Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Marsha Blackburn, Tony Perkins, Joe Negron, Craig Crawford, Walter Shapiro, Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republican civil war. Like a rocket propelled grenade the Mark Foley scandal is exploding the House leadership. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Resign, Mr. Speaker. That‘s not the liberal “New York Time‘s” talking, that‘s the conservative “Washington Times,” with today‘s lead editorial demanding the resignation of Congress‘ top Republican over his failure to act on Congressman Mark Foley‘s inappropriate behavior with a 16-year-old boy. Will Hastert be forced to resign just five weeks before the election? It might take more than an editorial, and a few conservative calls to wrestle Dennis Hastert to the mat.
What about the Republican leader, House majority leader John Boehner and Congressman Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, to name a few, knew about these suggestive e-mails of Foley and went to Foley and told him to stop. And specifically did not inform Democrats. Even the FBI knew about Foley‘s e-mails to the teenage boy in July, but did not investigate. Now Congressman Foley, who was the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, is being investigated for his conduct.
The bottom line is this. The election is fast approaching. Polls clearly show most voters are fed up with Congress and the Republican party must turn out their family values voters to win in hold power. Will this scandal cost Republicans the Congress? HARDBALL‘s David Schuster has the report.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House will be in order.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just five weeks until the congressional elections and for Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert, the scandal swirling around his leadership has now turned into a full-blown political crisis. Today the “Washington Times,” as Republican a newspaper as there is in the country, urged Hastert to resign his speakership at once.
The editorial referred Congressman Foley‘s e-mails to congressional pages and Hastert‘s knowledge a year ago. Quote, “Either Hastert was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week‘s revelations—or he deliberately looked the other way. Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party.”
Today a Hastert spokesman said the speaker will not step down. But Republicans say Hastert was told months ago about e-mails in which Foley asked the former page his age, requested a photo, and made sexual suggestions about the body of another page, prompting the boy to say sick, sick, sick. So why didn‘t Hastert take action then against Foley?
HASTERT: We didn‘t ever - we—we—you know—my understanding is, at the request of the family, nobody ever saw the text of that message. All they saw that was—was a Katrina message wishing—wondering how this kid survived the hurricane. And that‘s all we really knew about it and they didn‘t want further contact. That‘s exactly what we did.
SHUSTER: Still, the head of the page system, Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus said and other key Republicans knew the inappropriate nature of Foley‘s e-mails last year and, quote, we ordered Foley to cease all contact. And Hastert‘s explanation for handling all of this internally and away from the FBI is not satisfying top conservatives. Richard Viguerie, founder of the modern conservative movement, is calling on Hastert to step down.
Other conservative group leaders say Hastert‘s actions were outrageous and have left values-based voters disgusted. In the meantime, Congressman Mark Foley says he has now checked into rehab. It was just this Summer when Foley co-wrote a bill to protect children from adult sex offenders, including those prowling the Internet.
MARK FOLEY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: We are playing Russian Roulette with our children‘s lives. We need to stop these predators now.
SHUSTER: But a year before Foley shook the president‘s hand after signing the Child Protection and Safety Act, Foley himself was on the Internet, sending e-ails and sexually explicit text messages to teenage male congressional pages. Foley was a top supporter of the page program.
FOLEY: This has been a year you will remember for the rest of your lives.
SHUSTER: And in hindsight, his boast about taking a page to an expensive Washington steak house now sounds troubling.
FOLEY: And so we proceeded to cruise down to my B.M.W. to Morton‘s.
SHUSTER: Today President Bush weighed in on the scandal.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot. I know that he wants all the facts to come out.
SHUSTER: But even the president‘s condemnation of Congressman Foley may not be able to hide the fear of infighting and finger pointing among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Today in a radio interview, House majority leader John Boehner, who learned about Foley‘s contacts with a page this pages this Spring, said he asked Hastert about it at the time.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of.
SHUSTER: Another top Republican who knew about Foley this Spring is Congressman Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He also says he talked to Hastert about Foley, but it didn‘t stop Reynolds from accepting $100,000 from Foley this summer from the NRCC.
Against all of this, Hastert‘s aids are putting the blame on Congressman Shimkus, head of the page program, saying Shimkus did not provide details about Foley‘s contacts.
(on camera): In other words, nobody in the House Republican leadership right now is taking responsibility, and that‘s another reason why some conservatives want the house speaker to resign. Five weeks before the election and right now, said one conservative, the G.O.P. is allowing this ugly episode to fester.
I‘m David Schuster for Hardball in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Schuster. Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is calling for a federal investigation into Mark Foley‘s conduct and why House Republican leaders didn‘t report his questionable e-mails to law enforcement. And Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, she‘s been here before, is a supporter of Speaker Hastert.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, let me ask you this question, did you have any cause of concern, as a fellow member of the Florida delegation, about the behavior, the sexual behavior or proclivities or whatever, of Mark Foley before this happened? Were you shocked by this or not surprised or what?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: No, I was totally shocked. I mean, especially because I stood at the White House bill signing ceremony for the Adam Walsh Child Safety Act with Mark. This was a person who was allowed to hold himself out as a children‘s safety advocate, allowed to remain in a position where he co-chaired the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. So this was an absolute and total shock.
MATTHEWS: So you had no concern about his sexual orientation with regard to young boys?
SCHULTZ: No. Not with regard to—I mean, sexual orientation—your sexual orientation doesn‘t mean that you have—
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you about the general condition of his mind, soul, whatever it is, his character, his proclivities. You had no cause for concern about his spending time with these pages, writing them e-mails. The whole nature of this thing shocked you completely, right?
SCHULTZ: Chris, you know, I know Mark Foley. I served in the Florida legislature with him, or thought I knew Mark Foley, and served with him in Congress. To know this person, you would have had no idea that this would have been going on.
MATTHEWS: So these rumors around Capitol Hill, we keep hearing keep about how pages were warned keep away from Foley. You‘ve never heard that?
SCHULTZ: I actually never heard any of those rumors. I mean, the first that I heard about any of this kind of conduct was Thursday and Friday, when all of this broke.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Denny Hastert should quit as speaker of the House?
SCHULTZ: You know, I‘ve called for an independent investigation and if --
MATTHEWS: Well those things take years. I mean, do you expect—
That is burying something in a committee, Congresswoman. You know that.
How long would you like (INAUDIBLE) to string along the report? Two weeks?
Three months? Seven months?
SCHULTZ: No, Chris, what Democrats have called for is an investigation to be completed within 10 days. And quite honestly, yes, I do think that Denny Hastert should resign, if all of the allegations that he swept this under the rug and ignored what was totally inappropriate communication, that any parent in America would find inappropriate, then yes, he should resign.
MATTHEWS: OK, a short string investigation, ten days. Thank you. Let‘s go to Congresswoman Blackburn from Tennessee. Congresswoman, what is your position of Denny Hastert? Do you believe him? He‘s given two accounts. One, he didn‘t know anything about these e-mails until Friday, he had never heard about them. An then, there‘s other evidence, he‘s now saying that—you have Boehner saying he talked about it with him last July. What‘s true?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE: What we‘ve got is instant messages and e-mails. And I talked to the speaker‘s office today, and it‘s my understanding that he never saw the content of the e-mail. A staffer in the speaker‘s office was approached by Congressman Alexander‘s chief of staff, who said we have this situation. It was referred to the clerk of the House for investigation. The clerk of the House worked with Congressman Shimkus, who‘s the head of the page board and worked with the parents, and they thought the issue was handled. Now, Chris, that is—
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, there‘s a fact problem here congresswoman. Hastert told NBC that the first he knew about any e-mails was Friday, and now we hear Tom Reynolds saying—
BLACKBURN: The instant messages. The first he knew of the instant messages.
MATTHEWS: It says any e-mails. The first he heard about any e-mails was on Friday. Is that true?
BLACKBURN: I think he knew about an inappropriate contact. But the point of this is—
MATTHEWS: Why are you dodging this? Did he know about the e-mails or not? The e-mails are in question here.
BLACKBURN: I‘m not dodging.
MATTHEWS: Well, did he or did he not know about them early in the Spring?
BLACKBURN: He knew that there was a contact. Now, there are instant messages and e-mails. The point of this whole issue is pretty, you know—
I think all of us are disgusted. We are repulsed by this. Mark Foley was known to be a child advocate as Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. He was not thought to be a child predator. And there are so many of my constituents who have said, you know, I knew somebody at church or my synagogue or cathedral or my work or rMDIN_rMDNM_my school and—or my family or my spouse and then they had this abhorrent behavior and it shocked us all. Now Chris, that is where a lot of us are.
Here‘s where we‘re at, at “NBC News”. According to our report here, last night the Speaker of the House said, quote, “I have to say that I don‘t recall anyone tell me about them, the emails. I heard about them the same time as”—the more salacious emails we‘re talking about from Friday, the instant messages—“on Friday afternoon.” In other words, the speaker told NBC last night that he hadn‘t heard about any of this electronic communication until Friday, any of it. And you‘re saying that‘s not true?
BLACKBURN: No. I‘m going to say that. I‘m going to you what my understanding was from my conversation was with the speaker today. But I will tell you this. I think the House...
MATTHEWS: I thought you spoke with his office today. Did you speak with the speaker or his office?
BLACKBURN: I spoke with the office today. I think the House needs to investigate.
MATTHEWS: Well, why‘d you just say you spoke with the speaker? You just said you spoke with speaker.
BLACKBURN: No, I said I spoke with the speaker‘s office.
BLACKBURN: Chris, I did not. I said I spoke with the speaker‘s office. And I will tell you this. I think the House needs to investigate, the FBI needs to investigate. What we‘re talking about is the integrity of the House. We‘re talking about protecting children. We‘re talking about protecting the page boys.
SCHULTZ: Chris, the bottom line here is that...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask this. Congresswoman Blackburn, if it comes out, because I have the transcript of this show within a couple of hours, if you want to check it. You did say you spoke to the speaker, and that will come out in our transcript.
BLACKBURN: Well, I misspoke. If I said that, I misspoke, Chris, because I meant the speaker‘s office.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this. If it comes out that the speaker did know about these emails much earlier, months ago, and didn‘t act about it, do you think that he should resign? If he did know about them and didn‘t do anything, should he resign?
BLACKBURN: Chris, anyone who knew about this situation and did not take appropriate action, whether it was a staff member, or a member, or an individual of the press, or somebody else‘s staff member, or some reporter or anyone who knew about this, they should resign their position. They should face the full legal process of whatever would be due for whatever they committed. My goodness, we‘re talking—I am a mother. I cannot imagine...
SCHULTZ: Chris, Chris, the speaker has forfeited the public trust.
BLACKBURN: I cannot imagine...
SCHULTZ: The speaker has forfeited the public trust here.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you know something that Congresswoman Blackburn doesn‘t? Or do you know for sure that Denny Hastert knew about this situation months ago? Do you know that?
SCHULTZ: I know that he has changed his story every hour on the hour, and I don‘t know how anybody could say, that one of my colleagues came in and told me about a member of Congress who was having inappropriate contact with a minor and said, well, I just—and I didn‘t remember that. I mean, that‘s just beyond the smell test. There‘s no way that he didn‘t remember. And we need to make sure that we find out when he knew, and if knew, then he knows he forfeits his responsibility as the speaker because he has betrayed the kids in our trust.
MATTHEWS: Why, Congresswoman Blackburn, did the Republican leaders decide not to tell the only Democratic on the Page Committee, Dale Kildee, why didn‘t they tell him if they were handling this in a proper fashion?
BLACKBURN: Chris, I have no explanation for why that would have happened, and I will tell you this. This is one of the questions that we need to find an answer to. There—anybody who participated in a cover-up, they should resign immediately. I have said that. This is about protecting children. It is a violation of trust. It is about the integrity of the House. It is about the integrity of that page system. And, my goodness gracious, you know, we need to get to the bottom of this.
SCHULTZ: Well, Marsha...
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you support Congresswoman Schultz‘s call for a ten day investigation, a quick stream investigation, get it over with before the election so the American people know what happened. Do you support that?
BLACKBURN: Yes. I think that the House should investigate this, and I hope the FBI is investigating Congressman Foley and all of his actions. There is no excuse for this.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, what‘s your view? Bottom line, ten day investigation, will this actually happen, or are we just talking here?
SCHULTZ: I‘d like to see Congresswoman Blackburn and her other Republican colleagues in her caucus call upon their leadership, Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader Boehner, to get this resolved quickly. Do it before the election. And I haven‘t heard them say that. They‘re saying have the FBI investigate, have the House Ethics Committee investigate. They need to push their leadership to get this resolved so that they can move on, and we can make sure that we can restore the trust that they have shaken the public in Congress.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you Democrats meet in caucus and call for this officially as a party?
SCHULTZ: We are working...
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, why doesn‘t your party—
I‘ve asked this of other congresspeople on your side, like Jack Murtha on the war issue—if you have a strong position like you‘ve certainly expressed here tonight, why don‘t you get together as a party, have a caucus, and declare by resolution there ought to be an investigation. Why don‘t you all act together so you have some clout?
SCHULTZ: Chris, you know what, this just broke on Friday as Congress was adjourning. Right immediately as we—as we were adjourning, Nancy Pelosi took the floor, brought a privileged resolution to the floor to urge there to be a quick investigation. We took action, united as a caucus, pushed the Republican leadership to do that and forced them to refer the Ethics Committee. They need to do it much quicker than the Ethics Committee process. They need to call upon their leadership to resolve this, and when the cover-up is exposed, then Denny Hastert should resign.
MATTHEWS: Please don‘t say Ethics Committee. That‘s a black hole.
You‘ll never see it again.
BLACKBURN: Chris, I‘ll tell you what. I hope my colleague will join me in not making this a partisan matter.
SCHULTZ: This is not partisan at all. This is about parents.
BLACKBURN: This is about children. It‘s about protecting that page program.
SCHULTZ: You‘re right. You‘re absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know why it is partisan?
BLACKBURN: We need to investigate it and we need to know what happens.
MATTHEWS: ... Because your party controls the Congress. You know why it is partisan, because your party controls the Congress. You‘re in loco parentis, you‘re responsible. The leadership of the Congress is the speaker‘s office. He‘s personally responsible for the protection of these children. I‘m sorry. This is one case where it clearly is partisan. The accountability stops with the speaker‘s office.
Thank you very much, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Coming up, do conservatives want to boot Speaker Hastert? How Family Research Council president Tony Perkins is coming in here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In less than thirty minutes we‘re expecting a news conference in Florida by Congressman Mark Foley‘s attorney. When that news conference happens, by the way, we‘re going right to it, at 5:45 Eastern time we‘re estimating it‘s going to start. We‘ll bring it right to you live from here, from this desk.
How outraged are Christian conservatives by Mark Foley‘s exploits, if you want to call them that, and the slow response of the Republican Congressional leaders? And come November, what impact will this have on their voting this November. To find out, we turn to Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.
Tony, thank you, sir, for joining us.
Just your whole position on this, just let us know.
TONY PERKINS, PRES., FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think it‘s premature to call for the speaker or the leadership to resign. I think that may brush all this under the rug. I think we need to get to the heart of this matter. And this is shocking. I mean, this concerns people all across the country, when teenagers cannot be safe in the halls of government, you have to ask the question, where can they be safe at in this country.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the leadership of the House should have acted when they saw that Mark Foley was spending an inordinate amount of time hanging around pages, just seemingly too interested in them? Is that enough for action?
PERKINS: Yes, I think there is, because in talking to some pages, you know—I‘ve had people now on staff that used to be pages, and it was widely known to watch out for him, that he liked boys. And the question—and this question I asked ...
MATTHEWS: Well, was the reputation hanging on him that he bothered boys, that he spent too much time chatting with them, or tried to seduce them? What was the reputation?
PERKINS: Well, the reputation that he was a homosexual and that he liked to flirt and be very friendly with boys. And so pages were warned to watch out for him. And the question is, what did the leadership know? When did they know it? What did they do.
And what did they not do and why? Were they afraid to take action out of political reasons, for fear of maybe losing a seat? Or were they fearful of being labeled gay bashing for approaching a gay member of Congress?
MATTHEWS: How do you know that?
PERKINS: How do I know what?
MATTHEWS: How do you know they had that fear? How do you know they had that fear of gay bashing?
PERKINS: No, I said that‘s the question. That is a question that needs to be answered. Why did they not take decisive action with what they knew? And that question needs to be answered, and I think in large part, the answer to that question determines the effect this has upon voters.
I mean, this is—Chris, I mean, you understand. This is shocking, and I think people when they stop and they look at it, though, they shouldn‘t be totally surprised. When we elevate tolerance and diversity to be the guidepost of public life, I mean, this is what we get, Congressmen chasing boys down the halls of government.
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s—well, that‘s a fairly interesting position. I mean, look, a lot of people have different views about this. You think simply having gay members of Congress in or out of the closet jeopardizes the security of those kids who are pages?
PERKINS: No, I think it‘s a broader issues.
MATTHEWS: That sounds like that‘s what you were saying just now.
PERKINS: Well, that‘s a part of it, Chris, but it‘s also do we not have any sexual restraints in our society? And I think this is causing people to step back and look at what‘s happening in Congress where teenage boys are being, you know, solicited or at least hit on by Congressmen. You know, what led us to this point? I mean, this is not the first sex scandal.
MATTHEWS: By the way, just to back up your concern—and I think it‘s pretty universal—Congressman Foley, if you look at some of these—
I‘m not going to read them all to you. This is phone sex. I‘m not going to read this awful stuff. But here he is ...
PERKINS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ...in one of these instant messages asking a kid who‘s coming back to Washington, why don‘t we meet for a drink? We‘d better do it at my apartment so we don‘t get busted. Clearly a seduction going on here with a young boy, clearly a matter of physical contact, at least contemplated and encouraged.
It‘s not just titillating, awful stuff on the e-mail or the Web, if you will. This guy looks like he‘s after these kids. And so the question is, you‘re saying that the leadership should have seen this coming?
PERKINS: Well, I‘m asking the question, did they? What did they know? And did they not take action and why not? I mean, I think it was widely known among cadence.
MATTHEWS: Can I suggest a problem? Whenever a political party stays in office too long, it begins to resemble the Roman Empire in its final days.
PERKINS: Well, you know, Chris, you might be right.
MATTHEWS: You see corruption, you see big spending, you see tribalism. You see all kinds of bad things occurring that doesn‘t occur in the first rush—the first rush of excitement of a revolution where people were too busy at work doing good things in their cause. They don‘t have time to do this kind of stuff.
PERKINS: You might be right. I don‘t think the Republicans get a pass on this. I think they‘re going to have to fully explain this. This is going to impact the elections. I have no doubt it will impact the elections. The question is the degree to which it impacts the election, and that‘s based upon what happens in the next couple of days and how this is explained.
And, again, I don‘t think it‘s resolved simply by having the leadership step down. I think this is a symptom of a much bigger problem, not only in Congress, but in the culture as a whole.
MATTHEWS: Who are you more loyal to? Your values, or your allegiance to the Republican Party?
PERKINS: My values without question, and I think that‘s what you‘re going to find out with the majority of values voters. They have—they work with the Republican Party because the Republican Party, rightly or wrongly, has been held out as the guardian of family values. This clearly is not a family value. This drives, I think another wedge, a deeper wedge, between social conservatives and the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: OK, tough question. Should the Republican Party nominate gay men or gay women for public office? Is that a problem with you per se, just per se?
PERKINS: Per se? I think that this—there‘s an indication, there‘s clear research, that shows that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men. And when it comes to government, yes, I have a concern that any type of sexual deviancy is a problem.
And I think—I‘m not pointing this strictly at homosexuality. I think this is a problem of dropping all sexual restraints in our society, and this is what it leads to. I mean, our kids not even being safe in the halls of government. Is that the America that moms and dads want for their children? I don‘t think it is.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this should be on the Republican platform, for you to continue your allegiance to the Republican Party, that they stop nominating gay men or women for a public office? How strong are you on this?
PERKINS: Well, you know, I mean, I think—I mean, that‘s not it. I don‘t think it needs to be on the platform. I think the question here is was this action based out of fear of being—of a backlash from homosexuals as being seen as gay bashers?
I think they have every right to participate in the process, and if they get elected through their local constituents, that‘s fine, but if the party is giving deference and protection and safe haven to those who are on a path of sexual deviancy and abusing children, that‘s a problem, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Is that what you suspect here?
PERKINS: I don‘t know, and that‘s what we want to know.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
PERKINS: I‘ve asked the speaker that question and we‘re waiting to see the answers.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Tony Perkins.
Up next, we‘re going to talk with a man looking to replace Mark Foley, even though Foley‘s name will be on the ballot. He sort of will have to run on that name. Republican State Senator Joe Negron will be here from Florida.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When Congressman Mark Foley resigned amid a sex scandal, Republicans had to pick someone to take his place on the ballot this November. That job falls to Joe Negron, and putting it bluntly, House Majority Leader John Boehner described Negron‘s situation this way: “To vote for this candidate, you have to vote for Mark Foley. How many people are going to hold their nose to do that?”
Joe Negron, will the people of Florida vote for you even if you‘re running on the ticket that says Mark Foley?
STATE REP. JOE NEGRON ®, FL. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. The voters are a lot smarter than the experts give them credit for, and people can figure it out. Mark Foley has resigned from Congress. He‘s not on the ballot. He‘s withdrawn from the race, and his name is simply a placeholder for the Republican nominee.
Chris, this is a Republican seat. It‘s been a Republican seat for 25 years. It voted 60 percent for Jeb Bush, and we don‘t want a Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry Democrat going to Washington to trash the president. So I‘m very confident that we‘re going to do well.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Mark Foley?
NEGRON: I think his conduct is absolutely disgusting. I think it‘s inexcusable. Chris, I was an intern in Washington for the U.S. House of Representatives during my junior year in college. I took a semester at American University. I idolized my member of Congress, Skip Mathalus (ph) from Florida. And he would visit with us. We would love just to talk to him for a few minutes, and he‘d let us poke our heads inside the House floor.
And to violate is trust is reprehensible but, Chris, we don‘t believe in collective guilt in this country or guilt by association. We believe in individual responsibility. And just because Mark Foley did something terrible, that doesn‘t mean we‘re going to hand the seat over to the Democrats so he can go vote to make Charlie Rangel the chairman of Ways and Means get rid of the tax cuts. We‘re in a fighting mood down here in the 16th circuit, and we‘re going to work hard to keep the seat.
MATTHEWS: Your first vote if you get elected will be to vote for speaker, Mr. Negron. Will you vote for Denny Hastert for speaker?
NEGRON: Yes, I will, and I think the constituents that I hope to serve certainly don‘t want their congressman voting to make Nancy Pelosi speaker. The way I see it, Chris ...
MATTHEWS: If you find out, Mr. Negron, if you found out some time in the next 10 days after some investigation that Denny Hastert knew about this last spring, knew about the e-mail, knew about the suggestive nature of it, and didn‘t act, would you still vote for him as speaker?
NEGRON: I wouldn‘t vote for anyone that knew about it and didn‘t take appropriate steps, regardless of who he or she is. Let the chips fall where they may. Parents have a right to expect that Congressmen and women are going to treat their children properly when they‘re sitting in the U.S. Capitol.
MATTHEWS: If the seats were reversed and you were running as a Republican against a Democratic Congress that had overseen this scandal, would you be running against the leadership as well as the member? Would you be going against them? If this were Speaker Pelosi who was suspected of not having acted on something like this, would you be going at her?
NEGRON: No, I wouldn‘t, because this came to light, at least to my knowledge, when I first heard about it was at 3:10 on Friday afternoon. Here we are on Tuesday. There‘s already been a federal investigation, an FBI investigation. Governor Bush has asked the FDLE in Florida to see if any state laws were violated.
I don‘t see anything being swept under the rug. I see this being brought fully out into the light of day. And if somebody‘s responsible, they need to pay for it. And if it turns out that former Congressman Foley violated his trust in this way, he ought to lose his federal pension because we shouldn‘t be rewarding this kind of behavior.
MATTHEWS: Did you suspect any kind of trouble before this from Mr.
NEGRON: Absolutely not. I have seen Congressman Foley on numerous occasions since he‘s been in office. I have never seen him act in an untoward manner to anyone. I saw nothing to indicate that this kind of secret life was going on. Let‘s let the investigation play out and see what actually happened.
But what‘s already acknowledged and admitted to sickens me. But the solution to that isn‘t to say, well, let‘s just go into a fetal position in the 16th district. Let‘s just hand the seat over the Democrats. That makes no sense. That‘s not logical.
MATTHEWS: I like your fighting spirit, Mr. Negron. Good luck in this race. It‘s a tough one. Thank you, Joe Negron ...
NEGRON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ...who‘s running as the Republican in the Florida congressional district that‘s just been vacated by Mark Foley.
Craig Crawford is coming here for the “Congressional Quarterly,” and then Salon.com‘s Walter Shapiro on whether the Foley fiasco will cost Republicans the Congress.
And tomorrow, Bob Woodward, author of the hot new book, “State of Denial.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re awaiting a news conference in just a few minutes now—it‘s going to be at 5:45 Eastern time—by Mark Foley‘s attorney who‘s going to tell us what‘s going on down there. It could be exciting. Stay tuned.
The Foley scandal is obviously rocking the Capitol right now. And how much could it hurt Republicans across the country? Could one man‘s mess push this party out of power?
Craig Crawford is an MSNBC political analyst and a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly.” Walter Shapiro is the Washington Bureau Chief for Salon.com.
Craig, this seems to be the most accessible scandal I‘ve ever come across, the easiest to figure out.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The easiest since stealing
chiding checks and stealing stamps when the Democrats lost control of
Congress 12 years ago. And I do see a comparison here, because it‘s really
this is the straw that ate the camel, I think. It might be just a straw, but it‘s something people can grasp.
MATTHEWS: I mean, once in awhile, I realize what it must have been like when the Greek parliament got so awful that the colonels took over—
I don‘t want to encourage that, obviously.
CRAWFORD: Oh, I thought you were talking about the classical Greek Parliament.
MATTHEWS: No, I meant the modern Greek before the colonels came in when you just get so disgusted. It‘s a 20 percent approval before this.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, they used to say four out of five doctors, now one out of five Americans trust Congress. Well, be serious, what does it mean?
WALTER SHAPIRO, SALON.COM: Right, what it means is, that in so many ways, the Democrats look like they‘re going to get their 15 seats.
SHAPIRO: Free and take it. And the idea of whether Denny Hastert will be speaker or not will be so moot by election day ...
MATTHEWS: If you think they‘re doing a great job there, just vote Republican.
CRAWFORD: If the voters push back from this notion at all, it will be on the grounds that the Democrats haven‘t shown any real record of doing anything better when they‘ve been in power at handling these kind of abuse cases. And, you know, my gosh, they‘ve got a guy accused of bribery still on the ballot in Louisiana. So I do think, you know, voters are thinking about that.
MATTHEWS: OK, but put it together, $90,000 in cold cash in the refrigerator. A guy took a yacht to pass legislation, Duke Cunningham. All these guys connected to Abramoff. Throw in, if you will, the George Allen matter. All this stuff adds up to a stink.
CRAWFORD: Oh absolutely, certainly. The Republicans have got one. You mentioned one in jail for bribery. One resigned for bribery, and they got a former majority leader going to trial on charges that basically amount to running a criminal conspiracy. If they can, Democrats can bundle all these things together in voters‘ minds—
MATTHEWS: That‘s the question. Why is the Democrat party—I had a Congresswoman from Florida on, Wasserman Schultz. I said why don‘t you guys meet somewhere and start voting where you stand, so, on the war, they‘ll never do that. They‘ll never say where they stand on the war, but on this kind of thing, why don‘t they really do—take a party position? Are they afraid?
SHAPIRO: I think—First of all I think they‘re disorganized. Secondly of all, an awful lot of challengers running against incumbent Republicans really want the DCCC and the House to stay out, send money, but let us run our own campaigns.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want the talking points?
SHAPIRO: They don‘t want the talking points. They don‘t want Nancy Pelosi announcing what the party position is when you‘re trying to beat Debra Price in Columbus.
CRAWFORD: You know, the irony of this Foley story is the Democrats had actually gotten away from the culture of corruption argument and focusing on Iraq.
CRAWFORD: And also, you know, they haven‘t come forward—where‘s their reform agenda? If they want to talk about culture of corruption, what is their plan to change that?
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s put it together. We‘ve got a poll we can result
announce tonight. We‘ve got one issue we can announce on, which is that the NBC, “Wall Street Journal” poll says that the number one concern of voters now is Iraq again, that all this discussion of 9/11, all the things that president was able to distract us on, has now gone back to square one.
Why are we in Iraq? Overwhelming the American people want us out. If you put Iraq together with corruption, doesn‘t this give them the kind of break the Republicans had back in the 1950‘s? Remember we used to say, what was it, it was communism, corruption, and Korea.
SHAPIRO: The three K‘s. I think they spelled corruption—sorry, three C‘s. I‘m not going to do spelling on television ever again.
MATTHEWS: But, neatly packaged together, three issues.
SHAPIRO: Yes, but again, this is how we look back on it. An awful lot of House members got elected in the 1950‘s because they ran against their individual Congressman, saying he is a communist, as opposed to talking, getting national—talking points to the national Republicans. I really think that in a lot of ways this is how individual House Democrats and House Democratic candidates handle these issues, rather than the idea that there is going to be a template handed down by the national Democratic party and everybody abides by it.
MATTHEWS: But the fact that they got the leadership involved in this, that they can blame this on Hastert and Boehner and the rest of them, Reynolds and the rest of them. They can say look, this wasn‘t just one guy with a sexual deviancy. It was something that he couldn‘t control maybe, but it was the political party that covered up his problem.
CRAWFORD: This was a system protecting itself. And I think the money is a factor, too. Foley was a major fund raiser for the Republican party. It wasn‘t so much that he wanted to keep his seat. He was pouring cash into the party. He gave them $100,000 for the campaign, congressional campaign, shortly after they decided to ignore these e-mails.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s a connection?
CRAWFORD: I mean, look at the circumstances. I mean, the timing of it was very close. That was an unusually large contribution. A lot of members are given big money to the campaign committees, to be sure, but he was at the very top of that.
MATTHEWS: Is this like one of those Woody Allen things, we needed the eggs? We couldn‘t get rid of the Golden Goose.
SHAPIRO: It‘s also the fact that there is an issue—and the thing that might move is when we find out how much Hastert new, exactly do all the stories hang up.
MATTHEWS: I wonder if we‘ll ever find out. We‘re going to try though. Thank you very much Walter Shapiro, thank you Craig Crawford.
Up next, Bob Shrum and Pat Buchanan play HARDBALL on Foley‘s mess. And as we wait for the news conference from Foley‘s attorney, this is coming up. Stay tuned. In a couple of minutes we‘re going to be hearing from Mark Foley‘s attorney down in Florida as to what he‘s going to say now in his defense.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As I said, we‘re waiting for Mark Foley‘s attorney to hold a news conference down in Florida. We expect all kinds of reasons behind this terrible situation on Capitol Hill. We‘re going to hear whatever defense they have to offer, at least publicly, right now. So it‘s going to be pretty hot with the attorney for Mark Foley, has to say about why his client did what he did.
I don‘t know how he‘s going to defend it, but here‘s MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum. Shrum, what do you think of this thing? I mean you‘ve got the leadership now trying to argue over what they knew, when they knew it, when‘s a big question here, how long they sat on this story, how much of this story did they have months ago, as early as the Spring, and this possibility of a ten day investigation, a quick string investigation, which will report before the election, what do you make of it?
BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST: Well there ought to be a quick investigation. It‘s a triple whammy. The family values guy goes out and engages in inappropriate conduct with minors. The family value self-proclaimed leadership of the Republican party runs around incoherent and contradictory, trying to explain what they didn‘t know and when they didn‘t know it, and then their ally Tony Perkins gets on this show and engages in bigotry and gay bashing when he tells a lie. There are no reliable studies that shows that this kind of conduct is related to sexual orientation.
MATTHEWS: And that was a strong thing, Pat, I told you, when he came on here just a few moments ago, Tony Perkins came out and said that he wasn‘t completely solid on it, but he was suggesting, his inclination was to say that Republicans shouldn‘t be nominating gay men and women for public office because of this.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well there‘s no doubt. Look, if someone is known to be a homosexual and it is public, Chris, you‘ll find a lot of Republicans and conservatives won‘t vote for them.
MATTHEWS: But is it fair to say the reason they won‘t vote for them is that they‘re scared they might get involved with younger boys? Is that the reason or is it just that they don‘t like them?
BUCHANAN: Well there‘s a couple of reasons. One is they believe that homosexual sex is immoral, unnatural, and wrong.
BUCHANAN: Well, it‘s not necessarily that they believe they‘re going to be involved with teenage boys, unless something has cropped up, like this to cause them to believe that.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think this is going to be a question—I mean, let‘s go to the question we‘re all more comfortable with, which is the question of the politics. Does speaker Hastert have to split to get this off the Republican‘s backs?
BUCHANAN: I think Hastert is gone as of January, but I disagree with some of my conservative friends. I don‘t believe, Chris, you throw somebody under the bus until you know he‘s guilty. Now I think Hastert clearly has got the explaining to do. The burden of proof is with him. What did you know, if all you knew was the guy asked for a picture from somebody who‘s gone in Louisiana, I can understand how they might say—because two newspapers felt it would be gay bashing to put that in the paper—so I can understand that.
But if he knew more, if he knew the explicit, these explicit emails, Chris, I think anyone that knew those explicit emails in a position of authority, those who ran the pages, should have told this guy, you know, get out of the Congress of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Did you read in those initial emails a suggestiveness?
BUCHANAN: It was a red flag knowing this guy‘s gay. And the truth is, Tony Perkins has a point. We know, Chris, in the Catholic Church, you got all these priests, and something like 85 percent or 90 percent of their victims are teenage boys, for heaven‘s sakes, and all the victimizers are men. That‘s reality.
SHRUM: You know, Pat, this is outrageous. The truth is you take every chance you can to bash gay people...
BUCHANAN: I‘m not bashing him, I‘m giving you some facts.
SHRUM: ... to bash women who are in favor of women‘s rights, to bash immigrants. You hate lots and lots of people. What reliable evidence can you cite? There is none that says that pedophilia is related to sexual orientation.
And let me tell you something...
MATTHEWS: By the way, this is not pedophilia, by the way. Let‘s be careful here about throwing terms around. These aren‘t prepubescent boys. These are 16 year-olds, in the past case with the page scandal, they were 17 years old. We‘ve got to come up with a new word for this. Certainly underage is right.
SHRUM: It doesn‘t matter what you want to call it. There‘s no evidence that asserts this is specific to sexual orientation. And Chris, you and I were both working in the Congress the last time this happened. And one case involved the abuse of a young man, and the other case involved the abuse of a young woman.
Pat, is just using this like a lot of these family values people are to take somebody who said he shared their agenda, betrayed his beliefs, betrayed his beliefs and then bash a whole section of America.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t hate anybody. Look, I know...
SHRUM: Pat, I think you do hate a number of people.
BUCHANAN: Look, I think you might have your own problems here, Mr.
SHRUM: Well, what do you mean, Pat?
Pat, what do you mean by that?
BUCHANAN: Well, what I‘m saying is you‘ve got a certain measure of bigotry, yourself. But I want to talk about a congressman...
SHRUM: Pat, I have no bigotry that I know of at all.
BUCHANAN: ... we got a Congressman from the Eastern Shore of Maryland who‘s a good mine, one of the brightest guys in the Congress, could have been speaker. And he was down there in the Tenderloin District, even though he‘s got a family and four kids, something is wrong, inherently wrong.
MATTHEWS: Let me jump in here. Look, we also know, we all live in Washington, we all live in social Washington. Bob‘s been around this town enough to know there are a lot—well, not a lot—there‘s a significant number of politicians who are gay, who keep it to themselves.
MATTHEWS: And keep it out of their public life. It doesn‘t become part of their public life at all. What‘s wrong with them?
BUCHANAN: Well, look...
MATTHEWS: I mean, what‘s wrong with them serving their country?
BUCHANAN: Well, look, if somebody should—if they can have every right to run, every right to be voted for...
MATTHEWS: But now what‘s the problem?
BUCHANAN: Barney Frank got into a scandal, the guy I mentioned got into a scandal. Tony Studds is in a scandal. This guy‘s in a scandal. There‘s a proclivity to get into scandal...
BUCHANAN: Studds, not Tony Studds, but the guy I went to high school...
MATTHEWS: Pat, you not only have your facts wrong, you don‘t have your names straight.
BUCHANAN: He‘s the guy from up there in that district south of Boston.
SHRUM: It‘s called Cape Cod.
MATTHEWS: That doesn‘t help.
You know, I really do think that the presidency may require a certain higher level of scrutiny, but isn‘t it possible for a member of—I mean, Jim Kolbe, I mean, he came out years ago, and nobody really even knew it. I mean, it wasn‘t an issue. There are other people who have come out of the closet and they choose to do so.
BUCHANAN: They have a right to do that. What I‘m saying is, a lot of people will take that—in the Republican party—will take that into consideration and say, this guy‘s living an immoral life and I‘m not going to vote for him.
MATTHEWS: Bob, I think you and I agree, this is not about being gay.
This is about misusing your authority over children, you people, underage.
MATTHEWS: You‘re smiling, Pat. You don‘t agree that‘s the fight here.
BUCHANAN: Well listen...
SHRUM: No, no, no...
BUCHANAN: This is a corrupt human being.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t get Pat wound up, he‘ll give that 1992 speech to the Republican Convention which cost George Bush the presidency.
SHRUM: One of the values we ought to care about in this country is truth and tolerance. And the head of the Family Values Coalition lied on this show. It is time to get tolerant in this country. It is time to say that no one, whatever their sexual orientation, should be allowed to abuse children.
BUCHANAN: We all know you‘re tolerant. Now tell me this. Is it a coincidence that 90 percent of the victims of the priests and the other folks who abuse those altar boys and others, 90 percent of the victims were boys, 90 percent of the perpetrators were men. That‘s why they keep them out of the seminary, or should.
SHRUM: No, no, Pat. You want to use this..
BUCHANAN: There‘s a proclivity here.
SHRUM: Pat, there have been homosexuals in the priesthood forever.
There are probably homosexuals on this day, in the College of Cardinals.
The question is conduct. The question is not sexual orientation.
BUCHANAN: Why do you think they keep them out of Boy Scouts?
SHRUM: Why do you think it was? Why do you think it was that Phil Crane, that conservative paragon, hit on a young woman page in the Congress?
BUCHANAN: I recommended he be thrown out of Congress.
MATTHEWS: That was Dan crane, by the way.
BUCHANAN: That was Dan Crane. I recommended he be expelled, and so should Studds, and you guys elected Studds five more times and made him a chairman of a committee.
SHRUM: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
BUCHANAN: ... for conduct. He didn‘t send Valentine‘s over the email.
SHRUM: You‘ve got your facts wrong, Pat. The Ethics Committee recommended that both of them be reprimanded. The House said, absolutely not, we‘re going to increase the penalty to censure. And I think what we‘re seeing today is that those who screamed and yelled about that have become complete hypocrites. The notion that Denny Hastert got this news and did nothing more than what Catholic bishops did, which is sit down and tell the guy to sin no more, is incredible.
BUCHANAN: Foley is out and Studds should have been out, and you guys nominated him five times, and then made him a chair.
SHRUM: Actually the voters nominated him, and the vote in—what was the vote? I think there were three dissenting votes on that censure. The entire Republican party voted the same way.
BUCHANAN: Well, we threw Crane out and you didn‘t throw Studds out.
MATTHEWS: Let me retreat to politics here for a second, and that is let me try this by you. Voters make one vote. They don‘t get 50 votes. Do you like gay congressmen? Do you like the war? Do you like abortion rights? They only get one vote. Will this affect it?
BUCHANAN: I‘m sure it‘s going to affect it. It demoralizes our base. Our people care about these things. Our sense is out there that Denny Hastert ought to quite. Other conservatives are....
MATTHEWS: Where are you on this? Keep him there?
BUCHANAN: No. I just say I don‘t believe in throwing guys under the bus unless you convict them of doing something wrong, and we haven‘t gotten to that point yet with Hastert, so don‘t do it yet. But I would not vote to keep him in January.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the fact that—the suggestion that Denny Hastert, he says—he‘s given a couple of stories on this, Bob. One story is he did get a report from Reynolds, the chairman of the Campaign Committee months ago, in the spring, about this first email, the one that involved suggestive language, like this other guy, this other page is well built or something, the kind of language you wouldn‘t normally associate between an adult and someone below the age of consent in this case. Legally, by the way, in Florida, it‘s 18. This kid‘s well below that, he‘s 16. Do you think that should have been enough of a red flag for Denny to boot Mark?
SHRUM: Well, I don‘t know to boot him. It should have been a red flag to start an investigation immediately, to look at all his emails, to look at his instant messages. I think in some ways, this is going to be remembered as the email election.
It‘s also going to be remembered as the election when people who got into trouble couldn‘t remember what they were told. Denny Hastert can‘t remember what he was told. Condoleezza Rice can‘t remember that she was informed a month in advance about the imminent danger...
MATTHEWS: OK guys, here we go, we‘re going to go live right now.
We‘re getting close to it. That‘s Mark Potter of NBC.
BUCHANAN: Let me just say, look, there‘s no doubt that the Republicans in a referendum should lose. But there‘s no reason on earth why Nancy Pelosi or Reid deserve to be in power, but they may get it.
MATTHEWS: And it would be good for the country?
BUCHANAN: I think it would be good for the Republican party in 2008.
What‘s important to me with is the White House, and if you put these characters out there, I think they will mess it up so bad that the Republicans can have a comeback in 2008.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think, Bob, and you know the Hill pretty well, you worked with Senator Kennedy. You know there‘s a difference between being in opposition and being in power. The challenges—the advantage of being in power is you‘ve get all the airplanes to take trips with, you get the committee chairmanships, you get all the patronage. The disadvantage—but the disadvantage is you‘re responsible.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got to take care of them. And they apparently did not do it in this case. They‘re going to take the heat. This is a partisan issue. It‘s not nonpartisan. The people in power take the heat when something goes wrong.
SHRUM: Dale Kildee, who‘s the Democrat on the Page Committee, should have been brought immediately into this as soon as that red flag was raised.
BUCHANAN: I think Shimkus has got a problem.
MATTHEWS: And what a good man he is, Dale Kildee. Great man he is.
BUCHANAN: But Shimkus has got a problem. He‘s the head of the page thing. He‘s the guy that should have gone in and looked at the emails.
MATTHEWS: We should be getting this report pretty soon. We‘re going right to the end.
Bob, I want you to put everything in perspective this year, up to date. We‘ve got a new poll out, and we‘re going to get lot more of this later, but the new NBC - “Wall Street Journal poll says that Iraq is still issue number one with the American voters. So we‘re back from that couple of weeks talking about 9/11, a couple of weeks talking about other things. The voters are back to square one. They don‘t like this war.
SHRUM: And I don‘t believe the president‘s approval ratings have gone up and I don‘t think the Republicans are doing any better in Congress than they were doing before. I think the reality on the ground in Iraq, and I‘ve said this on this show before, is what is driving this. Bob Woodward has now added whole other layer to it, which is, we know that the administration has been misleading the country.
Pat keeps saying, stay the course. Woodward reports to us that if we stay the course through, say 2007, things are going to get worse and worse in Iraq...
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to tell me that Pat Buchanan has a heart in the Mid East war. One Second.
BUCHANAN: There‘s no doubt when it turned back to Iraq, the Woodward, thing and the intelligence estimates, and it turns to...
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going to stay here. We have a development here. We believe this press conference is about to begin down in Florida. We‘re going to be hearing, any minute now—it‘s very interesting to be right on the edge of this because we‘re going to hear Mark Foley‘s attorney at a press conference give the latest defense. Let‘s listen right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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