updated 10/2/2006 2:02:40 PM ET 2006-10-02T18:02:40

Guest: Chris Cillizza, John Murtha, Marsha Blackburn, Terry McAuliffe, Ron Christie, Steve Jarding, John Harwood

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Oh, Congress.  Trouble on Capitol Hill, as a Florida Congressman resigns after the disclosure of his suggestive e-mail to a 16-year-old former page.  This on top of a Bob Woodward blast of the Bush war team for a major coverup of the bad war news.  Let’s play HARDBALL.  

Good evening, I’m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.

Late this afternoon, Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida submitted his resignation, effective immediately, after reports of questionable e-mails he sent to a 16-year-old former page.  More on this breaking news in a moment. 

And later, Washington is buzzing about Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial.”  Woodward’s first two books about Bush’s war team portrayed them as largely united and disciplined under the president’s leadership.  This new book tells a whole different story. 

According to reports, the book details a dysfunctional White House that ignored warnings from top advisors that we needed more troops in Iraq, a White House that intentionally downplayed the violence in Iraq, intelligence agencies that were caught off guard by insurgents in Iraq. 

And according to Woodward, the president’s own parents were so worried about the war that his father, former President Bush, couldn’t sleep at night.  NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell will have the full story.

But we start with the lake-breaking news of Congressman Foley’s resignation from the House.  We’re joined by NBC’s Mike Viqueira and the Washingtonpost.com’s Chris Cillizza. 

Mike Viqueira, why is this man resigning today?  What happened? 

What’s the bad story here?

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS:  Well, Chris, it’s a sad story for everyone involved.  Essentially, there was a 16-year-old page, he worked for another member of Congress on the House of Representatives side.  Remember, they’re all high school students there.  They stay for a semester or a year depending on their party. 

Congressman Foley befriended this man, apparently—this young boy, I should say—started an e-mail relationship with him, sent him at least five e-mails asking him questions like how old are you, are you safe in the hurricanes?  The young boy was from Louisiana.  He asked him to send him a picture of him. 

Now, we have to put this in context.  Congressman Foley has always battled suspicions about his sexual orientation.  It may have cost him a Senate bid about three years ago, and so suddenly today, we finally get this bombshell.  The House of Representatives was abuzz.  Congressman Foley had resigned, sent a letter to the speaker submitting his resignation from Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris, can you add to this?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Yes, I wanted to just make one point, is that Mike’s right.  The sexual orientation issue has followed Mark Foley for quite some time.  But it seems to me that this one is simply just a question of inappropriateness. 

Whether it was a 16-year-old boy, or a 16-year-old girl, whatever Mark Foley’s sexual orientation happens to be, this is an inappropriate relationship.  You should not be sending personal e-mails to a young boy a young girl and talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let’s put some of this on the table so that people at home know what we’re talking about.  Here’s some of Congressman Foley’s e-mails to that 16-year-old former page, a boy. 

“Glad you’re home safe and sound.  We don’t go back into session until September 5.  It’s a nice long break.  I am back in Florida now.  It’s nice here, been raining today.  It sounds like we’ll have some fun over the next few weeks.  How old are you now?”

In another e-mail, the Congressman wrote:  “I am in North Carolina and it was 100 degrees in New Orleans.  Wow.  That’s really hot.  Well, do you miss D.C.?  It’s raining here but 68 degrees so who can argue?  Did you have fun at your conference?  What do you want for your birthday coming up?  What stuff do you like to do?”

In another e-mail the congressman wrote, “I just e-mailed Will.  He’s such a nice guy.  Acts much older than his age, and he’s really in great shape.  I just finished riding my bike on a 25-mile journey, now heading to the gym.  What’s school like for you this year?”

And, because the boy is from Louisiana, “How are you weathering the hurricane?  Are you safe?  Send me an e-mail pic of you as well,” a picture of you as well.

Anyway what do you—put that together.  I mean, obviously, it’s of an intimate nature.  He’s talking about physicality of a young intern, or a page, whatever you want to call it, it’s somewhat—it’s overt interest in a young boy. 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, I think the sexual part of the story—and, of course, Chris pointed out the alleged pedophilia as another dimension to it, at least the implication of pedophilia.  But the reaction from the boy who had e-mailed to some staffers on Capitol Hill his reaction to Congressman Foley’s e-mails to him, he said “sick, sick, sick,” I think it was 13 or 15 times.  He said he was freaked out by the whole experience. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris?

CILLIZZA:  I mean, look, I just think that given his past—remember, this is someone—Mark Foley ran for the Senate.  He announced for the Senate, he was running for the Senate in 2003.  He abruptly dropped out of that race citing his parents’ ill health. 

Now, it also happened to be that in that time, and a little bit before it, there had been a lot of rumors in some alternative publications that he was gay, that there was evidence of this and that a few people were going to come forward. 

So the problem is, is again, in politics, if something like this plays into a storyline that already exists—we’ve seen this with George Allen, same kind of things.  There’s that storyline out there that exists about the person.  When it fits into it, it makes for a convincing story. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, there’s one thing missing here.  The abrupt—or an explanation of the abrupt decision by Mark Foley.  I know the guy.  He seems like a level-headed guy.  I like the guy.  This story—here’s why it doesn’t quite add up. 

There must be something here, or at least his interpretation of the news we just presented, quote, usually politicians deny stories right away.  They spend weeks denying stories.  That never happened, that’s wrong, I didn’t send an e-mail, somebody else used my machine.  You’re getting it all misinterpreted. 

Then they go into the delay, the stonewall.  They wait it out.  They say this will pass, this is a storm.  It’ll be over in three or four weeks.  Who wants to talk about e-mail three weeks from now? 

And finally they apologize.  All these stages of defense in a case where you’re caught and embarrassed.  Why did he just say, damn it, I’m out of here.  Does anybody have an explanation?

VIQUEIRA:  Well, and, in fact, there have been members—in 1983, you know of a member from Massachusetts who weathered a similar storm, had an affair.

(CROSSTALK)

VIQUEIRA:  Got re-elected. 

MATTHEWS:  And he never apologized. 

VIQUEIRA:  The circumstance of that would ...

MATTHEWS:  And by the way, he had sex with that kid.  That was on the record. 

VIQUEIRA:  Right, and after that they reformed the whole page system after that incident.  The pages got younger, they were in high school now.  They’re very closely supervised. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re right.  Let’s not overdo this.  They went from 17 to 16. 

VIQUEIRA:  All right, well, they stay for a semester, they stay for a year, they’re very closely supervised.  And Speaker Hastert today, his only reaction to this thing was to project sympathy for the pages.  He said he is going to ask the head of the Page Board, another congressman from Illinois, to look into the matter. 

CILLIZZA:  Well, and Chris, I think the answer to you question about the suddenness of this, I mean ...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  ...only yesterday did we see this report come out.  I mean, it points to one thing and I don’t want to profess that I know this for sure, but what it points to is that there’s significantly more data out there that’s potentially damaging and he knew it. 

VIQUEIRA:  Yes, must be.

MATTHEWS:  OK, that’s politics.  It’s there we’re all far more familiar with reporting on it, and I like reporting on politics.  I’ll bet you there’s meetings going on now where the Democrats are saying, it’s only 14 seats we got to win now, not 15 anyway. 

CILLIZZA:  Hey, Chris, I can—just real quick.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  I was going to say, I don’t think it’s 14 seats.  I was just—as I was coming in here, I was thinking assuming that Foley, they can’t replace him on the ballot—which everything I know from Republicans is that they will not be able to.  Assuming that that happens, that’s a seat for Democrats. 

Texas 22, Tom DeLay’s seat, where a write-in Republican is running, count that one for Democrats.  And then the seat you referenced, Jim Kolbe’s seat in Arizona, where a too conservative former state senator is running, so you’ve now three seats that are in the column. 

MATTHEWS:  So they only have to win 12 now.

CILLIZZA:  So you’re moving closer to that hurdle. 

VIQUEIRA:  There is some questions as to the procedures in Florida as whether or not Foley’s name stays on the ballot, whether the governor ... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me suggest one other point, the macro problem.  This is one more problem for the whole Congress, one more story.  By the way, everybody picks up the paper tomorrow and watches the news right now and says the Congress is out of control.  They can’t police their own sexual behavior. 

They don’t know what their job is.  They don’t understand in loco parentis.  They don’t accept the responsibilities as grownups where young kids are coming to work and learning how our system works.  They’re not good guys.  I can hear this in bars tonight already.  People are already talking about this.

VIQUEIRA:  Right, and we’ve seen the Abramoff e-mails that broke again yesterday.  Abramoff came back up.  Think about the last two weeks, what Republicans wanted to do and what has happened.  They wanted to bash on national security, go after Democrats, they had the McCain fight, they had the NIE, they had the Woodward book, the had the Abramoff, and now they have this.  They’re out of town tonight.  I think they’re going to be glad to get out.

MATTHEWS:  Let’s find out if Denny Hastert pushed this or this—it was up to Mark Foley to do it, because then you could say the leadership hasn’t acted very well here if they let this thing explode at its own course.  But I think it’s trouble in River City as they start it, and people are saying the damn Congress. 

Thank you, Mike Viqueira.  Thank you, Chris Cillizza.

When we come back, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will be here with more on that explosive new book just coming out this weekend by the “Washington Post’s” Bob Woodward.  Is the Bush administration really in—this is the title of the book—a “State of Denial”?

Plus, U.S. Congresswoman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania and U.S.  Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn will be here.  You’re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial,” describes a White House seriously at odds over the war in Iraq.  Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld wouldn’t take then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s phone calls, and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card was working behind the scenes to oust Rumsfeld with Laura Bush’s help.

NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more.  Andrea, I’m so impressed that Andy Card, who I thought was sort of a manager of the White House, was taking such a dangerous role in trying to get rid of Rumsfeld. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  This was a very tough thing.  He was taking on someone who was protected by both Karl Rove and the vice president, but went to Laura Bush, in fact, for support.  This really is shades of Nancy Reagan.  It’s a role for Laura Bush that we have never known existed.  But this is very meticulously reported and clearly, at least from one half of the conversation, Bob Woodward has nailed the fact that Andy Card was trying to get Don Rumsfeld fired, felt that he was overbearing, was arrogant, and as you’ve just reported, couldn’t get along with people, was running roughshod over Hugh Shelton.

Of course, he also details just how dysfunctional Rumsfeld found the Pentagon, that Rumsfeld was constantly frustrated in trying to get the chain of command—when he came back to the Pentagon for his second tour of duty as Defense secretary, it was post the so-called reforms of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, and he was shocked to learn that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was getting information in real time that he was not privy to, even though he was constitutionally required to report to the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Sometimes when I read about this administration, I wonder whether there isn’t an interruption in the chain of command:  the events of 9/11; accounts by Rumsfeld that he has to obey orders from above and that above turns out to be Dick Cheney.  Is Dick Cheney above Rumsfeld in the order of command in this administration?  Is he higher up?

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.  There’s no question.

MATTHEWS:  But that’s extraordinary, that a vice president would have rank over a secretary of Defense. 

MITCHELL:  Not in this case.  I don’t think that is surprising.

MATTHEWS:  Not in this case.  This case is extraordinary. 

MITCHELL:  I think there have been other examples where powerful vice presidents—Al Gore played a very powerful role and probably did trump some of Bill Cohen’s suggestions on Bosnia and other issues in that administration, because Al Gore was very, very closely connected, back in those days at least, to Bill Clinton on foreign policy. 

MATTHEWS:  How can Rumsfeld not accept phone calls from Condoleezza Rice, not respond? 

MITCHELL:  That’s the real question that also troubles me, how that could have been possible.  I had talked to Rice’s people today and the current spokesman, who of course didn’t work for her when she was over at the NSC, just laughed that off and didn’t even want to deal with that question.  So they’re not responding to that.  But Condi Rice and Rumsfeld have had a very turbulent relationship.

That is also nothing new or novel.  We covered the Reagan White House when Schultz and Weinberger were feuding, and we know that Cohen and Albright, at times, weren’t all that cozy.  But in fact, this has been really pretty brutal, as all the people around Colin Powell can attest.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to the overall charge by the New York Times.  Their assessment of the book—and apparently they divvied the book up last night when they got a copy of the Woodward book—among a number of reporters, and their top story here, the lead they got out of it, was the charge by—the strong reporting, obviously, of Bob Woodward that this administration, the president did not level with the American people about the danger we faced in Iraq, the extreme nature of the insurgency, the fact that there was going to be a worsening insurgency and the fact that an expert in his administration called for 40,000 more troops and his response, the president’s response, was not to grant the call for more troops, but to tell the cabinet members, Don’t call this an insurgency.  It was a PR response to an urgent need for more troops.  Will that hurt this administration?

MITCHELL:  It’s not as though we haven’t heard that; certainly heard the charge before that the administration was sugarcoating things.  And Tony Snow today at the White House said they don’t sugarcoat things, that the president wants the real facts.  But certainly Woodward seems to have assembled classified documents that indicate that they would be saying one thing publicly and hearing another privately, that Phil Zelico, Rice’s closer adviser, told her, 14 days after she took office as secretary of State, that Iraq was, quote, “a failed state already.”  Not anything we heard from her publicly. 

They kept looking for signs of life in this body, that there would be an election, that things would go well and seizing on that.  But in May, just this recently last May, there is a public report to Congress from the Pentagon which talks about things getting better.  The classified report that Woodward claims to have said that the insurgency would increase throughout 2007, and on that very day or the day before, the president was in Chicago giving an upbeat report in a public speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Once again, Bob Woodward has unmasked a cover up. 

Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Just hours before the revelations of Woodward’s exploded into the headlines, President Bush was on the attack himself at a Republican fundraiser. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing.  The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha has served in Congress for more than 30 years.  He’s the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and he’s planning to run for leader of his party if the Democrats take back the House.

Mr. Murtha, I have got to ask you about a colleague, Mark Foley, his resignation—what do you make of it? 

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I’m  shocked—I was down in that district, campaigning with his opponent, Tim Mahoney, and nobody gave Tim Mahoney a chance.  Now, obviously, there won’t be anybody on the ballot, and Tim Mahoney will be a new Democrat from Florida. 

MATTHEWS:  Let’s do the math—let’s move on from this case to the fact you’ve got a good shot, the Democrats, of picking up the Kolbe seat in Arizona, the seat in Texas is apparently going the Democrats’ way.  That’s up to three seats you’re picking up already before the election happens.  You got the Lampson victory headed your way and the DeLay seat down in Houston.  You only have to get 12 seats now to take the House, right?

MURTHA:  I think the Sherwood seat is a real possibility, in Pennsylvania, and I think there’s a couple more.  I think, where I have been travelling all over the country, as you know, Chris, and I have seen an intensity I haven’t seen before.  I’ve seen—I get crowds that come in and they’re going to vote this time.  It reminds me of 1974 when we picked up 55 or 60 seats.  This intensity is going to carry over. 

And usually it’s local politics, like you well know from working with Tip O’Neill, but today it’s not only local politics, it’s the disingenuousness, the mischaracterization of this war—the very thing that Bob Woodward was talking about, the misleading of the American people.  And they’re fed up with it.  They want to see a change in direction.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the Democrats.  I was out last night and I heard Mark Russell, the great comedian.  He said, Here’s the Democrats’ problem—he quoted Will Rogers, saying I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.  He said people are still giggling at that joke 80 years later.  He said, Here’s how it goes, this is the Democratic position on the war:  John Kerry says we should start getting out of Iraq next July; Hillary Clinton says we should start getting out at the end of this year; and Jack Murtha says we should start getting out tomorrow morning.  What is the party’s position on getting out of Iraq?

MURTHA:  Let me just tell you this, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Everybody’s got a different position.

MURTHA:  Let me just say this:  there’s no question in my mind that we’re either going to get out very shortly or we’re going to be forced out at some point.  We cannot solve this problem militarily, I have said over and over again.  The military commanders tell me that.  General Pace said this publicly, We can’t solve it militarily.  It has to be done diplomatically.  And our troops have become the targets.  Our troops are caught in a civil war, which I have been saying for months, and everybody denied.  The president says he doesn’t want to talk about insurgency, it’s the bloodiest two months, July and August, of the three and a half years.  We’re going into the fifth year of this war, 130,000 troops on the ground, it’s getting worse every day.  We’re going to be forced out one way or the other. 

MATTHEWS:  Well did you see the new Associated Press report, Congressman Murtha, that said that 61 percent, three out of five Iraqis, want us dead.  They are routing for the attacks against our troops over there.  They want to see our guys blown up and we’re claiming that we’re liberators and we’re treated as liberators by these people.  What do you make of—when you talk to the administration people, do they not read these results?  Don’t they see what’s going on over there, that we’re hated? 

MURTHA:  I’ll tell you the problem, Chris.  They aren’t realistic, they’re denying what’s going on.  They hand out a paper every day and everybody speaks from that paper.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  The rhetoric does not solve the problem.  There’s no way anything is going to happen unless something changes on the ground and it’s getting worse.  Four hundred incidents a month, or a week last year, and it’s 800 this year. 

MATTHEWS:  How come the military guys, the top field rank guys, the generals won’t talk until they’re out. 

MURTHA:  No, they’ve been talking.

MATTHEWS:  They don’t.  They don’t criticize—the president keeps saying if my generals want more troops I’ll give them to him.  This new book by Bob Woodward says that one of the top advisors to the president said you need 40,000 more troops a couple months after we got over there, instead of saying, OK, here’s the troops, he said make sure the cabinet members don’t say it’s an insurgency. 

MURTHA:  Yes, well they’re constrained, I think, by policy and by sibling leadership.  They’re constrained, not the same, by loyalty.  But that’s not even the point.  The point is the American public has made a decision.  They’re 60 percent against this war.  And it’s even further, when you go and ask the Iraqis, 80 percent of the Sunnis want us out of there and 72 percent of the Shias want us out of there.  So everybody wants us out of there and the American public has lost support of this war.  So there’s no question in my mind, there’s no solution, there’s only an alternative. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don’t you call a meeting of the Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives, it can be unofficial, and have them vote what you just said and then they’ll issue a statement that the Democrats of Congress believe we should get out of Iraq.  Why don’t you do that? 

MURTHA:  Chris, I’ll tell you what is going to happen—

MATTHEWS:  Why don’t you do that Congressman?  Why don’t you say what you just said formally, have the party say we’ve got to get out of Iraq instead of having four different positions. 

MURTHA:  We have to deal from a power base.  We have to change the Democratic leaders to Democratic leadership so we have a power base, so the president has to deal with us.  The president doesn’t have to deal with us now, so he ignores any advice we have.  Until there’s a Democratic Congress, you’re not going to see any change in this direction in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  But isn’t that like the Popeye cartoon, I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today?  Don’t you have to take a position before you face the voters, but say—you’re saying we’ll have a position as  a party if you will give us control of the Congress.  Why don’t you just take a position now?   

MURTHA:  Chris, what I’m saying—I have already taken a position. 

MATTHEWS:  You have, but the leadership has not called a vote in the House to get out of Iraq.  I don’t understand why you don’t do that. 

MURTHA:  But let me tell you, we are in a minority, it’s a rubber-stamp Congress and you know what I’m talking about.  We have no influence from that standpoint.  We can’t even get something up on the floor.  This is going to take an election.

MATTHEWS:  Why don’t you vote as a caucus against the Iraq war. 

MURTHA:  Well most of the members already voted with me when we had the Iraq resolution.  We had 140 people, seven Republicans and the rest were Democrats, voted to redeploy as quickly as possible. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, it’s great having you on, Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.  When we return, Republican reaction from Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.  You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Bob Woodward’s new book, as I said, is putting the Iraq war back in the spotlight with just 5 ½ weeks before election day.  U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is a Tennessee Republican, who supports President Bush.  What do you make of Woodward, I mean, he’s a pretty even dealer here.  He doesn’t have politics that I can think of.  I’ve been with him a lot of times.  He doesn’t seem to be anything politically What do you make of his reporting? 

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE:  Well, you know, Chris, I sold books to get myself through college.  I know a little bit about sales, I know a little bit about marketing and I think Bob Woodward is doing a good job of marketing a book. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let’s go through a couple of the points that the “New York Times” thought was interesting.  One is that the president was told by a top advisor in the late months of 2003, as we got into the war, that we needed to have more troops over there, 40,000 more.  Instead of saying yes, he said, make sure nobody uses the word insurgency around here.  Why didn’t he respond?  He’s always said I will respond to calls for more troops, why didn’t he do it? 

BLACKBURN:  Well, you know, you’re going to listen to the military.  You’re going to listen to those guys on the ground and follow through with what they want to do.  There are going to be a lot of things that are going to Monday morning quarterbacking. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This was a person, in real time, asking for more troops when they realized the extent of this insurgency and the president didn’t act, according to Woodward’s book. 

BLACKBURN:  Well, that’s according to Woodward’s book. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we know he didn’t increase the number of troops. 

BLACKBURN:  Well that is right and maybe there were folks on the ground, maybe there were generals on the ground that were saying, no, we feel like this is good.  We want to hold where we are.  And, you know, I think that what—

MATTHEWS:  You think it was a smart decision to limit the troop compliment over there? 

BLACKBURN:  I think that it’s a smart decision to listen to the command team on the ground. 

MATTHEWS:  And you don’t think they’re intimidated by either Rumsfeld or the president?

BLACKBURN:  I don’t think so—

MATTHEWS:  Well look what he did to Shinseki.  When Shinseki said we need a lot more troops, he canned the guy.  Isn’t that a warning to the generals, you better stick with what you got.  In fact, Rumsfeld says you fight a war with what you got. 

BLACKBURN:  Let me tell you something, I think that the generals on the ground, the teams on the ground know what their needs are.  There are a lot of people that are going to come in here and they are going to say all right, let’s go back here and let’s talk about a lot of revisionist history that is going to take place.  And a lot of people, when they don’t have a policy about how to deal with the war, what they do is go and attack the personality.  You’re going to see that right now with the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Who’s attacking your personality, fill me in?

BLACKBURN:  You see it with the Democrats.  You see the Democrats come in and they don’t have a plan of how they would handle Iraq.  But what they’re going to do is attack the personalities.  They’re going to attack the president.  They’re going to attack Secretary Rice.  They’re going to attack the leadership.  They’re going to attack Rumsfeld.  They’re going to be on the attack, but ask them what their plan is and they don’t have a plan of how -- 

MATTHEWS:  But Murtha just came on here, just to have a vivid demonstration of the alternative, --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He wants to get us out of Iraq and he’s not attacking anybody’s personality.  He’s saying the policy’s wrong, get out of Iraq.  That’s pretty clear.

BLACKBURN:  I tell you what, it helps us when you have the minority leader out there saying this election shouldn’t be about security.  That helps us.

MATTHEWS:  Who’s that?

BLACKBURN:  Nancy Pelosi.  What she says this election shouldn’t be about security?  That helps us, because this election is about security.

MATTHEWS:  What did she mean by that?  What did she say it should be about.

BLACKBURN:  She doesn’t have a plan, and when you don’t have a plan, when you don’t have a policy, you start to attack the personalities.  And you can second-guess all day long, but national security is the number one thing that people want to focus on ...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you your position.

BLACKBURN:  ...whether it is going to be about Iraq or whether it’s going to be about securing the borders.

MATTHEWS:  Then let’s go to the toughest question you’ve got to face, Iraq.  The president says he’s going to keep our troops in force in Iraq until he leaves the presidency.  That’s a political commitment.  He’s made it to the American people.  Do you share it?

BLACKBURN:  What our president needs to do is to be certain that our leadership team, the military team over there, that the Iraqi people understand we will be there to back them up, but the Iraqi people are going to have to stand up and they’re going to have to take responsibility for the civil society, for the governmental society. 

MATTHEWS:  But if they take responsibility, they want us to leave.  They say—three-fifths of Iraqi people, according to a new A.P. poll say they want us dead.  If they’re taking responsibility and they’re willing to say they want us dead, shouldn’t we leave?  You say they should make the decision.  They’re making it.  They say get out.  Why don’t we get out? 

BLACKBURN:  Because we have made a commitment to be certain that we help stabilize the Middle East.

MATTHEWS:  No, our commitment is to help them do what they want done. 

They want us to leave. 

BLACKBURN:  Our commitment is to help them stand that government up. 

MATTHEWS:  Even if they don’t want us there? 

BLACKBURN:  Our commitment is to help them stand that government up, and when you talk to Iraqis, when you talk with some of these Iraqi leaders that have been elected, what they tell will tell you is do not leave us.  Help us get this government stood up.  Help us get this civil structure stood up.  Help us get our society ...

MATTHEWS:  It doesn’t bother you that three-fifth of people over there say they like us being attacked, they want us dead? 

BLACKBURN:  That’s not a poll that I believe.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you don’t believe the Associated Press poll? 

BLACKBURN:  No, I don’t.  No, I don’t.

MATTHEWS:  All right, we’re not going to get any farther with this conversation.  Thank you very much.  It’s great having you on.  I thought I had some facts there, but I guess it’s been blown away by Marsha Blackburn, Congresswoman from Tennessee, a Republican. 

Up next, more on the battle for power with former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Bush-Cheney White House advisor Ron Christie. 

And this Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert moderates a debate.  Here’s a hot one, Ohio, Mike DeWine versus Sherrod Brown.  That’s within four points.  You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tonight words, words, words, words like cut and run, words like rubber stamp and, of course, the N-word.  Your HARDBALLers tonight, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, and Republican strategist Ron Christie. 

Well, this is a battle of charmers tonight, I think.  You’re both going to try to charm the audience.  What do we make of this?  You just came on to tell me that there’s an even—according to the polls taken by Jim Webb in Virginia, that race has tightened to a pick. 

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR DNC CHAIRMAN:  Dead even race today.  What’s very informative is that Webb is going to announce for this quarter he’s raised $3 million this quarter, which is extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Translate that to TV time.

MCAULIFFE:  That means for the next month he’s going to be up every day, and he can stay up.  We still need more money, but for him to now be competitive with the money in the final 38 days of the campaign is extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron Christie, I can’t wait to talk to you about this.  African-American, tell me, does this strike the African-American community as—asking you to speak for 30, 40 million people. 

(CROSSTALK)

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I can only speak for myself. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it a tempest in the teapot?  Is it making a lot about something?  What would you call it?  Is this guy using—it starts with macaca.  Was that a cruel thing he did? 

CHRISTIE:  I think it was a bad mistake and a bad use of words.  I mean, there’s no question.  Senator Allen has said that was a mistake and a lapse of judgment, and he has apologized and the young man has accepted this apology. 

I actually have been a friend of George Allen’s for 15 years.  I’ve known him when he was in the House.  I knew him when he was the governor.  He’s been a good friend of mine since then.  These allegations are so out of the conformity of the man that I know, and the person that I’ve come to know.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let’s cut him some slack tonight on this show. 

CHRISTIE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I want you both to try to do this.  I know you want to win this race. 

CHRISTIE:  As do we.  As do we.

MATTHEWS:  Could it be—here’s my—I will now give you some Friday night psychobabble.  OK, I’m not into mannequin (ph) and politics.  This guy is right, this guy is bad, this guy is good.  I don’t buy that in most cases.  Could it be that he has a mother from North Africa, Tunisian, a Jewish background.  He may not have even known about that background, but he knew he had a mother with an accent from the Middle East. 

He wants to be Mr. Regular Southern Boy, he gets boots, he sets the saddle, he gets the horse, he gets the confederate flag.  I know this kind of meshes into a faux cowboy kind of person.  And he uses bad, ethnic language around his buddies ...

CHRISTIE:  Allegedly.

MATTHEWS:  OK, he uses it to show off.  He does all kinds of things just to be Mr. Saudi Buster, hic, whatever you want to call it.  He wanted to be that guy because he was raised the rich kid and his mother’s from a foreign country.  Do you think he was trying too hard to be some bad ass?  What do you think is ...

CHRISTIE:  Come on, Chris.  Again, I have known him for 15 years. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  You don’t see any of this stuff?

CHRISTIE:  I mean, look. 

MATTHEWS:  I’m trying to be nice. 

CHRISTIE:  I know you’re trying to be nice, this is good for you.  This is good for you.  Look, when I was worked for the vice president—he’s from Wyoming.  I went out.  He teased me to death about wearing cowboy boots.  I still do.  Just because you wear cowboy boots or just because ...

MATTHEWS:  Do you carry a noose around you? 

CHRISTIE:  Oh, no.  I don’t carry a noose.     

MATTHEWS:  But he did.

CHRISTIE:  Chris, you’ve been on this all week.

MATTHEWS:  I’m just trying to ...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Chris, these are allegations.  He’s denied these allegations.  You’re giving me that look.  You find someone ...

MATTHEWS:  I’m trying to set you up to be a powerful here. 

CHRISTIE:  Oh, well, I feel powerful coming on here.  Look, find one person with these allegations that have actually come forth with some truth where someone can say I heard something ...

MATTHEWS:  All the guys from the teams with him.

CHRISTIE:  I know.  Look, you get somebody like Larry ...

MATTHEWS:  These are football players from UVA.

CHRISTIE:  No, you look at the salon.com article, there were 19 people who they interviewed.  Of the 19, 7 of them said that that was not George Allen, they didn’t believe it.  Another seven said that they did not know him that well and they didn’t believe the charges.  There were only four.  And again, you get to the point—

MATTHEWS:  What about this woman we had on last night?

CHRISTIE:  What about her?  I watched it last night? 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of her testimony? 

CHRISTIE:  Really not that much Chris.  I think this—

MATTHEWS:  You think she’s lying? 

CHRISTIE:  I think in an election cycle, if you look back at what the Democrats tried to do with President Bush and the war records, which turned out to be false—

MATTHEWS:  So you think that woman we had on last night, who we vetted heavily, our producers heavily vetted this woman.  She told this account years and years and years ago.  This isn’t something that she picked up or decided she wanted to say for the election results.  She had been telling that to people ever since it happened. 

There are a lot contemporary verification here.  Now, we checked out the facts with the husband being the coach of a rugby team.  Her being there, working at a doctor’s office in Charlottesville, her telling other people about this, when it happened, when there was no political importance to doing so.  And you’re saying that she has made this up? 

CHRISTIE:  No, what I’m saying to you, Chris, is don’t you find this rather remarkable that someone who’s’ been in public life for over two decades, who ran for the House of Delegates, who ran for Congress, who was governor, these allegations never came up?  Terry has dealt with this with some of the folks he’s worked with.

MATTHEWS:  I tell you why they haven’t come up.  Terry, once your name surfaces as a possible presidential candidate, the rules change.  All of a sudden there’s a vetting.  You can get away with messing around with women, you can get away with all kinds of things in American politics.  You can be a U.S. senator for 20 years and carrying on an affair with your top aide and get away with it.  The minute your name is mentioned for president, the rules change.  You know that, Terry. 

MCAULIFFE:  Yes, listen and he was having meetings at his house.  I know people who have been in his house, he was talking about running for president.  Once you are in that game, it’s a whole new world and everything comes out and, as they say, he had nine million which he was hoping to take into the presidential campaign, he’s going to have to spend every penny.  This was a race that was not on our radar scope. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you think, everything is dollar signs. 

CHRISTIE:  Well, it’s Mcauliffe, you know.

MCAULIFFE:  You know, listen, if we did not have this race on our radar screen, this is going to be a pickup and Jim Webb will be a great United States senator. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about going back to these accusations that Jim Webb was driving around in Watts, pulling out some phony weapon and scaring the hell out of the local people, black people, scaring them to death.  I mean that is almost felonious, if that’s true.  You can’t assault a guy with a phony gun and scare the hell out of him and think you’re going to shoot him.  If that’s true, is that relevant? 

MCAULIFFE:  I’m sure it would be relevant, but lets have someone come out and talk about it and have him on your show.  Let’s get the facts out.  Bring him on your show. 

CHRISTIE:  Equal opportunity, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I tell you one thing, it’s easier to get people who point to George Allen, who will come forward.   

CHRISTIE:  Well, it’s easier for those point, but again, find someone

--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  These are first-hand accounts. 

CHRISTIE:  According to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well once again I’m going to ask you, do you think the woman we had on yesterday wasn’t vetted properly by us?  You don’t think that we didn’t do our job with her?

CHRISTIE:  I’m sure that your bookers did their due diligence. 

MATTHEWS:  No, actually our producers did and I was a big part of this.  I checked her out.  This woman is thoroughly convincing and you’re saying she’s not. 

CHRISTIE:  I’m not saying she’s not thoroughly convincing, I’m just saying I do not believe George Allen is a racist.  I’ve known him for 15 years.  I do not believe that these allegations are true. 

MATTHEWS:  So you’re saying—well then you’re saying two things.  The first-hand examples, the firsthand witnessing, you’re saying, didn’t happen? 

CHRISTIE:  What I’m saying to you—

MATTHEWS:  No, no, answer that question.  In other words, you’re saying, even though those may be true—

CHRISTIE:  It’s one person’s word against another person’s word, Chris, and you and I, neither of us—

MATTHEWS:  Now wait a minute, why are you denying something that happened and you weren’t there.  Why do you assume something is not true?   

CHRISTIE:  No, I’m saying to you, you and I don’t know.  We weren’t there. 

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  What I’m saying to you is that’s her word and her view. 

MATTHEWS:  And he’s denied it. 

CHRISTIE:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  But you don’t know.

CHRISTIE:  But neither do you.  Neither of us know, it’s one person’s account versus another. 

MATTHEWS:  Well let me tell you how we get to the truth, we try to get eyewitnesses to various events, and we try to find out if they’re telling the truth.  That’s how we find out what happened.  We don’t simply argue about whether we want it to be true or not.  You’re saying you know a guy from your first hand experience, you believe doesn’t have any racial problems. 

CHRISTIE:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  That’s honest?

CHRISTIE:  That’s my honest opinion. 

MATTHEWS:  And you believe that this stuff may be true, you don’t know, but if it’s true, it still doesn’t counter what you know to be true? 

CHRISTIE:  No, what I’m saying is I don’t believe it to be true and I don’t believe that George Allen has a racist bone in his body.  

MATTHEWS:  All these accounts are made up? 

CHRISTIE:  I think he is a stalwart individual.  I do not believe it to be true. 

MATTHEWS:  We’re going to keep bringing people on this show that we believe, because I’m telling you they’re coming out of the woodwork on this.  We’ll be right back with Terry Mcauliffe and Ron Christie.  I liked how you stay out of this thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... on all these new allegations against the other guy. 

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We’re back with the HARDBALLers, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry Mcauliffe and Republican strategist Ron Christie.  Here’s a new advertisement on television from the Allen campaign, featuring one of the heroes for a lot of Americans, John McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I have a friend in Washington and he represents the state of Virginia.  George Allen works hard.  He believes in what he does.  He’s dedicated.  He understands a lot of issues.  He has the utmost confidence in the belief that in this terrible, titanic struggle that’s going on now between good and evil in the world, that we will and must prevail and one of the reasons why we will prevail is because of George Allen’s leadership, vision, courage and his ability to stand up for what he believes in. 

I’m George Allen and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Impact statement, Terry, does that help? 

MCAULIFFE:  I couldn’t hear it.  It didn’t come through my piece.

MATTHEWS:  Well it’s basically an add, a general endorsement, on the bases of his support for the war on terrorism.  It had nothing to do with this Macaca thing.

MCAULIFFE:  Well he’s got to roll out whatever he can now.  I remind you, Chris, that this entire thing is self-inflicted by Allen.  He had made the Macaca statement.  That now opened it up.  I mean he attacked this kid, who was born in Virginia I remind you and, as you know, Allen was born in California.  Going after a guy who was actually born, University of Virginia.  So this is a self-inflicted wound. 

He’s in serious trouble.  All these allegations have coming out.  If any of them are true, the man should not be sitting in the United States Senate and Webb’s got to go out there, lay out his plan on where he wants to take the country forward, but put that on top of where George Bush is today and the unhappiness in Virginia and all over the country on the war in Iraq, those two things together, I think that George Allen is going to have a very difficult time winning reelection. 

MATTHEWS:  If you’re right, and it’s about character and real basic attitudes, not little incidents that somebody reports, then the McCain ad will help? 

CHRISTIE:  I think that is right.  Senator McCain obviously is someone who a lot of Americans have a lot of respect for and a lot of people around the commonwealth of Virginia have respect for.  He’s endorsing Senator Allen.  Also Senator McCain wants to retain a Republican majority. 

MCAULIFFE:  When did he cut the ad though, I’d just like to know that? 

When did the ad cut and when did it go up? 

MATTHEWS:  You think it might be before the explosions?

MCAULIFFE:  I think it might be before all these allegations have come out. 

MATTHEWS: It was before.  I just got a whisper in my ear.  It was before.

CHRISTIE:  If we’re making this a race about character, one question I have, and the Democrats have been miraculously quiet about this, is that you have a former member of the Ku Klux Klan in West Virginia, who used the N word, who was in the Klan, who had it on tape two years ago, I don’t hear the outrage, I don’t hear the oh my goodness.  Why, for goodness sakes, are we going to reelect a man to the Senate, if it’s about character.  You don’t hear a word from the Democrats about Byrd.

MATTHEWS:  Can I give you some advice?

CHRISTIE:  Please give me some advice.

MATTHEWS:  Get some town mayors in Virginia, who have worked with this senator, George Allen, staff people like yourself, African-Americans especially who have worked with this senator, and come out in public and testify that he’s got no big problems in this area.  

CHRISTIE:  No, but you just evaded my question, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I will do it now.  Robert Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  He was a Grand Klegle back in his youth, and I believe he’s dealt with that issue over the years, and everyone knows about it.  No one doesn’t know that he was a Grand Klegle.

CHRISTIE:  No, but I’m only posing your question to you.  You say it’s a matter of character, why is it not a matter of character to look at someone...

MATTHEWS:  You know what, it has been raised a thousand times in his races...

CHRISTIE:  It doesn’t make it...

MATTHEWS:  You know what, I’m not defending him.  I’m just saying we’ve talked about it so many years.  It’s in every biography we ever look at of this guy.

CHRISTIE:  I just thought I’d bring it up.

MATTHEWS:  The guy is 90 years old, give him a break.

CHRISTIE:  No, I’m not going to give him a break.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the latest accusations in Virginia’s nasty Senate race.  Senior Webb campaign adviser Steve Jarding will respond to the latest accusations to his campaign.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We’re joined right now by Steve Jarding, a campaign strategist for Jim Webb.  He’s running against George Allen in that Virginia Senate race.  Also with us is “The Wall Street Journal’s” John Harwood, CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent.

John, first of all, let me ask you this.  Is this race really getting right?  Is this talk about macaca and the whole racial discussions or comments made by apparently—or allegedly made by Senator Allen, are they moving the voters?

JOHN HARWOOD, WALL STREET JOURNAL:  I think there’s no question about it.  The race is getting close.  It’s a single-digit race at least.  You have the potential with charges like this to swell the Northern Virginia part of the electorate, which is maybe 40 percent, maybe a little bit more. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain why the northern—to the people who don’t know the geography around Washington, why is Northern Virginia, which is our suburb here, different than the rest of Virginia?

HARWOOD:  Well, this is the northern part of Virginia culturally.  It’s not—it’s not Confederate Virginia, if you will.  This is where government workers, people who are associated with the greater Washington metropolitan area...

MATTHEWS:  A lot of foreign people moved here.

HARWOOD:  A lot of foreign people have moved here, people who tend to be moderate on cultural issues, maybe slightly to the right on economics, but these are—that’s the pool of votes for Democrats. 

Democrats have gotten in the striking distance in presidential politics.  They haven’t carried the state in recent elections, but they have gotten so they can start thinking about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Are there any people in play, Steve?

STEVE JARDING, WEBB CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST:  Oh, they’re definitely in play.

MATTHEWS:  The bases of both parties are already set.  The liberals aren’t going to vote for Allen, the conservatives aren’t going to vote for your guy.  Who’s in play here as you see it?  These moderate Republicans? 

JARDING:  Well, they’re in play, the moderate Republicans, but also this crowd in Northern Virginia.  This number really has just mushroomed in Northern Virginia, and part of it...

MATTHEWS:  Weren’t they already votes for Webb?

JARDING:  No, well, traditionally, they had not been, and I think what you saw with Tim Kaine and a little bit with John Kerry—but certainly with Tim Kaine, in Loudon County, Virginia and Transylvania, that he had king of brought these voters out and he brought them to the polls and found out that they were overwhelmingly Democrat.  It’s frankly, Chris, why Jim Webb won the primary.  That was his vote.  Remember, he got almost 70 percent in Northern Virginia, even though it was Harris Miller’s backyard. 

Those people are mad.  They’re angry at Allen.  They’re angry at Bush.  It’s why, by the way, I always believed that Webb could make this an interesting race and maybe win it, if we could get that vote out.  You throw macaca into that mix, you throw all the stuff that Allen has done where he’s kind of wrestling with his identity and all of his history is coming out, and I think it’s why these polls are showing it’s a dead heat or that Webb has taken the lead.

HARWOOD:  And he could change the composition of the electorate, swell that suburban vote. 

MATTHEWS:  By this issues, let’s try to be—you’re a straight reporter on this.  What’s in the charges against Webb?  That Allen people are trying to say tit for tat here.

HARWOOD:  I think we need to know...

MATTHEWS:  He’s not clean on the racial issue.

HARWOOD:  I think we need to know a lot more about what supposedly happened in Watts before we can make any evaluation.  With Allen...

MATTHEWS:  That’s the charge, that as a young Naval officer, whatever, trainee, cadet, he would go out at night and have a phony gun and scare people to death basically with a phony gun, and then run away and laugh, and he got beat up by the...

JARDING:  You go into Watts at night in 1969 with (ph) a gun (ph), you’re going to be the one coming out in a body bag.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... beat him up and he stopped doing it, which seems like the fairest thing that could have happened. 

HARWOOD:  If it’s true, it’s a terrible thing.  But we need to know a lot more.

MATTHEWS:  He told—according to this, he told somebody who has told the press about it.  It’s second-hand, we’ve got to verify it. 

JARDING:  No, somebody from the Allen camp came forth to the media and said, I heard that Jim Webb’s roommate from USC said it didn’t happen, we never would do that, you would be nuts to go into Watts in 1969 at night... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was pretty militant back then.

JARDING:  It was very militant back then.

MATTHEWS:  And this was a hot issue.

JARDING:  And again, this is on the heels, the Allen folks have people coming out of the woodwork, credible people, they’re bleeding over there, and so what do they do, they trump up somebody who says, well, I heard something. 

MATTHEWS:  Let’s take a look at one of your campaign ads right now. 

Jim Webb ad.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We will stay the course in Iraq.  We will stay the course in Iraq.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  I very much agree with the president. 

We need to stay the course.  Stay the course. 

JIM WEBB, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE (D-VA):  The people who failed to prevent this disaster are not the ones you can count on to fix it. 

I’m Jim Webb.  We need to end our occupation of Iraq and to bring stability to the Middle East.  We can do it with the right kind of leadership. 

I approved this message because we need leaders in the Senate, not followers. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know what, John, it’s refreshing doing this show every night to hear somebody actually say what their position is, instead of this we’re going to redeploy over the horizon and all this malarkey.  He says, get out.  And that’s not going to be easy with some of the middle of the roaders, who say I don’t know if it’s really a prudent thing to get out.  So he’s saying something at least. 

HARWOOD:  Well, he is, and remember, he said something before the Iraq war.  He wrote an op-ed in “The Washington Post” before we went into Iraq and said if we’re in there, it’s a mistake, and we’ll be there 30 years.  So he’s got a record from the start. 

MATTHEWS:  So this is right.  You told me before, when you sat down, Steve, that you’ve got new polls showing this thing even? 

JARDING:  Even Webb slightly ahead.  And I think even, again, head to head, I’ll take it and we’ll take him and that’s great.  But even more importantly, Allen is now in the low 40s reelect.  That is always a terrible—the old adage, if you’re under 50, you’re in trouble.  He’s barely above 40.  He’s at 40 percent, 42 percent reelect now.  His negatives are now at 40 percent.  This is a campaign that’s desperate.  We think they’re going to come out with absolutely guns blazing.  They’re going to throw anything they can at the wall, they’re clearly desperate.  You see it in the ads that they’re running and what they’re doing, so.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Steve Jarding.  Thank you as always, John Harwood.

Play HARDBALL with us again next week.  Our guests include Bob Woodward himself, and former Secretary of State Jim Baker.  Right now, it’s time for “TUCKER.”

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