updated 3/28/2007 11:28:40 AM ET 2007-03-28T15:28:40

Guests: Doug Kmiec, Stan Brand, Dr. Bernadine Healy, Bill Bradley, Terry Jeffrey, Thad Cochran

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A top Justice Department official refuses to testify to Congress on grounds it may incriminate her.  So what is the crime behind this scandal?  And Bill Bradley talks 2008 politics.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  The political stakes in the U.S. attorneys firing scandal are going up.  Monica Goodling, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales‘s senior counselor, is refusing to testify to Congress, citing her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.  Does this mean that one of the top law enforcement officials in the country is taking the 5th because she‘s afraid of implicating herself in a crime?  Was a crime committed?  More on that in a moment.

And the White House announced today that White House press secretary, my friend Tony Snow‘s cancer has returned and spread to his liver.  Plus, senators from both sides of the aisle are swimming in some perilous political waters as they get ready to vote on Iraq again this evening.

Polls consistently show Americans do not support this war.  The latest Pew poll shows 59 percent, about three in five Americans, want their congressional representatives to support a bill that calls for a U.S.  withdrawal from Iraq by August of 2008.  So people want a timetable.  The deadline set by the House version of this spending bill is Friday.  We‘ll talk to Republican senator Thad Cochran later in the show.

And later, HARDBALL—HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the top counsel to Attorney General Gonzales, who is taking the 5th in the investigation into the fired federal prosecutors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  E-mails and documents related to the firing of the federal prosecutors show that Monica Goodling played a central role.  Goodling was the Justice Department‘s liaison to the White House, and documents indicate she has information about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top deputy, Paul McNulty, as well as White House counsel Harriet Miers and presidential adviser Karl Rove.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  If she feels that what she has to tell us would subject her to criminal—criminal prosecution, well, that raises some really serious questions.

SHUSTER:  Goodling‘s refusal to talk also undercuts a key pledge from President Bush.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The attorney general and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons.

SHUSTER:  It is extremely unusual for a senior administration official to take the 5th, and the last high-profile case was almost 20 years ago, when Oliver North refused to testify on certain issues during the Iran-contra investigation.

In the case of Monica Goodling, she is a lawyer who is 33 years old.  Goodling received an undergraduate degree from Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and got her law degree from Regent University, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Goodling‘s lawyer is John Dowd, who has defended judges and politicians.  In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee explaining Goodling‘s refusal to testify, Dowd pointed to a, quote, “hostile and questionable environment” and fears about Goodling‘s testimony leading to charges of perjury, false statements or obstruction.

But legal experts point out that courts will not allow you to take the 5th for those reasons.

SOL WISENBERG, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL:  The fear that somebody might accuse you of perjury just simply will not cut it in terms of invoking the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

SHUSTER:  The key issue therefore appears to be a vague reference by Goodling and her attorney to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty.  McNulty testified to Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors, and MSNBC has confirmed that McNulty has since told Democrats he made a false statement based on information provided to him by Monica Goodling.

WISENBERG:  Going, giving false testimony to Congress under oath is clearly a crime.  So what you would want to focus on is the people who gave the testimony and the people who briefed them, and maybe the people who are interacting with the briefers.

SHUSTER:  E-mails and documents turned over to Congress show that Goodling was involved in the decision to fire New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias.  Some Republicans felt Iglesias wasn‘t doing enough to investigate allegations of Democratic voter fraud.  And last June, an e-mail from Karl Rove‘s deputy, Scott Jennings, to Goodling said two New Mexico Republicans wanted a meeting with administration officials.  Jennings wrote, “It is sensitive.  Perhaps you should do it.”  Goodling replied, “Happy to do so.”  Goodling‘s calendar says she met with the Republicans the next day.

Other documents establish that Goodling was also involved in the decision to replace Arkansas U.S. attorney Bud Cummins with Karl Rove deputy Tim Griffin.  In an e-mail, Goodling warned colleagues of potential political problems but underscored the White House interest in the move.  Quote, “While White House is intent on nominating, Scott thinks we may have a confirmation issue.”

With all of the documents underscoring Goodling‘s crucial role, her decision not to testify is deepening the problems for attorney general Alberto Gonzales, who yesterday tried to defend himself in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I know the reasons why I asked these United States attorneys to leave, and it was not for improper reasons.  It was not to interfere with the public corruption case.  It was not for partisan reasons.

SHUSTER (on camera):  During that same interview, though, Gonzales said he was not involved in deliberations.  As the attorney general tries to withstand calls for President Bush to fire him, the latest poll shows Americans by a 3-to-1 ratio support the congressional probe and the use of subpoenas to force Bush administration officials to testify.  Now, however, it‘s an investigation that features one witness who is refusing to testify because she fears a crime was committed.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Stand Brand is the former counsel for the House of Representatives, and Doug Kmiec served as assistant attorney general under President Reagan and the first President Bush.

Gentlemen—let me start with you, Doug.  When you take the 5th

I‘ve got my little copy of the Constitution here, and it says a person, a citizen, shall not be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, or obviously herself.  What‘s the crime here that she fears that she might be incriminating herself with?

DOUG KMIEC, FORMER REAGAN ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well, the court has held that the 5th Amendment privilege is applicable in any proceeding, including a congressional proceeding.  And so I think she‘s largely concerned, as her lawyers indicate, Chris, that she‘s going to be the subject of a “gotcha” proceeding, that it‘s not that she‘s participated in an underlying crime but that something she‘ll be—that she‘ll say will be used as a perjury investigation or an obstruction investigation, so it‘ll be the investigation itself producing the crime, rather than a crime.

MATTHEWS:  Where does this plea come from where you can say, I‘m afraid I might lie under oath, therefore I don‘t want to incriminate myself by creating a crime?

KMIEC:  Well, you know, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Perjury is a crime.  If she lies under oath, she should be prosecuted.  But why would you do it before the fact and say, You know, I might commit a crime when I‘m testifying, so I better not testify?  That seems pretty pathetic.

KMIEC:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s pathetic, if, in fact, you‘ve got a highly charged partisan environment, where the chairman of the committee has already indicated that he knows the outcome of the testimony before the testimony has been given.  There has to be some modicum of appearance of fairness to these proceedings, and I think her lawyer has prudently advised her that the chairman has not given that element of fairness, and by virtue of that, she‘s entirely within her constitutional rights to protect herself.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me the whole spin of this case is to try to say somehow Scooter Libby was tricked into lying, that Bill Clinton was tricked into lying.  People lie under oath because they decide to.  That‘s what juries find.  The deliberate act of inaccurate testimony under oath is why you get fined, not because you failed some pop quiz.

STAN BRAND, FORMER COUNSEL TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I can say, though, as a criminal defense lawyer, how many times I‘ve advised people to do the same thing because...

MATTHEWS:  But they were guilty.

BRAND:  Well, no.  Crimes are manufactured in the grand jury.  Crimes are manufactured in Congress in the way that people are positioned to give testimony.  And what I think Monica Goodling...

MATTHEWS:  But what other motive would you have, Stan, besides telling the truth?  What would be the conflict in testimony, giving an honest statement?

BRAND:  The conflict‘s already been set up because, according to the newspaper today, Chuck Schumer‘s been told by Department of Justice officials that this woman is responsible for the false testimony.  So she walks into an ambush.  She walks into a situation where people are already aligning themselves against her.  For her to go under oath...

MATTHEWS:  So she is guilty?

BRAND:  Well, I don‘t know that she‘s guilty of anything.  All she has to show is the possibility that she could be prosecuted, which is a very, very...

MATTHEWS:  OK, what does that—let me—what does that do?  Back in the ‘50s and—certainly in the ‘50s, Doug, a lot of conservatives—people were very much anti-communist, and everybody was, but more virulent anti-communists would say that a person who took the 5th was a 5th Amendment communist, that that was a prima facie demonstration of their guilt.

KMIEC:  Well, hopefully, Chris, we‘ve gotten well beyond the Army-McCarthy hearings in that we know that people...

MATTHEWS:  Not just that.  Not HUAC and all that.  I mean, the idea that you have to take the 5th in a matter of this importance to the country means we‘re not going to get the truth.  If everybody took the 5th, there wouldn‘t be an inquiry.

KMIEC:  Well, but we already know we‘ve got the attorney general testifying on April 17.  We got Kyle Sampson, his chief of staff, testifying this week by voluntary agreement.  We have thousands of pages of e-mails that give the documentary evidence.  The truth here is that there was no improper basis to the removal of these U.S. attorneys, that the attorney general did not...

MATTHEWS:  If there was nothing improperly done, then what is the crime that she‘s saying she might incriminate herself with?

KMIEC:  Well, again, I think Stan has put his finger on it, is that Paul McNulty went and made some unequivocal statements about how the level of White House involvement was less than it was.  That‘s not a crime, to have the White House be involved in political appointments.  But to the extent that you go and you say something different to Congress, that could be a crime.  And if she‘s going to be blamed for the briefing of Mr.  McNulty, she has a basis to be concerned.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a crime at the bottom of this or just, as you say, in the way in which you‘d be required to testify?

BRAND:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Is there a crime in giving false testimony before, false information to Congress?

BRAND:  Well, yes.  There‘s an obstruction statute which requires people to provide truthful information.  There‘s no underlying crime yet with respect to the firing of the U.S. attorneys, as far as we know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me just get to the point, if anybody cares about this.  Seventy-two percent of the American people, according to Gallup that just came out in “USA Today,” say that Congress should investigate the White House over the U.S. attorney firings.  So almost—well, 7 out of 10 -- we can do the math—think there ought to be an investigation, and almost that many say there ought to be subpoenas issued.  So people are following this case and saying, There‘s some dirt here that ought to be uncovered.

BRAND:  There‘s one easy way for Congress to get that testimony, and that‘s to immunize witnesses.  Congress could—the committee could take a two-thirds vote, march off to district court...

MATTHEWS:  Is that what this woman, Monica, wants to get?  Is she trying to get immunity?

BRAND:  She‘s asserting the 5th.  The way for the committee to deal with that is to go get her immunized.  And if she has very important testimony that may implicate others, she could be immunized for that.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that, Doug?

KMIEC:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  Is that proper use of the congressional authority, to use the subpoena to get somebody up there, they take the 5th, you say, OK, we‘re immunizing you, we want you to rat out your bosses?

KMIEC:  Well, it‘s the historical practice that you can grant either use immunity or more broader transactional immunity.  And Mrs. Goodling—or Ms. Goodling can come and testify and not worry about any legal jeopardy or traps set for her.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the best offer?

(CROSSTALK)

KMIEC:  And if the essential interest is getting the truth, then it seems to me immunity is right.  I think use immunity would be more than sufficient.  Certainly transactional immunity, the broader basis, would be...

MATTHEWS:  All right, transactional means...

KMIEC:  ... what her lawyers would argue for.

MATTHEWS:  ... if you agree to testify—transaction means if you agree to testify, you can‘t be prosecuted in this area, whereas use means you can‘t have your words used against you.

KMIEC:  Exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Stan Brand.  Thank you, Doug Kmiec.

Coming up: The White House announced today that Tony Snow‘s cancer has returned.  I worry about him.  I pray for him.  I root for him.  Tony Snow is a good guy.  It has nothing to do with politics.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, today we got the bad news that Tony Snow‘s cancer has returned.  He had an operation this morning, but it did discover that it has spread to other organs.  Here‘s President Bush with this statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  My message to Tony is, Stay strong.  A lot of people love you and care for you and will pray for you.  And we‘re hoping for all the best.  I‘m looking forward to the day that he comes back to the White House and briefs the press corps on the decisions that I‘m making and why I‘m making them.  In the meantime, I hope our fellow citizens offer a prayer to he and his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good for the president.  Dr. Bernadine Healy is the former head of NIH.  She‘s also the author of “Living Time: Faith and Facts to Transform Your Cancer Journey.”  Well, it‘s a journey, isn‘t it.

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

It is a journey.

MATTHEWS:  And what kind of a journey is Tony on?

HEALY:  Well, it‘s a tough one.  It‘s a difficult one.  He‘s struggled already with this the first time, and he...

MATTHEWS:  A couple of years ago, he had his colon removed?

HEALY:  That‘s right.  And he had chemotherapy for six months.  And now it has recurred, and he‘s going to have another round of chemotherapy.  He...

MATTHEWS:  So when it bounces from the colon to the—what‘s it, the liver, what does that tell you?

HEALY:  Well, it‘s very typical when colon cancer spreads out of the colon for it to go to the liver.  So this is an expected site.  We don‘t know how extensive it is.  On the positive side, Chris, we heard that in the tests that were done, they couldn‘t detect it.  They saw this little thing in his abdomen...

MATTHEWS:  He was hopeful that this was benign, yes.

HEALY:  Right.  But there was no evidence that it was in his liver on all the scans, which says that it‘s not a huge volume of tumor, and that‘s always a good sign.

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s the procedure now?

HEALY:  Well, the procedure is to do the full evaluation, take a look at that tumor, and then come up with a pattern of drugs—probably one, two, maybe three drugs—and a treatment plan.

And you know, the good news—and you always have to look for the good news when you‘re faced with something that‘s as unexpected as what he‘s facing right now.  There are drugs now that were not here five years ago, Chris, that were not reflected in the statistics people are throwing around today, and these are ones that have had success with colon cancer, in terms of controlling it.  Maybe not curing it, but controlling it.

MATTHEWS:  I thought he had colon cancer and he had his colon removed. 

Now he‘s got cancer in his liver.

HEALY:  That‘s correct.  And what happens, at the time he had it, it obviously had spread, probably to the lymph nodes, at least.  And then the cancer kind of is indolent.  It hangs around, and then it‘ll spread.  And here it has spread to the liver.

MATTHEWS:  So the procedure now is probably drugs?

HEALY:  The procedure will probably be drugs.

MATTHEWS:  Not more chemo, not—well, it‘s chemo, drugs.

SHUSTER:  Yes.  They‘re drugs.  Chemo.

MATTHEWS:  Not radiation?

HEALY:  No.  No, they might consider some kind of an oblation if there‘s a focal area of the liver that‘s involved.  You see, what they did today when they went into his tummy, went into his belly, the liver‘s right there, and they routinely do a liver biopsy.  So what they saw was—appeared to be microscopic because they didn‘t pick it up on the scan...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SHUSTER:  ... that they did last week.  So...

MATTHEWS:  So you think they might be able to contain it, or...

HEALY:  Yes.  And that‘s what their doctors will do.  And these are drugs that‘ll enable him to go back to work, if he wants to.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Elizabeth Edwards, our other nationally known cancer—well, there are so many people in this country...

SHUSTER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... with cancer.  What—what‘s her (INAUDIBLE)  We know it‘s stage four.  We know it got to another organ.  What organ is that attacking now?

HEALY:  Well, she has it in her hip, as well as in her ribs.  If it‘s in the ribs, it‘s more regional.  The fact that it‘s down in her hip—she has two hotspots.  But it was a small amount again, and they decided it didn‘t need radiation.  It didn‘t need any direct therapy.  She‘s going to take her chemo.

And by golly, she‘s handled it well.  And there‘s been a lot of criticism about, Oh, should she be out there, should she be carrying on?  And by golly, I think America‘s rallying around this woman, saying, Of course, she should follow her heart, follow her head, and do what she and her family want to do.

MATTHEWS:  So medically speaking, Dr. Healy, not as a person with any human interest in this case, cold calculation—the best therapy for a person facing this kind of cancer, for Elizabeth, is to be out rooting for her husband.

HEALY:  I think the best therapy is to take the drugs and the plan, the medical plan, and then to do what you have faith in.  And if you have faith in getting up in the morning and working with your husband on behalf of something that is bigger than both of you, then that is good therapy.

MATTHEWS:  So you believe in the wonder of positive thinking.

HEALY:  I believe that when people have positive thinking, they have sturdier immune system, that they have a better outlook.  And whatever time the good Lord is giving them, those moments will be meaningful.  They‘ll be joyful moments.  They‘ll be moments doing what they want to do and what they believe they were put on this earth to do.

MATTHEWS:  The confounding thing, as I watched a bit of her on “60 Minutes”—we showed it last night—and I have to tell you she looks gorgeous.  She looks wonderful.  And she looks radiant.  And you would never think that she was suffering from a threatening disease.  It‘s one of life‘s strange anomalies, to put it lightly.

HEALY:  And why should someone wrap her in a shroud, then, right?

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got the greatest—why don‘t you—you should be on the road with these people.  I mean, both Tony and—and by the way, I care about Tony a lot.  I know him better than I know Elizabeth.  I know Elizabeth decently well.  And they are both great people. 

This is politics.  This is HARDBALL.  And I just think, occasionally, we should pause in a human way and—and root for people. 

HEALY:  And celebrate their strength, their courage, their determination...

MATTHEWS:  We—we‘re doing it.

HEALY:  ... and their love of life. 

MATTHEWS:  I—I do all that...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... because I fight with them.  And that‘s how...

HEALY:  I know you do.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... I show I respect them.  I fight with them. 

I don‘t fight with losers. 

Anyway, thank you... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Dr. Bernadine Healy.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up:  Rudy Giuliani holds his lead in the Republican pack.  Boy, he is staying up there.  And Hillary Clinton is doing the same with the Democrats. 

We are going to talk to former presidential candidate “Dollar Bill” Bradley, the great star of Princeton, the Knicks, and the U.S. Senate, and now in the business world. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

From Princeton, to the Knicks, to politics, to the private sector, Senator Bill Bradley has a long history of success and accomplishment.  He knows firsthand the rigors of running for president, having run his own campaign for the Democratic nomination in the year 2000. 

His new book—he has written several—the new one is “The New American Story.”  It offers insight on how to make America a better and stronger country. 

Thank you very much.  And good evening, Senator Bradley. 

BILL BRADLEY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You say America is in a teaching—a phrase you have got in your flap here—in a teaching moment right now. 

Why do you think the country is open to a substantive discussion of how we should be setting our direction as a country? 

BRADLEY:  I think that they know that the real problems in their lives, whether it‘s the jobs they have, the health care, the pensions, the education of their kids, are not being addressed by any of the political process in any fundamental way.

And I think they want to be taught.  They want to have politicians speak to the big issues that affect their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the two-party system isn‘t working? 

BRADLEY:  Well, I think that there are a lot of reasons.  One of the reasons is, it‘s dominated by a polarized congressional party, in which the extremes define what is the issue of the day. 

And they define it because of the gerrymandering and because of the fact that there are too many 60/40 districts, and individual congressmen have to be worried about primary challenges, as opposed to focusing on the real issues that the broad middle of this country are concerned about. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example where fringe politics has killed us, our chance of solving a recognized human problem?

BRADLEY:  There are so many.  Let‘s just take pensions, for example. 

The Federal Reserve says that, if you‘re between 55 and 65, you should have about $314,000 in a savings account.  The average is $60,000, which means a lot of people are going to get to retirement; they are not going to have a—a comfortable retirement. 

We need to solve Social Security, and then we need to put $5,000 in the bank account of every child who is born in America.  By the time they are 70, that would be $300,000. 

MATTHEWS:  Where does that money come from? 

BRADLEY:  It comes from taxpayers.  It costs about $20 billion a year. 

You have to see the connectedness of all these issues, health connected to education, connected to the economy.  If you just take one isolated issue, it always becomes something you can find a reason not to do.  I think the American people are ready for bold ideas. 

I think that a leader of a party, an administration that tells the truth, and tells it boldly, will find an audience ready for bold solutions. 

MATTHEWS:  You have always been good, it seems to me, from my perspective, on race.  You‘re one of the few big-time politicians who seems comfortable recognizing that there‘s a—there is a problem and a challenge and—what do you think we can do about that? 

My own view is that race is a—in this country—ethnicity, if you will—is still a bigger challenge than terrorism, because terrorism is something we‘re going to deal with. 

BRADLEY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But race is something we keep pushing down the road.  We keep kicking that can down the road. 

What do you think? 

BRADLEY:  Well, I think that the problems we face in the country, race being one, is as much a problem of the heart as it is of the head.  And, therefore, there are certain things you can do to make life better for African-Americans or Latino Americans. 

The primary one is make sure everybody has health care.  Make sure, when they send a kid—their kids to schools, that those schools are good schools, will give them a chance at an education, and, then, when they reach retirement, that they have some reason to believe that they are going to have a secure retirement, and that you have an economy that generates enough jobs. 

I think, if you had those four things addressed, then, I think matters of the heart would take a bigger place in American politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Has Barack Obama gotten to your heart? 

BRADLEY:  I think he‘s incredible. 

I mean, I think there are a lot of good people in the race, but I think Barack has been a skyrocket, a rock star.  He gets 20,000 people.  And I think it‘s, in part, because he touches their hearts, and because he appeals...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BRADLEY:  ... to their idealism. 

And I think that‘s very important.  John Edwards does that, to a certain extent, as well. 

And the key for somebody like Barack is, he‘s going to have to—he can‘t be a rock star the whole campaign.  He has got to have some beef.  He has got to have some policies.  And then I think he has got to reflect the light that is being shined on him by the people back on the people, empowering them to realize they are in control of their own destiny. 

That‘s what a great leader would do. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Yes, Senator, we got some hot news just came across.  The Republican senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran, has failed to stop the time limit.  There is going to be a time limit on this war some time next year. 

Do you think that‘s a good thing; the bill going to the president will have a time limit? 

BRADLEY:  Well, I think it‘s a good thing for Congress to provide more rigorous oversight of the whole war than has happened up to now.  A time limit is one thing.  He will veto it.  It won‘t happen, but it will be a clear expression of the—the public sentiment, through their elected representatives...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BRADLEY:  ... that we need an orderly withdrawal. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have always been articulate, Senator...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... to use a favorite word of the recent past. 

You‘re great.  It‘s a great book.  You‘re also a great writer.  And I do believe you write your own stuff...

BRADLEY:  Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... which separates you from a lot of these pols. 

Anyway, Senator Bill Bradley.

“The New American Story,” buy this book, lots of substance there, lots of beef. 

Thank you, Senator, for coming on. 

BRADLEY:  Thank you.  I appreciate it, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  A new poll shows most Americans want Congress to investigate the White House scandal. 

But, first of all, let‘s take a story.  We have this news story right now from Capitol Hill.  It looks like there‘s going to be a time limit on this war coming to the president‘s desk.

We will be right back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

All red arrows today across the board—the Dow Jones industrial average off almost 72 points, the S&P 500 down almost nine, the Nasdaq off by about 18 points. 

Stocks were hurt by more housing market concerns.  An index of housing values in January showed the lowest growth in three years.  That triggered concerns that a drop in housing values will further weaken subprime mortgage lenders. 

Meantime, today, top home-builder Lennar posted a 73 percent plunge in first-quarter profits, due to lack of demand for homes.  And ITT Corp.  agreed to pay a $100 million penalty for illegally sending classified night-vision technology to China and other countries.  ITT is the leading manufacturer of night-vision equipment for the U.S. military. 

And a jury in Illinois found Vioxx maker Merck not responsible for a 52-year-old woman‘s fatal heart attack.  It‘s Merck‘s 10th victory in 15 cases involving its discontinued painkiller.  But Merck still faces thousands of other lawsuits. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Senate just voted to keep that withdrawal language in the Senate bill.  That means we‘re going to get out of—if the president signs the bill, we are going to get out of Iraq by some time next year. 

Let‘s go right now to Mike Viqueira up the Hill. 

Mike, it looks to me like the Republicans failed, by 48-50...

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... to kill the timeline, the—the timetable for getting out of Iraq. 

So, what‘s that tell us who is winning this fight? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, that‘s exactly what happened, Chris. 

And it‘s something of a surprise, because, 12 days ago, Republicans won a vote on the exact same issue.  They had Chuck Hagel today changing sides, voting along with Democrats to block this Republican attempt to get the timeline language out of this big $120 billion war spending bill. 

The issue here, of course, in the Senate bill, from -- 120 days from enactment—that‘s four months from enactment—the administration would be required to begin withdrawing American combat forces and have them transition to combat in support, with a goal of having all of those forces out by March of next year. 

Couple that with what the House did last Friday, requiring that the administration withdraw all combat forces by September of next year, and what do we have, Chris?  We have both houses of Congress, in a surprise, I must say, voting for a deadline, a timeline for withdrawal from—for American forces.  That all but guarantees that the president‘s veto threat is going to be put to the test—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean we‘re going to have a time for a delay, and we‘re going to leave that country some time around June 15?  Is the compromise date...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... between March and—and August? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, I will tell you something. 

Of course, the House and the Senate are going to have to get together.  But they are operating under a very tight deadline of their own.  This bill funds war operations for men and materiel.  The secretary of defense has said that he has got—has said that he has got to have this money by mid-May, at the latest.  Congress is about to leave for a couple of weeks for Easter recess.  So, they are really under the gun, pardon the pun, to get something done. 

Steny Hoyer, the majority leader on the—in the House of Representatives, today said that he wants to talk to the White House to try to negotiate this before it comes to a veto—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what happens if the president vetoes it and Congress is away—is on its vacation?  That means the military doesn‘t get its money. 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, they will be back in time, presumably, to act in order to make—have the military gets its money. 

But this is a very high-stakes game here.  Of course, everyone knows that the president has only vetoed one bill in his entire six years in office, and that was on stem cells. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VIQUEIRA:  He has threatened to veto this bill, not only on the grounds of setting a timeline and having so-called 535 generals here in Congress, which has been the Republican charge of micromanagement of this war, sending the wrong message to the troops and the allies—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Thank you very much, Mike Viqueira, for that spot report. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLERS, Hillary Clinton backer Hilary Rosen.  If you‘re for her, you‘re for her.  And you...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And she is our analyst here—and human events analyst Terry Jeffrey. 

Terry, this is a defeat for the war hawks...

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, “HUMAN EVENTS”:  Well, it is. 

MATTHEWS:  ... isn‘t it? 

JEFFREY:  It is.

But, you know, ironically, Chris, I think, if the Democrats get what they want legislatively here, they are going to lose what they want politically, because if the president actually signed this bill and U.S.  troops were actually pulled out of Iraq in 2008, the Democrats would then be—they would morally and politically own what‘s going on in Iraq in November 2008. 

And the likely outcome of a U.S. withdrawal is disaster in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  So, if you broke it, you bought it?

JEFFREY:  That‘s right.  That‘s what Colin Powell said to Bush in the first place.  And, right now, quite frankly, Bush and the Republicans own the war. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Is this an issue that the Democrats have to decide whether they want to win on the policy or win on the politics, Hilary? 

HILARY ROSEN, NBC ANALYST:  Well, I—I think they are not separable at this point. 

I think that Democrats believe...

MATTHEWS:  So, come out against war; just do it?

ROSEN:  They have to come out against the war.  Democrats believe that‘s where the American people are.  It‘s where they are. 

And I think that there are a lot of Senate Republicans right now breathing a sigh of relief, because they don‘t necessarily want to be the ones who have helped the president here.  They...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s...

ROSEN:  ... they like the fact that this is a showdown between the president and the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Not that this solves the debate between you two, but look at this.  The new “USA Today”/Gallup poll that came out in today‘s paper, “The USA Today,” said that 60 percent, three out of five, of the American people do support a timetable for withdrawal. 

Does that bother you?  Does that suggest truth?  Or is that just popularity? 

JEFFREY:  Well, I—I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the fact that the American people—it is not overwhelming.  That is not an overwhelming number in a war.  But three out of five say, let‘s get out of there. 

JEFFREY:  Right. 

Well, look, there‘s no doubt, Chris, that the war is unpopular.  People really don‘t see where the national interest is at stake now in what‘s going on in Iraq. 

But, in—in a lot of ways, we‘re in a situation analogous to—to the vote originally before we went into war in Iraq.  People didn‘t carefully think through what the consequences might be...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not kidding.

JEFFREY:  ... of an invasion of Iraq.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you know that people opposed that war?

ROSEN:  That—that can‘t be possibly true.

MATTHEWS:  If you asked the American people, in that fall before we went to war, if there are going to be significant casualties...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... do you still support the war, and they said no. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We told them there wouldn‘t be casualties. 

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  We also—we also didn‘t have a—a careful enough debate in Congress about the potential consequences. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  You and I are...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  But now...

ROSEN:  It—it might be true, but the Republicans were in charge of that debate.

JEFFREY:  But now we are not looking carefully enough at the consequences if we go out. 

For example, Barack Obama proposed legislation to remove the United States from Iraq.  And what he said, the last line of his—his bill says, the president would be mandated to come up with a plan to prevent the Iraq war from becoming a wider regional war. 

Obama, in saying we have got to go out, is saying...

ROSEN:  No, no, no.  But this...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  ... if we go out, there might...

MATTHEWS:  Let—let Hilary respond.

JEFFREY:  ... be a wider regional...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  But this—this whole discussion over a deadline is really President Bush‘s fault. 

It‘s the—people want a deadline because they do not believe that the president has articulated a vision of what he is trying to accomplish in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they know it‘s artificial...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... but it‘s better than what we have got? 

ROSEN:  That‘s exactly right.  We—we first...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—let‘s move on to this attorneys fight, because we have got somebody taking the Fifth here.

You know, in the old days...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... taking the Fifth was a sign of guilt. 

ROSEN:  Guilt.

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with Hilary Rosen and Terry Jeffrey in a moment. 

And coming up: Republican Senator Thad Cochran, whose amendment to kill this timetable failed. 

This is HARDBALL, only MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s move on to this attorneys fight, because we have somebody taking the fifth here.  You know, in the old days, taking the fifth was a sign of guilt.  We‘ll be right back with Hillary Rosen and Terry Jeffrey in a moment. 

And coming up, republican Senator Thad Cochran, whose amendment to kill this timetable failed.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSBNC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the HARDBALLers, Democratic consultant Hillary Rosen and “Human Events” editor Terry Jeffrey.  Let‘s take a look at the latest poll here.  It‘s fascinating.  And that is that the Democratic race for president has hardened.  Hillary Clinton is at 35.  She was at 36 last month.  No change there, realistically.  Obama is at 22 this month.  He was at 22 last month. 

Nothing is happening.  Does this mean that the Obama charge, Terry, has—what‘s the word—has flagged? 

JEFFREY:  Well, it‘s reached a plateau.  He had a tremendous amount of momentum earlier on and I thought Hillary made the mistake of engaging Obama and actually elevating him up.  But I think Obama needs to find another way to go directly after Hillary, and actually provoke fights were her in ways that alienates her from the liberal base of the Democratic party. 

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he wedge her?  I‘m not talking about wedgies.  But why doesn‘t he just go and say, I‘m against the war.  Hillary is still talking about keeping the troops there after this period of time.  Why doesn‘t he fight and take the anti-war position, and force her to come with him or lose votes?  Why doesn‘t he do that? 

ROSEN:  I think he got a little stuck, because he started out saying, we‘re going to be for a new kind of politics, we‘re going to be above personal attacks.  We‘re going to take about the high ground.  Now he is finding—

MATTHEWS:  But there is nothing wrong with challenging Hillary‘s war position.  That‘s clean politics.  Wait a minute.  Do you think it‘s dirty politics to challenge the front runner‘s position on the war. 

ROSEN:  No, --

JEFFREY:  Or the fact that she has flip-flopped on it. 

ROSEN:  I think Hillary Clinton expects Obama to come after her.  And I think they are probably kind of surprised he hasn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you surprised? 

ROSEN:  I‘m surprised.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a pro.  What do you think the strategy is?  To stay out in the wilderness and do rallies? 

ROSEN:  I think he is raising a bunch of money.  That sill seems to be going well, but he‘s got to a make a move soon. 

MATTHEWS:  Has anybody noticed, he‘s not on national television. 

ROSEN:  Compare the Democratic primary with the Republican primary, where we started out with John McCain way ahead.  Now Rudy Giuliani has totally flipped that scenario, and there is a surge.  That dynamic has not changed in the Democratic primary. 

JEFFREY:  There is obviously a huge difference in politics between going after someone personally and going after their record in public office.  Hillary Clinton has developed a record in public office that‘s ripe for attack.  It‘s fair politics.  It‘s especially fair politics on the war.  That‘s her main place of vulnerability.  Obama should be on the attack all the time, especially now when this vote has put the war back on the front page as issue number one. 

MATTHEWS:  The Democrats, in the poll we just showed—you can bet that if it‘s 60 to 30 to get our troops home by a dateline, the Democrat numbers is about 75 or 80.  Why does Hillary insist on keeping troops in Iraq in the long term, permanently, whatever the term is?  Why does she want to keep troops there, when the Democratic party, if they had to write a platform, at their next convention, would say bring them home. 

ROSEN:  Well, by the way, every Democratic candidate has said that they think there are probably going to need to be troops in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Permanently? 

ROSEN:  Obama has said it to.

MATTHEWS:  Permanently?

ROSEN:  At least for the long term.  I‘m not sure about permanently. 

MATTHEWS:  What does long term mean? 

ROSEN:  Who knows?  Years.  Whether or not I think that‘s the right strategy—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what the Arabs are afraid of.  That‘s what they think we‘re up to. 

ROSEN:  And that‘s exactly a fair point.  I think the issue is:  Are the Democrats really severable at this point on the war?  They are united against the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Did we ever get out of an Arab country?  Did we ever get thoroughly out of Saudi Arabia?  Did we ever get out of these countries once we go into them?

ROSEN:  No. 

JEFFREY:  Hillary‘s position is completely incoherent for a number of reasons.  One is hat she wanted—

MATTHEWS:  Completely incoherent?

JEFFREY:  Completely, absolutely incoherent on the war.  One problem is she wanted to create this impression she was a hawk, that she was credible as the first female commander in chief.  Then she has to deal with the fact that the war is unpopular.  The liberal base of her party is against it.  Another reality she has to deal with—

ROSEN:  It‘s not incoherent to actually think you can manage a war well, and better than the current president. 

JEFFREY:  She may actually end up being president of the United States.  If she is president of the United States in 2009, she is actually going to be responsible for the situation on the ground in Iraq.  If it‘s a disaster that she caused, she is going to have to deal with that disaster.  I think that is actually in her mind.

MATTHEWS:  You know what is more incoherent?  The views of people like you and other traditional conservatives, who never liked this war, but went along with it because the leader, Bush, supported it.  You don‘t like this war, Terry.  Pat doesn‘t like this war.  Bill Buckley doesn‘t like this war.  Traditional conservatives don‘t like this war.  And yet you went along with it. 

JEFFREY:  The question when this war started is whether Saddam Hussein presented significant threat to the security of the United States to need military intervention.  That was a plausible argument back then. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you believe it? 

JEFFREY:  Did I believe it?  I thought that people—

MATTHEWS:  To attack, occupy, and hold an Arab country in the middle of Arabia, to put the American Army in the middle of Arabia, you thought was smart U.S. politics? 

JEFFREY:  I thought it presented great risks, great risks against the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. 

ROSEN:  It‘s clear now that any of the Democratic candidates will—

MATTHEWS:  I would have to have you under oath on this, because I think you guys deeply questioned this war.  If this was Clinton‘s war, you wouldn‘t have fought it. 

JEFFREY:  No, I tell you what I do—I definitely do question President Bush‘s Wilsonian foreign policy that the United States of America has an interest in going into the Middle East or anywhere else in the world and using military force to try to create democracies.  That should not be our policy and it demonstrably has not worked. 

MATTHEWS:  You know who tried that?  Napoleon tried that.

JEFFREY:  What we need is security and stability there, in the interest of our own security here. 

ROSEN:  And any Democrat will do it better than George Bush has done it. 

MATTHEWS:  Politics is complicated, but, in many ways, the anti-war people and the conservatives are closer than policy arguments would suggest, whereas you are supporting Hillary because you want Hillary to win.  Up next—

ROSEN:  But I also—

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t agree with her.  OK, I hope so.  I hope that‘s what you think.  Up next, Senator Thad Cochran, whose amendment to strip the deadline from the current Senate bill was defeated by two votes.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Late today, the U.S. Senate voted to keep the timeline for troop withdrawal in the Iraq bill.  Republicans Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi was the sponsor of the amendment to get rid of the withdrawal timeline.  He was beaten on the floor late today.  He joins us now. 

Senator Cochran, were you surprised that you came up short, 48-50, in trying to strip the deadline for withdrawal of troops? 

SEN. THAD COCHRAN ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, we knew the vote could go either way.  It was going to be close, and we lost.  But I think what it really means is the president is really going to be forced by the Democrats in Congress to veto this bill.  That‘s a tough decision, because it contains funds that are needed now for giving the troops in the field what they need to protect themselves and do a better job of winning this war. 

MATTHEWS:  You had the vice president up there at the ready to break the vote today.  Did you really think it would come down to one vote? 

COCHRAN:  It could have.  There were a couple of people that we weren‘t sure about right until the last minute, and it could have gone either way. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he get mad because you wasted his time?  Just teasing. 

I know that‘s his job.  Just kidding.

COCHRAN:  I had to come up to talk to you, so I don‘t know what his thoughts are right now. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sure he‘s most happy that you gave him a shot at what looked to be a historic vote.  So where does it stand?  The House has set a deadline for withdrawal of all troops by next September.  The Senate now, despite your efforts to amend it, have set a deadline for next March.  Where is it going to be?  If you did the math, we will end up getting a conference report about June 15th withdrawal, as a compromise between March and late summer.  But the president is clearly—

Do you think he might not veto it at this point? 

COCHRAN:  No, I think he has to veto it.  Of course, that‘s a decision he makes.  That‘s just my view.  But what he has to do, if he drags this thing out, and it‘s the Congress that is dragging it out, not him, he is going to have to start reprogramming things, shutting down some contracts, taking money from one place and putting it in another place.  It‘s not going to be a very efficient use of government funds and that‘s a shame. 

MATTHEWS:  The political picture; we have a new poll from “USA Today.”  You must have noticed it today on the front page of “USA Today,” that 60 percent of people in the Gallup poll do favor setting a timetable for withdrawal, against 38 percent.  That‘s not overwhelming, but it is a majority.  What do you make of that? 

COCHRAN:  Well, it‘s unfortunate that we haven‘t done a better job of explaining the consequences of that.  It really is a surrender and admission that we shouldn‘t be there.  It puts all of our troops at greater risk.  It makes it almost impossible to accomplish our goals, which is to stabilize the situation there, so that the Iraqi government can take charge; we can leave. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Iraqi majority over there, like our majority here at home—it is not like the Republicans and the Democrats, where you can‘t predict next year‘s election.  It‘s too close already in all the polling.  Over there, you know that the Shia are going to win, because there are three times as many Shia as Sunni.  Do you have confidence that the Shia community is capable of running a stable, Democratic, no-trouble country? 

COCHRAN:  Well, there are going to be problems, like any area over there has problems.  You look at all the surrounding countries; it‘s a tough neighborhood and the challenges for any government are enormous.  Just because it is going to be difficult doesn‘t mean we shouldn‘t try to give them a better chance of succeeding. 

MATTHEWS:  How long do you think we have to be there?  What is your guesstimate right now of how many years we have to be there in force? 

COCHRAN:  I wouldn‘t try to guess. 

MATTHEWS:  But why not? 

COCHRAN:  I don‘t think it helps anything.  It doesn‘t solve the problem.  I‘m not a soothe sayer.  I may look smarter than I am. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we not let them over there know that we‘re not there like the British were in India for several hundred years.  We don‘t intend to stay there.  We intend to get as soon as we can, reasonably, and the faster they get their act together, the better. 

COCHRAN:  They know that already, Chris.  That‘s an obvious consequence of the challenges that they face.  We can‘t stay there forever.  We don‘t have the support here at home to do that.  It wouldn‘t be the right thing to do anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the polls that they say they don‘t like us,  They think, in fact, in the Sunni community, they think it‘s OK to shoot at us and kill our men over there and our women.  It‘s OK, but yet they want us to stay.  What is in the psychiatry of those people that tells them it‘s OK to shoot at is, it‘s OK to tell pollsters for us to get the heck out, but they want us to stay.  What is in their head over there? 

COCHRAN:  Well, I think we have to determine, first of all, what is in our national interest.  We want to be good neighbors.  We want to be helpful to those who are helpful to us in the international community.  That‘s a very complicated situation over there, but it doesn‘t mean that we should just throw our hands up and leave.  I think there are constructive influences that can be made to help make it more likely that the Iraqi new government can succeed. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you surprised that Senator Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, switched his vote today and came out against your amendment? 

COCHRAN:  Well, I think a lot of Chuck Hagel.  He‘s a personal friend of mine.  His wife is from Mississippi.  We are long-time friend.  I remember when he was working for John McAllister in the House of Representatives.  Chuck has his own reasons for that.  I respect him enormously.  So I don‘t second guess him or criticize him. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you surprised? 

COCHRAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the Republican party is solidly behind the president in opposing any withdrawal timetable, that the day‘s vote really means that, with the exception of Hagel? 

COCHRAN:  Well, it was a very strong expression of sentiment, I think, by Republicans in the Congress to support the president.  We understand that what this is going to lead to is dragging out the appropriations process for a lot of needed funding that government agencies and the military, in particular, need right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the vote today opposing your amendment, defeating your amendment and maintaining this March deadline for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq next year endangering in any way our soldiers? 

COCHRAN:  I think it is.  I think it‘s putting them at greater risk. 

MATTHEWS:  How so? 

COCHRAN:  Well, because it makes it obvious that this is going to be a longer, drawn-out operation, and with maybe not the funds that are needed to succeed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, give me a tangible aspect of how this hurts a soldier over there.  He‘s in uniform, depending on equipment, the supply lines going over there, what will be denied the soldier who‘s fighting in the field.  We‘re looking at them now.  What is going to be denied these solders in camouflage? 

COCHRAN:  I think we will have a lot of inefficiencies in the Department of Defense that will be caused by having to substitute one program for another, canceling programs, moving money from one function to another.  It‘s going to be very difficult to have a smooth operating Department of Defense.  I also think it creates a terrible amount of uncertainty for those who are depending on our continued support.  That has consequences that can‘t be measured. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Thad Cochran, senator from Mississippi.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests will include Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson.  Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

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