updated 3/12/2007 11:05:48 AM ET 2007-03-12T15:05:48

Guests: Bob Woodruff, Lee Woodruff, Jon Meacham, Tina Richards, Robert Raben, Ron Christie, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, the story of a loving couple that the horror of war failed to separate.  Plus, the fighting over Iraq right out there on a Capitol corridor.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Today on Capitol Hill we saw, courtesy of YouTube, the frustration of the anti-war forces in this country.  An anti-Iraq War activist, Tina Richards, challenged Appropriations Chairman David Obey on why the Democrats can‘t stop the war.  Obey, who voted against the war, argued that the Democrats, rather than cut off funding for the troops, should set a time limit on the war, and by the way, Congress didn‘t have the votes to cut off funding even if it tried. 

Here is the fight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), CHAIRMAN, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  We do not have the votes.  Do you see a magic wand in my pocket?  How the hell are we going to get the votes?  We ain‘t got the votes for it.  We do have the votes if you guys quit screwing it up.  We do have the votes to end the legal authority for the war, that is the same as de-funding it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight we will talk to the activist who confronted Congressman Obey, Tina Richards. 

Plus, as we head into the weekend, our weekly 2008 presidential wrap-up, can any candidates match the Giuliani-Obama momentum these days? 

But we begin tonight with an incredible story of love, courage and recovery.  Bob Woodruff was the ABC News anchor when he was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq about a year ago.  He wrote about his experiences in his new book “In an Instant.” I sat down with Bob and his wife Lee to hear their amazing story and began by asking what happened to him in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Bob and Lee Woodruff, what a pair you are.  You‘re married, you‘ve been through this amazing thing.  So let‘s start with it, what happened in Iraq last year, Bob? 

BOB WOODRUFF, CO-AUTHOR, “IN AN INSTANT”:  Well, I headed over to Iraq just about three days before the IED exploded next to us.  We went out with some of the Iraqi military that also down with the American military, the Army.  We were going down a road and we were outside the top of the tank. 

And as we came to an area where there was a lot of trees now moving in basically on the street, the IED exploded and I don‘t really remember hardly anything since then except I went down into the tank and I asked Vinnie (ph), my producer, and my cameraman Doug both, are we still alive?

And he said yes, and I don‘t remember much after that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘ve wondered what an explosion is like when a terrorist attacks.  Do you hear a sound?  Or is it the sound doesn‘t travels not as fast as the damage? 

B. WOODRUFF:  No.  No one has really asked me that before.  But basically what happens is there is an explosion, in the front of the explosion there is like a wind that blows really hard.  It knocks you out before the rocks even hit you.  And that happened to our cameras as well.  We had two cameras and those things were actually knocked out before you even heard the sound or the rocks hitting anything.  And then it was out.  So that first, what do you call that?  The.

LEE WOODRUFF, CO-AUTHOR, IN AN INSTANT:  The concussive blast.

B. WOODRUFF:  The concussion, yes.  The concussion basically came through first.  And so that turned it out.  So I didn‘t really feel any pain.  I didn‘t feel any rocks.  I was just suddenly knocked out. 

MATTHEWS:  And this is what happens to so many of our soldiers every day that we read about, killed in IED explosion. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  It‘s getting more and more common.  IEDs are the big weapon now that are used on these guys, because anybody driving along the road, there is always the possibility there is one hidden underneath something and you don‘t know really where they are.  It is hard to tell.

MATTHEWS:  How long do you stay to?  How long were you awake after this—half your head was blown off? 

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, it was actually—it wasn‘t blown off.  What happened was, since it hit me in the head, my brain started to expand and then eventually the doctors have to get rid—take part of that skull off because it allows your brain to then grow outside of that area so that make it better. 

So what happened to me was I went down, I was asleep.  I was—for about 10 minutes, maybe, and spitting blood out of the side of my mouth.  And my shoulder was destroyed and there were rocks that went all the way through my neck, one all the way to a vein on the other side. 

Somehow they missed my eyes and hit me in the nose.  So they got us out of the vehicle, into another vehicle.  It took us to another helicopter about a mile away, flew me down to Baghdad, checked me out there, found out what was happening, then flew me up to Balad, which is about 10 miles north of Baghdad.

And that‘s the point where the doctors then took my skull off, about 14 centimeters. 

MATTHEWS:  How much of this were you aware of? 

B. WOODRUFF:  None of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Just—you only had a couple of minutes?

B. WOODRUFF:  All I knew was we were in this tank and eventually we were going to be removed out of it.  But at site (ph) I was asleep. 

MATTHEWS:  And the next part of your life that you‘re aware of was what, 36 days later? 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  That was January 29th we were hit, the next thing, when I woke up, was March 6th

MATTHEWS:  And what were you dreaming about, do you think?  Do you have any memories of that world you went to for those 36 days?

B. WOODRUFF:  I don‘t remember anything.  I know for the one minute that I was knocked out to begin with, I just remember my body sort of floating below me and I remember that part.  And I saw it in, you know, kind of a whiteness. 

MATTHEWS:  I like the way you wrote this: “For more than a month I would be completely unaware of anything that was happening around me.  My mind would journey to a place that to this day I cannot describe or even remember.”

B. WOODRUFF:  I can‘t.

MATTHEWS:  “Journey to a place,” you have that sense that you were.

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, all—the only information I have, I wish I had more on, but that‘s about what I saw.  And I know that there wasn‘t much pain, and I‘m not really—a great deal of fear death anymore. 

Obviously leaving my family behind is—certainly would be.  But—and the other side I actually feel OK about it. 

MATTHEWS:  About—you‘re fatalistic now. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  In some ways. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let me ask you, Lee, you—during the whole time he had blacked out because of this incredible brain injury, you were very much alert to reality on this planet.  What was that like, getting the word back here in the States, getting over there? 

L. WOODRUFF:  You know, it was interesting because there was this whole world going on around outside of me and a whole sort of media blitz about what had happened and that Bob was injured.  And I had completely removed myself from that. 

I had to get the kids out of Disney World, which is where we got the word that Bob had been hit.  And then I immediately flew to Germany.  And everything had just sort of shrunk down to a tiny little focal point which was Bob and then making sure the kids were OK at home. 

But once those reins had been turned over, it really just about Bob and what was going to happen next. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when people hear you have lost a leg or lost an arm, you have a very quick image of what that loss means and how the person will look different, feel different, be able to—you know, be able to perform his role in certain ways.  But what did you think when you heard brain injury? 

L. WOODRUFF:  I had no idea what that meant, but I new how important an organ the brain is.  So I know that it couldn‘t be good.  And it‘s funny that you bring that up, because there were a number of times I would sit with his brothers in the hotel room and say, would it have been better if this had been a leg or an arm? 

Because, you know, your brain is who you are.  And as a reporter and an anchor, we had always been told that he probably wouldn‘t be able to speak—or that once he could speak again, it would—you know, he probably wouldn‘t be able to work because the damage had been in his speech and language area of his brain.  So he would probably have to look for a new profession. 

We used to sort of play this sick game, you know, would it have been better for Bob, such an active guy, to have lost a limb? 

MATTHEWS:  But it has been better.  Look at him.  I wouldn‘t know. 

L. WOODRUFF:  It‘s a miracle. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I don‘t know what is recurring here, but it seems to me that you‘re back. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, you know, what they say about TBIs is you‘re never going to come back to 100 percent.  There is always going to be problems.  Because I got hit on the left side, that‘s language, that‘s words, names, things that I can‘t dig up a lot of times. 

I have got a trick now to kind of go around things to try to speak properly so it doesn‘t sound like I don‘t know the words, but there are words that I don‘t know sometimes. 

If I had gotten hit on the right side, I would have much more physical.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, like senior moments? 

L. WOODRUFF:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Like those kinds of things.  You just can‘t remember—like you can‘t some person‘s name for—and the same names you can never remember. 

L. WOODRUFF:  That is right.  Bob says.

B. WOODRUFF:  I only like to hang out with people at least as old as me if not older. 

MATTHEWS:  But your head is—it was more damaged than it seems, right?  You have had titanium put in and everything? 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  They put on basically a piece of plastic.  Because what happened when they took the skull.

MATTHEWS:  Inside your head. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  When they took the skull off over there in Balad, it was off for four months and so it was cut in like this. 

MATTHEWS:  Ugh!

B. WOODRUFF:  And so they finally put it back on. 

MATTHEWS:  What was he like to look at? 

L. WOODRUFF:  It was—I got used to it, but I know that I had friends that would come in and I would kind of try to describe it and they would look at Bob and talk to him and then they would leave and they kind of go, you know, like, you didn‘t brace me for this. 

I mean, it is a—it was a concave, shrunken head on one side. 

MATTHEWS:  I like this quote from you, Bob: “Doctors would tell me later that this kind of head injury,” like you had, your whole head opened up, “if it had happened in the States,” you wouldn‘t have survived. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, if you look at what happened to me over there, after I got hit by this explosion, like within 37 minutes I was down in Baghdad and the doctors were looking at me.  And then they got me in another helicopter up to Balad.  And within two hours, they were removing this out of my head. 

Now they know over in Iraq exactly what has happened when you see something like this.  They see a bunch of rocks in the left side of your head and you‘re just in a place where you got hit by an IED, they know exactly what is going on inside your brain. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever sense you got a.

B. WOODRUFF:  In the United States they don‘t know what is going on if they see somebody injured on the—that way.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense you got VIP treatment or you got the same treatment a soldier would have got? 

B. WOODRUFF:  You know, there were some people, at that moment they had—a lot of guys like flying the helicopters and working out there didn‘t even know that I was not a military guy.

MATTHEWS:  That you were an anchor for ABC. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Right.  But I think after time they did learn about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I mean, I would just imagine Dave Westin, your boss, would be on the phone saying, don‘t lose this guy, he is the best guy we have got.  Was there like a—that kind of forceful intervention from the home boys in New York? 

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, Lee was awake then.  So you tell me. 

L. WOODRUFF:  Yes—no, I don‘t think there wasn‘t time.  What I‘ve been told, and I‘ve spoken to Bob‘s surgeons since in Balad, they had no idea who he was.  In fact, even when he was in the field, embedded, those guys that were with him had no idea that he had been made anchor, because it had just happened and they had been over in Iraq on tour. 

And they said later, oh, my gosh, that guy was an anchor, he was so normal and friendly and nice.  And they couldn‘t believe that he was the anchor of “World News Tonight.” 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of luck? 

B. WOODRUFF:  I think I had pure luck on this.  I mean, like I said, that one rock that came all the way—actually I said vein, it‘s actually an artery, it almost went to the other artery on the other side, and it was up one millimeter way, why?  You know, I don‘t know. 

But I also think I have had family that was able to spent so much time with me and I just had conversations with them and they got me back speaking again, I mean, I was just extremely lucky. 

L. WOODRUFF:  Can I say something about your earlier point, which was, you know, would he—what kind of care would he have gotten here?  The first week that I came down here when he got transferred to Bethesda, we were staying at a friend‘s house, and across the street I walked out that night and there was a little shrine, some candles and some flowers on the sidewalk. 

A gentleman who had worked for The New York Times, a colleague, I‘m sure you know who he was.

MATTHEWS:  David.

L. WOODRUFF:  . stepped outside, was hit by some guys in the head with a baseball bat, was brought to the wrong hospital.  They thought he was drunk apparently because he was acting woozy, and he died in the emergency room. 

Now here we are in the richest country in the world.

MATTHEWS:  David Rosenbaum, yes.

L. WOODRUFF:  . in the nation‘s capital, and my husband is in a war zone taking fire and they know exactly what to do to save his life.  That illustrated—my breath sucked away out of my body when they told me that story. 

MATTHEWS:  That was a tragic story about the guy, the way it was handled, because they just—the driver stopped off to visit somebody on the way to the hospital, it‘s a horror story.  But it‘s so great to know what American military medicine did can do.  Look at you. 

B. WOODRUFF:  You know, that is part of it.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re back together. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Oh, it feels great to be—I look at all of these other military guys who have been hurt and I visit so many of them and I see exactly what has happened to them.  And certainly the early parts of medicine that they‘ve gotten has been remarkable. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got an amazing insight as a journalist now, the situation you‘ve faced and what other guys and other people are facing at these hospitals.  Let‘s come back and talk about it.  The name of the book is “In an Instant.” We just heard that instant described.  Lee and Bob Woodruff, they both wrote this together.  It is sort of he said-she said, in the best possible way.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Bob and Lee Woodruff—or what did you first call this guy when you met him? 

L. WOODRUFF:  Woodward, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You thought he was a famous print journalist, right?

L. WOODRUFF:  I just didn‘t know.  You know, I definitely didn‘t, but I got the name wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t usually do this on HARDBALL, because it‘s the name of the show, HARDBALL, but there is some soft aspects of your relationship which I have to tell you, I really like. 

You date for a while, and before any of this (INAUDIBLE) came your way and you—I love the way you sort of took the initiative.

(LAUGHTER)

L. WOODRUFF:  Do you like that about me? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I loved it. 

L. WOODRUFF:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Most guys are better off if their girlfriends would simply say, OK, let‘s get it together, let‘s stop this messing around here, let‘s go for real, this is working. 

L. WOODRUFF:  Well, I figured I had nothing to lose, he was either going to marry me and take me to China or move on.  And I could have moved on and married somebody like you. 

MATTHEWS:  And you said—well, that just floors me for a second. 

L. WOODRUFF:  I made you speechless right there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Bob, what—were you scared of her, her aggressiveness? 

B. WOODRUFF:  No.  No, I wasn‘t scared of her.  I was scared of getting married.  I was only, what, 25 years old. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you call that, the run—or flight or.

L. WOODRUFF:  The fight or flight—wait, yes, fight or flight. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s in our souls. 

L. WOODRUFF:  It is.  It‘s in the American male.  It is.

MATTHEWS:  And you don‘t want a guy that‘s too easy, do you? 

L. WOODRUFF:  No.  He was a little bit of a challenge and I knew that we would be a good couple.  I just needed to make him see that a little bit too. 

B. WOODRUFF:  There was a moment at the top of this mountain, climbing up there, and I thought that maybe I was going to die.  I had no oxygen and I thought maybe this would be the end of it, so I thought to myself at that moment... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like to look up knowing half of your brain is gone or exposed and you look like hell and look up and see this beautiful woman in love with you? 

B. WOODRUFF:  I feel wonderful about her.  I mean, she saved my life, this woman.  I mean, part of me is filled with guilt about what I did to my family when all of this happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

B. WOODRUFF:  You know, because part of it is my decision.  I mean, I wasn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t want to be a boring lawyer, did you?  You wanted to do this. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I love that part of your book.  You‘re making the big money in this firm and you‘re bored to death, you‘re dying in your soul.  And you say, I want to be a journalist. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  I was addicted to it back then.  That is true.  I mean we took to places and we lived and we had almost no money for a lot of... 

L. WOODRUFF:  We qualified for food stamps in our first market. 

B. WOODRUFF:  We just had a brand new baby and decided to give up all of the money and then start with almost nothing, I was making about 12,000 bucks a year.  But I loved it, I never was unhappy.

MATTHEWS:  If you live to be 90, you‘re going to look back and say, that was the best thing you ever did. 

B. WOODRUFF:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Right?  Even with this.  Even with this.

L. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  You have got to—you know what, life is short, you have got to follow your dreams.  And what he always said to me is if you do what you love, the money will come.  You can‘t worry about the money.

MATTHEWS:  That has been our experience, we‘ve been so lucky.  But to break away from this boring law practice and you were doing a bankruptcy case, and you said, here I am, great looking young guy, beautiful wife, I‘m living in San Francisco.  You have got this apartment overlooking the city.

L. WOODRUFF:  Great apartment. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  Well, we will show the picture of this incredible view of the city, which the most beautiful city in the world.  And you have got everything made except you hated going to work, right?

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  I was getting bored.  Yes, no question.  I started in New York, and that is when—in 1987, when the whole market collapsed.  And that is the first time I decided I need to get out of here and go to China. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here is a quote from you: “We had taken risks for Bob‘s career.” So when he says, let‘s go up, I  want to be a journalist, you gave up the automatic money in the law firm, everybody is going up with money, you gave up that. “You can‘t know how you would behave in a crisis until it drops out of the sky and knocks you out like a bandit.” 

Did you, at any moment during this crisis with your husband facing death and perhaps permanent handicap, ever say, I was—we shouldn‘t have taken the risk, we should have stayed in that boring law practice and not let him become a journalist?  Did you ever think, I should have stayed the safe way?

L. WOODRUFF:  No.  I didn‘t.  He was so unhappy doing what he was doing.  And he loves being a journalist so much that I felt like in our life we lived about three lives of, you know, somebody who maybe didn‘t take all of the risks.  And I feel like that was worth it.  I do.

Now ask me that question if he had turned out to have really diminished mental faculties and if I was visiting a nursing home every day... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you were visiting a vegetable.  Here‘s what you said:

“Would I find the man I had fallen in love with?” When you were going over to see him in Germany. “Or would I find something worse, different, immutably changed?”

L. WOODRUFF:  It was my fear.  I didn‘t know what to expect.  I knew enough about brain injury to know from a friend that had been in a car accident that it could dramatically change your personality.  A lot of time with the frontal injuries the soldiers are left flat, sort of emotionless.  And that terrified me because the biggest part of our relationship together was this sort of give and take we have, and humor and... 

MATTHEWS:  Tracy-Hepburn? 

L. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  A little bit.  I would like to think that it was like that.  But it was for me.  And I thought, what if he is just flat?  What if he doesn‘t love me?  Or just has no emotions?  That would have killed me. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob, your empathy now for other guys who didn‘t get the break you got.  I had asked you about life, about love, and also luck.  What about all of those guys in the V.A. hospitals in South Philly or wherever else now in the heat of the summer and they‘re just not getting the—they‘re not coming back? 

B. WOODRUFF:  Well, I think it‘s important that—to show this country what is happening generally with this war, was never really quite understood for a long period of time so far. 

First of all, we didn‘t think there would be that many injured in this war when it started—when it began.  And now we didn‘t really understand exactly—now that we know there is a lot of those injuries, don‘t know exactly what it is, like this TBI, this traumatic brain injury. 

And we need to learn more about it.  And the more that I can do to show that to more people and to talk to more of these families, hopefully it will be helpful to some degree. 

MATTHEWS:  We had a woman sitting here, her husband was sitting across the room.  And she was begging the nurse in charge for an MRI for her husband.  And the nurse said, no, we‘re going to save some money, you‘re not getting one. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Really?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

L. WOODRUFF:  Whoa, at the V.A.?

MATTHEWS:  So can you detect these post-traumatic brain injuries from MRIs?  Do we have the medicine to tell what is coming?

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.  You can tell more about exactly what‘s happening in the brain.  What‘s really disastrous about TBI also is that even in this country, there hasn‘t been that much scientific study of it over time.  There has been a lot but not enough.  Because not many people really hear about it. 

You have got 1.4 million people in this country that are getting TBI from getting in a car cash or getting hit by a baseball bat or whatever it might be, and they‘re just now really starting to study it because they are going to learn more about it. 

MATTHEWS:  I think your about book is going to help, “In an Instant.” In an instant your lives changed and I don‘t think they have changed for the worst.  You guys are great. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Yes.

L. WOODRUFF:  Thank you.

B. WOODRUFF:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming over to HARDBALL. 

B. WOODRUFF:  Appreciate it.

L. WOODRUFF:  Thanks for having us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  They really are.  To know them is to love them. 

Up next, what lessons is President Bush learning from the war in Iraq?

And Scooter Libby‘s guilty verdict, Newsweek‘s Jon Meacham joins us next.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  American historian Arthur Schlesinger, who died last week, said a Newsweek interview that President Bush and his administration lacked a sense of history.  How does this affect our country‘s course?  Jon Meacham is editor of Newsweek and a friend of Schlesinger‘s. 

Jon, try to put that in perspective.  What was Arthur Schlesinger, just passed away, the great historian, meaning when he said that Bush doesn‘t get history, he doesn‘t learn from it? 

JON MEACHAM, EDITOR, NEWSWEEK:  Well, he meant chiefly that the course into Iraq should have been informed by his—the course Americans took into Vietnam.  And we can argue about the analogies all we want, but I think it has been proven in the past, at least since ‘04-‘05, that there were lessons to be learned from the American experience of going into a foreign country we didn‘t particularly understand very well. 

And a kind of—a president from Texas who was prideful and wanted—believed intensely in the mission, unquestionably, but who also could not see a way out of a cycle that other people thought could be broken. 

MATTHEWS:  He also said in an interview with your magazine, Professor Schlesinger: “I think they lack a sense of history, the president and his people.  They lack an instinct of respect for the views of other countries.” How do you read that? 

MEACHAM:  Well, you know, Arthur was no conservative, I think we can safely say.  He was a Cold War liberal who became more and more liberal as the years went on and did believe—he lived near the United Nations, did believe in international community and thought that we should be good allies, “good neighbors” as both FDR and JFK would have had it. 

So his view, when he talked to us about this—I think the one-year anniversary of 9/11 was, if we don‘t have allies, we will not be able to be a very effective force in the world.  And that was based in large measure on his Cold War experience.  And I think the recent years have proven him right. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about another historian, you, Jon Meacham, you are a great historian at your young age.  Let me ask you this, the Scooter Libby trial, is this going to be one of these iconic trials that seemed to be about something particular, perjury, but was really iconic about an age in a way that, say, the Alger Hiss trial was back in ‘50? 

MEACHAM:  That‘s a good analogy.  I think—I should say quickly here that Arthur Schlesinger loved HARDBALL and.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

MEACHAM:  . watched it and was a great admirer of yours. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know how much that makes me happy.  What a great man.  I loved reading his books. 

MEACHAM:  It is true.  No, he would have a martini or two at lunch, which may have made it easier to watch, I don‘t know.

(LAUGHTER)

MEACHAM:  And he would—then would go out for the evening.  But on Libby, you are right, the Hiss thing is a good example.  I think that this is a trial about accountability.  And I think that is the word that‘s moving around Washington and New York with great speed these days. 

Is there a point at which the executive branch, if it exerts power and exerts the right to be left alone, to some extent, how do you keep them accountable?  And, you know, to whom much is given, much is expected.  I think a lot of Americans are willing to give the presidency—again, to use a phrase of Arthur‘s, the “imperial presidency,” if the imperial presidency is competent and gets the job done and tells the truth. 

I think what has happened in the past couple of years, and again this is a completely bipartisan point, I think people have seen that the Bush-Cheney administration has not been as forthright and has not been as competent as the power they have asked for would lead to us expect. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there is a connection among all of these things, like the vice president gets into a shooting accident when he‘s out hunting birds and he doesn‘t feel he needs to report back to the president the whole week and leaves the president sort of looking like he‘s irrelevant; the energy policy, he won‘t tell us who is on his energy task force; gets very concerned about Joe Wilson questioning his judgment or whatever?  Is there just a sense of superiority on the part of these people, especially the vice president?

MEACHAM:  I think there is.  I think that what really—to my mind, the historical analogy here is, remember, Cheney was a 34-year-old chief of staff in the Ford years, to—in an era in which Congress was asserting great authority in the wake of Watergate. 

And he—I think the entire story of the Bush administration to some

extent can be seen as a reaction to the post-Watergate erosion of executive

authority.  What is interesting, to me anyway, is the truth probably lies -

the right place to be probably lies somewhere in between, between a very imperial, imperious presidency and more oversight from the congressional committees. 

And unfortunately in America, we tend to bounce off one guardrail and then hit another.  And we don‘t stay in the middle as we should. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Founding Fathers had a very interesting idea, didn‘t they, checks and balances, balance of power.

MEACHAM:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Jon Meacham, you‘re a great history.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight on HARDBALL.

MEACHAM:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the activist who confronted Democratic congressman and chairman of the Appropriations Committee David Obey over the war in Iraq.  We‘re going to watch a little bit of that YouTube moment when they‘re going together in the hallways of Congress.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tempers flared during an argument between House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey of Wisconsin and a woman whose son is a Marine.  It was all caught on videotape.  Here‘s an excerpt of what happened outside the congressman‘s Capitol Hill office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: 

(INAUDIBLE) understand (INAUDIBLE) difference between defunding the troops and ending the war.  I hate the war.  I voted against it to start with.  I was the first guy in Congress to call for Rumsfeld‘s resignation.  But we don‘t have the votes to defund the war, and we shouldn‘t because that also means defunding everything (INAUDIBLE) guys who are victims of the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Tina Richards of Grassroots America is the woman in that videotape, as you can see, and she‘s right here with us this evening.  Thank you for coming on.  You‘ve earned your spurs.  You took on David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.  What did you make of his response to your concern about ending the war?

TINA RICHARDS, GRASSROOTS AMERICA:  Well, one thing that I found is that there‘s a lot of frustration on Capitol Hill about how to end the war in Iraq.  The one thing that I‘ve heard that really concerns me, though, since I‘ve started from January 29, when I found out my son was being recalled by the Marine mobilization unit to be possibly redeployed for his third tour in Iraq, was that the staffers and aides—when I hear them talking, I listen in to what they‘re saying and I overhear them.  They seem to be more concerned about what is going to guarantee a presidential election and an expanse of their majority than they are about the lives that are being lost every day over in Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  How do you figure that out?  I mean, that‘s a legitimate concern, obviously, that they‘re playing politics.  But how can you tell?  There‘s Obey.  He said—I watched that tape two or three times (INAUDIBLE) out there and he said he voted against the resolution for war back in 2002.  He said he‘s trying to pass a supplemental appropriation with language in it which cuts off this war next year sometime.  What do you make of his position?  Do you think he‘s not telling the truth or what?

RICHARDS:  No.  There are some really sincere people on that Hill.  That I do not doubt.  John Murtha—I met with him for over an hour.  He is the most sincere man.  We really disagree on how we‘re going to get out of Iraq, but he is absolutely very sincere.  Lynn Woolsey (ph), Jan Schakowsky (ph) -- I could name...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your position on...

RICHARDS:  ... John Conyers...

MATTHEWS:  ... how we should get out?

RICHARDS:  Well, truly, when it goes back, that the power of the purse is what Congress has.  That is the one thing that they do have, is to stop the funding for the war.  I was listening to hearings...

MATTHEWS:  That means cutting off the money, period.

RICHARDS:  That means cutting off the money, which the generals have testified on the Hill, which—I‘ve been personally at those hearings where they said that they would have to reduce forward combat operations. 

It does not mean that our troops and our—will not have their armor or

not have their bullets or not have their food.  It means that they‘ll have

to cease forward combat operations, which means that it will then start to

we can start the withdrawal.  And there‘s...

MATTHEWS:  If you had a son in the field right now, would you want to hear that Congress had cut off some of the funding for the war?

RICHARDS:  My son...

MATTHEWS:  While he‘s in the field.

RICHARDS:  My son may be in the field...

MATTHEWS:  No, but if he‘s in that field, would you have the same point of view.

RICHARDS:  Yes.  Absolutely.  My son—March 24, he has to report in, and he may very well be over there when this goes through.  Yes, absolutely, I am saying that.  We have to stop funding this war.  I keep hearing politicians saying that they‘re against the war, that they originally voted against it, yet year after year, they will continue to fund this war, to...

MATTHEWS:  You know why, though.  Tell me why.  Why do you think?

RICHARDS:  I think a lot...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re smart.  You‘re lobbying this issue.  Why do you think a guy like Obey—he said it to you.  I heard him say that.  I watched the tape two or three times.  He said, We can‘t cut off the funding because if we cut off the funding, we will be accused of cutting off armor and equipment for the soldiers fighting in the field.

RICHARDS:  Exactly.  And then he says that we can‘t get the votes.  Yet you have the leadership of the Democratic Party, you have Nancy Pelosi, you have Steny Hoyer, you have Chris Van Holland (ph) all saying that, We can‘t get the votes, and then they use the Republican talking points as to what is happening if they do stop the funding.  And it makes no sense.  If they...

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re saying two things.  They‘re saying they don‘t have the 218 to pass the majority, and then they‘re saying, But if we do pass the majority, they‘ll kill us politically by saying, They‘ve cut off reinforcements to our troops in the field.  You know that‘s what they‘re going to say.

RICHARDS:  You know what?  Yes.  And I understand that the Republican talking points are exactly that.  And the point is, is that our sons and daughters are dying over there every day.  By the tens of thousands they‘re coming back, and they‘re not getting their treatment.  The VA has been horrible towards the treatment of my son.  You saw Walter Reed recently...

MATTHEWS:  Obey said that they put an extra billion in, in this appropriation, the supplemental, to make sure the medical treatment of people like your son is better.  He says you have to fund this military in order to get better treatment for the wounded.  What do you make of that?

RICHARDS:  Well, the point is, is that they said that—the generals have testified that they‘ll have to reduce their forward combat operations, and that‘s what‘s going to change if they don‘t do the supplemental.  The extra money is something that they can appropriate through this next coming budget or appropriate from somewhere else, but I just don‘t see that as an alternative to justify...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do you think...

RICHARDS:  ... justify maybe treating a few soldiers better, but at the same time, they‘re going to have three soldiers a day dying over in Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  How do we—how do you achieve your goal of ending this war in Iraq?  How do you do it?

RICHARDS:  There is the Lee amendment that asked for the fully funded withdrawal of the troops, which Obey had responded as a dismissal, not even to consider it, that I didn‘t know what I was talking about, without even looking...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Barbara Lee of Oakland and Berkeley, yes.

RICHARDS:  Yes.  And he didn‘t even want to discuss that.  And that was partly why I‘ve been on the Hill every single day...

MATTHEWS:  But how many votes...

RICHARDS:  ... trying to lobby Congress.

MATTHEWS:  ... do you think Barbara Lee‘s proposal would do, where it says, We‘ll spend enough money to bring the troops home but not to keep them there?  How many votes do you think that would get in the Congress?

RICHARDS:  I think that if Nancy Pelosi...

MATTHEWS:  Fifty?

RICHARDS:  ... and Steny Hoyer and the Democrat leadership stopped exerting pressure to hush everybody that is coming out against it and started to support it, I think that they would have the votes to pass it.

MATTHEWS:  But they don‘t think so.

RICHARDS:  Because they‘re not trying.  They‘re using the Republican talking points.  As long as they‘re using the Republican talking points...

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that they‘re really for the war?

RICHARDS:  I‘m saying that they‘re trying to do what‘s politically savvy and not what‘s best for our troops.

MATTHEWS:  How do you think they can actually get the 218 votes that are necessary to pass a majority and cut off the money?

RICHARDS:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  They say they can‘t find those votes.  I heard Obey yelling at you.  He got overwrought there.  You got him excited.

RICHARDS:  I was hearing that, and then...

MATTHEWS:  And he was saying, We just—I don‘t have a magic wand.  He opened up his coat like this, he says, I don‘t have a magic wand in here.  Where‘s my 218 votes?  Could you help him do it?  Would you have—do you have enough power in your group, or anybody in the anti-war forces, to get 218 Democrats to end this war?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just one person.  I‘m a mother.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You got...

RICHARDS:  And I spoke with Reverend Nearwood (ph) the other day, and he said the power of a mother‘s love can bring down nations.

MATTHEWS:  But can it get 218 votes in the House of Representatives?

RICHARDS:  I think if Nancy Pelosi would actually start listening to the people and to the public—I mean, the nation has been against this war.  The nation did not vote for a new direction, the nation voted for us to get out of Iraq.  And they need to catch up with what the American public wants, which is to get us out of Iraq, to get our soldiers out of the middle of a civil war.  There is no “winning” something when you‘re in a civil war, in an occupation.

We won the war.  We won the war back in the very first few months of the war.  It‘s time to take our sons and daughters out of Iraq and return them home.  And if they start working together, instead of using their leadership powers to hush everybody and to quiet the anti-war and started working with us and figuring out a way, they would have the votes.

MATTHEWS:  Good luck.

RICHARDS:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re going to need it, though.  Thank you very much, Tina Richards, fighting very much against this war in Iraq.

Up next, the HARDBALLers, former Cheney aide Ron Christie and Democratic consultant Robert Raben.

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers, former Cheney aide Ron Christie, a familiar face here, and former Justice official and Washington lobbyist Robert Raben.  Robert Raben, thank you very much.

Let me ask you about the power of the Democratic left, the netroots, if you will, the anti-war activists, if you will.  I‘m sure I‘ve said it wrong.  John Edwards isn‘t going to participate in this Fox TV debate come this August in Nevada, and apparently, the Democratic Party of Nevada is pulling out and—is this the power of the activist wing of the party?

ROBERT RABEN, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT:  The roots are really doing an incredible job.  They‘ve shown their muscle, I think, from the Dean campaign a couple years ago to now.  They‘re really driving a significant part of the debate, who—who—you know, good and bad.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the woman who was just on here?

RABEN:  Very impressive.  I‘m sorry...

MATTHEWS:  An anti-war person.

RABEN:  ... she was subjected to that tirade from Obey.  Obey‘s a good person.  I think he really comes at it from a passionate place, and I think he speaks for a lot of well-meaning people.  Frankly, I‘m glad the conversation occurred.  I‘m sorry that it was...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think they‘re coming from the activist wing and they‘re also coming from the regular wing.  And Obey says, I don‘t have the 218.  I don‘t have the magic wand that you do.  You can be a protester, I got to get a majority.

Ron Christie, is it the Democratic activist wing against the elected wing?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH/CHENEY AIDE:  Seems like it to me, Chris.  I mean, it seems to me, if, in fact, the Democrats have pulled out of the Fox News debate, their activist don‘t like the Fox News Channel.  They don‘t—they see that they‘re—they think there‘s some sort of right-wing slant, and they said, Forget it.  We don‘t want you going there.  We don‘t want you participating.  But I think the American people lose.  I don‘t care what network it‘s on.  I want the American people to hear the issues, let them debate the issues, what difference does it make what cable outlet it‘s on?

RABEN:  Well, I don‘t—I don‘t know what—what debate someone has or hasn‘t pulled out of.  I know that the Democrats are not afraid of any debate, particularly these days, when they‘re...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  They don‘t want to go to Fox.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re planning ahead in August, and he‘s already saying, I‘m not coming.

CHRISTIE:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this—I want to get into—you‘re a lawyer, right?  Are you a lawyer?

RABEN:  Uh-huh.

CHRISTIE:  Of course I am.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s have it out.  These U.S. attorneys all across the country getting whacked.

RABEN:  Unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  What is that about?  Is this normal procedure to get whacked because you don‘t agree with the administration politics?

RABEN:  It‘s normal to put political pressure on a prosecutor to determine where they‘re going on a case?  It‘s terribly abnormal.  It‘s happened in the past.  It‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Is it wrong for Pete Domenici, the senator from New Mexico, to call up a U.S. attorney in Albuquerque and ask him the status of a case, when it‘s investigating a Democratic official?

RABEN:  I think it puts—it doesn‘t matter what official it is.  It makes it worse that it‘s a Democratic official.  But I think if the U.S.  attorney, as he testified, hangs up the phone and thinks he‘s being leaned up, it‘s a terrible, terrible precedent.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t there a rule, Ron, that the minute you feel pressure, you report it to the Justice—to the top people?

CHRISTIE:  Well, sure.  But you and I have talked about this before.  If you‘re a U.S. attorney, you serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.  Most U.S. attorneys serve for four years in their particular slot.  The fact that we‘ve had eight U.S. attorneys who have been dismissed—I want to know, why do they think that they‘re entitled to be in these positions?  You serve at the pleasure.

You bring up a very valid point, however.  If, in fact, a member of the Senate or a member of the House is calling a U.S. attorney and putting or exerting political pressure on them, I want to know that because that to me doesn‘t seem like (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s OK for a president to call in fire on particular partisan enemies?

CHRISTIE:  I don‘t think the president of the United States, at the end of the day, is the one who made the determination to fire these U.S.  attorneys.  The attorney general is in charge of the U.S. attorneys...

MATTHEWS:  Karl Rove?

RABEN:  (INAUDIBLE) political decision.

CHRISTIE:  The attorney general of the United States is in charge of the U.S. attorneys‘ office.  To suggest that, Oh, Karl Rove‘s doing it or the president is doing it...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.

CHRISTIE:  I think it‘s absurd!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the job of the president‘s political adviser.

CHRISTIE:  No.  They are political appointees, and they serve at the pleasure of the president, Chris.  But to suggest that anyone other than the Justice Department is behind this...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Robert.

RABEN:  ... someone at the White House?  Do you think before they went through seven U.S. attorneys out of a total of 94, they called up their friends at the White House and said, What do you think about this?

CHRISTIE:  I think—for having worked in the White House, I think that people in that relevant Justice Department, or whatever government entity that it is, might have gone and spoken to the White House counsel.  Maybe they didn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  Does it smell?

RABEN:  I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does it smell when a senator—and I respect Pete Domenici enormously, but does it smell when a senator calls up a prosecutor and says, How‘s that case going?  Is there any way that can‘t be interference?

CHRISTIE:  I do not know.  I‘m smart enough for being a lawyer without knowing all the facts what Domenici said and what that individual felt when they got that phone call...

MATTHEWS:  On the lighter side, here‘s a bit of Newt Gingrich‘s interview with Focus on the Family‘s Jim Dobson last night.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY:  I asked you if the rumors were true that you were in an affair with a woman obviously who wasn‘t your wife at the same time that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having their escapade.

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Well, the fact is, the honest answer is yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was blunt!

(LAUGHTER)

RABEN:  Yes, that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—do you think that—Robert, do you think that our friend, Newt Gingrich, who‘s a brilliant strategic mind—he may not be the greatest guy in the world, but he‘s a great strategic mind—has decided, I want to clear the deck now because I want to run come September?  I‘ve got a...

CHRISTIE:  Absolutely.

RABEN:  Absolutely.  He‘s floating a moral trial balloon with the conservative values, right-wing base.  It‘s amazing what‘s going on on the right.  They‘ve got candidates with three marriages.  They‘ve got...

MATTHEWS:  The only one with one marriage is the Mormon.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE:  Oh, you‘re going to talk about character among presidential candidates?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying because Rudy Giuliani has three marriages that the coast is clear for even Newt Gingrich to get back in?

CHRISTIE:  (INAUDIBLE)

RABEN:  Clearly.  But I‘m talking about—this is a party that relied, for example, on campaigns about the defense of marriage, going after gay people because marriage is a sacred institution, and now they‘ve got a plethora of candidates who can‘t decide which one to defend, the first, second or third marriage.

CHRISTIE:  Well, I...

RABEN:  I‘m enjoying watching this play out.

CHRISTIE:  I don‘t think this is an issue of which one to defend on first, second or third marriage.  I think the Republicans are looking right now and trying to ascertain who has the best Ronald Reagan conservative principles that is going to best take this party in a position to beat whoever the Democrats put up.  And I think—I got to tell you, the one who I‘m looking up is Rudy—is—excuse me—Mitt Romney.  He‘s surging.  He came out of the Conservative Political Action Committee.  He‘s had one wife, his high school sweetheart.  He‘s looking really good, and the conservatives are starting to warm up to him.

MATTHEWS:  So you think he can make it?

CHRISTIE:  I think he can make it.

MATTHEWS:  Boy, I‘ve said it‘s like Filene‘s Basement, none of the shoes fit.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘re looking around.  We got a Mormon here, we got this guy from New York with three wives.  You got this guy.  There‘s no Ronald Reagan in this group, is there.

CHRISTIE:  There‘s no Ronald Reagan in this group.  However, I think Romney is surging, and I think Mike Huckabee...

MATTHEWS:  Does it break your heart there‘s no Jerry Ford in this group?  Anyway, Ron Christie and Robert Raben.

Up next, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the daughter of Bobby Kennedy, of course, on the changing roles of religion and politics here in America.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Has the subject of religion in America been politicized by the right?  Has it been ignored by the left?  Great questions being asked in this new book by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.  She was lieutenant governor of Maryland, my lieutenant governor, for several years back in the ‘90s and early part of this century.  The book‘s called “Failing America‘s Faithful: How Today‘s Churches Are Mixing God With Politics and Losing Their Way.”

Kathleen, you‘re a Catholic, a Christian.  You‘re writing here as, I think it‘s fair to say, a moderate liberal.  What is your interest in religion?  Because most big city liberals seem to be secular these days.

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, AUTHOR, “FAILING AMERICA‘S FAITHFUL”:  Oh, well, you know, I grew up in the Catholic church.  I love my church, 10 years of the nuns teaching me what to do and my own parents saying over and over again, Do God‘s work on earth.  And I just think that today, the churches have privatized religion.  They‘ve shrunken God.  And that‘s not the faith that I grew up in, and I want it to change.

And I want to say to the left, Find the faith that cries for justice and the common good, and say to the right, You‘ve misunderstood the biblical teachings, and they‘re much broader and greater than what you‘re preaching.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t this kind of cherry-picking?  The liberals will talk about poverty and injustice and racism and nuclear war and pick that part of the Christian message from Jesus, and the conservatives will find the evils of sodomy, the evils of infidelity, the evils of sex of any form.  It seems like the conservatives don‘t like sex and they‘re very focused on that, and the liberals are focused on social injustice.  You pick the part of the Christian message that you like.

TOWNSEND:  Well, as we all do, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TOWNSEND:  And I think the—but the point is that I embrace the message.  I think that the problem is that the Christian right has only focused on one small part, and those who see the other part have not raised their voices in protest.  And very frankly, there are 2,100 passages in the Bible that talk about poverty, and that has been missed.  And I don‘t think you can call yourself Christian if you ignore such a large part of what our church should be teaching us.

You know, in 1966, my father, who I know you have a great deal of respect for, Robert Kennedy, went to South Africa.  And he came back and wrote the cover story of “Look” magazine, saying, Suppose God is black.  And that indicates that you can have a view of God that is not just a personal relationship to God but has a sense of justice for the whole country.

And I believe that‘s not just true of, you know, my family or even your family, Chris, but that‘s the great tradition in this country, starting with John Winthrop, who said that we should work together, suffer together, care for one another...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TOWNSEND:  ... and that that message of community and building the city on the hill, not just the individual on the hill, is what has been missing from our churches and our politics.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I agree.  That‘s why you‘re on.  Liberal and moderate Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, should love this book.  It‘s a message for you.  It‘s not the usual kind of Christianity you hear on politics, the—sort of the anti-sexual Christianity, it‘s the loving Christianity.  It‘s breathtaking to hear this and refreshing to hear this from Kathleen.  A great book, “Failing America‘s Faithful.”

Anyway, thank you very much, Kathleen—a great book.  It‘s the Jesuits.  They‘re great.

Join us again...

TOWNSEND:  And the nuns!

MATTHEWS:  ... Monday night...

TOWNSEND:  And the nuns.

MATTHEWS:  And the nuns.

Join us again Monday night with full coverage of Senator Chuck Hagel‘s big announcement, whatever it is on Monday.  We think he‘s running.

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.

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