updated 9/5/2007 1:43:01 PM ET 2007-09-05T17:43:01

Guests: Bill Maher, Robert Draper, Ron Christie, Jon Soltz, Jill Zuckman, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A top Republican says Larry Craig should fight for his job and that he would win.  Is the door still open for Larry Craig?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  The return of Larry Craig.  Could there be more to this story?  This weekend, the ranking Republican senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee stated on national television that Senator Larry Craig should withdraw his decision to resign from the Senate.  Senator Arlen Specter said that Craig has not been given a fair shake and deserved a chance to fight his case in court and to retain his position in the world‘s greatest deliberative body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  I‘d still like to see Senator Craig fight this case.  He left himself some daylight, Chris, when he said that he intends to resign in 30 days.  I‘d like to see Larry Craig go back to court, seek to withdraw his guilty plea and fight the case.  I‘ve had some experience with these kinds of matters since my days at Philadelphia district attorney, and on the evidence, Senator Craig wouldn‘t be convicted of anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So the beat goes on.

Meanwhile, President Bush made some comments that are just now being publicized that may cause voters to wonder about the president‘s basic sense of decency, or at least sense of place.  Bush says his first goal when he leaves the U.S. presidency will be to hit the lecture circuit and make the kind of money his father and Bill Clinton have been making, “replenish the ol‘ coffers,” he said.  He talks to the author of a new book about making a ridiculous amount of money this way.  Quote, “I don‘t know what my dad gets,” he‘s quoted as saying, quote, “but it‘s more than 50, 75.  Clinton‘s making a lot of money,” close quote.

Now, just to show the contrast, here‘s the president‘s public face appearing with the troops this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want to tell you this about the decision—about my decision about troop levels.  Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results and the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s selling the country on staying in Iraq until the end of his term, then planning on cleaning up financially—quote, “to replenish the ol‘ coffers.”  In a moment, Bill Maher, host of HBO‘s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” will be joining us.

The second story tonight is related, inside the White House with President Bush.  That new book we talked about pulls back the curtain on the war, the West Wing and the president‘s plans for life after the Oval Office.  I‘m going to talk to Robert Draper, who spent many hours with the president.  He‘s the author of a new book that‘s going to sell.  “Dead Certain” it‘s called.

And the HARDBALL debate tonight: Should a war president be talking about how he‘ll make money after he leaves the White House even as he sends young men and women into Iraq—where the death toll, by the way, is getting very close to 4,000.

But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In the turbulent wake of the Larry Craig sex scandal, today Republicans came back to Washington hoping to move on, but there are still some lingering questions.  First, what is the long-term fallout of the scandal on the party that claims the moral high ground?  And are there other shoes to drop?  And secondly, what did Craig mean when he announced his exit on Saturday and did not say he will resign but said that it is his intent?

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate effective September 30.

SHUSTER:  Craig‘s office denies he will reverse course, but a top Republican is now urging Craig to fight on and not resign at all.

SPECTER:  I‘d like to see Larry Craig go back to court, seek to withdraw his guilty plea and fight the case.

I‘d like to see him fight the case because I think he could be vindicated.

SHUSTER:  It was exactly a week ago when Craig publicly acknowledged having pled guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from an arrest for lewd conduct in this airport men‘s room.

CRAIG:  Let me be clear.  I am not gay.  I never have been gay.  I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport.

SHUSTER:  Two Senate Republicans came forward almost immediately, calling for Craig‘s resignation.  Republican leaders, meanwhile, told Idaho Republicans to pass along to Craig that he needed to resign by the end of the week or face humiliating Ethics Committee hearings.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think there‘s been overload with Republicans in terms of scandal, and they just decided they‘re going to cut this one cold, and they dealt with it brutally and immediately.

SHUSTER:  The Republican Party‘s 2004 convention platform criticizes gay rights, condemning what the platform called legal recognition and accompanying legal benefits to gay couples.  The platform also talks of respect for traditional family values.

But on top of Senator Craig, just two months ago, Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter acknowledged having had a relationship with a woman police called a prostitute.  And as the 2008 elections approach, 10 congressional Republicans are caught up in sexual corruption or ethics scandals.  It‘s a big problem for the party that claims the moral high ground on values.

Meanwhile, with all of these problems facing his party at home and in anticipation of a rough debate this month over the Iraq war, President Bush began this week with a surprise visit to a sand-swept desert west of Baghdad.  Anbar province is one area that is showing some progress.

BUSH:  You see Sunnis who once fought side by side with al Qaeda against coalition troops now fighting side by side with coalition troops against al Qaeda.

SHUSTER:  But al Anbar is almost exclusively a Sunni province, and in provinces where Sunnis and Shias are mixed, the sectarian violence remains high and the instability continues.  Back in the U.S., on the presidential campaign trail, Democrats called the president‘s trip another “mission accomplished” type of photo op.

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Instead of making a trip to Iraq, what President Bush needs to do is change his policy.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Are you ready to end the war in Iraq and bring our young men and women home?

SHUSTER:  Hillary Clinton said she had the experience to bring change in Iraq and here at home.  And over weekend, former president Clinton was by her side on the campaign trail for the first time in eight weeks.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 

Hillary is by far the best prepared, best qualified, most suited for the time person I have ever had a chance to vote for for president.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Any focus on the current president, though, is a boost to Democrats.  And right now, Democrats smell blood as President Bush tries to keep his Iraq war going and as his party fends off charges of hypocrisy following the actions of self-proclaimed conservative Larry Craig.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  David, you can‘t make this stuff up.

Anyway, Bill Maher‘s back in action on HBO with “Real Time With Bill Maher.”  And lucky for us, he‘s back on HARDBALL.  Bill, thank you for joining us.  It‘s rip (ph) and read (ph) time...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, what do you make of this case in Senator Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is talking about the comeback of Larry Craig.

BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME”:  Well, I‘m glad somebody is, Chris.  You know, I mean, we‘ve all had layovers in airports, and there‘s just really very little to do.  You know, the newsstand is closed, the Cinnabon is closed.  You have three hours to kill.  The flights get delayed.  You‘re going to have some sex in the bathroom, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is interesting that the Republicans are planning their next convention next summer in Minneapolis.  It is coming.  They‘re coming back to the scene of the crime.

MAHER:  It‘s also where the bridge fell down.  I think this may be the one year the Democrats can pull out a victory.  That to me is an omen, when the Republicans are in the one state where the bridge fell down and one of their senators gets caught in the men‘s room.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a clip from HBO‘s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”  You played a sound bite, thank you, of us watching Larry Craig talk about Bill Clinton back in—let‘s put it (INAUDIBLE)  I like going in circles here.  This is you watching us, us watching you watching us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER:  Look at what Larry Craig says and then look at the look on Chris Matthews‘s face when he gets done talking.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MAHER:  He‘s got everything but the Charles Nelson Reilly (DELETED) over there.  You naughty bad boy!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  How many syllables are there in “boy” when that guy says it?  Isn‘t it amazing, the way he pronounces words, Larry Craig, “boy”?  It‘s an amazing—I heard he went to some sort of elocution school.

Let me ask you about the serious business.  The president, of course, has been beating the drum for this September report that‘s coming out next week from the Army, from Petraeus, after it gets written by the White House speech writers.  And there he is this weekend, getting another photo op with the courageous troops and he‘s stopping by.  What did you make of that, compared to the word we got this weekend that Bush is already planning a speaking tour to make what he calls a big chance to fill his coffers?

MAHER:  Well, you know, when you have to make a secret trip to Iraq, I think probably your surge plan isn‘t really working.  Is it working in the sense that we can stop violence in different pockets because we have a kick-ass army?  Yes.  Yes, they can do that.  But this has always been about forming a government in Iraq and having an Iraqi army that could back up the will of that government.  And that‘s not happening.

And by the way, he‘s on a base, a giant base that we took over from Saddam that apparently we‘re planning to keep.  That is the problem of the bigger war.  Can we win the battle of the surge in any one area?  Yes.  But what about the bigger wars, Iraq and the war on terror?  It seems to me, if we all remember, why did bin Laden get so mad at us in the first place?  It was because we had bases in Saudi Arabia, in the heart of the Arab world.  We‘re just repeating that same mistake.  We‘re not winning any bigger wars, we‘re winning a small battle.

MATTHEWS:  But you know, let‘s give President Bush credit.  He‘s a conservative, and one thing you and I agree, conservatives tend to be pretty good when it comes to tribe.  They understand tribal tendencies, ethnic prejudices, you know?  He doesn‘t seem to understand why the Islamic people in that part of the world would have a problem with us landing 150,000 troops over there and building a permanent base in their world.  He doesn‘t seem to understand the instinct they have to get us—the tissue rejection that they‘d feel toward us.  He doesn‘t get it, it seems.

MAHER:  Right, Chris, because he‘s not a reader.  He didn‘t think he had to learn anything about Iraq before he invaded it because he prayed about it, and people who pray about something, Chris, don‘t need to learn.  They don‘t need to talk to experts or Arabs or prime ministers or ambassadors.  They talk directly to Jesus.  Case closed.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think you‘re trying to find a collaborator here with the president.  Let me ask you about this odd interview he did.  We‘re going to have the author, Robert Draper, on in a minute, Bill.  But this book—it‘s an odd thing that he sat for these interviews.  But here he is, while he‘s sending men and women to fight, and we‘ve lost—we‘re going to lose 4,000 people by the end of this war that he said wouldn‘t even happen and we were going to be greeted as liberators, and he‘s already talking about the bucks he‘s going to make on the lecture circuit.

It strikes me as something that, just politically, he shouldn‘t be talking about while we have gold star mothers out there and gold star mothers-to-be in the next year and three months, and more mothers having kids killed.  And he‘s talking about how he‘s going to make money off his experiences as president?

MAHER:  Right.  Not to mention the Iraqis that have been killed—you know, the ones that he said that they should be grateful for what America brought them.  Maybe that‘s why he has to make a secret trip.  He doesn‘t want to get mobbed by fans over there.  He has so many fans in Iraq.  He‘s more popular there than he is here, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the politics.  Have you decided who you want to see as our next president, Bill?

MAHER:  You know, I never really answer that question.  I try to be coy about it because I do run a show where I try to have all the candidates on...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me try it this way.  Who couldn‘t you stand as our next president?

MAHER:  Oh, well, where do I begin?

MATTHEWS:  OK, would you like Mike Gravel to be president?  Mike Gravel—can you see him in the White House?

MAHER:  Well, we had Mike Gravel on our show Friday night.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  That‘s why I‘m asking you, because you don‘t need him now.  You‘ve had him.

MAHER:  He‘s a straighter shooter than most of them.  Who I couldn‘t stand to see in the White House is another person, excuse me, like the one we have now.  And to me, that‘s Fred Thompson, that‘s Rudy Giuliani, that‘s anybody who keeps it way, way, way too simple for the complex times we‘re living in.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MAHER:  You know, what is it with Thompson?  Why are they crazy about

him?  He‘s another guy who gets up there and says, You know what?  I got

the horse sense.  I don‘t need to learn a heck of a lot.  You know, they‘re

“Lazy like a fox” is the cover of “Newsweek” this week.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MAHER:  And he‘s another guy who says, I can kill or deport everybody who scares you.  That‘s the kind of tough guy I am.  But that‘s not the kind of world we live in.  The bad guys don‘t have armies.  You can‘t kill and deport everybody who scares us.  You have to handle it in a little different way.  Takes a little explaining to the American people, and that‘s what these guys don‘t want to do.

MATTHEWS:  How do we find a person who—because we don‘t know what the questions are going to be, you and I don‘t know them.  A year or two from now, president‘s going to be hit, whoever he is—or she is—is going to be hit with questions we can‘t even figure out what the questions are, let alone the answers.  How do you find a person who has good judgment, who can sift through things as they come along, based upon history, based upon experience, based upon the best kind of intuition put together with the best kind of training?  How do you find that person?  Is there one running like that?

MAHER:  Right.  There‘s no sure formula because we live in a country where you never really can get a straight answer out of a politician, and that‘s something we have to take on ourselves because they have to pander.  If you tell the truth to the people, the people can‘t take the truth and they won‘t elect you to anything.  So you have to kind of read between the lines.

Look, you can kind of tell when someone is an intelligent person because they can string together a sentence.  We showed on our show Friday night the Miss Teen South Carolina clip of her speaking about why...

MATTHEWS:  I saw it.  Oh, it‘s so sad.

MAHER:  ... why “U.S. Americans” can‘t locate the United States on a map, and apparently, it‘s because there‘s a terrible map shortage in this country.

MATTHEWS:  No, she apparently got about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  somebody gave her five things to mention and put them in a sentence, like, use a sentence including the words, the Iraq, South Africa, the U.S.  I mean, it was like she had five words, put them in a sentence.  I didn‘t understand what she was talking about.

MAHER:  But Chris, what‘s sad is that when we showed the clip of George Bush in the 2004 debates answering a question about Indian tribal sovereignty, he sounded exactly like her!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Bill Maher, “Real Time,” everybody loves it, 11:00 o‘clock Friday nights on HBO.  He says things, talks about things we don‘t dare to get near.  A great show.  Bill, thank you for joining us very much.

MAHER:  Thank you, Chris.  You‘ll be on it soon!

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait.  I am coming out there to be on.  Thank you.

Coming up: picking Bush‘s brain.  George W. tells of his plans after he leaves the White House.  Wait until you hear how he‘s talking about how he‘s going to spend his time.  Right after leaving, he‘s going to try to catch up to Clinton and Daddy when it comes to speaking money.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Robert Draper is the author of a new book called “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush.”  He‘s also a correspondent for “GQ,” which is getting to be quite the magazine these days.

Let me ask you, Robert, first of all, how the hell did you get in to see the president to write a real book?

ROBERT DRAPER, AUTHOR, “DEAD CERTAIN”:  Well, it wasn‘t handed to me on a silver platter, I‘ll tell you that.  I had done a long piece on Bush when he was governor for “GQ” magazine in ‘98, when he was ramping up...

MATTHEWS:  Did that sweeten him up or what?

DRAPER:  I think it did.  I think—I think—I mean, the piece was balanced.  I think on top of that, that I‘m from Texas and I‘m not a Beltway reporter.  I think as much as anything else, is they just kind of watched me do my interviews over a period of a year-and-a-half.  Nothing leaked out to the press, the stuff that I was interviewing him about.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, it has now, my friend.  Let me—let me take a

look—“The New York Times” (INAUDIBLE) Sunday‘s “New York Times” writes

that, quote, “For now, though, Mr. Bush told the author, Robert Draper, in

a later session”—quote “‘I‘m playing for October-November.‘  That‘s when

he hopes”—the president—“the Iraq troop increase will finally show

enough results to help him”—President Bush—“achieve the central goal

of his remaining time in office,” quote, “‘to get us in a position where

the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a

presence,‘ and ‘stay longer.‘”

Is the Bush—I don‘t want to call it, like, a game, because it sounds too crass.  But, to the extent that there‘s an aspect of gamesmanship, is the president trying to seduce the Democratic candidates, including Hillary, as well as the Republicans, like Rudy and Romney and Thompson, into backing his war and continuing it? 

Is that his game plan? 

DRAPER:  Well, I—seduce may not be the right word.  I think that he

he really believes that the situation—or at least at the time of my interview with him in May, when he said that—that—that things would be sufficiently stable in Iraq, that it would be inarguable that—that, you know, a government was well on its way to being stood up there.  And, if that were the case, we could then contemplate what, a few months ago, didn‘t seem to be possible to be contemplated, that is to say, a continuing force presence, not only in Iraq, but in the Middle East as a whole. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he—let‘s go through what he said about making money.  You write about Bush‘s post-presidential plans. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Bush said he wanted to make some money—quote—

“replenish the old coffers,” as he put it.  He could make a ridiculous—that was his words—amount of money on the lecture circuit. 

Quote—and this is the president—“I don‘t know what my dad gets, but it‘s more than $50,000, $75,000.  Clinton‘s making a lot of money.”

What did you make of that?  Did you that surprise you, the crassness of a president, who is a war president, at the very moment he‘s sending kids into battle and getting killed, talking how much loot he‘s going to get the minute he gets out of office?

I got nothing against making speeches.  I make them.  But, for a president to talk about giving speeches and making loot and filling the coffers, when he‘s already—already got 20-some million in the bank, it sounds crass. 

DRAPER:  Well, actually, the whole colloquy surprised me, Chris, because it‘s—you know, this president‘s really not accustomed to dwelling on what he might do in the future.  He tends to be, in fact, kind of disdainful of those questions.

So, I asked that question. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this is his idea of navel-gazing; this is the depth of the president, that he—when he really thinks deeply, he thinks about how much money he is going to make?

DRAPER:  Well, I—I...

(LAUGHTER)

DRAPER:  To be fair, I think that—that he was contemplating the various things he would do when he retired.  And the first thing out of the gate, the first thing he said was that he going to build this Freedom Institute, modeled, more or less, on the Hoover Institution, but with a few twists and turns. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRAPER:  And then it was—it was shortly after that that he said that he would like to replenish the old coffers, as you mentioned.

MATTHEWS:  What comes first?

DRAPER:  The—well, the Hoover Institute—I mean the Freedom Institute in Dallas is what he—that‘s what was uppermost in his mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Karl Rove going to be the mastermind behind that? 

DRAPER:  That would be interesting to see.  He—he—he didn‘t say anything about who the staff would be. 

I—I—I will be interested to see, Chris—and I have got no information on it...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRAPER:  ... as to what role Karl plays in the president‘s life after he leaves... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is—is—according to your book—and I—and I know it‘s a factual book—Rove wasn‘t hot on Cheney becoming veep. 

DRAPER:  No.  No.  In fact, he—he made it quite clear that—that he thought that that was—that was—it was—it didn‘t make much sense politically.  I mean, obviously, not—not even...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Wyoming wasn‘t in play. 

DRAPER:  Well, there‘s Wyoming, but also just that—that, you know, Cheney was from—from George Herbert Walker Bush‘s administration.  It sent the wrong message, when they were trying very much to—to distinguish George W. Bush as his own man. 

And—and, so—and, plus, he just seemed retro.  You know, Rove was quite clear that that was—that was not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But those guys got pretty much married up at the White House, didn‘t they? 

DRAPER:  Yes.  Yes.  No, it‘s—they—what, you‘re talking about Cheney and Rove? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRAPER:  I‘m not convinced of that, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

DRAPER:  I didn‘t—I mean, I—I don‘t think they stepped all over

each other.  I—I think that—that, if anything, though, you know, Rove

I mean, I‘m not convinced that they have been in lockstep on everything. 

And I certainly didn‘t see that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I—I wouldn‘t have thought so.  But, at one time, I had a conversation with him where I got that impression, that they couldn‘t be pulled apart. 

Let‘s talk about something really important. 

DRAPER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Most people, from right and left, from war hawk to war dove, believes the big mistake we made when we got into Iraq was not holding together that army. 

DRAPER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We had an army in place.  It could have been used to police the country.  It was kick-ass.  It was not a nice bunch of crowd—of people, but it could have done the job for us to keep order over there and prevent the insurgency, and then it would have prevented—because a lot of those soldiers became insurgents, and could have fought the—the Shia militia.  It could have done the job for us on both fronts. 

And we disbanded the army out of political reasons, ideological reasons, because the neocons didn‘t like the Baathists.  And, so, Paul Bremer—or—What is his name? -- Jerry Paul Bremer decided to do the dirty work for the—for that crowd, Wolfowitz and Feith and maybe Kissinger.  I don‘t know who he was working for. 

But why did the president deny that, in your—in your book, that he was behind that decision to dump the Iraqi army? 

DRAPER:  Yes, I‘m not sure. 

I mean, I think that—but I think what it goes to more than...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, is he blaming it on the neocons?  I mean, is this -

this is the first time he‘s actually...

DRAPER:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, who is he blaming it on?

DRAPER:  No, no.  Well, I don‘t think he‘s blaming it on anybody, per se. 

I think that—that what he—I think what happened at the time was that the president essentially farmed out that aspect to Bremer.  Bremer was his guy on the ground.  And—and he figured, well, Bremer has seen conditions as they are, not conditions as we assumed they would be here in the White House.  I‘m not going to apply the 8,000-mile screwdriver to the situation.  I will let my guy on the ground do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but I the—it had the smell of an ideological decision.  The worst thing and the one thing where we really trusted President Bush before he went into office was, he said, we should have humility in foreign policy—humility—and we shouldn‘t be in the nation-building business. 

DRAPER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And, here he is, over there, letting them destroy an army, which is the only thing that really worked over there, and leaving us with having to rebuild a country we haven‘t rebuilt yet, and we‘re stuck over there being the army. 

As of today, our troops are the army of Iraq...

DRAPER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... because he got rid of that army. 

DRAPER:  Yes. 

And, in fact, we made—we made suppositions, in terms of what postwar Iraq would be like, predicated on the notion that there would be a couple hundred thousand Iraqi troops there to assist us. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRAPER:  And there‘s a little bit of disingenuousness here from the administration.   

I mean, they have said that—that, well, the—the Iraqi troops just kind of melted away, and so let‘s turn a vice into a virtue, and just go ahead and disband them altogether.  There wasn‘t any attempt, however, to reconstitute the army, nor any discussion, as far as I can tell. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Give me a ratio.  What percentage of President Bush is serious, smart, thoughtful, and what percentage is, I-know-better frat boy because my father was president? 

DRAPER:  Well, it‘s—I think you would have to say pretty much right down the middle.

MATTHEWS:  Because there‘s a piece of that that keeps showing up, when he had that interview years ago with—with Tucker Carlson, where he was laughing about the woman begging for her life down in Texas...

DRAPER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... the—the bad Bush. 

DRAPER:  I remember...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I saw it again with this lecture circuit thing. 

I don‘t think he‘s a bad individual.  But there‘s a part of him that‘s bad.  And it seemed to come out in your interview. 

DRAPER:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  What did you think? 

DRAPER:  Yes, I mean, I...

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a part bad in everybody, obviously, but it‘s scary to see it in a president still in office, to be talking about how much loot he‘s going to grab when he gets out of office, at the same time he‘s sending men to their death. 

DRAPER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  It seems inappropriate.  It said—it seemed inappropriate to you for him to be doing it.  You have said that.

DRAPER:  Well—well, it didn‘t seem inappropriate, because I asked him the question.  And I was just surprised that he answered it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

DRAPER:  I mean, I was asking him about the future.  And—and he had, you know, gotten into the mode of thinking that this was a book that was not going to be about the news cycle.  It was going to be a book that was sort of for the history books. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DRAPER:  And—and—and, so, I—I don‘t think he viewed it as inappropriate. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s—he likes the fact that the news stories this weekend are giving an account of that?

DRAPER:  I‘m—I‘m sure he‘s displeased with it.  I‘m sure that‘s not what he had in mind.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because he doesn‘t look good. 

DRAPER:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t, does he?

DRAPER:  No.  Well, it‘s—I mean, he looks—he looks older. 

That‘s—that‘s certainly the case.  I mean, physically...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I meant doesn‘t look good in terms of talking about money when he‘s leading a war. 

DRAPER:  No, no.  No, he doesn‘t look good.  That‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Hey, look, I think this book is going to be big. 

DRAPER:  Yes.  Well, thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Robert Draper, good for you.  Good get, as we say in our business.  You got in there.  You got the story.  You came back alive. You pulled the tongue out of the buffalo.  Good for you, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Robert Draper.  The book is called “Dead Certain.”  What a great title.

Up next: how Hillary plans to keep Bill busy if she wins. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Here‘s the latest in the political news. 

First, the Republican shakeup.  Lots of things are happening right now.  First, Fred Thompson‘s coming into the race Thursday.  That‘s this week.  That‘s bad news for Mitt Romney.  Thompson‘s a Southern Baptist from the buckle of the Bible Belt.  That‘s a direct hit on Romney, who‘s got the double hurdle now being an—not being an evangelist and being late to the table when it comes to matters keen to Christian conservatives. 

You know, while he was up there in Massachusetts being such a pro-choice, pro-gay liberal, the folks down in Thompson country were going to church and voting pro-life. 

Second story, just as tough—if you figure John McCain‘s about to hit the parachute in this election, you have got to figure he‘s not going to sit the war out.  Word is that he might be inclined to throw his backing to Rudy Giuliani.  The beauty of that is, it would whack Romney, smash his erstwhile buddy, Thompson, who wasn‘t supposed to run as long as John McCain was in the race, and give a real lift to a fellow maverick. 

Lots of grit in those two, Rudy and McCain. 

Talk about holding—hauling coal to Newcastle.  Hillary Clinton made it to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” today loaded down with a loaded purse. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I heard the other that you‘re thinking about running for president. 

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST:  Well, there‘s a lot of people running, and I thought I should throw my name around. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Well, I figured that I needed to bring you a campaign survival kit. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  She dropped a little tchotchke to her husband along the way and to those worried about Bill Clinton having too much time on his hands if she is elected president.

Here‘s what Hillary said would be Bill‘s future job description—quote—“The day I‘m elected, I‘m going to be asking distinguished Americans, including my husband, of both parties to start traveling around the world, and not just talking to governments and leaders, but talking directly to people, and telling them that America is back.”

I love it, of course.  But there‘s only one thing worse for a guy than having his wife give him a job to do.  It‘s giving him a regular report card on how he‘s performing. 

Up next, our HARDBALL debate:  Should President Bush talk now about how he will make lots of money after he leaves the White House?  We‘re going to have a real debate on that, seemliness of that.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallied after the long holiday weekend, the Dow Jones industrials gaining 91 points, the S&P picking up 15, and the Nasdaq gaining a whopping 34 points, almost—reports showing sluggish growth in manufacturing and a sharp drop in construction spending.  Those raised hopes on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve policy-makers will cut interest rates when they meet in two weeks. 

Meantime, the Fed and other banking regulators urged loan companies to work with borrowers to help them avoid defaulting on home mortgages. 

Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota all reported sales declines last month, but General Motors surprised industry analysts by showing a 6 percent increase in sales. 

And oil prices climbed, as a top hurricane forecaster predicted a busy end to the Atlantic storm season.  Crude gained $1.04 in New York, closing at $75.08 a barrel. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Bush offered a glimpse into what he will do after his term ends, when he told author Robert Draper, who was just on HARDBALL—quote -- “I will give some speeches just to replenish the old coffers.  I don‘t know what my dad gets.  It‘s more than $50,000, $75,000.  Clinton‘s making a lot of money”—those all quotes from the president. 

Well, should President Bush be talking about how much money he‘s going to make on the lecture circuit when he leaves office, especially when we‘re at a time of war?  That‘s the HARDBALL debate tonight. 

Ron Christie served as—we have had him on many times—as special assistant to President Bush.  And Jon Soltz is an Iraq War veteran now with an organization called VoteVets.org. 

Ron Christie, any problem with the president talking to an author of a book about him about how much money he‘s going to make after he leaves giving speeches? 

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY:  No, Chris. 

It‘s interesting.  If you listen to the—the interview that you had with Robert Draper just a few moments ago, Draper admits that he asked the president, what are you going to do once you leave office, not the president sitting around and saying...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CHRISTIE:  ... boy, I‘m just going to go out and cash out. 

If you look at the prologue of the book, rather than the epilogue, where this quote is, Chris, the president talks in great detail about the solemn responsibility of sending men and women into battle and dying. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CHRISTIE:  And the president talks at great length about the decisions that the commander in chief has to make. 

So, I do not have a problem with the president musing about what he might do.  He also mentions he‘s going to start a Freedom Institute once he leaves the White House, to talk about giving speeches.  I don‘t have a problem with that. 

MATTHEWS:  Jon Soltz, your view of the president‘s words this weekend that got out?

JON SOLTZ, CO-FOUNDER, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Well, as a soldier who fought on the ground in Iraq, and as the chairman of the largest political organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, I find it absolutely offensive he would use these words. 

I mean, how about taking care of the soldiers you sent to war?  How about post-traumatic—PTSD research?  How about traumatic brain injury research?

You‘re going to pad your coffers?  I mean, come on, 50,000 bucks a speech?  You could send a soldier to Iraq for two years, and they won‘t come home with that kind of money.  This is the commander in chief.  And this is just more evidence that he doesn‘t understand his responsibility in leading the armed forces of the United States.

Could you imagine General Petraeus saying he‘s going to cash out to write a book for a couple million dollars right now? 

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTZ:  What about our soldiers going back to Iraq? 

CHRISTIE:  Quite to the contrary.

SOLTZ:  It‘s bad for morale, absolutely bad for morale. 

CHRISTIE:  Jon, quite to the contrary. 

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTZ:  But, see, I‘m a soldier.

CHRISTIE:  I‘m not going to—Jon...

SOLTZ:  And, so, I have served there.  And I don‘t need to be lectured by some person who‘s never worn the uniform.  It‘s absolutely offensive...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Excuse me.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I invited Ron Christie on to debate you, so he has the right to debate you.

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTZ:  ... people who have served on the ground to have their commander in chief talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ron has the right to debate you.  He is here.

Go ahead, Ron.

CHRISTIE:  Excuse me.

I do have the right to debate you.  And I am very pleased and honored by the fact that you chose to wear the uniform of this country. 

But I also chose to serve this country.  And I have been involved in public service, serving the United States and the American people, for most of my professional career.  So, I do have the ability to judge the president, not only as one who is a very strong man and one who knows exactly what he‘s doing.

But, unlike you, Jon, I have actually sat in the Oval Office.  I have sat in the Cabinet Room and listened to the president talk about the solemn responsibility that he and he alone must bear as the commander in chief, who you reported to as a soldier, and recognize that he knows exactly what‘s at stake.  He knows exactly what the consequences are for sending men and women in battle. 

So for you to suggest that the president is only trying to cash out, he knows and that‘s why he was outraged by what happened at Walter Reed. 

(CROSS TALK)  

SOLTZ:  We haven‘t even implemented the recommendations of the Dole/Shalala Commission.  It‘s going to be become like the 9/11 Commission report.  This is a president who threatened to veto a 3.5 percent pay increase for the men and women in uniform.  That‘s absolutely ridiculous behavior.  This is a president I listened to when he said there are weapons of mass destruction, when he said our military‘s not over-extended, when he said that we‘re not going to break our military. 

This is a president that less committed to beating al Qaeda than his obsession with his legacy and, more importantly, this is a man after his administration, cares more about cashing out than taking care of the people he sent to war.  Let me tell you—

(CROSS TALK) 

CHRISTIE:  You can end your filibuster.  Let me tell you something.  This is a man who takes his responsibility his—again, as I said, his responsibility as commander in chief far more seriously than you can imagine when you‘ve never had the opportunity to talk to him and see exactly the deliberation that he goes through. 

Let me take that a step further.  For you to suggest without knowing what the commander in chief looks at, by way of intelligence—let‘s go back to the Clinton administration, let‘s go back to the previous administrations, people who were convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction, and, in fact, Senator Clinton, many others in the Democrat side of the aisle, believed that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States.  The reality—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to a fact here before we continue.  Robert Draper, as you know, he did ask the question of what are you going to do after you leave the White House.  You‘re correct in that, Ron.  But he told me on the air—and you heard it—he was surprised the president answered in the way he did.  He was amazed that the president so openly discussed money and how much he‘s going to make as a windfall to having been president at the time he‘s serving as commander of a war. 

He is surprised.  He also told me when he got off the air the White House isn‘t happy about this.  They don‘t like the fact that the president is perceived a guy whose out to money grub, having led men and women into battle.  So you‘re defending what the president finds a bit shameful, that he‘s now being portrayed by his own words.  You don‘t find his words offensive, but apparently the president embarrassed by his own words, as they‘ve appeared in print now. 

CHRISTIE:  Listening to you off line and to the segment, the president

his aides—what Mr. Draper perceived was that he would be perceived as being upset by that.  We don‘t know what the president is going to say, because neither you nor I have talked to the president about this.  What I am defending is the fact that this president of the United States has taken his solemn responsibility as commander in chief and done everything he can

SOLTZ:  I‘m glad you feel that way as a neo-conservative political pundit.  Those of us who fought on ground. 

CHRISTIE:  Stop cutting me off. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a gold star mother—imagine your gold star mother to be in the next couple of weeks.  You lose a son or daughter and you have in your mind, oh, by the way, the commander in chief has been talking to a reporter—an author how much money he‘s going to make after he leaves the White House.  Ron, your reaction if you‘re a gold star mother today. 

CHRISTIE:  If I‘m a gold star mother, I know for a fact from listening to the president say this in my presence, that he talks to people who have lost a loved one and he understands the solemn sacrifice that that son or that daughter has made giving their life in service to this country. 

The president of the United States understands that he‘s going to leave office soon.  For those to suggest that he‘s only trying to cash out or using his presidency to make money is absurd.  You know it and I know it and John knows it. 

MATTHEWS:  That he‘s openly bragging about a windfall. 

CHRISTIE:  Chris, he‘s not bragging. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead John, because I read it.  That‘s what the author thought.  What do you think? 

SOLTZ:  I think this is a joke.  We‘ve got guys who are fighting in combat every day, trying to win a war, and you‘ve got a commander in chief that, as the commander of our Armed Forces of the United States, is distracted by how much money he‘s going to make at a speech.  I couldn‘t imagine if my commander in Iraq stood up and said hey guys, I can‘t wait to retire so I can get a big fat paycheck. 

MATTHEWS:  All I know is some people are on their fifth deployment over there and the president is talking about how it‘s been good to him financially.  Thank you Ron Christie.  Thank you John Soltz.  Up next our HARDBALL round table on all of today‘s news.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for our political round table, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, “Chicago Tribune‘s” Jill Zuckman, and NBC‘s political director Chuck Todd.  We got the All-Stars tonight. 

First up, is Larry Craig really gone for good?  In his press conference announcing his future, Senator Larry Craig said he intends to resign.  Is he really leaving the door open to stick around? 

Plus damage assessments for the Republicans likely to lose their edge on the family and social issues.  Let‘s take a look here at what Arlen Specter said this Sunday with Chris Wallace.  He‘s talking to Chris Wallace, not me, but I‘ll accept the Chris here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I‘d still like to see Senator Craig fight this case.  He left himself some daylight, Chris, when he said that he intends to resign in 30 days.  I‘d like to see Larry Craig go back to court, seek to withdraw his guilty plea and fight the case.  I‘ve had some experience in these kinds of matters since my days as Philadelphia district attorney. and on the evidence, Senator Craig wouldn‘t be convicted of anything. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is he up to?  He‘s the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  What goal is he setting here?  Does he really want this guy to come back into the Senate?  Not pick up his stuff and leave but fight this case and get back into the world‘s greatest deliberative body?  Is that the Specter goal here? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  It seems to me he‘s trying to create a nightmare for Mitch McConnell.  There‘s bad blood between Specter and the conservatives, because the evangelical conservatives said Specter, if you want to stay as head of the Judiciary Committee, back when the Republicans had the majority, you play ball with us.  You sign off on all of our nominations.

And Specter saying OK, two can play that game.  I think Larry Craig Should get a fair hearing. 

MATTHEWS:  Nobody watching that Sunday show with Chris Wallace has any idea of this bank shot he‘s playing. 

Jill, why is Specter caught?  He‘s basically saying, in not so many words, that Larry Craig was railroaded here.  He ought to get a fair trial.  He ought to be accepted back into the Senate, at least have a fighting chance to get back in there.  What he is up to? 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  As a former prosecutor he knows perfectly well that you cannot undue a guilty plea like this. 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t unring a bell. 

ZUCKMAN:  Exactly, and his Republican colleagues are trying to get Larry Craig out of there as fast as possible.  He‘s just jumping in front of the train. 

MATTHEWS:  What is that Hollywood movie, Chuck, where the bad guy keeps coming back?  Is it Halloween? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  “Friday the 13th.”  

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they want Freddy Krueger to come back from Boise?   

TODD:  Could it be that maybe Arlen Specter might have been friends with Larry Craig and he‘s being the first one to stick up for the guy?  I don‘t know the personal relationships that Specter has in the Senate, but it was amazing.  The most amazing part of this thing was how quickly everybody ran from this guy and how quickly -- 

MATTHEWS:  Not Specter.   

TODD:  Civil war surgery is what I called it.  They were like, oh my god, we‘ve got to cut off the leg before the gangrene spreads.  They cut this guy off.  He had been a reliable member of the Senate leadership.  This is a guy that would carry any water that you handed him. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go where I think this is going.  Chuck, I want you to follow up on this right away.  First of all, I always go with what people like Specter have to say.  He is ranking member.  He is not a fly by night guy.  He‘s very deliberative.  Could he be saying this guy does have a fighting chance, not just in the courts.  He could reverse or withdraw his plea and maybe have a case in court that he was intimidated.  I think he could make that case.  But also the fact that Larry Craig has hired Stan Brand—who has been on this show many times—to fight his case in the Ethics Committee. 

He wouldn‘t have to fight the case in the Ethics Committee if he continued to walk away.  Only if he‘s coming back to the Senate would he have to face the Ethics Committee.  Could this all be evidence—I‘m connecting the dots here—that he‘s coming back? 

TODD:  It‘s interesting that you put the Stan Brandt connection there.  Look, apparently the reason why Craig was talked into resigning was that they said look, an Ethics Committee investigation is going to start getting even more personal.  And it‘s going to—this isn‘t going to be the only bathroom stall they‘re going to start digging around in.  You don‘t want that, do you, Senator Craig. 

MATTHEWS:  He does now, because he‘s hired a lawyer to fight the ethics case, Jill. 

ZUCKMAN:  It‘s a shame he didn‘t go to Arlen Specter to begin with and ask him, would you help me. 

MATTHEWS:  Then he would be still fighting.  I think there‘s something here.  I heard this over the weekend, Chuck—my political friend said, did you hear what Specter said?  He said go back and watch what he said.  He didn‘t say I‘m going to resign.  He said in that formal way, it is my intent.  He can reverse that. 

FINEMAN:  Having listened to a million politicians give a million speeches about their plans or prospects, as soon as one says I intend to do something, they leave themselves open. 

MATTHEWS:  How about I did not have sexual relations?  Whenever a candidate says something not quite regular guy talk, they‘re up to something. 

FINEMAN:  Politically, this is the worst nightmare the Republicans could have. 

MATTHEWS:  Freddy Krueger. 

FINEMAN:  Because he was buffaloed out of the Senate.  And now some people in principle or for political calculation or sheer spite are going to stand up for Larry Craig‘s rights, and I wouldn‘t be surprised if a lot of Democrats put together a Larry Craig Defense Fund. 

MATTHEWS:  Bring him back.  We‘ll be right back with the round table.  This is a strange story.  We didn‘t make this up.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  Next up, exposing a president.  Robert Draper, who was just on, has a new book out that paints a sometimes bleak portrait of the Bush presidency.  In one anecdote, President Bush wonders how the U.S. could have made a mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army.  Well, it turns out that the president approved that decision, it turns out, Howard. 

FINEMAN:  Not surprisingly.  Because I think even though he delegated a lot of authority to Bremer and to other people in the field, the president knew what was going on.  This was his war. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he rewriting history already?  We have seen in this book that he‘s denying anything to do with disbanding the Iraqi army, which was the first huge mistake, because you wouldn‘t have to build an Army over there if we had one.  We wouldn‘t need our army over there if we had one.  Everything has gone wrong.  That‘s where the insurgents came from, the army we dismissed, disbanded. 

And then he argues in the book that it was Judge Roberts who told him to pick Harriet Miers as the next chief justice—or next associate justice.  And now we find out that‘s not the case from Roberts.  Point by point, people are now denying his rewriting of history, Jill.  Why is he getting in the rewriting game? 

ZUCKMAN:  The portrait makes him seem confused, especially on the Iraq army point. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I think he better be careful, because he‘s rewriting history before history‘s been made.  And he‘s rewriting it against the interest and good name of people like Bremer and Judge Roberts. 

FINEMAN:  And having covered him and them for a long time, this is their preemptive spin on history.  That‘s what it is.  I can‘t wait to read this book.  This is the first rough draft of history according to George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Which is everybody else is wrong but me. 

FINEMAN:  And he would rather be seen as confused than flat-out wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t it dangerous, Chuck, to be naming names, blaming things on Bremer and Chief Justice Roberts?  He‘s made a mistake of premature—what it is called?  he‘s done preemptive publication here.  He‘s got I book out now that‘s giving all of these other guys a year to trash him. 

TODD:  His side of the story.  Here‘s my favorite part of the book—

I did read it.  I got an advanced copy, and I read this thing.  And I devoured it.  You know the best part, he‘s just like every other president.  He‘s worried about these things.  He does want to point fingers.  He wants to put himself in the best light. 

There was a time where I think a lot of us thought this guy isn‘t like other presidents that were there.  He has this loyal staff.  Here‘s what we find out in this book, staff is not that loyal, and he‘s not that loyal to them. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s interesting, his loyalty doesn‘t pass muster. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Howard, why did the president agree to have somebody else write his history for him this early? 

FINEMAN:  For the reason I said.  He‘s getting the preemptive spin in. 

Don‘t forget, when he first ran for president, he had—

MATTHEWS:  The only people going to read the book—I will lend you to read—the only people who are going to read that book, based on the bad ink that has come out over the weekend, are people that don‘t like bush.  His friends are not going to read this book. 

FINEMAN:  Disagree.  Of course they are. 

MATTHEWS:  Why, Chuck? 

TODD:  Well, first of all, they will read it like everybody else reads a book in Washington, see if their name is in the index. 

FINEMAN:  I‘m looking right now, Chuck. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, I caught a 25-pound striped bass over the weekend, thanks to a nice family.  Thank you Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman and Jill Zuckman.  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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