updated 1/19/2007 10:00:57 AM ET 2007-01-19T15:00:57

Guests: Joseph Biden, Olympia Snowe, Mary Landrieu, Lisa Caputo, Kate O‘Beirne, Richard Clarke

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The battle of America.  Suddenly a new war wages in the Republican Party.  Someone is split with President Bush and opposed a deepening of the war.  Others are standing firm and loyal to the man who led the country into Iraq.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Democrats and Republicans might not agree on much, but increasingly they agree that President Bush is wrong to send more troops to Iraq.  Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced a resolution of opposition against Bush‘s war plan. 

In a moment, we‘ll talk to Senator Biden and later Senators Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu. 

Plus, is Iraq triggering a civil war inside the Republican Party? 

Karl Rove‘s permanent majority is tearing at the seams as Republicans continue to defect over President Bush‘s plan to escalate the war. 

And later, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with the latest on the Scooter Libby trial, but first Senator Joe Biden. 

Senator Biden, is your resolution a resolution of no confidence in the president‘s campaigning—running of this war in Iraq? 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), CHAIR, FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.:  The answer is yes, it is.  If this were a parliamentary system, there would be—it would bring the government down, I believe.  But obviously we‘re not. 

You know, look, Chris, what made me realize how fractured this was is when we had Condoleezza Rice before my committee, 21 members of the committee.  It was stunning, and you reported on it.  It was stunning that 20 of the 21 senators, meaning 10 of whom were Republicans, absolutely made it clear they were not at all supportive of the president‘s new policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you worried that the president‘s one on one lobbying will bring some of those Republicans off your resolution when the vote comes in a couple of weeks? 

BIDEN:  Well, it may, but what is pretty clear is I think—what I think you‘re more likely to see is other Republicans coming up with their own resolution that is—essentially says what Hagel and Levin and I and Snowe say.

But the bottom line here is the one way, the quickest way, Chris, to get a change in policy is to make sure the president understands there is virtually no support for his position up here. 

MATTHEWS:  When do you think you will have a vote so that the American people can watch you, members of the Senate, debate this question publicly?  Will it be after the State of the Union next week? 

BIDEN:  Yes, I had a chance to do it before the State of the Union, but I thought that was inappropriate.  We‘re going to bring it up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a vote—excuse me—on Wednesday.  I expect that we‘ll be able to get that vote. 

It will then be reported to the floor of the United States Senate.  And my guess is that the majority leader, in conjunction with the Republican leader, will set a time. 

The word is that the Republican leader is not going to even let us have a vote on it, that they‘re going to filibuster it.  I don‘t know that to be true, so—but the point is, the debate will ensue by the end of next week is my expectation. 

MATTHEWS:  How long will it take you to get the debate to end, in other words, to get a cloture vote, if you can get one, so you could actually have a vote? 

BIDEN:  Well, you know, I really—I don‘t know that, Chris.  My guess is pretty quickly.  If the Republican leader decides that he‘s going to filibuster it, which I hope wouldn‘t be the case—but let‘s say he does.  It still has the same political impact. 

If it‘s clear he‘s not going to let a vote take place, then it‘s still clear that it means he knows there is a clear majority of—a bipartisan majority that want the president to understand, Mr. President, please change course.  Listen to your generals.  Listen to former generals.  Listen to the Iraq Study Group. 

Listen to people like Gelb and me and others who say we‘re doing—and Senator Levin who say the way to get a change in behavior is a political change, and the way that occurs is making it clear to the Iraqis we‘re going to be drawing down, not ramping up. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a constitutional question, Senator.  Stephen Hadley was on “Meet The Press” this weekend and sort of dodged the question.  Should the president be required to get the approval of Congress before he attacks Iran, should he decide to do so? 

BIDEN:  Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.  I have a second resolution—a law actually—that I‘m in the process of drafting.  I will be seeking bipartisan support, making it clear that the authorization for the use of force that the president got three-and-a-half years ago does not—emphasize does not—give him the authority to attack Syria or Iran.  That would be a disaster.

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t expect him to sign that bill, do you? 

BIDEN:  No, I don‘t, but I expect it to generate a constitutional crisis were he to ignore it and to, in fact, him—for then attack Iran. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose the president makes the case to the public that he is not attacking Iran because of its nuclear program, he is attacking it because of its involvement in Iraq, its supplying the forces against our men in the field—men and women in the field, and he says he is simply operating as commander in chief.  And then it, of course, escalates it to a blowing up of their nuclear sites if he can find them.  Can he go in under that cover? 

BIDEN:  No, he can‘t do it Constitutionally, and I don‘t believe the American public are willing, for a moment—for a moment—to trust his judgment to go into war against 72 million people in an adjacent country with 150,000 Americans tied down in the region, in a war that‘s—a civil war that has bogged us down.  I don‘t think there is a prayer of him being able to convince the American people of that rationale. 

MATTHEWS:  One of your potential rivals for the Democratic nomination for the president is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Senator Clinton has said we need more troops to go to Afghanistan, although she agrees with you on the need to cap the troop number in Iraq.  Do you agree we need more troops in Afghanistan? 

BIDEN:  Yes.  When the president announced his surge, I made the case that he should be surging in Afghanistan, not in Iraq.  Chris, I know you know a lot about this.  Imagine if we fail in Afghanistan. 

What that will mean is Musharraf will cut even a closer deal with al Qaeda and with the Taliban, and if he doesn‘t, he puts himself in the position of being overthrown more than he is now.  That is a radicalized country.  It has nuclear weapons and it will be a disaster. 

If there was a totally just war since World War II, it is the war in Afghanistan, and we are not—we are not—dealing with it properly.  We have diverted resources to Iraq from the beginning.  And if anything, we should be increasing resources in Afghanistan which I called for three months ago. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was watching—or actually, I was listening in my car to satellite radio the other day, Senator.  I know this will get to your heart.  I was listening a young serviceman, a young kid, who had just been brought into a field hospital in Iraq, and the doctor was saying we‘re going to have to take off that left leg. 

And the poor kid is begging for his leg.  He says can‘t you try, doctor, can‘t you try?  And the doctor is doing his job, I guess, and just says no, we can‘t save that leg.  And then finally he says we can save the right leg, and the kid says good. 

I mean, that kind of courage...

BIDEN:  Well, I‘m telling you what, Chris, I‘ve been over there... 

MATTHEWS:  And I wonder—I just don‘t know why we‘re wasting those lives.  I don‘t know why.  I mean, the human cost of this war seems to be something that nobody talks about.  They talk about surges and escalations and all this nonpersonal language. 

BIDEN:  That‘s exactly right.  Exactly right.  Look, I have been there a total—counting Afghanistan—eight times.  The fact of the matter is, these people are incredible.  I know that sounds like so much malarkey coming from a United States senator. 

But all you have to do is see these forces on the ground, see them in Fallujah, see them in Basra, see them in Baghdad, see them in Ramadi.  And you see what they are doing.  They are incredible. 

And, Chris, what people don‘t realize yet is that because we‘re able to—use the fancy word—triage these injuries, meaning we have incredible medical capability, there are thousands of people coming back with severe head injuries and amputees in a percentage much higher than any other war since the Civil War who are living.  Had it been Vietnam, they would be dead. 

And what people don‘t understand is the human cost that is going to continue, continue.  If the war ends today, that‘s going to continue for the next 20 years is amazing.  And why?  And now we‘re putting 21,500 people, 17,000 of whom will be going door to door in Iraq? 

I had five—four generals before me this morning on Foreign Relations, Chris, people you know, from Barry McCaffrey to General Odom to General Ahora (ph).  These are commandants of the Marine Corps, et cetera. 

And to a person—to a person—they pointed out that there is—and including the general who supports the surge, says we‘re not going and supporting the Iraqis.  We‘re going to be in the lead.  In a city of six-plus million people, we‘re going to have young men in the middle of a civil war and women knocking on doors?  This is absolutely, absolutely the wrong thing to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, we had Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, the recently chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the House on yesterday.  And he posed what looked to me like a strong political argument.  He said if people try to oppose this surge, this 21,000 more troops going to Iraq, they are basically killing reinforcements on the way to protect our service people. 

BIDEN:  Wrong.  We‘re not sending reinforcements.  There are no forces knocking on those doors in those 23 neighborhoods in Baghdad now.  Give me a break.  Let‘s talk about what the facts are. 

If you talk about reinforcements for troop protection, that‘s a fundamentally different thing than saying guess what we‘re going to do now.  We‘re changing our mission.  We are going to go in and take out the Sunni insurgency, and then turn on—as they are telling us—then turn on the Shia militia in a city of 6.1 million people.  Chris, we are not doing that now.  This is a change in mission.  So Mr. Hunter—Congressman Hunter is putting a red herring out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a last question, Senator Biden.  You are chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  You‘ve got to be up to date on all this stuff.  When we go to vote in November of 2008, will we still be fighting this war?  Will it still look like it does this week with all these Iraqis getting killed, our guys walking door to door, kicking down doors, facing hell?  Will we still be fighting this war when we vote in November of 2008? 

BIDEN:  Yes, if the Republicans do not make it clear to the president.  Now, look, we‘re in the majority by one.  But what‘s going to happen—you‘ve been around this town a long time, like I have.  The thing that brought Nixon down and made it clear that he‘d hand over the tapes wasn‘t any vote in the Congress.  It was when a group of Republican senators got in the car and went down to the president, said, “Mr. President, the jig is up.”

What‘s going to happen here, Chris—and you know this town better than I do, living here—what‘s going to happen is when the leading members of the House and Senate on the Republican side say, “Mr. President, no more of this.  Listen to all the advice you got.” 

Think about it, Chris.  You had a former secretary of state who‘s a Republican.  You had leading Republicans on the Iraqi Study Group.  You had the chairman—you had the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  You had the outgoing leader, General Abizaid, the outgoing leader, General Casey.  You had—every single, solitary one of them told him, “This is a mistake.  This is a mistake.” 

And every one of them said some version of the following: “Mr.  President, you need a political solution.  The only way you‘re going to get it is get the region involved and make it clear to the president of the Iraqi government that we‘re not staying, we‘re not going to precipitously leave, but they‘ve got to step up to the ball and make the hard decisions.” 

Every major voice on both sides of the aisle has said that to him.  And the idea that he can make the case politically, that what he‘s doing makes sense, I think is just divorced from reality. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, senator, we‘ll have to bring back Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania to do that walk down to the White House.  I don‘t know if any of the Republicans are tough enough to face Bush on this one. 

But thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL, Senator Joe Biden, candidate for the presidency. 

Coming up, Senators Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu will tell us what they think needs to happen in Iraq.  I think it‘s two different opinions.  Snowe is one of the Republican co-sponsors of Senator Biden‘s resolution to fight the surge.  Mary Landrieu—we‘ll have to hear from her.  She‘s from Louisiana.  We‘ll wait and see if she‘s keeping her powder dry. 

We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Olympia Snowe of Maine are reconvening a bipartisan group of senators, much like that gang of 14 that was working on the Supreme Court nominees last year, to build consensus on the key policy issues of the day, especially Iraq.  Is that a good place to start, Senator Landrieu?  Can you find a bipartisan position on Iraq? 

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, (D) LOUISIANA:  I think we can.  And it may be something that our group decides to focus on.  Of course, it really is the major issue of this Congress.  But it really is up to Olympia, my co-chair, and the members that come to our meetings and participate in our discussions.  So we can‘t give them an agenda.  They‘re going to give us an agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me try to drive a wedge between you two ladies.  First of all, Senator Snowe, you are co-sponsor with Senator Biden of a resolution which he described earlier on this show as a vote of no confidence in the president‘s war—execution.  What do you make of that?  Do you agree with that?  It‘s a vote of no confidence to say we don‘t want the enlargement of U.S. troops over there?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, ® MAINE:  Well, it‘s saying that we disagree with the president on that question, on the troop surge, absolutely, because the last four years we‘ve tried the military solution.  The point is now the Maliki government and the country itself has to decide on political concessions and towards national reconciliation. 

Why should we be taking more risks with our troops and when they‘re not willing to take risks to make the political decisions and their own military decisions by confronting, you know, the militias and disarming them? 

MATTHEWS:  And you believe that somewhat restricting the money, or conditioning it or anything like that is going to send a rational signal to those people in that government?  They‘ve to start cutting deals with the other side? 

SNOWE:  Well, I think the point is here our resolution doesn‘t cut funding.  But the real question is saying to them that we‘re not willing to commit more troops, that the time has come to put the pressure on the government to make those decisions.  We haven‘t seen the political will. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re with Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and you‘re with Biden?

SNOWE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And you think that‘s the bipartisan way to go? 

SNOWE:  That‘s right.  I think it‘s actually reasonable. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Landrieu, do you agree with that, that this is the way to go, to say no more troops over there? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, it‘s going to be hard to drive a wedge between Olympia and myself because we agree on so many things.  But I‘m going to make a decision after the president‘s speech on Tuesday night.  I‘ve been to several White House meetings.  I‘ve listened to their side of the story/  I‘ve talked with a lot of commanders.  I‘ve talked with my own colleagues.  And we‘ll make a decision. 

But I‘ve read the resolution, and I think what Olympia and Chuck have done—and Carl and Joe—is a very good place to start because the public wants a different strategy in Iraq.  And we want to do it in a bipartisan way that gives confidence to this country, that we can stay united at a time of great challenge.  So I‘m going to make a decision by early next week.  But I think what Olympia and Chuck have done by joining our colleagues, Senator Biden and Senator Levin, are very—is very good. 

MATTHEWS:  When you watch pictures of U.S. soldiers, heavy equipment, M-16‘s going door to door, kicking down doors in the downtown areas, the tough areas of Baghdad, do you think that‘s a role?  Because that‘s apparently the role and the mission the president wants to give these new guys to go over there.  Do you think that‘s an appropriate role for the U.S. troops four years into the war to be basically the downtown cops of the toughest neighborhoods of Baghdad? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, what I think is important—obviously, I‘m a senator.  But what‘s more important is what the commanders think.  And most of the commanders have said that they don‘t believe the escalation of troops door to door, urban combat like this, 25,000 troops in a city of six million people is actually going to do the job.  And that is what Olympia and others are saying, is that a political solution is really necessary to complement military, that the Iraqis have to do that for themselves. 

So you‘ve hit the nail on the head.  That‘s the crux of it.  And I‘ve tried to follow the commanders.  I‘m listening very closely to what they have to say.  And the record speaks for itself. 

MATTHEWS:  In turn, tell me what it‘s like when you go home on weekends, or any other time, and you listen to regular people.  What do they say about the war right now? 

SNOWE:  They‘re very much opposed to it.  They‘re disturbed.  They‘re concerned, deeply concerned about the fact it‘s not moving in the right direction. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did they re-elect Bush? 

SNOWE:  In—because at that time I think they thought that it was going to succeed.  And I think—furthermore, I think they saw an intransigence on his part, refusing to listen. 

MATTHEWS:  Now, they see that.

SNOWE:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Or Maine.  Let me ask you about the state of Louisiana that voted for the president.  Why do you think people voted for the president if they have concerns about this war like you do? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, I think what Olympia said is true, that people two years ago are different than what they felt in this last election.  That people can see it going south pretty quickly.  Things that the president said were true have panned out not to be true, whether it was weapons of mass destruction, whether this war is going to be easy to pay for.  We can pay for this war with oil revenues.  It‘s not going to cost us very much.  I mean, go down the list and people...

MATTHEWS:  I remember that promise about the oil would all pay for the war, it wouldn‘t cost us a nickel. 

LANDRIEU:  Right.  People say nothing really that they have said has panned out so why should we believe this?  And I think getting back to what the joint chiefs have said, what General Casey has said, what Colin Powell has said lends people to the point that we‘re not sure this is the right strategy.  But I think it‘s right to not try to do this in a partisan fashion.  People want Congress to be as united as possible. 

MATTHEWS:  If you do join in a resolution similar to the one that Biden has got out here and Chuck Hagel—we had him on last night, Chuck Hagel.  We had Biden on tonight.  Do you think that the president would get a message that is positive or would he just get ticked at you guys?  You‘re the Republican here.  Would he say, I guess I learned something in this or would he just say these people don‘t have the guts I do? 

SNOWE:  No.  It‘s not an all or nothing proposition.  We are co-equal branches of government.  It is important for the president to listen.  And frankly, we‘re also reflecting the will of the American people.  Because, you know, almost 70 percent of the American people object to the policy in Iraq as it stands and particularly with respect to the troop surge. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you told the president that? 

SNOWE:  Yes, I have. 

MATTHEWS:  What does he say when you hit him with those facts? 

SNOWE:  Well he responds with his own specific facts.  I laid out my case just about a week ago.  In fact, I told him why I was very much concerned.  That Maliki, for example, put up checkpoints in Sadr‘s neighborhood.  I mean, listed as checkpoints. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s protecting his buddy.

SNOWE:  Absolutely.  And politicians have interceded in the decisions our commanders were making to apprehend Shias, for example, who were responsible for the violence in some of these instances.  And so they are not making the tough choices.  They are not making the hard decisions.  And our troops are put at risk.  I explained all that to him. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we‘re suckers in backing Maliki? 

SNOWE:  It‘s not the—I wouldn‘t describe...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the right word? 

SNOWE:  I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  Naive?  To think that they‘re going—that the Shia in that government are ever going to be making friends with the Sunni?  These people have been fighting each other for 1,300 years, do you think we‘re crazy to think the cold war is going to end? 

SNOWE:  I think we should have done it differently with respect to that government, frankly, and with him.  I think, you know, we were too easy on him.  We didn‘t put the pressure on him.  And we should have.  We allowed a political vacuum.  And we have done that every step of the way. 

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of vacuums.  When we come back, senators, I want to ask you who you think is advising the president right now.  He‘s lost Colin Powell, he fires every general he disagrees with, Condi Rice is so low, it‘s hard to believe she says anything to him.  And every time she asks the advice of the vice president, he says geronimo.

Anyway, we‘re going to be back with Senator Landrieu and Senator Snowe, they‘re staying with us.

And later, as support for the war in Iraq erodes, are Republicans turning on one another?

Plus, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest from the Scoot Libby trial.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana who is a Democrat and Republican senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. 

Senator Landrieu, I gave this other senator a chance.  What the people

and the south has always been more hawkish than the rest of the country. 

What do they think about this war back home?

LANDRIEU:  Well, they don‘t know what to think.  But they are concerned about what they see, what they see on television, what they hear the general saying, they are listening very closely to President Bush.  But the skepticism is on the rise.

And people are very concerned about the over $300 billion, maybe a half a trillion, depending on who you listen to.  Of course the number of soldiers that have given their lives as well as those that are coming home with horrible injuries. 

And it‘s a pattern of the president saying this is going to happen and it doesn‘t happen that way.  This has been going on for four years.  All wars are tough.  Nobody thought it would be easy.  But there is a credibility issue here that I think people are really start to go lock at. 

That‘s why Congress should step up not in a partisan, knockdown, drag out fight, but that‘s why I think we‘re working so hard to see if we can find some common ground, not just because we think that‘s the right thing to do, but I think the American people, it would be upsetting to them even more to have Congress in a big fight about this because they are—they need comfort that we know what we‘re doing and how to get out of it. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like in the cloakroom of the Republican Party right now?  Because we hear a few people like yourself taking a public position.  Then we‘re hearing a few people take the other side like Cornyn and the usual suspects Kyl and McConnell, they are on the president‘s side of this right down the line.  But so much silence is coming from your cloakroom. 

SNOWE:  Because I think there are senators who are obviously having different positions and views on this question.  They want to be supportive of the president, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  Does silence mean consent in their case? 

SNOWE:  Well—no, I think they are trying to figure out what should be the alternative, what should be the response.  Those who support the president and his policy and those who differ.  And I think that‘s what they are trying to work through now. 

SNOWE:  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are both moving to New Orleans. 

Will that be an economic spur down there to your people? 

LANDRIEU:  Not only has it been an economic spur because they bought a beautiful home on the edge of the French Quarter, probably cash—but it‘s been just a spiritual lift.  I tell between Brad and Angelina and the Saints, we‘re doing really well and exciting. 

And, you know, it‘s been hard recovering from this flood.  As I said, we survived the hurricane, what we couldn‘t survive was the multiple breaks of these levees that put this great city under water and a country, frankly, that really didn‘t have a plan. 

MATTHEWS:  Like the Saints, they might make it...

LANDRIEU: And Brad and Jolie are going to come help us rebuild. 

SNOWE:  And the Patriots? 

MATTHEWS:  The patriots just beat San Diego.  They are tough.  The Patriots, you know, I guess I have to be loyal to my region.  Anyway, thank you Senator Landrieu of Louisiana and Senator Snowe of Maine. 

Up next, day three of Scooter Libby‘s trial.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest from the courthouse.  It‘s hard to find a jury without an attitude toward Dick Cheney.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Jury selection in the trial of Vice President Cheney‘s former chief of staff Scooter Libby entered its third day today.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has more on the Libby trial from the D.C. Federal Courthouse. 

Is this going to be the most exciting trial since the monkey trial? 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think, Chris, there are certainly some indications today, if they can ever get a jury seated—and it looks like now they won‘t get one until Monday because of the slow pace and the arguments over people‘s feelings about the war and the Bush administration. 

But once this trial starts, Chris, of course, a central figure not only will be Scooter Libby, whose testimony, of course, is going to be contradicted.  But there some strong indications today that Vice President Cheney, that his testimony offered so far in this case, might also be contradicted. 

During questions of a prospective juror, Scooter Libby‘s own attorney asked the prospective juror about his own bias about the vice president and said look, Vice President Cheney is going to testify in this case.  How would you feel if another witness came forward, took the witness stand, and completely contradicted him?  Would you have bias against the vice president in favor of this other person? 

Now, it‘s quite possible this was simply a hypothetical, but then there was a second example today.  Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in questioning another prospective juror, expressed some admiration for the office of the vice presidency.  He said, would you have any problem if counsel—if me—conducted an aggressive cross-examination of Vice President Cheney about his testimony? 

And then the third example, Chris, was that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald mentioned two CIA briefers, one of whom we know had briefed the vice president‘s office about the Wilsons, in asking jurors various names of people that they recognize in the case.  There was one prospective juror who was bounced who worked at the CIA, so Fitzgerald tipped his hand about some of the CIA witnesses. 

So taken all together, it certainly suggests that Vice President

Cheney‘s testimony might be contradicted, and that his role might be even

more critical in this entire investigation than had previously been thought

Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, we might get testimony that the vice president‘s office knew the results of the Joe Wilson trip to Niger and that there wasn‘t any nuclear deal? 

SHUSTER:  It‘s possible.  What I think we‘re going to find out based, again, on what Fitzgerald said today and the types of questions they are asking jurors, is that there will be CIA officials who will be testifying about what they told the vice president‘s office. 

Now there are, of course, questions.  Did they speak directly with Vice President Cheney or did they speak directly with Scooter Libby?  One of the government officials who, according to Fitzgerald, told Libby about Valerie Plame‘s status was a CIA briefer.  The question is, does that briefer come forward and also undercut the vice president? 

There are also questions about when did those conversations happen?  Did they happen after Joe Wilson returned from his trip or was it only after all of this sort of started to unfold when the CIA offered more information to the vice president‘s office? 

So the time line is crucial, but, again, it puts the vice president square in the middle of all this. 

MATTHEWS:  So it sounds to me like Fitzgerald is trying to determine whether these jurors, his questioning, will be so taken with the stature of the vice president that when he walks in there and offers basically a character witness of his former chief of staff, that it might carry more weight than the truth merits?  Is that what you‘re thinking he‘s worried about?

SHUSTER:  Right, that‘s exactly the case because the idea is the vice president is going to come forward and say look, Scooter Libby, my chief of staff, was dealing with all these weighty matters.  He couldn‘t possibly have been thinking about the Wilsons or remembering the Wilsons. 

But the evidence is going to show, according to prosecutors, that, in fact, the vice president and Scooter Libby talked about the Wilsons repeatedly during this relevant time period. 

And the other, of course, question, is not only will jurors feel that the vice president deserves more weight, but the other thing that Scooter Libby‘s attorneys are arguing is they don‘t want jurors who are going to be anti-the Bush administration and be predisposed to be skeptical of the vice president because of anger about the war. 

That‘s why jury selection is taking so long because at one point today, they had eight straight prospective jurors who all eventually acknowledged they had problems with the war, problems with the Bush administration, and therefore, could not simply focus on the case itself. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get this straight.  If Scooter Libby wins with this defense that he was too busy with other issues to do an honest statement when he was questioned by the FBI and the grand jury, will we be able to do dishonest tax returns in the future and say, yes, I gave you a false return but I was so involved with bigger issues that I couldn‘t focus on the truth of my tax return? 

I mean, it‘s hard for me to believe that‘s going to be a defense that sells when you have got a guy like this, a top brain, one of the smartest people working in the administration, says I didn‘t know how I learned something, I got it completely wrong because I was too busy with the big stuff.  If that‘s a defense, people are going to be using it on their tax returns—David Shuster. 

SHUSTER:  Well, and I think, Chris, you have just taken a page out of

you‘ve taken a page right out of prosecutor Fitzgerald‘s opening and possible closing argument.  The idea that Scooter Libby is going to put forward is this was an honest mistake, not an intentional one.  Prosecutor Fitzgerald is going to introduce all sorts of evidence to say no, this was a deliberate lie. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, as John Wayne said in one of my favorite movies, “that will be the day.”  Anyway, thank you, David Shuster. 

A big week so far for Barack Obama—what a week it‘s been—who stepped into the starting gate for the presidential race and Hillary Clinton, who hit the airwaves to blunt the Obama momentum.  But with this two-way fight staking out, soaking up all the attention, can any other Democrat get into the action? 

And is Rudy Giuliani getting proper credit?  This guy leads every single poll and the pundits in this town won‘t admit it.  Giuliani wins every poll of regular Republicans and they keep saying the guy can‘t win.  I just wonder when they are going to say winning wins. 

Anyway, we have joining us right now Lisa Caputo, Hillary Clinton‘s former press secretary; and Kate O‘Beirne, Washington editor of the “National Review.”

First, Lisa and Hillary—is Hillary running for president? 

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. HILLARY CLINTON PRESS SEC.:  Well, Chris, she hasn‘t made her mind up yet.  But I think she is taking her time thinking about it and she will make, you know, a decision soon and announce her decision very soon. 

MATTHEWS:  What would lead her to decide at this point not to run? 

CAPUTO:  I think she‘s got to think through, you know, how much she enjoys her life right now.  I mean, this is a woman who‘s been nonstop at it for 15 years.  So I think she‘s got to think through, you know, how much she loves her life in the Senate and is she really willing to make the sacrifices, quite frankly, it‘s going to take to run for the presidency? 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good choice.  What do you think?  Do you think, Kate, that she‘s still working on that decision?  Kate O‘Beirne?

KATE O‘BEIRNE, “NATIONAL REVIEW”:  I think Hillary Clinton is going to be running for president. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘s still making up her mind? 

O‘BEIRNE:  I think she‘s probably made up her mind that she‘s running for president. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why do you think she‘s stalling?  Do you think she doesn‘t want to get involved in the competition for attention with Obama? 

Obama did something I thought was pretty smart the other day.  He said, “I‘ll make an announcement February 10, the weekend after the Super Bowl, when all the dust has cleared.”

He has the whole media attention to himself.  He marks out this whole month.  And then he says, “I‘m going to be making the announcement, apparently, from Springfield, Illinois, you know, where Lincoln was big.” 

Is that not a statement, “I want to own all the airtime between now and February 10” by Obama? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Sure, sure, which is clever. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary can‘t walk into that? 

O‘BEIRNE:  But Lisa, of course, knows better than I would, given her experience with Senator Clinton.  But it seems to me that sticking to the timing that she chooses is a sign of the discipline and maturity we could expect from a Clinton campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s the case, Lisa, that the senator from New York, the junior senator will make an announcement irregardless of the timetable of Obama? 

CAPUTO:  Yes, I do, Chris, because, as Kate pointed out—and you know just as well as I do because you‘ve covered her and been around here so much, she is incredibly methodical.  She‘s very analytical.  She‘s not going to be pushed by other people‘s timetables.  She‘s the 800-pound gorilla in this thing.  All of the press is waiting for her to jump in.  She‘s not going to be forced by other candidates or the press‘ timetable.  She‘ll do it on her own timetable and she‘ll make an announcement according to that own personal timetable. 

MATTHEWS:  So 800-pound gorilla is a good description of Hillary Clinton? 

CAPUTO:  Well, look, she‘s the front runner in every poll you look at.  I think, you know, clearly with Barack Obama getting into this race, I think you see quite a historical dynamic, that is of race and gender politics entering into the 08 presidential race, which is really quite phenomenal for our country. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Kate O‘Beirne, Washington executive editor of the “National Review”, a title formerly held by the great John McLaughlin, do you think this country is more ready for an African-American of this sort of unique background, half American, half African in his background, or a woman?  Which is the door that would open generically first, do you think? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Chris, I‘ll give you a frustrating answer.  I think it depends on the candidate.  I think the country was probably ready for Colin Powell.  Who knows whether or not he would have gone the distance.  But I think they would have been ready for Colin Powell.  Does that speak to a general attitude about their attitude towards...

MATTHEWS:  You mean, if you win a war, you can be black?

O‘BEIRNE:  Well, given his background, his experience in foreign policy and what not, you know, and his skill... 

MATTHEWS:  And his bearing.  His bearing was incredible.

O‘BEIRNE:  Exactly, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  But you think—so the door was open a little bit before for a decent run by a candidate, not just an outside run or a symbolic run, but a real run by Colin Powell if he had been nominated?

O‘BEIRNE:  Sure, sure. 

MATTHEWS:  And do you agree that theory that this country was ready for Colin, Lisa? 

CAPUTO:  Yes, I do, Chris.  I mean, I think it all comes down—as Kate said, I agree with it 100 percent—it comes down to the candidate.  It comes down to the candidate‘s experience, to the candidate‘s track record.  It also comes down to the character and charisma of that candidate, as we all know.  So I really think it‘s individual less so, some kind of broad, sweeping statement of “Is America ready for an African-American or a woman?”  It‘s, you know, is the particular candidate, you know, the right candidate.  And if that candidate happens to be an African-American or a woman, then terrific. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what‘s unfair in politics?  Life is unfair, as Jack Kennedy once said.  When Hillary Clinton walks into a room—I don‘t care if the room‘s 200 people or more than that—there‘s a gleam to her.  It‘s almost like—it‘s exciting to go see her come in the room.  You can‘t miss her.  She gleams. 

Obama, when he goes on national television, gleams.  I don‘t think Hillary gleams on national television the way that Obama does.  We‘ll come back and talk about the unfairness of that fact because Obama is dominant on television. 

Lisa Caputo, Kate O‘Beirne are staying with us.

And later, former National Security Council terrorism adviser, the great Richard Clark‘s going to be here with his latest novel. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Let‘s bring back Lisa Caputo, who was Hillary Clinton‘s former press secretary, and the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne. 

Well, do you feel excited, Lisa, about the fact your old boss and friend may be the next president?  I just saw the Las Vegas odds, which I do pay attention to, she‘s a flip of the coin away from the presidency, according to these odds, 50-50 bet.  I don‘t think it‘s that high.  I think it‘s 25.  But 50-50 bet to be the next president by the people putting money on it. 

CAPUTO:  Yes, Chris, it‘s hugely exciting.  I mean, how can it not be exciting?  And I think, you know, you said something right before the break, which is this whole notion of how she translates on television and how does that stack up against Barack Obama?  And I think what we all have to remember is a lot of this, so much of it is about retail politics.  And you‘re absolutely right, Barack Obama has that million dollar wattage smile.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

But you and I and Kate probably have been in the room when Hillary Clinton walks in, and there are thousands and thousands of people.  And to watch her as a retail politician is really quite extraordinary, an extraordinary way for me to watch how much she‘s grown as a politician.  So, yes, for me it‘s very personally exciting. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she can—can she retail Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina in a matter of a couple of weeks?  Can she retail New Jersey, Michigan, all those states on February 5 all at once? 

CAPUTO:  I think that, you know, what she‘s done in New York, go back to the year 2000...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s one state.

CAPUTO:  ... when all the odds were, there‘s no way she can win, there‘s no way she can win.  And what won it for here was pure, basic, local, retail politics.  All politics is local.  She went around the state and did a listening tour.  But then she worked it hard from...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s hear another view.  Kate, can she do this? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Look, I think it‘s certainly true that she proved to be a better retail politician.  She won very handily—her reelection race, too, than a lot of people would have given her credit for...

MATTHEWS:  Who ran against her?

O‘BEIRNE:  ... However—however—yes, exactly. 

However, look, people have a fixed opinion about her.  She‘s been on the national stage for 15 years...

MATTHEWS:  Three percent of the American people want to know more about her, three percent.

O‘BEIRNE:  Exactly.  And, look, the fixed opinion in large measure on the part of many people is really negative—cold, calculating, a phony.  And then some people who like...

MATTHEWS:  She has a higher favorability than unfavorability.  She‘s 43, 38.  I know the numbers. 

O‘BEIRNE:  But some people who like her and who support her policies and what not worry about the electability factor.  The public is dying for people to start getting along.  And she is very polarizing.  So she has a lot of these barriers, although any Democrat, I think, has to be favored currently in 2008.  But she has some handicaps. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Hillary Clinton can win those tough states in the middle—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, where they like guns, they are tough, they like traditional women?  Do you think she will sell in states like that? 

CAPUTO:  Actually, Chris, look at the inroads she has made on the armed forces committee and with the military.  I mean, I was talking to a journalist just last night who has great sources in the U.S. military, and this journalist was talking to me about how the inroads and the credibility that Hillary Clinton now has with the U.S. military.  I mean, if that is not a conservative base, I don‘t know what is. 

And that‘s a bellwether to me along with the fact that let‘s remember she won every county in New York except for two.  And Republicans moved to her.  So, I think, you know, given that the majority of the country as we‘ve seen in previous elections is really purple, and yes Kate‘s right, in some aspects she is polarizing.  When you get down to it and see her on the issues, I believe her experience outweighs all of that. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see.  Lisa Caputo, loyalist all the way here, and Kate O‘Beirne, thank you very much.  Everybody was very nice about Hillary Clinton tonight. 

Up next, former national security council terrorism expert Richard Clarke, one of the guys who blew the whistle.  And you can read about what‘s going on inside the Republican party‘s winter meeting on our web site HARDBLOGGer.msnbc.com.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Richard Clarke was the top terrorism adviser in the White House when 9/11 happened.  He later accused the Bush administration of ignoring the al Qaeda threat in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks.  He has now using his national security and counterterrorism expertise to write a new novel called “Break Point.”  Richard, thank you for joining us.

RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR:  It‘s good to be here, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Give me a plot synopsis. 

CLARKE:  It‘s 2012, somebody is blowing up our technology.  We don‘t know who.  Somebody seems to be trying to retard America‘s technological process, throwing the society into chaos.  Is it a foreign country?  Is it domestic terrorists?  Is it Iraqi revenge? 

MATTHEWS:  What are people worried about at the highest level?  I know you were one of them recently.  But you are sitting there, you‘re Michael Chertoff.  I read about him recently, the head of Homeland Security.  And he is sitting there playing—he‘s basically goalie on a hockey team where people are coming out from wherever in the world, he is trying to defend the United States and has done so, so far. 

What is your biggest worry when you put your head on the pillow at night if you‘re defending America against terrorism? 

CLARKE:  You don‘t know whether or not your own capabilities are good enough.  You know whether the FBI and the CIA are missing things.  You don‘t know if there really are sleeper cells. 

When the FBI tells you it can‘t find any sleeper cells, does that make you feel better, or does it make you feel worse?

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

Do you think they are going to go after a big iconic target like, well, the Golden Gate, Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge?  Can you see them going after something that we have loved, that‘s been a real American favorite in terms of what we have been able to build in this country? 

CLARKE:  My fear, Chris, is not that they go after a thing, but that they go after people.  That they do the next attack in a way that kills...

MATTHEWS: Super bowl? 

CLARKE:  Well, kills somewhere that kills thousands of people.  They want to go beyond what they did on 9/11 and kill even more than 3,000. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is the they right now? 

CLARKE:  Right now, I‘m worried about Iraqis.  I am worried about al Qaeda in Iraq.  I‘m not just worried about the old al Qaeda, because I think largely the old al Qaeda has been scattered.  But, you know, the day of this year may be different than the day of 2012.  What we really need to do, while we are focusing on who ever the enemy is, we also have to focus on reducing our vulnerabilities here at home, so it‘s harder to do that here. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you be a hard jury to empanel in the Scooter Libby trial?  Would people—would those people have a hard time getting you to say, I‘m completely open-minded, I don‘t have any reason to believe that Cheney would not cover up or that Scooter wouldn‘t do something, I just don‘t know so I am completely opened minded.  Would you have that kind of juror? 

CLARKE:  I have got a problem.  You see, like Scooter Libby, I worked in the White House for 80, 90 hours a week, on a whole series of things that I thought were important.  And when people come to me and they say what happened five years ago, or two years ago, between this meeting and that meeting, I don‘t remember.  A lot of it is a blur. 

MATTHEWS:  How about when you‘re under oath?

CLARKE:  It doesn‘t matter...

MATTHEWS:  Would you try to remember?

CLARKE:  Obviously you try, Chris, but that doesn‘t mean you can.  And I actually believe—I disagree with Scooter on almost everything.  But I actually believe him when he says that he cannot remember this thing that Patrick thinks is the most important thing that happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you still believe if seven people testified that he exposed knowledge of the Valerie Blame identity long before he talked to the person he said he got the information from?

CLARKE:  No.  No.  You know, that‘s all probably the case.  All I am saying is, when he says I can‘t remember where I heard something, it‘s all a blur to me, that‘s credible. 

MATTHEWS:  He did not say that, though.  He came up with an answer under oath. 

Anyway, thank you Richard Clarke.  Good luck with your book.  You‘re a hell of a writer—“Break Point.”  What we should be worried about.

Finally tonight, a sad note, of course.  Columnist Art Buchwald, a man who delighted in the lampooning of pretentious politicians for over 40 years finally died last night after a long illness.  In fact, last April, Buchwald had this to say to NBC‘s Tom Brokaw. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ART BUCHWALD, COLUMNIST:  Well, the thing I‘m going to miss the most is global warming, that‘s the only thing I can think of that I am going to miss.  Good luck to you all you people who are going to have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We are going to miss you.  Buchwald‘s columns will be missed in a country too often we are lacking in humor and the ability of politicians to laugh at themselves. 

Play HARDBALL with us again Friday for a full recap of a big week in politics, and it has been one, and a look ahead to the State of the Union next week.  Right now, it‘s time for TUCKER.

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

END   

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