updated 8/31/2007 10:49:04 AM ET 2007-08-31T14:49:04

Guests: Tom DeLay, John Feehery, Jim Moran, Amanda Carpenter, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, the Senator Craig scandal heats up with sex, lies and now police tapes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  CRAIG:  I had to spread my legs...

SGT. DAVE KARSNIA, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE:  OK.

CRAIG:  ... when I lower my pants so they won‘t slide.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Philadelphia.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  The big story tonight, obviously, audiotapes, police audiotapes of a U.S. senator haggling with an undercover policeman about which hand he used to reach under that men‘s room stall.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KARSNIA:  I saw your left hand, and I could see the gold wedding ring when it—when it went across.  I could see that.  On your left hand, I could see that.

CRAIG:  Wait a moment.  My left hand was over here.

KARSNIA:  I saw—there‘s a...

CRAIG:  My right hand was next to you.

KARSNIA:  I could tell it was my—I could tell it was your left hand because your thumb was positioned in a faceward (ph) motion.  Your thumb was on this side, not on this side.

CRAIG:  Well, we can dispute that.  I‘m not going to fight you in court.  And I—I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper.

KARSNIA:  What I‘m telling you is I could see that, so I know it was your left hand.  Also, I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that‘s obvious it was the left hand.

CRAIG:  Well, OK.  My left hand was in the direct opposite of the stall from you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Not exactly the stuff to cause cheering on the church bus, is it.  Let‘s listen to some more.  Here‘s the conservative senator from Idaho explaining why his foot had entered the stall inhabited by the plainclothes policeman.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CRAIG:  I‘m a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA:  I understand.

CRAIG:  I had to spread my legs...

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  ... when I lower my pants so they won‘t slide.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  Did I slide them too close to yours?  Did I—I looked down once, your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA:  Yes.

CRAIG:  Did we bump?  You said so.  I don‘t recall that, but apparently, we were close.

KARSNIA:  Yes.  Well, your foot did touch mine on my side of the stall.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  OK?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Former House majority leader Tom DeLay in a moment to discuss the current state of the Republican Party.

Our second story tonight, closely related.  We‘ll have the full police tape recording of Senator Larry Craig‘s arrest conversation.  And our HARDBALL debate tonight: Is Larry Craig a hypocrite?  Is the Republican Party hypocritical?

We begin with reaction to the Craig tape from former House Republican leader Tom DeLay.  Mr. Leader, what is your reaction to this police tape?  I didn‘t think it would get out.  I‘m amazed that the police released it, but it‘s out.  What do you make of it?

TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, it‘s pretty sad.  My reaction was I feel sorry for Larry Craig‘s wife and his family.  I hope the truth will come out.  And—but I also know that when the truth comes out, the Republicans will do the right thing.  I‘m not going to...

MATTHEWS:  What is the question, though?  What is the truth that you haven‘t heard in these tapes?  What more information would you require?

DELAY:  I don‘t know—I‘m not going to get into the specifics.  I‘m going to evaluate it as the truth comes out.  I haven‘t seen or—in an interview of Larry Craig.  I‘m not defending Larry Craig, if he‘s guilty.  What I do know is the Republicans, as they have in the past, when you have members that have problems or scandals and they are found guilty, the Republican Party does the right thing and kicks them out.

What I was saying and what I have been saying, the character of the Democrat Party comes out because when their people have scandals and have been found to be guilty, they reelect them.  That‘s my point.

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example.

DELAY:  Oh, there‘s plenty of examples.  Alcee Hastings, a judge from Florida who was impeached by the House of Representatives, removed from office because of bribery by the United States Senate, was elected to the Congress.  And the Democrats not only seated him, but they were going to make him chairman of the intelligence committee.

Barney Frank caught with a prostitute ring run by his boyfriend and living in his home, censured by the House of Representatives, is now chairman of a very influential finance committee—financial services committee.  Alan Mollohan, who is a congressman from West Virginia, being investigated by the FBI, the Democrats make him chairman of the subcommittee that has oversight of the budget of the FBI.  And I could go on and on.  Ted Kennedy still a United States senator, and he continues to be reelected.

MATTHEWS:  Well...

DELAY:  William Jefferson was caught with $90,000 in his freezer and was reelected to come back to the House.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re on a roll.  You forgot Gerry Studds up in Massachusetts was censured by the House for seducing a young male page.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I was there.  I remember it well.  But he got reelected many times in Massachusetts.  But there‘s a difference, and here‘s the rub, senator (SIC).  The Republican Party campaigns against gay opportunity, gay rights, against gay marriage, against even civil unions.  It runs against having people who are patriotic and may want to serve in the military.  And yet you have a guy, a major Republican senator, from the upper house, if you will, time and time again voting against those rights for—and opportunities for gay Americans while engaging in what the police say is this behavior.  That is a big rub, isn‘t it?

DELAY:  Well, if it proves out to be, that is a rub.  But we also point out the fact that there‘s a congressman, a former congressman by the name of Jim Kolbe who announced that he was a homosexual, that served with distinction in the House of Representatives.

MATTHEWS:  Kolbe is a great guy.  I don‘t think he‘s at issue here, is he?

DELAY:  No, he‘s not an issue, but the point...

MATTHEWS:  And he didn‘t vote—he didn‘t vote to condemn the gay lifestyle or condemn gay opportunities, did he?

DELAY:  You are claiming that the Republicans are hypocrites.  If the same would apply to Jim Kolbe, we would have stripped him of everything and we would send him out of the House.  We didn‘t.  Jim Kolbe is a wonderful man.  He is a very—he has a very distinguished career as a congressman...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DELAY:  ... a Republican congressman in the House of Representatives. 

Let‘s go back...

MATTHEWS:  But nobody‘s ever accused Jim Kolbe of playing Fred Astaire in some Minnesota men‘s room, either.  He‘s been accused of simply having an orientation.

DELAY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a guy who‘s accused before the law of crimes which are well known in city ordinances across the country.  The police generally try to restrict this activity because it‘s illegal.  And you‘re saying it falls into the same category of happening to be born gay?

DELAY:  No, no, no, no.  And Chris you‘re trying to have me defend Larry Craig, and I said at the get-go I‘m not defending him.

MATTHEWS:  But you say you‘re not sure he‘s guilty yet.

DELAY:  Well, I‘m not.  I want...

MATTHEWS:  What kind of a tape do you want?

DELAY:  But this is my point, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Do you want audio...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got audiotape.  Isn‘t audiotape pretty good, listening to the guy describe...

DELAY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... how his hand was under the stall, how his feet were over banging on the other guy‘s feet?  What was all that about except trouble?  I mean, what was it?  How else do you explain it?

DELAY:  Well, let‘s find out.

MATTHEWS:  He admitted it all in the audiotape we just listened to.  We‘re going to play it again.  I mean, he pled guilty.  Why would a guy who‘s innocent plead guilty?  I‘m asking you that.

DELAY:  Will you let me answer?

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

DELAY:  I mean, you just went through a diatribe.  Let me answer.

MATTHEWS:  I let you go through the entire Motown list...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... of every single of the hits of the Democratic humiliations in the last 20 years.  I did not get in your way.  But go ahead.

DELAY:  Well, I‘m not trying to try Larry Craig on your show.  I‘m not defending him.  If he has been found guilty of what he‘s been accused of, then, yes.  But I do know that the Republicans will do something about it.  I do know that if he were a Democrat, they would rally around him and they would not do something about it.  I do know that the national media is incredibly biased against Republicans that...

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s a charge which I‘ve heard before, and I can understand why you make it.  You make it a lot, and sometimes, you know, you have a case to make.  Sometimes.  David Vitter accused—in fact, admitted to going to a prostitute.  Apparently, accusations of a lot of business with prostitutes.  You don‘t consider that—consider the Republicans have really been lickety-split dealing with that problem, right?  What have they done?

DELAY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Nothing!

DELAY:  No.  I respect you greatly because you are an honest liberal. 

I do not -

MATTHEWS:  A liberal?  OK, that is an interesting charge right there. 

But we‘ll get into that later.  What a liberal...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAY:  Let me finish.

MATTHEWS:  If you recall the way in which I challenged Bill Clinton‘s...

DELAY:  You challenged...

MATTHEWS:  ... credibility for a straight year when I...

DELAY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... when he said, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, and I said, I don‘t believe that...

DELAY:  I‘m trying to tell you that I‘m not accusing you of bias.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DELAY:  But I am telling you also, Chris, that when was the last time you had, if at all, on your show a segment of this length on Alan Mollohan, a congressman from West Virginia who‘s being investigated by the FBI?

MATTHEWS:  You know why?  We don‘t have police tapes.  We don‘t have audiotapes that dropped into our hands just a moment before broadcast.  I got to tell you something.  This is a medium which looks for primary evidence, primitive evidence in this case, that you can bring to the people and let them make their own judgment.  When those times come, when we let the people make their own judgment, we show the tapes of—you know?  And I think that‘s useful.

And I have to tell you, to be honest with you, this is an amazing case.  Here‘s a guy, Larry Craig, who comes across—I must say even in watching him in these tapes from the floor on C-Span—as a this culturally conservative guy who goes home to his wife at night, they play canasta.  I don‘t know what they do.  He seems like a regular guy.  He votes against gay marriage, against gay civil unions.  He votes against gays serving in the military.  I‘m sure he‘s tough on the life issue.  On all the cultural issues, he‘s just what Idaho wants.

And now it turns out that the police view of this guy is like C-Span after hours.  It‘s a bit different.  I think people find that to be very interesting news for them.  That‘s why we‘re doing it tonight.

DELAY:  Well, certainly...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s very interesting news.

DELAY:  It is very interesting news, and there‘s no—there‘s nothing wrong with putting it out on the news.  I‘m not criticizing that.  What I‘m...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s do something one more time.  I want to listen again to the first tape we showed tonight, in what we call our “cold open,” Mr. DeLay, just so you can react to—because you say you think he may still be innocent.  Let‘s listen to this first tape.

DELAY:  No, I didn‘t say that, Chris.  Don‘t—don‘t put words in my mouth.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what did you say?  I‘m sorry.  You said what?

DELAY:  I said I‘m not here to defend him.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DELAY:  That is—that is not fair, Chris, and you know it.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I thought you said we didn‘t have all the truth yet.

DELAY:  We don‘t have all the truth yet.

MATTHEWS:  What more would you want?

DELAY:  I‘m not a journalist and I‘m not a lawyer and I‘m not a judge.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DELAY:  And when the journalists and the lawyers and the judges get through with him, I‘ll make my decision.

MATTHEWS:  After the Mark Foley incident, which you were familiar with because that was a breach of House responsibility—and I know you believe in the responsibility of members of Congress...

DELAY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... to look out for these young pages, boys and girls alike.  And they‘re boys and girls, they‘re not adults.

DELAY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And you understand in loco parentis, the role you play as parents for a time when they‘re there.  Mark Foley got involved in that mess.  Then David Vitter, it turns out, was another cultural conservative, a young—extremely high—what‘s he, an Ivy Leaguer?  He‘s got—he‘s a Rhodes Scholar or something.  This guy has had all the advantages in the world.  It turns out he‘s had another part to his life down there in Louisiana.  The papers down there have been jumping all over him.

Are these relevant facts for a country that seems to have one debate after another about gay rights, about all kinds of cultural values questions...

DELAY:  You—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Why does your party...

DELAY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... want to raise these issues if you can‘t defend the behavior of your members?

DELAY:  Well, now, Chris, if you‘re going to be unbiased and objective, let‘s talk about Senator Ted Kennedy.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  And let‘s talk about Patrick Kennedy.  What happened to them? 

They got reelected.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  What happened to Mark Foley?  The day that we found about it -

by the way, a leftist group called CREW held onto it for over a year before they pulled the trigger on the day of adjournment...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DELAY:  ... on Mark Foley—that very day, he resigned from Congress because the Republicans demanded that he resign from Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  So that‘s my point.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democrats...

DELAY:  Patrick Kennedy‘s still...

MATTHEWS:  ... are as hypocritical...

DELAY:  ... in Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Are the Democrats as hypocritical as the Republicans?

DELAY:  Ted Kennedy‘s not only in the Senate, but he‘s the chairman of a full committee in the Senate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think the Democrats are hypocritical or are they just not perfect or they‘re not good guys?

DELAY:  No, they...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t there a difference here about hypocrisy, a party that has the Moral Majority behind it, that brings people to vote in church buses, that goes to the churches of this country and says, Vote Republican, and brings them to the polls because the cultural values of the Republican Party are the values of the people that go to church on Sunday and lead good lives?  Doesn‘t that raise the bar for your party?

DELAY:  No, Chris, I think it has to do with the lack of character in the Democrat Party.  Character is shown by how you handle these situations.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DELAY:  And the Democrat Party evidently either approves of Ted Kennedy‘s behavior or Patrick Kennedy‘s behavior or Alcee Hastings‘s behavior, or they look the other way and reelect them.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DELAY:  On the other side, the character of the Republican Party is we kick our guys out.  You guys reelect yours.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe not my guys, but let me tell you—in other words, you‘re saying that the Democrats believe in Christian forgiveness and the Republicans don‘t.

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY:  No, no, no.  If you want to go there, Chris—you know, if you want to go there, a Christian first confesses the truth...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  ... then accepts the consequences of that...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  ... of those actions and asks for forgiveness of those closest to him...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me—let me...

DELAY:  ... and promises never to do it again.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me bring up a very important—during the Bill Clinton impeachment embarrassment, and whether he should have been impeached or not is an argument we‘ll have for 100 years, whether he should have been kicked out of office I think is a hard argument to make, because he was re-elected twice.  But he ...

DELAY:  He would have never—he would have never been impeached if he hadn‘t lied. 

MATTHEWS:  If he hadn‘t—I lied under oath. 

DELAY:  If he just told the—right. 

MATTHEWS:  But during the course of the impeachment, your party in the House, and you‘re part of the leadership, was at least technically led by Newt Gingrich, who now has admitted he was carrying on a relationship with a young woman staffer at the very time he was at the head.  Maybe he didn‘t want to be there, but he was at the head of the impeachment Congress.  Doesn‘t that add a little layer of hypocrisy to this business? 

DELAY:  I think it‘s outrageous, to be honest with you.  I didn‘t know that was going on, and when I found out about it, I was outraged.  And—but it explained why Newt Gingrich really wasn‘t the head of the impeachment, I was.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he didn‘t have his heart in it.

DELAY:  I was.  He didn‘t want...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you were.

DELAY:  ... to do it.  In fact, he chewed me out when I suggested it, and now I know why.

MATTHEWS:  Now you know why.  He wasn‘t ready to be—play Tonto to your Lone Ranger on that baby!

DELAY:  Exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you very much, sir, Tom DeLay, for coming on tonight.  It‘s not a great night to be defending a lot of things that have to be defended tonight.

Anyway, the complete Craig tape when we return.  We‘ve never done this before.  We‘re going to play it for you and let you make your judgment.

And later, the HARDBALL debate tonight.  Is Larry Craig a hypocrite? 

And is the Republican Party guilty of the same?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KARSNIA:  How many times did you put your hand under the stall?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall.  I remember reaching down once, there was a piece of toilet paper back behind me, and picking it up.

KARSNIA:  OK.  Was your—was your palm down or up when you were doing that?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I recall your palm being up, OK?

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  When you pick up a piece of paper off the ground, your palm would be down, when you pick something up.

CRAIG:  Yes, probably would be.  I recall picking the paper up.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Now, in its entirety, that audiotape of Senator Larry Craig‘s interrogation after his men‘s room arrest, released late today by the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Am I going to have to fight you in court?

KARSNIA:  No.  No.  I‘m not going to go to court unless you want me there.

CRAIG:  Because I don‘t want to be in court, either.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I don‘t, either. (INAUDIBLE)  Here‘s the way it works. 

You‘ll be released today, OK?

CRAIG:  OK.

KARSNIA:  All right.  I know I can bring you to jail, but that‘s not my goal here, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  ... don‘t do that.  You...

KARSNIA:  I‘m not going to bring you in.

CRAIG:  You solicited me.

KARSNIA:  OK.  We‘re going to get—we‘re going to get into that.

(INAUDIBLE)

CRAIG:  OK.

KARSNIA:  But there‘s the—there there‘s two ways.  Yes, you can—you can—you can go to court and you can plead guilty.

CRAIG:  Yes.

KARSNIA:  There‘ll be a fine.  You won‘t have to explain anything (INAUDIBLE)

CRAIG:  OK.

KARSNIA:  And you‘ll pay a fine.  You‘ll (INAUDIBLE)  Done.  Or if you want to plead not guilty, you—you know, and I can‘t make these decisions for you.

CRAIG:  No, no.  Just tell me where I am because...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  ... I need to make this flight.

KARSNIA:  OK.  OK.  And then I go (ph) to the people that are not guilty, then I would have to come to court and end up testifying.  So those are the two things, OK?  Did I explain that part?

CRAIG:  Yes.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I‘m just going to read you your rights real quick, OK? 

(INAUDIBLE) it on?

CRAIG:  Yes.

KARSNIA:  OK.  The date is 6/11/07 at 1228 hours.  Mr. Craig?

CRAIG:  Yes.

KARSNIA:  All right.  (INAUDIBLE)  You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to talk to a lawyer now or have present—a lawyer present now or anytime during questioning.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you without cost.  Do you understand each of these rights the way I explained them to you?

CRAIG:  I do.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I just want to start off with a your side of the story, OK?  So...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  So, I go into the bathroom here, as I normally do.  I‘m a commuter through here.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  I sit down to go to the bathroom.  And you said our feet bumped.  I believe they did, because I reached down and scooted over, and  the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says “Police.”

Now, that‘s about as far as I can take it.  I don‘t know of anything else.  Your foot came toward mine.  Mine came towards yours.  Was that natural?  I don‘t know.  Did we bump?  Yes.  I think we did.  You said so.  I don‘t disagree with that.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I don‘t want to get into a pissing match here.

CRAIG:  We‘re not going to.

KARSNIA:  Good. 

CRAIG:  I don‘t—I am not gay.  I don‘t do these kinds of things and...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  That doesn‘t matter.  I don‘t care about sexual preference or anything like that. 

Here‘s your stuff back, sir.   I don‘t care about sexual preference.

CRAIG:  I know you don‘t.  You‘re out to enforce the law.

KARSNIA:  Right.

CRAIG:  But you shouldn‘t be out to entrap people either.

KARSNIA:  This isn‘t entrapment.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  You—you‘re—you‘re skipping some parts here, but what about your hand?

CRAIG:  What about it?  I reached down with my foot like this.  There was a piece of paper on the floor.  I picked it up.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  What about my hand?

KARSNIA:  Well, you‘re not being truthful with me.  I‘m kind of disappointed in you, Senator.  I‘m really disappointed right now. 

OK?  I‘m not—just so you know, just like everybody...

CRAIG:  Yes?

KARSNIA:  I treat with dignity.  I try to pull them away from the situation.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  ... not embarrass them.

CRAIG:  I appreciate that.

KARSNIA:  And I...

CRAIG:  And you did that after—and I know that (INAUDIBLE)  

KARSNIA:  I will say every person I have had so far has told me the truth.  We have been respectful to each other, and then they have gone on their way.  And I have never had to bring anybody to jail because everybody‘s been truthful to me.

CRAIG:  I don‘t want you to take me to jail.  And I think...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I‘m not going to take you to jail as long as you be cooperative, but I—I‘m not going to lie.  We...

CRAIG:  Did my hand come below the divider?  Yes, it did.

KARSNIA:  OK.  Sir, we deal with people that lie to us every day.

CRAIG:  I‘m sure you do.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I‘m sure you do too, sir.

CRAIG:  And, gentleman, so do I.

KARSNIA:  I‘m sure you do.  We deal with a lot of people that are very bad people.  You‘re not a bad person.

CRAIG:  No, I don‘t think I am.

KARSNIA:  OK.  So what I‘m telling you is, I don‘t want to be lied to.

CRAIG:  OK.

KARSNIA:  OK. 

So, we will start over.  You‘re going to get out of here.  You‘re going to have to pay a fine, and that will be it.  OK?  And I don‘t call media.  I don‘t do any of that type of crap.

CRAIG:  Fine.

KARSNIA:  OK?

CRAIG:  Fine.

KARSNIA:  All right, so let‘s start from the beginning.  You went in the bathroom.

CRAIG:  I went in the bathroom.

KARSNIA:  And then what did you do when you...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  I stood beside the wall, waiting for a stall to open.  I got in the stall, sat down.  I started going to the bathroom.  Did our feet come together?  Apparently, they did bump.  Well, I won‘t dispute that.

KARSNIA:  OK.  When I got out of the stall, I noticed other—other stalls were open.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  They were at the time.  At the time I entered, I—I—at the time I entered, I stood and waited.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  They were all busy, you know?

KARSNIA:  Were you right at me while you were waiting?  I could see your eyes.  I saw you playing with your fingers, then look up, play with your fingers, and then look up.

CRAIG:  Did I glance at your stall?  I was glancing at a stall right beside yours waiting for a fellow to empty it.  I saw him stand up.  And, therefore, I thought it was going to empty.

KARSNIA:  How long do you think you stood outside the stalls?

CRAIG:  Oh, a minute or two at the most.

KARSNIA:  OK.  And, when you went in the stall, then what?

CRAIG:  Sat down.

KARSNIA:  OK.  Did you do anything with your feet?

CRAIG:  Positioned them, I don‘t know.  I don‘t know at the time.  I‘m a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA:  I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  I bend to spread my legs...

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  ... when I lower my pants so they won‘t slide.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  Did I slide them too close to yours?  Did I—I looked down once your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA:  Yes.

CRAIG:  Did we bump?  You said so.  I don‘t recall that, but apparently we were close.

KARSNIA:  Yeah.  Well, your foot did touch mine, on my side of the stall.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  OK?  And then with the hand.  How many times did you put your hand under the stall?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall.  I remember reaching down once—there was a piece of toilet paper back behind me—in picking it up.

KARSNIA:  OK.  Was your—was your palm down or up when you were doing that?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall.

KARSNIA:  OK.  I recall your palm being up.  OK?

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  When you pick up a piece of paper off the ground, your palm would be down, when you pick something up.

CRAIG:  Yeah, probably would be.  I recall picking the paper up.

KARSNIA:  And I know it‘s hard to describe here on tape, but, actually, what I saw was your fingers come underneath the stalls.  You were actually touching the bottom of the stall divider.

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall that.

KARSNIA:  You don‘t recall...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  I don‘t believe I did that.  I don‘t.

KARSNIA:  I saw—I saw...

CRAIG:  I don‘t do those things.

KARSNIA:  I saw your left hand.  And I could see the gold wedding ring when it when it went across.  I could see that.  On your left hand, I could see that.

CRAIG:  Wait a moment.  My left hand was over here.

KARSNIA:  I saw—there‘s a...

CRAIG:  My right hand was next to you.

KARSNIA:  I could tell it with my—I could tell it was your left hand, because your thumb was positioned—in a faceward motion, your thumb was on this side, not on this side.

CRAIG:  Well, we can dispute that.  I‘m not going to fight you in court. 

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  But I—I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper.

But I‘m telling you that I could see that, so I know that‘s your left hand.  Also, I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that it‘s obvious it was the left hand.

CRAIG:  Yeah, OK.  My left hand was in the direct opposite of the stall from you.

KARSNIA:  OK. 

You—you travel through here frequently, correct? 

KARSNIA:  I do, almost weekly.

KARSNIA:  Have you been successful in these bathrooms here before?

CRAIG:  I go to that bathroom regularly.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I mean for any type of other activity?

CRAIG:  No, absolutely not.  I don‘t seek activity in bathrooms.

KARSNIA:  It‘s embarrassing.

CRAIG:  Well, it‘s embarrassing for both.  But I‘m not going to fight you.

KARSNIA:  I know you‘re not going to fight me, but that‘s not the point.  I would respect you.  And I still respect you.  I don‘t disrespect you.  But I‘m disrespected right now. 

And I‘m not tying to act like I have all kinds of power or anything, but you‘re sitting here lying to a police officer.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  That is not a (INAUDIBLE) I‘m getting from somebody else. 

I‘m...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I have been trained in this.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I have been trained in this, and I know what I am doing. 

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  And I saw you put your hand under there.  And you‘re going to sit there and...

CRAIG:  I admit I put my hand down.

KARSNIA:  You put your hand and rubbed it on the bottom of the stall with your left hand.

CRAIG:  No.  Wait a moment.

KARSNIA:  And I‘m—I‘m not dumb.  You can say, I don‘t recall...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  If I had turned sideways, that was the only way I could get my left hand over there.

KARSNIA:  It‘s not that hard for you to reach...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  It‘s not that hard.  I see it happen every day out here now.

CRAIG:  (INAUDIBLE) You do.  All right.

KARSNIA:  I‘m just—I‘m just—I guess—I guess I‘m going to say I‘m just disappointed in you, sir.  I just really am.  I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood.  But, I mean—I mean, people vote for you.

CRAIG:  Yes, they do. 

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  Unbelievable.  Unbelievable.

CRAIG:  And I‘m a respectable person.  And I don‘t do these kinds of...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  ... respect right now, though.

CRAIG:  But I didn‘t use my left hand.

KARSNIA:  I saw...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  I reached down with my right hand like this to pick up a piece of paper.

KARSNIA:  Was your gold ring on your right hand at any time today?

CRAIG:  Of course not.  Try to get it off.  Look at it.

KARSNIA:  OK.  Then it was your left hand.  I saw it with my own eyes.

CRAIG:  All right, you saw something that didn‘t happen.

KARSNIA:  Embarrassing.  Embarrassing.  No wonder why we‘re going down the tubes. 

Do you have anything to add?

NELSON:  Uh, no.

KARSNIA:  All right.  It‘s embarrassing. 

Date is 6/11/07 at 12:36.  Interview is done.

CRAIG:  OK.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up later, the HARDBALL debate:  Is Larry Craig a hypocrite, an archconservative, culturally conservative gentleman who is very much against gay rights doing this sort of thing?

We will be back.

Is the Republican Party hypocritical?  That‘s a bigger question. 

And up next, today‘s big political headlines.

Fred Thompson, by the way, will make it official, he says, next week. 

John Edwards, by the way, is now leading, again, Hillary and Obama out in Iowa.  So, this thing is still a three-way race, at least.  And Mitt Romney is running as a runner. 

Anyway, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL from Philadelphia, where we just took our last to college this morning. 

Here‘s the news in politics.  A new “TIME” magazine poll has John Edwards leading again in Iowa with 29 percent, followed by Hillary with 24, and Obama with 22.  So, he has got Hillary by five, Obama by seven in the state that starts it all.  Let‘s give—give this guy a big new look.  John Edwards, keep an eye on him. 

As for the big three on the R. side of the map, big Fred Thompson said today he will make his move next Thursday with a Webcast and then a swing through Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. 

He has just hired, by the way, Todd Harris, who I go to know when he was promoting Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He did a good job with that, as I recall. 

In the moving-on-out category, John Warner, senator from Virginia, once married to Liz Taylor, is going to make an announcement about his future this Friday.  He is expected to call it a career in the United States Senate. 

Let me offer a rare absolute endorsement here.  This guy is the kind of senator both the founding fathers and Hollywood had in mind when they figured out what a U.S. senator should be. 

Is the old John McCain making a comeback?  Down in the polls, the onetime maverick is calling for Larry Craig to go, and retelling the story of his own heroism in this video. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is your name?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. NAVY:  Commander John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How old are you?

MCCAIN:  Thirty-one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In which school were you educated or any university?

MCCAIN:  The Naval Academy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is your rank in the army?

MCCAIN:  Lieutenant Commander in the Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And your official number?

MCCAIN:  Six-two-four-seven-eight...

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a commie picture, by the way, of a good American doing his duty in the face of amazing intimidation there.  You saw that camera.  Imagine what was behind that camera. 

And, finally, just like George Bush, Mitt Romney is a jogger and thinks it‘s a real selling point for leader of the free world. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  An Olympics hit by scandal and deficits, he rescued them. 

He turned around dozens of companies and became a business legend.

A state losing jobs with huge deficits, Governor Mitt Romney turned it around, cutting spending, instead of raising taxes. 

At every step, he‘s met extraordinary challenges. 

Mitt Romney, the energy and experience to turn around Washington. 

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Mitt Romney.  And I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is that about?

Anyway, I would prefer these guys would show us they know a little history, instead of jogging.  It might not be gimmicky, but it would sure be good to know whether the next president is aware that a little history will tell you that countries don‘t really like being invaded, that resistance is totally predictable when you do invade a country, and that insurgencies are what you can expect when foreigners arrive pointing guns at people.

Just ask the British.  That‘s what happened here. 

And how about those Phillies?  I‘m up in Philly right now.  They have just swept the Mets, four games, four wins for Philly, four losses for the Mets. 

Up next, tonight‘s HARDBALL debate:  Is Larry Craig a hypocrite?  Hmm. 

You decide.  Is the Republican Party hypocritical?  Bigger question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closed mixed, ahead of a closely watched speech tomorrow by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke—the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 50 points.  S&P 500 fell six points, but the Nasdaq, it managed a two-point gain. 

After the closing bell, computer-maker Dell reported profit and sales that beat analyst estimates.  In after-hours trading, Dell shares are up fractionally. 

Defense contractor ITT Corporation won a billion-dollar government contract to build the first portion of a new satellite-based air traffic control system.  The full upgrade of the system is expected to cost more than $15 billion and take nearly 20 years to build. 

Thirty-year mortgage rates, they dipped this week to 6.45 percent. 

That‘s the lowest level in three months. 

And oil prices, they dipped today, falling 15 cents in New York, closing at $73.36 a barrel. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With the release of that audiotape we played following his arrest for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom, is Senator Larry Craig of Idaho a bad apple, or is his party a bad bunch of apples?

Before we begin the HARDBALL debate, let‘s listen to Senator Craig trying to explain why his foot was in the stall of that undercover police officer. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CRAIG:  I‘m a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA:  I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG:  I bend to spread my legs...

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  ... when I lower my pants, so they won‘t slide.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  Did I slide them too close to yours?  Did I—I looked down once your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA:  Yes.

CRAIG:  Did we bump?  You said so.  I don‘t recall that, but, apparently, we were close.

KARSNIA:  Yeah.  Well, your foot did touch mine on my side of the stall.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  OK? 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  U.S. Congressman Jim Moran is from Northern Virginia.  He‘s a Democrat.  John Feehery is a Republican strategist.  He was the top aide to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Let me read a statement to you, gentlemen. 

This is from the Republican National Committee.  It just came out late this afternoon: “We are disappointed in the matter.  It has been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, so they will have to deal with it.”

It doesn‘t sound too strong, John Feehery. 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, I think that the RNC is going to have to say what they‘ll say.  The fact of the matter is for most people this incident is absolutely disgusting.  I think people are disgusted with it.  I think a lot of Republicans are saying, you know, why doesn‘t Larry Craig resign and get on to the next subject? 

I think it‘s really important as Republicans to think that this time -

it‘s time for Larry Craig to go. 

MATTHEWS:  But your leadership hasn‘t said this yet. 

FEEHERY:  Well, they almost did.  The Senate stripped him of some key committees.  The people are just disgusted by the whole incident.  This is not about homosexuality or anything like that.  It‘s about this happening at a public restroom.  I think people think about bringing their kids in the public restrooms and this kind of activity.  It outrageous.  It‘s disgusting and people don‘t like it. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Moran, what do you make of the Republican party on this thing, especially Mr. Craig‘s voting record, what does it tell you about his real life? 

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  Well, as you know, Chris, the reason the story has legs is because he‘s run as a rigid, moral conservative.  Now he‘s denying things that can be proven to be the case.  And the difficulty I think that the Republican party has had is that when you run on being the party of strict moral values, you—it undoes some of the members because we‘re all human.

But when you claim to be self- -- you know, when you take a self-righteous stance—and I think it really started in the 1980‘s, you know, with the god, guns and gays, all the cultural issues, abortion and immigration and so on, it‘s a platform of intolerance.  What we really need is to be tolerant of individuals and, you know, say this is their life.  Let‘s leave them alone. 

The problem is it becomes public when they attest—when they really condemn other people for their own behavior.  You know, the Republican party wouldn‘t tolerate Barney Frank in it.  We embraced Barney because he‘s a terrific legislator.  He‘s a brilliant guy.  He‘s doing a great job as chairman.  And as far as we‘re concerned, his personal life is that. 

But when you take the personal life and you make it public by claiming to be superior to others and that‘s why you should elect me, because I‘m morally superior, that‘s when you get in trouble.  What goes around comes around.  And it‘s come around to a guy who has been fairly self-righteous throughout his political career. 

MATTHEWS:  John Feehery, let me ask you about a couple of phrases that I don‘t think are as old as Jim and I.  Jim and I went to school together, but I remember a phrase from the Republican party, Jean Kirkpatrick back in ‘84, giggling at the Democratic party as the San Francisco Democrats—giggling.  You know, this thing isn‘t new.  Ohio this year turned on the issue of gay marriage.  The Republican party has been masterful at exploiting the Democratic party‘s toleration of gay people and, in fact, support for their rights. 

And now you‘re saying what?  How does that fit into the platform language, the battle cries, the clever electioneering?   

FEEHERY:  Chris, the issue here with Larry Craig really is not about homosexuality.  It‘s about lewd conduct in a public restroom.  Now, gay marriage, the fact of the matter is that many Democrat presidential candidates came out against gay marriage.  This is not just a Republican/Democrat issue.  Let me say this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does the phrase San Francisco Democrat sound like to you?  If that‘s not gay bashing, I don‘t know what is. 

FEEHERY:  It‘s also a way of life.  It‘s also the fact that they‘re extremely liberal.  Nancy Pelosi is not gay, but she‘s extremely liberal. 

MATTHEWS:  That charge was made before Nancy was elected to anything.  What are you talking about?  That was back in 1984.  Your party has been living on this stuff, come on. 

FEEHERY:  Well, in San Francisco I think people see that as being out of touch with values in the middle America.  The Republican message needs to be, that is—and Jim was talking about hypocrisy.  There‘s a lot of hypocrisy in Washington on both sides.  That‘s why people hate Washington.  The fact of the matter is Republicans need to get back to the message of getting government smaller, more limited government, get out of people‘s lives and get power and money out of Washington, D.C.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congressman Moran, your view on this, is this going to hurt the Republican party‘s ability to sell itself as the pharaohs in the temple, if you will? 

MORAN:  There are inconsistencies here.  I know John for a long time and I like John.  We‘re good friends.  But the issue of small government, how about the abortion issue?  How about leaving women to make their own decisions?  How about letting people, regardless of their sexual orientation, make those kinds of decisions?  Why does government have to intrude in people‘s personal lives?  That‘s the inconsistency. 

I think we find a number of inconsistencies, and that‘s why it‘s coming back to haunt some members of the Republican party.  Now, Chris, restate that.  I just had to respond to John there.  What was the question? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know what?  My answer is time‘s up, Mr. Moran. 

Thank you very much. 

MORAN:  I had to get that comment in. 

MATTHEWS:  John Feehery, coming on tonight was like playing the Washington Generals against the Globe Trotters.  It was a tough night. 

FEEHERY:  I guess I was the Generals, huh Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Washington generals.  Up next, our HARDBALL round table with much more on the Craig audio tape, which just got broken.  We all heard it.  Anyway, this is HARDBALL.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The round table tonight, a big one, Joan Walsh of Salon.com, Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com, and our own NBC Mike Viqueira up on Capitol Hill.  Stalemate; the facts are simple.  Senator Larry Craig pled guilty to disorderly conduct charge after his arrest and now we heard all the audio of this thing.  Let‘s not go on too far with this. 

Let‘s go to Mike Viqueira for the political status report.  John Ensign of Nevada made his statement today.  Who else is talking about this man leaving the Senate?  

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  You just reported that the RNC had put out a statement.  A lot of people around town had been anticipating today that the RNC would do something.  We had heard that they were holding a statement over the head of Larry Craig today like the sword of Damocles, waiting for him to step down.  They finally released something that is somewhat less than we had anticipated, to tell you the truth, somewhat short of calling for a resignation.

But John Ensign, a very significant statement—he runs the Senate campaign arm of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.  He‘s got 22 seats to defend this year, Chris—or next year in the election year, 2008.  He—only 12 or so Democrats.  Ensign is trying to give a little cover to some of the Republicans who have to come out four square against Larry Craig.  We all know this story.  It‘s the Mark Foley hangover. 

Republican voters very disaffected, values voters disaffected with the way things have gone down with the corruption, with Abramoff and Foley, now with Ted Stevens others getting their houses raided.  Sure they point out there‘s Bill Jefferson and Alan Mollohan and others.  But in the voters‘ minds, it‘s these top Republicans who for the past year, Duke Cunningham, with these incredibly sordid tales of corruption, Chris.  And so Republicans very concerned, waiting for him to be shown the door. 

Larry Craig, they want him to step down. 

MATTHEWS:  Amanda Carpenter, what‘s the word from the grass roots? 

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM:  Well, I mean, there‘s a lot of anger going on right now.  But, you know, Larry Craig, he pled guilty to the crime.  He should be held accountable for it.  Right now he is saying he didn‘t do it.  But you‘re a U.S. senator, you pled guilty to the crime.  You need to be shown to the door. 

I think Susan Collins is giving back campaign contributions from him.  He‘s being threatened with an ethics investigation.  He‘s not going to weather this. 

MATTHEWS:  The truth of the matter is, Republicans are generally culturally conservative, the people who vote Republican, especially from the part of the country that Larry Craig comes from.  Do you have a sense, Amanda, that they will begin a drum beat here to make it happen? 

CARPENTER:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, this is something—it‘s a terrible thing to come out like this and it‘s even worse that he‘s lying about it, if that‘s the case.  It‘s time to stand our ground.  Just like they got rid of Mark Foley, they are going to have to get rid of Larry Craig. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Joan to you for the first time, Joan Walsh.  I do have a long political memory and I do remember how the Republicans got this big giggle at their conventions, not just with the attack by the late Jean Kirkpatrick again, quote, San Francisco Democrats, but our colleague, beloved as he is, Pat Buchanan was—got a lot of jollies out of the Republicans back in ‘92 in Houston when he talked about the Democrats being cross dressers and he meant it in a lot of ways. 

I just find this interesting.  Hypocrisy does loom here. 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Hypocrisy absolutely looms, Chris.  You‘re absolutely right.  I mean, what‘s happened is that the party—the Republican party has made itself the party of the bedroom police.  They have gone after gays.  They have snickered about San Francisco Democrats.  They went after Bill Clinton in a sexual kind of witch-hunt.  So they have left themselves really open to charges of double standards. 

I really want to say, you were great with Tom Delay, but he is really lying about the extent to which they police their own.  They have known about Larry Craig going back to the ‘80‘s, Chris, you know that. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know that.  You‘re reporting something for me.  How

we just know that back in ‘82 he issued an unsolicited denial of being gay.  But I didn‘t know they knew about this kind of behavior at the Minnesota airport, or the more recent claim by someone that he had another relation based in that situation. 

WALSH:  There have been rumors—

MATTHEWS:  Rumors.  What do you do about rumors? 

WALSH:  But last year, Mike Rodgers, the Idaho newspapers began really documenting this.  There‘s a pattern here.  They have known about it.  It came out before the ‘06 --

MATTHEWS:  Were laws broken?  Let‘s try to find—the old rule, Joan, in the business used to be sex isn‘t enough to report.  There has to be a plus.  It has to be a law broken, some major violation of public policy, as exemplified by the person‘s record. 

WALSH:  The men‘s restroom stories have been out there.  There has not been an arrest.  I will give you that.  The arrests and the pleading guilty is brand new.  But this has been known.  And Mark Foley, come on, everybody know that Mark Foley was gay.  Moreover, the Republicans left him alone.  Denny Hastert was told about—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not an issue of Mark being gay.  I figured he was too. 

I knew him a long time.  But, you know, I didn‘t think that was criminal. 

I certainly didn‘t think it was a reason for either party to dump a member. 

WALSH:  It‘s the preying on the pages and they knew about those complaints by parents, by children too.  

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll give you that.  I didn‘t know they knew about it, but apparently the leadership staffers knew about it. 

WALSH:  They absolutely did.  The leadership staffers did.  And Hastert was told as well, people testified under oath.  So there‘s incredible hypocrisy where they used the issue.  They bash gay people and then they cover up gay behavior and criminal behavior, and then they show them the door. 

MATTHEWS:  I have a word for us all, wrap.  I‘ve been told to wrap.  Let‘s come back in a minute with our round table.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let me go to Amanda Carpenter.  What do you make of Fred Thompson?  He finally dropped the news he‘s going to announce next Thursday.  He‘s going to go from New Hampshire to Iowa to South Carolina, big day.  Can this guy break into the top three right at the bat? 

CARPENTER:  I think we‘re going to have to find out right away.  It‘s good news he‘s getting into the race.  We can finally see how he is going to stack up against the other candidates.  But seeing how he‘s likely to announce on September 6th, he‘s going to have to be ready to talk about Iraq immediately, and start raising major money, because the next FEC deadline is the end of October. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re setting it up.  Let‘s find out what—Mike Viqueira, the sense on Capitol Hill, is this guy a real front line candidate from the start? 

VIQUEIRA:  The one thing you hear around here so much from Republican members of Congress, it has almost become a cliche, does Fred Thompson has the get up and go, the oomph, the energy to do what‘s required to run for president of the United States?  A lot of people have been somewhat disappointed in the reviews on the stump speeches he has made so far.  Calling them lack luster. 

Of course, it‘s been talked about many times here on this show that his fund raising has fallen short of expectations.  So an announcement today that there‘s going to be an announcement; how long can they drag this out, Chris?  But it appears that September 6th is going to be the day. 

MATTHEWS:  Joan, does this guy have Hollywood appeal? 

WALSH:  I don‘t know how much Hollywood appeal he has politically. 

Clearly, he is an actor.  He does his job well.  But I think Mike is right.  We need to see what he is like out there on the stump.  He‘s finally ready to make the jump.  I mean, Mike Huckabee is taking a bounce that people thought he might. 

MATTHEWS:  Huckabee is good.  We had him on this week.  He‘s very likable. 

WALSH:  I saw that.  He has gotten into double digits in a couple of polls now.  So he‘s more of a contender.  People are looking for an alternative.  I don‘t if he‘ll hold up.   

MATTHEWS:  Joan, I‘m going to reserve judgment.  That‘s four of us reserving judgment, which means it‘s a good political story this fall.  The big question mark, can Fred Thompson go right to the top, right past Romney, right past Rudy?  Anyway, thank you Joan Walsh.  Thank you Amanda Carpenter.  Thank you Mike Viqueira.  Coming up—join us 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.

END   

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