updated 9/18/2007 1:49:04 PM ET 2007-09-18T17:49:04

Guest: Ed Schultz, Leo Terrell, Paul Pfingst, Howard Fineman, Jill

Zuckman, John McCain

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  “No blood for oil,” chanted the enemies of war.  Now a major voice declares it was about oil.  And oh, yes, O.J. says he didn’t do it—again.

Let’s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I’m Chris Matthews.  Two hot stories tonight, both get the blood boiling.  One is why we went to war against Iraq one twice, in 1991 and then again in 2003.  Ever since that first war to throw Saddam out of Kuwait, the people who hated the war said it was all about oil.  We Americans have an unquenchable thirst for oil.  The promoters of both Iraq wars like to say we’re bigger than that, that we fought the war for idealistic reasons, the spread of democracy, our opposition to tyranny, our love of peace and goodness.

Well, this weekend, word leaked from the recent chairman of America’s central bank, Alan Greenspan, that the war was indeed about oil.  Indeed, it was largely about oil, he writes.  In that quote, by the way, he also says, and everybody knows it.

Our second story tonight: O.J. Simpson, who escaped a double murder rap, has been arrested for armed robbery.  He’s facing enough counts on enough big-time charges to land him in prison longer than most murderers serve.  That’s if they throw the book at him.  So is this really a chance to nail him on armed robbery as a way of nailing him for murdering his wife and Ron Goldman?  Is the Las Vegas DA going to do what “The Untouchables” did back in the ‘30s when they nailed Al Capone for income tax evasion?

And in our HARDBALL debate tonight: Are soldiers and Marines who die in Iraq from this day forward dying in vain?  And also tonight, John McCain comes here to play HARDBALL.

But first, David Shuster on oil and the Iraq war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  “No blood for oil” has long been a rallying cry for activists against the Iraq war.  And as the marchers demonstrated again this weekend, a top Washington insider, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, provided evidence that bolster the controversial argument the Iraq war was launched and continues to be fought for oil.

In his book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” Greenspan writes, quote, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows, the Iraq war is largely about oil.”  It’s a huge problem for the Bush administration when there’s any evidence to suggest 3,800 American soldiers have died to keep oil prices down.  Former Fed chair Alan Greenspan is one of the most respected and influential voices in the country, so administration officials are speaking about the Iraq war and are trying to reframe the issue.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I think that it’s really about stability in the Gulf.

SHUSTER:  On the “Today” show this morning, Greenspan tried to help the administration by offering a clarification, but it only seemed to reinforce his original point.

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FED CHAIRMAN:  I’m not saying that they believed it was about oil.  I’m saying it is about oil, and that I believe it was necessary to get Saddam out of there.

SHUSTER:  Greenspan then spoke of a crucial transit point for oil in the Persian Gulf and fears of economic chaos.

GREENSPAN:  Saddam Hussein was obviously seeking to get a chokehold on the Straits of Hormuz, where about 18 million barrels a day flow from the Middle East to the industrial world.

SHUSTER:  That more nuanced argument from Greenspan today is similar to what was said 16 years ago, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and paused within striking distance of Saudi Arabia.  Bush 41 and his top cabinet officials said America needed to push Iraqi forces back and protect regional oil supplies for the sake of America’s economic stability.

But four-and-a-half years ago, on the eve of the second Gulf war, officials working for the second Bush administration seemed to go much further by talking not just about stability but about economic Gain.  President Bush’s own economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, told “The Washington Times” that invading Iraq and gaining access to Iraqi oil would be a huge boost.  Quote, “Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits that would come from a successful prosecution of the war.  The key issue is oil, and a regime change in Iraq would facilitate an increase in world oil.”

Then undersecretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz offered similar testimony to Congress.  Quote, “It’s got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports, which can finally—might finally be turned to a good use instead of building Saddam’s palaces.”  And Wolfowitz told lawmakers that Iraqi oil would not only be accessible to the West but could be used to pay for whatever building in Iraq might be necessary.  Quote, “We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

When the war began, American special operations forces raced ahead to secure Iraq’s oil fields.  Then after Baghdad fell, American troops guarded Iraq’s oil ministry, the one ministry that was protected from looters.  For the last four-and-a-half years, the Bush administration has insisted the war was not being fought to gain access to Iraqi oil.  But keeping oil supplies and transit points safe continues to be a White House talking point.  Last week, President Bush listed several potential problems if U.S.  troops withdrew, including...

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Extremist could control a key part of the global energy supply.

SHUSTER (on camera):  So it is blood for oil, at least in part.  The argument is whether it’s about strictly protecting economic stability, as Alan Greenspan now suggests, or whether it’s something far more nefarious, as White House critics increasingly believe.

I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Jim Cramer is the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” and Ed Schultz is a radio talk show host.

I want to go to Cramer, first of all.  Jim, you say we didn’t fight this war—in ‘91, we went after Saddam Hussein after he grabbed Kuwait, grabbed its oil.  You say this war, these two wars in a row, are not about oil?

JIM CRAMER, HOST , “MAD MONEY”:  I feel—and I have to tell you, anyone who reads the book knows that what he said on the “Today” show is wrong.  He really directly says the authorities (ph) were about oil, which is the president.

I thought that this was and believe it’s about the global war on terror.  I think these are ideologues in the White House and they were fighting terrorism, I think mistakenly, thinking it was in Iraq.

But I’ve got to tell you something, Chris.  It just really bugs me that I have to criticize Greenspan because Greenspan did give us 20 years of pretty good growth.  It’s a shame that the focus is that throwaway oil comment because he did a pretty good job.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you only get in trouble in Washington for telling the truth, Cramer.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... spoken the truth, you don’t like it.  That’s what you don’t like.

CRAMER:  No, I don’t like it!

MATTHEWS:  It’s not that you disagree with it, you don’t like the fact that he spilled the beans.

CRAMER:  But how about this?  I’m defending a Republican president on your show!  I mean, holy cow!

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go—let me go to Ed Schultz.  Ed Schultz, this war has been accused from the beginning—I was over in Berlin, covering the changes over there at the fall of the Iron Curtain back in ‘91.  And everywhere in Bonn, Germany, there were big signs, “Kein Blut fuer Oel,” “No blood for oil.  And the liberals in our country, the conservatives, everybody said, No, this is about something else, this is about fighting aggression.  Is it about oil?  Greenspan says it is.

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Absolutely, it’s about oil.  And I hope that Alan Greenspan can sleep at night.  Did he know this before the invasion back in 2003?  He’s a man of influence.  His opinion is revered around the world.  He’s a guy who—I’m sitting out here in the Midwest.  When Alan Greenspan says something about the economy, everybody pays attention to him.  Maybe he doesn’t realize that people listen to him.

But he really would have derailed their sale job on the American people if he had said, Well, it’s not about WMD, it’s actually about oil reserves.  And now look what we’ve got.  We are stuck now with a generational footprint in Iraq.  More billions of dollars are going to be spent on all this.  It’s too bad.  It’s sickening, actually.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ed, the old—not to disparage it, but the old left, you would do Marxist analysis of just about everything in history—

Sam Beer, I think, believed this, the historian—that just about everything can be interpreted as economics—self-interest, if you will.  Do you believe that this war, well, all wars are about economics.  What do you think?

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think that maybe past wars were about economics and control, but this one’s about religion.  This one’s about ideology.  And this one could be a struggle for power in the world.  I mean, the footprint we have now is a staging ground for something that could be much broader with the Iranians.

But what Greenspan—if he had come out and said that earlier, Chris, maybe it would have led to the road to diplomacy at a different level from what we’ve seen right now.  This has all been done with a strong fist and, Get out of the way.  And what about the 4,000 lives?  What about the billions of dollars?  And the future, which is really tough for the American people to stomach right now?

MATTHEWS:  The problem, Jim Cramer, is if you do admit that this was economically driven, this war, it was about our need for gasoline in this country, then you have to get down to the marginal reality that each life that was lost,  each limb that was lost, each life that was ruined and changed irrevocably in the wrong direction was for oil.

CRAMER:  I can’t—I can’t go there.  And by the way, I date myself.  I took that Sam Beer course.  That was during the period when I was studying Marxism as an actual undergraduate.

I don’t buy it for this particular case.  I don’t buy it because Colin Powell talked about the need to be able to stop terrorism and the military threat.  Condoleezza Rice talked about the mushroom cloud.  Now, you could just say it was all made up.  I think that they were wrong, but I certainly don’t think they made it up.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you, Jim first.  Would we have fought this war if it was like the Chaco war, something way down in South America between some country like Bolivia and some issue over land and aggression between Bolivia and Peru (SIC) or somewhere?  When we went to war to—because of the invasion of Kuwait, which is really the beginning of this war, you’re saying that had nothing to do with oil, we were just opposed to aggression?

CRAMER:  I’m saying post-9/11, there were a lot of different people who were very good—look, I—this war—I had a show with my...

MATTHEWS:  So you say the first war was about oil but the second one wasn’t.

CRAMER:  Yes.  I think post-9/11, the paradigm changed and they believed—again, I’m not saying whether they were right or wrong, but they genuinely believed in the White House that Saddam was part of the vast conspiracy that brought down—the vital, horrible enemy.  And it turns out that he wasn’t, and that’s why it was such a terrible move.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CRAMER:  But once we’re there, we got to finish the job.

MATTHEWS:  Ed Schultz, what’s going to be the political ramifications in the talk show world of the fact that the chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the smartest guys on economics there has been—some people say the most influential economist of the modern era -- - says this war was largely about oil and everybody knows it?

SCHULTZ:  Well, you know, Chris, we’re such a now society.  How is it right now and how am I doing?  What’s it mean to me and my family?  And that’s where Americans are.  They’ve got to go dig back into the history pages, and you know, really look at the run-up to this war, to where we were.

Now, let’s not be loose with the facts here, Jim.  I want to tell you that I do believe that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  He was aggressor at the time, and we responded to that.  So as far as the second invasion and the second deal with Iraq, he didn’t shoot downy American pilots.  Sure, they were taking shots at us, but we...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are we fighting for the American oil companies, for Mobil and Exxon?  And they’re making these enormous profits because of access to oil over there...

CRAMER:  I can’t—I can’t believe that!

MATTHEWS:  Jim, are we over there getting killed or maimed...

CRAMER:  I am a cynical guy—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... so these guys...

SCHULTZ:  Yes, we are.

MATTHEWS:  ... can make $32 billion in profits in the first quarter? 

I mean, look at the money they made the first quarter this year.

CRAMER:  No, that’s just—that’s just  too outrageous.  I just don’t buy that.  Look, it is...

SCHULTZ:  It’s not, Jim.  It’s not outrageous.  When Bush came in, gas was a buck-and-a-half a gallon.  Now it’s well over $3 a gallon.  It’s affecting people’s lives and it’s affecting middle America.  It’s affecting the middle class.  What we have failed to do...

CRAMER:  Chinese demand...

SCHULTZ:  ... as a country...

CRAMER:  Chinese demand drove that!  Chinese demand drove that!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, one thing we can agree on, it was good that Larry Lindsey was sacked because he said this war was going to be a benny for us.  This war was going to get us cheaper gas at the pump.  You know, Wolfy—Wolfowitz said...

SCHULTZ:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... it was going to pay for itself.  These guys were pie in the sky.

SCHULTZ:  Big-time.

MATTHEWS:  There is no end...

CRAMER:  A lot of wrong stuff coming out of there.

MATTHEWS:  ... to the insanity here.  Anyway, Jim Cramer, as always, I love to see you take sides, on this side of the truth, even when it hurts.  And thank you, Ed Schultz, for taking up the old Sam Beer line, fighting for Marxist analysis of history.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank God somebody still believes it.

Coming up: O.J. Simpson is back in jail.  He’s just back.  And later,

John McCain’s coming here to HARDBALL

You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  O.J. Simpson remains in a Los Angeles (SIC) jail tonight after his arrest Sunday for six felonies, including armed robbery.  Today an audiotape was released of the incident that got him in trouble by TMZ.com.  Let’s listen a bit.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON:  Don’t let nobody out of this room.  (DELETED)!  Think you can steal my (DELETED) and sell it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

SIMPSON:  Don’t let nobody out of here.  (DELETED)!  You think you can steal my (DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (DELETED) you!  Mind your own business!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at this (DELETED)!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get over there!

SIMPSON:  You think you can steal my (DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Backs to the wall!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was trying to get past you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Walk your (DELETED) over there!

SIMPSON:  Think you can steal my (DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mike took it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You, against the (DELETED) wall!

SIMPSON:  I know (DELETED) Mike took it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Search him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I know what Brian’s trying to prove.

SIMPSON:  I always thought you were a straight shooter!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I’m cool.  I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So—so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get your (DELETED) (DELETED) up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stand the (DELETED) up!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I recognize a bit of his voice there.  Mr. Simpson will be held at least until a bail hearing on Wednesday morning this week.  A Las Vegas judge, by the way, said today he is getting—Mr. Simpson is getting the same treatment within the legal system out there in Clark County, in Vegas, as anybody else would who’s charged with his crimes, that include, as I said, robbery with a firearm and assault with a deadly weapon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE NANCY OESTERLE, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA, COURT:  He’s not being treated any differently than anybody else.  He’ll be brought to the courtroom with all the other inmates in custody in Wednesday morning.  We get a lot of high-profile individuals in our courtrooms all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, for more on O.J. Simpson’s latest problem with the law, we turn to former prosecutor Paul Pfingst and Civil Rights attorney Leo Terrell.

Mr. Pfingst and Mr. Terrell, let me just read you something from the wire services right now.  I’m trying to catch up on this story.  This is a description by one of the people in the room, at that hotel room.  “The door burst open and they came in in almost commando style, O.J. Simpson and some of his people.  I guess you would call it with guns drawn.”  Just a minute, “O.J. at that time was saying, I want my stuff, I want my stuff.  The thing in my mind”—this is the witness saying this—“as soon as I saw him, I’m thinking, O.J. how can you be this dumb?  You’re in enough trouble.”

Mr. Terrell, what do you make of this incident?

LEO TERRELL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  Well, you know, Chris, I’ll tell you right now.  I had a chance to talk to the family, and I’ll tell you right now what’s missing in that report is O.J. Simpson knowing that any of those individuals who accompanied him had the gun.  And the Clark County Police Department has already searched his room, Chris, and there was no evidence of any weapons...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You’re an attorney, right?  You’re an attorney, right?

TERRELL:  Yes, I am.

MATTHEWS:  What are the laws—what’s the law about when you’re in a robbery and one of the people, not you, has a gun?  Aren’t you criminally liable for their being armed?

TERRELL:  Chris, O.J. is being charged with a conspiracy of armed robbery.  There has to be evidence of him planning, knowingly operating a whole scheme together with those who have the guns.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I’m looking at these charges, sir, two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit a crime.

TERRELL:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  They’ve also got him on the actual robbery with a deadly weapon.  And that would be the charge you would file against someone who shows up in a robbery situation with someone who’s armed, isn’t it?

TERRELL:  Yes, but Chris, you got to remember, these are charges. 

They have to be tested.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, of course.  Of course.  Hey, look, I’m not jumping ahead.  I’m trying to figure out the facts of the charge.

Let me go to Mr. Pfingst.  It looks to me like—well, I don’t know what it looks to me like.  I’m trying to be open-minded here, Mr. Pfingst.  How does it look to you studying this case?

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Looks to me like O.J. Simpson and five other people went into someone’s room to recover merchandise, memorabilia that O.J. thought was his.  They pulled out a gun, they took the merchandise and they left.  By any state in the nation, that’s a robbery.  It’s also a conspiracy to commit robbery.  And it means, because there was a gun involved, even if O.J. did not know the gun was going to be there, he’s responsible for it, which means that he’s in a lot of hot water.  And it looks very bad for him at this time, based upon what we know.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Terrell, do you have any evidence from the family that when he heard that there was—when he saw the guy pull the gun, it surprised him, that he told the guy to put the gun away or get out of there?  Any evidence he tried to oppose him?

TERRELL:  Let me be very clear, Chris.  I’m telling you right now, after talking with the family, O.J. Simpson was unaware that there was a gun involved.  And also, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Before or after?  You mean even after the incident he didn’t...

TERRELL:  Before—Chris, before and after.  My point is this, Chris, is that there is an assumption built into the argument made by Paul that O.J. went there to steal.  O.J. Simpson didn’t go there to steal, Chris!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What about the tone in that audio, that demand, that rather rough demand?  I mean, it sounds like—I don’t know whether the guy had a gun, but it seems like they were making demands they thought would be answered affirmatively.  Why’d they think they could muscle the goods back from these people if they didn’t have a gun?

(CROSSTALK)

TERRELL:  Chris, let me tell you right now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Terrell, why did they think—how can you order somebody to do something in their own hotel room, unless you have got some commanding fact with you, like a gun? 

TERRELL:  Well, Chris, I can tell you right now, just voice command. 

The point is that O.J. was angry, angry about, Chris, the items that were in the possession of those individuals.  I cannot disclose it, Chris, because I spoke to the family. 

But I will sit here and tell you on national television that those items were O.J. Simpson of a very personal nature. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TERRELL:  We’re not talking about a football helmet.  We’re not talking about jerseys. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that wouldn’t justify this behavior, would it?

Would that justify...

TERRELL:  Pardon?

MATTHEWS:  Would that justify the behavior, if there is a gun involved? 

TERRELL:  I tell you, Chris, he was upset by the nature of the items that were taken from him. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but if there were—if there were—let me ask you, if there’s a gun involved in here, is it a crime? 

TERRELL:  If there’s a gun involved, if he’s aware, planning, operating, yes, Chris. 

But I’m sitting here telling you, O.J. Simpson, before and after, did not know a gun was involved.  And I want to tell you something else, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, then why are these people testifying that this guy had a gun and he said guns drawn?  How would he not know—how could he not know he’s standing next to a guy with a gun—a gun that’s drawn?  How would he not know that?

TERRELL:  Well, the—the assumption here is that he knew that a guy had a gun in the first place. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, that’s not what I’m saying.

If he finds out the guy pulls a gun, you’re saying he didn’t do anything.  He just went along with it, because you say he never knew the guy had a gun. 

TERRELL:  Right.  He didn’t know the guy had a gun.  He did not know the guy...

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  We got testimony here on—well, we have testimony.  We will see.  These policemen—let me go back.

Let me go—let me go now to Mr. Pfingst. 

It seems to me we know more than this.  It seems to me that we have somebody testifying to the police that these people pulled guns on them. 

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Gun or no gun, it’s a robbery. 

Don’t be misled by the gun.  It’s still a robbery.  It’s a taking by force.  Now, it’s mitigated in a sentencing if it happens to have been his property that was wrongfully taken from him in the past.  And that may reduce a sentence, and a judge may be sympathetic, and the DA may plea-bargain it. 

But when you go and take that property by force, it is, by legal definition, a robbery.  So, he—he is, gun or no gun, still going to be charged. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I have always thought, Mr. Terrell?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Despite the fact we have got a history of racial prejudice of the worst kind in this country’s history and all kinds of horrible stuff, and certainly not limited to Jim Crow and all the old official bad stuff, I never saw how O.J. was the victim of any kind of prejudice, but I may be missing something. 

I thought the cops loved him out there in L.A.  And do you think the cops here are being unfair to him because of his ethnicity?  Do you think that’s going on here?

TERRELL:  Chris—well, Chris, let me sit here and say this.  The guy with the gun was at the airport.  He was interviewed.  And he’s released.  Can you somehow tell me, maybe the prosecutor could tell me, why is the guy who had the gun was released O.R., but O.J. is in—incarcerated?  Can someone explain that to me?

MATTHEWS:  Well, because he’s cooperating is the answer you’re trying to get me to give, which is, he’s cooperating, right?

TERRELL:  O.J. cooperated, too, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TERRELL:  Remember, before he was arrested, he went and told...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TERRELL:  ... the police.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TERRELL:  But why is a guy with a gun, he’s out of the state?

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TERRELL:  Why is O.J. in jail?

MATTHEWS:  Gentleman, we’re going to find out more about this case. 

This is a story that is still breaking.  I want to know myself, did O.J.  see a gun in that room or didn’t he?  If he saw a gun in the room, he’s part of an armed robbery.  If he didn’t, well, there are mitigating circumstances. 

But it’s hard to believe that the people who are victims of this crime, apparent crime, saw a gun flash, they said they were being held up, and O.J. never saw that holdup, even though he’s standing right there in the room. 

Anyway, thank you, Leo Terrell, for taking this time tonight.

TERRELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And, Paul Pfingst, thank you, sir, as well.

Up next: today’s political news.

And, later, Senator John McCain is coming here. 

You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Let’s catch up with some politics. 

Junket time.  Usually, you have to win the election to get the free junkets.  Not in the case of the Hillary Clinton crowd.  “The L.A. Times” reports that fugitive businessman Norman Hsu, who raised tons of money for her, has thrown in nice bennies for her roadies. 

He flew Hillary’s campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, and some Hillary aides out to the Mandalay and Casino in Las Vegas.  They threw in a handful of show tickets and dinner comps. 

The trouble with taking gifts from strangers, as the Clinton ought to know, is, they’re strangers.  Politics is packed with odd, lonely characters looking to build a social life a little prestige by giving big money to politicians.  The trouble is, you get them along with their money. 

Speaking of easy street, Fred Thompson is playing into the hands of critics who think he ought to be advertising EZ-Boy recliners.  The late arriving Tennessean, who already has the lightest campaign schedule of any of the candidates, has a big public schedule this week: nothing. 

The urban warfare, meanwhile, is escalating for 2008.  Rudy took a deadly shot at his crosstown rival, Hillary, last week and at the anti-war group MoveOn.org ad for its Petraeus-“Betray Us” ad. 

Well, today, MoveOn shot back at Rudy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION AD)

NARRATOR:  Rudy Giuliani has always been a big fan of George Bush’s war in Iraq.  Yet, when Giuliani had the chance to actually do something about the war, he went AWOL.  After skipping important meetings of the Iraq Study Group, he quit and gave speeches for money. 

Republican voters should ask Giuliani, where were you when it counted? 

Rudy Giuliani, a betrayal of trust. 

With 3.2 million members, MoveOn.org Political Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now a story that reeks of desperation. 

Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t know that the United Nations isn’t a U.S. property.  He’s threatened the U.N. to not let the president of Iran speak to the General Assembly.  He threatens to quit the U.N. if they let him speak.

Somebody should explain to the guy that we don’t get to say who speaks at the U.N.  It’s an international organization, Mr. Former Governor. 

And, since we’re speaking of desperate gestures, Larry Craig has a new friend, the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU says he’s the victim of entrapment. 

Well, the trouble with the entrapment defense, as everyone knows, is that it implies an admission of actual guilt.  If your legal defense is that you were lured into committing an act, then you’re admitting that you committed the act, right? 

Meanwhile, workers at the Minneapolis Airport are reporting that Craig’s infamous bathroom stall has become the hottest tourist attraction in town.  Passersby have been stopping to check out where the wide-stance senator did his thing.

And, with the Republicans holding their convention in Minneapolis next year—that’s right, next year in Minneapolis—it’s bound to make a great reception booth. 

Meanwhile, a lesson to be learned from Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a HARDBALL fan, by the way, who’s been coaching at Penn State for 43 years.  After his players got arrested for an off-campus fight last year, the veteran Nittany Lions coach decided to give the team an object lesson by getting them to help clean up the stands after home games this season. 

It’s something we could use at the national level.  Your crowd creates a mess, you clean it up.  It’s called, Mr. President, accountability. 

Up next, the HARDBALL debate:  Are soldiers and Marines who die in Iraq from this day forward dying in vain? 

You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocked closed lower, ahead of tomorrow’s Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.  The Dow Jones industrial average dropped some 39 points.  The S&P 500 fell seven.  The Nasdaq and tech stocks took a beating there, down more than 20.5 points. 

Stocks were hurt by continuing problems for large British mortgage lender Northern Rock Bank, which has raised new concerns about the global credit crunch.  Customers have withdrawn billions of dollars since Friday, when Northern Rock drew emergency funds from the Bank of England. 

Oil closed at a new record high of $80.57 a barrel, after rising $1.47 in Monday’s trading session. 

General Motors and the United Auto Workers union are back at the bargaining table following a marathon 16-hour session that ended early this morning.  The two sides are said to be close to an agreement. 

And a top European Union court dealt Microsoft a blow, dismissing its appeal of a 2004 antitrust conviction and upholding nearly $700 million in fines. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

In our HARDBALL debate tonight:  Are soldiers and Marines who die in Iraq from this day forward dying in vain? 

Michael Smerconish is a radio talk show host based in Philadelphia.  And Deroy Murdock writes for “The National Review,” a conservative magazine, online. 

Let me—let me start, by the way, with a key exchange from last Tuesday’s testimony before the Senate, when Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham had this question and this information for General Petraeus. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  So, you’re saying to the Congress that you know that at least 60 soldiers, airmen and Marines, are likely to be killed every month from now to July, that we’re going to spend $9 billion a month in American taxpayer dollars, and, when it’s all said and done, we will still have 100,000 people there.  You believe it’s worth it, in terms of our national security interests, to pay that price? 

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE MULTI-NATIONAL

FORCE-IRAQ:  Sir, I—I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have made the recommendations that I have made if I did not believe that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Michael Smerconish, what would be your verdict on that question? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Tough—tough question to ask.  Tough question to—to answer.  and I—I’m not hedging. 

But let me give you my background on this.  I read that Draper book this weekend, Robert Draper’s “Dead Certain.”  And there was a line on one page that jumped out at me.  The president goes out at consoler in chief, and, apparently, he does that job very, very well.  And I say that with great respect. 

And what he’s most often told by grieving family members is, don’t let my son die in vain. 

And I think that’s a heavy emotional burden for the president to carry, in trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq.  And, frankly, Chris, I think that guides his policy. 

My bottom line is this.  No one who has died thus far has died in vain.  But, if this thing continues to go to hell in a handbasket, then, at some point, yes, that is going to be the conclusion, because we entered Iraq on a false predicate.  We didn’t know it then.  We know it now. 

And, sooner or later, that has got to guide our foreign policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right now to Deroy Murdock. 

Your view, right now, moving forward, knowing what we know from the hearings, is war ahead not worth it? 

DEROY MURDOCK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  No, I think it is. 

And the reason is, we need to pursue victory and we need to win this thing.  I’m not interested in seeing a war that just sort of goes on with a constant drip, drip, drip of casualties and deaths.  Our objective should be what it, I assume, was when we went in, which is to win the Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

And victory will be when there is a government there which is stable, when it is able to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you say we will achieve that goal ultimately, because, if you’re not, then you’re saying we’re just sort of doing a college try, and it is a drip, drip, drip, that will end up in defeat. 

MURDOCK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Unless you’re willing to say, we will eventually win, you’re saying, it’s not worth it. 

MURDOCK:  I—I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You’re not—so, you’re saying a holding action is not worth it?

MURDOCK:  No.  I...

MATTHEWS:  You’re not saying a holding action is worth it, right?

MURDOCK:  I’m not interested in a holding action.  I’m—I’m interested in victory. 

And the fact is, this surge has brought incidents of violence down about 80 percent.  We have seen the—as everyone knows, I hope, by now, the Al Anbar Province has been much more relaxed.  Al Qaeda—the people in that area have turned on al Qaeda, and are now working with us to try to end terrorism in that area. 

We also see the Shiite militias and the Mahdi army saying they’re going to take a six-month cease-fire.  I don’t think they would be doing that because they think is not working.

Ultimately...

MATTHEWS:  That’s based—let me go over to—let me get back to—to Michael. 

That would—what Deroy is saying there is based upon his calculation that we’re going to eventually win.  Therefore, what happens in the meantime is worth the cost. 

If you calculate we’re probably going to end up leaving that country, in a somewhat unhappy way, three or four years from now, very short of what our ambitions were, in terms of a democratic, stable Iraq, that, in the meantime, all the people that die really will not die for a good, because, if we end up leaving there short of our goals, it isn’t worth it.  It is only worth it if you bet right now the ranch and the lives of all those people that we will end up successful. 

SMERCONISH:  Nobody wants to have this conversation.  And I think this is the conversation we ought to be having.  And I think you have just articulated where we stand well. 

Hey, by the way, I would take three or four years and less-than-stellar results.  I’m afraid we’re going to be there for 10 years, and that we’re going to maintain troop levels that are somewhere of 75,000 to 100,000, and come out with less-than-successful results.  That’s my concern. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  My question, I guess, to—to—to Deroy is, if we leave in five, we leave in 10 years, eventually, we do leave in—we may leave a few troops behind, but we don’t call the shots over there after a certain period of time—is the country going to be in that big of a difference from what it is now? 

In other words, ultimately, when we do leave, somebody else calls the shots over there.  Maybe it’s the government we put in place—maybe.  Maybe it’s Muqtada al-Sadr.  Maybe it’s Hakim.  Maybe it’s somebody else.  But that somebody else is going to be calling the shots over there once we leave. 

Does...

MURDOCK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... anything we do in the meantime justify the death in the meantime of our people and their people, I—I should say, if it’s going to end up being somebody else calling the shots over there eventually?

MURDOCK:  Well, I assume that Iraq will continue to be an independent, sovereign, and so far democratic country, not democratic like the United States or Canada or England, but one that is where people actually—where people actually...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Saddam Hussein was a sovereign country. 

MURDOCK:  Well, all right, sovereign, but certainly not democratic. 

Nobody would call that a democracy.  The people of Iraq had a constitution.

They voted in their own government.

MATTHEWS:  What is it that we’re going to—what is it that you can guarantee?  What can you tell the husbands and wives...

MURDOCK:  That is something brand-new in that country.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

What can you tell the husbands and wives to look forward to five or 10 years from now, in terms of Iraq, that it will be what...

MURDOCK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... that justifies the hell?

MURDOCK:  ... I think a couple things.

Number one, we did succeed in knocking out Saddam Hussein, who was very supportive of Islamic terrorists around the world, including people who attacked us, number one.

And, number two, the hope is—and I hope this turns out well, but the idea is that, if this is a stable and—and free and prosperous country—can serve as a model. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re throwing all these ifs out.  I’m asking you—you have to make guarantees.  You have to say what’s going to happen. 

MURDOCK:  All I can tell you is if, because I can’t see the future. 

MATTHEWS:  That’s a holding action. 

MURDOCK:  No, it’s not a holding action.  I think we do the very best we can on the ground, politically and militarily, to try to turn that place into a place that will be a model—

MATTHEWS:  In other words, if it’s a nice try and we still fail, it’s still worth it, you’re saying? 

MURDOCK:  I think the best thing so far is that we’ve knocked Saddam Hussein out of power and he’s dead. 

MATTHEWS:  We did that before we lost 3,500 guys. 

MURDOCK:  We did.  But, I mean, we’re still in there.  We’re trying to make this a country that is stable, that is able to serve as a beacon to its neighbors.  I want to see that happen.  If it does, I think that will provide terrorists one less excuse to come after us, if we can provide, through Iraq, a model for -- 

MATTHEWS:  Just remember, Petraeus said there was no connection.  Petraeus was asked under oath this week if there was any connection between Iraq and what happened on 9/11.  He said no connection.  Of course, you know what the general said.  Michael, your witness. 

SMERCONISH:  More importantly, what the general said when asked by John Warner, are we becoming safer as Americans because of what’s going on in Iraq, he couldn’t answer that question.  I’d love to have a stable government in Iraq.  Frankly, I’m a selfish American.  I’m more concerned with safety here at home. 

MURDOCK:  And Saddam Hussein was a very, very active supporter of terrorists all around the world, including, for example, the people behind the Achille Laure hijacking and, according to Federal Judge Harold Bayer (ph), he provided, quote, material support, quote, unquote, to the 9/11 conspiracy. 

SMERCONISH:  It was a false predicate. 

MATTHEWS:  Who’s this guy you’re quoting? 

MURDOCK:  I’m quoting U.S. District Judge Harold Bayer, a Democratic judge appointed by Bill Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he say. 

MURDOCK:  He ruled in a case where two people who were killed at the World Trade Center  -- their families sued Saddam Hussein and he ruled that Saddam Hussein’s government provided, quote, material support, quote, unquote, to the 9/11 hijackers and he gave them 104 million dollars in damages. 

MATTHEWS:  I don’t care what the judge says.  That is absolutely not true.  There is no connection between Iraq and 9/11. 

MURDOCK:  You can differ with the federal distribute judge. 

MATTHEWS:  I’m quite willing to.  I will argue with every federal judge, because General Petraeus just denied that under oath before the Senate committee. 

MURDOCK:  In open court, that’s what he ruled. 

MATTHEWS:  You can find any excuse you want in the world.  But, by the way, there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11.  That’s the big lie of this war.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish.  Deroy, keep looking around—it’s called judge shopping.  You can probably find a judge that says anything. 

MURDOCK:  A Democratic judge. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, that really makes your case.  Any way, thank you.  Up next it, “Newsweek’s” Howard Fineman and the “Chicago Tribune’s” Jill Zuckman on the war and the oil issue, which Alan Greenspan explained to us this week. 

And later, Senator John McCain will be here.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let’s bring in the round table;

“Newsweek’s” Howard Fineman, who is also an NBC News political analyst, and Jill Zuckman with the “Chicago Tribune.”  Well, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan certainly ripped the scab off this week and he said the war in Iraq is largely about oil and everybody knows it, Jill.  Everybody knows it. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  That’s news to everybody, I think.  I think that he is a little bit out of his lane on this one.  And his criticism of the Bush administration on spending is fascinating, because he was in on those discussions.  But I don’t know that he was in on the discussions about whether to go to war in Iraq. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think --  

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  He accounts in the book the extent to

which he was regularly kibitzing (ph) with these guys about the war in Iraq

--

MATTHEWS:  Even though he’s an independent agent.

FINEMAN:  -- in the run-up to the war in Iraq.  He’s known these guys for 30 years.  It seemed to me he was trying to give them arguments in support of a decision he knew they had already made. 

MATTHEWS:  Could it be, Jill, that although it’s unspeakable, the fact is that the west, us, lives on wheels.  We live with internal combustion engines that must never stop.  All you have to do is look on any highway on Saturday morning, not just week days, people are in cars.  They want to keep moving in the cars.  The fact is, we will fight for oil.  Could it be that’s a fact?

ZUCKMAN:  I think it was a bonus.  I think they went there. 

MATTHEWS:  Ninety one, let’s talk ‘91.  These two wars are connected.  I will not live with the idea that there wouldn’t have been a second war if there hadn’t been a first.  We went to war with Saddam Hussein.  He tried to knock off former President Bush.  There’s a lot of bad blood there between us and him that started with that war.  We used to be his ally, remember?

ZUCKMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  So the war started over oil, right?  Do we agree? 

ZUCKMAN:  This is the third argument, that this is a revenge war to avenge former President Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  If you’re in the European left and never liked Bush to start with, now you’ve got the fed chairman to say it was all about oil, you’ve got to love it, right?  This is the old Marxist analysis. 

FINEMAN:  Well, it is.  But I think to some extent it’s inarguably true.  And there are various times, as David Shuster said earlier in the show—we reported earlier in the show—when these arguments were being made by administration officials.  It wasn’t the number one reason.  Number one was mushroom cloud.  Number two was Saddam and Osama bin Laden. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to the old wise man himself, Jim Baker, who

is hardly a neo, hardly a right winger, quote, in 1990, Jim Baker said this

he was secretary of defense—rather secretary of state when we went to war, the first of these two wars over there.  To bring it down to the average American citizen—he’s trying to work the regular guy here—

“let me say that means jobs.  If you want to sum it up in one word, it’s jobs, because an economic recession worldwide caused by the control of one nation, one dictator, if you will, of the west’s economic life line will result in the loss of jobs on the part of American citizens.”

So there he is talking like an old pol, saying look, we’re fighting this war for jobs. 

ZUCKMAN:  I think that -- 

MATTHEWS:  You don’t like this Marxist analysis of economics.  But in fact, here’s Jim Baker saying it. 

FINEMAN:  Marxist?

MATTHEWS:  Here’s Alan Greenspan saying it.  Let me read you some other little questions.  Larry Lindsey, by the way, said—remember that large, heavyset fellow that was fired as head of economic advisers by the president?  He said this was going to give us more and cheaper oil.  This was going to be the best deal we ever got because of this war. 

ZUCKMAN:  I think this is one of the reasons why what Greenspan said has so many resonance, because this is the Texas oil crowd in the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  The oil patch crowd. 

ZUCKMAN:  People assume that—

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this; Exxon/Mobile making tens of billions of dollars in profits this year.  So the war worked out well for them. 

ZUCKMAN:  Yes, so we can pay crazy amounts of money at the pump. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we put Exxon signs up over Arlington Cemetery, and Mobile signs up there?  They have baseball stadiums.  Anyway, thank you Howard Fineman.  I don’t want to—you don’t want to soap box, but when Alan Greenspan says something, we listen.  Right?  Howard—you’re Jill.  It’s great, I’m a new studio.  When we come back, Senator John McCain.  He’s going to be on HARDBALL tonight, live.  You’re watching it, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We’re back on HARDBALL.  We’re joined by U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, Republican candidate for president.  Senator McCain, it’s great to have you back on HARDBALL.  What did you think of Governor Romney saying the United States should muscle the U.N. into not allowing Ahmadinejad to speak at the General Assembly? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I can understand his anger and outrage.  The Iranians are sending lethal explosive devices into Iraq as we speak, and killing young Americans.  And I understand that people would be very angry at this guy, who has announced his country’s policy, the extinction of the state of Israel.  The United Nations is located in the United States of America.  And obviously, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to keep people from going to the United Nations.  But people are not happy to have him in town. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we be trying to influence the U.N. by threatening to cut off our dues?  That’s what he talked about the other day.  He was cutting off our dues to pressure them into not inviting him. 

MCCAIN:  I don’t know if I would concentrate my efforts on that, Chris.  What I would be concentrating my efforts on is trying to get a league of democracies outside of the U.N., because Russia and China are going to veto just about anything we want to act effectively against Iran.  And those league of democracies should cut off any kind of loans, which are being extended as we speak by European banks, diplomatic, other sanctions, to put real pressure on a rather fragile economy in Iran.  I think that’s the way we should pursue this. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Alan Greenspan’s comment in his book.  He sort of mussed (ph) over it a bit.  But his comment was rather stark in his new book, where he says the Iraq war is largely about oil and everybody knows it.  Is that your view? 

MCCAIN:  No, it’s not.  I have the greatest respect for Alan Greenspan as an economist.  Of course, oil makes the area more important to our vital national security interests.  But I don’t think that’s why we went to war there.  I think we went to war there because we believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, which has turned out not to be true.  But the sanctions were breaking down.  The no-fly zone was deteriorated.  There’s a huge oil for food scandal in the U.N.  And Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction in the past. 

I have no doubt he would have attempted to acquire and use them in the future.  I think that’s why we went to war there.  But oil being so important to our economy, obviously coming from that part of the world, it makes our national security interests far greater. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you would have supported going to war in Iraq had it been in some other region, like down in South America between Peru and Bolivia or something, or was it important that it was in the Middle East, where the oil is? 

MCCAIN:  If the Peruvians, according to every intelligence agency in the world, were developing weapons of mass destruction and they had a dictator who was committed to using them, who had used them in the past, of course. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the “New York Times,” had an odd headline the other day.  They’re watching you rather closely.  The headline read “Vocal on Iraq, McCain Keeps Quiet on Bush.”  Did you notice that you were being quite, not speaking the ineffable name of the president?  What’s going on here? 

MCCAIN:  Well, you know, the irony of all this, Chris, is that for four years on your show, as a matter of fact, I railed against the failed policies of Former Secretary Rumsfeld and Sanchez and Casey and said it was doomed to failure and advocated the strategy they’re using now.  So, of course, President Bush is responsible if we fail in Iraq.  I would like to give him some credit for the fact that we changed commanders and we have a new strategy. 

But it was very late in the game.  I’m not sure—I hope and pray that this strategy will be given a chance to succeed, which it is succeeding. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you surprised that the latest poll we just looked at of Republicans, your party, that the person they would least like to see win this presidential election, if it goes the wrong for your part, and the Democrats win next year—and you don’t win—the person they’d least like to see, the Republicans, win would be Hillary Clinton.  Does that surprise you? 

MCCAIN:  No, I think that Senator Clinton has obviously been a polarizing figure in American politics.  But I can also say that I know her.  I respect her.  I believe she’s a liberal Democrat.  And I’m a conservative Republican.  And I believe that to underestimate her in any election would be a miscalculation.  I remember when her husband was an obscure governor from a small state in the south. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, let me ask you about this big story that’s breaking over the weekend.  I know you have written a book called “Hard Call,” and it’s about guts at the top.  Here’s a hard call for you.  I know Matt Lauer did this to you the other day.  So I’m copy-catting him.  Here’s a hard call for you.  Given everything that’s happening out in Vegas right now, and Clark County, and you know what’s going on in the news with O.J.—and let me put this in the language of the streets, can the Juice get a fair trial? 

MCCAIN:  I don’t know.  I would not know about that.  The last time a lot of people were surprised that he got at least what was in his view a fair trial.  But, honestly, I have not been keeping up with it as much as I should have maybe, because it’s certainly—This and Paris Hilton are the kind of issues that seem to get a lot more attention than maybe some of us think they deserve. 

MATTHEWS:  The O.J. case has a lot going.  It has to do with ethnicity and celebrity and money and sex.  And here it has to do with armed robbery.  You don’t want to render an opinion on whether he gets a fair trial or not? 

MCCAIN:  I don’t know where he’s going to be tried.  But I also think maybe we ought to think about nuclear weapons and Iran and—

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about it.  Are you still for the Beach Boys lyric on that one or not? 

MCCAIN:  You don’t want me to sing it again. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I don’t want you to sing it.  I’m sort of a dove on this one.  I think the lyrics were somewhat scary there.  You don’t really want to bomb Iran, do you? 

MCCAIN:  I don’t.  At the end of the day, I don’t think we can allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  I was asked by an old veteran, with a group of veterans, when are you going to send a message to Iran.  You’ve got to have some humor in American politics.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I appreciate that.

MCCAIN:  You know that. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re a great guy.  Good luck with this quest for the presidency, sir.  We love you here at HARDBALL.  We consider you one of our own, even though that hurts you on the right.  But thank you very much Senator John McCain.  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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