updated 8/23/2007 10:19:59 AM ET 2007-08-23T14:19:59

Guests: Chris Simcox, Susan Church, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Amy Goodman, Matt Continetti, Ruben Navarette, Joan Walsh, Ari Fleischer, Paul Rieckhoff

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  President Bush looks to history for help on his unpopular war, but will comparing Iraq to Vietnam really rally the country?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, and welcome to HARDBALL.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in for Chris Matthews.

The big story tonight: President Bush tells the VFW that America‘s experience in Vietnam is exactly the reason we should stay in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America‘s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Fourteen more American soldiers died in a helicopter crash this morning in Iraq.  The cause is under investigation.  In a moment, we‘ll talk with former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who‘s now the spokesman for a pro-war pressure group called Freedom‘s Watch.  We‘ll also have reaction from Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Our second story tonight: Who should be held responsible for crimes committed by illegal immigrants?

In our political headlines, Fred Thompson targets Rudy Giuliani‘s record on gun control.  And how about this for a debate.  Was Michelle Obama taking a shot at Hillary Clinton when she talked about getting your own house in order before getting into the White House?  That‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL debate.

We‘ll get to all of that with our roundtable later on, but first HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty-five years after America was torn apart by the 58,000 U.S. troops killed in the Vietnam war, today President Bush reopened the wounds.  He argued to veterans in Kansas City that the United States got out of Vietnam too soon.

BUSH:  The one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America‘s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens.

SHUSTER:  The president‘s speech, designed to bolster his argument for staying in Iraq, was remarkable politically and because of president‘s the take on history.

BUSH:  And many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

SHUSTER:  And just a few sentences later...

BUSH:  In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution.

SHUSTER:  But it‘s a fact that the murderous rule in Cambodia began well before the U.S. withdrew from Southeast Asia, and many historians argue that the United States made the violence worse by going into Cambodia and Vietnam in the first place.

BUSH:  There‘s another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam...

SHUSTER:  The president then said the pullout from Southeast Asia emboldened America‘s enemies, but he wasn‘t talking about enemies at the time, including communists and the Soviet Union during the cold war.  Instead, President Bush spoke of Osama bin Laden, who mentioned Vietnam a few years ago while declaring America would be weak in fighting al Qaeda.

BUSH:  Some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price for American credibility, but the terrorists see it differently.

SHUSTER:  Bin Laden, however, is running al Qaeda from somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not from inside Iraq.  Furthermore, the president‘s argument today is at odds with his view of the Iraq war a few years ago.  A year into the war, the insurgency was growing and the U.S. death toll was rising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

BUSH:  I think the analogy is false.  I also happen to think that analogy is—sends the wrong message to troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy.

SHUSTER:  In just four weeks, President Bush will deliver his report to Congress on the progress the administration sees in Iraq, and with Iraq making no political progress, the Bush and administration is increasingly touting security efforts.  But President Bush is on the defensive and under enormous pressure, and today, while trying to show support for embattled Iraqi leader Nouri al Maliki, the president delivered a mixed message in the same sentence.

BUSH:  Prime Minister Maliki‘s a good guy, a good man, with a difficult job, and I support him.  And it‘s not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position.

SHUSTER:  However, Democrats were most concerned and angry today about the president‘s invocation of Vietnam.  Senator John Kerry called it, quote, “as irresponsible as it is ignorant of the realities of both wars.  Half the soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial wall died after the politicians knew our strategy would to work.  The lesson is to change the strategy, not just change the rhetoric.”

(on camera):  White House officials expected the criticism today and were so convinced that invoking Vietnam would help make their case about Iraq that they mailed out excerpts of the president‘s speech last night.  Still, the mere mention of Vietnam in arguing for more sacrifice in Iraq is fraught with potential political peril.  After all, President Bush didn‘t serve in Vietnam, and Vice President Cheney received multiple deferments, telling reporters a few years ago that in the 1960s, he had other priorities than military service.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BARNICLE:  Thanks David.

Ari Fleischer is the former press secretary for President Bush.  He‘s now the spokesman for a group called Freedom‘s Watch, which has just unveiled a 20-state, $15 million ad campaign in support of the war.

Ari, 20 states, $15 million—that‘s more than a handful of states.  That‘s a lot of money.  Which—well, how did you pick the states, and what‘s your objective?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, Mike, we picked the states in places where it‘s important for Democrats and Republicans who still may vote to support this war.  And we want to get the message to their constituents that surrender is not an option, that it would be such a catastrophe for our country if we were to pull out of Iraq and Iraq turned into a bloodbath where terrorists were able to gather and attack us even more after we were gone.

That‘s the fear, and that‘s why we picked the states and the places that we have.  It‘s a $15 million ad buy, as you said.  It‘s rather substantial.

BARNICLE:  Like, what—what kind of—give me a few of the states.

FLEISCHER:  Well, it‘s more than 20 states, and it‘s in those placed, as I indicated, where there are still chances of members of Congress voting to keep he troops there, voting to fully fund the troops and not abandon the mission.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  ... and Democrats, right?

FLEISCHER:  Absolutely right, Both Republican and Democrat.  We won‘t do it in places where people have already concluded that the war cannot be won and there‘s no chance of getting their vote.

BARNICLE:  The ads are very powerful.  I looked at a couple of them this afternoon.  I‘d like to take a look with you and with people watching right now, at one of hem.  Here‘s one of the new ads by Freedom‘s Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I reenlisted after 9/11 because I don‘t want my sons to see what I saw.  I want them to be free and safe.  I know what I lost.  I also know that if we pull out now, everything I‘ve given and sacrificed will mean nothing.  They attacked us, and they will again.  They won‘t stop in Iraq.  We are winning on the ground and making real progress.  It‘s no time to quit.  It‘s no time for politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  What is that soldier‘s name, Ari?

FLEISCHER:  Mike, I don‘t have his name in front of me.  There are four people, soldiers and their parents who have lost children in battle, as well, who...

BARNICLE:  Well, you know...

FLEISCHER:  ... have decided they wanted to put their message forward.

BARNICLE:  God bless him and God bless his service.  We need more noble Americans like that.  But I‘d like to ask you, how many Iraqis do you figure were on that plane that you showed the shot of flying into the World Trade Center?

FLEISCHER:  Mike, it is not about the 2002 decision to go into Iraq.  It‘s about terrorism that exists in Iraq today.  It‘s about al Qaeda shooting at our troops today and whether or not Congress is going to abandon this mission and leave Iraq to these terrorists.  The 2002 debate is an old, stale debate about why we went into Iraq with Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.

BARNICLE:  But Ari...

FLEISCHER:  You can relive that all you want.  Our troops aren‘t reliving that.  They‘re living the fight today.

BARNICLE:  Ari, the ad is so powerful—the visual aspect of the ad is so powerful, with that wonderful, noble young man and the sight of that plane flying into the World Trade Center, filled with Saudi terrorists, not Iraqis, could lead several Americans, I would expect, to think that, Oh, Iraq was in on 9/11.  Don‘t you think so?

FLEISCHER:  Mike, you‘re stuck in the 2001-2002 timetable and debate.  It is so far beyond that debate.  That‘s like saying we have never should have gone into Germany because, after all, it was just the Japanese who attacked at Pearl Harbor.  The threat in Iraq today is a threat that comes from al Qaeda.  It comes from separatists.  It comes from Sunni and Shia.  And the problem is, if we cut now and we surrender now, that area will explode, and of course we‘ll be in greater risk, at greater danger from terrorists who gather there.  Of course we will, not only in Afghanistan, but there, as well.

BARNICLE:  Then clearly, you know, using the phrase cutting and running, you must be in favor of a draft to repair the broken military.

FLEISCHER:  Well, I noticed in your introduction to this you called us a pro-war pressure group.  So you know, you use your words, I‘ll use my words.  But of course, what alternative is there other than—if they abandon troops, if they cut the funding, if they attach so many strings to the troops that they can‘t fight to win, that‘s cutting and running.

BARNICLE:  Define winning for me.

FLEISCHER:  Winning means that we can provide enough of a stable military environment for the Iraqis to increasingly take on their own affairs.  Winning means that when the military says the time is right, we start to withdraw our troops.

BARNICLE:  So that‘s a pretty limitless timetable there that you‘ve just defined.  How are we going to repair the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, which are clearly at the breaking point because of Iraq?

FLEISCHER:  Mike, I don‘t remember anybody—I wasn‘t alive, but during World War II, saying, We can‘t fight unlimited amounts of time.  There‘s no limit.  I don‘t remember in the cold war people saying, Let‘s quit because who knows how long this will go.

BARNICLE:  Do you remember...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Ari...

FLEISCHER:  Every time our nation‘s been tested...

BARNICLE:  Ari, do you remember...

FLEISCHER:  ... thanks to the people in our military...

BARNICLE:  Do you remember...

FLEISCHER:  ... we‘ve always prevailed.  Let‘s hope that this...

BARNICLE:  Do you remember...

FLEISCHER:  ... doesn‘t become a time...

BARNICLE:  Do you remember reading...

FLEISCHER:  ... when they quit and withdraw.

BARNICLE:  Ari, do you remember reading about Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking the country to make sacrifices for World War Two?  Do you remember that?

FLEISCHER:  I think everybody in this country is making a sacrifice. 

We all do every time a soldier loses his or her life.

BARNICLE:  What‘s president—what‘s President Bush, your former employer, asked us to do, other than go shopping?

FLEISCHER:  No, Mike.  You‘re missing the point about this military is all of our military, both the people who oppose the war and the people who are for winning this war.  And every time a life is lost, we all lose.  We all have made a sacrifice, some more than others.  And what you‘re hearing in these ads are the messages of the people who‘ve lost their children but still want to win this war, and that‘s why this is so important.

BARNICLE:  Ari Fleischer, thanks very much for your time tonight.

Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director...

FLEISCHER:  Thank you, Mike.

BARNICLE:  ... of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Paul, what did you think of the president‘s attempt at a history lesson today down at the VFW convention?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA:  Well, Mike, I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.  It seems like they‘re pulling out all the stops.  And since Bush has repeatedly refused the analogy between Iraq and Vietnam, I was pretty surprised.  He hasn‘t served on the ground in Vietnam.  He doesn‘t really have a great sense of history.  And I think it‘s really a reach.  After we pulled out of Vietnam, communism didn‘t take over the world, and the Viet Cong didn‘t come home and attack us on U.S. soil.  And I don‘t think that al Qaeda‘s necessarily going to hit us back here because we pull out of Iraq.  If they do, it might be because of Iraq.  And I think it‘s a really convoluted argument and a sign of a real desperate attempt on the administration to try to win over the American people.

BARNICLE:  Did you get a chance to either listen to the president or perhaps read the text of his remarks today?

RIECKHOFF:  I did.  And the thing that really upset me, to be honest with you, Mike, is the fact that he spoke to the largest gathering of veterans in America and didn‘t talk about veterans‘ issues.  He didn‘t address the two pressing issues facing the veterans of this country, the fact that the secretary of VA, Jim Nicholson, has resigned and we don‘t know who the replacement‘s going to be, and Walter Reed.

He didn‘t mention Walter Reed.  He didn‘t talk about how he‘s going to fix it.  And he didn‘t mentioned the Dole-Shalala commission, which laid out six very clear steps that can be implemented to fix the problems at Walter Reed.  The ball is in his court, and we‘re waiting for him to implement the Dole-Shalala recommendations, and he didn‘t even mention it.court.

BARNICLE:  Well, he was also—I was struck by the fact that he really didn‘t get into an explanation, a defense of the surge in Iraq and how that‘s going and what‘s going on there, not really.  What did you think about that?

RIECKHOFF:  You know, if I was him, I wouldn‘t put my eggs in that basket, either, necessarily.  I think the surge has shown some incremental security improvements in places like Anbar, but it‘s not a comprehensive solution.  It‘s not this silver bullet that‘s going to fix everything in Iraq and give every kid a puppy.  You know, it‘s a really—it‘s another piece of middling around the edges.  It may show incremental improvements, but it‘s not going to solve the political problems that are really at the core of what‘s happening inside Iraq.

And I think, you know, we‘re all going to wait for General Petraeus to deliver this magnificent report that‘s going to be in part crafted by the White House, and we‘re still going to have a discussion.  It‘s not going to be the end-all, be-all, and we‘re still going to have a number of troops in harm‘s way without a clear strategy and without a clear definition of victory.

BARNICLE:  General Petraeus is a pretty legitimate guy.  I mean, you‘re not saying that the White House is going to write something for him to say, are you?

RIECKHOFF:  Oh, I think his report‘s different going to go by the White House.  It seems like they‘re rolling him out here to be their fall guy.  It reminds me of when they rolled Colin Powell out to the U.N. to make the case for weapons of mass destruction.  I mean, it‘s really a desperate measure, I think.  You know, should—these guys are great military analysts.  Petraeus is respected within the military community.  I think if you read between the lines, you‘ll see from him that this is not going to be easy, it‘s not going to be over quickly, and the surge may show some incremental improvements, but it‘s not going to be the save-all for all things that are a problem in Iraq right now.

BARNICLE:  Paul, I don‘t know whether you have a monitor in the studio where you are, but did you get a chance to see the ad that we just showed when Ari Fleischer was on?

RIECKHOFF:  Yes.  And it really bothered me.  What bothered me the most is that Ari Fleischer didn‘t even know the guy‘s name.  He‘s willing to run a multi-million-dollar campaign utilizing the personal story of a soldier, and he couldn‘t tell you on national TV what that soldier‘s name is.  It‘s a problematic trend.  People on both sides of the aisle, but especially the president and this administration, have continued to use troops as a political prop, as a backdrop for political rhetoric.  It‘s why the president gave such an impassioned speech today in front of the VFW.  It‘s why this ad carries so much weight at a visceral level.  And it really bothers me because our troops are not political props and they‘re not chew toys.

BARNICLE:  Paul Rieckhoff, thanks very much for joining us.

RIECKHOFF:  Thank you.

BARNICLE:  Coming up: Who‘s to blame when an illegal immigrant commits a crime?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Now to the truly terrible story about that schoolyard slaying, three young friends in Newark, New Jersey.  It has stirred controversy because the prime suspects in the climb are illegal immigrants.

First it was Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo who flew into Newark to denounce the city‘s leaders as complicit in the murders because they had declared Newark a sanctuary for immigrants.  Mr. Tancredo just gave opportunism a bad name.

Then presidential hopeful Mitt Romney issued new radio ads criticizing what he calls sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.  And today, New Jersey state attorney general ordered all New Jersey law enforcement authorities to notify federal immigration officials whenever an illegal immigrant is arrested for an indictable offense or drunken driving.  So who should be accountable for crimes committed by illegal immigrants?

Chris Simcox is a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national citizens‘ neighborhood watch securing the American border.  And attorney Susan Church is an immigration lawyer specializing I the intersection of immigration and criminal defense.

Chris, let‘s start with you.  The degree of difficulty and complexity in immigration legislation, or the lack of immigration legislation, I guess you could say—who‘s responsible here?  I mean, how can you blame local officials when a crime, a horrible crime like this is committed?

CHRIS SIMCOX, MINUTEMAN CIVIL DEFENSE CORPS:  Well, it‘s clear that Carranza pulled the trigger and the personal responsibility needs to be put on him.  But still, we have local law enforcement across the country that have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.  And in this case, when this person, as many others—this story is repeated every day across this country, that in the course of duty, when local law enforcement interact with someone who they suspect may not be in this country illegally (SIC), their immigration status should be checked.  That will keep them incarcerated until deportation hearings can take place and get them off of our streets.

So local law enforcement, the state, the governor, Mr. Corzine, as well as Mayor Booker all know that they have the ability and they have the right to enforce federal immigration laws.  They‘re obstructing law enforcement when they tell them to stand down.

BARNICLE:  Susan, Chris‘ points that he just raised have resonated throughout the country. 

And, yet, part of me, from—from covering so many crimes, small crimes and big crimes, murder to breaking and entering, I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that a lot of this might be placed on the shoulders of some poor booking sergeant on a Saturday night when an illegal immigrant is brought in. 

How complex is this issue in terms of identifying illegals, so they can be deported? 

SUSAN CHURCH, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY:  It is incredibly complex. 

I mean, I‘m an immigration lawyer.  I spend a lot of time every day trying to even find out what somebody‘s status is.  Imagine what, exactly as you said, the booking officer has to do in the middle of the night when he‘s faced with an immigrant in front of him. 

There are so many different types of status.  Asylum seeker, they have no paperwork.  Someone married to a U.S. citizen waiting for their green card has very little paperwork.  There are so many people in this country who don‘t have paperwork to show what their status is.  And, if they did have paperwork, a booking sergeant isn‘t going to be to read it and understand it anyways. 

I mean, I charge a consultation fee just to look at somebody‘s paperwork and try to find out what their status is.  And the reason why these sanctuary cities exist is partly because of that, because it is not the responsibility of these local police officers.  But, more importantly, they need the cooperation of immigrants. 

Immigrants comprise 50 to 60 percent of most of our major cities‘ populations.  There is a group called the Major Cities Chiefs, and they are the one who actually came up with the idea of the sanctuary cities.  It wasn‘t some local city counselor who‘s particularly progressive or liberal.  It was the police officers themselves who created the idea of these sanctuary cities, because they need the cooperation of immigrants. 

SIMCOX:  No.

CHURCH:  If they‘re going to act as an immigration officer, how in the world are they going to get immigrants to cooperate when they are victims of crime, to become witnesses to crimes, and to cooperate with the court system? 

BARNICLE:  So—so, Chris, despite the righteousness of your cause, and, clearly the popularity of your cause, and the resonance of this issue, how do we deal with all this stuff, in your mind?  How do we deal with these things? 

SIMCOX:  Well, you deal with it with comprehensive enforcement of the laws.

First, we need to secure our borders.  That is clear.  Americans want that more than anything.  And that responsibility falls on the president and Congress.  But, when—when you tell local law enforcement that—and this mantra that Americans are tired of hearing, that it is a federal issue, no, it is not. 

And—and federal—the federal government has given local law enforcement, as well as state governments, the authority to enforce this.  We have the 287-G program.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security are saying, we want to help, and we need your help in this fight on terrorism and against these heinous crimes that are being committed by gang members.   

BARNICLE:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMCOX:  ... gang members as the MS-13, that this...

BARNICLE:  Chris...

SIMCOX:  ... Carranza supposed have ties to.  They are a threat to our public safety.

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH:  Really, Mike, can I...

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH:  Can I just say something here? 

BARNICLE:  Yes, go ahead.  Go ahead.

CHURCH:  You know, this is the fear-mongering that has gone through our entire country‘s history. 

SIMCOX:  Oh, fear-mongering.

CHURCH:  Yes. 

SIMCOX:  Tell that to the—the families of the victims.

CHURCH:  Yes, come on.  No Irish.  Let‘s just go through the history here.  No Irish need apply, the interment of the Japanese, the prosecution and discrimination against Germans.  Every immigrant group in this country has faced this type of fear-mongering.

And the reality is that immigrants come to this country because they are desperate.  They come to this country because they need to put food on the table for their families.  Even President Bush agrees with that. 

SIMCOX:  Right.  Get in line.  Come legally.

CHURCH:  And, when they come here, they don‘t want to commit crimes. 

There are—of course, there are anecdotal evidences of immigrants who come here and then commit crimes. 

SIMCOX:  Anecdotal?  You‘re talking 3,000 victims.

CHURCH:  But the—every time this happens now, they make it all over the paper. 

And it‘s all over the paper the minute an immigrant sneezes funny these days.  And that is what happening, is, they‘re trying to create this climate to try to make you think that immigrants are all evil, terrible, crime-ridden people.  It is just ridiculous.  And it‘s, honestly, utterly untrue.  It‘s not indicative at all of who immigrants are.

SIMCOX:  It‘s not about immigrants.  It is about illegal immigrants who enter this country illegally and continue a life of crime. 

I mean, Social Security fraud, I.D. theft, this is a rampant problem in communities across the country.  And you cannot deny the 90 percent of Americans who have said, enough is enough.  And tell that to the families.

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH:  What I know is that they just did a study, and they found that cities who have large immigrant populations actually have had decreases in crime. 

In Boston, what we did is, they just reinstated community policing. 

And the police officers have seen a 30 percent reduction in crime...

BARNICLE:  OK.

CHURCH:  ... a 17 reduction in homicide.  And that‘s because they want the cooperation of people who live in those cities to help them as victims of crime. 

BARNICLE:  Susan, Susan Church, Chris Simcox, I wish we had more time for this, because it‘s on everybody‘s lips all across the country.  But we don‘t. 

Thanks very much to both of you. 

Up next:  Fred Thompson takes aim at the gun laws in Rudy Giuliani‘s hometown. 

Plus: the White House‘s guide for dealing with protesters.  Put simply, it‘s get rid of them—those political headlines and more.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Here‘s the latest political news. 

First, the president doesn‘t like protesters.  A new White House manual has surfaced specifically detailing how the White House can beat back protesters at presidential events: meticulous screening of attendees, rally squads to shout down dissenters, and designated protest areas out of the president‘s eyesight.

But does it really serve the president to isolate him from the anger felt around the country?

Next:  Black enlistment in the military is on the decline.  Defense Department reports reveal that, in 2001, the military was 20 percent African-American.  Now it is just 13 percent. 

Next:  Not every Democrat feels optimistic about the prospects for 2008.  Former presidential candidate and perennial happy-go-lucky guy Michael Dukakis, in a sit-down interview, predicts a Democratic doomsday.

He says—quote—“We‘re probably not going to out-strategize the Republicans.  And some crazy guy will blow up a building with three weeks to go, you know, and then we will be back in Bush land again”—unquote. 

And Fred Thompson still is not in the race, but now he is hitting first-place Giuliani over gun control. 

Thompson writes on his Web site: “When I was working in television, I spent quite a bit of time in New York City.  There are lots of things about the place I like, but New York gun laws don‘t fall in that category”—unquote. 

Finally, it is not even YouTube, nor is it something out of “Dumb and Dumber,” just good old-fashioned audiotape.  Take a listen to this recording of Republican consultant Roger Stone threatening Governor Eliot Spitzer‘s father. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a message for Bernard Spitzer.  You will be subpoenaed to testify before the Senate committee on investigations on your shady campaign loans.  You will be compelled by the Senate sergeant at arms.  If you resist this subpoena, you will be arrested and brought to Albany. 

And there‘s not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-(EXPLETIVE DELETED) son can do about it. 

Bernie, your phony loans are about to catch up with you.  You will be forced to tell the truth.  And the fact that your son‘s a pathological liar will be known to all.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Roger Stone, not the head of the Manhattan Mensa chapter. 

Up next, our HARDBALL debate:  Is Michelle Obama taking a shot at Hillary Clinton when she talks about getting your own house in order before getting into the White House?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A late rally on Wall Street here.  Gains in the final hour pushed the Dow up more than 145 points, the S&P 500 also closing up around 17, and the Nasdaq gaining 31. 

Well, stocks rallied after the nation‘s four largest banks announced they were each borrowing a half-billion dollars from the Federal Reserve‘s discount window, Citigroup, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wachovia pumping much-needed cash into this economy to relieve some pressure on tightening credit markets. 

But the credit crunch and slumping housing market claim another lender

Accredited Home mortgage shutting down most of its business, shedding more than 1,000 jobs. 

And crude oil prices closing under $70 a barrel, after supplies rose unexpectedly and Gulf oil facilities escape a direct hit by Hurricane Dean. 

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

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Barack Obama‘s wife, Michelle, has roughed up the campaign with a line that some believe is a backhanded swipe at Hillary Clinton‘s marriage. 

Take a look at what she said in Iowa last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA:  One of the most important things that we need to know about the next president of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values?  Is he somebody that respects family, is a good and decent person?  So, our view is that, if you can‘t run your own house, you certainly can‘t run the White House. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  So, did Michelle Obama take a shot at Hillary there?

Rob Tyrrell is the author of “The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President‘s Life After the White House.”  He is also the founder and editor in chief of “The American Spectator.”  And Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now,” a daily radio and TV show.  And she‘s author of author of “Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back.” 

Bob, was she taking a shot at Hillary and the Clintons? 

R. EMMETT TYRRELL, AUTHOR, “THE CLINTON CRACK-UP: THE BOY PRESIDENT‘S

LIFE AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE”:  Well, she was awfully clever if she was, because what she evoked was what is on the minds of a great many American journalists, that is, Clinton shenanigans, Clinton‘s promiscuity, all these things I have reported about his retirement in “The Clinton Crack-Up.”

I mean, these are real—these are real issues.  They have really done these things.  They have really been caught on them.  One of the most interesting things that I think is that I point out in “The Clinton Crack-Up” is that—that Hillary has used private investigators to harass women.

And maybe it is that kind of thing that has the Obamas concerned, and maybe it‘s that kind of thing that has the press concerned, because the press really leaped at this thing. 

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

TYRRELL:  I thought that was the most fascinating aspect of it. 

BARNICLE:  Amy, a key phrase that Bob Tyrrell just mentioned, it has many American journalists now picking sides in this argument. 

Where are you on this?  And do you think it‘s a media contrivance, or do you think that, somewhere out there in Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine, someone watches that and says, oh, yes, yes, I remember those Clintons; God? 

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, “DEMOCRACY NOW”:  Well, you know, Mike, I think it is really important to look at the next sentence that...

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

GOODMAN:  ... Michelle Obama said.

And I‘m going to read it, since I wasn‘t the one who said it.  After she said that, running your own house, you certainly can‘t run the White House, she said: “So, we have adjusted our schedules to make sure our girls are first.  So, while Barack Obama is traveling around, I do day trips.  I‘m home before bedtime.”

I think that Michelle Obama was taken out of context, and I do think this is a media contrivance.  I think it is a way of the media not dealing with the issues.  If they just give us the five-second sound bite, it gives us a very different image of what is being said than if we hear the whole story.  And that is what the media has to do in this election. 

The issues are too important.  They have to stop with the eight-second bites.  They have got to give us the whole meal and talk about the issues that are key for everyone, war and peace, life and death.  That is when the media matters. 

TYRRELL:  Well, Mike, it is an issue.  I mean, this was not a contrivance.  The press is pointing out what is a real issue.  Your biography is an issue.  What you have done in the past, what you do in the present, is an issue. 

And the Clintons—yes, let us face the fact.  Bill Clinton has lived a promiscuous life, and Hillary has been an enabler.  And this is a real issue.  It is legitimate.  And it‘s legitimate to talk about.

GOODMAN:  But, I mean, it is an issue that Michelle Obama was not raising by saying she wants to take care of her girls and get home before bedtime. 

TYRRELL:  Well...

GOODMAN:  I think that we should talk about issues of children and continue on that theme in a big way, like kids getting adequate health care and SCHIP not being vetoed by the president...

TYRRELL:  Well, what about...

GOODMAN:  ...  and talk about the children that are dying in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

GOODMAN:  But to blow Michelle Obama‘s comment out of context, it‘s silly.

TYRRELL:  What about a wife that is an enabler?  What about a wife that is an enabler?  What about a wife that is an enabler and a husband that is sort of a serial girl-hopper, and brought his...

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN:  This is not what Michelle Obama was raising.

TYRRELL:  ... and brought—he brought his presidency to ruin by that indulgence.  Those are legitimate questions.

GOODMAN:  It‘s simply not what Michelle Obama was saying.  And I think we should be very clear here.  Taking these people‘s comments out of context is wrong.  We have got to be honest in the media. 

(CROSSTALK)

TYRRELL:  But it‘s what the press leaped on, because it is legitimate. 

These are legitimate issues. 

Pardon me, Mike.

BARNICLE:  Amy, let me ask you.  And I‘m—I‘m—I‘m kind of on your side here, in the sense that, you know, if it were up to me, I would have the war in Iraq on TV and in every newspaper on the front pages of America every single day.  And I would put the names of the dead on the front pages of every single American newspaper every single day.

But it remains a fact, I think, that, no matter what we think here, that someone out there sitting at a diner having their coffee in the morning or some woman at the end of the day, they‘re putting the kids to bed, they hear this, he or she hears this.  We can‘t interpret what they take from it.

And I just have the sense that a lot of people might take from it, oh, yeah, she‘s talking about the Clintons, rightly or wrongly. 

GOODMAN:  Well, you know, she could as easily be talking about the Republicans, about Rudolph Giuliani talking about family values, and his daughter coming out for Barack Obama on Facebook.com. 

But I think what is key here is what the media does and what our responsibilities as journalists is.  It is to cover the real issues.  This issue of what Michelle Obama said is very straight forward, and I think people around the country will hear her.  I want to be home to put the kids to bed at night. 

I don‘t think is a swipe at anyone.  It is reaffirming family values, and we should talk about what are family values in this country.  And I think you agree, Mike.  It is talking about bringing the soldiers home so they can put their kids to bed at night.  It is about caring about Iraqi children so they are not bombed. 

BARNICLE:  Last word, quickly, Bob Tyrrell. 

TYRRELL:  Well, that‘s a real leap; family values about bringing the troops home?  I take it you‘re against the war.  You‘ve made that point.  But family values are also about adultery, about, as I say in the Clinton Crack Up, I have cited the names of private investigations that Hillary has used to intimidate women.  I think that is a pretty important issue. 

GOODMAN:  This is fine for you to say.  It is simply not what Michelle Obama was saying.

BARNICLE:  We‘ve got to go.  Bob Tyrrell, Amy Goodman, thanks very much.  Up next, the HARDBALL round table on all of today‘s news.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  There is much on the HARDBALL docket tonight with our round table.  Bringing their expertise to the hot political news of the day are Joan Walsh, editor in chief of Salon, Ruben Navarette is a syndicated columnist with the “San Diego Union Tribune,” and Matt Continetti—no relationship, if you just say it fast—is with the “Weekly Standard.”.  Good evening all.

First up, Vietnam, apocalypse today, the sequel.  In a speech to the VFW today, President Bush compared the U.S. war in Iraq to a previous controversial United States war fought in Southeast Asia.  Vietnam, you might remember that, boys and girls.  Drawing a comparison between the two wars, Bush is arguing that an early pullout from Iraq will create agony for millions of innocent people just like the millions who suffered when United States forces pulled out of Vietnam in 1975. 

So the question is, is Iraq Vietnam all over again?  And what does the president have to gain by opening old wounds?  I would add a third question there—and we‘ll start with Joan Walsh—do you think the president has ever read a book about Vietnam? 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  No, he has not read a book about Vietnam.  It is unbelievable, frankly.  I mean, is he preparing us for 58,000 American soldiers dead?  Is he trying to prepare us for 300,000 American soldiers wounded?  Is he preparing us for decades of fighting?  It is unbelievable.  And really the most unbelievable thing to me is what you are alluding to, which is that he does not understand the history lessons. 

I mean, the casualties, the atrocities, the nightmare that he is talking about that ensued after we left—it happened largely because we went in in the first place and we didn‘t understand the culture.  It is not merely because we were gone.  We went into a country that did not threaten us.  We did not understand the culture.  We did not go in with a strong enough force.  We fomented a civil war that we did not understand.  And then we had to leave. 

It sounds really familiar.  It sounds like a quagmire, which, as you noticed last week, in 1994 Dick Cheney called Iraq a quagmire, and certainly he has not been reading enough books. 

BARNICLE:  Ruben, what struck you about the president‘s speech today? 

RUBEN NAVARETTE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  A couple of things; ever time, as a member of generation X—every time Generation X or Y hear Vietnam invoked, they sort of cringe, because we‘re tired of hearing this war brought up to settle this old score between the baby boomers.  But, beyond that, Bush was obviously the wrong person to bring up Vietnam in the first place, because we all know he did not have a close-up look at the situation.  He had a vantage point based back in Texas. 

So, I think that is not the proper analogy for him.  But his point though is well taken.  The point that he was trying to make—and I think it gets lost in all of this stuff—is what happens to people left behind when we pull out.  And that is not something that Democrats have ready answer for. 

Those critics of the war, those Bush critics, they would much rather beat up on Bush and say we should have never got in there in the first place, because they don‘t have an answer to what should we do now?  I think his point was well made.  I do not think he is the person to make it though.  

BARNICLE:  Matt?

MATT CONTINETTI, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”:  This is almost laughable. 

Here, the Democrats, opponents of the Iraq war, have been calling it another Vietnam since even before the conflict began.  The second that Bush actually joins the argument and says, maybe, even if it is, we ought to not follow the mistakes in the Vietnam war, they say it is illegitimate for Bush to even talk about Iraq as Vietnam. 

WALSH:  We‘re not saying it is illegitimate.  We are just saying it is a really scary comparison.  He has avoided it from the beginning.  If he is going to it now, what does it mean? 

CONTINETTI:  I agree.  He should have been saying that if Iraq is Vietnam, than we should not repeat the disaster that followed from American withdrawal from Vietnam.  He should have been saying that for years.  In fact, the “Weekly Standard” published an article making this comparison in April of 2006, last year, and it took Bush a while to catch up to us. 

WALSH:  -- wrong on the war—The point is the Democrats actually are starting to talk about what happens when we leave and we will leave.  They disagree about it.  Some people want a stronger force than others.  Some people want troops there for a longer time.  But it is really irresponsible to say that the Democrats have no idea. 

CONTINETTI:  I think it is more irresponsible to say, as a fact, that Bush hasn‘t read a book on Vietnam.  We don‘t know when is the last book on Vietnam was.  I‘m sure he reads books every day. 

WALSH:  Are you sure, Matt?  Really?  Are you really going to go out on a limb and say he reads books ever day?  You are a brave man. 

CONTINETTI:  I know he reads books. 

BARNICLE:  He is the president, and he is talking today, trying to make an historical analogy between Vietnam and Iraq at some level.  And if I had any hair, I would have lit it on fire listening to him, because he skipped over one, I think, obvious fact; fighting in Iraq, you‘re fighting the Sunnis.  You‘re fighting the Shias.  You‘re fighting various other elements, al Qaeda in Iraq.  They are fighting amongst themselves. 

In Vietnam, we were fighting the north Vietnamese army.  That is a big difference. 

CONTINETTI:  The speech was a response to those who argue that nothing

will happen once America—if America leaves.  And I don‘t think that‘s a

(CROSS TALK)

CONTINETTI:  John Kerry has said, we have heard about all these horrible things that happened in Vietnam after America left.  They did not happen.  Barack Obama says even if these things were have happened, that should not affect America‘s leaving.  Bush is saying—

WALSH:  That is not what his policy says. 

(CROSS TALK)

CONTINETTI:  -- in Vietnam and he is not going to repeat the same mistakes.  That is completely legitimate to argue that. 

NAVARETTE:  People talk about the lessons of Vietnam.  You see it here, we do not agree in America.  We don‘t have an agreement as to the lesson of Vietnam.  We draw different lessons from this experience. 

BARNICLE:  Dependent on your age and your perspective, you‘re absolutely right.  We‘re going to be right back with our round table.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  And we‘re back with the hot political topics of the day and our round table, Joan Walsh of Salon, Ruben Navarette, who‘s with the “San Diego Union Tribune,” and Matt Continetti of the “Weekly Standard.” 

Next up, house divided.  Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama‘s wife Michelle took what some think is a swipe at her husband‘s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by saying, quote, if you can‘t run your own house, you can‘t run the White House, unquote.  While Mrs. Obama didn‘t mention Senator Clinton by name, the message was fairly clear to a lot of people. 

So is Obama in step with his on this.  And do personal digs from his spouse help or hurt his chances for the White House? 

What do you think, Matt?  Do you think she was taking a swipe at the Clintons?

CONTINETTI:  What we‘re seeing here is basically the media having to fill time with four months to go before any elections.  They‘ve exhausted, apparently, their interest in the actual candidates.  So now all the talk is about the candidate‘s wives.  I think this is a silly issue. 

WALSH:  I agree. 

CONTINETTI:  No one is going to base their vote on it.  Now, are the Clinton‘s personal history going to be an issue in the Democratic primary and, if she‘s the nominee, in the general election, probably.  No surprises there.

BARNICLE:  Joan, I hear you sighing out there.  Do you agree or disagree?

WALSH:  I am sighing.  I agree—Matt and I agree on this one.  I think this is the media.  Look, listen, Matt Drudge made this a story.  And we all know Matt Drudge, lively website, fun to read, goes out of his way to create Democratic controversy.  He did it to me last month.  I had an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, where she did criticize Hillary and said John would be a better advocate for women.  The Drudge headline was that Elizabeth called Hillary a man, or said she was acting like a man. 

Drudge found this story.  He had to change the headlines four times to try to get it right.  She never said any of those things.  So this is—

Drudge picked this out of Michelle Obama‘s speech.  Senator Obama has completely disavowed it, said she did not mean anything like it.  I think the media is feasting on a morsel that Matt Drudge laid out for us, I suppose, since I‘m talking about it.   

BARNICLE:  Ruben, let me ask you, what does it say about us in the media that, by and large, whenever this story is referenced, they drop the tag end of the quote, the kicker in the quote, which she very quickly goes into the fact that what she‘s all about is taking care of her two girls?  Clearly!  What does it say about us?

NAVARETTE:  We like conflict.  We like it when people go at it.  People yell fight in the schoolyard, we run toward the fight, not away from it. 

WALSH:  Especially cat fights.

NAVARETTE:  Any kind of fight, really, to be fair.  I think there‘s an aspect of that.  I think we like people who are opinionated, like Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Edwards.  They make news.  I actually disagree with my colleagues here.  I don‘t think this is all a contrivance.  I don‘t believe that Michelle Obama was talking about Hillary, that we know that definitively.  She could have been talking about Rudy Giuliani or anybody else with a dysfunctional family in this race, and there are plenty of folks who fit the bill. 

But this notion—I think the important lesson here is that we have crossed over to a new territory, where you have very accomplished wives, who have their own achievements, their own law degrees, their own professions.  They‘re going to speak their mind.  They‘re not going to go off—to borrow a phrase—and bake cookies someplace.  Good for her. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, there‘s also something going on here that none of us -

nobody can measure, not Gallup, not the Times, not Salon.  Nobody can measure it.  It‘s what people are going to take sitting out there when they hear her say that.  There‘s no way of measuring what they‘re going to take from it. 

WALSH:  I agree with you.  I agree with you, Mike.  There‘s no way of measuring it.  But I really don‘t think—it wasn‘t a controversy until Drudge threw it on his front page.  I don‘t think people in Portland are sitting around saying, whoa, that Michelle Obama, she‘s dissing Hillary.  I don‘t think anybody heard it that way, except maybe Matt Drudge.

CONTINETTI:  At the same time the media is ignoring, I think, the very real fact that a lot of people—again it‘s hard to measure—a lot of people, they‘re going to think twice about wanting to relive the—all the battles of the Clinton years.  Just in conversation with voters, you know, they sometimes will tell you; you know, do we really want Bill Clinton back in the White House?  That‘s a legitimate issue to be covered. 

BARNICLE:  Joan, off of what you just said, I have to tell you—I will tell you right up front, I have an extremely low I.Q.  OK?  But when she said it, the first thing that went through my mind was, you know, is she—is this a backdoor slap back at the Clintons?  That‘s just me. 

WALSH:  I don‘t think you have a low I.Q., Mike.  You heard it that way.  I didn‘t hear it that way.  I didn‘t hear people talking about it until Drudge brought it up.  We‘ll see.

BARNICLE:  She got me off that notion when she so quickly went right to the—to the few lines about her children.  But it was in there.  But we do like conflict, don‘t we, Ruben? 

NAVARETTE:  We do. It‘s out there now, Mike.  People can listen to the quote and take what they want from it.  This business about blaming Drudge or somebody else, that‘s nonsense.  She said it.  Interpret it.  Take what you want from it.  If you don‘t think it‘s important, disregard it. 

BARNICLE:  That‘s actually what more and more people ought to do.  They ought to listen and then make up their own mind.  Right Matt, you agree with me.  Right?

CONTINETTI:  I agree completely, Mike.  Right, as always. 

BARNICLE:  I‘m so happy to have all of you hear tonight, because you agree with me.  Joan Walsh, Ruben Navarette, Matt Continetti, thanks very much. 

Earlier in the show this evening, we played an audio tape of a threatening call made to Eliot Spitzer father.  We said it was Roger Stone.  He has denied the allegation.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

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