updated 3/23/2007 11:24:28 AM ET 2007-03-23T15:24:28

Guests: Bernadine Healy, David Yepsen, David Iglesias, Ellen Tauscher, Eric Cantor, Eugene Robinson, Michael Feldman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  You have got to have heart.  Elizabeth Edwards keeps up the fight despite new cancer.  Will courage count in life and politics?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Today 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth held a press conference to say her cancer has returned.  But that his campaign for president will go on.  We will talk about his story in both human and political terms. 

Plus, he said he was fired for political reasons.  Tonight fired U.S.

Attorney David Iglesias from New Mexico tells his story. 

We start tonight with the news about Elizabeth Edwards.  Dr. Bernadine Healy is the former director of the National Institutes of Health and the author of “Living Time: Faith and Facts to Transform Your Cancer Journey.”

Thank you very much.  This kind cancer news, what does it do to a person?  What does it say to a person?

DR. BERNADINE HEALY, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: 

Well, it is shocking.  I mean, she has just gone through a few years of looking like she is clear of cancer and now she hears about a recurrence.  But she‘s experienced, she knows what she has been through, she knows she can handle it.  And I think what we saw in that press conference today, Chris, was a woman of courage and grace and someone who has the perfectly right attitude. 

She is going to struggle with it and she is going to beat it.  And if she doesn‘t, no one can say that now. 

MATTHEWS:  The cancer was in her breast, she had breast cancer. 

HEALY:  Yes, correct. 

MATTHEWS:  And that was a couple of years ago.  And that looked to be over as a challenge to her.  Now we learn today that she has—the cancer has spread to her ribs.  Does that tell you it is going to continue to spread to other organs? 

HEALY:  Well, first, we—when someone is treated for cancer, we have controlled it, we know that it has been responsive to treatment, but you never are totally sure that it is not going to come back.  You know, we talk about five years and 10 years, but the fact is cancers are tricky.  And when it comes back, when it—as it has in Mrs. Edwards, we don‘t have a way of being certain what is ahead for her in the next year or two years or five years. 

So I think initially what people have to do is recognize she has controlled it once, there‘s a chance she is going to control it a second time.  This is her living time.  We have to get away from this perverse sense of backseat driving that this is doom and gloom for her. 

MATTHEWS:  And so it is—as you said earlier today when we were talking about this, it is a chronic disease now, it is like diabetes, like I have diabetes.  I have to do the shots and check-ups and the oil—get my oil changed. 

HEALY:  Think about your health every day.

MATTHEWS:  The blood checks and all—every day.  But it is quite doable.  In fact, I find it rather—whatever, calming.  But in this case she has to keep taking some type of chemo, right, to deal with this? 

HEALY:  Increasingly we are recognizing that cancer isn‘t just about you get cured or you face doom and gloom.  We are learning that sometimes cancer is a chronic phenomenon, that we can contain it with some of the new drugs that are out there and turn it into a chronic disease. 

And whether it is chronic disease for a year or five years or 10 years, quite honestly, there is no doctor that can give you that answer right now.  We have averages, the averages might sound dreary, but they don‘t necessarily apply to a given patient. 

MATTHEWS:  So what is her job now in terms of being a patient?  What is his job as a spouse?  I mean, let‘s talk about it as tasks.  What are they supposed to do to be responsible about her life now?

HEALY:  Just what they said today they were going to do, which is to carry on with their life, to carry on with that wonderful intimacy they have.  The fact that they are actually on this—on the campaign trail together, it is a time when husband and wife seem to be together all the time.  He‘s there with her. 

Her chemotherapy is likely to be on the milder side, a lower dose, more chronic, perhaps some hormonal therapy, things that are not as debilitating as what she has experienced in the past.  And then it is in the hands of a higher power as to what happens. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  If she—if he were not running for president right now, would you advise him to decide to do it, given her condition? 

HEALY:  Absolutely.  I think that when someone faces a cancer, it is just like any other disease, you do not—no one has a crystal ball and you carry on with your life with a passion that you have. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So the big message is, it is not a death sentence, it is in fact a recognition on her part now, a fact  she has been reported, that she has to deal with a chronic disease now the rest of her life. 

HEALY:  Right.  And no one knows what the rest of her life can be.  And it could be 10 years, it could be 20 years, it could be shorter.  No one is going to look in that crystal ball and say they have the answer, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Great to have you on, Dr. Bernadine Healy.  Thank you very much. 

HEALY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You are a great person to have on at this moment.

John and Elizabeth Edwards say his presidential campaign will go on.  He is headed off to Boston, New York, then California.  We are going right now to Iowa and David Yepsen, that much respected columnist for The Des Moines Register. 

An Iowa impact statement, please, Dr. Yepsen. 

DAVID YEPSEN, THE DES MOINES REGISTER:  I think this was all a plus for John Edwards politically.  When he canceled his trip here on Tuesday to deal with this, the political community in this state really held its breath because John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards have been all over this state, many Democrats here know them.  Even people who didn‘t support him, they were just worried about what this meant. 

And so, it was sad news, but he handled it with grace, she handled it with courage.  And I think today if you were to do a poll, you would see a definite uptick in support for John Edwards.  Chris, I think this is—this will go down as one of the defining moments of the 2008 campaign. 

There will be a sympathy factor that sets in here for him but there will also be—it also told us something about the way he handled himself under pressure and the way she handled herself.  And I think that counts for a lot in the way people make up their minds about who to support. 

He was already the front-runner in Iowa and I see nothing today that changes that. 

MATTHEWS:  How much of a front-runner?  Is he a solid first-placer right now? 

YEPSEN:  Yes, every poll prior to this, Chris, showed that he was outside the margin of error.  I want to say 25, 30 percent, somewhere in that range. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Since Iowa is distinct from the rest of the country because in the rest of the country Hillary is in first place and Obama is in second, and if you don‘t count Gore who is not running, apparently, or at least not until he gets a Nobel Prize, Edwards is in third.  Why is he in first?  What is distinctive about his relationship to the Iowa Democrat?

YEPSEN:  Well, first of all, he has campaigned a lot here.  I mean, he has been coming out here for six years.  He knows his way around this state without a map.  And he also has, I think, a good cultural connect.  You know, he knows how to campaign in a rural state.  He comes out of North Carolina.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why couldn‘t he deliver it in November of 2004?

YEPSEN:  Well, he did.  He came in second—oh, wait, why couldn‘t he deliver Iowa? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

YEPSEN:  I think the votes for president are the votes for president, not the votes for vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Because he was spending a lot of time out there on that bus rather lonely I thought at times, out there.  Let me ask you about this question.  You know, most of the time the biography of a candidate is well-established from the outset. 

We know Obama, Barack Obama comes from an interesting background and an interesting childhood, living overseas a great deal of time in Indonesia.  And of course, interesting parentage. 

And we know that Hillary Clinton was married to a somewhat mixed record of her husband as president.  And she is part of that mixed record.  It is positive among Democrats. 

But all of that biography came before their campaigns.  Here we have a large biographical fact, this man is married to a woman with cancer, that we didn‘t have before.  I have never seen this happen before in a campaign where something so big has interrupted the flow of attitude about a candidate. 

YEPSEN:  That‘s right.  I mean, this—we don‘t—this is sort of unprecedented.  But it told us something about his character and their relationship in the way he is treating her and dealing with her in this.  And I think that is very compelling to caucus-goers and really anybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this harder—I know from watching Iowa over the years, and it is dismaying to me, that your Democrats out there, especially, don‘t like HARDBALL politics.  They are very much against negative politics.  I think negative politics has a—plays a role, certainly comparison ads.  But they don‘t like it out there, do they?  Is this going to be one further bit of shielding for Edwards?

YEPSEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Against attack by another candidate? 

YEPSEN:  Yes, I think so.  I think it really speaks to his biography and his character and I think you are absolutely right, it adds a little armor plating if somebody wants to go after him.  I mean, he certainly has said something about his character here with us. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was a shining moment.  I thought—I said, God is in heaven, all is right with the world today.  I thought those people, who I think are religious but never mentioned it today, acted religious.  I thought it was great today. 

Anyway, David, stay with us for the next couple of minutes.  We are going to talk to—right now, to Bob Shrum, a HARDBALL political analyst and veteran Democratic adviser to candidates. 

Bob, you have worked in campaigns with John Edwards and you have worked with Elizabeth very closely.  What did you make of today‘s amazing statement that she has a recurrence of cancer in her ribs, it is bad news but it is a chronic disease, something that the doctors say she can handle? 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  I agree with what David Yepsen just said.  I think John Edwards showed himself as both presidential and human.  And I have heard the word courage and grace thrown around here about Elizabeth.  I think that there was even more than that.  I think there was a kind of irrepressible spirit. 

This is someone who is going to have to take chemotherapy for the rest of her life.  And I was incredibly moved when she said that her kids had commented to her that, you know, they were kind of disappointed because her hair wasn‘t going to fall out this time. 

These are two people, as I know them, who are very close.  I think she had a lot to do with his political formation and growth over the years.  And I think she is his closest political adviser.  And I have no doubt whatsoever that she wanted him to go on. 

MATTHEWS:  It is an amazing story.  I really do feel she cares more about her kids and her husband than she does about herself, Bob. 

SHRUM:  I think that is absolutely true.  And I mean, you know, look, this isn‘t about his ambition.  I mean, obviously anybody who runs for president, it is about their ambition and they are out there and they are pushing it.  I think it is also about her dream for him, her concern for her family and she has very, very strong views about the country.  She is a very progressive Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  And she is an attorney.  And she is just as well-educated as he is, if not more so, and certainly as smart, and we know, as he is.  Let me ask you, Bob Shrum, about—you know, the cynic out there will say that they will use this.  First of all, I don‘t like the word “use” because I think in politics it is basically an exploitative opportunity anyway. 

You say who you are.  You take the advantage of who you are, what you have been through, and you hope that you can downplay what you are not good at.  Franklin Roosevelt ran for president as a man who was a victim of polio.  He didn‘t act like a victim, but he was. 

Is this something like that where it is going to be part of the biography and we are going to know about this and when we think about Edwards, we are going to think about Elizabeth Edwards and her cancer?  Is it going to be part of the picture in our head?

SHRUM:  I think—yes, absolutely, and I think it is quite different from Roosevelt who almost was never seen, as you know, Chris, and I think you have written about this, in public in his... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I applauded that decision because it was his decision, the way he wanted to deal with it. 

SHRUM:  Right.  In his wheelchair.  But I think the country wasn‘t ready for it at that point.  And they understood it.  And so it was a guy in his wheelchair who lifted a stricken country to its feet.  But now America is different and I believe that today people have got more education about cancer and how to deal with cancer in one day than they have very often over a long period of time.

And I think this year is going to be—whatever you think of Edwards, whether people vote for him or don‘t vote for him, whether they vote for Obama or Hillary, there is going to be a tremendous education in breast cancer and cancer generally and how to deal with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And thanks to Bernadine Healy, thank you for joining us on this.  Bob, you look amazingly healthy today, I don‘t why I‘m saying it, except you look tanned, you have got a great haircut.  You are very calm today.  Aren‘t you impressed, David Yepsen?  Can you see Shrum?  He is not the usually overheated fanatic  that he usually is when it comes to him. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with Shrummy and David Yepsen.  Thank you, Doctor. 

And coming up, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan is going to join our talk about the Edwards news and the Democrats‘ effort to skin Karl Rove alive.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are back with David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register.  He is the much-respected columnist out there who every four years like “Brigadoon” becomes incredibly important to us all.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum who is looking very fit.  And we are joined right now by MSNBC‘s political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Now are you going to rain on this parade?  Or  to me it was wonderful today, the way that—the courage of the Edwards family in standing up to this challenge. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It was very courageous.  It was very moving.  It brought tears to your eyes.  And everyone thought to what they might to if they had a horrible, horrible situation like this occur.

And I think they could not have handled it with more grace and courage and elements of humor.  And so I agree with what David said.  I cannot see but how this will help John Edwards. 

MATTHEWS:  But—how it will, yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, it will, because of what it says about him and what it says about his wife. 

MATTHEWS:  You have—bettered us all.  Let me ask you about the politics here.  Let‘s go to Shrum first about the politics and this attempt by the Democrats in Congress, especially the Senate Judiciary Committee to basically threaten, and they are getting very close to doing it, to subpoena top White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet Miers over this issue of why eight U.S. attorneys were sacked. 

Do you think the Democrats are right to make this fight?  Will they win it? 

SHRUM:  Sure—well, will they win is one thing.  They were certainly right to make it and I can throw off my calmness and say what the administration has done here is outrageous. 

David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, wrote an extraordinary piece in The New York Times.  I think he is going to be on this show very shortly.

MATTHEWS:  He is on in this program. 

SHRUM:  Right.  In which he said that Senator Pete Domenici called him about an ongoing investigation.  I mean, if that is true, this ought to be the Public Integrity section of the Justice Department that is investigating.  But it is Alberto Gonzales‘ Justice Department.  White House.

MATTHEWS:  Or even better, Bob—even better, Bob, the way the call went down was “the senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges before November, when I told him that I didn‘t think so, he said, ‘I am very sorry to hear that‘ and the line went dead.” 

This is sleep with the fishes stuff.

SHRUM:  Right.  Yes, exactly.  And soon after, the guy is fired.  This kind of political interference.

MATTHEWS:  Well, six weeks after.  Six weeks after he was fired.

SHRUM:  Yes.  Well, that was soon.  Listen, the right response to the election was to fire Rumsfeld.  The wrong response was to fire these U.S.  attorneys.  But Bush‘s strategy is clearly to get this to the end of his presidency.  I don‘t think that in the end they are going to be able to force Rove to testify.  If you have to go to court, it is going to take forever and the White House offer is ridiculous. 

That people will testify not under oath and you can‘t take any notes? 

That is license to lie. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan, what do you think of this fight?  Who is winning it? 

BUCHANAN:  I think Fred Fielding should not have made the offer.  The president of the United States should tell the Judiciary Committee of both houses where it can go, that Karl Rove is a personal confidential assistant of his, that the Congress has no right to interrogate him, that there is an executive privilege. 

I mean, the Congress of the United States, these hypocrites—the FBI, with a valid subpoena, went up into Congressman Jefferson‘s office and they acted like they were invading the Vestal Virgins up there. 

And look, the president of the United States not only has a right to do this, he has got an obligation to do this.  Chris, can you imagine, you worked in the White House... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me quote you.

BUCHANAN:  If the closest aide to the president of the United States can be called up whenever these hacks on the Judiciary Committee demand it like Schumer? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to David Yepsen with this quote and I‘ll tell you who said it afterwards. “Anyone who testifies to the advice he gave me won‘t be working for me that night.  I will not allow people around me to be subpoenaed and you might as well know it now.  People who are my confidential advisers are not going to be subpoenaed.”  Dwight David Eisenhower. 

He is the guy that formulated this executive privilege.  David Yepsen, who will win this argument? 

YEPSEN:  I don‘t know.  I think it is one of those things that just makes people very unhappy with Washington.  I think Democrats out here who I talk to are very angry about it.  It is one more thing that energizes them about getting the administration out of power.

And it is—actually, it is one of the things that disheartens Republicans.  I mean, this administration just seems to be snake-bit.  And you go out to Republican events, the crowds are smaller, the people are down, and this is just one more thing that seems to be going wrong for the Bush administration. 

MATTHEWS:  David, you say this helps the Democrats.  Do the people really care about the firing of U.S. prosecutors? 

YEPSEN:  No, I don‘t think that—well, some do, but I think most people look at this and say, what the heck is going on here?  It is just one more thing in Washington.  And for Democrats it is very energizing.  It just gives them that much more evidence that they have got to do something to get the Republicans out of power. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

YEPSEN:  There is just a lot more energy in the Democratic Party right now than there is with Republicans. 

BUCHANAN:  Journalistic hypocrisy here.  Journalistic hypocrisy. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.

BUCHANAN:  If you look at the journalists when poor Judy Miller had to testify about a conversation with a White House aide.  She went to jail for 85 days.  It was outrageous.  But however, the president‘s confidential conversations with his aides are open to everybody?  But journalistic conversations are not?  What kind of hypocrisy is going on here, Chris?

SHRUM:  Pat, no one has said that.  You sound like you are in full Watergate mode.  Look, people in the White House—people in the White House have been forced to testify before Congress.  Haldeman and Ehrlichman did.  A whole bunch of people from the Nixon administration did.  During Iran-Contra.

BUCHANAN:  They testified after.

SHRUM:  . Oliver North did.  The real question here.

BUCHANAN:  They testified.

SHRUM:  Pat, Pat, you talked and talked and talked.  I know how strongly you feel about this because it resonates with your own historical experience. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM:  But the political reality here.

BUCHANAN:  Bob, we got it—we got the realities.

SHRUM:  The political reality is what David Yepsen said. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  But the point is.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I have to play referee for a second.  Haldeman and Ehrlichman did not testify until they were canned. 

BUCHANAN:  And that is the same—true of Ollie North.  I testified before.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with David Yepsen—Bob, we have to take a break.  We will be right back.  We will start with you, Bob, Shrum, David Yepsen, Pat Buchanan. 

Later, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with more on this fight over the U.S.  attorney firings.  Plus, fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, the man who wrote the article and was fired after a telephone call from Pete Domenici, he is going to come on here and explain what it felt like to be sacked after that rather spooky telephone call.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are back with Bob Shrum, David Yepsen, and Pat Buchanan. 

Bob, isn‘t it true the number one goal here of the Democratic senators and House members is to try to get Karl Rove on the stand? 

SHRUM:  Maybe.  I think actually their number one goal is to try to find out what happened here and to stop the politicization of the Justice Department.  Executive privilege, by the way, can be invoked for people who left the White House staff if the president so chooses. 

In the end, I don‘t think they are going to get Rove under oath on the stand unless we, say, bring Patrick Fitzgerald back from Chicago.  But even if he found something, I think Bush—anybody who got in trouble, Bush would pardon them on the way out the door. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Pat Buchanan, do you think—who is going to win the fight in the courts? 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, the president—I think when you took it all the way to the Supreme Court, on this one I think the president of the United States would win because it is not like Watergate situation at all.  But look at.

MATTHEWS:  Because there‘s not a body of evidence to support wrongdoing against the president‘s people? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  President Nixon lost because he had special prosecutors set up to investigate the president of the United States going right at him.  It was relevant to the Haldeman-Ehrlichman case, it was relevant material, evidence he had.  And the case might not have been to go forward without it.

But Bob Shrum says, you know, they are politicizing the Department of Justice.  For heavens‘ sakes, the 93 U.S. attorneys are political appointees who can be fired for political reasons. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I want to know?  If somebody called Pete Domenici, the very well-respected senator from New Mexico, and said, I know you don‘t want to do this, Pete, but call up that guy Iglesias and put the pressure on him, if that was Karl Rove that did that, we ought to know that because that is not politics in selecting U.S. attorneys, it politics in using them. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, why don‘t they call their own colleague, Mr.  Domenici, up before the committee and said, what did you have in mind, Pete? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe he is lawyered-up already.  Anyway, thank you.

BUCHANAN:  I mean, look, you are.

MATTHEWS:  Maybe he had been lawyered up already.  Thank you, guys. 

Thank you, Bob Shrum.  As always, thank you.  I think you do look good. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yepsen, you are great, we love you, especially this time of year.  We are getting closer to loving you even more this time of year. 

YEPSEN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, you are “Brigadoon.”

Anyway, Pat Buchanan, as always.  Up next, fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias has promised he is going to come here and talk about how he got forced out.  What it was like to get those phone calls from a senator, from a member of Congress, what it was like to get canned after what seemed to be a rather spooky set of phone calls.   You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Congress stepped up the pressure on the Bush administration today over those outgoing U.S. attorney firings and the scandal attendant to it.  The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve subpoenas for both aide Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today it was the Senate Judiciary Committee that ratcheted up the battle with the Bush administration over White House testimony.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  All those in favor say aye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Aye.

LEAHY:  Opposed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

LEAHY:  I would say the ayes have it.  The eyes do have it.  The subpoenas are authorized.

SHUSTER:  The Democrats were joined by Republican senator Charles Grassley.  Several lawmakers said that getting testimony from Rove and Miers under oath is the only way to get the truth.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  It is clear to me that we have been misled.

SHUSTER:  The subpoenas will not be issued just yet.  Negotiations continue with White House counsel Fred Fielding, although this morning on the “Today” show, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy blasted the White House position.

LEAHY:  Do a closed door hearing, where the public has no idea what was said and then not under oath, and they said, If you don‘t like that, take it or leave it.  Well, nobody is going to take that.  I was a prosecutor for eight years.  If I had ever done that as a prosecutor with somebody, they would have laughed me out of court.

SHUSTER:  On Wednesday, presidential press secretary Tony Snow ridiculed the idea of formal testimony.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The question you need to ask is, What do you gain from the transcript, and the answer is not much.

SHUSTER:  Today he appeared to slightly back down.

SNOW:  We don‘t want to fight.  So I think one of the things you need to look for in the next couple of days or maybe even a few more days is let people think this through.  This not something that‘s going to be decided overnight.

SHUSTER:  Late last year, when these eight prosecutors were dismissed, documents show all but one had excellent performance records.  Six of the eight, however, had investigated sensitive cases involving political corruption.  A few weeks ago, during testimony to Congress, David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney from New Mexico, described telephone calls from Republicans congresswoman Heather Wilson and Republican senator Pete Domenici.  Domenici asked about an investigation and potential pre-election indictment of a prominent Democrat.

DAVID IGLESIAS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY:  He said, Are these going to be filed before November?  And I said I didn‘t think so.  And to which he replied, I‘m very sorry to hear that, and then the line went dead.  I felt sick afterward.  So I felt he was upset that—at hearing the answer that he received.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  OK.  How long after that contact with Senator Domenici were you fired?

IGLESIAS:  Approximately six weeks later, five weeks later.

SHUSTER:  Senator Domenici, who has now hired a defense lawyer, allegedly spoke with Karl Rove after the Iglesias call.  Documents released to Congress reveal discussions between Rove, Harriet Miers and Justice Department chief of staff Kyle Sampson.  Sampson‘s e-mails refer to prosecutors the administration wanted to keep as “loyal Bushies” and prosecutors that would be fired as “underperforming.”  But according to the Justice Department‘s own statistics, Iglesias, for example, had the fourth highest conviction rate among all U.S. attorneys.  Two other U.S. attorneys dismissed were in the top 10.  Paul Charlton ranked number one, Carol Lam was number seven.

Kevin Ryan, described in e-mails as a Bush company man, was ranked 87th.  Documents show his office was plagued by morale problems and poor management.  Still, e-mails reveal that Ryan was not on the dismissal list until a federal judge complained and threatened to get Congress involved.

(on camera):  In other words, the one U.S. attorney actually underperforming was dismissed only after it appeared he would be a public relations liability.

All of this is fueling suspicions in Congress the other dismissals were pure politics.  Today Republican lawmakers urged Democrats and the White House to compromise over testimony.  Meanwhile, Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to the attorney general, has agreed to testify voluntarily next week.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  OK, let‘s go now to one of the fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias, who says he received phone calls from Republican senator Pete Domenici and Republican House member Heather Wilson about his handling of a Democratic corruption case.

Mr. Iglesias, thank you for joining us.  What did you feel like as Pete Domenici, the senator from your state, was grilling you on whether you were going to proceed in time for the election with prosecution of a Democratic official?  What did it feel like to listen to his words?

IGLESIAS:  It was really an awful feeling.  I knew immediately that the call was inappropriate.  I had never received any call like that in my tenure as United States attorney or as a former state prosecutor.  It was a very brief conversation.  When it ended up with him hanging upon me, with the line going dead, I just had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense that he was doing a follow-up call to Congresswoman Wilson?

IGLESIAS:  I think that‘s probably true, Chris.  Heather Wilson had called me approximately two weeks earlier and had asked about sealed indictments.  I knew instantly what she was talking about and I also knew that as a prosecutor, as United States attorney here, I could not talk about sealed indictments to anybody outside my office.

MATTHEWS:  Did you have a sense that when Senator Domenici called you, he was doing the bidding of someone else?  In other words, you can usually tell when someone‘s on the phone with you and they‘re going through something they don‘t do with any spontaneity, as if they‘ve got a mission, maybe some notes in front of them, something they have to get over with.

IGLESIAS:  You know, I don‘t think so.  Again, it was a very brief conversation.  His chief of staff, Steve Bell, had placed the call to me and then said that the senator wanted to talk to me, and then I said OK.  So I don‘t think there was a checklist or some type of talking points that Senator Domenici was reading off.

MATTHEWS:  When I read your “New York Times” column, Mr. Iglesias, I‘m struck about the drama of it.  As I said earlier in the program in quoting your column, “When he told me that, I—when I told him that I didn‘t think so,” that you wouldn‘t be able to bring this case to trial or to indictment by election day,” he said, I‘m very sorry to hear that, and the line went dead.”  I mean, that sounds pretty creepy.  He hung up on you.

IGLESIAS:  Well, I can tell you...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not the end of a conversation...

IGLESIAS:  Yes.  I‘ve been a lawyer...

MATTHEWS:  ... in civil society.

IGLESIAS:  Well, I‘ve been a lawyer 22 years, Chris.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times anybody‘s ever hung up—hung the phone up on me, and that call was one of the handful.

MATTHEWS:  What was the basis, do you believe, of his contempt toward you?

IGLESIAS:  Well, there had been tremendous public comments.  There‘d been tremendous local media coverage on these alleged courthouse corruption cases.  I knew that people were antsy, they wanted these things filed.  But you know, I couldn‘t publicly talk about that, and I still can‘t even confirm to this day whether or not the investigations were actually ongoing.  So I was put in a terrible predicament by the senator‘s call.  He wanted me to talk about absolutely privileged and confidential matters.

MATTHEWS:  And the public record is such, without you having to divulge anything, that there haven‘t been the kind of convictions—or indictments that he had hoped there would be, the senator.

IGLESIAS:  Well, that‘s right.  And the irony here is that we‘d just successfully concluded the largest public corruption cases in state history.  In September of 2006, we‘d got a conviction on the former state treasurer, Robert Vigil.  He‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Is that a Democrat or Republican, sir?

IGLESIAS:  Republican—I‘m sorry, a Democrat.  His predecessor, Michael Montoya, also a Democrat.  We‘d taken a guilty plea to a federal felony count for him also.

MATTHEWS:  So in terms of political pay dirt, apart from the impropriety, perhaps, of everything we‘re talking about here, the Republican Party in New Mexico should have been satisfied that they had enough grist for the mill.

IGLESIAS:  There was lots of grist for the mill.  Again, there had never been that kind of a corruption matter in New Mexico state history.  We got four indictments, four convictions, all within about a year-and-a-half period.  And then the local media picked up on possible further corruption matters, and that‘s the backdrop of these phone calls.

MATTHEWS:  Did you get any other information during this time—you said there was a six-week lag between the time that Domenici called you and you were informed you were going to be dismissed, and also a couple week lag between the calls by Congresswoman Wilson and Senator Domenici.  During that period of time, did you get any other information that suggested that you were out of favor with the administration?

IGLESIAS:  No, not at all.  In fact—and that‘s why when I got the call on Pearl Harbor Day, on the 7th of December of 2006, I was just stupefied because all indications in writing from the Justice Department was that I was doing a good job.  I know my evaluations were great.  The director of the executive office of U.S. attorneys said my leadership was exemplary as to priority programs.  And then I got the bomb dropped on me on December 7.

MATTHEWS:  Prima facie, looking at you and the other seven U.S.  attorneys who have been removed in that time period, do you see a commonality, a pattern?

IGLESIAS:  I can probably pull out a couple of commonalities.  One is that most of us had pending—reportedly had pending corruption matters.  That‘s one thing.  Three out of the eight of us were on the Southwest border.  Another commonality is we were extremely productive.  Carol Lam and Paul Charlton and I, as your commentator stated earlier, in the top 10.  Charlton was number one.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

IGLESIAS:  I mean, we were running very, very busy and productive offices.

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to bring any action?  Can you ?  Do you have the standing to sue the government over this?

IGLESIAS:  Oh, I don‘t think I‘ve got standing.  And you know what, Chris?  I‘m not really interested in money.  All I want is a retraction from the Justice Department stating I was doing a fine job and performance had nothing to do with my termination.

IGLESIAS:  Are you a good Republican?  Are you still a Republican?

IGLESIAS:  I still am, believe it or not.

MATTHEWS:  Are you interested...

IGLESIAS:  I still am.

MATTHEWS:  ... in a Republican political career in New Mexico?

IGLESIAS:  No, I‘m not.

MATTHEWS:  Are you interested in becoming a Democrat?

IGLESIAS:  I‘m not.  No, I...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just trying to figure out what you‘re up to.

IGLESIAS:  I‘m not interested in that, either.

MATTHEWS:  How are you going to come out of this a year from now?

IGLESIAS:  Well, Frankly—frankly, Chris, I would love to have your job.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you can‘t get that from presidential appointment.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

IGLESIAS:  I understand that.  But I‘m exploring every possible option...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

IGLESIAS:  ... private sector and not necessarily legally-related jobs.

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s great to have you on.  David Iglesias, thank you very much, sir, for coming here and telling us your story in depth.

Up next: Can House Democrats find enough votes to back a bill that would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq next year?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The House is expected to vote Friday on a funding bill—I think it may well be tomorrow, in fact.  The bill includes a call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by September of next year.  Can Democrats find the 218 votes they need for a majority?

U.S. Democratic congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California is a member of the Armed Services Committee, and Republican congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Cantor, Congressman, let me ask you this.  Who will win the vote tomorrow, apparently before noon, on whether the United States will have to leave Iraq by September of next year?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE:  Well, you know, I clearly hope it is our side that wins that debate.  And currently, it looks as if the majority is having a lot of difficulty rounding up their votes, and I think the contrast is pretty stark.  I think if you look at the Republican conference, we‘re unified by the notion that we‘ve got to support our troops and not tie the generals‘ hands behind their back and allow our commander-in-chief to run this war and not allow 435 members of the House micromanage it.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Tauscher, who‘s going to win this—

Tauscher, who‘s going to win this vote?

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  You know, the people are going to win because the Democrats are going to prevail.

MATTHEWS:  218?

TAUSCHER:  We‘re going to get to 218.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So that means you have to hold something like 95 percent of your troops.

TAUSCHER:  Well, I think we‘re not only going to hold many Democrats, but I think it‘s possible we may actually get some Republican votes, a handful, perhaps.  But I think it‘s very important that we keep in mind that the Republicans are standing in the way of what the American people have clearly said they want.  They want a change of direction.  They want the president held accountable.  And they want no more blank checks for Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  The vote tomorrow would bring all the troops out or begin to bring them out next September.  What would be the progress of that?

TAUSCHER:  Well, there‘s three different benchmarks.  July 1, the president has to certify that the Iraqi government is doing the political negotiations necessary to cut down the militias and to share oil revenue and other things.  And if he fails to certify, after 180 days, the troops begin to come home.  Then there‘s another benchmark on October 1, basically says the same thing.  The president has to certify.  If he fails to certify, 180 days, the troops he to come home.  Regardless of everything, the troops have to be out by August of 2008.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Cantor, if we had a Democratic president fighting a war overseas in that part of the world and it was unpopular in this country, would you still hold to your position that it‘s up to the president to decide how long to fight a war?

CANTOR:  Chris, I would.  And I know you and I have talked about this before.  And frankly, Ellen and I have had conversations about this, too.  I think where the American people are, is they want to give our troops what they need to fight and win this war and come home as soon as they can.  But the wrong thing to do is to trying to hamstring our generals...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CANTOR:  ... our commanders on the ground.  And again, we‘ve got to give our troops everything they need, and to put some type of arbitrary deadline for withdrawal out there I think is nothing but an attempt to garner political support in certain quarters of this country and I think does great harm to the troops on the ground.

MATTHEWS:  But if the president himself were to say, We‘re coming home by next September, would that be wrong?

CANTOR:  Well, I mean, again, I mean, the president is the commander-in-chief, and the Constitution gives him the authority to be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces.  He‘s the one fighting this war, not the members of Congress.  We have the power of the purse strings and the oversight ability, but he is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

MATTHEWS:  Let me quote you something from General Eisenhower, to both of you.  I‘ve just been reading up on one of my favorite presidents the other night, who gets overlooked by both parties.  “There is going to be no involvement of America in a war unless it is the result of the constitutional process that is placed upon Congress to declare it.”

Now, let us have that—make that idea clear.  Congressman Tauscher, is it your belief that the U.S. Congress, as it did it 2002, has the responsibility to determine whether we go to war or not?

TAUSCHER:  Absolutely.  And not only that, when we find out subsequently that we‘ve been misled and that there‘s no plan or mission for our troops for well over two years and we‘re fighting in Iraq‘s civil war, it‘s time to bring our troops home.  And I have a bill that actually says, Let‘s withdraw the authority that the president got in October of 2002, and let‘s tell him that the mission can only  be training Iraqi troops, protecting our embassy and in withdrawal.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Cantor, the question to you is, does the president have to go to Congress to get approval to fight war?  Yes or no.

CANTOR:  The president has...

MATTHEWS:  Like he did in 2002.  Does he have to do it?

CANTOR:  The president has the constitutional obligation to be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

MATTHEWS:  No, but the president of United States, President Bush, went to Congress in 2002 and sought authorization to use military force against Saddam Hussein.  Are you saying he didn‘t have to?

CANTOR:  Well, the president upon legal advice went and sought that authority, and this Congress overwhelmingly gave him that authority not...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but do you believe he should have done that?

CANTOR:  And I think, Chris, what the operative—what really the import is right now is the reports are that the majority here is 20 votes short because...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I just want to know your constitutional view, as a member of congress.  You‘re all sworn to uphold the Constitution.  Do you believe the Constitution requires the president, as President Bush did in 2002, to seek authorization from Congress to attack another country?

CANTOR:  The Constitution allows the—and gives the president and assigns him with the obligation to be the commander-in-chief...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not answering the question!

CANTOR:  ... of our armed forces.  I am answering the question.

MATTHEWS:  Did he have to get approval—every one of your constituents—I hope they‘re listening now.  Here‘s a simple question.  Was President Bush right in seeking authority to go to war or not?

CANTOR:  He had already—he had already had plans in place to do what is necessary to defend this country.  He went upon legal advice to go to the Congress to get Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Was that correct advice?

CANTOR:  Oh, I mean, I think so because the practicality of it is Congress has the power of the purse strings.

MATTHEWS:  So you believe a president doesn‘t have to seek the authority of Congress to make war.

CANTOR:  No, that‘s not what I said at all, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, say it the way you want to say it.

CANTOR:  That is not what I said at all.  I said...

MATTHEWS:  Say it the way you want to say it.

CANTOR:  I said that the president is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Right.

CANTOR:  He has the obligation to defend this country.  And what‘s going on right now is this Congress is trying to play commander-in-chief.  That‘s wrong.  The American people don‘t want that.

TAUSCHER:  Chris, if I could say this?  Somebody better play commander-in-chief because this is a commander-in-chief without a current mission, without an imminent threat and without a plan to extricate our troops after we‘ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowed money, thousands are dead, and we are nowhere near bringing our troops home.

CANTOR:  Well, I mean, Chris...

TAUSCHER:  And we‘re fighting in Iraq‘s civil war.  And I—to my colleague, look, let me just tell you, this not the time for you to continue to defend the president when clearly, the American people have spoken.

CANTOR:  Ellen—Ellen, I‘m trying to defend our troops.  We‘re trying to give them...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Congressman.  It‘s not about the troops.  I want to ask you a question.

CANTOR:  It is about the troops.

MATTHEWS:  Is it up to the president to decide how long we fight this war?  Yes or no.

CANTOR:  It is, but it has to have some concurrence with the Congress because we‘ve got the purse strings, Chris.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Therefore?  Therefore?

CANTOR:  And you know that we have to work in concert for what‘s best for the American people.  Right now, what‘s best for the American people is to provide what the troops need to be on the ground and to fight this war and to win.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  We don‘t fight wars because the of the Army, the Army fights the wars because of political decisions made in this country.  You got it a little backwards, Congressman.

CANTOR:  Chris, we are there.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t fight wars for the good of the...

CANTOR:  Chris, we are there.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s the issue.

CANTOR:  We are there.  That‘s the bottom line.

MATTHEWS:  That is the issue.

CANTOR:  And we‘ve got to...

(CROSSTALK)

CANTOR:  ... best for our troops.

MATTHEWS:  Did the troops get sent there properly?  We all agree the president was right to go to Congress to get approval.  You agree that it‘s up to Congress to give the president the money to spend in a war.

CANTOR:  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not that far apart.  Thank you very much...

CANTOR:  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  ... Congressman Cantor, Eric Cantor of Virginia.  Thank you, Congresswoman Tauscher of California.

Up next: The guy who made the anti-Hillary 1984 video comes clean. 

Was that dirty politics, this brilliant ad, or was it just a brilliant ad?

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re joined now by Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Al Gore.  By the way, is Al Gore sharpening up his political blade now?  He‘s up there on the Hill.  Is he going to lose some weight and make his move, or...

MICHAEL FELDMAN, FORMER GORE ADVISER:  You‘re obsessed with his weight, Chris!

MATTHEWS:  Because he weighs—he‘s Raymond Burr!

(CROSSTALK)

FELDMAN:  I thought he looked fantastic yesterday.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m just asking.

FELDMAN:  He is—he‘s sharpening his blade for a campaign, but it‘s a campaign about an issue, Chris, not a campaign for president.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I guess I‘m just at that street level of thinking...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... that a politician might want to be president or something.  What would made me think of that?  He only ran 400 times!  Let me ask you this, Gene, about this fight on the Hill.  Is this a—I hate to use the phrase, I never use it, but I will.  Is this an inside-the-Beltway fight?

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, you know, I‘m not sure, actually.  I mean, usually, I call down around to Orangeburg, South Carolina, where I grew up, and find out how people are looking at it.  I think it‘s bigger than that, actually.  I mean, I think people understand prosecutors being political.

MATTHEWS:  We got to go right now—let me go right now to this ad

that—you want to take a peak at it as we‘re taking here.  This is this -

every once in a while, a political ad or any kind of ad comes out that everybody‘s excited by.  This is a remake, obviously, of an old 1984 ad about Apple computer, about taking on Mr.—Big Brother.  In this case—well, it‘s IBM, but the theme is 1984, George Orwell.  And here we have this courageous maverick ready to throw this hammer at this huge, menacing picture of Hillary Clinton.  Who‘s winning here?

FELDMAN:  Well, I don‘t know if anybody‘s winning.  I‘ll tell you, it tells us it‘s going to be a different kind of campaign.  The question in my mind is, you see a dotted line right now to the Obama campaign on this.  There is a relationship there.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

FELDMAN:  And so it‘s fundamentally different than this was some kid in his garage, working...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn‘t they—why don‘t they brag about it?  Why don‘t they say, We‘re clever enough to have people working for us that know that there‘s a problem with this woman with some people and we can exploit it?

FELDMAN:  If they did that up front, that‘s one thing.  They haven‘t done that.  So now the question is, are they manipulating this new medium?  And that can have a backlash.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gene?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think there‘s going to be a lot of manipulation of this new media.  I mean, the guy who did this said he did it in a Sunday afternoon at home, using his Mac and...

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s on to something, the sense of Hillary using inevitability, that I‘m the big shot, you got to accept me.  That‘s brilliant!

ROBINSON:  I mean, that was always a great ad.  It was great ad when it was Apple and IBM.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROBINSON:  And it‘s a—it‘s a great metaphor, looking at it from the Obama perspective, it‘s a great metaphor for the way they want to see their campaign, you know, a different kind of computer, a different kind of politician.

MATTHEWS:  Bringing down the old regime.

ROBINSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Great.  I wish I had more time, as always.  Mike Feldman, this is too brief.  We have to meet longer next time.  Gene Robinson, as always.

Play HARDBALL with us again Friday.  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.

transcript

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,