updated 11/9/2006 1:10:55 PM ET 2006-11-09T18:10:55

Guests: Mike Feldman, Mark McKinnon, Nancy Pelosi, Mike Allen, Michael Smerconish

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  What a difference a day makes.  On Monday Bush had all the cards, tonight he‘s a president without a Congress.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.  On Election Day, voters came out in full force and threw the ruling Republicans out of the House, Americans were clearly motivated by the war in Iraq.  Two out of three voters called the war very important to their vote.  An unpopular war and an unpopular president handed this election to the Democrats.  But the election was also about change and change is exactly what the president delivered today when he announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Donald Rumsfeld is a patriot who served our country with honor and distinction.  He is a trusted advisor and a friend.  And I‘m deeply grateful to his service to our country.  I‘ve asked Bob Gates to serve as the secretary of defense. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s bring in a couple of political experts to talk about all the big changes today, Mark McKinnon and Mike Feldman are founders of Hotsoup.com.  Let‘s start with Mark, is Rumsfeld out, a smart political move for the president?

MARK MCKINNON, HOTSOUP.COM:  I think it‘s a great political move Chris.  You know as the president said today, we got a thumping and I feel a little bit like a homeowner after a hurricane checking for property—to see if there is any property left.  And saying, oh great, the cat is still alive.  But you know the reality is that the president in Texas, we saw him govern with the divided government and get a lot done.  And I think with the announcement of Secretary Rumsfeld today, the president is saying very clearly, we‘re going to move ahead, we‘re going to make progress, we‘re going to work together.  And I think we‘re going to see a lot of productive work here in the next couple of years. 

MATTHEWS:  Ok, Mike, what was the rush?

MICHAEL FELDMAN, HOUTSOUP.COM:  Well, look, I think he had no choice. 

The message as you put in your set-up piece was loud and I think the president had to come out today and said he heard it.  Iraq, the president, and in some ways, Secretary Rumsfeld were at the center of what became a nationalized election.  So I think the president was smart to very quickly hit the ground running making a major move.  So I think is necessary moving forward. 

MCKINNON:  Chris, I just want to say, you know the president said with the majority that he never wanted to play small ball.  He wanted to get big things done. I think you‘re going to see the same thing with the minority.  And I think that he‘s not content to just warm the seat and have gridlock the next couple of years.  So I think he‘s going to surprise a lot of folks and get a lot done on immigration, energy, education, I think there‘s going to be a surprising amount of progress the next couple of years. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike, did he rob the Democrats‘ thunder by moving so darn quick today? I mean it seemed like there was some, everybody expected for a day or two the Democrats will wallow in their victory, do a number of victory laps.  Now the president stole that time away from them.  He said you won, let‘s move. 

FELDMAN:  Well look, the president always has the ability to take center stage.  He‘s got the bully pulpit.  I think a lot of today was about ball control.  But it really was also about sending the message to the American people that he heard them. I think he needed to do that.  The question now is, was this part of a PR plan or is the president going to come halfway? And frankly are Democrats in Congress going to come halfway?  And are we going to get something done in the next couple of years, because they‘re valuable years.  These are big issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Why should they go half way?  Why should Democrats Mike come halfway to help the president look better in his last two years?

FELDMAN:  Well I don‘t think it‘s about making the president look better.  I think the voters yesterday said we want to see progress on issues.  I don‘t think they voted for Democrats in the House and what looks to be Democrats in the Senate so that there would be gridlock for another two years.  I think Democrats pay a price if they‘re not willing to roll up their sleeves and work with the president.  What I heard today from soon to be speaker Pelosi, what I heard from other leading Democrats were, they‘re going to get to work right away and they hope that the president will engage with them. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you really think Mark that the Democratic Congress, looks like it may be the whole Congress working with a Republican president who‘s so stubborn, fanatically famous for being stubborn, is going to work?

MCKINNON:  Well I think the interesting thing about the constituency of the new Congress and the new Democrats that are coming to Congress is that they are a much different breed.  They are, a lot of them conservative and most of them, pragmatic.  And I think that they know that they‘re going to be in very marginal districts.  And they want to go back in a couple of years, not as idea logs but people who got something done.  So I think there‘s going to be a great, a lot of physics on both sides of the aisle to make some progress here. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the Democrats‘ clout? Do they have enough clout to move the president from where he is on Iraq, Mike? 

FELDMAN:  Well they‘ll going to have chairmanships in the House and it looks like they‘re going to have chairmanships in the Senate.  They‘re certainly going to have a mandate to some extent.  I mean, look, I understand that the margins are not going to be that big.  But the country did send a message.  So I think they‘re going to have that moral authority and that electoral authority behind them. 

MATTHEWS:  Can they tell the president, no money, no game, if you don‘t do what we want in terms of negotiated settlement over there or some kind of a compromise, we‘re going to cut off the money?

FELDMAN:  Are you talking about Iraq specifically?

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, I am. 

FELDMAN:  I doubt it.  What I‘ve heard today from the leadership is that they‘re going to allow the Baker Hamilton Commission to unfold here.  They‘re going to work with Republicans.  Look, I know that Democrats are accused of not having a plan for Iraq.  But the fact of the matter is, Democrats and Republicans right now are struggling with this issue.  And everybody is all over the map.  And I think there does need to be some organizing force.  The election last night may be part of it.  I think Baker Hamilton may be part of it.  But I think everybody realizes these are difficult problems and they‘re going to have to work together to get something done moving forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do Democrats embrace Baker Hamilton before there even is a plan?

FELDMAN:  Why have Democrats—

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, the commission hasn‘t issued anything.  Why are the Democrats saying they support it? 

FELDMAN:  I think for the same reason that the president pointed today and said that he‘s hopeful that will serve as a useful recommendation.  Because I think both parties are looking for some third party to come in and help broker something moving forward.  I think that‘s true of the president too.

MATTHEWS:  Mark, is this like the social security deal where neither party can do it on his own because it requires some pain with the voters?  Maybe national humiliation is part of the deal here? Something that isn‘t easy.  If it was a question of somebody getting credit for it, they would be competing to get credit not throwing themselves into this clinch with this commission. 

MCKINNON:  Well that‘s right and that‘s what the president said in 2000.  We had an ad, he said, we‘ll let the hard thing get done because they‘re hard.  And so that‘s why I think actually, they‘re some catalysts here.  A new secretary of defense, the new commission report, a new majority in the Congress and the Senate with Democrats, so there are a lot of catalyzing factors for progress and I think everybody wants progress. 

MATTHEWS:  Are people on the web right now, through Hot Soup, tell me about how it‘s going Mike in your conversations that you‘ve got.  Give me a summary of what people are saying about the Democrats and the Republican getting in together.  Are they saying the Democrats should indict, impeach, subpoena, that sort of thing, are they saying they should cut deals?  Which is it?

FELDMAN:  For the most part I think people are saying they want progress on these issues.  A lot of them are glad that the president heard the message for change but they want to know what‘s next.  Is the president going to come to the table, are members of Congress who they just elected going to come to the table and are we going to get something done on issues that they care about.  All of these issues for the last several weeks, we‘ve been talking about through the prism of the election.  And that‘s fine, it serves a purpose.  And I think to a large extent that purpose was evident when people came out in droves to vote yesterday.  But now people want to know what‘s next.  They don‘t want to automatically develop into the next political cycle.  At least that‘s what I‘m hearing from people on Hot Soup.  They want to know, is Congress going to get something done? Is the president going to help them do it?  And are we going to move forward to solve some of these tough problems?

MATTHEWS:  So, productivity is important on Capitol Hill, it can‘t just be an argument, an ongoing argument.

FELDMAN:  I think both sides will pay a price if we descend immediately into gridlock and frankly just more political rhetoric. 

MATTHEWS:  But you know that‘s such a departure, it‘s hard for me to believe that an election can change—I mean we‘ve had really no progress on Capitol Hill since the initial Bush year when they cut taxes.  Basically it‘s been four or five years of a war and that‘s about it.  What makes you think that they really do think that they can put it together and both parties will say it‘s better for both of us to have a bill here and there?  Is something done on minimum wage, something done on perfecting prescription drugs, something on tax deductions for college tuition, those kinds of things. 

MCKINNON:  Well, it‘s going to be up to the leadership.  And I think that the president is a realist and he‘s pragmatic.  And I think as I‘ve said before, he wants to get big things done.  He doesn‘t want to warm the chair.  And I think we‘re seeing great signs and great signals from Speaker Pelosi that she is of a similar mindset.  And listen, there is just an enormous appetite.  We hear from the Hot Soup community, they want accountability and they want progress.  And I think that‘s what elections are about.  And I think Washington heard it this time. 

MATTHEWS:  Ok, I think so, too.  Thank you very much Mark McKinnon and Mike Feldman of Hot Soup.  Coming up Brian Williams‘ interview with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House.  She will be the first one ever in the history of our country to sit in that chair behind the president when he gives his state of the union.  That will be a portrait.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  After the House Democrats made

big gains last night, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” anchor Brian Williams talked today with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER:  I didn‘t have much sleep but I didn‘t need much.  I was very exhilarated by the outcome of the election. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:  Would you concur with the president that the call was cordial?

PELOSI:  Oh, yes.  The call was very friendly.  He extended a hand of friendship, which I reciprocated and told him what I had said earlier in the evening, that I looked forward working with him in partnership, not in partisanship. 

WILLIAMS:  Leader, what does drain the swamp mean?

PELOSI:  Drain the swamp means to turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history.  That is my pledge.  That is what I intend to do. 

WILLIAMS:  She is about to become a grandmother of six.  In fact, any moment now. 

PELOSI:  There we go!

WILLIAMS:  And the woman in line to become the next speaker of the House says she is most excited to change this picture, to put a female face in this frame of three male faces for the very first time. 

Let‘s talk about history because I know history was riding along with you as you watched the results last night.  I know you have thought today about your mother.  I know you have thought today about your father, your own children and grandchildren. 

PELOSI:  Well, as you may know, I was raised in an Italian catholic family in Baltimore, Maryland.  Our faith is very important to us, our patriotism, love of faith, love of family, love of country.  I took pride in our Italian American heritage and to be the first woman speaker of the House and the first Italian American speaker of the House, it‘s quite thrilling for me. 

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman Pelosi grew up around politics.  Her father was the mayor of Baltimore and a member of Congress himself.  She says she‘s ready to watch over her party and preside over what she calls great change. 

You‘ve said some rough things about the president.  You have indicated he‘s a dangerous man.  You have intimated he can‘t be trusted.  How do you then sit down with this man and reason with him and bargain with him, beginning in the oval office this week?

PELOSI:  Well when I go into that office, I will bring with me the wishes of the American people.  They want a new direction in Iraq.  They want a new direction in our economy where many more people participate in the prosperity of our country.  They want the American dream to be fulfilled by having more affordable education, better access to healthcare.  They want energy independence and all that that means for our country. 

They want a dignified retirement. 

WILLIAMS:  You think they said all of those things with their votes last night?   

PELOSI:  I think they said a lot about wanting honesty and civility in government and I think that they rejected not only the policy in Iraq, but the incompetence that has gone with it. 

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, we‘re going to have the latest from Virginia with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  One state left without the final tally, Virginia.  The Senate race there between Senator George Allen and Jim Webb has yet to be nailed down.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is standing by in Richmond.  David?

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well Chris, the latest is that the official state tally, it‘s actually an unofficial state tally, because it hasn‘t been certified yet.  But it shows that Jim Webb is ahead of George Allen by about 7,000 votes.  There has been a lot of talk about what could trigger a recount.  But the important thing to remember now is that the state law, the election laws actually give George Allen some time where he really doesn‘t have to make much of a decision.  Because right now there are canvassing teams as required by law who are essentially going back to every precinct and trying to make sure that the numbers that were reported last night were accurate.  Were there any computer glitches? Were there any numbers that didn‘t match the number of voters? Were the numbers given to Webb that should have been given to Allen and were these numbers transmitted correctly to the secretary of state for the board of elections?

Already one canvassing team has found that in one heavily Republican precinct, 1,900 votes that went to Jim Webb should have gone to George Allen and it should have been 400 for Webb, not 400 for Allen.  So when you take that precinct by itself, you start to lower the margin of difference from 7,000 down to 4,000.  The question is going to be, will Jim Webb also pick up some votes because of mistakes? And what will the campaigns discover over the next two or three days.  By all accounts, even the Allen campaign expects that they will know within the next two or three days what the canvassing teams have found by next Tuesday Chris, that‘s when the counties have to make their official notification to the state.  The numbers will then essentially be clear to everybody and then it‘s a question of once the election results are certified, if it‘s close, then George Allen has the option at that point to ask a formally recount.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Well give me the human considerations here and the political considerations and whether Senator Allen keeps fighting this. 

SHUSTER:  Well I think the human considerations are one that you‘ve mentioned before, and that as Senator Allen he has been serving the state of Virginia for a long time, both as governor and also now one term as senator.  And obviously it‘s very difficult in a very tight election with 2.2 million votes cast to just sort of give up, especially when you‘re only talking about a margin right now of 4,000 or 5,000 votes.  The political considerations though Chris will start to build on George Allen perhaps next week.  You already have the Democrats claiming victory.  You already have Jim Webb saying the votes have been counted and I‘ve won.  The pressure really ratchets up.  Once these counties next week come back to the secretary of the state and say look, here are our final numbers.  And at that point, if George Allen is still thousands and thousands of votes behind, the pressure really ratchets up.  And the other thing to keep in mind, Chris, this is not a state that has chads or punch card ballots, it‘s all electronic machinery.  So the final results that they should have next Tuesday, in all likelihood, those are going to hold pretty much to those number even if there were to be a recount. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain to me why you‘re hearing or we‘re hearing here at HARDBALL that some Republican leaders are pushing for George Allen to throw in the towel.

SHUSTER:  I think there‘s a sense Chris that it would be better, if George Allen is going to lose this thing and a lot of Republicans looking at Virginia who are quite familiar with Virginia obviously because of its proximity to D.C., they also see a state where it‘s electronic balloting, computer machines.  At a certain point in the next couple of days, it‘s going to be clear what the numbers were.  And a number of Republicans suggest that five, 6,000 votes is difficult to make up in a recount.  I think that‘s the first thing, I think the second one is right now Chris, at least from what I‘m hearing in Virginia, a number of Republicans would rather get this over with sooner so that you can get all the bad news out from last night essentially out there and then try to build from it.  But you also hear some Republicans including those who are very strong supporters of George Allen saying, wait a second.  If he is that close and you have 2.2 million votes cast and the law allows him to make sure that every vote in Virginia is accurate, why not give him a couple more days to wait and see what happens. 

MATTHEWS:  It seems reasonable to me.  Thank you very much, David Shuster down in Richmond.  NBC News congressional producer Mike Viqueira watched the election results come in last night from the Democratic Party‘s election headquarters.  Mike, was it you that was controlling the TV last night?  Because I thought it was so great.  I talked to a friend of mine Smith Bagley today he said he was over there, Elizabeth Bagley his wife, they were contributors and supporters of the Democratic Party, they told me that we were on all night there.  That is great news in terms of us reaching the important demographics, of course. 

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS:  You know I‘m compelled to tell you the God‘s honest truth Chris.  There was another cable network that will go unnamed that was on for a while and I called over one of the aides who was working, had been sort of jargoned from Capitol Hill to come over and assist with this party.  I said could you at least put one of the televisions on MSNBC.  And they came back and said that they were going to rotate between two of the three cable networks and I‘m not going to tell you which of the third networks that they didn‘t rotate to.  But that was the story and that‘s how that turned out. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘re probably the one in the middle.  But let me ask you about the reaction of the people on Capitol Hill.  So many jobs, I mean I worked up there for years.  So many jobs are going to disappear in this case Republican staff jobs, although we have the big paying jobs all the way down to the bottom.  And all kinds of new jobs being created on the Democrat side. 

VIQUEIRA:  That‘s right.  And remember in 1994, Democrats were wiped out of the House, wiped out of the Senate.  Democratic lobbyists had a hard time making a living for the last 12 years, they‘re certainly going to be doing a renaissance as well.  And now Republicans - remember, when you‘re talking about controlling the majority, especially in the House, you‘ve got all the committee staff, you‘ve got all the committee money.  You‘ve got more leadership staff and leadership money.  Republicans, yeah, they‘re going to have to be laying people off.  These people are going to be looking for jobs and associations down on K street, maybe going back to wherever they came, their home owns, and looking for jobs.  And if the Senate goes as well, it‘s going to be a similar situation.  So the job market certainly going to be in flux here in official Washington, D.C. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you see as the big battle? The battle between Murtha and (INAUDIBLE) Hoyer for Majority Leader, is that a hot one or not? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well you know a lot of insiders are saying Hoyer has got that thing locked up, but they don‘t like the way this is going down even though Murtha is seen as an ally of Nancy Pelosi.  And that many of these same people backed Nancy Pelosi.  But I‘m told that you should not discount Murtha.  Murtha is a behind the scenes operator.  He ran Nancy Pelosi‘s campaign.  He ran the campaign, the leadership campaign, I‘m talking about for Nancy Pelosi and a man name John Larson who won a down ballot ticket, a total surprise earlier in the year.  So while a lot of people think that Hoyer who represents the moderate wing of the faction is going to beat back this challenge, Murtha is not being counted out Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I know Murtha quite well.  I like him a lot and I think he does work in the bat room.  It‘s only recently he‘s done things like appeared in Q&A‘s in “Vanity Fair” and stuff like that.  I was shocked when I saw that. 

VIQUEIRA:  Very un-Murtha like.  You know there‘s one other race Chris and that‘s Rahm Emanuel, he said give me 24 hours.  He‘s thinking about jumping in the race to become the number three Democrat in the House.  He‘d run against a former chairman of the congressional black caucus, who‘s the current number three, his name is Jim Clyburn.  That might create a headache for Nancy Pelosi, she‘s got some fences to mend with the black caucus over the Bill Jefferson affair.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not a smart move for him.  I don‘t think so.  He doesn‘t want to get the caucus on the Hill mad at you because—That solidarity of that organization is very important to each of its members and they don‘t like being beaten. 

VIQUEIRA:  Rahm Emanuel, we know he‘s very forthright in his manner and he broke a lot of China on the way to this huge victory last night that he in large part engineered.  And it is not clear at all whether he would have the votes to defeat Mr. Clyburn Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I wonder, too.  I think he may have other ambitions, perhaps even grander than we speak.  Any way, thank you Mike Viqueira.  Up next, we‘ll bring in our panel to talk about the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld and what it all means.  What a two day hit, this has been a one-two punch of news, you‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  When I return to Washington next week I do so knowing that we have made a statement here tonight. 

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  And as all the political pundits, maybe correctly now, were saying, why did you go out and talk about those unpopular things like the war and I did.  And I‘m very proud.  I do not rescind a word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The bombshell from Washington today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is out.  It may have diffused the Democrat‘s victory lap, but more bad news could be on the horizon for the Republicans today.  Senator Joe Biden said he is going to call for hearings on the Bush administration‘ Iraq policy if he becomes chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. 

We‘re here with the panel, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst, Mike Allen is from “Time Magazine,” and radio talk show host and author of the book “Muzzled,” Michael Smerconish.  Let‘s take a listen right now to what Joe Biden said this afternoon about what‘s coming. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will you hold Fullbright (ph) style hearings on the war in Iraq? 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s news. 

BIDEN:  The absolute answer, I called Dick Luger today and I said Dick, if it turns out I‘m the chairman, I would look forward to you and I holding—I would start off in January, the week-long series of hearings, bringing in every responsible person, reflecting every point of view and have very methodical hearings. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you Andrea, we all grew up with those hearings, the Fullbright hearings on Vietnam and they did have an impact because they educated the country.  They may have stirred up some opposition.  They didn‘t change the policy necessarily.  Are we beyond that in America?  The hearing just don‘t carry the clout that they did in the old days? 

ANDREW MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it depends.  You know, they were hearings by Luger and Biden, Luger chairing, in September of 2002 on what the implications would be if we went into Iraq.  And I was there every day, but I have got to tell you, people didn‘t pay as much attention as they probably should have.  They laid it all out.  Now, with the focus of attention and after all of the deaths and the wreckage that we‘ve seen, I think people will pay attention. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Pat, if we had had a full airing on the war in Iraq, we would have gone? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I don‘t think so.  I mean, if it had—I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  A real national debate. 

BUCHANAN:  The decision to go to war—the blank check was given to the president in October, 2002 by the United States Senate, led by Democrats who wanted to get the issue out of the way for the election, which makes Joe Biden‘s investigation—he‘s going to investigate himself, why he didn‘t do due diligence, and the rest of them, really before we went to war. 

MITCHELL:  He tried.  He tried and his colleagues went against him. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you think it would look like the Pentagon papers again. 

How we get into this hole. 

BUCHANAN:  Well yes.  I mean, here‘s the thing, I would like to know why they didn‘t do the job, but they‘re going to have to investigate themselves, too, why they made the decision they did, based on the evidence they got.  Why didn‘t they get more evidence?

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me just tell you what Biden wants to do, because I heard a longer piece of this, as I interviewed him and tried to  get this out of him.  He wants to have hearings on the future, not about the past.  He doesn‘t think we should go back and try figure out how both parties got into this mess.  

BUCHANAN:  That‘s understandable. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s understandable.  I would like to have the other hearings, complete with water boarding, to try to find out what really happened, because I have not heard yet who told the president, good idea, go to Iraq.  Who made that little whisper to him.  We still don‘t know. 

Michael Smerconish, you listen to people all day.  You stir them up out there.  You‘re a tumbler, right?  You excite them out there when you talk to people on the radio.   

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I didn‘t bring my dictionary. 

MATTHEWS:  A tumbler is Yiddish.  It means you know how to stir people

it‘s like the guys up on the mountain, where it‘s raining and the old ladies are bored.  Go up there and stir them up.  Jan Murray, think Jan Murray.  Let me ask you this. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know, but I know all of this.  Let me ask you this, do you the public is ready for a national debate on the future of Iraq? 

SMERCONISH:  Gosh, I sure hope so.  I‘m not certain that Joe Biden is the one who ought to lead that conversation. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s like me? 

SMERCONISH:  Because he‘s like you and nobody will get a word in edge wise.  But I, for one, am sick and tired of the sound bite mentality of you‘re either for cutting and running or you want to stay the course.  I‘m all for having an intellectual conversation about how the hell we get out of there. I‘ve wanted to have that conversation for a long, long time.  But if you can‘t express yourself in eight seconds or less, folks don‘t want to hear you these days. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike Allen, would a set of hearings right after the holidays help build support for an alternative policy, a la James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton?   

MIKE ALLEN, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  Chris, I don‘t think you‘re going to have a lot of trouble building support for an alternative policy.  I think that‘s one thing -- 

MATTHEWS:  How about one we can understand? 

ALLEN:  Well, there‘s that. 

MATTHEWS:  The president said today—he admitted it, damn it.  He came out and said this war is too complicated for you people.  It‘s too unfamiliar for you, well whose fault is that?  I‘m sorry.  It was Rumsfeld who said that.  Excuse me, did you explain to the soldiers why they were fighting.  Did you explain to the American people?  You have had the bully pulpit.

MITCHELL:  I think this is all about an exit strategy.  All sides are looking to Jim Baker and this is not what Jim Baker was really designed to do.  But it is so remarkable to see that the man spurned, really, by Bush, the younger, because he was so close and so highly identified with Bush, the father, and because this President Bush blamed Jim Baker for contributing to the loss of the elections in 1992, for not getting in, not leaving the State Department and becoming campaign manager sooner.

MATTHEWS:  Also for turning down the money for Israel, the $10 billion loan guarantee, because it was money across the green line.  He is such a hard nosed guy about Middle East policy that a lot of people who care about Israel said hey, this guy ain‘t on our side.  In fact, we think he is on the other side. 

MITCHELL:  But Jim Baker is now the answer to both sides, because nobody can come up with an exit strategy. 

MATTHEWS:  I was shocked, Andrea, when they brought him into Florida.  I go, of all places, bring him into Southern Florida and solve it.  Yet, he did solve it.  He got that court decision by the Supreme Court and to this day we don‘t know how they got to the Supreme Court.  Jim Baker won‘t tell you. 

BUCHANAN:  Jim Baker was not elected to run the foreign policy of the United States.  He was not elected to decide war policy.  He‘s got a right to give advice, but the president of the United States is elected to run it and we have got a new Congress, which has been told, we want your input on foreign policy.  Nobody can hide behind Jim Baker and his report. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are Democrats trying to do that? 

BUCHANAN:  Because they do not want responsibility.  It is quite obvious.  The new Congress wants no responsibility for this war because they think it‘s going to be a disaster.   

MATTHEWS:  Let me go Mike.  Is this true that both sides, even maybe even the president, are like infantry men out there and they know they can get shot easily, so they‘re all trying to get behind a big tank and that big tank‘s name is Baker/Hamilton.  If they can run behind that tank, then the tank will take the fire and protect them.  Is that what‘s going on here, no matter what‘s in that tank, no matter what it stands for?  

SMERCONISH:  Well, very vividly put and yes, the White House is eager to embrace what they say, almost no matter what it is.  And they got a little worried when they heard the people on the Baker commission were calling around to think tanks to get ideas because they‘re like, you‘re the daddy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  You know who is on this Baker/Hamilton commission is Bob Gates.  Bob Gates, who has, in front of the Council on Foreign Relations, with Brejinsky (ph) from the Carter White House, recommended talking to Iran.  This is the non-Rumsfeld defense department, if he gets confirmed, which we think is likely.  And this is a big victory for Condoleezza Rice. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, when Don Rumsfeld, who was such a man today.  He took it.  He just took what he had to do today for the team.  He walked out there.  He was almost like hunched over a bit like Anthony Hopkins, the actor.  They hunched in together.  I have got to get through this.  I‘m not going to cry.  I am going to take it from this guy because I have now proved un-useful anymore.  When he said, Rumsfeld, this is too unfamiliar a war, too tricky a war, what did he mean Andrea?  Because you understand all of this.  What is he trying to say? 

MITCHELL:  What they mean is that this is not state sponsored terrorism.  This war on terror are non-state actors.  This is the aftermath of 9/11.  That is their explanation.

MATTHEWS:  For Iraq? 

MITCHELL:  Well, for why thing are so difficult.  It‘s the Iran, the Syria, the al Qaeda influence.  But it is not the cold war, the familiarity of the cold war.  It is not the enemies that you know.  You can‘t identify them.  That is the Rumsfeld mantra.

BUCHANAN:  You know, Bush was—you know Esquith (ph) said that a prime minister has to be a good butcher.  George Bush was a good butcher today.  That was a brilliant preemptive strike.  It was brutal.  He cut this man loose who had been loyal to him for six years.  He has taken the hit.  He‘s put Rumsfeld in the history books in a bad light, as the architect of a policy that did not work.  And I tell you, I admire the president for what he did today.  He preempted the Democrats, instead of having them squabbling all week long, get rid of Rumsfeld. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Did he free himself from Cheney, because Cheney did not support this? 

BUCHANAN:  I think he moved for Cheney and moved with the new team and Cheney belongs to the old team, the dissenters now. 

MATTHEWS:  Interesting stuff.

MITCHELL:  And the class act that Donald Rumsfeld was today, think about Don Reagan, I mean you were there, when he was kicked in the head by then Vice President Bush, Bush 41, and fired, and did it with a blast, a memoir, screaming all the way, shut the door, slam the phone. 

MATTHEWS:  And it was the same deal.  It got leaked the same day, same way.

MITCHELL:  And this was such a class act.  Don Rumsfeld, who has really done a lot of painful things and he was following the president‘s orders and he took it. 

BUCHANAN:  He took the bullet.

ALLEN:  But it didn‘t have to end this way, I mean, one wonders why it didn‘t happen months ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this president likes to be seen as the executioner, look at Paul O‘Neil.  For some reason this president looks like the guy—want to look like the guy who‘s pulling the switch on these people.  

BUCHANAN:  Didn‘t he do it to Sununu?  Didn‘t he drop the hammer on Sununu? 

MATTHEWS:  In the old days, the old man. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, he might enjoy it. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow Pat, we‘re going to stop on that.  Save that tape.  He might enjoy inflicting pain?  That means he is a sadist, named after the Marquis de Sade (ph).  Pat Buchanan has just accused the president of a malady worse than Mark Foley‘s.  Our panel is staying with us.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  God I love elephants.  We‘re back with our HARDBALL panel, Andrea Mitchell, Patrick Buchanan Michael Smerconish and Mike Allen.  I want everybody to tell me something I don‘t know about one thing and that is who gave the great concession speeches last night?  Smerconish?

SMERCONISH:  Santorum. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me why because I think you might be right. 

SMERCONISH:  I think the guy was humble.  I think he was focused.  Frankly, I think that he knew that it was coming and you might say, well, of course, because the polls showed that he was going to get hammered.  I never expected that that would be an 18-point race and I‘m awfully close to that situation.  But I thought that he struck the appropriate tone and probably helped himself.  Because you know he wants to have a future. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of his kids?  Have you seen that little girl crying? 

SMERCONISH:  How do I answer?  What do you mean, what do you think of their kids?

MATTHEWS:  Well, the only thing that made me feel—I was caught by her, because the little kid was crying.  The little girl, her face was cracking up and I do feel for her, but I also feel much more for those police funerals when the kids look like that and people coming back from the war in Iraq. 

SMERCONISH:  Well what are you saying, that she had nothing to cry about?  Come on.  Her dad lost his job. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m saying you‘ve got to put these things in perspective.  As much as it bothered me, those kids are crying, I do think the war was an issue worth losing a campaign over. 

SMERCONISH:  What if he was a steel worker and you were out of a job and his kid were crying, would you be making the same observation?

MATTHEWS:  Look, I‘m the kind of guy, an American kind of guy, you know, who worries about Mickey Mantle‘s bad knees, you know, even though I‘m not working.  You know what I mean.  OK, I don‘t claim to be right about this. 

SMERCONISH:  You can say what you want.  He has got a close family. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought he was great.  Santorum was great.  I also thought that Harold Ford Jr. gave a powerful speech. 

BUCHANAN:  Harold Ford did give a terrific speech, and especially in

light of the fact that he made it so close and he came back and a lot of us

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t he.

BUCHANAN:  We had it down 12. 

MATTHEWS:  Lets hear it for the white guys out there.  They didn‘t vote for him.  At least they said the—they did what they said they were going to do.  It was an honest poll.  After all these terrible polls, where we‘ve had people like Doug Wilder, supposed to win by 13, wins by one, people like Tom Bradley.  At least the people out there were true to what they were doing.  And in fact, the younger voters out there obviously gave this guy a shot, young white voters. 

BUCHANAN:  There was a hidden Ford vote, because he closed that thing from 12 to three.  It didn‘t go the other way. 

MATTHEWS:  It was wonderful, which would lead me to believe, Andrea, maybe you too, that this guy has got a future in Tennessee politics. 

MITCHELL:  Oh, I think he does.  He‘s young.  He‘s 36-years-old.  I think that Ford gave a brilliant speech, concession speech.  He was very moving and effective even this morning on Imus. 

MATTHEWS:  Women love this guy, by the way, I‘ve noticed.  Not just the one in the commercial, because my wife was talking about him.  I‘m telling you, every woman I talk to said, I love this guy. 

MITCHELL:  But Santorum also.  I mean I was struck by Santorum.  That was a classy speech.  He was in front of a crowd that was disappointed and angry.  He calmed them down, said, you know, let‘s give it up, let‘s give a shout out for Bob Casey and his children, the family. 

SMERCONISH:  If Rick were pro choice he would be a rock star.  I mean, we would be regarding Santorum in a whole different light if on that issue he had a different position.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Mike Allen here, what was your favorite moment last night.  I do like concession speeches.  I remember some of the best ones.  I thought that Ed Brooks up in Massachusetts was—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ed Brook once said after he lost up there, in a race that was all messy because of divorce in his family, and an Italian war bride, and he dumped her and the daughters came after him.  It was a real mess, but he said something so classy.  He said, I did not cry on the mountain.  I will not cry in the valley.  In other words, I played this business as a business I have chosen and defeat comes with it. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, that‘s right up there with you won‘t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  That wasn‘t a concession speech.  That was, I‘m going to get you bastards.  Let me ask you Mike Allen, we‘re going to move on to the serious stuff, but I do have an emotional interest in politics, obviously.  It is the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.  And with every victory, there is a loss. 

ALLEN:  Yes Chris, at 12:35 this morning on your air, when I was watching Senator Allen speak, I think he knew in his heart that that probably was a concession speech.  And the Republicans are saying today, the race goes on.  But they know that that is not likely.  And you heard Senator Allen invoking the sort of Jeffersonian term that he is so fond of, second only to his football terms, talking about representative democracy. 

And he was gracious there.  And it suggests that if his numbers are not working out, that he is not going to be churlish about this.  They are not going to drag it out.  They‘re preserving their options, but they‘re not going to make the party look bad and they are not going to make Senator Allen look bad.   

MATTHEWS:  And, you know, Jefferson did say the whole idea of democracy is the willingness to accept a one-vote decision.  One vote,  it comes down—you‘ve got to accept that as if it were a unanimous vote.  And that‘s what democracy is, because it‘s always like that. 

MITCHELL:  That‘s the difference between what‘s happening here, what‘s happening in Virginia and what‘s happening in the streets of Baghdad. 

MATTHEWS:  But over there they‘re not going to accept a close decision because they‘re not all one people. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  And they don‘t even think they‘re one people.  That is the problem. 

SMERCONISH:  And Chris, I‘ll say, if we‘re talking about performances, the Oscar today would have to go to President Bush, who is probably at the lowest political moment of his life, since 1978, when, as you all know, he lost a congressional race.  And he went out today and took the first step in reinventing himself, with making, as you guys have pointed out very graphically, this tough choice about Secretary Rumsfeld and no moping, and he went out and he‘s going to try to be Nancy Pelosi‘s best friend.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was going to be nice now, but I‘m going to get tough.  Let‘s see it.  Let‘s rip the scab off this baby.  Here‘s a guy who tried to make it on his own, as a young kid out of college, after going to Harvard business school and Yale College.  And he was trying to make it as a wild catter, and he didn‘t make it.  A lot of dusters, no money.  Then he was taken in by the establishment in Texas.  They gave him a baseball team and then they let him sell it and make 17 million dollars, or whatever. 

Here again he was out there as a wild catter, politically, as president of the United States, trying to do it his way.  Duster, the Iraq war, it is a duster.  There is no oil coming out of that war.  Along comes the establishment, Bob Gates from Texas A&M, the old man‘s buddy.  Jim Baker comes along, the old man‘s partner, to bail out the kid because he went out there on his own as a wild catter and it ain‘t working.  Tell me if I‘m wrong, Andrea. 

MITCHELL:  Well, the analogy works, but the difference is that they‘re not just propping up the kid, the president of the United States, it is the country, it‘s the national interest.  And Democrats, as well as Republicans, have an interest in this working.  Maybe not the people trying to run in 2008.  Maybe it is not in their interests for this to all come together, but I was really struck by the president today.  The joke about the interior decorator for Nancy Pelosi. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that sexist? 

MITCHELL:  No.  No, he had made the joke about measuring the drapes and all that. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he have said that about a rugged guy coming in there?  Would he make that joke about Denny Hastert?  Would he do that?  Hey, let‘s talk about the drapes together? 

MITCHELL:  I don‘t know and that‘s the other thing today—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re so modern.  You‘re post-feminist.  You‘re beyond all this.

MITCHELL:  I‘m post-feminist.  Nancy Pelosi, though, speaking about feminist issues, when we sits and do the coverage on the state of the union, when Americans, when children, boys and girl, and grownups, men and women, look at the state of the union, the image you‘re going to see is a woman standing behind the president. 

MATTHEWS:  It is so great because women who are watching, and half the people watching are women, most voters are women, are going to be sitting there watching, hey, look at her now. 

MITCHELL:  And 16 women in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  And my friend Paul Pelosi is going to be eaten up.  Because he‘ll be sitting up in the women‘s gallery, watching his wife.  Just kidding Paul, watching his wife be speaker of the House. 

BUCHANAN:  The truth is though Chris look, the country did not elect Nancy Pelosi.  The country rejected the Republican, rejected the war, rejected Bush.  They got Pelosi. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to go through it all again?  You want to rip it all up?  They didn‘t choose Ronald Reagan, they didn‘t like Carter.  We can go all the way back with that stuff, come on.

BUCHANAN:  Let me say this.  The point of it is, Ms. Pelosi is going to have a hellish time, because she is the focal point of the Republican attack in the coming year. 

MATTHEWS:  Did they like Richard Nixon when they brought him in 1968, or were they just tired of the Democrats‘ failure? 

BUCHANAN:  No, but a lot of our votes, you‘re right, in 1972 were anti-Mcgovern votes.  We knew that.

MATTHEWS:  I meant in 1968 when they wanted to dump Johnson and the Democrats had Humphrey to bring in Nixon. 

BUCHANAN:  Well you‘ve got Humphrey and Wallace, who do you pick. 

MATTHEWS:  It is always a negative process.  We try to find a new opportunity.

BUCHANAN:  There was a tremendous base for Nixon inside the Republican party always. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, and there is a big base for Nancy Pelosi in the Democratic party, I would bet.  If we ever counted it. 

We‘ll be right back with our panel and take a look at some of the greatest moments from the past 24 hour.  Boy, that‘s kind of a greatest show on earth approach.  We‘re watching HARDBALL.  You‘re watching.  We‘re doing it on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back to HARDBALL.  We‘re also back with our panel.  I want to ask everybody here, starting with Michael and then the other Michael, a big moment for you the last two days. 

SMERCONISH:  The president getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld.  And hopefully what it said to me is that we‘re beyond that stage.  Do you remember that exchange where the president was asked to enumerate mistakes that he had made and he sort of stammered and stood there for a couple of minutes.  That was such a disappointing moment for me.  Hopefully today represents a willingness on his part to acknowledge those—

MATTHEWS:  By action. 

SMERCONISH:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mike Allen.  Big moment for you the last 48 hours?

ALLEN:  Chris, the president walked in to the East Room today and he said, among other things, one thing he said that he intended to say was I take responsibility as the head of the party for what happened.  And, as you know Chris, the president has very rarely articulated that for, whether it‘s the deficit or Iraq.  And it‘s a step in trying to say that he can transcend the box.   

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t have time.  I‘ sorry.  You‘ve got to hold those thoughts.  Write a column. 

MITCHELL:  We‘ll blog.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, Mike Allen and Michael Smerconish.  HARDBALL returns tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern tomorrow night.  We leave you now with a look at some of the greatest moments from election night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For a brief period of late autumn day light the power to tax, to regulate, to wage war, to outlaw behavior, all the power of the government leaves Washington and heads back to the citizens, you and me. 

MITCHELL:  The moment of truth is here. 

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Six seats, that‘s the number that Democrats need to win to take control of the U.S. Senate. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC ANCHOR:  This election tonight, Chris, is going to have a profound effect on the 2008 presidential election. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris Jansing is in Hartford for us this morning. 

In Stuart, Florida. 

Richmond, Virginia

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  There is one group of Americans forced to cast their vote by absentee ballot. 

Richard Engel is in Baghdad.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert and Brian Williams at NBC headquarters in New York.   

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  MSNBC‘s look at the races to watch and the issues that are driving. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a race about the Iraq war. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a hot issue.  It has to do with basic human belief. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You can look at Katrina and that‘s the time the president‘s own party started asking questions about his competence. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  The economy has not been listed.  It‘s not been able to crack through Iraq.

SCARBOROUGH:  If Joe Lieberman does win tomorrow it sends a powerful message to both parties. 

MATTHEWS:  Virginia, which is going to be one of the big ones tonight. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘m as nervous about this one as any race in the country. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You well know at this point in the campaign

everybody‘s made up their minds.  It‘s about getting the faithful to the

polls

MITCHELL:  At the end of the day all of the votes will all be in, but will they all be counted. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  The FBI is now investigating allegations of voter intimidation and voter suppression.  

O‘DONNELL:  We now have reports of voting problems in Utah, Florida, Indiana and Ohio. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Two counties have run out of ballots. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at the first results of the night. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  NBC News projects that Ted Strickland takes back the governors office for the Democrats after 16 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob Menendez of upstate New Jersey is the projected winner. 

Joe Lieberman, running as an independent, having lost the primary, is the projected winner. 

We have got a blockbuster report to make.  NBC now projects that the Democratic party has taken over the House of Representatives. 

OLBERMANN:  We are down to one Senate seat that decides who controls the Senate. 

BROKAW:  It‘s going to take about 240,000 votes to win this. 

WILLIAMS:  All the that remains between Republican and Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.  What a story line tonight. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

END   

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