Guests: Stan Brand, Roger Simon, Dennis Prager, Eugene Robinson, Craig Crawford, Jennifer Senior
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: In or out? Larry Craig first said he‘d quit, then he hinted he wouldn‘t. Then he said he‘d quit again. Now he‘s sticking. Why is the senator from Idaho stalling?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. There are a lot of nervous Republicans in Washington these days and around the country now that Senator Larry Craig has made it clear he‘s not leaving office. He will stay and finish his term, which drags his party to the 2008 presidential election with his company. But first Senator Craig has to face the Senate Ethics Committee. We‘re going to talk to his lawyer, my friend, Stan Brand, who‘s sitting with me. He‘s representing Larry Craig. What a great case for him.
In our second story tonight, the 2008 race. New polls and new ads out this week are pushing two candidates to the forefront. We‘ll talk to two of the best in the business, by the way, CNBC‘s Donny Deutsch and NBC‘s Chuck Todd.
And should Senator Craig go or should he stay? That‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight. But we begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with the latest on that strange scandal—David.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, in the wake of a judge‘s ruling sustaining Senator Craig‘s guilty plea, the senator‘s decision to finish out his term is infuriating many congressional Republicans. They fear major damage in 2008, just like 2006, when scandal contributed to the Republican Party‘s loss of Congress.
The White House is trying to keep the president at a distance from all this. White House officials issued a statement today saying, “This is a decision between Senator Craig, his constituents, his colleagues in the Senate.” Senate Republican Norm Coleman from Minnesota, where this took place—he said that Craig‘s ability to serve has been severely compromised. Senator John Ensign is responsible for Senate election efforts on the Republican side. He said today, “I wish Craig would stick to his word. It‘s embarrassing for the Senate. It‘s embarrassing for his party.”
This summer, Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from an arrest for lewd conduct in an airport men‘s room. When the incident became public, Craig declared defiantly, “I am not gay. I have never been gay.” A few days later, he announced his intent to resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO: To pursue my legal options as I continue to serve Idaho would be an unwanted and unfair distraction of my job and for my Senate colleagues. These are serious times of war and of conflict, times that deserve the Senate‘s and the full nation‘s attention. Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate effective September 30.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: But now that Senator Craig has been here in Washington a couple of weeks, he‘s now issued a statement saying, “I have seen it is possible for me to work here effectively.” Craig says he will try to clear his name before the Senate Ethics Committee. The Senate in 220 years has never taken any action against somebody charged with a misdemeanor unrelated to that congressman‘s official Senate duties.
Craig defenders, and there are some of them, Chris—they are coming out and saying that he should have not resigned in first place. Senator Arlen Specter said, “Disorderly conduct is not moral turpitude. It is no basis for leaving the Senate.”
Again, it‘s not entirely clear where this is going, a lot of Republicans trying to decide the political strategy about whether it makes sense to actually have hearings on all this. But Chris, Senator Sam Brownback today, Republican from Kansas—he predicted that the Senate would end up censuring Senator Craig and David Vitter. Vitter, of course, is the Republican who won a Senate seat in Louisiana a couple years ago, a Republican who won campaigning on family values. And then this summer, he admitted having a relationship with a prostitute—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, David Shuster.
Let me ask you this, Stan Brand—thank you for joining us. You‘re the lawyer for Senator Craig. You and I worked on the Hill for years. We know that place. Do you think it‘s credible, let‘s be blunt, for the Senate to censure a senator for having done business with a prostitute, in itself, off campus, if you will? Is that grounds for kicking a guy out or publicly humiliating a senator?
STAN BRAND, ATTORNEY FOR SEN. LARRY CRAIG: Again, the Senate has
drawn a line up to this point between conduct that implicates their office
bribery, gratuity, treason, embezzlement—and conduct that occurs outside of the realm of the Senate. That‘s the line that‘s been drawn, and I think that‘s a legitimate line.
MATTHEWS: Suppose there is a senator involved with the Michael Vick case and he was fighting dogs, he was running cock fights or dog fights, a gross kind of sport. Same kind of thing happens in professional sports. It has nothing to do with his playing ability, but professional sports say, This guy‘s in trouble.
BRAND: Well, professional sports...
MATTHEWS: Well, why is it different?
BRAND: ... they just have contracts with morals clauses.
MATTHEWS: Senators don‘t?
BRAND: No. And I think the—again, there‘s a big difference here, Chris. There‘s a presumption that the Framers made that the people in Idaho are going to decide whether someone should serve or shouldn‘t serve.
MATTHEWS: But once they‘ve got stuck with the guy for six years, they don‘t get to decide until 2008.
BRAND: Right. But the Court has said—the Supreme Court has said that‘s the way the system works. That‘s why there‘s a super-majority of two-thirds to get rid of somebody.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this misdemeanor charge. Your client, Senator Larry Craig, has pled guilty, perhaps under duress, to disorderly conduct. What did he actually plead guilty to, as you understand it as his attorney? What‘s he guilty of, at least what he pled guilty to?
BRAND: Well, boisterous and ungentlemanly conduct. That‘s what disorderly conduct is. I don‘t know what that was. The irony of this case, Chris, is when these anonymous Senate staffers threatened Anita Hill-style hearings in the Senate, I really have to laugh because the fact is, the facts are known in this case. We have the tape. What the tape shows is innocent conduct. And what the tape shows is a man being threatened and cajoled into pleading by an overreaching police officer.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got a tape, an audiotape of the police interview.
BRAND: The world has it.
MATTHEWS: But you don‘t have any tape of what happened in that men‘s room.
BRAND: No, but we have a—we have the account from the people involved, and that‘s the best evidence.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, as a person familiar with the politics of Capitol Hill—it looks like he‘s being shunned. I mean, you hear these statements from these senators, like, I‘m not going to have lunch with the guy, I‘m not going to be seen with the guy. Does that hurt his ability to do his job, if they don‘t talk to the guy? Like—it‘s almost like an Amish community saying, We won‘t talk to him. Does that hurt?
BRAND: Well, he still gets to vote. He‘s still on committees. He still can serve his constituents. He can still deal with the federal bureaucracy. He can do all the things that a senator does, so I don‘t know what that means. Now, you know, whether he‘s upset because nobody will talk to him in the gym—but that‘s not what his job is. That‘s not why he‘s here to serve his constituents. He‘s here for Idaho.
MATTHEWS: Can he lead a Senate amendment—can he get senators to join him on the Craig amendment, for example, the Craig bill, the Craig resolution? Doesn‘t his name basically destroy the chances of anything he stands for?
BRAND: I don‘t know that that‘s true. First of all, you know, this has all been driven by the Republican leadership. I don‘t think a single Democrat has been heard on this.
MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell—has he misbehaved in this case, as leader? He‘s the one calling for his head.
BRAND: I don‘t know if he‘s misbehaved, but he hasn‘t acted like a leader as I would think. You know, when Tip O‘Neil was Speaker, he used to protect the institutional prerogatives of the Senate, of every member, Republican or Democrat. The interest that Larry Craig is vindicating here is the Senate‘s interest in having a clear standard of conduct for when you‘re going to be disciplined and when you‘re not. And they‘re throwing all that to the wind.
MATTHEWS: Now, you‘re confident—you must be—that that standard of conduct would be so overreaching, it would so extensive if it includes Larry Craig, that it would include so many other senators, they‘d be unlikely to adopt that standard.
BRAND: Who would it not include? It would be...
MATTHEWS: Well, everybody who hasn‘t done anything like this.
BRAND: Well, anybody who hasn‘t been stopped for DUI, like John Tower was, or anybody who, you know, ran over somebody on a motorcycle, like Congressman Janklow (ph) did. I mean, this is conduct that historically has never been subject to discipline.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you two fronts. First of all, the law. Have you giving up on appealing the case, getting the plea of guilty to disorderly conduct withdrawn? Can you get it withdrawn, at this point? Can you prove manifest injustice?
BRAND: Well, there‘s an appeal issue there whether the district court properly applied the Minnesota law. And you know, Billy Martin, who‘s my co-counsel in this case, is taking a look at that.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know, though?
BRAND: Don‘t know yet.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know (INAUDIBLE) What about the Ethics Committee?
Do you believe the Ethics Committee, chaired by Barbara Boxer of California, a Democrat, will actually meet? Do you believe they will take up this case? It‘s possible, it seems to me, you guys can skate. Your client can continue to serve right through January of 2009, the end of his term, and maybe never get tagged by the Ethics Committee. It sounds like that‘s possible.
BRAND: It‘s possible. I mean, again, there are two very big thresholds here. One is, does the Senate want to open up Pandora‘s box on this type of conduct? And two, even if they do, when you look at this conduct, it‘s not criminal and it‘s not inappropriate.
MATTHEWS: Would your client quit if he were censured, like Senator Joe McCarthy was censured? Would that be the end of his career? Would he say, OK, I get it, I‘m walking?
BRAND: That to me is inconceivable that he would be censured for this conduct.
MATTHEWS: But the Senate is in an uproar over this thing.
BRAND: The Senate isn‘t in an uproar, the Republican leadership is an uproar.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mitch McConnell, John Ensign, all the people that are worried about getting 51 Republicans back into the Senate, everybody who‘s worried about a wipeout next year is clearly worried.
BRAND: That‘s right. However, this is not a political exercise only. This is a quasi-judicial proceeding. And the Supreme Court has said there may be limits on the ability of the Senate to discipline members of the Congress. They‘ve never decided that case.
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re going to make history here, and you‘ve got your game face on, Stan Brand. I‘m very impressed. You‘ve taken a case that months ago people thought wasn‘t going anywhere. And you‘ve got a U.S. senator from Idaho who looks like he‘s going to be here for the—next year, right? Isn‘t that your bet right now? He‘s around right to the end of his term?
BRAND: That‘s—my advice is to him is to stay the course and make the case that he‘s been making, and you know, let‘s take our chances.
MATTHEWS: You‘re something else. Stan Brand, happy weekend to you.
Coming up: Rudy and Hillary are ready to fight. They‘re acting like frontrunners already and treating each other like they‘re the person they‘re going to run against in November next year. Who‘s got the edge in this little mano-a-mano? CNBC “Big Idea” host Donny Deutsch—smart guy there—and NBC political director Chuck Todd, our man, both coming here.
And throughout this show, we‘ll bring you pictures from HARDBALL‘s tenth anniversary party last night. There I am with a congressman. I think that‘s Congressman Charlie Gonzalez from Texas. That‘s over at Decatur House, about a block from the White House.
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidates take part in a debate over the economy out in Dearborn, Michigan. CNBC‘s Maria Bartiromo and I will co-moderate the debate, airing on both CNBC and here MSNBC. It‘s Fred Thompson‘s, by the way, first time in the ring out there and a great chance to see them all fight over money matters.
NBC‘s new poll, by the way, shoes Judy—Rudy—no, Rudy—Judy‘s the wife—Rudy Giuliani still in the lead, and perhaps more importantly, Republicans think he has the best shot to beat Hillary Clinton right now. Rudy seems to think so, too, because he‘s going after her. Is that how he can win?
Well, anyway, Donny Deutsch, to answer that question, is coming here right now. He‘s the host of CNBC‘s “The Big Idea”—fabulous show. And Chuck Todd is a fabulous prognosticator of our business. He‘s our political director here.
Let me—what do you make of those polls? Do you think, Donny, that poll that‘s got Rudy up front at 30 is going to hold, or do you think it—does it have solidity, firmness, or could it wiggle down?
DONNY DEUTSCH, CNBC “THE BIG IDEA”: I think it‘s going to keep growing. And I think, as you said, the more important poll is the 47 percent versus 16 that think he can beat Hillary. And they think he can beat Hillary for three reasons—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio. He‘s really the only Republican that has a great shot. And as we all know—we don‘t have to wait until election night—it comes down to five or six states. Plus, he‘s the only rock star in there. You know, at the end of the day, I think the country is waiting for rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots (ph). There are two rock stars in this field. One is Hillary, one is Rudy. And I think that‘s what we‘re going to get.
MATTHEWS: Do you mean those states—well, I‘m playing dumb guy here, but I really do know the answer to some of these questions I ask. Donny, you—you say Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio because there are a lot of Italians in a couple of those states, Italian-Americans? Is that why there‘s a grittiness? Is it—what is it about his appeal you see as threatening the Dems?
DEUTSCH: You know, he‘s the guy—first of all, he‘s the guy—although he‘s not going to want to say this, in a lot of ways—he‘s a moderate, obviously, on certain social issues. And you know, he‘s an East Coast guy. He‘s a scrappy guy. He‘s got boxing gloves. He‘s a “dese, dems and dose” guy. So you know, he‘s got that East Coast, you know, mental (ph) sensibility that we like here, and he‘s the only candidate from (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you. It‘s what I like, too. I think we‘re regionalists, you and me, Donny, anyway. Are you a regionalist? Do you like Northeasterners?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No. I was raised to hate New York.
TODD: I was raised up—I couldn‘t stand the Northeast...
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this Rudy—I do think it‘s interesting that Rudy—we brought it up tonight. We think it‘s interesting. Forty-seven percent, about half the people, think he‘s the best shot to knock off Hillary. And only 16 percent think it‘s Fred Thompson. Is the best booster rocket for Rudy Giuliani Hillary Clinton‘s inevitability?
TODD: Well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Or seeming inevitability.
TODD: That‘s what Giuliani thinks. That‘s why they‘re—they‘re running against her. They do everything they can. They came out with a crazy little hit today on her, putting her face on a U.S. bond and trying to make fun of her baby bonds program. I mean, everything they do is about matching him up with her because the better she is, the better he can make the case to the social conservatives and say, Look, you‘re not going to agree with me on everything, but I can stop her.
MATTHEWS: I‘m better than her.
TODD: Right. I‘m the “stop her now”...
MATTHEWS: That‘s the argument.
TODD: ... candidate. And that‘s his party at this point, Stop her now.
MATTHEWS: Well, if people vote strategically, that may be smart. Do you think they do?
TODD: I think they do—enough of them do. Most—Republicans are less likely to vote strategically than Democrats.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Donny? Do you think Republicans think about the general, who‘s better to beat Hillary, or do they think about who they like?
DEUTSCH: Yes, I think there‘s an ABH—“anything but Hillary.” I mean, they—this would be their nightmare come true to the Nth degree. And I really think they get a sense that she‘s got a real shot here. So I think they‘re going to put emotion aside, and I think that left part of the brain is going to come forward. I think Chuck is right.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at the latest Rudy radio ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR NYC MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want us to be on offense for a growth economy in which we lower taxes, reduce the size of government. That‘s how you create growth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Principle, experience, results—that‘s Rudy.
GIULIANI: We laid out a very, very specific set of goals that we want to achieve because I want people to look at those and say, If I agree with most of them, then this is a person who can bring them about. And if they disagree with it, they should vote against me because I am going to bring it about.
GIULIANI: Rudy Giuliani, the Republican that Democrats just don‘t want to run against.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: No 9/11 Tourette‘s syndrome there. He didn‘t mention 9/11 once, Chuck.
TODD: Well, but that‘ll change. That‘s going to change...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m using Jon Stewart‘s great line. He said that he keeps saying 9/11 in every sentence he brings up. He never mentioned it.
TODD: No, he didn‘t. But I‘ll tell you what he did mention is he only mentioned issues that he knew conservatives would like him about, which is taxes, economic issues.
TODD: Well, but...
MATTHEWS: Of course he‘s going to do that.
TODD: And this is all part of (INAUDIBLE) he‘s yet to run a TV ad.
He only runs radio. He only does direct mail...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the thinking behind that?
TODD: So he can just talk to conservative audiences. He won‘t offend the moderates. If he was running TV ads...
MATTHEWS: Oh. Tell me how that works...
MATTHEWS: Tell me how that works, Donny, how going on the radio only hits conservatives, because you‘re just going on conservative radio stations, talk stations?
DEUTSCH: Well, it‘s a conservative—it skews—it skews right. That‘s what radio does. But Chris, I want to sell your book a little bit here. He does an interesting thing here, one of your—here I am, selling your book on your show!
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead.
DEUTSCH: In terms of the defensive strategy, there‘s a great line (INAUDIBLE) he says, I‘m not perfect. So he‘s already teeing himself up because he knows once he gets this nomination, and I think he will, there‘s a lot that‘s going to come out of the rug (ph). So it‘s very interesting. That ad had nothing to do with character, yet there‘s that one line, I‘m not perfect. I found that very interesting.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re saying life‘s a campaign.
DEUTSCH: Life‘s a campaign...
MATTHEWS: Let me (INAUDIBLE) let‘s take a look at a new Clinton ad.
This is a Hillary Clinton campaign TV ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would and kept standing until six million kids had coverage. She stood by ground zero workers who sacrificed their health after so many sacrificed their lives, and kept standing until this administration took action. She stood by our National Guard and reserve and kept standing until they received health care they deserved. So now that almost every candidate‘s standing up for health care for all, which one do you think will never back down?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: To me, I‘m stunned it‘s not a bigger deal that the first New Yorker to use 9/11 footage wasn‘t Giuliani, that it was Clinton. I‘m stunned that this hasn‘t been a bigger story.
MATTHEWS: Is this shooting for the heart?
TODD: I think she‘s going to immediately say, look, I‘m ready to go in the general. I‘m ready to start creating a contrast with Rudy. It‘s sort of like, you want to do a 9/11 comparison? Fine. I am going to talk about what you did on ground zero, those workers, what happened to them, talk about their health issues.
I think it was a—it‘s a—to me, it‘s a very effective ad, number one.
MATTHEWS: Go for the strength of the opponent.
TODD: But it shows that she‘s also ready to run against Rudy. And I think she wants to run against Rudy. I think that...
TODD: I think they...
MATTHEWS: I thought they wanted to go against Romney, who is smoother and more predictable.
TODD: No. I—no, Romney is...
TODD: I would be afraid of Romney.
MATTHEWS: Donny, do you agree that she is out there sharpshooting for Rudy already, going after his strong point, 9/11?
DEUTSCH: I agree that she‘s getting ready for it. I don‘t think she wants to.
I think, obviously, he is going to be the most formidable candidate for her. I thought what was interesting about that message was, it wasn‘t about health care to me.
It was—you know, my biggest—the biggest rap on Hillary is, you know, she‘s very—she figures out. She flip-flops. She‘s going to just position herself. Here, she says, I was out in front. I never wavered.
So, it wasn‘t about health care. It was, I put a stake in the ground and I stick there.
I don‘t think she wants Rudy, but, certainly, she‘s keying up for it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s interesting.
Let‘s take a look at a Romney ad just out. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS AD)
NARRATOR: For years, he fought conservatives and religious extremists, Mitt Romney.
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that, since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it.
NARRATOR: Mitt Romney opposed the gun lobby, even Ronald Reagan.
ROMNEY: Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush.
I‘m not trying to return to Reagan/Bush.
NARRATOR: A record fighting the religious right, a pro-choice record, Massachusetts values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that obviously was an anti-Romney ad by the Log Cabin group. They‘re the gay Republican group.
Chuck, pretty tough. Why are they going after him? Why would the gay Republicans specifically target Romney? Is it his flipping or what?
TODD: Yes. They‘re mad at Romney. They‘re mad. Don‘t forget...
MATTHEWS: Because he was with them, and now he‘s not?
TODD: That‘s right. And the civil union bill in Massachusetts, gay marriage in Massachusetts. They‘re mad at him. They feel like that Romney, in order to kowtow to social conservatives, used gay marriage as that one issue to try to say, hey, I‘m really with you.
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s not dancing with the ones that brung him?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t mean to be cute.
TODD: Both Romney and Giuliani had to make a decision.
TODD: They had to make a decision.
Are they going to try to be converts, which is the argument Romney makes? Hey, look, I‘m converted. I came to you.
TODD: I came late in life.
And that‘s what Reagan...
MATTHEWS: Donny, I want you to grade this one. Here‘s the real pro-Romney ad paid for by the Romney campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)
ROMNEY: It started in New Hampshire. It‘s a tax pledge. For years, conservative candidates for president signed their name on the dotted line pledging to oppose tax increases. I‘m Mitt Romney. I‘m proud to be the only major candidate for president to sign the tax pledge. The others have not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, it seems like nothing ever changes. New Hampshire is, sign the tax pledge for “The Union Leader.”
What do you make of that, Donny? Is this too old hat or does it still work?
DEUTSCH: He‘s got nowhere to go, frankly.
I mean, I think, if he can get behind that one issue and say, you know what, I‘m your anti-tax guy, I‘m a guy who comes from the world of business, I know it—he‘s got nowhere else to go. He doesn‘t have the 9/11. He doesn‘t have it on the issues of course of war.
This is obviously—it‘s not new news, but I think it‘s his only play. And I don‘t think it‘s going to work, though.
TODD: Well, I agree with Donny. It‘s his only play. And it‘s a smart play, because Rudy has not signed this pledge.
And you know what? New Hampshire is—New Hampshire folks are obsessed with this tax pledge. They always have been. They vote on it. Democratic candidates, when they run for governor, have to sign a no-income-tax pledge.
MATTHEWS: It is a pretty conservative state.
TODD: It is. They‘re obsessed with it. It‘s the only issue. Live free or die. It‘s the one thing they care about up there.
MATTHEWS: And they don‘t like big public projects up there.
Tip O‘Neill, my old boss, used to say, they don‘t even like parks up there.
MATTHEWS: Because they like everybody for themselves. They like self-reliance. Live free or die, that‘s the spirit of that place. It‘s—a lot of people go up there to get away from Massachusetts.
TODD: To get away from Massachusetts.
Anyway, Donny Deutsch, you are a genius. And thanks for the plug.
DEUTSCH: “Life‘s a Campaign.” That‘s all I say. “Life‘s a Campaign,” Chris.
TODD: We have Tourette‘s...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re making me into a dittohead.
Up next, the Friday political headlines.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for some Friday politics.
“The Boston Globe” today is reporting that Mitt Romney has stepped up his effort to woo evangelical voters. Yesterday, influential Christian conservative leader James Dobson said that he and others on the cultural right would back a minor-party candidate if the Republican nominee is not sufficiently conservative on social issues.
Well, last week, Romney tried to allay conservative fears in a private group with 200 members of the powerful group Council on National Policy.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox is out with a new book that seems
to be written for the New York gossip pages. “USA Today” reports that Fox
calls President Bush—quote—“the cockiest guy I ever met in my life” -
close quote—and then gives Bush a tough time for his—quote—
“grade school Spanish.”
Elizabeth Edwards is out doing the heavy lifting again—her job assignment this time, Rush Limbaugh for his “phony soldiers” comment. In an Air America interview, she said—quote—“My classmates went to Vietnam. He did not. He was 4-F. He had a medical disability, the same medical disability that probably should have stopped him from spending a lifetime in a radio announcer‘s chair.”
I‘m not sure what she meant with that.
Speaking of Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee has issued a statement saying—quote—“With all the things the U.S. Senate should be doing, from solving the problems of immigration, to the war in Iraq, I can‘t believe they‘re worried about what a talk show says.”
But in talking about the General Petraeus ad, Huckabee went after Hillary—quote—“Get your lips off the backside of George Soros long enough to use those lips to say it‘s wrong to declare a sitting general guilty of treason.”
Apparently, Mike Huckabee does worry about some stuff that runs in the media.
Finally, last night, we had a great celebration here in Washington of 10 years of HARDBALL. We celebrate the wonders of the First Amendment and our freedom of the press, which Americans of all political stripes treasure.
Anyway, I told the crowd that it hasn‘t been easy these past 10 years. That politicians don‘t like to be criticized. And, in one case, their efforts to silence critics and to cover up those efforts got a senior Cheney aide caught up in criminality, indeed, in a conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.
As my hero, Erik Severite (ph), once noted, we cannot always be right on the facts, though we must try to be. We cannot always be fair, but we must try to be. But we must always be independent.
Up next, the HARDBALL debate: Should Larry Craig finish his term in the Senate? This is going to be hot and a fairly simple argument.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And stocks rallying after this morning September‘s jobs report. The Dow Jones industrials gained 91 points. The S&P 500, it was up more than 14 points, to a new record high. And the Nasdaq gained more than 46 points.
Fears that the country could slide into recession eased after this morning‘s report that employers created 110,000 new jobs in September. That was better than expected. In addition, revised figures for August show, instead of losing 4,000 jobs, as originally reported, the economy actually created 89,000 jobs.
However, the news appeared to lessen the likelihood that the Fed will cut interest rates again when it meets at the end of this month.
And Topps Meat announced it is closing down. The move comes just six days after the Elizabeth, New Jersey, company recalled nearly 22 million pounds of ground beef because of possible E. coli contamination. Topps says that 87 workers there will lose their jobs.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Of all the wild debates. Wait until we get this one going.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republican Senator Larry Craig, as we all know, ain‘t going anywhere.
He decided he would remain in the Senate through 2009, when his term ends, despite a court ruling against him in Minnesota not allowing—allowing him to take back that guilty plea, which was related, obviously, to soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a restroom, which ended up being a plea on the case—a matter of—of disorderly conduct.
Anyway, that case is still going on. So, should he stay or should he go? Should he be in or should he be out of the Senate? That‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight.
Radio talk show host Dennis Prager says Craig should go, G-O. Roger Simon of “The Politico” says Craig should stay.
Dennis, thanks for coming on tonight. I haven‘t talked to you in a while, buddy.
But what do you think of this case?
DENNIS PRAGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, I think that the issue...
MATTHEWS: I can hear you. Dennis, you‘re on.
PRAGER: You hear me or don‘t hear me?
MATTHEWS: I hear you fine.
PRAGER: You do hear me?
PRAGER: OK, great.
I think he should go because he has to ask a question that has nothing to do with legality. What is better for my country? What is better for my party? What is better for my values? He‘s now asking, what is better for Senator Craig? That‘s the wrong question to ask for a public figure, and it‘s as simple as that.
MATTHEWS: Roger Simon for the defense.
MATTHEWS: He should stay, you say.
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: He should stay. He should make every senator who wants him to go stand up—doesn‘t have to be a wide stance—just has to stand up and say exactly why Larry Craig is unfit to be a U.S. senator.
What did he do? He waved his hands. He tapped his foot. What did he do that makes him guilty of something that—that he loses his job over?
PRAGER: Well, he pleaded...
SIMON: I fail to see how this ruling affects the—the future of the country either way.
SIMON: But I want to—I want to hear from the senator what—senators—what he‘s guilty of.
PRAGER: He‘s guilty of pleading guilty to soliciting sex in a public bathroom. And, for most Americans...
SIMON: No, he‘s guilty of disorderly conduct. They dropped that charge.
PRAGER: OK. I‘m sorry. He‘s guilty for what?
SIMON: He‘s guilty of disorderly conduct. The state of Minnesota dropped the second charge.
PRAGER: Yes, I understand.
But the disorderly conduct concerns what? I mean, concerns soliciting sex in a men‘s room. And, for most Americans, that doesn‘t quite jibe with being a U.S. senator.
Whether right or wrong, that is the factor. And I‘m not here to debate whether or not he has a legal case. It‘s a misdemeanor. It was waived. This was waived. That was waived. This is the perception. And he‘s of no use to the Republican Party. And, if he believes in its values, then he has to go.
I feel bad for him. It‘s a tragedy what happened. That‘s a separate issue. The first question is, what‘s better for my country and for the values of my party?
SIMON: Well, this is a—that‘s another reason that he should refuse to resign.
The Republican Party got a big boost by saying they had forced him out after he said he was going to resign. This was an example of how they police their own; they‘re the party of family values; the American people can trust them.
It was easy to say, since he said he was going to go. Now that he says he is not going to go, I want to see the Republican Party force him out. Article One...
MATTHEWS: Are you are being sarcastic, or you mean this?
SIMON: No. No.
Article One, Section Five of the Constitution says that any senator can be removed for disorderly behavior. That‘s what the Constitution says.
MATTHEWS: But nobody has been expelled from the Senate, just to get a fact in here—Dennis, excuse me...
PRAGER: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... since the—the men who swore allegiance to the Confederacy.
MATTHEWS: They basically, by the terms of those days, committed treason.
SIMON: Right. So, why do you think maybe...
PRAGER: Right, so...
SIMON: ... U.S. senators, especially Republican ones, don‘t want to set the precedent that being—pleading guilty to a misdemeanor means you will lose your job in the U.S. Senate?
MATTHEWS: Dennis, let me ask you about this case with Vitter. It‘s somewhat different and somewhat similar. It involves moral misbehavior, I guess you would have to agree. We would generally agree on that.
MATTHEWS: Having business with a prostitute or several prostitutes, does that fall under your rubric of someone who should leave for the good of the party‘s morals and its image?
PRAGER: I was just thinking about that. It‘s a very valid question. And I don‘t know if I will be giving you a persuasive answer to tell you that most Americans, myself included, think of private sin differently from public sin, not before God. I‘m not God, and you‘re—we‘re not God here. We‘re a nation.
The nation considers private sin, which is prostitution, different from public solicitation of sex. And that‘s the difference that I would draw between those two—quote, unquote—“sins,” if you will.
And, to me, it is—it is a distinction that matters.
SIMON: I‘m not totally buying that, since Larry Craig didn‘t actually complete the sin. But ask yourself, if Larry Craig had done all these things to an...
MATTHEWS: But he was soliciting. We know that from the police testimony.
SIMON: He was soliciting. He was soliciting something.
But the state has an obligation to prove him guilty. But, that aside, if Larry Craig had done the same actions to an undercover policewoman in a public bar, would he be in trouble today? I mean, really, we‘re talking about he‘s in trouble because it‘s homosexual sex...
SIMON: ... that he was soliciting.
PRAGER: No, no. I don‘t...
SIMON: And, if that‘s the case, let the Senate stand up and say it.
PRAGER: It‘s not because of homosexual sex, because, had he gone into
had he—had he dressed as a woman, theoretically, and gone into a ladies room to solicit a woman, it would have been considered the same thing, because he‘s not going to have sex in the bar if he is trying to solicit an undercover female cop. So my public/private distinction stays.
I do want to make one other point, though. That is there was another person I thought should have resigned and that was President Clinton. I did not, by the way, support his impeachment. I did think he should resign and the fact that he didn‘t was the reason that Al Gore was not president in 2000. Had he resigned, Al Gore would have become president, undoubtedly would have won re-election or election—the first election. Your party pace a big price if you think about yourself first.
MATTHEWS: I have never heard anybody suggest that but it seems so unexceptionally true. Not that it‘s relevant to this debate. Do you like the British model of resignation when you‘re embarrassing your party? It‘s much more noble than we are. We‘re lower case Democrats than a generic Democratic kind of country. Do you think we should be noble like the Brits, and when you embarrass your party, you should walk back to your club, have a drink and find something else to do with your life?
PRAGER: Yes. If you really do embarrass your party and if you think
your party is more important than you, then you have to. I don‘t know why
it doesn‘t have to be Brit-like. They do it more readily, but it does have to happen. That‘s why I gave the Clinton example. Al Gore lost because Bill Clinton didn‘t resign.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve always said that Al Gore ended up being Bill Clinton‘s bathtub ring. He was left to pay the price and Hillary got to be a senator.
SIMON: That was not exactly the judgment of the American people. Al Gore won more than 500,000 votes in the popular vote.
PRAGER: We have an electoral college. It was the judgment of the American people if you believe we have an electoral college.
MATTHEWS: Roger, do you believe he deserves to stay in the United States Senate, morally?
SIMON: Sure. I think exactly what Arlen Specter said, disorderly conduct is not moral turpitude.
MATTHEWS: Even though he was pleading to a lower charge.
MATTHEWS: But he wasn‘t committing boisterous behavior in the men‘s room. He wasn‘t making a ruckus in there. He was guilty of something else and he accepted a lesser charge.
SIMON: I believe that the Senate should establish whatever rules it wants, but it should state them plainly, and they should state plainly that they‘re embarrassed by him.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the argument, before we leave Dennis, that there ought to be a uniform statement of behavior, whether it‘s traffic tickets, drunken driving, consorting with prostitutes, public sexual misbehavior? Is there an objective standard you can apply here?
PRAGER: No. And that‘s why I don‘t want him forced out. He didn‘t do something bad enough to be forced out. I agree with that. That‘s why I am appealing to his moral values, and say there‘s something larger than you at stake.
MATTHEWS: Then shame should rule then, right? Shame should rule?
PRAGER: No, effectiveness for your values, not shame. Effectiveness for your values.
MATTHEWS: Objective statement. Do you buy that? You don‘t care. You‘re not really here to root for his conservative values either, are you, Roger?
SIMON: I‘m here to root for his rights as an American. He wasn‘t convicted of a felony. He foolishly pled guilty to a misdemeanor. If the Senate wants to establish that as its rule, let them do it.
MATTHEWS: Can we all be honest about one thing here? He pled guilty because the cop promised to keep it secret. Let‘s move on. That‘s so obviously why he pled guilty.
SIMON: That‘s what sting operations are all about.
MATTHEWS: Thank you buddy. It‘s great to have you both. Dennis, thank you. I missed you. Thanks for coming on the program. Tricky subject. Thank you Dennis Prager and Roger Simon from “The Politico.” Up next, the HARDBALL round table on Larry Craig, Hillary versus Rudy and much more. It is Friday. It is a little wild out here. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for our round table. Craig Crawford is an MSNBC political analyst and he‘s a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly.” Eugene Robinson is a columnist for the “Washington Post,” and one of the best in the country. And Jennifer Senior writes all kinds of good stuff. She‘s a contributing editor at “New York Magazine.” In fact, she‘s got this week‘s cover story, which is a tragic looking picture of Bill Clinton, Jennifer, as a woman.
What it teaches me, Jennifer, is the best looking guy is the ugliest looking woman. What made you guys do that? Before we move any further here?
JENNIFER SENIOR, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”: Well it seemed like a great idea at the time. I agree that he is really unfortunate looking. I mean, he looks like Tootsie.
MATTHEWS: Oh, god. Has Bill complained about this portrait of him?
SENIOR: I only hear from the people around him. And he seems—the piece is fairly good to his wife. So if it draws attention to his wife in a positive way, maybe he‘s not so unhappy. What do I know?
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to this question of Larry Craig. Up in the big cities of this country, like Washington and New York City—where are you from, El Paso or somewhere?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “THE CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Orlando, Florida.
MATTHEWS: OK, I think there‘s a big city view of this case that differs from the rural view, just guessing, because we figure a large contingent are a community of gay people around us in this big city. Certainly in New York you do, and big cities like Boston, Atlanta. They‘re there. They‘re part of our world. The idea that a senator is involved with something like this, even though it may be a little bit embarrassing, is it grounds for his expulsion by the standards of the Senate?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I was thinking about this this afternoon. I actually found myself feeling kind of sympathetic toward him, in that—look, it‘s clear to any guy in America who has ever gone to a public rest room, there‘s an eticate. Right, so it‘s --
MATTHEWS: Do you remember David Brenner (ph), the comedian from Philly? He said when you go into a men‘s room like the Philadelphia 30 Street station, that big station—women don‘t know about this, but 30 there‘s urinals along a big sign, by the way, that says no loitering under penalty of ordinance, something or other. What do you do if a guy stands right next to you and there‘s nobody else in the room. What would you do. This is not me being political. He says, lower your voice. Say something like, killed a moose today, something incredibly macho.
Anyway, Craig, what are we doing here.
CRAWFORD: He‘s in the singing senators, and now he‘s taken up tap dancing.
CRAWFORD: I don‘t see the Republicans pushing this much further because it only hurts them to keep the focus on this, particularly an Ethics Investigation. And also I think it‘s interesting that the Democrats aren‘t showing a lot of thirst for making the Republicans look bad.
MATTHEWS: I love the fact that a bluff works. What do you think, Jennifer, that he says, look, if you guys want to take me to the Ethics Committee, we‘ll try to show as much dirty laundry as possible. You won‘t like this. Leave me alone. Do you think he can do this?
SENIOR: You know what I think is interesting is that all Senate decorum has gone out the window. No one is actually saying, you‘ve done a fine job, Larry. Now, here‘s the door. No one is saying that. They‘re all just saying get out, get out. The gentlemen‘s club is falling apart here, which suggests something interesting, which is that this is not only in some way about sex, but that it might be one of those things that we don‘t talk about a lot about, but is often true in the Senate, which is that the political is also personal. They might not like him very much.
MATTHEWS: How about the Ahmadinejad theory, you simply declare that you have no gays in your country. The Senate simply declares we have no gays in this Senate, therefore we‘re out of trouble.
SENIOR: Have you seen the cover of the New Yorker?
CRAWFORD: The hypocrisy angle of this—
MATTHEWS: Don‘t even begin.
CRAWFORD: If he could be brought up on hypocrisy charges by the Ethics Committee, but I don‘t see that happening. That‘s not going to happen. In this town, if hypocrisy were a virus, we‘d all be dead.
MATTHEWS: -- would be very popular. We‘ll be right back with our round table. I guess we have agreed the Senate‘s got a problem and it ain‘t going away. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table, Craig Crawford, Gene Robinson and Jennifer Senior. Let‘s take a look again. I like this ad where Hillary Clinton has decided to poach on Rudy Giuliani‘s 9/11 legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would, and kept standing till six million kids had coverage.
She stood by Ground Zero workers who sacrificed their health after so many sacrificed their lives and kept standing until this administration took action.
She stood by our National Guard and reserve and kept standing until they received health care they deserved. So now that almost every candidate is standing up for health care for all, which one do you think will never back down?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I‘m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, didn‘t someone in Batman say don‘t mess with another man‘s marmalade? What‘s going on here? She‘s stealing Rudy‘s sugar here.
SENIOR: I don‘t think that you can bamboozle a female guest with a Batman reference. Yes, basically, she and Rudy—she has figured out the same thing that Rudy has, which is basically that you go after security moms. And a pretty safe way to do that, if you‘re Hillary, is through health care.
MATTHEWS: She‘s not going to settle for the mommy party and let him be the daddy party. She‘s going to say I can contest the issues that matter to our security.
SENIOR: And she did it in the mommy way, right? She did it with health care and a way that‘s historically meaningful to her. The other thing she did which is interesting, is she‘s silently telegraphing, hey, I‘m from New York too, which now, low and behold, is an asset, which is very, very interesting.
MATTHEWS: Because New York is the front lines?
SENIOR: Yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: Craig, Hillary taking on 9/11. We had Jon Stewart, who was hilarious the other night—maybe not when I was on the show, but he was hilarious generally. Jon—why did I forget his name—Jon Stewart talking about how Rudy suffers from what he calls 9/11 turrets. He keeps saying sentences with 9/11 thrown into them.
CRAWFORD: He even explained that phone call from his wife during the speech as 9/11 thing, that they talk more after 9/11. You know what struck me about this ad, I‘ve go to say, I can‘t get past that picture of her in the surgical mask. It looks like Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs” or something. It‘s a scary picture.
MATTHEWS: She‘s much cuter. Cut her some slack, will you? You are brutal. Gene, I want to try you on this.
ROBINSON: She‘s the senator from New York. She was there.
MATTHEWS: She was walking a step or two behind Rudy in those action pictures that I‘ve seen.
ROBINSON: Right, but she was there. She has a legitimate—you know, if anyone has a claim on 9/11 as an issue as part of their history, she does.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Craig, why are they going at each other already? It seems to me they‘re act like—well Rudy seems to be going after Hillary because the higher she goes to inevitability, the more he makes his case with conservatives. You need me, a suburban kind of guy, to take on the city mouse.
CRAWFORD: They are both on an invincibility campaign, trying to make the case to their primary voters it‘s over. I‘m it. By focusing on the opposite party‘s front runner, you establish your own front-runnership.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s not using another scare tactic, like you don‘t like al Qaeda, you don‘t like Hillary, vote for me.
CRAWFORD: I think they are still focused on winning these nominations, but doing it in this way.
MATTHEWS: These people want a subway series, don‘t they?
SENIOR: They didn‘t get it the first time. Maybe there is a lot of pent up desire for it from these guys, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: I like how you say pent up desire for them to go at each other.
SENIOR: We were just talking about Larry Craig.
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t extend the metaphor. What do you think?
SENIOR: I don‘t either.
MATTHEWS: I thought Hillary would want to run against a more even-tempered guy like Mitt Romney. She could sort of predict him, know what states he would do well in and beat him in the suburbs. Whereas, Rudy has an appeal in the burbs.
ROBINSON: I think she has always thought that Giuliani is potentially the most difficult, most problematic candidate.
MATTHEWS: Do you know that?
ROBINSON: I heard that, but I don‘t know it. But I have heard that.
So, yes, sure, it starts to try to eat away. And this is his big issue, 9/11. So she needs to be there too.
CRAWFORD: They had, what, seven years to do opposition research on Rudy, because he was going to run against her when she first ran for Senate. Also, the other advantage, I would say, for them running against Giuliani is personal stuff is off the table, the Clinton personal baggage is off the table.
MATTHEWS: They are going to declare a quiet on that one.
CRAWFORD: You have a pass on that.
MATTHEWS: Could it be, Jennifer, that now that she has the fire fighters, at least they‘re out endorsing Chris Dodd—I‘m not sure how long that‘s going to last, but they‘re backing Chris Dodd—that she can use the fire fighters to sort of Swift Boat Rudy when the time comes. The fire fighters join her campaign by next year, assuming she is the nominee, they could turn their hoses right on Rudy.
SENIOR: Certainly her campaign is unshy about doing exactly that sort of thing. The other thing to keep in mind is that Rudy is still somewhat in touch with his inner bully, and you did see that a bit.
MATTHEWS: Can I say something about my inner boy. This has been the greatest week I can remember on television, our tenth anniversary, a big party. I‘m selling a new book. Craig, thanks for joining me. Thanks, Gene. It‘s great to have my pals here. And Jennifer, you‘re becoming a star. Join us again Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.
Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET