updated 5/30/2007 1:15:16 PM ET 2007-05-30T17:15:16

Guests: Cynthia Tucker, Matthew Continetti, Julie Mason, Douglas Brinkley, Nancy Reagan, Christopher Dodd

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Endless war.  President Bush dropped a bomb today.  Even if the killing gets worse in Iraq, he said, the surge will continue.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  War without end.  President Bush said that the surge of U.S. troops would stop the flow the blood in Iraq.  That‘s what he said before.  Today the president said that there will be more bloodshed in Baghdad as we get later in the summer.  So by Bush‘s logic, it‘s a ghastly a win-win situation.  Either way, the American policy is more soldiers, more death, were wounded, more killing.

And why is the president so surprised at the grass roots Republican opposition to his plan to legalize illegal immigrants?  How‘d he get up to his elbows in alligators over this issue?  Doesn‘t he know how angry people are at the failure of our government to enforce the law and protect our borders, or has he been caught off guard by this, just as he was by the fact the people of Iraq didn‘t like being invaded and occupied.

And oh, yes, why is Rudy Giuliani saying that Bill Clinton wanted to invade Iraq but didn‘t get the opportunity?  That was his word.  Why is he trying to out-hawk everybody?

We begin with my interview with Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut tonight, a Democratic candidate for president.


MATTHEWS:  Senator Dodd, President Bush has said for months that in September we‘ll know whether this surge of his has worked or not, and now we‘re told that if it‘s bloody in August, he‘ll say he was right.  If it‘s not bloody, he‘ll say he was right.  Is this a bait and switch to keep us there, no matter what happens this summer in Baghdad?

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That‘s my view, Chris.  I think this president has dug in his heels.  I don‘t think he has any intention of changing his policy whatsoever.  And I think, frankly, as a result of this, we‘re going to dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves here.  And giving the president this supplemental is just handing him another shovel, in my view.

I think we need to change course, change direction.  Our country is less secure, more vulnerable, more isolated today.  The template has to be, Is this policy helping our national security or not?  I don‘t know of anyone who‘s spent any time looking at this issue who believes that continuing this conflict, in the middle of the civil war—that‘s what it is, the United States in the middle of a civil war in that country—is helping our national security in any way whatsoever.

So I‘m of a view we ought to begin deployment, have a time certain.  We‘ll spend almost $100 billion over the next year, even with the time certain of one year, to do the kind of patrolling, do the kind of border security, counterterrorism, but in the meantime, make it very clear that if the Iraqis want to have a country, it‘s now to them politically and diplomatically to put that together, but that our military is not going to be there indefinitely.

MATTHEWS:  “The Washington Post” report today said that the morgues in Baghdad are piling up with bodies of Sunni victims of the Shia militia.  Why are we supporting a majority there, the Shia majority in Iraq that are killing people, basically conducting slow-motion genocide of the minority?

DODD:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  How can we say we‘re going to put a border around them to protect them in doing that?

DODD:  Well, again, I—this is—it‘s stunning.  You got literally the middle of a major civil war in this country.  When I talked to (INAUDIBLE) as early as a week or so ago, Chris, at Walter Reed Hospital with some soldiers back who‘ve been wounded there—to use the—and quote them almost exactly—when I asked them how the surge was working, they said, We‘ll go into an area, we‘ll spend a month-and-a-half in there.  We clean it up.  We make it secure.  And an hour-and-a-half after we leave, it‘s right back where it was before.

And they went on to say, Senator, said, listen, these people know where the IEDs are.  They know where the ammo dumps are.  And they refuse to tell us.

So I ask you, Chris, why are we continuing to perpetuate a military presence in the middle of this civil war, putting our nation in greater jeopardy?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at an ad you‘re running which involves you taking the lead, as you see it, over people like Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.  Let‘s watch your ad that‘s running in Iowa right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris Dodd has been challenging the other candidates to support the Feingold-Reid-Dodd amendment to end our involvement in Iraq‘s civil war.  It worked.  Now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have changed their positions to follow Chris Dodd.  Soon, Chris Dodd will be talking in New Hampshire about his plan to stop global warming, a plan Al Gore and Bill Bradley call “creative and told.”  Maybe the other candidates will follow Chris Dodd on global warming, too.

DODD:  I‘m Chris Dodd, and I approve this message.


MATTHEWS:  So to reiterate it in your own words, how‘s Hillary and Obama following your policy in Iraq, sir?

DODD:  Well, we‘re going to have a vote later tonight, and obviously, each member has to make up their own mind.  But my hope is—a week or so ago, we had the vote here on a cloture motion as to whether or not we‘d actually get to vote on the Feingold-Reid proposal, the one I‘ve sponsored for the last several months.  And there we had the candidates, all the candidates supported that motion to invoke cloture and allow for that debate to go forward.  And most of them responded by saying they would be supporting the Feingold-Reid proposal.  And I welcome that.  I think that‘s good news.  Later today—I think we‘ll have the vote this evening sometime between 7:00 and 9:00 on this supplemental, and my hope is they‘ll be supportive again of that proposal.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is your proposal, sir?

DODD:  Our proposal is that we begin redeploying immediately, we do so over the next year in Iraq, give us plenty of time here for a safe and appropriate and proper, responsible redeployment of our forces.  In the meantime, do the kind of border security, training facilities, counterterrorism and activities—we‘ll probably spend close to $100 billion if we maintain the spending levels we‘ve been at, at $2 billion a week over the last several years.  That will give the Iraqis plenty of time and our presence there, if they‘re truly interested in a political result, coming together to decide to be a country.

But at the end of the year, on March 31, April 1, I would anticipate and be in favor of our troops being out of Iraq.  That gives us a year to get this job done right.  That‘s not too quickly.  It doesn‘t go on forever.  I think it makes a lot of sense.

MATTHEWS:  What would President Bush do if you Democrats were not controlling Congress, if he had complete control over the U.S. government and the war in Iraq, what would be his plan for the rest of his term, as you see it?

DODD:  I think you‘re looking at it today.  There‘s no sign of any willingness to compromise whatsoever on any of these aspects here.  Now, some Republicans are clearly moving.  You had the report of a week or so ago, Republicans at the White House telling the president they weren‘t going to be prepared support his policies indefinitely.

I suspect we may be looking at the beginning of the end of his policy, from a congressional standpoint.  But unfortunately, (INAUDIBLE) have to wait until the fall sometime for it to really sink in that we‘re less secure.  That‘s the major point here, Chris, is our country is weaker.  We‘re more—we‘re less secure today, far more vulnerable as a result of this policy.

Just listen to our military commanders, who will tell you today that we don‘t have the capacity to respond, Lord forbid, to a major threat to our country because of the lack of combat readiness.  Our National Guard forces are paying an awful price.  We‘ve lost our moral leadership in the world.  Listen to the major leaders in our country talking about that.

This policy has to change.  My hope is it would change sooner, rather than later, but I think, ultimately, it will change.  The problem is, there‘s going to be an awful cost between now and then, both to our own servicemen and women as well as to the Iraqi people themselves.

MATTHEWS:  Would you have invaded Iraq, sir?

DODD:  No, I regret I cast that vote earlier, but I...

MATTHEWS:  But would you have done it?  Would you...

DODD:  No, I...

MATTHEWS:  Would you have invaded yourself had you been president in the circumstances we faced in early 2003?

DODD:  Knowing...

MATTHEWS:  Would you have invaded Iraq?

DODD:  Knowing what I know now about it, absolutely not, Chris.  I think if we had given those inspectors more time, as I urged and many others did, even though I voted for that resolution in the fall of 2002, had we given them more time, we would have learned the real truth about the weapons of mass destruction.  And then, of course, they would have no justification, in my view, for the kind of action we took.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know why we invaded Iraq?

DODD:  Well, I think, you know, we made the argument of weapons of mass destruction, but...

MATTHEWS:  That was an argument.  Is that the reason we...

DODD:  No, no.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... this president had for invading Iraq?

DODD:  No...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think it was.

DODD:  No...

MATTHEWS:  I think it was geopolitical.  But what do you think?

DODD:  Well, I think it was that.  But as one fellow up in northern New Hampshire said to me the other day, he said, Senator, if Iraq were growing turnips and not oil, do you think we‘d be there for another week?

MATTHEWS:  So you think it was oil.

DODD:  I think it had a lot to do with it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Senator Chris, Dodd, thank you very much for joining us, campaigning for president.


Coming up: Is President Bush setting up a win-win for himself on the war in Iraq?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let‘s introduce the panel tonight.  Cynthia Tucker is of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”  She‘s won a Pulitzer Prize just recently.  Congratulations.  Matthew Continetti‘s with “The Weekly Standard,” the back of the book of which I really like.  And Julie Mason is with “The Houston Chronicle.”

First up, Bush‘s endless summer of war.  Iraq‘s health minister says sectarian killings are rising again, and today President Bush said he expects more deaths, too.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This summer‘s going to be a critical time for the new strategy.  The last of five reinforcement brigades we are sending to Iraq is scheduled to arrive in Baghdad by mid-June.  As these reinforcements carry out their missions, the enemies of a free Iraq, including al Qaeda and illegal militias, will continue to bomb and murder in an attempt to stop us.  We‘re going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months.  We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties.  We must provide our troops with the funds and resources they need to prevail.


MATTHEWS:  Does this mean we stay, no matter what, if the surge stops the killing or if the killing spikes?  Cynthia, it seems like the president‘s set up a Catch-22 now.  There‘s going to be more bloodshed over there this summer, and if there is, that means we have to stay because that means they‘re anticipating we‘re leaving in September.  And if there‘s less bloodshed, he can say this surge worked.  He wins either way in terms of his policy argument.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”:  That‘s exactly right, Chris.  It‘s a perfect set-up to whatever the report is from Petraeus in September.  We have all been led to believe, I think, rightly or wrongly—or perhaps it was our own expectations—that if Petraeus comes back in September and reports that violence continues, then that will mean that the president will say, OK, the surge isn‘t working.  But the president has (INAUDIBLE) this up to say, Well, of course there‘ll be more violence.  There‘ll be more of the same.

So the question is, What are the benchmarks that we‘re looking for?  When do we know that this is succeeding, if, in fact, we fully expect violence to continue through the summer?

MATTHEWS:  Matthew, we‘re trying to report this story.  If you go back and look at the president‘s comments earlier, he said that one of the advantages of the surge, of putting more U.S. firepower into Baghdad, would be a reduction in the sectarian killing.  We get a “Washington Post” report today based on the morgue traffic, if you want to be blunt about it, that, apparently, there‘s a lot more militia—Shia militia killing of Sunnis than ever before.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”:  What‘s happened since—the trend lines were down, once the beginning of the forces were introduced, the sectarian trend lines were down.  They‘ve now reversed.  Why?  Become al Qaeda has begun this counteroffensive, Chris, of these...


CONTINETTI:  ... car bombings.


CONTINETTI:  So that means the Shiites will retaliate.  The question is, do the killings—even though that trend line has reversed for the moment, it‘s still down from what the height was last year...

MATTHEWS:  How will we know—what will be your benchmark as a reporter, objective benchmark, in assessing the success of the surge come September?

CONTINETTI:  Well, I don‘t think you can truly assess that success for years to come.

MATTHEWS:  Well, now how does Congress or the American people make a judgment, then?

CONTINETTI:  They‘re going to have to be calculating the votes (ph), Chris.  This is why September...

MATTHEWS:  No, how does the average...


MATTHEWS:  How does the average person judge the success of this war...

CONTINETTI:  Violence...


CONTINETTI:  Violence will have to be reduced.  And I think that they‘re putting policies that they believe, Petraeus believes, in the long term will reduce violence.  But you can‘t—the fact that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why does the president...


MATTHEWS:  ... I trust you.  The president keeps saying that we‘re going to get a report in September.  What value is that report if you say the implications will only be clear in the long term?  How do we get a report of any value?

CONTINETTI:  I think it‘s biding time.  What struck me about this press conference, Chris—what was the name—the other names he mentioned over and over again?  Baker, Hamilton.  This president, after rejecting the ISG—the Iraq Study Group in December, all of a sudden, is adopting it again...


CONTINETTI:  I have no clue.  I have no idea.  And I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  This is father?

CONTINETTI:  ... bad for the president...

MATTHEWS:  Is this his father?

CONTINETTI:  It may be, but I don‘t believe he talks to him that much.  It‘s bad for this administration‘s policy to be constantly undercutting it but introducing the ISG.  If they truly believe in the surge, they need to pursue it relentlessly.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I saw—I heard that, too, and I was taken—I always look for—you know, like police always say, You notice anything different?  And Matthew and I heard the same thing.  We hear him all of a sudden, after months of basically stonewalling the Baker-Hamilton report, saying, You know, there‘s some things in there we‘re looking at.  It has to do with benchmarks for political action by the Iraqi government.  All of a sudden, he‘s paying tribute to the war critics.

TUCKER:  It‘s politically expedient to do so at this point, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Is it phony?

TUCKER:  Yes, it certainly is phony.  If he liked it, he should have embraced it when it first came out, not now that, you know, the—he set up this insurmountable goal, this September deadline, where everyone wants to see...

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s a feather dancers and the Iraq Study Group is his feather.


MATTHEWS:  He‘s just pretending.

TUCKER:  More of a fan...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I...


MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, I have to get a little sexy here.

Let‘s take a look at something that happened today.  Our own David Gregory of NBC News, the chief White House correspondent, asked the following question.  There‘s been some static about this question.  Let‘s all decide, including Matt, whether they think this was a fair question of the president at the presidents conference today.  Let‘s listen.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do as you did yesterday, where you raised two-year-old intelligence talking about the threat posed by al Qaeda, it‘s met with increasing skepticism.  The majority in the public, A growing number of Republicans appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully.  Can you explain why you believe you‘re still a credible messenger on the war?

BUSH:  I‘m credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we‘ll be attacked.  And I firmly believe that.  You know, look, this has been a long, difficult experience for the American people.  I can assure you al Qaeda, who would like to attack us again, have got plenty of patience and persistence.  And the question is, will we?


MATTHEWS:  Too tough a question or on the mark?

CONTINETTI:  He didn‘t need the preamble, Chris.  But it...


CONTINETTI:  Oh, the—you know, the—You‘ve made these statements in the past, Mr. President—the fact is that question boiled down to one sentence: Are you no longer credible on this war?


CONTINETTI:  And I think Bush‘s overall press conference spoke to that because of these names he kept mentioning.  He wasn‘t talking about himself for most of this press conference...


CONTINETTI:  (INAUDIBLE) He was talking about Petraeus and he was talking about Baker-Hamilton.  You‘re going to hear more and more of those names, Chris, as this happens because...


MATTHEWS:  Those Republican congressmen went to him, as you reported, we all know, went to him, Julie, a week or two weeks ago now and said, Nobody believes you anymore.  You got to keep quoting Petraeus as your bona fide.

JULIE MASON, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Right.  And Chris, you notice it was unintended irony.  He said, I‘m credible because I read the intelligence.  Well, the intelligence failed him last time.  Why is it credible this time?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure.  That was raised also.  Let me go to Cynthia.  The question of the intelligence will always be an issue.  Did he, in fact, use the intelligence?  He was criticized on that.  But this issue of tough reporters‘ questions—did you like the David question, the David Gregory question?

TUCKER:  It was a perfectly reasonable question.  Let me just say I don‘t think there are any unfair questions addressed to a president about public policy.  There may be some unfair questions about private lives, private lives of his children, for example, but there are no unfair questions about public policy.  This...

MATTHEWS:  Well, there are questions like...


MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, Cynthia.  There are questions like, Are you still beating your wife?  I mean, they‘re clearly loaded questions that have no decent answer to them.

TUCKER:  Public—no, no, Chris.  I said no unfair questions about public policy.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Are you still beating the...

TUCKER:  This was about public...

MATTHEWS:  ... the secretary of defense or something.  OK.

TUCKER:  This was about public policy.


TUCKER:  And it‘s already been raised by Republicans themselves, who have said, Mr. President, you can‘t speak to us about the war.  You can‘t give us an assessment in September.  That assessment needs to come from Petraeus.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe somebody ought to...

TUCKER:  As for the Baker-Hamilton...

MATTHEWS:  ... over at Fox TV that was criticizing him this afternoon, David Gregory ought to check in with the Republican Party, which they do have some contact with, and notice that the Republicans are raising these very questions.  In fact, tagging the president for a lack of credibility in that very meeting which leaked to Tim Russert, and that‘s how we got the story, by reporting, which is the way to do these things.

We‘ll be right back with our panel to talk about Rudy Giuliani‘s latest outcry and Hillary Clinton‘s plans for Iowa.

Coming up later, historian Doug Brinkley.  We‘re going to have Nancy Reagan joining us tonight, which is a real treat, to talk about Ronald Reagan‘s diaries.  We‘ll also have Ron Reagan to talk about his dad and the hard time he gave Ron about making sure that Ron was protected by Secret Service, even though Ron didn‘t want to be at that point.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with Cynthia Tucker of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” Matthew Continetti of “The Weekly Standard,” and Julie Mason of “The Houston Chronicle,” a Hearst paper.

Up next: Rudy‘s rampage.  In the last debate, Rudy Giuliani pounced on U.S. Congressman Ron Paul for explaining blowback. 


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it.  And they are delighted that we‘re over there, because Osama bin Laden has said:  I am glad you‘re over on our sand, because we can target you so much easier.

They have already now, since that time, have killed 3,400 of our men. 

And I don‘t think it was necessary.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Wendell, may I make a comment on that?

That‘s really an extraordinary statement.  That‘s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.  I don‘t think I have ever heard that before, and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11.



MATTHEWS:  Then Mayor Giuliani went on “Letterman” the other night to falsely suggest that Bill Clinton had the desire to invade Iraq, but just not the opportunity. 


GIULIANI:  It was the policy of the Clinton administration to have regime change in—in Iraq.  So, in a way, George Bush carried out what Bill Clinton wanted to do, but didn‘t get the opportunity to do. 

So, who knows—who knows here?


GIULIANI:  Who knows?  I don‘t—I can‘t tell you what would have been if a different president were there.


MATTHEWS:  Unfortunately, the audience of the “Letterman” show doesn‘t read “The National Journal” or the Congressional Record. 

And he is trashing now John Edwards.  Is Rudy Giuliani on the attack against John Edwards in what he said in New Hampshire on Wednesday?  Here‘s Giuliani again—quote—“One of the Democratic presidential candidates today gave a speech in New York.  And the speech that he gave suggested that the global war on terror was no more than a slogan of George Bush‘s.  I understand the zeal and the overzealousness that some of these people have to attack George Bush.  It comes out of a political process.”

That was Rudy Giuliani, saying further: “I think it is wrong.  I think it doesn‘t put George Bush‘s presidency in proper perspective.”

Rudy is covering his political sins, apparently, with the sound of a bugle.  His jingoism covers for his social positions.

Isn‘t that what he is doing, Matthew; he is showing that he is the biggest hawk of all the hawks to cover up for his private life and for his social positions with the right? 

CONTINETTI:  He‘s showing he‘s the biggest hawk, Chris, because he believes in it.  And so do Republican primary voters. 

You look at Pew—Pew.  What issues do Republican primary voters put number one, number two?  Iraq and terrorism.  Rudy Giuliani is appealing to that. 

Also, the one constituency that still likes George W. Bush and the United States of America, Republican partisans.  And who is going to decide the next nominee?  So, that has put...


MATTHEWS:  Do they support—let me ask you a question, a little more nuanced.


MATTHEWS:  Do they support the president because they basically support a president, which is good Republican loyalty to the leader of the people, as well as the head of the country, or do they support this war as an idea?  If this was Clinton‘s war, would they be for it? 

CONTINETTI:  Well, partisanship, it depends on...

MATTHEWS:  No, would they be for...

CONTINETTI:  Well, I think they would be.

MATTHEWS:  Would they be for this war if this was Clinton‘s war?

CONTINETTI:  In the light of September 11, yes, they would be. 

This is a cultural—the thing is, Chris, the war has become a cultural issue.  And to be steadfast in the war on terror and in the war in Iraq is now a cultural thing.  People on the right are for it.  They believe in American values and exporting them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why is Ron Paul, who is a libertarian, a traditional conservative....

CONTINETTI:  He‘s so marginal, it‘s not—Paul is so marginal at this point.

MATTHEWS:  What about Bill Buckley?  What about Bill Buckley, who is head of “The National Review”?

CONTINETTI:  The fact is...


MATTHEWS:  What about George Will?


MATTHEWS:  A lot of conservatives I know who are intellectual conservatives are not for this war. 

CONTINETTI:  But we‘re talking about the current constellation of the conservative movement in the Republican Party...


MATTHEWS:  Which doesn‘t include these traditional conservatives?


CONTINETTI:  No, it does not any longer.  I am sorry. 

And Giuliani is appealing to this new constellation of issues.  And he may just win.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think you might be wrong.

What do you think, Julie?

MASON:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Is this—is he right?  Is Matt right?  He knows that—that crowd. 


MATTHEWS:  Could it be that the new Republican paradigm is a hawk? 

MASON:  Yes, sure.

But I don‘t think—I don‘t think he‘s right when he says that people would support this war if it was Clinton‘s war.  That‘s preposterous.

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 

I think you‘re wrong about that, too, because I think they like the fact that they follow the leader.

Cynthia, what do you think?  Do you think this war is really popular with Republicans—popular is a wrong word.  It‘s too facile. 

Do they support the war in its mission, or because their president is leading the fight, is the commander in chief at this time? 

TUCKER:  Chris, that‘s an excellent question.  That is the $64,000 question. 

Who knows why the Republican base is doggedly sticking to this war?  I don‘t have any doubt that some of them still believe that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. 

But I think many more of them are just doggedly insistent about their support for George Bush.  And this is George Bush‘s war.  And it‘s all rolled up together.

I also, quite frankly, think some of them just don‘t want to admit that they were wrong about this war in the beginning, much like the president himself.  They were never going to—they are never going to admit it was the wrong thing to do.

As for Mr. Giuliani, what Matt did not say it, yes, Republican primary voters certainly still rank terrorism and striking back against terrorism very high on their list.  But being opposed to abortion and gay rights are also very high on their list. 

And, so, it is going to be interesting to see how Giuliani overcomes those two things...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we‘re...

TUCKER:  ... in the Republican primary.

MATTHEWS:  ... watching that, aren‘t we?


CONTINETTI:  ... Chris.  Social issues are now ranking below immigration and the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  I have seen that.

CONTINETTI:  They‘re number four or five.

MATTHEWS:  I think Matt has got his finger on this. 

I think the Tom Edsall piece...


MATTHEWS:  Has everybody here read the Tom Edsall piece in “The New Republic”? 


MATTHEWS:  It says the new paradigmatic reason why people are Republicans is the war, that they‘re tough. 

CONTINETTI:  But let me get back to your about what...

MATTHEWS:  Right? 


MATTHEWS:  About terrorism.

CONTINETTI:  But why are they supporting Iraq?  Is it because of Bush?  Or why do Democrats, a majority of Democrats, support Afghanistan?  They are not supporting the war in Afghanistan because the president—it‘s President Bush‘s war.  They believe that is the right war. 

MATTHEWS:  No, because...


CONTINETTI:  And they...


MATTHEWS:  ... because the people in Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11.

CONTINETTI:  My point is, people can distinguish...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.


MATTHEWS:  ... just lost me there.

CONTINETTI:  My people—my point is, people...

MATTHEWS:  People...


CONTINETTI:  ... can distinguish between the president and the policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you why I supported it and everybody else did.

When the president stood at 9/11 on that—that—that Friday with the firefighters, and said, we are going to get the people that knocked down these buildings, everybody in the world supported him. 

CONTINETTI:  I support...


CONTINETTI:  ... too.

MATTHEWS:  OK?  That‘s not about Iraq.

Our panel will be staying with us to talk about the immigration fight.

And, later, Nancy Reagan, Ron Reagan, and historian Doug Brinkley, who has written—or, actually, put together the Reagan diaries—Ronald Reagan wrote the diaries—they will all be joining us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


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

Stocks fell amid interest rates fears.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 84 points, the S&P 500 off almost 15, the Nasdaq down some 39 points. 

New home sales rose 16 percent in April, the biggest increase in 14 years, while prices fell more than 11 percent.  That unexpected surge in sales caused an initial burst of enthusiasm in the stock market.  But, on reevaluation, it started to dim hopes that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates any time soon.

Meantime, 30-year mortgages jumped this week to a nationwide average of 6.37 percent.  That‘s the highest level in seven months.  New orders for big-ticket items, known as durable goods, rose in April by six-tenths-of-a-percent.  That‘s weaker than was expected. 

And computer maker Dell is breaking its direct-to-consumer sales model.  It announced plans today to sell computers at Wal-Mart stores. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with Cynthia Tucker of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” freshly in charge of a new Pulitzer Prize in her hands, and Matthew Continetti of “The Weekly Standard,” and Julie Mason, who is new to our show, from “The Houston Chronicle.”

Next up and last up: giving Iowa a try.  An internal Clinton campaign memo leaked out that questions whether Hillary Clinton, the senator, should campaign in Iowa at all this coming year.  She says, you bet.  Bill Clinton never had to campaign there either for the caucuses.  The “Des Moines Register” poll has her now in third, behind Edwards and Obama. 

Are the Clintons just lowering expectations in Iowa?  Can Hillary claim victory even if she loses? 

Look at those numbers now, Julie.  Do you think she‘s going to really campaign out there and try to win? 

MASON:  She ought to do it.  I mean, now it‘s going to look bad if she doesn‘t.  She‘s got to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you mean?  Why are they playing around with the idea of skipping it?

MASON:  Because she feels like she doesn‘t have to.  She‘s far enough ahead.  Edwards is leading in Iowa, so she‘s got a lot of ground to make up there, assuming that these trends stay the same for a while.  She thinks she can skip it, like Clinton did.

But look at Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman.  They couldn‘t skip it. 

And, frankly, she is not Bill Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  Matthew Continetti, suppose Hillary skips—skips Iowa, which is coming up really fast, believe it or not, in a few six months, and then she loses a narrow race in New Hampshire to Obama.


MATTHEWS:  Is she out of the race?  Or can the Clintons just resuscitate that campaign?

CONTINETTI:  Well, because the—because the primaries are so front-loaded, she is not out. 

But, Chris, this is a huge blow, if she gives up Iowa.  She won‘t now.  But the very fact that someone in the campaign—and, of course, all the higher-ups are saying, no, we weren‘t involved.  We never read this.

MATTHEWS:  They even say—they‘re very careful.

CONTINETTI:  What strikes...


MATTHEWS:  They say, she never...

CONTINETTI:  She never saw this idea.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Clinton never saw the memo.

CONTINETTI:  What strikes me is, the Democratic presidential race has been very stable in the polls, with Hillary with about a 10-point advantage over Obama. 

We may be in for—you know, we‘re talking about corrections in the stock market.  We may in a correction for the Democratic primary race.  And they‘re—she may be much more vulnerable than—than people are counting...


MATTHEWS:  Do you think a lot of her number, Matt, is—is just name I.D., that it‘s...


CONTINETTI:  Absolutely.

MASON:  Yes, of course. 


CONTINETTI:  Any number—any number that—in a national poll at this point in the race is name I.D.  And the fact it hasn‘t fluctuated much may mean that there‘s something else there.

But the very fact that people within the Clinton campaign are thinking about removing resources from Iowa means that Edwards and Obama are both strong contenders.


Cynthia, we‘re moving fast here.

Cynthia, do you think that, if Obama wins New Hampshire, that he can actually beat Hillary?  And doesn‘t he have to do that, something really dramatic, to beat her? 

TUCKER:  Oh, he absolutely has to win either Iowa or New Hampshire for people to continue to take him seriously. 

At the moment, he is still discussed as a black candidate who could actually end up in the White House.  He has to either win Iowa or New Hampshire for that sense to still be true among the news media. 

But let‘s talk about the money a moment.  What the memo also focuses on is the incredible amount of money each candidate is going to need to face those February Super Tuesday, tsunami... 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TUCKER:  ... Tuesday, as you‘re given to calling it.

And none of them have any money to take for granted, including Senator Clinton herself.  She doesn‘t have as much money available for the primaries as Obama does.  So, that is a real concern for their campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t cry for me, Argentina. 

We‘re worried about Hillary‘s money. 


MATTHEWS:  It is true that she has to campaign at every state in the union, probably, all the big states.

Here it is.  Next up, your roots are showing.  President Bush again tried to defend his immigration plan as the only one that would—that can work. 

Here he is today at the presser.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s easy to find something to be against in this bill. 

All it takes is to take one little aspect of it and ignore the comprehensive nature and how good it is.

I knew this was going to be an explosive issue.  It‘s easy to hold up, you know, somebody who‘s here and working hard as a political target. 

I would like to get this bill done for a lot of reasons.  I would like to get it done because it‘s the right to do.  I would like to get it done because I happen to believe the approach that is now being discussed in the Senate is an approach that will actually solve the problem.

I would like to get it out of politics. 


MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, is the president out of touch with the base of his party on this issue, as he was out of touch with the people of Katrina, who were hit by Hurricane Katrina down in New Orleans? 

It seems like he seems surprised that working people, regular, you know, conservative Republicans out there in Georgia, like Jim DeMint, the senator, are out there booing...

TUCKER:  I‘m surprised.

MATTHEWS:  ... people like him.

TUCKER:  Exactly.  I‘m surprised, actually, by the vehemence. 

The president is not so out of touch that he did not expect opposition from the conservative base.  I think he has been absolutely surprised by the vehemence, as I have been surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

TUCKER:  The two Republican senators were booed at the Georgia Republican State Convention last Saturday because they support this compromise. 

But the president‘s instincts are absolutely right on this one.  Chris, what he sees that I think the conservative base doesn‘t see is how rapidly the Hispanic population is growing in this country.  The president doesn‘t want his party to be saddled with Latino distrust and suspicion 20 years from now, as they are saddled with black distrust over civil rights and affirmative action. 


TUCKER:  He understands that the Republican Party needs Latino support, if they‘re going to ever hope to maintain...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the problem.

TUCKER:  ... significant in this country.

MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, you may be right, in terms of building the big tent.

But, every night, we look at these pictures of people racing across the border.  And maybe all of us would be doing the same for a $500-a-week job or whatever you can get in Chicago, because you get nothing at home. 

But the fact is, nobody believes that, after this bill is passed, and how many signatures are on it, and how many ceremonies they have in the Rose Garden, that that is going to stop, that people are still going to be coming across the border illegally, and this president is not going to lift a finger to stop it. 


CONTINETTI:  The bill—the bill won‘t be passed, Chris.  So, I mean, in many ways...


MATTHEWS:  But why a pass a bill to make it legal, make it even more...


CONTINETTI:  I will tell you who loves this debate, House Republicans, because they can go to their districts this weekend, and they can say:  You know what?  I am standing with you guys who oppose this amnesty. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they have turned President Bush into Sister Souljah?



MATTHEWS:  They‘re campaigning...


CONTINETTI:  On the immigration issue, without question.

And Cynthia said that, you know, Bush understands that the Hispanic population is growing, but the conservative base doesn‘t.  No, the conservative does.


MATTHEWS:  -- which is good enough for everybody.  But it is crossing that border tomorrow night.  I do not think it is about the 12 million already here.  I insist it is about stopping illegal immigration at some point through policy and through enforcement, and no one seems to want to do it.  These people talk about tamper-proof ID cards.  I will believe it when I see it.  I think they‘re just talking through their hats.  What do you think?

MASON:  Well, I think Bush has already lost Hispanic support.  I do not think this has anything to do with that. 

MATTHEWS:  I know that is what McCain is afraid of.  He‘s afraid of 187.

CONTINETTI:  The Republican party is.  But, of course, the Hispanic electorate changes with every generation.  That is a key to remember.  The Hispanic electorate today will not be the Hispanic electorate 20 years from now. 

MASON:  Well, either way, the bill is toast.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have to come back and talk about that interesting concept.  Anyway, Cynthia Tucker, thank you for joining us.  Julie Mason from the “Houston Chronicle,” and Matt Continetti from the “Weekly Standard.”

Up next, Nancy Reagan is going to join us tonight in just a few minutes, along with Ron Reagan, our regular analyst and historian Doug Brinkley, a great, great journalist and writer, who is the editor of a new book of Ronald Reagan‘s diaries.  I have been reading it, it is fascinating.  I should have been surprised.  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For eight years as president of the United States, Ronald Reagan kept a daily diary of his thoughts on the day‘s events.  The only one he missed was March 30th, 1981, the day he was shot.  But he went back later and actually wrote down his thoughts. 

Here is an excerpt from that assassination attempt, quote—this is Ronald Reagan‘s hand.  He has written these in hand—“Getting shot hurts.  Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe, it seemed I was getting less and less air.  I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed.  But I realized I couldn‘t ask for god‘s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me.  Isn‘t that the meaning of the lost sheep?  We are all god‘s children, therefore equally loved by him.  I begin to pray for his soul, and that he would find his way back,” that‘s Hinckley, of course, “to the fold.”

“I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there.  I pray I will never face a day when she isn‘t there.  Of all the ways god has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to receive.”

You know, Doug Brinkley, of course, had the huge task of editing down eight years of President Reagan‘s daily entries into that incredible volume.  It is called “The Reagan Diaries.”  It is number one on the Barnes and Noble list right now.  I‘ve seen it.  It‘s a beautiful book. 

This evening on MSNBC political analyst Ronald Reagan is also joining us.  Ron, are you with us?. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you Ron.  What did you make of that when you read that diary entry from your dad about surviving death, really? 

REAGAN:  Well, it was one of the most dramatic moments, certainly, in the diary.  I remember that day very well, and I remember him fighting for air when he came out of the operating room there, with a tube down his throat and not really sure what was going on.  I remember trying to reassure him that it was OK.  Just let the machine breathe for you. 

But it was striking, you know, his mention of Hinckley, and right away going to that place where I‘ve got to forgive this guy, because that is what I am all about.  That was quite a moment. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I always say that—I try to say that to myself when I am in a good mood about life.  I say that, we are all god‘s children.  I say it about every group, whatever background.  I keep trying to say it.  It is interesting that he said it at that moment of incredible crisis. 

DOUG BRINKLEY, EDITOR, “THE REAGAN DIARIES”:  That‘s right, and a few days later, Chris, in the diary he ends up consulting with Billy Graham, who calls Hinckley‘s parents out in Colorado.  And Graham reports to Reagan that Hinckley is crazy, that he is really mentally ill.  And Reagan said, “Eureka, I really can‘t forgive him.  He‘s a sick guy.” 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s still at Saint Ede‘s right now.  He‘s probably watching.  Anyway, here‘s some of President Reagan‘s diary entries concerning and family matters.  This cuts close to our friend Ron here, “security very tight even at the ranch.  A hit band is supposed to have crossed into the United Sates by way of Canada with me, George B., Al Haig and Cap W (any or all) as targets.  (Our friend in Libya).”  Obviously he‘s referring to Moamar Gadhafi coming after him.

“Off to Camp David by a quite different Helicopter route.  Our Libyan friends are thought to possess heat seeking missiles that can be hand launched.”  Boy, that is scary.  And a third entry, this about you, Ron, quote, “Long call to Ron today.  He wants to sign off Secret Service for a month.  Secret Service knows he‘s a real target, that he lives in a New York City area where the Puerto Rican terrorist group is active.  In fact, he‘s on their hit list.  He thinks we‘re interfering with his privacy.  I can‘t make him see that I can‘t be put in the position of one day facing a ransom demand.  I would have to refuse for reasons of the nations welfare.” 

That‘s nice to know that he had to refuse. 

REAGAN:  Nobody‘s going to be trading any stinger missiles for me, I guess.

MATTHEWS:  No tow heads for you.  What did you make of—you remember that fight, because I remember you were very impolite to hang up on him at one point.  I have read these, Ron.  You don‘t come across too well in this.  I have to tell you.

REAGAN:  I can‘t tell you how weird this is to see a 25 year old argument with your parents sort of blown up and placed in the public.  What are you supposed to do with this.  It does explain a lot of things.  I now understand that he completely misunderstood where I was coming from. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, when you hung up, you meant something else? 

REAGAN:  I did not hang up on him, that is the thing.  He obviously felt that way, but it didn‘t actually happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have to tell you, the president of the United States is an extremely popular one, and there he is duking it out with his kid, I felt like there is life for you, real life you. 

BRINKLEY:  When I was reading them, all hand written, and you start seeing a lot of family stories, it made me feel that the rest of the diaries had a deep validity to them, that he wasn‘t just spinning it for history of something.  Because here he is, telling of all these kind of personal issues. 

MATTHEWS:  If you doubt the genuineness of his emotions, here he is on what he thought about people like us in the press.  Let‘s take a look at some of these quotes.  Here is how he felt about the press.  Let‘s look at the other entries.  In one entry he writes, quote, “Had a talk with Patty,” that‘s his daughter, “told her what a bum rap her mother,” that‘s Nancy, “was taking from a few,” these are his words, “bitchy columnists.” 

Another entry, quote, “The news—CBS and Washington Post described my trip to Ohio as a chilly reception.  That is blatant falsehood.  I‘ve never been greater by greater warmth and enthusiasm.  I think they are bias toward the Dems is showing,” that is about “The Washington Post.”

And another, quote, “Dropped in for a minute on the TV anchor men and women who were being briefed on tonight‘s State of the Union address.  I cannot conjure up one iota of respect for just about all of them.”  Ron Reagan, this is Brokaw, this is the later Peter Jennings, this is—who else?  It is unbelievable.  Dan Rather.  And he is just trashing them. 

REAGAN:  It is true.  It is about as close as he comes in the diaries that I have seen, anyway, to gossip.  My father was almost biologically incapable of dishing dirt, so you do not find a lot of that in the diaries.  You don‘t him talking about hey, that Margaret Thatcher is a real babe, you know, anything like that.  He just didn‘t do that, which will be a little disappointing to some people. 

MATTHEWS:  Well it would be disappointing to me if he thought she was

a babe.  I‘m sorry.  It was to regular his tastes for that.  Let me ask you

we have got to get back to Doug here.  You went through them all.  Is there anything in there that you just said was too distasteful, too derogatory, too ad hominem to put in there? 

BRINKLEY:  No, there wasn‘t.  The National Security Council for clearance reasons took out about six pages from the whole diary, most of it dealing with the Middle East.  It couldn‘t see what it would say.  It would say Lebanon and then they would do redaction of four or five lines.  But all the personal stuff that is there is there. 

And like Ron said, occasionally he would square off on some people, like Lowell Weicker, who he called a schmuck.  Al Haig doesn‘t come off that well.  Jack Kemp doesn‘t come off that well.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Haig comes off as a little bit off his bean.  I like the way he treated Tip O‘Neill, who I worked for all those years.  Because he had him just about right, which is he was friendly, but look out.  We will be right back with Doug Brinkley and Ron Reagan.  And when we return, former first lady Nancy Reagan is going to join us on the phone from California to talk about her husband‘s diary, which she has really made available to this Mr. Brinkley here, who seems to have done a good job.  It‘s number one on the list.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me make an endorsement, you should buy this book, because this is an interpretation book.  This isn‘t some journalist or some historian telling you what the history was.  This is Ronald Reagan, who was our president eight years, telling you what it was like to be president.  We‘ve never had anything like this.  Maybe you have to go back to U.S.

Grant, to read his memoirs, to get something like this.

We‘re back right now with Doug Brinkley, who edited this book, and put it together for us.  It‘s the Reagan diaries.  It‘s not Doug, it‘s Dutch.  And MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan‘s with us.  And joining us right now is my friend Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, who really released this book.  Why did you decide, Mrs. Reagan, to publish these records of your late husband? 

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY:  Well, I thought it was important.  I thought it was important enough to have it published because people would understand Ronnie better.  I just thought it was important. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it seems that every step we get to another layer of President Reagan, the man and the president, that he has to win the next argument when you release, the library released, the handwritten basic or type script of all his radio addresses all those years, all those commentaries he wrote himself.  Everybody said how sophisticated they were, how developed they were.  And they were like how could he do that.

And now this.  And everybody reads the incredible nuance and the genuine take that he gives on everything in this book.  And they say, well that‘s a surprise.  Why did Ronald Reagan always surprise his critics—well, you know this better than any.  Why did he have to keep proving himself?  Or was this some clever low balling that he engaged in to always keep his enemies off guard?

N. REAGAN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  But people have—well, that‘s why I thought it was important to release the diary.  He certainly didn‘t—he didn‘t write the diary to be published.  That‘s for sure.  He wrote it for his own.  You know, when we left Sacramento, we both realized that—we thought well, we‘ll remember everything.  Well, of course, you don‘t remember everything. 

And we decided then and there if ever the opportunity presented itself, we would write, or he would write, which he did. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s so—I didn‘t know him that well.  I knew him politically.  And I met him a couple times.  But he was so prudish.  By today‘s standards of the news room, let me say it that way, the language that he used was very polite and careful and clean.  And the way he presented the facts, where usually people put in a few tough words.  But I think the worst word was the one used here about ten minutes ago.  I won‘t repeat it. 

But generally, except for that bitchy columnist, as he put it, that went after you, that was about it.  I don‘t know who he was referring to there, but I could guess.  He was looking out for you, so I guess he felt the right to use some tougher language.

N. REAGAN:  He—no, he just didn‘t like crudeness of any kind, he just didn‘t. 

BRINKLEY:  In the diary, Chris, he would write, instead of writing out hell or damn, it‘s just H—L or Damn, just D-.  He didn‘t want to use those kinds of words.  So it is unusual and the one you put up there kind of jumps out at you.  He was cautious.  The same with movies; he loved a lot of modern movies, but he didn‘t like when they got profane or somehow—

N. REAGAN:  No.  No.  No. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought when he saw “Officer and a Gentlemen,” I thought it was a pretty good movie, but he thought it went over the line.  I noticed that one.  Were you surprised he found a movie as romantical (sic) as that was offending? 

N. REAGAN:  Pardon me. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you find that movie as offensive as he did? 

N. REAGAN:  You know, I don‘t remember, Chris, sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  It was Richard Gere and I forget who else it was.

R. REAGAN:  Debra Winger. 

MATTHEWS:  Debra Winger, that was a pretty nice movie.  Let me ask you, did you ever have to make a tough decision about whether to release the material about your family, Patti and Ron and those apparent parental/children disputes?

N. REAGAN:  Well, you know, I had really kind of forgotten a lot of those things, maybe on purpose.  But I had forgotten a lot of them really, so that everything that was in the diary was out.  You know? 

R. REAGAN:  Chris, let me reassure you that he did actually say something nice about me in the diary. 

MATTHEWS:  Could you repeat that.  Here‘s your chance to remind us. 

What was that?

R. REAGAN:  Well, he went and saw me dance once, and apparently enjoyed himself very much.  And thought I was OK. 

N. REAGAN:  Oh, yes.  Yes.  Yes.  He did.  And we went to see you quite a few times, as I remember. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, now you‘ve got those reviews in a big hard bound book, “The Reagan Diaries,” Ron.  Thank you Ron.  It‘s always great having you on.  Nancy Reagan, Mrs. Reagan, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

N. REAGAN:  Yes, hi Ron.

R. REAGAN:  Hi there.

N. REAGAN:  Get a chance to speak to my son.

MATTHEWS:  Ron, call home, will you?  Right now—thank you Mrs.

Reagan.  Doug Brinkley, great.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”



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