updated 10/3/2006 10:55:43 AM ET 2006-10-03T14:55:43

Guests: Howard Fineman, Tim Mahoney, Steve Thomma, Thomas Ricks, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Tom Oliphant, A.B. Stoddard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Mark Foley, caught on the web, joins Duke Cunningham, booted for bribery, Bill Jefferson, caught with cold cash in his fridge, Bob Ney and Conrad Burns, buddies of Abramoff, Republican leader Tom DeLay and Senator George Allen in deep macaca.  Will this magnificent seven drive voters to rebel?

Plus, denial, it‘s not just a river in Egypt.  Bob Woodward, who exposed Watergate, charges an Iraq War cover-up. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL. 

Tonight from Los Angeles, on Friday, Republican Congressman Mark Foley abruptly quit Congress.  And today he faces twin investigations into his sexually charged e-mails and instant messages to former Congressional pages.  In a statement today, Foley announced he‘s checked himself into a rehab center for alcohol treatment. 

But with just 36 days before the election, will Foley remind voters just how much they dislike the current crowd in control of Congress?  Serious questions remain unanswered.  What did the Republican leadership know, and when did they know it? 

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader John Boehner,  Congressman Tom Reynolds, the Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was there a cover-up?  In a moment we‘ll hear from the Democrat running for Foley‘s seat down in Florida. 

Speaking of cover-ups, Bob Woodward‘s new book “State of Denial” is setting off more political explosions in Washington.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell will have the latest developments.

But first, there‘s lots of activity today on the Foley scandal. 

Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman joins us now.

Howard, this is an amazing story, completed now by the inevitable check-in to a drunk tank.  I mean, do they all end there, blaming it on alcohol?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Well, they end with drunk tanks and FBI investigations, Chris.  I think this is a missile aimed straight at the heart of the Republican base, which is why Republicans in the White House and on the Hill are scrambling so quickly to try to get ahead of this fast moving story. 

The Republican party has been built in the last 15 or 20 years on the notion that they are the party of family values. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  And whether there is a cover-up or not, which is one important political question here, don‘t lose sight of the outside-the-beltway question, which was one that was underlined today by the Family Research Council, which is Dr. James Dobson‘s allied group, and he has that radio show “Focus on the Family”.  They put out a statement deploring the fact, as they said it, that 16 year-olds are, quote, “now safe in the halls of Congress.” 

They didn‘t blame the Republicans specifically, but after all, it‘s been the Republicans who have been in charge of this Congress for the last 10 years.  The question has always been in this fall campaign, Chris, where the evangelical Christians, Bible-believing Christians are going to turn out in big numbers to be the heart of the Republican machine. That‘s very much at issue right now with this kind of story. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I stacked it together, because I wonder whether the people don‘t get one big bad smell out of this whole thing.  They see Abramoff guy, who‘s certainly not part of the moral majority, playing around with people like Bob Ney and Conrad Burns.  Then they see Bill Jefferson, a Democrat but party of this sleaze, caught with $90,000 in cold cash, literally, in his fridge.  And they see—they may not be so bothered by some of the stuff with Allen. 

But I think you‘re right, I think the sexual scandal says, who is in charge, these kids come to Washington at the age of 16.  They‘re still kids by any measure of the law, or of any family values measure, and they are entrusted, literally, in loco parentis, to members of Congress to teach—their job is to teach these kids how public affairs work. 

And now you‘ve got the guy apparently—well, the e-mail speaks for itself and certainly the, what do you call it, the instant mail speaks for itself.  It was beyond anything I thought, it‘s worse than anything you can imagine involving other public figures like Michael Jackson.  Certainly nothing was established in his case, nothing like people thought.  In this case—well, what was your reaction when you saw the instant mail? 

FINEMAN:  Well, it was one of complete disgust.  I mean, I‘ve known Mark Foley for years.  He is a guy around town who people like.  But people didn‘t, I think, at least the folks who knew him casually, didn‘t suspect the possibility that he was doing this kind of thing. 

One key question is what the House leadership knew when it knew it.  They formed a sort of circular firing squad, now here saying, you know, we knew this, we knew that, we knew this, we knew that.  But the Republicans right now are in the position of having to argue, Chris, that the Democrats are just as bad.  You know, they‘ve brought up stories about Gerry Studds.  They‘ve talked about Barney Franks‘ sexual orientation, they‘re talking all day about what Bill Clinton did or didn‘t do in the Oval Office. 

All of that is beside the point, if you‘re trying to protect your rule of the House and Senate.  If the Republicans are reduced to arguing the Democrats are just as bad, then the Republicans have lost what they thought of as the moral high ground that they built their party on for the last 15 or 20 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And you‘ve got to be good at what you‘re good at.  Democrats have got to good at compassion, Republicans have got to good at stopping inflation and fighting wars.  We know the roles in this business.  Everyone watching knows the roles.  You expect good things to come from each party and weak things to come from each party. 

But when they blow it on their best stuff, in this case, moral behavior—here is Speak Hastert trying to defend this situation today:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, ® ILLINOIS:  Instant messages reportedly between Congressman Foley and a former page sent in 2003 were vile and repulsive and both to myself and to my colleagues.  No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public.  When they were released, Congressman Foley resigned, and I‘m glad he did.  If he had not, I would have demanded his expulsion from the House of Representatives. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try to explain this.  Howard, you can help me here to the people watching and trying to keep up with this grimy story.  When I went on the air with HARDBALL on Friday night, I had seen the e-mails. 

They were suggestive, they were—one that he was talking about, would you please send me a picture to this young 16 year-old kid, a former page from Louisiana.  The other one was a reference to some other page having a good body or good shape or something.  They were clearly suggestive of a gay relationship, an interest in a gay relationship.  Then you get with these kids—and then you get this new one which just blew your socks off, where it was all about particular discussions of race, it was phone sex basically.  It was beyond the pale. 

The Speaker of the House there says he didn‘t know about the second category.  Does that help his case, that he didn‘t cover-up?

FINEMAN:  Well, they are trying to hang their defense on the distinction, Chris, between e-mails and instant messages.  They say they knew about some of these ambiguous e-mails.  I don‘t think they‘re all—I agree with you, I don‘t think they‘re all that ambiguous.  But let‘s say they are, there is still the question of these instant messages. 

But all that‘s blown away by the fact that it seems clear, that among the pages and among the people who were supervising the pages, who were like in a high school-type situation, that there was talk about Foley for year, that there was concern about Foley.  And the leadership went so far as to tell Foley to stay away from contact with this one former page. 

So if they told him that, why did they say it?  If it was innocent, why were they bothering to begin with? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know why, the same reason the Roman Catholic Church protected its priests, because the sympathy of a grown-up male in a particular kind of situation tends to go with the colleague.  As you say, they‘ve known each other for 20, 30, and they don‘t instantly kick the guy out the door when they hear he‘s got a problem.  They hope that they can help him.  But it‘s the same thing in my religion, they thought they can help these guys by protecting them from exposure, when in fact they were hurting more kids. 

FINEMAN:  I agree you, Chris.  But they didn‘t try to help him.  And also they didn‘t tell—there are three members of the board that supervises the pages.  They didn‘t tell the Democrat on that board anything about this for fear—they had some fear of doing that. 

Why?  Well, they considered that it might be a political problem.  They were treating a personal problem as a political problem, which they shouldn‘t have done.  And now they find themselves in a situation of splitting hairs, when the question, I think, to their voting base, is going to be what were you thinking, what were you thinking?

MATTHEWS:  Of course we know Dale Kildee, the Democrat on that committee is a straight arrow, a real family, a very good guy who would have been, I would say, very upset if he heard about this.  You right, I don‘t think they wanted to trust him of all people. 

FINEMAN:  They didn‘t want to trust him at all with it. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the House Ethics...

FINEMAN:  Let me say something else here, Chris.  The Republicans are banging their hands on the table, saying these instant messages were known for three years, who had these instant messages, they were contributing to the possibility of Foley making a mistake, why don‘t they come forward? 

Well, you know who those people probably are?  They are the former pages.  They didn‘t want to come forward with these instant messages for fear of their own careers and jobs.  Once ABC posted that thing on Friday, with the more ambiguous e-mails, then these things started flooding forth.  Do the Republicans really want the former pages to come forward, the kids who copied down these e-mails and instant messages and have them spread over the television?  I don‘t think so. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the alcohol defense? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think alcohol is a symptom, not a cause.  And I think it‘s sad.  On a personal level, I think Foley, who as I say, I‘ve known, I think is a guy who tried to do the right thing, who tried to—ironically, this happens more than once in politics, Chris.  He tried to—apparently tried to deal with his own personal demons and personal problems through public legislation, through public action. 

I mean, it is ironic but understandable, if you understand the psychology of these kinds of situations, that a guy like this would want to be head of the Caucus on Missing and Abused Children.  I know it sounds cruel, it sounds hypocritical, but I understand the psychology of it.  He was trying to deal with it in some constructive way.  But the destructive impulsive within him, which is what alcoholism is, got the better of him clearly.  He was probably half-drunk when he wrote a lot of those instant messages.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I wonder about that.  We‘ll find out later maybe, because they were apparently made at the time like 7:45 at night.  I just wonder.  We don‘t know yet.  It‘s a mixed bag.  Anyway, Howard stay with us.  Mike Viqueira, right now, of NBC up on Capital Hill, is joining us right now from up there.  Mike, is this going to be an investigation like Watergate, what did he know and when did he know it, about Denny Hastert, the speaker? 

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s certainly taking that construct, isn‘t it?  Not only when do he know, but what did he know and what did he do about it when he knew it.  I just finished interviewing the speaker of the house, just walked over here from his Capital Suites, right next to the rotunda.  Three points from the interview, Chris, he maintains that he knew nothing about either the text messages from 2003 that were revealed to some news organizations and others last Fall, revealed to Rodney Alexander through his page. 

He says that he did not know about them until just Friday as well as the instant messages, the I.M.s that were much more salacious and caused and precipitated the immediate resignation of Mark Foley.  He says that Tom Reynolds, remember Tom Reynolds says in a statement over the weekend that he told the speaker that Rodney Alexander had mentioned this problem to him as early as last Spring.  Reynolds says he told the speaker. 

Denny Hastert says he has absolutely no recollection of that conversation.  He told me that he—Reynolds may have told him, but it was at the end of a long list of legislative items.  And I said well, you know, did that raise any red flags for you?  I mean Mr. Foley has had this reputation.  It‘s been reported that pages were warned to stay away from him.  Of course, in 2003, Mr. Foley, there were some questions raised about his sexual orientation as he was preparing to run for the senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I remember that story.

VIQUEIRA:  So, you know, the question is, well didn‘t that raise any red flags for you and he said no, you know, they were pretty innocuous messages.  The intern, the 16-year-old lived in Louisiana and the aftermath of Katrina, it didn‘t seem like anything inappropriate was going on here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well that is nonsense.  Let me just render an opinion here.  I read those e-mails.  When an adult in his 50s starts talking to a kid who‘s 16-years-old, someone of his same sex, or whatever the sex of the kid was, talking about please send me a picture and I think this other page friend of yours is built right or has a nice body shape.  That is not acceptable conversation between an adult and a kid.  Especially (INAUDIBLE), they‘re not there as, you know, buddies that met somewhere.  They‘re there because of the public trust and the parental trust that put them there.

VIQUEIRA:  And Mr. Foley, it has been reported, as a matter of fact, there is an item in the congressional record from June 6, I believe, of 2002, where Mr. Shimkus, who is now the head of the page board, and Mr.  Foley are saying farewell on the House floor to all the pages who were gathered around.  It was, judging from the transcript or from the congressional record and this is in the congressional record, you know, sort of a touching scene.  It is probably not the right phrase there.  But it was very—

MATTHEWS:  Well, we are all trying to be delicate here. 

VIQUEIRA:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It is a tricky situation.  It has to do with orientation.  It has to do with age and adult relationships with kids, which we‘ve sort of grown up to, in our civilization, we don‘t have them.  And I‘ll tell you one thing, I hope this doesn‘t kill the page program.  When I worked up on the Hill that was a very nice part of that job up there.  There were kids who were being trained in public affair, the speaker of the House had a page.  They were young kids trying to better themselves, learn something, get into college.  It was a great program for kids to learn our system and this could endanger it.  

VIQUEIRA:  Well, it‘s been around since the 1820s and, of course, it‘s withstood its share of scandals.  We talked about on Friday the Gary Stud scandal of 1983.  You know, the speaker makes the point, it‘s been made other places, that the child in question‘s parents did not want to pursue this any further. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand. 

VIQUEIRA:  And I said, well, you know, that doesn‘t preclude the House from doing an investigation itself. 

MATTHEWS:  Which raises my question, Mike, where are we headed right now?  Looking ahead will there be a real investigation here or that usual ethics committee, you know, the dark hole that things fall into? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, you know, it depends on how much public pressure is maintained on this issue.  Of course the FBI is looking into it.  The state of Florida is looking into this.  It is unclear what the threshold is here for violations of the law.  There may not be a threshold.  But a lot of it depends, Chris, on how this remains in the public eye, what kind of pressure they are under over the next six weeks, leading up to election day, in particular. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if they interview these kids under oath, all these 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, there is going to be a lot of kids testifying under oath and they‘re going to tell the truth.  These kids are not going to lie and they certainly are not going to coverup.  This could get deeper and deeper.  I just hope they don‘t try the old trick of doing this after the election.  Any way, thank you very much Howard Fineman.  Thank you Mike Viqueira.  You can see Mike‘s interview with House Speaker Hastert on Politics.MSNBC.com.  That‘s where you get a lot of the good political news, Politics.MSNBC.com. 

Coming up, the man who is running to replace Mark Foley, Democrat Tim Mahoney will be here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Before this sudden resignation, Mark Foley was in a tough reelection fight.  Tim Mahoney is a Democrat who was looking to knock Foley out of office.  Now he‘ll face state Senator Joe Negron, whom Florida Republicans chose today to replace Foley, but Foley‘s name will still be the Republican on the ballot.  Let‘s take a look.  Are you there, Tim? 

TIM MAHONEY (D), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m here, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Tim, when did you first hear about this relationship between the man you were going to run against, who is now out of the race, and congressional pages? 

MAHONEY:  Well we were—the campaign was actually contacted the day before the instant messages came out and we were asked if we knew anything.  And then shortly thereafter that, it was followed up and there was a statement by the Foley camp that we were smearing the Foley camp with these e-mails. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the original e-mails, did you know about the ones that had been brought to the attention of Denny Hastert and the Republican leadership? 

MAHONEY:  No, the first time I saw them was after we had been contacted by the news and that is when we put out our original statement which was, you know, we didn‘t know who MAF54 was and we just basically said that it should be investigated and that we should give Mark Foley the benefit of the doubt. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we just heard about the end of it last week.  Did you know about it before?

MAHONEY:  No, I—

MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re serious about that.  You knew no knowledge—you had no knowledge, no whisper, nothing, no hint, no rumor or anything like that about him and pages? 

MAHONEY:  No, not that I was aware of but, you know, in a course of a campaign there is always rumors flying around. 

MATTHEWS:  Had you heard any of these rumors? 

MAHONEY:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  None, you mean this was a complete surprise to you at the end of last week. 

MAHONEY:  I can‘t say it was a surprise.  But given—

MATTHEWS:  Why did you think it was expected? 

MAHONEY:  Why did I think what was expected?

MATTHEWS:  Why wasn‘t it a surprise to you that this guy was involved with 16-year-old boys.

MAHONEY:  Well, that was a surprise and it was a surprise the next morning when I woke up and I read all the newspaper articles around the country, when I found out that this was a story that had been around for over a year. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Republicans are guilty? 

Let‘s talk about the politics of this.  You‘re in a race for a Congress that you‘ll probably win because the other guy‘s name is on the ballot and he is finished and yet you get to run against the name Mark Foley even though this other Joe Negron is actually running against you.  Are you going to run against Mark Foley or Joe Negron, or both? 

MAHONEY:  No.  I‘m running on the issues that are impacting people here in the Florida 16th district.  I mean, this is a great national news story.  It gets back to a court topic that I started out with this campaign a year ago which is the big problem in the 16th district in Florida in America is people don‘t think that their elected officials in Washington represent their values and morals.  They don‘t trust their elected officials to be worried with things that are impacting them taking care of their interests.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t you raise that issue last year if you didn‘t know about these instant mails and e-mails?  Why would you raise that against Mark before you knew what had happened here? 

MAHONEY:  Well, because Mark was a deputy whip and he was on Ways and Means.  And Mark was involved in taking money from Rob Ney and giving money to Ney.  He was involved in getting money from Abramoff.  Mark, as a member of Ways and Means was involved in giving earmarks to companies.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Is that a morals issue? 

MAHONEY:  Yeah, I think it is a morals issue.  I think that people—moral expect...

MATTHEWS: Moral values—did you really mean that that was offending the moral values of your district?  Or was it Mark Foley‘s orientation—sexual orientation that you were alluding to? 

MAHONEY:  No.  No.  I‘m a good Democrat.  That has nothing to do with anything.  It has to do with what he is doing as a Congressman, how he is voting and whether or not he is getting the job done for the people of the 16th congressional district. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he is finished and should be finished as a public official, Mark Foley?  Should he ever be able to hold public office again, do you think?

MAHONEY:  I think that his admission disqualifies him from public office. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the booze defense, do you buy it? 

MAHONEY:  You know, I think that with Mark, you know, he needs to—I think it is time for him and his family to get around him. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever hear that he had a drinking problem? 

MAHONEY:  No.  Not at all.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is made up? 

MAHONEY:  You know, I don‘t care about that.  All I care about is the issues having to deal with the 16th district.  I mean, what happens to Mark Foley going forward is a personal issue.  I think the thing that really we need to focus on is the fact that this was an open secret in Washington, D.C., the press knew about it...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  What was the open secret? 

MAHONEY:  Well, the open secret was that there were these e-mails out there, the...

MATTHEWS:  It was an open secret among the leadership of the House.  I certainly, nobody I knew about it or we would have been doing something with this.  What do you mean by an open secret? 

MAHONEY:  Well, there was an open secret because if you look at the press reports and the storying being written, there was information in those stories not available on the Internet.  So it was very clear that there were newspapers that had interviewed Mark and talked to him going back to 2005. 

MATTHEWS:  Who had sat on the story.  You‘re accusing the media of sitting on the story of his relationships with pages? 

MAHONEY:  Excuse me? 

MATTHEWS:  Are you accusing the media of sitting on stories, of killing stories, spiking stories, whatever the word...

MAHONEY:  I‘m not accusing anybody of anything. 

MATTHEWS:  You just did.  You said there was an open secret among the media.  What did you mean by that? 

MAHONEY:  Well, if you take a look at the stories that were being written that people knew about this issue going back to 2005. 

MATTHEWS:  And the media knew about it? 

MAHONEY:  Well, obviously there was one newspaper that basically wrote about it and said that they asked Mark if he had written those e-mails and he said yes.  That was I think November 2005. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know your stuff. 

Hey, good luck in this race.  You may be one of the luckiest men in American politics right now. 

MAHONEY:  Well....

MATTHEWS:  Not in the nicest way.

MAHONEY:  We were going to win this race before this happened.  We have a good campaign.  This about the issues dealing with the people of Florida 16th district.  And nothing has changed as far as our message and what we‘re doing to win this race. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re smart not to speculate about the booze defense and that kind of stuff.  I was trying to get you to do that.  And you‘re smart to have said, I don‘t care about that stuff.

MAHONEY:  Everybody warned me about you. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s good.  That was the smartest answer you gave tonight, Mr. Mahoney.  I don‘t care about that stuff.  I congratulate you on evading my questioning, my probing. 

Thank you for coming on HARDBALL.  Please come back, especially if you win, OK?

MAHONEY:  I appreciate that.  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, MSNBC and our partner McClatchy Newspapers have a brand new polling numbers from battleground Senate races around the country.  In a nutshell, good news for the Dems.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘ve been following the hottest races this fall.  And the new polls by MSNBC/McClatchy show Democrats in striking distance of taking control of the U.S. Senate.  That‘s right, the Senate, not the House. 

Let‘s go through these races. 

In Virginia, incumbent Republican Senator George Allen who has been plagued by public gaffs in the past weeks is now tied with Democratic challenger Jim Webb. 

In Pennsylvania, Republican incumbent Senator Rick Santorum lags well behind challenger Bob Casey Jr -- 49 percent to 40 percent. 

In Rhode Island, incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse are in a virtual tie. 

In Missouri, incumbent Republican Senator Jim Talent and Democrat Clara McCastkill are tied with exactly 43 percent each. 

In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic senator Bob Menendez is in a virtual tie with Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr.. 

In Washington State, incumbent Democrat senator Maria Cantwell leads Republican Challenger Mike McGavick by 10 points.

In Maryland, Democratic candidate Ben Cardin leads his Republican opponent Michael Steele 47 percent to 41 percent.

I love it, it‘s like election night.

Joining me to break it all down is Steve Thomma, chief political correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. 

Steve, what is the overall theme?  Where is this headed? 

STEVE THOMMA, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS:  Well, this is the first time we‘ve seen that the Senate is really in play.  You know, the conventional wisdom has been that the House might turn over, the Democrats might take the House but not the Senate. 

This poll, this series of polls shows that the Democrats are within distance of taking the Senate.  Of these 10 battleground states we looked at, the Democrats are behind in no state.  And in no single state is a Republican ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Iraq, is that still numero uno as far as the issues driving this election? 

THOMMA:  In every one of the states we looked at, except Missouri, Iraq is the top issue on the minds of voters.  It tops terrorism, top the economy and I think it suggests that the president‘s push for the last three weeks to raise terrorism has not worked. 

MATTHEWS:  What about these stink balls that keep coming up—and they tend—not all the cases, certainly Bill Jefferson is a Democrat down in Louisiana, he was caught with the $90,000 bucks frozen in his freezer or whatever that he had been hiding.  I assume it is fair to side hiding.  I could say allegedly hiding.  But I think he was hiding the money in his refrigerator.  Is this overall sort of smell, this aroma of sleaze, whether it‘s charged racism or corruption or the sexual misbehavior here, is it all adding up to clean the bums out of there, dump them?

THOMMA:  It certainly is in a lot of these states.  And one of the ways we looked at that was to ask, are you vote for a candidate or against him?  And in several of the states, a large number are voting against a candidate and they‘re voting against the Republican incumbent.  That‘s true in Montana, it‘s true in Virginia, it‘s true in Pennsylvania.  Not always ethics charges, but definitely an anti-incumbent mood there. 

MATTHEWS:  Do people know that these juniors are their fathers, or aren‘t their fathers?  You‘ve Tom Keane, his father was illustrious as governor of New Jersey.  He‘s now running for the Senate, he‘s a young guy, very young, untested.  You‘ve got Bobby Casey running, really, with his same father‘s name, the very popular former governor.  Are they confusing the kid with father? 

THOMMA:  I think that up to Labor Day, yes.  The name I.D. was strong for the fathers, the former governor, the former—both former governors.  But I think there is so much television advertising, particularly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey now, that very few people would confuse the two. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s keep them being unconfused.  Voters ought to know who they‘re voting for. 

Anyway, thank you, Steve Thomma.

Up next, Bob Woodward‘s new book about the Bush administration is causing a huge stir just weeks before the election.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell talked with former White House chief of staff Andy Card, the man Woodward says tried to get rid of Don Rumsfeld.  She‘ll be with us with us to talk about it, the best person to have on this, Andrea Mitchell.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Bob Woodward‘s new book “State of Denial” on the Bush administration‘s war planning is making waves at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House.  NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with both the author, Bob Woodward, and former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card—Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, as you can imagine, the White House is in full overdrive, trying to spin back on Bob Woodward‘s book, “State of Denial”.  And in a number of issues, they have questioned his reporting on whether or not Andrew Card tried to fire Donald Rumsfeld, whether or not Condoleezza Rice was warned before 9/11, two months before 9/11, by the CIA. 

We‘ve certainly established, definitively, that the 9/11 Commission was briefed in a secret session by George Tenet, the former CIA director, the CIA director at the time, that she was briefed before 9/11 about the possibility of an attack. 

She said today that it is incomprehensible that she would have ignored such a warning, but it‘s very clear that she was warned.  The interpretation of how she took that, apparently some of the people who were present at the briefing from the CIA felt she did take it very seriously indeed. 

Now Woodward, in his interview with me, talked extensively about a number of people who went and talked to the president, talked to Donald Rumsfeld, warning them before the war of things that they needed to do.  One of them is Jay Garner, the former Army general, who was the first man to be the head of the occupation preceding Paul Jerry Bremer.  This is the way Woodward describes Jay Garner‘s briefing to the president of the United States 17 days before the war. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “STATE OF DENIAL”:  Garner told them very plainly, you‘ve assigned me nine tasks, four of the hard ones I can‘t do.  And 200 people, working for him.  And it—no one commented, no one asked any questions. 

MITCHELL:  He said he needed more people? 

WOODWARD:  Yes.  He did say he need more people.  But he said the task of stabilizing Iraq, the task of finding WMD, he couldn‘t do, he didn‘t have enough people.  Now this is three weeks before the war.  No one asks anything, no one does anything.

MITCHELL:  The president didn‘t ask that at that meeting? 

WOODWARD:  He did not.  What the president said is, Kick ass, Jay. 

MITCHELL: Kick ass? 

WOODWARD:  Kick ass. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  And this is in fact part of the documentation that Woodward has.  He got, you know, thousands of pages of documentation.  This is a talking points paper for the president to use at that meeting with the Jay Garner to NSC, at that secret, classified meeting 17 days before the invasion. 

One of the recommendations there, by the way, was not to disband the Iraqi army, something you‘ve been talking about a lot, Chris.  And that he‘d need up to 300,000 Iraqi troops to prevent an insurgency.  Of course, you know as soon as Garner left, Jerry Bremer did disband the Iraqi army. 

Now a key to all of this, the central figure in the book: Donald Rumsfeld.  And Andy Card sat down with me today and confirmed what he did and didn‘t do.  He said it wasn‘t a conspiracy so get rid of Rumsfeld, but he certainly did recommended the President that Republicans on the Hill were calling for it. 

This is what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, FMR. BUSH W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF:  I did speak to him frequently about defense, as these opportunities for change were presented.  I also reflected to the president what I had heard when I would go meet with members of Congress, Democrats, Republicans, and Senators, the House members.  And it was always a candid conversation. 

MITCHELL:  And you were hearing that Republicans on the Hill had concerns about Don Rumsfeld? 

CARD:  I was.  I was.  And I would not be bashful about repeating that.  And I would counsel the president appropriately as the chief of staff.  But I would never lobby the president, and I would never go out and solicit others to lobby the president.  So to claim there‘s a campaign that I orchestrated or was trying to mount would be inaccurate. 

I did reflect the views that were presented to me, and I tried to do it objectively.  When asked for my opinion, I would give my opinion.  But I also would point out that there were many times when I counseled the president not to make any changes at the secretary of defense, that it wasn‘t the right time to consider a change. 

MITCHELL:  Well, right before an election for example? 

CARD:  For example.

MITCHELL:  But you were telling the president that you were hearing a lot of criticism from Republicans in the House and Senate about the Pentagon, about Don Rumsfeld?

CARD:  That‘s correct.  Yes, I was.  And I was very candid about the assessments that I took with those words.

MITCHELL:  It wasn‘t good?

CARD:  There was some good and some not so good and there was a different flow to it.  Sometimes the waves were large and crashing into the beech and other times the ocean was calm and I would reflect the views that I would be hearing.  You know, I did not want the president to be isolated in the Oval Office.  I‘ve seen that happen and I did not want that happen while I was his chief of staff. 

So I invited people to be candid with the president when they met with him and I wanted to make sure he got diverse views and not monolithic counsel and I think that is a testament to the president and one reason I respect him so much is that he invites all kinds of discussion, but then he has the courage to make tough decisions and the resolve to carry them through. 

MITCHELL:  Did you ever float the name of James Baker to replace Don Rumsfeld? 

CARD:  I had a book that I called the hit-by-the-bus book.  It was a spiral notebook—it is a spiral notebook and it was something that I started even before I assumed the responsibilities as chief of staff. 

I felt very strongly that the president should be prepared to make changes in case somebody got hit by a bus.  And so it included every senior staff position at the White House, including the chief of staff‘s position and all of the positions in the cabinet and I would add names to that list and sometimes I would strike names off of it.  But it was an ever green list of potential successors and Jim Baker was right at the top of the list for potential successors for number of positions, not just the secretary of Defense. 

I‘m a huge fan of Jim Baker and I think he has been a great statesman for the country and a wonderful political leader for our party and a good friend to the president and yes, he was on the list and he was on a number of lists. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MITCHELL:  And importantly, And Card did not deny that also talked to Laura Bush about replacing Donald Rumsfeld, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much Andrea Mitchell. 

Was the Bush administration leveling with the American public about the situation on the ground in Iraq?  Rajiv Chandrasekaran served as the Baghdad Bureau chief for the “Washington Post” for first year of the Iraq war and his new book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” the emerald city being the green zone, details what life was like in the heavily fortified part of the county. 

And Thomas Ricks is the senior Pentagon correspondent for the “Washington Post” and author of “Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq.”  I guess nobody is going to write a book saying how smart it was to go to war.  Let me ask you about a couple of big questions. 

In the book, Bob Woodward‘s book, I‘ve read through it as much as I can for this deadline today.  At the end of the book he says the president, you first Rajiv, the president of the United States said to Bob Woodward, I don‘t talk to people who say there weren‘t weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad when we got there in Iraq.  I don‘t walk in those circles.  I don‘t want to hear it from people that I was wrong.  I don‘t agree, furthermore, that I should say that there were no weapons there, that my case for the war was wrong, because that would make the case against the war wrong, so I‘m going to deny saying it.  And then at the end of the book, the last page of the book, the last sentence, Bob Woodward says the president was not telling the truth to the American people. 

Is that a fair assessment by a straight reporter, Rajiv? 

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, “IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY”:  I think it is generally a fair assessment.  I mean, when we look not just at the W.M.D. issue, but at a number of metrics on the war in Iraq, looking at violence against U.S. troops, looking at what was necessary to stabilize Iraq, in terms of reconstruction resources, both estimates before the war and after the war, what I‘ve seen from my reporting from my book and we‘re now seeing from Woodward‘s book and we‘re seeing in Tom Rick‘s “Fiasco,” what you see is an administration that seems to have been out of touch with what it really took and what was required.  And I think what we are seeing from Woodward‘s book is just further corroboration from some of the facts that I bring out in “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” and Tom does. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom, in the book it brings the story of denial right up to date, the “State of Denial” that Bob Woodward charges the president with.  He says that as of now the president refuses to face the fact that we are getting hit by 100 attacks a day over there, one every 15 minutes, if you break it down hour by hour.  And that the situation is going to get worse next year in terms of terrorism in that country, attacks on our troops and the president won‘t face those facts.  Is that your assessment as well? 

TOM RICKS, “FIASCO”:  Yes, I think it is generally assumed by anybody that knows Iraq that the situation is deteriorating there and going downhill pretty fast.  So people expect a very rough end of 2006 and 2007.  The Bush administration consistently has been about a year behind events in their reaction to them and the worry now I hear from troops is the president is basically saying this is a problem for the next president, not for me anymore, which condemns troops to two years of essentially treading water. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Rajiv, the book, Bob Woodward‘s book basically jabs hard in its detail, in it‘s narration, that Donald Rumsfeld loves power.  He loves power.  He‘ll do anything to get direct access to the president, anything to cut off other people trying to get access.  He have wants to control everything.  At the same time he wants control, he wants no responsibility, in terms of the moral claims for the war, the tragedy of the war itself.  He says things like I don‘t feel responsible when soldiers get killed because I was only indirectly involved.  I was two or three steps away from the action.  It‘s a strange kind of moral denial.  Are you familiar with that aspect of Rumsfeld, that he likes all the power, but none of the responsibility for a horrible war? 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, I am familiar with one aspect of it.  I mean when I write about the failed reconstruction of Iraq, you know, ambassador Bremer‘s boss was Donald Rumsfeld, the guy who ran Iraq for the first 15 months, and Rumsfeld was pretty much checked out.  When Bremer was off coming up with various plans that ultimately wouldn‘t work, he was supposed to report up to Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld just essentially, sort of, brushed him off. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the generals, Tom?  You know this area well.  When I read it, and I‘m a civilian, never was in the military forces of our country, I got the feeling these guys were intimidated by the president.  They were basically being told if you want to advance, if you want the top jobs in this fighting effort, don‘t tell the truth to the president about needing more troops? 

RICKS:  I think some people are indeed intimidated, but there‘s another factor here, which is that the generals feel that when the civilians give them their orders in this country, their duty is to salute smartly and shut up.  What you noticed though was the unusual sight of generals recently retired, generals who commanded in Iraq, such as General Eaton and General Batiste the other day, publicly criticizing Rumsfeld, calling for his resignation.  These are guys who served under Rumsfeld in Iraq and that is really an astonishing sight. 

MATTHEWS:  The fact that they are so willing to be candid after just leaving the military? 

RICKS:  Yes.  Under military ethos and professional ethics, they‘re not allowed to speak out while in uniform.  They shouldn‘t, under our rules and regulations.  But these guys can‘t wait to speak fast enough once they take off the uniform.

MATTHEWS:  That tells me, again as an outsider, they had something to say while they were in and they didn‘t tell it to the president.  And that‘s one of the knocks against them right now.  When they had the power, they didn‘t tell the president the full candid truth of what is going on over there.  Any way thank you Rajiv Chandrasekaran, and Thomas Ricks, both of the “Washington Post.” 

Up next HARDBALLers Tom Oliphant and Amy Stoddard will dig into what Mark Foley‘s scandal and Bob Woodward‘s book could mean for Republicans trying to hold on to power.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

What Foley did, what Woodward wrote, what the polls revealed.  Those hot topics and more for the Hardballers, Tom Oliphant, and The Hill‘s A.B.  Stoddard.

Tom, it‘s great to have you on tonight.  Unfortunately, we got to talk about a sordid old subject, page scandal.  Does that bring any memories out of your closet? 

TOM OLIPHANT, WASHINGTON AUTHOR:  It brings many memories.  1983, I was there. 

MATTHEWS:  And that was resolved by the very neat exposure of one straight guy, one gay guy, one girl in question, and one boy in question.  They were both nailed and everybody else was clean as the dickens? 

OLIPHANT:  You could have called it fair and balanced, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It was too neat for truth, though, of course.

But what do you think of this one? 

OLIPHANT:  It has legs.  You know one thing that I don‘t think anybody has mentioned yet is the impact of this on that 72 hour program the Republicans are famous for at the end of the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

OLIPHANT:  The grunts in this effort are true, believing social conservatives, many of them extremely religious.  And explaining this to them I think is one of the little tasks Speaker Hastert had better get done very quickly or it‘s going to affect the enthusiasm level at the end of this fight. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it reminds me, Tom, of the Catholic Church, and it was the true believers that didn‘t like it.  You know, they really didn‘t like it because it was about trust, and faith.

OLIPHANT:  Right, there is one other element that nobody talks about.  A lot of these people are not fully committed to secular activity.  A lot of people think you should be spending your time worrying about the next life, not this one. 

MATTHEWS:  And this involves the next life? 

OLIPHANT:  I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a tough question, too.

Let me go to A.B. Stoddard. 

A.B., you cover the Hill all day long, you know the culture.  I‘m not building you up, you know.  You know that culture up there? 

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  I do.  And I want to say that I‘ve known Mark Foley for 12 twelve years, and I am not in the House Republican leadership, but if I knew that he was too friendly with the pages, I think it was up to the Speaker Hastert to be aware of it, as well.  And the fact that they didn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Did you know there was fire behind the smoke, though? 

Beside having a covert interest in these kids?

STODDARD:  I think when it comes to children, you have to treat smoke as fire.  That‘s what I would do if I was running the House.  If I found out about this, I would have looked into it more and done my level best to maybe wrap this up a year ago, ask Mark Foley to leave.

MATTHEWS:  What were the indicators, was it the fact that he showed in black tie for the page graduation or what?

STODDARD:  No, he was just, he was know—look, Mark Foley is a very nice guy, and as I‘ve said, I have talked to him many, many times over the years.  He was very well liked by all of his colleagues.  There are closet homosexuals in the Republican party, they are not known in the pages. 

Mark Foley was not know as a drunk, Mark Foley was known as a really nice guy who happened to spend a lot of time attending meetings of the page program, welcoming addresses, et cetera, the functions that they had.  And he was just very friendly with them, you know, as they make their way through the building and stuff.  It was just a known fact and it just wasn‘t really—it wasn‘t comfortable, it wasn‘t appropriate. 

And I think the leadership clearly knew about this.  I think when they learned this a year ago, they could have done more to investigate it or wrap it up.  And they missed an opportunity to protect themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  Were they afraid that they would offend the gay community if they went after someone who was perceived to be gay, just because of his orientation?

STODDARD:  I do not think that‘s why.  I think they swept it under the rug and didn‘t tell Dale Kildee because they wanted to save themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  That was the guy mentioned as the real straight arrow, not straight, but straight arrow, in the Republican—he‘s the only Democrat in the Committee they could have told about this.  They didn‘t do it.  They were afraid to let him know.

OLIPHANT:  The more people you tell, the more you widen the circle, the more you protect yourself.  I mean, this is a wonderful example of what happened when you have one of these tight little circles, and people don‘t think outside the bubble, you are asking for it. 

STODDARD:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it contributes to an overall stench on Capitol Hill, I mean, it goes with Abramoff, it goes even a little bit the George Allen thing.  It goes with all the sleaze up there, Bill Jefferson 90k in his refrigerator on Capitol Hill.  Right in his official, Congressional office, he‘s given by the people, he‘s stowing away 90k in cash, 90 grand, as a criminal would say, in the freezer.  I think that‘s more than an allegation.  I think that‘s a fact.

We‘ll be right back with Tom Oliphant and A.B. Stoddard.

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with the Hardballers, Washington author Tom Oliphant and The Hill‘s A.B. Stoddard.

Tom, my bet is that the Woodward book that‘s just came out, basically, doing the hard reporting and backing up what most of us sort of had as a hunch for all these years, do you think it will make number and stay there? 

OLIPHANT:  Yes, it will.  But the moment of truth on credibility is coming up.  I mean, he got guff from Secretary Rice abroad.  We need to hear from Cofer Black and George Tenant about July 10, 2001.  And we are right at the moment of truth on this one. 

MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s—I‘m amazed that Tenet that away.  That‘s the

hottest story in that book.  That two months before 9/11, the president got

that Condi got a briefing on the whole thing. 

OLIPHANT:  You know the old line, Chris, interesting if true. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, good point.

A.B. Stoddard, what‘s your assessment of this book and its impact on the elections?

STODDARD:  My feeling is that at this point the Iraq—the voters who are deciding on Iraq, that‘s a decided vote.  Bush is speaking to the persuadable voters, those who connect Iraq to the larger war on terror.  He‘s talking about Afghanistan these days, and Pakistan.  And those—that is working.  Those people are responding to him and raising his poll numbers.  I don‘t think there are new voters this week saying, wow I‘m mad now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, my hope is that this reminds us we‘re at war.

Thank you very much Tom Oliphant and A.B. Stoddard.

Play HARDBALL with us Tuesday, and catch me—I‘m going to be on the “Tonight Show” tonight with Jay Leno.  So stay up late if you want to see me again tonight.

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.

transcript

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,