updated 12/14/2006 2:04:38 PM ET 2006-12-14T19:04:38

Guests: John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Hi.  I‘m Chris Matthews, live from the southern part of heaven, the University of North Carolina, home of the Tarheels here in Chapel Hill with the HARDBALL College Tour.  Our guest tonight, North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president, John Edwards. 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘ve been a Tarheel born and a Tarheel bred and when I‘m dead, I‘ll be a Tarheel dead.  Is that tough enough?  Is this tough state or what?

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We‘re tough in North Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  This is the greatest place.  I went to grad school here, Senator, for one year.  It‘s the southern part of heaven.  It‘s as great as it ever was.  It was the greatest comeback.  I‘ve been sick for two weeks.  I‘ll tell you more about that.  It‘s so great to be back and to be back in heaven here.  It‘s the best place.

J. EDWARDS:  Thank you.  Glad to have you back.  Welcome back.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Thank you, Senator.

Let me talk—but we‘re going to have a tough—this is HARDBALL, by the way, I‘m not here to be...

J. EDWARDS:  I understand that.

MATTHEWS:  This is...

J. EDWARDS:  You may not remember this.  I‘ve done this a time or two with you. 

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t “Success” magazine here, you know. 

J. EDWARDS:  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  Not that anybody has ever heard of “Success” magazine anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this thing today.  The president of the United States put out the word that after all the work that went into the Iraq Study Commission, he‘s not going to have a change or an alteration in policy until come next year, sometime early next year.  He‘s put it off again. 

Our people just figured out—the American people ought to know this

we‘ve lost 34 men since the Baker Commission came out with its report. 

What do you think of this foot dragging?  What do you think of this war? 

J. EDWARDS:  I think the war is a mess.  The Iraq Study Group report makes that very clear.  It‘s a very sobering indictment of what‘s happening in Iraq right now, and the desperate need to change policy. 

And it‘s amazing to me and completely unacceptable that the president of the United States, after having led us there and help create this mess along with the help of others, is not taking responsibility in changing course. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the job we‘ve got now?  The Sunnis—

57 people were killed today in Baghdad—you read about it.

J. EDWARDS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  They were killed by a Sunni suicide bomber.  We could‘ve been there with 10 million troops, that guy would have done that.

J. EDWARDS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what they do.  If somebody had come to this country in the middle of our lousy Civil War that we went through here, if some Iraqi had shown up with a bunch of people and said we are going to referee the American Civil War, I don‘t know what—I guess we all would have killed them. 

But the question is, what are we doing trying to referee a civil war?

J. EDWARDS:  Well, that‘s exactly what we‘re doing right now, and the one thing that the Study Group report makes clear which should have been clear a very long time ago is the fighting between Sunni and Shia, the sectarian violence that‘s going on in Iraq, the tribal wars that have gone on there for centuries, the idea that we can fix this with a military intervention is absolute nonsense and we should have known that from the very beginning. 

The only solution is a political solution which is—in reconciliation, which is very, very difficult now. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the “USA Today” poll came out today—I‘m sure you saw it on the cover of “USA Today,” a Gallup poll—one if five Americans -- this is how bad we are right now—trust the president of the United States, George W. Bush, to do the right thing in Iraq.  Right now, one in five.  Are you one of them?  Do you trust him? 

J. EDWARDS:  I am—I am—I do not trust him.  I‘m not one of the one in five.  But I have to say...

(APPLAUSE)

J. EDWARDS:  I think that skepticism and cynicism is well-deserved.  I think the president has shown a complete inability to change, a complete incompetence in the management of the war in Iraq.  And when it‘s clear that things aren‘t going well and that there‘s a huge civil war going on in Iraq and all this sectarian violence is going on, he has, until very recently, continued to stay the course. 

And now he tells us it‘s going to be January before he takes any different course?  It‘s just not acceptable.  It‘s not leadership.  That‘s not what America needs.

MATTHEWS:  A scary thing came out the other day.  Talabani, the president of Iraq, said—and he‘s usually one of our best buddies over there. 

J. EDWARDS:  Yes, he is.  He is.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a Kurd.  He likes us, like most Kurds do.  He said we are building an Iraqi army which is packed with Shia militia people, all part of it.  It‘s like picking up a police force with bad guys off the street.  We picked the wrong people.

And then he said if you put American soldiers on top of these guys, embed them with these guys, it will be even worse.  You‘ll have Americans joining in militia actions—you know, death squads. 

J. EDWARDS:  Well, it‘s part of the entire problem that we have in Iraq.  The allegiance is to Shia, Sunni, Kurd.  The allegiance is to the tribe.  The allegiance is not to Iraq and to a national government and that‘s what we are seeing every single day with the Sunni insurgents, with the Shia militia and with the Kurds, who I think, ultimately, would like to see themselves be independent.

MATTHEWS:  How many more months of this would you support if you were president now?  I know it‘s—you haven‘t announced yet, formally, but with two more years of this administration, should we spend the whole next two years grinding this thing down to its inevitable conclusion and have a couple thousand more American guys killed, another 100,000 Iraqis? 

J. EDWARDS:  Well, we‘ve got to change and we ought to change dramatically.  I mean, I have been saying that for a year or more, that we ought to have a significant drawdown of American presence there to send the signal that we are not going to be there forever and we‘re not there for oil.  The president of the United States needs to say that very directly, because the rest of the world does not believe it.  They don‘t believe it. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s saying the opposite.  He‘s talking about permanent bases over there.

J. EDWARDS:  That‘s right, and he‘s wrong about that.  We have to say the opposite, which is what the Baker Study Group said, we‘re not going to have permanent bases in Iraq and we‘ve got to start pulling our troops out. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got 140,000 people over there now.  How many would you withdraw fairly quickly?

J. EDWARDS:  Forty to fifty thousand.  

MATTHEWS:  And then what would be the rest of the deployment.  What would be the role? 

J. EDWARDS:  Then the responsibility is to do everything we can.  I do think the embedding is a good idea, to do as much as we can to get the Iraqis trained.  The danger, of course, is when you—the very reasons you just described—when you embed American soldiers into these Iraqi forces, they are extraordinarily at risk.  They‘re already at risk and that‘s going to increase the risk for them.

MATTHEWS:  Well, yes, but... 

J. EDWARDS:  But...

MATTHEWS:  ... what happens if we reduce our complement of troops, as you recommend, and we‘re in a weakened deployment over there and a bunch of these guys, these militias, the Shia militiamen, grab a couple of our guys because they‘re out there all alone in some God awful unit made up of militia people? 

They‘re grabbed, they‘re captive, they‘re torturing them, and you‘re president of the United States, what do you do then?  We can‘t protect our own troops if we let them scatter. 

MATTHEWS:  But all of this, Chris, is dependent on—anything we do militarily should be dependent on the Iraqis actually taking serious steps toward reconciliation. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you risk the life of an American soldier in some Iraqi unit, let him under some Iraqi officer out in the middle of nowhere where they can pull the guy out of the unit and torture him to death?

J. EDWARDS:  I would never put him under the control of an Iraqi officer.  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re talking about American soldiers embedded in units that are directed by American forces?

J. EDWARDS:  And we—we, as Baker said and the Study Group said in their report, we need to have people in these groups in order to be able to get them trained as best we can.  Now, having said all that, if we don‘t see substantial movement on the political front, we should not continue to support what‘s happening there.  

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the lesson over there?  Did we—did we—I know you have been very direct just saying it, you, among a lot of senators in both parties supporting this war was a mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

J. EDWARDS:  I said I was wrong.  I said I was wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  You said something very interesting in that article.  In the lead, you said there was a political agenda here.  It wasn‘t just WMD.  What was that?  What was the president up to here with going to war in Iraq?

J. EDWARDS:  It‘s impossible for me to know.  I think he had an agenda against Saddam Hussein from the moment he stepped into office. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it a daddy thing?

J. EDWARDS:  It could be.  I think—I can‘t get inside his mind, but it‘s possible.

MATTHEWS:  He never told us that.

J. EDWARDS:  No, of course he didn‘t tell us.  No, he said this was all about the war on terrorism, central to the war on terrorism.  He took a place that was not central to the war on terrorism and made it central to the war on terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a student of American life.  You‘re very in active in politics, very successful.  Do you think that it‘s scary that a president of the United States of limited ability was able to take this country and create a firestorm of almost messianic nuttiness about the fact of the French are no good, we‘re going to have freedom fries.  The Dixie Chicks are no good.  He created a national attitude of you have to be for me, or you‘re bad.  Did that scare you a little? 

J. EDWARDS:  I think the lesson is there‘s a depth, a maturity, an experience, the ability to exercise good judgment that‘s required of the president of the United States that ought to be on the forefront of any decision that a voter makes in 2008. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll come back and bet you on yourself, buddy, when we get back.

J. EDWARDS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the audience, how many people here believe that the United States would be better off, after all the interesting points made here, to just leave, get out of Iraq? 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  How many say we should keep a large deployment of troops over there through the next two years?

OK, we‘re going to come right back and talk to John Edwards, the senator from this state who wants to run for president, I‘m told, and is up against some very big people like Barack Obama—did I say that right—and Hillary Rodham Clinton, although now it‘s Hillary Clinton.  Anyway, we‘ll be back to talk about how he takes on the big boys.  He‘s doing number two in the polls right now.

You‘re watching the HARDBALL college tour live in Chapel Hill.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWD:  Thank you for playing HARDBALL at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Go Tarheels!            

(APPLAUSE)       

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to be back. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re at the college tour right now—I‘m back, I‘m healthy—at Chapel Hill, the southern part of heaven, and of course, the basketball team—not that this isn‘t one of the great academic in the world, but the basketball team is what number right now? 

CROWD:  One. 

MATTHEWS:  Jesus.

According to the Associated Press, it‘s number three, behind Pittsburgh and who else?  I can‘t... 

J. EDWARDS:  UCLA.

MATTHEWS:  UCLA, that‘s right.

Look, you were mentioning in the first block about the president and the fact that he‘s had a hard time, he‘s gotten stuck in Iraq.  And a lot of people believe—I‘m one of them—that he didn‘t prepare himself for the office well enough, he didn‘t have an instinct for foreign affairs, even a curiosity. 

So I‘m going to be a little tough with you right now.  OK?  You ready?

J. EDWARDS:  You mean, unlike usual?

MATTHEWS:  Unlike usual. 

When the president was running, George W. Bush, he didn‘t have any foreign affairs background and a Boston reporter named Mandy Heller (ph) asked him to name the head of government of four countries.  And they were somewhat obscure countries: South Korea, Chechnya, Pakistan—I forget the other one.  And he only got one right. 

And that‘s what I got right at the time, too because I was—I mean, guessing that the head of South Korea‘s name is Lee is probably a pretty good bet, which is like Smith in England, you know. 

So I‘m going to ask you some easy ones, I think.  But they may be hard.  And if you want to pass on them, you can do that. 

Who‘s the prime minister of Canada? 

J. EDWARDS:  The prime minister of Canada is Harper, I believe. 

MATTHEWS:  Very good. 

Who‘s the president of Mexico? 

J. EDWARDS:  He‘s the new president, he‘s Calderon. 

MATTHEWS:  Great.  Great.  And who is the...

J. EDWARDS:  This is not—this is ridiculous. 

But go ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.  It‘s not ridiculous.  Who‘s the president of South Africa? 

J. EDWARDS:  I don‘t know the answer to that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Who‘s the president of Iraq?  The president?

J. EDWARDS:  The president is Talabani, who I met before he became president, as a matter of fact.

MATTHEWS:  The president of South Africa is Thabo Mbeki.

J. EDWARDS:  There we go.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s see.  The chancellor of Germany?

J. EDWARDS:  The chancellor of Germany is—I just met with her—

Merkel.

MATTHEWS:  Who don‘t you know here?

J. EDWARDS:  Keep going. 

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try—really very obscure?  Italy. 

J. EDWARDS:  Italy is...

MATTHEWS:  Was Berlusconi.

J. EDWARDS:  ... Prodi—Pradi (ph).  I‘m not sure I can say it right.

MATTHEWS:  Is that right?

CROWD:  Yes.

J. EDWARDS:  They‘re going to say yes no matter what. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to go back in my box because Harper is pretty  obscure.  What‘s his first name?

J. EDWARDS:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Steven Harper. 

What party is he?

J. EDWARDS:  Don‘t know that, either.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s Tories, conservative.

What about Calderon?  You think he‘s—he‘s a conservative?

J. EDWARDS:  Calderon is a conservative. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... despite all this anti-American feeling in the world, and yet, it‘s not about ideology.  A lot of these countries are electing relatively conservative leaders, Germany, Canada... 

J. EDWARDS:  They‘re more conservative.

MATTHEWS:  ... Mexico.  And why do you think we‘re still hated around the world? 

J. EDWARDS:  Why do I think America‘s still hated?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  We are.

J. EDWARDS:  Because I think that over the last six years, the Bush administration has shown a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to lead.  I think to lead you have to have more than power.  You need power.

MATTHEWS:  right.

J. EDWARDS:  You need to be strong militarily, economically, et cetera.

But I think you also have to show that you have the moral authority to lead.  Countries have to naturally want to come to you.  In order for that to be true, you have to sometimes act in things that are outside your own strategic self-interest, things like the genocide in Sudan. 

MATTHEWS:  You—when President Bush ran for office, he said something that grabbed me.  He said, I think we need to be a little more humble in our foreign policy.  Do you think 9/11, as horrible as it was, screwed up our value system about humility in the world, whether we‘re the boss of the world? 

J. EDWARDS:  No.  I think George Bush screwed up our value system. 

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  You think—I was asking the audience earlier what‘s the biggest weakness—see, every presidential election seems to be about solving a current problem. 

J. EDWARDS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  With Ike he was the clean—he cleaned up after Truman. 

Kennedy was the young guy coming in.  Reagan‘s strength.

This time around, what is it—what is the ingredient people are looking for in the new leader that‘s missing clearly now to most people?

What‘s the key, missing factor that they‘re looking for in a president?

J. EDWARDS:  Optimism and the character and strength and vision for what the world and America needs from us. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s optimism?

J. EDWARDS:  I think optimism is a component of it.  I don‘t think it‘s the only thing.  I think depth and maturity, which I spoke about earlier, are also critical. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think...

J. EDWARDS:  I think it‘s really important—if I can say one last thing about this.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

J. EDWARDS:  I think it‘s very important for anybody who‘s considering running for president, instead of thinking about being a candidate to think about actually occupying the Oval Office, the difficult decisions that would need to be made, and how they would go about making those decisions and believing that they have the judgment to make them. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘ve got it?

J. EDWARDS:  That‘s something I‘m getting—that I‘m in the process of deciding right now.

MATTHEWS:  But a preliminary decision would...

J. EDWARDS:  Do I think I have the qualities to be president?  Yes, I do.  I think the question is—that‘s not the question, though.  The question for me personally, is whether this—is this the best place for me to serve?  Because I want to spend the rest of my life serving, and the question is, is the best place to do it?

MATTHEWS:  So you think there are a number of people that are qualified to be president? 

J. EDWARDS:  Qualified on paper, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And instinct and values? 

J. EDWARDS:  That remains to be seen.  I think it‘s not—I think you have to, particularly if you haven‘t been through this in a national campaign before, I think that there‘s some very good people who are considering running.  I personally think it would be good for us if they all ran so that we have as many good choices as we can have.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘ve been to the Super Bowl before, unlike Obama and unlike Hillary.  So you‘ve got that edge on them.

J. EDWARDS:  Well, I don‘t know if it‘s an edge.  But I think I understand.

MATTHEWS:  But you said running before gives you an advantage.

J. EDWARDS:  No, you said that, I didn‘t say that.  I said running before makes you focus on something different.  Instead of focusing on how crowds respond to you and what everybody seems to love you.  That‘s not the test for being president.  The test for being president is are you the best person to occupy the Oval Office and be the leader of the free world?  Because literally the future of the world is at stake here.  This is not about popularity and excitement.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know, the trouble is that some people say yes to that when they‘re wrong.

J. EDWARDS:  That‘s true.  But ultimately the candidates don‘t decide, the American people decide.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with John Edwards and the competition he‘s facing as he apparently runs for president.  Elizabeth Edwards is going to be here with the HARDBALL College Tour from Chapel Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. EDWARDS:  So you have problems with not enough food, with the HIV/AIDS, with not enough medicine?  Are there many orphans?  Why so many orphans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Rebel activities.

J. EDWARDS:  What happens with the orphans?  Who takes care of them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well.  We‘re back at Chapel Hill.  We have a student with a question for John Edwards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator, I wanted to know what message you think it sends to a child from a low-income home to see so many candidates spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their campaign?  Does he think he can run even though his family might not be in a high financial situation?

J. EDWARDS:  The answer to your question, is it sends exactly the wrong message and it‘s one of the reasons that we need to solve this problem, not the only reason.  We spend so much money on political campaigns and we raise money from lots of interest groups and a lot of people don‘t feel like they are participating in this democracy as a result.  I think the answer to this is to publicly finance our campaigns.

MATTHEWS:  Is McCain-Feingold a failure?

J. EDWARDS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  That‘s making news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, senator.  Two years ago, we heard about your idea of the two Americas and your ambition to bridge the two.  Today, Senator Barack Obama has the audacity to hope for a better American dream for its citizens.  Frankly, how is your vision of the American dream different from that of Barack Obama‘s?  What separates between you two?

J. EDWARDS:  Well, I don‘t know the extent to which our vision is different.  I don‘t know enough about what he Senator Obama is saying.  I think that when he talks about hope, hope is something that I myself talked about a great deal when I was running for president and for vice president, restoring hope.  Hope is on the way with was one of the phrases that I used.  So in terms of the substance of what he wants to do, I don‘t know whether he believes as I do that the most important responsibility of the next president is to restore America‘s leadership in the world, to address big moral issues in the world like global poverty, AIDS, genocide.  And what we need to do here at home.  I just honestly don‘t know enough about where he stands on those things, although I‘m sure if he runs for president, he‘ll tell us.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he has gotten too much hype, press hype?  I mean, the press went nuts over him up in New Hampshire this weekend.  Do you think that was overdone?

J. EDWARDS:  No, I think it‘s—listen, he‘s an exciting, charismatic guy and I think he would add something to the race if he decided to run for president.  And then the real test, as those of us who‘ve been through enough.

MATTHEWS:  How do you break into that interesting bout that they‘re developing between Hillary and—give us another question for the senator.  The slogan out there is “Don‘t tell mama, I‘m for Obama.” 

J. EDWARDS:  I thought you were going to let them ask questions.

MATTHEWS:  The reason is, I was waiting for the next person to get ready, senator.  But if you‘re going to get snippy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Senator Edwards.  If hypothetically you were to be running for president, what would you say to critics who think that you don‘t have enough governing experience on a national scale?

J. EDWARDS:  I would say that I should be tested on that.  I think that anybody who is considering voting for me ought to hear me talk about what I think needs done in America, what I think America needs to be doing in the world and they ought to listen to both the depth and the substance of what I‘m saying and decide whether they believe I have both the personal qualities and the vision, the substantive vision for America and the rest f the world, that the president of the United States needs.  If I run for president, I‘m prepared to be tested on that.

MATTHEWS:  Any thoughts on that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I was getting at more on was kind of the foreign policy aspect.  As a senator for two years, did you have enough experience in the foreign policy realm to kind of comfort the American people at a time where foreign policy is really at the forefront?

J. EDWARDS:  It‘s a really good question, an important question. 

I think that the answer is, first of all, I was in the Senate six years, not two years.  No, it‘s OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Communications major, sorry.

J. EDWARDS:  You know, some of the rest of us make mistakes like that, too.  I was there for six years and then subsequent to the presidential campaign in 2004, my time has been spent, a big chunk of it, has been doing work overseas.  The home audience just saw me traveling through Uganda, I‘ve been doing humanitarian work.  I spent time speaking in the Middle East, speaking in the Middle East, in India, in Asia, in Europe, speaking, meeting with leaders.  And I think that has been enormously valuable in terms of adding to the depth and maturity of my view about what‘s happening in the world.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll be right back with more questions for Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, possibly running for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The College Tour is here in Chapel Hill, the southern part of heaven.  I love this place.  I went to grad school here, but our special guest is Senator John Edwards. 

You live around here, right? 

J. EDWARDS:  I do, not far from here.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so great.  You know, I want to ask you about poverty in America and what strikes me, not just the real destitute cases, but the towns in America, the town like you grew up in.  You travel across the Midwest of the United States, you go through places like Spencerville, Ohio, Michigan City, Indiana and nothing is left but the Blockbuster and maybe a diner. 

J. EDWARDS:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re deindustrialized, nobody‘s got a job, the kids leave.  Is this Wal-Mart doing this?  Who‘s doing this?  There‘s no downtowns.  There‘s no gift shop.  All this stuff is now at Wal-Marts now.  Is—I know I‘m feeding you here, but I really want to know.  Are you ready to say that Wal-Mart has hurt America? 

J. EDWARDS:  I think the honest answer to that question—I know what

the best answer politically to say.  I think the honest answer is, it‘s complicated.  I think Wal-Mart does something good.  They provide low cost goods to people who badly need them.  That‘s a good thing.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

J. EDWARDS:  There are others like Costco who do the same thing and they pay their employees well and they give health care coverage.  I think what my concern is about Wal-Mart, and a lot of people‘s concern is, what they do to the kind of communities you are talking about; and secondly, that so many of their employees and their children are dependent on taxpayer money to get the health care that they need or to get any kind of peace in life. 

MATTHEWS:  How does that work?

J. EDWARDS:  Well, basically, they‘re dependent on Medicaid.

MATTHEWS:  So they impoverish themselves.

J. EDWARDS:  Almost have the children of Wal-Mart employees get their health care from Medicaid.  Taxpayers, the American people, are paying for that.  And they shouldn‘t be subsidizing—you know, there are some very well to do people who own a lot of Wal-Mart stock, the people who started Wal-Mart, and that‘s part of the American story.  There‘s nothing wrong with that, but they shouldn‘t be doing on the backs of taxpayers.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about the big—labor is big behind you, I hear.  You have got a lot of support among labor organizations, right?  You‘re solid with them? 

J. EDWARDS:  For what?

MATTHEWS:  For running for president.  Nevada, SEIU, Unite, you‘ve got a lot of support in labor, right? 

J. EDWARDS:  I‘ve done a lot of work with labor because what they are doing is trying to strengthen the middle class in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the prominent American.  Back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, when I grew up, you could quit high school or leave high school and get a job.  You could work at a Bud plant, a big aerospace plant, and you could make enough money to raise a middle class family.  You‘d have a car, a TV, you‘d have a vacation.  Your wife, if she didn‘t want to work, she didn‘t have to work.  It was a different world.

Now we can go to an emporia, emporiums, big stores like Wal-Mart, they have got everything.  They‘ve got all the khaki pants in different sizes.  They‘ve got every kind of style.  They got Nautica.  They got everything right, but the price we pay is there isn‘t a job for that guy coming out of high school.  And what about that tradeoff? 

Labor says let‘s go back so a guy comes out of high school with a pretty good technical ability and can himself or herself a job and work in industry.  Can we bring back American industry as labor says they want to do? 

J. EDWARDS:  We can grow and strengthen the middle class and one of the components of that is—I‘ll give you one example.  We have 50 million service economy workers, people who work in hotels and hospitals and home health care workers—those kind of workers, who if they are a member of a union, they earn middle class wages, they‘ve got pension protection, they have health care. 

If they don‘t, they, for the most part, earn close to the poverty level or below the poverty level.  So their right to organize is important.  There are probably going to be 10 million more of those jobs over the course of the next decade.

MATTHEWS:  Are you for the card check? 

J. EDWARDS:  I am for the card check.

MATTHEWS:  You think that‘s fair to be able to have four people from a labor union, big people come up to a little person and say you‘re going to vote for the union, aren‘t you?  You‘re going to vote for the union, aren‘t you? 

Today the law says you have to have a big meeting and everybody has to be there to vote for the union.  You‘re saying—the card check says all you need is 51 percent of the people to be individually talked into signing a card and you think that‘s OK. 

J. EDWARDS:  I think it‘s democracy.  I do.

MATTHEWS:  But not having an election?

J. EDWARDS:  It‘s democracy because what happens is the way the system has been loaded up is the employers bring in these union busters who are exerts at busting the union.  They sometimes violate the law.  The way the enforcement works is almost nonexistent.  Three or four years down the road there‘s a slap on the wrist. 

All I want is I want to see a level playing field.  If employees want to join a union, democratically they ought to be able to do that.  If they don‘t, they can choose not to.

MATTHEWS:  OK, the average person is working at the mill, they‘re working on the job and they‘re on the machine, and four guys come up to them, big guys, they go up and say sign this card, we want to start a union here.  And that little person goes I‘d rather not.  You‘d rather not?  Isn‘t that kind of intimidating for a person? 

J. EDWARDS:  But why would you assume it‘s the fellow employees who are going to intimidate...

MATTHEWS:  Because it‘s the outside labor organizations.

J. EDWARDS:  ... them instead of the guy who‘s writing their check?

MATTHEWS:  Because if they international union guys come in.  I‘m asking you a question.  Do you think that shows independence our your part, or the fact that you‘re in bed with labor.

J. EDWARDS:  I think it shows that I am a complete believer in workers having a voice and being able to collectively bargain.  I don‘t think we have a problem in America with big, multinational corporations being able to have their voice heard.  Their voice is heard loud and clear.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

Up next, we‘re going to be joined by another famous UNC grad, Elizabeth Edwards—she‘s sitting over here—and more questions from the audience as the HARDBALL College Tour continues in Chapel Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  No wonder the basketball team keeping winning.  Look at the cheerleaders for the Tarheels. 

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome to the HARDBALL college tour live from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of Senator John Edwards.  He‘s here with us right now.

And when he was a law student here at Chapel Hill, UNC Chapel Hill, he met another law student named Elizabeth Anania.  And they were married in 1977.

Let‘s have a Tarheels welcome for Elizabeth Edwards.                

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)    

MATTHEWS:  Hello.

You look Catholic.  You know that? 

E. EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  Well, that‘s the Italian, I think.

MATTHEWS:  I know, it‘s the Italian in you.

E. EDWARDS:  Anania.  And I brought you...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s this?

E. EDWARDS:  ...  a “Go ‘Heels” button. 

MATTHEWS:  “Go ‘Heels”.  Thank you.

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  And Elizabeth, being very academic, I want you to start off by explaining to the American people why the people of North Carolina, especially the old brigades, were named the Tarheels?  What it about?

E. EDWARDS:  Well, I mean, there‘s a lot—actually there‘s more than one story.  There‘s the story you told about the—about walking through the Great Dismal Swamp and getting tar on their feet.  There‘s others that they were fighting so hard and they wouldn‘t—they would not give up, so they stuck to the ground as if they had tar on their feet, which I like.  I like that determination.

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)    

MATTHEWS:  The second‘s much more of a build-up.  Not that you have to build-up to North Carolina.

So you‘re back here.  You‘re living here again, the state where you were elected to the Senate from.  And you‘ve written a book.  You put together this great book about a people‘s home.

And you‘ve been through so much. 

E. EDWARDS:  We‘ve been through a lot. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re amazing.  And you were diagnosed with breast cancer right at the end of the last campaign.  But here you go.  You‘re smiling.

E. EDWARDS:  And you‘ve been through a lot and you‘re smiling too. 

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m just introducing this.  This is easy. 

This is easy.  I‘m just introducing the act.

So you want him to run for president? 

E. EDWARDS:  He gets my vote if he does.  I mean, he‘s...

CROWD:  (LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s like the union checkoff, you know, just sign the card and that means...

E. EDWARDS:  That‘s right.  He got me alone, arguing to me, yes.

J. EDWARDS:  Only a recent development, by the way. 

MATTHEWS:  A recent development.

What do you think—what—did you learn anything running for president or is it just a big rush? 

J. EDWARDS:  Me?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

J. EDWARDS:  I learned a lot. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, when you go around and shake ten thousand hands and smile ten million times, do your cheeks hurt?  Do you mentally from that?

J. EDWARDS:  No.  I think what you gain from the experience is a better understanding about what really matters.  It‘s not—you know, the first time I ran for president I spent an awful lot—this is the truth—an awful lot of time worrying about how good a candidate I was, was I making a good speech or was I—it‘s just not what about I think about these days. 

I think that anybody who‘s seriously thinking—my advice to anyone who‘s considering running—ought to be thinking about the job they want to do as president. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you enjoy running for V.P.? 

I don‘t think you did.

J. EDWARDS:  No.  No.  No, I wasn‘t crazy about it.

MATTHEWS:  Is there something about the phrase “vice president” that doesn‘t turn you on? 

J. EDWARDS:  No.  There‘s something about not being able just freely say exactly what you think. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you on a short leash? 

J. EDWARDS:  Anybody is, running for vice president.  Your job, basically, is to advocate for the presidential candidate.  People vote for presidential candidates...

MATTHEWS:  Were you well used by John Kerry?

J. EDWARDS:  I‘ll ask—I‘m not—I‘ll let you guys talk about that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to fight here.

What did you think of hi joke about—if you flunk out of school, you don‘t do too well, you‘re not too smart, you get us stuck in Iraq.  And it got turned around.

What did you make of that? 

J. EDWARDS:  I think he just made a mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  What was he saying?

J. EDWARDS:  I think he was trying to say, you better stay...

E. EDWARDS:  Don‘t go there.        

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)    

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Come on. 

J. EDWARDS:  ... not the first time. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll  tell you one thing.  I could tell there was a fight coming because Hillary dumped on him, McCain dumped on him, nobody cut him an inch.  He just screwed up a joke.  He‘s not a comedian, OK?

J. EDWARDS:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s just not a comedian.

J. EDWARDS:  Too big a deal was made of it. 

E. EDWARDS:  There are not that many politicians who are actually very good at jokes.  John spoke one time and I said I wouldn‘t even go because it was—he was supposed to be funny and I didn‘t think he could carry it off. 

CROWD:  (LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  You‘re great.  Behind every great man, there‘s a woman trying to kill him. 

CROWD:  (LAUGHTER)

E. EDWARDS:  He has great characteristics. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it?  Does she do this?  Does she bust your balls like this when you come home?  When you get (INAUDIBLE), does she do that?

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

E. EDWARDS:  My children are watching this. 

CROWD:  (LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s this with the equal marriages?  Why do people marry their equals?  It used to be different?  What happened to the Stepford wives, the good old days?  What happened?

CROWD:  (BOOING)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, how P.C.  How—why don‘t you hiss?

Oh, thank you.  Finally, the freaking hiss.  I needed it.  It was the hiss.  I needed that.

E. EDWARDS:  You know have to know how smart his wife is in order to...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  This is...

J. EDWARDS:  He immediately got...

MATTHEWS:  ... because you know—because Senator—Senator—

Senator Edwards was really—I thought I‘d try to get him at an angle here.  He said that, having ran, it‘s like the Super Bowl, they usually win, the team that‘s been there before, or the Final Four, in the case of the UNC, which is always in the Final Four.  

CROWD:  (APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve been there before.  You have an edge over Mrs.

Obama.  Do you have an edge, Mr. Clinton, the first spouse?  Do you have an edge over these guys?  I‘m mean, you‘ve been there as a candidate‘s wife, you‘ve been there as a candidate. 

Can you roll into New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Iowa with some edge? 

E. EDWARDS:  What I have in those places is not an edge.  I think that there are, among the potential spouses this time, I mean, these are fabulous people with enormous skills.  I have a lot of friends.  I mean, I don‘t go in and... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they won‘t be friends. 

E. EDWARDS:  I beg your pardon? 

MATTHEWS:  Once the campaign gets going. 

E. EDWARDS:  No.  No, I mean—actually, I had a good relationship, I think, through most of the campaign with the other spouses.  But no, I mean, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, in Nevada, in those—

I have a lot of friends in those.  If John decides to do this, I‘m going—

I won‘t be walking into a room full of strangers. 

MATTHEWS:  Has Hillary ever called you back after you said you had made happier choices than she has and you have a more joyous life than she does because of the choices she made?  Meaning, she let Bill mess around? 

E. EDWARDS:  Is that what I meant?

No...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that what you meant?

E. EDWARDS:  That was completely taken out of context. 

MATTHEWS:  What was the context?

E. EDWARDS:  I had said that the choices I had made—I worked as a lawyer for 17 years, and now I get a lot of intellectual simulation from the conversations about policy that I got from work before, I know get from conversations.... 

MATTHEWS:  But he has not caused any trouble. 

E. EDWARDS:  No, he hasn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  So what did you mean when you said—what did you mean by Hillary having made bad choices? 

E. EDWARDS:  I wasn‘t.  I was talking about my choices making me happier. 

MATTHEWS:  So I‘m been unfair? 

E. EDWARDS:  Well, and unfair to both of us, honestly. 

MATTHEWS:  Because that wasn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

E. EDWARDS:  I have nothing bad to say about her. 

MATTHEWS:  On reflection.  Do you think—do you think... 

J. EDWARDS:  It is HARDBALL, remember. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

E. EDWARDS:  I want to point out that although we love the men‘s Tarheels, the women‘s Tarheels are also No. 2 in the country in basketball. 

(APPLAUSE)

E. EDWARDS:  And the women‘s soccer team just won the national championship.  The women‘s soccer team won the national...

MATTHEWS:  And Mia Hamm is from here.

E. EDWARDS:  Yes, she is.

J. EDWARDS:  Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Mia Hamm is from here.

Look, you‘ve held up the cause of women‘s opportunity and equality. 

So why don‘t you run for president? 

(APPLAUSE)

E. EDWARDS:  I was president of my junior class in high school. 

People do nothing but complain to you.  I‘m through.  

MATTHEWS:  You‘re too nice.  I can‘t play HARDBALL with you.

We‘ll be right back with Elizabeth and John Edwards, John and Elizabeth from Memorial Hall of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with Senator John and Elizabeth Edwards here in North Carolina, at the University of North Carolina. 

Senator, you just got back from Uganda.  What was that like? 

J. EDWARDS:  It‘s a terrible tragedy, a humanitarian crisis that the world is not paying any attention to.  I went there with the International Rescue Committee.  There has been a civil war going on for about 20 years now, and there are over a million displaced people in northern Uganda, been herded into camps, terrible living conditions.  Children are being abducted by the rebel army, turned into soldiers and sex slaves, and this is a place where America can make a real difference if we got involved. 

MATTHEWS:  I was just thinking of the movie I saw on Franklin (ph)

Street here last night, “Blood Diamond.”

J. EDWARDS:  It‘s heart breaking.  Uganda, the genocide in Darfur, there are so many places that America could make such a difference.  And I think in a process restore the way the world should look at it. 

MATTHEWS:  How do we go in, militarily or any other way, without shooting people and having them hate us for having come in, like we did back with—when we got involved in Mogadishu?

J. EDWARDS:  We don‘t need to.  For example, in Darfur, which is the place that has been most discussed, probably putting American troops on the ground would be damaging.  But right now, there are about 7,000 African Union troops that are completely incapable of creating stability.  So we have got to get another force on the ground.  We just have to carefully select where that force comes from. 

MATTHEWS:  Will they accept white people from outside getting involved?  Seriously?

J. EDWARDS:  That‘s the issue.  It would be a real problem probably. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about something very personal here.  You lost a son, Wade.

E. EDWARDS:  We did.

MATTHEWS:  And there is a memorial to him.  Catherine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE. EDWARDS:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  Stand up, tell us about that out there.  She is sitting on a chair that‘s...

E. EDWARDS:  They redid this beautiful auditorium, Memorial Auditorium, and asked alumni if they wanted to contribute.  And Wade, who died at 16, loved the University of North Carolina, and so we thought one thing we wanted to do was contribute to the refurbishment of this hall, in which we graduated from law school, and also leave a chair in his name.  And so Catherine is sitting in Wade‘s chair. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you have—I remember my family, we lost a kid, a young kid, what do you tell a mother who loses a son? 

E. EDWARDS:  Each day, you get more used to the loss, but you can‘t—you can‘t reassure them that it is going to be better, some day where all of a sudden you‘re going to be back to the person you were, because of course you won‘t.  But you know, the things you do, like memorializing them in places that they loved, is therapeutic. 

I mean, when I think of Catherine sitting in that chair, it makes me happy.  It makes me sad that he‘s not here, but that makes me happy, because he has a permanent place. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, how much has the loss of Wade given you a kind of moral—I don‘t mean messianic like President Bush, OK?  I‘m not saying something strange here.  But how much of it drives you to try to be a bigger success, a bigger person? 

J. EDWARDS:  I think that like anybody, it‘s not like we are special.  Other people who have lost children, it makes you think about what you are doing and makes you probably more interested in serving than you might have been before, but I don‘t think we‘re the exception in that regard.  I think most people are like that. 

MATTHEWS:  They want to make life count for more.

J. EDWARDS:  They want to feel like they‘ve done something important.  I mean, when I die, I want to feel like Wade‘s death and his life helped me realize this.  I want to feel like I‘ve done everything I can to serve, whatever that turns out to be.  

MATTHEWS:  I sympathize so much with you, Senator.  Thank you. 

J. EDWARDS:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Elizabeth, you are great. 

E. EDWARDS:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re always great.  Thank you very much.  John and Elizabeth, great people. 

A special thank you, by the way, to (inaudible) and all the fine people here at Memorial Hall at Chapel Hill.  It‘s great to be back in the southern part of heaven. 

Tomorrow, join us at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  And next week, another HARDBALL college tour, from George Mason University in Washington, right near Washington—somebody said—OK, they are good at basketball.  Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, talking spies, the CIA and their new movie, “The Good Shepherd.”  I‘m going to be here with the man, remember “Meet the Parents?”  I‘m going to grill him.  Anyway, goodbye from the University of North Carolina.

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

END   

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