updated 10/17/2006 12:19:20 PM ET 2006-10-17T16:19:20

Guests: Lee Hamilton, James Baker, Michael Weisskopf, Elizabeth Edwards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Wherever you got, that‘s where you‘re going to be.  That‘s the tough advice of former presidential counselor Clark Clifford.  So we to Iraq.  Now we‘re there.  Is that where we want to be three years after the invasion?  Let‘s hear from a couple of pros. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Just weeks away from the election, all the polls show Americans of all stripes have one thing in common.  They‘re worried about the war.  Beneath all that loose talk of WMDs, 9/11, cutting and running, troop levels, mushroom clouds and the reality of death, dismemberment, hatred and the resulting terrorist recruitment, the political line is this:  the Iraq War has been a disaster for President Bush. 

This war could cost his party control of Congress.  And now with the elections just weeks away, we‘ll soon find out if voters will bring their anger to the ballot box. 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Twenty-two days until the Congressional elections and the problems in Iraq are again center stage.  This weekend insurgents killed five more U.S. soldiers and roving militias killed more than 150 Iraqi civilians.  Forty-six bodies in Baghdad were found beheaded or showing signs of horrific torture. 

In Washington where two top Republican senators have already called for the administration to change course, now a third Republican is joining in. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, ® NEBRASKA:  We clearly need a new strategy. 

Obviously, by any measurement, we are in a lot of trouble in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Today President Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to reassure him U.S. troops are not leaving.  But that strategy is hurting Republicans.  Polls show that voter opposition to the war is the highest ever, and the president‘s approval rating, according to Gallup, now stands at just 37 percent. 

In Ohio this weekend, Republican Senator Mike DeWine got pummeled over Iraq in a debate with Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Mike DeWine is sounding like a broken record, stay the course, stay the course in Iraq, stay the course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Polls show DeWine is down by eight to ten points, and today the RNC denied a published report that it was pulling money out of Ohio to spend on other races where Republicans in trouble are running closer. 

In Tennessee, polls show Republican Bob Corker trailing Democrat Harold Ford by five points.  In Virginia, George Allen continues to be stung by allegations he used the n word to describe blacks, and the latest poll shows Allen and Democrat Jim Webb are now in a statistical tie. 

Across the country, many campaign battles are getting ugly. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kickback schemes, federal criminal probes, that‘s what you get with Bob Menendez.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The “Star Ledger” reports Kean, Jr. conspired with a convicted felon to smear Bob Menendez. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In upstate New York...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tom Reynolds knew Congressman Mark Foley was a predator going after a 16 year-old boy.  What did he do?  Tom Reynolds urged Foley to seek re-election.  Why?  Because Mark Foley gave over $100,000 to Reynolds‘ political committee. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The Foley scandal continues to dog the GOP.  Today the House Ethics Committee heard more testimony about sexually charged contacts with pages.  Several witnesses have testified they told Dennis Hastert‘s office about Foley well before the speaker said he knew anything. 

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon is now under investigation for a million dollars‘ worth of government contracts obtained by his daughter.  Today FBI agents raided the daughter‘s rain. 

And in a Jack Abramoff bribery probe, new e-mails released by congressional committees show that Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, while working at the White House, intervened on Abramoff‘s behalf.  Six months ago Mehlman suggested that he didn‘t even know Abramoff. 

(on camera):  Despite it all, published reports say President Bush and Karl Rove remain very calm and optimistic about the election.  The question is, does the White House know something nobody else does, or is the president heading towards a rude awakening? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Former Secretary of State James Baker has worked on almost every reach of political life and is one of Washington‘s most storied professionals. 

He‘s been enlisted by the Bush family to do damage control in times of

crisis, including the 2000 presidential recount in Florida.  And now he‘s

the Republican co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, a commission set up to

re-assess the policy in Iraq.  He‘s also written a new book on his life

called, “Work Hard, Study, and Keep Out of Politics”.  That‘s an ironic title. 

Secretary Baker is joined by his Democratic counterpart on the Iraq Study Group, former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana. 

Welcome, gentlemen.  I called you two pros, I mean it.  You‘re working on a way for the United States to improve the policy direction we‘re headed in in Iraq.  What is your mandate, as you understand it, Mr. Secretary?

JAMES BAKER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  The mandate really is to take a forward look at the situation in Iraq, and see if we can come up with some insights or advice for the Congress and the administration, that they might be interested in, might want to embrace, might want to follow. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any limit to—any constraint on what you‘re able under your mandate to recommend? 

BAKER:  No, not a thing.  We were formed at the urging of members of Congress, the administration has approved of the formation of this group, and the administration is assisting us in travel—you can‘t go to Iraq without military aircraft and so forth.  And they‘re assisting us in access to people and documents. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman what‘s your view on the war right now, going into this study group?  Do you think it was a good idea to go to Iraq? 

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP:  We are very carefully avoiding looking back.  And I‘m not going to make a judgment at this time about the advisability of going to war or not.  Our whole focus has to be forward-looking, as the Secretary has mentioned.  We‘re not going to critique the mistakes that were made or not made in this war. 

We‘re going to try to find a way that will be constructive and helpful for the United States, protect our interests in the region and in the world, and see if we can begin to build a bipartisan consensus on where we go from here in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you have voted for the resolution to allow the president to go there in 2002? 

HAMILTON:  I really do not want to comment about the past.  I want to look forward here, because that‘s my job. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Well, let‘s assume there‘s going to be a further opportunity for Congress.  Senator John Warner, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee, has said, in his view, after going over there many, many times, is that we need a review of policy, of legislative policy.  And he believes that Congress may need to pass a new resolution, come by the end of the year, based upon the deteriorating situation, the emerging civil war, et cetera. 

Do you think that might be where this report of yours leads to, a new resolution? 

BAKER:  Well, we haven‘t reached any conclusions, we haven‘t ruled anything out.  We haven‘t ruled anything in.  Let me say, I have great respect for Senator Warner.  I‘ve worked with him many years, as has Chairman Hamilton. 

But we‘re not—we‘re not concluding anything yet.  We have everything on the table, Chris.  And let me add to what Lee said by saying, you know, we have difficulties in Iraq.  Everybody knows that.  Our group offers at least the possibility that we can come forward with a bipartisan solution, if we can reach a consensus, if all the Republicans on our panel and all of the Democrats on our panel agree, maybe we can do something helpful for the country.  The country needs to get together behind this problem because it is a problem for the United States of America and that‘s what our charge is. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe, conceptually, that you can unite the center left and the center right on this war?  There is the possibility of a united approach to this continuing campaign of ours in Iraq? 

BAKER:  Well, it‘s the national interest of the United States to have its citizens behind something as serious as this is.  And we have difficulties there, and our hope is that we can bring together—that we can reach a consensus recommendation that we can deliver to the president and to the Congress and to the public, that will help improve the situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about how you‘re going to try to get the answer

to this very difficult question, because certainly a lot of people in this

country—we talk about it every night here—thought it was a bad idea

for America and for American interests to go to Iraq.  Most of the people -

certainly my view has been you were right the first time.  It‘s a very tricky situation to go into when you have three different sectarian groups that don‘t particularly want to be together, but they know they have to be, that‘s what we found since we‘ve gone in there. 

How do you get the information you need to make a firm, bipartisan recommendation if you really can‘t get over there and get around the country?  It‘s so darned dangerous over there.  You can‘t get out of the protected Green Zone, can you?  How do you know what the people over there like? 

BAKER:  We‘ve talked to every official in the Iraqi government, we‘ve talked to Iraqi private citizens, private voluntary organizations, tribal leaders.  We‘ve talked to all of the U.S. military commanders over there. 

HAMILTON:  We‘ve talked to religious leaders. 

BAKER:  We talked to religious leaders. We... 

MATTHEWS:  How do you get to the person in the street over there, Mr.

Hamilton? 

HAMILTON:  You get at them through their representatives.  We can‘t walk up and down the streets of the cities in Iraq.  That‘s obvious.  And we spent four days in Baghdad.  We saw everybody we wanted to see.  We‘ve talked to every expert we can find.  I think we‘ve talked to well over 200 people in Iraq and in this country.  They‘re the experts on the details in Iraq...

MATTHEWS:  Did you talk—excuse me, Congressman.  Did you talk to the Sunni people who want to regain power as they had it and enjoyed it under Saddam Hussein?  Did you talk to those people who want that regaining of power?

HAMILTON:  We certainly did.  We talked to the Sunni leaders, the Shia leaders, the Kurdish leaders.  We talked to all of them.  We have a pretty good understanding, I believe, of the dynamics of the political situation in Iraq, but we understand the difficulties of bringing those groups together.  On the other hand, we feel like almost everybody is expressed that time is running out here.  The United States is going to have to put a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to act and to deal with the security problems, the governing problems and the problems of national reconciliation.  They don‘t have an unlimited amount of time to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me—help me out here.

BAKER:  We also recognize—let me just say, we also recognize, both of us and our entire panel, that there is really no one silver bullet here, Chris.  Everybody thinks just because we‘re looking into this we‘ll come up with some magic formula that will solve all the problems.  That won‘t be the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try to define the challenge.  The president yesterday for the first time really laid out who the problems are, at least in terms of the people shooting at us.  The Sunni people want to regain—they are the minority over there, about 20 percent of the population—they want to regain the authority that they had under the old regime.  You have the militias, who are these paramilitary groups, roving the country on killing exercises who are all Shia, who would be part of the new majority government. 

Then you have the outside terrorists, the al Qaeda types, who have been—

BAKER:  And you have common criminals. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you hear from—let‘s start with the three lists of people.  You did not hear—you obviously did not hear from any terrorists, per se. 

BAKER:  We didn‘t sit down and talk with the terrorists, no. 

MATTHEWS:  So we can‘t hear their point of view.  We don‘t know really what their game is, do we? 

BAKER:  We think we may—I think we know what their game is, but we didn‘t talk to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Which is? 

BAKER:  Their game is to destabilize the country and to utilize it as a base for global terror operations.

MATTHEWS:  So another Afghanistan?

BAKER:  Al Qaeda in Iraq would love to have another Afghanistan before we went in—

MATTHEWS:  A loosely governed, divisive country where they can just do what they want to do.

BAKER:  That‘s correct. 

HAMILTON:  What your questions lead to is that, in order to solve the problem of Iraq, you have to have a political settlement.  You‘re not going to solve this thing with military power.  That is important, but you need a political solution, and the political solution has to be inclusive.  You have to bring all of these parties together.  It is going to take an extraordinary amount of political skill by the Iraqi leaders—we can‘t do it for them—to bring this country together and hold it together.  That will be a challenge that will equal the problems we confronted when we were forming our country. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want to look back, Congressman, but the fact is, when we first went in there in 2003, when people like me were raising that question, saying we‘ve got to restrain the Shia majority and accept the fact there is a minority roll for the Sunnis.  You can‘t have winner-take-all politics over there.  And the neo-conservatives who support this war would say, we can‘t tell those people what to do.  They can have the kind of government they want, and they were very purist about it.  What they wanted was a complete de-Ba‘athification, an elimination of the Iraqi army and have the Sistani crowd take over the government in some sort of coalition with us, I suppose.  Because they weren‘t going to form a coalition with the minority Sunni. 

BAKER:  There are Sunnis at high levels in the government, of course.

MATTHEWS:  We know because the deputy prime minister‘s brother was just killed. 

BAKER:  Well, the deputy prime minister, and there are deputy presidents and there are other ministers who are Sunni. 

MATTHEWS:  So it is a political solution you‘re looking for? 

BAKER:  Ultimately you‘d end up having to have that.  Now—

HAMILTON:  No other way to solve it. 

BAKER:  You need to also, of course, deal with security in order to get to the point where you can achieve a political solution.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I was asking about the constraints on you gentlemen in even traveling in that country.  It is very hard to get the whole picture.  We‘ll be back with the Secretary Baker and Congressman Hamilton.

And later, Elizabeth Edwards and journalist Michael Weisskopf of Time magazine will be here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And I appreciate Jimmy Baker, willingness to—he and Lee Hamilton are putting this—they got a group they put together that—I think it was Congressman Wolf‘s suggestion or passing the law.  We supported the idea.  I think it is good to have some of our elder statesman—I hate to call Baker an elder statesman—go over there and take a look and to come back and make recommendations. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with former Secretary of State James Baker, the aforementioned Baker, or elderly statesman, or Jimmy.  And we have former Congressman Lee Hamilton here.  They‘re both co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group.

I know—I always read so much into those, but I thought it was fine. 

Here the president of the United States us referring to you and Mr.  Hamilton and what he hopes for you.  Have you spoken with the president about what he hopes for you to come?  He has a firm grasp of his policy.  He is sticking to his guns, we‘re staying the course.  What‘s your role?

BAKER:  The only conversation I‘ve had with the president about this undertaking is when the members of Congress urged it and I was approached by some of his cabinet officers to see if I would do it and I said, yes, I‘ll consider it, but I want to hear it from the old man, the old man.  And he looked me in the eye and said I want you to do it.  That‘s the only conversation I‘ve had with the president about this.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the president.

BAKER:  The president, yes.  Let me say this:  Everybody knows how close I am to the family, but if they think I‘m going to somehow precook a deal here or something, they are absolutely wrong.  This is an important issue for the country, I‘m going to tell it like it is.  It is important that our report have credibility and if I did it any other way, it wouldn‘t have credibility. 

MATTHEWS:  What is your paradigm here, Mr. Secretary?  Is it the deal that the Congress—we were talking about before the program—the deal between the Democrats in Congress and the president, President Reagan, who you served as chief of staff back in the early ‘80s.  Is it something like that where you take an intractable policy question which is laden with politics, like the war in Iraq or Social Security, and you say, We need to do this differently, we can‘t just debate this in the House and see who wins.  Is it like that?  Do you have to go away in a cloistered area and come up with something different? 

BAKER:  You can‘t go to a cloistered area on this one, but I don‘t think that is a bad paradigm.  I don‘t think what we did back in 1983 with respect to Social Security is a bad paradigm.  When you get these very difficult intractable problems that mean so much to the country, are so important to the country, I don‘t see anything wrong with trying to pull together a bipartisan solution, get very well-respected people from across the aisle to come together with you and bring the leaders of both parties together and see if you can agree. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hamilton, how do you get both sides—people who believe the war was a horrendous blunder, they don‘t even like the policy thinking of, we‘re going to democratize by force—and people who really have this messianic notion that this is what America must do in the 21st century—how do you take those two poles and form a policy? 

HAMILTON:  If we had that kind of membership in the Iraq Study Group, we wouldn‘t be able to do it.  But we don‘t have that kind.  We‘ve got 10 people, all kind of senior statesman status, all of us washed-up politicians. 

MATTHEWS:  You never lost a race. 

HAMILTON:  I never lost a race, but I‘m still washed up. 

MATTHEWS:  You lost...

HAMILTON:  They‘re very serious, and they‘re putting their partisan hats aside.  They know the country is depending on us. 

Every time Jim Baker and I walk out on the street, somebody comes up to with a recommendation, and we‘ve just felt the pressure building on us to try to come up with something constructive.  Now when that happens, that hits home.  That makes you serious. 

I‘m Lee Hamilton.  I‘m a Democrat, but I am not taking a Democrat position.  I‘m taking a position that I sincerely believe is best for the country.  Jim Baker will do the same thing, and so will the other eight members. 

This is an independent commission.  The report is not going to be written by somebody else.  It‘s going to be written by the 10 of us.  Nobody else is going to make an amendment to it or modify it.  We‘re going to do it, and it‘s going to be our best judgment of what‘s good for the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mr. Hamilton.  Thank you for joining us, Congressman.  He was a great congressman from Indiana, believes in fiscal responsibility and not driving foreign cars. 

We‘ll be back with Secretary Baker to talk about his new book, called “Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics”.  I think it‘s ironic.

And later, the great Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, talks about her new book, “Saving Grace”.

And you‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Jim Baker was right at the top of the list for potential successors for a number of positions, not just the secretary of defense position. 

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with former secretary of state, James A. Baker, whose new book is called “Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics”.  That was Andy Card, the former chief of staff, saying that you were on the list to replace Rumsfeld.  At the top of the list.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  I saw that.

MATTHEWS:  And?

BAKER:  It is in the...

MATTHEWS:  Are you gratified by that?

BAKER:  It‘s in Bob Woodward‘s book.  I saw that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BAKER:  And he also...

MATTHEWS:  Did you know that you were being produced—that you were being...

BAKER:  He also wrote that he never talked to me about that.  And...

MATTHEWS:  So you didn‘t know?  So you didn‘t know?  You didn‘t know that Laura Bush was part of this coup?

BAKER:  I didn‘t know.  The facts that are recited in the—in the Woodward book I didn‘t know. 

Now I write in my book at page 395 that on several occasions I talked to the president or the vice president on the president‘s behalf about whether I would be willing to consider coming back in full time.  And I said I was very honored, but at my age and stage in life, that‘s not something I ought to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know why—it‘s not just your closeness to the family.  There‘s the historic sense that when we were in trouble in Vietnam, that Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the president, was so beleaguered by the failure of his policy in Vietnam, the fact that he were bogged down, that he called on a former secretary—a long-time aide to presidents, of course, Clark Clifford and brought him in as secretary of defense.  And all of a sudden, we found ourselves with a new policy. 

BAKER:  I saw that. 

MATTHEWS:  No comment?

BAKER:  I‘m aware of that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What do you make of the National Intelligence Estimate that we are creating more terrorists over there than we‘re killing?

BAKER:  Well, I don‘t know because I haven‘t seen it, and I‘m not privy to the intelligence.  We have access to what we want, provided it‘s not too far up the food chain in terms of classification.  I haven‘t seen that NIE, and so I really can‘t comment on it. 

There‘s an argument to be made, sure.  But the way I look at it, Chris, is even if Iraq was not the frontline in the war on terror when we went in there, it damn sure is today.  And if—and the terrorists are there.  And one of the difficult problems we have—people talk about getting out and all that, and as I‘ve told you earlier, we have not—we have not closed on any recommendation whatsoever. 

But one of the problems in just picking up and leaving is you leave a failed state for the global terrorists to reproduce in, just like they did in Afghanistan with the Taliban. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, do you buy the theory generally that, when you go into an Arab country—and you saw the pearls of that, the hazards of that way back in the first Gulf War—when you go into an Arab country and you try to secure it with military force, that by nature—by the nature of that business you‘re going to kill the Iraqis and you‘re going to kill them on international television and you‘re going to make enemies in the world?  Did that surprise you that we would find ourselves having killed who knows, 100,000 or several Iraqis are dead now?

BAKER:  As you know, that most recent estimate people think is not credible.  I mean, you heard the president say that in his press conference. 

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s accepted at least 30,000 deaths. 

BAKER:  Thirty—well, I thought General—maybe General Casey said yesterday 30 to 50.  So there have been a lot, of course.  And there always are any time you—any time you have a war. 

And one of the reasons, of course, that I write in the book, we didn‘t go to Baghdad in 1991, was that particular problem, among a whole lot of others. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you think this crowd in there now didn‘t see the TV pictures in their minds that were going to be produced by us, killing Arabs every night on Al Jazeera and Arab television around the world?

BAKER:  I can‘t—I have no idea.

MATTHEWS:  They didn‘t see this coming?

BAKER:  I can‘t—I can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you saw it coming. 

We‘ll be right back.  More with Secretary James Baker.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We‘re back here with former Secretary of State James Baker.  His new book is entitled “Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics”.  Your grandfather‘s advice.

BAKER:  That was my grandfather‘s advice.  Of course, it‘s a facetious title. 

MATTHEWS:  Should you put that in the subtitle here?  So you really did enjoy your political career?

BAKER:  I loved it.  I wouldn‘t give anything for it.  And as a matter of fact in the book I talk about the importance of participating in politics and the corollary public service.  Putting something back in the system. 

MATTHEWS:  So—well, speak now to a young man or woman in their 20s or 30s who‘s thinking about running for Congress.  Should they do it?

BAKER:  Yes, they should.  Our politics, unfortunately, have gotten ugly in this country.  That‘s too bad. 

When I game up in ‘75 with Gerry Ford, you could be a political adversary without being a political enemy, and you could disagree agreeably with your opponents.  Somehow we‘ve lost that.  We need to get back to that. 

But there‘s a great sense of satisfaction in being able to put something back into the system in this wonderful country of ours, the best country in the world.  And the way you do that, of course, is to participate in politics, one of the greatest rights we have, and its corollary, public service.  And I spend some time in the book talking about that. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your secret?  I remember you were the one that saved the Pennsylvania delegation for President Ford against the raid by the Reagan people—on the ticket.

BAKER:  No.  You know, I don‘t get the credit for that.  Drew Lewis (ph) should get the credit for that.  Drew Lewis (ph) was the guy that saved the Pennsylvania delegation. 

But, you know, that was the last—that was an exciting convention. 

That was the last...

MATTHEWS:  Seventy-six.

BAKER:  The last really contested convention of either major party.  And Ford, a sitting Republican president, barely won the nomination by, I think, only about 30 votes out of some 3,000 votes that was cast. 

MATTHEWS:  Because Ronald Reagan beat the one election in Texas.  He won it in North Carolina. 

BAKER:  Yes.  We lost 100 -- generally, right after I came on as President Ford‘s delegate hunter—his delegate hunter had been killed in an automobile accident.  As a matter of fact, that‘s how I got into politics. 

The book says my wife—I lost a wife to cancer when she was only 38 years of age.  But right after I came on as the delegate hunter for Ford, we went down to Texas, and we lost 100 to nothing.  Texas has 100.  Even John tower was denied a seat on the delegation. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you—forget about Iraq for a minute. I know that‘s your big historic responsibility now with this commission.  But how do you hold your party together when you have people, secular candidates like John McCain, who‘s often in that chair, and Rudy Giuliani running against people, Brownback and people like that and Frist and George Allen, perhaps, who are real cultural conservatives?

BAKER:  The same—we hold it together the same way you hold your party together. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not my party anymore.  But go ahead.

BAKER:  OK.  But the same way the Democratic Party is held together. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BAKER:  You‘ve got—you‘ve got constituencies all over the lot, way, way, way out here on the left and then moving more to the center.  We‘ve got the same thing, way out here on the right and moving more toward the center, the Republican... 

MATTHEWS:  Can you reach an agreement where somebody like McCain is acceptable to your cultural right?

BAKER:  I think so.  We‘ll find out, won‘t we, in the 2008 primaries?

MATTHEWS:  You expect the president to anoint a candidate?

BAKER:  No, I really don‘t.  I don‘t think the president will do that. 

Most presidents don‘t.  It‘s been my experience that that doesn‘t—you know, Ronald Reagan, anointed his vice president, but he served for him as his vice president for two terms.  But most presidents generally stay out of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this country is getting a little tired of dynasties?  We‘ve had a couple Bushes.  We have a Clinton, another Clinton coming along?

BAKER:  They wouldn‘t agree with you that it‘s a dynasty.  But...

MATTHEWS:  The Bushes.

BAKER:  I hope they‘re not getting tired of them.  But we‘ll see.

MATTHEWS:  Do you want Hillary to come in here now and keep this thing going?

BAKER:  We‘ll see what‘s going to happen.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Hillary has a shot at the presidency?

BAKER:  Yes, I do.  Sure, I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?

BAKER:  I think she‘s got an excellent shot at winning the Democratic nomination.  She‘s bound to be the front runner. 

MATTHEWS:  How‘s she winning with you guys with guns and all, you guys out in the Bush and shoots ducks?  How is she going to vote for—how are you going to vote for her, you macho guys?

BAKER:  Is she against ducks or is she against guns?

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder if the tough guys, the deer hunter crowd, are going to go for Hillary.  That crowd.

BAKER:  What‘s her position on arms?

MATTHEWS:  It‘s just she‘s been such—she‘s seen as such a liberal by you guys. 

BAKER:  That‘s true.  She has—she is.  And I assume our nominee, whoever it is—whoever she or she is, will run against her as a lib. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re so politically correct.  You don‘t have a gee (ph) in the mix there.

Anyway, thank you, Secretary Jim Baker. 

The name of the book is “Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics.” 

The title is facetious.

Up next, journalist Michael Weisskopf of “TIME” magazine lost his own hand covering Iraq.  He‘ll tell us about his experience there and what it‘s been like since.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In December 2003, while embedded with the First Armored Division in Iraq, “Time Magazine” reporter Michael Weisskopf picked up a live grenade that was thrown into the back of his humvee and lost his hand.  He writes about this and his recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center in the new book “Blood Brothers:  Among the Soldiers of Ward 57”. 

Michael Weisskopf, thank you very much.  You saved some lives with that, didn‘t you? 

MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, AUTHOR, “BLOOD BROTHERS:  Yes, Chris.  And my own, of course.  There were three of us in the back of the humvee that day.  It was an open air affair, somewhat like a open air pickup truck. 

MATTHEWS:  And you first spotted this spiny object, this oval-shaped object, and what is your memory of that now? 

WEISSKOPF:  My memory is now, having done a lot of analysis, that the thing was smoking.  I bent over, picked it up and began to heave it over the side, like you had a tennis ball over the net.  And when I picked it up, it was so hot I could feel my hand liquefying, basically.  I tried to get rid of it, and I blacked out.  I woke up a few seconds later in the bed of a humvee and remember—remembered how my life had changed. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it hard to put together the two—you write about this in the book—is it hard to put together the fact that you lost part of your body in this horror, but you saved yourself?  How do you—and other people.  That‘s the important heroic part of this.  I know you write that it‘s—that sometimes heroism is simply self-survival, but you saved other people. 

WEISSKOPF:  I did, and it, of course, was something that was more reflex than real conscious action.  I struggled for a long time as to whether or not that amounted to being to being heroism.  I finally decided that heroism is a word for a mythical figure, someone who died, somebody separated from the rest of us.  Everybody has a few seconds of honorable activity in their lives and I think...

MATTHEWS:  Not everybody.  Not like that.  Did you go back and risk your body and life going into combat as an embedded reporter for “Time Magazine” because you missed Vietnam?  Was part of you saying, I owe this country a little risk time? 

WEISSKOPF:  No, I don‘t think.  Unless it was down deep into my subconscious.  I went because it was a good story, because I felt I could bring something to it.  I had been in Iraq earlier.  I had watched the American soldier at an earlier part of this campaign.  I decided to—going back six months later, I could bring some insight to it. 

I am a Vietnam era—I didn‘t participate in that fight.  But I‘m a reporter and I didn‘t go to Iraq to fight the war, but to cover it. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘re in—I‘m with you on that one.  I didn‘t fight it, either, the Vietnam War. 

Let me ask you about what you learned.  You‘re a journalist, an intellectual in a sense.  I mean, all journalists at the level you‘re at are.  And then you spent time with some guys who lives of action, soldiers, who out there aren‘t sitting around reading “Time Magazine”.  They‘re out there risking their lives every day, working class people a lot of them, regular guys.  What was it like to learn about their lives in that Ward 57, where you were recuperating? 

WEISSKOPF:  Well, it was a remarkable view of life.  But after all, we were all sort of in the same place, just sort of gimps trying to get by.  When you lose a body part, it‘s quite a traumatic shifting of self-consciousness and self-image.  And everybody kind of begins all over again.  And it didn‘t matter, really, on Ward 57 what level of education you had or how much money you made.  We were all trying to get by and trying to put our lives back together.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about the angels. 

WEISSKOPF:  The angels of Ward 57 were people who came in when everyone else left.  There‘s a guy by the name of the Milkshake Man, because his signature was a chocolate milkshake.  And he came in.  He was a Vietnam vet, his name is Jim Maher (ph).  He had lost two legs in Vietnam.  He understood that at the end of day, after getting stuck with needles and being stripped down and feeling ennobled fro this experience, that what you want is something familiar, like a milkshake. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WEISSKOPF:  A great guy. 

MATTHEWS:  These are Vietnam vets mainly, right?  They come back to let you guys know there‘s life beyond this ordeal?

WEISSKOPF:  Yes, and not all Vietnam vets.  There was a woman by the name of the Cookie Lady, who was English by origin, and in World War II, remembered bombers, the German bombers, and how American troops later came in and saved England, and felt a great debt to soldiers, and felt she could pay it back by visiting soldiers in this war.  And she came around with chocolate chips.  And that was a...

MATTHEWS:  Did you—do you know a guy named Jack Farley (ph)?  He lost his leg in Vietnam? 

WEISSKOPF:  Yes.  Judge Jack.  In fact, I did.  He was in the Snake Pit during the Vietnam period, which was the predecessor to Ward 57.  The Snake Pit was in the Vietnam War where they put officers who had lost limbs. 

MATTHEWS:  What a great guy.  He was my R.A. at Holy Cross. 

WEISSKOPF:  No kidding.

MATTHEWS:  And he was a great guy back then and he‘s a great guy now. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who was there? 

WEISSKOPF:  Max Cleland, the senator from Georgia, who had lost three limbs in that war.  He was also in the Snake Pit. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s great to have you on, Michael Weisskopf.

Show us your artificial arm.  Let me see it on camera.  Move it up. 

WEISSKOPF:  This is my piece of steel.

MATTHEWS:  And how do you feel about that guy? 

WEISSKOPF:  Well, you know, it‘s uncomfortable, but it is sort of a badge of honor for me.  It symbolizes loss and it symbolizes how life goes on, and it works for me.  It can pick a dime off the floor, it can hold a bag of groceries.  And it can hold my kids back from running across the street.  So it means a lot to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it also means you saved some lives. 

WEISSKOPF:  Indeed.  It‘s a reminder of that, and in that sense, I‘m quite proud of it. 

MATTHEWS:  What a memory you must have of that hot thing, picking it up.   I just—and the way you wrote it, the writing in this book is so first rate, and I always—we used to say we wished that astronauts were great writers, so they could tell us what they went through.  And you‘ve been through war, and you‘re a great writer.  It‘s a rare opportunity to read, “Blood Brothers”, a writer who went to war and suffered for it and was a hero.  “Blood Brothers”, by Michael Weisskopf.

Thank you, sir.  Thanks for coming on. 

WEISSKOPF:  Thanks for coming on.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Elizabeth Edwards talks about her new book, “Saving Graces”. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  America got to know her when her husband, Senator John Edwards, ran for president and was selected as John Kerry‘s running mate.  Then her husband lost and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is back in Washington now with her new book, “Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength From Friends and Strangers.”

Elizabeth, it‘s great to have you back. 

Did you come here to find strangers or friends of what?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, AUTHOR:  Well, I‘ll find out.  Tell you at the end of the interview.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I am a big fan of you.  And let me go on from that. 

You are a lawyer? 

EDWARDS:  Recovering lawyer.

MATTHEWS:  You are smart? 

EDWARDS:  Well, my mom would think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you submerge your own potential as a leader of this country or a senator?  Because we were just talking—you gave away the fact that you would love to be a senator—to your spouse, John Edwards?

EDWARDS:  No, I would love to walk in that—in fact, I loved going even as a spouse, to go into that—into the chamber.  You just felt like you were surrounded by history, and it was fantastic to go, you know, look at his desk, see the names of the senators who had sat at that desk before.  That was pretty exciting. 

I was president of my class as a junior in high school.  You remember the junior class always puts on the prom?  Incredible headache, and I‘m completely cured of ever wanting to be the leader.  Let me be the worker bee.  And I‘ve been happy ever since.  

MATTHEWS:  OK, but you do have the romance of politics?

EDWARDS:  I love the idea that the political process is made up of people‘s ideas and people‘s presence.  You know, we are moving sometimes far away from that, but I love it, and...

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t it dismay you as the spouse, because it‘s always tougher on the spouse, I have learned, to get into a presidential campaign in 2004, one that was decided by one state, Ohio, it was close.  And yet in the middle of that campaign, I wonder if anything was happening at all?  I sense there wasn‘t a campaign of ideas, there wasn‘t anything.  

EDWARDS:  I think if you had asked people what the difference was between John Kerry‘s and George Bush‘s health care plans, they could not have told you.  And there was a great difference between them.  And I think part of the problem is making—is conveying these policy ideas, which might not sound sexy or interesting, to people, in a way where they get engaged.  Because these issues do make a difference in their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this concern, just—we are going to be talking to students a lot this fall, we‘re going to be doing a college tour. 

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS:  I think it‘s a good idea to get young people involved.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t young kids get out in the streets right now, if they don‘t like this war, do more than just talk about it over lunch? 

EDWARDS:  Because it doesn‘t actually affect most of the young people that we remember going to the streets during the Vietnam War.  There is no draft, they are not actually at risk themselves.  And so since they don‘t seem to have—don‘t I think often feel they have a personal stake in what happens in the war, it‘s hard to get them to put down their books, or their beer or whatever, and go protest. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when I was at Chapel Hill, a graduate student in economics, I would always go over to the student union, late in the day, 6:30 or 7:00 -- I didn‘t have a TV or anything—so I went over to watch the news.  And everybody was crowded in that room, watching Cronkite and Eric Severeid, talking about the New Hampshire...

EDWARDS:  I may have been in the room with you.

MATTHEWS:  ... talking about the New Hampshire primary, and we were all fascinated and we were in love with it. 

EDWARDS:  Right, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t there more to that than just the draft?  It seems like there was something that was in the air down there at Chapel Hill.  It was zesty.  You would hear anti-war music playing from a record shop on Franklin Street, and it was—I loved it, and yet I don‘t sense that zest today with campus yet.  And maybe I will see as this tour commences this year, but I don‘t feel it.  

EDWARDS:  I honestly think that it might have been that the war generated that.  I actually came to Chapel Hill in 1969, and at first there was not that interest.  And even—Chapel Mill has been a great progressive institution in terms of free speech issues, workers rights issues, all those things preceded it, but it sort of quieted down in between.  After the Vietnam War, we stayed at a very high level for a long time, in terms of interest and participation in the political process.  I would do anything to be able to get that back. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t young people vote? 

EDWARDS:  Again, they don‘t—I don‘t think they think that they have got anything at stake in the race.  I mean, maybe now a little bit more, you‘re going to see—I hope that you are going to see that they are having problems getting health insurance or they are leaving college with unbelievable student loans, and maybe they will start that, you know, maybe government—the choices the government makes actually could make a difference in their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think this country has chosen a Republican Congress now since 1994, every two years, relentlessly, has been selecting, with the exception of Bill Clinton, who‘s a political genius, Republicans for president?  Why is this country largely Republican in public office, if what you say about health care matters?  And your husband has been raising the issue of poverty.  Those issues have not been electing Democrats? 

EDWARDS:  Well, Thomas Frank wrote, “What‘s the Matter With Kansas?”  People voting against their economic interests year after year.  I honestly think that, you know, most of the elections, it‘s one person, a man or a woman, against another man or woman, and that‘s what makes the difference in a lot of cases.  Sometimes, it‘s that—like we have seen in Texas, state legislature now has now done some gerrymandering, so you have districts that are largely one party our another.  And we have got another situation where there are how many safe district and there are only a few districts at risk.  And so each party can concentrate on those. 

They have done a great job in recruiting appealing candidates in the swing districts, and then they hold on to the safe districts.

They also do a much better job of getting out the vote than we do.  They talk at their kitchen tables, conservatives do, about politics and issues, and we don‘t do the same thing at our kitchen tables. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think John Edwards, your husband, ran a successful campaign in 2004? 

EDWARDS:  It would be hard to say that he ran a successful...

MATTHEWS:  Well, did he feel, when he was done every day, when he called you, do you think he was getting his message across or did he feel like he was sidelined by Kerry, that he wasn‘t given much of a role, he was sent out to the AAA cities, not the big cities, without a real brief?  Did he feel that he had a message to deliver every day?  Did he feel like he was being sent to the right places?

EDWARDS:  There are experts who know those things.

MATTHEWS:  But you have an attitude about it? 

EDWARDS:  I have enormous confidence in my husband‘s voice. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that he was used effectively in the campaign of 2004? 

EDWARDS:  I think that he—that where he spoke, he made a difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Was he used well?  Was he sent to enough big places?  Was he given enough of a role to play in the campaign, or was he simply an appendage?

EDWARDS:  I don‘t think that he was an appendage, but where there places where he could have gone where he would have made a difference?  I think every place he goes, he makes a difference.  So should he have gone to X instead of Y?  You know?  Should he have spent the last week in Ohio, and job loss and his connection with people who had been in those circumstances?  He really understood their lives and could communicate with them.  Should he spent the week in Ohio?  You know, maybe if I were doing field, I would have left him there. 

MATTHEWS:  If you were doing field, you would know where to put him.  Let me ask you this.  He is doing well in Iowa.  I saw him out in Iowa, he‘s campaigning there a lot.  I think he is the alternative to Hillary.  I believe—I said that (inaudible).  I believe right now, it could change.  I believe that if there is a default candidate, if she waivers or falls, or somebody knocks her off—because you‘ve got those first big contests.  You have got Iowa, where he is already leading in the polls.  You‘ve got Nevada, where he‘s got a labor contacts.  New Hampshire is tougher for him, because of Bill Clinton.  Hillary will probably win there.

Then he goes back to where he came from.

EDWARDS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But I am also thinking and I am being told that there are so many African-American voters in South Carolina, who will all be for Hillary, he can‘t win that one. 

How far can he campaign against Hillary to stay in this race? 

EDWARDS:  You know, of course, I have no idea whether he is going to actually decide to run.  You know, but...

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL, please.  He‘s running for president.

EDWARDS:  No, he said he is very seriously considering it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s not—he is riding all around the country, every city I‘m talking about, he‘s going out there and campaigning. 

EDWARDS:  But he is also going to places where there is—where there are no races, but where there might be minimum wage battles to be fought, in states where there‘s not going to be a primary that matters.  So he is fighting the fight that he thinks he needs to fight, and he is also going to places because he is, in fact, seriously considering it. 

Assuming that he does do it, and assuming also that Hillary decides to run—which is also something that, you know, everybody assumes is going to happen, and may happen, but I don‘t know that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, give me some news.  When is he going to decide? 

EDWARDS:  I actually don‘t know that.  I think that he will probably make the decision—he has a book coming out in November, and he is going to do a book tour in the middle of November, and my expectation is that he would sit down and make the decision after that.  So I expect...

MATTHEWS:  Turkey Day or later? 

EDWARDS:  I mean, I think he will decide for himself probably around turkey day.  Whether he tells Chris Matthews on turkey day... 

MATTHEWS:  (inaudible) tell Elizabeth Edwards...

EDWARDS:  He better tell me right away. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to turn over in bed and he‘s just going to go, OK, let‘s do this thing.  Is he going to do that?

EDWARDS:  I think I will know before you do, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope so.

It‘s great to have you here.  You are a great person.  Elizabeth Edwards, who should be president herself, perhaps, in a better country.  Thanks for your time.

Thanks for joining us.

We‘ll be back tomorrow.  Be sure to watch HARDBALL on Wednesday.  The HARDBALL college tour returns with Senator John McCain, live from Iowa State University.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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