updated 3/22/2007 11:11:07 AM ET 2007-03-22T15:11:07

Guests: Tom DeLay, Michael Smerconish, Margaret Carlson, Michael Smerconish, Margaret Carlson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Without DeLay, he‘s the man they called “The Hammer,” the toughest, meanest Republican in town.  Compared to him, Karl Rove is the Easter Bunny, let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Last night President Bush told Congress, “bring it on,” and today they did.  This morning House Judiciary panel defied the president and approved subpoenas for his top adviser Karl Rove and other administration officials.  Will this political battle turn into a constitutional crisis?  We‘ll talk to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in just a moment. 

Plus, a potpourri of 2008 presidential news.  Al Gore was on Capitol Hill today testify about global warming, but he is hot for another White House run?  Tuesday night Bill Clinton helped Hillary raise millions, but can he get out the vote for her?  And high-speed politics, the ongoing fight for support at the netroots. 

And were children used as decoys in a deadly car-bombing in Iraq?  Apparently so.  We‘ll talk about that and what is going on inside Iraq with NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel.

But we begin tonight, as I said, with former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the author of an amazing new book, “No Retreat No Surrender.”

What on God‘s Earth led you, Mr. DeLay, “The Hammer,” to at admit infidelity in a book? 

TOM DELAY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, that‘s part of the forgiveness process.  I was a self-centered jerk over 20 years ago.  I was drinking.  I didn‘t care about my family.  I almost lost my wife carousing around.  But I find Christ and my life turned around and I‘ve been walking with him ever since. 

MATTHEWS:  This was when you first came to the House? 

DELAY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And you were putting down—I mean, I used to drink, but a dozen martinis in one sitting? 

DELAY:  Well, one evening. 

MATTHEWS:  One night, well, how would you get home? 

DELAY:  Maybe I shouldn‘t say because in this town, I get charged with things all the time. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But you would drive home after this? 

DELAY:  Sometimes I would. 

MATTHEWS:  Jesus.  And you were messing around to and what changed you? 

DELAY:  Jesus Christ.  Like I say in the book.

MATTHEWS:  You met this fellow.

DELAY:  I laid.

MATTHEWS:  . Dobson.

DELAY:  Well, no.  I met him through a tape.  Frank Wolf—

Congressman Frank Wolf.

MATTHEWS:  Great guy.  Villanova grad.

DELAY:  Yes.  He had a ministry where he would come to freshmen congressman‘s office and sit you down and make you watch this tape by Dr.  Dobson called “Where‘s Dad?”.  And everything bad that he was talking about was me and I just broke down and eventually ended up in Frank Wolf‘s Bible study, led by the Christian Embassy here in town, and came to Christ. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, good for you.  You know, Tip O‘Neill, my old boss, on the other side of the aisle, I know you never went to these meetings, but.

DELAY:  I loved Tip O‘Neill.

MATTHEWS:  . Tip used to always say to all of the freshmen, the first advice he gave them was, against all advice you are going to get, bring your family here.  It hurts you at home politically.

DELAY:  I did the same thing.

MATTHEWS:  . bring your family here, because if they are not here, you‘re not going to be a good guy. 

DELAY:  I did exactly the same thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And he hadn‘t done it.  He lived with—was Eddie Bolwin (ph) for 20 years, drinking beer and all they had in the refrigerator were cigars and Tang or something.  I don‘t know what they had in that pace. 

Let me ask you about the big fight right now over these subpoenas.  This is a mixed record, but is Congress going to win this fight—the Democrat Congress, to bring in Karl Rove, to bring in Harriet Miers, and make them testify under oath about what they‘ve been doing for the president? 

DELAY:  Well, the president can decide that.  This is going to go on for two years.  And I think the president has already shown a little weakness by getting rid of Don Rumsfeld.  Now.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he did that for political reasons? 

DELAY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Just because he lost the election? 

DELAY:  Yes.  And the Democrats saw that and they‘re coming, as they have in the last two months.  They‘ve done more investigations and subpoenas in these two months than we‘d do in a year. 

MATTHEWS:  But these subpoenas—the courts—you say the president has to decide.  Doesn‘t the court decide whether somebody has to testify? 

DELAY:  No, no.  The way I understand it, a subpoena by Congress, the president can just say no, I‘m not sending these people there. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Nixon tried that and the court said, you have got to turn over the tapes. 

DELAY:  Well, first and foremost, Chuck Schumer and Senator Leahy have to show some evidence that there is some wrongdoing or something illegal. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  They can‘t just fish.

DELAY:  This is a manufactured scandal and from the get-go a week ago, the president should have said, look, this is a personnel matter.  These people serve as my pleasure.  I‘m not going to get involved and disclose publicly personnel matters.  If you have got evidence of something illegal, then bring it to me and we‘ll discuss it.  Otherwise go to the next issue. 

MATTHEWS:  You talk in your book about the fact that you imply that you were destroyed by the courts, not by your opponents politically.  They went after—they used the courts to get you.  You said the debate is over whether to be.

DELAY:  Well, they also used our own rules against me. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, aren‘t you offended that, even if it‘s your own party, that there may have been cases—in particular cases used the firing of the U.S. attorneys in order to stifle different investigations like in Southern California and stuff like that where it was pure politics? 

I mean, if you‘re for blind justice, shouldn‘t you be for the Democrat position here? 

DELAY:  Well, first of all, there is no evidence to any of that.  None whatsoever.  There is innuendo, there are some e-mails and the worst thing the White House—you need to do.

MATTHEWS:  What about the e-mail that said that this.

DELAY:  You need to do one.

MATTHEWS:  What about the e-mail in the White House that said that this—or the Justice Department memo that said this particular U.S.  attorney is a problem we have got to deal with? 

DELAY:  Well, that happens all the time.  Bill Clinton fired 20 or 30 U.S. attorneys for no reason too.  That‘s the whole—that‘s what this is all about.  There is no scandal here at all. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me talk.

DELAY:  And there is no evidence of a scandal.

MATTHEWS:  . to you—let me quote from your book here, “No Retreat No Surrender.” This is going to be a great book to read for those who think Bush has gotten a little squishy, right?  Which you do believe, right? 

DELAY:  Well, I think he‘s being—he‘s not being served well.  Somebody should have told him we‘re either going to reveal anything or we‘re going to tell the Senate to take a hike. 

MATTHEWS:  Where did I read in.

DELAY:  Instead of leaking this.

MATTHEWS:  I was reading this the other day, and you‘re definitely saying that Bush is getting softer in here. 

DELAY:  No, no, I—no, what I said was what he said about himself. 

He‘s compassionate, not a conservative. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said—well, let me talk about it.  Let me ask you what you have to say here further about the other president we‘ve had recently, that‘s Bill Clinton. 

DELAY:  I knew him. 

MATTHEWS:  You said: “His brand of liberalism had an almost anti-American feel to it, the truth is that Bill Clinton was slimy.” You‘re talking about the president of the United States? 

DELAY:  No, I‘m talking about Bill Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  But you—your party and you have rightfully claimed that the president of the United States, whoever it is, deserves a certain level of reverence and respect just because of the office he holds.  And here you are calling Bill Clinton a slimeball. 

DELAY:  And in his presence in the White House, we would give him that respect.  But I don‘t think there is an American alive that doesn‘t think that Bill Clinton isn‘t character-challenged. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think his wife will be the next president? 

DELAY:  Yes, I do.  If conservatives don‘t get their act together, Hillary Clinton will be the next president.  She has got the biggest, most powerful political coalition put together by John Podesta, Harold Ickes, the Halperins and others that I have ever witnessed in my career.  And it‘s all available to her.  They were a major part of the Republican loss in 2006 and they‘re sitting there ready and waiting. 

I saw on the front page today that Obama rejected Soros‘ advances. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DELAY:  The reason is probably Soros is a big funder of this coalition and he wasn‘t going to support Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Obama might be able skip past Hillary?

DELAY:  I think Hillary will either.

MATTHEWS:  Beat her on the outside? 

DELAY:  I think they will either destroy him or invite him to be vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they have got to deal with him, that‘s for sure.  What do you think of Rudy Giuliani, because the polls are incredible for him? 

DELAY:  I like him a lot.  I think Rudy Giuliani is a real leader.  He and I disagree on social issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you see the numbers?  We have got a new poll we are going to advertise tonight.  It‘s not our poll, but it‘s a new poll at Gallup that show that among conservative Republicans he leads.

DELAY:  Well, yes, but.

MATTHEWS:  Conservatives.

DELAY:  But, Chris, you know these polls are worthless.  As I say in my book, it‘s so far in advance.  And The New York Times.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have to keep reminding myself they‘re worthless because I keep reading them.  But you‘re right, if I were one the guys that has been around 20 or 30 years ago, we all know Jack Germond, he always said, you people listen to these stupid polls, they‘re way too early. 

DELAY:  Well, it is like The New York Times picking the Republican frontrunners right now two years out.  It‘s just ridiculous.  If you look at those same polls, over 60 percent of the people haven‘t made a decision yet.  So how can you say he‘s a frontrunner if 25 percent of 30 percent aren‘t supporting him?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go—you know one of the fellows we‘ve had on this show on occasion is Dick Armey.  We‘ve had him on quite a bit.  And I don‘t know him that well.  I didn‘t have any problem with him.  I didn‘t have to work with him.  I thought he was an OK guy.  He seems sort of a Knights of Columbus type to me, a regular guy. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think he was Knights of Columbus.  But he seemed like a regular guy.  You say he was drunk with ambition. 

DELAY:  Actually that‘s not what I said.  What I said was he is blinded by ambition.  Drunk with ambition is a quote of a cliche.  I said.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, well, why would I underline it in the book?  Go ahead, continue on your thought, he was blinded by ambition, I‘ll look for drunk. 

DELAY:  Look, what I did in the book, Chris, is I talked about all of our strengths and weaknesses and telling the story of what went on in the Republican majority over the last 12 years in this book, of course I‘m going to talk about my strengths and my weaknesses and the players‘ strengths and weaknesses. 

I compliment Armey on the fact that he put together the Contract with America and he did a fabulous job in writing the bills of our agenda of the.

MATTHEWS:  “He resented me for being the other Texan on the leadership team, and he resented anyone he thought might get in the way of his becoming speaker of the House.  Beware the man drunk with ambition.”

DELAY:  Read the sentence before that, it said “blinded.” 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I just did.

DELAY:  “Blinded by ambition.”

MATTHEWS:  No.  I‘ll read the sentence here. “He resented me”—it‘s right here in your book.  You have got to read it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Tom, it‘s there, I read you said he was drunk with ambition. 

DELAY:  Yes.  That is the cliche.  But right up here, I can‘t—I don‘t have my.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you didn‘t put it in italics.

DELAY:  I don‘t have my glasses on.  Up here it says blinded. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, OK, OK.  So it is blinded or drunk with ambition. 

DELAY:  It‘s still a good book. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I can read the book.  And you‘re very tough in this book on Armey.  You‘re tough on Newt Gingrich.  You‘re tough on your fellow Republican leaders. 

DELAY:  I‘m tough on myself.

MATTHEWS:  The only one you‘re good on is you like Denny Hastert. 

DELAY:  I thought Denny Hastert was the perfect man for speaker at the time we needed a Denny Hastert.  Just impeached the president, and Newt Gingrich had stepped aside, Bob Livingston had stepped aside.  Who was going to—I had already decided months before not to be speaker.

MATTHEWS:  You said some amazing things, you said Denny—you said it wasn‘t Dennis Hastert‘s fault, the whole Mark Foley mess, it wasn‘t his fault? 

DELAY:  No, because you know what Denny Hastert did the minute he heard it?  He called Mark Foley in and said, you‘re resigning from Congress, within three hours he was gone, on his way to Florida.  He did exactly the right thing.  Unfortunately our wonderful media reported it that nothing was being done.  The guy left Congress.  You see.

MATTHEWS:  Here is a part of the book.

DELAY:  I seem to think, let‘s see, here is the.

MATTHEWS:  . I don‘t believe—this is the part I found incredible in your book, and I like the fact you‘re very direct about your own misbehavior.  I‘m still amazing at a dozen martinis.  The other admissions are behind.

DELAY:  You don‘t believe me?

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve never read—I don‘t know, it‘s possible, but I guess in your case, it was.  When you say: “I didn‘t know Mark Foley was gay,” you really thought you—you really didn‘t notice that about his lifestyle? 

DELAY:  I don‘t pay attention to that kind of stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  You work with this guy, you didn‘t know? 

DELAY:  I don‘t listen to gossip.  I don‘t—I did not know.  I mean, people would tell me things, but unless I see him dancing with his lover on the floor, I don‘t care about.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a real doubting Thomas, aren‘t you?

DELAY:  I don‘t care about that kind of stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the future of your conservative movement right now.  It seems to me that I always say that the Republican Party is like in Filene‘s Basement looking for a pair of shoes and none fit. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You have got Newt—I mean, Mitt Romney who was the most -

he was a liberal three years ago.  You‘ve got Rudy Giuliani on his third wife who is pro-choice on abortion rights and pretty liberal on gay rights.  And you‘ve got John McCain who is a maverick, and your party doesn‘t like mavericks.  And I‘m trying to figure out your—how you are going to get to somebody who can beat Hillary or beat Obama, or beat whoever? 

DELAY:  Well, one thing is for sure, the conservative movement and our base right now is begging and crying for leadership.  And they want to see us fighting.  They want to see the president of the United States call up Chuck Schumer and chew him out for manufacturing a scandal.  They want to see what you‘re made of. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Bush was fighting last night.  He was loaded for bear in that press conference last night.  Don‘t you think?

DELAY:  I didn‘t see it. 

MATTHEWS:  He accused the Democrats of wanting a show trial, of fishing—a partisan fishing trip, of running the klieg lights.

DELAY:  Hallelujah.  Hallelujah. 

MATTHEWS:  He was loaded for bear.  I mean, I thought he was great last night as a politician.  I‘m not saying he is innocent on this one.  Do you really think.

DELAY:  Yes, I was in .

MATTHEWS:  . all of these guys got fired without him approving it?

DELAY:  . New York last night.  I was in New York last night.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president of the United States didn‘t approve the firing of all of these U.S. attorneys?  Do you think he didn‘t get an inside peek of it?

DELAY:  Of course, because.

MATTHEWS:  The case—you don‘t think he and Karl were sitting down there?

DELAY:  Of course.  But as Harry Reid said, it wasn‘t immoral, unethical and illegal.  And they certainly don‘t have any evidence to that effect, no one does.  You know, the media used to—when a party wants to destroy somebody and they put out a scandal, the press used to go look at it and investigate it and see if it‘s true.  Now they just take Chuck Schumer‘s press releases and print them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, luckily.

DELAY:  Where‘s the responsibility of the media? 

MATTHEWS:  Luckily you‘ve got some thoroughgoing non-partisan journalists endorsing this book.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, like Rush and Sean.  So you are keeping the company with the people who have no... 

DELAY:  Very objective guys (ph).

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, yes, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No, really.  I think there are other things and they‘re great people, but objective, that‘s another argument I haven‘t heard. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Tom DeLay, thank you.

DELAY:  They are as objective as you are, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming.  I have a point of view, but it‘s very hard to put in a partisan slot, as you know.  Anyway, thank you.  “The Hammer,” this is the book.  I mean, this is a hell of a book about honesty, about himself, as he said.  He‘s as tough on himself in this book as he is on everybody else.  But he is especially settling some scores with Dick Armey. 

Anyway, up next, Al Gore takes his climate crusade to Capitol Hill. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Al Gore, the former vice president, was back in familiar territory today, Capitol Hill, appearing before House and Senate committees in his effort to get Congress to do more to stop global warming.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster joins me here right now with more—David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, Al Gore was on Capitol Hill today armed with the latest scientific reports showing that global warming and climate change are happening more quickly than anybody had expected.  Gore said that the country and the world is facing a “planetary emergency,” as he put it. 

He detailed in frightening fashion some of the changes in the climate patterns and what is happening around the globe.  And he said they correlate to temperatures rising every year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  The 10 hottest have been since 1990.  The hottest was 2005.  The hottest in the United States of America was 2006.  The hottest winter ever measured globally was December of last year and January and February of this year, last month.  This is going on right now.  The planet has a fever. 

If your baby as a fever, you go to the doctor.  If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don‘t say, well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it‘s not a problem.  If the crib is on fire, you don‘t speculate that the baby is flame retardant.  You take action.  The planet has a fever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Among other things, Gore urged that there be an immediate freeze on CO2 emissions.  He suggested that the country as a policy reduce payroll taxes and increase taxes on pollution and emissions.  And he also said that we ought to raise automobile fuel efficiency standards. 

On the House side, Gore was treated very warmly even by one Republican

lawmaker who said that Gore was flat wrong.  On the Senate side, it was a

little bit of different story.  On the Senate side, Gore confronted Senator

Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has long ridiculed the idea that global warming could possibly be manmade. 

And Inhofe, in his questioning of Gore, pointed to scientists who disagree with Gore. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  Thousands of meteorologists and geologists, physicists, astrophysicists, climatologists, scientists who disagree with you, are they all wrong and you are right? 

GORE:  The National Academy of Sciences here in this country and in the 16 largest or most developed countries in the world, the ones that have respected large national academies of science, all of them unanimously have expressed agreement with the consensus that I stated to you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

SHUSTER:  Now if you thought the tension was very tough there, it eventually did erupt, in fact, Gore and Inhofe erupted not so much over the argument of global warming, but rather in an argument of who was filibustering the committee‘s time. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INHOFE:  My time is almost expired completely, are you aware of that? 

GORE:  If I could complete my answer. 

INHOFE:  Well, if you do, then my time has expired.  Are you aware of that?  Do you care?

GORE:  Well, I can‘t help that because you went on for a long time. 

But I would like.

INHOFE:  No, I have 15 minutes.  You had 30 minutes, I had 15.  You have got to let me have my 15 minutes Senator Gore. 

GORE:  If I could just.

INHOFE:  I can respond to what you said. 

GORE:  . complete my response. 

INHOFE:  Well, you‘ve already done it.  The National Academy of Sciences.

GORE:  Well, actually, I haven‘t. 

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Senator, I will stop the clock and allow Senator Gore to complete, please. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  It was of course great political theater today, Chris.  And in part because, in addition to sort of the battles with Inhofe, there was Al Gore with Joe Lieberman, his former running mate.  Joe Lieberman yucked it up with Gore and they reminisced and talked about what it was like back in 2000. 

And then there was Hillary Clinton and there is no sort of secret in Washington that Hillary Clinton and Al Gore don‘t like each other very much.  And it was noteworthy, Chris, that Hillary Clinton was all business.  She sort of said welcome to the vice president... 

MATTHEWS:  She doesn‘t like him, does she?

SHUSTER:  No, and she immediately launched into talking about his ideas. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at those eyes, look at the cold eyes that she‘s giving him, look at that cold look. 

SHUSTER:  And at one point she did say, you know, your ideas are exciting, this proposal is very interesting, but there was nothing personally warm at all in the interaction between Hillary and Al Gore. 

MATTHEWS:  Gore thinks that the Clintons screwed him, they humiliated the White House, they humiliated party because of the president‘s misbehavior.  And Hillary got off scot-free, in fact, she benefited as a victim, she looked like the poor victim of her husband‘s misbehavior, whereas Gore looked like, you know, he was the bathtub ring left over by Clinton. 

SHUSTER:  Well, and Chris, the rivalry has gotten so intense between them that you now even have advisers and assistants to Hillary Clinton who are paying attention to Al Gore‘s weight under the idea that if Al Gore is losing lots of weight, then that must mean that he‘s getting ready for a presidential run.  And the Clinton campaign fears that. 

The fact is that today Al Gore rolled out some proposals that a lot of Democrats say are so extreme, maybe they are important, maybe they are crucial, but they‘re so extreme compared to the mainstream dialogue on this issue, a number of Democrats came away from this hearing convinced Al Gore is not running simply on what he rolled out today. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s pure.  He‘s pushing it too hard. 

SHUSTER:  He‘s pushing it hard and he is pushing idea that he even said are not politically appetizing right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Like raising taxes on gasoline, raising taxes on fuel, making decisions on CAFE standards that just won‘t sell in the States. 

SHUSTER:  Right.  And here is the toughest one.  Gore does not want there to be any new coal fuel plants unless it has the proper technology to scrub some of the emissions.  It‘s a very expensive proposition. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why he lost West Virginia. 

SHUSTER:  That‘s why he lost West Virginia.  And he is saying that that is the major issue—that is one of the major issues that has to be fixed (ph). 

MATTHEWS:  So your political analysis is if this guy were opening a presidential campaign, or tiptoeing into one, he would be a lot more moderate in his proposals. 

SHUSTER:  Absolutely.  And he was not moderate at all today. 

MATTHEWS:  Was there a sense that global warming is a reality in that committee room today or is it still a big argument from the right? 

SHUSTER:  No.  And that is what was so interesting.  You had a number of Republican senators and congressmen lining up, saying, look, I agree with you.  I agree that manmade global warming is an issue we have to address.  They had some disagreements over the policies and priorities, but every single senator, even Jim Inhofe today said that they respected Gore‘s passion and the fact that he is stating exactly what he believes.  And that is another reason why a lot of suspect he is not running for president. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got to wonder what some people—are we going to be walking around in spacesuits and still arguing this? 

SHUSTER:  Well, the issue for people like Al Gore.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, he does have pretty good numbers there.

SHUSTER:  . is that you‘re going to need scuba gear if you live on the coasts, according to some of the science, based on the rate in which the Arctic is essentially evaporating and the way that the seas are rising. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SHUSTER:  The scientists suggest that within 30 or 40 years, coastal communities are going to have huge problems. 

MATTHEWS:  There are no more snows on Kilimanjaro.  Little things like that.  The snow is just going away. 

SHUSTER:  It has evaporated.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you.  It‘s an amazing story.  I love the confrontation between the victor of Monicagate, which was Hillary, she got to be a senator from New York; and the poor klutz who had to defend Clinton‘s behavior, Al Gore, who did become the bathtub ring. 

Anyway, thank you, David Shuster. 

Still ahead, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, he is coming here.  And later, NBC‘s Richard Engel, what a hero, on his experience the last four years from reporting from Baghdad. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers.  Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson. 

Welcome to you both.  I want you both to look at this interesting fight here.  Let me take here—do we have the YouTube ad of the—oh, we don‘t have that.  Let‘s look a look now at a little of the debate at Harvard yesterday between—we don‘t have that either.  We don‘t have either of those things. 

Let me ask you about this new poll, Michael Smerconish, you first, Rudy Giuliani, not just leading among moderate and liberal Republicans, where he‘s 49 percent up against 27 percent for McCain and only 3 percent for Romney, but among self-identified conservative Republicans, 43 percent for Giuliani, 21 percent for McCain, and 11 percent for Romney who is really working the conservative side of things. 

How do you explain Rudy‘s continued growth in support among Republican conservatives? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, WPHT RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  It‘s funny to have this conversation with you because literally at this minute he‘s one turn away from my house.  He‘s going to walk out of the Philadelphia suburbs with a couple hundred thousand dollars this evening. 

I would like to think, Chris, that at this crossroads between, you know, winning primaries and winning generals, Republicans, including conservatives, have decided we want to win the whole pie.  We just don‘t want to emerge from South Carolina with someone with their conservative bona fides.  We want to be able to compete in a state like California or Pennsylvania, for that matter. 

So that is what I‘m hoping.  I‘m hoping we‘re moderating on some of those social issues that I think will be an impediment to winning a general election. 

MATTHEWS:  Rudy Giuliani in Pennsylvania, Margaret Carlson, it is competitive, there is no doubt? 

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG COLUMNIST:  Well, in Pennsylvania, but California?  It is as—I actually hear what Mike is saying, however, I find it hard to believe that conservatives who have worked all of these years to build up and amass this power within the party only to elect, because they so much want to win, a pro-gay, pro-gun control, pro-abortion guy to the White House, married three times. 

It‘s very hard to believe that that‘s what the conservative base has worked for. 

MATTHEWS:  Just remember, the Democratic Party elected Bill Clinton, he was for capital punishment and like fried a guy—a retarded guy right before the election, who supported welfare reform, who was for balancing budgets.  The Democrats made a lot of compromises to get a guy in there.  Didn‘t they?

CARLSON:  But I don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I don‘t associate political pragmatism with the conservative base of the Republican Party.  They always felt—they believed in certain issues.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s look at this ad, I think we have it now, this great ad now about Hillary Clinton.  Let‘s take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  One month ago, I began a conversation with all of you, and so far, we haven‘t stopped talking.  And that‘s really good.  I intend to keep telling you exactly where I stand on all of the issues.

I‘m looking at how you and other people who are hard-working like you (INAUDIBLE) by how serious people are because we all need to be part of the discussion if we‘re all going to be part of the solution.

I don‘t want people who already agree with me.  I want honest, spirited, hard-working, patriotic people who want to be part of a team, the American team.  I hope you‘ve learned a little bit more about what I believe in and am trying to do and really help this conversation about our country get started.

I hope to keep this conversation going all the way to November 2008.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  ... Smerconish, I tell you, that ad is either going tap into something that‘s out there, this giant monster of anti-Hillaryism that‘s out there in the Atlantic somewhere, waiting to come up to the surface, partially based on gender, partially on ideology, a lot to do with her personality, her scolding manner in terms of her public speaking—something huge might be coming out, and if it doesn‘t come out, she‘s going to win.  Is it going to come out?  Is that commercial synchronized with something coming in the American mood or not?

SMERCONISH:  Oh, man what a question!  Most Americans...

MATTHEWS:  Yes or no, Michael!

SMERCONISH:  Listen—no.  Most Americans...

MATTHEWS:  OK, then Hillary is going to win.

SMERCONISH:  Most Americans are paying attention to “March Madness.” 

And it‘s only the pajama crowd, you know, the bloggers...

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

SMERCONISH:  ... and junkies like us who are into—and by the way, Chris, I‘ve watched it five times...

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t put me in your playpen!  OK?

SMERCONISH:  I‘ve watched it five times already, so I‘m into it.  I‘m guilty as charged.  I love this sort of thing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Michael, speak for yourself and not for the other people in the world you don‘t know.  I mean, if you care about this ad, tell me, does it synchronize with what you think is coming in terms of the American attitude towards Hillary Clinton?

SMERCONISH:  I don‘t understand the—I don‘t understand the ad.  My wife, we go to the movies, we see two different things.  She gets the message.  I just want a little gratuitous sex and violence.  I have no idea what that ad is about.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what do you think, Margaret?

CARLSON:  You know, the ad plays into—it‘s not something coming, it‘s preexisting, the feelings people have about Hillary, that she‘s overly programmed and inauthentic.   You said Democrats voted for Bill Clinton despite some things.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Well, there are some people that you would expect to be for Hillary that have these reservations, and they don‘t want to vote for her.  And that...

MATTHEWS:  But is she Big Brother?  Is she Big Brother?

CARLSON:  She‘s big mama!

MATTHEWS:  Big mother...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s going to tell us what to do.

CARLSON:  A domineering mother is worse.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re good at vocalizing what you don‘t want to hear.

Thank you, Margaret Carlson, my friend.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish.  We‘ll be back with both of them.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with the HARDBALLers, Republican—Philadelphia—oh, you shouldn‘t say Republican—

Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, a man of independent intellect...

SMERCONISH:  There you go.

MATTHEWS:  ... and Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson.  By the way, I‘m going to call you friend of Hillary now.

Anyway, let‘s take a look at a new Republican—a new Democratic commercial that‘s dealing with—the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought it out, attacking Representative, congresswoman, Heather Wilson over that U.S. attorney scandal.  She‘s from New Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  October 2006, a phone call is made, a scandal begins.  According to testimony from the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Heather Wilson called U.S. attorney David Iglesias and pressured him concerning a federal corruption investigation.  Listen to U.S. Attorney Iglesias‘s testimony before the committee.

DAVID IGLESIAS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  And I received a call from Heather Wilson.  She said, What can you tell me about sealed indictments?  The second she said any question about sealed indictments, red flags went up in my head because, as you know, we cannot talk about indictments until they‘re made public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Serious questions remain about Heather Wilson in violation of congressional ethics rules.  It‘s time to for Heather Wilson to release her phone records and come clean.  It‘s time for Heather Wilson to tell the full truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is this going to crack this thing open (INAUDIBLE) exploitation politically?

CARLSON:  Well, remember, Heather Wilson was in a really tight race that look liked she might lose.  Pressure was on, Let‘s get a Democrat on corruption.  It will help me.  Now, you know, congressmen and senators don‘t call U.S. attorneys in general.  It‘s considered unethical.  It‘s not exactly obstruction of justice because you‘re not obstructing a probe, but you‘re encouraging one.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re pushing it...

CARLSON:  You‘re encouraging...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... for political reasons and...

MATTHEWS:  So she says—we now know she‘s called up, a congressman, it‘s on the record, to say, Let‘s get this case going, was the implication.

CARLSON:  Right.  And then...

MATTHEWS:  But she didn‘t say, Let‘s get this case going, she said, What‘s going on with...

CARLSON:  When there was a sealed indictment, Can you—can—you know, and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And then Pete Domenici called up, the senator from the state, with the same—the same inquiry.

CARLSON:  And I think when Iglesias said, Nothing‘s going on, I think Domenici ended the call by saying, That‘s too bad.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Michael, we‘re going to have Iglesias on tomorrow.  He‘s the guy that was sacked out there, Republican appointment out there, he was sacked because of—apparently, he wasn‘t playing political ball with those people out there.  What do you make of this?  Is this a story that‘s working on the airwaves in Philly, for example, where...

SMERCONISH:  No.

MATTHEWS:  I was in Philly before...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Marston (ph) was sacked by Carter.  Marston No was investigating some crooked Philadelphia Democrats.  Next thing you know, he‘s out of a job because Carter was told by the local people, people like Alberg (ph), the local congressman, Get this guy out of there, he‘s too aggressive.  So it‘s not like the Republicans are the only people that play partisan politics with regard to U.S. attorneys.

SMERCONISH:  Well, it‘s not clear to me that that is a case of partisan politics.  Look, here‘s how I evaluate these matters.  Is it something like Watergate, which is a burglary and everybody in the country understands breaking into someone else‘s home or a hotel, or is it like Whitewater?  What was that all about?  And I think that this case thus far is more like Whitewater...

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

SMERCONISH:  ... too convoluted for folks to understand.

And let me say this to you, from outside the Beltway.  This is being spun as such nefarious conduct.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SMERCONISH:  And yet, Chris, if you take a deep breath, 366 votes determined the outcome in New Mexico in the 2000 election.  So now it‘s 2004 -- and I base this only on the coverage in “The Times,” but what I‘ve learned is teenagers are getting voter registration cards.  And Iglesias is looking into it, and Domenici picks up the phone, and this female member of Congress picks up the phone, and I can understand them picking up the phone.  I can‘t understand inquiring about sealed indictments.  But when you really take the time to understand it, not so nefarious, perhaps.

CARLSON:  But...

MATTHEWS:  So the Republicans—the local Republicans out there, the politicians, were simply trying to get the law enforced.

SMERCONISH:  Well, it may just be a matter...

MATTHEWS:  So you say.

SMERCONISH:  It may just be a matter of priorities.  You know, is it priorities or is it politics?  If it‘s politics, then heads need to roll.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know, I agree.  I agree with you about the murkiness of this thing.  And you don‘t have to tell me to take a deep breath, Michael.  I know you just threw that one in there.  But the fact is, I have taken a deep breath and I realize that this is not...

SMERCONISH:  No, but you—you got...

MATTHEWS:  ... as exciting as other issues.

SMERCONISH:  But you got worked up over Scooter Libby, and I tried to explain to you...

MATTHEWS:  No, let me explain to you, that had to do with a cover-up on top of a cover-up on top of a cover-up.

SMERCONISH:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  ... about a political firefight.

MATTHEWS:  No.  No.

SMERCONISH:  That‘s all.

MATTHEWS:  That explanation is itself the cover-up.

SMERCONISH:  No!  I mean, he lied...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... partisan effort to try to deny...

SMERCONISH:  All I‘m trying to say...

MATTHEWS:  ... the reality that this war was sold to the American people under false pretenses.  It was covered up...

SMERCONISH:  That‘s not what it was about!

MATTHEWS:  ... with respect to how it was done.

SMERCONISH:  It was about a guy who lied under oath!  I‘m not

defending him.  Send him to jail.  He lied under oath.  All I‘m trying to

say is there are certain matters where inside the Beltway, a lot of folks -

I won‘t put you...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  ... get worked into a lather.

MATTHEWS:  Michael, Alger Hiss went to jail for perjury.  That was about espionage.  Lots of times, cases come down to a particular criminal charge, when the context of the charge is extremely political, and in this case...

SMERCONISH:  Then why isn‘t the case still going?  I mean, is that the best he could do?  I don‘t want to get off message, but I put it in that category...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m sure it sells.

We‘ll be right back with more with Michael Smerconish and Margaret

Carlson.  And later, NBC‘s Richard Engel with a sneak preview of his

documentary that‘s on tonight.  We‘ll take a look at that, at the Iraq war

that‘s on tonight on MSNBC.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on NBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson.

So let me ask you about—you, Michael, are you convinced that this fight over a subpoena for Karl Rove is not going to light up the seats?

SMERCONISH:  I don‘t think it‘s lighting up the seats out in the heartland of the country.  I think it‘s too complicated of a story and that there‘s not enough incriminating evidence so far that suggests that it‘s a case of Republicans saying, Go lock up that Democrat, even if it‘s unjustified.  When it gets to that level, people will be interested.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Margaret, let me ask you about this.  Is this issue an attempt by the Democrats, who can‘t come up with a firm position on the war in Iraq—this is my theory.  They can‘t agree.  The Schumers of this world, the Hillarys of the world, don‘t like the Iraq war.  They don‘t like it as an issue, but they love this one.  They can bite into this baby.

CARLSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s why they‘ve shifted to this issue.

CARLSON:  No, I agree with you on that.  And there‘s a danger of going too far.  And no, there‘s almost no solution to an insoluble problem in Iraq.  So yes, they...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  They might want to change the subject.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m talking about the inability of the Democratic Party to write a platform to say where they stand on the war.  The critics are right, the Democrats don‘t have a position on this war.  Hillary‘s for this war!

CARLSON:  They may have a position, they don‘t have solution.  That‘s what‘s hard for...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I...

CARLSON:  That‘s what‘s hard for Congressional Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Michael, do you...

CARLSON:  ... to come up with.

MATTHEWS:  ... know what the Democratic position is on the war in Iraq?

SMERCONISH:  No, I don‘t.  And I‘ve tried to understand it.  You make a great point.  And let me just say this as a truly non-partisan.  I look at this fight, and all I say to myself is...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SMERCONISH:  ... bin Laden is still out there.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

SMERCONISH:  Bin Laden is still out there!  And we‘re screwing around over this!

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you, Michael.  We agree, except on Scooter. 

Anyway, thank you, Margaret Carlson.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish.

Up next, NBC‘s Richard Engel.  (INAUDIBLE) What a hero he is, I should say—or Hirohito!

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  During his four years Iraq, NBC News correspondent Richard Engel has escaped, among other things, two attempted carjackings and a roadside bomb.  He tells some of these stories in a new documentary called “War Zone Diary,” which premiers tonight at 10:00 PM right here on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Holy (DELETED)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  An IED just exploded next to our vehicle.  Inside here, it still smells like gunpowder.  Luckily, we were able to drive through it, and no one in this convoy was injured.  But we‘re still assessing, checking if there are any other bombs in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not so good (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) I‘m checking myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did it hit your glass or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Middle East correspondent and bureau chief for MSNBC—actually, NBC, as well—Richard Engel.  Sir, thank you.  It‘s a hell of a piece.  I‘ve been watching some of the preview material, including that, Richard.  It sounds like it‘s going to be quite a gory show tonight on this network.

ENGEL:  Unfortunately, the reality of war is it is very gory.  The—this is very different from others things that I normally do.  It is not the tightly focused piece full of information, with lots of cuts and quick edits that go onto “Nightly News” and the “Today” show and MSNBC.  This is a very much—very much a view from the ground, and at times, it‘s raw footage, sometimes footage I took myself with a small hand-held camera.  And there were times when there was blood on the camera that I was holding. 

So it is a different perspective.

But it‘s not just about me.  It‘s how I‘ve seen the war and as the war has changed over the last four years, and it‘s changed for me, also for the soldiers and for the Iraqi people.

MATTHEWS:  You saw a dog carrying a man‘s head?

ENGEL:  That was in Falluja,. and I had just seen, you know, some horrible images.  I saw a body that was being eaten by a dog that had just been—and the body had just been run over by a—by a Bradley.  So there have been a lot of horrible images that I hope I can leave behind in Iraq when this conflict is over.  But it is a—it is very troubling, and these are images that the soldiers see and that the Iraqis definitely see, and we put some of these in, not for the fact to just make it gruesome, so that we‘re trying to disgust the viewer, but I think people should know what the Iraq war really looks like from the ground level.

MATTHEWS:  What do we make of the fact that 51 percent of Iraqis, including the people we‘re there to help, the majority—the majority role, the Shia -- 51 percent, including the Kurds, think it‘s OK to kill us.  I mean, they know us.  There‘s been guys and women on the ground there for four years now.  They know who we are as individuals, to some extent, and yet they say it‘s fine to slaughter these people.  And we‘re there supposedly—well, with the intention of helping them.

ENGEL:  Well, that‘s the fundamental difference between what the U.S.  believes its role and its intentions are and the way the Iraqi people are perceiving it.  I remember not long ago, I was talking to an Iraqi man, a Sunni in a neighborhood in west Baghdad, and I asked him, Why aren‘t you helping the American forces?  They‘re here.  They‘re far away from home.  They‘re at a great danger to themselves.  Why aren‘t you helping them find the insurgents who are terrorizing these neighborhoods?  And he said to me, Why should I bother?  They‘ve come in, they‘ve destroyed the country.  There‘s no power, no electricity.  I don‘t have a job.

They still see the American troops in this part of the country, and in many parts of the country, as occupation, as occupiers.  And until that is resolved, I think you‘re going to see a lot of people who say, You know what?  They‘re legitimate targets.  They haven‘t brought fundamentally a better country to the Iraqi people.

MATTHEWS:  But then you have the paradox of people in the same polling saying they want us to stay.  How do you put it together?

ENGEL:  There‘s this love-hate relationship.  If you ask a Kurd in northern Iraq what they want, they definitely what the U.S. troops to stay, but they don‘t want U.S. forces to get in their way, to block their national aspirations.  Shiites, they won this conflict, and we put them in power.  And eventually, they‘re going to ask us to leave because they don‘t want us to stop their dreams of taking over the entire country and controlling the oil resources in the country.

The Sunnis have this complex relationship.  They feel the U.S.  displaced them from power, allowed the Shiites to take over.  Initially, they were the ones who were doing all the fighting.  Now they‘ve changed sides and they think unless U.S. forces are in the country, they‘re going to be pushed out.  And they‘re fighting for their very existence.

So it is a—U.S. forces are part of the problem, part of the solution, loved, hated.  It is a very troubled relationship.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk to the American people on a very human level now.  Who‘s trying to kill us over there?  Every day, when we see casualties and we report them, you report them well, who is killing us?  Give us a proportion.  Give us a pie chart.

ENGEL:  Right now...

MATTHEWS:  Give us a percentage of the killers...

ENGEL:  Right now, it is overwhelmingly Sunni insurgents.  For a while, it was somewhat evenly mixed.  It was Shiite militia groups and Sunnis.  But now it is back to the core of the insurgency, 20 percent of the population Sunni Arabs, who were displaced and who feel that we drove them from power, and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And 94 percent of them, according to this new Zogby poll—

94 percent of the entire Sunni community, which is 20 percent of the country...

ENGEL:  Want Americans to stay.

MATTHEWS:  ... believe it‘s OK to kill us.

ENGEL:  And want Americans to stay.  So they want them to stay because they want—they don‘t want to be overrun by Shiites, but they don‘t want to be occupied, either.  They are fighting for, they believe, their very existence.

You have Iran dominating the country.  You have Sunni groups and Sunni powers in Saudi Arabia and Jordan trying to support this Sunni minority.  So you have this huge power struggle across the Middle East that is playing itself out right in the middle of Iraq.  And American forces are sometimes trying to hold it together, sometimes trying to keep the two forces—two sides apart.

MATTHEWS:  This was all predictable, wasn‘t it, that the people would resent our occupation, that the Sunnis don‘t like the Shia, that the Arab and Islamic world wouldn‘t like us occupying an Arab country.  What part of this wasn‘t predictable?  I keep hearing administration people say, Oh, we didn‘t know this would happen.  Everybody said this would happen.

ENGEL:  I think what wasn‘t necessarily predictable is that the entire country would fall apart, that you could decapitate the Saddam regime and then the whole society would just collapse and revert to its core elements, that the Shiite...

MATTHEWS:  Well, part of it was you got rid of the entire Iraqi army. 

We de-Ba‘athicized the entire government...

ENGEL:  And you betrayed the Iraqis...

MATTHEWS:  It was our policy.  I‘m sorry, I‘m being political.  It was our policy to take that government apart, to take those people apart, to take all the baling wire that held it together away.  I don‘t know how we didn‘t expect this to happen, unless we were listening to the Ahmed Chalabi and the neocons.  I don‘t know who we were listening to.

ENGEL:  There were—obviously, a lot of commanders now look back and say that tremendous mistakes were made, and taking apart the Iraqi army was clearly one of them.  It created vacuum of power that militia groups and insurgent groups have filled and continue to fill to this day.  So it has been one of the main problems that has plagued Iraq for years.

MATTHEWS:  I wish the American people were more skeptical, more curious, more demanding of intelligent leadership.

Anyway, thank you very much, Richard Engel.

ENGEL:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  “War Zone Diary”—it‘s on tonight—I‘m going to watch it -- 10:00 o‘clock tonight East Coast time on MSNBC, this network.  It‘s going to be gory, but it‘s going to be the true story of what‘s actually happening over there from Richard Engel‘s reporting.  And boy, has it been great.  You can watch a preview, by the way, on our Web site, Hardball.msnbc.com.

Play HARDBALL again with us again Thursday night.  Our guests will include the fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias.

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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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