updated 10/6/2006 11:15:43 AM ET 2006-10-06T15:15:43

Guests: Ray LaHood, Steny Hoyer, Norm Ornstein, Stan Brand, Jim Warren, Kate O‘Beirne, Dee Dee Myers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Damage control, the speaker says he‘ll reform procedures.  The Ethics Committee says it will report in weeks, not months.  We still don‘t know, though, why the House Republican leadership failed to act.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  The speaker speaks.  Major developments in the Foley e-mail page scandal.  Today embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert fought back against calls for his resignation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I‘m deeply sorry this has happened.  The bottom line is that we are taking responsibility because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before, the buck stops here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But the buck doesn‘t stop with the speaker.  The House Ethics Committee launched its investigation into the page scandal today, with the committee approving four dozen subpoenas for documents and testimony.  Asked if House Speaker Dennis Hastert was among those four dozen subpoenas, the committee‘s chairman, Congressman Doc Hastings, would not comment.  And more evidence this scandal has legs. 

A new A.P. poll shows about half of likely voters say recent disclosures of corruption and scandal will be extremely important when they cast their vote just 33 days away.  The political landscape looks dismal for Republicans.  HARDBALL‘s David Schuster is covering the story and is here with the latest, David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well Chris, Denny Hastert‘s pledge to stay on as speaker, and even run again in January, did get some statements of support, but it was not the outcome that some of the rank and file members had wanted.  So how did Denny Hastert calculate all this? 

Well, according to several members of Congress and a G.O.P. activist, who was in contact with Denny Hastert, the speaker felt that if he were to resign, there would not be a smooth transition.  John Boehner, who is next in line, faces his own set of questions in the Foley scandal and Hastert was convinced that allegations of a G.O.P. cover up are going to stick around for a couple of weeks anyway. 

So, according to these sources, Hastert felt it was better to draw the line today, make it clear to everybody that he is not going anywhere and try to unify the Republican Party behind a counterattack against Democrats and the media.  The problem, said one Republican, is that Hastert has not left them any breathing room.  He has not left them an ability to take the steam out of the story.  And here is the part of the news conference this Republican is referring to. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT:  I‘m going to run and presumably win in this election and when we do, I expect to run for leader, for speaker.  And, you know, I think everybody else will too.  But our members, ultimately, make that decision. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  This one senior Republican said that every Republican now in a tight election faces the prospect of being asked, either by his Democratic opponent or by a reporter, do you support how Dennis Hastert handled this or not.  And again, the Republican said that for those Republicans who are on safe seats, this won‘t be an issue, but for all those Republicans, Chris, who are in a tight race already, to face that kind of challenge, a number of Republicans said it is going to be very difficult. 

In the meantime, of course, you mentioned the House Ethics Committee investigation.  That has begun with subpoenas.  One Democrat said today that the leading Democrat, Howard Berman, never would have gone along with these subpoenas unless subpoenas were also being delivered to the House G.O.P. leadership, including Denny Hastert.  The other development today is that the FBI interviewed Kirk Fordham.  He is the former top Foley aid, who was making the allegation that he told Denny Hastert about the problems with Foley three years ago and that his response was, the Speaker knows about it, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it is really going to be an investigation that leads to the charge that somebody is lying at the top, right? 

SHUSTER:  Yes, at the end of the day, it is one of these who do you believe.  Do you believe that the speaker knew about this and was more interested in protecting the seat than doing anything or do you believe that this was an innocent matter, as far as Hastert was concerned, that he did not know the details about what was going on and just felt like it had been handled at the lower level and that was the end of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Can there ever be a reunion of these interests?  I‘ve never seen other people in leadership point the finger at the speaker like this, where you have Boehner and Reynolds and all, all with different stories, blaming the speaker.  How can they work again as leaders together? 

SHUSTER:  They can‘t.  They don‘t trust each other, Chris.  The bottom line in all of this, as so many people today pointed out, this would have never happened if Tom Delay was the still force that he was in Congress.  Tom Delay was essentially the person holding these people together.  Denny Hastert was sort of the proxy speaker on Delay‘s behalf and on top of all of this, a number of Republicans suggested at the end of the day, it may be a moot point anyway. 

Every Republican that we spoke to today said this has almost guaranteed that the Republicans are not going to keep control of Congress.  If however, something else happens and there is some sort of strange development and these Republicans suddenly emerge victorious, then it‘s a whole new ball game in January, as far as whether Denny Hastert can maintain the speakership, but in the meantime, Republicans say it is not even worth thinking about anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying, if they had a hammer, things would have been better.  I‘ve never heard such nostalgia for Tom Delay, but you mean it. 

SHUSTER:  They all believe that Speaker Hastert would follow whatever wishes Tom Delay wanted.  Tom Delay was the one who was keeping people in line behind Speaker Hastert.  Remember, John Boehner didn‘t really rise to power until Tom Delay was gone.  The infighting that Republicans say is going on now, they are absolutely convinced would not be going on if Tom Delay was still there. 

MATTHEWS:  The law of unintended consequences once again.  Thank you very much David Shuster. 

Republican Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois is calling for a temporary end to the page program.  Mr. LaHood, are you going to punish the kids for the crimes and sins of the adults? 

REP. RAY LAHOOD ®, ILLINOIS:  Well that isn‘t what I suggested, Chris.  What I suggested is we suspended the program and send the kids home until we can have some outside scholars, like Ornstein or Mann or somebody like that really evaluate the program.  You know, Chris, this program was flawed two decades ago when Studs and Crane were found guilty of fooling around with pages. 

It is flawed today.  It is not a 21st Century program.  It is an antiquated program.  It is a flawed program.  And the speaker admitted that today.  So, what I‘m saying is let‘s evaluate the program like we have done a lot of programs around Capitol Hill and either bring it into the 21st century or make some changes that brings it into the 21st Century, that really reflects the kind of Congress that we have today. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the kids didn‘t do anything wrong while they were pages, apparently.  They did their homework.  They passed their junior career.  They did their job.  They were graduated.  They went home with pride to their families and now we‘re told by you, there is something wrong with the program. 

Is it that you have to have somebody standing guard around the dormitory at night to keep drunk perverts from coming after them, members of Congress?  That seems to be the only thing I see here is a guy who was drunk and went down looking for one of the pages at night and a guy kept who kept up correspondence with them in a lascivious way after they graduated.  What is wrong with the page program?  It seems there is something wrong with Foley. 

LAHOOD:  Well, there is wrong with people who come to Congress and lose their moral compass, the way Mark Foley did, the way Jerry Studds did, the way that Crane did.  These people lost their moral compass and preyed on 15 and 16-year-old boys and girls.  You know, that program ought to be looked at, in terms of its ability, really, to help kids look up to members of Congress, who want to prey on them. 

Look it, Chris, this is more than some guy going down to the page dorm.  This is about a guy who used electronic devices to send messages, salacious messages, to young kids and, you know, that has to be looked into and it looks to me like there is probably going to be other disclosures that are going to come out that will probably be maybe as surprising or more surprising.  And look it, this is a 100-year-old program.  Why not take a look at it?  Why not evaluate it?  Does it really reflect where we are at today? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it seems like we‘re more perverted today because we can‘t trust the adults to stay away from the kids, where we could all the way back to 1820.  Why are the times now more cheapened by the behavior of members of Congress? 

LAHOOD:  Well, look it, Chris, I have up to 18 staff people that I can hire.  You know what, I can hire people to deliver flags to my office.  I can hire people to deliver envelopes to my office.  Frankly that‘s what the pages do.  They are errand boys and errand girls and that‘s what they do.  They deliver messages.  They deliver flags.  They deliver envelopes.  I have got staff people that can do that, Chris.  I don‘t need a 15 or 16-year-old kid to do that. 

If they are really going to do substantial work, which they‘re not doing—they are not doing legislative research.  They are running errands, Chris.  Now that is a system that was reflected 100 years ago, when members of Congress did not have staff people.  We do have people now that can run errands for us.  We don‘t need 15 and 16-year-old kids on the House floor doing that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about collegiality.  You are famous for trying to bring a bridge of companionship of collegiality, of comity between both sides of the isle, Republicans and Democrats.  You hold the retreats.  You really try to get people together, and I try to explain this to people who never worked on the hill, and you were on staff up there before you were leader and a member of the Republican party and a member of Congress, that a lot of sympathy is around these members. 

All of you guys face defeat every two years, potentially.  You live a risky business and you make a decent salary, but you‘re certainly not going to get rich up there, and you look out for each other.  And isn‘t part of that the story that people saw this member, they knew he was gay, or figured he was.  They figured he had a different orientation than they did sexually and they saw that he had tried to contact, perhaps he was infatuated with some staff kid—some page when he had graduated, after he had graduated, and they said well, that poor guy‘s got a problem, but let‘s not ruin his career.  Nobody‘s willing to admit there‘s sympathy in this business. 

It‘s all about getting reelected.  It‘s all about raising money, that Mark could raise a lot of money.  Was sympathy part of the reason this guy didn‘t get in bigger trouble, earlier?

LAHOOD:  Look it, Chris, these are good jobs.  These are some of the best jobs there are in politics and we have to have a—live by a higher standard.  We all know going into these jobs what the salary will be, the fact we‘re going to have to either rent or buy a place in D.C. and not get reimbursed for it. These are very good jobs. 

And you know, Mark was elected in my class in ‘94 and you know, it was commonly known that Mark was gay.  It certainly wasn‘t commonly known that Mark was messing around with pages or sending them electronic messages.  You know, the point is Chris, we have to be held to a higher standard. 

And, you know, I really gave Hastert credit on the fact that he is the one that went to Tom DeLay and told him to leave the House.  He‘s the one who went to Bob Ney and said you‘ve got to step down as the House administration chair.  He‘s the one that appointed Duke Cunningham and told him he had to leave the intelligence committee. 

Look, Hastert when he knew the information and had the information, he took tough action.  So this idea that because there is a little collegiality, which there ain‘t much of to be honest with you, right now because everything is to politically poisoned, Hastert took the bull by the horns and took action. 

Had he known about Foley he would have called him into his office, had a Dutch uncle talk with him and then monitored it.  I don‘t think Denny knew.  I really don‘t, Chris.  And I think if you look at the way DeLay, Ney and Duke Cunningham, he could have done it.

MATTHEWS:  Well why didn‘t he act on the warnings he got from Kirk Fordham, the guy who worked as chief of staff for Foley and then later for the campaign committee chairman, Mr. Reynolds?  If this kiss, this young staffer went in and told that to his top staff people of the speaker, why didn‘t it get done?  Why wasn‘t something done besides, oh, you take care of it Mr. Reynolds, or something like that?

LAHOOD:  Look Chris, I‘ve worked for two congressman.  You worked for Tip.  And you know as well as I do, if somebody were to come to you and told you what was going on between a member and a page, you would have gone to Tip and told him.  If this would have happened under my watch as chief of staff with Bob Michael, I would have been in Michael‘s office, Michael would have called the member in.  Denny Hastert didn‘t know this, Chris, that‘s what I‘m saying.

MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s what all these other members say he did, these guys are all—Boehner, Mr. Boehner, your majority leader said he talked to him about it awhile ago.  Why is there this discrepancy in their testimony at this point?  Why don‘t they get together in a room and hold a joint press conference and sort out the fish?

LAHOOD:  You know what, Chris, do you know how many people talk to Hastert every day?  The same number of people that talk to Tip every day, 25, 30, 40 people.  And he thought it was—I think Hastert maybe felt—he says he doesn‘t remember it and he says he doesn‘t remember the conversation.  I believe Denny Hastert.  I really do.  He is a strong leader.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you are a pretty straight-forward guy here.  Are you going to vote for Hastert for speaker next time?

LAHOOD:  Absolutely and if we‘re the majority party, he will be the speaker.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a big question and we don‘t have the answer right now.  Ray LaHood, a great guy, thank you for coming on here, sir.  It‘s great to have you on.

LAHOOD:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  A man who was not only a member of Congress, but he was once a staffer, even better.

Anyway, coming up, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, Will the Foley scandal sweep the Democrats back in power?  We‘re going to ask that question of one of their leaders and make Congressman Steny Hoyer the next majority leader.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Speaker Hastert told the “Chicago Tribune,” quote, “I think that resignation is exactly what our opponents would like to have happen—that I‘d fold my tent and others would fold our tent and they would sweep the House.”

I guess he is talking about the Democrats.  And when asked about the conservative base‘s dissatisfaction with how he‘s handled the Foley scandal, the speaker said, quote, “When the base finds out who‘s feeding this monster, they‘re not going to be happy.  The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros.”

Well that‘s what the speaker said last night.  Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland is the House Democratic whip.  He is the No. 2 Democrat in the House.  Let me ask you, Congressman, what do you think of that sort of odd blame game there, blaming this whole thing not on himself or on Mark Foley or anybody else in the leadership but on George Soros, the millionaire?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), WHIP:  I think it is ridiculous.  I don‘t understand it.  It sounds a little bit irrational to me, Chris.  The fact of the matter is here, we have an issue where clearly the responsibility for the administration of this program and the response to the issues raised were in the speaker‘s office and not on anybody else‘s office.  So blaming anybody else is simply, I think denying reality.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have faith that the...

HOYER:  ... We have a lot of state of denials, as you know.

MATTHEWS:  Right, I know, Woodward‘s book.  Do you have confidence—you‘ve watched this committee over the years, the ethics committee—do you have confidence it will report back something solid and decisive before the election?

HOYER:  I don‘t have confidence in that.  I hope that is the case.  The ethics committee, as you know, has been asleep, has been defanged over the years and has been put out to pasture.  It hadn‘t been effective. 

Now Howard Berman is a new member on there.  He was effective in the past, I think he can be effective now.  I think Dr. Hastings clearly is under a lot of pressure, under a lot of spotlight.  I don‘t think they can hide from this. 

So hopefully we‘ll get a thorough, complete report on exactly what happened here.  We need to know the facts.  The public needs to know the facts, the institution needs to know the facts.

MATTHEWS:  Had you heard of these stories like Mark Foley e-mailing people, instant messaging people, getting drunk and showing up at the page dormitory in the middle of the night?  Have you heard any of those stories?

HOYER:  Not once.  I never heard this until last Friday, Chris.  I was shocked to hear it.  And I was shocked that apparently these had been around for some period of time and that we hadn‘t heard about it.  I think one of the real problems here was if this was not dealt in a bipartisan, nonpartisan way, perceived as an institutional problem that all of us need to look at in terms of our responsibility in protecting these kids. 

It was looked at apparently more as a political issue to be dealt with only by the Republican Party, either by the campaign committee or by Shimkus without Dale Kildee, who is the Democratic member of the page board being involved.  I think that is unfortunate.  I think it would have been dealt with much more forcefully had it been a much more open and collegial process.  But unfortunately, that is not the way this institution has not worked lately.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think they make a point of sidestepping Dale Kildee, the only Democrat on the page committee?

HOYER:  Because I think they wanted to keep this secret.  I think they were more concerned about re-electing Foley and keeping that seat.  We have a very good candidate in that seat, Tim Mahoney.  I think that they are very concerned about losing control, losing power, and I think in the focus of keeping power, they did not want to include any Democrat in the process that might somehow put Foley at risk. I think that was unfortunate.  And again the focus was on protection of a politician rather than on protection of the children. 

MATTHEWS:  Nancy Pelosi shot down, she objected is her term, to the proposal by the speaker just today that you create some sort of the investigative committee to look into—investigative post, it would be Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, to go and look at the page system itself.  Why did your party not like that idea? 

HOYER:  Chris, as I understand what happened, and I talked to Leader Pelosi very briefly about it, Speaker Hastert called her and told her, this is what he was going to do.  Unfortunately what should have happened in this whole process is call up and say, what do you think we ought to do, what can we do together to address this problem. 

As I understand it, and I agree with her, Leader Pelosi said, look, Mr. Speaker, what we really ought to look to do is somebody who is an expert in this field.  Louis Freeh, director of the FBI, I don‘t know what expertise he might have on this. 

But the problem, of course, is not the page system.  The problem is an individual who abused the page system, abused his power as a member of Congress and was not dealt with in an effective way.  That is really what we need to be looking at. 

Having said that, we need to certainly involve experts on how we can make sure that we have our antennae very sensitive to make sure if there is any danger posed to any child in our care and custody working with us, that they are protected. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be back with Congressman Steny Hoyer, Maryland. 

Hang in, Congressman, we‘ll be back with you. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with the U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic Whip, that‘s the number two—do you like that title, whip?  I wonder how many people get it.  You know, they think you actually have a whip in your in your hand, you know?

HOYER:  You know where that comes from, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  No. 

HOYER:  It comes from Great Britain, fox hunts, you got the foxes going after the hounds, and the hounds tend to get on the of the pack, so you had two outriders with whips, keeping them in line.  So I tell people their job was to keep the foxes going after the hounds, my job is to keep the Democrats going after the Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is a HARDBALL question for you, Mr. Hoyer, and I‘ve known you a long time and I know you‘ll find this to be a hardball down the middle.  nothing tricky about this one.  Do you think the correct model for the speakership should an real leader, like Tip O‘Neill, who I worked for and you worked with, a real boss, a guy who‘s in charge of everything, or this big teddy bear character, this Drew Carey character we have now, a speaker who is always there, sort of as the front man for Tom Delay?  Should the speaker be the boss and not just a figurehead? 

HOYER:  I think the speaker has to be the leader of the House.  And that‘s a distinction you need to make.  The leader, as you know, is elected by the whole House and has a responsibility to the whole house.  The leaders of the parties need to be the leader of their parties.  Obviously the majority leader needs to be in conjunction, working closely with the speaker who was elected by the majority, to put policy forward, and pass policy, and do the work of the American public. 

But you certainly need a speaker who is strong, focused and articulating an agenda that the American people and the members of Congress can relate to. 

MATTHEWS:  And this guy, Speaker Hastert, doesn‘t pass that?

HOYER:  Tip O‘Neill was that kind of speaker.

MATTHEWS:  And the one we have right now doesn‘t sound like the way you set that up.  Articulate, focused, they‘re the things this guy is not. 

HOYER:  Well, let me say, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, just watching objectively... 

HOYER:  Objectively, I won‘t...

MATTHEWS:  ... he‘s not a great speaker.

HOYER:  Let me say this.  I like Dennis Hastert in the sense that when I‘m with him, I think he‘s a good guy.  I like him.  He came—he became speaker under unusual circumstances,as you know.  He became the speaker really because Tom Delay decided he couldn‘t be elected speaker, and supported the speaker to take that place.  And then they worked very closely together.  But there seemed little doubt in our mind, on our side, that the person calling the shots was Tom Delay. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if you get to be majority leader, or are on the way to getting that in this election?  Do you believe that the Mark Foley scandal should be a major part of the Democratic campaign this year? 

HOYER:  We have an agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  But I have to know about this one question, Congressman. 

Should the Mark Foley scandal, as it‘s emerged, and the leadership role in it be a key part of your party‘s campaign message? 

HOYER:  Yes to this extent.  One of the major focuses we have made is that this Congress has not held anybody accountable.  We haven‘t held our members accountable and when they did, you‘ll recall, the Ethics Committee held Tom Delay accountable, two of their members were fired by the speaker, they were replaced by more friendly members and the rules were tried to be changed so that if the leader were indicted, that he would not have to step down as leader. 

So they tried to cover-up.  A cover-up and lack of accountability is a major portion of our campaign.  We need to hold accountable the executive department, and we need to hold our members accountable for performing as the American public want them to do. 

So, yes, certainly to that extent, this is a clear example of cover-up, a clear example of not holding people accountable, a clear example of putting politics before the protection of the people. 

MATTHEWS:  Has your Democratic caucus held Bill Jefferson of Louisiana accountable for the FBI finding $90,000 in his refrigerator? 

HOYER:  We did.  We took him off the Committee. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s enough?

HOYER:  Well, he has not been charged with anything. 

MATTHEWS:  well, neither has Denny Hastert.  I mean, neither has Denny Hastert.

HOYER:  Well, I‘m not sure I get your point. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a lot of jump, jump up there for Hastert to leave from a party that won‘t ask Bill Jefferson to leave, and he is in a criminal investigation. 

HOYER:  Chris, you didn‘t hear me jump up and ask Denny Hastert to leave.  We need to find out the facts.  We need to find out who knew what, when they knew it, what actions they took and what accountability ought to be assessed at that point in time. 

What I‘m saying is we have a pattern now for over six years under this Congress of a Congress that was unwilling to hold accountable the executive department and unwilling to hold accountable its own members and put its Ethics Committee on hold.  I think that is a major issue for the American people.  And I think this tragic event, the Foley event, an action which clearly should have been quickly addressed and resolved and was not is an example of what we‘ve been talking about, that the American people are going to understand.  And I think they going to want to see a new direction in this country.  They going to want to see a change of leadership. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, good luck in November.

Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, number two Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Up next, the House ethics Committee meets to investigate the Foley scandal, but will that investigation get done before the elections?

Big, big question.  The timing of this, will it matter politically.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  What exactly and who exactly will the House Ethics Committee investigate.  And when will they get that investigation over with?  For more on today‘s developments in the Mark Foley case, let‘s go to NBC‘s Mike Viqueira.   

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CAPITAL HILL PRODUCER:  Well, good afternoon Chris.  Of course we saw the Hastert press conference out in the Chicago, in the far western suburbs of Chicago, Denny Hastert‘s home district.  We also saw the Ethics Committee meet in an amazing display of transparency for that committee. 

Not only did they announce what time they‘d be meeting and what day, remember this committee room is buried in the bowels of the Capital, but then the chairman and ranking member appeared before cameras at a press conference later this afternoon in the Capital to announce that they had released some four dozen, or just shy of four dozen, subpoenas for members and staff to come and talk to them.  They say they are going to act with unprecedented quickness and alacrity.  But still, it is still unlikely that they‘re going to get anything done before November 7th, election day, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  What does speed mean to these people? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well normally, I mean, these elections can literally take a year and can drag out.  You know, they form—they have a procedure.  They form an investigative subcommittee.  Then they kick it up to the full committee.  Well they announced today that they met and in the same day formed the investigative subcommittee and, this being a congressional recess, hard as it is to believe, they say it will only take a matter of weeks.  They wouldn‘t speculate on whether they could get it done before election day, but most of the smart money is that they will not be able to do so, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  So much of this involves who do you believe, Mike.  As you know, the speaker as one point of view.  He says nobody really warned me.  A couple of the other leaders said that Reynolds, of course, and Boehner said they did warn a staff member.  He‘s just resigned.  He said he did warn the speaker‘s staff people.  Why don‘t they go lickity split to the question at the top, who‘s telling the truth?  Why do they take weeks to do that?   

VIQUEIRA:  Well, good question.  You know, Hastert has largely stuck by his story that he didn‘t learn about the e-mails and the I.M.s and the rest of it until last Friday, the day that Foley quit.  I think a lot of Republican members now are starting to sympathize with the speaker, Chris.  I‘m hearing a lot about a potential backlash, you know the speaker brought out the George Soros card today, that the Democrats were after him.  He singled out ABC News. 

And, you know, that might sound a little bit fatuous to a lot of people, but that resonates with a lot of Republicans, especially the 232 Republicans who are responsible for electing a speaker, they being in the majority.  A lot of sympathy for Hastert, perhaps a lot of the blame, as it always does, gets down to communications—their critical of communication.  They are critical of staff.  A lot of these Republican members aren‘t as fond of Hastert‘s staff as they are of Hastert himself. 

I got one other thing I want to tell you about, Chris.  You‘ve been talking about what to do, how to reform the page program.  There are three members of the page board.  We haven‘t heard about the third one, Shelly Moore Capito.  The first time I have seen a concrete proposal of what to do to reform the page system.  She is just out with that today.  Increase the number of members on the page board, develop peer counseling, monthly meetings with the page board pages and the capital police, and here is the one, establish training and guidelines on education members of Congress and pages on the job description and responsibility, as well as proper relationships with pages, members of Congress or any employee of the House of Representatives, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the next proposal will be to put (INAUDIBLE) wire up around the page dorm.  Any way thank you Mike Viqueira.  What a messy business this is. 

Let‘s go right now to Stan Brand, an old friend of mine, a former counsel for the House of Representatives, and Norm Ornstein, probably the best political scientist around.  I still believe there is such a thing as political science, as American—and his book is called “The Broken Branch.”  That‘s about Congress, you‘re new book.  Is this prove it? 

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE:  It does.  It says how Congress is failing America and these guys are the gift that keeps on giving, if you‘re looking at a book.  This is awful stuff and I don‘t think it is going to go away.  I don‘t think, even if there is a backlash and members rally around Dennis Hastert, the investigation by the Ethics Committee, the continuing revelations that seem to come out daily, including Mr. Fordham‘s, that this may go back to three years ago or more, is going to keep this around and it‘s going to show an institution that is simply out of touch. 

MATTHEWS:  Look, the members have had problems over years.  Certainly booze has been a big problem in politics, because you have so much down time and it is somewhat boring a job, at times, and, you know, you are protected.  OK?  And maybe the personalities of people that are most ambitious also breeds a kind of a booze mentality.  That was an old problem with the Congress.  I‘m sure there have been gay members of Congress almost forever.  This kind of association, preying on young pages, is that new? 

STAN BRAND, FMR. U.S. HOUSE OF REPS. COUNSEL:  Well no, we had it in 1982. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, those two cases. 

BRAND:  We had that case.  That case broke on television over the weekend before July 4th.  Within eight to 10 days Speaker O‘Neal and Bob Michael, the minority leader, had a resolution on the floor.  Joe Califano was hired as special council.  He put together a staff of investigators and lawyers.  That went on for the better part of a year and a half, with members being disciplined, some members losing elections and staff. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does it take so long.  Because I know you want to go through a process, but again, I‘ll ask the question I‘ve been asking all afternoon on this network.  And that is, if all you have here is a dispute over who told who what, put them in a table like this, put Hastert Here, Boehner here, Reynolds here and ask them question under oath, with a tape recording and find out who was inconsistent. 

BRAND:  Well, it‘s not that simple. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?

BRAND:  Well, you don‘t know how deeply this goes, in terms of other members involved in pages.  It‘s not just about who knew what, when. 

MATTHEWS:  Well to the public it is.  They want to know who‘s responsible for this mess with Mark Foley getting away with this for all these months.  That‘s what most people who watch this show care about.

BRAND:  First of all, you never put witnesses together so they can hear each other‘s statements.  You put them separately. You‘ve got to take this one piece at a time.  Every one of these people has to be interviewed under oath and asked what they knew and when they knew it. 

MATTHEWS:  That takes weeks.

BRAND:  That takes weeks because there are statements that they‘ve made in public.  There are statements they‘ve made to other members.  All of those things have to be prepared and they have to be asked about that.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got computers here on HARDBALL where I can tell everything anybody has said for weeks.  LexisNexis, Google, we can find—we have ways, we have our own transcript system.  Most of the programs on television, all the news programs have transcripts.  You can dig up all this stuff.

BRAND:  That‘s what they‘ve said publicly.  You don‘t what they have said in the cloakroom, among each other, to other people with witnesses present.  That is why the Republicans are having difficulty. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re paid by the hour, aren‘t you?

BRAND:  Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So you like this to be an extensive process?

BRAND:  No, I just think to get the facts of who knew what, when, takes a long time.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about collegiality.  You understand the culture of the politics.  I‘ve been trying to say all afternoon, everybody‘s rebuffed me, but there is sympathy within these members‘ halls.  I mean, they all risk re-election every two years, they do feel themselves part of a camaraderie, of a joint sort of risk-prone business.  Don‘t they root for each other when they realize they have problems?  If a guy is a drunk, they don‘t try to get him arrested.  They try to help him out or get him home that night.  If the guy has a problem with marriage and he is being unfaithful, they try to live with it, they try to warn him, but they don‘t try to get him caught.  They don‘t rat each other out.

And then when it comes to a guy being a gay member, they—most of these guys are tolerant enough to say, well, that‘s what God made them and I‘ve got to live with him, I‘ll help him out.  This idea that all of the sudden they should have gone bananas and called this to the attention of everybody, right at the first instance they heard about it, is that consistent with what you know about their culture?

ORNSTEIN:  Well first of all, the cultures change.  We don‘t just have partisanship now, we have tribalism. 

MATTHEWS:  So they don‘t look out for each other anymore?

ORNSTEIN:  A sense of zeal of somebody on the other side going down is not like what we knew when we first came to Congress.  But even beyond that, you can have sympathy for somebody for his sexual orientation.  Because of what has happened with the page program in the past, because of what happened with the Catholic Church and with kids, when somebody comes up and you know, not that he happens to be gay, but that he has been writing e-mails to a page that just don‘t look right on the surface.  If you‘re going to protect the institution and protect the kids, you‘re going to push it further, you‘re going to investigate, you‘re going to make sure...

MATTHEWS:  ... If Denny Hastert actually saw the first set of e-mails, the ones that had the suggestive aspect to them, “I want your picture, that other guy is well built,” that obviously shows a gay interest in the kid, fine.  But we don‘t know yet the simple fact of whether Denny Hastert ever saw that e-mail.  We don‘t know that yet.

ORNSTEIN:  Well, we don‘t know that.  That‘s part of what the investigation has to show.  The investigation by the way, also goes back to now Mr. Fordham, the former chief of staff to Mark Foley, and who‘s been working for Reynolds, who says that three years ago he told Scott Palmer, the chief of staff about serious problems with Foley and pages.

MATTHEWS:  He said he told him at least once.

ORNSTEIN:  But you hear something about that and if you care about the institution, the warning signals, the neon lights are going to go off.  Hastert at minimum, if he heard anything, should have called in Foley and said I want to know everything that is going on.

BRAND:  Legally, this isn‘t just the fraternity house.  This is in loco parentis.  These guys and women are acting as guardians and parents for children who are away from home.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  But I‘m also trying to explain why there might be a reason why they don‘t immediately nail these guys.

ORNSTEIN:  Yes, but there‘s a reason in this case, which is you don‘t want another scandal to emerge when you‘ve got others to worry about right before an election.

MATTHEWS:  This is a stink bomb of high megatonage, I think you‘d agree. 

ORNSTEIN:  Oh, absolutely is.

BRAND:  No question.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you Stan Brand, the guy that usually defends these guys.  Anyway, Norm Ornstein, thanks—good luck with your book, “The Broken Branch.”  Well timed, sir.

Up next, will the Foley scandal cause the Republicans both houses of Congress?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  How will the Foley scandal affect the November elections?  Jim Warren is the “Chicago Tribune” deputy managing editor.  Chuck Todd is editor-in-chief of “The Hotline” and a HARDBALL political analyst.  There‘s Jim Warren.

Jim, you‘re at the “Chicago Tribune,” you‘re right on top of this guy, Denny Hastert.  Give us a little feel on what happened with you in your interviews with him.

JIM WARREN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Well, one has to be sort of taken aback at the aggressive partisan posture he has taken.  I find it real interesting today, back in the district, when he is asked about these charges, that it has to be the fault of ABC News and George Soros and the Democrats. 

His answer to that question was, “I only know what I‘ve seen in the press and what I‘ve heard on the news,” and then something to the effect of “there is no real ultimate source of information.”  What does that mean?  I think very surprising to us is the extent to which a guy whose whole political track record, politically in the Illinois legislature, was one of real substantive bipartisanship.

A guy who if he was working on a bill, which had some land mines in there for the Democrats, would tell them.  Here it‘s as if he has sort of drank a sort of tactical Kool-Aid with the White House and is sort of reading from their talking points.

And as Chuck knows, this comes at an incredible time, particularly in an area like his.  There are at least three key congressional races not far from here, Chris, in the suburbs of Chicago which were all up for grabs even before this.  And now you‘ve got all these Republicans, like Hastert, spending half of their time answering questions about this mess in Florida.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Chuck, it reminded me of Jack D. Ripper in “Dr.  Strangelove.”  He starts talking about precious bodily fluids as the cause for the world‘s problems.  What is this talk about George Soros in the middle of a sex scandal in the House?

CHUCK TODD, THE HOTLINE:  This has been—they‘re on this talking point.  You see it.  It‘s not just Soros, and then they‘ll bring up Gerry Studds, a former member, Democratic member of Congress.  We have actually seen the Indiana Republican Party actually criticize a Democratic candidate for campaigning with Steny Hoyer because Steny didn‘t vote to censure Gerry Studds. 

And you‘re just going, where are you guys going with this?  This is only going to actually undermine your own credibility on what‘s going on now.  So I don‘t know what he was doing and I have a feeling he was trying to actually walk it back today, a little bit, Hastert was.  But I don‘t know if he did well with that.

MATTHEWS:  Jim, tell me about Denny Hastert.  I have always taken him as a kind of a nice guy front man for Tom DeLay, and sort of a speaker in a ceremonial sense.  But certainly not the political ramrod of the Republicans in the House.

WARREN:  Chris, this was a beloved suburban high school teacher and wrestling coach, who is somewhat of an accidental state legislature. He was put up to fill a vacancy, had a Republican primary long ago, went to the legislature and became, by every single possible account one can get, a very respected, hard working guy, who actually read legislation, read books and when there was stuff that he was working on that was going to be harmful to Democrats, maybe some stuff that labor unions would be unhappy about, would tell them. 

And that sort of era by bipartisan, you know, took him through his early course in Congress.  As we all know, Bob Livingston (INAUDIBLE) he ends up being the accidental speaker.  I mean I was there that very day. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

WARREN:  You know, in the House when it all happened.  And one had the notion of a guy who is still very self-effacing, although on one hand I think he is very confident in his skin.  He doesn‘t like the media.  He is not very good in one-on-one.  He‘s not a guy for the television age, nevertheless a guy who is going to be very much a conciliator.  And now look what has happened of late. 

It as if even somebody like Denny Hastert put into a far more combative, partisan, even somewhat toxic legislative mix than he was used to in Springfield, Illinois, can‘t avoid the some of the pit falls in playing HARDBALL, no pun intended, in the way that he still is doing right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s gone, Chuck?

TODD:  I do.  I mean, I think he is not going to return as speaker or House Republican leader.  I mean there is no—in fact, I don‘t understand why he didn‘t just announce that he wasn‘t going to come back.  

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever seen the leadership so openly antagonistic against itself?  I mean you‘ve got Reynolds, you‘ve got Boehner, they are all contradicting each other. 

TODD:  This all goes back to the vacuum that is still there because of Tom Delay.  When Tom Delay—first it was Gingrich to Delay and there is nobody running the show. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, a guy can fly a plane for years and not engage in real danger.  But, when you come into danger, you have got to handle it.  And I‘m not sure he is used to it.  He‘s not used to this kind of crisis situation, as Jim pointed.  Jim thank you for that insight.  Go ahead.  Thank you Jim.  Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune”  He pointed out the fact that the guy is not ready for battle.  Chuck Todd, thank you. 

Much more on whether the Republicans are doing enough, obviously not by the accounts we‘ve just been hearing, on the Foley scandal.  And where the Democrats—the Democrats can capitalize in November.  And next Wednesday, the return of the HARDBALL college tour.  I can‘t wait.  Actor Robin Williams and director Barry Levinson and the new movie “Man of the Year.”  We‘re going to be talking with the Georgetown students on that, next Wednesday.  The tour is back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Dee Dee Myers served as President Clinton‘s White House press secretary, and Kate O‘Beirne is the Washington editor in Chief of the “National Review.”  She is also a HARDBALL political analyst.  Dee Dee, bring back memories? 

D.D. MYERS, FMR. CLINTON W.H. PRESS SECRETARY: Not exactly.  I mean, believe me, I have plenty of bad memories, but this is a whole new ball game, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have a guy charged with—who has been booted out of Congress by his own boot, basically.  He is gone. 

MYERS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Have you got leadership charged now by the Ethics Committee.  They‘re looking into whether they were involved with a cover up, going right into an election, in which our latest poll, this is the Associate Press/IPSUS poll, this is an extremely important, very important issue to the electorate.  Do you buy that?   

MYERS:  I do.  I think it is an important issue to the electorate.  There is nothing complicated about this in the mind of most voters, who seem to be paying attention to it, which is Mark Foley hit on House pages, a lot of people knew about it and nobody did enough to stop him.  This wasn‘t going on for a couple weeks.  It was going on for several years.  And even in early September, before this story really broke, before ABC brought evidence to Mark Foley, which forced his resignation, the blogosphere was full of excerpts of some of these e-mails. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  What do you say?  I have Kate O‘Beirne here too.  We only have a little time.  Kate, what do you say to a principal who says that he did not know that the guidance counselor was hitting on the students, and that‘s what you‘ve got here? 

KATE O‘BEIRNE, “NATIONAL REVIEW”:  Yes, he is being paid to know.  I

think Dee Dee‘s right.  It‘s a very simple storyline.  Now the exact facts

are not as damning as the overall storyline, but an awful lot of voters are

not going to pay attention to the exact facts.  Those who were aware of

this over a year ago, people in the speaker‘s office, staff level, they say

they never told him, 

MATTHEWS:  They said they never told the speaker? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Right.  Congressman Shimkus, back then, they didn‘t want to know.  They—I think they were negligent.  They didn‘t demand to see the initial e-mail exchanges, which would have shown that it was not just one uncomfortable former page, there were two former pages.  And a reference to the fact that there is a Congressman hitting on pages. 

So, they were negligent a year ago.  They should have been far more curious, looked into it far more deeply.  And for not having done that, now it has gone all the way up the chain, however unfair, because it seems the first time Dennis Hastert knew any of this was going on was a week ago. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he says now.  Dee Dee?

MYERS:  Yes, I think the evidence might suggest that people  did have conversations—well, we don‘t know, but we will see what happens.  But it‘s not about Mark Foley anymore.  He‘s going to be punished.  He is already humiliated, his career is over, he is going to be—he‘ll barely be able to show his face in the country for the rest of his life.  He may face legal sanctions.  The question now is, this is obviously all about the House leadership, and I don‘t see how Speaker Hastert can survive.  This is a mess. 

MATTHEWS:  But is Speaker Hastert able to say what he said today, right there, we‘re watching him walk out to that press conference, that he did nothing wrong, or is this a sin of omission, as we say, rather than commission?  He didn‘t do something he should have done.

MYERS:  Right, but that is wrong.  He had evidence, people in his office had evidence, that a Congressman, again, was hitting on pages, 16-year-old kids who were sent there under the guidance and protection of the House of Representatives.  This is a program that fits under the auspices of his office, and he did not do anything.  That‘s again, like Kate said, it‘s like the principal, or maybe it was you Chris, it‘s like the principal who has been told, who‘s been given, you know, some really uncomfortable pieces of information, who does nothing about it.  Would the parents put up with that for a second?  They wouldn‘t.  They would throw him out. 

MATTHEWS:  This reminds me of the chief of staff in the White House when Bill Clinton was having interest, too much interest in a young page, a young intern, and they said we have got to keep him away from her.  I mean what are we going to put consartino (ph) wire up between these bosses and the pages now?

MYERS:  Well, the only thing—I‘m not going to certainly defend—you‘ve heard me not defend President Clinton‘s behavior in that regard many, many times on this broadcast, but I‘ll say this, at least she wasn‘t 16.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  Thank you very much Kate O‘Beirne.  Thank you Dee Dee Myers.  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   

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