updated 2/8/2007 2:20:14 PM ET 2007-02-08T19:20:14

Guests: Jim Webb, Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnicle, Dan Lungren, Maxine Waters, Anne Kornblut

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Scooter Libby complained what the hell is going on HARDBALL?  What was going on in HARDBALL was the pursuit of the truth.  How could the vice president‘s office, which asked the CIA to check out whether Iraq had bought nuclear materials in Africa not warn the president there was no deal?  Tonight, just like on July of 2003, let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  More grim news from Iraq today.  The U.S. military reports a fifth American helicopter crashed near Baghdad, killing all seven crew members.  The incident is under investigation and the “Associated Press” reports that more U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq over the past four months than in any comparable period before, ever since the war began. 

This week the Republicans successfully shut down the debate in the Senate over the president‘s plan to escalate the war.  For now, the Senate won‘t debate any resolution, but the House of Representatives will next week, apparently.  House Democrats plan to vote on a resolution opposing the U.S. troop increase in Iraq. 

Later we‘ll talk with two California members of Congress, Congressman Dan Lungren, a Republican and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, both of California, to preview that House floor debate and fight.  We‘ll also hear from HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with the latest news from the Scooter Libby trial.

But first, with a slim majority, what can Senate Democrats do about Iraq?  Jim Webb is a Democratic senator from Virginia.  He serves on both the Foreign Relations and the Armed Services Committee. 

Senator Webb, can the Democrats do what they promised to do in the election which you won last November?  Bring the issue of the war in Iraq to the floor for debate and decision?

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  Well, we‘re doing everything that we can, and quite frankly, over the last couple of weeks, we worked pretty closely with a number of Republicans, as you know, to try to get language that would be acceptable to both parties.

To me, this is more an issue of the congressional authority vs. the executive branch of the presidency than it is Democrat-Republican.  But we obviously hit a wall over the last couple of days.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t one of you play “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” go to the floor, take it over, don‘t leave it until you have a vote? 

WEBB:  That‘s probably easier to do in the House.  I was a committee counsel over there for four years, than it is in the Senate.  I think the proposals that the majority leader put forward are good proposals and honestly, I think right now the Republican leadership just does not want a vote because they know they‘re going to lose.  And all of this sturm and drang about the amendment offered by Senator Gregg is kind of --  it‘s almost irrelevant to where we are.  The language of the Gregg amendment, which has been the sticking point is actually in the Warner-Levin measure that we‘re trying to debate.

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t feel like being Jimmy Stewart in this and just saying, “I‘m going to stop the Senate from doing any other business until it takes up the No. 1 issue in the country, which is the war?”

WEBB:  Well, I made a pretty strong statement yesterday and I‘m doing what I can, where I‘m one of 100 people here.  And I think that quite frankly,Harry Reid has done just about everything he can at this point.

One thing that we‘re going to see, however, is that when the—after we do the continuing resolution, when we have the 9/11 report coming to the Senate floor they‘re going to allow amendments.  There are going to be a number of amendments on Iraq.  I‘m actually considering putting in an amendment about Iran.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Iran, because a lot of people, me included, wonder whether this administration might get us involved in a second war in that part of the world—the Mideast—in other words, get into a war with Iran.  Does the president have the constitutional authority to go to war with Iran without checking with your branch of government?

WEBB:  I don‘t believe he does, and there are two situations with respect to Iran.  The first is, as I said yesterday on the issue of Iraq and how to move forward—the great frustration that I have is that we don‘t even have half a strategy here. 

We have a continuing military policy—every time there is an escalation of the violence inside Iraq, but we have not had an aggressive diplomatic offensive by this administration that matches the quality of our military performance and that would embrace these countries in the region in a way that we can get a diplomatic solution. 

You‘re not going to do that unless we go to Syria and Iran, as many people have said.  Now, with respect to the administration and Iran specifically, I asked Secretary of State Rice, last month in a hearing—I read the presidential finding on the—on the resolution of ‘02 which basically said from this administration that they believe they have a lot of requisite authority, and possibly including Iran. 

I asked her to clarify that.  I have not received a clarification and I‘m considering putting a resolution in that basically says that no previous resolutions, no previous law empowers this administration...

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

WEBB:  ... to unilaterally go into Iran.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know the number of countries in the world right now, senator, maybe you know, it‘s probably under 200 but does the president hold authority to attack any one of them if he wants to, under this requisite authority that‘s mentioned here?

WEBB:  This is a big problem.

MATTHEWS:  I would say so.  He could attack England basically on this reading.

WEBB:  Yes, if you look at the framers of the constitution, they wanted to give the president as commander in chief the authority to repel sudden attacks.

That is totally different than conducting a preemptive war.  And you know one thing, if you look at where we are in the Persian Gulf right now, when I was secretary of the Navy and until very recently, we never operated aircraft carriers inside the Persian Gulf because, No. 1, the turning radius is pretty close.  And No. 2, the chance of accidentally bumping into something that would start a diplomatic situation was pretty high.

We now have been doing that, and with the tensions as high as they are, I‘m very worried that we might accidentally set something off in there and we need, as a Congress, to get ahead of the ball game here.

MATTHEWS:  Before Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was known to have engaged in that kind of activity in the North Atlantic, creating perimeters out there and daring the Nazi fleet—the U-boats to attack within that perimeter and basically month after month, increasing that perimeter until he thought he had perhaps been in a situation to gin up a war with a country he hated and wanted to see us fight.

It turns out that of course that Pearl Harbor intervened.  Is this president trying to do the same thing, do you think?  Trying to create a situation where it‘s easy for Ahmadinejad to do something wrong and create an act of war?

WEBB:  Well there are again—even on the military side, there are two different situations.  One is if there are Iranian military people actively involved inside Iraq as a former marine, I would support the notion of tactically engaging them.  I haven‘t seen concrete evidence of that, but that‘s one situation. 

The other situation, I do think that this administration has been pushing the envelope and we need a clear set of guidance from the Congress about when you can conduct preemptive war.  Preemptive war is—was not even a concept until about 13 or 14 years ago.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the difference between being preemptive war and starting a war?  It seems to me preemptive war is what I think Hitler did against Poland.  I mean, what is preventive mean?  It seems like you start a war, but you call it a preventive war.  Isn‘t that simply nomenclature?  If you started military action against another country, you‘ve started the war, haven‘t you?

WEBB:  We‘ve always had a concept of a preemptive attack—if you see for instance a terrorist element getting ready to hit you...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s preemptive.  How about preventive?

WEBB:  ... you can hit them first.

MATTHEWS:  Because Bush talks about preventive, not preemptive.  He doesn‘t say like Israel did back in ‘67, when they saw the screws being tightened and war coming and everybody mobilized.  They said we‘ve got to act.  That‘s preemptive.  Preventive is when you just say we don‘t like the other guy‘s cut of his jib.  We‘re going after him.

WEBB:  I don‘t think we should be doing either in terms of a war, preemptive or preventive.  And the language if you look at the presidential finding on the ‘02 resolution is very loose.  It even goes to threats or other concerns and that‘s why we‘re going to be seeing Secretary of State Rice in the next day or two—I‘m going to again present this to her and if they don‘t give us a clear answer, I‘m going to introduce a resolution. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought the Democrats back when they went along with this war, people like Gephardt, especially Gephardt, managed to get one bit of concession out of the administration that the war on Iraq would only be the war they were going to fight, that they didn‘t give them a complete blank check to fight any country in that region around the world.  Maybe we should both do some legislative history checking here, but I do wonder where the Democrats didn‘t get that small concession from President Bush when they agreed to basically tow his line.

WEBB:  They certainly didn‘t, if you read the presidential findings.

They have thought that they did, when they were debating it, but as you know, I and a number of people including Tony Zinni and General Hoar, two former CentCom commanders, would basically say this is not the way to deal with the war against international terrorism.  You don‘t tie your military up into one spot and create essentially a strategic mousetrap.

It was a very bad strategic decision for us to go in Iraq in the first place and we‘re not going to get out of there until we have the right kind of diplomatic environment.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about your senior senator, Republican senator from your state, the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John Warner, a big friend of this show‘s—John Warner wants to do something about objecting to this escalation of 21,000 troops.  However, he‘s taken the Republican side on procedure.  What‘s he doing?

WEBB:  Well, I have a long regard for John Warner as you know and I think he and I are in the same place in terms of a concern about this administration and a lack of an overt diplomatic formula.

He had to kind of go with his leader, I think, on this, and I‘m hoping that we can work this out because quite frankly, you know, Senator Reid, Senator Levin went a long way working with Senator Warner to try to make sure we had something that was palatable to the Republican side, or at least a portion of the Republican side, anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the Republican leadership really playing hardball with these guys and demanding that they buckle to the party line on procedural votes?  Is that what‘s going on? 

WEBB:  That‘s what it looks like.  I don‘t think they want a vote and I think they know they will lose a vote.  But, quite frankly, ending this war is more important than embarrassing a president. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you‘re going to get a bipartisan agreement sometime in the next couple of years on opposing this war escalation? 

WEBB:  I hope that we can do that in a relatively short order, enough of a bipartisan agreement to get an affirmative vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you meet outside the Senate chamber, out in front there in the parking lot, all the senators who want to oppose this war and just put your hands up in the air and say, “We‘re voting against this escalation.”

You don‘t have to do it in the meeting room. 

WEBB:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve always wondered why you just can‘t meet outside say, “We‘ve got five Republicans joining or seven Republicans.  We all agreed to meet outside, put our hands in the air, which says we don‘t like your escalation, Mr. President, we don‘t need regular order to do that.” 

WEBB:  I think you probably have a lot of that going on.  But we‘d obviously have to formalize it on the floor. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would rather have less dignity and less war. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

Coming up, why are the same people still questioning that Rudy‘s in the race?  This guy looks like he‘s running, but let‘s listen.  Hardballers Pat Buchanan and Mike Barnicle will be here to talk about whether Rudy is actually doing it. 

And later, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with the big report on today‘s news on the Scooter Libby trial.  Scooter doesn‘t like what we did on HARDBALL back in July of 2003.  Let‘s look at what we were doing and why he obviously didn‘t like it, because we were getting to something he didn‘t want us getting to. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Rudy says he‘s in it to win.  So why are some people still doubting whether he‘s actually running for president?  Is there a danger of underestimating a guy who often tops—in fact, almost always tops Republican polls? 

Here to dig into that question and the rest of the 2008 election‘s are the Hardballers, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and MSNBC‘s Mike Barnicle. 

Mike, I‘ve never seen a guy who leads every poll and gets dismissed by everybody of the walking, talking conventional wisdom sort. 

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, don‘t you think that part of that is because of the Republican delegates and everybody saying, “Well, he can‘t get the nomination because of his ideology, because of his views on gay rights?”...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re in Boston, Mike.  You‘re in Boston right now.  Up in New Hampshire, where it‘s filled with ex-Democrats and conservatives, people like us who went over to the other side, became very active Republicans, let me ask you this.  Don‘t they know Rudy Giuliani‘s position?  Don‘t they know that if he‘s mayor of New York, he‘s probably pro-choice?  Don‘t they know that if he‘s mayor of New York, he‘s probably not anti-gay rights? 

This idea that everybody‘s stupid out there beyond the New York world, that somehow people don‘t know who this guy is amazes me.  Don‘t people know this guy? 

BARNICLE:  They not only know all of that about him, Chris, but he is going to win the New Hampshire primary because from Manchester down south to the Massachusetts border, it‘s basically a large suburb of Boston.  People who have moved to New Hampshire, fleeing high tax rates in Massachusetts, city people. 

Rudy Giuliani, in their minds, prior to September 11, along with Bill Bratton took New York City, that people have a mythic concept of, and he did what?  He made it safe.  And that‘s what people want in the United States of America today.  They want their country safe.  They want a tough, ethnic guy making their country safe. 

Now, I‘m not saying he‘s going to win the presidency, but I think he will win the New Hampshire primary. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan, you have won the New Hampshire primary.  He had the kind of—he has—although he‘s not pro-life like you are and were, he does have that ethnic grit.  What do you think? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think Mike is right.  If the election were held today, I think Rudy Giuliani would win the New Hampshire primary.  The numbers up there are astronomical.  I think it‘s 70 to 18 favorable to unfavorable. 

MATTHEWS:  70-14. 

BUCHANAN:  70-14, which is terrific. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the lowest unfavorable I‘ve seen in a long time in this business. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, nobody—let me tell you, by the time we got to the

Chris, by the time we got through 1992, when I went in and Brown went in against Clinton and Bush, everybody, all four of us had negatives in the forties, mid to high forties.  That‘s what happens... 

MATTHEWS:  You mean it‘s negative advertising?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s negative advertising, constant attack, the opposition goes after you.  And everybody‘s after you.  They‘re digging up stuff.  They‘re throwing stuff out.  So Rudy‘s negatives are going to go up. 

The question is: is he going to go to Iowa and go through that?  It‘s not only gay rights and pro-abortion, it‘s immigration...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s for abortion rights.  I wouldn‘t say pro-abortion.

BUCHANAN:  He‘s got a sanctuary—he‘s for a sanctuary city.  He‘s marched in the Gay Pride Parade.  When you put all of that stuff up there, that‘s an awful lot of stuff to carry.  McCain and those guys are going to have a vital interest in bringing him down... 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think John McCain is going to go after Rudy for being pro-choice? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘ll even mention the gay issue? 

BUCHANAN:  Now, but it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  It is a little but unseemly for your opponent to say, “This guy‘s pro-gay and therefore you shouldn‘t vote for him.”

BUCHANAN:  No, you say, “Look”—here‘s the thing.  In the debates, he‘ll say, “Look, I agree with Rudy Giuliani on the gay rights issue and I disagree.”  But they‘ll have their people outside and the media will do this.  They‘ll be all over him, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they Swiftboat Rudy on the domestic front? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think Rudy‘s going to get the Republican nomination.  I don‘t see how he gets it without the Republican Party coming apart. 

BARNICLE:  You know, Pat—and you‘re very familiar with New Hampshire, having been on the ballot up there.  All of the districts...

MATTHEWS:  He won up there, Michael.  He won. 

BARNICLE:  I know...

MATTHEWS:  Some people (INAUDIBLE) that fact, even to this day.  It‘s almost like it was a mirage.  But this guy beat Bob Dole.

BARNICLE:  He used to throw those people in Bedford, New Hampshire, just pure raw meat all day long.  They loved it. 

But you can mention all those issues, Pat, at least in New Hampshire, which I‘m more familiar with than Iowa, gay rights, whatever, Rudy‘s to liberal for the delegates, the war is such an overwhelming issue in New Hampshire.  New Hampshire is basically one large small city.  It is still a community the way it used to be a community or we had more communities in the United States—people all over that state are affected by each and every death, each and every casualty in Iraq, one of the highest per capita casualty rates in the country, New Hampshire, huge numbers of National Guards people in New Hampshire serving one and two tours in Iraq.  And Rudy‘s position on the war in Iraq is going to drown out any stuff about gay rights or what he—you know, how he views gun control or things like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me give you an idea...

BUCHANAN:  I agree with you.  I think the war is the issue. 

MATTHEWS:  I think there‘s another issue in the Republican Party, your erstwhile party.  That is, once Hillary begins to loom in Iowa and other places, especially New Hampshire, where she‘s running very well, and if she becomes the inevitable candidate of the Democratic Party at some point early next year, your party‘s going to have to decide how to beat her.  They can‘t run Brownback against her and hope to beat her or perhaps even Romney.  They‘ve got to find some heavyweight to beat her. 

BUCHANAN:  But you missed—but the point the party doesn‘t decide a thing.  This is decided by...

MATTHEWS:  The people voting.

BUCHANAN:  ... 100,000 people go to caucuses in Iowa.  And in New Hampshire maybe you get 100,000, 150,000 people are going to come out and vote...

MATTHEWS:  But Hillary‘s going to be running through their neighborhoods.  They‘re going to see her campaigning.

BUCHANAN:  But look, you going to get guys—Senator Brownback‘s going to get guys.  Tancredo‘s going to get people...

MATTHEWS:  Is there anybody who thinks Tancredo‘s going to beat Hillary Clinton? 

BUCHANAN:  No, he‘s—no, they don‘t.  But people, they go out and vote their hearts and conscience and beliefs and convictions. 

MATTHEWS:  The only thing I‘d argue with is that woman‘s going to be on television every day they‘re thinking about this. 

BUCHANAN:  But look, you know, Hillary is not the demon she was in 1994, I don‘t think.  I don‘t think Hillary—I think, look, they‘re not for Hillary.  But let me tell you, in a head-to-head race with Hillary and Giuliani, I would not say Giuliani automatically say wins New Hampshire now.  So the Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Are you taking that we elect the kick attitude of some conservatives?  We‘ll let Hillary have it for four years? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, listen, I think...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m hearing that.

BUCHANAN:  ... I think a lot of conservatives—first, the Christian conservatives and the social conservative Catholics are liable to say, “Look, this is all we‘ve got if it‘s Hillary and Giuliani, you know, we‘re just not that enthusiastic.”

I can‘t see them going out there and marching to the polls for Rudy Giuliani. 

MATTHEWS:  But you can see them giving it to Hillary then? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t see them throwing Hillary, I just think you‘ve got no enthusiasm. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m hearing it.

Anyway, we‘ll be right—hearing it from you.  You would rather lose than have to put up with a guy like Rudy Giuliani as your president. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We haven‘t said that. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s people like Pat who are delivering your dream to you, my dear.  We‘ll be right back with Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan, who‘s now differentially (ph) in the Hillary campaign.

And later, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest hot stuff on the Scooter Libby trial.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and MSNBC‘s Mike Barnicle.  One more turn around the rosebush here.  Why is Rudy playing it so cautious?  Why doesn‘t he just say, “I‘m running”?  Hillary Clinton did it.  Some others have already done it.  Joe Biden certainly did it.  Just say I‘m running.

BUCHANAN:  They‘re all in.  He‘s not in his heart, wholly I think.  We saw him drop out of the 2000 race.  He also wants to know what kind of opposition.  Is he going to be just torn to pieces.  And so I think what he‘s doing is he‘s flying up to the border turning on all the radars into hostile territory to see what they got.

MATTHEWS:  But, you know, Ted Kennedy had to decide whether to run in 80 and 79 and he didn‘t see what was coming until he actually announced.  You never know how vicious it‘s going to get until you announce. 

BUCHANAN:  I think you‘re exactly right and I think Rudy doesn‘t know exactly and he‘s concerned.  But he‘s going to have to—you‘re right.  He‘s going to have to make the call to see how bad it‘s going to get. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike Barnicle, do you think he‘s testing things before he makes the jump?  Or he‘s just getting his act together? 

BARNICLE:  I would think that he‘s probably just getting his act together, because this feigned indifference or indecision about whether he‘s running or not running goes against, I think, people‘s image of who he is: a decisive, up-front guy.  And the longer he hesitates and says, “Well, I‘m forming this committee or that committee,” people want to hear exactly what you just said, “I‘m running, I‘m going to win and I‘m going to make this country safer.”

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t senators who try to do that publicly about whether they run for reelection, you know, senators who sort of say, “Well, I‘m not sure I‘m running for election” for a few times—I think Bob Griffin had this problem back in Michigan years ago, and that fellow from Kentucky—they don‘t make up their minds until they finally say, “OK, I‘m running again.”  And then they lose because People said, “If you don‘t want the job, we‘re not giving it to you.” 

BARNICLE:  But, Chris, the Senate is different, as we‘re finding out to our great misfortune as a country this week.  I mean, it‘s consumer fraud what‘s going on in the Senate.  People went to the polls in November, voted for candidates for the United States Senate who said one thing about the war and now we‘re finding out—many people in the country are finding out that we elected people who think their job is to memorize Roberts‘ Rules of Order. 

Rudi Giuliani is a mayor.  People expect decisive action from mayors.  Senators have grown to accept the fact that, you know, while this guy‘s going to go down they‘re and just talk about nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I keep thinking—I haven‘t been—although, my bad brain is thinking—I‘m thinking about Greece before the coup, where after a while these parliaments just become irrelevant.  You know, I‘m not saying we‘re going to have a Seven Day of May here, but it does seem like people just get depressed by the fact that the Congress that they keep electing seems to be incapable of doing something when they get there. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s exactly right.  Kerensky didn‘t get it done so the new guys would, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking about 17?

BUCHANAN:  We‘re talking about 1917. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... came in with a revolver.

MATTHEWS:  ... escalate it by calling it the Soviet—the Russian Revolution.  I‘m just saying that there is a real despondency by the public...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I think Mike‘s got a very good point.  Mike‘s got a good pint.  Rudy‘s a tough guy.  He‘s decisive.  And why isn‘t he in there?  I mean, people are asking, “Come on, Rudy, what‘s the problem?”

BARNICLE:  You can hear people tuning the United States Senate out by the minute today, yesterday, the day before.  Yesterday they buried a young man 21 year-old Staff Sergeant Alex Fuller (ph) down in Centerville, Massachusetts four years to the day that Colin Powell was used—when his reputation was used and his credibility was used in the United Nations.  Four years to the day.  And today in the United States senate, people who were elected in November are humming and mooning around and refusing to talk about this war in Iraq.  People are thinking...

BUCHANAN:  You know, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Maybe we need demonstrations around the Senate and the Congress.  People need to go up there with big signs that say “Vote”. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, why didn‘t Reid say, “Look, you guys got a couple of resolutions, you Republicans, bring them on.  Let‘s start with the Warner resolution.  You can have two or three.  We‘re going to vote on all of them.  Let the country know where we all stand.” 

MATTHEWS:  Because the Democrats will look divided if they do it. 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, for heaven‘s sakes.  For that reason Harry Reid didn‘t let them vote?  Then Reid is responsible.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the reason.  He doesn‘t want to show that some Democrats want to vote to cut off money and some don‘t. 

BARNICLE:  Well, they‘re pathetic, they are pathetic. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the price of getting reelected in some cases. 

Thank you, Pat Buchanan—you guys are tougher than I am—and Mike Barnicle, as always. 

Up next the Senate can‘t debate Iraq, but the House will, apparently.  California House members Maxine Waters and Dan Lungren are going to be here to debate whether we talk or whether we vote on troops strength right now.  They‘re coming here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Next week the House is expected to vote on a nonbinding resolution critical of President Bush‘s troop surge in Iraq.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this will be the first attempt to change the course of the war in Iraq.  Tougher legislation, they said, would be binding. 

For a preview of the coming debate we turn to Californians, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who will be here in a moment; and Republican Congressman Dan Lungren of California as well. 

Congressman Lungren, do you oppose having a vote on the floor of the House next week on a resolution to oppose the troop escalation? 

REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA:  Well, I would rather that we have a real resolution on the floor, that is, one that talks about whether or not we are going to continue with funds or we‘re going to cut funds.  And the reason I say that is not because I want us to cut funds, but that is where the rubber meets the road, that‘s where the Congress of the United States has the real constitutional power.

We have the power of the purse as opposed to the president who has the power of the commander-in-chief.  And I just think we ought not to confuse those things, because when we confuse those things what we do is just send a strange, hollow message to our troops, and frankly, to the enemy. 

If they are serious about opposing the president‘s policy in the Senate and in the House, first of all, they shouldn‘t have voted to send General Petraeus there because it‘s his program, it‘s his plan, he‘s going to execute it.  You shouldn‘t send him and say—send him off with Godspeed to do something if you‘re going to cut him off at the knees.

And secondly, the real power we have under the Constitution in conflicts like this—if we have a conflict with the president of the United States, is to use the power of the purse.  Let‘s do what we say we want to do, if that‘s what we want to do.  Otherwise, we‘re kind of muddling through, and we‘re not doing our constitutional duty as we should for the people who have sent us here. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you expect many Republicans to join with the Democrats in supporting this resolution criticizing the surge in troops? 

LUNGREN:  I think there will be—there may be some members on the Republican side.  There will be a strong majority, however, opposing it.  Look, what was asked of the president, both by the election that we had in November and by many people talking, both in the House and the Senate, was change your tactics.  Give us a new strategy there.  Give us a new commander there. 

Some have said we need a new secretary of defense.  So the president has given us a new secretary of defense.  We have a new commander who I believe is the best we could have under the circumstances.  We have new strategy.  We have new tactics.  We have new rules of engagement. 

And now, the very people who asked for those things are saying, all right, we don‘t want to go forward with that.  And all they‘re doing is sitting back and criticizing.  The president has taken their criticism seriously, and he has gone forward and made changes.  I want to know what they have as a real alternative. 

We‘re involved in a war.  We‘ve got men and women who are in harm‘s way.  And we can‘t do half measures here.  Either we believe in what we‘re doing or we don‘t.  We‘re not asking half measures of our men and women in uniform.  They should not expect half measures of those of us here in the Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  So your argument is that unless congress is willing to do the final step of cutting off money and basically tying the president‘s hands in terms of carrying out this war, they shouldn‘t do anything? 

LUNGREN:  My point is we either ought to act that has some real power behind it or we ought not to.  You heard what the senators said last week when they had General Petraeus there.  Every single one of them, Democrat and Republican, praised him, praised his experience, praised his knowledge, praised his approach. 

Now, he‘s going forward to implement the very approach that he helped develop, and they are now in the background saying, we don‘t believe you.  We don‘t think it‘s going to work.  It‘s a recipe for disaster.  Now what does that say to General Petraeus?  What does it say to our troops.  And what does it say to the enemy? 

It seems to me it shows a Congress, or certain elements of the Congress that want to take a “sort of” position, a half a position so they don‘t have to take responsibility for their actions. 

We ought to take responsibility for our actions.  I‘m willing to say we ought to support this and we ought to give it a chance to work and we ought to give it the funds and not suggest that we are going to somehow in the short term make it unsuccessful by cutting it off at its knees.  If others don‘t believe that, they ought to have the courage of their convictions and come forward and say so. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe your party can carry the presidential election next time without carrying California? 

LUNGREN:  Well, we have done it before.  I would rather we not do it.  I would rather have us actually have California in play, and that‘s one of the reasons I have come out and supported John McCain.  Not only do I agree with him on the major issues but I think John McCain makes California in play, which as you know, Chris, changes the dynamics entirely of the 2008 election period.  It will make it a very different race than we have had the last two election periods. 

MATTHEWS:  But if you need California to win, that means you‘ve already lost a lot of states in the middle of the country and the Southwest, in the Midwest.  How can you say you‘re likely to carry California with McCain if McCain hasn‘t carried the easier states to get for your party? 

LUNGREN:  No, that‘s not what I said, Chris.  What I said was I think John McCain puts California in play.  I think John McCain is a national candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LUNGREN:  But I also think that he makes my state viable for Republicans as well as Democrats.  That is, he makes it a contestable state which I think is not only good for the country—good for California, but good for the country.  Our state is an extremely diverse state, as you know. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

LUNGREN:  Our state leads in a lot of different things, but we have been left out of the presidential politics during the last two presidential elections, with my party basically giving up on my home state.  I would rather have it in play.  I think that‘s good for the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a substantial number of people who voted in California for Bill Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96 will turn around and vote against his wife?  That must be what you are thinking.  Because Bill Clinton is beloved in places like Santa Monica.  I have been out there. 

LUNGREN:  Yes, but it‘s a different—I mean, he‘s not running.  I mean, Hillary‘s not Bill.  A lot is going to depend on what happens in the war between now and then.  A lot is going to depend on both the candidate for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, have they been consistent?  Have they been someone who has seemingly changed with the winds of whether or not it was popular or unpopular? 

I just had a telephone town hall where I had thousands of people on the line in my own district, Democrats and Republicans alike.  I did not find a sentiment for us cutting and running or jumping out, whatever you want to call it, even with people who disagree with us having gotten into it in the first place.  I think they‘re looking for leadership and one thing I can say about my friend, John McCain, is he is a leader.  You may disagree with him, but you know where he stands. 

And he has a—you know that old word we used to use a few years ago, gravitas?  He has got gravitas on international issues, on issues...

MATTHEWS:  That is true.

LUNGREN:  ... of defense and homeland security. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is good to see you‘re out there fighting for your state to go Republican.  Thank you, U.S. Congressman Dan Lungren of California. 

LUNGREN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the latest news from the Scooter Libby trial.  We‘re going to talk about that and more with CNBC‘s John Harwood and The Washington Post‘s Anne Kornblut.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. 

Good evening, Congresswoman. 

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA:  Good evening, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you commit as Democrats to voting on a cutoff of funds as well as a nonbinding resolution against the surge? 

WATERS:  I absolutely am opposed to continuing the funding of this war.  And I am going to vote against funding for this war.  And I know that there are other progressive members of our House that‘s going to do it. 

The nonbinding resolution is neither here nor there.  Certainly, we can support something that‘s very simple, that said no escalation of this war, no increase in the troops, but that‘s not the test.  The real test is whether or not you will continue to fund Bush‘s war by voting for his appropriation. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the president has the constitutional authority to launch a war against Iran without congressional approval? 

WATERS:  Oh, absolutely not.  As a matter of fact, General Clark and some others saw this coming, and they have been talking with many of us about directing our attention toward the fact that the president was moving toward Iran.

And so many of us are saying to the president, through letters and through actions, don‘t do it, Mr. President.  Don‘t—we believe that you should be involved with diplomatic efforts with Iran.  We cannot afford to sustain this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and go into Iran and then take on Syria.  This doesn‘t make good sense.  We can‘t afford to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Can you get a majority even of your own party on a binding resolution or binding bill to cut the funding for the war in Iraq? 

WATERS:  I don‘t think so.  I think that our members are very, very careful, and very concerned.  Our members have wanted very much to try and support the president.  After 9/11, they did give him their trust and their support, and he has let us down.  He has not only misled us, he has made so many mistakes, they have made a real debacle of this war. 

And so they want to send a message to the troops that they support them, they want out of the war, and when it comes down to whether or not they will vote for funding, that‘s a tough one for them, and many of them will not want to cut the funding. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, it‘s great having you on, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an historic figure from California. 

Another big day in the Scooter Libby trial.  Let‘s move it, buddies, more audio grabs of—audio tapes of Libby‘s grand jury testimony were played in court today.  And NBC‘s Tim he took the witness stand and testified that he never spoke even about the outed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Libby.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has more from the courthouse.

David, I am most fascinated by what—it was said in court today that Scooter said about our program, HARDBALL, back in July of 2003. 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  He said a lot, Chris.  I mean, he was basically setting up both on the audio tape and then Tim Russert, in his testimony that, of course, the conversation was sparked by HARDBALL‘s focus in July 8th, July 9th 2003 on Joe Wilson‘s criticisms of the Bush administration and the questions you were asking about whether Vice President Cheney in fact knew about Wilson‘s conclusions that there was no case for nuclear case for war before the president‘s State of the Union speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Let‘s...

SHUSTER:  Tim Russert testified today...

MATTHEWS:  David, let‘s just—before we go forward....

SHUSTER:  Yes, go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  ... let‘s show people what Scooter was concerned about when he made the call, we assume, because these were the things that were being said about him.  Who knows what was going on in his head?  But these were the things we were saying about him right before he made that call to Tim Russert. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HARDBALL, JULY 8TH, 2003)

MATTHEWS:  Why would the vice president‘s office—Scooter Libby, whoever is running that office, why would they send a CIA effort down in Niger to verify something, find out that there wasn‘t a uranium sale and then not follow-up by putting that information or correcting that information in the president‘s State of the Union? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HARDBALL JULY, 9TH, 2003)

MATTHEWS:  He made it very clear he was sent down there at the behest of the vice president‘s office last year.  Months, almost a year before the president‘s State of the Union Address, he came back with the information that there was, in fact, no deal.  Isn‘t the vice president‘s office responsible right now to come out and say why they didn‘t act on that information at the behest of the vice president‘s office? 

The CIA was tasked by the vice president‘s office to do it.  Senator, isn‘t that right? 

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  That is correct. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  I was getting a little tan there as I went on there through July.  Let me ask you, David, what else happened today? 

SHUSTER:  Well, what happened, Chris, is based on that report, what Scooter Libby did is he called Tim Russert to complain.  Tim Russert testified that during the course of this phone call, Libby said, what the hell is going on with HARDBALL?  I‘m tired of hearing my name.  What is going on?  What is going on is not true.

Russert then testified, and this is the key to the case against Scooter Libby, he testified that at no point during this conversation did he ever discuss Valerie Wilson.  The reason that is so significant is because after the CIA—after Valerie Wilson was outed and the criminal investigation began, when Scooter Libby first testified, and he testified again at the grand jury, he said he first learned about Valerie Wilson not from the vice president, not from any of these other government officials who have testified, but that he learned it from Tim Russert.

So when Tim Russert testified today that it never happened, that was a big deal.  It was so interesting, Chris, Russert‘s direct testimony for the prosecution lasted 12 minutes, the cross-examination lasted two hours, and the defense said they wanted to keep trying to go after Tim Russert for another two hours tomorrow.

But, Chris, the one thing that was lost in some of this, with Tim Russert‘s testimony, the release of the audio tapes, there was some apparent news today about Vice President Cheney and the reaction—the interaction between Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby after the criminal investigation began. 

Libby describes on the audio tapes going to the vice president, saying, I have discovered a note—a notation from a phone call that you made to me in June and I now realize it wasn‘t Tim Russert who was the first person that I learned about Valerie Wilson, it was you.  And Libby describes Cheney sort of shrugging, tilting his head and saying, what, me?  And then Libby said that the vice president told Scooter Libby, we should not talk about the details of this case.

That was new.  The idea that the vice president is telling Scooter Libby, let‘s not talk about this, the criminal investigation is beginning.  That was unbelievable, and of course, we are going to have more of these grand jury audio tapes at the 7:00 hour—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Has anyone quizzed these fellows about whether there has been a discussion of a pardon at the end of all of this between the vice president and his chief of staff? 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, that is what is so...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, lines are so innocuous like, he said not to discuss the details.  Well, that‘s one way of framing the conversation.  The other one is, don‘t talk about this.  I mean, there are so many ways to describe a conversation, obviously. 

SHUSTER:  Right.  But, Chris, what prosecutors are getting at is they are showing the jury motive.  They are showing the jury that Scooter Libby was fearful about the actions taken by Vice President Cheney, executed by Scooter Libby because remember, and has Libby is acknowledging on these tapes that at the same time he was well aware that President Bush said, anyone involved in this would no longer be working in the administration. 

Libby acknowledged that, for example, Scott McClellan and all of these government other officials had no idea that Libby had had these conversations with reporters that came up at this trial, or that Vice President Cheney had instructed Scooter Libby to have these conversations. 

So here‘s the White House essentially fearful of the criminal investigation, and Scooter Libby, at least the prosecution theory, is trying to protect information from coming out about Vice President Cheney.  The vice president, of course, is not accused of any wrongdoing.  But again, Chris, it underscores just why the prosecutors went to such great lengths to get reporters...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SHUSTER:  ... to testify.  I mean, we‘ll remember about the classified document that prosecutors filed with the judge to force reporters to testify, and now it is clear that Fitzgerald was talking about the possible actions of the vice president and that he needed reporters to testify in this case in order to understand whether the reporters really were the source for Valerie Wilson or whether it was Vice President Cheney—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you, David.  All I care about is how we got in this war and what was used as bogus evidence and how much people really knew at the time about how bogus it was.  We‘re going to come back, by the way, at 7:00 Eastern for a full hour of discussion on this. 

By the way, when we return right now in a minute, reaction from Anne Kornblut and John Harwood.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Anne Kornblut is the national political reporter for The Washington Post.  And John Harwood is CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent;  He is also the political editor of The Wall Street Journal.

Anne, this story, I know it‘s a legal story, it‘s being covered by legal reporters in a—kind of a narrow Perry Mason-style so far, but with Tim Russert taking the stand today, and this really coming up as a conflict between his testimony and the testimony of the defendant, is this going to bring a shadow—a big—well, let me say this, a searchlight on the vice president and his operations? 

ANNE KORNBLUT, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: 

Don‘t you think it already has?  I mean, I think what we‘re seeing—what have been seeing throughout the testimony, even though the vice president isn‘t on trial himself, is really a window into the workings of that office.  And I think what certainly a lot of Democrats had suspected all along is that he was really running the show.  And you now are getting a sense of how hands-on an operator he really is.  It‘s fascinating. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, back when I worked with in the Carter White House, the vice president, Mondale had a lot to do with paper flow.  I remember every time I wrote a speech it had to be approved by the vice president‘s office.  So I assume that Scooter is the most—not Scooter, there was a mistake.  Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president—I was going to say popular, no.  The most powerful vice president in history, had control of paper flow.

He also was in charge of intel.  And that‘s why I keep going back to this question, if he knew there wasn‘t a deal to buy uranium by Saddam Hussein, why did he let it appear in the State of the Union? 

KORNBLUT:  That is...

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, look—go ahead, Anne. 

KORNBLUT:  No, no, you go, your turn. 

HARWOOD:  We know that Dick Cheney believed that this war was a good idea.  He was committed to going forward with this. 

MATTHEWS:  A priori.

HARWOOD:  Exactly.  And I think he wasn‘t interested in doing anything that weakened that case.  They were very forward-leaning with the case they made for the war.  They weren‘t eager to get off that case.  And I think he saw this as an annoyance.  That‘s certainly...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my experience...

HARWOOD:  ... what‘s suggested by the...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my general experience over 30 or so years watching Cheney in action.  He doesn‘t want to hear the arguments against the main case. 

HARWOOD:  Exactly.

KORNBLUT:  Well—that‘s it.

MATTHEWS:  Most people don‘t, by the way. 

HARWOOD:  The other thing I was going to say, Chris, is that I think the backdrop of this case is part of the reason why Republicans are playing a game that‘s short-term effective in the Senate.  You had the earlier discussion about the lack of votes on these resolutions.  In the long run, it‘s a losing game for them because their party has been identified—still is identified, is going to be going into 2008, with a war that‘s very unpopular, a president that‘s unpopular and a vice president as well. 

So they may make look—make Democrats look feckless and ineffective right now, but over the long run their situation continues to get worse.

MATTHEWS:  And, Anne, it could be that a lot of middle-of-the-road people, not people on the left, to the moveon.orgs or anybody, really feels that we got into this war and it was a mistake, and was a mistake on their own. 

I mean, people say, you know, I was sort of hooked into this war because I believed there was a nuclear threat.  And it turns out that the nuclear threat piece is very much looking bogus right now. 

KORNBLUT:  Well, that‘s why this is such a really terrible counterpoint for the Republicans right now to the Senate debate and to the war in Iraq.  I mean, just down the street from Congress you have this trial going on that even if people aren‘t paying close attention to the details, the vague message coming out of it is that there was something bogus behind the war.  And I think that especially for Republicans who are running in ‘08, this couldn‘t be a worse time for them. 

MATTHEWS:  If the vice president‘s chief of staff gets convicted of a major crime here, perjury and obstruction of justice, and faces some enormous number—at least nominal years, he won‘t have to serve them probably, but you know, you‘re looking at this, add up all the counts, it is like 20 or 30 years.  That—won‘t that be something of a headline that the vice president will have to deal with?

HARWOOD:  Oh, yes.

KORNBLUT:  Something of a headline?

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD:  Absolutely a headline.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, like across the front page. 

HARWOOD:  Oh, I think it will be a substantial headline.  And I also think that the question you raised before about a pardon is squarely on the table.  When you look at the way Vice President Cheney continues to praise Scooter Libby publicly... 

MATTHEWS:  The finest man he knows. 

HARWOOD:  Exactly.  And we haven‘t seen the president really distance himself very much from Scooter Libby...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Scooter Libby had the title “assistant to the president” as well as “the chief of staff to the vice president.” 

HARWOOD:  Exactly.  So I think it is very much a question on the table, if he is to be convicted on whether he will get a pardon before Bush leaves office.

MATTHEWS:  The trouble with making a pardon is that—we learned from the Gerry Ford and the Nixon case, Anne, that if you accept the pardon you accept guilt.  I‘m not sure Scooter Libby will accept guilt. 

KORNBLUT:  But on the other hand, I mean—well, exactly, we‘ll have to see if he actually gets convicted.  I mean, if he‘s convicted, then that‘s guilt right there, he doesn‘t have a choice in the matter.  But I mean, I think the question for the president, if he issues a pardon or not is, is he going to become more unpopular if he does that?  I mean, is that possible? 

MATTHEWS:  Freedom is not—freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose.  Anyway, thank you, Anne Kornblut.  Thank you, John Harwood. 

At 7:00 p.m., a live edition of HARDBALL tonight with the audio tapes.  We‘re going to have the documents, the audio tapes of the grand jury testimony of Scooter Libby to play for you tonight.  We‘ll definitely play you the highlights throughout the hour. 

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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