updated 10/18/2007 11:57:33 AM ET 2007-10-18T15:57:33

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Mike Rogers, Rachel Maddow, Joan Walsh, Richard Wolffe, Noah Oppenheim

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  World War 3?  I thought we weren‘t supposed to talk about that, so why is Bush?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Today President Bush sold what he sells best, fear of Armageddon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... people that if you‘re interested in avoiding World War 3, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.  And I take this—I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that tops the news any day of the week.

In our second story tonight: Larry Craig speaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  I made a mistake.  I made a very big mistake, Matt, and that was to plead guilty.  And I shouldn‘t have done that.  We should have gone to court, faced up to the political firestorm and the media storm at that time.

MATT LAUER, “MATT LAUER REPORTS”:  Told your wife?

CRAIG:  Told my wife.

LAUER:  Told the people of Idaho.

CRAIG:  Told the people of Idaho, done all of those things.  I want a chance to do that.  You know, it‘s important to me, it‘s important to my family that I clear my name, and I‘m going to use all of the rights I have as a citizen to try to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What a pol.  Anyway, our debate tonight: Should Craig go or should he stay?

Here‘s HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Ever since the atomic bomb ended World War II, discussions about the next world war usually reminds us of the potential for a nuclear exchange annihilating the planet.  Today, President Bush raised the doomsday threat in talking about Iran.

BUSH:  I told people that if you‘re interested avoiding World War 3, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.  And I take this—I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.

SHUSTER:  The president now seems to believe Iran is determined to fire a nuclear weapon at Israel and that Israel would respond and that it would prompt a wider war between the world‘s superpowers.  The president‘s World War 3 reference was particularly striking, though, given Russian president Putin‘s visit this week to Teheran.  Putin met with President Ahmadinejad, warned the U.S. not to threaten Iran and said he, Putin, sees no evidence Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon.

BUSH:  If those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those because when I visited him, he understands that it‘s in the world‘s interest to make sure that Iran does not have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon.

SHUSTER:  The president has spoken of nuclear threats before, most prominently when he was building a case for war against Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq.

BUSH:  We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

SHUSTER:  The Iraq war strained America‘s relationship with reliable Western allies.  Now the stress is building up with countries whose relationship with the United States has been more complex, including Turkey.

BUSH:  We‘re making it very clear to Turkey that we don‘t think it is in their interests to send troops into Iraq.

SHUSTER:  As for Russia, when President Bush first met Putin, he spoke of looking into Putin‘s eyes and seeing into his soul.  Last night, John McCain said the personal approach is not working.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think that Mr.  Putin wants to restore the days of the Russian empire.  I look into his eyes and I see three letters, a K, a G and a B.

SHUSTER:  White House officials were hoping today‘s news conference would pressure Congress on budget issues.

BUSH:  Congress has not sent me a single appropriations bill.

Congress has work to do on education.  Congress has work to do on housing.  Congress has work to do on trade.

SHUSTER:  But foreign policy and nuclear proliferation dominated the back-and-forth.  And as contemptuous as the president was towards Congress, he was even more contemptuous towards reporters who asked about Israel‘s recent attack on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria.

Does the U.S. embrace that kind of preemptive strike?

BUSH:  I understand where you‘re trying to take us.  It‘s a clever ruse to get me to comment on it, but I‘m not going to.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Why do you think it‘s not appropriate to make that judgment, when it‘s—it is a real world scenario, as we know...

BUSH:  David...

GREGORY:  ... since they apparently took this action against Syria?

BUSH:  Dave, welcome back.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  Thank you, David.

SHUSTER:  A few minutes later, when another reporter tried again...

BUSH:  In all due respect to you and Gregory, this is not my first rodeo.  And I know where you‘re trying to get me to comment.  I‘m not going to comment on it one way or the other.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS:  But your administration has talked about...

BUSH:  Thank you.

RADDATZ:  ... mushroom clouds...

BUSH:  Thank you.  Martha!  Martha, thank you.

SHUSTER:  The president did say he was not about to slow down on foreign policy issues or domestic ones, despite the clock beginning to run out on his presidency.

BUSH:  I‘m going to work hard to the finish.  I‘m going to sprint to the finish line, and then you‘ll find me in Crawford.

SHUSTER (on camera):  The question is, what will President Bush‘s successor find dumped in his or her lap?  U.S. troops, of course, will still be in Iraq, and there may be other challenges waiting if President Bush really believes and acts on his belief that what‘s at stake in Iran is World War 3.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Senator Barbara Boxer of California is a Democrat.  She sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator Boxer, the nuclear case was made to get us into Iraq.  What is the president talking about here with Third World War language in the air?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:  He continues to dial up the fear factor instead of reaching to bring this world together, to work together, to make sure that we can avoid World War 3 or any other war, for that matter, and end the war we‘re in that we can‘t get out of.  It is a stunning thing.  It‘s why he‘s 21 percent in the polls in California.

We‘re just not used to that type of leadership.  I‘ve never seen it

from any president, Republican or Democratic.  I‘ve always seen presidents

and I‘ve served with four, most of them Republicans.  The others always were for a peaceful solution, didn‘t throw around word like “bringing them on” and “I‘m not going to talk to you” about this or that or the other.  I think it really is cowboy diplomacy.  And Chris, I‘m counting the days, the moments, the seconds until we have new leadership.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about diplomacy.  It seems to me the Turks are mad at us.  The Russians are mad at us.  And I remember that when we were growing up, that word that Jack Kennedy used to use during the Cuban missile crisis, “miscalculation.”  Have we miscalculated the intention of President Putin to the point we think he would get involved in a nuclear exchange in the Middle East?

BOXER:  Well, let me just put this into context.  I think what has happened since President Bush took us into Iraq—remember, before then, we had the whole world in our hands after 9/11.  Everybody wanted to be with America.  Everybody wanted to help us in the war on terror.  And I remember thinking to myself, in all the horror—and I went to the floor of the Senate and I made a speech at that time, and I don‘t remember the exact words, but it was to the extent, something like this, that, you know, this is a moment in time when the civilized world has to come together and all be together against terrorism.  Everyone was with us.

Now, everyone‘s turned against us because this president walked away from that, went into Iraq on false premises.  And everything else flows from that, Chris.  You know, everything else flows from that.  When you see Putin on the front page with Ahmadinejad, frankly, you see al Maliki with the leader of Iran, as well—this is supposed to be Bush‘s pal, Maliki—it‘s just a slap at us.  And so we are as low as we‘ve ever been in the world.

And again, I say, you know, I‘m counting the days until we have new leadership.  I keep hoping the president will do the right thing, but he just seems to go down that cowboy path all the time.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s bring in NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory.  David, you took him on today, and I‘m trying to figure out, as a reporter up there at the White House, why did he bring up the Third World War language and then try to pull back from the discussion when you probed him?

GREGORY:  Well, I think what‘s interesting—what he pulled back from is what the Israelis might do.  I mean, this is all very tangled right now because of the role that Iran is playing in Iraq, the role Iran is playing in Afghanistan, and because of the threat that Iran poses most directly to Israel, if it were to acquire a nuclear weapons program.

So you know, I asked the question.  The president will not comment on the apparent preemptive strike that Israel took on Syria last month.  And again, you can understand that on national security grounds.  I asked him about whether Israel was within its rights back in 1981 to take out the burgeoning Iraqi nuclear reactor, which you have to believe the answer is yes, even though it was condemned by the United States at the time because most analysts believe that it set Iraq back and its nuclear program back.

So what if Israel were to take that action now?  The president won‘t go anywhere near that.  But these are real world possibilities, given what Israel has done in Syria.  But now it‘s more complicated.  You got 160,000 U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq.  And as analysts I‘ve spoken to today say, any action that Israel would take would likely be seen by the Iranians as a joint Israel/U.S. action against Iran.

So it‘s a lot more tangled now.  And what Senator Boxer is speaking to is this issue of, Where are the allies on this?  That‘s a kind of muddled picture now.  Is the Western world speaking with one voice to Iran.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—thank you very much, David Gregory, White House chief correspondent.  Thank you for joining us from the White House.

Let me go back to Senator Boxer.  Senator, I guess I‘m confused, and I guess we‘re all meant to be.  The president said he could look deep into the soul of Vladimir Putin and he saw a good man, and now he‘s talking about World War 3.  I mean, these are 180-degree different estimates of the situation.

BOXER:  Well, I hate to say it and I‘m just trying to be careful of my words, but the president just doesn‘t seem to be in command of the facts or what he‘s trying to say.  I don‘t think he understands that his words, you know, have to be measured.  And it‘s quite unfortunate.

I don‘t see a strategy other than, you know, we talk about scaring people and holding out the prospect of war.  And you would think if he had, you know, good fortune with the war that he brought us on false pretenses, he‘d be chastened by it.  It seems like he‘s, you know, revving up again, and it worries me very much.  I don‘t find it particularly stable.  I mean, I‘m just—I‘m very concerned.

MATTHEWS:  You think he‘s unstable?

BOXER:  I didn‘t say that.  I think that his speaking—what he said

doesn‘t give you the sense that he has a focus or a strategy.  It seems

he‘s always talking about war instead of some way to explain that there are

things we can do in this world.  Look at the good news.  North Korea, with

you know, the president sent Chris Hill.  Chris Hill came back, and we‘re making some progress.  It doesn‘t mean this thing is resolved with North Korea, but it shows that we can resolve this.  And instead, it seems to be this talk of war, and I worry about that.

MATTHEWS:  David Gregory wants to get back in.  Senator, I‘m sorry to interrupt you.  Here he is.  David, what do you think?

GREGORY:  I just want to raise another point about Russia and its potential role because as complicated as this is, there is a real role for Russia.  And we‘ve seen it now with the Chinese vis-a-vis North Korea.  Even though Putin, who‘s got friendly relations with Iran, wants to be seen as a friendly superpower to Iran, certainly, an economic superpower in terms of its oil relationship—because of that relationship, Putin could still play a role, since he doesn‘t really intend to leave power anytime soon, he‘s going to stay on as prime minister, he said—to exercise some leverage against Iran, even as he speaks out as he did on the world stage and said even the talk of nuclear—or military action against Iran is wrong, and everybody in the United States and everybody else should stop it, that he could still be an ally for the United States in trying to pressure Iran to back off its nuclear designs.

Something has to give because, diplomatically, there just seems to be a muddle.  It seems to be stalled.  The U.N. isn‘t speaking really with one voice about how to apply that leverage on Iran at the moment.  But there still is a role for Putin down the line.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, David.  Let me go back to Senator Boxer.  If you had to size up for the people watching right now, what would be the difference in the Democratic Party‘s approach to Iran and to Russia in this situation?

BOXER:  Well, I think that‘s a great question, and let me answer it this way.  When it comes to Iran, there is a process going forward at the United Nations.  David alluded to it.  The fact is that the IAEA is going to come in and going to recommend to us whether we should move forward with U.N. sanctions.  It will go to the Security Council.  We do have a path that is laid out with the IAEA working with the United Nations and through the United Nations.

So I think a Democratic leader would learn from the mistakes that were made with Iraq and keep the world together.  Nobody wants to see any kind of future wars.  They want to see a way out.  So I think what we would do in Iraq is do what Joe Biden has done, come forward with a plan, a vision of how we‘re going to get to the end game here, how we‘re going to see that the Iraqis can live together.  And he‘s come forward with a proposal that I strongly support.  It‘s a diplomatic solution.

Same way with Iran.  We have sanctions.  If they don‘t act right, we ratchet them up.  We isolate them.  And you don‘t talk about war.  War is a last resort.  And I was talking to some people in the Pentagon who have told me, Chris, that if there‘s a war with Iran and somehow we manage to get into that situation with this president—and God, we hope not—it would reverberate for—and I‘m quoting, generations on Americans, as far as having increased terrorism here, jihad and all the rest of it.  That is the last thing any president should have in the front of his mind.

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s what President Mubarak, our friend in Egypt, is warning us about, that this thing should be—could be far worse in opening up an East-West war that will never end in our lifetime.

Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you very much for joining us on HARDBALL.

BOXER:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: Larry Craig speaks.  Here he goes after the guy who helped out him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  This is a blog.  He has no facts.  It is simply not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk to that guy Larry Craig‘s talking about next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  I call it gladiator politics.  Put the politician in the arena and beat him until he‘s dead, and let the crowd cheer.  And that‘s really tragic because we‘ve watched this, and certainly with the gay community, a fair number of them have become very militant.

LAUER:  When you heard this, that this report had come out on this blog and that some major media outlets were picking it up, what were you thinking?

CRAIG:  Well, I responded to it by saying, This is a blog.  He has no facts.  It is simply not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Mike Rogers lists Larry Craig—that‘s the senator from Idaho in the middle of all this—on his Web site Blogactive.com.  Mike (INAUDIBLE) you‘re gay, right?

MIKE ROGERS, BLOGACTIVE.COM:  I am.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about this perception you have, just give me the benefit of your insight, as an individual, a gay man, what is going on here in this interview, where we see a senator, a distinguished conservative, right-wing even, senator, who‘s been very anti-gay rights, very anti-same sex marriage, et cetera, et cetera, on the record, and yet was caught in this very interesting situation at an airport men‘s room, which said something very different about him—what‘s he saying to Matt in this extended interview last night and this morning?

ROGERS:  What he‘s saying are basically talking points that have been brought to the political arena by folks like Larry Craig, who are extremely conservative.  And in terms of saying things such as, I don‘t agree with the gay lifestyle, Matt really should have gone on and challenged him a little more.  What doesn‘t he agree with?  Does he not agree with acting on it and coming out and being who he is, which, unfortunately, because of folks like Larry Craig in the political sphere and in the leadership of the country, have discouraged people from being honest and forthright, have pushed them into the closet and have made basically a psychological basket case of politicians like that, as we saw last night, Senator Larry Craig.

Today is the one-year anniversary in which I first reported about him.  But more astonishingly, Chris, is that Larry Craig sat with “The Idaho Statesman” one month before his arrest in Minneapolis and denied, 30 days before that arrest happened, that what I had reported was untrue. (SIC)

The coincidences are uncanny, that there are reports over 27 years in Congress and even longer that someone like Larry Craig would happen to be arrested 30 days after this report.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Does that suggest he was compulsive; he just had to have these liaisons? 

ROGERS:  I think that, unfortunately, Larry Craig is both compulsive and, in a society where he‘s unable to stand up...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ROGERS:  .. and to be proud and honest and open about who he is.  And that, again, is something he‘s helped to create. 

MATTHEWS:  you know, Jefferson, one of our heroes—I‘m sure he‘s one of yours, too—I mean, Jefferson once said the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth. 

Could it be that he distinguishes, Senator Craig, between the more—maybe flamboyant is not the right word—the more out-of-it gay lifestyle, you know, going in parades, or hanging around bars...

ROGERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and being obviously gay, is, to him, the gay lifestyle; having sexual relations with other people of his gender is not the gay lifestyle?  Is that a distinction that might mean something to someone? 

ROGERS:  Absolutely. 

And folks like Larry Craig are in that sense of denial, where they extract themselves and differentiate themselves, so that, seriously, when a Matt—Matt Lauer leans in and says, “Are you a gay man?” they say, no, and, actually, they believe that. 

What we have is, of course, is a long sense of denial and in fact what we have known as in the industry as men who have sex with men.  And it‘s been pretty well established that Larry Craig has a long history of doing that with other men. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

So, let‘s take a look now at a striking moment in the Matt Lauer interview with Larry Craig. 

And, by the way, I think Matt did a hell of a job.  This is a tricky interview to—to come across as a decent interviewer and still get some information. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  Seconds later, there was a card under the divider saying, “Police, step out.”

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  According to the police report, what the police officer heard you say was, “No.”

L. CRAIG:  Yes.

LAUER:  Here‘s the part I have a problem with, Senator.  If you had—if there had been nothing going on in this stall, and you had done nothing intentionally, it seems to me you would‘ve been completely confused as to why some guy next to you is showing you police identification.

L. CRAIG:  Well, I was.  I didn‘t know whether it was or not real.  I said no.

LAUER:  No to what?  To what question?

L. CRAIG:  He had a gesture toward the door, like this.  He didn‘t tell that, did he?  He said—and I said no.  And then another gesture, and I stepped up, pulled my pants up, and stepped out. 

I was immediately grabbed by him.  And I said, “What‘s going on here?” 

And he jerked me out of the bathroom.

LAUER:  So, at that point, you didn‘t—it didn‘t register with you, “I am in the middle of a situation where this guy thinks there has been solicitation?”

L. CRAIG:  Not at all.  I—no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Mike? 

ROGERS:  Well, Larry Craig gave quite a different answer the other night when he was interviewed by a newspaper—I‘m sorry—a television reporter in Idaho.  He said he was entrapped. 

And what I have to put forth to that is, if somebody is entrapped into something, then they‘re admitted that they‘re pulled into something.  And such as another example, someone could say, I was entrapped to hire a prostitute.

But, in fact, you did it.  You were just entrapped. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s, by the way, legally right, what you just said, although his lawyer says that he doesn‘t understand the meaning of entrapment.  He thinks entrapment means attempted entrapment, not real entrapment.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  Larry Craig is very confused at this point.  And I think, again, what we‘re experiencing here is the continued manufacturing of sound bites that fit with his plausible deniability and what is really the truth.  And I think that those are two different things right now.

And, unfortunately for Larry Craig, the American people, the people in Idaho, certainly, when they‘re asked who they believe at the end of the day, they‘re not exactly believing Senator Craig. 

Senator Craig‘s long history—and, again, it‘s something that he‘s facilitated, throwing folks back into the closet on—his long history has contributed to his own activities, in terms of making this country less acceptable for gay people. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Can I ask you a question?  And I don‘t want anybody outed on this show, but are there as many Republicans as Democrat gays in politics, roughly?  Do the Kinsey hold up in both?

ROGERS:  I would say that the numbers are very similar in both.

But, of course, the conservative side of the aisle, they tend to ask

folks to hide who they are and they create psychological messes.  The one

thing that I can tell you is that, in the United States Congress right now

and, again, I am not going to say it on this show, as you have requested.

MATTHEWS:  Please don‘t. 

ROGERS:  There are more senators, there are more congressman.  And, at blogactive.com, I will continue to investigate.  And, as the stories are proven, I will bring them forward to the American people.

MATTHEWS:  On what grounds?  Because people are being hypocritical?  Is that your basis for judgment here, if you have a good judgment?  Is that it? 

ROGERS:  This is exactly what we have talked about before, Chris.  It‘s not about being gay.  I have no problem with gay people in politics, certainly.  I‘m gay myself. 

The problem here is when folks lead their lives in one way and then come into the political sphere and expect that they can treat gay people differently than they want to live their lives themselves. 

It‘s that double standard that is completely unacceptable.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about the other double standard: men who show up with their wives, and their kids, or their dog, or whatever, their cat, and they portray themselves as a Norman Rockwell family, when, in fact, behind the scenes, it‘s not quite up to that standard of beauty or simplicity. 

Is that also hypocritical, for a straight person to say that? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  I do think that, if we look at a case like a David Vitter or like Congressman Kevin Brady, who was arrested and pled guilty to a drunk-driving-relate charge...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ROGERS:  ... these folks are living by a double standard.  They‘re certainly pointing to Larry Craig, who is somebody who is living his life sexually in a closet, and holding him to a different standard. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Suppose somebody ran for office and said, I make no claims about my orientation, about my lifestyle, whatever you want to call it, appropriately; just judge me as a public official; I‘m not going to show up with the cat and the dog, the wife and the kids in the picture; I‘m not going to portray a private lifestyle, but just judge me and assume the worst, if you want?  Would you leave that person alone? 

ROGERS:  As long as that person isn‘t leading a double life, putting out information that says, I don‘t want to talk about my private life, but then they want to pass legislation to restrict my privacy...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

ROGERS:  ... then I will have an issue with it, and then we will continue to report on folks like that. 

MATTHEWS:  I get you. 

Thank you, Mike Rogers, for coming on HARDBALL.

ROGERS:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We will have more on the Larry Craig—we‘re going to have a debate coming up with Pat Buchanan against Rachel Maddow.  It‘s going to be a hot one, about whether he should go.  She says go.  Pat says—he‘s a conservative, remember—he says stay. 

Barack Obama, by the way, nails the differences between himself and Hillary today—or yesterday, actually.  He finally did it.  He says it‘s about the war.  She‘s against the way it was fought.  He‘s against the war itself.  Finally, it‘s out in the open. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you think that the problem is just that George Bush executed poorly our basic foreign policy, then the fact that Hillary supported the war from the start, well, it‘s a matter of bad execution. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Barack Obama finally nailing it, the difference between Hillary and himself.  She wants to refine the Bush policy in Iraq.  He wants to reject it outright. 

She says Bush didn‘t do it right.  He says he didn‘t do the right thing.  Finally, the debate we have been hoping and deserving as a country, the debate over the war.  Was it a good call to invade Iraq or was the invasion simply handled badly?

Here‘s Hillary trying to make light of the heightened focus on her campaign. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am running a positive campaign, talking about what I want to do to reach the goals that I want to set for America. 

Now, I have noticed that, the last couple of weeks, I have been getting a lot of attention from the men in this race. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  And, at first, you know, I didn‘t know what to make of it. 

And then a good friend of mine said, you know, when you get to be our age, having that much attention from all these men...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  But I‘m not interested in attacking anyone.  I‘m interested in attacking the problems of our country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Men, can‘t live with them, can‘t live without them, eh? 

Anyway, the front-runner‘s position on the most central issue of the campaign has come to the fore.  And is going negative—is it going negative to run a campaign that focuses on your opponent‘s positions?

One of the most effective methods, by the way, in my book, literally, in “Life‘s a Campaign,” is to lowball it.  That‘s what Joe Biden is doing right now.  He just said the other day that, if he came in at least third, he would be OK in Iowa.  Now he is saying all he has to do is come in fourth.  So, it‘s win, place, or show, or not quite show.  He‘s given himself, Joe Biden, a sporting chance. 

Don‘t count out the Republicans in 2008, especially in congressional races around the country.  In yesterday‘s special election up in Massachusetts, Democrat Niki Tsongas—that‘s the widow of Paul Tsongas—narrowly beat out a Republican opponent—this is in Massachusetts—by 51 to 46 percent.  That‘s a nail-biter by Massachusetts standards.  And it must be a comfort to the Republicans.

But this is a blue district, think of it.  And Republicans running against Washington and painting Democrats as a problem might just work.  So, we are going to see.  The 2008 election could be as tight as a drum. 

It could be as tight as 2000 and 2004. 

Coming up, much more on Larry Craig.  Should he go or should he stay? 

That‘s the HARDBALL debate tonight with Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  And, so, will you resign? 

L. CRAIG:  No, I won‘t resign.  I will finish out my term.  Let me tell you...

SUZANNE CRAIG, WIFE OF SENATOR LARRY L. CRAIG:  Because there‘s so many more who don‘t want him to resign. 

L. CRAIG:  My dad taught me, when I started a job, to work hard and finish it, no matter how tough it got. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closed mixed after a volatile session.  The Dow Jones industrials ended up down 20 points on the day, while the S&P 500 gained two points and the Nasdaq gained 28. 

Oil surged to another record high, above $89, but closed at $87.40 a barrel, down 21 cents for the day, the first drop in seven sessions. 

Construction of new homes fell 10 percent in September from August, plunging to the lowest level in 14 years.  Applications for building permits also fell sharply. 

Meantime, in its latest Beige Book report, the Fed says that the economy slowed in the early fall, as troubles in the housing and credit markets weighed on businesses and individuals alike. 

And, after the closing bell today, eBay reported its first quarterly loss since going public in 1998.  Still, earnings beat analyst estimates.  And eBay shares are up about 2 percent in this hour after-hours. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  What‘s it like to be Larry Craig in the senate right now?  Do you—when you‘re walking down the halls of the Senate building, do you notice people walk to the other side of the hall?

L. CRAIG:  No, not at all.

LAUER:  Do you...

L. CRAIG:  There are a few...

LAUER:  You go to the cafeteria, you don‘t sit alone?

L. CRAIG: No.

(LAUGHTER)

LAUER:  They‘re not parking in your parking spot?

(LAUGHTER)

L. CRAIG:  They better not.

(LAUGHTER)

L. CRAIG:  But...

LAUER:  So, you don‘t feel you‘re being shunned to your face?

L. CRAIG:  Well, let me put it this way.  There are some—and you have mentioned their names—who really can‘t make eye contact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What are these people smiling about?

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Senator Craig says he will finish out his term, which is in January of 2009.  Should he stay or should he go?  That‘s the HARDBALL debate tonight.

Here‘s Rachel Maddow vs. Pat Buchanan. 

Rachel, make your case.  He should go? 

RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think, of course, he should go. 

I think, if the best possible case you can make for yourself is not that you‘re a homophobic, self-hating gay man, but, rather, you‘re a United States senator who doesn‘t know what guilty plea means, then you‘re pretty much the last person that your state is going to want representing them in the United States Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, under those terms, of course, Teddy Kennedy wouldn‘t be in the United States Senate. 

But, look, I think the one who should decide whether Larry Craig goes or stays is first Larry Craig, who is the United States senator elected from Idaho, and, secondly, the people of Idaho who elected him. 

If they don‘t want him there, then they should move to recall him.  I think what he did, he‘s admitted guilt to a misdemeanor.  But even given, if you believe the truth of the allegations within the misdemeanor, Chris, it does not justify expulsion. 

I don‘t think anyone‘s been expelled from the Senate since the Civil War, when a gentleman named Bright from Indiana was expelled because he had sent a warm letter to Jefferson Davis before the war began. 

So, I don‘t think it rises to the level of expulsion.  I think the decision lies with Idaho, with Larry Craig.  And I think you have to respect their decision—you have to respect their decision, even if you don‘t agree with it. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t think that he should necessarily be formally expelled from the Senate.

But I think that the Republican Party should say, Larry Craig, it‘s time to go.  And, if you stay, we are going to strip you of all your committee seats, and we‘re going to make it really hard for you to stay, because we think you ought to go, because you are the living embodiment of hypocrisy that our party shouldn‘t live with.  And you should go.  And David Vitter should go, and Ted Stevens should go.  And we should be able to be proud of who our members are in the Senate. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, I—let me just say that I think the Republicans should take their own stand on whether or not he should be honored as one of their colleagues.  And many of them have already done so.  And they wish he should go. 

And I believe he has been stripped of his—his ranking position on a number of committees.  They‘re entitled to do that. 

But, Rachel, the fundamental point is, is, I mean, whether or not you or I believe he should go, who decides?  And I think he—you have got to give him the decision—he‘s the elected senator—and, secondly, the people of Idaho.  And I do think it‘s important that we follow procedure, and not drum people out. 

As for the Republican Party, they really—I mean, look, what Whittaker Chambers said about conservatives is true, that their great failing is, they don‘t retrieve their wounded. 

Now, this is a wounded man.  There‘s no doubt about it.  His family‘s deeply wounded.  He‘s made a terrible mistake.  He‘s done something most of us consider rather seedy and wrong. 

And my view, frankly, is, his friends ought to at least stand beside him, even if they condemn what he did.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Rachel...

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... do you believe that he should be censured formally by his colleagues?  Big question.  That‘s what we‘re really talking about here, it seems.

MADDOW:  I think that he should. 

But I think that what Larry Craig‘s fault is and the reason he should be censured, and I think the reason the Republicans should push as hard as they can to get him out of the Senate is not just because of what he did in that bathroom or what he says that he didn‘t do in that bathroom now that he‘s changing his story again, but because of his hypocrisy. 

He has lived his life in public as a crusading anti-gay zealot.  And to be outed in his personal life as living in a way that is totally contrary to that, that‘s the problem.  It‘s the hypocrisy.  It‘s not just what he did in that bathroom. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me intercede here.  Look, I don‘t know that Larry Craig is a hypocrite.  He may be a deeply flawed individual who believes this is an unnatural and immoral lifestyle and yet falls to it.  I‘m sure there are any number of people who believe you ought to be faithful to your wives and sometimes they go out and fall and commit adultery.  That doesn‘t mean they don‘t believe this is the right lifestyle.  It means they‘re flawed and failed human beings, who don‘t live up to their standards occasionally and fall short, as we all do. 

MADDOW:  Pat, the difference between not living up to your own standards and not being able to live up to something that you believe is the way you ought to live—the difference between that and hypocrisy is when you run a political campaign and you build your public political career on denouncing other people who have done what you have done.  When you build it on denouncing the very thing you are.  That‘s hypocrisy. 

BUCHANAN:  Hold on, Rachel.  I don‘t know that he has denounced some individual homosexual.  He has said this is an immoral lifestyle.  You yourself would say that he can‘t help the fact if he‘s attracted to this sort of thing.  It‘s either nature or nurture, but it‘s something over which he may have had no control.  Then to say to fall to that is to fall to an unnatural immoral lifestyle.  I don‘t see any inconsistency.  I see a failed human being who may not be able to face the truth about himself, who has a horrible situation with his wife, who needs his friends with him and whose party dumped him, except for Arlen Specter, I think.

Maybe some of the guys up in Idaho stood by him for a while.  When it comes to the final thing, if you‘re going to condemn him or censure him, which I think is too strong—I think condemnation, like what was done to Barney Frank would be justified.  It‘s not what—

MATTHEWS:  Actually, Pat, they ended up censuring Barney.  They went all the way with that.

BUCHANAN:  They censured the other fellow, what‘s his name. 

MATTHEWS:  Gary Studds. 

BUCHANAN:  They did that and he wound up chairman of a committee. 

That‘s the Democratic standard.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, I now think I‘ve seen the face of compassionate conservatism.  It‘s your face.  Thank you very much.  Rachel, I hope you enjoy the good spirits of this.  It‘s certainly ironic, this whole debate.  But thank you.  You‘re a great debater.  And both of you are very well mannered. 

Up next, the HARDBALL round table on World War III.  What is the president talking about?  Talking about that as dr. Strangelove stuff to make a point?  He did it to get us into Iraq.  Why are we doing it again? 

And let‘s take a look at this hypothetical match up between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.  We‘re going to be showing you a lot of numbers in the weeks ahead.  Hillary, 49 percent, Rudy, 47 percent.  It can‘t get closer than that.  By the way, let‘s take a look at Al Gore, who has ruled out another White House bid.  But there‘s Al Gore with a big margin over Rudy Giuliani.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve got a leader in Iran who has announced he wants to destroy Israel.  So I told people that if you‘re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let‘s bring in our round table.  Joan Walsh is from Salon.com out here on the West Coast.  Richard Wolffe is with “Newsweek.”  And Noah Oppenheim is the author of a new book, “The Intellectual Devotional.”  He‘s also a senior producer for “Today.” 

Let me start with Richard Wolffe since you‘re the Middle East guy in many ways.  Let me ask you this: what is going on with the president talking about World War III? 

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”:  He‘s trying to scare people into taking some action and it‘s not going too well.  You saw his good buddy, President Putin out there cozying up to Ahmadinejad.  This is a guy who looked into Putin‘s soul and obviously what he saw there isn‘t there right now.  He has to try to scare people into taking this seriously. 

MATTHEWS:  Joan, this is how we got into Iraq.  A lot of people were undecided about supporting that war back in 2003 and leading up to that war, we were told by Dick Cheney and others, especially Dick Cheney and his staff, that we faced a mushroom cloud if we didn‘t act.  Condi Rice jumped in on that and scared the bejesus out of a lot of people, that they had some sort of nuclear weapon they were going to deliver right here to north America if we didn‘t invade Iraq.  Now they are doing something like that.  What are they doing? 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Exactly, they‘re trying to scare the bejesus out of us.  Look, Richard‘s right.  He looked into Puti-put‘s (ph), his friend‘s eyes and looked into his soul and what‘s really changed here, Chris, is that Putin has been cooperative in the U.N.  But what‘s changed is that the Cheney administration has really announced—essentially announced its intentions towards Iran and Putin is not going to go along with it. 

So Putin is responding to a change in the conditions in this country, and I think doing, frankly, the responsible thing to try to signal he will not go along with it.  That‘s all that‘s changed. 

MATTHEWS:  Noah, you‘re an intellectual, besides a writer of books called “The Intellectual Devotional,” which are actually handy little books to have if you want to become an intellectual.  I mean that.  I‘m not being sarcastic, as you know, as your friend.  Let me ask you, why when we know the stakes in the Middle East—oil pipeline—we all know about Israel‘s endangerment to some extent by certainly Iran‘s nuclear capability at some point.  Why does he have to raise the stakes, the president, say it‘s not just that we might be struck through our ally, Israel, or we might lose our oil if we have to go to war with Iran, but the Russians are coming back and it‘s going to be World War III?  Why is he putting more chips on the table? 

NOAH OPPENHEIM, “THE INTELLECTUAL DEVOTIONAL”:  I don‘t know that he would agree that he‘s raising the stakes.  He would probably say that he‘s simply describing the stakes. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me the scenario whereby Russia would engage in a nuclear exchange in the Middle East. 

OPPENHEIM:  I don‘t know that—

MATTHEWS:  He said that.  He said that. 

OPPENHEIM:  He said we want to avoid World War III.  World War III is an imaginary war of the future and clearly Putin is trying to position himself as a counter balance to the United States on the world stage.  He‘s not going anywhere, as you discussed earlier on the show.  The guy plans to stick around.  He wants to be at the head of a Russian world power for a long time to come. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

OPPENHEIM:  And if Iran does cross the nuclear threshold, if god forbid Iran uses a nuclear weapon, obviously the entire world would be thrust into some sort of military conflict.  Now, whether Putin ends up on our side of that or on the opposite side, you could say it‘s likely to be some sort of world conflict that could be called World War III. 

MATTHEWS:  You really see an intercontinental missile exchange between the United States and Russia?  You see that as a—the president brought it up.  I know what World War III looks like, Noah.  I grew up with the prospect of it.  It‘s a war between the United States and the Soviet Union using intercontinental ballistic missiles back and forth, dumping our silos.  This is serious business.  Is that what we should be talking about? 

OPPENHEIM:  I think that‘s obviously some what far-fetched in terms of where this could lead.  The point is that people have—Norman Podhoretz said World War III was the Cold War and World War IV is the war against Islamic fascism.  These terms have been kind of been perpetually redefined.  I think what President Bush would argue he was trying to say is that the stakes of this are global and that there could be epic repercussions if this line is crossed. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard Wolffe, what do you think?  What is this going to say in Russia when they hear us and they read their papers and they see Bush, our guy, talking about nuclear war, basically, between us and the Soviet Union.  That‘s all that World War III means to anybody.  Podhoretz can have his own vocabulary.  Most people in the world know what World War III looks like.  We thought we avoided it. 

WOLFFE:  I‘m not sure he had an exchange with Russia in his head when the president was saying that.  I think what he has in his mind is that there would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, that you would have an exchange of fire across different ethnic and religious lines there.  Did he mean that Russia would be part of the opposition in this war?  I don‘t think so. 

He‘s been saying forever that the Cold War is over.  A consequence, though, is that the Russians will see this as just what you said already, that it‘s reviving the whole Cold War dynamic, that they‘re on the other side of the fault line.  And that actually feeds into Putin‘s power play here, that he is the grand protector and the reviver of the Russian empire.  That‘s the danger of this kind of talk, is that it feeds into the conspiracy theories of these other weakened leaders. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the dangerous thing.  If he‘s suggesting that Putin might respond to an attack by his new ally, Iran, against Israel and an Israeli counter-attack, which we all would expect is a natural response to an attack on Israel with nuclear weaponry, that he would then respond in a third round to go after Israel.  What is the point of suggesting all that now?  Noah, who ever wants to answer.  Joan, your turn? 

WALSH:  Chris, I think it‘s really dangerous what he‘s suggesting.  The other thing is he refused to talk or comment in any way about Israel‘s alleged strike or confirmed strike on the Syrian nuclear facility.  I think he‘s really empowering Israel to go ahead and be as aggressive as it wants to.  He‘s definitely, as you say, putting Putin and Russia on the other side of World War III, which is a fantastically irresponsible thing to do. 

Plus, he said he couldn‘t remember what he thought in 1980 about Israel striking the Iraqi nuclear reactor, which is ridiculous.  He reminded us he was all in midland, Texas and didn‘t really know what he thought, which is frighteningly irresponsible. 

MATTHEWS:  That might be a true account. 

WALSH:  Well, actually, it might be true and that‘s really terrifying.  He should at least know now what he thinks about that 1980 strike.  I thought David Gregory did a great job. 

MATTHEWS:  Joan, just like Henry V in Shakespeare, he is a sudden scholar of the Middle East.  We‘ll be right back with the round table.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with our round table.  By the way, I love those commercials we run every now and then by Liberty Mutual about people, black-and-white, old and young, looking out for each other on the streets.  I‘m telling you, I may not be a sentimentalist, but I love those ads.  Anyway, thank you Joan Walsh.  Joan, let me ask you—let me go—I want to start with Noah.  Noah, I heard something you said earlier today about Larry Craig.  I was so taken with your sympathy for this fellow. 

OPPENHEIM:  I have enormous compassion for the guy and I‘m actually kind of surprised how the story has played out over the past several months.  Here is a guy who obviously grew up in a period of time when it was simply unacceptable to be publicly gay.  If we assume he is gay—we don‘t know for sure, but if we assume he is; here is a guy who lived his entire adult life completely conflicted about who he is at this fundamental level.  For us to look at what he‘s done—it‘s not like he was going after little boys or something.

He appears to have been a rest room soliciting sex.  Well, not to be crass about it, but people go to bars every night and solicit sex.  And if you imagine the life this guy has led with a wife, with kids—as Pat Buchanan said, he‘s obviously just a conflicted, flawed human being.  I‘m surprised at the ferocity with which people have gone after him.

MATTHEWS:  Joan, what do you think of this case?  What do you think of his wife?  Do you have any introspection when you look at her smiling and giggling and seeming to enjoy the interview with Matt Lauer. 

WALSH:  They both seem really out of touch with their inner selves, Chris, not to practice psychology without a license.  I share Noah‘s feelings.  I‘ve expressed it on your show.  I‘ve expressed it in the pages of Salon.  I feel deeply for him.  I think the whole thing last night was poignant.  He‘s clearly out of touch with himself.  But—but this man has allied himself to a political movement that has made it harder, that has demonized gays.

I think he deserves a lot of the disapproval that he‘s gotten.  I‘m sorry, he does. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Pat Buchanan‘s earlier argument that he does not think his orientation is justified morally, whatever way god made him.  He doesn‘t feel that‘s the way—this sounds so counter-intuitive.  He doesn‘t feel the way he was made to be is the way he should be.   

WALSH:  I‘ve had that argument with Pat.  It‘s tragic.  Pat may be right on this.  That may be what he thinks.  But the fact is that it‘s a deep tragedy and he is helped keep other gay people in the closet and helped keep other gay people from coming to terms with their own identity by his political actions.  So, my sympathy is limited. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you everybody.  Richard, you‘re not going to get a piece of this.  I know you‘ll live without this.  We‘ll save you for the Middle East and the big issues of our time.  Anyway, Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek,” thank you.  Noah Oppenheim, an intellectual who has written the “Intellectual Devotional,” what a brilliant book again.  Thank you Joan Walsh from out here in the Bay Area, the most beautiful place on god‘s earth.

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more

HARDBALL. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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.

transcript

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,