Guests: Jack Reed, David Vitter, Susan Molinari, Mark Green, Ed Rogers, Marsha Blackburn, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Matthew Continetti, Chris Cillizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Finally, four years after we invaded Iraq, the U.S. Senate stands on the verge of an historic vote on whether to escalate the war.
Will the president‘s allies be able to stop the vote?
And on the Scooter Libby trial, it‘s not the cover-up. It‘s the crime. Were these guys hiding how they pushed us into war?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Welcome to HARDBALL.
Will the Republican war critics retreat in the political battle over the war in Iraq? That‘s the big question tonight.
Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel have been outspoken critics of the war in Iraq, but now that Congress has a chance to vote on resolutions to oppose the president‘s plan to escalate the war, why are these mavericks not backing a vote to do just that?
And Rudy Giuliani moves closer to running. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani files a statement of candidacy today in the presidential race. Could America‘s mayor beat maverick McCain in the primaries?
Could we see a Subway Series between Hillary and Rudy in 2008?
Later, our Hardballers will talk about picking the next president.
And the judge in the Scooter Libby trial has ruled that the Libby grand jury tapes will be released publicly. Will they tell us more about the effort to push the war and hide the push? HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest on the case.
But first, the debate over the war in Iraq.
Senator David Vitter is a Louisiana Republican and Senator Jack Reed is a Rhode Island Democrat.
First question, a HARDBALL question for Senator Vitter. Do you support a vote if the vote is to attack the president‘s plan to escalate the war, to send more troops to Iraq?
SEN. DAVID VITTER, ® LOUISIANA: I support multiple votes on the Senate floor to give senators every opportunity to clearly articulate where they‘re coming from. The obstacle, Chris, isn‘t having a vote. It‘s how many different resolutions and votes we‘re going to be able to have. For some reason, Senator Reid is adamant at holding it to just two. And there is a great diversity of opinion, perhaps particularly on the Republican side. And our caucus wants more ability to express different views and have different resolutions. All we‘re asking...
MATTHEWS: Why are you afraid of having a vote on whether to oppose the president‘s escalation, a simple up or down vote? Because that‘s the question at hand right now. There‘s a lot of things to talk about, but the key question is: do you support the president‘s decision to increase the number troops by 21,000?
If you had to vote on that right now, Senator, would you vote for that escalation?
VITTER: I‘d vote for it, Chris. You‘re...
MATTHEWS: Why not let other people vote the way they want to vote?
VITTER: ... you‘re very good at reading the Democratic talking points...
MATTHEWS: ... that was probably a clever line twenty years ago.
But let me ask you...
VITTER: ... but to answer your question directly, I‘ve said publicly, going back a week ago, that I would support it. But I think we need to have a full, open debate on the floor of the Senate, which is what the Senate is supposed to be about.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, Senator, since you‘re talking about Democratic talking points, what I‘m talking about. We have a NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll that shows the great majority of the American people do not support this move to increase the number of troops in Iraq. I think the American people would like to know why they can‘t have a vote on that particular point of view.
VITTER: Chris, I gave you my answer, and I‘ll repeat it. We can have a vote on that. What the Republican caucus is simply asking for is the ability to bring one additional resolution to the floor because there is great diversity of opinion, particularly on the Republican side, and people want to express themselves.
You‘re right, we should speak clearly about the president‘s plan. But particularly for folks who want to reject the president‘s plan, which is clearly their right, I think they also have a responsibility to put forward a plan, a way forward in Iraq.
And you have one vote, you can‘t have that open debate. The U.S. Senate is supposed to be about free and open debate. And why that‘s trying to be narrowly constrained and managed and choreographed, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Senator Reed, what‘s wrong with offering the Republicans a chance to put up their option?
SEN. JACK REED, (D) RHODE ISLAND: I think they should get a chance to
put up their option. What they want to do is put up two options and
attempt to confuse what is very straightforward and simple. And I think
you made it pretty clear. This is a vote of whether you support or you
don‘t support the president‘s proposed increase in forces in Iraq. That
vote should come to the floor of the Senate. We should have an opportunity
indeed, I believe we have an obligation to vote up or down on that.
If there‘s an alternative view that the Republicans want to present, that too should be considered. But to try to put multiple proposals on the floor simply to gain this with numbers and with confusion—I think this is the point: we deserve an up and down vote. More importantly, the American people deserve an up and down vote.
VITTER: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: What the Gregg—Could you tell me about the Gregg resolution that‘s sponsored by Judd Gregg. What would that do? What would be that point of that resolution?
VITTER: Who are you asking, Chris, me?
MATTHEWS: Yes, sir.
VITTER: It would put another resolution on the floor. There is significant support for that resolution. Many senators, particularly Republicans, want to be able to be on record supporting that sentiment. Go back to...
MATTHEWS: What is that? What is that? Tell me if you can, because the public‘s watching this, learning this as we go along. What does that resolution say?
VITTER: One of the very important things it says is what I believe Senator Reid, the head of the Democrats, wants to keep off the floor. And that is the notion that if people disagree violently with this plan, maybe they should do something actual and concrete and meaningful to stop it, because one thing the Gregg resolution says is that we should not cut off funding to the troops or cut off funding for this plan. It seems to me to talk about this in the context of completely nonbinding resolutions is really to avoid the tough challenge. And that is, if you‘re against the president‘s plan, what is it your responsibility to do to stop it in a concrete, real way, number one? And, number two, isn‘t it also your respondent to put forward a positive plan, a way forward in Iraq?
To go back to Jack Reed‘s point, nobody is talking about denying a vote on the Warner-Levin resolution, which would be that straight up and down vote Jack Reed is talking about. We would have that. Nobody would be denying that.
MATTHEWS: So the measure that Senator Gregg offers and you would like to see voted upon would call for—would criticize the escalation, but it would also do what?
VITTER: I don‘t think it would criticize the escalation. It would go to the issue of supporting the troops that are sent over in the field with funding and not blocking or stopping funding.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK. So you‘d like to have the whole debate by the Senate end up with the following conclusion: the Senate voted a nonbinding resolution opposed to the escalation, but voted also not to stop the funding for the resolution? You would like that to be the final resolution?
VITTER: How that comes out, obviously, is up to the collective decision of everybody who votes in the Senate. But I think it‘s really avoiding a pretty darn significant part of this debate to have purely nonbinding resolutions and nobody has the courage to step up and say, “We‘re actually going to do something because we oppose the president‘s plan.”
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Reed, it seems like what the Republicans want is to protect the mavericks. They‘ve got people in their party—seven to eleven of them, we‘re told—who are ready to vote against the escalation. They want to give them a trap door to say, “Yes, we‘re against the resolution but we‘re not going to cut the funding.” To protect them that way. And that makes you guys look like you‘re impotent.
REED: Well, what is happening here is a bit of confusion. The Warner resolution contains language virtually identical to the Gregg resolution, which indicates that we would support, with funding, American forces with their assigned missions. In fact, Senator Warner put that language in, I think, to try to get Senator Gregg‘s support. So the notion that the Gregg resolution is different than Warner is, I think, not sub substantiated by the facts.
What we have here is an attempt by the Republicans to stop a vote despite Senator Vitter‘s, I think, sincere efforts to say we will have a vote. At the end of the day, if he votes against (INAUDIBLE), we won‘t get a vote.
MATTHEWS: But if you give them what they say they want, don‘t they have to go along with the vote? Can‘t you call their bluff then, if that‘s what you believe it is, a bluff?
REED: Well, we are...
VITTER: If the two resolutions are so identical, why not allow there to be the votes? Let‘s have the debate. Let‘s have the votes.
REED: Well, I believe Senator Reid offered to Senator McConnell a vote on the McCain-Warner and a vote on another alternative. What I think the Republicans are trying to do, first of all, establish sixty vote margins, which are beyond the majority. But, second, I think what they‘re trying to do is just have a situation where, at the end of the day, they can claim that there‘s no sound, decisive support for the Warner-Levin and that the approach is muddled. And I think we need a clear up and down vote. If they want an alternative, that‘s fine. But at the end of the day if Senator Vitter and other Republicans vote against cloture, they are simply saying there won‘t be votes in substance on any of these proposals.
MATTHEWS: Can you win the argument, Senator Reed, if the Republicans kill this vote? Because the American people voted in November strongly and passionately about the war. You can argue that most of them voted against the war. A lot of them voted for it, I suppose. But they all want people to decide on the issue. If you can nail the Republicans as trying to avoid a vote, do you win the argument?
REED: I think what we have to do is continue to press for a vote. If we don‘t succeed today, then I believe we have to come back as soon as we can and insist again on a very clean vote, a vision on this escalation on both sides. Whether you support it or not, you should be on the record, not a procedural vote, but a record vote on the measure itself.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, both of you senators, Senator Reed and Senator Vitter.
Coming up, Rudy Giuliani is one step closer to running for president.
Can he win the Republican nomination?
And later, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with the latest on Scooter Libby‘s trial, which is ongoing.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Rudy Giuliani waded deeper into presidential waters today, bearing the moniker of course of America‘s mayor after 9/11, but does he have the right stuff to win? I mean, win the Republican presidential nomination? Here to tell us about him is his good friend, former U.S. Congresswoman Susan Molinari. You‘re now a Washington lobbyist, but you‘re also a Republican, and you love Rudy.
SUSAN MOLINARI, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: I‘m a big Rudy supporter, that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: How does he win this thing? Give me a minute on this, because I have nothing but conventional wisdom shrouding the room with he can‘t win, he‘s too liberal on social issues. Tell me how he wins.
MOLINARI: Well, first of all, if you look at any of the polling that‘s been done, there‘s no secret about Rudy‘s positions on the social issues, so that‘s all out there. And even when tested on push questions, Republican conservatives say that they really have great admiration and could see Rudolph Giuliani...
MATTHEWS: A push question is that nasty thing when you call somebody up, would you—did you know that Rudy Giuliani supports gay rights?
MOLINARI: OK, but also, one of the reasons why I‘m such a big Rudy fan is, and the story that America is yet to find out, is what Rudy Giuliani did for the city of New York while he was mayor. Talk to me about Republican conservatives and how upset they are with the increase in social spending and spending that‘s gone on in Washington, D.C. these days. Rudolph Giuliani in the city of New York cut taxes 26 times. He restored law and order. He got welfare reform to work.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about it. I‘m an out-of-towner. I‘d get my pitch. As a New Yorker, how did he make life in New York City different when he was mayor?
MOLINARI: He made people follow the rules. He stopped making excuses for people. I remember when he first became mayor, we had truant officers all of a sudden around schools, rounding up high school kids who didn‘t go to school. Why in the midst of squeegees and high unemployment and one out of six people in New York City on welfare, because Rudolph Giuliani believed in the rule of law. And if you started to show and deal with some of the smaller problems like truancy, you would eventually get a handle on the bigger ones, which they did. Crime went down...
MATTHEWS: How did he get the (inaudible) out of that subway?
MOLINARI: All of a sudden—how did he stop the squeegee people from...
MATTHEWS: Well, he...
MATTHEWS: Even phone booths in New York, just a place to make a phone call. And that smell around them before—I think—having gone to New York enough times, he did clean up that atmosphere in New York.
MOLINARI: You bet he did. He stopped making excuses for people.
MATTHEWS: Well, was he a little bit of a fascist of what? What did he do?
MOLINARI: By making people abide by the law.
MATTHEWS: He made people fear the place.
MOLINARI: He made people fear the law.
MATTHEWS: OK, why do majorities feel that he‘s their enemy?
MOLINARI: I don‘t know. Because what he did was...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, you do.
MOLINARI: No, I don‘t. Because what he did was restore order. When he reduced crime, where did he reduce crime, in what neighborhoods, Chris? Who was able to walk the streets...
MATTHEWS: I know who suffers from bad crime, people who live in tough neighborhoods, I know that.
MOLINARI: And that was the number one...
MATTHEWS: But that‘s not the feeling you get...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not the feeling you get from minority leaders.
MOLINARI: Rudolph Giuliani was unequivocally a strong supporter of the New York City Police Department. It was a police department that was badly battered in terms of their emotional support that they received from the previous mayor, David Dinkins, and I think that might have something to do with it. But the truth is, that neighborhoods were cleaner, neighborhoods were safer, all of New York City. Go to Times Square today.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, as an out-of-towner, I‘ve got to tell you, it‘s better for me to go when there‘s a city that‘s safer.
OK, let me ask you this. I am looking at the map of the United States. And I grew up in Philadelphia, right on the border with Bucks County. I know what the suburban vote looks like. My brother is a suburban Republican pol, as you know. He‘s a friend of yours. I see him doing very well in that part of the country. The suburbs of Philly, the suburbs of Chicago, the suburbs of Detroit, all across the country, all the way to California, where he is going to apparently do a big fund-raiser this weekend. And Schwarzenegger is very much similar to him in social policy, right? He‘s a superstar out there.
Is that enough votes to win the Republican nomination, if you lose the Bible Belt?
MOLINARI: Well, I don‘t know necessarily that you could even concede losing the Bible Belt. He was in South Carolina and had a great reception. He was in New Hampshire, he had a great reception. He gets strength in places like New York, New Jersey, Florida...
MATTHEWS: What about (inaudible) rolling towards the voting booths, and they‘re coming in by the hundreds to vote their religion, and Rudy is off base on the key issues of abortion rights and gay marriage. Gay rights, at least. What happens when he looks like a liberal to those folk?
MOLINARI: I think what Rudy is going to, and what we‘re going to all do, because it‘s what the American public are telling us they want right now, is a discussion about who best to lead this country, while we are at war with terrorists, which we will be unfortunately for probably the rest of our lifetime. Who can provide that type of leadership, that type of executive command? Who can provide that comfort to people throughout this country, like he did to New York City, while adhering to the core conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, cutting taxes, welfare reform, tough on crime? These are things that...
MATTHEWS: How about the three marriages?
MOLINARI: You know what, Chris? They‘re out there, and it is not moving anybody on his poll numbers. They are now coming to a point where they say, what he does for his family is one thing. I want to talk about in this presidential what he‘s going to do for mine. Rudolph Giuliani wins that argument every time.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘ll tell you, three things going for him. He acts and talks like a president.
MATTHEWS: He actually knows how to give a great speech. We‘ve seen it at the Republican Convention. At the time the country was most afraid, he seemed to be the strongest.
MATTHEWS: So he rises to the occasion.
Third thing is, I think—I think there‘s something about an ethnic -
I hate the word because we‘re all ethnic in one form—their time has come. We had presidents named Ford, Carter, Bush, you know what I mean? Reagan. It‘s about time we had someone with a name with an “I” at the end of it.
MOLINARI: Doesn‘t bother me.
MATTHEWS: I do think there are a lot of people in this country who say, when is that going to change?
MOLINARI: Well, and fourth thing. He has proven that he can lead a very difficult city at a time when everybody else gave up on New York City. He brought us back.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s tough. Look at that smile. I‘d be afraid of him on the other side. Anyway, we thank you, Susan. You‘re a great champion and you will be a great secretary of state.
Up next, much more on Rudy running with the Hardballers. We‘re going to talk about him with the Hardballers, not with Susan.
And later, will the Congress do what they should, debate the war in Iraq? I think it would be nice to have a debate, and a vote. We‘ll ask Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She‘s the one now from Florida—up from Florida. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Can Rudy Giuliani win the Republican nomination by winning the big states from New York to California? Is that enough electoral votes—I should say, delegate votes to overcome his losses, perhaps, in the Deep South?
We turn to our Hardballers. Ed Rogers was deputy assistant to the first President Bush. He‘s now a Washington lobbyist. And we begin with a man who has done battle directly, in person with Rudy Giuliani, former New York City advocate Mark Green. He was the city‘s ranking Democrat when Giuliani was mayor. He‘s now president of the New Democracy Project.
Let me ask you, Mark Green, you first. You‘re a New Yorker. Let‘s just try this now, play pundit for a second here. I know you‘re a Democrat. Has Rudy got the stuff to go for a full-year campaign and keep his temperament in line and be able to handle the pressure of a national media focused for a year?
MARK GREEN, (D) FMR. NY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: I don‘t think so, but a lot of people thought when he was running in 93 against Dinkins that he would blow up or blow up after he had won for a term or two. He rarely did. He does have a private temper. He doesn‘t play well with others is what Republicans and Democrats would both say about him. But the scrutiny for president, especially seeking the Republican nomination, given his social record, his cultural record, which I agree with on choice and gay rights, for expose, will expose him to a level of inquiry he‘s not going to be happy about.
So far, he‘s America‘s mayor. And that is gotten him to a third of the Republican primary vote. But when people cross examine him about how he put the emergency preparedness center in the World Trade Center after it had been attacked, about how he helped cover up the environmental effects after 9/11, when they start scrutinizing the record before and after September 11th,, he‘s going to have a lot to answer for.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about that, Ed? Will the Lilliputians of the press and the Republican Party be able top bring—to tie down this Gulliver?
This is a big man. Can they all together bring him down?
ED ROGERS, FMR. AIDE TO BUSH 41: Well, there‘s no question he‘s got huge—he‘s a giant figure on America‘s stage, no question. And he‘s got huge goodwill and respect. I agree with a lot of the analysis that Mark Green just gave. It remains to be seen how the dynamics of the race are going to shape up. When our primary voters decide who they are, who‘s going to turn out, and whether or not there are core-based voters, he‘s going to have a lot to overcome. It‘s going to be tough for him to...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the question and start with you this time, Ed. You know it isn‘t free will, it‘s free choice. You‘re going to have a number of candidates there.
ROGERS: Yes, five.
MATTHEWS: And he‘ll be one of them. And the other ones will be lesser known, lesser liked like perhaps, like Brownback, et cetera, Huckabee. They won‘t be big, national figures...
ROGERS: ... high expectations...
MATTHEWS: ... you‘ll have Mitt Romney there, who might be there by the end. And you‘ll certainly have McCain, who‘s there by now.
So you don‘t get to choose pluperfect. You don‘t get to choose Mr.
MATTHEWS: There isn‘t somebody like that floating—who can actually beat Hillary. So what do you do?
ROGERS: What‘s happened in the party at this early stage, the demise of Senator Frist, the demise of George Allen, there is an ideological and geographic hole in the party...
MATTHEWS: You lost the first team, didn‘t you?
ROGERS: ... and they‘re all rushing to get there. Well, we lost a piece of the first team. The first team was more than one player. And we lost a couple of them that everybody assumed would be there in the first round. And so, right now thee is a void in our party and everybody‘s trying to get there. South Carolina could be what it‘s all about before it‘s all over with.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mark, about the thing I hear about Giuliani. And I was impressed by him. I mean, I see the problem with the guy. He‘s got rough edges. He‘s a little bit of an SOB. But, you know, I think he show boats and who doesn‘t?
But, he did...
GREEN: You and I don‘t.
MATTHEWS: No, but I thought he really did show something almost magical on 9/11, something—it‘s almost hard to say what it was, an intangible. But I guess the best way to describe it—and I will stick to this assessment—when we all grew up in big cities—you and I certainly did, Mark—when there was a four-alarm fire, the police commissioner, the fire commissioner and the mayor would be standing on the curb answering questions in real time. They‘d be there answering for the catastrophe underway. And they would take responsibility for how the fire put out. And they were not off on some ranch somewhere, they weren‘t hiding somewhere, they weren‘t getting staffed up with a lot of position papers. They were there. Rudy seems like that kind of guy. And that seems the kind of guy we want as president next time.
GREEN: He has the intelligence and the capacity to be president. I
don‘t think he has the temperament or character to be president. I heard
Susan Molinari, who‘s a friend and a supporter of Mayor Giuliani—he
racially divided the city in a way that 100 percent of the black community
and I don‘t mean just all Sharpton, but others thought he was racially divisive...
MATTHEWS: What did he do that showed that he working on that division rather than just try to be a law and order guy?
GREEN: He refused to meet with moderate, elected Democrats like Carl McCall, the Comptroller, Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Burrough president. These are not Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He wouldn‘t even sit down with him. The police stopped and frisked African-American citizens who were suspected of nothing. I sued Giuliani and won on getting data that showed the police were overreaching, if not...
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t that going on right now? I just saw a report on stopping and frisking, which is bigger than ever right now.
GREEN: Yes, it has been. At least Bloomberg has appointed African-Americans to high positions, meets with them. After the recent, terrible killing of a man on his wedding day who was innocent, at least Bloomberg met with them. It is true, Chris,that Giuliani went from being Nixon in terms of temperament and popularity to being Churchill overnight. I saw him close up. He did have a combination of compassion and strength in the days after 9/11 when the city and country needed it. But when a Wayne Barret (ph) starts explaining how he flubbed terrorism and security before and after 9/11 and when the Terri Schiavo Republican theocrats start asking questions about him, it‘s going to be a problem.
MATTHEWS: OK, you Terri Schiavo theocrat, what are you going to do to this guy?
ROGERS: Hey, like I said. He‘s a Republican. He‘s got a lot of goodwill and respect in our party. He could very well be the nominee. The plaintiffs could line up. And, in fair disclosure, I think Mark sought to defeat...
MATTHEWS: Giuliani-Barbour, what do you think? Giuliani-Barbour going into the fall against Hillary and Evan Bayh.
ROGERS: That would tamp down a lot of base of the party if you put Hillary on the ticket. That‘s for sure.
MATTHEWS: I love the way you say it. Haley, I love it.
Anyway, thank you.
Haley Barbour did a great job. He‘s done a great job.
Thanks you very, Mark Green. It‘s good to have you on the show. You never age a week. I don‘t get you. You still look like the young Joe Kennedy. I don‘t get it.
Anyway, thank you.
GREEN: My hair is no longer prematurely gray.
ROGERS: I know how you feel.
MATTHEWS: It‘s appropriately gray.
Anyway, up next, when will the White House—or the House of the Representatives actually debate the war? We‘re waiting for both houses tog get to the job the voters sent them back to do.
Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz—she‘s from Florida. She‘ll be here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When will the House of Representatives debate the war? We talked about the Senate and the problem over there with a possible filibuster. Will they vote to disagree with President Bush‘s plan to send 21,000 more troops to Baghdad?
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is on the Appropriations Committee and Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is on the Homeland Security Committee.
Congresswoman Blackburn, would you like to see the House vote on the war?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, ® TN: What I want to see is the House support the men and women in uniform. That is what I thin is the appropriate thing to do and that‘s the action we ought to take.
MATTHEWS: When do the voters of America have an influence on the policy?
BLACKBURN: The voters of America are giving their opinions and I read
the Opinion Dynamics poll today that shows that 77 percent of those voters
MATTHEWS: That‘s a Fox poll, right? Yeah.
BLACKBURN: Uh, Opinion .
MATTHEWS: Yeah, it‘s a Fox poll. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it‘s a Fox poll. All right.
BLACKBURN: Seventy-seven percent show that they believe that what happens in Iraq does affect their life and a plurality of those that were polled out of the 900 that were polled say that they feel like we‘ve not been aggressive enough in our stance with the insurgents.
MATTHEWS: Why do you give—what about other polls like the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll saying most people oppose the surge? Why is that?
BLACKBURN: I think what a lot of people are saying that they want to be certain that we win on the war on terror. They are not necessarily sure that sending more troops in is what we need to do. I disagree with that. I think that returning those troop levels to where they were when the Iraqis held their elections with the men and women on the field saying that‘s the thing to do, then let‘s give it a shot. Let‘s see if it works.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, congresswoman?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FL: The president is at a 28 percent approval rating for a reason. And November 7th the American people spoke primarily that they wanted move this country in a new different direction particularly on the war in Iraq. And they certainly didn‘t say on November 7th please escalate this war, please ensure that there‘s more violence. Please send our men and women into harm‘s way.
And that‘s why they are opposed to the escalation. And what they voted for on November 7 was accountability. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership when they were in charge of Congress didn‘t exercise any accountability over the president‘s decisions in Iraq and now we are going to be able to do that.
MATTHEWS: Was sending American troops in to occupy Iraq a smart thing for American interests?
BLACKBURN: When we go in and we topple Saddam‘s regime and we began the world that the insurgents are working in and the breeding ground that they have there, that‘s the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: So it was it smart thing for America to invade and occupy Iraq?
If you could use my language if you don‘t mind. Was it smart for America to invade and occupy Iraq.
BLACKBURN: It was smart for America to go in and break that regime down. Yes it was.
MATTHEWS: But we‘ve occupied that country.
BLACKBURN: But Chris, you know .
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you answer the question?
BLACKBURN: I am answering the question.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. I want to be really polite. Do you think it was smart for America to invade and occupy Iraq?
BLACKBURN: I think it was smart for America to go in and topple that regime. Absolutely I do.
MATTHEWS: And occupy it for four years?
BLACKBURN: Has everything been perfect going forward? Not exactly right. But Chris, the thing is, what happens if we leave? What happens?
MATTHEWS: I just want to know if we‘ve been smart so far. Because if we‘re so smart so far, you should trust the people who have made the decisions so far.
But if we haven‘t been smart so far we should question the people who made decisions so far. You say it was smart to do what we‘ve done so far? I‘m only asking the question.
BLACKBURN: I‘m saying not everything has been perfect.
MATTHEWS: Was it smart to occupy Iraq for four years?
BLACKBURN: I don‘t agree with the way that you are phrasing that. I say what we have done is that it is the right thing for us to do to say we need to put forth a plan that we make certain we win the war on terror. It is a very difficult war. This is something that has been going on. Our interests have been attacked for 20 years. War is never an easy thing, defending freedom is never an easy thing, but Chris, we cannot lose in the war on terror.
MATTHEWS: So we can‘t leave Iraq?
BLACKBURN: We have to be certain that we stand those people up and let‘s give this plan a shot. Let‘s support our men and women in uniform.
MATTHEWS: That call to support our men and women in uniform. That works with me. I was just watching the Super Bowl yesterday and even a small moment we saw the men and women in Baghdad, they flashed on the screen and I also remember that little shot of the guy, the pilot that was leading the over flights at the game and it got to me.
And I was standing next to General Tommy Franks. We were sitting and watching the game together and it got to him, too.
I‘m very concerned about our troops, but because they‘re loyal, because they‘re obedient and they are disciplined and they are totally patriotic, it‘s all the more important to give them the right mission. And you miss the political discussion here if you say simply support the troops. Because of course we support the troops. But you have to make sure they get the right mission. And that‘s what we debate here.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We didn‘t support the troops when we sent them into harm‘s way without a plan, without a long-term strategy to eventually get them home. We sent them in there with faulty intelligence, an assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction which there weren‘t, with plans that were not complete and now we have thousands and thousands and we‘re going to send thousand more into harm‘s way.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your plan?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I‘d to actually like to have the president be straight with us. The CBO came out with a report - the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report last week following the president‘s announcement of the escalation that it‘s not 21,500, in order to actually provide the support staff you need, you have to send 48,000 troops in to Iraq in order get the job done. We have got to make sure that we, one, have some accountability which Democratic leadership in the Congress has done. We are holding hearings and we‘re going to bring the administration and the military leadership in front of the Congress and ask them difficult questions, make sure we hold the contractors accountable.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—I‘m sorry. I got the signal, 30-seconds, and I‘ll give it to you. Yesterday, another horrible day over there. The Sunnis killed a whole bench of Shias. A whole bunch of them. What do we do when the people in that country are fighting each other?
What do we do?
BLACKBURN: That is going to be one of those decisions where we turn to the men and women on the ground, the leadership, the command team that is over there. Let‘s put this plan in motion. Let‘s give General Petraeus a chance to go over there, pull this forward and see if we can make it work.
MATTHEWS: But what‘s our policy towards this fighting between both sides over in Iraq? What‘s our policy? Do we take sides on the Shia side? Do we fight them both? Do we kill anybody that decides to shoot at somebody else? What mission do you give these soldiers? You have to give them missions here in Washington.
BLACKBURN: And what we have seen happen since the president came out with his speech three weeks ago now, we have seen al-Maliki make some changes. We have seen some changes in the clerics and al-Sadr. Let‘s see where we are going to get with this. We need to let them know. We don‘t need to do something counterproductive. Our men and women in uniform tell us that it is counterproductive to be having a resolution about whether or not we support the effort and what they are doing. The work that we‘re doing over there.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We need to make sure we ask the tough questions, we need to make sure that we provide the adequate funding that we need for our troops and if we are going to move in a certain direction, we need a comprehensive strategy and the president .
MATTHEWS: I just want to get one thing straight. We are asking those people in Baghdad to debate issues. We are asking them to practice democracy. I think we should practice .
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Congresswoman Blackburn, I agree with your sentiment, but I think this country is about democracy and about argument. It‘s not about we all agree. This isn‘t a fascist country where everybody is told to agree with everybody and support the troops. That‘s a beginning a discussion. It‘s not the end of it.
Thank you very much.
BLACKBURN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Representing Tennessee so well and thank you Congresswoman
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Wasserman-Schultz. I was just flying over your district the other day down there at the Super Bowl.
Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest on the Scooter Libby trial. Don‘t you love that guy‘s name? Scooter Libby. Where do we find such men? This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now for if latest on the Scooter Libby trial, we go to HARDBALL‘s David Shuster who is at the courthouse and has been there all day. David?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the latest is that the jury in this case has now finally started hearing Scooter Libby‘s own voice from tape recordings made from Scooter Libby‘s two appearances to the grand jury.
Three of the five charges against Scooter Libby are based on his testimony to the grand jury during the CIA leak investigation when investigators were trying to figure out the time line events of the events leading to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson. Already in this first hour and a half worth of tape recordings, Chris, the jury has already heard Scooter Libby talking about a very crucial phone conversation with Vice President Cheney in June of 2003.
Libby testified to the grand jury and the jurors heard it again today that the very first time he heard about Valerie Wilson working at the CIA was in a phone call with Vice President Cheney. Libby described how the conversation tone of the vice president was one of curiosity as the vice president was talking with Scooter Libby about how to rebut some of the charges and some of the press accounts that were coming out about Joe Wilson‘s trip to Africa.
The big problem though, Chris, that Scooter Libby has and what this grand jury testimony does is it sets up a huge hurdle for Scooter Libby is that he was indicted when he told the grand jury that he first learned about Valerie Wilson working at the CIA from NBC‘s Tim Russert and even though NBC‘s Tim Russert is expected to testify on Wednesday that they never talked about Valerie Wilson, what Libby‘s defense team is going to have to try to ask the jury to do is to believe that even though Scooter Libby first learned about Valerie Wilson from Vice President Cheney in June that somehow Libby forget about the conversation completely and a month later thought he was hearing about Valerie Wilson for the first time from NBC‘s Tim Russert even though Russert is going to testify that they didn‘t talk about it.
On the first 92 minutes of these grand jury audio tapes Libby has already started to be asked about some of the five government officials who he testified in this case they heard Scooter Libby talking about Valerie Wilson in June 2003. Scooter Libby‘s voice gets very soft and quiet, for example, when he is asked about Mark Grossman, the undersecretary of state. Grossman testified that he told Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson and Libby was asked do you recall the conversation and over and over, he kept saying, I do not recall. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Boy, he‘s a loyalist, isn‘t he?
Thank you very much, David Shuster. Let‘s bring in our guests.
Washingtonpost.com‘s Chris Cillizza and the “Weekly Standard‘s” Matthew Continetti.
Matt, thank you for joining us. Thank you as always, Chris.
Let‘s talk about what might not happen. Ever since the election, there‘s been talk we‘ll have a vote in the Congress about the war in Iraq. Some form of up or down so that people can hear their representatives. Now, it seems like it‘s coming apart. Chris why won‘t they just vote on the Hill about whether to expand our occupation, our troop levels?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Far be it for me to predict what happens on the Hill. I have been wrong a number of times. But I would absolutely shocked if you didn‘t see some kind of vote on some kind of resolution.
The reality of the situation is that there are a lot of Republicans members many of whom happen to be up for re-election in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Have to say you say it sarcastically.
CILLIZZA: Who want to go on the record and say the Bush policy is not our policy. Many have said that publicly but they want it to be noted in the record. I think you have both the Democratic interests working and many, not all, of the Republicans vests working for some kind of vote on a resolution?
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it great you can‘t gerrymander a Senate seat? Isn‘t it great, Matt, that you have to speak to the whole people of your state, whether it‘s Oregon or Ohio or whatever it is. You have to go back there and defend a war to everybody.
Whereas a congressman or a congresswoman is able to have a very well customized district where you can take a far right or far left position. Senators have to talk to everybody.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, “WEEKLY STANDARD”: The Democrats won the election in 2006 there is no doubt about that but they have a very slim majority in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: They need 60 to get a vote.
CONTINETTI: Fifty-one, 49. They need sixty in the Senate.
So the same problem Republicans had when they were in control, Democrats now have now they are in control.
MATTHEWS: The Democrats had plenty of chances in the last 3,000 years to get rid of the filibuster rule and every time they had a big fat majority they kept it.
CONTINETTI: Absolutely. Remember, we went through a whole showdown in 2005 over the nuclear option that Trent Lott talked about. Democrats there said no we need to protect the filibuster to protect the rights of the minority. Now of course Republicans are using the same tools.
MATTHEWS: So what do you think the conservatives are hoping to do, as we say in boxing, clinch, avoid an up and down?
CONTINETTI: Conservatives, the best case scenario is that they can attract enough members to the McCain-Lieberman resolution, which probably won‘t happen.
MATTHEWS: A majority.
CONTINETTI: For a majority. Break the sixty. At least get more than 50 on there.
At the end of the day, though, people like Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, he is going to want no vote at all rather than some vote that goes to Hagel.
MATTHEWS: What about this thing we‘re watching tonight? And I hate to get too much in the weeds here but it seems what they want to have what they want to have if you listen to Senator Vitter of Louisiana, he says what they really want to have is a vote that comes out somewhat murky, that says, we don‘t like the escalation in troop levels, but we are determined not to cut off the spending.
CILLIZZA: Again, you can‘t divorce policy as it relates to Iraqi from politics. Matt is right. When you look at the 2006 election, there is no question that was a referendum on the war in Iraq. Republicans, especially those up in 2008, understand that.
They understand that they have to say something, that they have to show a visible breaking, especially those who are running in places like Oregon and Maine. They have to show a visible break from the president. The best way to do that is to cast a vote.
MATTHEWS: One - thirty second break here. I want you both to talk about this. Matt, how are each of the Republican candidates trying to distinguish themselves on the war right now? Let‘s go McCain, Mitt Romney and Giuliani. What are they doing?
CONTINETTI: The amazing thing, McCain of course has staked out the far right position, supporting the escalation even though choosing some targets. Romney and Giuliani both support the surge but they are being much more quiet about it.
CILLIZZA: I am shocked by it, to be honest. The only person who in the Republican Party who is really talking about running for president—
You have Sam Brownback and Chuck Hagel, two senators, relative little-known from the Midwest who have been critical of the president. I guess the calculation is that even if the party doesn‘t like the president all that much, they don‘t necessarily want someone talking bad about him and trying to reverse course. That‘s not a winning primary strategy.
MATTHEWS: The more I hear about this the more I fear is that we are going to have two hawks run against each other in 2008. Nobody is going to have the guts to challenge policy when it comes down to it. They don‘t want these clear cut up or down votes. They want to be able to say I was with the president.
CONTINETTI: Hillary Clinton is the right most candidates and she wants the war to end by 2009. She says if it hasn‘t ended by then, she‘ll end it. So there‘s no one to her right at this point.
MATTHEWS: Will she stop it in time to start the war in Iran? We will be right back with Chris Cillizza and Matthew Continetti. We‘ll be right back with HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with the washingtonpost.com‘s Chris Cillizza and “The Weekly Standard‘s” Matt Continetti.
Matt, you haven‘t been here in a while so tell me this, what is Hillary - what is her position on the war in Iraq?
CONTINETTI: Right now again Hilary Clinton not repudiating her vote. That is the one thing that distinguishes her from John Edwards who also voted for authority and now declares it was a (inaudible) mistake.
MATTHEWS: What is your strategy behind not saying you‘re wrong if everybody thinks you think you‘re wrong?
CONTINETTI: The Clinton strategy was always trying to get as left as possible, but still hold out space for the general election. I fear she has moved too far to the left for the general. Now saying she resents the fact that Bush is continuing the war and Bush better make sure we are all out of Iraq before she becomes president. That is going to open her up to a lot of attacks if she makes ...
MATTHEWS: Do you know there‘s a 20 percent spread right now between people who want a Democrat or a Republican to be the next president? And you still feel that you can err on the side of being too anti-war? You still believe that?
CONTINETTI: The political future is never a straight line production from the present. Look, after 2004 Bush wins the re-election and never once thought it was heralding the new era of Republican dominance. Then we get 2006. We don‘t know what 2008 will be like.
MATTHEWS: But you bet it will be a hawkish year.
CONTINETTI: It will be a war election. I know that much. We do not know the situation on the ground in Iraq is going to be, but we probably do know we still be there.
MATTHEWS: I‘m playing with the idea that this thing could be scrambled. That by the election of 2008, if McCain is the nominee and he is still the frontrunner, if he wins and she is definitely the frontrunner, you could have a race where sometime in the fall of 2008 McCain could say I have been a supporter of this war from day one. I said more troops from day one. They did not do it right, it can‘t be done right at this point. I say to hell with it and let‘s save America‘s honor and get the hell out of that country. And Hillary is standing there positioned in the middle and he‘s gone.
CILLIZZA: The argument for .
MATTHEWS: Because the Republicans would like nothing better than to be given the permission slip to get the hell out of there.
CILLIZZA: The argument for McCain which does actually present a possibility of that scenario is that his current positioning and his positioning from the beginning is not fundamentally about politics, it is about a belief system which does set up the possibility that if it gets the point where he no longer believes that the war can be won, he can say, look, I have studied this, look at my past resume. I am someone who can speak authoritatively.
MATTHEWS: He is not a neoconservative, he is a hawk. He does not believe in a particularly forward leaning policy in the Middle East. He does not particularly believe in the aggressive notion of the Rubik‘s cube, we move this country around, we bring in the Hashemites here, he doesn‘t by that. He basically says, I‘m a tough guy, let‘s try to win battles once we are in them. But it‘s clear to me if we cannot win it, what does he say? You disagree, you are wincing. You think McCain is stuck as the Hawk.
CONTINETTI: He is with the Bush policy.
In a way, the deal McCain made in 2004. He promised his support to George W. Bush for reelection.
MATTHEWS: Where was this made? This deal made.
CONTINETTI: Just a metaphor, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know.
CONTINETTI: Now, of course, he is sticking with it because he believes in it. He believes the central tenet of the Bush doctrine still. He may be the last man in Washington.
MATTHEWS: What is the Bush doctrine.
CONTINETTI: That is the solution to terrorism in the long term is freedom in the Middle East. There are some people, believe it or not, in Washington who still believe that‘s the case.
CILLIZZA: The other thing .
MATTHEWS: You are laughing. Why are you laughing?
CONTINETTI: I am laughing because it is a minority position at this point that it is almost unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: Because you read that Condi Rice does not believe that anymore?
CONTINETTI: Joe Lieberman does. John McCain does. They are still going to advocate .
MATTHEWS: Well, sure if we could have freedom in the Middle East we would all like to have it but the question is, was the evasion of Iraq smart for U.S. interests?
CONTINETTI: There is no doubt, then, that both of them believe that.
And there are many Republicans to this day .
MATTHEWS: That is a losing argument right now. That is a losing argument.
CONTINETTI: Not in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s still a part (ph) that this was a smart move to go into Iraq?
CONTINETTI: Look at the poll down. The breakdown is amazing. The partisan division on this war.
MATTHEWS: I know that.
CONTINETTI: Republicans continue to support this war.
MATTHEWS: I think if you talk about what you said a minute ago, the time shift, the vector, the shift away from this war is pretty damn strong in the Republican Party right now. I would hit the ground speed of opposition to this war is faster in the Republican Party than it is the Democratic Party right. There are more people losing support for this war in the R side than the D side. Would you agree?
CONTINETTI: Certainly in the Congress, but look at the presidential candidates. They are not moving so far. Only Sam Brownback moving against a surge.
CILLIZZA: And to be honest, if that‘s true, if the vector is moving faster in the Republican Party, it probably does not matter who they nominate because the people are moving away from that position and more closer to the independent Democrat position then it may mean people are going to vote for the Democrat regardless.
MATTHEWS: Democratic is adjective, isn‘t it .
CILLIZZA: Because they simply won‘t vote - Democratic nominee - if you want to buy into that Republican spin, sure.
MATTHEWS: I think is going to be a close election next time. It‘s only a year from know - we are going to know in less than a year from now the probable nominee for both parties. But I do think all the debates are going to be the next couple of months and we are going to see the shape of the field and we will know who is winning. And there is going to be a dynamic there. Some is going to start separating themselves in the field and someone will fight like hell to get in on the Democrat‘s side.
CILLIZZA: Al Gore.
MATTHEWS: Somebody has to get in there between Hillary and Obama.
They can‘t let these two just run away with the race.
CILLIZZA: I think Al Gore and continues to say no without totally saying no. You know he‘s going to be on the Hill. He is going to be testifying on global climate change.
MATTHEWS: Do think we might have a Freddy Krueger like George Allen or Rick Santorum come back from the dead and run for the nomination?
CONTINETTI: Santorum thinks he is Churchill. When Iran comes up, this may be his Churchillian moment.
MATTHEWS: Thanks Chris Cillizza and Matt Continetti bringing the insane point of view to the show.
Anyway, play HARDBALL with us Tuesday - just in that moment—our guests will include Missouri Senator Kit Bond and actor Sam Waterston. He is supporter for that third option for the next time about trying to pick not a Democrat or a Republican. See you tomorrow night. Right now it‘s time for TUCKER.
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