updated 10/27/2006 11:54:35 AM ET 2006-10-27T15:54:35

Guests: Charlie Cook, Pat Buchanan, Harold Schaitberger, Chuck Todd, Mary Ann Akers, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, down and dirty.  Is there is any depths to which these political ads won’t go? 

Let’s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening I’m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALl. 

With less than a week before the elections, the gloves are off and it’s getting ugly out there.  Campaigns in the most competitive races are carpet-bombing the airwaves with negative political ads, about ties to the mob, ads that spark racism, accusations of sexism and campaign donations from the porn industry, ads that put an opponent’s face smack next to a mushroom cloud, and spots that accuse members of Congress of protecting a child predator. 

This strategy is ruthless. Negative ads work.  Republicans stand to loose control over Congress.  They have to win at all costs and they’re trying to.  And despite what the polls say, they’re not going to give this election to the Democrats without a fight to the finish. 

The Democrats seem to have the polls and the issues on their side.  Voters are sick of the war in Iraq.  The latest NBC-“Wall Street Journal” poll shows 75 percent of Americans disapprove of the job the Republican-controlled Congress is doing. 

But can Democrats go for the political jugular?  This election is a battle to win, not to be loved.  Will Republicans pull off another victory by staying the course on the Bush-Rove strategy of running on the TNT issues, terrorism and taxes, or have voters become so disillusioned with this Congress and this war in Iraq that they’ll vote for the opposition party? 

In a moment Charlie Cook, top political analyst from “NBC News”, will be here for an exclusive briefing on the numbers.

But first HARDBALL’s David Shuster has the big report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In Tennessee, where Democrat Harold Ford is trying to become the first African-American senator from the south since Reconstruction, the Republican National Committee has now stopped this ad. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I met Harold at the Playboy party. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So he took money from porn movie producers.  I mean, who hasn’t? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Harold, call me. 

SHUSTER:  But another commercial for Republican Bob Corker is still airing on the radio.  Under references to Corker, the music is soaring.  Under the narration about Ford’s liberal blogracy (ph), it sounds like jungle drums. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Harold Ford, Jr. grew up in D.C., Bob Corker in Tennessee. 

SHUSTER:  A victory by Republicans in Tennessee would help President Bush’s party keep control of the U.S. Senate.  So would a victory in Pennsylvania, where incumbent Rick Santorum for months has been trailing Democrat Bob Casey by double digits.  Now, Santorum is running an ad that shows Casey with a mushroom cloud. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ira, also close.  Yet Casey opposes creating the bunker-busting bombs that may be needed to stop them. 

SHUSTER:  The ad also says:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Terrorists try to enter our country.  Yet Casey comes up for amnesty for illegals.  We just can’t take a chance on Bob Casey. 

SHUSTER:  In New Jersey, where Republicans are trying to beat Bob Menendez, some television viewers are seeing this:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our boy down in Washington, Bob Menendez, he’s caught in this federal investigation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We better start looking at these fixed contracts, baddabing, we’re in it, but deep.  And worse, this guy, Tom Kean, he wants to clean things up, even cut taxes. 

Hey, where’s our take in that? 

SHUSTER:  Nasty, negative ads have long been featured in tough campaigns.  In 1964 there was the “Daisy” ad. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Three, two, one, zero.

SHUSTER:  In 1988 Republicans lampooned Democrat Michael Dukakis riding in a tank.  Then the GOP eviscerated Dukakis by introducing the nation to Willie Horton. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison.  One was Willie Horton, who murdered a boy in a robbery, stabbing him 19 times. 

SHUSTER:  In 2004 John Kerry was attacked by Swift Boaters. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I served with John Kerry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I served with John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam. 

SHUSTER:  But in this campaign the nasty attack ads seem to be everywhere.  And while some Republican commercials have been ruthless, several Democrats are not exactly holding back. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tom Reynolds knew that Congressman Mark Foley was a predator going after 16 year-old boys.  What did he do?  Tom Reynolds urged Foley to seek reelection.  Why?  Because Mark Foley gave over $100,000 to Reynolds’ campaign committee. 

SHUSTER:  In Pennsylvania, Republican Congressman Don Sherwood is facing this:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don Sherwood’s mistress made a 911 call, alleging that he had choked her. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don Sherwood campaigned on family values.  He has no family values. 

SHUSTER:  In Virginia, Republican Senator George Allen steered government contracts to a company that paid him millions, so Democrat Jim Webb is running this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now we find out Allen hid his stock options for years—a blatant violations of Senate ethics rules.  George Allen, secret options, ethics violations, steering government contracts.  It’s time for a change. 

SHUSTER:  But to change the subject, Republicans supporting Allen are attacking Webb for comments he made 15 years ago about the Navy’s tail hook convention. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Eighty-three women assaulted.  Jim Webb, he called this scandal a witch hunt and a feminist plot, the same Jim Webb who declared the Naval Academy “a horny woman’s dream”. 

SHUSTER:  Still, for all of the nasty ads, there is always one ad, usually in a less competitive race like Bill Richardson’s, that is funny and entertaining. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Since Bill Richardson become governor, we’ve seen some changes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There’s a new lawman in town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We’ll head them off at the pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He’s doubled the violent offenders in prison, over 400 meth labs shut down. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give me a milk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Seventy-two thousand more jobs and a new commuter rail system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Times are changing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And $600,000,000 worth of movie production.

Governor Bill Richardson, moving New Mexico forward. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Next time, let’s make a space movie. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  Yes, there’s still a few hilarious commercials out there.  But overall, especially in campaigns where control of the U.S.  Senate is at stake, the commercials are brutal.  And there’s still 12 days until the election. 

I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Charlie Cook’s an NBC—in fact, he is the “NBC News” political analyst and the publisher and editor of the “Cook Political Report”. 

Charlie, how do these commercials rate on the stink spectrum? 

CHARLIE COOK, NATIONAL JOURNAL:  You know, for the last 20 years, Chris, we’ve both watched these ads just getting meaner and meaner, tougher and tougher, more and more of them.  And this here is the most I’ve ever seen.  And both sides are dishing it out real hard, both sides are running really, really ugly, negative ads.  If there’s slightly more Republican negative ads than Democrats, it’s because they are more Republican incumbents that are in real danger than Democrats. 

But boy, it’s never been this brutal, never has.  We’re seeing some amazing ones. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let’s see if they’re working. 

Here’s a new ad, it’s running in New Jersey.  It’s for Senate candidate Tom Kean running against Bob Menendez. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We got a problem. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our boy down in Washington, Bob Menendez, he’s caught in this federal investigation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We better start looking at these fixed contracts, baddabing, we’re in it, but deep.  And worse, this guy, Tom Kean, he wants to clean things up, even cut taxes. 

Hey, where’s our take in that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We need to get the bosses to fix this thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like you did for Torricelli.  You got Martinberg’s (ph) number?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell Bob Menendez his high tax record is a crime. 

The Free Enterprise Fund Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Charlie, where is the Italian Anti-Defamation League on this baby?   I know Menendez is Spanish surname guy, but, clearly the “Sopranos” reference is obvious.  They may have found a non-Italian actor, but look, the leather jacket, all the accouterment, the mannerisms of the “Sopranos”. 

COOK:  This thing is, is that—you know, does New Jersey, like a handful of other states, like my home state, have a reputation for corruption?  Heck, yes.  Hudson County, where Senator Menendez is from, does it have a reputation within New Jersey for corruption?  Absolutely. 

Tom Kean needs to be—have this election about corruption, not about Iraq or anything else the administration may or may not have done.  He’s got to have it about corruption, and that’s Menendez’s vulnerability.  That ad goes to the heart of Menendez’s challenge in this election. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe because I’ve spent so much of my time in New Jersey during the summer, especially in Ocean City, but you know, I have to tell you, Charlie, it’s an ethnic ad.  Whatever else it is, it’s an ethnic ad.  It’s about Italians in New Jersey.  It’s about the mob, tying Menendez into Torricelli, they’re closing the loop, they’re making their point. 

And that has been politics in that state for years, between the Waspy people, like Christie Todd Whitman and the Keans, father and son, running against the ethnic people.  They tied it all together, if you’re ethnic, you’re a crook, right?  Isn’t that the message?  What the hell does Bob Menendez got to do with the “Sopranos”?  What’s he got to do with Bob Torricelli?

They’re not Wasps, they’re ethnics.

COOK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me—I don’t want to you to have to join me on all this stuff.  I’ll just play hardball and you agree with it, you give me the up side.

Let’s take a look at the next ad.  It think what—what do we got next here?

Let’s go to Michael J. Fox.  This is the one running in Maryland.  It’s an attempt to knock down Michael Steele, the Republican candidate for Senate.  Here’s Michael J. Fox.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CARDIN (D-MD), SENATE CANDIDATE:  I’m Ben Cardin and I approve this message. 

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR:  Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

But George Bush and Michael Steele will put limits on the most promising stem cell research.  Fortunately, Marylanders have a chance to vote for Ben Cardin.  Cardin fully supports life-saving stem cell research.  It’s why I support Ben Cardin.  And with so much at stake, I respectfully ask you to do the same.

MATTHEWS: Well Charlie, that’s a strong ad.

COOK:  That’s a tough, tough ad.  And the thing is, I think there was a sign that, you know, Steele had been kind of closing the gap, that the race was starting to get closer.  That’s a very, very tough ad. 

And I think, to me, the power of it is we know what Michael J. Fox looked like before the disease.  And that’s what made it so powerful.  It’s kind of like watching Christopher Reeve after the accident, where you just sit there and go oh my gosh.  And in its own way—I mean, is it a fair ad?  I think it’s a fair ad.  Is it a tough ad?  Boy, they don’t come tougher. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s an ad being run by the Democrats.  Here’s the response to the Michael J. Fox ad from the Michael Steele side. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Amendment two claims it bans human cloning but in the 2,000 words you won’t read, it makes cloning a constitutional right.  Don’t be deceived. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Californians agreed to spend $6 billion on the exact same science.  Now they admit there won’t be any cures for at least 15 years.  Same science, $6 billion, no cures.  Beware of loopholes.  Missourians will pay.  Don’t be tricked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Amendment two actually makes it a constitutional right for fertility clinics to pay women for eggs.  Low income women will be seduced by big checks and extracting donor eggs is an extremely complicated, dangerous and painful procedure. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Twenty-five women have died and 6,000 have complained of complications.  Missouri, don’t be fooled. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why does it cost $28 million to convince Missourians that an amendment to the Constitution is good for them?  Maybe because it’s not.  Don’t be bought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know now.  Don’t do it.  Vote no on two. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, that’s a referendum and initiative in the state of Missouri dealing with—allowing funding right, state funding for research on stem cells. 

COOK:  I have no idea who those people were.  Not a clue.  That ad did not do anything for me because, obviously, I guess I was supposed to know who the people were.  One of them had bad sound.  That ad did nothing for me, to be honest.  And if that’s the answer ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, there’s are athletes.  One of them is a Cardinal and one is a football quarterback. 

COOK:  Well, I don’t have live in St. Louis, so I guess maybe you have to live there. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I agree with you on one thing.  They are not as powerful as the Michael J. Fox side of the argument, just because you know him and everybody likes Michael J. Fox and nobody agrees with Rush Limbaugh that he was faking it or went off his meds just to put on a good show, I don’t think.  Do you, Charlie? 

COOK:  No.  No.  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I’m trying to figure out what is our next tape.  What’s our next tape?  Have we got another one?  Let’s watch Cardin and Steele go at it.  This is obviously in Maryland, the two guys running for the Senate there. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R-MD), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  Listen to what I am saying and listen to what I have said on this issue and stop trying to drill home a dead point that doesn’t ... 

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE:  I know the words that come out of my mouth, and what I have

said from the very beginning

REP. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  Very simple question. 

Very simple question.

STEELE:  What is the question? 

CARDIN:  Should we have gone to Iraq three years ago.

STEELE:  Yes, we should have to deal with the terror that was there.

CARDIN:  All right. 

STEELE:  But that has nothing to do ...

CARDIN:  So you would have authorized the president to use force. 

STEELE:  Yes, I would have authorized the use ... 

CARDIN:  That’s an important point. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE:  Let’s me just finish this point here.  OK.  Doing that then and doing nothing since then, as you have done, on this issue, where is your strategy?  . 

(CROSSTALK) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys are both wrong on the war, I’ve got to tell you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Charlie, I guess we know where Michael Steele stood on whether we should have gone to Iraq or not.  He said yes. 

COOK:  You know the funny thing is, that’s a race that I didn’t expect would ever get competitive.  And Steele has been in a better camp than I have other thought.  He has run a better campaign.  His ads have been fabulous.  Cardin’s ads until the Fox ad came along were like totally pedestrian and unimpressive.  It’s become a relatively competitive race, maybe very competitive in a short period of time.  I was surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  I completely agree with you.  I loved the ads.  My wife loves the ads.  They are really funny, some of them and very unthreatening.  An African-American guy, it seems, has to run an ad that’s so unthreatening that he’s almost child-like in making his presentation but it seems to be working. 

COOK:  It was fresh.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Charlie Cook.

Coming up, we’ll talk to MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan and Harold Schaitberger.  He’s the president of the International Association of Firefighters.  And later, the Dixie Chicks.  You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With just 12 days to go before the election night and Republicans going negative in tight races across the country, President Bush aimed to motivate the base today by signing a bill that authorizes a fence along some parts of the Mexican border.  But is immigration any match for voter dissatisfaction over Iraq? 

Patrick Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and author of the new book—doing quote well—“State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.”  And Harold Schaitberger is president of the International Association of Firefighters.  He’s been crisscrossing the country on behalf of Democratic candidates. 

Harold, who do you like for president next time in your party? 

SCHAITBERGER:  I’ll tell you right after the first of the year.  Right now we are focused on the next 12 days and Congress, the Senate and a number of governors. 

MATTHEWS:  What races for the U.S. Senate can you effect positively? 

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, we have members out there working.  We’re going to be positively effecting races in Iowa—excuse me, in Tennessee, in Rhode Island, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana.  Those are the races.

MATTHEWS:  Let’s take a look at the Pennsylvania race.  Here’s a picture we haven’t been able to show on HARDBALL yet.  It’s a battle—almost a physical battle—between the two candidates for the Senate, Corker and Ford. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D-TN), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  It’s good to see

you.  I would love to debate you on this Iraq thing, on the fact that so

many Republican senators now are coming around on the partition plan.  You

told me that it might—in Memphis here, when you were here, you said that

you thought I might have been playing god with it but now it looks like

John Warner and even Kay Bailey Hutchison who I traveled to Iraq with, she

...

BOB CORKER (R-TN), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  I came to talk about ethics, and I have a press conference and I think that it’s a true sign of desperation that you would pull your bus up when I’m having a press conference. 

FORD:  No, sir, I can never find you anywhere in the state. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORKER:  I was in Jackson last night.  I saw you ...

(CROSSTALK)

FORD:  Tell me, what did you think about this Iraq thing?  I know you’re here to talk about my family.  I thought you made a promise right after the primary.

CORKER:  No, no, no.  I’m talking about you, and this race and you and

I.              And I’m going to do that right now.  As a matter of fact, this is my press conference, not yours. 

FORD:  I would love to hear you talk about Iraq though. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan, your view of that histrionics there? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  A mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  by? 

BUCHANAN:  By Ford.  What do you mean?

MATTHEWS:  He went into the other guy’s space. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, yes.  It’s sort of—the guy is running the campaign and you got have debates and things like that, and you get up there, this young guy sort of gets in his face and what about this?  He brings his cameras along.  It’s like what happened—that character tried to do that or did it to Hillary Rodham Clinton and his cost him any chance to ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Rick Lazio.  He tried to serve her—a process server, kind of thing.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. President, Mr. Schaitberger, do you find a political flaw, a political flaw in that behavior by Ford?

SCHAITBERGER:  I’m not sure that I would have him confront Corker, but I’ll tell you this.  He’s been trying to—he’s been trying to debate Corker throughout this campaign, even trying to find dates with—that Corker would agree to.  He’s been trying to get on Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press”, and every step of the way Corker has basically refused to debate him, refused to go one-on-one with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Corker won’t do “Meet the Press”?

SCHAITBERGER:  That’s what I understand. 

MATTHEWS:  That ought to be a requirement.  How can you get away with that?

SCHAITBERGER:  My understanding is that it’s been offered and refused by the Corker campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that’s a fracture of the rules of American democracy, to skip that one, because that’s the only chance to go on national. 

BUCHANAN:  Richard Nixon didn’t debate Hubert Humphrey, and we didn’t even mention—didn’t mention George McGovern during the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn’t he?

BUCHANAN:  Didn’t mention the name.

MATTHEWS:  Let’s take a look right now at what happened with—let’s take a look at President Bush today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This campaign only ends after the voters have had a chance to speak.  No doubt in my mind with your help Dave Lamberti (sic) will be the next United States congressman.

Dave (sic) and I believe in a lot of things.  We believe that you ought to keep more of your own money.  We believe in family values.  We believe values are important.  We believe marriage is a fundamental institution of civilization. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?  Is that—it reminds me of “The Candidate” with Robert Redford.  It’s just, “I believe in a country of people by people by people.” 

The president just sort of—first of all, the guy’s name is not Dave.  It’s Jeff. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  So we get—the endorsement got kind of a subdued response from the crowd there, because they know the guy’s name is Jeff.  Full point (ph).

BUCHANAN:  Let me tell you, the president has been out there so often, so many times.  You’ve been in a campaign, you’re done it.  Every single one of us has done that.  You go by rote. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to teach him this move, Pat?  This move right here?

BUCHANAN:  I picked that up from Harry Truman when I was a boy, Chris. 

Harry Truman used to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard—Harold. 

SCHAITBERGER:  There you go.  See, it happens to everybody. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, it’s just—it’s a hard thing.  We didn’t know how to pronounce.  We didn’t know any Harolds.  Go ahead.

SCHAITBERGER:  I’ll tell you what, I find it pretty interesting the president is talking about values when every day it’s just drip, drip, drip, what’s, unfortunately, coming out of the Republican side of the Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  You think the Foley matter sort of killed their bone fides?

SCHAITBERGER:  I think—I think the Foley matter was just unfortunately the straw.  I mean, we started with Tom DeLay and Bob Ney and Duke Cunningham and the list goes on. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Bill Jefferson?  The $90,000 in cold cash in his refrigerator on the Hill. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Absolutely.  You know what?  You know...

MATTHEWS:  He’s a Dem. 

SCHAITBERGER:  There’s nobody perfect on either side of the aisle, but they certainly have a real problem on the Republican side of the aisle right now. 

BUCHANAN:  I’ve got to believe Jefferson is not perfect.  He’s good but not perfect.

MATTHEWS:  That’s going down in the history books.  You know, it was $50 if he wanted (ph).

We’ll be right back with Pat Buchanan and Harold Schaitberger. 

Plus, a reporter from NBC, Jane Arraf in Baghdad.  And later, the Dixie Chicks—they’re going to be great—play HARDBALL.  You’re watching it on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  More American soldiers died in Iraq today in the latest round of violence there.  Let’s get the latest on the ground in Iraq.  Here’s NBC’s Jane Arraf in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  The latest deaths were in Al Anbar Province.  That province that includes Ramadi and goes all the way up to the Syrian border. 

The U.S. military said one soldier and four Marines died of their wounds on Wednesday. 

And there’s a political battle brewing here in Baghdad.  The Iraqi prime minister has said that the U.S. is not in a position to impose any deadlines on Iraq.  The Iraqi national security advisor tells us that he believes it’s all a misunderstanding, that Iraq is already working on things like disbanding the militias, things like how to carve up the oil wells, who gets control in this country?

He said many of those things will be accomplished in the next couple of months.  The security advisor, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, also tells us that he believes that, in the search for a missing soldier, the U.S. shouldn’t overreact.  He says he believes that he could be released through negotiations. 

The military says it is still conducting searches for the man they believe was kidnapped from a Baghdad neighborhood. 

For HARDBALL, I’m Jane Arraf in Baghdad. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jane Arraf. 

We’re back with MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and the president of the International Association of Firefighters, Harold Schaitberger. 

Harold, you were talking during the break about the impact of that ad.  I’m not going to show it again, of the kind of loosey-goosey blond looking for Harold—for Howard Ford Jr. (sic) in Tennessee, that ad.  You think that might backfire? 

SCHAITBERGER:  I absolutely think it will backfire.  You know, I’ve got a membership; we’ve got thousands of firefighters in Tennessee.  And the fact of the matter is, my membership is 94 percent male; it’s about 88 percent white.  And I know what that ad is targeted at. 

And I can tell you, I spent two days all across Tennessee, and my members are reporting back to me they find it despicable, disgusting.  They think it’s the worst of dirty tricks, and I believe it’s going to backfire. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat, your thoughts?

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, frankly, I didn’t find it that outrageous.

I just laughed at it.  But I’ll say this. 

MATTHEWS:  What’s the point?

BUCHANAN:  The point is that Harold is chase—goes to “Playboy” parties, and bunnies are there, and he’s a playboy and he’s a lightweight all the rest of it.  That’s all I thought.

But I do agree with this.  Look, if we’re sitting here three days later still talking about this ad, Corker is ahead.  And Corker, you don’t want to be discussing this ad any more than the fellow in Missouri wants to be discussing whether Michael J. Fox put on too much of an act or something.  You don’t want to do that.  You’ve got other issues which are your winning issues.  And these aren’t winning issues. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re saying the ad wins no matter what?  There’s nothing...

BUCHANAN:  No, the ad loses.  The ad loses, because it’s become a subject of controversy, and you don’t want to be—that’s not what you want to be talking about. 

MATTHEWS:  Let’s talk about the war.  In the last election for

president, there wasn’t a clear distinction.  Kerry was somewhere against

the war, not one of the guys who said it was a bad idea, it was basically -

it was done the wrong way. 

Do you think the Democrats would have been smarter in 2004 to simply say, “This is bad American policy; it’s not good for this country.  The people who led us into that war were wrong.  We’ve to get rid of them”? 

SCHAITBERGER:  I think leading up to that election there was still a lot of—a lot of thought that the intelligence was still valid, that the basis for taking us into the war was valid, and I think that there was a reluctance at that point.  Certainly not since. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we got in there in 2003, and there was nothing there.

BUCHANAN:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  No connection to 9/11 from day one. 

BUCHANAN:  If Kerry took that stand, he would have lost by 15 points.  I’ll tell you why.  He went out there and voted for the war and gave the president a blank check in October of 2002.  And then he comes around and runs in 2004: “this is a terrible blunder by the president”?  Well, why didn’t you ask the questions? 

MATTHEWS:  So in for a dime, in for a dollar?

BUCHANAN:  The anti-war candidate in a war time has never won an election. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Didn’t Lincoln win?

BUCHANAN:  Lincoln wasn’t anti-war. 

MATTHEWS:  He was against the war with Mexico. 

BUCHANAN:  I mean, McClellan was anti-war. 

SCHAITBERGER:  I was going to say, I agree with Pat.  Because my members, again, they absolutely at that point in time that you pointed out, we were in the—still in the early stages of the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SCHAITBERGER:  You’ve got to stay and fight, and you’ve got to defend your country. 

MATTHEWS:  You know who made your point?  General Grant, one of your least favorite generals.  The fact is, Grant was the guy who said you can never take an anti-war position in the United States politics, because you will always use—lose politically if you’re against a war.  No matter whether war is a bad idea or not.  But you—sometimes you’ve had some bad ideas.

Anyway, Pat Buchanan, Harold Schaitberger. 

Up next, “The Hotline’s” Chuck Todd and “Roll Call’s” Mary Ann Akers are coming here to break down the latest campaign numbers. 

You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Shady mobsters, Playboy playmates, and terrorist sympathizers, you’ll find it all in the latest round of campaign ads around the country.  So who’s winning the war being waged on the airwaves?  The people throwing the most dirt?

Here to talk about it are “Roll Call’s” Mary Ann Akers and “The Hotline’s” editor-in-chief, Chuck Todd. 

Answer my question.  Are the dirt ballers wining?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  I don’t think so, no.  I think when you’re throwing this much dirt, it means you’re behind.  I mean, when you’ve got to do the personal stuff, what’s the No. 1 issue?  Iraq.  These aren’t ads about Iraq.  And when you’re throwing this stuff, it means you’re behind. 

And it’s almost all coming from the Republican side, because they have to make the Democrat unelectable on a character value judgment basis.  So that’s why you’re seeing this.

MATTHEWS:  So in New Jersey we saw an ad a few minutes ago where Tom Kean Jr., son of the former governor, Tom Kean, is running an ad basically making Bob Menendez, the appointed senator, look like a mobster.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He’s got a Tony Soprano guy.  Look at him; he’s wearing that leather jacket.  Look at the way he’s talking, his mannerisms are taped—are basically aping the characters on “The Sopranos”.

TODD:  Right. 

MARY ANN AKERS, “ROLL CALL”:  And in a race like this, which is such a toss-up, maybe the dirt ballers will come out ahead.  Because it’s really neck and neck there.  Menendez is in real trouble.  And something like this could be seen as funny, or it could be seen as really overly slimy. 

And I think that you obviously saw...

MATTHEWS:  I saw what I’ve seen in the history of New Jersey.  They’re tagging him to Torricelli, for one thing. 

AKERS:  Torricelli, and they mention...

MATTHEWS:  ... figures.  They’re making it an ethnic thing.  I don’t want to overdo it.  But they are clearly trying to make Tom Kean look clean by comparison to this guy, based upon his—they’re connecting him with “The Sopranos”. 

TODD:  Yes.  No, they could be jumping.  They could be overstepping the bounds.  Because you know, you do get the feeling that New Jersey voters would like to class up the place.  You know, that they would like not to be...

MATTHEWS:  They loved Christy Todd Whitman.

TODD:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  The old Yankees.  They just love that.  Because they feel if it’s old money it’s clean money and all that.  I know the argument.  Clean up Newark with the Kean family.  I know this game.  But it doesn’t always work. 

TODD:  This one might have overstepped.  I was going to say, it doesn’t always work.  And this one might have overstepped.  We’ll see.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this thing in Tennessee.  You’ve been covering it, the—I guess I made my position clear, that I think that ad that’s been running on behalf of the Republican National Committee—it’s supposedly an independent committee—that ad is clearly aimed at working the white—white guy. 

They already had an advantage in that crowd, and now they’re saying, “Look, if this guy wins, OK, he’s a great looking guy.  They say that.  The women love them.  The white women go after him.”  It’s pretty blatant, from what I can see. 

AKERS:  Well, they’ve been working that—they’ve been working that angle all along.  They created this web site called Fancy Ford.  Ford likes fancy things, fancy cars, women, likes to go out to clubs.  They really play that up.  So that’s what the ad is trying to do. 

Now whether it’s expressly racist, well, that’s obviously your opinion, but it clearly plays to stereotypes, and it has clearly rattled a lot of people.  And...

MATTHEWS:  They make him look like a pimp. 

AKERS:  They’re making him look like a pimp.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Where’s the clothes on that girl, by the way?  Did you see any?

There aren’t any. 

TODD:  No. 

AKERS:  Yes, she has on clothes.  She is wearing clothes.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Where?

AKERS:  Well, I mean, just one thing.  He did go to this “Playboy” Super Bowl party...

MATTHEWS:  With 5,000 people. 

AKERS:  Who cares?  Now, I don’t understand why he hasn’t come out and just said, “Yes, but there were 5,000 people there.” 

MATTHEWS:  Look, there was one of these cattle calls at the Democratic events you were covering out in L.A., Clinton’s second one.  Or was that Chicago?

TODD:  I know which one.  The 2000 one.  It was a “Playboy” party.

MATTHEWS:  I didn’t go, but there was a huge crowd.  Delegates all went. 

TODD:  Bill O’Reilly, he was there. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  I mean, you know, there was a lot of conservatives there.  So you know, it’s...

MATTHEWS:  You’re chuckling. 

TODD:  I am a little bit.

MATTHEWS:  You just outed Bill O’Reilly on this show. 

TODD:  Bill O’Reilly is a “Playboy” guy.

MATTHEWS:  The fringe warrior.

TODD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Bill, it’s not me.  It’s him.  It’s Chuck Todd from “The Hotline”.

TODD:  You want to give him my e-mail address, too?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I’m going to (ph).

TODD:  No, I’ll say this on the Ford end.  I think Democrats a mistake by—by turning into it a race argument.  Because the last thing in the last 10 days of this campaign that this race needed to be for Harold Ford was about race.  And now that it’s about race, I think that hurts them. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think it’s the Democrats’ fault?

TODD:  I actually think the Democrats’ fault for overplaying this race a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I’ve got to tell you, if you talking to...

TODD:  I think they made a mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  ... the African-Americans about this and what they think about it?  Have you talked?

TODD:  They’re outraged.  Look, the fact is when you play this ad, for some people they don’t see the racism.  Others see it immediately.  It depends on where you’re from and what your background is. 

But the bottom line is talking about race, making the last three days of this campaign...

MATTHEWS:  I know.  It’s the one thing that the Ford campaign was hoping not to talk about.

TODD:  ... about race is not good for Harold Ford.  That’s correct.

AKERS:  Yes, I agree. 

MATTHEWS:  That’s your sense?  You’re covering it.

AKERS:  Well, I agree, because Ford already, as a black man, has a deficit running statewide in Tennessee.  In Memphis, that’s one thing, but statewide it’s another thing. 

MATTHEWS:  It’s split up ethnically (ph).

AKERS:  He’s run an amazing campaign, and he’s such a great candidate.  And that’s what he has going for him.  But I think Chuck is right.  I think the Democrats may have blown it on that. 

MATTHEWS:  By focusing ...

AKERS:  By making it a race thing, by focusing on race. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, focusing on ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, focusing on somebody else.  You’re right.  You’re right.  It crossed the line but that’s what Republicans are good at doing in their ads.  They are really good at pushing the envelope. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.  They run it for two days, they stop running it, and people talk about it for a week and they got what they wanted to get. 

AKERS:  Right, exactly.

TODD:  And you know what they’re not talking about?

MATTHEWS:  What?

TODD:  They’re not talking about Iraq in Tennessee.  They’re not talking about any of these other things, and that’s what the Republicans would prefer right now is not to talk about Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this latest one in Pennsylvania we had of—we looked at it yesterday where we had Bob—let’s take a look at this one.  I find it hard to read this baby. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I’m Rick Santorum and I approve this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  North Korea, close to a nuclear missile to reach America yet Casey opposes deploying a missile defense system now.  Iran, also close, yet Casey opposes creating the bunker-busting bombs that may be needed to stop them.

China, drilling oil just 50 miles of our coast, yes Casey opposes us doing the same, putting our energy at risk.  Terrorists trying to enter our country, yet Casey comes out for amnesty for illegals.  We just can’t take a chance on Bob Casey. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Chuck? 

TODD:  I don’t think it—for a guy 10 points behind, it’s not a bad ad.  I think he had to do that.  He had to do something. 

MATTHEWS:  It’s a doomsday machine, right?

TODD:  Yes, this is—the clock is ticking on Santorum. 

MATTHEWS:  Mary Ann—I think it’s complicated.  But I’m not sure people really want a bunker buster for Christmas.  You know, it seems a little odd.

AKERS:  It’s a little much, I think.

TODD:  They talk too much.

MATTHEWS:  It’s not on the top of most people’s shopping list. 

TODD:  And it’s not just that, they threw too much information in that ad. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, too much.

TODD:  It’s too much information.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think you’re right.

AKERS:  It’s convoluted—right.  It’s convoluted and it’s scary but it’s not going to work because it’s pure desperation.  I would think that it’s desperation.

MATTHEWS:  You what else?  It looks cheap.  It looks like a cheap ad, like they did it fast.  You’ve got to think about the class ...

TODD:  Not as cheap as that stem cell ad you showed earlier, the response to the Michael J. Fox ad.  That looked like it was done in the basement.

MATTHEWS:  I think the Michael J. Fox ad is overwhelming. 

TODD:  That one is, but the response.

MATTHEWS:  But the response—that response was awful.

MATTHEWS:  Powerful stuff.  I mean he—we all like this guy.  Thank you.  Mary Ann Akers, thank you, and Chuck Todd. 

Up next, the Dixie Chicks.

And Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert moderates a debate, this time between the candidates for Senate in Maryland, Republican Michael Steele and Democrat Ben Cardin.  That’s a close race, and this is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back in 2003 the Dixie Chicks were the biggest selling female band in history, selling tens of millions of albums.  On tour in London when the U.S. was on the brink of invading Iraq, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines made a comment, just 12 words, about President Bush that caused the group a great deal of professional problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATALIE MAINES, MUSICIAN:  We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  A new documentary, “Shut Up and Sing,” which opens this week chronicles the backlash and how this country band from Dallas still feels the heat from that 12 word remark.

Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison, the Dixie Chicks, are here this evening.  I want to ask Natalie are you glad you said it?

MAINES:  Yes, definitely.  I mean, I’m glad I used my free speech and spoke out against it.  And I think I didn’t know, you know, the day after how glad I was that I said it but today no regrets and very glad.

MATTHEWS:  Martie, was she speaking for you too or was it her own words there, her own thoughts?

MARTIE MAGUIRE, MUSICIAN:  No, absolutely.  I don’t think she would have said “we” unless we all agreed with her 100 percent and that’s why I felt compelled to really stick by her in the wake of all the controversy because I agreed not only that she had the right to say whatever she wanted to say, but that I agreed with what she said.

MATTHEWS:  Emily, are you onboard this as well?

EMILY ROBISON, MUSICIAN:  Yes.  I mean, during that time that’s all we talked about whether, you know, were on the way somewhere in the car or in the hotel rooms, you know, we were—the war was on our minds, that’s what we were discussing at the time and very concerned and we share—we always share our feelings and talk with each other.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it’s fair to dump on the American president when you’re overseas?

ROBISON:  Well, I think there’s a distinction here.  You know, a lot of people have given us grief about that, but if we were in enemy territory, I understand that.  But we were with allies, amongst allies and people who were going to war with us, so they were dealing with the same subject that Americans were.  They were protesting their leader putting us into this war as well.  But I feel like you’re an American ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Natalie, would you have said that in France, which was differing with us in the war back then?

MAINES:  I would have said that wherever I was when the war was about the start.  We were in London that night, the deadline was the very next day.  That happened to be where I was.  So for people who say that I wouldn’t have said that in the States, I absolutely would have said that in the States.  It never in a million years would have crossed my mind that I couldn’t question our government or not want to go to war.

MATTHEWS:  Martie, I get the feeling at the time that you folks, when you made that statement and you all stood behind it and took the heat for it, that the country world out there and country music was definitely for the war. 

I mean, I think of Toby Keith singing that song, “Remember How You Felt” which is basically a pitch that if you didn’t like 9/11 you had to like Iraq, that they were basically lining up and saying this was a smart thing for the U.S. to do.

It turns out most Americans all over the country think it’s not a smart thing that we did.

MAGUIRE:  Yes.  I think country music is unique to other forms of music.  You know, you’ve just got a majority of the core of country music listening audience kind of feeling the same way about politics and we always kind of felt like the black sheep but never really used the stage to talk about politics or how we felt about important, controversial issues.

But we weren’t surprised, I guess, when that part of the population was angry with us because it is a big military group, it is a big kind of Christian fundamentalist group, that core country audience.  So I wasn’t surprised we rubbed them the wrong way, I just didn’t think that it would go to the extent it did.

MATTHEWS:  Well, who were the people that were—let me go back to Natalie, who started this all because you were the voice that spoke.  Who went out there and really tried to exploit this against you?  Were there any commercial forces that compete with you that said, here this is a chance to bring down the Dixie Chicks and take the money they’d be getting?

I know it sounds Machiavellian but that’s the way I am.  I’m thinking who is gaining by your demise.

MAINES:  Well, personally, I think the right did.  And I think it was originally started by the “Free Republic”.  And they were very organized in calling radio stations across the country and telling them that they would never listen to their station, when they didn’t even live in that town.  And we knew that.  And at the beginning our manager tried to explain that to some program directors and they were not willing to listen.  And it looked like we were grasping at straws, so we just sort of kept quiet and let what was going to happen.  Because they are a powerful, organized machine, and they wanted to take us down.  And they did. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you blacklisted? 

MAINES:  Absolutely.  They have a hate list.  They have a black—they have a list, and we were number one.

ROBISON:  And you said something about corporate America, you know, it brings up another subject of the consolidation of media.  Once again, these were edicts coming down from, you know, corporate headquarters, that they weren’t allowed to play our music.  It wasn’t a local type of thing, where people—and there was an aspect of that.  But for the most part, it was coming down from the top, “You are not allowed to play the Dixie Chicks.” 

And so that’s another thing you get into.  And we’ve been part of the Artist Coalition even before any of this happened, trying to show the problems that exist when that happens. 

MATTHEWS:  So Martie, a big monopoly can have a big impact if they don’t like somebody’s politics, right? 

MAGUIRE:  Definitely.  We found that first hand, for sure.  And we know people that lost their jobs for simply playing our music. 

MATTHEWS:  We’ll be back with more of my interview with the Dixie Chicks in just a minute.  You’re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A new documentary called “Shut Up and Sing” chronicles what happened to the country music band the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines they told a London audience she was ashamed President Bush came from her home state of Texas.  The movie opens tomorrow. 

Here’s more of my interview with the Dixie Chicks. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Natalie, are you worried about this country sometimes?  We all, I guess, believe in democracy as a principle, but do you ever worry that the majority could be totally wrong, and be caught up in something where they’re led to believe something about Iraq or whatever, and they just go crazy, you know, no more French fries, hating the French.  I don’t want us being dog trained into thinking certain ways. 

It scares me when people who have had pretty good educations, especially, who have read history, know about how the world’s going, know that little countries don’t like being overtaken by big countries, know all the history and still start acting like they are bow-wowing to a president.

Doesn’t that scare you, public opinion now?  A little bit?

MAINES:  Media consolidation scares me more than anything.  And I don’t blame the average person for not knowing exactly what is going on, and for believing what is on their television station. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are you letting them off the hook?  Because if people -

people who have listened to a radio station, and all of a sudden somebody comes on and says, I’m telling you, don’t like these people, they’re no good people, they’ve made fun of our president, therefore don’t buy their albums.

Doesn’t it scare you that people would take obedience like that? 

MAINES:  No, it absolutely scares me.  But I think the problem is media consolidation.  Because if I—you know, these people are trying to go to work, raise their children—if you dedicate 30 minutes of your day to news—we as Americans should be getting the truth, and if you have media consolidation and your newspaper and radio station and television station are owned by the same person, and in our case, where a corporate ban happens, if that gets out of control, if that continues in this country, then how—people don’t have the hours—I would spend hours reading newspapers and online to find out the truth, because it was not there.  And I grew up in a small town, so I know what it’s like to—I think that they thought they knew. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Emily, tell me.  Who was the corporation that went after you? 

ROBISON:  Cox and Cumulus were the ones who definitely had corporate bans.  You know, we suspected some others, but they were the two radio...

MATTHEWS:  Cox and who else?

ROBISON:  Cumulus Radio. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are they located?  Where are those two..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Where are they located?

ROBISON:  I’m not sure where they’re located. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you don’t know where they are located, but you’ve accused them of a massive conspiracy to hurt you.

ROBISON:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBISON:  They’ve got stations all over the country that they claim are independently run stations, and they were part of the consolidation hearings.  And John McCain really raked them over the coals, because they were trying to say that all the individual stations were privately owned—or individually owned, and could make their own decisions, yet there was a mandate, from corporate headquarters, wherever that may be, for them—that they had to stop playing our music. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to tell you.  I want to share something

with you.  I was at a Barbra Streisand concert years ago, and she asked the

audience—it was out here in Maryland, a big crowd, huge crowd, and I

mean, thousands of people—and she said, how many people voted Republican

last election.  And she was shocked—because I talked to her later—

about the fact that almost half the people in the audience—this is a

Barbra Streisand concert, a very liberal woman, very opinionated, obviously

half the audience practically were Republicans, who voted Republican. 

But they still liked her singing. 

I mean, I love that.  I love the fact people can decide, OK, you know, I don’t like Jane Fonda but I love her movies.  Or, I don’t like Barbra Streisand, but she’s the best singer in fifty years.  I mean, can people react like that to you?  Martie, you’re first.

MAGUIRE:  Yes, that’s—I respected that a lot.  You know, I think that’s common sense.  I don’t care what my favorite artists think politically. 

MATTHEWS:  How about you, Natalie? 

MAINES:  No, I think it’s absolutely wonderful.  And I think what happened to us is not the truth of what people were like or what was going on, because if people really weren’t going to listen to someone, or watch a movie or watch television because of what they thought politically, and if they really wanted to seek that out, they would not have hardly any television to watch.  They would not have any movies to see, and they would not have but a handful of artists to listen to. 

MATTHEWS:  It’s great to hear from all of you.  Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison.

Thank you very much.  The Dixie Chicks, you are great.  Great looking too, actually.  Good luck, good luck with this movie.  I guess this movie’s favorable or you wouldn’t be out here pushing it.

Thanks for joining us.

ROBISON:  Thank you for having us.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Play HARDBALL with us again Friday.  Our guests include Tavis Smiley.

Right now it’s time for Tucker.

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