updated 8/29/2007 1:08:47 PM ET 2007-08-29T17:08:47

Guests: Dan Popkey, Chris Cillizza, Tony Perkins, Mark Green, Lance Armstrong, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Donohue, Cynthia Tucker, David Brodie, Naomi Wolf

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  Let me be clear.  I am not gay.  I never have been gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Red-state Republican, red meat rhetoric, caught red-handed.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Iowa.  Welcome to HARDBALL.

The big story tonight, dirty politics.  Idaho senator Larry Craig, cultural warrior of the right, stands naked tonight, exposed as both a sexual deviant and a world-class hypocrite.  A crusader against gay marriage, gay civil unions, gays in the military, he faces his country, his party and his people having solicited sex in an airport men‘s room.

Tonight, his explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by “The Idaho Statesman.”  If you saw the article today, you know why.  Let me be clear.  I am not gay.  I never have been gay.  Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, “The Statesman” has engaged in this witch hunt.  In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress “The Idaho Statesman” investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to talk in just a moment with the “Idaho Statesman” reporter who broke this story.

And our second story tonight: Reality bites.  Senator Craig is not just a representative of a conservative state, Idaho, he‘s a strong voice for conservative presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think we‘ve all heard the story about Bill Clinton and the fact that he let us down in his personal conduct with a White House intern.  And that strikes me as another one of these extraordinary acts of falling short of what America would expect of elected officials, particularly one who should be held to a higher standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  In the HARDBALL debate tonight, another hot topic, Mother Teresa, a story of sainthood or scandal.  A new book shows she went through holy hell during her lifetime not as a simple woman of faith, but as a supreme doubter, as well.  The HARDBALL debate tonight, Christopher Hitchens versus Bill Donohue.

We begin tonight with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster on the grand canyon that separates Senator Craig‘s public record in the Senate and his private behavior now in the public eye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Idaho‘s Larry Craig is an outspoken conservative Republican.

CRAIG:  It is not the role of the United States Senate to draw that kind of line and...

SHUSTER:  He has pledged his opposition to gay marriage and civil unions.  He voted against allowing gays and lesbians in the military.  He voted against abortion rights.  And he voted to impeach President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, entering into the Senate record that Clinton, quote, “brought this nation to this point because of his own self-gratification, setting what was good for himself above what was good for the nation.  It is unconscionable what the president has put the country through.”

But now the spotlight is on Larry Craig.  According to Minnesota court documents, Craig pleaded guilty three weeks ago to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for actions on June the 11th in the Minneapolis international airport inside a public men‘s room.  Police say Craig entered a restroom known for sexual activity and repeatedly peeked through the crack of a stall where a man was waiting.

The man, an undercover police officer, says Craig then sat in the next stall.  Quote, “At 12:16 hours, Craig tapped his right foot.  I recognized this is a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.  Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot.  I moved my foot up and down slowly.  Craig moved his right food so that it touched the side of my left foot, which was within my stall area.”

The officer said Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times.  Quote, “I could see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger, as his hand was on my side of the stall divider.”

When the officer identified himself, the arrest report says Craig was at first reluctant to leave the restroom but did so after the officer threatened to make a scene.  A few minutes later, Craig gave the officer his Senate business card and allegedly said, quote, “What do you think about that?”

Craig also reportedly said to police he had a wide stance when going to the bathroom and had reached down in the stall to pick up a piece of paper.  But the arresting officer wrote in his report, quote, “It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper.”

Three weeks ago, Craig pick $500 in fines, had a 10-day jail sentence stayed and was given a one-year probation.

JENNIFER DUFFY, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  I think it is going to be increasingly difficult for him to run for reelection, and I think the question needs to be posed about whether he can actually finish out this term.

SHUSTER:  Craig‘s efforts to hold on have begun.  Last night, he issued a statement saying, quote, “At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions.  I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.”  Craig added, quote, “I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter.  In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty.”

Allegations of lewd behavior have dogged Craig before.  In 1982, with the FBI investigating claims that several members of Congress, including Craig, had engaged in sex with male congressional pages, Craig spoke out and called the story false.

CRAIG:  I have always been aggressive and up front with what I believe in.  And when I have people telling me that a whole series of false accusations were made against my character, frankly, it makes me mad as hell.

SHUSTER:  This year has been a rough one for conservative Republicans.  GOP congressman Mark Foley left Congress after sending lewd e-mails and text messages to pages.  Conservative pastor Ted Haggard left his church after a male prostitute came forward with evidence Haggard had been a client.  And Louisiana senator David Vitter, who won election three years ago after campaigning on “family values,” was forced to acknowledge this summer having visited a D.C. escort service.

SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA:  I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all of those I have let down and disappointed.

SHUSTER:  Now the focus is on conservative firebrand Larry Craig.

(on camera):  Craig is 62 years old.  He is married and has children.  Under Senate rules, Craig‘s arrest and his use of his congressional ID could be the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

“Idaho Statesman” reporter Dan Popkey conducted five-month investigation into Senator Craig‘s life and asked him about sexual allegations in May of this year, just one month before the senator was arrested in Minneapolis.  The story is in today‘s “Idaho Statesman.”

And also joining us now, Chris Cillizza is with “The Washington Post.”

Let‘s go to Dan Popkey.  Dan, is there any way that the senator could have been telling the truth today?

DAN POPKEY, “IDAHO STATESMAN”:  Yes.  I—you know, we have one source, as we reported today, who says he had sex with the senator in the Union Station bathroom.  We didn‘t publish that until this guilty plea about conduct in the Minneapolis airport bathroom.  So you know, the officer could be wrong and the person that we‘re talking to could have been mistaken.  He may have—we believe he got it right, based on, you know, his credibility and—and the circles he traveled in.  But yes, the officer and the guy we talked to both might be wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the police report.  I read it.  It is very detailed—it reminded me of Joe Friday in “Dragnet”—point by point, minute by minute, the manner in which, as David Shuster just pointed out, the senator is accused of having signaled with his foot, signaled by moving his foot over to the stall, signaled with his hand motions in a way that it doesn‘t take any decoder ring to know what‘s going on here.

Is there any way in the world that police officer is either not lying or—it seems to me he‘s either lying or he‘s not.  If he‘s telling the truth as he knows it, this guy‘s guilty.

POPKEY:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not a question of mistaken—misconstruing signals.

POPKEY:  No.  And you know, I think the critical thing is the senator‘s guilty plea.  Had he wanted to contest the officer‘s account, surely he would have hired an attorney.  And now he says he‘s going to do that.  But I mean, yes, I mean, the reason we finally decided to publish something that we weren‘t ready to publish because we erred on the side of believing the senator, was his guilty plea.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at—here‘s what Senator Craig said after listening to a recording of a man who described a sexual encounter with the senator at Washington‘s Union Station.  Quote—this is Senator Craig—“The gay movement, we know it for what it is.  It‘s now aggressive and it‘s liberal, and it‘s naming people to try to put them in compromising, difficult situations.”

So the list of those he accuses now for accusing him includes you, your paper, the gay community, and the police that arrested him in Minneapolis.  So there‘s a lot of culprits in the world that he sees.

What do you make of this testimony by this person who said he had this relationship with the senator?

POPKEY:  You mean the one that I spoke with?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

POPKEY:  Because we promised him anonymity, there are things that I know about his credibility that I can‘t share with you, but...

MATTHEWS:  But you said he‘s a prominent Republican that people would know in Washington.

POPKEY:  Some people in Republican circles would know him.  I wouldn‘t call him prominent Republican, but he traveled in Republican circles and he, we are convinced, would have likely recognized Larry Craig.  He also said he went home after the encounter to verify his original identification, if you will, and calling up the senator‘s photo on the Web, he verified that it was him.

MATTHEWS:  Is it your story, as you reported it, as a reporter, straight reporting here, that Senator Craig engages regularly in soliciting sex in public men‘s rooms?

POPKEY:  No.  I would say that we know about these two incidents.  We also asked him about a number of other incidents in which he is alleged either to have solicited others for sex or had sex with people that are now dead.  He denies every account, every occasion of gay sex.  I never engaged in gay conduct, is what he told us in May.

Now, today, I heard him say, I am not gay.  I‘m not sure he was quite as sweeping today as he was in May.  The transcript of that interview and some audio will be on our Web site, if it‘s not already, today.

MATTHEWS:  You stand by your story today, right?

POPKEY:  Absolutely.  I think we were measured, fair, cautious.  We didn‘t go with this story, like you guys did, in October, and a lot of other media.  So for him to, you know, accuse us of conducting a witch hunt, that hurts a little, I suppose, but I think we got it right.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post.”  Chris, you‘ve been posting on this today.  What are the political significances of this event today, including the presser he just gave this afternoon?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, you know, I actually thought from a political standpoint, Chris, the most interesting thing that happened happened at the end, which he said, I‘m going to still stick to my timeline.  I‘m going to make a decision about my future in office next month.

Well, everything that I heard leading up to this, and in the hours after this broke last night, “Roll Call” newspaper, my alma mater, wound up breaking this story—I heard that Larry Craig was planning to retire anyway.  I would be stunned, stunned, if he did not retire.  It may happen before that, that he‘s going to have to resign.  I‘m just—I‘m not convinced he was ever going to run.  I think it has now become impossible for him to run, despite the ruby-red Republicanism of Idaho.  This is a potentially fatal disqualifier, no matter what your state looks like.  And I think the real question before us now is, Does Larry Craig‘s career last until he gets to announce he‘s going to retire, or is he forced to resign before that?

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Larry Craig talking several years ago on “Meet the Press” about Bill Clinton‘s problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  The Senate certainly can bring about a censure resolution, and it‘s a slap on the wrist.  It‘s a, Bad boy, Bill Clinton, you‘re a naughty boy.

The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy.  I‘m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty bad naughty boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And so Chris, I guess you see there, without a lot of interpretation, him coming down hard on bill Clinton, saying he ought to be convicted and removed from the presidency for that relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  And here we have him standing accused and having pled guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested for lewd behavior in a men‘s room.  And you have to wonder, a man who‘s opposed to gay marriage, gay civil unions, gays in the military is caught in the men‘s room in this fashion—

I just wonder how far hypocrisy can go in this business.  I thought, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” was a high mark.  I think he‘s just surpassed it.

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know what I keep coming back to is a point Dan made.  He pled guilty.  Now, he said it was to a lesser charge.  It was to disorderly conduct, but lewd behavior, but he pled guilty.  This man is a United States Senator.  I think he would grasp the enormity of this.  And frankly, I put myself in that situation.  If there is such a huge misunderstanding—that happens—I don‘t think you would plead guilty.  I would think you‘d say, Whoa.  We‘ve got a real problem here.  I was bending down to pick up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... let‘s avoid—let‘s avoid the conversation getting confused for the viewers.  If you read the police report, there‘s no question of misunderstanding.  This man used leg signals, hand signals.  He looked through the man to the crack in the door, the man in the men‘s room, making eye contact in a way that I have never seen anybody do.  This kind of behavior was clearly deliberate, Dan.  It isn‘t a question of misinterpretation by a police officer.  Do you believe, reading the police report, Dan—and you broke this story—that there‘s any misunderstanding involved here?

POPKEY:  Well, wait a—“Roll Call” broke the story about the police report.  We didn‘t have that.  It was...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

POPKEY:  ... only then that we decided to run the—the product of our long investigation.  But you know, I have to say that I agree with Chris.  I mean, why would a sitting U.S. senator not hire a lawyer if he disputed what had happened?  Why would he not call the Republican governor of Minnesota and say, Hey, we got a problem?  Why would he not seek counsel with his wife?  It—I have to say that it seems very improbable, his explanation as to his not guilty plea—or rather, his guilty plea.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, Dan, you‘re a very careful reporter.  Chris Cillizza, will this man have to leave the Senate?

CILLIZZA:  I think he‘s leaving the Senate one way or another.  I think this issue is, is it on his own terms in terms of a retirement or is it on someone else‘s terms, in terms of a resignation?

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, Senator Mitch McConnell has referred this matter to the Senate Ethics Committee.  It‘s already gone beyond the denial we saw on television just a few moments ago.  So it looks like this is trouble in River City once again, an American politician caught living a different life than he advocated, and certainly, a man who‘s attacked a lifestyle now engaged in it.  It doesn‘t shock us, but it does confirm our worst suspicions that there is a lot of dishonesty and corruption and hypocrisy in the business of American politics.

Anyway, Dan Popkey, thank you for joining us, from “The Idaho Statesman,” to defend charges made against your paper and you in the last couple of minutes.  And Chris Cillizza, as always, from “The Washington Post.”

Coming up, Senator Larry Craig again, Congressman Mark Foley and Senator David Vitter publicly men of “family values,” conservatives.  Privately, something very different.  Will conservatives turn on the Republican Party in the coming presidential election?

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Knowing Governor Mitt Romney is knowing somebody who, first and foremost, has very strong family values.  That‘s something I grew up with and believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable. 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was himself Senator Larry Craig, of bathroom fame now, in his role as Mitt Romney campaign leader and spokesperson.  The campaign yanked that video off their Web site immediately after Senator Craig stepped down from his campaign role.  But Craig‘s problem is far worse than just getting off the campaign trail of Mitt Romney.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.  And Mark Green is the president of Air America Radio.

Let me go to Tony. 

Tony Perkins, you‘re a great man.  We have had you on so many times. 

But take a look at how Mitt Romney handled questions today about Larry Craig, his erstwhile supporter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CNBC:  On that Clinton point—you threw Clinton in with the Craig episode and the Mark Foley episode.  Could you just expand a little bit on that for us, sir? 

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m not sure I need to.

I think we have all heard the story about Bill Clinton and the fact that he—that he let us down in his personal conduct with a—with a White House intern.  And that—that strikes me as another one of these extraordinary acts of—of—of falling short of what America would expect of elected officials, particularly one who—who—who should be held to a higher standard. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Tony?  Is this tit-for-tat?  Is this fair game, to say that Bill Clinton must never be forgiven, and even when we are focusing on this sad story of Larry Craig, that Bill Clinton must be brought into the mix? 

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  Well, you know, I -

I think what—what is at hand is what should be addressed.  And I think that Governor Romney was very unequivocal in addressing the Senator Craig situation. 

He—one headline said that he did not just throw him from the bus; he threw him under the bus.  And I think that is—I think that is very important, Chris, because I think Governor Romney, as he‘s been out crisscrossing the country, campaigning, he knows where the American people stand on this.

And I think, increasingly, among social conservatives voters, there is a—a grave concern over the lack of integrity in the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about that, because the Republican Party has in its platform and in its public statements—and we all know this—everybody watching this program knows about politics—and I am certainly not knocking it—but the conservative values that you share on issues like gay marriage, gay civil unions, if you will, where they‘re legal relationships, but they‘re not quite marriage, the issues of gays serving openly in the military, Larry Craig is clear on all those issues. 

He‘s anti-gay on all those issues.  And, yet, we find him accused now in a police report, which, I must tell, is pretty graphic and pretty detailed, engaging in—in this kind of behavior, soliciting it in public, in the sight of everybody, at a bathroom in Washington‘s Union Station, which everybody is familiar with, and—and having an earlier case of this in another men‘s room, in another public facility. 

You know, it‘s—what about the hypocrisy factor I‘m getting to? 

PERKINS:  Well, it is there. 

I mean, I -- 20 years—years ago, Chris, I was a police officer, and this pattern of cruising in men‘s restrooms was a—a very significant problem, especially in public restrooms in parks.  In fact, in many states today, parks have posted on them signs “One male adult at a time only.”

You know, if you were...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PERKINS:  If these allegations were circling around you, as reports have suggested about the senator, the last place he should go would be a public restroom.

And, then...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PERKINS:  ... as he has pled guilty to this, it certainly indicates there is a problem.  And I think it‘s a—it‘s a part of a growing problem within the Republican Party, where value voters expect those that trumpet their issues to live by those same values. 

Now, that is not to say that they should be perfect.  We understand that people make mistakes.  But, increasingly, there appears to be a lack of integrity.  And I think it‘s going to be a real hurdle for the Republicans in the upcoming elections. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Your thought, Mark Green.  You have a minute. 

MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  I feel sad, almost, for Larry Craig that an adult man who apparently is gay had to live a lie. 

I blame less him, forgive me, than Tony Perkins.  When you have theocrats who villainize all homosexuals—homosexuals—and the Democratic Party, then you have adults like—and—and you force the Republican Party to have anti-gay-marriage referendum, anti-civil unions, for example, anti—not allowing gays in the military, it leads to situations like this.

This is not to excuse public lewdness, whether you‘re gay or straight.  Now that it is public, I think he is ruined.  My guess, it‘s an issue in ‘08.  Just like George Bush leapt on Bill Clinton‘s misconduct—Al Gore did not do anything wrong—and it helped George Bush win the presidency on morality, after Abramoff, after Foley, after Vitter, after Craig, my guess is, scandals like this, trumped even by the scandal—the bigger scandal of Alberto Gonzales and the rule of law, will be a major issue, and should be, in ‘08. 

PERKINS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Tony Perkins, let me ask you to respond to that.  Do you think that they‘re—that the conservative people like yourself, who are not politicians, but are men of the church, who believe in values, rather than election results, will break with the pols on this one? 

PERKINS:  Well, I think, increasingly, there is a divide that is growing.

And I—I would take issue with Mark that the—that we could not have any influence over those issues unless we reflected the—the American public on this issue.  And they do not like duplicity.  They like moral values.  They like marriage.  They like family.  They want those issues upheld.

And, and if they did not, we would have no influence over public policy.

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, Mark, I disagree with you.  I think that the gay lifestyle has, obviously, many features to it that may be unique to it.  But this argument about behavior in public and these breaking of laws, I don‘t think you are defending it, are you? 

GREEN:  No.

Chris, with all due respect, gay lifestyle is a—is a phrase from the right wing, who wants to demonize gay people.  Gays or straights are no more or less likely to engage in this wrongful conduct.  Of course I‘m not defending the conduct.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREEN:  But when a party villainizes an entire class of people, he then can‘t express his apparent love of men, or gayness, and so he has to hide it, and he is forced into a men‘s room at a public place, it‘s a disgrace. 

PERKINS:  It‘s not because of the party.  It‘s because of voters in his state.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure—I‘m not sure the law forced him—I‘m not sure anything forced this guy into that men‘s room deal, anyway.

But thank you very much, Tony Perkins.

Thank you, Mark Green, for joining us.

We will have much more in the rest of the program on the Larry Craig situation, which is developing.  He‘s denied everything.  He has completely stonewalled this thing, late this afternoon, blamed the newspapers.  He blamed the gay community, said the police officer was lying.  Everybody is guilty except him, according to Larry Craig.  That is his world. 

Up next:  The Republican presidential candidates get their turn today to talk about how we beat cancer. 

Then, we‘re going to talk about Mother Teresa and whether the latest story about her, the revelation about her, is about a story of faith, a story of scandal, or of sainthood. 

We will be right back with more HARDBALL and lots more stories tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As I said, I am out here in Iowa, scene of the first big presidential test for 2008. 

I joined Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong in questioning Republican contender Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee. 

Let‘s take a look, Lance, at an exchange I had earlier today with Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... ever able to close...

MATTHEWS:  Just name a program that you‘re going to cut.  Name one that you‘re going to cut by $5 billion or $10 billion to bring to cancer research. Just name one.

BROWNBACK:  We can cut a number of programs.  But, Chris, why didn‘t we do the BRAC earlier?  And the BRAC process has worked, wouldn‘t you agree?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, until somebody comes along with enough clout to save a base, sure.  And if these programs were not popular, they would not exist. 

And if we could hire some machine to come in and run the government for us brilliantly, we probably would have brought that the machine in, but it takes you to make these decisions.

BROWNBACK:  And it takes you to realize...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to limit the Bush tax cuts after 2011?  Are you going to limit the—the aggressive foreign policy of this administration?  What are you going to do?

If you say shift priorities, define your shift.  That‘s all I‘m asking.  Define it.

BROWNBACK:  I have defined my shift.  That basis of what I talked to you about has reduced military base spending...

MATTHEWS:  Then we don‘t need a Senate.  We just need this big machine.  Why have a Senate if all these decisions can be made by this electronic transfer of responsibility?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNBACK:  Chris, you understand the system.

MATTHEWS:  And I know that this won‘t work because if it worked, then you would have passed it by now.

BROWNBACK:  You know, it has worked in the BRAC process.

(LAUGHTER)

LANCE ARMSTRONG, FORMER TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER:  I have never even heard of the BRAC process.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Lance, I think you got caught in a Washington debate there.  We were trying—I was trying to get from the senator a commitment, if he is going to spend more money on cancer spending...

ARMSTRONG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... which you want all these candidates to commit to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... to give us a sense of where he‘s going to get it from. 

ARMSTRONG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And that—of course, that is a hard answer to get from most politicians. 

ARMSTRONG:  Yes. 

It is.  And, I mean, I understand that we all have to run our households just like we—we do.  And then—and that includes a budget.  That includes priorities.  That include allocations.

And—and our interest, as cancer survivors, is to make sure that the NCI is properly funded and all the steps are in place to cure the disease.  Having said that, I know that it is a tricky time, and money goes elsewhere and other places. 

And, you know, great question.  It was—it was just—you are tough, man. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m not.

Well, let‘s take a look.  Here is Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who lost, like, 110 pounds when he made a decision to stop eating, basically.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Here he is on why we are fat.  This was very interesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If it wasn‘t a food 100 years ago, it is not a food today.  It is a food product. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s in the aisles.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

HUCKABEE:  It‘s in a box.  You would be better off throwing the contents away and eating the package, because at least you would get some...

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE:  ... some fiber out of the cardboard. 

But you ask about cancer.  Specifically, we know that a third of the

cancer deaths in this country could be eliminated with nutrition and

exercise alone, because bad nutrition and the lack of exercise breaks down

a body‘s capacity to throw off bad cells, bad internal workings, that our -

our bodies are a masterfully created and designed piece of work.

I believe God created these wonderful bodies of ours.  And they are a masterpiece, but they were designed to be used in a way that were fueled properly and then were exercised properly.  And, when we don‘t fuel them properly or exercise them properly, it is like having a car in which you pour mud into the tank and never run it.  Well, guess what?  The car is not going anywhere. 

And we wonder why our bodies break down.  The truth is, if we don‘t use these bodies in the manner in which they were intended to be properly fueled, with the foods that are a natural part of our world, and with the exercise for which we were created—we were created to be active and—and energetic, not sloughing about—it will eliminate a third of the cancers in this country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a bit of an advertisement for intelligent design. 

But, apart from that, Lance, what do you think about it?  If you look at that, you want more federal funding.  You want a national war on cancer, which all these candidates in both parties have promised to wage as president, if they get elected.   What about this other part, this self-help part that Huckabee is talking about? 

ARMSTRONG:  Listen, the old—I mean, what is the old saying?  An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure?  I mean, it‘s—it‘s—it is true. 

But the—the tricky thing is, it is hard sometimes to encourage people to prevent disease.  I mean, it‘s not—it is not the sexiest thing.  I mean, when you tell people, listen, you need to exercise every day, some people say, I don‘t want to exercise every day.  You need to quit smoking.  They say, I don‘t want to quit smoking. 

So, I mean, I think what we heard is that they all renewed the war on cancer.  And most everybody said that they would also fund a new war on cancer. 

And what does that mean?  That means addressing every point along the way, every point of the continuum, so prevention, to screening, to access to care, to research, to funding, to survivorship.  All of these things were—were addressed.

And, I mean, I think, as—as an advocate and as a cancer survivor, I mean, it was—it was a great two days.  And we—we heard exactly what we wanted to hear. 

MATTHEWS:  That—that is Lance Armstrong. 

Up next, more on Larry Craig.

But, first of all, some newly revealed letters paint a startling portrait of one of the most iconic religious leaders of our time, Mother Teresa.  She confided that she struggled with a lack of faith.  Is this a story of sainthood or scandal? 

The self-described atheist Christopher Hitchens is going to join us to do battle with the Catholic League‘s Bill Donohue.  They‘re going to face to face in the HARDBALL debate. 

And it‘s coming up next here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

And stocks plunging following a wave of disappointing financial news today, the Dow industrials dropping 280 points, the S&P 500 losing 34 points, and the Nasdaq dropping 60 points. 

Among the disappointments today, the minutes from the Federal Reserve‘s August 7 meeting gave no clear sign of a possible interest rate cut ahead to calm turbulent market conditions.  Ten days after that meeting, the Fed cut the discount rate.  But investors are hoping for a cut in the key federal funds rate.  It‘s hoped that might come at the Fed‘s next meeting in September. 

Also, a report showing that home prices fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, that is the steepest decline in 20 years.  Consumer confidence also fell in August.

Meantime, Merrill Lynch warned today that ailing credit markets will hurt bank profits. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Tonight‘s HARDBALL debate centers around a woman who hardly seem debatable, Mother Teresa.  But her private letters, newly released, reveal she had deep doubts about her religion, her work, the very existence of god.  She is “Time Magazine‘s” cover story this week. 

Here is an excerpt of her letters, quote, “where is my faith?  Even deep down, right in there is nothing but emptiness and darkness.  My god, how painful is this unknown pain?  I have no faith.  I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowded my heart and make me suffer untold agony.” 

So our debate tonight, an odd one for us, a spiritual one, Mother Teresa, a story that is developing of sainthood or of scandal.  I‘m joined by Christopher Hitchens, author of both “God is Not Great,” and “The Missionary Position,” which is a very unkind look of Mother Teresa, and Bill Donohue, the president of a group called the Catholic League.

I want to go to Christopher Hitchens.  Christopher, you have been tough.  You say this is a profound revelation, that this woman did not believe. 

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, “GOD IS NOT GREAT”:  Yes, and a very moving one, actually, and a very honest one, I have to add.  She tried her best to believe.  Her atheism was not like mine.  I can‘t believe it and I am glad to think that it is not true, that there is a dictator in the heavens.  So the fact that there is no evidence for it pleases me.  She really wished it was true.  She tried to live her life as if it was true. 

She failed.  And she was encouraged by cynical old men to carry on doing so because she was a great marketing tool for her church, and I think that they should answer for what they did to her and what they have been doing to us.  I think it has been fraud and exploitation yet again. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill Donohue, your reaction?

BILL DONOHUE, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  This is laughable.  I suppose next week we will find that Mother Teresa considered herself to be a sinner as well.  The fact of the matter is the Vatican is standing behind this book.  If this is such an embarrassment to the Catholic church, why in the world is the Vatican proud of this book?  I am proud of it too.  You have to understand, give me a quick anecdote—when she was in the United States, a professor came up to her and said, are you married? 

Mother Teresa said, yes.  I am married to a spouse who sometimes makes it difficult for me to smile.  His name is Jesus.  And that‘s because he is very demanding. 

Look, any person of faith understands what I have just said, but if you are a dogmatic atheist, then you would have a very difficult time trying to understand this.  Quite frankly, I‘m not sure if I have enough time to educate Mr. Hitchens.

HITCHENS:  I agree.  That does sound like white noise, nonsense, to me, and I think to almost everyone else.  If I told you last month—actually, you probably do know that this.  All these letters were published in 2002.  but if I told you in 2001 that Mother Teresa did not believe that Jesus was present in the Eucharist and couldn‘t feel—

DONOHUE:  She never said that.

HITCHENS:  Yes, she did.  And father can tell you, has been very clever and honest in saying so, could not feel it in her heart, could feel it in the real presence, so called, of mass of the Eucharist.  If I told you that, you would accuse me of slandering your so-called faith. 

DONOHUE:  Let me ask you this, Christopher, a number of years ago you wrote the thing against her, five and a half inches by eight and a half inches long, 98 pages, not a single endnote, not a single footnote, not a single citation.  I have told you before, I‘m going to tell you it again tonight, buddy, if you handed that in to me in an undergraduate class, you would get an F. 

HITCHENS:  You are not likely to be anybody‘s professor. 

DONOHUE:  When you make a serious charge against a—an Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks.  When you make a serious charge against a serious person, a public person like Mother Teresa, and you have no evidence, whatsoever, what in the world do you expect?  You have to get an F. 

HITCHENS:  This is well below the F level.  In my book I say that she took money from the Devalia (ph) family in Haiti, not denied.  She took money from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan in exchange for an olive wood crucifix.  Not denied.

None of the factual assertions made in my book have ever been challenged.  It actually got very respectable views in the Catholic press.  For this reason, Mr. Donohue—the reason I got respectful reviews in the Catholic press was this; as Lord McCauley (ph) once brilliantly put it, the great strength of the Catholic Church used to be that it knew how to discipline fanatics and enthusiasts and zealots.  It knew how to keep under control people who were too hungry, too fanatical. 

Because of the opportunist chance that Mother Teresa offered them for publicity, they failed to restrain someone who really should have been seeking proper help that she never got.  Instead, they exploited her to the very end and even gave her an exorcism, as you know.  The archbishop of Calcutta has admitted it.  He even had to give her an exorcism in 1997, because they had so much despair of her state of mind.  It‘s a cruel exploitation of a simple and honest woman. 

DONOHUE:  At the end of the day, this is a woman who received 124 awards, who set up hospitals for AIDS patients. 

(CROSS TALK)

DONOHUE:  Listen—

MATTHEWS:  Bill needs some time here.  Bill, take 30 seconds.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Christopher, we have to give him 30 seconds, please.

DONOHUE:  She set up hospices, the first one for AIDS victims here in Greenwich Village.  She opened up 500 hospitals, hospices, homeless centers, health clinics, orphanages.  That is why she is loved all over the world.  In India, when they surveyed the people, next to Gandhi, she is regarded as the most revered person. 

Now, all the whole world is wrong, and you, with your 98 page book, five and a half by eight and a half inches long—you have no citations.  You have no evidence.  Who is the world going to believe?  Me or you?

HITCHENS:  I turned out to be right though, don‘t I?  I do not believe a word of it, and neither did she.  I never expected that it would be just the two of us.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me end the citation with a citation that is relevant to this discourse, Jesus has a very special love for you, she wrote to someone.  But as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and I do not see.  I listen and I do not hear.  The tongue moves in prayer, but does not speak.  I want you to pray for me.  Then I let him have a free hand.

So she must believe in something to ask somebody to pray for her or was that just rhetorical, Christopher? 

HITCHENS:  He was trying and failing to say that his church, in fact, an answer for everything.  If you can‘t believe it, if it all seems to be radically untrue, nonetheless, faith will square that settle for you.  She was trying for that.  But as we now know, she failed.  It can‘t be done.  You can‘t make people believe in the impossible.  All you can do is make people feel very guilty that they can‘t make themselves believe it. 

DONOHUE:  The only people that do not have doubts today are dogmatic atheists, people like you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Bill Donohue, sir, thank you for joining us. 

Christopher Hitchens, thank you very much.  Your writings are brilliant.  Up next, the HARDBALL round table tackles the Senator Larry Craig sex scandal. More on that situation, which is developing despite his denials, on HARDBALL.  We‘re coming back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for our political round table.  The “Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s” Cynthia Tucker, American Freedom Campaign‘s Naomi Wolf—she‘s the author of “The End of America” - - and with me here in Iowa is David Brodie of the Christian Broadcasting Network. 

First up, obviously, senator sexual scandal.  Republican Senator Larry Craig gets arrested for sexual misconduct.  The arrest came after complaints of sexual activity in a restroom stall.  Is Senator Craig vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy?  Will the behavior of Craig, David Vitter, Mark Foley and Ted Haggard set off a crisis of confidence among social conservatives, and perhaps separate them from the Republican party they have trusted?  What do you think? 

DAVID BRODIE, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK:  I think a lot of people are shaking their heads.  I can tell you this, the first reaction among the crowd I was in today was people going, was it another Republican?  That was the first reaction.  I think everyone is conditioned at this point to think that.  That is clearly part of it.

MATTHEWS:  Not just a Republican.  If all these stories are true, and I think you have to look at the fact of the police report, which is incredibly detailed, this official document, the acknowledgment of the misconduct in the form of a plea of guilty to disorderly conduct, which is an odd plea bargain, because it wasn‘t exactly disorderly.  It was misbehavior in a sexual sense, and in a public way, a lewd behavior.

But then you have the problem that the guy has voted against gay serving, has voted against gay civil unions, have voted against gays serving openly in the military, and yet he is involved in a sexual misbehavior in a public place, in a way that is I think distressing to a lot of people. 

BRODIE:  Hypocrisy is clearly what is going on here.  I can tell you that on the campaign trail today, here in Iowa, I talked to Mike Huckabee about this.  I asked him about it, one of the presidential candidate.  He said, listen, Americans are well and able to forgive sinners.  They do not forgive hypocrites.   

MATTHEWS:  That was the statement he made, thank you.  Let‘s go to Cynthia—Cynthia Tucker, my friend down in Atlanta.  What do you make of this as a phenomenon of American politics?  I thought his denial even beat out Bill Clinton‘s, in terms of brashness, of stonewalling, an absolute, complete, utter, total denial of this.  Naomi first—I‘m sorry, we have to go to Naomi first for technical reasons. 

NAOMI WOLF, AMERICAN FREEDOM CAMPAIGN:  It seems to me that the scandal will come and go the way the Mark Foley scandal seemed so outrageous, but it came and went.  I do not think it will have a lasting impact. 

MATTHEWS:  You think that Larry Craig is going to survive this? 

WOLF:  No, I don‘t.  But I think Romney is not going to be stopped.  I don‘t think any of the Republican candidates are going to be tarred with the brush of all these peccadilloes and scandals, because I think the American people realize there are much more serious issues at stake in this election.  I think it‘s much more of a scandal and people are much more focused on it when they realize that Mitt Romney, for instance, refused, according to a Boston newspaper, of signing the American Freedom Agenda‘s request that he commit to restoring the constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t come on this show and change the subject.  I‘m asking you about Larry Craig.  If you don‘t want to talk about Larry Craig, stop talking.  What do you think is the political significance of this?  If you say it‘s none, that‘s a good answer.  But you can‘t just change the subject. 

WOLF:  I think it is none, Chris.  Sorry, I think it‘s none. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s move on now.  Let‘s go to Cynthia Tucker, the political significance of this statement late today by Larry Craig denying all? 

CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION”:  Well, it certainly strains credibility.  If he did not do anything, why in the heck would you plead guilty?  If you know that you have been dogged by rumors that you are a closet gay man and then a police officer accuses you of solicitation of sex in a public restroom, you certainly don‘t plead guilty if it is not true.  You say, heck no, I did not do that. 

He further claims he wishes he had consulted with an attorney.  You do not have to consult with an attorney if you did not do anything.  The answer is obvious, no, I did not do it.  Will he survive this?  I do not think so.  I think there‘s probably more to be told.  I also think that gay activists will be hot on his trail now to out him because of his stances on issues. 

In a sense—let me also point out, he is also one of Karl Rove‘s victims.  Karl Rove has now exited the public stage.  But he is the one who insisted that Republicans campaign on essentially bigotry, on hardcore anti-gay issues. 

MATTHEWS:  That is true.  That is how they carried Ohio.  We‘ll be right back.  Cynthia, thank you.  Naomi, thank you.  We will be right back with Naomi and Cynthia and also David in just a moment.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with the round table.  Let‘s start with Naomi.  The confrontation is over.  What do you think is the political significance of this latest case of hypocrisy by a cultural conservative? 

WOLF:  Right, well I hope there will always be room for more controversies between us.  But this is what I think: most Americans looking at this feel sorry, whatever their politics, for the senator and for his family.  They understand that this is a personal failing, a compulsion.  They are not on board with Karl Rove‘s strategy of driving political success through hatred. 

That‘s why the Republicans are going to try to win this upcoming presidential campaign on terror, rather—and on hatred, rather than on—

I beg your pardon, on terror rather than their accomplishments, which are not significant enough. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sure we will talk about this more tomorrow.  David Brodie, thanks for coming and joining us.  Thank you as always Cynthia Tucker.  Pulitzer Prize winning Cynthia Tucker.  Right now, it is 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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