updated 12/19/2006 12:55:11 PM ET 2006-12-19T17:55:11

Guests: Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Milton Bearden

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to the HARDBALL college tour.  Tonight from George Mason University in Virginia with two of Hollywood‘s biggest stars.  They‘re going to talk spies, patriotism and politics and their new movie, “The Good Shepherd,” which hits theaters this Friday.  Please welcome the director of the movie Robert DeNiro.

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  And in the lead role in “The Good Shepherd,” Matt Damon.

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  You know, some newspaper reporter just said these college tours are part pep rally, right, part show business and part political program.

But thank you.  I know you don‘t do a whole lot of this, Bob.  It‘s so great to have you on.  And Matt, it‘s so great.  I want to ask you, you know.  When I think of the CIA, I think of you.  I think of you in “Meet the Parents” ...

ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR:  Yeah.

MATTHEWS:  Where the kid goes to meet his girlfriend‘s parents and he meets a CIA agent as his father in law to be and you take him into the back basement somewhere—what is it about you and the CIA?  You seem to want to be one of these torturer scary guys.

DENIRO:  It was just - that‘s the character that we came up with when we were talking - Jay Roach, the director and Ben Stiller and I one day where I think I had the idea of why not be a CIA guy and then the lie detector thing was another thing that I thought of.

MATTHEWS:  So why didn‘t you water board Ben Stiller?  Why didn‘t you go all the way with this guy?

DENIRO:  Maybe in the third installment, who knows?

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve spent, I heard, a number of years trying to get this movie done.  That‘s good.  What is it about the beginning of the CIA and its whole history that fascinates you?  Should fascinate the audience.

DENIRO:  I mean, I‘m a child of the Cold War, East versus West, KGB, CIA, all that stuff is intriguing and fascinating stuff, spy stuff and it‘s scary, too and it‘s a great subject.  It‘s intriguing and it‘s a great subject.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the CIA?

DENIRO:  I think they are hardworking people, very smart.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re right near here, by the way.

DENIRO:  Yeah, that‘s what I heard.

And dedicated and trying to do the right thing.

MATTHEWS:  But?

DENIRO:  Well, we have other things.  We all know what they are and I hope that they‘ll be fixed.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is the CIA - are they too ruthless, are they too incompetent?  What would you say there problem is right now?  Are they too good or not good enough?

DENIRO:  I don‘t know.  Maybe you would ask (inaudible), so I‘m not sure what they feel about what they can improve on, so on, other than what we know.  I‘m not sure.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about it as an actor.

DENIRO:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  You act.

DENIRO:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You‘re the best maybe.  Isn‘t he the best?  I think he‘s the best.

And he - agents and anybody here whose parents are CIA agents and there‘s probably a few spooking around in here we don‘t know about, nobody ever tells you your parents are in the CIA, that you have to lead a life that is 100 percent, 24-7 acting, at the risk of your life.

DENIRO:  Yeah.  I would say yeah, in certain circumstances I would say  for real.

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to do that?

DENIRO:  I don‘t think so.

MATTHEWS:  You‘d rather risk the critics.

DENIRO:  Right, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you Matt about - you know your character in this movie.  I just saw it last night.  I just got a DVD of it.  You are so much the guy who joins the CIA during the Civil - during the Second World War.  You want to serve your country, but who is this guy who wants to be a CIA agent?  Who are you?

MATT DAMON, ACTOR:  Well, the character is like I think a lot of the

people of that that time, was kind of picked out of Skull and Bones at Yale

MATTHEWS:  Elite guys.  Like you.

DAMON:  Yeah.

MATTHEWS:  Harvard, Yale.  You‘re one of those elite guys.

DAMON:  Well, yeah.  Every once in a while we have to slum and play someone from Yale.  But - I had to say it.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s his motivation?  Why does he want to go risk his life, give up his - because the character, you are married to Angelina Jolie and you‘ve got no time for her which is kind of hard to believe.

DAMON:  That was actually the biggest problem I had with the script.

MATTHEWS:  Well, to use an old expression, you knocked her up, you had to get married and that was your reason to get married.  You didn‘t really want to marry Angelina Jolie.

DAMON:  Right.  Right.  In the - yeah.

In the movie, I am already - there is another girl that I am courting and really care about and so the Angelina thing kind of happens out of nowhere.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that was interesting casting to take Angelina Jolie as sort of a Stepford wife, unhappy wife in the ‘50s.  It‘s an amazing decision.

DENIRO:  Well, we talked about it for - got together a couple of times and she really, I could see, had some feeling about it.  And I knew that she would do something special with it and I had seen her in some other things that I liked.  I thought it would be great to have her and I was very happy.  I was more than happy.  She did a great job.

MATTHEWS:  Is that like when they have Charlize Theron who plays like the ugly killer and Grace Kelly played the wife of the drunk in country girl?

DENIRO:  Well, maybe.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the movie.  Everybody here has seen it, by the way.  Let‘s take a look at it at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENIRO:  So I‘ve been telling the president that we need to create a new foreign intelligence service.  One that would do in peace time what OSS did during the war.  Philip Pound (ph) will be heading the agency.  Richard Angel (ph) will be his exec and you will be taking Division C, special operations that report only to the director.  You would be limited to overseas, obviously, subversive operations, intelligence gathering and analysis and I would be interested in your thoughts about this, particularly in your area of expertise, counterintelligence.

DAMON:  I‘ll be glad to help in any way I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I‘d be glad to help.  So many times in the movie you‘re like that.  The girl says, “Would you like to stay and have sex with her another night,” the Nazi spy, and you go, “If you‘d like me to.”

I mean so much of your character keeps saying, if you want me to I‘ll take my clothes off - What is this guy about, this CIA spy?

DAMON:  I never thought of him that way.  No, I think he very much believes in what he is doing and he - the family life, that‘s the sacrifice that he makes, basically that a lot of people make.

And when we met with family members of these people who were from the set, who were from the founders of CIA and who were there at the beginning, they were very nice.  They shared some recollections and it was clear that it was a sacrifice made by the entire family. 

They had not had a lot of time with their fathers who were off doing this and not telling them and - it‘s hard to have intimacy in a family when you don‘t know about the person and they‘re not sharing it with you, they‘re not telling you, so ...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the personal piece and then there is the fact that you‘re taking on - I think the movie is tough on the CIA, OK.  I think it shows the patriotism of this guy, but it‘s your character.  But it‘s so tough on the institution.  They are ruthless.  They knock off - the nice people in the movie are getting killed all the time and they‘re doing it like that.

They just OK, well your guy says OK, we‘ve got to do it, we‘ve got to kill this person, we‘ve got to kill that person.  It‘s like a mob movie.

DENIRO:  Well, I mean, there is a certain - the secrecy in a mob movie like “The Godfather.”  There is of course an obvious similarity.  I was concerned that I didn‘t want to make it like a shoot ‘em up type thing.  People get killed just to - I wanted to give it some kind of credibility at least.  There is one shooting but the other killings which are only three, I think, the other two are done a little more...

MATTHEWS:  ... But they are so personal.  You really get to know these people and like them.  The old professor, the Nazi spy.  You really like these people and you guys eliminate them right in front of you.

DENIRO:  Well, you know, life goes on.

MATTHEWS:  No, it doesn‘t.  What do you think is - you think you‘re going to get a hit from the CIA on this?

DENIRO:  I don‘t think so.  As an actor you always look at the motivation of the character from their point of view why they‘re doing it.  They don‘t think of themselves as doing anything other than what they believe they should do and the same as a director.  I do that with all the characters ...

MATTHEWS:  But do you think they‘re going to just take this hit, the CIA, and just live with it?

DENIRO:  I think in fact it might be good.  It‘s just sort of - people are opening up the CIA and I think it helps for relations with the people of America.  It‘s not a bad thing.

MATTHEWS:  Is it a recruiting poster for the CIA?

DENIRO:  Well, you never know ...

MATTHEWS:  Which one is it?

DAMON:  Is it bad or is it a recruiting poster?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m here to provoke interesting answers.  I don‘t have an answer.  No, I think the movie is a great movie, but it‘s tough.  It‘s HARDBALL.  And that‘s a good thing.

You‘re great.  You‘re talking much more than I thought you would.

DENIRO:  Well, it‘s easy to talk to you and everybody here in the studio.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we need a CIA?

DENIRO:  I think ultimately we do, yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be right back.  We‘re very near the CIA here. 

We‘re very near Langley here with Robert DeNiro if they want to come get him and Matt Damon stars in the new CIA thriller “The Good Shepherd” as the HARDBALL college tour continues at George Mason University.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Margaret tells us that you work in the CIA.

DAMON:  My wife has a vivid imagination.  I‘m a trade adviser.  Civil servant.

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS:  How dare you ...

DAMON:  ... You are never to tell anybody what I do.

JOLIE:  How dare you?

DAMON:  You are never to tell anyone what it is that I do ...

JOLIE:  Those people are my friends.  I don‘t have a lot of friends.

DAMON:  Never.  Do you understand me?  Never.

JOLIE:  What you do?  What you do?  I don‘t know what you do.  You leave at 5:00, you‘re home at 10:00 seven days a week.  You don‘t say a damn word to me.  I live with a ghost.  I don‘t know what you do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the HARDBALL college tour tonight from George Mason University.  Joining us again is Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon, stars of the new movie about the CIA, “The Good Shepherd.”

Also joining us is a real CIA veteran, Milton Bearden, who was station chief with the CIA in Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan and Germany and he was a technical consultant.  Thank you for joining us.

That scene with Matt, his wife getting ticked off at him because she dropped his cover.  Is that a scene that you‘re familiar with in life?

MILTON BEARDEN, FORMER CIA STATION CHIEF:  I‘ve answered this question before.  I usually say you really need to contact my ex-wife on that.

MATTHEWS:  Did you expect - when you guys like - well, Matt, your character has to walk around his whole life.  His kid doesn‘t know what he does.  His wife is not supposed to know.  And all of his relatives think he is some dorky international business guy.  Meanwhile, he is fighting the reds every hour of his life.

DENIRO:  Dry goods.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that like?

DAMON:  I imagine it‘s pretty difficult.  I mean, from the people we talk to, it‘s a big sacrifice these people make.

MATTHEWS:  And when these guys come home at night, they don‘t get any medals.  The country doesn‘t give them a cheering section.  There is no pom-pom girls waving for them.  They risk their lives every day and they get what for it?  What was the motivation for you all those years?

BEARDEN:  I came in in 1964 to the CIA, and when it was a fairly easy thing to move in - Kennedy had put out a call to America‘s young people.  To campuses all over the place and we went off, went off to do a thing that I think we understood and that was probably enough rather than to come home and get a pat on the back or a medal. 

You take this character Anya (ph), a pampered, beautiful daughter of a senator and then she ends up married to some guy who is in dry goods at the trade department.  What is that?  Sure it‘s tough.

MATTHEWS:  And then we got the CIA today that did interesting things like create the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, which became the fighters of the Soviet occupation and then became al Qaeda.

BEARDEN:  No, come on.  Americans learn their history from the football coach around here?  What is that?

MATTHEWS:  You want to get ...

BEARDEN:  The Soviets created ...

MATTHEWS:  You want to get like this?

BEARDEN:  You want to get like this?

MATTHEWS:  You are like this now.  Let‘s go.

BEARDEN:  OK.  Let‘s go.  The Soviets probably by invading the country, killing a million and a half people, wounding a million and a half, driving 5 million into exile might have had a little something to do with creating the people who rose up against them.  Jimmy Carter ...

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t you give them Stingers and everything and arm them?

BEARDEN:  You bet we did.

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t we bring in the Arabs from all over the Arab world into Afghanistan to help build them up?

BEARDEN:  No, absolutely - let me make you a promise right here, right now.  You go find one single Arab that we brought in from the Arab world, trained and recruited and I will sit down on the show with you and about five minutes we‘ll be asking him to get out of here.  Didn‘t happen.

MATTHEWS:  So ...

BEARDEN:  That story for the media has always been just too good to check.

MATTHEWS:  So the CIA did not play a role in throwing the Soviets out of Afghanistan?

BEARDEN:  You bet we did and it was the right thing to do.

MATTHEWS:  Help me.

BEARDEN:  Help you what?

MATTHEWS:  What did we do?

BEARDEN:  We armed the Afghan people to resist the Soviet invasion. 

End of story.

MATTHEWS:  And where did the people that came out of that became the al Qaeda crowd come out of it?

BEARDEN:  The al Qaeda crowd came to a failed state which the United States of America, in all honesty, created by just walking away.

MATTHEWS:  So?

BEARDEN:  You go ahead in February 1989 you drive the Soviets out of Pakistan.  Great up to that point.  Within a few months the Austrians and the Hungarians had opened the border and the whole world was collapsing in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

We walked away from Afghanistan and let the state fail.

MATTHEWS:  And then al Qaeda came up and ...

BEARDEN:  And then al Qaeda came up.

MATTHEWS:  ... the Taliban, they grew out of it.

BEARDEN:  Well, the chaos came and the Taliban came to put some order to it.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m looking for—what‘s called blowback, right?

BEARDEN:  Everybody likes blowback.

MATTHEWS:  I love blowback.  It‘s what happens with the unintended consequences of covert operations.

BEARDEN:  No, it‘s what happens with the unintended consequences of every major policy thing you do.  Arming Stalin to fight the acute evil, the Third Reich, was a very good idea but it kept them going for another 30 years.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to talk more about this controversial issue of the CIA.  It gets more controversial as we argue here with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon and Milton Bearden, plus more questions now from the audience from the HARDBALL college tour, George Mason University, back on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have to get anyone that can be used out in Berlin before they do.  Churchill was right.  They shouldn‘t have stopped marching until we reached Moscow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at George Mason University with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon and Milton Bearden.  Let me go to the first question.  Ask anybody a question.

QUESTION:  Hi, my name‘s Joanna Mansfield (ph).  I‘m from Centreville.  I was wondering if you have any advice for students who‘d like to work for the CIA and how you helped them with the CIA‘s scenes in the movie.

DENIRO:  You asking?

QUESTION:  Anyone.

DENIRO:  What was the first part of the question?

QUESTION:  If you have any advice for students who would like to work for the CIA, if we want to be recruited.

DENIRO:  Well, you should ask Milt.

BEARDEN:  I think it‘s—I think it would be a terrific career for you, and I think it‘s a place where young women have every chance to succeed, as much as a young man does.

I think you have to understand that there were probably four distinct CIAs in the last 60 years.  We‘re showing you one here.  A couple more.  I spent 30 years through pieces of them.

There will always be a need for very bright young people like yourself to go do things for their country.

MATTHEWS:  Next question.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi, my name is Minh Cho (ph) from Springfield, Virginia.  I was just wondering is it difficult going from dramatic movies to comedic and directing?  And which one do you prefer?

DENIRO:  I don‘t mind the comedies.  They‘re fun to do.  They‘re fun.  I enjoy them.  I can kind of do crazy things and maybe they‘ll work, maybe they‘ll not, but at least, you know—I enjoy them.

QUESTION:  Hans Mier (ph) from Sterling, Virginia.  My question is to all three of you.  While preparing to shoot some very intense scenes in the movie, I was curious to know if the torture scene, in particular, made you think about the methods being used currently in Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. has been holding detainees since 9/11, and if you feel the ends justify the means in getting what is supposedly best for the safety of the U.S. citizens and the rest of the people around the world.

MATTHEWS:  Waterboarding, is that what it was, Matt?  You were watching in that movie?

DAMON:  Yes, basically.

MATTHEWS:  They had a guy with a hood over him.  They kept pouring water on him—I‘d never seen this before—making it look like—feel like he‘s drowning.  It was a horrible scene.

BEARDEN:  Yes.  Powerful, powerful.

MATTHEWS:  Is that what we do?

BEARDEN:  We all know we‘re doing it now.  I think it‘s an issue.  I think—I think there‘s sort of metaphorical stuff that you need to work with in a movie, but...

MATTHEWS:  How often does that fail and just kills the guy?

BEARDEN:  I think that—I think that it fails and destroys the people who are doing it about as it does the people that it‘s being done to.  I think that America needs to say, “How much do I want to give up of what this country has been—become over the next—last 230 years, peace at any price or make me safe.”

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BEARDEN:  How much do I want to give up?  And that‘s the question that you‘re going to have to fathom.

MATTHEWS:  Robert DeNiro, when you—when you directed that scene, that horrible scene in that movie, maybe the toughest scene to watch, where you see a bunch of guys dressed up like us, you know, dressed up, well-educated, elitist, Ivy Leaguers.  And they‘re up there just watching this Russian guy, who is—looks to me authentically trying to defect, treating him like dirt, like an animal, torturing him, intellectually and physically.  What was that about?

DENIRO:  Well, I thought that this would get the point across.  It was very powerful and we had—I had done some research.  Part of it was from Abu Ghraib, obviously.  I‘d seen those images.  And the other part was just what we thought would make a point at that point in that scene.  That was it.

MATTHEWS:  What did you feel, doing that?

DAMON:  Watching it or...

MATTHEWS:  Doing it.  You‘re an actor.  You‘re playing this guy who‘s just taking it.  He‘s watching another guy, another professional, being tortured like that.  He was obviously trying to tell the truth.  And yet, you didn‘t want the truth.

DAMON:  From the perspective of the character, though, from the perspective of the character, everything that I do makes sense to me, which is why I think it was a well-written movie.  I understand why I‘m doing that in that situation.  I believe what‘s at stake, if I don‘t understand exactly what this person‘s intentions are, is worth the price of doing that, to my character.  Not this—I mean, to my character.

MATTHEWS:  Ends justifies the means?

DAMON:  No.  To him in that situation, his behavior is justified. 

Everything the character does in the movie is justified, to him.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back and talk about that.  That is fascinating.

Milton Bearden, thank you very much, sir.  We fight here, and you won.  Thank you, Robert DeNiro is going to stay with us, Matt Damon is going to stay with us as the HARDBALL college tour continues from George Mason University.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE PESCI, ACTOR:  These are the guys that scare me.  You‘re the people that make big wars.

DAMON:  No, we make sure the wars are small ones, Mr. Palmi.

PESCI:  Let me ask you something.  We Italians, we‘ve got our families and we‘ve got the church.  The Irish have the homeland.  The Jews, their tradition.  What about you people, Mr. Carlson (ph)?  What do you have?

DAMON:  The United States of America.  The rest of you are just visiting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon.  Let‘s take another question.

QUESTION:  Hi, my name is Danielle.  I‘m from Hampton, Virginia.  My question can be answered by either Mr. DeNiro or Mr. Damon.  What was the exact purpose for Joe Pesci‘s part in the movie?

DENIRO:  Oh, well...

QUESTION:  Or can you elaborate more on his part?

DENIRO:  Well, that scene I‘ve always loved, and could you not have that scene?  Yes.  I wanted that scene because I loved the scene and to get Joe in it was—I couldn‘t imagine anybody else doing it.  And the scene itself and what goes on between Matt and Joe‘s—their respective characters, where he says “And what do you people have?” after he says I have this, the Italians have this, the Jews have this, blah, blah, blah, he says, “And so what do you have?”  And then he says, “the United States of America.  The rest of you are just visiting.”  I mean, that‘s the essence of the movie in a certain way. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like acting with this guy?  Under his direction?

DAMON:  What‘s it like?  That was the, basically the main reason for me to do it was the chance to work that closely with him on a movie that he was that passionate about.  It‘s basically the best safety net in history, as an actor is having him watch over your performance. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve done this now twice.  You‘re taking on the CIA.  You took on the political establishment with “Wag the Dog.”  You basically said the political establishment was all a bunch of fraud and charlatans and they start war to cover up for some president messing around with a kid, right?  And now you‘re taking on the CIA.  You‘re pretty ballsy.

DENIRO:  No, I mean, I didn‘t direct “Wag the Dog.”

MATTHEWS:  No, Levinson did, but you were behind it though, weren‘t you?

DENIRO:  Well, Jane Rosenthal and myself and Barry Levinson kicked it off and started it, yes.

MATTHEWS:  So you basically said a president of the United States, someone like Clinton, would start a war because he had an affair—or whatever you want to call the little thing—with his intern and it turns out that we—right after the movie comes out, not only do we have a president with a messing around with his intern problem, but she‘s wearing a damn beret just like in the movie.  How did you know to put a beret on Monica Lewinsky before Bill Clinton ever met her.  How did you know that?

DENIRO:  That‘s—yes, you know, that‘s David Mamet.  That‘s why he‘s a great playwright.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a prophet.

DENIRO:  He has great writing.  He‘s a prophet too.

MATTHEWS:  What did you think when you saw that not only did you get it right, that it—not that Bill Clinton started a war, but he was accused of doing that thing, you know, in Sudan or somewhere about blowing up the truck that...

DAMON:  The aspirin factory.

MATTHEWS:  ... the aspirin factory, but that you actually predicted a presidential embarrassment that led to a—like it or not an impeachment is what happened, and you had it so prophetic?

DENIRO:  Listen, that was Barry Levinson, David Mamet, thinking and doing an as if and somehow it just did get.

MATTHEWS:  But you played this incredible Gonzo political consultant who could do anything, who could turn reality into unreality, and the other way around, who could make things seem like something is going on in the world when it‘s not.

DAMON:  Yes.  And that seems to have come to passage, right?

MATTHEWS:  How so?

DAMON:  Well, I mean, look at the war we‘re in right now.  You know, you could certainly argue that that was a PR battle.  Yes, what do you think?  I mean really, what do you, you know?

MATTHEWS:  Does this audience agree with him?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  That was about a B+, by the way.

DAMON:  There‘s no other reason to rush that fast to war unless you know, you don‘t have it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the war was fought because the region—was it about WMD?  Was it about Mideast politics?  Was it about ideology?

DAMON:  It kept changing when their excuses would change.  They‘d go, wait, actually they don‘t have any of that stuff.  They‘d go, oh, oh, well then it‘s actually about democracy.  Well democracy is not going to work.  We‘re just going to settle for—as long as it‘s secure.  I mean, it just keeps changing.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think guys like Cheney—I love to pronounce his name correctly, by the way.  Do you think guys like—it‘s like a Dickensian name, Cheney.  Do you think he knew he was saying stuff that wouldn‘t turn out to be true, or was he just mad dogged to fight the war?

DAMON:  I‘d like to see him under oath.

MATTHEWS:  I would, too.  I‘d like to see him with you.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if you waterboarded Cheney, like in the movie, that you‘d get a different truth out of him?

DAMON:  Well, there‘s two answers to that question.  One is he doesn‘t strike me as the kind of person who has any real personal courage.  When it was his turn to go, he didn‘t go.  He deferred six times.

MATTHEWS:  He said he had other priorities.

DAMON:  Yes, he had other priorities.  And he doesn‘t seem to have other priorities about sending other kids there and other peoples kids.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back...

DAMON:  ... The second part to the answer is that I believe that if you waterboard anybody, they‘ll tell you anything and that torture is completely impractical, on top of being dishonorable.  It‘s completely impractical because you can—I mean, if you torture a normal person, if you torture anybody, they‘re going to tell you whatever you want them to tell you.  So if you‘re getting information that you‘re going to then use and you get it by torturing them...

MATTHEWS:  ... Why is man at his worst throughout history used it then if it doesn‘t work?  Why has it always been part of—going to the Middle Ages, back to ancient times.  People were so cruel to each other, they get what they want out of them.  Why do they do it if it doesn‘t work?

DAMON:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t do it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  God, you‘re an innocent man.  But you—I want to talk more.  We‘ve got to talk more about the CIA, because I still am—every time I look at this guy, I think of him as the father in “Meet the Parents.”  Anyway, more HARDBALL College Tour with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon.  We‘ll be right back from George Mason University.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOLIE:  What about you, Mr. Wilson, what do you do?

DAMON:  Are you in school?

JOLIE:  You don‘t say very much, do you?

DAMON:  When there‘s nothing worth saying.

JOLIE:  Oh well, I think I‘m going to like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re at the Center for the Arts over here at George Mason University right near Washington.  They‘ve got quite a basketball team here.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  As everybody knows, as everybody knows, including UNC knows that.  Everybody knows that, they‘re going to make me mad at that.

Come on up.  Next question, sir?

QUESTION:  My name is Ben Thomchik (ph).  I‘m from Pittsburgh.  My question is for Mr. DeNiro.  If your character, General William Casey, were alive today, what do you think he would say about the current state of the CIA?

DENIRO:  Well it‘s based on Donovan, not Casey, but it‘s a good question.  I‘m—I think he would not be happy based on what he said, because I feel he‘s like the conscience of the piece and of the story.  So he would—he‘s probably—if he had anything to do with it, he maybe would have changed it or I‘d like to think of him being—changing it or correcting the things before they happened, but that‘s all easy to say, you know.  That‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because these are real bad guys you guys are fighting in that war, even though the movie is tough and somewhat cynical in a way because he talks about motivation and maybe about how people were manipulated in their motivation.  There really was a Nazi threat to the world.  I mean, they killed all the Jews, they threatened the world, 50 million people died in that war.  There really was a Cold War, especially under Stalin.  He really did want to go for Europe and the world maybe.  It‘s a real fight and you have to win it, right?

DAMON:  Right.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  And I think that argument or that issue—what‘s at issue in that scene is what I say.  He says he wants oversight, and I say how can you have oversight of a covert agency?  And that is—it‘s going back to what Milt said.

MATTHEWS:  Well how do we answer that question?

DAMON:  It is the essential question of the day though?  What of your liberties are you willing to trade for your security?  How scared are you?  How real is the threat?  What do you—you know, as you say, those were real wars.  There are real wars—there are people who want to do great harm to American civilians in American cities.  That—you know, we live in Lower Manhattan.  You know, you guys are right next to D.C. 

I mean, this is real and so this is a question we need to be asking ourselves, but it needs to be something that we all—to me, what bothers me the most about the state we‘re in right now is I don‘t feel that there‘s a shared consciousness and a shared sense of sacrifice, and we have these young men and women who are fighting a war in name and our president tells us to go shopping.  And I think that more can be asked of us and we need to be participating more for—I think that makes for a more robust democracy.

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t the country really respond pretty strong—and the world—at Abu Ghraib?

DAMON:  Yes, and...

MATTHEWS:  Our country really did take an interest, right?

DAMON:  Well, of course, absolutely.  Yes, and Rumsfeld, if you ask me and a lot of people, everyone thought he should have stepped down then after that.  That was a—you know, and...

MATTHEWS:  You think that knowing what you know, that think that went up the chain of command, the whole idea of how they treated prisoners? 

DAMON:  Yes, yes.  Absolutely, yes.

MATTHEWS:  You think that, Robert?

DENIRO:  Yes, I think so.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the next question please.

QUESTION:  Hi, my name is Maggie Valveaux (ph) from Fredonia, New York, and this question is for both Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Damon.  I was wondering if you ran into any classified barriers when you were developing your character and also working on the film?

DAMON:  What type of barriers?

MATTHEWS:  Top secret stuff you couldn‘t use.

QUESTION:  Classified barriers.

DAMON:  Classified—actually, oh, there‘s a mountain of research material for this movie because it‘s a pretty well-documented time and this group of people were—you know, there are a lot of biographies that have been written about people who were there at the beginning of the CIA, so there‘s actually a lot of information.  I‘d actually taken a class in college about this, and had read some of these books and so I didn‘t—I didn‘t brush up against anything that hadn‘t been declassified.  I don‘t know if you did?

DENIRO:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And we really did overthrow the government in Guatemala, we really did overthrow the government in Iran.  We did all that, right?

DENIRO:  Yes.

DAMON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Next question, please?

QUESTION:  My name is Vincent Balginiti (ph).  I‘m from Centreville, Virginia.  My question is for you, Mr. DeNiro.  Do you ever plan to do any future work with Al Pacino?

(APPLAUSE)

DENIRO:  Yeah, if we find something.  Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

DENIRO:  Got to find something.

MATTHEWS:  Take that home with you, that answer.

Next question.

DAMON:  Start writing, start writing right now.

QUESTION:  Hi, my name is Meghan Wright (ph).  I‘m from Richmond, Virginia.  And this question is for both Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Damon.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll come right back with that question.  We just got the word for the break.  We‘ll be right back with that question, being answered by Matt Damon and Robert DeNiro.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There is no war.

DENIRO:  Of course there‘s a war—I‘m watching it on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And who might you be, when it‘s all said and done.

DENIRO:  My name is Conrad Brean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who do you work for?

DENIRO:  Nobody whose name you want me to say, Mr. Young, I promise you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s all well and good, but when the ‘fit hits the shan,‘ somebody is going to have to stay after school.  Who do you suppose that might be?

DENIRO:  I don‘t know what you‘re talking about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  Well that was Doctor Nix (ph) and the Green Machine.  You got to remember who they are.  There they are—thank you.

We‘re back with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon talking about “The Good Shepherd,” which opens this Friday across the country.  It‘s a hell of a movie about the CIA.  A rare topic, but an exciting one.  That‘s December 22nd it opens.  And the next question is:

QUESTION:  Hi, my name is Meghan Wright, I‘m from Richmond, Virginia and I was just—this question is both for Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Damon.  I was just wondering, would either of you go to war right now?  Not right now, I guess, but—would you go to war if you were asked?

DENIRO:  Well that‘s such a complex question.

(LAUGHTER)

DENIRO:  I ...

MATTHEWS:  If you were drafted?

DENIRO:  Well, I don‘t know, that‘s another thing about the draft and so on, if it ever would come up again.  I mean, I was for going to Iraq originally and then I saw, I realized that when you—we went in and we didn‘t know how to like deal with it once we were there. 

We just thought they‘d all cheer us and we‘d be out and then they‘d want democracy.  We‘re dealing with—we were just talking about before—the thousands of years old cultures that have all their in-fighting, whatever.  I mean, we can‘t come in unless we have a real plan or strategy and I never thought that.

DAMON:  There is this great book that just came out about that called “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”  That‘s definitely a book worth reading, just about that. 

We kind of blundered in there with the best intentions, but nevertheless without a plan.  So, but in terms of your question, I agree with Bob that it‘s a complex question.  It would depend on certain situations.  I mean, I don‘t think that it‘s fair, as I said before that it seems that we have a fighting class in our country that‘s comprised of people who have to go for either financial reasons or you know, I don‘t think that that is fair.  And if you‘re going to send people to war, if we all get together and decide we need to go to war, then that needs to be shared by everybody, you know.  And if the president has daughters who are of age, then maybe they should go to.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION:  Hey guys, my question is for both Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Damon

it kind of piggybacks that last question.  I‘m speaking for the population of aspiring filmmakers and actors here at the school.  What is your role as prominent celebrities and as artists in being proactive in the issues at stake?

DAMON:  Sorry, what is your ...

QUESTION:  What is your role as an actor or a filmmaker?  What can you do right now?  What should you be doing?  What should your fellow actors and filmmakers be doing?

DAMON:  Making movies about issues that are interesting to you.

(APPLAUSE)

DENIRO:  I agree.  I mean, make the movie—“The Good Shepherd” is an example of that, and I mean, not that you don‘t get involved in other issues directly, obviously, and—yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s break with that tradition right now.  Where do you guys stand on ‘08?  Who should be the next president?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Give me the one, two, three.  Who would you most like to see as the next president?  Number two and number three, something like that.  You don‘t have to nail it down, go for win, place, show or something.

DAMON:  Who do I think will be, or who do...

MATTHEWS:  Who do you want?

DAMON:  Barack Obama.

(APPLAUSE)

DAMON:  But, I would also say that I do some work with a group here in D.C. called Data.  They‘re part of the—the parent organization of the One campaign, and who prioritize Africa and issues of extreme poverty. 

And whoever‘s in there, Republican or Democrat, I hope—I hope they take up that issue.  And I will say that I disagree with George Bush about a lot of things, but PEFPAR, his emergency plan for AIDS relief, is an outstanding...

MATTHEWS:  In Africa.

DAMON:  In Africa.  It‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Is the money getting through?

DAMON:  The money—not only is the money getting through, but I‘ve been there and I‘ve seen—I have met people who are alive because of that money.  It is the only place you can actually look at our tax dollars and equate it with lives saved.  It‘s a fantastic program, along with the global fund, and the president should be applauded for it.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Mr. DeNiro, your personal pick for ‘08 if you have one?

DENIRO:  Well, I think of two people: Hillary Clinton and Obama.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve read his slogan, haven‘t you?

DENIRO:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t tell mama, I‘m for Obama.

DENIRO:  Somewhere in there...

MATTHEWS:  Are you somewhere between them?  Would you like to see that ticket maybe?  Or is that too far out?

DENIRO:  Possibly.  No, I don‘t think it‘s far out.

MATTHEWS:  Are we ready for an African-American president, if that‘s a fair question?

DENIRO:  I think we are. 

(APPLAUSE)

DENIRO:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Would you campaign for Obama?  Would you go out and work for him?

DAMON:  I mean, yes, I mean, I would support him strongly, but, again, I mean, a lot of the work that we‘re doing at Data and One requires a bipartisan...

MATTHEWS:  I love the work you‘re doing in Africa.  It‘s great.  I think you‘re so right.  Thank you.  And you‘re really nice to Bush on that.

DAMON:  He deserves it.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. DeNiro, it‘s an honor.

DENIRO:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a great honor to be here.

Thank you very much, Matt.

The movie‘s called “The Good Shepherd”.  It‘s everything about the CIA, very personal struggle of a guy who gives his life and really his soul fighting for his country but ends up doing things he never would have done on his own.  And a special thanks to Dr. Alan Merten, president of George University and the Patriot Band and the cheerleaders, what a great school and audience.  Good night, from the HARDBALL college tour.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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