senator and now she wants to run for president.  And Clinton is the big X factor in this race. 

Is it a legitimate story?  Yes.  We did a follow-up story on “The Today Show” the next day that I did and I spoke with many Clinton advisers who didn’t want to talk on camera about this story, who didn’t want to talk really that much about it at all because they don’t want Senator Clinton to be distracted in some ways by former President Clinton.  And as former President Clinton has said, “I try not to cause any problems,” so he is trying to only be a help, not a hindrance.

But he is the X factor.  Because the big question becomes, is it going to be a two for one presidency in 2008?  Is he going to help, is he going to hurt?  Will he bring along his baggage or will he be an asset?

Clearly he’ll be her chief political adviser and fund raiser in chief, but it’s fascinating to talk about this.  What political...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let’s not skip away from the main point here. 

The question is, is he creating new baggage as we speak? 

Craig?

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... it gives them star quality.  I mean, as show marriages go, they probably rival Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but I mean, who cares.  They’ve got a political partnership, that’s more foundation than a lot of marriages have.  And people are going to talk about this marriage. 

But, yes, I think, you know, the more he’s out there, he overshadows her.  You know, when they were together at the Martin Luther King funeral...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I see we’re changing the subject again. 

Is the question of their marriage an issue or not in this campaign? 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Of course it’s an issue. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But I think it helps her. 

I mean, look, if he hadn’t been exposed as a philanderer, would she be a United States senator?  No, of course not. 

MATTHEWS:  Will she continue to benefit as the victim of Bill Clinton’s behavior, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  Exactly.  That’s—as Margaret Carlson famously said, nobody has every benefited more from sexual favors she herself did not dispense than Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Can’t beat that.

What a weekend that’s coming.

CARLSON:  It’s true.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Tucker.  Thank you, Norah.  I like the way Norah stays very prim when that...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O’DONNELL:  I cracked.

MATTHEWS:  There he goes, me too.

Craig Crawford, thank you.

Everybody have a nice weekend.  We have once met again.  The “HARDBALL Hotshots.” 

Coming up, inside the Kennedy mystique.  How did President Kennedy use the media, pictures, photography, to help make him one of America’s most beloved and iconic leaders? 

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Even though he’s been gone for almost 43 years now, unbelievably, why do JFK’s speeches and photos still resonate in our national psyche?  Part of the answer was his ability to be one of the first presidents to exploit the power of television to create his personal image. 

In his new book, “Let Every Nation Know:  John F. Kennedy in His Own Words,” Robert Dallek makes the case that JFK continues to be one of our most popular presidents because of his grasp of the media and the power of his timeless rhetoric. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.  The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it.  And the glow from that fire can truly light the world. 

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. 

Ask what you can do for your country. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Kennedy was also a master of the photograph, the photo-op, so-called.  The iconic images of him and his family, like those found in the new National Geographic book, “The Kennedy Mystique:  Creating Camelot,” is a constant reminder about the 1,000 days of our 35th president. 

Robert Dallek contributed to that book as well, and he’s here this evening with us to assess why JFK continues to play a role in our American landscape.  First of all, let’s pop the balloon.  The term Camelot had nothing to do with the Kennedy administration. 

ROBERT DALLEK, “THE KENNEDY MYSTIQUE”:  Of course not. 

MATTHEWS:  It was made up afterwards by Teddy White.  It was the new frontier, it was in black and white.  Somehow afterwards, the whole Kennedy administration becomes colorful pictures of Jack with the donkey and Caroline, and you agree? 

DALLEK:  Absolutely, and the country loved it because we all remembered he was assassinated.  There was a sense of great grief and pain.  I don’t think the country has gotten over that assassination yet, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I don’t think so.  Me neither, personally.

DALLEK:  Just they still suffer over it.  And he’s frozen in our minds at the age of 46, so young, so handsome, so vital, so thoughtful, witty, charming, and we miss him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let’s be positive.  Let’s not get too much into mysticism, although that’s what this book’s about.  It seems to me that we’ve never had a great president who couldn’t give a good speech and wasn’t a great orator.  There’s no such thing as that. 

DALLEK:  I agree, because you have to communicate with this mass public in America.  And, of course, Thomas Jefferson didn’t like public speaking, and he would send his State of the Union messages in written form.  He didn’t like to do it. 

But in the modern era, of course—Woodrow Wilson gave speeches, people they were so lyrical you could have danced to them.  Theodore Roosevelt was terrific at it.

MATTHEWS:  Wasn’t he?  And so was Reagan. 

DALLEK:  Reagan brilliant at it, and FDR, of course, was the master of them all. 

MATTHEWS:  And the ones who couldn’t give great speeches—Carter, Johnson, Jerry Ford—they seem to slide off the shelf of history, don’t they? 

DALLEK:  They do.  They fall into the background.  The rhetoric is not remembered.  You know, Chris, I don’t think people remember a great deal about what a president achieved.  Do they remember that Theodore Roosevelt was the architect of the Food and Drug Administration or that Wilson the Federal Reserve system of the FDR wages and hours, or even Lyndon Johnson? 

How many people remember now that he was the architect of Medicare?  What they remember is the rhetoric that inspires the country, that gives the country hope about the future, optimism.  And I think that’s why these speeches are of interest to people still. 

MATTHEWS:  These pictures of Kennedy—they must be, without a doubt, the best-looking head of state and spouse in any country at any time in history.  I mean, you cannot believe it. 

I see why the Latin American crowds loved him, because of what he looked like, and that he was a Catholic too, on top of all that.  You know, the way they were treated in the world seems to be just based on what we’re looking at right now, isn’t it?  Is that it?  Look at her.

DALLEK:  Yes, of course.  She’s gorgeous. 

MATTHEWS:  She looks beautifully French, and the kids all look like movie stars and ... 

DALLEK:  Sophisticated, charming, just—and remember, Kennedy, in a sense, was our first TV president.  He was the first one to hold live televised press conferences and the press loved it and they helped to build that image of him. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—I mean, I look back on him, I look at his press conferences, and I say they could work today. 

DALLEK:  Oh, I think so.  I think he still would have been a very effective president.  And, you know, one can talk about what he did in Vietnam and what we’re doing now in Iraq and ask the question would he have done this?  And my answer is no.

MATTHEWS:  He would have gotten out. 

DALLEK:  Oh, but he never ...

MATTHEWS:  But he left office with 18,000 troops over there, advisers, so-called, and he also left us with a commitment he made at the last speech he gave on earth in Fort Worth, where he said if we leave that government, that government will fall tomorrow, so he was committed at the end though. 

DALLEK:  There were 16,800 advisers there, but he had already instructed McNamara to pull out 1,000 by the end of the year. 

MATTHEWS:  That was to push Diem into playing ball with us, wasn’t it?

DALLEK:  Well, it was partly that, but he said to McNamara at one point ...

DALLEK:  I mean, big men (ph).

DALLEK:  Well, right, but they were talking about invading Cuba and Kennedy said to McNamara—Bobby said, the plan is very thin.  And let’s remember what happened to the British in the Boer War, to us in the Korean War, the Russians in the Finnish War.  We could get bogged down.  Now, if he ...

MATTHEWS:  What would Cheney have done during the Cuban Missile Crisis?  Bombed?  Ha, I hate to think. 

DALLEK:  Oh yes.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you Robert Dallek.  I just asked.

On Monday, join me for a special edition of HARDBALL as we look at the work and life of America’s pastor, the Reverend Billy Graham.  It’s going to be great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think it’s like?  Heaven? 

REVEREND BILLY GRAHAM:  Oh, gorgeous.  One of the first chapters of Revelation describes it in detail.  No more tears, no more suffering, no more death, not even a sun or a moon because God is the light of Heaven. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there will be a lot of people in heaven?  Do you think?

GRAHAM:  Oh, yes.  I think they’ll be a lot of people and a lot of people won’t be there too that you expect to be there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That’s Billy Graham Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern on HARDBALL.

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