updated 6/12/2006 10:59:36 AM ET 2006-06-12T14:59:36

Guests: Richard Myers, Tom DeLay

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Zarqawi caught alive, but delivered dead.  Hillary still hot, but as of today, a House without DeLay.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL.  The U.S.  military wanted terrorist Al Zarqawi dead or alive and it looks like they got both.  Today, the U.S. military confirmed that Zarqawi was still alive when authorities arrived at the bomb site, which destroyed his safe house in Iraq.  Forces on the scene report that when loaded on the stretcher, Zarqawi appeared to recognize he was being held by the U.S.  He attempted to roll off the stretcher to escape, but then mortally wounded, he died. 

In a moment, we‘ll talk about the Zarqawi kill with the man who led the war in Iraq from the get-go, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, and later, I‘ll hold an exit interview, so called, with Tom DeLay on his last day in the House of Representatives. 

Finally, it‘s Friday and that also means we get the goods from the HARDBALL hotshots.  Tonight, MSNBC host Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson, from Tony Soprano‘s home state of New Jersey and MSNBC contributor Mark Barnicle from Boston, Massachusetts. 

But first, we do politics.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the latest in the al-Zarqawi story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Days after a U.S.  warplane bombed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi‘s hideout, military officials in Baghdad said today that Zarqawi probably died knowing he had been hit by Americans. 

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: 

Zarqawi in fact did survive the airstrike.  The report specifically states that nobody else did survive, though from what they know. 

SHUSTER:  According to military reports, Iraqi police were the first to arrive on the scene, finding five people dead and one man conscious, but seriously wounded.  The police placed the man on a stretcher.  American troops arrived minutes later. 

CALDWELL:  They immediately went to the person in the stretcher, were able to identify him by some distinguishing marks on his body.  They had some kind of visual facial recognition.  Zarqawi attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher.  Everybody re-secured him back on to the stretcher, but he died almost immediately there after from the wounds he received from the airstrike. 

SHUSTER:  Today, at Camp David, with the prime minister of Denmark, President Bush again called Zarqawi‘s death a significant step. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Removing Zarqawi is a major blow to Al Qaeda.  It‘s not going to end the war, it‘s certainly not going to end the violence, but it‘s going to help a lot. 

SHUSTER:  Even though Zarqawi was last pictured alive struggling with a jammed gun, he was skillful at grabbing headlines.  The videotape beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg, the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, Iraq, which sparked widespread sectarian violence and mayhem, and the attack on a hotel in Jordan that killed 57 people.  But security analysts believe Zarqawi‘s organization was only responsible for about five percent of all insurgent violence against the Shiites, who dominate the new government. 

And two months ago, “The Washington Post” reported that the U.S.  military was playing up Zarqawi‘s role as part of a propaganda campaign.  Military documents cited by the reports said one of the targets of that campaign was the “U.S. home audience.”  Ever since 9-11, the Bush administration has sought to link Iraq with the terror organization responsible for the attacks, but U.S. officials have acknowledged that Al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq until at after the U.S. invasion.  And with Osama Bin Laden still at large, some White House critics are wondering if the Bush administration used Zarqawi to put a different face on the terror organization that attacked America. 

In any case, a new amount AP/Ipsos poll taken before Zarqawi‘s death shows that while Americans clearly oppose the Iraq war, support for the troops remains strong.  Despite the allegations that U.S. marines last fall massacred 25 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, the poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe the military is doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties.  Still, a growing list of lawmakers argue the best way to support the troops is to bring them home.  Today President Bush repeated that the U.S. will leave Iraq when Iraqi forces can defend themselves and the government has stability. 

BUSH:  We have to be patient here, as this new democracy begins to flourish. 

SHUSTER:  But the latest polling shows Americans do not believe democracy in Iraq is flourishing at all.  And less than half believe Iraq will ever have a stable government.  Finally, when asked whether the U.S.  should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, at 59 percent said it was a mistake.  A 25 point jump in just the last year and a half. 

(on camera):  The Bush administration continues to be cautious about the impact Zarqawi‘s death may have on the insurgency.  Lowering expectations in a tough environment is always good politics, especially on a day like today, when Iraqi gunmen kidnapped an oil minister, seven bodies were found shot in the head and continued car bombings forced the Iraqi government to close all major Baghdad roadways. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  General Richard Myers, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General thank you for joining us.  This war, where is it headed right now after the Zarqawi death? 

GENERAL RICHARD MYERS (RET.), FMR. CHMN., JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: 

Well, I think one of the most significant things that happened in the same time frame is the appointment of the new interior minister, new defense minister.  I think that, in the long term, will have more to do with Iraqis being successful in bringing on line, more than anything else that‘s happened here recently. 

MATTHEWS:  For the fighting men and woman over there, how do they score this war?  Is it catching the bad guys, we once had a deck of cards with their faces on them, or are we beyond that, is it about establishing a secure government over there?

MYERS:  I think it‘s beyond that.  There‘s certainly some bad guys that need to be caught.  Somebody will replace Zarqawi.  He was clearly Al Qaeda, he was clearly a very bad actor.  We got some of his lieutenants, we‘re going to have to get more.  That‘s going to be part of it.  But I think right now their focus is on helping Iraqi security forces, both army and police, air forces or navy, stand up so they can competently take care of this insurgency and support the government.

MATTHEWS:  How do you get a government, and a military with the stamina and the courage to stand up to such horrible people?  They are frightening people, they behead people.  What I‘ve been reading is amazing about what they do to prisoners when they get them.  How do you get that kind of guts in a new government which has basically been put together now among the various groups. 

MYERS:  We see some of it in the coalition forces and Iraqi forces.  My last conversation with General Casey was that the one thing that through all the sectarian violence that stood out was Iraqi security forces stood tall and acted appropriately.  And now that they have leadership at the security level, interior ministry and defense ministry, I think they‘re in a position now to do just what you said. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you getting any reports about the, is there anything compared to the effectiveness of American forces and coalition forces coming out of Iraq right now?  Are we seeing anything being replicated by the Iraqi people on the level of competence that you folks have shown?

MYERS:  Well, I think people understand that U.S. forces are probably the most competent military force in the world, and the most disciplined, the most professional, have the best training, best equipment, the best leadership, and all that.  So it‘s a hard standard to match.  What we have to make sure is that they‘re up to the task that they face in their own country and that‘s what we‘re training to, and hopefully, one day they‘ll be as good as us.  They have the will.  The troops, the Iraqi troops and police that I met with have the will and have the spirit.  If they can get the right political leadership, I think they can make the grade.   

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the leadership on the other side, the bad guys, the ones who are fighting, what percent, when you were in battle over there, leading our troops and planning what we had to do over there, what percentage, in percentage terms, was Al Qaeda compared to the overall terrorist or insurgency we were facing over there, or are facing? 

MYERS:  Well, obviously we went into major combat, there wasn‘t a strong link at all between Iraq and Al Qaeda, I think, as everybody acknowledges.  There were some hints, but nothing concrete that I ever saw. 

MATTHEWS:  So you were fighting Iraqis?

MYERS:  We were fighting Iraqis and Sunnis insurgents and I still think the primary insurgency is a Sunni based insurgency there.  Having said that, Zarqawi and Al Qaeda have the most spectacular events. 

Hospitals, we saw

MATTHEWS:  Beheadings.

MYERS:  Beheadings, the wedding in Jordan.  I mean, they specialize in that and also specialize in trying to drive more sectarian violence, that was their specialty.  To the point where some of even some of the Al Qaeda leadership didn‘t appreciate what they were doing.  Do, very, very dangerous, so even though, maybe not big in percentage of incidents, the incidents they did have, the number of Iraqis killed, certainly Zarqawi and the Al Qaeda had a major hand in that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that, you just alluded to it, do you believe that Zarqawi was an unpopular figure within the insurgency? 

MYERS:  Not within the foreign fighters, certainly.  With some in Iraq, absolutely, because obviously as we talked about, as you just mentioned Chris and as you reported, he works through intimidation, so intimidation is a big part of how he gets the people to cooperate, and he‘s ruthless.  He‘ll kill them, he‘ll kill their children, and I think, so, absolutely.  And we‘ll see that.  We may see some changes with him gone, because he‘s a clever leader. 

MATTHEWS:  When we pick up, American forces pick up a wounded enemy, like him, he‘s clearly a combatant, he‘s not a citizen or I mean he‘s not a civilian standing around, he‘s Zarqawi.  What are the rules on treatment of prisoners like that, he‘s in a stretcher, he‘s obviously trying to get out of the stretcher, according to these reports.  He‘s obviously trying to escape, even though he‘s feeble at this point.  What are the rules, you have to treat him like you would and wounded or what?

MYERS:  Yes, absolutely.  What the president has said and it‘s still standing, but he said it some time ago, is that while they‘re not entitled to the Geneva Conventions, people like Zarqawi, that they would treat them as if they were, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, so ... 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any more information about this strange case where we arrived, American forces, the Iraqi forces had him in custody on the stretcher, he tried to shake loose of his stretcher, and then the American forces put him back on the stretcher and he died like immediately. 

MYERS:  No, I don‘t.  No, I don‘t know.  Obviously, he was severely wounded and died shortly after the strike. 

MATTHEWS:  How good are these 500-pound bombs? 

MYERS:  Well, it depends.  I mean, they‘re -- 500-pound bombs ...

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t we drop a couple thinking we got Saddam in the first couple of days before the war.

MYERS:  We dropped several, and I think some larger than that and—as we heard reports of where Saddam might be, so we were—actually during the war, as a matter of fact, and before the war as well.  So, I mean, they‘re not the biggest weapon we have. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how big a bang are they?  Do they knock out a whole city block? 

MYERS:  Oh no.  No, no, no.  They can a lot more—they‘ll be more precise than that and it would not have that kind of effect, as a matter of fact.  But two of them in a building such as they struck would probably destroy the structure. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any evidence on how we found them.  Was is the Jordanian Secret Service?  Do you know any—how we pulled this out?

MYERS:  No, all I know is that from the time we started over there against this insurgency, we‘ve had people tracking the al Qaeda, Zarqawi in particular, and his henchmen, and they‘ve been working at this for a long time. 

There are reports that, you know, for the last three weeks, we‘ve really been focusing on his spiritual adviser, but the fact is, we‘ve been tracking them for a long time and we‘ll continue tracking the al Qaeda in Iraq.  It‘s a very dangerous threat.  This is their central front for their battle and they just can‘t be successful. 

MATTHEWS:  Al Qaeda?

MYERS:  Right, al Qaeda.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  We‘ll stay with General Myers.  We‘ll be back with him in just a moment. 

And later, Tom DeLay on his last day in office.  After two decades, he‘s calling it quits today.  We talk to him.  This is going to be interesting. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with General Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

General, you worked so closely with the president, so closely with Rumsfeld.  You know, I‘ve noticed something interesting about the president.  Maybe this is superficial, cosmetic, but in the past, when he‘s achieved success over there, the initial clearing of that government and taking over the country, mission accomplished was the phrase, bring them on was a phrase he used. 

He disowned those phrases rather dramatically a couple of weeks ago, but then it was clear after this, catching Zarqawi, the number one bad guy in country, and the president has been very careful not to brag.  What do you think is going on?  What is that?  How is that important if not? 

MYERS:  Well, I think it‘s important because it‘s probably true.  I mean, catching Zarqawi is a significant feat.  It‘s a necessary condition for Iraqis to be successful, but it‘s not—it‘s not sufficient.

And so I think people are just being cautious and saying exactly what it is.  This is a very significant event, but it‘s—but there are other events that are going to have to happen and it‘s still a very dangerous place. 

MATTHEWS:  What does military history tell you about our likelihood of actually ending the insurgency?  Is it the best we can do breaking it down to a tactical problem that a government can handle?  What can we—what‘s our best goal at this point in this war? 

MYERS:  I think our best goal has been the goal we‘ve had for some time and that is to ensure there‘s political progress in Iraq, to ensure that the security situation improves, mainly through the training of Iraqi security forces and police. 

And then there‘s an economic piece of this, an infrastructure that has to stand up and support the people so they get the goods and services that the government would like to provide them. 

MATTHEWS:  But at the point we have to leave, whether it‘s two years from now, four years from now, what do you think it look like as we leave, if we meet the president‘s goal?  What will the goal line look like in Iraq? 

MYERS:  I think the goal line would look like you have got a government now that—by the way, this is the first government that‘s had this long time horizon.  All of the other governments had very short time horizons and not enough time or horizon to do what they needed to do. 

This one is going to be responsible now for three-and-a-half years from now and will have to produce and they‘ll feel that and they‘ll want to produce.  And I think the goal line will be an effective government, a country that is not divided, they‘ll overcome the sectarian differences, they‘ll find a way to compromise. 

I mean, it‘s a country with these great riches.  There‘s no—everybody can have a piece of this pie and it can be one of the richest countries in the Middle East.  They have got the water, they‘ve got the human capital, and they have the natural resources, the oil, so they—I mean, and they‘re farming.  I mean, they produce a lot of food there.  So this is—there‘s two big rivers coming through their country. 

So I think that‘s the end and a security force then that is competent in handling internal security, which will—right now is heavy in the army and lighter on the police, and that will shift over time to more police and less army probably. 

MATTHEWS:  You were worried that once our troops have done the job and we leave and there‘s some cheering on both sides when we leave and a period of time passes, like it did in Vietnam and—it just comes apart. 

MYERS:  That‘s always possible, I guess.  It‘s a difficult region, and that‘s why the prize over there, I think, is, you know, a stable country, a Democratic country, in a region that has seen a lot of instability, would be a very good thing.

But the Iraqis I talk to are really sincere about—my last visit there in August, talking about the president and the prime minister then, said, you know, we ought to be—the first things out of their mouth, meeting with them separately is we‘re so, so sad and embarrassed that your troops are dying for us.  We should be doing this job. 

I mean, there‘s a sincere desire on the Iraqi leadership to take this country through the turmoil and come out with those objectives we just talked about and I believe they can do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you sense that you have enough information having led our forces as chairman of the Joint Chiefs that the mission is winnable?  It‘s still winnable over there, to achieve the goal you set which is a government that can hold that country together? 

MYERS:  You know, where I got my information when I was on active duty was I got it from the men and women in uniform that were serving, and to a person essentially, they believe that.  They believe that they—that this mission is doable, and they‘re the ones out working with the Iraqis every day. 

Now there‘s—obviously, there‘s lots of bad news as well as the good news, but in general, they feel this is winnable, and that they can support the Iraqis to the point where they can stand and do this on their own. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you for your service. 

MYERS:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Up next, Tom DeLay, the former now majority leader becomes a former member of Congress as of today.  What‘s he thinking on his last day in office?  We‘re going to find out here on HARDBALL.  Man to man we‘re going to talk to Tom DeLay.  Imagine the house of Representatives without Tom DeLay.  You‘re going to see that tomorrow, I guess. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today marks the end of an era.  Texas Congressman Tom DeLay was nicknamed “The Hammer” for nailing down a conservative agenda for more than 20 years.  Now he‘s stepping down because he says he doesn‘t want his own legal problems to interfere with that agenda. 

Congressman, thank you, and welcome to HARDBALL.

You‘re leaving—what would you have done if you had been able to stay, say, three or four more years?

REP. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS:  I don‘t know.  That was part of my decision, was even if I‘d have stayed locked down in Texas, running a re-election campaign that would have been a national campaign and got re-elected, I was not in leadership. 

So I don‘t know what the future would have held for me.  I think I probably would have returned to leadership and continued being a strategist for the Republican conference.

MATTHEWS:  How does your seat look down there now that you‘ve vacating it, you‘ve left that race?  Does your party have a good shot at winning that seat again this fall?

DELAY:  Yes, no doubt about it.  It‘s a very solid Republican seat.  It‘s a 55 percent Republican base, and a candidate without the baggage that I was carrying is going to do very well.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the big news late this afternoon. 

Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, who‘s been the big anti-war voice these last months, has announced that he‘s going to challenge Steny Hoyer for number two, the majority leader‘s position, the position you‘ve held, if the Republicans are defeated this fall.

DELAY:  Well, first of all, I think they‘re counting their chickens. 

I mean, that‘s a bad omen, bad karma. 

They‘d better wait to see if they get the majority first. 

And secondly, I don‘t know that it doesn‘t play into the Republican

hands to have a leadership race going on in the Democrat Caucus right now -

could drive some wedges that they might not need.  They need to stay together if they‘re going to have any chance at all winning the majority next year—or this year.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Murtha, a man who‘s always been a quiet

as you know, a quiet supporter of the Pentagon, a hawkish fellow, fought in the Korean War, fought in Vietnam, never a murmur out of him that sounded doveish—all of sudden coming out and saying not only should we get out of Iraq right now, but these Marines are guilty, basically?

DELAY:  Jack Murtha is a very good friend of mine.  I have the utmost respect for him. 

I don‘t agree with him on this.  Actually, I was shocked.  I was incredibly shocked.  And so I‘m not going to question his motives.  I‘m sure he believes strongly in what he‘s saying, but it could be the worst thing for our troops.

And Jack Murtha has been one of the most—the strongest members of the House of Representatives in protecting the troops, and all this talk about pulling out just undermines not only their morale, but undermines the will of the people to fight and win the war. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come right back and talk to you some more, Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas.  We‘ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELAY:  Mr. Speaker, this is a happy day for me, though admittedly perhaps not as happy as it is for some of our old friends on the other side of the aisle.  But nothing—not this retirement, not tough losses or old wounds—can detract from the joy that I feel, and the blessings I offer to this House and its members.

I say goodbye today, Mr. Speaker, with few regrets, no doubts.  And so with love and gratitude for friend and foe alike, patriots all, I yield back the floor of our beloved House and I exit as always, stage right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Tom DeLay, of course, yesterday, bidding farewell to the House of Representatives, where he has served all these years.  He‘s with us right now.

Congressman DeLay, historically there‘s two kinds of Republicans, like there‘s two kinds of everything.  There are what we always called cloth coat Republicans, regular people who believe in the conservative cause.  Then there‘s the rich people, the country club crowd. 

Does it bother you, as a cloth coat guy who‘s never made much money in this business at all, who came in with no money, to have spent all your years fighting for lower taxes which have basically benefited the richest people?  Does that bother you to be a cloth coat guy fighting for the mink coat crowd?

DELAY:  No, Chris, because I‘m not fighting for any one individual, I‘m fighting for our economy, the way of life and the quality of life for the American people, and I‘m fighting for human freedom. 

Cutting taxes is a human freedom thing that helps build this country, and helps push it along.  It creates thousands—if not millions—of jobs.  It allows people to buy houses and buy cars and it just stimulates the economy, as we all know.  It‘s not done to benefit one group or another.

MATTHEWS:  But does it bother you all the years you‘ve been in power, as you‘ve gained power for your cause, that the people that have come to you—the lobbyists, the bigshots, the fat cats, the people who contributed a lot of money to the Republican Party—who have come to you as a regular guy with no wealth and said this thing we want through, this special thing we want through, will really help us, it will give us relief.  And you know they‘re just rich people who want to get richer.  That doesn‘t bother you?

DELAY:  First of all, I don‘t see it that way, Chris.  What I see is we‘ve built one of the largest political coalitions that‘s ever been put together in the last 50 years, of people of like mind, that believe in less government, fewer taxes, stronger economy, strong defense.  And it took that kind of big, political coalition in order to drive a conservative agenda.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the war in Iraq.  It has not gone well overall.  We got Zarqawi, the Air Force did the job.  We got some help, apparently, from the Jordanian intelligence people—the tribespeople, perhaps—and they got some people to turn our way.  But are you sure—are you as sure of this war as you were when you accepted the need to go in there in the beginning?

DELAY:  Absolutely, and I respect you, Chris, but I strongly disagree.  The war has been going very well.  Our casualties are less than what was expected.  We now have a new government in Iraq.  We are getting the bad guys. 

We are sending a very strong message to the entire world that we will not stand for terrorism, for the killing of innocent people, and we will do something about it, instead of waiting around and treating it as if it‘s a law enforcement issue.  We‘re winning this war.  We will win this war, and American and the world will be better for it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe right now we can see a fewer number of recruits to these terrorist organizations because of our engagement in Iraq?  Worldwide?

DELAY:  Well, who knows?  I mean, there are evil people all over the world, and evil people seem to congregate together.  They could use the death of Zarqawi as a recruiting tool, but it doesn‘t matter. 

What matters is the Americans‘ resolve and the resolve of the president and his moral leadership to let the world know that we will remain strong and our resolve is strong and we will win this war against these terrorists.

MATTHEWS:  Have you heard from the president in the last couple of days as you‘ve gone through this transition?

DELAY:  No, I haven‘t.  I‘ve been ...

MATTHEWS:  Does that surprise you?

DELAY:  ... kind of busy, myself.  No.

MATTHEWS:  Does that surprise you, he hasn‘t bothered to give you a call?

DELAY:  No, during the time I was trying to make a decision, he was right there and very concerned about me and my future.  We are not close friends, but we‘re—we have the utmost respect for each other and the president has been very good to me.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s a little rich kid who shouldn‘t have had such a big job?

DELAY:  Not at all.

MATTHEWS:  You think he‘s fully qualified and should have been president of the United States rather than somebody like you ...

DELAY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... from a humbler background?

DELAY:  I think when history is written, if will show that George W.  Bush was a strong leader that stood up for what he believed in, regardless of what the polls said, and tried to lead this country in the right direction.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re fully on board with the president‘s program and his role in history, and you have no real differences with this president?

DELAY:  No, I‘ve always had differences with this president.  I don‘t agree with him on immigration.  I don‘t think you ought to give people that are here breaking our laws any special treatment by giving them a path to citizenship.  But that doesn‘t mean that I don‘t have respect for him. 

Everyone—I mean, I think someone said once before, if you have two people that agree on everything, all you need is one of those people.  He is a man that has a basic, strong, moral leadership and understanding of where he wants to lead this country.  And I‘m still there supporting him. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the personal experience of being a U.S. congressperson, congressman.  Do you have a different view of the institution than you had going in?  You know, how is it different? 

I mean, if you had to teach a class and said, you know, I always wanted to be a congressman, I got elected, the people backed me year after year, term after term, and they said, well, how is it different than you expected, how would you answer? 

DELAY:  Well, certainly, it‘s different now than it was when I first came in.  When I first came in, you were there working in the House with the majority.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I wasn‘t calling the shots personally though.

DELAY:  And being in the minority was not fun.  But see, I never planned to go to Congress.  I was one of those that basically wanted to follow Ronald Reagan and was pulled out of the private sector wanting to do something, wanting to accomplish something, wanting to turn back the liberalism of the past and go forward with the conservatism of the future. 

And so when I came in, it was very difficult for me with the Democrats in the majority, but now I think we have changed this town.  We have changed the culture of Washington, D.C., and I think the institution has changed for the better.

MATTHEWS:  The liberals had a 50 year run, as you pointed out, going back to—well, back to certainly in the early 50s, and they had a long run going back to the 30s before that without a few interruptions there under Joe Martin. 

But let me ask you this:  Do you think the Republican run is going to continue?  You‘ve held the House now since ‘94.  Do you think you‘ve got another 10 years or is it another couple of years, this run?

DELAY:  Well, it‘s—to be honest with you, Chris, as long as the Democrats are afraid or ashamed of their world view and are ashamed to go out and deal in a honest, adversarial debate with the conservatives, I think we are appealing to the American people. 

They have seen liberalism and its defeat, if not its destruction, and they‘re moving towards conservatives.  So yes, I think conservatism, Republicans and these majorities will continue for a little while longer.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the worst thing about Democrats that they‘re hiding from the public?

DELAY:  Oh, that‘s their liberalism and their view of the world.

MATTHEWS:  Well, define it.  What‘s it really?

DELAY:  More government, more taxes, more interference in your personal lives, more—their hands on your wallet.  They believe in big government.  They believe government can solve all solutions, but they‘re afraid to go to the American people and understand that.  And they generally lean towards the culture of death, and their support of abortions and the judiciary and those kinds of issues.

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you very much.  Thank you very much for taking the time on this big day for you.  Congressman Tom DeLay, we‘ll be hearing and seeing a lot more of you in the years to come, I‘m sure, on programs like this, I hope anyway.  Thank you very much.

DELAY:  I hope so, too.  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the HARDBALL “Hotshots.”  Who made the news this week?  Who‘s up, who‘s down?  The “Hotshots” shoot it out. 

This HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Yes, it‘s that time, time for our special Friday feature, HARDBALL hotshots.  My colleagues this week are MSNBC host of “THE SITUATION”, Tucker Carlson, host of “LIVE AND DIRECT”, Rita Cosby and Mike Barnicle, of “The Boston Herald.”  Let‘s dig in. 

First up, who won the week?  Americans are increasingly down on the war in Iraq, but the president scored a major victory this week with the killing of Al-Zarqawi.  It‘s a big blow to Al Qaeda, but will it disrupt the insurgency, which military experts say constitutes most of the problem in Iraq. 

Also this week, Republicans racked up a big win in Duke Cunningham‘s district, out in California.  Republican Brian Bilbray took home the cake, but is it truly a bellwether for 2006?  The big question, are things looking a little bit brighter for the reeling Republican Party as the week ends, Mike Barnicle? 

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I don‘t know, Chris.  They did manage to win that San Diego seat, but everything is local in politics as you know, as we learned from our great mentor, Tip O‘Neill, and immigration was a huge issue out there.  It‘s Iraq back east and many other areas the country.  I don‘t think that one congressional victory in a special election is a bellwether of anything, other than how the people in San Diego feel and the two most important issues out there were probably the question of immigration and the question of, you know, what sun block they use when they go to the pool. 

MATTHEWS:  And also how stupid the Democratic candidate was.  Let‘s go to Rita Cosby, I think she weighed in here and they found her light. 

RITA COSBY, HOST “LIVE & DIRECT”:  And also she did that big fumble, where she basically said illegal immigrants, who don‘t need papers and at the end of all that for Republicans to sort of be saying rah-rah today, Chris, I agree with Mike because look, it was 49 percent to 45 percent, that‘s not like a big Republican win after the Democrat fumbled.  I agree, I don‘t think it‘s a bellwether at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST “THE SITUATION”:  I don‘t know, it‘s not a bellwether.  Nothing is a bellwether.  I think we read so much into these off year races, I certainly do anyway, but I think it tells you one important thing and that is in a lot of districts, not just if San Diego, immigration trumps corruption.  Bilbray had a lot going against him.  He was lobbyist for God‘s sakes, running to fill the seat of a guy who went to  jail for dealing with lobbyists.  It looked bad for him, he just ran immigration all the way to victory, I think that that works.  And not just in border states.  People are mad about immigration, we don‘t hear it, because everyone we‘re around is all for illegal immigration. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t count everybody.  Let me ask you this.  Do you think the president‘s party might win and hold the house on an issue he doesn‘t agree in, which is stopping illegal immigration. 

CARLSON:  Great question.  Bilbray ran against Bush.  He said point blank, time and again, even as the White House helped him, he said I don‘t agree with Bush, we‘re on opposite ends of this.  That‘s a smart strategy, I wouldn‘t be surprised if you see a lot of that in the midterm. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike, catching Zarqawi.  Give it some weight, how much is it? 

BARNICLE:  I think it‘s huge for the American military, I think it‘s huge for the American public, because of the talk show nation culture that we live in, I think, unfortunately, too many people will be prone to say, this is an enormous victory for us.  That war is going to go on for a long, long time, the war on terror, as well as the mish mash in Iraq, but it‘s a huge proud day for the military. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  Smack down, this week we got a ringside view of two heavyweights who both brought the pain.  Ann Coulter let loose against the 9-11 widows, first on “The Today Show,” then on “THE SITUATION” with our friend Tucker. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  People who know people who perished in 9-11, average Americans are going to think Ann Coulter is a whack job and a bad person and I‘m not buying her book and I‘m not listening to her ideas.  Isn‘t it self-defeating to say things like that? 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR:  I guess we‘ll say by my book sales.  I don‘t think they will say that.  If people are going to use a personal tragedy in their lives to inject themselves into a national debate, I‘m sorry, you can‘t just say, we‘re off limits, oh now we‘re going to invoke the fact that our husbands died and you can‘t criticize us.  They were specifically using their husbands‘ deaths. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  So are the thousands of widows who were not cutting campaign commercials for Clinton.  These women got paid, they ought to take their money and shut up about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Hillary Clinton‘s response:  “They never wanted to be a member of that group that‘s defined by the tragedy of what happened, and I felt it‘s unimaginable that anyone in the public eye would launch a vicious, mean spirited attack on people I‘ve known in the last four and a half years to be concerned deeply about the safety and security of our country.  Perhaps the book should have been called ‘Heartless.‘”  Rita?

COSBY:  A lot of fighting on both sides.  One thing Ann Coulter is right about in terms of her book sales, latest AMAZON.com, it‘s number one, number two on BARNES&NOBLE.com.  I mean, it‘s selling books, whether you agree with her or not.  And it‘s certainly helping Hillary Clinton.  Democrats, particularly in New York, hate Ann Coulter.  I think it‘s helping both sides. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, Mike, who are the people going out to buy Ann Coulter‘s book?  Is this the little pretend revolver in their holster, they walk around carrying that book?  I mean, it does have charges in it like how do we know these women weren‘t going to be divorced by their husbands who were killed on 9-11? 

BARNICLE:  Yes, you know, Chris, this isn‘t about politics.  This is nauseating, and to use the refrain from a Harry Potter movie, she who must not be named, that‘s the author of the book, I would challenge her to stand in front of any one of those women‘s children or anyone who lost a parent on September 11, and read those passages, and explain to that child, what she meant when she wrote about their mother, and their deceased father. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they celebrating this at the publishing house do you think, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  Of course they are.  You‘ve never met a more amoral group of people than people in the publishing business, many of whom are my friends.  There‘s no defending those passages, they‘re repulsive.  I read the book though, unlike most people, and it‘s pretty smart, I have to say.  Parts of it are thoughtful, she makes good points.  All of it gets blown up, none of it is heard by anybody because she makes these lunatic statements.  It‘s almost a kind of masochism.  You spend the time to write this book and make points worth hearing and then you basically get yourself written off as a crack pot because you can‘t control yourself and you say these incredibly nasty things.  It‘s weird.

COSBY:  But on the flip side, Tucker, what does this say about our society.  She knows she is making headlines.  She knows this is going to sell books and it‘s working. 

BARNICLE:  She‘s a genius marketer.  She is a genius marketer.

COSBY:  Right

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, did you reach into your pocket for this purchase or was this a perk of office? 

CARLSON:  Come on, I work in television, Chris.  I don‘t buy books.  I get them for free. 

COSBY:  Tucker doesn‘t pay for anything. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t want to have to call you one of these nebbishes. 

That‘s all. I want to take you up the nebbish list. 

CARLSON:  I must say, I love, I‘m not defending the passages, she annoyed the hell out of me on the show, they make you mad, those passages.  On the other hand, do you make liberals mad?

MATTHEWS:  Do you find her physically attractive, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not going to answer that, because the answer, I don‘t want to hurt anybody‘s feelings.  That‘s not the point. 

MATTHEWS:  Positively.

COSBY:  Don‘t ask me that question. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike, do you want to weigh in here as an older fellow.  Do you find her to be a physically attractive woman? 

BARNICLE:  I‘m too old to be doing that.  I had enough fights in my life. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Rita, do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?

COSBY:  I‘ll throw it back to you, Chris, do you find her attractive.

MATTHEWS:  You guys are all afraid to answer.  No, I find her—I wouldn‘t put her—well, she doesn‘t pass the Chris Matthews test. 

I‘ll be right back with much more, you‘re watching HARDBALL Hotshots, only on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL “Hotshots” with Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby, and Mike Barnicle. 

Next, up, without DeLay.  Today “The Hammer” has pounded his last nail into the United States Congress.  Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay leaves a legacy of tough hardball politics that fired up his enemies surely, and his loyal supporters.

But tonight we ask is DeLay‘s goodbye truly the end of an era for Republicans in Congress.  They rose to power, of course, in the Republican revolution of ‘94.  They unified in the fight against Bill Clinton during impeachment.  They united again in their support of President Bush, but now could it be that it‘s every person for himself or herself. 

Tucker, is this the end of an era?

CARLSON:  Before I answer, Chris, do you find Tom DeLay physically attractive? 

MATTHEWS:  No. 

CARLSON:  OK, good, neither do I.

MATTHEWS:  That wasn‘t exactly a stumper. 

CARLSON:  Good point.  Look, I mean, DeLay was a very talented—in fact, a brilliant technician.

MATTHEWS:  I think he does look like Chris Cooper, the movie actor though.  I‘ll say that.

CARLSON:  I haven‘t thought it through.  He was not an ideologue.  Go look at the tape of the interview you just did with him.  You said to him, what is a liberal?  He gave a pretty inarticulate answer for someone who‘s spent his life in politics.  I‘m not attacking him, merely pointing out ...

MATTHEWS:  He said big spending, big taxes, big regulating.  That‘s the list, isn‘t it?

CARLSON:  Sure, but it wasn‘t—it‘s not a particularly deep answer.  My only point is, he has never been the ideological leader of the Republican Party.  He‘s the guy who was a vote counter.  He got things done.  So I mean, the question is, what do Republicans believe?  Whether DeLay is there or not has no bearing on that question. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mike, one thing is he won elections, he won votes.  And every time they had a tough, close one, a nailbiter, he would win on like the tax cuts, even when we didn‘t have that kind of a economy that required a tax cut.  He would win.  He tended to win.

BARNICLE:  But what—you know, your original question—maybe it was the Philadelphia accent.  Did you mean end of era, E-R-A, error, E-R-R-O-R as far as DeLay? 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, oh.  Are we going to start—are we going to go through the tournament, tournament thing here? 

BARNICLE:  No, look at, for the first time in that interview that you had with him, Chris, just a few moments ago, there‘s an element of charm to him that I have not seen before.  But he brought such a mean-spiriting fact to politics that things that went on in the House 20 years ago, 25 years ago, Republicans and Democrats having dinner together, that no longer occurs.  They hate one another now.  That‘s not good for anybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you know, I want to ask Rita about that.  Whose fault is that, that they hate each other?  Both sides now?

COSBY:  You know, I think it‘s both sides, and I also think it‘s the country too.  I mean, we‘re in such tense times, we‘re talking about Iraq, we‘re talking about everything.  It‘s a very emotional time in the country. 

And, you know, getting back to DeLay too, also, real quick, you know, Chris, I‘ve interviewed him too, and there is a charisma about the guy.  Love him or hate him, he was galvanizing at least a certain part of the party. 

MATTHEWS:  But I agree with Michael.  I didn‘t think of it, although he went through the list in kind of a cold way, big government, big spending, the usual list.  He didn‘t have that kind of thing that I know that guys like him feel, Mike.  You know what they‘re talking about.  They don‘t like the elite intellectuals with the degrees and to look down on other people. 

BARNICLE:  Oh, absolutely, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, that‘s what they really don‘t like.

BARNICLE:  I mean, you can see that this guy where he‘s from, the income, the background that he has, he comes to Washington, D.C., he‘s got the gavel.  He not only is going to slam it down on the House podium, he‘s going to slam it down on these tweed-faced, preppie looking, waspy people around him in politics.  He‘s going to show them who has clout.

MATTHEWS:  I like that.  I like the way you think, Mike. 

Next up, there‘s no place like home.  I like the way he thinks sometimes.  As the 2008 election kicks into high gear, tonight we ask, how popular are the top contenders in their home states?   Catch these numbers.  On the Republican side, 54 percent of Virginians approve of George Allen, their senator.  In Arizona, a whopping 70 of likely voters like John McCain.  They think he‘s doing an excellent or good job. 

On the Democratic side, 51 percent of New Yorkers say that Hillary Clinton is doing an excellent or good job.  Sixty percent in the Bay State have a favorable view of John Kerry, and 63 percent of Hoosiers approve of Evan Bayh.

Mike, does that tell you much or are those numbers too surprising?  I think they‘re very surprising.

BARNICLE:  Well, I am surprised by them, because I mean, up here in Massachusetts, we had a presidential candidate, Mike Dukakis, before John Kerry ran for president and as soon as he came out of the gate running for president of the United States, his poll numbers in this state went south. 

And John Kerry‘s—when he was running for president—I didn‘t believe he‘d check it out, his approval rating went south.  I think people in their own states are very different, obviously, from state-to-state, but they like people who they think I elected this person to do that job.  That‘s the job they‘re doing.  Don‘t try to do two. 

MATTHEWS:  You think that‘s true of Hillary, Rita? 

COSBY:  You know, it could be in the case of Hillary, but, you know, the overall principal, Chris—I mean, if you look at does the state help or hurt, Bill Frist in the Straw Poll—I remember we talked about this on your show.  You did a show from there. 

You know, he won the Straw Poll there in Memphis but it would be hard pressed to say that he‘s sort of the frontrunner in his state.  So I don‘t think it necessarily equates one or the other.

MATTHEWS:  I have a question—go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON:  But Hillary‘s is so low.  I mean, weren‘t you struck by how low Hillary‘s numbers was? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I was.

CARLSON:  I think she beat—last year she had 54.  I don‘t have the numbers right in front of me, but the point is she‘s been there six years.  She‘s in a campaign of sorts.  She‘s raised 26.5 million.  You‘d think she would be at a lot higher than 51.  I don‘t know if it‘s accurate or not.

MATTHEWS:  I think will be ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Tucker, about McCain‘s numbers.  They are so high and yet you always hear Republicans complaining about him, because he‘s not really a regular Republican.  Do you think a lot of that 70 percent are Democrats?

CARLSON:  Yes, and independents, but part of the key to that—and no one ever writes about this—McCain is brilliant at constituent services.  I mean, these are his own—this is Arizona, this is where he lives, these are his people, and he‘s really good at that. 

If you‘ve got a problem in Arizona—I mean, he‘s like Ted Kennedy or a lot of people who have been in the Senate for a long time.  You know, he‘s nailed his state down.  He helps people.  I think that probably accounts for a lot of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, let me ask you about John Kerry.  John Kerry, is he at 60 percent up there?  Is that reading?

BARNICLE:  I think so, but it‘s a funny reading for John Kerry because he doesn‘t have the warmth and the appeal with voters that a Ted Kennedy, for all the baggage that he has, has with these same voters.  He has an aloofness.  People respect him. 

They admire the job he‘s done.  As Tucker said, he tries very hard and has tried very hard recently to do a more effective job at getting those baby booklets out to people in Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, well, maybe you mix up Tommy Mannino (ph) and Kerry you get a Kennedy.

Anyway, thank you, Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby and Mike Barnicle. 

Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Out guests will include legendary actor and director Robert Redford.  He‘s coming here Monday.

Right now, it‘s time for the “ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

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

END   

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