updated 10/13/2006 2:12:24 PM ET 2006-10-13T18:12:24

Guests: Robin Williams, Barry Levinson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the 2006 Hardball College Tour starts here at Georgetown University.  A full hour of fun, politics, Barry Levinson and Robin Williams.  Let‘s play Hardball.

And one of the great Hollywood...


Thank you.


WILLIAMS:  This way good.  Definitely very good.  A lot of people are here.  512, 512 people.  Here we are at the university, a nice place.  Lovely to be here in the House of Commons.


I do wish to address the fact that every time I speak I feel that I cannot peculate (ph) the English language as it‘s meant to be.



MATTHEWS:  So you guys just made this great new movie.  We all saw it the other night:  “Man of the Year.”


WILLIAMS:  Good night.  Thank you for coming.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, if Tony Blair was here, you‘d get a bigger hand.  Let me ask you...

WILLIAMS:  But he‘s a nice man, really.  You have to look at all English politicians—and especially the royal family—and realize, all that money and still no good dental work.


WILLIAMS:  Oh, hello.  We‘re so happy.  Could it have been the war?  I don‘t know, really.  It‘s like “Deliverance” staged by Portham and Mason (ph).  Sorry—obscure reference number one.


MATTHEWS:  You switched out of political science in college.


MATTHEWS:  And now you‘ve switched back in it as playing an almost president of the United States.

WILLIAMS:  Almost, which is—almost.  That moment—just like Al Gore.  Almost.


MATTHEWS:  Well...

WILLIAMS:  Al Gore, much more articulate now, and a little bit bigger behind, but that‘s OK.

Yes, I mean, it is interesting, to go from from studying political science.  I went to Clairmont (ph) Men‘s College, and I mainly took—one person, thank you.


WILLIAMS:  One guy who transferred going, “There‘s women here.”


WILLIAMS:  A lot more fun.

Yes.  To be doing this is quite an honor.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you switch out of political science?

WILLIAMS:  Because there were women taking theater classes.


WILLIAMS:  And I thought, “Oh, let‘s go there.”  And, for me, all of a sudden—I took this one improvisational theater class and went, “Oh, I really like this.  I can use everything I know and be funny.”


WILLIAMS:  And at that point I went, “This is nice.”  And then by the time I came to my finals in political science, I failed everything, and my father went, “Great.  Maybe you should come home and learn another profession, like welding.”

But I‘m still fascinated by it, I‘m still fascinated by history.  And I speak—I thought at the time, because I spoke another language that I‘ll be in the foreign service.  Yes, right.  Good luck.

MATTHEWS:  This movie‘s about a guy running for president, a guy that‘s almost like Jon Stewart, I guess.

WILLIAMS:  Right, right.

MATTHEWS:  A comedian on television who decides to make a run of it. 

And then what happens?

WILLIAMS:  He basically runs, thinking that he just wants to shake things up, literally.

Well, like, Al Franken.  He‘s talked about it.  He may run in Minnesota. 

And the idea that he wants to just literally get out there and say, “The system‘s not working.”  And just to shake up the idea of accountability and to say, “Who are the politicians representing?”  And...

MATTHEWS:  And, that, well, let‘s take a look at the clip, right now.


MATTHEWS:  And Barry—I want Barry...

WILLIAMS:  It sets up for one to be very serious.

MATTHEWS:  Barry wrote this movie, so I want to hear...

WILLIAMS:  This man wrote it.


MATTHEWS:  So, Barry, when you wrote this, did you think—


MATTHEWS:  That was good writing...


MATTHEWS:  Before I ask you this pertinent question about this movie, which is a fabulous movie, and you‘ve made so many—I will never forget “Wag the Dog.”  Made—we checked it out—in 1997.

How did you know in 1997 that a president was going to get in trouble with an intern wearing a beret in 1998?  You could have started a religion with this a few years ago. 


MATTHEWS:  How‘d you know?

LEVINSON:  Well, we didn‘t know.  You know, we didn‘t know. 

Obviously, you make things up, and based on certain things.

I mean, the manipulation of the news had been going on, and how to use diversions, et cetera, which we see even more today than when we did “Wag the Dog.”  But you‘re working from things that are going on.  In terms of the Monica Lewinsky thing, that‘s just happenstance.

MATTHEWS:  But that wasn‘t going on when you did it.

LEVINSON:  No, it wasn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  It happened later.

LEVINSON:  No, it happened after.  That was...

MATTHEWS:  But how did you know about the beret?

WILLIAMS:  He‘s a psychic.  Tell us other things that you know.


WILLIAMS:  We will capture Saddam Hussein.  And he will look like Nick Nolte.



MATTEHWS:  OK.  What would have happened, when you were sitting down writing it?  A lot of these kids may want to be writers some day.  How do you know—what did you think would happen in a real presidential debate on all the networks if a guy just decided to take over the show?

LEVINSON:  Well, I started out locally here at Channel Nine.  And I worked in the news department, and that was where I actually got my start.  You know, you would have about three minutes for everybody to sort out what they should do—whether they‘d have to cut his mic, go to black—there would be those moments of, What are we going to go do, et cetera. 


ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Unless it gets Scalia, then it‘s—what‘s he saying

every Italian is going, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I know.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  Were you thinking of Ross Perot and this independent guy?

LEVINSON:  No.  I mean I was taking the way Perot was, but I also was wondering what happens if you put a stand-up comedian into a debate, that is so stiff and made sound bites.  Because they ask the question, then they say, “Va, va, va, va, va.”  And, we‘re basically falling asleep. 

And, so a comedian is extremely fast on their feet—as you can see -

and, you can see what the possibilities are as opposed to the way politicians are that have their set answers all the time which is pretty boring.

WILLIAMS:  And, Perot actually shook things up, “Just for the fact he talked like this, just like a squirrel without his nut, what do you say?  He came in there, not going to do it, here‘s the drill, vote for me.   I‘m not going to have a sex scandal, I‘m too damn ugly.  Look at me.  I look like a Ferengi—what‘s the problem?  Right there, here give me it right now.  Here‘s the thing, here‘s your economy, there‘s the money, there it goes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the money.  There‘s NAFTA, there‘s nothing, there‘s your money being sucked right out of the country, don‘t call me right, now here‘s the drill, I‘m going to talk to you right now.  I made money selling computer time.  It‘s like surplus energy.  Where‘s that big rabbit?  Don‘t call.  Here‘s the bill?”


MATTHEWS:  If nominated would you run?  If elected would you serve?

WILLIAMS:  Never.  I would never be nominated.  It would be like the same odds as Gary Coleman being in the NBA.


WILLIAMS:  Not, that he couldn‘t play.  “Just give me the ball, put me, put me on your shoulders, put me up there coach.  Put me up there, let it go, let it happen,  let it go.”   I can‘t run—I mean I‘m so happy just to be a comic when all this is going down right now.  I‘m sorry to use that word Mr. Foley.


WILLIAMS:  Hold on.  America Online has come up with a new warning now, it says, “You‘ve got younger mail.”


MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Bush?



MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Everybody‘s laughing now.  How many people in this room would vote for Bush if he ran next time, if he could?


MATTHEWS:  See.  Their fickle, their fickle.


MATTHEWS:  Their not fickle.

WILLIAMS:  Their not fickle.  I just love—he is the greatest gift that comedy has ever had.


WILLIAMS:  Any president who can say the question he‘s ever asked, “Is our children learning?”  And, people in the universities are going, “Is we?”  And, then when he said, “I‘m the decider.”  No, you‘re de president, and you make decisions.  Yeah, everyone laughs, and goes woo-hoo. 

But, at the same time you go, “What‘s going on?  What‘s happening?”  I used to make this joke that the Iraqis were writing a new constitution.  I said, “Take ours, we‘re not using it.”  It‘s the idea of what‘s going on everyday—everything that‘s happening.

MATTHEWS:  Are the American people romantic enough—whimsical enough as well—to go for something new like your candidate?

LEVINSON:  Well, I think there‘s a frustration in general.  I think a lot of people feel as though they‘re not being represented.  And, that‘s why I think right now if someone new came along, I think they may accept that individual if they had trust and the person has intelligence.  I think they probably would because I think everybody‘s frustrated—whether you‘re a democrat or republican—you keep saying, “I don‘t know, nothing‘s getting done.  Nothing is accomplished.”

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the country wants the Mayor of New York—the current one or the last one as president—from an independent person? 


LEVINSON:  I think we want an independent person.  I don‘t know if we‘d accept Rudy.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?

WILLIAMS:  I think Rudy came in at the right—it was the right man at the right moment.  And, actually addressed—to be inspirational—which is what I would want from a president.  I can‘t remember anything that George has said other than the comic moments that make great moments to inspire you to say, “Yes, thank you.”

MATTHEWS:  You weren‘t taken the day when he stood in the rubble and said, “We‘re going to catch the people that knocked down these buildings”?

WILLIAMS:  I think that was his one moment of really wading into it—which was extraordinary.  But, when I—you see him come to Iraq drop off a fake turkey and split...


MATTHEWS:  That he did.  We‘ll be right back with Robin Williams. 

We‘re at Georgetown University.  We‘ll be right back.



CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, this school has so many applicants as it is, but it‘ll have more after tonight, don‘t you think?

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  I think so.


MATTHEWS:  Is this country ready for President Hilary Clinton?

WILLIAMS:  Vice President Oprah, I think they‘re ready for, because I would just like to see the debate between Oprah and Condoleezza.  I think that‘s a “Pay Per View” event.


One time only.  Be there.  Oprah.  Condoleezza.  Watch ‘em get down, throw down.


They‘ll be bringing their books.  It‘s going to get rough.


The talent section.  Oprah plays.  No Condoleezza dances.


Dr. Phil mediates.  Be there.


No, no.

With Hilary, I think you have to, you know, right now, they‘re floating her name.  But I‘m just looking for a Democratic candidate that you go, “Oh, yes.”  With the end of the last campaign when basically Kerry was dressing up in the camouflage and hunting geese, to get that last minute goose vote, you know, a lot of guys go, “I wasn‘t going to vote ‘til I saw him dress and huntin‘ a goose.”


“And the whole Vietnam thing had me turned, but now, he hunts geese. 

I like him.

“Come vote for him now.  He got real pretty.”  Wait a minute, hold...

MATTHEWS:  You guys made a great movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam.”


MATTHEWS:  And (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you start.  That was a subtle, a very warm but subtle knock against the war, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah, I mean we tried to show how we went down that road and a guy who was trying to entertain the troops on the radio in the beginnings of that disaster and that period of time.  I mean the interesting thing is to show what Saigon was and the people and how they related and things that went on, and this impending war because the movie ends before it really gets bad.

MATTHEWS:  Robin, you played a very sympathetic character in that movie.  You were a D.J.  You‘re a comic.  You had to deal with the American bureaucracy in the military and yet, you were trying to be a real person in a war that was unreal at that point.

WILLIAMS:  Yeah, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a real man himself.  There was an Adrian Cronauer.  He was a lot more subdued.  And so after he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) movie once in a while, he made me pretty wild.

But yeah, to play that type of guy, there were more outrageous, you know, D.J.s but they were usually in like, fire control bases, way outside of, you know, deep in country.

For me, a lot of vets have come up and said thanks, they could watch the movie and kind of remember like Barry said, the other side of the war, the Vietnamese and being, you know, this whole idea of you‘re in another place, another culture.  And the idea of trying to understand that the kid he‘s been raising all of a sudden, turns out to be a terrorist. It‘s that thing of what a minute, this is really bad for my resume, you know.


And the idea that he was trying to deal with the Vietnamese and he fell in love with the girl and it‘s not going to be - - she says, “This will not work, Adrian.  It‘s not going to be requited.”  For me, it was just interesting because Barry left us up in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to be free-form.  And then, we‘d have the other stuff, which were dramatic scenes where there‘s no pressure.  You just be the guy, trying to figure out what‘s going on.

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel Vietnam coming back in Iraq?

WILLIAMS:  For me, I‘ve been over there.  I‘ve been through Afghanistan.  I do these like UFO tours.  I go over there.  For me, I see the bases and the last time I was there, it was just after they caught Hussein, so it was a big up moment, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But it is in a way and it‘s totally different circumstances but it‘s a bit of not understanding another culture and the complexity of it.  I mean, you know, between Shiites and Sunnis and trying to understand all of that and sort of our arrogance of not really understanding a culture and the people well enough.  And then how to function and work within that I think is comparable in that response.  We didn‘t understand in North and South Vietnam.  We didn‘t understand the differences that they had that were centuries old.  We didn‘t understand any of that.

WILLIAMS:          Most of the policy in Vietnam was dictated around the domino theory that if Vietnam fell, the rest would turn communist.  And if you notice, it was about five years later the Chinese tried to invade Vietnam, and the North Vietnamese kicked their ass.  It was literally—they ran into the same problem we did.  They couldn‘t fight.  I mean, it was quick and they withdrew very quickly.

MATTHEWS:  So we‘re doing the same thing putting together al Qaeda and 9/11 with Saddam.  They were against each other.

WILLIAMS:  Now, they admit that the Gulf of Tonkin was manufactured.  It wasn‘t a real event.  And that was the justification for bombing North Vietnam.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the people around the President and the President were knuckleheads.  They got it wrong because they‘re not very smart or do you think they were clever and talked us into a war that they knew they had to sell with false arguments?  Which is it?

WILLIAMS:  Well, look at basically you have—and they made the CIA bite the bullet, saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) us false information.  A lot of the officers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we gave you the information.  It‘s like the one thing they said it was a chemical weapons plant and if you magnify it just to go to the next level of magnification, they said it was a chemical weapons truck.  It‘s a fire truck.  And a lot of guys going, “I know that.”


“(UNINTELLIGIBLE).  That‘s not a chemical weapons truck.”

MATTHEWS:  When we get back, we‘re going to have these students drill these guys about the war, about Hilary, about Bill, about the President, and everything else going on in this country.  We‘ll be right back with the “Hardball College Tour.”



CHRIS MATTHEWS:  We‘re back obviously with Robin Williams and Barry Levinson at Georgetown.  We‘re here at Georgetown University, this is a real school here, despite appearances.  It‘s great to be here in Gaston Hall, what a beautiful building, lots of history here, reeking of vintage and quality.  Right?  Ok.  Wow, let‘s go, right now we have our first question for Robin Williams or Barry Levinson.  Ask the question to the person you want to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is for both Robin and Barry.  You mentioned the Good Morning Vietnam and the humanity of war that you mentioned in Vietnam.  Is there going to be a movie about our generation about Baghdad, about Afghanistan and is it going to be made and will it do the same effect that “Good Morning Vietnam” had?

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  I hope.  But not with me, it would have to be made with someone from your generation young man.  Just by the fact you look at the blogs, you look at all this stuff, there‘s a lot to write about.  If you look at all the documentaries that have come out, there are men and women there who will do it, who will write a great movie about that.  It will be somebody coming back just like Apocalypse now.  All the things that have come back, people coming back and saying this is what it‘s like.  This is as crazy as it is and they‘ve done a little bit like that with some of the movies.  But it will take a few years for people to come back and then start to kind of piece it together and then talk about it.  But it will be crazy as it is.  I mean like I said, when I go over there and I do “Good Morning Bagram!”  And you realize someone in the mountains, someone goes (INAUDIBLE).  Don‘t touch the rug.

LEVINSON:  In the movie there‘s some discussion about voting systems, some electronic voting systems and that‘s become more popular nowadays. 

WILLIAMS:  As time goes on you will find it being more popular.

QUESTION:  What fears do you have, if any, of electronic voting systems and what that means for our democracy?

LEVINSON:  Well, it was the basis of the movie, really, when after the 2004 elections, to hear about these computer glitches, malfunctions, whatever and that the polling—exit polling wasn‘t consistent with the voting patterns.  That was the premise that launched the piece.

It makes no sense to be here at this time, to have electronic voting with these computers and not have a system that can verify, if it‘s correct.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  And why they haven‘t done that, it‘s just part of their own negligence.

WILLIAMS:  Plus, it‘s the idea of accountability.  Plus, how—how many of you have had identity theft or hacking?  Any time a machine connects to another machine, hacking goes up drastically.

And any time you have polls not matching the actual voting, I mean, the voting doesn‘t match the polls, that‘s usually what they used to determine fraud in third world countries.  And it‘s the idea you have to have some sort of accountability, literally, in paper or something.  But a magnet can erase a computer.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back in just a moment with more of the HARDBALL college tour from Georgetown with Robin Williams and Barry Levinson.




MATTHEWS:  Barry, I‘ve got to ask you this question.  How responsible do you feel for the fact that Bill Clinton‘s now saying that when he wanted to deal with al Qaeda, you were accusing him of wagging the dog, and that was one reason why he wasn‘t really—he said it had something to do with his decision in some weird way.

LEVINSON:  You mean, after he was criticized for doing something that they said it was wag the dog.  I mean, it‘s strange how things get into the language in terms—but I mean, at that time, it seems as if it were, in fact, a diversion.  So the press, you know, runs that way.

MATTHEWS:  Running from Monica, troubled by going to war somewhere.

LEVINSON:  That‘s what they—you know, they think that was a diversion, which was wrong.  The real diversions, most of the time, the press never caught up to.  So it‘s a strange twist of fate, in a sense.

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to sue for piracy when you did that, when the Republicans used your movie as an excuse to whack him?

LEVINSON:  Just too strange to even fathom, to be honest with you.

MATTHEWS:  Robin, what do you think of Hillary Clinton?  We‘re going to try one more time here.

WILLIAMS:  Coming back to Hill again.  I think a brilliant woman.  I don‘t know if it‘s time to run, given I think there‘s still a bit of fallout left over from before.  But I think—I mean, certainly try.  You have to see who she might be up against, and she might be able to...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try something.

WILLIAMS:  Let‘s try that.  OK.

MATTHEWS:  How many people here are open-minded—I‘m not going to say who you‘re going to vote for.  It‘s too early—open-minded to the—stand up if you‘re open-minded to the idea of a woman president next time?

WILLIAMS:  Right on!  Right on!  Right on!  Yes, indeed!  Yes, indeed!

MATTHEWS:  Good.  Now you can sit down.  You, sir, with the hat, with the watch hat (ph) on it, you were the last guy to stand up.  What makes me...

WILLIAMS:  Yo, yo, I‘m going to give it up for a woman.  I mean, homey looking all good there with the watch cap (ph).

MATTHEWS:  I have a theory everybody was a little bit concerned about what am I going to look like on television.  It‘s like no way...

WILLIAMS:  And I‘ll never be with a woman again.  “He won‘t vote for a woman!”

“Oh, baby, I love you.”

MATTHEWS:  John McCain.

WILLIAMS:  I think a man of great ethics.  I mean, you see—but now he‘s going to have to change over a period of time.

MATTHEWS:  You mean the...

WILLIAMS:  I love the fact that he was the only man who basically is saying you cannot violate the Geneva Convention.  He stayed at the Hanoi Hilton way beyond his time, because they offered him to leave early, and he said, “No, I‘m with my men.”

You can‘t, as a man who‘s been a prisoner of war, who—it‘s like he remembers.  He knows that if you violate the Geneva Convention, where‘s your moral high ground?  What do you do?  And that‘s a guy who‘s standing up saying, “Listen, you cannot do this.” 

Even though you have—you‘re up against an enemy who does hideous things, in the end, he said, “What are you going to do then?”  Then you‘re just like them.  You‘ve done the same thing.

And then they‘ll say, “But we have to do this.”

LEVINSON:  But as he goes down the road, how coopted is he going to be in trying to appeal to, supposedly, your broader base, so he loses the essence of what makes him...

MATTHEWS:  Will moderates and liberals forgive him for going down to Liberty University and meeting with Falwell and those guys?

WILLIAMS:  Well, but he was the first guy to talk on the Republican party saying you have to take back the party from the religious right.  He said it.  It wasn‘t like—and then they‘re going, “Well, now he‘s going down there because he realizes that‘s a large constituency.”  It‘s a powerful voting block.

MATTHEWS:  Is he selling out?

WILLIAMS:  Maybe...I mean, you have to—he wants to run.  And I think he knows that—I think he can do something interesting for his party.  You see him as a man who has a war record, not just a DVD, you know?


WILLIAMS:  A guy who actually, maybe showed up.  Yes.  I don‘t know. 

Maybe W was in the same unit as Big Foot, about the same amount of...



MATTHEWS:   Barry, I know you love politics.  Is it your bet we‘re going to have a real exciting subway series in the next election between Hillary and Rudy?  Some big time performers, like them or not.

Or are we going to see a—stuck with the middle wave (ph)?  Are we going to get stuck with the people that aren‘t so well high up there, like Edwards against Mit Romney, something like that?  It would not be good for ratings.

LEVINSON:  No.  I don‘t think so.

MATTHEWS:  I can tell you that.

LEVINSON:  I don‘t—I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Dare I admit it.

LEVINSON:  I don‘t see how—I don‘t see Guiliani—not whether he‘s qualified or not—in terms of how much money he can raise.  Hillary‘s raised a massive amount of money, which is what it comes down to now, unfortunately.

You know, it costs over $200 million to run for president, so it knocks out 99 percent of all the qualified people.  That‘s the terrible thing is it costs so much money to run for office.  Most of our real, you know, people that have the sense and the leadership can‘t get into the game.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president next time who runs and wins should be somebody who says, “OK.  Now we know it.  Iraq was a mistake.”  Or could a person run and say, “It was a good idea, but we‘ve screwed it up.”

What kind of person will be the next president?  Somebody—which way...

WILLIAMS:  Let‘s look at the circumstances.  I mean, if they go with, let‘s say, they had faulty intelligence, which I don‘t really buy—or it was that they thought that Hussein was playing Iraqi Hold ‘Em, really, saying, “I have weapons.  Shh, shh.”  That‘s why he kicks the inspectors out, but just to keep in power, you know.

But they left him in power after the first war, for that reason, to be a buffer against Iran and all these things.  And then—either that, or just ask Rumsfeld for the receipts, but...


WILLIAMS:  But you have to go, like, you know, who will he say, to withdraw right now is quite a...

MATTHEWS:  That is a show business term, ask for the receipts.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  What are you doing?  We have $50,000 for snacks. 

What is that? 


MATTHEWS:  Who did?

Barry, you‘re very thoughtful.  Who‘s smarter about Mideast politics, George Herbert Walker Bush or George W. Bush?  Who‘s smarter?

LEVINSON:  Who‘s smarter of the two?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  (Inaudible).

LEVINSON:  I mean, I think you have to take, you know, 41 in the sense that he had—at least he listened...

WILLIAMS:  It‘s like a play number, isn‘t it?


WILLIAMS:  41, set down, hut, hut (ph).  Set down Middle East, 41. 

We‘re playing backup, pulling away (ph).


WILLIAMS:  Go 41, go inside, CIA training, knowing (inaudible) back again.  W, you ready?  OK.


WILLIAMS:  Definitely not ready.

MATTHEWS:  41 or 43?

WILLIAMS:  41 had the choice to go in then.  He knew about all the things.

First of all, the Israelis took out Hussein‘s reactor in what, ‘84?  So he had—he was looking to make a big bomb with the help of some East Germans—whoopsie.  And then he took out the reactor.

And then they also killed this American engineer who wanted to design a supercannon.  And they whacked him in Berlin; left a little calling card.  Shalom.


WILLIAMS:  So, did he want to make them?  Oh, definitely.  Did we help him over a period of time?  Yes, we trained him and bought all that stuff.  So...

MATTHEWS:  He was our guy.

WILLIAMS:  He was our guy.  Until he went off the reservation.  What happened?  Don‘t know.  Can‘t tell.  Why?

MATTHEWS:  We like that Mujahedin, too, in Afghanistan.  We love them.

WILLIAMS:  We should (inaudible) them, too.

MATTHEWS:  We love them.

And we‘ll be right back.  In this changing world of global politics. 

We‘ll be right back.


CHRIS MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at Georgetown University.  We‘re starting our 2006 College Tour.  We‘re going to have a lot more days like this—a lot more nights like this. 

We‘re here also to help open the big film by Barry Levinson—one of the greatest directors ever—who‘s made so many great movies:  “Wag the Dog”, “Good Morning Vietnam”—with the star of “Good Morning Vietnam” -- “Good Morning Saigon” it was originally titled—and here he is Robin Williams.  They‘re going to ask you some questions.  Go ahead.  Anyway, is your question for Robin or for Barry?

QUESTION:  This is actually for Mr. Levinson.  With the rise in popularity of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”, and now your movie.  What do you think the role of comedy is in the political world?

BARRY LEVINSON:  In some ways I wonder if it‘s sort of a release valve because the more stranger the time gets, comedy needs to rise to the surface to show how crazy it is.  And, also it‘s some kind of release because of all the frustration we feel.  And, I think that‘s the way it functions—as I can see it basically.

MATTHEWS:  Do the people see the difference?

LEVINSON:  Between?

MATTHEWS:  The Jon Stewarts and the genuine news people—the genuine (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LEVINSON:  I think they do.  I think in some ways we‘ve become sort of to the point that we think everything is so programmed and everything else that we need to make fun of it because it‘s sort of so absurd, why not?  I think the audience knows, but we want to go to another way to get it, rather than that pure news, which I think we‘re becoming sort of tired by the speeches.

MATTHEWS:  How many people here get some of there news—or all of their news—from Jon Stewart.


WILLIAMS:  How many people here get their news form Martha Stewart?

MATTHEWS:  Next question.

QUESTION:  Hi.  This is a question for either Barry or Robin.  In the movie, you talk a lot about just the disillusionment with partisan politics and corruption and how—you say again and again how it often seems like it‘s the lobbyists, and not the people who are really running the show.  But at the end of the movie, Robin Williams‘ character sort of has to step down and things seem to go back to the status quo.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re like my dad—he always gave away the end.

QUESTION:  I‘m sorry.

WILLIAMS:  And the Titanic sinks.



Titanic II—he could come back!


MATTHEWS:  Okay, I think you asked the question.

QUESTION:  That was the next—sorry about that.  So at the end, he kind of goes back to the status quo, but—so, what is the solution?  Because I was kind of hoping to see—what are the practical steps?  How can we really actually shake up a corrupt system?  What are the actual steps we can take, instead of just sort of posing the idea—what can we do?

LEVINSON:  I think what he says is, that we have to change the entire way of campaigning for office.  We have to take money out of the process.  Even though—and there‘s massive resistance—


LEVINSON:  But until you basically take that out of the system, as I said, 99 percent of the people can‘t run.  Really qualified people cannot run.  So you have to start to make some serious changes in that, so that we can get a much more active government, that‘s more responsible to the people.

MATTHEWS:  How many people here are 18 or older?


MATTHEWS:  How many people here are 18 or older and haven‘t registered to vote?


MATTHEWS:  Security!


MATTHEWS:  Robin, what do you want to say to these kids?  How about a public service statement?  These kids—they‘ve got to understand this thing.  Voting is a power, isn‘t it?

WILLIAMS:  Yes, it‘s an amazing power, even though the Supreme Court sometimes says no.  But you have to use it.


WILLIAMS:  Yeah, it depends—use it, please.  It still is useful, and it‘s still something—it‘s what we fight towards the idea of in countries like you see in Iraq, Afghanistan, where they don‘t have voter fraud because it‘s a piece of ink.  Voter fraud—you have two pieces of ink!  I voted twice—get out!

But it‘s an incredible power.  Use it.  And it‘s the individual‘s right!

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with more with Robin, more with Barry Levinson.  More with Georgetown!





MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at Georgetown.  You know what strikes me about these students?  It seems like it‘s the one place in America where you have really smart kids.


MATTHEWS:  That was a self-administered SAT test right there.  And also, normal!


MATTHEWS:  I want Robin Williams, who is really unbelievable in his career, who has been through a lot in life and in politics and in movie-making, to give you some advice.  Seriously.

WILLIAMS:  Okay.  There‘s the bus (ph).  You were talking about life advice.


WILLIAMS:  Total life advice.  Okay, first, having just come out of rehab, some of you don‘t drink.  You know who you are.  If you wake up in a field with a small animal, watch out!


MATTHEWS:  Second thing: use your right to vote, and also keep studying, keep—just come—the world needs you bigtime!  We need your intelligence, we need you at full-tilt.  Don‘t hold back, don‘t let them stop you.  Don‘t—just come at it full-bore and don‘t be afraid.  That‘s it; you got nothing to lose.  And the only thing—the truth shall set you free, number one.  Number two, the world is waiting for you.  And I know it‘s hard to say, when you graduate, even if you‘re undecided—it‘s okay.

It‘s out there, and it is—you know, it is that thing of, it‘s waiting for you, good and bad.  But I believe that you can do it.  That‘s the bottom line.  I know you can do it.  But you have to know that.  So, good luck.  Kick it.



MATTHEWS:  Barry, I love your movies.  They got so much heart, going back to “Diner.”  I loved “Liberty Heights”—if the whole world was like “Liberty Heights” with the Jewish kid and the black girl and everybody liking each other, and romance for everybody, all mixed up.  I love it.

LEVINSON:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  It‘s a good thing.

MATTHEWS:  And “Avalon”—and why‘d you cut the turkey without me?  And all the great movies, including “Wag the Dog” and “Good Morning Vietnam” and all the amazing movies you‘ve made.  What is your feeling about this new movie that‘s coming out?

LEVINSON:  I think we did what we set out to do.  In other words, you have a film, “Man of the Year,” which has a lot of comedy and a little bit of suspense elements into it.  And ultimately, there are things that you can talk about afterwards.  You can leave the theater and have something to talk about and to debate, et cetera.  Because we‘re not talking about Republicans and Democrats; we‘re talking about that there‘s problems in the system itself, and we have to make that change.  And in fact, you are the people that are ultimately going to probably bring about that change, because I think there have to be better times ahead.

MATTHEWS:  You predicted the beret—that‘s a small thing—that this Monica girl would have a beret.  Are you predicting—is this movie prophetic?  Do you believe we‘re going to have election problems in 2008, the kind that are shown in this movie?

LEVINSON:  We‘re going to have them in ‘06, for sure.  Because we‘re not dealing with them.  Maybe by ‘08, at that point, somebody will say, You know, we‘ve got to put a system so it‘s accountable to what is—

MATTHEWS:  A paper trail.

LEVINSON:  A paper trail.  As simple as that.  We‘re going to have to do that.  We can‘t have a democracy where we‘re questioning whether or not our vote actually counts.

MATTHEWS:  Agreed.  Thank you very much.

Barry Levinson—and now—and Robin Williams!


MATTHEWS:  The Georgetown band.




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