Guests: Ralph Nader, Ezra Klein, Lois Romano, Jonathan Allen, Ron Christie, Robert Raben
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Unsafe at any speed. Third party candidates can make noise and do damage. Look what Ralph Nader did in 2000. He pulled Gore to the left, and then he knocked him out in New Hampshire and Florida. Will he do it to Hillary in 2008?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Tonight: Ralph Nader is loved by his legions who share his reform and zeal, hated by Democratic partisans, who say he had more to do with putting George W. Bush in the Oval Office than those five Republican members of the Supreme Court. So will he do it again? Will he, to use his own phrase, crash the party a second time? Could he make this a four-way race, with and he Mike Bloomberg in the same debate with the likes of Hillary and maybe Fred Thompson?
Also, NBC‘s Brian Williams tonight. He‘s down along the Mexican border. He‘s going to report to us live. And after that, the HARDBALL debate tonight, a familiar issue, the political price that all American presidents seem to pay for giving people pardons. Will this president take the same chance? And Hillaryland revealed.
And we begin, of course, with Ralph Nader. Sir, my old boss, years ago, in my reformist era...
RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you spun 2000 in the wrong way.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, tell me which way we should because a lot of people I bump into—certainly, your supporters say you‘re the great guy, but I was talking to somebody the other night, Stephanie (SIC) Shaheen, who may run for the Senate up there in New Hampshire—she said you won 4,000 votes in 2000 in New Hampshire and gave the state to George W. Bush. If it had gone the other way, Al Gore would be president.
NADER: It‘s amazing, I got more Republican votes than Democrat votes in New Hampshire. Ask Gore. He knows he won in Florida. He knows it was taken from him, from Tallahassee to the Supreme Court, you know, before, during and after the election. The press has reported all the shenanigans, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, et cetera. And by pushing Gore to the left a little bit, so called, he went after the oil and—and you know, drug and...
NADER: No, actually, he got more votes. You know, there...
MATTHEWS: But you were—you were the populist out there on the outer side, and I could tell he was trying to catch up to you, part of the campaign.
NADER: Yes. Well, you see, he got more votes that way. Solon Simmons, who‘s a professor at George Mason University—just have people call him. He‘ll give you the data. He‘s analyzed it before the election. The dynamics are before election day back and forth. That‘s what—no, apart from, you know, losing Tennessee, he would have been president. Losing Arkansas, he‘d have been—why do we talk this way? If we all have equal rights...
MATTHEWS: ... close election.
NADER: Yes, but if we all have an equal right to run for election, then we‘re either all spoilers of one another, trying to take the votes from one another, or none of us are spoilers. It‘s not a very—it‘s not a very sound way to analyze the future direction of the country through the electoral process.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re for third party opportunity.
NADER: I‘m for more voters, more choices, more voices. I wrote my first article in “The Harvard Law Record” in 1959 on obstacles that the two parties have presented to third party candidates. In the 19th century, where‘d all the great ideas come from? Anti-slavery, women‘s right to vote, labor, farmer, populist, back into, you know, the Social Security—all started with third parties. They never won a national election. They pushed the agenda. They gave voice to millions of people who the two parties were not giving voice to. And sooner or later, one of the two parties picks them up.
MATTHEWS: So you and Teddy Roosevelt and John Anderson and Ross Perot have all contributed to the national cause.
NADER: I think the more candidates, the better. We have a two-party elected dictatorship, Chris.
NADER: They‘ve got the thing stacked in one state after another—
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Oregon. Theresa Amato, who was on yesterday, on the show...
NADER: When she comes out with her book on all the ways that the parties can use—hiring these corporate Republican firms, filing lawsuits, harassing petitioners—they got rules now where if you‘re a petitioner in Phoenix and trying to get names for a presidential candidate, if you ask for a friend to come over from New Mexico or Texas, they can‘t do it because they‘re not a resident of Arizona. For a federal office? And if they do collect names, it‘s stricken. They‘re thrown out. They‘re disqualified.
This is crazy. This is for federal office. There should be one uniform federal ballot access law. There‘s no other Western country...
MATTHEWS: Do we have to change the Constitution to do that? Do we have to?
NADER: No. Just a federal law.
MATTHEWS: Even thought states are given the authority to run elections?
NADER: Yes. No. John Conyers has, you know, thought about putting the bill in.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, are you going to do it again, or are you going to quit this presidential business? You going to stay in the fight?
NADER: It‘s too early to say.
MATTHEWS: Well, is your inclination to stay in the fight?
NADER: My inclination is I wish someone else would run on the progressive banner—Jim Hightower, for example, Dr. Quentin Young (ph) in Chicago, a big leader in the health care area. But they don‘t want to do it. And this politics stinks so badly that it drives out good candidates. Good potential candidates don‘t want to get—don‘t want to get into it.
And when you see that, you‘ve got to go in and try to clean it up.
MATTHEWS: OK, if Ron Paul doesn‘t win the Republican nomination, which is probable he won‘t win, although he‘s a libertarian and against this war in Iraq, which is a popular view with you, obviously, and Mike Gravel is obviously not going to win the Democratic nomination—They‘re the two guys you‘ve saluted—then you‘ve got to run.
NADER: Dennis Kucinich, too.
MATTHEWS: Well, then you‘ve got to run because they‘re not going to win.
NADER: Don‘t kid yourself. Some of them are going to go to November. That‘s going to be the break this year. If you think that all three of those, when they lose, not one is going to go to November as an independent, don‘t bet on it.
MATTHEWS: What about you?
NADER: As I say, I‘ll decide in the fall. I haven‘t decided.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell us when, roughly, you‘re going to make this call? You said in the fall. You‘re not going to wait until the candidates are decided?
NADER: No. No. I have to get thousands of volunteers to get the petitions and...
MATTHEWS: OK, suppose...
MATTHEWS: Suppose—let me ask you tonight, if you‘ve got Hillary running—and she‘s running strong now—is that more likely to encourage you to run, if it looks like she‘s going to be the, as you put it, the progressive candidate in this campaign, relatively speaking? If she‘s the only progressive alternative to Fred Thompson or somebody, would you think that would be a reason to run?
NADER: Your “if” is not accurate. She‘s not a progressive. And she‘s probably going to get the nomination.
MATTHEWS: Is that—if she does, is that more likely to push to you run, if she wins?
NADER: No. Because, look, all the areas that we‘re working on—clean elections, the whole revolutionary way of looking at taxation, cracking down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, repeal of Taft-Hartley law—by the way, do you know this is the 60th anniversary of that shackle on labor in the country, the Taft-Hartley law, and you won‘t see any major union make an issue out of it...
MATTHEWS: I‘ve asked you about that before. You say get rid of 14B. Let‘s have—get rid of “right to work” laws. That‘s a pretty strong position on the left, but it‘s not selling with the Democrats. Hillary‘s not going to do that.
NADER: Precisely my point.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at what you said about Hillary. This is in “The Politico” newspaper today. “She‘s a political coward. She goes around pandering to powerful interest groups, on the one hand, and flattering general audiences on the other. She doesn‘t even have the minimal political fortitude of her husband.”
MATTHEWS: That‘s you.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, it sounds like you got to challenge her.
NADER: It‘s not just her, it‘s the whole rotten system that, you know, turns off half the population who don‘t even bother to vote because it doesn‘t mean anything for them.
MATTHEWS: Would she be bad for America?
NADER: Oh, yes. Sure. It‘d just be a step backward. Look, the first thing you ask for with a political candidate is who does that person stand for? Who does that person fight for?
NADER: And she‘s—she is a corporate Democrat. She‘s not the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. She‘s on the Senate Arms (SIC) Services Committee. Has she taken on this huge corruption and fraud of all these military contractors? No, she hasn‘t. She says there‘s not enough money for children‘s programs? How about all the hundreds of billions of dollars in direct corporate welfare, subsidies, handouts, giveaways? And she‘s got a lot of clout in the Senate as a freshman and now as...
MATTHEWS: What do you think when you look at a guy like Barack Obama? Do you find any inspiration from him at all, or do you just think he‘s part of the crowd?
NADER: He‘s homogenizing himself. I mean, someone told me other day that his speech a year ago was much better than it was at, you know, Borosage‘s convention...
NADER: ... recently. And what happens is what he indicated in his book. How do you raise a huge amount of money and have...
MATTHEWS: Is he a sellout?
NADER: I wouldn‘t say he‘s a sellout, but when he came out the other day and he said, if he was president, he wanted to expand the military, modernize and expand the—like there‘s anyone in the world that can come close? We got enough TNT to blow up the world 300 times and make the robo (ph) bounce (ph). That‘s a scientific estimate, by the way. You know, aircraft carriers, Trident submarines, and already half of the budget is going to the military. There‘s no more communist China threatening us. The Soviet Union doesn‘t exist.
Let me tell you something. Everyone should go back and read Dwight Eisenhower, President Eisenhower‘s speech in April 1953 for the newspaper editors, called the “cross of iron” speech. He was the last one to make this point. OK, we can destroy the Soviet Union. They can destroy us. Is this the way we want to live? And then he makes a column (ph). He says here‘s how much an aircraft carrier costs. Here‘s how much a fighter plane costs. Here‘s what building clinics and schools—that‘s the last time a president stood up.
MATTHEWS: He‘s looking better, isn‘t he. Ike is looking better on a lot of fronts.
NADER: Nixon‘s looking better.
MATTHEWS: You think?
NADER: Look, he had a better health care—he sent to Congress a national—a minimum national income plan that Moynihan developed...
MATTHEWS: And Ted Kennedy screwed that plan.
NADER: Yes. And he...
NADER: D.C. voting rights, you name it.
MATTHEWS: I know. Isn‘t it interesting?
MATTHEWS: Nader for Nixon.
NADER: No, no. I didn‘t say that.
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying it‘s a frame of reference.
We‘ll be right back with Ralph Nader. I‘m still going to push him a little bit because I think he does want to take on Hillary. And his new book, by the way, is called “The 17 Traditions.” It‘s about himself and growing up in an American, I guess, ethnic family, like we all do. We‘ll be right back. And we‘ll see who he‘s going to endorse, by the way, if he‘s not running himself.
Brian Williams is going to be up after that. He‘s down at the Texas border tonight. Let‘s ask him if any of this reform stuff‘s going to work. He‘s going to be with us tonight live, NBC News anchor, of course.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with two-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He ran in 2000 and 2004, as well. 2008 is still up in the air, according to what he said tonight. And we have to go with that. You just said, by the way, Richard Nixon‘s better than Hillary Clinton.
NADER: No, I didn‘t say that.
MATTHEWS: Well, you said something like it.
NADER: No, no.
MATTHEWS: You said that Richard Nixon had a great record after you dumped all over Hillary Clinton, so I put it together.
NADER: No, I just...
NADER: Politics is so decayed that some of the things Nixon proposed, including on the drug wars (ph), by the way—rehabilitation instead of incarceration...
MATTHEWS: ... environmental quality, the Environmental Protection Agency.
NADER: He had a proposal to help abolish poverty (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the two-tier education system in the South.
NADER: Yes. Then he signed EPA, OSHA, Product Safety Commission, et cetera, not because he believed it, because he heard the rumble from the people spilling over from the ‘60s. The people got to generate rumble. They got to hear the rumble of the people.
MATTHEWS: He also closed the Goldwyn (ph) down.
NADER: Yes, well, you know, he did a lot of bad things, too.
MATTHEWS: That may be a good (INAUDIBLE) Let me ask you about your politics. If you had to describe yourself in this race—compare yourself to Bloomberg, for example. What‘s Bloomberg say to you when you look at him? You see this guy with all the power and money and success he‘s had. What‘s he offering to the country?
NADER: I think he‘s offering case-by-case judgment. That‘s the one thing about Bloomberg I like. He doesn‘t prejudge everything ideologically. He‘s very, you know, problem-oriented. I mean, post-Katrina I don‘t think would have happened if he was in charge. On the other hand, he‘s not sensitive enough to civil liberties—you know, the protests against the Republican convention and the police. He‘s got to be much more sensitive to free speech and controversial situations. And he shouldn‘t, but he does, believe in subsidies to corporations by taxpayers. I mean, that‘s an unbecoming to a guy who‘s worth $6 billion or $7 billion.
But when I—I was in—in the news, Bloomberg News, being interviewed a few years ago. And he called me owe to have a chat, and he said, you know, Tomorrow I‘m going down and change my registration from Democrat to Republican. And I said, He‘s running for mayor. Well...
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s he mean by this change, the latest change this week?
NADER: He‘s running.
MATTHEWS: He‘s running for president.
MATTHEWS: He‘s taking his time because when you have that kind of money, you can start late. You don‘t really have to start...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not going to satisfy your need for a populist or a progressive candidate. So does it make it easier for a fourth if a third gets in the debate, to make a fourth?
NADER: Yes, because then you get rid of this tipping thing (ph) because he—he‘ll turn it into a three-way race. I mean, he could really highlight all of these discriminations against third party candidates, for example. Even though he overcomes them...
NADER: ... he can hire (ph) them. He can highlight them. He can also break the habit of hereditary voting. You know, Democrat, Republican, two thirds of the voters are hereditary voters. Now, Perot helped break that, but they kept him off the debate.
The interesting thing is this. Is the debate commission, which is a private corporation created by the two parties and controlled, which kept Perot off the ‘96, after he got 19 million votes in ‘92 -- are they going to keep Bloomberg out? See, there‘s going to really be fireworks here. How do you keep someone who‘s probably polling 25, 30 percent? So it‘s exciting. He‘ll bring out more people. And he‘s got ways of looking at problems...
MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like he could open the door to a four-way debate, just by breaking that door down.
NADER: He could. Yes. He could. More voices, more choices. That‘s a winner...
MATTHEWS: So if he...
MATTHEWS: ... smashes the threshold question, then you could enter without having to pass the threshold. You wouldn‘t need the 7 percent.
NADER: Fifteen percent.
MATTHEWS: Fifteen percent...
NADER: No, no. It‘s a private government. The debate commission run by the two former chairs of the Republican and Democratic Party, they make the rules. You can‘t sue them because it‘s not a government. It‘s not denial of constitutional rights. It‘s a private corporation. But they can‘t really keep Bloomberg out because he‘s going to come in over that 15 percent...
NADER: ... within—you know, right after he announces.
MATTHEWS: He‘ll have that 15 percent threshold right away.
NADER: Yes. Also, he has a broader vision. You know, whatever you say about him, I mean, he has a vision for New York City that‘s concrete, 15, 20 years. He‘s courageous on the tobacco issue. Foreign affairs, military affairs, we don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Is he more gutsy than Hillary?
NADER: Oh, yes. What‘s that saying?
MATTHEWS: Well, it means you might be more inclined to vote for him than Hillary.
NADER: Listen, she hasn‘t got the political fortitude of her husband, Bill. I mean, at least he tried to get the Palestinians and Israelis together. All she does is pander. I don‘t know where she‘s demonstrated any courage whatsoever. I mean, she‘s for children. That‘s important, very important. But it‘s not exactly courageous.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think she‘s much, do you.
NADER: Well, lookit, in the ghettos in New York City, you have asbestos, you have lead, you have all kinds of criminality by the—you know, the corporations...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me...
NADER: ... predatory lending...
NADER: And she hasn‘t done anything for it.
MATTHEWS: OK, what‘s this book about?
NADER: It‘s about how my mother and father raised their four children in a factory town in northwest Connecticut in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.
MATTHEWS: Restaurant people.
NADER: Yes. And it‘s full of wisdom. It‘s...
MATTHEWS: You‘re Lebanese-American, right?
NADER: Yes. Well, my parents came over when they were 19 -- new language, new culture, multi-ethnic town. It resonates a lot with people around the country. “The 17 Traditions”—we‘re trying to get families to put down their traditions before it‘s too late, from grandparents, great-grandparents, so on. The family‘s being torn one way or another—direct marketing to kids, economic pressures. If the family is strengthened in a progressive way—and my parents never made a decision between family values, business values and the restaurant or civic improvement values...
NADER: ... have a better society.
MATTHEWS: ... like this. But thank you.
NADER: That‘s it.
MATTHEWS: Ralph Nader. It‘s a great book, “The 17 Traditions,” a man who—please let us know if you decide to run for president. We have a platform here.
MATTHEWS: ... get you int6o the debate, but we can get you on this show.
NADER: And just to finish—Seventeentraditions.com—spelled out -
send us the tradition so that you get the ball rolling in your own family.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just like Russert‘s book, you know?
NADER: Yes. Well, he liked this book.
MATTHEWS: I know. He would.
NADER: David Gergen just wrote...
MATTHEWS: It‘s a participatory book.
NADER: He just bought this book...
MATTHEWS: Everybody can get in this.
Up next, NBC‘s “Nightly News” anchor, Brian Williams, is coming here from Fort Worth, Texas.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The “NBC Nightly News” is live from Texas tonight. The show has been focusing on immigration reform and also border security.
Managing editor and anchor of “The NBC Nightly News,” Brian Williams, joins us live right now from Fort Worth, Texas.
What can you report, coming back from the border the other day? What have you learned, Brian?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Well, Chris, first off, what we couldn‘t show viewers last night—I think we became the first network evening newscast to start off in the United States, and, during the course of the broadcast, walk into Mexico.
And, while that was happening on the bridge that goes from El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, adjacent to us, on live television, there are these guys cleaning people‘s windshields with some kind of murky, sketchy-looking fluid, the way they used to on the street corners of New York.
But it is much more than meets the eye. We talked to one of the Border Patrol agents. And she said, this is an entire underground economy of its own. Everyone is on the make along the border at these 10 different crossings.
A lot of these guys are not just performing this quasi-service on windshields. They are actually passing along intel, which inspector to go to, which lane to get into for the most lenient. In some cases, they‘re allegedly selling false documentation, and, in others, worse than that; it is a drug transaction. They can‘t get in on that conversation that happens in the privacy of the car.
But it is all a way of saying that the underground economy surrounding the business of illegal crossings, at this place set up to keep crossings legal, is really quite striking. We could have done easily a week of broadcasts from El Paso just looking at that.
MATTHEWS: What does this do to the challenge of those men and women in Washington trying to write a new law?
WILLIAMS: Well, that‘s—I mean, there‘s such cynicism out here in Texas now. You hear that we‘re out with a new compromise. It is the last best hope. And everyone cynically says, all these people we have elected to go to Washington to represent us, is this truly the best that we can do?
A nation built on immigration can‘t now get its collective arms around
around immigration as an issue.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much.
We will all watch tonight on “The Nightly News With Brian Williams” with his report from down there in Texas along the Mexican border.
Up next: our HARDBALL debate. It is going to be a hot one tonight, just like the Mexican border. Can President Bush afford to pardon Scooter Libby? That is a hot question, because it gets to what kind of a president Bush wants to be his last year-and-a-half in office.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
VERA GIBBONS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Vera Gibbons with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
After plunging 90 points, the Dow ended up, with a gain of more than 56 point, ending at 13545. The S&P 500 finished nine points higher, to 1522. And the Nasdaq gained 17, to 2617.
On the labor front, first-time jobless claims hit a two-month high last week, a sign the labor market may be softening.
General Electric is out of the bidding for Dow Jones. As first reported by CNBC‘s David Faber, CNBC parent company GE had held talks with Pearson about a possible joint bid, before deciding against proceeding. GE says it is still discussing ventures with Pearson, which owns “The Financial Times.” GE is also the parent company of MSNBC.
And AT&T says it has hired 2,000 temporary store workers to handle sales of Apple‘s iPhone. AT&T is the only carrier allowed to sell the iPhone when it goes on sale next Friday—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The judge in the Scooter Libby case wrote today that none of the appeal arguments from Libby‘s team represent a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a reversal.
Therefore, we have got a question on our hands: Will President Bush bail him out anyway? And how much is President Bush paying attention to the political mistakes of pardons past?
We are going to do that right now, thanks to our producer Jeremy Bronson. Here‘s his report on what happens to presidents that pardon people.
JEREMY BRONSON, HARDBALL PRODUCER (voice-over): The last four U.S. presidents pardoned over 1,000 convicted felons, but few posed the kind of controversy that President Bush faces order Scooter Libby.
So far, the White House has said that President Bush will not interfere with Libby‘s two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the president has said is, let the legal process work itself out. We‘re not talking about—we‘re—we‘re just not engaging in that right now.
BRONSON (on camera): Why the touchiness? Because history proves that presidents pay a pretty price for high-profile pardons.
(voice-over): According to “Washington Post” polls, after President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRONSON: ... his approval rating tanked almost 20 points. Ford went on to lose his job in 1976.
President Reagan heeded the polls in 1987, when he denied a free pass to John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra scandal. Three out of five Americans agreed.
And, when President Clinton granted 11th-hour amnesty to Marc Rich, his brother Roger Clinton, and Whitewater felon Susan McDougal, 46 percent of the country wanted a criminal probe into the pardons.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. In 1987, three out of five backed a pardon for Oliver North, after his televised testimony before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 10, 1987)
LIEUTENANT COLONEL OLIVER NORTH, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I don‘t want to leave anyone with the misapprehension that it was simply a matter of keeping it secret from Congress, as I have testified for nearly four days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRONSON: But Scooter Libby may not be as lucky. A march Gallup poll shows that two-thirds believe President Bush should deny him a get-out-of-jail pass. And, with the president‘s approval rating at an all-time low, 29 percent in the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, he may not have the political capital to spare.
Jeremy Bronson, MSNBC, Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Jeremy Bronson.
Let‘s bring in Ron Christie, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, and Robert Raben, former Clinton assistant attorney general.
You like that pronunciation, don‘t you?
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I do.
And you do it every time.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s the way the family does it. I‘m not—I‘m just
Let talk the merits. We will get to the politics and the P.R.
Ron, what are the merits of letting a guy walk who has just been convicted by his peers, by a jury of his peers, for perjury and obstruction of justice? Let him walk, pardon him, what are the merits for that?
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, the merits for a pardon, I think, are substantial here.
You have an individual who was brought into a—the legal system because there was a question of whether or not the improper disclosure had taken place of a CIA operative. The special counsel in this particular case knew when he brought Mr. Libby into the system, when he brought him before the judicial system, that the leaker was Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: So, there was no underlying crime.
CHRISTIE: There was no underlying crime.
But you guys who pushed for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, you had no underlying crime.
CHRISTIE: Well, wait. You can‘t say, you guys.
I‘m talking specifically about this case, Chris.
CHRISTIE: And, specifically, in this case...
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking for consistency.
CHRISTIE: No, wait. Wait. No, no, no, I‘m going to be consistent.
Specifically, in this case, it should not matter whether it is President Clinton, or if it‘s Chris Matthews, or if it‘s Scooter Libby.
MATTHEWS: All right.
CHRISTIE: You should be judged fairly under the law. The prosecutor knew that there was no underlying crime. It never should have gone in court.
ROBERT RABEN, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I don‘t know what underlying crime means. He‘s convicted on four counts.
He has got a grand jury in the District of Columbia, with great attorneys, convicted, obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI. It is not a good idea to lie to the FBI.
You know, on the question of pardon, it is very similar to sentencing. Sentencing has two components in this country. One is punishment and the other is deterrence. You‘re sending a message to people that particular behavior is a bad idea.
What would a—what would the message of pardon be in the United States?
CHRISTIE: A message that would be the people of the United States that, in fact, that all are treated equally under the law.
And, when you say, what is an underlying crime, I will tell you what the underlying crime is, because...
CHRISTIE: ... you didn‘t listen when I said this initially.
The special counsel had been impaneled by the Justice Department to investigate whether or not a CIA officer‘s name had improperly been disclosed. The special counsel, who has all the power of the United States government, in fact, took a man to trial, knowing that Scooter Lewis Libby did not—did not improperly disclose the name...
RABEN: It sounds like you would be happy if the special counsel went back and went after all the people that he wasn‘t able to get the first time.
CHRISTIE: Well, no, let‘s take that point up.
Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, was the one who had said to Bob Novak, and had also said to Bob Woodward, that, in fact, Valerie Plame worked at the CIA.
Knowledge is one of the underlying statutory elements that must be met to improperly disclose a CIA operative. If, in fact, Armitage had knowledge that she was an undercover agent, there is no doubt in my mind that Patrick Fitzgerald would have charged Armitage for that crime.
Knowing that there was no knowledge, Fitzgerald did not. So, therefore...
MATTHEWS: Can we go back to the merits?
CHRISTIE: Sure. But those are the merits, Chris.
MATTHEWS: If—did the accused here, or the convicted person, Scooter Libby, did he commit perjury? Did he commit obstruction of justice?
CHRISTIE: In our judicial system, he sat before a jury of his peers. And they felt, with the evidence that they heard, that, in fact, a conviction was warranted, based on what that they heard in the courtroom.
RABEN: That would be a yes.
CHRISTIE: Well, yes, that‘s a yes.
But, again, what I‘m saying to you is, why in the world would this case have been brought, when the counsel...
CHRISTIE: ... when the special counsel, knew that no law had been broken and tried to perjury-trap? I just think that is a—that‘s a travesty.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s change the...
MATTHEWS: ... here for a session.
Robert, you pick up on this, the politics. Is it useful to this president, who is in a very tricky situation, down below 30 percent in approval now, to openly, basically, intervene in a judicial process, and free one of his lieutenants who got himself in trouble?
RABEN: Well, it‘s a fascinating political question.
I mean, being at 28 percent in the polls means never having to say you‘re sorry. He‘s—paradoxically, he is at the point where the overwhelming majority of people, 72 percent, don‘t agree with him, don‘t agree with his policies. He runs the risk of angering them slightly more.
The paradoxical piece is, he would probably make his conservative base happy if were to pardon or commute or reduce the sentence of Libby. I think they‘re a little dissatisfied with him right now, that he is trying to pardon the immigration offenses...
RABEN: ... of millions and millions of people.
MATTHEWS: Ron, do you agree with that assessment, that it is better off for him, politically, to just go ahead and take the hit from the middle and the right—I mean the left—because he has got to keep the right?
CHRISTIE: Well, again, I—I don‘t think this should be a political case. The president is going to look at this based on the law and what the proper application of the law should be.
MATTHEWS: So, you don‘t want to look at it politically either?
CHRISTIE: No, I don‘t want to look at this politically.
Let‘s take a look at what Hillary Clinton had to say. I was asking her the other day at the AFSCME convention where she stood on whether she would have a problem with anyone—well, the president, of course—pardoning Scooter Libby. Here‘s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Would you have any problem or anything to say if President Bush were to pardon Scooter Libby?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I think there would be enough to be said about that without me adding to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: Big dodgeball.
MATTHEWS: Why was she dodging a simple—a simple—we used to say a gopher pitch...
MATTHEWS: ... and a home run pitch? Why?
CHRISTIE: Chris, it‘s easy. You know why she dodged this. Her husband pardoned everybody and their uncle on the way out when he was the president of the United States. She doesn‘t want to touch the whole pardon...
RABEN: I don‘t know if that is why she dodged it.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think, Robert?
CHRISTIE: Of course she did.
RABEN: If Bush would like to...
MATTHEWS: Why do you think she dodged?
RABEN: Well, what are his approval ratings now?
CHRISTIE: It doesn‘t—it doesn‘t matter.
RABEN: There weren‘t seven of us who supported the pardoning of Marc Rich at the time. At this point, he is doing OK around the world and in this country. So, if you want to talk about...
CHRISTIE: No, no, no. This is about...
MATTHEWS: Why did Hillary—why did Mrs.—Senator Clinton, why did she avoid giving me an easy political answer, which is...
MATTHEWS: ... I have got no sympathy for people that break the law, or something like that?
RABEN: I have two answers.
One is, she may not have had her talking point on it, which would be a little surprising to me, given how sharp she is. I think the bigger answer is, the conservatives and the Republicans are going to have a brawl in a circle about this question in the general public. And I think many Democrats are going to sit back and watch it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s a third point. We have done merits. You disagree.
MATTHEWS: You‘re for the pardon.
You‘re against it.
We did politics.
You didn‘t take a position, because you‘re above politics, Ron.
CHRISTIE: Right. Of course.
MATTHEWS: OK. Because you worked for Cheney.
CHRISTIE: And Bush.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s all I meant. Let me make my noise, will you?
OK, now, the third question is...
MATTHEWS: ... the P.R. question. You‘re in a working-class bar, regardless of race, color, or creed, Friday night after the president pardons his buddy.
What are you going to say? What do the people of this country say? Yes, I see he got his guy off, the guy he worked with on the war, you know, the guy that wasn‘t telling the truth here. He got the guy off.
What does that say to the guy? And he goes home to his kid Sunday morning—Saturday morning, and says, yes, you know, you‘re right, junior. This country is not fair.
CHRISTIE: Oh, come on, Chris.
MATTHEWS: If you got some clout...
MATTHEWS: ... and you‘re in with the president, you don‘t have—you can have a jury convict you. You can be sent away for two-and-a-half years, and the big president is going to step in, like he did with the Schiavo case, and just interrupt, just intervene.
RABEN: I think that‘s exactly right. I think, if the president...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what people will say.
RABEN: Look, if the president is interested in using the pardon power, which I would fully support, I think there are tens of thousands of cases sitting in federal prison and state prison right now...
RABEN: ... more deserving than this one.
MATTHEWS: I have got an idea. I have got a solution.
CHRISTIE: Chris, wait.
MATTHEWS: Pardon him, but send him to Iraq in uniform...
MATTHEWS: ... and put him on the front.
CHRISTIE: Chris, give me a...
MATTHEWS: Send him to the front. He supported the war. Send him to fight it.
CHRISTIE: Let—let me answer this very briefly.
MATTHEWS: Hey, look, a lot of guys have to go fight that war who didn‘t do anything wrong.
CHRISTIE: Let me answer this very briefly. I think the president, if he had done that, and a man...
CHRISTIE: ... come to his son...
MATTHEWS: What, send—sent Scooter Libby to war?
CHRISTIE: No, I‘m answering your—your—your hypothetical here.
I think that the son would say, dad, justice was done. A man who never should have been brought to trial, who had the entire Justice Department, the weight...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
CHRISTIE: ... of the Justice Department improperly put on him, was pardoned, that was the right thing...
In the old days, the judge would take a working-class kid who got in a scrape with the law, and say, junior, do you want to go to jail or do you want to go to join the Army?
They should say the same thing to Scooter Libby: You want to join the Army?
CHRISTIE: Oh, Chris, don‘t even—don‘t even start that. Scooter Libby has served this country with honor and dignity...
MATTHEWS: OK. Good.
CHRISTIE: ... in a wide variety of capacities.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good. Good. Good. I appreciate that.
Thank you, Robert Raben.
And, thank you—well, they still have Michelle Laxalt listed here.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry.
Ron Christie, a great supporter, a Cheney guy all the way.
Up next, we will break down today‘s news with our HARDBALL panel, our roundtable. Will Ralph Nader run? We got a good look at him tonight. Maybe he is antsy to run.
Is Bloomberg bucking Rudy? It looks like he‘s undercutting him already up there.
And look at Hillary, all the women around her, interesting portrait we‘re going to show you in a minute. It looks like—sort of like the last supper, only, this time, with women. Interesting.
And we will—and who does Dick Cheney work for? That‘s a favorite old question.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
CHRISTIE: The president.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It is time to bring in our HARDBALL panel, “Congressional Quarterly‘s” Jonathan Allen and the “American Prospects Ezra Kline, and the “Washington Post‘s” Lois Romano.
First up, Nader 3.0. In 2000, Ralph Nader took the torch from Ross Perot as the most talked about, and in some corners vilified, third party presidential candidate. Now, as Mike Bloomberg flirts with an independent run, Nader says there should be more than two presidential candidates. And he is calling Hillary Clinton a coward.
Is Nader angling to be a spoiler again in 2008? Could a Nader campaign help, by the way, or hurt a Bloomberg bid? Let‘s right now to go Jonathan. What do you think?
JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: I think that—
MATTHEWS: Is Nader going to go for it? You watched—
ALLEN: I think he is going to go for it. He is spoiling for a fight. And if he is not spoiling for a fight for the presidency, to spoil someone else‘s presidential run. He got out there and started calling Hillary Clinton a panderer. He‘s ready to fight.
MATTHEWS: Are you amazed, Ezra, at how tough he was on Hillary today, with Politico and then with us tonight? Pander-bear, worse than a pander-bear.
EZRA KLEIN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”: You‘re Ralph Nader. You‘re in your 70‘s. You‘ve spent your entire life on public causes. What are you going to do now? Why aren‘t you going to keep on speaking out, keep having crowds, keep getting headlines. I mean, is he going to go quietly into retirement? All the incentives are for him to keep talking, to be as outrageous as possible, to push the Democrats where he wants them to go. It would be crazy for him not to run.
MATTHEWS: But Lois, a lot of people on the political right, even center right, think of Hillary as a liberal, someone of the left, generally. Nader looks upon her as the establishment, as the problem.
LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I think most people have seen Hillary move a little bit toward the center here with the war in Iraq. But, you know, I think I have to disagree a little bit on this Nader thing. I think he does still have a voice. But we‘re going to be seven, eight years later. He is 73 years old. He is a realist, if anything. He understands that this could be a very expensive proposition for him to run.
As he said himself, he would need thousands of people to volunteer. And so my guess is that he is just going to try to be heard and keep threatening, but that he might not actually do it.
MATTHEWS: What did you say? I‘m sorry, Lois. I didn‘t hear you.
ROMANO: My guess is that he is going to be heard and threaten, but that he might not actually do it, because it could be very costly and very difficult for him.
MATTHEWS: OK, two of you say he is running.
MATTHEWS: One says not. I think he is running. He really wants to run, let me put it that way. We talked a little bit off the air afterwards. I think he wants to, but I don‘t think he has made up his mind.
Next up, mayor versus mayor. Ralph Nader is not the only one pondering Bloomberg‘s plans. Bloomberg‘s predecessor and current GOP front runner Rudy Giuliani was relentlessly pursued by the press in Iowa. Here‘s what he had to say finally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I worked very hard to get Michael elected for my reasons, and my reasons were to preserve the things that I thought were so important about the turn around of New York City. He has done everything that he could to complete that. So I have no objection.
Everybody has to make their own decisions about this. Because I endorse somebody, they don‘t owe anything to me. I don‘t owe anything to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Lois, I get the feeling that Bloomberg even flirting with this thing is a direct shot, a media shot at Rudy. He is saying basically, either Rudy can‘t win the Republican nomination, or he is not really the best New York has to offer. I am. It is a shot against the guy who really had a lot to do with putting him in office.
ROMANO: I think that‘s true. I think probably Rudy is really controlling himself. I would imagine that he is furious about this. But it is unclear whether Bloomberg would actually hurt Rudy or whether he would come out of the Democrats‘ hide. Bloomberg is really a liberal.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I was thinking guys, Ezra, that Rudy doesn‘t win the nomination in the end, perhaps, and what Bloomberg is really smart about is to say, if Rudy doesn‘t win, I can pick up all the Rudy votes in the general election. I can pick up all the Barack Obama votes in the general election, plus all the independents in the general election. There is a lot out there for grab if I go as the third party guy.
KLEIN: Sure, we get one of these every couple years. Right? We had Wallace in 1968. We had Anderson in 1980. And then we had Perot in 1992. So we‘re overdue. But Bloomberg is like Anderson. He will take from the Democrats. He is a technocrat. I‘m just shocked. I just brought this quote from him. He comes out and says, when you talk to people around the country, they care about who is going to pay for Social Security, who is going to pay their medical care. They care about immigration, about our reputation overseas. Nobody is willing to talk about those things.
Every Democrat and every Republican can talk about nothing else. Obama, Edwards, Hillary all have health care plans. They all have energy plans. It is straight ego from Bloomberg and somebody should call it out. I wish Giuliani would.
MATTHEWS: The one thing that bugs me about the guy—I wish everybody would run to make it interesting—but he doesn‘t tell me where his passions are. He doesn‘t have a passion on the right of a woman to have an abortion. He doesn‘t have passion about the war in Iraq, which is driving us—most Americans crazy, one way or the other. How can he be so passion-less and yet say he wants to lead us?
ALLEN: Well, I think that‘s the first issue for him to overcome, is to say why he wants to be the president of the United States. And he is waffling on whether he wants to run for president of the United States. If you want to be president, it ought to be clear. You ought to think that you‘re the guy to do it.
You mentioned that Barack Obama, he might pick up Barack Obama voters, maybe Giuliani voters. I don‘t think there are that many that would go to him from either of those camps. And in addition to that, those aren‘t the same voters. You‘ve got to try to craft a message to pick something up. Two parties are pretty closely divided. Most voters know which party they want to be in.
If you‘re going to spend 500 million dollars, you should probably just buy an island in the Bahamas.
KLEIN: Why isn‘t it just a good time for him. Why do we have to assume that he is running to win? The guy has nine billion dollars to spend, 500 million? It‘s 1/18 of it.
MATTHEWS: Lois, I think it is about flirtation. I think it is about teasing. I think you don‘t kiss on the first date, but maybe on the seventh or eighth date people stop dating you if you keep the flirtation up.
ROMANO: Look, he is doing it because he can do it. It is about power. It‘s about money. He just spent, a couple years ago, 85 million dollars to win this re-election for mayor. So he knows he can do it. He wants to preserve his options. It was a shot over the bow, you know, warning everybody, I might be doing this. And so everybody is like going for the bunkers to see.
On the passion issue, you know, I think it is a little early. He hasn‘t had to articulate a lot of these views as mayor. You know, as a Republican, he really was a neutral partisan mayor. We don‘t know yet where he‘s going to come out.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, he spent 10 dollars a vote in New York. He could do it nationally for, you know, maybe 50 million.
We‘ll be right back with—I‘m doing the math here, the arithmetic. I think he can actually buy us. Anyway, we‘ll be right back. Don‘t miss HARDBALL, by the way, next Tuesday. The always controversial Anne Coulter will be joining us on the HARDBALL plaza, and the fireworks flew last year when we had her. You can see that interview on our website.
And we heard from many of you after the fact of that big day on the plaza with Anne Coulter. This year, we want to hear from you before and include some of your voices in the conversations. It‘s cheaper than buying one of her books, by the way. So go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com and send us your questions for the wonderful—let me put it that way to drive the conservatives and liberals crazy—the wonderful Anne Coulter.
Write down your questions. Send it on. Or get in front of a camera and send us your video question. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with “Congressional Quarterly‘s” Jonathan Allen, the “American Prospect‘s” Ezra Klein, and the “Washington Post‘s” Lois Romano.
Next up, the palace guard. Polls show that Hillary Clinton‘s lead in the Democratic primary is largely based on women. Today‘s “Washington Post,” by the way, shows that the Clinton campaign itself is based on women, a loyal legion of Clinton veterans, who proudly called themselves Hillary-land.
As Hillary increases her appeal among women, does she risk losing support among men? Does it matter? And what will Hillary-land do with bill? Today he gave an indication of how he operates within the campaign when he talked about his role in that Soprano spoof.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a lot of fun doing it. But I didn‘t have anything to do with thinking it up. I just got my lines and played my part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to Lois Romano. Lois, I have to give you credit for that. It‘s a big story. I read every word of it, a huge story about the women who have remained loyal to Hillary Clinton all these years since she‘s been in Washington and back to Arkansas. How did you get the campaign to have all the women sit together in this amazing group shot?
ROMANO: I just asked.
MATTHEWS: But—OK. Don‘t do that. You‘re going to do this to me. You hate to interpret. I know you‘re a straight reporter, but that‘s a hell of a political statement to have all the women together.
ROMANO: Obviously everybody has an agenda. Right? I think a lot—they have a couple pushes they‘re doing right now. One is to humanize her. This is a very important thing. They‘re doing it through the Sopranos ad, through the video, through everything.
And the other is women. I mean, they have made a serious decision that they need to be the dominating force in the women‘s vote to win this election. So this group of women sitting for this picture went to both of those.
And I‘ve got to tell you, more than almost any piece I‘ve done in my career, I got so much reaction today, I mean, dozens and dozens and dozens of emails from people who said it gave them a sense of her. A lot of women liked it. There are a lot of Hillary haters, didn‘t like it. But, you know, they had a message. They wanted to show who she was. It was very sincere. I‘ve been following these women for years. They really like Hillary.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, gentlemen, because it seems to me that we‘re irrelevant in this campaign. No, I‘m almost serious, because if you do the arithmetic—and Lois listen up and join in here—the arithmetic says that in a Democratic fight, where 60 percent of the participants are women, all Hillary has to do is get the majority of the women to win the whole thing. That gives here 30 some percent, which is enough against a wide field. She doesn‘t need to talk to you or me, if you‘re Democrats, right?
KLEIN: Sure, but what would—I don‘t see how you talk to a woman without talking to you or me. You look at the polling—
MATTHEWS: This kind of presentation here. This I am woman kind of thing.
KLEIN: It‘s a great article, Lois, and I enjoyed much. And I think it was interesting for what it showed about how her campaign has a bit of a bunker mentality, and it will operate. But I don‘t think, if you listen to her rhetoric, listen to her speeches, she‘s been going pretty populace lately. It hasn‘t been --
MATTHEWS: I hear pre-K, guaranteed pre-K. I hear references to I‘ve dealt—I‘ve had experience with evil men and all this sisterhood. But every time you see her picture, Lois, it seems to be a luncheon somewhere with a lot of women around her. That is the iconography, as you point out.
ROMANO: And let me tell you this too. I think this is a turnaround. Initially, about a year ago, if you had asked her staff about this, they would be like, oh no, we‘re not going to be the women‘s candidate. You know, she‘s running on who she is. And she‘s a candidate for all people.
But then I think they started seeing these numbers coming in. And they‘re getting better and better. She‘s always had the 18 to 34 year olds. But she‘s starting to get her peers a little bit. And I think they realized, you know, she‘s not that popular with men. This is their ticket.
MATTHEWS: You know, Lois, you are in to something really—a vane of new politics here. You know the polls. They show that working women, women with needs, I think is the phrase, who are working minimum wage jobs, tough jobs out there, don‘t have, quote, careers—they have jobs—are with her, because they need child care. They need Social Security for their parents. They need a better break. They need a minimum wage.
But the more intellectual women, the women with some college and graduate school education, the professionals are the hard ones for her to get. Yet those people around her in your portrait today, and the people you wrote about, are like that. They are the better-educated women.
ROMANO: Well, there are two things going on with that. I mean, one is that, at least anecdotally, professional women—they might like her, but they don‘t think she can win. They‘re worried about everything. They read the polarization. You hear that a lot from people. I don‘t know if the numbers support it, but you really hear that.
The other thing is that basically she‘s had trouble with her own contemporaries. She has not attracted them very well. They‘ve stayed away from her. I think part of that is her, but part of it is that generation. That generation had to work a lot harder to get where they are.
MATTHEWS: And what do they resent about her? Is it the fact she stuck with Bill? What is it?
ROMANO: You know, it‘s interesting, because if you ask people questions, it‘s two things you hear. You ask them how they handled the Bill thing, and she gets very, very high marks for handling it as a lady. But then, on the other hand, you ask if she is coldly ambitious and stayed with him to run for president. They say yes.
So, I think they‘re very conflicted about her and who she is. She doesn‘t project as well as Bill. She‘s very private. She‘s not a hail fellow well met. So I think it‘s hard for people to get a handle on her. She‘s protected her child. In 1992, you might remember that people didn‘t even know she had a child. She‘s very—protects her life.
MATTHEWS: What about this thing where women with educations—college educated woman say they trust Barack Obama about 2 ½ times more than they trust her. They don‘t think she‘s authentic. What is that about?
ROMANO: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: This is in the polling. This is in the polling. I‘m not saying it.
ROMANO: I understand that. I really don‘t know what that‘s about, unless people are—I don‘t want to get too psycho babble here—but unless people are seeing their own selves and their own motives and what‘s driving them, and the balances they‘ve had to make in their lives.
You know, look, up until very recently, women have really had to make choices. You could not have it all. And maybe they‘re looking at her and thinking, how did she get to this point? How did she do this?
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, what do you think?
ALLEN: Well, I think that she‘s got—If she wants to appeal to women who are sort high powered, she‘s got to tap that biography, the Wellesley, the Yale Law School. And I think men that are threatened by powerful, high achieving women aren‘t going to vote for her anyway. So there‘s a lot to gain in targeting that audience.
MATTHEWS: I think the more Bill Clinton does those Soprano ads, the better. That makes him look a lot easier to take. Anyway, Jonathan Allen, Ezra Klein, of course, congratulations Lois Romano for the big get. She got all the women together. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.
Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET