updated 9/8/2006 11:47:59 AM ET 2006-09-08T15:47:59

Guests: John Kerry, Charlie Cook, Dana Milbank, Joe Trippi, Anne Kornblut, Chris Cilizza, Chuck Todd

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Direct from The Watergate, scene of the most—last century‘s most notorious political crime, a different kind of break-in.  Tonight, we‘re launching a new partnership of political power.  NBC News, MSNBC.com, and the “National Journal” present the only address you need, politics.MSNBC.com.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to Watergate.  Actually welcome to HARDBALLS, coming to you live from the biggest political party in Washington at The Watergate.  We‘re at the “National Journal‘s” headquarters over here at The Watergate, a distinctively political address. 

The politicians, the political press, the political professionals of all stripes are here to celebrate the launch of the new partnership of NBC News, MSNBC.com, and the National Journal Group.  Now that the campaigns have shifted into high gear with the election now—believe it or not—just two months away, we‘re joined forces now with the National Journal Group.  That‘s the “National Journal,” the “Atlantic Magazine,” and “The Hotline” which we all rely on daily for information on politics. 

We‘ll deliver to you, starting today, premiere political information online and, of course, on air.  The new site at politics.MSNBC.com is one-stop shopping for all things politics.  Just come to our Web site, politics.MSNBC.com, because we‘ve got the election covered. 

And we have another announcement at NBC tonight.  Vice president Dick Cheney will be appearing on “Meet the Press” exclusively this Sunday. 

Tonight, to kick off our coverage, an exclusive interview with Senator John Kerry. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Senator, what did you make of President Bush really throwing the hot potato up to Capitol Hill and to the U.S. Senate to set the rules on torture of our prisoners in Guantanamo, on holding and creating tribunals to try these people, especially the really bad guys.  Were you surprised he threw that to you guys to decide? 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I don‘t think it‘s a hot potato, and I welcome it.  We ought to do it.  We‘ve been urging to do it for a long time.  We want to do the standard that Lindsey Graham, the Judge Advocate Corps, John Warner, former undersecretary of the Navy—

Republicans have been advocating that.  What the president did was capitulate to common sense and is finally doing something we‘ve wanted to do for a long time.  We ought to do it quickly and get it done.

MATTHEWS:  Which is to legislate the authority of the tribunals? 

KERRY:  You‘re darn right.  You‘re darn right.  These people should have been brought to justice a long time ago.  But what it also underscores is that the president had an illegal, unconstitutional structure for detaining people that he was destroying, in a sense, the reputation of our country and hurting the values of our country in other lands where we need people‘s support. 

And, finally, he admits what all of us have known under the ground for a long time, that we have these secret prisons which the United States doesn‘t condone.  So, finally, he is adopting a policy of common sense that is in keeping with our values and the Congress ought to move rapidly and we ought to do what is appropriate under appropriate standards. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is appropriate torture? 

KERRY:  There is no appropriate torture, period.   

MATTHEWS:  What is appropriate ...

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY:  And we‘ve been arguing that for a long time.  They have been arguing to be allowed to torture.  This is the first administration in American history the vice president of the United States says we should be allowed to torture.  They argued for torture, for a loophole that allowed them to do it.  Now, the president stands up and says the United States doesn‘t torture. 

Well, I think that they have ignored the fact that the Geneva Conventions were not in place because we are nice.  They weren‘t put in place to be soft.  They were put in place to support and defend the interests of our troops in the battlefield, so that if young Americans are captured, we know that we‘ve done the best to be able to have them treated properly. 

MATTHEWS:  The president—maybe it‘s a matter of wording.  The president said he‘s using tough interrogation techniques?  How do you read that?

KERRY:  Those are legitimate, if they‘re not torture.  I mean, there are techniques which are legitimate under military practices.  I mean, it‘s not a—you know, it‘s not a—I mean, this is not softball. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

KERRY:  It‘s war, it‘s tough, and the fact is that there are tough situations. 

MATTHEWS:  Is waterboarding in or out, as you see it? 

KERRY:  But there are things that are short of torture.

MATTHEWS:  How about waterboarding?  You make a guy think he‘s drowning? 

KERRY:  If we start going down a whole series of ...

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t that what he‘s asked to do in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, to basically legislate what‘s in and what‘s out in terms of how we treat prisoners in terms of interrogation? 

KERRY:  Well, if they want us to do every single particular practice, we can do that.  We can write the manual for them we‘re happy to do it.  And it shows, again, the ineffectiveness of this administration that they‘re unwilling to do that in keeping with American values.  I‘m happy to do it. 

The bottom line is that we need to prosecute these people, we need to bring them to justice, we need to be tough in the world.  I think what‘s happened is this administration has lost that toughness, in a real sense, because they‘re more rhetorical than they are substance in their ability to be able to do things. 

Other countries won‘t follow them.  Other countries don‘t listen to them.  Other countries aren‘t there in and supportive.  They‘ve divided the world.  They‘ve taken our own allies, many of whom were there ready to do almost anything after 9/11, and they‘ve pushed them away from us. 

What I think they ought to be doing is figuring out how to fight the real war on terror, which is not in Iraq.  They need to get out of Iraq and get our troops focused on the real war, and use some military special operations in order to go after people, but also do a much better job of law enforcement and intelligence—which I said two-and-a-half, three years ago—is the real core way in which you‘re going to stop terror activities and stop terror activities and find terrorists. 

MATTHEWS:  As a senator, you‘re going to have to legislate the new tribunals to try these people.

KERRY:  Terrific.  We should get it done and we should do it in a week.

MATTHEWS:  Should they be susceptible to capital punishment?  Should that be in line with this?

KERRY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the president, the timing of these almost daily—these daily now scheduled events involving terrorism.  It‘s September, late in the single digits of September.  We‘re coming up on September 11th, the fifth anniversary.  We‘re coming up on an election.  Do you believe that the president‘s speeches are timed for political purpose? 

KERRY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe he‘s sincere in what he‘s saying? 

KERRY:  Mostly. 

MATTHEWS:  Where not? 

KERRY:  Well, I think the president knows full well that he‘s exaggerating success.  I‘ll give you a classic example.  Today, the president of the United States said that the terrorists are on the run.  Today—in Afghanistan.  Today, the NATO commander said we need more troops because of the way in which the Taliban have re-taken over the southern part of the country, which is real. 

The president is saying they‘re on the run or the NATO commander on the site, in country, commanding the forces saying I need more people because the Taliban is resurgent.  I‘ll take the NATO commander. 

And I think a lot of people in Washington are fed up with this public relations campaign on terror.  The president is busy doing exactly what they did in 2002, exactly what they did in 2004.  You know, the president is more interested in ginning up terror, scaring the America people, and not really fighting the war on terror in a way that protects the American people. 

I think there is a better way to fight the war on terror.  I believe we can do a better job of protecting America.  And the test of whether or not they have made us safer is very simple.  There are more terrorists now in the world who want to kill Americans than there were on 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you know that? 

KERRY:  We know that from all the intelligence reports.  We know that from our own intelligence and the comments of the president, who is now saying al Qaeda is in 65 countries.  Why are they in 65 countries?  Because this administration failed to stand up at Tora Bora when they had him surrounded.  You read any number of books now that talk about how the CIA and others were urging the surrounding of those mountains. 

They didn‘t tell the truth during the 2004 campaign, where they lied, literally, about whether or not they knew where Osama bin Laden was.  They knew where he was, but for purposes of the election, they avoided responsibility for that and now they‘re trying to pretend that they‘ve got them on the run. 

They don‘t have them on the run.  Al Qaeda, notwithstanding the capture of a number of people, which we applaud—that‘s important.  But what‘s more important is guaranteeing that you‘re changing the minds of people in the world who are moving away from democracy, away from aligning themselves with the United States and with our allies. 

Look at Iran.  Here‘s a test.  Iran is more powerful and more of a threat today than it was at 9/11.  Both of those comments I just made, the numbers of terrorists and Iran, underscore the fact that this is a failed policy, a failed administration, and Donald Rumsfeld is, I think, significantly accountable for many those failures. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about a new policy.  Your colleague, Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has talked about—he‘s considered the idea that Congress may need to issue a new authorization to the president to continue our activities, our military presence in Iraq, because of what looks to be an incipient or active civil war over there. 

You were famous back when you were a soldier, back when you came back from Vietnam to say, well, how can you ask a young man to be the last person to fight for a war—I forget the rest of it.

KERRY:  To die for a mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  To die for a mistake.  You believe now going into Iraq and staying there the way that we are is a mistake.  What mission right now would justify further death by American soldiers?  I mean, Democrats don‘t want to say bug out or cut and run, but what is the remaining, residual mission over there for us that justifies the loss of more soldiers? 

KERRY:  To provide the ability of the Iraqis to stand up for themselves, with the proper incentives to stand up for themselves so that they achieve a level of stability and we can leave without chaos.  And I have provided a plan that allows us to do that, Chris, and I‘m tired of these Republicans who just play games with these legitimate efforts to get this right for young Americans who are dying. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

KERRY:  I mean, we‘ve got young kids over there who are putting their lives and limbs on the line for a policy.  We have a responsibility to get it right.  And the fact is, this administration does not have it right.  Why are our troops, four years later, driving down roads looking for IEDs, improvised explosive devices? 

You go up to Walter Reed or to Bethesda, almost all the kids who are up there are the result of IEDs.  What are our troops supposed to do about IEDs?  IEDs are not a reflection of a set piece war.  IEDs are a principal weapon of people involved in a civil war, in an insurgency, and we need to fight this differently. 

Our troops ought to be providing the training and logistical support.  We ought to be in the backwater.  We ought to be garrisoned.  We ought to redeploy.  We ought to be over the horizon.  We ought to be sustaining our interests in the region. 

No one has suggested abandonment.  No one has suggested quitting.  What we‘re talking about is how to win and you can‘t win unless the Iraqis resolve the political differences between them.

MATTHEWS:  One last question.  The president—I hear through the grapevine that the administration had sent a message to Maliki and the others running the government in Iraq, we‘re getting out eventually so you guys do the job.  But you are suggesting in a different way.  Get it done, we can‘t keep doing it.  But do they seem—they don‘t seem to be reacting to that urgency. 

KERRY:  I heard they don‘t because when the president stands up and says publicly, oh, you got to have patience, and when the president stands up and say publicly, no we‘re not going to leave while I‘m president, and when the president says publicly that this will have to be resolved by future presidents, you have given the Iraqis a signal that completely countermands against anything else, and they know they have a public hand to play. 

You have to be clear to the Iraqis.  They had a date for the transfer of provisional authority, they had a date for elections, they had a date for the constitution.  Why can‘t you set a date, which is, in fact, the very date that General Casey has floated publicly, that says we‘re targeting to be out by next year in June? 

If you can‘t get there, Chris, we‘re all capable of making judgments when you get to that point, uh-oh, this isn‘t working quite as well as we thought.  But they want to turn it into a purely political debate and I think the American people are fed up with that.  They see through it. 

This administration is selling fear, not hope about how you win.  And they‘re not selling an election strategy—I mean, a winning strategy on the war.  They‘re selling an election strategy and we ought to hold them accountable. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Senator. 

KERRY:  Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it.  According to John Kerry, everything the president has been saying for days now is a P.R. strategy, a political strategy, not a strategy for victory. 

Coming up, a political tsunami swept Democrats out of power in ‘94.  Could another one sweep them back into power this year?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC live from the “National Journal” headquarters at The Watergate. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re here live at the National Journal‘s headquarters in Washington celebrating a new partnership between NBC NEWS/MSNBC.com and the National Journal.  By the way, please check out all the news features and political news on politics.msnbc.com.  You won‘t find it anywhere else.

I‘m here in NBC NEWS political analyst Charlie Cook.  We‘re looking at this... 

(APPLAUSE)

Obviously a home team advantage here. 

Charlie, we‘re both political guys, you know, I think it‘s great.  Let‘s tell the people out there how they can use this machine.  I‘ve already started using it.  You go onto this map, you just go to this politics.MSNBC.com. 

And you can actually look at the state. And there it is on the map, it‘s like MapQuest. 

CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Just click the state and you see whatever you want to see about the Senate races, governor‘s races, House races, (INAUDIBLE) ratings, the hotlines, (INAUDIBLE).  It‘s all right there. 

MATTHEWS:  And now all you have to do, if you‘re caring about Pennsylvania, which I‘m always checking on, Pennsylvania polls, just check that.  You can do that just about anything you want.  Let‘s take a look right now about something we heard, some news which just came in here on this show. 

John Kerry, who lost by Ohio to President Bush at the last election, said everything the president‘s been saying lately is just time for political purposes, it‘s all public relations, it‘s all out of fear, in other words, tat-tat-tat every day, including today, another speech on terrorism.  Let me ask you an objective questions.  Do you think the voters see this as politics? 

COOK:  Well I mean, there‘s shocking, there‘s gambling here.  I mean, there‘s politics in Washington, I mean, but that‘s what the president is doing, that‘s what Kerry does, that‘s what everybody does here.  But, I mean, the thing is I think there is two things that are critical here for the president.  Number one, that if the dots between the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq just completely disconnected, they‘re in bad shape.  And if people lose hope on the war, that there is no chance of success in the war, then it‘s awful. 

MATTHEWS:  So when you say the war, that‘s the critical wording there. 

Most people, it seems to me, when they say the war, they mean Iraq? 

COOK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t mean this generalized war on terrorism that the president talks about? 

COOK:  Exactly.  But you know, 70, 80 percent of the president‘s problems, the Republican party‘s problems, right now are the war in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  It‘s this war. 

COOK:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  But the thing is, if the rationale, the whole rationale for the war falls away, then they‘re toast.  And so this is what the president has to talk about.

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you find it interesting when he was doing an interview the other night, he said, my biggest challenge is to try to connect Iraq to the war on terrorism?  He‘s so open about it. 

COOK:  There is no question, give him sodium Pentothal,  you know, he believes it, but in voters‘ minds, or once you get outside of, sort of, the base there, it‘s either completely torn or...

MATTHEWS:  Let me try this.  You weren‘t on when I tried this last night.  It seems to me that the Democratic strategy is simple, say Iraq  a million times, say Bush a million times.   The Republican strategy is say terrorism a million times and say taxes, because that‘s their old standby. 

COOK:  No, I think that‘s fair, that‘s fair.  I mean, this is not complicated stuff.  Now I would also say right now that, for Democrats, is don‘t screw this up.  You‘ve got Republicans terrified they‘re going to lose and Democrats terrified they‘re going to screw it up again. 

MATTHEWS:  But can they—you know, the old mistake in basketball, one of my favorite sports, is you get about a ten point lead, you freeze the ball, and all of a sudden you‘ve lost your momentum. 

COOK:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Is it possible the Democrats could blow this election and not take back the House because they‘re just being too safe? 

COOK:  They can blow that but, also though, if they do something, if they take on the unnecessary risks, they say the wrong thing, I mean, how do you draw a balance between sitting on your lead, as you‘re saying or saying something, doing something that makes people think, you know, that‘s a risk I don‘t want to take. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, like the labor leader in Pennsylvania who yesterday referred to the Republican candidate for reelection, Rick Santorum, as a Nazi basically?

COOK:  Yes, yes.  I mean that‘s the kind of stupid stuff that can lose you elections, and so Democrats have to draw some sort of balance there.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think these one line slip-ups, and I‘m not going to get into grading them.  Some of them are awful, some are bad and some are mistakes.  Macaca, that line, can something like that bring down a guy like George Allen?  I saw today he‘s only six or seven points ahead now and he was a double digit favorite just a couple weeks ago. 

COOK:  If it reinforces some suspicion or perception that‘s already out there, some doubts that are out there, heck yes.  If it‘s just sort of one random thing that doesn‘t seem to connect with anything else, then, you know, it generally doesn‘t hurt very much. 

MATTHEWS:  So if Hillary Clinton kisses Yasser Arafat it doesn‘t fit with her generally pro-Israeli position, so it doesn‘t really hurt her? 

COOK:  First of all she‘s not likely to pucker up any time soon. 

MATTHEWS:  Well not with him. 

COOK:  But it has to reinforce character issues.

MATTHEWS:  I love this.  You‘re my friend, Charlie Cook, political junkie like myself.  Up next HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the second report in his series on the five unanswered questions of 9/11.  This one tonight, did the 19 hijackers get help from people here in the U.S. before they did what they did?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight is part of our coverage on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  We‘re continuing our series on the top unanswered questions about the plot.  Thanks to the work of the 9/11 commission and other investigations we now know that many of the terrorists involved lived in United States for several months before the attacks, sometimes longer.  And along the way they got help in their day to day life.  But did that help come from anybody who new in advance what was coming, what the plot was all about?  Here again is HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Shortly after 9/11 and for the last five years, we‘ve known that these were the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks, but to this day, even the 9/11 commissioners don‘t know if there were other people in the U.S. who had advance knowledge. 

JAMIE GORELICK, 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  To me it is still an open question whether the people who were in the United States who helped the hijackers were witting or unwitting.  And that is not only a mystery but it‘s actually a really important one that we figure out and it‘s not that we didn‘t ask the questions.  It‘s that when you get the answers, you still don‘t know. 

SHUSTER:  Some of the 19 hijackers spoke no English.  All of them had been living in the U.S. for several months and some of the terrorists were in the U.S. for more than a year.  They obtained visas, signed apartment leases, shopped, paraded area mosques, rented cars and bought airline tickets. 

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  It seems to me that there was some other support mechanism there.  Now did that support mechanism know what these individuals were going to do, we don‘t know, but I think there was something here in the United States that they relied upon. 

SHUSTER:  The 9/11 commission found there was no evidence the hijackers received help from U.S. citizens who knew about the plot.  But analyst point out that just because there is no evidence does not mean it didn‘t happen. 

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FMR. CHIEF OF CIA BIN LADEN UNIT:  You‘re exactly into the area where you don‘t know what you don‘t know, which is one of the reasons when the FBI says we have no evidence of al Qaeda cells in the United States, it sounds reassuring to Americans, but it‘s basically means we haven‘t found them yet.  To assume that they‘re not here is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to do. 

SHUSTER:  Many of the questions have focused on two of the 19 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.  They are among the first four al Qaeda members Osama bin Laden chose for the plot.  Hazmi and Mihdhar settled in San Diego in February of 2000, 18 months before 9/11.  And according to the 9/11 report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who helped organize the attack, quote, instructed Hazmi and Mihdhar to pose as newly arrived Saudi students and seek assistance at local mosques.  Hazmi and Mihdhar made friends there. 

One friend, investigated by the FBI, Muqdar Abdullah (ph) was among those students who, quote, expressed hatred for the U.S. government.  And the 9/11 reports says he helped Hazmi and Mihdhar get driver‘s licenses and enroll in English classes.  Shortly after 9/11, Abdullah told the FBI he knew nothing about the plot. 

Later, while being held on immigration charges, Abdullah reportedly bragged to fellow inmates that he had advance knowledge of the attacks, but the FBI could not corroborate the story.  Abdullah was not charged, though he was eventually deported to Yemen.  And the 9/11 report declared, quote, our inability to ascertain the activities of Hazmi and Mihdhar during their first two weeks in the United States may reflect al Qaeda trade craft, designed to protect the identity of anyone who may have assisted them during that period. 

In the months that followed, Hazmi and Mihdhar also befriended another man in California, Anmar Aliki (ph), a religious leader who soon moved to Virginia.  Eventually Hazmi, himself, showed up in Virginia at Aliki‘s mosque.  Along the way did Aliki or any other Moslems know what the 19 hijackers were planning? 

SCHEUER:  I suspect they didn‘t simply because al Qaeda is very, very good at compartmentalizing information.  They don‘t talk a lot about what they are going to do until after the fact, when they explain pretty intricately what they did do. 

SHUSTER:  The terrorists did have their share of set backs leading up to 9/11.  Hazmi and Mihdhar were supposed to improve their English and learn how to fly, but they failed.  Still, on 9/11 they boarded American airlines flight number 77 and helped three other terrorists seize control of the cockpit.  Then the hijackers crashed the aircraft into the Pentagon. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Again the 9/11 Commission says there is no evidence the hijackers received help from anybody in the U.S. who knew about the plot.  Still it‘s a question that has long bothered investigators.  Investigators are also convinced that instead of 19 hijackers, al Qaeda was planning on 20.  So who was supposed to be the 20th hijacker?  That unanswered question is in our next report.  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Fascinating stuff.  That was David Shuster of course.  That

next report in our series will air right here on HARDBALL tomorrow and a

reminder on-Monday night at 10:00 Eastern join me for a special hour, 9/11

five years later, with firsthand accounts from John McCain, Hillary

Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and many others of where they were that fateful

day.  That‘s this Monday night at 10:00.  And you can go to our website

right now to hear Colin Powell‘s remembrance of the 9/11 attacks.  Just go

to MSNBC.com 

Up next, former Virginia governor Mark Warner is a high tech guy, but why is holding virtual meetings with reporters and voters on the Internet?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC, live from the “National Journal‘s” headquarters. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from the “National Journal‘s” headquarters at The Watergate Hotel as we launch our new partnership between NBC News, MSNBC, MSNBC.com and the National Journal Group.  From YouTube to second life to blogging and bloggings, it‘s a brave new world out there in campaign politics. 

Here to help us surf this new political wave, our Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and the “Washington Post‘s” Dana Milbank. 

Dana, I want to start with you on a particular question.  You were out there in—what do you call it—the virtual world the other day, almost like in the matrix.  There was a press conference held in computer land, right?  Tell me what it was like. 

DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTON POST”:  I like how you describe it.  It was like Ted Stevens calling it a series of tubes.  You play this game on your computer.  It‘s like a video game.  You create an avatar.  I was a fat woman wearing a thong until my editors made me put some more clothes on her. 

MATTHEWS:  That was your image on screen, right? 

MILBANK:  Yes, and then you asked questions of the candidate who made a rather more flattering avatar for himself, but, of course, it‘s being the Wild West of the Internet.  Things got out of hand, characters starting flying across the screen, nobody could figure out how to sit down and, of course, the questions were out of ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How will this work with people—you know how to do this kind of stuff, this high-tech stuff, Joe.  how are you going be able to—

I think if that guy were a candidate, say Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, could he be sitting there talking to people out in the state? 

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGISTS:  Yes.  Between that and YouTube and some of the other new tools that weren‘t around in 2003, 2004, you can sort of cut through, sort of skip the filter of the media and go directly to voters in the world or the site that they are members of or they have logged into.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you do it like a conference call where you can actually have Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia, sitting here talking to the actual Dana Milbank?  What‘s wrong with that?

MILBANK:  Well, I can tell you why.  Because we wouldn‘t have paid any attention to it.  If Mark Warner just holds a press conference you‘re not going to do that.  It is the same idea with these Internet ads. 

It has—the idea is that it just provokes somebody‘s interests because of the novelty of it, and then you get free press.  There is no way I would have written a column if Mark Warner was sitting in Richmond having a conference call. 

MATTHEWS:  But let‘s get into this.  I mean, a lot of people out there, people in their 20s, they want to volunteer in campaigns, they want to feel a part of it.  Is this a chance for someone in Joey McGee or Sally McGee in Scranton to actually sit down and have fun talking to the candidate they‘re working for? 

TRIPPI:  Yes, I mean, that‘s what‘s going on.  The difference is the campaigns can actually have a conversation with their supporters and actually get them engaged and run a more decentralized effort.  That‘s what we did in the Dean campaign, and the tools that are available today are much further advanced ...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, we were an Italian movie there for about 10 seconds. 

TRIPPI:  But the tools are much further advanced today than they were even in the 2003, 2004 cycles.   

MATTHEWS:  Who is winning, Dana? 

MILBANK:  Who‘s winning on the Internet?

MATTHEWS:  Democrats or Republicans, who‘s got the state-of-the-art effort right now? 

MILBANK:  With the exception of Joe Trippi, the Republicans have been ahead in terms of organizing, but ... 

MATTHEWS:  They know how to use the Web sites, the Internet? 

MILBANK:  Yes, and it‘s not—it‘s really an organizing tool more than—these are gimmicks we‘re talking about like what Mark Warner is doing now.  I don‘t think that‘s really ...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk turkey.  Who raises the most money online, Joe?

TRIPPI:  Definitely Democrats because that‘s what we needed to do.  I mean, the Republicans have been laying that small donor direct mail base for years and years and years so the Democrats, that‘s one of the things we had to do in the Dean campaign and something that Kerry did.  It‘s something that a lot of Democrats are doing this year.  It‘s more important.

What I think the Republicans are better at is moving the story off an obscure Web site or blog somewhere, running it up to drudge, and then popping it into the mainstream media, if you will.  They‘re better at that than the Democrats, although the Democrats are making progress at that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the Republicans are still better at television, maybe because they control the White House.  But, clearly, the president every day this week, it seems, has been on the hour with a new hour-long speech which guarantees it will make the front page of the newspaper the next day.  It seems like if the president talks long enough, we have to cover it, but the Democrats don‘t have a response that‘s coherent.  Do you think so? 

MILBANK:  It‘s still the big megaphone that the president has.  But it‘s also—I mean, what you‘re not seeing necessarily is it‘s perfectly controlled with the rest of the party, the activism, receiving memos, oh, a flurry of e-mails and messages going out through the Internet. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So if we have somebody on this show—we can‘t screen this, of course, because we can‘t stop people from making phone calls but every time we have a Republican advocate on this network, on HARDBALL especially, I get the feeling sometimes they‘ve called in somewhere and they‘ve gotten the word.  Is that what they‘re doing, Dana? 

MILBANK:  Well, sure, that part‘s easy.  It‘s the e-mailing of the talking points, but it goes way further down to the grassroots there.  They‘re using the Web to ... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So if the guy who is the block captain or the ward leader or the precinct captain, every day he or she knows what the word is from the White House to be speaking to defend themselves with the voters? 

TRIPPI:  Right, but Democrats don‘t have that kind of—there‘s no voice.  I mean, Rove has the ability or the White House has the ability to send that message out and everybody says, OK, we‘re going to follow it although it‘s not working so well for them lately. 

The thing that is different with these new tools is that‘s not going to work anymore, because you have to be authentic or have that line down all the time.  So you have a candidate like Allen in Virginia says something in a room, it gets caught ...

MATTHEWS:  Macaca.

TRIPPI:  Macaca. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not the talking point. 

TRIPPI:  Right, and the next thing you know, it‘s—anybody can go to YouTube ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ...in Pennsylvania the other day called Rick Santorum a Nazi, in effect.  That wasn‘t a talking point.

TRIPPI:  Right, right.  And I think talking points aren‘t going to work as well because this new medium, this new ability to move this stuff around, and no candidate can be—and no campaign can be on 100 percent of the time, 24/7, with that facade that you get to keep up. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like, but also when you say something wrong now, it‘s like a ping pong ball in a tile bathroom, right?  It goes everywhere, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. 

MILBANK:  The video goes everywhere, you were mentioning YouTube earlier.  It‘s so much better.  You can say Conrad Burns fell asleep in an ag hearing but it‘s much better to actually watch him fall asleep in the ag hearing.  It‘s great, it‘s terrific.

TRIPPI:  I put nice slow music behind it.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, do all of the candidates now have people like the fellow Sidharth, who was called the bad language, but they all have these guys walking around with these cameras. 

TRIPPI:  Yes, the difference is now they can put in on YouTube and let everybody see it.  Before they just took it back to headquarters. 

MATTHEWS:  So before it hits the “Washington Post,” it‘s already out there.  Anyway, thank you state-of-the-art man here Joe Trippi, Dana Milbank.  I loved your column today, anyway, about Joe Lieberman and the other guy. 

Up next, we‘ll talk more about the hot races across the country with the “New York Times‘” Anne Kornblut and the “WashingtonPost.com‘s” Chris Cilizza.  This is HARDBALL , only on MSNBC, live tonight from the “National Journal‘s” headquarters at the Watergate. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back live at the “National Journal‘s” headquarters at the Watergate Hotel here in Washington.  Of course the Watergate is the Watergate, the one where everything happened here back in 1972. 

We‘re here to honor, in fact celebrate the new partnership between NBC News, MSNBC, MSNBC.com and the “National Journal Group” and here to break down some of the hot races in the upcoming midterm elections are Anne Kornblut of the “New York Times” and Chris Cilizza of the “WashingtonPost.com”.  When are you going to be part of the “Washington Post,” and not just dot com, or is it the future? 

CHRIS CILIZZA, “WASHINGTONPOST.COM”:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Is dot com better?

CILIZZA:  I think it‘s the future but they haven‘t let me put the big boy pants on just yet. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, let me ask you, Anne Kornblut about what‘s the latest on that race we‘ve been covering now for three or four weeks, which is the unending, never ending Connecticut race for Senate on the Democratic side.  Joe Lieberman is still running.  He‘s ahead in the polls.  Ned Lamont won the primary, he‘s behind in the polls.  What‘s going on?  You had dinner last night with Mr. Ned? 

ANNE KORNBLUT, THE “NEW YORK TIMES”:  He came in and had dinner with a few of us and yesterday, of course  was back to school day. 

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  Well, it was a group of reporters.  I think reporters in general are on his selection list these days.  You know, it was back to school day for Joe Lieberman, so he was here yesterday and Lamont was really coming to Washington for the first time.  Like you say, there is still a gap, Lieberman is still ahead. 

The real question is what Republicans are going to do in the state.  We still don‘t know.  The other question is, is this going to be a national race, is it a good idea for Lamont to come to Washington, talk to all the Washington national political reporters or does he really need to focus on the state?  That‘s one of the main questions right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well why was Lamont carrying favor with you guys last night? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, we are a local New York metropolitan paper, for one thing, but I think at the same time he wants to come to Washington and thank a lot of the Democrats, the national Democrats who are supporting him and essentially turning against Lieberman, their long-time friend. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s too waspy to win that election or is he enough of a regular guy to get the working people and the ethnic people in the Democratic party to see him as a Democrat?   

KORNBLUT:  I think Chris should answer that question.

MATTHEWS:  Is he too waspy?

CILIZZA:  He‘s not your typical candidate that would, sort of, the blue color guys in Connecticut‘s choice, by any means.   

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t he just drop out of the Greenwich Country Club so he could run? 

KORNBLUT:  Well that‘s why he can afford to run, right?  

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking a damned serious question here.  Is he a Democrat enough to beat Joe Lieberman? 

CILIZZA:  Yes, absolutely, and you know why Chris?  Because the war is such a salient issue now that I think they‘re willing to overlook that he‘s from Greenwich.  I‘m from Connecticut.  Trust me, we look askance at people from Greenwich, they don‘t count, but they are willing to overlook that kind of stuff because he‘s against the war and Joe Lieberman is for the war and that‘s all that matters. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, bottom line, how come Joe Lieberman is still leading in the polls if Joe Lieberman loses the Democratic primary and he‘s a hawk in a state that is totally dovish?   

KORNBLUT:  Well I think the obvious answer, the conventional wisdom anyway, is that he‘s still got all the moderates and the conservatives and that‘s, you know, at least a third of the state right there. 

CILIZZA:  When the president comes out and Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, come out and say they won‘t endorse the Allen Schlesinger, the Republican candidate, well that‘s a wink, wink, nod, nod, that hey, if you‘re Republican in the state, feel free to go ahead and endorse Joe Lieberman.  It‘s sort of hard for Allen Schlesinger to say hey vote for me, the president is not with me, Ken Mehlman‘s not with me.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s Joe Lieberman.  You know, he bumped into my wife last night and said you are the Matthews I like.  I got to tell you, Senator Lieberman, I am not taking sides in this race.  I think he‘s got a good shot.  It‘s going to be very close, may the best man win.  Let me ask you about the whole question.  We just talked about technology here.  Do you guys have a sense that one party has got the hot hand in terms of how you get elected these days, as opposed to the other party? 

CILIZZA:  I think what you‘ve seen is that Republicans have long been ahead on the sort of micro kind of things that go along with elections. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Why are they better?

CILIZZA:  You know, I don‘t know the answer to that.  Maybe it‘s that

they‘ve been better financed and they‘ve been able to try different things

out.  But I have the sense that

MATTHEWS:  Is it because the same sociological reason that they‘re the kind of people that are at the movies early or on time and Democrats act like they don‘t know what the schedule is? 

CILIZZA:  They do tend to be more meticulous when it comes to the details.  

KORNBLUT:  Well they‘re always been good at building databases of small donors and I think over time that translated to having better mailing lists, but the difference now, of course, is that the Internet is starting to be seen as a real force now in it‘s third, fourth incarnation.  It‘s third, fourth time in.  

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they can make the jump, you know, people that is called the Pajamahaddin (ph), people that really get up in the morning in their pajamas, maybe they don‘t even read the newspaper in print, they read it on line, and they‘re right in there with a blog.  I agree with you completely.  Does that translate to getting out and getting voters to the polls?  Do we know if that works?   

CILIZZA:  I think it translates.  The one thing we do know works is it translates into money and money can help make people turn out to vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Money talks? 

CILIZZA:  Yes, exactly.  The blogosphere has shown they can raise money for candidates.  They raised money for Ned Lamont.  They raised money for other people.  Howard dean, remember, of course we‘re always haunted by Howard Dean in some way, shape, or form.  He lost, but I think what he did fundamentally changed politics in terms of what Joe, who was just here did, raising money from the Internet. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s just like people giving up on print newspapers and more and more relying on the Internet.  I always wonder this, do the people know who are online all day how you get to the high school, how you get to the community center where their parents seem to go for meetings and stuff?  Do they know how to get, take off their pajamas, put on regular clothes and go some place and vote?   

KORNBLUT:  That‘s why Internet voting is next. 

MATTHEWS:  No, because you can‘t trust it in big cities.  The corruption would be rampant.  Come on.

KORNBLUT:  Don‘t you think it would drive up turnout? 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s enough corruption in big city ethnic neighborhoods, excuse me, you‘re going to have give another outlet for corruption?  Would you trust online voting?  Would you trust it?

KORNBLUT:  I would have to wait and see.  I mean I think there are a lot of people who don‘t, already don‘t trust the current system.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is there any legs to this story in Ohio, by the way, about the last election was decided by Ohio.  Kerry lost because of Ohio.  President Bush got reelected because of Ohio.  What is all this talk about Diebold corporation and the count?  Is that going to be an issue? 

CILIZZA:  That‘s a huge issue in the liberal blogosphere, a huge issue.  People bring that up when I write things about the election, they bring that up.  They believe that the past election was rigged.  Look, I think as you get out into the sort of more main-stream average voter, who are not watching this on a daily basis, I don‘t think that really matters.  They go in, they vote.  They want their vote fairly counted but they don‘t believe in a conspiracy theory that Diebold is stealing elections for Republicans, no. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, was it charming having dinner with Ned Lamont?  Is he a charmer?  Is he a political charmer like Bill Clinton?

KORNBLUT:  Nobody is a political charmer on that order.  He was very smart.  He was very nice.  He talked on the record and that‘s always a joy for reporters.

MATTHEWS:  On the scale of waspy to regular, waspy being ten points, regular being a zero, where was he? 

KORNBLUT:  How do I judge that? 

MATTHEWS:  Well give me a five. 

CILIZZA:  What‘ the exact middle, 5.55?   

MATTHEWS:  How regular was he?

KORNBLUT:  Well he didn‘t drink, so I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t really know then, do you.  Anyway, thank you Anne Kornblut, thank you Chris Cilizza.  These are important questions.  When we come back the (INAUDIBLE) Chuck Todd and MSNBC.com‘s, its own Jennifer Sizemore is going to be here to tell us about our new political partnership, news analysis, a new electoral map, new rankings of the hot races.  It‘s so interesting to be able to use this new tool to keep up with politics.  It‘s called politics.MSNBC.com.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC, live from the Watergate “National Journal‘s” headquarters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back at the “National Journal‘s” headquarters here in the Watergate in Washington, celebrating the new partnership between NBC News, MSNBC.com, and the “National Journal.”  To tell us all about that and the breakdown of the new hot race in the midterms, I am joined right now by Jennifer Sizemore, editor in chief of MSNBC.com, and Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the “Hotline.”  Let me ask you about this election and how you‘re going to cover it.  How are you going to cover it?  What‘s the hot question?  Is it who takes the Congress?  What‘s the hot button question?

JENNIFER SIZEMORE, MSNBC.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF:  Of course who takes Congress is one of the top things. 

MATTHEWS:  So when we come out of this thing, I am asking you to confirm what we did yesterday on the show, when we did politics all day.  That magic number 218, if the Democrats get that 218, that number, that flashes around the world, right?  Bush loses his own Congress, right? 

SIZEMORE:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Big story right, no confidence vote. 

CHUCK TODD, THE “HOTLINE”:  That‘s right, I mean, look at the only time we pay attention to other country‘s midterm elections is when their leader‘s party gets blown out.  So absolutely, 218 or 51 Senate seats for the Democrats, that‘s a big story.  Now, if they come up short, that‘s a big story. 

MATTHEWS:  Well I could see in the left wing press around the world and the enemies we have around the world could say something like Bush hanging by a thread in his own government, right?  They are not going to be nice to Bush anywhere? 

SIZEMORE:  In some places, perhaps. 

MATTHEWS:  Where, Denmark?  Who do we have on our side? 

(CROSSTALK)

SIZEMORE:  Well, I think if the Democrats come up short, though, that it won‘t be anywhere near this story, and hanging by a thread, sure, but it‘s moving on, it‘s not that big a deal. 

MATTHEWS:  What are you watching out there in terms of the a fun race that might be a big upset, something that you know, might have to get the pick?  Mine is New Jersey, and I think Cane might knock off Menendez, but I‘m also looking at Virginia as an interesting possible upset. 

SIZEMORE:  Sure.  Pennsylvania is not boring either. 

MATTHEWS:  What would be an upset in Pennsylvania? 

SIZEMORE:  Well, I just mean it‘s an interesting race to watch is my point. 

MATTHEWS:  Well if Santorum survives it‘s an upset at this point. 

What are you looking at? 

TODD:  I think on one side it‘s Michigan, that would be my Republican upset.  I have the governor beat Stabenow.  That would be a big upset. 

MATTHEWS:  Because of the economy out there? 

TODD:  The economy.  Michigan is sort of an upside down state.  If this is a change election, and they want change, Michigan is a state that needs change. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about that streak that has really nothing to do with partisanship, accept Republicans own a lot of the seats, hold a lot of the seats.  Pennsylvania they had all of those top guys beaten over the pay raise issue.  I saw Lieberman lose.  Is that part of the streak of maybe beating people in primaries is promising, we are going to see a lot of big name incumbents going down in November that usually don‘t win? 

TODD:  I think we have got two more cases coming up.  We‘ve got Lincoln Chafee is going to be running a primary next Tuesday.  Ten days later in a Saturday primary we got Dan Akaka in Hawaii.  This thing has hit a governor of Alaska, could hit a senator of Hawaii, has hit a congressman from Georgia, congressman from Michigan, I mean, there is not a state in the country where incumbents aren‘t losing this cycle.  

MATTHEWS:  OK, Jennifer let‘s talk about how we can tell.  A lot of people watching right now, like me, and they care about this election for a lot of good reason. 

SIZEMORE:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  They also want to follow the game part of it, which is who is win, who is losing.  How do they use the new Politics.MSNBC.com website? 

SIZEMORE:  Well, it‘s fascinating.  We just launched today and we are going to continue to add features just as we hear back from our readers and our users on what‘s working for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well pretend they‘re online right now.  Watch this now, pretend a person watching now is online, what do they do? 

SIZEMORE:  They go to this interactive map, and you can drill down into your local race, click on the push pin that is in your state, and we will give you all of the information that we have had on the race.  We handicap it.  We are able to show you the video, the interviews, you‘re on there, all kinds of places and you are really able to tell what is going on around the country just by scrolling.

MATTHEWS:  And Chuck, you‘re on almost everyone of those icons.  Every time you see the little red pins there you can punch up you and see what you‘re predicting on different states.   

TODD:  Here‘s what I love about it.  It allows the viewer to be a pundit.  You know, we sit in here, and we all pundicize, but this is now giving them all the information where the average voter ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You check in with us and you know everything. 

TODD:  And you get to know everything and you can be the pundit and you can be Chris Matthews and you can be Charlie Cook, and that‘s what this sight is going to help the average political junkie.  

MATTHEWS:  If you want to aim higher, punch up the part that says Pennsylvania polls, Virginia polls, that‘s the best part. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  You can get TV adds.  You can dig as deep as you want. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s still easier watching HARDBALL.  Anyway, thank you Chuck Todd, who‘s got the great picks in there.  I agree with most of them.  Jennifer Sizemore, who is going to put this whole thing together.  Stay with us for more HARDBALL live at 7:00 tonight.  We have a whole new show coming back.  We‘ll have much more excitement live here at the “National Journal‘s” headquarters.  By the way, catch John Kerry‘s interview tonight.  That‘s coming back too.  And on Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney, that‘s how he pronounces it, exclusively on Tim Russert‘s “Meet the Press.”  Right now it‘s time for Tucker.

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.

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