updated 3/27/2007 11:45:56 AM ET 2007-03-27T15:45:56

Guests: Rep. Adam Putnam, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jim Warren, Howard Fineman, Dee Dee Myers, Tony Blankley, Christie Vilsack, Tom Vilsack, Jon Meacham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  All the president‘s men.  Colin Powell got the bum‘s rush for questioning the war.  Rumsfeld got the door for blowing it.  Will Gonzales be the next to get the gate?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  New signs that Republican support for President Bush‘s attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, is eroding.  Senator Lindsey Graham says Gonzales has said some things that just don‘t add up.  Senator Chuck Hagel says Gonzales has a problem.  And the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, said this on “Meet the Press.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful.  And if we find he has not been candid and truthful, that‘s a very compelling reason for him not to stay on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And now throw in a conservative lashing from right-wing columnists Robert Novak and Charles Krauthammer and you begin to see a perfect political storm.  More on this in a moment.

Plus, John Edwards continues to campaign despite his wife, Elizabeth‘s, cancer.  How will voters react to this story?

And maverick senator Chuck Hagel unleashes the “I” word, impeachment.  And Republicans revolting against President Bush are being joined by him, using that big gun of maybe impeachment.  He talks about it being not a monarchy.

We‘re going to talk about that with the HARDBALLers, but first, David Shuster has the latest on the increasing pressure on the Bush administration over those U.S. attorney firings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The latest Justice Department e-mails show Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with his senior staff to discuss the firing of federal prosecutors, even though Gonzales publicly denied that.  And now the criticism of Gonzales is growing.  On Sunday, three Republicans questioned the attorney general‘s truthfulness.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  He has said some things that just don‘t add up.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  The attorney general is dealing with a cloud hanging over his credibility.

SPECTER:  We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful.

SHUSTER:  Earlier this month, in trying to tamp down the noise over the seemingly political firings of these eight federal prosecutors, Gonzales acknowledged his department made mistakes.  But Gonzales denied he was involved.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.

SHUSTER:  And to underscore the denial, Gonzales said it not once but twice.

GONZALES:  I just described for Pete the extent of my—the knowledge I had about the process.  I never saw the—I never saw documents.  We never had a discussion about where things stood.

SHUSTER:  But Justice Department e-mails released to Congress Friday night show that Gonzales attended an hour-long meeting on the federal prosecutors just 10 days before the U.S. attorneys were told they were being fired.  The documents indicate Gonzales looked at memos, discussed the details, and then gave his approval.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  First the attorney general said he was out of the loop.  Then he said—and then the e-mail showed he was in the loop.  It‘s bad either way.  I mean, this was a horrible mistake.  It never should have been done without the OK of the attorney general.  It shouldn‘t have been done with the OK of the attorney general.

SHUSTER:  Alberto Gonzales is a Texan, a long-time friend of President Bush and his former White House lawyer.

QUESTION:  Has the president talked to the attorney general since this new set of documents came out Friday night?

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No.

SHUSTER:  Spokesperson Dana Perino then tried to downplay the documents‘ significance.

PERINO:  I understand the concern.  I understand that people might think that there are inconsistencies.  But as I read it, I think that he has been consistent.

SHUSTER:  But the frustration over Gonzales among conservatives is boiling over.  Today influential columnist Robert Novak said, quote, “The word most often used by Republicans to describe the management of the Justice Department under Gonzales is incompetent.”

On top of the firing of the U.S. attorneys and the FBI‘s misuse of the Patriot Act, Novak also points to the Iraq war and the debacle at Walter Reed.  He writes, “In half a century, I‘ve not seen a president to isolated from his own party in Congress, not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.”

Several Republicans, including House lawmaker Adam Putnam, say that no Republicans are stepping forward to join President Bush in defending Gonzales because Republicans were burned by President Bush‘s handling last year of former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  Preceding the election, the president said Rumsfeld was going to stay.  Following the election, Rumsfeld was dismissed.

This time, with Gonzales, many Republicans aren‘t even waiting to hear what the president says.  Last Friday, Charles Krauthammer, a prominent Bush and Cheney supporter, wrote, quote, “In time, and the sooner the better, Gonzales must resign.  How could he allow his aides to go to Capitol Hill unprepared and misinformed and therefore give inaccurate and misleading testimony?”

(on camera):  As Gonzales fights to hold onto his job and prepare for congressional testimony, the White House is still arguing over testimony from Karl Rove and Harriet Miers.  Despite the threat of a congressional subpoena, the White House maintains that Rove and Miers will not testify under oath or allow a transcript to be made, even though the White House today pointed to an interview transcript of Alberto Gonzales in defending him against charges that he has been misleading.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  Joining us now is Republican congressman Adam Putnam and Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Thank you both for joining us.

You‘re on the hot seat.  You were mentioned in the “Prince of Darkness‘s” own political column today.  Do you feel that you were burnt when Rumsfeld was basically sacked after the president stood up for him and you stood up for him?

REP. ADAM PUTNAM ®, FLORIDA:  A number of House Republicans were very frustrated by not only the timing of the sacking of Rumsfeld but the shift in rhetoric immediately after the election.  A lot of us...

MATTHEWS:  Did he pull the rug out from under you, the president?

PUTNAM:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you to do now in the context of this Gonzales fiasco?

PUTNAM:  Well, they‘re separate issues, but it certainly undermines the well of support for what is dripping out of the administration, and this attorney general fiasco is an example of this evolving story of whether it was performance-related or political or whatever.  It‘s really not whether the president has the right to hire and fire within his administration, it‘s how they‘ve handled it since then.

MATTHEWS:  Is Gonzales a cipher?  Is he simply a guy that was given a really high post way above his ability by this president and then used politically by Karl Rove to move in and out U.S. attorneys?  In other words, is he basically a staffer masquerading as attorney general?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Oh, I think that lets him off the hook too easy.  I mean—and I really agree with Adam.  I mean, this is HARDBALL, but I think this is not a question of whether or not the president has the right to fire or hire...

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s not just the president‘s today, his stooge.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  This is...

MATTHEWS:  He really is the bad guy.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Listen, he‘s at the top of the food chain, and the buck stops there.  And he‘s a pretty accomplished guy.  He was the White House counsel before he got there.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he‘s—he‘s basically a retainer of the Bush family.  He‘s been with the family how many hundreds of years?  I mean, he looks—they took care of them.  He‘s only there because of them.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He swore the oath.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  It‘s his responsibility.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re holding him accountable.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I hold him and the president accountable.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what did he do wrong?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, he essentially has not just covered up the facts of what happened, but they‘ve interfered in U.S. attorneys across the country ability to pursue...

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example of where he interrupted an investigation, one example.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, I can‘t give you an example of when...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the problem, isn‘t it?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No.  I can‘t give you an example of when he did, but I can give you examples of members of Congress on the Republican side of the aisle and how they interfered, with phone calls, picking up the phone, asking questions, applying pressure, and then that snowballing into the attorney general executing the firing...

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that this administration‘s guilty of obstructing justice?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I think that it is something that absolutely needs to be looked into because where there‘s smoke, there‘s fire.

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t you have to make an accusation before there‘s an investigation?  Don‘t you have to say, in the case of the California case with the investigation—or the voter fraud in Washington state or putting his buddy in there in Arkansas—don‘t you have to find some case where there was an obstruction before you have a big investigation?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In this case, the smoke, the not answering—answering questions accurately, the trying to cover this up instead of just coming right out and saying, yes, we fired them.  We have the right to fire them and we did—and the problem...

MATTHEWS:  Would that have worked for you?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I would have been a lot more comfortable with them just saying, Yes, we fired them.  Own up to it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  And then it‘s easier for us to say, OK, we don‘t like it, but this is what they did.  But instead what they did is that they keep essentially not telling the truth about what really happened.  And where there‘s smoke, there‘s fire, which makes us as Judiciary members want to ask the question...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a lawyer, right?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, I‘m not a lawyer.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Congressman...

PUTNAM:  I‘m a farmer.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s probably a defense in this case.  Do you believe that this administration exercised this blind justice, or it plays favorites, bringing in and out U.S. attorneys, depending on what the political purposes are in that particular district?  In other words, are they moving U.S. attorneys in to create jobs for Karl Rove‘s buddy?  Are they getting rid of people who are causing trouble with your party?

I mean, when I see in Washington state, with McKay up there, the U.S.  attorney, says, I get a call asking me, from Harriet Miers in the White House, Why are the Republicans mad at you, the next thing I know, I‘m sacked—is that politics, as you see it, prima facie?

PUTNAM:  Look...

MATTHEWS:  Is that politics when you get fired after you give the wrong answer?

PUTNAM:  There‘s a certain amount of politics in hiring decisions in any administration.

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m talking about performance.

PUTNAM:  But some of the smoke that was referred to...

MATTHEWS:  Performance decisions, not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We know the U.S. attorney is a plum job.  We know that.

PUTNAM:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  But once you get it, should you be getting calls from the White House asking you why the Republicans, the people of your party, are mad at you?

PUTNAM:  It is never appropriate for any member of Congress or the executive branch to interfere with judicial matters.  Justice should be blind.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  And that happened.

PUTNAM:  The problem with all of this is that this evolving story of whether they were sacked because they just wanted new people or whether they were sacked for performance-related measures, all of that stuff...

MATTHEWS:  Where are you at on that?

PUTNAM:  ... all of that...

MATTHEWS:  Where are you at on this, Congressman?

PUTNAM:  ... is undermining people‘s confidence.

MATTHEWS:  So where are you at?  Do you believe that this smells like trouble?

PUTNAM:  Oh, it stinks.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

PUTNAM:  But the issue is not—we‘re in agreement.  The issue is not whether the president had the right to fire those attorneys.  The issue now is, frankly, this maelstrom, this that is tornado of Gonzales‘s own making, is undermining support for the policies that...

MATTHEWS:  Now, let me give you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, I just want you to give me the—hold off for a second.  Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to the attorney general, who was fired—and by the way, in this administration, it‘s always the chief of staff who takes the heat for the principal.  I don‘t know what this is about.  Cheney‘s guy—I mean, it just keeps going down the line.

Kyle Sampson is testifying Thursday.  We‘re not going to hear from Gonzales on the stand in the Senate Judiciary Committee for, like, two or three weeks now.  Is this a long period of time for your party to hang fire with this guy, just let him sit there for two or three weeks?

PUTNAM:  It is a long period of time.  And I understand that the counsel who was supposed to testify has now said that she‘s going to take the 5th.  So it further complicates...

MATTHEWS:  The 5th Amendment?  Or executive...

PUTNAM:  The 5th.

MATTHEWS:  On grounds it may tend to incriminate her.

PUTNAM:  That‘s correct.  So it‘s further complicating this whole issue.  It is no longer about the original act, it is now about this ever-evolving story.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

PUTNAM:  And frankly, it is a future distraction for the attorney general.  There is no way that he‘s effectively attending to his other duties.  And in my opinion, as someone who has defended the Patriot Act and defended a lot of the tools in the war on terror, it is now costing the president support.

MATTHEWS:  You guys are (INAUDIBLE) Where are you from in Florida?

PUTNAM:  Central Florida, Lakeland area.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I was down there...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When Jimmy Carter was campaigning, I remember going there. 

It was the only big crowd he got for the last week of the election!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Congratulations.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I just want to underscore one thing.  Now that the Democrats control the Congress, there is an opportunity for us to assert the oversight that had not been asserted.  And I have to tell you that, you know, although Adam and I agree on this, this is not—this is something that normally just would have been swept aside...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... and we would have ridden it out.

MATTHEWS:  This is the hope of the future right here.  Thank you, Congressman Putnam, and thank you, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.

Up next: Rudy Giuliani is up with a radio ad already.  Do voters like what they‘re hearing?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Big news here in Washington and out on the campaign trail.  Is the attorney general the final straw for some Republicans?  Is President Bush losing his own party?  Plus, John Edwards continues his campaign, of course, in the wake of devastating news about his wife‘s cancer.

Let‘s dig into the latest with “The Chicago Tribune‘s” Jim Warren and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.

Jim, thank you very much for joining us.  Right now, I want to start with this story and then I‘ll get back to the AG fight because this is a human interest story of the most profound kind.  What is the reaction to the decision by John Edwards to keep his campaign going, especially in neighboring Iowa out there, where he‘s done so well?

JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, interesting.  Relying on anecdote, not any empirical polling, in just talking to a lot of folks around here, even Democrats quite sympathetic to somebody like Edwards ideologically, it really is interesting how divisive an issue this really is to folk.  I mean, I was in a discussion with a lot of our writers today, and I was surprised how many folks were saying, Hey, wait a second.  It‘s one thing if your day job was, you know, car mechanic or reporter at “The Chicago Tribune,” but in a job where you‘re going to be running around the country, they really had some questions about this.

I think, politically, what‘ll be real interesting—and I‘m sure Howard agrees—is take a look at the second and third quarter of this year, how Edwards is going to do as far as fund-raising, and will he be able to maintain discipline organizationally among the folks who‘ve been working real, real hard for him because, otherwise, you would have believed that all other things being equal, that if you‘re Obama or Hillary Clinton, you should be nervous about a potentially strong showing in some of those early states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, especially Iowa going into Nevada.  I thought—I still think he has the best shot for a daily double there, winning both of those.  But Howard, what are you hearing?  Is this working for him?  I don‘t want to be crude about this, but it‘s an astounding statement to say your wife—or to hear that—everyone—that she‘s in stage four—everybody fears cancer.  It‘s right around us.  It‘s everywhere in our lives—and to deal with that as part of an active campaign.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Very, very tricky.  I think this story is following an arc.  the first day, tremendous outpouring of sympathy for John Edwards, for Elizabeth Edwards especially.  People around here know them, think they‘re good people.  They love her.  She‘s real.  She‘s tough.

MATTHEWS:  And she sparkled that day.

FINEMAN:  She sparkled.  And she—you saw all the good in that story on the first day.  Now we‘re up to day four or five, and other questions are being asked.  Jim asked one about, Where‘s the money going to come from.  That‘s a legitimate question.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s that to do with her health?

FINEMAN:  It doesn‘t have to do with her health, it has to do with the health of the campaign, OK?

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  Those kind of questions are being asked.  Other questions are being asked about how sick she really is.  It turns out that she‘s got more of an involvement early on than had been said at the beginning.

MATTHEWS:  More than he said.

FINEMAN:  More than he said at the beginning.  And then there are questions about the kids.  They have young children.  And while it‘s true, as she says, that, what else should she do with her life but dedicate it to their mutual vision, there are people asking, What about the kids?

I think on balance, it‘s been a tremendous window into Edwards, and a good one and a positive one...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  ... but these other questions are going to be asked.  And the next six months will tell the story.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at how Mrs. Edwards handled it on “60 Minutes” last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  Cancer took a lot away from us a few years ago.  A took a year of my life and a lot of John‘s.  I didn‘t want it to take this away, not just from me, but from those people who depend on our having the kind of president he would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Jim, I don‘t know.  I guess I‘m not supposed to take sides.  I often do in terms of personalities.  I like her.  And it seems like—you‘re chuckling.  I like her.  And I think she wants to be busy the next couple years of her life.  It may be the last years of her life, and she wants to be on the move with her husband.

WARREN:  No, I‘m chuckling, because I really am in agreement with you.  I‘ve known her a little bit, particularly in my years in Washington.  I thought she was an absolutely terrific person, believe she‘s showing a huge amount of courage, could be a role model for a lot of folks, and undoubtedly was a very sympathetic figure last night.

And even if unintended, you have to admit, as Howard would agree, this brings to a spotlight to a campaign that desperately needed some...

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.

WARREN:  ... a spotlight.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that, Jim.

WARREN:  ... and has been really drowned out by both Obama and Clinton.  But does it ultimately, come the year 2008, bring a degree of ambiguity, particularly if the condition worsens, a degree of ambiguity that just—I cannot see as a net plus, ultimately.

FINEMAN:  I agree.  I got—I agree with Jim.  In talking to people around Washington, how surprisingly divisive this actually is.  My first reaction, as a cancer survivor, by the way, which I am...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  ... is, Go ahead, Elizabeth...

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re a 100 percent survivor.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve really gotten through it and—and...

FINEMAN:  We love you for it, and go—this is what you should do. 

This is what everybody who‘s ever had a brush with cancer should do.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  But it turns out it‘s more complicated than that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a lot more complicated when—then you and I sit around, with your wife and my wife, having sandwiches some day because it‘s over.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t going to be over for her.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

I understand that, but people want to be sympathetic. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  People want to be sympathetic.  The questions are...

MATTHEWS:  I want to root...

FINEMAN:  ... whether they are going to remain that way. 

MATTHEWS:  ... for human beings...

FINEMAN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  ... who are taking on tough challenges.

FINEMAN:  I agree.

MATTHEWS:  And I think going home and sitting in that big house, and thinking about what might have been, is not the best therapy.  But I‘m not a doctor.  I‘m certainly not Dr. Phil. 

We will come right back with these two pros, Jim Warren and Howard

Fineman,

And later, a HARDBALL exclusive:  Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, are backing Hillary Clinton.  Does this mean the race for vice president is already on? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and “The Chicago Tribune”‘s Jim Warren.

What do we make, Jim—I—I want to get back to Jim Howard—Jim -

Jim Warren out there in Chicago. 

WARREN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Another Midwestern guy in Nebraska—what is in the water out there in Nebraska that Chuck Hagel...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... the Vietnam vet, the combat vet, a conservative on almost every issue, is now talking impeachment of the president? 

WARREN:  Yes.  I don‘t know. 

I think we have got the caricature evolving here of kind of the Republican Senate scold, which I don‘t think, in the long run, will necessarily help Hagel a lot. 

For those who don‘t know to what we‘re alluding, there was an “Esquire” magazine article.  He brings up the notion of impeachment hearings, if the president does not heed the legislative mandates of the U.S. Congress.  He has since sort of recalibrated those statements yesterday. 

And, plus, it‘s hard for me to believe—and we will see what Howard thinks—that Hagel would actually vote for a piece of legislation that would...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WARREN:  ... set an absolute timetable. 

But I think, if you‘re Bush, I think you are a lot less worried about Hagel than you are with a whole lot of other senators, especially those 21 or 22 incumbents who are up for reelection next year.  I mean, everything from those folks to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gordon Smith leading the list, Susan Collins, people from states...

WARREN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... that are not conservative.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... they have to hang in there.

WARREN:  I think there are other—yes, there are other, more important Republican barometers, I think, for the White House than...

MATTHEWS:  Than Hagel.

WARREN:  ... Chuck Hagel. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Hagel saying this isn‘t a monarchy? 

I mean, that‘s a pretty primitive statement, but it‘s like saying the president doesn‘t get to be the decider, as he likes to say.  In the end, he has to be checked and balanced...

FINEMAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... by other people. 

FINEMAN:  I think it‘s a constitutional truth. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  And I think good for him...

MATTHEWS:  But why do we need to say it? 

FINEMAN:  Well, to me, what‘s interesting is, I checked with his staff just a little while ago.  I said, you know, what—what has happened?  What kind of reaction have you gotten? 

And they said, well, a piece ran in “The Omaha World-Herald” about Hagel saying this.  They got no reaction at all. 

MATTHEWS:  The—the public didn‘t mind? 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

To me, that‘s the dog that didn‘t bark. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Like...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  In Nebraska...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Nebraska Republican.

FINEMAN:  Well, Nebraska is a red state. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  And nobody uttered a peep.  So, I found that kind of interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me...

FINEMAN:  The silence interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  How many amputations can this president take?  I mean, Colin Powell was probably—said goodbye with great (INAUDIBLE) -- and they probably loved to see him go, because he was questioning the war at the end there, when he left. 

And getting rid of Rumsfeld was probably cheerful news for the world.  But now if Gonzales is in the—how many times does this president get another limb chopped off without his trunk, his very being, being jeopardized here...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... Jim.

WARREN:  Well, I mean, I think as important as any departures from the Cabinet is the reality that was ushered in last November, when his political safety net vanished.  Up until last November...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean not having the subpoena power anymore? 

WARREN:  It didn‘t matter how low the approval ratings was.  It doesn‘t matter how many times the Democrats were nattering about this or that.  Ultimately, he was in control of the Congress.  That‘s no longer true. 

Take something that was breaking, you know, late today about Gonzales‘ senior counsel and White House liaison, a woman named Monica Goodling, who was supposed to testify before—in the Senate, and now her lawyer, John Dowd, said she is going to take the Fifth Amendment. 

MATTHEWS:  The Fifth Amendment...

WARREN:  You know, what is up with...

MATTHEWS:  ... not executive privilege, but mobster talk. 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN:  What is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean...

WARREN:  What is up with that?

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the Fifth Amendment, the—the Republicans used to say Fifth Amendment communists.  Even to think Fifth Amendment, you‘re a bad guy...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... the way they used to talk. 

FINEMAN:  Can I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know they used to talk that way.

FINEMAN:  Can I just add to what Jim was saying there? 

Even the phrase “her attorney, John Dowd,” if you live in Washington...

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  ... and you travel in these circles, you know that that‘s a big deal. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that the guy you get when you‘re guilty? 

FINEMAN:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  I didn‘t say that.  But he is a majorly big-time defense lawyer. 

MATTHEWS:  Which means? 

FINEMAN:  Which means to me that there‘s...

MATTHEWS:  She needed one. 

FINEMAN:  ... there is a lot of ‘splainin‘ to do here. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  And I think Kyle Sampson...

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  ... when he comes up on Thursday, you know, could push the house down.  And, then, I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the president—before we talk again, Jim...

WARREN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... will the president say jump to his friend Alberto Gonzales, tell him to jump?

WARREN:  Well, it‘s hard to say. 

I mean, his—the double-edged sword of this president is the moral certitude about everything.  It‘s why, you know, right now, even with the poll ratings low, it doesn‘t matter what everybody is saying about the Iraq war. 

It‘s almost like LBJ‘s belief that:  Well, if only you folks were smart enough to realize how smart I am. 

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN:  I still am—I will still wager a buck that Gonzales is around.

But this drip, drip, drip, if you have more people who are, you know, going to take the Fifth Amendment, then I think he has got to go, particularly since I don‘t think he has got any really natural consistency among...

MATTHEWS:  It seems so.

WARREN:  ... any Republicans out there. 

MATTHEWS:  It seems so.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I was talking to somebody who is very close to the Senate leadership.  They are leaving it up to Arlen Specter, the Republican leader on—on the Judiciary Committee. 

MATTHEWS:  He will take his head off. 

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  That was my...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Arlen will put on the black hat. 

MATTHEWS:  Arlen is running for office.

FINEMAN:  It‘s over. 

MATTHEWS:  Arlen is running for reelection...

FINEMAN:  It‘s over.  It‘s over.

MATTHEWS:  ... as you know.  He‘s coming back again. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  McConnell is leaving it up to Specter.  To me, that means..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Specter...

FINEMAN:  ... he‘s done. 

MATTHEWS:  ... this will be the proof of his bona fides as a Republican.  He will do it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He will do the job.  The liberals in Pennsylvania will love him.  The conservatives will love him. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  The people will love him. 

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jim Warren.

Up next:  John and Elizabeth Edwards say, don‘t let sympathy—sympathy affect your vote.  Well, I don‘t see how it couldn‘t.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Senator Hillary Clinton raised a little more than $2 million -- $2.5 million, actually—at a Hollywood fund-raiser last night.  That‘s double what Senator Barack Obama raised at his own celebrity-filled fund-raiser out there.  So, do the Clintons have Hollywood locked up? 

And, with Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton the top contenders for their—each party nomination right now, could another New Yorker, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, enter the race as a self-financed independent? 

Let‘s turn to our HARDBALLERS. 

Dee Dee Myers served as press secretary to former Presidential Bill Clinton.  And Tony Blair was Newt Gingrich‘s press secretary.  He‘s, of course, right now editorial page editor for “The Washington Times.”

Dee Dee, I don‘t see what the country gains in the national debate from the entrance of Mike Bloomberg—a fine guy, a great mayor—into this race for president.  He has no national positions, no national following.  He speaks for nothing except ambition and personal wealth and competence. 

What would he do, except split the Republican vote? 

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, first of all, I—you know, if you believe what you read in “The New York Times” this morning, he wouldn‘t necessarily run as a Republican.  If he got into the race, he wouldn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  No, but he would split the Republican vote. 

MYERS:  Yes, he might split the Democratic vote, too, I think, if—if he runs.  And he says that, right now, he isn‘t running.

And his people have been fairly straightforward, while leaving enough room that he could get into the race at some point.  He will run if the nominees, I think, are not to his liking.  And I don‘t know how he will put together...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But every...

MYERS:  ... an operation to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me—let me try Tony with my theory. 

Every third-party candidate affects one candidate more than the other. 

Ross Perot destroyed George Bush Sr. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Almost every vote he took was from George Bush, either conservative Democrats, Reagan Democrats, or outright Republicans.

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”: 

Although, in the case of Perot...

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  ... it was more the dynamics of the campaign as he got in and out of the race that probably affected it more. 

But, yes, I agree with you.  And, usually...

MATTHEWS:  He got 19 percent of the popular vote.

BLANKLEY:  ... it adversely affects...

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  I mean, I—I find the Bloomberg proposal sort of farcical. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s only about the fact he has an unlimited amount of money to spend. 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  Sure. 

I mean, if—you know, if Giuliani is America‘s mayor, he is, what, the Upper East Side‘s mayor or something. 

(LAUGHTER)

BLANKLEY:  I mean, he—he doesn‘t—he is not a national figure.  He has got no personality that would appeal nationally.  And he has no chance of doing any significant—even if he spent, you know, $300 million of his own dollars, I don‘t think he would get 4 percent of the vote. 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder.  We‘re out there teaching democracy at the point of a gun in the Middle East.  And now we‘re saying, let us teach you what democracy really is. 

If you have an enormous amount of money made in equity, and you‘re a very smart guy, you can run for president, and be one of the top two or three candidates, simply because of your personal wealth.  You don‘t even need a political party behind you.  What kind of message does that send...

BLANKLEY:  But...

MATTHEWS:  ... Dee Dee, to the world that we‘re trying to teach democracy? 

MYERS:  Well, first of all, I think anybody can run.  That‘s part of the message of our democracy.

MATTHEWS:  But, but being in the top three simply because of money? 

MYERS:  I don‘t think that he‘s in the top three of anything at this point. 

I think the point Tony just made was a very good one.  He doesn‘t have a following.  He doesn‘t have a big outsized personality, like Ross Perot.  At this point, he doesn‘t even have an issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MYERS:  And, at this point, he is not even running. 

I think it remains to be seen, if he got in, how—whose vote he would split.

MATTHEWS:  I think the Hillary people want—I think the Hillary people want him in this race, because he will cut down on the Republican niche. 

MYERS:  Yes, but be careful what you wish for.  I mean, it—it depends on who the Republican nominee is...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not wishing. 

MYERS:  ... and who the Democratic nominee is.

I mean the Hillary Clinton people.  And I don‘t know that they wish that at all.  I wouldn‘t want half-a-billion dollars...

MATTHEWS:  Well, suppose...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  ... being spent against me under any circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me suppose she is running against Rudy Giuliani in the general.

Let‘s get another mayor of New York to siphon...

MYERS:  Well, the odds of that are...

MATTHEWS:  ... off 10 percent of the vote. 

BLANKLEY:  No.

Look, I mean, the candidate she is glad is running is Edwards, to split the anti-Hillary vote in the primary.  That‘s much more important to her than whatever Bloomberg does or doesn‘t do a year, year-and-a-half from now, if he declares as an independent. 

I mean, that—and—and, to me, the events with—with—with the Edwards family is probably playing pretty nicely...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because it splits the anybody-but-Hillary mentality. 

BLANKLEY:  It—it—it splits that.  He‘s in for—he—he is going to stay in presumably for—at least for many months, maybe for the duration. 

MATTHEWS:  So, every vote that John Edwards get, Dee Dee, do you think Obama loses an anti-Hillary vote? 

MYERS:  Well, I think they are competing somewhat for the same turf, which is somebody...

MATTHEWS:  Men.

MYERS:  ... who doesn‘t have a tremendous amount of experience, but who might be able to lift you up and touch your heart, or whatever it is that they both seem to appeal to something that Hillary is not trying to necessarily appeal to. 

They are young.  They‘re—they are fresh.  They are different.  But I—I don‘t know.  The—the Clinton people will tell you—and I‘m sure they told you, Chris—that they see Edwards putting together a very good organization in Iowa—places like Iowa.  They are not sure that he isn‘t the stalking horse in this race, that he might come on strong at some point. 

I‘m not sure.  I mean, they do like the idea of splitting the field.

MATTHEWS:  You mean he might be a stalking horse for—for whom? 

Stalking horse for—for Gore?  What do you mean, stalking horse? 

MYERS:  For—well, for—for the—for the anti-Hillary vote, that...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MYERS:  ... it will all coalesce behind him...

MATTHEWS:  I...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  ... if something should happen, and Obama, who is untested in this—at this level, should stumble. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

You know, I love the—Dee Dee, you know as much about politics as I do.  Let me ask you this question.  The latest polling from Zogby says that 51 percent of American men of all ethnic groups, all racial groups—I hate that group, but ethnic groups—basically say they will never vote for Hillary under any circumstance.  That‘s a slight absolute majority.  Fifty-one percent will never vote for Hillary, they say right now, no matter what she does, no matter what happens, no matter who she is running against.  Forty-two percent of women say that, which is a very high number. 

Is there out in the country, or out in the Atlantic Ocean, some gigantic monster, big, green, horny-headed—all kinds of horns coming out, big aggressive monster of anti-Hillaryism that hasn‘t shown itself; it‘s based upon gender, the fact that she is a liberal, that she is Bill—and that hasn‘t shown itself, because people are being so nice in the polling, they are saying all the correct things? 

Is there an anti-Hillary monster waiting out there that could deliver this nomination, or this election, to someone else? 

MYERS:  Boy, you know, I—I certainly don‘t think the anti-Hillary sentiment is a secret.  There is a—a large and strong feeling in certain segments of the country.  They just don‘t like her. 

At the same time, I—I think it‘s interesting that we have gotten this far in her candidacy, which is to say that she has been the most-talked about presidential candidate for going on two years, and there has been very little discussion, I think, about what effect the fact that she is a woman will have. 

It‘s all about the fact that she is a Clinton at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MYERS:  It‘s very little about the fact that she is a woman. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, therefore, does that silence tell you that there‘s something hidden out there, in terms of animosity? 

MYERS:  Yes.  I mean, we have all seen the polling that says, you ask people, 90 percent of Americans will say, oh, sure, I would vote for a qualified woman.  And then you ask them, what about your next-door neighbor?  You know, would he or she vote for a woman? 

And the number...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MYERS:  ... drops dramatically, into the 50s.  So, I think that certainly suggests there is a hidden reluctance...

MATTHEWS:  So, that monster may be out there in the Atlantic.  That monster may be out there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  I think the monster has already shown its head in many ways. 

It hasn‘t shown its whole body...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MYERS:  ... to torture the analogy.

MATTHEWS:  Tony, do you think so?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, men don‘t knock Hillary that I talk to.  It‘s the women.  For some reason, men are being politically careful. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t want to be caught being...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  I—I wouldn‘t go that far, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  The crowd I hang out with don‘t want to be caught knocking her, because it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... sexist.

But women are so tough on Hillary. 

BLANKLEY:  I—but I don‘t—I don‘t take that number terribly seriously for her or anyone else, because, ultimately—people may say that, but, ultimately, it‘s a binary choice at some point.

MYERS:  That‘s right, Tony.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BLANKLEY:  And they have got to pick either or someone else.  Now, if it‘s her or Bob Dole, then, a lot of Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Hah!

(LAUGHTER)

BLANKLEY:  A lot of Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re cruel.  You‘re so cruel. 

(LAUGHTER)

BLANKLEY:  A lot of Democrats will say...

MATTHEWS:  How about—how about Rudy Giuliani?

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  I mean, whoever it is...

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Yes. 

BLANKLEY:  ... they are going to say, well, no, I—I can‘t vote for him. 

(LAUGHTER)

BLANKLEY:  So—so, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They are not telling—they are not telling the truth to themselves? 

BLANKLEY:  They don‘t know yet, because they haven‘t seen...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BLANKLEY:  They haven‘t seen the choice.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you, is there a horny-headed green monster out in that ocean that‘s anti-Hillary or anti-woman that is just hiding down there, waiting for the race to get interesting? 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  Well, look, Dee Dee is right.  Obviously, a good percentage of the country, 40, 45 percent, say they don‘t like her. 

I think she is not only viable for the nomination.  I think it‘s—I wouldn‘t say it‘s hers to lose, but it‘s pretty close to hers to lose.

MATTHEWS:  I think she has got a 25 percent chance of being the next president, based upon the latest Irish—Irish..

BLANKLEY:  I think—I think she has got a better chance than anyone else right now.       

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that completely, based on the latest Irish polling.  You can still bet money bets over there.  Thank you Tony Blankley.  Thank you Dee Dee Myers.  Dee Dee, you look sparkling. 

MYERS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, a HARDBALL exclusive, former Iowa governor and presidential candidate Tom Vilsack and his wife Christie, the very popular Christie.  They announced today they are backing Hillary Clinton.  Let‘s talk about that, what it does out there in Iowa.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Just one month ago, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack dropped out of the race for president.  Today, he and his wife Christie announced that they will support Hillary Clinton‘s bid for the White House.  Is this about the vice-presidency?  In a HARDBALL exclusive, the Vilsacks are with us tonight from Des Moines, Iowa. 

I have to ask you, governor, do you like the looks of the vice president‘s mansion? 

TOM VILSACK, FORMER GOVERNOR OF IOWA:  You know, I tell you right now, Chris, the key is just for Senator Clinton to do well in Iowa and begin this campaign.  Honestly that‘s the focus.  We have got to focus on Iowa.  We have got a tough fight ahead of us. 

MATTHEWS:  Well you certainly do.  Christie, thanks for joining us as well, Mrs. Vilsack.  I don‘t know you well enough to call you Christie. 

CHRISTIE VILSACK, WIFE OF TOM VILSACK:  You may call me Christie. 

MATTHEWS:  Well Christie, let me ask you this, what did you think of the decision by John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards, who made that decision last week, to continue on to the campaign despite the cancer news? 

C. VILSACK:  Well, our hearts go out to the Edwards.  I know it‘s a tough fight.  I have been through that in my own family.  But we‘re here today in support of Senator Clinton, and we‘re really excited about the opportunity to be able to introduce her to our friends in Iowa.  We have got a lot of them.  We‘re excited about taking her to all four corners of our state and making sure that folks in Iowa know her as well as we do. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to play HARDBALL? 

C. VILSACK:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, a month ago, you said that she was maybe the second best candidate for the Democratic nomination.  Do you still think she would make a better president than your husband? 

C. VILSACK:  Well, I think she will make a great president. 

MATTHEWS:  Would she make a better one than Tom Vilsack?  Because you were for him last month. 

C. VILSACK:  I absolutely was.  You know, I think everybody brings a different set of experiences to this process.  I have always chosen early.  I have always chosen based on someone who has experience.  That‘s why I am choosing her, just like my husband, who had a great deal of executive experience.  She brings executive experience and senatorial experience. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow, a little fast there.  Governor, why don‘t you follow up on that point.  Because a month ago we had a nice talk in my office.  It was probably on background.  The clear reference I was getting from you was the pitch was that you were an executive and the other candidates weren‘t.  Now you turn around and say let‘s bring a senator in there, who is the wife of a president.  She didn‘t have the qualifications you have in such abundant order there.  Now you‘re saying she is the best candidate. 

If executive experience and being from out of town and not part of the Washington scene were so vital to your success, why have you switched 180 now and said, what we really need is a Washington insider with only legislative experience? 

T. VILSACK:  You know, the bottom line is America needs somebody who can restore America‘s image abroad.  No one can do that better than Hillary Clinton.  She has traveled all over the world.  She knows world leaders.  She won‘t have to learn on the job.  It will start from day one. 

Secondly, the commitment she has made to the children of this country is something that I hold very dearly, whether it‘s universal access to health care or improving the educational system, so that we‘re no longer teaching to the test, but teaching the children.  Those are key critical issues.  The reality is there is now a choice for Democrats. 

We are really blessed with a richness in our field, no question about it.  But we support Senator Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  But your state is well known to be anti-war.  Hillary Clinton not only voted to authorize the war, Hillary Clinton supports the maintenance of permanent U.S. bases, military bases, U.S. personnel, our Army in Iraq permanently.  How can you, representing a state like Iowa, support that position? 

T. VILSACK:  She will end the war, Chris.  The reality is that we would hope that President Bush would end the war.  But it doesn‘t appear—

MATTHEWS:  But she said permanent basis, never end it. 

T. VILSACK:  It doesn‘t appear as if he is intending on doing that, so necessary for the next president of the United States to handle that issue.  She is prepared to do it and I believe she will.  That‘s the key, ending the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you support a permanent U.S. base in Iraq? 

T. VILSACK:  I think it‘s important for the United States to have protection of its national strategic interests in that region.  Obviously, there is going to be an opportunity for us to have troops deployed throughout that region, as there has been.  But the bottom line is, the war has to end.  Hillary Clinton has promised and pledged to end it.  I believe she will on the first day she is in office. 

MATTHEWS:  You believe that she is going to be more dovish than she says then? 

T. VILSACK:  I heard her say it today, that she is intent on ending the war.  She recognizes that President Bush started this war, has mismanaged this war, and has responsibility for ending it.  But if he doesn‘t accept that responsibility, she will. 

MATTHEWS:  Christie, would you have voted to authorize this war? 

C. VILSACK:  I wasn‘t elected and was never elected—

MATTHEWS: No, but I‘m asking you, it‘s a subjunctive.  Would you have voted to authorize?  You were around back then.  You watched the build-up to this war, from 9/11 on, when the drums started beating from all way in the late part of 2001, right through March of 2003, when we went to war.  The drums were beating here in Washington.  Neo-conservatives, the vice president were banging those drums, banging those drums.  Were you supporting that war move at that time, like Hillary was? 

C. VILSACK:  I have never—because I am not elected to office, never answered a question like that.  I simply couldn‘t answer it, because I have never been in that position. 

MATTHEWS:  But you had an opinion of the war? 

C. VILSACK:  Well, none of us support war, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you have voted to authorize that war?  It‘s a simple, primitive vote.  It‘s so primary.  It‘s so basic to human understanding.  Would you have been for that war like Hillary was for that war? 

C. VILSACK:  Hillary had information that I don‘t have, so I certainly wouldn‘t be able to try to second-guess the decision that she made. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, looking back on it now, was that the right decision? 

T. VILSACK:  Chris, if I might—

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think you people are anti-war.  I just think you—it seems to me you want Hillary to be the nominee, because you‘re a natural vice president.  She needs the Midwest.  It‘s either you or Evan Bayh, somebody who will be supportive of her.  And it seems to me that you‘re the perfect V.P. pick for her.  You‘re Catholic, she is Protestant.  You‘re Midwest, she is sort of Eastern these days.  It‘s perfect. 

C. VILSACK:  But she is also a friend, and she has been a friend for a long time.  We have known of her since 1974, when she and my brother shared an office during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.  And he called to tell me that he had met this really extraordinary woman.  I have followed her career ever since. 

I like to compare her to the pioneer women who broke sod and traveled west in covered wagons.  I think she is extraordinary for being undaunted. 

MATTHEWS:  But she has been heading east ever since Illinois.  Governor Vilsack, thank you for joining me.  Let me ask you one more question:  Do you believe that Hillary Clinton will defeat John Edwards in the Iowa caucuses? 

T. VILSACK:  We are going to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that all Iowans know the Hillary Clinton that we know, and if they do, I think she will be very successful in the Iowa caucuses.  It‘s going to be a tough fight.  It‘s going to be a tough fight.  I don‘t think you make predictions today. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me put it this way, looking at the field right now, governor, you know it better than anybody else, is he the man to beat right now, John Edwards? 

T. VILSACK:  I think John Edwards has a strong, strong organization in Iowa.  No question about it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s great having you on.  You‘re a very nice comfortable.  Thank you very much.  Christie, don‘t get mad at me.  You come on HARDBALL, what do you expect, OK? 

C. VILSACK:  Not at all.  I‘m always ready to play HARDBALL.  Any time, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re great.  Thanks a lot Governor Vilsack.  You‘re looking healthy.  You must have made the right decision.  Thank you very much.

Up next, “Newsweek‘s Jon Meacham.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We go now to “NEWSWEEK” editor Jon Meacham, who‘s book “American Gospel” is now out on paper back.  Jon, you know a lot about religion and you have written about it in this beautiful book, and it‘s out in paper back.  And you know a lot about the south.  You went to Swanie (ph)  You grew up in the south, in Tennessee, and you‘re writing a book about Andy Jackson. 

So, let me ask you about something where it‘s a little subtler than just biography, the Edwards family.  When I watched them announce the other day that she was in a bad state, in terms of recurrence cancer, they never mentioned the lord.  There was no religion reference the whole time, and yet I felt their statement, their position, who they are, is imbued with that, with their religion.  Tell me what you think.

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think that is a great observation.  Now that you say that, I think it is clear.  Part of the southern drama is that we are all part of a larger plan.  We may not know how it is going turn out, and it doesn‘t always turn out the way they want.  Obviously Appomatox didn‘t turn out exactly how most southerners wanted. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was great for black southerners.

MEACHAM:  It was great.  It was great.  But it is true that we saw in the reaction, in Jim Crow, and in what required the civil rights to redeem the south the second time.  You saw the white reaction.  But I think the south is a land of both grace and rage.  It is competing impulses.  It is the place where there is great kindness and great cruelty, great grace, great rage.  There are great forces of light, and there are great forces of darkness. 

And everything that is contradictory to the American character is exaggerated in the south.  I think that is true of religion as well.  I think part of what the Edwards story is is a lot of people said, how could he possibly do this.  She is sick.  He should not be running.  But there is a kind of ambition there that is not a negative thing.  Ambition is how we get from point A to point B.  Clearly there was a kind of grace in that moment, in their announcement, that I think was evidence to you and to a lot of people. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that she is as sacrificial as she seems to me.  I mean, here‘s a woman who seems more in love with her kids and her husband than she is with her own life. 

MEACHAM:  No, that‘s a good point.  Yes, I mean, I think she is very clearly very self giving.  She clearly wants to live for others while she fights this disease for herself.  They have already lost a son, which is unimaginable to most people. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it is.

MEACHAM:  So, they have endured—Lincoln called the Civil War a fiery trial.  They have already endured the worst possible thing, it seems to me, that can happen to someone.

MATTHEWS:  To out live your kid.

MEACHAM: Which is to bury a child, which is literally unimaginable to me.  I have two little kids.  I just can‘t even talk about it.  So, the fact that they have been resilient in the face of that tragedy goes back to your point about faith, which either you shut down completely or you accept a kind of Augustinian understanding of the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you take, as editor of “Newsweek,” can you make a judgment and say you think they made the right decision, or do you want to abstain on that? 

MEACHAM:  I think it is up to them.  I don‘t think there is a right or wrong decision.  I think this now becomes about the country.  Do we vote for him or do we not vote for him based on whether he is good or bad for the country, in one‘s opinion.  I think the best way we can honor what they are doing is simply to treat it as now a matter for the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, John Meacham, thank you.  The name of your book, of course, is “American Gospel,” a hell of a book.  It‘s out in paper back right now.  And here I am, I am putting on my Philly‘s hat, because this is the time of year.  I don‘t look that good in a hat.  Maybe I do.  I was down in the for the training camp this week.  And this is the year the Phillies are going to win the—well, maybe they‘ll win the World Series.  It‘s great to see you. 

Play HARDBALL with us again one hour from now, at 7:00 Eastern.  We‘ll NBC‘s Pete Williams‘ interview with Attorney General, the man in trouble himself, Alberto Gonzales, an exclusive here tonight.  Right now it is time for “TUCKER.”

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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