updated 8/17/2007 10:33:13 AM ET 2007-08-17T14:33:13

Guests: Paul Hackett, Mark Williams, Mark Williams, Peter Haven, Wendy Murphy, Amanda Carpenter, Leo Terrell, Jim Warren

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Remember “Peanuts,” where every September, Lucy promised to hold the football for Charlie Brown, then let it fall just as he went to kick it?  Remember President Bush promising to give us a Petraeus report?  Fooled again, Charlie Brown.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  The big story tonight is the economy.  The stock market is suffering from wild gyrations.  After sinking another 300 points today, the Dow rebounded.  Still, housing prices keep dropping and credit keeps getting tighter.  Whose fault is it?  And who can fix it?  We‘re going to talk about it all in a moment.  CNBC‘s Jim Cramer, host of “Mad Money” joining us later.

Our second story tonight: Is the White House going to pull a Lucy again with the football trick all over again?  For months, President Bush has been asking us to wait for a report from General Petraeus.  How many times did we hear that phrase, Wait for the report from General Petraeus?  Now we learn that the White House is going to write the report—the White House! -- and that the general will testify publicly before Congress only after the report has been written by Bush‘s people.

Is this a sign of something we‘ve seen before?  Is the Bush administration going to politicize that critical September report instead of letting the general deliver a full and honest raw assessment to the American people?  It looks like it.

Also tonight, on our political headlines, wise words from a strange mouth.  Wait until you catch this.  In 1994 Dick Cheney, of all people, said going into Baghdad would be a bad idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, GEORGE H.W. BUSH DEFENSE SECRETARY:  If we‘d gone to Baghdad, we would have been all alone.  There wouldn‘t have been anybody else with us.  It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq.  None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.  Once you got to Iraq and took it over and took down Saddam Hussein‘s government, then what are you going to put in its place?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good question, Dick!  Anyway, that was Cheney, by the way, back when he knew what was going on.  And the question now is, that guy has led this president into doing exactly what he said would be a bad idea.  Dick Cheney, remember those words.

And coming up more, our HARDBALL debate tonight.  Should O.J.  Simpson‘s book, entitled “If I Did It,” be published?  Here‘s Denise Brown, sister of the late Nicole Brown Simpson, earlier this week on “Today.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENISE BROWN, NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON‘S SISTER:  I just want to know, what about Sidney and Justin?  What about them reliving the past that was so hard for them?  Thirteen years ago, these two children lost their mother, and now you are going—and you‘re publishing this book that at first you said you didn‘t want to have published.  Why?  Why would you bring this nightmare back to these children?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m with her.  We‘re going to talk all about that in our big debate tonight, and also in our roundtable.

But first: The stock market had a wild ride again today, and not a nice one.  The housing market is hurting and credit worries are growing.  Two weeks ago, CNBC‘s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer had this to say about the economy.  He‘s a prophet.  Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CRAMER, HOST, CNBC‘S “MAD MONEY”:  Alan Greenspan told everyone to take a teaser rate and then raised the rates 17 times.  And Bernanke is being an academic.  It is no time to be an academic!  It is time to get on the Bear Stearns call.  Listen! Open the darn Fed window!  He has no idea how bad it is out there!  He has no idea!  He has no idea!  I have talked that the heads of almost every single one of these firms in the last 72 hours, and he has no idea what it‘s like out there!  None!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Jim Cramer, talking to Erin Burnett.  Jim, you were right.  You were crazed.  What did you see coming that has come to pass?

CRAMER:  First of all, you must know that I‘ve traded for 25 years.  I don‘t lose it because I‘m an emotional guy.  The only time I ever lose it is when the eagles (ph) fail to come back after...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CRAMER:  ... a defeat.  Now, here‘s the deal.  This Federal Reserve has been an academic exercise in torture for the American home owner.  Hey, you know what?  They want to punish people who are rich in New York City and Wall Street, that‘s fine.  Fourteen million people bought homes.  I estimate that half of those people are squatting in their homes, or will be.  It‘s “Tom Jones,” it‘s “Grapes of Wrath,” and these guys are running an academic exercise in Washington?

MATTHEWS:  So the credit crunch today is a policy of the Fed, is that what you‘re saying?

CRAMER:  One hundred percent!  And there‘s a guy there by the name of Bill Poole.  He and a guy by the name of Jim Lockhart—that‘s the guy who controls Fannie Mae—these guys are trying—they‘re trying to see who‘s Hoover and who‘s Mellon!

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  Why are they so afraid of inflation?  I‘ve heard the latest WPI annualized rate was about 2 points.  What are they so afraid of?  Where‘s this big inflationary reality that causes them to squeeze so hard?

CRAMER:  Well, there‘s two forces of inflation.  One is oil and the other is the way we‘re handling the agricultural situations because of ethanol.  But you know what?  Hoover thought for certain that they were faced with an inflationary spiral, so he tightened.  That is exactly—it‘s interesting, isn‘t it, that the academic want to relive Hoover?  Hey, look, maybe I was FDR when I was saying they know nothing, they know nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let  me ask you about policy.  Where‘s the president?  He‘s sitting down in Crawford, Texas, on his ranch.  And I have said this before this, we ought to get a president without a ranch so he can‘t go away somewhere.  But he‘s away down there.  And I have to ask this question.  What are the people, the smart guys, if there are any around him right now—what are they saying to him when he says, Damn it, what happened again in the market today?  It went 300 down, then came back again.  This yo-yo-nomics is scaring the heck out of people.

CRAMER:  He‘s surrounded by people—look, I expected more from Hank Paulson at Goldman Sachs...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who‘s telling him what?

CRAMER:  OK.  He has got a couple of people who are telling him that the economy is great.  That‘s the mantra.  Now, there are parts of the economy that are terrific.  The treasury secretary‘s right, our export business is terrific.  If you own a home or if you bought—one of the 14 million people who bought one in the last four years, you‘re not feeling that greatness.  If you work in Detroit, you‘re not feeling that greatness.  But he also has people within the Federal Reserve, and a guy by the name of Jim Lockhart, this guy who regulates Fannie...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CRAMER:  ... who are saying, Listen, let—you know, these guys are Marie Antoinette!  It‘s like, you know, Let them go to Dunkin Donuts!  It‘s not even cake anymore!

MATTHEWS:  Well, lookit, he said, quote—President Bush has said—this is the White House spokesman.  “The U.S. economy is fundamentally sound, and so we can expect to see continued economic growth.”

It does sound like “a chicken in every pot.”  Are they going to just keep saying that?

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  You‘re trying to spook me because you know that was a Hoover quote in ‘30, right?

MATTHEWS:  Why, yes.  I know some history.  Go ahead.

CRAMER:  Yes, how about a bonus on me (ph) for these (INAUDIBLE) Maybe we need to see a bonus on me!

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER:  They know nothing!

MATTHEWS:  Well, we don‘t have Smoot-Hawley and we don‘t have Herbert Hoover and we don‘t have Hoovervilles.  We have a president and we have a Fed chairman and we have a stock market which is driving everybody crazy.  What can be done by smart people, if anything?

CRAMER:  I think you have to sit tight, at this point.  We‘ve come down a great  bit.  Maybe when we rally—and we should rally tomorrow—you‘ll lighten up on some of the banks and the brokers that are really the target of the Federal Reserve‘s practices—remember, they‘re saying, Listen, so what?  Fourteen million people lose their homes.  Big deal.  We got to wipe out Kohlberg Kravis.  We got to slam it to Goldman!  All these risky hedge fund guys, we got to take them down!  Hey, maybe it‘s just too bad that we‘ve got a nation of squatters.  So we don‘t have a resettlement administration...

MATTHEWS:  OK, translate!

CRAMER:  Where‘s Steinbeck?  Now, I have to tell you...

MATTHEWS:  Cramer, translate!

CRAMER:  ... Chuck Schumer...

MATTHEWS:   What does squatter mean in your lexicon?  What do you mean by a nation of squatters?

CRAMER:  (INAUDIBLE) squatter‘s a guy who‘s sitting in his house, and he knows that there‘s no sharf (ph) anymore.  He‘s just not paying his mortgage!  And there‘s, like, millions of them out there.  Now, listen, don‘t take my word for it.  Countrywide Financial, 21 percent of the mortgage market, is telling me that thousands of people are losing their homes every single week.  They would love to have a sitdown with the Fed.

By the way, Chuck Schumer, the only man with any sort of strength in Washington, submitted a bill today saying maybe Fannie should help out.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me...

CRAMER:  Remember when Fannie was created?  Remember why they created Fannie?

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CRAMER:  Was it to make big earnings per share?

MATTHEWS:  OK, let—Fannie Mae.  Let me ask you this.  Well, they all made money over there, didn‘t they.  Let me ask you this about fiscal policy.  When I was going to grad school in economics, I thought fiscal policy mattered.  I thought it mattered if you ran huge deficits.  Now, we have a national debt now of $9 trillion.  It started at $5.7 when Bush took office.  So it‘s not triple, but—or not double, but it‘s almost doubled.

CRAMER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Does all of that borrowing from abroad, all of that selling of treasury paper to China and offshore—does it ever have an effect on our economy or not?

CRAMER:  You know what?  I hate to—look, I...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m curious.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  It just doesn‘t.  Our interest rates are low and things are pretty terrific, in terms of the money coming from China.  I—look, China doesn‘t play fair.  But no, the big debt has not mattered.  It has not been an issue.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CRAMER:  The issue is mortgage debt and whether we think that the people who bought homes went to the wrong table in Vegas, or maybe they were just trying to fulfill the American dream that everyone told us was a pretty good thing!

MATTHEWS:  Have you gone to cash in all your assets or not?

CRAMER:  I‘m only allowed to own cash.  I work for...

MATTHEWS:  OK, well...

CRAMER:  ... GE and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  My fellow has just urged me to go about 20 percent in cash. 

Is that a smart move?

CRAMER:  In the rally tomorrow, I would never, ever look at some—you know, I would never fight that.  We are in a tough time.  If Poole and Lockhart and Bernanke were to take a permanent—not intellectual vacation because (INAUDIBLE) but a permanent vacation...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CRAMER:  ... you would feel bad taking (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Do you miss Alan Greenspan?

CRAMER:  Do I miss him?  No.  He created the teeth (ph).  He‘s the guy who told us to take the teaser rate, for heaven‘s sake, and then raises rates 17 times!  I only miss Volcker.  He‘s the only guy I miss!

MATTHEWS:  Cramer...

CRAMER:  Bring him back!

MATTHEWS:  Cramer, you make the bad times seem fun.  Anyway, thank you, sir...

CRAMER:  (INAUDIBLE) Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... Jim Cramer, author, Philadelphian and great man, “Mad Money” host, airs weeknights at 6:00 and 11:00...

CRAMER:  They know nothing!

MATTHEWS:  ... Eastern on CNBC.  And I‘m glad you‘re not opposite me.

Coming up: President Bush has been saying, you know, Wait until September for a report from General Petraeus.  How many times have we heard that mantra?  But who‘s going to write it?  It turns out not the general but the Bush speech writers are going to put the words in the mouth of the general.  We‘re waiting to hear from a guy.  Who is he, Charlie McCarthy or General Petraeus?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  In just four weeks, the White House and Congress will debate whether the keep the Iraq war going.  A crucial part of the debate will be an Iraq progress report, but the report itself and who‘s actually going to write it has become part of the argument.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This summer, in his effort to buy time on Iraq, President Bush has stated one name repeatedly.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  General Petraeus...

definitely need to be in consultation and will be with General

David Petraeus, who...

I‘m going to wait for David to come back, David Petraeus to come back, and give us the report.

SHUSTER:  But a month before the crucial Iraq report is delivered, “The Washington Post” wrote today that Bush administration officials recently suggested keeping General Petraeus from testifying to Congress in public.  According to the report, officials proposed handing over those duties to Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates.

Today, the White House was backtracking and in full damage control mode.

GORDON JOHNDROE, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress, in both open as well as closed sessions, prior to the September 15 report.  That has always been our intention.

SHUSTER:  Still, administration officials confirm the Petraeus report will not actually be written by the general or his military staff but will instead be written by the White House.  In other words, the Iraq progress report will come from the same team that declared mission accomplished early in the war and over the past two years offered rosey statements like this.

BUSH:  We‘re making progress because of—we‘ve got a strategy for victory.

CHENEY:  Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady.

SHUSTER:  The White House effort to control what Congress will hear and read in September is fueling predictions of an even rougher political clash.

Meanwhile, the violence in Iraq grinds on.  A suicide bombing today killed nine Iraqis in Baghdad, and in Northern Ireland, where Iraqi militias on Tuesday set off bombs in the midst of an obscure religious sect, officials raised the death toll to more than 400.

MAJ. BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. ARMY:  This is a very horrific act.  And really, about the only way to describe it is a lot of destruction, and it appears to be a place where genocide was committed.

SHUSTER:  It‘s also a place that underscores the limitations of the U.S. troop escalation.  American soldiers cannot defend the entire country.  As it stands, a new debate is raging over areas like Baghdad, where the increase of U.S. troops has been the most visible.  Today, McClatchy newspapers reported, quote, “U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent, but U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy newspapers do not support the claim.  The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December.”

Furthermore, the Iraqi parliament continues its summer vacation after having failed to pass a single law that would help with political reconciliation.

TOM FRIEDMAN, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST:  It all comes down to the politics because what is Petraeus trying to do?  Create enough security to turn it over to the Iraqis.  But if there‘s no Iraqis to hand the ball to, there‘s no successful surge.

SHUSTER (on-camera):  On top of it all, the U.S. military says the American troop death toll in Iraq is now more than 3,700.  Still, the war continues with no end in sight, and once again, there is the specter of an administration that promises one thing and delivers far less.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  ‘Thank you, David.  A new CNN poll, by the way, finds most Americans don‘t trust General Petraeus to give us the straight skinny on Iraq.

Paul Hackett‘s an Iraqi anti-war veteran who believes Petraeus should testify before Congress, and Mark Williams is a radio talk show host and a columnist for “The Sacramento Union.”

Let me start with Paul Hackett.  I thought—well, let‘s listen to the president here one more time.  I think we ought to let President Bush speak for himself here.  Here‘s what President Bush has said over the past weeks about the General Petraeus report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be coming back to report on the findings of the success of the surge.  The surge success will not only include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures.

How the troops are configured, what the deployment looks like will depend upon the recommendations of David Petraeus.

David Petraeus, the general on the ground, will be bringing his recommendations back to the Congress on or about September the 15th.

In September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here we have it.  Paul Hackett, your thoughts on what happened here.  What happened to this Petraeus report?  It‘s mow morphed into what‘s going to be a report written by the White House, its speech writers, under political tutelage, under the president‘s influence, and it‘s going to be apparently handed out by General Petraeus.

PAUL HACKETT, IRAQ WAR VETERAN:  Well, you know, I don‘t necessarily think that that was unforeseeable, to the extent that the legislation that was passed by Congress back in May and signed off by the president suggested as much.  And you know, from my perspective, I don‘t really care who delivers the message or the news.  I‘m more concerned with the substance of the news and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Whose substance will it be, though?  Will it be the White House‘s substance, or will it be the military men‘s substance?

HACKETT:  I think, frankly, for the White House, it‘s more difficult, if not near impossible these days, for their spin, as much as it exists these days, to further hide really what is going on in Iraq on a daily basis.

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t expect them to gussy this thing up a bit to make it look like a more of a glass half full than a glass half empty?

HACKETT:  Look, politics is politics.  And of course, they‘re going to try as much as the Democratic Congress is going to try to put their spin on it.  But I think that, ultimately, General Petraeus and Secretary Gates will deliver what most Americans will, hopefully, see as the reality on the ground in Iraq.

And to that extent, I mean, I‘m quite confident that General Petraeus

is going to testify.  We all know that.  And I‘m not personally troubled by

the fact that Secretary Gates may play a large role in that.  I actually

think that Secretary Gates should play a large role in that.  And I think -

you know, for whatever my opinion is worth, I think Secretary Gates has done a pretty decent job thus far in getting a handle on what is happening in Iraq and trying to present it to the American people in an understandable way.

And it seems to me that both Petraeus and Gates are really putting forth a good effort to come up with a strategy, which has really been absent, in my humble opinion, for the last four years...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HACKETT:  ... four-and-a-half years, since this war started, so...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t agree with you, but let‘s hear Mark Williams (INAUDIBLE) I think that we‘ve been promised by the president over and over and over again a report, a clean report from the general (INAUDIBLE) basically been told, Don‘t believe me, believe the general.  Now we‘re told it‘s all going to go through a White House filter.  Mark Williams, your assessment.  Are we going to get a Petraeus report or a Bush report?

MARK WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I hope what we get is the truth from General Petraeus about every step forward on the ground being made by the military since we started this ruined, and two steps backward being taken on Capitol Hill by the Democrats playing politics on this and plucking the pennies off the eyelids of the newly dead. 

Where do we get off having an open hearing on military details of a war we happened to be involved in at the moment?  You don‘t discuss those things in front of the terrorists. 

You let General Petraeus tell the appropriate committee chairmen, if they need to be told, what‘s going on, on the ground.  They have the fight behind the scenes.  They get all bloodied and battled in the backroom, in the Cloak Room, then come out kissy-face with a united front.

You don‘t sit the guy down in front of the Congress, in front of a congressional panel, and look for congressional or campaign brownie points that you can use in the coming election. 

But he does need to tell us one thing very truthfully.  And that is something the troops told me when I was over there, that they tell me when they come back now and that I have heard from guys, even guys with stars on their neck, that every military advance we have made over there has been ruined, one way or another, by some fat-mouthed congressman, usually a Democrat, opening his mouth on Capitol Hill. 

MATTHEWS:  How is that?  How has the Democratic Party hurt the war effort? 

WILLIAMS:  By convincing, or trying to convince us, that we have lost this, that we‘re going to leave. 

Chris, you know, you‘re—you‘re—you‘re from the same place I‘m from, Boston.  You—you have a neighborhood problem.  In a certain neighborhood, you go to the guy on the corner who takes care of the problem.  Why?  Because the cops aren‘t going to be there to protect you if you go to them. 

The same thing is happening in Baghdad.  The same thing is happening in Iraq.  The people of that—that community, the people of that city, have been going to the people who will help them, who will bring them a generator without reams of requisition forms.  That happens to be the local friendly neighborhood al Qaeda.

But they have gotten so savage now, actually literally ripping people‘s faces off with piano wire, murdering entire families, that the Iraqis are dropping dimes on them, because our military men are saying to the Iraqis, don‘t worry.  We will be here when you‘re in trouble and when you need us. 

Meanwhile, “Nancy Botox” is out there saying:  Oh, we‘re leaving. 

We‘re running.  We‘re going to go away.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This doesn‘t help me any.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Mark, that doesn‘t help me any.

Look, the question is, we have a democracy in this country.  And both you gentlemen know that this is a hot political issue, this war.  This is the fifth summer of war.  It‘s a long war for America...

HACKETT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... given our history.  People are trying to figure out how it‘s going. 

HACKETT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  How do the American people get a good reading on the war? 

Well, the president has said:  Don‘t believe me.  I know I‘m somewhat discredited, because I have taken a side in this fight.  So, believe the military guys, because we have a very high respect for our military men.

WILLIAMS:  Chris, the side he took was America‘s side.

MATTHEWS:  I was taken aback.  I was taken—I was taken aback, however, Mark, to learn that we‘re not going to get a sharp report from the general, not in his own words.  We‘re going to get it written by political people around the president. 

HACKETT:  Right.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Why can‘t we get—this was the problem going into Iraq.  We didn‘t get intelligence.  We got intelligence after it was massaged a bit from Cheney and Scooter. 

HACKETT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to get it straight.  What‘s wrong, Mark, with getting it straight from the top guy in the field? 

WILLIAMS:  I will tell you what is wrong.  What General Petraeus and that report need to do is make us, in the eyes of our enemies, look like we‘re 10 feet tall and we‘re invincible. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s just public relations, then.

WILLIAMS:  Exactly.  That‘s how you fight—you fight wars, partially.  That‘s—why do you think the...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  ... Germans had Axis Sally?

(CROSSTALK)

HACKETT:  If I can chime in...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  Why do you think the Japanese had Tokyo Rose? 

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  Why do you think that the insurgency has a...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  ... party?

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think we beat Tokyo Rose and the Nazis and the Wehrmacht and the S.S.?  Because we had a democracy that really believed in the cause and weren‘t dictated to.  You say...

WILLIAMS:  And because we stood together. 

MATTHEWS:  .,.. we should be dictated to by liars at the top.  And I‘m saying, we have got to get the basics.  We don‘t need all the troop formations. 

HACKETT:  No.  No.

MATTHEWS:  You know that‘s not what we‘re talking about, Mark.  That‘s a straw man.  Nobody wants to know where... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We want to know the truth.

WILLIAMS:  Chris, I have had soldiers in the field tell me that they can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WILLIAMS:  ... fire their weapon at the enemy...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a different question.

WILLIAMS:  ... unless they run it past a half-a-dozen Justice Department lawyers.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a different question.

I‘m asking you—again, I will go to Paul.

Paul, do you count on General Petraeus to give us a straight report that will find its way through the White House P.R. people, so we really know what the situation is?

HACKETT:  Look, I think that, ultimately, when Petraeus testifies openly before Congress, we‘re going to get as close to the straight scoop...

MATTHEWS:  The straight skinny?

HACKETT:  ... as we possibly can. 

But to assume that there is one single clear truth in Iraq is an oversimplification...

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.

HACKETT:  ... of an extremely complicated issue.

And, frankly, the—the politicking on both sides doesn‘t get us to that solution.  Every single American wants to feel confident that what our military leaders and what our political leaders are telling us is true.  And, more importantly, what I think that every single American wants to know is, what is the solution?  And I don‘t care if it comes from Paris Hilton delivering it to Congress.  That‘s what we want to know. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we will see.

HACKETT:  That‘s what we want to know. 

MATTHEWS:  There is a changing truth.  As we saw tonight, what Dick Cheney said back in the 1990s and what he says today is a changing truth. 

Anyway, thank you, Paul Hackett.

HACKETT:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mark Williams...

WILLIAMS:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  ... an old friend of mine, who is tough.

By the way, I grew up in Philly.  I did work for Tip O‘Neill.  You‘re right.  I don‘t know Boston as well as I know Philly or San Diego. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, up next: death threats for John McCain, serious business.  And Rudy Giuliani says, if you leave his family—I love the way he talks—if you leave my family alone, I will leave yours alone. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Just some of today‘s political headlines. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the latest political news.

John McCain says he‘s getting death threats.  He says it‘s from people who don‘t like his liberal approach to illegal immigration. 

Here‘s McCain: “I have never seen an issue that has inflamed the passions of the American people the way the issue of immigration reform has, ever, including Iraq.  I have never heard such rhetoric.  We have never received death threats before like I have received.”

Lots of news today about Rudy.  He is saying he can wipe out illegal immigration.  His plan, which I support, is to make people carry checkable, un-cheatable I.D. cards.  The problem is, he wilts on who has to carry them.  He says only people in the country from somewhere else.  My question:  How in the world does Joe Six-Pack decide whether some guy who wants a job is from somewhere else? 

I‘m sure the Supreme Court would rule that we either all carry I.D.s or nobody does.  I say I‘m right, Rudy is wrong.

Today, a New Hampshire woman asked Rudy why voters should be loyal to him if his own children aren‘t.  Rudy gave the same response he gave to a question the other day about his Catholic religion.  Mind your own business.

Quote: “Leave my family alone, just like I will leave your family alone.” 

Not bad.

Finally, an old piece of video has become a new hit on YouTube.  Today‘s most viewed clip is this 1994 golden oldie.  It‘s an interview with Dick Cheney in which he says that overthrowing Saddam is a bad idea. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1994)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think that U.S. or U.N. forces should have moved into Baghdad? 

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why not? 

CHENEY:  Because if we had gone to Baghdad, we would have been all alone.  There wouldn‘t have been anybody else with us.  There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq.  None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein‘s government, then what are you going to put in its place?  That‘s a very volatile part of the world.  And, if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off, part of it—the Syrians would like to have to the west.  Part of eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim, fought over for eight years. 

In the north, you have got the Kurds.  And, if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.  It‘s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties.  Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had.  But, for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families, it wasn‘t a cheap war.  And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was, how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

And our judgment was, not very many.  And I think we got it right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the best argument against—or for term limits I have ever heard in my life. 

Back then, he was wise and young and sharp—today, fogged up by ideology and anger and very confused about the situation.  There‘s a man who knew what was going to happen in Iraq.  The one we have in the vice president‘s office today with the president‘s ear seems to be totally unaware of that regional reality. 

Up next, tonight‘s HARDBALL debate:  Should O.J. Simpson‘s book, called “If I Did It,” be published? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Another wild day, with stocks staging a major recovery late in the session.  The Dow Jones industrials closed down just 15 points, after being down 343 points during the session.  The S&P 500 gained four points, and the Nasdaq lost almost eight. 

Stocks plunged at the opening, after Countrywide Financial, the nation‘s biggest mortgage lender, tapped its line of credit to keep operating.  Moody‘s also slashed Countrywide‘s credit rating.

Meantime, more woes in the housing market.  Construction of new homes fell in July to the lowest level in more than 10 years.  And the future construction doesn‘t look bright.  Applications for building permits fell in July almost 3 percent. 

Finally, oil prices plunged, as Tropical Depression Erin crossed Texas without damaging oil facilities and on word Hurricane Dean may not hit the Gulf of Mexico.  Crude fell $2.33 cents in New York, closing at $71 a barrel. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

You may remember the controversy about O.J. Simpson writing a book about the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman called—quote - - “If I Did It.”  Well, now a publisher has decided to put the book out to the public.

And that has outraged members of Nicole Brown‘s family. 

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENISE BROWN, SISTER OF NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON:  I just want to know, what about Sydney and Justin?  What about them reliving the past that was so hard for them?  Thirteen years ago, these two children lost their mother. 

ERIC KAMPMANN, O.J. SIMPSON BOOK PUBLISHER:  Right. 

BROWN:  And now you are going, and you‘re publishing this book that, at first, you said you didn‘t want to have published.  Why?  Why would you bring this nightmare back to these children? 

KAMPMANN:  Because these are his words.  This is his description.  This is his confession.  And I think the people in this country should be able to read O.J.‘s words and make a decision based for themselves. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Should the O.J. book be published or not?  I wanted this topic tonight.  I care about it.  I used to cover this story every night on television.  That‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight, in fact.

Peter Haven is an attorney for the Goldman family.  And Wendy Murphy is a former prosecutor and a victims advocacy lawyer.

I want Mr. Haven, who has the harder case to make. 

Why should we read the words, supposedly bogus, of O.J. Simpson about how he supposedly didn‘t kill those people?  What‘s the literary, popular, human value of putting that book out? 

PETER HAVEN, ATTORNEY FOR GOLDMAN FAMILY:  Well, ultimately, what this book is, is, it is his confession.  And when it serves his purpose to say...

MATTHEWS:  Who says so?  Who says so? 

HAVEN:  I say so.  I have seen the book.  I want people to see the book for themselves.  And they can...

MATTHEWS:  How do you know?  How do you know it‘s his confession? 

HAVEN:  Well, I don‘t—I draw that conclusion from his own words, what he says, how he says it.  The whole concept is the concept of a guilty mind.  And it is reflected.  And, when people read it, and they see the way it‘s presented, they‘re going to draw the same conclusion. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAVEN:  ... to draw that conclusion.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me help you make your—I will help you make your case. 

Here‘s an excerpt from the book “If I Did It,” which is about to be

published—quote—“I noticed the knife in Charlie‘s hand, and in one

deft move I removed my right glove and snatched it up.  ‘We‘re not going

anywhere,‘ I said, turning to face Goldman.  Goldman was still circling me,

bobbing and weaving.  But I didn‘t feel like laughing anymore.  ‘You think

you‘re tough, mother?‘ I said.  I could hear Charlie just behind me, saying

something, urging me to get out of there.  And, at one point, he even

reached for me and tried to drag me away, but I shook him off hard, and

moved toward Goldman.  ‘Okay, mother,‘ I said.  ‘Show me how tough you

are.‘”

OK, what would you call that?  Explain that, translate that as an actual statement of fact, Peter.

HAVEN:  I believe that‘s a statement by a man who committed a crime as to how he wants to portray how he committed that crime.  There‘s no doubt in my mind that those statements reflect someone who actually did those crimes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s not creative writing by O.J. Simpson; it‘s a recounting of his horror, and is an admission, you argue, if not a legal admission, a factual admission, of having killed those two people, Nicole and Ron? 

HAVEN:  Why would anybody in his position...

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking you, is this a factual admission of murder? 

HAVEN:  I believe it‘s a factual admission of murder.  I draw—I ask

the people to read the book themselves and decide whether or not they brace

embrace every one of those details.  But there‘s no doubt it is a factual admission of murder. 

MATTHEWS:  So, the jury was wrong in the murder case? 

HAVEN:  Two counts of murder.

MATTHEWS:  The jury was wrong in the murder case?  They got it wrong? 

HAVEN:  The jury never saw this evidence.  We have evidence now that the world...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HAVEN:  ... can read and draw their own conclusions on. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HAVEN:  They never saw this. 

MATTHEWS:  Wendy...

HAVEN:  He never testified. 

MATTHEWS:  Wendy Murphy, your judgment as to whether a book like this, which is some kind of account of something by a man who was found guilty, at least in a civil court, if not in a criminal court, of having killed those two people? 

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  There‘s no question that—I agree with Denise about this—this is pure blood money.  Whoever gets the money is getting blood money.

And it doesn‘t really make a difference that the money might go to the kids, it‘s still blood money.  And I don‘t think O.J. is remotely capable of telling the truth.  I think that passage you just read suggests that there was somebody else complicit with him, which means he‘s a wimp.  He can‘t even take full responsibility? 

MATTHEWS:  Was it his conscience he was referring to as Charlie? 

MURPHY:  I don‘t care.  I don‘t care what his artistic rendition of the night was.  We all know he did it.  This book is worth nothing.  But the fact is there‘s some sick people out there who would buy this just because they wonder what he did say?  Was he writing about his conscience?  Did he give up information that some of us would like to know? 

MATTHEWS:  So the sick thing is—Peter is right, the sick thing is, Mr. Haven, is that you‘re right, that people—I think most people—and I don‘t mean this ethnically by any group—I think most people when they sit down, they may not like the L.A. police.  They may think they were racist.  They may think there were problems with the prosecution.  They may think Johnny Cochran was a genius.  But I think most people, when they sit down and think about it, believe he did it. 

The question is, why would you buy a book by a guy you believe guilty of double murder so that he could make—he could tell you his side of how is what fun to do that?  Why would you want to help him psychologically by giving him the satisfaction of buying his feelings about killing? 

HAVEN:  We‘re not helping him psychologically at all? 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not?  Suppose this is a best seller.  Suppose this is a best seller and O.J. walks around with a new found—one of these jailhouse authors.  He‘s now become a literary figure like Norman Mailer. 

HAVEN:  If it‘s a best seller, it‘s going to go down as best seller that will help victims, not just my clients, but all victims.  If it‘s purchased, it will be purchased as a condemnation of him.  That‘s what people will see it as.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to read this book in prison.  The murderers are going to love this book.  You know it.  They‘re going to have dirty dog eared copies of this moving around in prison.  They‘ll be killing each other over the book because this is a chance to have a lascivious murderer, as you put it, describing how much fun it is? 

MURPHY:  And they‘re going to learn some new tricks about how he got

away with it.  The bottom line is, if I hear one more time that this is

going to be good for victims, I‘m going to throw something at this

television.  The point is this is really bad for victims, exploiting what

he did, making money off what he did.  How do you say to Sidney and Justin

and Denise loves them so much.  It‘s really clear she doesn‘t care about the money. 

How do you say to those kids here, dear, here‘s 100 grand, because a lot of people want to read about how your daddy slaughtered your mommy.  How do you feel about that Sidney and Justin?  Do you take responsibility for destroying those children?

HAVEN:  Sidney and Justin were going to profit from this book.  They were going to do it knowingly and intentionally.  They were part of the corporation that was initially going to publish this book.  They were in on it, according to all the evidence and all the information that we have, knowingly and intentionally. 

MURPHY:  No, greedy people who wanted the money and used their names to file on their behalf.  You‘ve got to be kidding me that you think those children benefit from reading how their daddy slaughtered their mommy.  You‘ve got to be kidding?  Have you talked to Sidney and Justin about that personally? 

HAVEN:  I talked to their sister.  And their sister said they were behind it. 

MURPHY:  That actually doesn‘t count. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Peter, do you generally have a position on this?  Or just in this case?  I mean, do you believe we should get books by murderers, sadists, killers of all kinds, rapists?  It‘s an interesting account.  I‘m interested in just about everything.  I hope I don‘t read this book.  I guess you‘re going to be allowed to publish it.  We have a first amendment in this country. 

But do you think it‘s healthy for a society to celebrate the author ship of murderers?  And that‘s what you‘re doing, no matter what else you‘re doing, you‘re celebrating O.J. as an author, as a person whose account of something is valuable for the reader, because you‘re going to charge them for it. 

HAVEN:  That‘s exactly the opposite of what we‘re doing.  What we‘re doing is taking what he wrote and we are empowering victims with it, including our clients, who are victims.  We‘re giving them a great sense of power to words that were going to be used against them, take them from him and use them in a way that‘s positive, to help them, and to help other victims as well. 

These words are out there.  They‘re not going away.  We didn‘t write them.  We didn‘t create this situation. 

MURPHY:  Look, the public became so outraged that the book was actually put away because people were disgusted at the idea that this should make a diamond.  They didn‘t care that the money was going to the kids.  So the idea that you this is somehow now helpful—what has changed? 

The public is outraged.  They‘re disgusted no matter what. 

MATTHEWS:  Wendy and Peter, the beauty of our country is that you don‘t have to buy anything you don‘t want to buy.  Thank you very much Peter Haven.  Thank you Wendy Murphy.

Up next, our HARDBALL round table on what‘s wrong with the economy.  Boy is it wild out there and whose to blame.  Plus who‘s writing General Petraeus‘ report on Iraq.  I‘m going back to that baby.  We‘ve been promised a report from the general.  Is it the general himself or the crowd that got us into the place of Iraq in the first place?  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  What a show tonight.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Our round table tonight of Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com, who seems to often be in front of me here.  Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune,” welcome back  Jim.  And radio talk show host and civil rights attorney Leo Terrell. 

Ladies and gentlemen, let me ask you about this—let me ask you Jim, you don‘t have any thoughts about the economy out in the Midwest of you?  Is this something being forced on us by the central banker or is this something that‘s been bad policy by lenders for years and it‘s finally catching up with us?  Or is it a fiscal policy problem of just huge debt held over seas? 

JIM WARREN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  First of all, let me inform you, Chris, that my literary editor told me that the galleys of your next book have just arrived at the “Chicago Tribune.”  I promise America the passions will be a lot less in deciding what to do with it than with O.J.‘s book.  And I hope the sales are much, much better.  I hope it‘s not a similarly speculative confessional. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s—now that you‘ve brought it up, it‘s all about what I have learned from politicians over 30 or so years.  Same thing you‘ve done, only I have watched how they do their career building part of it.  It‘s called “Life Is a Campaign,” by the way.  Next up, hiding the truth in Iraq—we‘re moving on here because you don‘t want to talk about the other guy, Jim Kramer. 

The entire country has been waiting for General Petraeus to testify about Iraq this coming September, which is only a month away, but who is going to be writing the report.  Now we learn that the White House is going to be writing it and the general will simply deliver it publicly before the Congress. 

Let me go right now to Leo Terrell.  Leo, what do you make of this?  We have got the president over and over and over again saying don‘t believe me, believe this guy Petraeus.  And now we‘re told he‘s going to be Cyrano de Bergerac to Petraeus.  He‘s going to write it for him? 

LEO TERRELL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  No one believes that, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  No one believes what? 

TERRELL:  No one believes that this report is written by Petraeus. 

This report, when it comes out in September, is going to be white washed and censored by the White House.  What is happening is Petraeus is going to be used at the person you cannot attack.  You cannot attack this general.  And this is why he‘s going to be giving cover to the White House. 

Basically, the report is going to allow the White House to keep the troops in Iraq up until the time the Bush administration is over. 

MATTHEWS:  So Petraeus will be used the same way General Powell was used in going to the U.N., reading the script written by Scooter Libby in that case, himself, a man of great honesty.  Let me go to Amanda Carpenter.  Do you really want the White House speech writers to tell us how the war is going? 

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM:  I‘m a little confused by why this is such a controversy.  Because if you look at the law that was signed—

MATTHEWS:  I know, but the president --  Can we show this again?  Let‘s let the president speak for himself.  Let‘s watch the president how he describes how we‘re going to hear from Petraeus. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be coming by to report on the findings of the success of the surge.  The surge success will not only include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures.  How the troops are configured, what the deployment looks like will depend on the recommendations of David Petraeus. 

David Petraeus, the general on the ground, will be bringing his recommendations back to the Congress on or about September 15th

This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t say they‘ll come and brief me and I‘ll tell you what I think we ought to be doing.  He said they‘ll tell us.  They‘ll tell Congress.  Why does it have to go through the White House speech writing operation, which is known for its PR? 

CARPENTER:  That‘s the law that was signed by Congress in May.  You can look at the “Washington Post” report.  It says there‘s two things that are going to happen.  General Petraeus will be required to testify open in front of Congress and that the president will write the report. 

MATTHEWS:  Congress is screaming for a direct report from General Petraeus on the record.  Joe Biden, the others—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there ought to be an official report from Petraeus or from the White House speech writers? 

CARPENTER:  I would like them to do that.  If the Democrats want that, they should get that law passed. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, go ahead.  Let me ask Jim Warren about this.  This is the big story because I saw it on Keith last night.  I saw it in the Post today.  It didn‘t really get covered by the “New York Times” today.  Did your paper get into this last night?  When wow went to bed, this big story about all of a sudden it‘s going to be get white washed, as Leo said, through the White House P.R. operation? 

WARREN:  No, we haven‘t.  The problem for the White House is more significant than who‘s going to try to spin this, who‘s going to be the author.  I think the country, particularly if you‘re out here, Chris, is so divided.  Folks are going to read into this what they want to read.  If Petraeus or the White House spin folks suggest that there is progress in certain geographical areas, supporters will  latch on to that. 

But if, in fact, one has a suggestion that one has what amounts to a de facto civil war impervious to political progress, opponents are going to latch on that.  And finally there‘s a possibility—if I can make a possible Vietnam war analogy; what happens if the bad guys here decide on a coordinated premeditated attack or series of attacks to coincide with this, and one has something maybe vaguely akin to the P.R. victory the North Vietnam had during the Tet Offensive in 1968. 

MATTHEWS:  James, I think that may have already begun. 

WARREN:  I think this is not going to work too well on his behalf. 

The country has made up it‘s mind. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll start with you when we come back.  Leo, we start with you.  We have a break prompt.  We‘ll be right back with more of the round table.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  Next up, Michelle Obama.  Introducing her husband today in Iowa, Michelle Obama said that Barack has the capacity to heal a country based on fear right now.  Here she is talking about why her husband decided to run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA:  I am tired of living in a country where every decision that we made over the last 10 years wasn‘t for something, but it was because people told us we had to fear something.  We had to fear people who looked different from us.  Fear people who believed in things that were different from us.  Fear of one another right here in our own backyards.  I am so tired of fear.  And I don‘t want my girls to live in a country in a world based on fear. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Leo, your thoughts? 

TERRELL:  Very good.  My feeling is outstanding, step aside Elizabeth Edwards.  What she is saying, Chris, is simply this, that, hey look, there is a different way of thinking.  Every time Barack Obama opens his mouth and talks about something new, everybody says she he‘s inexperienced.  What she‘s saying is simply this, hey, open your eyes.  Don‘t be afraid of a boogie man approach.  There are new ideas and let her husband have a fair chance to be considered. 

MATTHEWS:  What a strong advocate she is.

TERRELL:  Very powerful. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim Warren, your thoughts?  Do you know her very well?  Do you report on her? 

WARREN:  I would be surprised if this wasn‘t absolutely, 100 percent premeditated and for good reason.  There should be a sense in the Obama camp that they have been a little bit too passive, especially when it comes to a far more aggressive machine headed by Senator Clinton of New York.  And tone is as important as substance here.  And it‘s all well and good to take that high political road and talk about a new brand of politics, but the reality is if he comes off looking a little bit too academic, a little bit too pedantic, he is not going to make a connection, particularly with a lot of working Americans. 

We saw a little bit of that here at Soldier Field in that sweltering evening here last week before the AFL-CIO.  He better realize this is a tough ball game he‘s in. 

MATTHEWS:  Who wins, Michelle or Howard Wolfson in a street fight. 

WARREN:  Wolfson is a true pro.  I wouldn‘t bet against him?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Amanda.  Thank you Jim.  Thank you Leo.  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.

END   

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