updated 6/12/2007 12:59:31 PM ET 2007-06-12T16:59:31

Guests: David Gergen, Mike Huckabee, Jenny Backus, David Frum, Chuck Todd, Linda Douglass

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Why do people hate Hillary?  Is Republican Colin Powell backing Democrat Barack Obama?  The politics is getting hotter.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Hillary is out front on the Democratic side, but with half the country not liking her and her getting only a quarter of the independent voters, her winning the nomination could simply set up the Democrats for a loss in ‘08 that should be a win.

So Colin Powell didn‘t like the Bush policy?  Then why didn‘t he quit?  And what‘s this thing with Obama?  Doesn‘t his flirtation with a Democrat make the Republicans look even more out to lunch this year?

And will Bush let his former assistant, Scooter Libby, go to prison if he can‘t get bail this Thursday?  If he wants to pardon 12 million people who broke the law coming into this country, an ally on the right wants to know, why not pardon the guy who went down in the cause of pushing his war?

And 20 years ago tomorrow, Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin Wall and told Gorby to tear it down.  And last night, Tony Soprano had dinner with his family.  I watched at the Parthenon restaurant here in Washington, a Greek restaurant, where nobody talked for an hour straight.  What‘s up with this thing?  We sit and watch a guy play the jukebox?  Do we love this guy or what?  More on that later.

But we begin tonight with NBC News‘s Andrea Mitchell and David Gergen, a former adviser to four U.S. presidents, on the numbers facing Hillary Clinton.  We‘ll get to Tony Soprano in a minute, fellows.

But Andrea, you‘re Hillary Clinton.  The Democratic base loves you.  You‘ve got minority support.  You‘ve got gay support.  And you‘ve got women‘s support.  And you‘ve got working people‘s support.  And yet we got a new number out in the Gallup poll, 50 percent of American people don‘t like you.  Can you still win the election with that kind of negatives?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, you can, because this country is so closely divided that anyone with her kinds of numbers can win the election.  I don‘t think that as unfavorable as those numbers are—it‘s one poll—I don‘t think that that is disabling, given how divided this race is and how long a campaign it is.

MATTHEWS:  David, you‘ve known Hillary a long time.  You‘re very friendly with her.  But she‘s got one other number working against her besides those heavy unfavorables, which people tell me are huge by any comparative standard.  One in four independent voters likes her.  That‘s it.  She can‘t win the swing voters yet.  What does she have to do to change that thing around?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Well, it‘s an interesting question, Chris.  I agree with Andrea, just for starters, that, yes, this is not disabling.  But I do believe that it makes it something of a risk for Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton because the—she may be the only person on the Democratic side who can totally unite the Republican base and force them out.  So that‘s—that‘s what the risk is.

But I must say, I think out in the debates, she‘s been the superior candidate on the Democratic side.  Out in New Hampshire this past week, I thought she clearly won that debate.  She was superior in the conversations about religion.  She looked good.  She looked better than we‘ve seen her, and she talks very fluidly.

You know, I don‘t discount the possibility that given the intense—the intense hostility to the Bush administration, that she can take places like Ohio.  A year ago, she couldn‘t win Ohio.  Today, she could.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the other question, Andrea, is we all suspect there might be a hidden anti-woman vote that sits out there.  Suppose you add that hidden vote to the obvious vote, the 50 who say they don‘t like her.  Suppose it‘s 60 or 70 who don‘t like her and aren‘t saying so?

MITCHELL:  Sure, that‘s a problem.  But all of these candidates have pluses and minuses, and I think it‘s way too early to count anyone out particularly her base, which does include a lot of women who will feel empowered and eager to come out and vote for her, will be more active than they might otherwise have been.  More Democrats could turn out.  More of her supporters could turn out.

As David just pointed out, places like Ohio could well be in play with Hillary Clinton on the ballot.  So I think, like, with all of these candidates—look, there‘s a hidden vote, a racist vote against Barack Obama, if he were the nominee.  And there are others who would be against John Edwards for other reasons.  There are a lot of pluses and minuses to all of these frontrunning candidates.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN:  Chris, you just have to weigh that against who the Republicans have.

MITCHELL:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, if John McCain were in his prime and were really rolling right now, I‘d have to tell you, I think John McCain would be favored to beat Hillary Clinton.  But given the state of Republican candidacies right now, she‘s a much more formidable and much more likely president—future president than she was a year ago.

MATTHEWS:  Well, keep saying, you‘ll probably rev up the right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the “New York Times” front page today, hardly a right-wing newspaper.  “The New York Times” had a piece—it wasn‘t on the front page.  It was abut—it was actually inside.  The front page story was about Barack Obama last week, about what a great basketball freak he is and how much he loves to play b-ball with his friends.  And—which helps him out because everybody loves basketball in this country, and we especially like good basketball players.

Hillary Clinton doesn‘t have a back story hobby like that.  I thought it was an odd story for Patrick Healy to write today.  He said, Hillary doesn‘t have a humanizing pastime.  What you make of that?  Maybe this is too weird.  Let me go to Andrea Mitchell.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Andrea...

MITCHELL:  Thanks a lot!

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But is this too weird?  We‘re sympathizing—it looks to me like one of those pieces you write, or TV pieces you do, when one side complains so much, you got to balance your act, so they can‘t do a b-ball story on Hillary, so the do a, Gee whiz, I wish she had a b-ball story.

MITCHELL:  You know, I think (INAUDIBLE) nation at war and with so much anger about the way this country is headed right now, as we see in all of the polling on “Right track, wrong track,” the basic question that is the real test of how people feel about the future of the country—I don‘t think people are going to vote for a presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, based on whether they can play baseball, whether they‘re good at tennis, whether they‘re good at softball.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  I just don‘t think we‘re in that era of, Can you throw the touch football?  I think...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘d be likability...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... far more serious—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tell me the campaign where we picked somebody we didn‘t like?  I mean, the only time I can think of in 50 years of watching this business—the only time we picked someone we didn‘t like as much as the guy we beat, or voted against, was everybody liked Hubert Humphrey—even those who weren‘t Democrats liked him more than they liked Richard Nixon.  But it seems to me in all—every other race, the guy who‘s likable or the person likable tends to win the thing.

MITCHELL:  But likability is—I mean, what makes you likable?  Is it your ability to play baseball or your ability...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is it?  Whatever it is, it ain‘t working for Hillary!

MITCHELL:  Maybe it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... give smart answers about some of the issues that people...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you mean...

MITCHELL:  ... really are bothered about around the kitchen table.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, are you saying it‘s a meritocracy, picking a president?

MITCHELL:  I—well, no, it has not been a meritocracy, but I think that we are at a crisis stage in this country and that whether it‘s John McCain, Romney, you know, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Edwards or any of the frontrunning candidates, it‘s what answers they have to the things that people are really bothered about, including the war, including educating their kids and paying for their retirement and paying for gasoline—those answers are going to determine, I think, who‘s going to be elected this time.

MATTHEWS:  David, you think it‘s going to be one of those...

GERGEN:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... gut-check elections, where we ignore whether we like Fred Thompson, the cut of his jib, or we like Rudy or not, and we‘re going to look basically at the hard issues that affect our lives?  It‘s going to be a very sober accounting we go through, rather than a personality choice.

GERGEN:  Well, the one thing we know she shouldn‘t do, and that is go wind-surfing.

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN:  That was one—and maybe she shouldn‘t bake cookies, either.  The—but I—you know, normally, Chris, likability does matter.  You know, we like—we want people in the White House that we can relate to, that we want in our living rooms.  I do think that one of her problems is that people don‘t necessarily feel comfortable thinking they‘re going to be listening to her over the next four years because she has a tendency to be a little preachy, and her voices is not, you know, a great asset for her.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GERGEN:  It‘s a little—it‘s a little harsh for people.  So I think she‘s got to work on some of that stuff.  But it doesn‘t always determine elections.  Remember, you know, for likability, we would have had President Humphrey, not President Nixon.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  By the way, you‘re right about the voices.  It‘s not fair, but—my old boss, Tip O‘Neill, used to say Ronald Reagan‘s great strength, in addition to his good looks and charm and all that, was that incredible cowboy voice of his, that wonderful western voice.  It‘s why so many anchor people come from places like—where‘s Tom Brokaw from?  That part of the country...

MITCHELL:  South Dakota.  Yangston (ph), South Dakota.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where we seem to get our anchor people from, Johnny Carsons, people like that, Dick Cavett...

MITCHELL:  Well, that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  ... they all seem to come from out there.

MITCHELL:  That‘s Fred Thompson‘s big advantage here, as he enters this race, is the voice, the Southern drawl, and the actor quality, the avuncular quality that actually is very close to Ronald Reagan‘s.

GERGEN:  Yes, but...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the Republican race right now, David. 

Let‘s just switch sides for a second here.

GERGEN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  The latest AP poll has it this way.  Giuliani‘s still out front at 27 percent, and McCain at 19.  Fred Thompson, who has yet to make it quite official, although he‘s pretty much in there, at 17.  He has bumped, as we say in airline travel, Mitt Romney already.  I think he‘s on the road to bumping McCain.  What do you think, David?

GERGEN:  I think he is on the road to bumping McCain because John McCain‘s campaign has faltered so badly.  But I think that poll understates Mitt Romney‘s strength right now because Romney—while his national numbers are not good, his Iowa numbers and his New Hampshire numbers are very impressive, and you know, if he punches through a couple times, Giuliani could come down real fast and Thompson could be left at the gate.

MATTHEWS:  Why do the people in Massachusetts have a problem with Mitt?  Every time I ask somebody up there—maybe they‘re all Democrats.  I don‘t know.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Every time I talk to somebody up there, they don‘t like the guy.  They just don‘t like Mitt Romney.

GERGEN:  Well, look, you know, the guy started out as a conservative in Massachusetts.  Then he became sort of a Massachusetts-type Republican, very progressive, and now he‘s gone back to more conservative ways.  But he also has—I think people really take umbrage here in Massachusetts at the way he‘s gone around dissing the state.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GERGEN:  You know, after being the governor—you want somebody to be proud of the job he‘s done and the people he‘s served.  And for him to go around sort of knocking people in Massachusetts...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GERGEN:  ... has not gone down well.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, do you think—what is your sense, reporting around the country?  Is this guy liked?  I hate to go back to like ability, but it‘s one of the things we have to work with right now.  Is he likable enough to be president, this guy?  He‘s perfect-looking, I suppose, but what do we make of that?

MITCHELL:  Well, he could be too perfect-looking, but he certainly is very smooth, and his pat speeches and his answers in the debates are very, very effective.  So he‘s a good performer, and he does have that special quality of being able to sell himself, which is something that candidates have to be able to do.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you have to say one thing at least that hasn‘t been poll-tested for people to believe anything you say?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It seems like everything he says passes muster with the majority of Republicans.  It‘s almost like you would think he was focused-grouped before he wrote the speech, or had the speech written.

MITCHELL:  One could argue that, but of course, he then has to also figure out how to deal with all of the things he did when he was governor of Massachusetts which were not poll-tested for the Republican electorate.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Andrea, what really happened last night on “The Sopranos”?  Is he going to get hit, or was he just going to have another dinner with his wife and kids?

MITCHELL:  It was such a clever ending, and it left all of us initially thinking, Oh, God, is that all there is?  And then you realize that, you know, he could get whacked...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  ... very easily, indicted.  The guy who went into the bathroom, the other two guys who came in...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  I mean, the whole sense of foreboding...

MATTHEWS:  I know!

MITCHELL:  ... as they sat there with the onion rings, it was unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  I was in a restaurant, you know, the Parthenon up on Connecticut Avenue.  I got to tell you, there was 10 people at the bar.  Everybody was watching like we were in the restaurant with him.  It was intense, and then it went to black.  David, what‘s your—what‘s the rest of the story here?

GERGEN:  The people in Massachusetts don‘t watch “The Sopranos.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re kidding!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I was just at the North End yesterday having pizza at Regina‘s Pizzeria.  (INAUDIBLE) there are so many Italians up there.  Give me a break.  Of course they watch it.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  David, you‘re just not ethnic enough.

GERGEN:  Oh, I don‘t know.  Listen, people up here love it, too.  I did happen to be off in Vermont in the hills, and without...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not pulling the WASP thing on me, are you, David?

GERGEN:  No, no, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... highbrow on me, are you?

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  This is Howard Dean country!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, regular people watched “Sopranos” last night.  I can‘t wait to see the numbers.  I like the guy.  I like him immensely.  There‘s some weird thing about likability.  Once you decide you like a guy, no matter how bad he is, you like him.  Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  I like his wife, to.  The kids are no day at the beach.  Anyway, David Gergen, thank you for the analysis.

Coming up, presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  He may not be the leading the Republican pack of presidential candidates right now, but Governor Mike Huckabee is getting lots of ink and lots of TV time.  Does he have a message, however, that could sell to a party in search of a savior?  Governor Mike Huckabee joins us right now.  Governor, Huckabee, the Ted Kennedy question from 1980.  Why do you want to be president??

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 

Well, I could tell you that I didn‘t not make the final cut on “American Idol,” but I think you‘re looking for something more substantive than that. 

I want to be president because this country needs some leadership right now

that‘s positive optimistic and that can bring the country together not on

the left and the right and the Democrats and Republicans but that leads not

horizontally but vertically.  I think I can do that.  And I believe that if

the American people will give me the opportunity, we can really tackle some

of these problems that have divided us.  And that‘s urgent, urgent for this

country

MATTHEWS:  Well, this country is divided, However.  Let‘s take a look at all these cultural issues, whether it‘s stem cell or it‘s abortion rights or gay marriage.  Where‘s the middle ground on all this stuff?

HUCKABEE:  You know, I don‘t think people have to give up their convictions.  They have to be willing not to be angry at people who don‘t agree with them.  No one expects to agree with somebody all the time.  I don‘t agree with my wife all the time, and she certainly doesn‘t agree with me all the time, but we stay together.  This country has to stay together when we understand that there can be mutual respect, we can have differences, we can be strong conservatives, strong liberals, we don‘t have to be mad at each other over it.

MATTHEWS:  But many people believe that we should put doctors in jail for performing abortions.

HUCKABEE:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) people in jail for that.  That‘s hardly...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the language of love.

HUCKABEE:  That‘s the wrong focus for the pro-life community.  We need to be talking about what we really care about, and that‘s the life of the child, not punishing somebody but protecting somebody.  The heart of the pro-life movement, the heart of my own pro-life convictions, is not punishing, it‘s protecting.  And I think when we start talking about that it‘s about life, it‘s not about seeing what we can do to injure somebody else, then we change the rules of the debate.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the pro-science argument, that we need stem cell research to protect life, that we need to have controls over CO2 emissions if we‘re going to protect life on this planet?  Those are pro-life issues, broadly defined, and yet you never hear people on the cultural right saying, Let‘s do something about climate change.  They make fun of Al Gore.  If it comes to stem cell, they all say no federal funding.  So if you‘re pro-life on life before birth, why not take other positions with regarding these other issues?

HUCKABEE:  There‘s a great article on the front page of “The Washington Post,” Chris, on new developments in the science that we may be able to actually use stem cells from our skin that would be just as effective as embryonic.

MATTHEWS:  I saw that.

HUCKABEE:  I don‘t know anyone who‘s against looking for cures for cancer and Parkinson‘s disease and Alzheimer‘s‘s disease.  We all want to do that.  And again...

MATTHEWS:  Can you do that and teach Genesis in biology classes in high school?  John McCain the other night—and you‘re a Republican—you‘re laughing, but this is—I never thought evolution would become an issue in the 21st century.  But when people say, Well, the school board should decide whether to teach Genesis or biology or both, I mean, it seems to me you got to make up your mind.  Do you believe in biology and science or don‘t you?  Or do you say, No, instead of teaching the kingdoms of animal life and vegetable life and the (INAUDIBLE) everybody‘s prepared to be medical doctors in this country today, no, we‘ll also teach this other version, which is it was six days of creation and a day of rest, and we‘ll teach that as if that‘s science.

Don‘t you have to keep religion and science separate?

HUCKABEE:  Well, I think the real debate is whether or not the president of the United States ought to be deciding the science curriculum in Dubuque, Iowa, and the answer is no.

MATTHEWS:  No, but you were for things like charter schools and things like that.

HUCKABEE:  Well, but what‘s charter school have to do with evolution? 

Charter schools are...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Genesis.  You‘re going to teach the Bible instead of biology?

HUCKABEE:  No.  Charter schools are not about teaching Genesis.  Charter school‘s about creating a competition in the environmental sector so that schools that fail have some options for the parents to put their kids in a school that might work, give them an arts school.  If we were doing more to teach music and art, we‘d be having fewer kids with their heads on their desks, sound asleep.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, I‘m all for that, too, but why are we going back to questioning science?

HUCKABEE:  I don‘t think we are.

MATTHEWS:  Why are we going back to—well, you said the other night we‘re not descended from primates.  That‘s fighting words.  You know what you were saying.

HUCKABEE:  What I was saying...

MATTHEWS:  You said—you were saying...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE:  Wait a minute, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  If you want to believe that we‘re descended from the monkeys, you can believe what you want.  That was fighting words.

HUCKABEE:  It wasn‘t to me.  And it wasn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  It sounded like the Scopes trial.  It sounded like that play on Broadway right now, “Inherit the Wind.”

HUCKABEE:  Chris, the whole purpose of that question being asked was to see if we could stir something up and throw a—spark...

MATTHEWS:  To see if you guys are Neanderthals or not. 

HUCKABEE:  No.  It‘s to try to find out if we believe that there was a...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what Tom DeLay said the other night.

HUCKABEE:  ... a—a god involved in this or not.

MATTHEWS:  He said, the only reason Wolf asked those questions the other night, CNN—because he‘s a little bit conspiratorial, Tom DeLay—he said...

HUCKABEE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... was because they—a liberal network, CNN, was trying to nail you guys as a bunch of Neanderthals, a bunch of troglodytes. 

HUCKABEE:  I don‘t think he—he—that worked.  If that was the—if that was the goal, it miserably failed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we have got three guys in our debate that said, including you and Tancredo...

HUCKABEE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And who is the other fellow?  Brownback.

HUCKABEE:  Brownback.

MATTHEWS:  Who said you believed—that you didn‘t believe in evolution. 

HUCKABEE:  No.  I—I believe in God.  I believe that God created the...

MATTHEWS:  So do we all.

HUCKABEE:  ... the heavens and the Earth. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  We all believe that.

HUCKABEE:  OK.  Then—then what is the conflict? 

MATTHEWS:  The conflict is whether he did it in six or seven days and whether this Earth is only 6,000 or 7,000 years ago, if you only add up the begats in Genesis, or whether there was millions of years of history before us. 

HUCKABEE:  And here we are in the middle of a presidential campaign.

MATTHEWS:  And you—and you—and you don‘t want to say there‘s millions of years before us, because that would challenge...

HUCKABEE:  And here we are in the middle of a presidential campaign, and, Chris, I doubt there is an American family in America tonight sitting at the dinner table having a discussion on what the president, the next president, is going to believe about evolution.

They want to know, why are my gas prices too high?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you.

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE:  What about my kid‘s education?

MATTHEWS:  So, you say it‘s not relevant?

HUCKABEE:  I don‘t think it is for the presidential election.

MATTHEWS:  Is it relevant...

HUCKABEE:  I think we ought to be talking about...

MATTHEWS:  ... where you stand on stem cell research? 

HUCKABEE:  Only to the degree that, if a president says, I don‘t believe in research, I don‘t think in medical advancements, yes, that‘s a real issue.

But I do believe in that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  2007, and we‘re fighting the monkey trial all over again.

Tonight, we‘re going to stay with Huckabee.  We will be back.

And later:  Should President Bush pardon Scooter Libby?  That‘s our big debate tonight.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Here‘s more of my interview with Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We had a president just recently—President George W.

Bush, until recently, was basically challenging global warming. 

Now, that—you could argue—some people would say, that is anti-science, because you look at Greenland on the front page of the newspaper today, and the harbor is ice-free in the middle of winter.  So, what is going on? 

So, do you challenge global warming?

HUCKABEE:  No, I think the real issue is, we need to take more into account for conservation. 

A true conservative...

MATTHEWS:  So, you would like to see a mission of controls?

HUCKABEE:  A true conservative—well, let me finish.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HUCKABEE:  A true conservative is a conservationist. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

HUCKABEE:  You know one of things...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Teddy Roosevelt started it.

HUCKABEE:  A consumption tax, instead of the current tax, would force people to be more conservative in their expenditures of energy.  If we really want to say...

(CROSSTALK) 

HUCKABEE:  ... let‘s do some conserving...

MATTHEWS:  Boy.

HUCKABEE:  ... have a consumption tax. 

MATTHEWS:  And that wouldn‘t hurt the economy?

HUCKABEE:  No, it would help the economy.  It would...

MATTHEWS:  Would it hurt...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE:  ... fire up the economy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... because a consumer tax would say, basically, if you save the money, you don‘t have to pay taxes.  And people say, God, if I don‘t buy the car, I‘m making money. 

HUCKABEE:  But the point is, Chris, people are going to buy cars.

But you know what?  Right now, we penalize productivity.  We penalize...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HUCKABEE:  ... people for doing well. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get the Mike Huckabee story straight.

HUCKABEE:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  You believe that we shouldn‘t be talking about pro-science, anti-science, evolution vs. Genesis, that those issues are divisive? 

HUCKABEE:  There are issues Democrats and Republicans ought to be talking about they can agree on.  Why do we have two kids every 60 seconds dropping out high school? 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

HUCKABEE:  Why are kids laying their heads on the desk and sleeping, in the most expensive nap in America?  We need to be talking about fixing that, so we don‘t have a whole generation of uneducated kids. 

And I‘m going to tell you, Chris, Democrats and Republicans ought to be coming together and agreeing on doing that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s a way to come together.

Rudy Giuliani is leading your polls in your party right now.  And I have—I have said he has a lot of appeal.  A lot of people disagree with me.  But he is doing quite well in the polls.  I don‘t know who is going to win your—you could win the nomination. 

But suppose it works the other way, and Rudy Giuliani wins your party nomination, a pro-choicer, a guy is open to gay rights, and has other liberal positions.  And he comes to you, Mike Huckabee, and says, I need a governor on the ticket with me.  I need a guy who has different values than me, because I want to sell unity in my party, like you were saying.

Would you be part of a unity effort, if he said, either end of the ticket—suppose you—would you pick Rudy for your ticket, or would he pick he?  Would you go for either one?

HUCKABEE:  You know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking you to back up.

HUCKABEE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You said, you want unity; you want to bring people together.

HUCKABEE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Will you join a fusion ticket, one way or the other, with a Rudy Giuliani?

HUCKABEE:  If you give me a couple of hours with Rudy, I think I will have him pro-life, pro-guns, and get his whole position straight on these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are you, Saint Augustine?

HUCKABEE:  And we would be a great...

MATTHEWS:  Who are you?  This is like one of these old debates with the Calvinists.  Which—are you going to...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You are going to—you‘re going to turn Rudy around in a couple hours? 

HUCKABEE:  I‘m—I am in the conversion business, Chris.  I think we can do it.  So, that‘s—that‘s what I will say.

MATTHEWS:  So, you must have gotten to Governor Romney a few years ago. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you very much. 

HUCKABEE:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a great—I see your appeal out there.  You‘re a very—a very popular fellow. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  President Bush is standing by Alberto Gonzales, but will he let Scooter scoot? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

With little economic or earnings news today, stocks barely budged.  The Dow Jones industrial average was up just fractionally, while the S&P 500 gained about a point-and-a-half.  The Nasdaq lost more than a point. 

After a big drop on Friday, oil prices climbed today, rising $1.21 cents in New York‘s trading session, closing at $65.97 a barrel.  There‘s good news about gasoline prices, though.  The latest Lundberg survey shows that the average nationwide price for regular unleaded dropped more than 7 cents over the past several weeks to $3.11 a gallon.  It‘s the first drop in almost five months.

A setback in the Supreme Court for cigarette-maker Philip Morris—the court blocked the tobacco giant‘s bid to move a class-action lawsuit over light cigarettes from state court to federal court, where damage against the company would be limited.

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With the Democrats pushing hard for a vote of no-confidence against embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, why is President Bush hanging so tough in defending his old friend? 

And with Vice President Cheney‘s former aide Scooter Libby sentenced to two-and-a-half years of hard time, why are so many Republicans unhappy with Bush hanging tough in not suggesting any kind of help is forthcoming for his hawkish lieutenant? 

It‘s a HARDBALL debate tonight with former Bush speechwriter David Frum and Democratic strategist Jenny Backus.

Good evening.  Thank you. 

Should the president intervene in the judicial process with regard to Scooter Libby?  Let‘s start with him...

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... David.

FRUM:  ... he has got a lot more options than I think people understand. 

We had a very interesting discussion on “The National Review” Web site.  One of the president‘s powers is the power of respite.  That is, he doesn‘t—he doesn‘t have to give him a full pardon.  He can simply say, you don‘t go to jail until your appeals are exhausted.  As this judge...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What is the precedent for that?

FRUM:  Oh, President Clinton did it.  President Truman did it.  It goes back.  Many, many presidents have done it. 

And it allow—you just say, the sentence doesn‘t go into effect pending the completion of the appeal.  Normally, the idea that you would send somebody to jail, when he has such powerful appeals as Scooter Libby has got, that is very unusual.  And—and Judge Walton‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Not for Judge Walton, it‘s not.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Jenny.  Should he be...

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Should the president intervene in this legal case or not? 

BACKUS:  Absolutely not. 

I think it‘s, A—I think he should not do it because it‘s the wrong thing to do, but he should also not do it because it is another thing that he‘s doing to—to really harm the chances of these Republican candidates in 2008. 

Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Law and Order Prosecutor, you heard him talk in that CNN debate.  I thought he was, like, channeling some gooey liberal Democrat.  I mean, it was—he was—he was Mr. Anti-Law and Order.  What about the rule of law in this country?

You do something wrong.  You‘re found guilty by the system.  The Republican Party is rocketing away from truth, justice, and the American way.  And Super—Superman...

FRUM:  Respite and pardon, those are—those are some of the rules of law.

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  They are rules, too.

BACKUS:  You sound, to use you guys‘ expression, Clintonian on this. 

I mean, what—this...

FRUM:  Well...

BACKUS:  What...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... if—if President Clinton had been willing to—had been willing to take a pardon, that would have been terrific.  What he did was, he—he just actually violated the rules. 

And this—this—what is happening—what has happened with Scooter...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

FRUM:  ... is just—is an attempt to say, look, he was convicted. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  And now—but he shouldn‘t go to jail? 

MATTHEWS:  What would be...

BACKUS:  It‘s like Paris Hilton in the legal world.

MATTHEWS:  ... the president‘s motive for intervening in this particular case?  What would he say to the American people when he did such a thing?  You can call it respite.  You can call it commutation at some point.  You can call it pardon at some point. 

What would be his statement to the public when he did so...

FRUM:  Last...  

MATTHEWS:  ... intervening in a judicial case? 

FRUM:  Last week, a woman who had been wrongly treated by her husband, went into his bedroom, shot him dead with a shotgun, and got a sentence about as tough the sentence that Scooter Libby got...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FRUM:  ... for misremembering, or you can say he lied, but whatever it was he did, that he, in a case where there was no underlying legal infraction, and where the actual wrongdoing, the person who actually did the offense that is supposed to justify this enormous sentence, is sitting on boards of directors...

BACKUS:  People—people...

FRUM:  ... is a respected member of the Washington establishment.

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  People who lie to grand juries...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s the president‘s call.  In other words, the president, you believe, should intervene in this case? 

FRUM:  The president should intervene, certainly stop the sentence from going into effect, let Scooter Libby win his appeal.

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Why should he do that?

FRUM:  Because the punishment is just so out of line with reality. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  I mean, Richard Armitage...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... if you believe—suppose—let‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Perjury...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The charges...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... believe that this is a serious crime...

MATTHEWS:  I just want to ask you.  Perjury and obstruction of justice are the very charges leveled against President Clinton.

FRUM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They were the basis for him to be impeached by the Congress and almost convicted in the Senate, with 50 Republican votes voting for his removal from office, for the charge of perjury and obstruction of justice. 

Why did it justify that extreme, historic step...

FRUM:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and this doesn‘t?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It doesn‘t justify two-and-a-half years in prison? 

FRUM:  He is—Scooter Libby is punished.  He has—he faced fines. 

He‘s...

BACKUS:  How is he punished, if—if his sentence is respited or commuted or pardoned? 

FRUM:  Oh.

BACKUS:  How is that a punishment? 

FRUM:  A pardon does not wipe away the fact... 

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... will not wipe away the requirement that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Should President Clinton—should President Clinton have been impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice? 

FRUM:  I think the president—that Republicans did right to impeach President Clinton, which all—which would have...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why?

FRUM:  It would have removed him from office, which—which Scooter Libby has also been removed from office. 

BACKUS:  Isn‘t—isn‘t...

FRUM:  But it is sort of shocking.  If there had been two presidents at the same time, both of whom had done the exact same thing, and one were punished, and the other not, I mean, the Armitage question...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You can jump in here, but it seems to me you have made an argument that I have heard before, which is, there is no underlying crime here.

What was the underlying crime that Bill Clinton committed? 

FRUM:  The underlying...

MATTHEWS:  What was his underlying crime?

FRUM:  I‘m not saying, in the Scooter Libby case, that there‘s no underlying crime.  I‘m saying the person who committed the underlying crime has gone away scot-free.   

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  Is not lying to a grand jury an underlying crime?

FRUM:  Absolutely.

BACKUS:  Is perjury an underlying crime?

FRUM:  Absolutely, it is.

BACKUS:  Well, people...

FRUM:  The question is what...

BACKUS:  ... routinely do that and go to jail.

FRUM:  But...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  Why—what is—what is different about Scooter Libby? 

FRUM:  Look, the question is...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  He is the Paris Hilton. 

FRUM:  The—the question is, what...

BACKUS:  It‘s like getting special treatment.

FRUM:  ... what—what kind of—what kind of punishment should he get? 

BACKUS:  He...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  And presidents have pardons.  They can say, the punishments look severe.  They can say—they can have all kinds of reasons for saying, as President Clinton did with—with a whole...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... host of people on his last day, this punishment seems out of line to me. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  This—Scooter Libby is the highest—highest-level official since the Reagan era, since Iran-Contra, to have been prosecuted.  So, I don‘t think the comparison—the comparison with the Clinton administration is fair. 

But—but here‘s my question to you.  What kind of message does it send to the American people when this president, this president says that the law doesn‘t count for him?  Don‘t you that think they‘re just walking into the same... 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  It does.

FRUM:  It‘s just bizarre to say, after a trial, after an investigation, after conviction...

BACKUS:  Where he‘s sentenced...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  ... that the law doesn‘t count.  The question is, what should the punishment be? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you this.  Do you accept the Burdick precedent that, if you accept a pardon, you have accepted guilt? 

FRUM:  I—I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Jerry Ford believed in that.  That‘s why he gave Nixon the pardon.

Do you believe that Scooter Libby should accept guilt as implicit—implicitly accept guilt as—in accepting a pardon? 

FRUM:  I—I—I—you—you mean as a legal matter or as a psychological matter?

MATTHEWS:  No.  No, legally. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, accepting—according to the precedents in the court...

FRUM:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  And this came through in all the discussions of the Nixon pardon.

FRUM:  I‘m really not sure I understand the question.  Like, should he make some kind of statement, or—or what?

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that it carries the implication of acceptance of guilt, if he accepts a pardon? 

FRUM:  No, I don‘t think it does.  I mean, I think you could say...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be breaking with precedent.

FRUM:  You could say—if you were somebody—if you are the person, and you think you have been wrongly convicted, and you accept a pardon...

MATTHEWS:  Well, then Nixon never accepted guilt, then, you‘re saying?

FRUM:  I have no idea.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is what Jerry Ford thought.

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  I—I‘m with you on this.

I mean, look, I think—I think that that is what Bush—that Bush is going to try to justify that, that Scooter Libby accepts that he is wrong, but he does not really have to be punished as much. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, there‘s no remorse in this case?  There‘s a lot of factors you usually get in a case involving a pardon.

And, in this case, there has been no remorse or admission of guilt, even implicitly or explicitly.  So—so, I am...

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  Sorry.  You‘re saying, if you, as president, are convinced that there‘s been a monstrous perversion, error of justice, and things have been done wrong, that you can‘t pardon the person...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you can.

FRUM:  ... unless you think the—that he was...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you can.

FRUM:  You can only pardon the people you think are rightly convicted?

MATTHEWS:  The precedent—the precedent...

FRUM:  You can‘t pardon the people you think are wrongly convicted?

MATTHEWS:  No.  David, the precedent is, if you accept a pardon, you have accepted guilt.  That‘s the precedent.

FRUM:  So, a person who believes he was wrongly convicted cannot accept a pardon?  That doesn‘t make any sense. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the question of whether he chooses to do so.

FRUM:  That—so, you say, OK, I think—because I think I am innocent, therefore, I am going to spend 20 years in jail? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, because a pardon is not a legal—it‘s an extralegal method of getting a person sprung.

FRUM:  Yes, I...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not saying you are innocent. 

FRUM:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  See, pardon is not to say the person was innocent. 

FRUM:  So, you‘re saying a person who believes he‘s innocent should stay in jail?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No.  I‘m saying, if a person accepts a pardon, you are accepting an extralegal method of springing them.  They‘re not accepting acquittal.  It is not an acquittal. 

FRUM:  Look, obviously, it will not be as good for Scooter Libby if...

MATTHEWS:  If you want to—if you want to have it both ways, where the guy accepts a pardon, and is perceived to be innocent...

BACKUS:  And then says...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  .. innocent...

MATTHEWS:  ... that‘s extraordinary.

FRUM:  I concede that, for—from Scooter Libby‘s own point of view, it is not as good to be pardoned as it would be to be acquitted.  Obviously, that is right. 

BACKUS:  But...

FRUM:  And I think—I think that is one of the reasons why I think this idea of a respite is attractive, because it allows an appeal to go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  Whatever happened to doing the time if you do the crime?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, David.  Thank you for coming.  It is a difficult case. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do think he should be pardoned? 

FRUM:  I hope he will not go to jail. 

MATTHEWS:  But you—ultimately, you think he should pardoned, rather than serve jail?

FRUM:  I would ideally like to see him win on appeal.  That would be the best possible outcome...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FRUM:  ... after a respite.  If—if he loses on appeal, then I think that the president should pardon him. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s such an uproar out there I hear from friends of mine who want him, who really want this guy pardoned.  I hear it from so many people...

FRUM:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and especially Fred Thompson, who has made it into a cause celebre.

BACKUS:  Well, but Fred Thompson...

MATTHEWS:  I think he will be pardoned.  I think the pressure is overwhelming. 

Do you think he will be pardoned? 

BACKUS:  No, I do not.  But I think that if he does get pardoned, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani are in big trouble—and John McCain—in the presidential race, because -- 

MATTHEWS:  They can‘t let this guy go to hard time, because I think he was serving the president‘s policies throughout everything he did.  Anyway, thank you David Frum.  It is an ironic situation.  Anyway, Jenny Backus, thank you.  Up next, half the country has an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.  Can she do anything about it?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘ve brought you the biggest headlines, now it is time to see what it all means.  We begin with top political reporter Linda Douglass, who has recently joined our partner “The National Journal.”  You have seen her on TV reporting from Capitol Hill for several years, out in the campaign trail, of course.  Now it‘s on to “The National Review.”  Also joining us right now, NBC‘s political director Chuck Todd. 

First up, loving and hating Hillary.  Even though Hillary Clinton leads most national polls for the Democratic nomination, does she have a likability problem?  The latest issue of “Newsweek” takes a look at the gap between those who like her and those who don‘t.  Forty six percent have a favorable view of her, which is high.  But an even higher number don‘t like her.  Exactly half the country views her unfavorably. 

Can she deal with that?  Is that too many people against you to start with her.  She has another problem.  Only one in four people in the center like her.  Linda Douglas, you are an expert.  I‘m going to build you up now.  Can you win a general election if you only have one in four of the independents—those are the people in the middle—and half the country is already saying they do not like you? 

LINDA DOUGLASS, “NATIONAL JOURNAL:  Well, I think it is very hard.  I mean, obviously this is early, so a lot of these numbers are like funny money right now.  But I think that Hillary Clinton has a couple of problems, one of which just simply has to do with being female.  It is very hard to do what you have to do as a woman and be strong, without appearing to be cold.  That‘s number one.

But number two, this is a woman who has been on the defensive throughout her political career, all the way through President Clinton‘s first campaign.  She was on the defensive about being a feminist, about being her own person.  She was angry.  We saw her as angry about being asked about his infidelity.  She was angry about what she thought was the vast right-wing conspiracy. 

So the country has seen her angry.  I think that it is hard sometimes for people to put their arms around a woman who they see as angry.  

MATTHEWS:  Can you really help me digest why it is that people don‘t like her?  A lot of people do like her.  But why do so many people not like her?  What is the not like about?  You say it is her gender. 

DOUGLASS:  I think that‘s part of it.

MATTHEWS:  People do not dislike Dianne Feinstein.  They don‘t dislike

I mean, there are other people who have been out there politically, not a whole lot, I admit.  You know, Jennifer Granholm in Michigan, although she had a very tricky reelection, Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas, very popular.

Now, maybe they haven‘t gone for the brass ring.  Nancy Pelosi, of course.  What is it about—is it just—well, what is it?  Is it people think she thinks she is better than us?  Just guessing here.   

DOUGLASS:  Well, that is a guess.  That certainly is a guess that many people would make, because she has been pushing back a lot.  She is a fighter.  And, again, she has been on the defensive. 

MATTHEWS:  Do people think she is honest? 

DOUGLASS:  Well, I think that certainly the Clinton team, whether fair or not, has been accused of having an ethical tenure throughout the Clinton governorship—

MATTHEWS:  You mean the 100,000 dollars she made in cattle futures?

DOUGLASS:  Which was something that was debunked during the president‘s presidency. 

MATTHEWS:  How was it debunked?  I‘m still mystified how you can pick up 100K in a field you know nothing about. 

DOUGLASS:  Well, certainly they thought they debunked it.  It went away.  I would predict it is going to come back, by the way.  I would also predict that the Mark Rich pardon is going to come back to haunt Hillary Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill Jefferson is probably going to federal prison for 100,000 dollars. 

DOUGLASS:  Well, and the cattle futures, again, was never proved to be a crime or not a crime.  It was certainly an issue that will be revisited. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is found money.  Let‘s put it that way, found money.

DOUGLASS:  Every other one of the things that was thrown at the Clintons, some of which—what 70 million dollars was spent investigating Whitewater, and it turned out to be nothing.  A lot of that stuff turned out to be nothing, but it will all come back.  And that is why many Democrats are worried about her.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Chuck, about this.  Is this the—you know, Dick Cheney gets away with secrecy.  He won‘t let people even know who visits at the vice presidential residence.  He certainly won‘t let anybody know who helped him with energy policy, although you can assume they‘re all oil guys and the gas people.  Right?

But maybe he is hated as much as Hillary?  I don‘t know.  Maybe he

only has like 23 percent popularity.  Maybe they‘re both guilty of the same

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  He is hated more than Hillary.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about it.  Is it secrecy, superiority? 

TODD:  Linda is working for the second best company in town, “National Journal,” as opposed to hear.

MATTHEWS:  No, we‘re working together.

TODD:  Exactly, we‘re together.  Look, I think she is polarizing.  Unpopular I think is the wrong word.  I think some of it is fatigue.  I think some of her unfavorability rating is not about hating or about her.  I think it‘s fatigue of the Clinton name and fatigue of Bush.  I think some of Bush‘s unpopularity rating is rubbing off on her, and that is something that I think that they worry about. 

They worry about this whole—you know, the stat that they think that an Obama can throw, you know, hey, we need to turn the page.  Do you realize there‘s been a Bush or a Clinton on the national ticket since 1980.  

MATTHEWS:  But people still buy Hershey Bars and M&Ms and they buy Exxon gas.  People get into habits of voting.  Don‘t they?  Look at the people who get elected because their father was famous.

TODD:  But in a change election—I have had this theory on Clinton, watching her in this campaign, which I think she is running a perfect campaign if she were running against an incumbent president of the United States.  She should have—this campaign she is running now would have been the right campaign to run in 2004. 

It may end up being the right campaign and she may get there.  But she is running a much better cautious change, competent change campaign that would have worked a lot better in 2004, and a lot better than John Kerry could ever could have pulled off.  She might have beaten Bush.  

MATTHEWS:  Every time I talked to somebody, they have a problem with her, male, female, mostly female.  I cannot figure it out. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  I look at these polls, and she is leading all the polls. 

DOUGLASS:  And yet she has a lot of support from women.  That really is her base.  It mean, hasn‘t that been her base throughout this campaign?

MATTHEWS:  Not in the chattering class I hang around with.  Anyway,

next up, why didn‘t Colin Powell just resign?  Former Secretary of State

Colin Powell has criticized this administration since he left office.  But

why did he salute the boss if he did not fully support the war?  Where was

Powell‘s tough talk against the administration when it would have counted

the most, before the invasion of Iraq?  Here he is on Sunday‘s “Meet the

Press:”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  After your presentation to the United Nations, and you realized that the information that you had been giving was faulty, did you ever think of resigning? 

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  No.  The information was faulty.  But it wasn‘t faulty because people in the intelligence community were lying or trying to deceive.  It was faulty because intelligence can sometimes be faulty.  And it was not managed properly.  It wasn‘t processed properly.  And we should have realized the inadequacy of some of our sourcing earlier.  But it was (INAUDIBLE) on the part of the intelligence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?  I know what I think. 

TODD:  He has always been the ultimate cautious guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is he covering.  Why is he saying—

TODD:  He is a loyal soldier.  I can‘t tell you how many people on the left—you know, when he sort of dropped these hints that he might endorse a Democrat, I‘ll tell you their are a lot of people on the left who lost a lot of respect for Powell because he did not resign, because he didn‘t—

Because the whole point of him being in this administration, for those in the middle that did vote him—I have some relatives who ended up voting for Bush over Gore because they though Powell will make sure.  And Powell wasn‘t there to stop it. 

MATTHEWS:  He helped sell this war on the two grounds most people bought it.  There was a nuclear threat from these people in Iraq, and it was somehow connected to 9/11.  All this stuff—he‘s talking about all this stuff when it‘s not proven.  No, it‘s the stuff that was pushed that was not ever true that bugs me. 

DOUGLASS:  He laid—During this interview with Tim Russert, he laid this all on the intelligence, which was mismanaged he said, not in a venal way, he said. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, it won‘t sell, because they sold us on the fact that he had a nuclear weapon.  He was coming to get us with it in some balsa wood plane.  And he was somehow involved in 9/11.  And Cheney was right in the middle of it.  It was not the intelligence community; it was the politicians, of which he was one of them. 

He was part of this team that sold this war was based on bogus information, and the fact that they chose to use it was their decision.  Nobody else in the world bought it.  Nobody else went to war. 

DOUGLASS:  There was a lot of information that was out, even right before the war.  I mean, Henry Waxman, Congressman Henry Waxman, who‘s now committee chairman, was debunking the fact that Iraq was trying to buy from the country of Niger this enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- were a joke.  We knew they were bogus.  Who knows which side of the war hawk crowd put up that information?  Everybody on the inside knew this.  It was not a question of taking the bad advice of George Tenet or anyone else.  It was a question of—well, you know all this.

TODD:  It was cherry picking.

MATTHEWS:  Picking out stuff that would get us into the war, and that‘s why they selected it.  Anyway, Linda Douglass and Chuck Todd are staying with us.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the “National Journal‘s” Linda Douglass, who has just joined our grand team here, and NBC‘s political director Chuck Todd.  Next up, 20 years ago “tear down this wall.”  On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate, demanding that Michael Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall, a symbol of communist oppression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Peter Robinson wrote that, one of the great speeches of the Ronald Reagan era.  What‘s its significance? 

DOUGLASS:  What it reminds I think all of us is that this was a very, very popular president at the time of America‘s probably all-time popularity.  I mean, it was such a different time, where you had a president who was able to certainly have the appearance of making these things happening, of contributing to bringing down the wall and to ending the communism that was sweeping through the Soviet Union and elsewhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Reagan was that popular in Europe? 

DOUGLASS:  Reagan was respected.  Reagan was larger than life. 

MATTHEWS:  I wouldn‘t over-state that.  I think they still don‘t like cowboy Republican presidents in Europe.

TODD:  We are more liked than the Russians, than the Soviet Union.  In comparison, we looked good. 

MATTHEWS:  -- we grew up praying for in church wanted out.  By the way, do you know how you knew that?  They had to build a wall to keep them in. 

TODD:  The biggest problem that this president and any U.S. president has now is there‘s no enemy.  There‘s nobody to compare ourselves with, to be able to say, do you really want be under that regime.  You know, it used to be, do you want to be the United States or do you want to be the Soviet Union. 

MATTHEWS:  Being an older member of this group I must tell you, I remember growing up and worrying about nuclear holocaust.  I worried about a mistake made, a weird Armageddon moment in Cuba or Berlin.  I didn‘t like it.  This is better.  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t care what Rudy Giuliani or anybody says.  Terrorism is better than the Soviet Union.

Anyway, dinner with “The Sopranos.”  What is it all about, Tony?  You‘re first.  What is it all about?  Everybody in America was watching this thing last night.  They end up having dinner together as a family, with Meadow and the kid, Junior, and it was just a dinner.  What was it about?

TODD:  You know, the ending has grown on me.  I didn‘t like it.  I like it now.  I get it.  I‘m with it.  I‘m OK with it.  And it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Are we in a dream—

TODD:  He has all of us talking about it.  I hope he doesn‘t sell out to a movie.  That‘s my biggest fear.  Yes, my biggest fear is that he is somehow going to want to do a movie.  No, let it end, because Tony was ambiguous.  He was kind of good.  He was kind of bad.  So let it end ambiguous. 

DOUGLASS:  The foundation of the whole—

MATTHEWS:  Did you like Tony? 

DOUGLASS:  Like?  Tony was hard to like?  I‘m thinking of all the people that he graphically murdered in that TV series.  But I was shocked at the ending.  I was completely shocked and disappointed.  Then I woke up this morning and it felt like somebody you‘ve known for years and years, and they‘ve just moved away.  And you sort of lost track of what happened to them. 

And I think that is the feeling that Chase was kind of going for, not a hard separation, but just kind of the way people drift away from each other. 

MATTHEWS:  I like those world wary eyes of Tony Soprano.  It‘s almost like a European old movie.  You know, I‘ve seen it all.  I‘m good.  I‘m bad.  I‘m everything.  That look he gives; you know that dead look?  It‘s such a great look. 

TODD:  And he knows that he always has to live that way. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the loyalty of the wife.  I‘m sorry.  I love it.  I love it.  That family having dinner at that restaurant, eating onion rings together, the kid who is a pain in the butt, the daughter who can‘t parallel park.  It was so American.  It was us. 

(CROSS TALK)

TODD:  He went into the mob so his kids didn‘t have to.

MATTHEWS:  -- at the north end in Boston the other day, the Italian neighborhoods.  It‘s so much a part of this country.  Anyway, thank you Linda Douglass, thank you Chuck Todd.  Join us again tomorrow tonight at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests include Don Van Natta, the co-author of the new book about, who else, Hillary, “Her Way” it‘s called.  Now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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