updated 8/17/2006 11:24:16 AM ET 2006-08-17T15:24:16

Guests: Joe Biden, Gov. Tom Ridge, Ned Lamont, Ryan Lizza, John McCaslin, Shimon Peres

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Politics ramped up today.  Joe Biden is in Iowa and tells us he is definitely in the ‘08 race for president.  Another ‘08 Republican hopeful, George Allen, apologized again today for his macaca comment.  And President Bush campaigns for Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I am Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL. 

Decision 2006 is off and running.  Republican heavyweights are hitting the campaign trail weeks before Labor Day in a full-court press to save their party from defeat in the upcoming elections.  President George Bush is barnstorming Pennsylvania to try to boost Lynn Swann‘s campaign for governor. 

Dick Cheney is out west for a second day, stumping for candidates fighting for their political lives, and the party is even drafting spouses into political combat.  First Lady Laura Bush, more popular than her husband now, is raising money in three states including the battleground of Ohio. 

And signs that decision 2008 is closer than you think, Republican contender John McCain made his third stop in Iowa yesterday.  And tonight, we will talk to Senator Joe Biden, a Democratic hopeful, direct from Des Moines. 

Plus, will an off-the-cuff, racially charged comment from the campaign trail damage Senator George Allen‘s presidential campaigns?  More on this in a moment. 

And later, Ned Lamont, Connecticut Senate nominee, answers my HARDBALL questions about his campaign.

Plus, will the cease-fire in the Middle East last?  Israeli Vice Prime minister Shimon Peres is in Washington today, and tonight, he plays HARDBALL.

But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster reports on a busy day in campaign politics. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Eighty-four days until the congressional elections, and everybody the big guns in both parties are now hitting the campaign trail hard. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s critically important to remember that this nation is fighting a war, and I am concerned there may be a tendency in some quarters to discount the threat. 

SHUSTER:  With Vice President Cheney and President Bush both drawing attention to last week‘s foiled terror blot, former President Clinton, during an interview on ABC News, accused the administration of playing politics with the London arrests. 

WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They seem to be anxious to tie it to al Qaeda.  If that‘s true, how come we have got seven times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan? 

SHUSTER:  President Clinton has generally refrained from sharp criticism of the Bush administration, and the unusually pointed remarks prompted a return shot from the White House.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  He doesn‘t know what we are doing to go after al Qaeda.  Period.  He doesn‘t know.  We are not broadcasting it. 

SHUSTER:  Traditionally, midterm elections bring out the heavy-hitters and their verbal jousting only after Labor Day.  But with control of Congress at stake and public anger building over the Iraq war, both parties are already operating in high gear. 

CLINTON:  We went from a $5 trillion projected surplus to a $5 trillion plus projected deficit.

SHUSTER:  With President Bush and Vice President Cheney forced to defend unpopular foreign policies, the GOP is dispatching First Lady Laura Bush to talk about domestic issues.  Near Chicago, the Democratic candidate for Congress is Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee.  On Tuesday, Laura Bush campaigned for Duckworth‘s opponent, Peter Roskam. 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES:  We know that in the United States House of Representatives, Peter Roskam will support tax cuts.  And the tax cuts are what fueled our economy. 

SHUSTER:  Presidential politics are also ratcheting up.  New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech today on volunteerism, an issue with national appeal. 

Republican frontrunner John McCain spoke earlier this week in Iowa, host of the first presidential caucuses in 2008.  Today McCain headed to Virginia for a rally with Senator George Allen, who remains under fire for comments about this man working for the Democratic challenger. 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  And let‘s give a welcome to macaca here.  Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia . 

SHUSTER:  In his second apologize in as many days, Allen said, quote, “I am concerned that my comments have been greatly misunderstood by members of the media.  In singling our the Webb campaign‘s cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia.  I never wanted to embarrass or demean anyone, and I apologize if my comments offended this young man.” 

In the Connecticut Senate race between Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont, loser turned independent candidate Joe Lieberman, and Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger, last night on HARDBALL, Schlesinger acknowledged he has owed as much as $10,000 in gambling debts. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a gambling addition, sir?

ALAN SCHLESINGER ®, CT CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE:  No, I do not.  I think I have played once this year. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you are over it, right? 

SCHLESINGER:  I never had a problem.  I just enjoy recreation.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I mean, when you run up a $10,000 debt at a gambling table, I would probably call that probably overdoing it a bit for most people. 

SCHLESINGER:  I think to Ned Lamont that‘s lunch money.  It depends on how much you are worth and how much you play. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, did you ever used a false name to get a wampum card at an Indian-owned casino?

SCHLESINGER:  Yes, that‘s the same story that you are referring to.  I

MATTHEWS:  Well, is it true or not? 

SCHLESINGER:  Oh, absolutely it‘s true.  It‘s a marketing program for a casino and I did not think it was anybody‘s business when I play in a casino, just like you can play anonymously.  And I just did not want my name on any of their marketing lists. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you used—what name did you use? 

SCHLESINGER:  Alan Gold. 

MATTHEWS:  Alan Gold? 

SCHLESINGER:  Yes.

SHUSTER:  Schlesinger, Alan Gold, or whatever he calls himself has not been endorsed by a single national Republican.  And while most Republicans are simply staying silent, yesterday GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine offered this. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  I very much hope that Senator Lieberman will be reelected in the fall.  This is an important voice of moderation and expertise in the Senate. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  The fact that so many politicians are joining campaign battles now in the dog days of August underscores the dramatic stakes.  And the heavy-hitting across the board is evidence that passions already are boiling over. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  You were talking about all the campaigning going on. 

Let‘s go to Senator Joe Biden of Delaware who is up in Iowa.  Senator Biden, it looks like you‘re on the presidential trail again.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  I am.  I am.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re running for president in 2008?

BIDEN:  I am, I am.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you—you haven‘t been on the show in a while.  We miss you and a lot of terrible things have happened.  We‘ve had a Mideast war that seems to be slowing down a bit.  We‘ve got the horrible possibility of being attacked in the air over the Atlantic that‘s been broken up, and the situation in Iraq has turned to hell.  A hundred people a day dying there now in this apparent civil war.

Put it all together for us.

BIDEN:  Well, bottom line is, Chris, what‘s happened is that the world has figured and the bad guys have figured out that we are absolutely tied down and tethered to Iraq.  And Iraq is going to hell in a hand basket. 

I got back from my seventh trip over the Fourth of July, speaking to all the commanders there.  They are straightforward.  They‘ve been saying it all along.  Our flag officers said look, it‘s not the insurgency.  It is a civil war, stupid.  It‘s a civil war.

We have no plan, Chris.  I know people criticize the plan that I put out, which is the only plan out there about how to separate these parties, how to give more local autonomy, how to give the Sunnis a piece of the action in terms of the oil, and how to work out a deal with the major powers to keep the other nations out.

Absent something like that, Chris, unless you give these groups breathing room, nothing else is going to happen.  It‘s going to be a civil war.  And all the king‘s horses and all the king‘s men aren‘t going to stop it. 

In the meantime, you look at Iran.  I believe that‘s part of the

reason why Iran gave Hezbollah the green light.  They have no fear of us

moving against them.  It has caused real chaos in the region and you know -

I remember being on your show, Chris, after I came back from being one of the only guys in the country in Lebanon when they had their elections.

I went all up and down the country, met with everyone from Jumblatt to Annan and all those guys.  One thing they are all united on is their concern about Hezbollah.  You pull out the Syrians and what they said and what I came back and said to the administration, hey, there‘s a vacuum there, Hezbollah is going to fill it.

The deal was you are going to bring the Lebanese army down there. 

You‘ve got to train them and pay them.  You‘ve got to get them down there. 

We‘re great at projecting force, but we sure aren‘t good at follow-up. 

And the bottom line of all of this is that there is real chaos and confusion based upon the realization that we have no policy.  We think elections presented—cause a democracy to come into place. 

Look at the democratic proposals in this administration.  Force elections in the West Bank and you get Hamas.  Have elections in Lebanon and you get Hezbollah.  Have elections up in Iraq and you‘ve got a Shia-based state.  I mean, they have no plan, Chris.  There is no policy.

MATTHEWS:  World War II, the United States part of it, from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima, was 45 months.  We‘re 41 months into this war.  Within four months, our war in Iraq will be as long as our role in World War II.  Senator, you‘re running for president or thinking seriously about it. 

You‘re on the road to that.  How do we get out of that country?

BIDEN:  We get out of the country—first of all, we‘re going to get out of the country one way or another.  The question is, do we get out having traded a dictator for chaos, a civil war and a regional war, or do we get out of the country leaving behind a relatively fragile republic that is a federated republic where all the three major constituencies—Shias, Sunni and the Sunni Kurds—all believe there is better reason to stay in the deal than get out of the deal?

We need a Bosnia-type solution here.  We need a solution where you give the parties breathing room, where you, in fact, mandate through our quiet diplomacy, whispering in ear—in Maliki‘s ear, saying give the Sunnis a piece of the action.  Make an offer they can‘t refuse, 20 percent of the oil revenues.

And ask our military to begin to put in place a plan how by the end of 2006 we‘re out of there—I mean, 2007, we‘re out of there, because ironically, there‘s not enough troops there to make a difference.  The troops that are there are part of the problem but there‘s no plan, Chris.  They‘re just saying stay the course.

MATTHEWS:  Right, but you‘re talking about—well, I don‘t want to knock people because the region, but asking the Shia to give the Sunnis a piece of the action, a piece of the land, is like asking the Arabs to give the Jews a piece of the action.

BIDEN:  Well, by the way, it‘s close ...

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s why people don‘t make divisional decisions. 

They want it all.

BIDEN:  Guess what?  They do want it all and if they want it all, you‘re on your own, Jack.  Look, when you remember—you were away or you were on another assignment and one of your stand-ins had me on when the president was over—made a surprise trip to talk to Maliki. 

And there—the president said he—they put up on a screen our president whispering into his president‘s ear and they said what do you think of that?  I said, I hope he was whispering in his ear, “Hey, Jack, let‘s get something straight here.  You‘ve got to get Sunni buy-in.  If you don‘t, you‘re on your own.”

MATTHEWS:  Well, you and the president may be in the same world here.

BIDEN:  We have got to start playing ...

(CROSSTALK

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  And the president is beginning to talk like that.  You don‘t get it directly from the president, Senator, but you do read these accounts of the meetings he‘s had.  For example, he apparently was shocked to know that the Shia majority—which you know is allied with Hezbollah—is rooting for Hezbollah.  He seemed to be surprised that they weren‘t on our side.

BIDEN:  Surprise, surprise.  Why?  Why?

I mean, look.  Chris, this is too long in the tooth here.  Look, we‘ve got to stop making excuses for this outfit.  This is six years down the road.  Who would not have understood that?

I came back after a meeting with Maliki in his office, and I sat with him.  This is less than a month ago.  And I came back and I reported that I believed there was no possibility this guy without a real heavy push was about to make any concessions that would bring the Sunnis into the deal, and I thought there was no possibility he would take on the Shia coalition to disarm the militia.

Now, you tell me how can there possibly be—how can there possibly be a settlement in that country, a political settlement, without disarming and/or integrated the militia?  How does that happen?  Not possible.

So what‘s the plan?  And then the president, if it‘s true—I didn‘t know that—he acts surprised that they‘re rooting for Hezbollah?  Why?  How could that be?

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe because he‘s been advised now ...

BIDEN:  How could that be?

MATTHEWS:  ...for six years by people who thought the main goal of our policy in Iraq was to de-Ba‘athicize the country, to keep—to break up the army, to punish the former people with Saddam Hussein, that it was mainly an ideological war and we were the good guys and the Shia were on our side.  Maybe it sounds like malarkey now, but it still looks like policy here to me.

Let me ask you, when people go to vote this November—it‘s only a couple of months off—if they vote Republican for senator or for anything really, U.S. Congress, governor, they‘re really voting for stay-the-course.  That‘s fair enough.

What are they voting for if they vote Democrat?  In Iraq?

BIDEN:  They‘re voting for a change and take a look at Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  A change?

BIDEN:  You know, the piece that we put together, that Carl Levin and I and others put together, and Jack Reed, et cetera, what did it do?  It said three things.  It said number one, you‘ve got to get a Sunni buy-in.  You‘ve got to make sure that you deal with the militia.  And if you don‘t, there‘s no hope here. 

And there has to be a way that the military has time to figure out how we withdraw by the end of the year, because we‘re coming—the end of ‘07.  And so that‘s what they‘re voting for.  They‘re voting for a plan.  Hopefully, if that happens, the president will get the message.  How can he not understand?

MATTHEWS:  OK, basically you‘re offering—basically, a division, a separation, the kind of partition that we‘ve used, as European and American powers, for years to end the conflict.

Let me ask you about the conflict up in Connecticut.  It‘s very important, politically, because it looks to me like having watched him last night, Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate, is not going to break single digits.  He‘s got gambling debts he‘s had to pay off, he‘s been banned from casinos up there, he‘s got problems. 

He had to use a phony name to get a wampum card at one of the casinos.  I don‘t think he looks like a winner right now, in the political game—if I can use a metaphor, there.  So it‘s going to come down to Lieberman or Lamont; where do you stand?

BIDEN:  Well, I stand for the Democratic candidate.  Joe is my good friend.  I told Joe when I went up there campaigning for them, I want to lead the Democratic Party.  I‘ve got to abide by the Democratic Party‘s ruling. 

But look, here‘s my worry:  I don‘t know enough to know, but I wouldn‘t bet my daughter‘s graduate school tuition on the fact that the Republicans don‘t find a substitute for the Republican candidate, as we did in New Jersey.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they probably can‘t find a weaker one if they look for a month!

Let me ask you this:  Will you discourage big people who might be wanting to invest in the Lieberman campaign?  Will you take any active role in trying to get the Democrat elected up there, the Democratic candidate?

BIDEN:  Yes, but I‘m not going to take an active role by being against Joe.  I‘m not going to take an active role by discouraging any of Joe‘s friends.  I‘m going to take an active role in trying to elect the Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s going to win?

BIDEN:  But you know, I said that ...

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s going to win?

BIDEN:  You know, honest to god, I don‘t know, Chris.  I mean, right now if you looked at the polls before this happened, Joe wins.  But you know, Lamont‘s turning out to be—if you noticed, Lamont‘s not calling for American troops to withdraw immediately.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I‘m just wondering if he can ...

BIDEN:  You know what I mean?

MATTHEWS:  ...get the Democrats behind him.  It‘s unsure to me.  I think the best man should win at this point.  I‘d like them both to run their best campaigns, myself—I don‘t have to take sides.  But I‘ll tell you one thing.

BIDEN:  By the way ...

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s the best politician who wins that thing right now.  Either guy can win.

BIDEN:  I absolutely agree with you.

MATTHEWS:  Either guy can win.  Thank you.

BIDEN:  I absolutely agree.

MATTHEWS:  And the same with the presidential campaign.  Senator Joe Biden, candidate for president.  It‘s great to have you on, as always.  Thank you, sir.

BIDEN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, we‘ll talk terrorism with former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.

And later, he won over Connecticut Democrats, but can he win the general election?  Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont of Connecticut, he‘ll be here. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tonight, nearly five years after 9/11, many Americans continue to question how safe we truly are in a world of explosive liquids and gels and sprays. Can the government guarantee your safety?  We go now to a man who know better than anyone, former homeland security secretary, Governor Tom Ridge.  Governor, you know, I guess I have come to love metal detectors, and I love going through them.  It‘s a little strange when people say, love your show but take off your shoes.  It‘s OK.  Because we all have to do it an that means the bad guys won‘t get through.  But the scary thing about now is we know they can blow up planes with liquids, and nobody is safe.  Where are we going to go with this?  How will we make people safe again? 

GOV. TOM RIDGE, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Well, I think we‘ve made people safer.  I think we are playing much better offense, and in offense, I mean by intelligence sharing and getting these terrorists before they attack, and the Brits did a fabulous job there.  And certainly a better defense.  We have more security measures in place.  But we are up against some strategic actors who have a different timeframe than we do.  We are in this for the long hall, so, although we are good now, we‘ve got to get better, and at no time will we ever guarantee absolute safety. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the deal with taking your shoes off, and you can‘t bring a Swiss Army Knife on a plane.  I read somewhere or asked somebody, he said we have never caught anybody up to no good with those checks, that that doesn‘t catch anybody.  Has it ever caught anyone?

RIDGE:  No, not to my knowledge. 

MATTHEWS:  Well then why do we do it? 

RIDGE:  Well, it is one element of a layered defense approach that the country has put in, with regard to civilian aviation.  We put it in with regard to maritime security.  But the next step has to be a lot bolder than anything they have done before, and that is pre-screening passengers.  Again, we are living in a risk-management world.  There are no guarantees.  We ran a pilot program when I was secretary where people gave us their iris scans, people gave us background information, and we could take a look at it and say the chances are 99.999 you are not a terrorist, so you just go right through, go through the metal detector and move on and you take whatever with you, with you.  Now, some people find that to be troubling, but the fact of the matter is, I think we have to move to that. 

Ultimately, you have to try to identify the terrorists, not the weapon

MATTHEWS:  Well how do you identify someone who may be politically on the left or radical?  They may go to a couple meetings at mosques, whatever, or I shouldn‘t say mosques, but meetings that are associated with their background.  They come from other countries, Arab countries, and they are in Newark or somewhere.  If a person is politically involved and they are in Israel, for example, or anti-western even, how do you stop them, even if you know all of that, from getting on an airplane? 

RIDGE: It‘s almost impossible. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean legally?  You come from a suspicious country.  You emigrate to America from Cairo, from Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, and we know that you were one time a member of some group, or you came here through Frankfurt and you are a member of some group, how can we use that in this country to say you are not getting on any airplane, buddy?  And I‘m not sure what I would do if I was in charge, how I would handle that, what do you do?

RIDGE:  Well, I don‘t think if you simply identify an individual from their country of origin ...

MATTHEWS:  And their politics.

RIDGE:  ... but there may be some other information.  I mean, the fact of the matter remains whether it was Bali, Chechnya, London, Madrid, Washington, D.C., New York City, fundamentalist, Islamic extremists.  So, you can‘t deny that and we need some help, long term I think, within the Muslim community to help us.   

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘re on plane flying to London tomorrow night.  And there are five guys that look like they are from an Islamic part of the world, I should the Middle East.  They happen to look, hear their accents, they may sound like they are from there, and they are five guys talking together, hanging around, they look like they are nervous.  They seem like they are exchanging messages rather furtively, and you are trying to figure them out.  What would you do? 

RIDGE:  You pull them over and don‘t let them on the plane, and you interrogate them. 

MATTHEWS:  And they show their visas, and they say I need to get on that plane, I have to get a medical procedure, I want to see my mother, she is dying.  What do you say to that guy?  What do you say, you can‘t fly on that plane? 

RIDGE:  Well, I think under the environment we are living in now, with properly trained people, and they do this a lot in Israel and a couple other countries are working on it, certain behavioral characteristics have to be factored in to whether you pull somebody aside.  I mean, the woman that identified the bomber coming across from Canada, going down to L.A., pulled him aside, asked a couple questions, responses were evasive, here instincts and her training led to that. 

MATTHEWS: Good for her.

RIDGE:  Well, we have to get to that.  We also need to get to a position, I think, where we start pre-screening a lot more of the people. 

MATTHEWS:  It used to be you could come in from Canada across the border up at Niagara Falls by just saying Philadelphia, with the right accent.  Where you from, if you said Philadelphia with the right Philly accent, you could cross.  If you did it with another kind of accent, they might call you over.  But a lot of people with different kinds of accents are legally in Philadelphia.  So how do you do it?  Any ways, Tom Ridge is staying with us. 

Later the Democratic nominee for Senate up in Connecticut, Ned Lamont.  By the way, it is Ned Lamont.  It‘s not Joe Lieberman, but he‘s also running, which is making it complicated.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are back with former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.  You know, the battle in this country for months now has been how invasive does the government get to try to catch the bad guys, the terrorists.  Should we use N.S.A.‘s surveillance, should we use this SWIFT thing, going through financial institutions around the world?  The battle has been won to some extent, or at least it‘s been a draw, between the forces of terrorists prevention and civil liberties.  Is that pendulum going to swing over to law enforcement, given what has been happening now, this danger from England? 

RIDGE:  Well, I think the debate will continue.  It‘s too early to determine how far the pendulum will swing.  It depends what additional resources or what additional law enforcement tools does the community seek and how do they justify using them, like the Brits have a detention policy, if somebody is under investigation, they can pull him off the street and, kind of, freeze him for, I think, 28 days.  Obviously that will probably be a discussion in the future in the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  What about phone taps?  I know a lot of Americans obviously don‘t want their phones tapped for a lot of reasons, but if we find out it‘s the only way to nab people in the last couple days before they act is to hear them talking to each other, will the American people say, well we don‘t like giving up our rights, but this is not a matter of individual rights anymore, it‘s a matter of national rights.  We have to protect the country.  Will people change? 

RIDGE:  I don‘t think they have to.  I think you have laws on the books.  If you had that kind of information going in, you could tap those phones.  What I worry more than that, during the whole debate about N.S.A is I heard Americans tell me, I don‘t care, I am not doing anything wrong, it‘s OK if you tap my phone, and I don‘t think we ever want to reduce our threshold that low? 

MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Do you think we will? 

RIDGE:  No, nor do I think we want to.  I mean, the notion that we would surrender, voluntarily, knowing that we are not doing anything wrong, our rights, to have the government intervene or intercede or listen to a phone conversation, I think is absolutely unacceptable.  But there are provisions in place in the law, tools in the law now, if you have that kind of information going in, you certainly can, under the FISA, can get that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me flip this around, Governor.  Suppose you are homeland security secretary, and you find out that there may be a suspicious group of people doing things, but you want to honor their civil rights and you don‘t want to tap their phones.  Can you explain the deaths of thousands of people because you were honoring civil rights after the fact? 

RIDGE:  No, I don‘t think it‘s honoring civil rights, if you have cause, if there is justification.  There are plenty of ways for the law enforcement community to do it within the constitution and the rule of law, period. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s time for Pennsylvania polka.  We‘re going back to Pennsylvania where you governed effectively for eight years.  This afternoon President Bush campaigned in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Republican Gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steeler, and of course, and now in the interest of full disclosure, that‘s my brother there, and family pride, I should say, who‘s running for lieutenant governor with Swann, on the ticket.

What do you think about that race, governor?

RIDGE:  I‘d say it‘s a race full of disclosure, I‘m honorary chairman. 

Interesting race.  They are two Pennsylvanians, the incumbent governor does very, very well in the southeast.  Lynn Swann and your brother doing very well in the balance of the state.  The governor has spent $5 million since April.  The challenge has of yet, but they have had very successful fund-raising and they‘ve built their infrastructure.  This race heats up as of Labor Day.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t there a problem in Pennsylvania that every eight years it shifts party wise and it‘s hard to break that pattern, for the Republicans this time?

RIDGE:  That‘s history.  But as Lynn Swann keeps saying, he made history as a Super Bowl four-time winner and the one for the thumb he wants is the ring with the Pennsylvania‘s insignia on it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I love my brother and you love your Republican Party.  Thank you Tom Ridge for joining us.  Up next, Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in last week‘s Democratic primary up in Connecticut and we were there.  Now Liebermann is hitting back hard as he stays in a race he won‘t quit.  He‘s running as something called an Independent Democrat.  We‘ll talk to Lamont about what that tag means and the chances of these two guys winning the election.  HARDBALL returns in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  One week after beating Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary up in Connecticut, Ned Lamont finds himself in a race against Joe Lieberman again.  The latest Rasmussen poll shows Lamont trailing Lieberman in the general election, 46-41 with Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger showing far behind both of them.

Ned Lamont is with us now from New Haven, Connecticut.  Let me ask you this, you‘ve got former North Carolina Senator John Edwards coming up there tomorrow.  Is he going to do something for you in this campaign?

NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT SENATE NOMINEE:  Well fundamentally, Chris, this race is all about Connecticut, as you know.  I didn‘t have a lot of endorsements going into the primary and it‘s going to be focused on Connecticut going out.  We do have a number of people though who have volunteered to come in and Senator Edwards is one of them.  I really respect the work he‘s been doing on poverty, so he‘s going to be right here in New Haven tomorrow and we‘ll do an event together.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s he going to say about Joe Lieberman refusing to quit after being beaten in the primary?

LAMONT:  Well, you have to ask John Edwards that.  But it is a little bit like Groundhog Day, we just reset the clock last week and off we go again.

MATTHEWS:  Well, as “I got you” is the name of that song, “I got you babe,” I guess you got Lieberman for the next three months.  Let me ask you, how are going to stop the leakage from money from the Democratic Party to Lieberman, people who have given to him for years may well keep giving to him, which means he can put a big ad campaign on against you in New Haven and Hartford, which can be pretty tough.  How do you cut the leakage from the Democratic Party to the non-Democratic candidate?

LAMONT:  Well I can tell you the first thing we did the day after the primary, Chris Dodd put together a unity event, we had every single senior elected official standing up there, all the congressional candidates, so this party is united going into the general election, united behind our candidacy.

MATTHEWS:  No it‘s not united because you‘ve got a lot of big money guys giving to Lieberman.

LAMONT:  Well I don‘t know about who those folks are.  I could tell we‘re going to the unions, we‘re talking to working folks, we‘re going to business, we‘re getting an awful lot of support beyond the political support.  So I feel pretty good as we round the bend and heads toward Labor Day.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got Bill Clinton on your side.  He‘s probably the most popular Democrat in the country.  He said something the other day about—he said Joe Lieberman—and I don‘t want to speak for Bill Clinton, I‘ve had my differences, obviously, and said things about him which I think are true—but Bill Clinton said that Joe Lieberman is the only Democrat in the entire United States who would have supported going to war in Iraq even if we knew ahead of time there was no WMD.  What do you think of the fact that Bill Clinton is taking sides on your behalf now?

LAMONT:  Look, I don‘t think in a heartbeat that Bill Clinton would have invaded Iraq like George Bush did, aided by Joe Lieberman every step of the way.  Frankly, I don‘t think George Herbert Walker Bush would have invaded Iraq that way. 

And I think President Clinton—I‘m proud to have him on this side of the campaign and I think he‘s right about that.  I think Senator Lieberman has been egging the United States to invade Iraq ever since 1991.  He was there in 1998 for the Iraq Liberation Act and he still wants to stay the course.  Now it‘s three and a half years later and we see what a bloody mess we‘re in now.

MATTHEWS:  Well why did Bill Clinton sign the Iraq Liberation Act in ‘98?

LAMONT:  I don‘t think he was talking about an invasion.  I think at that point he was talking about ways that we might be able to aid some groups within Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  Right, you‘re right.

LAMONT:  Hopefully to destabilize.

MATTHEWS:  Correct answer.  Mr. Lamont, because the Iraq Liberation Act said nothing about any military action by us against Iraq.  Dan Gerstein, who is the spokesman for Lieberman is dead wrong on that one yesterday.  Now here‘s—let‘s take a look at the exchange we had last night on HARDBALL with for better or worse, Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  When you run up a $10,000 debt at a gambling table, I would call that probably overdoing it a bit for most people.

ALAN SCHLESINGER ®, CT SENATE CANDIDATE:  I think to Ned Lamont, that‘s lunch money.  It depends on how much you‘re worth and how much you play.

MATTHEWS:  OK, did you ever use a false name to get a wampum card at an Indian-owned casino? 

SCHLESINGER:  Yes, that‘s the same story that you‘re referring to.  I

MATTHEWS:  Well, is it true or not?

SCHLESINGER:  Oh, absolutely it‘s true.  It‘s a marketing program for a casino and I didn‘t think it was anyone‘s business when I play at a casino, just like you can play anonymously.  And I just didn‘t want my name on any of their marketing lists.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you used.  What name did you use?

SCHLESINGER:  Alan Gold.

MATTHEWS:  Alan Gold?

SCHLESINGER:  Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  What we didn‘t have in that tape is also his admission that he was banned by a number of casinos up in Connecticut.  Would you, if you were a Republican, vote for Alan Schlesinger, Mr. Lamont?

LAMONT:  Well first of all, even if Joe Lieberman leaves the race, it will still be a three-way race, me, Schlesinger and Gold.  So it‘s going to be crowded.

MATTHEWS:  Well what do you make of this? If this Republican candidacy is falling apart, it seems like it‘s opening the door.  I heard from a very inside course in the Lieberman campaign, after they lost last week to you, that they need 60 to 70 percent of the Republican vote to beat you in November.  It looks to me easier and easier for Joe Lieberman to grab a big chunk of the Republican vote against that guy. 

LAMONT:  Well a couple of things.  First of all, as you know, Vice President Cheney is already touting the Lieberman candidacy, and the two seem to be aligned ... 

MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s a big surprise. 

LAMONT:  ... on a number of issues.

MATTHEWS:  Those are two peas in a pod, Lieberman and Cheney, but go ahead. 

LAMONT:  Well, when it comes to Schlessinger, look, he‘s the Republican in this race.  When it comes to tax cuts, and not paying attention to the deficit and not investing in our future, I think he is much more on the Republican side of the equation.  So, I expect him to get an awful lot of Republican support in this race, but he‘s not going to win.   

MATTHEWS:  If he holds the number he got in the race against you, which is only four points shy of you, and he brings in the independents, who are some of them are hawkish, and he brings in a big chunk of the Republicans, isn‘t that more votes than you will be able to get Mr. Lamont? 

LAMONT:  Look, not at all.  Like I said, this is a progressive state.  The Democrats are united in this race.  They really know that Joe Lieberman has been wrong on the war.  He‘s too close to President Bush.  He has got a stay the course strategy.  At the end of the day it‘s going to be Shlessinger and Lieberman who are splitting the Republican vote.  We are going to do very well with independence.  I am a guy that started up a business from scratch.  I‘m going to shake things up in Washington, DC.  I think moderates and independents respect that.  And we have got a strong Democratic support going into the election. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Joe Lieberman the hawk candidate in this race? 

LAMONT:  Well, I think both Schlessinger and Lieberman are more of the stay the course strategy in Iraq.  Obviously Joe was there from the very beginning, wanting us to get in to this war.  I don‘t know where Schlessinger was back then. 

MATTHEWS:  Probably at the casino.  But let me ask you this, are you the dove candidate? 

LAMONT:  Look, I am the guy that says, when it comes to the war in Iraq, it‘s been a terrible distraction from the war in terror.  Us having our troops there is not making the situation better.  Only the Iraqis can solve this.  It‘s going to take a political solution.  But when it comes to Afghanistan, when it comes to the war on terror, when it comes to really being serious about defending our borders, I am right there with anybody, and I think George Bush has weakened this country. 

MATTHEWS:  We will have you back to talk about Iran and what you do there when we have another chance to talk.  Mr. Ned Lamont, the Democratic candidate for Senator in Connecticut. 

Up next, will the cease-fire in the Middle East hold?  Israel‘s Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres will be right here at this table when HARDBALL comes back on MSNBC in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Displaced Israeli and Lebanese civilians are coming back home now that a cease-fire has taken hold, but will it last?  Can the Lebanese army curb Hezbollah violence?  And how much weaker is Hezbollah now than before the fighting began?  Here to answer some tough HARDBALL questions is Israel‘s Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.  Mr. Peres, thank you for coming.  Are you happy with this cease-fire?  

SHIMON PERES, VICE PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL:  I would rather have a cease-fire than to continue to kill each other. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the ability of the Lebanese army.  Do you believe it is capable of containing Hezbollah?

PERES:  I think Hezbollah today is weaker than it used to be.  And the desire to see an independent Lebanon is stronger than ever before.  Now the real problem is not so much, or the most important issue is the strength of Israel, but the independence of Lebanon.  Lebanon will remain Lebanese or Lebanon will become Shiite and Iranian.  There are many forces in Lebanon and in the Arab world that wouldn‘t like to see Lebanon becoming Shiite.

MATTHEWS:  Well, are the Sunni people in Lebanon, and the Maronite Christians, capable of facing down Hezbollah, as well armed as it is and as zealous as it is? 

PERES:  They alone, maybe not.  But Hezbollah itself was quite beaten and they have to answer why did they go to war?  What are the reasons?  What are the purposes?  What did they achieve?  They know the cause, they don‘t know the answers. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Israel concerned that for the first time an Arab force has been able to stand toe-to-toe for all these weeks, all these days, at least, to stay in the field against Israel, even Egypt had to pull out and ask for help back in 1973? 

PERES:  Well, it‘s a different war, it‘s ballistic, not face-to-face.  It‘s done by a terroristic group, not by an army, so they can dispel themselves here and there.  But I think in their imagination before the war was by far greater of an idea.  (INAUDIBLE)  12,000 missiles, they can bring Israel on to here knees.  This did not happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the politics of Israel.  You are in Kadeema.

PERES:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve joined Kadeema, you‘ve left Labor.  Is Kadeema strong, is it in a strong situation now in Israel, as the leading government party? 

PERES:  You know, maybe the meanings of the parties went down and the content of the politics went up.  I joined in Kadeema because Kadeema joined in the ideas that I was supporting before, including the recognition of the Palestinian state.  Today there is a wider agreement in Israel about the future than ever before.

MATTHEWS:  Are people still on that course of accepting, even if it‘s called a divorce, not a marriage, the existence of a Palestinian state across the green line? 

PERES:  The answer is yes, because there were two non-Muslim states in the Middle East.  On Christian, Lebanon, the other Jewish Israel.  The Christians lost Lebanon because of demography.  They weren‘t careful enough.  They had a piece of land from Syria that was peopled by Muslims, and they woke up one morning to discover they were no longer the majority.  We don‘t want do it.

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to help Lebanon become a country?  I mean, your country can rout for it to happen, you can cheer for it, you can hope that it happens, but what could Israel do, isolated as it is, to help an Arab country, which is composed on Sunni, Shia and Christian, become a true country? 

PERES:  We helped them in the past and we can help them in the future.  First of all by respecting their independence, by respecting their territorial integrity, and by having, eventually, joined ventures in the supply of water, for example, in building industrial parks, in transportation and communication. Today both are artificial and cooperation are a must.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the president of the United States and his performance.  We have had more than a half century of history between the state of Israel and the United States.  We have had presidents who have been perceived to be pro-Arab, like Eisenhower, and George Bush Sr. and we‘ve had presidents who are both pro-Israeli and even-handed, like Bill Clinton, that managed to wear both hats.  Has this president been successful in wearing both hats, pro-Israeli and a major power broker in the region?

PERES:  I think that the choice became different.  It‘s not only supporting Israel, but fighting terror.  It so happened that whoever wants to fight terror should support Israel.  The world today is no longer divided between right and left, but between terror and anti terror.  And among all the allies, the United States has, we are the only one who never asked for an American soldier to defend our lives.  We never made any American mother be worried because they‘ll have to send their boys to fight for us.  Many of the people criticize us when it came to them, they asked for the American support in the way of soldiers.  I think Bush was courageous in fighting terror.  He didn‘t hesitate and that was the right policy.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the United States should not participate in the international force coming into Lebanon, southern Lebanon? 

PERES:  I think the United States is busy already on so many fronts, that you cannot ask again, the United States said it teared apart from, while the others are free all the time.  Even when it came to Kosovo, they asked the Americans to do the work.  The time has come to the Europeans.

MATTHEWS:  The Europeans to do it.

PERES:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  You think they can do the job? 

PERES:  I think they have to.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, by the way, it‘s an honor to have you on the show. 

PERES:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve supported you for years. 

PERES:  I know that.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re my kind of Israeli politician, I love you, and many of us do, and happy birthday.  And thank you for coming over.  Shimon Peres, one of the great men of Israeli history. 

Up next, another apology from 2008 presidential hopeful George Allen after calling a rival campaign worker a “macaca.”  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  So welcome.  Let‘s give a welcome to macaca here.  Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s going to haunt that guy.  That‘s Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia calling a rival campaign worker a macaca.  Here to assess the damage is the “Washington Times” John McCaslin the “New Republic‘s” Ryan Lizza.  Ryan Lizza, you broke some stories before about George Allen.  What were they?

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW REPUBLIC:  The biggest news in this piece I wrote was this spring was his relationship with the confederate flag.  I mean, the strangest thing is it goes all the way back to high school.  He wore a confederate flag lapel pin in his high school picture.

MATTHEWS:  Is this it?

LIZZA:  So it‘s a pattern here.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the pattern?

LIZZA:  The pattern is insensitivity on race and intolerance and a guy that just doesn‘t really get it.

MATTHEWS:  Macaca, from what I understand, John, is a term used by the Algerians and the other French people who lived in northern Africa when they were living up there and colonizing the place, that they used against the local Arabs, north Africans.

JOHN MCCASLIN, THE WASHINGTON TIMES:  Right, right.  And I once chased a macaca around on a south African on a safari one time, which Americans spend a lot of money to do.  So it‘s all ...

MATTHEWS:  You mean a monkey?

MCCASLIN:  ... for a monkey in south Africa.

MATTHEWS:  Well what‘s this about here?

MCCASLIN:  I think it‘s about...

MATTHEWS:  ... Is this Howard Cosell again or what is it?

MCCASLIN:  I don‘t think this is going to go away, if you‘re getting to that.  I think that the media is going to slowly pick up on it in a time when there‘s a lot of other stories.

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s saying he was referring to the guy‘s hair cut, not his ethnicity, even though he said welcome to America and the guy‘s a citizen.

LIZZA:  The latest excuse that they leaked today, is that he didn‘t say macaca, he didn‘t call him a monkey, and called him and s, you know what, head.  They put together the word mohawk and caca.

MATTHEWS:  Caca means crap. 

LIZZA:  Exactly.  And they were calling him...

MATTHEWS:  ... A crap head?

LIZZA:  Exactly.  So that‘s his first...

MATTHEWS:  ... Why they are struggling against admitting that it‘s a racial term, or ethnic term, right?

LIZZA:  Right.  They‘re saying he didn‘t know what it was.  And the interesting twist on all of this is his mom is French Tunisian and this is a word that‘s used in north Africa.

MATTHEWS:  We just had Shimon Peres here, the longtime great man of Israel.  He knew the term.

LIZZA:  Is that right?

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

LIZZA:  That‘s fascinating, then.

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s a term that is not so unfamiliar to people.

LIZZA:  Look, he grew up in a house where his mom spoke five languages.  It‘s not a big leap of the imagination to think that...

MATTHEWS:  ... Well I can understand why he doesn‘t want to say, “Mommy taught me this word.”

MCCASLIN:  And a very outspoken mother at that.  I reviewed the book in 2002 that George Allen‘s sister Jennifer wrote and I know Ryan wrote about it just this last April, she is a very outspoken lady.

MATTHEWS:  Can I be a little bit revolutionary here about the hypocrisy of this country and even this conversation?  Ethnic slurs are awful, let‘s stipulate.  But this is a country that has a problem with race that‘s pretty deep rooted.  Would you please list the African Americans in the U.S. Senate right now?  Would you please list the African American governors in this country?  Would you please list the African Americans who get big jobs at any elective office when we have a secret ballot? 

So people go into their ballots and they have a big problem voting for a black fellow—or a black woman for a big job.  But if somebody says a word against anybody, we blow the whistle and have a big festivity over it, when in fact the country‘s got a deeper problem than just slips of the tongue or even bad language and bad words.  What do you think of that, John?

MCCASLIN:  I remember when George Allen, when Trent Lott stuck his foot in his mouth.  On Strom Thurmond‘s 100th birthday, George Allen came out in defense of him.  Then as I pointed out, somebody overnight talked to him and then the next day he said it‘s unacceptable.  So that is the political machine in Washington, sure.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s all P.R.

LIZZA:  This is part of the same thing.  Look, you‘re saying this isn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  ... I can‘t believe gambling‘s going on here.   I can‘t believe there‘s ethnic prejudice in America.  I can‘t believe there‘s private conversations where people use bad words.  But when they make them in public—he by the way, looked like he was in private.  The astounding part of this, he is doing this the guy showing him on camera and taking his picture saying it and using this language against him.  That‘s what‘s new here.

LIZZA:  The question is, is he just—was he just really dumb or was he racist?  I mean, it‘s not a good—neither option‘s really good.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘ve covered politics and been in it for years and I don‘t think politicians who get to that level are dumb.  I think they may be—well insensitive‘s a nice word.

LIZZA:  I think he‘s a guy that‘s not ready for the national level, that‘s what it is.

MATTHEWS:  John McCaslin, thank you.  Ryan Lizza, from the “New Republic,” formerly a liberal magazine.  Join us again tomorrow night at five and seven Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests include anti-war Congressman John Murtha.  He‘s coming here.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,