Guests: Tom DeFrank, Christopher Dodd, Holly Bailey, Jill Zuckman, Perry Bacon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It‘s the 11th hour of the fight for the Democratic presidential domination. Barack Obama, do you know where your campaign is?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL. The 2008 election—that‘s the spotlight tonight. Iowa, which starts the whole thing January 3, is now a dead heat between Hillary and Obama.
Here‘s what I think Obama should say starting tomorrow night at the big MSNBC debate in my hometown of Philly. Quote, “This country‘s in a rut, a rut that leads to endless war in Iraq, that leads to inevitable war with Iran. The American people, and not just the Democrats, want to get our country out of this rut. The great majority of them want this election to take us to a new place, not just led by someone smarter along the same rut. I promise to take us to that new place. Senator Clinton is smart. She‘s hardworking. She‘s serious. But every vote she has cast, every word she has spoken says yes to the status quo. She voted to approve the war with Iraq. She just voted with the hawks to target Iran. She always seems to choose the safe boat that leaves this country in the same rut, the rut of fearful politics and endless war. I promise change. I promise a new approach. I promise deliverance from the rut of endless war in Iraq, inevitable war in Iran. So there you have it. It‘s for you, my fellow Democrats, to decide. If you think Bush‘s policies would have been succeed if they were better executed, then go with Senator Clinton. If you think the Bush policies were wrong, dead wrong, I‘m with you.”
Well, that‘s what Senator Obama would say if he wants to really challenge Hillary Clinton for the leadership of the Democratic Party. And tomorrow night, the fight moves to Philadelphia for the big debate at Drexler University, where half my family went to school and I‘ve got an honorary degree. HARDBALL will be live 5:00, 7:00 and 11:00 with post-debate coverage.
We begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster tonight with a preview of what Barack Obama has to do in tomorrow night‘s debate.
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How‘s it going, St.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trailing in some national polls by 30 points and with time running out, Barack Obama is being told by his advisers that he must start hammering away at Hillary Clinton, or else. This weekend, Obama agreed, and he told “The New York Times” he was going to be more forceful and direct with Clinton. But Obama‘s latest campaign rhetoric doesn‘t exactly go for the jugular.
OBAMA: I think that on issues as fundamental as how to protect Social Security, a candidate for president owes it to the American people to tell us where they stand. The other day here in Iowa, she skipped another chance to give a direct answer on this.
SHUSTER: Barack Obama‘s new ad follows the Social Security theme, but the attack, at best, is an indirect shot.
OBAMA: This is a program that millions depend on. I don‘t want to just put my finger out to the wind and see what the polls say. I want to bring the country together to solve a problem.
SHUSTER: And Obama‘s strongest quote to “The New York Times” came in response to a question about whether Clinton has been truthful. Quote, “No, I don‘t think people know what her agenda exactly is.”
OBAMA: We‘ve got young people, and we‘ve got some old people. Yay!
SHUSTER: Obama has promised to be aggressive before, only to pull back. In August, he told “The Washington Post,” quote, “Her argument is going to be that I‘m the experienced Washington hand, and my argument is going to be that we need to change the ways of Washington.” But in debate after debate, Obama has refused to challenge Clinton, except once, when Clinton said her health care efforts in 1993 were lonely.
OBAMA: Part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process. At that time, 80 percent of Americans already wanted universal health care.
SHUSTER: Other than that, the distinctions with Clinton have been drawn most aggressively by John Edwards.
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For, I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that‘s a continuation of the war.
SHUSTER: Edwards has been the one pounding Clinton and accusing her of basking in her frontrunner status too son.
EDWARDS: And today, Senator Clinton has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate from either party, more money than any Republican candidate. She has taken more money from the defense industry than any candidate from either party.
SHUSTER: Obama promised early on that he would pursue different style of campaigning and governing.
OBAMA: People recognize that we‘ve got to change how politics is done in Washington because if we don‘t change our politics, then nothing else is going to change. And that‘s the reason I am running for the presidency of the United States of America, because I want to bring about a fundamental change to how we do our politics in Washington.
SHUSTER: But in a primary campaign, Obama dilutes his promise of hope and change by saying he will split the difference with those who Democrats see as the country‘s number one problem. And after seven years of Bush-Cheney, most Democrats don‘t want a different process, they want different policies, and they want a powerful Democratic voice in the White House, not somebody who seeks to get along.
(on camera): It all puts even more pressure on Obama and it adds to the drama and intriguing building for tomorrow night‘s debate, Obama‘s next opportunity to challenge Hillary Clinton face to face.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: I agree with everything he says. Anyway, Chuck Todd is the political director for NBC News, and Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.
Chuck, you‘re up in Philly. How‘s it feel? Is this debate going to be a rumble tomorrow night or what?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it‘s certainly the expectations that Obama has set out for himself, which I—it‘s kind of odd, frankly. Do you telegraph that you‘re going to attack your opponent so publicly and even start talking about the issues that you‘re going to attack her on, which is what he did? I mean, maybe it‘s some sort of head fake. But I guarantee you that the Clinton folks are in debate prep today, figuring out responses on various things, whether it‘s Iran, whether it‘s Social Security, whether it‘s on this idea that, you know, Bush-Clinton, Bush-Clinton, whatever it is—they‘re probably coming up with some clever lines because they think that they have an opportunity to potentially put Obama away.
I mean, the irony of what Obama‘s done is He‘s raised the stakes for tomorrow night. That‘s fine, but he better deliver. If he doesn‘t deliver, he‘s going to have a lot of people Wednesday morning quarterbacking him.
MATTHEWS: Yes, like me.
MATTHEWS: All right. I mean, I made the point early in the show, as I started the show, I think he has to say that Hillary Clinton keeps us in the rut we‘re in right now. She offers no change, more war with Iraq, inevitable war with Iran. You need a whole new approach to the foreign policy of this country, and she‘s not offering it.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you‘re exactly right, Chris. Those are the major issues that concern the base of the Democratic Party and the vast majority of the American people in foreign policy. It is Iraq and the coming war with Iran. I think that‘s where he has to break it off. The idea of saying, Hillary, you won‘t tell us exactly where you‘ll cut Social Security, and she‘ll come back and say, Where are you going to cut it?
MATTHEWS: Right. Then you‘re—then you‘re Paul Tsongas!
BUCHANAN: Yes, but here‘s the thing. Obama is not dead for this reason. He‘s dead even just about in Iowa, and Edwards, who has run a sharp attack campaign, has been falling, Chris. But what Obama‘s got to watch tomorrow night is Edwards is going to be coming at Hillary on the trade issue. He‘s got to go the economic populist route because he has to win Iowa, too. Both he and Obama have to win Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at those poll numbers right now. The latest University of Iowa poll shows Clinton, Obama basically two points apart with a five-point margin of error. That‘s what statisticians would call an even race. What do you make of that, Chuck? Do you really think that Obama‘s coming up right now, or what‘s going on out there?
TODD: Well, this actually comports to some polling I‘ve been hearing internally in a couple of the Democratic campaigns, that yes, actually, that Obama has been on the move a little bit and that Clinton has stagnated. But you know, they‘re both trying to—for two different types of audiences. You know, Obama is trying to woo new voters in, independents. Clinton is trying to get die-hard Democrats who never caucus. And then you have Edwards, who has the most likely caucus-goers.
I think what all of those polls agree on, by the way, and Pat brought up a good point, Edwards is kind of stalled right now. If anything, he‘s starting to drop a little bit. He may be the guy that swings harder than anybody else tomorrow night. The question, though, does he go after Clinton or does he go after Obama? Today he clearly went after Clinton. But if—you know, to get to her, shouldn‘t he be thinking about trying to deliver a knockout punch to Obama?
So I wouldn‘t be surprised if somebody uses the occasion tomorrow night, instead of ganging up on Hillary, which everybody‘s going to do, maybe go after Obama and see if you can knock him down a peg.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn‘t Obama show some street smarts and basically accuse Hillary of dodging him, accuse Hillary of not engaging in the campaign? Play defense. I mean, one of the smart things Ronald Reagan, your guy, ever did was say, There you go again, Mr. President. Accuse him of not giving him a decent debate.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: Just go after her and say, Look, you‘ve been dodging the bullets. Get out here and take me on. Treat me with respect.
BUCHANAN: But you know, when Reagan used that line, it was to backhand Carter...
BUCHANAN: ... who was attacking him, as if to say, Your attacks are irrelevant.
BUCHANAN: Reagan was running like the frontrunner. But I don‘t know. Look, Obama has got to win Iowa, but he‘s in a dead heat now. And Edwards, who has been very tough, even tougher, he‘s sinking out there, Chris.
I‘ll tell you what I can‘t understand. Obama has dropped out of Michigan. He‘s dropped out of Michigan. If Hillary—let‘s say Obama wins Iowa or comes to a dead heat and he gets beat in New Hampshire, she goes out to Michigan and walks away with that big pot!
BUCHANAN: Why did he drop out of there?
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m pushing for a stronger approach by Obama because I think the country wants a real debate over Iraq and the war coming in Iran. But on paper, for some reason, Obama is not bad along those lines, Chuck. He accused Hillary Clinton in “The New York Times” this weekend of straddling between the Republicans and the Democrats. That‘s probably not such a wonderful—a felicitous a way of saying she‘s going—she‘s offering herself as somewhere vaguely in the middle. He‘s accused her of backing blank checks for war, which I think is fair enough. He‘s calling her—saying, basically, she sounds like a—votes like a Republican. He‘s saying the right things in a print interview, but when the guy gets on a stage, he doesn‘t do it for some—what is holding him back?
TODD: Well, I think one has been format. I mean, I don‘t think he‘s comfortable doing it on camera. That isn‘t who he is. I mean, people keep describing it as professorial. He does strike me as a professor. He‘s like a guy at Harvard or Yale, who, after a 90-minute lecture to a bunch of students, will have all the students wanting for an autograph or wanting to spend more time with the professor. But if you walked in and just heard him for 60 seconds, you‘d wonder what he was talking about. He‘s all over the place. He‘s all over the map.
And I think that, you know, we‘re hearing that he is spending more time preparing for this debate, that he‘s trying to be more television-ready. I mean, it may not be fair, but that may be the thing holding him back more, is that he is not a TV-ready debater. And if you‘re not, you‘re going to have a hard time making progress. She speaks in perfect 60-second answers. They‘re tremendous.
MATTHEWS: The people that really want it are willing to do it. Dick Nixon, in the worst way perhaps. Ronald Reagan is one to take the fight right to Jimmy Carter, my old boss, right to his face, stood head to head and took him on. If you want to be president, don‘t you have to take on the champ? Why doesn‘t he—I just keep getting back to this. What is he wasting people‘s time with?
BUCHANAN: This is not a street fighter, and he doesn‘t have the eye of the tiger, it is quite apparent. I think Chuck is exactly right. He‘s up there, sort of holding forth. I mean, he‘s not what you would expect from a black guy from the south side of Chicago. He‘s something, as Chuck says, you‘d expect in a Harvard seminar for undergraduates or something.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s also an Ivy Leaguer.
BUCHANAN: He‘s an Ivy Leaguer.
MATTHEWS: He may have grown up in the...
BUCHANAN: He‘s more Ivy...
MATTHEWS: ... to some extent in the urban neighborhoods, but he certainly is a guy...
BUCHANAN: He‘s more Ivy...
MATTHEWS: ... who‘s worked in those neighborhoods in terms of tough areas, but...
BUCHANAN: He is more Ivy League...
MATTHEWS: ... he is a refined personality, clearly.
BUCHANAN: Well ,that‘s not a fighter. And he‘s—look, if you‘re not a fighter, maybe you‘re better off not trying to play that role if you‘re not any good at it. Now, he‘s got—Chris, he‘s one thing going for him. He has a fighting chance to win Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but...
BUCHANAN: That opens it up.
MATTHEWS: That opens up the notion that he can win the nomination by being a National Public Radio liberal, a person who doesn‘t criticize the other side, who‘s very reflective, very intellectual. But that‘s not the road to victory. You know that.
BUCHANAN: The road to victory is not to go after Hillary so much, it‘s to take a stand on the other side of the road...
MATTHEWS: We‘re with you on that.
BUCHANAN: ... and stand up there and...
MATTHEWS: ... I‘ll say it again. People who want the tapes of the show, come and get them, because the fact is, what, I‘ll say it again at 7:00 o‘clock. The fact is he has to offer the choice to the voters: Do you want the current rut, a smarter version of Bush...
MATTHEWS: ... a better executed Bush policy, go with her. If you want a different approach to foreign policy, go with me. He ought to say that.
BUCHANAN: Here‘s what he ought to say. Hillary Clinton is a Bush-Cheney senator when it comes down to the real...
BUCHANAN: ... nut cutting...
BUCHANAN: ... as Richard Nixon used to say, and she has voted again and again and again there. And that‘s where she will go and that‘s where she is. And we—our party is here. We‘re getting out of this war and we‘re not getting into that one.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. Well said. “Nut cutting” will be the phrase...
MATTHEWS: ... tonight. Thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Pat Buchanan.
Coming up: Wait‘ll they catch you. Wait‘ll you catch this. Former president Gerald Ford speaks from the grave about Bill Clinton being a sex addict. And Mrs. Ford has said that he ought to get some help. She‘s not talking about her husband, she‘s talking about Bill Clinton having a sex problem. That time-release capsule, by the way, when HARDBALL returns.
And later: Let‘s go to the candidate. Democrat Chris Dodd‘s going to join us to tell us how he plans to upset the favorites in tomorrow‘s debate in Philly.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Gerald Ford, the late president, and reporter Tom DeFrank had a deal and a good relationship. Ford spoke with incredible candor to reporter DeFrank, with one caveat: He couldn‘t report it until after President Ford died. And now we know why. Here‘s an excerpt from page 132 of Tom DeFrank‘s new book, “Write It When I‘m Gone,” remarkable off-the-record conversations with Gerald Ford. Quote, “I‘m convinced that Clinton has a sexual addiction,” the president said. “He needs to get help for his sake. He‘s already damaged his presidency beyond repair.” Also said, “Betty Ford and I have talked about this a lot. He‘s sick. He‘s got an addiction. He needs treatment.”
He‘s sick! Anyway, the former president—she also chimes in and said that he‘s in denial, like a lot of other people. When you heard the president, former president, say that, were you surprised?
TOM DEFRANK, AUTHOR, “WRITE IT WHEN I‘M GONE”: Well, I was shocked, yes, I think. But not entirely, Chris, because over the years, he‘d talked a little bit about this. But in this particular conversation that you cite from the book, that was the most graphic and dramatic he had ever been on this subject.
MATTHEWS: He thought it was clinical, basically.
DEFRANK: Yes. And I mean, I should say he found Bill Clinton charming and charismatic.
MATTHEWS: We all do that.
DEFRANK: Well, he also thought he was the best politician he‘d ever been around. He said...
MATTHEWS: But he didn‘t know what he was about. He didn‘t—you say in the book that the former president, the late president, said, I don‘t know his core, I don‘t know what he stands for.
DEFRANK: Yes, he said—he said—he also said, I just—I don‘t know what he stands for. I don‘t know if he has any convictions. But he also thought he was so good at his craft that he could say three-day-old ice. Pretty...
MATTHEWS: ... that‘s sort of where I‘m at with Bill. I mean, he‘s done some good things since he‘s been president, in Africa, with AIDS and all, but I‘ve never quite figured out his basic motive. I think Ford‘s right, don‘t you?
MATTHEWS: You can‘t say, but I can!
DEFRANK: Well, I mean, I‘m trying to be a reporter here.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK. Well, let‘s move on to what else he said because it seemed to me—he talked about Hillary. I never knew until your book came out—and this isn‘t a direct quote, this is just the reporting on your part—Hillary Clinton didn‘t start with the House impeachment committee going after the president. She didn‘t start as a Democrat. She started not as a Goldwater Girl, which was kind of fun. She started as a patronage intern for Congressman Mel Laird of Wisconsin in Washington. She was working for the Republicans as a professional Republican.
DEFRANK: Ford used to love to dine out on this and tell his friends, Hillary is really a Republican. And I know. I‘ve got the picture of her and me from the Watergate days to show it.
But this was also an example of Hillary‘s political skill, of which he was very admiring because when Bill and Hillary Clinton came out to Colorado and visited with the Fords for three days in 1993, she brought him a picture of herself with Mel Laird, Charlie Gooddell (ph), Al Qui (ph) and Gerald Ford...
MATTHEWS: All Republicans.
DEFRANK: ... all Republicans, and gave it to him. And he loved this picture. It‘s now in the Ford library. But he—that was the first instance he had of the fact that Hillary was one savvy, smart political customer.
MATTHEWS: Did he think that her shift to Democrat was inspired by her experience up in college at Wellesley, or was it inspired by opportunism? What did he think?
DEFRANK: Well, certainly both, but he believes it happened at Wellesley. But he also thought that she made a calculated decision when she and Bill Clinton got together that he—she saw that this was a guy on the rise, and she was ambitious and he was ambitious, and that was a symbiotic match.
MATTHEWS: I love the fact that he was talking about a Rudy-Hillary matchup. How prescient was he? I mean, it was not too hard. He said that she was what? Why did he think she was going to be on the ticket?
DEFRANK: He thought that she was an old-fashioned liberal with unbounded ambition. He thought she was smart, she was tough. She thought he was smart. She thought he was—he thought she was tougher than her husband and that—and, when push comes to shove, he deferred to her.
And he just thought that her drive was such that she was going to be the Democratic nominee in either 2004 or 2008. And he told me that in 2002.
MATTHEWS: And what about Rudy?
DEFRANK: He liked Rudy. He liked Rudy‘s—he liked Rudy‘s testosterone. They had been on...
MATTHEWS: Rudy would like the fact he liked his testosterone.
DEFRANK: They had—they had—they had been on corporate events and done political events over the years. He admired Giuliani‘s stewardship after 9/11.
And he just thought that Rudy was tough, he could take a punch, and keep on going. And he thought that Hillary and Rudy running for president would be a clash of the titans. And I‘m sorry, just on a personal standpoint, that he didn‘t live long enough to see that one.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, we all hope we all can, because that could be a great one, if it happens.
Let me ask you about—he also thought that Giuliani would get the nod on that. He thought that Giuliani would beat her, even in a year after eight years of Republican rule, that he would have the advantage.
DEFRANK: No. Well, no, I don‘t think so, Chris. I mean, he went back and forth on that.
But he did say—he said, I—he says, I don‘t think the country is ready for a lady—for a female president yet. That was his...
DEFRANK: That was his view.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I meant, that Giuliani has got the chance...
DEFRANK: He thought—oh, I‘m sorry. He thought Rudy would have the advantage.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s right. That‘s what you said.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what he said to you.
DEFRANK: I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this fascinating piece of history here. We will get into a couple other ones.
But, you know, he said that the president would have been well-advised to dump Vice President Cheney after the first term. Now, if he had done that, then, of course, you wouldn‘t have all that criminality. You wouldn‘t have had the—the prosecution, effective conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice. The whole mess wouldn‘t have occurred, because he would have been out of there.
DEFRANK: But Ford would never have been a party to that. He loved Dick Cheney. He thought he was...
MATTHEWS: But why did he think he ought to dump him?
DEFRANK: He thought that—for reasons that were not clear to him, he thought that Dick Cheney had not been the asset.
I said, well, do you—he said to me that a lot of Republicans were calling him and saying to him, well, do you think Bush might dump Cheney from the ticket? And he said the inference was, they wanted me to lead the charge, because, as you know, Chris, a lot of Republicans knew that Ford in 1992 tried to get Bush 41 to dump Dan Quayle from the ticket. So, they wanted to see if he would do it again with Cheney.
MATTHEWS: Well, they both would have been smart moves, from my perspective, anyway.
MATTHEWS: It would have avoided a lot of messes.
I don‘t know what Cheney has done for this guy in the second term. He certainly helped him get elected, but—God, because he beat Lieberman in that debate. He beat him like a banjo.
Anyway, Tom, you have done it. What a great reporter. It just goes to show that straight reporting, without opinion, just good reporting—this is me talking—can produce greatness. This is unmissable as a political testament. Thank you very much.
This is going to down with “The Haldeman Diaries.”
DEFRANK: Well, if you believe that, you will believe anything, but thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: “The Haldeman Diaries” were fabulous, weren‘t they?
MATTHEWS: Oh, they‘re killers.
And, also, all these diaries are great.
DEFRANK: Jerry Ford didn‘t like him, didn‘t like Haldeman.
MATTHEWS: This is as close to—I know he didn‘t. He didn‘t like him.
This as close to a diary as you can get, because he trusted you.
Still ahead: The former president shows politicians how to deal with sex questions. And here he is showing off his dance moves alongside—well, there he is. There‘s Ellen DeGeneres. Look at her. I‘m not sure that‘s going to help.
Anyway, stick around. We will tell you what else is new in politics today.
That is not helping.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new out there? First and foremost, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave politicians everywhere a lesson last night in dealing with buttinsky reporters.
Take a look at how he dealt with Lesley Stahl‘s prying into his marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)
LESLEY STAHL, “60 MINUTES”: It seems that, every day, we‘re hearing another story about your wife. What‘s going on?
NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): If I had something to say about Cecilia, I would certainly not do so here.
STAHL: But there‘s a great mystery. Everybody is asking. Even your press secretary was asked at the briefing today. No comment?
SARKOZY (through translator): He was quite right to make no comment.
And no comment. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think he got up and left at that point.
There he is leaving.
If Bill Clinton had reacted that way to reporters and lawyers in the Paula Jones case to questions about Monica Lewinsky, instead of outright lying, he could have saved himself and the country a lot of hell. Clinton should have stood up for the right of a president to not answer unrelated questions, even in a civil deposition. He should have refused to answer questions about his private life, unless he was prepared to answer them honestly.
All that stuff about not having sexual relations with that woman was a bad bit of business that served nothing, least of all the truth.
Is Mitt Romney afraid of Mick—of Mike Huckabee in Iowa? He‘s now mentioning him by name out on the stump—quote—“When I was governor, they passed a law saying we‘re going to give instate tuition breaks to illegal aliens, and I vetoed that. Now, did other people have a different view? Governor Huckabee, who is running for president also, he signed that. He wanted instate tuition breaks for illegal aliens in his state. I think that‘s the wrong way to go.”
Usually, candidates don‘t pick on second-tier candidates. Does this mean that Romney is deeply worried that Huckabee, Mike Huckabee, could upset him in the Iowa caucuses on January 3?
Hillary Clinton leads in yet another poll. The Associated Press asked, which candidate of 2008 for president would like—would make for the most scary Halloween costume? A ghoulish 37 percent said Hillary Clinton would be the scariest. Fourteen percent said Rudy. By the way, two-thirds of Republicans picked Hillary Clinton as the spookiest costume. And even a fifth of the Democrats said that.
Vice President Jim Webb? Just a week ago, Senator Webb delivered the keynote speech before New Hampshire Democrats at the annual J.J. Dinner. That‘s Jefferson Jackson dinner. It‘s the honor shared by Democratic heavyweights John Edwards, John Kerry, and even Evan Bayh, who has been talked about as a possible V.P. candidate. Webb led the Senate opposition, by the way, to that bill that labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist country. And he‘s been outspoken in his criticism of the president‘s Iraq war policy.
It all led “The Washington Post” to ask this weekend whether Webb could end up being the go-to candidate for vice president in 2008. Webb would, of course, help Hillary‘s argument. It would make her look very strong on national security, but it would also show a clear shift from Bush world.
Up next, let‘s go to the candidates. Democrat Chris Dodd will be here to talk about how he plans to stop Hillary and Obama and everybody else tomorrow night in the big Philly debate.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing higher amid optimism the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again when it ends a two-day meeting on Wednesday. It‘s widely expected the Fed will cut a key interest rate at least a quarter-of-a-point.
With that, the Dow Jones industrial gained 63 points, the S&P up almost six points, the Nasdaq more than 13 points higher.
Oil prices surged again, gaining $1.67 in New York, closing at a record $93.50 a barrel—helping to push crude oil today, Mexico suspending a fifth of its oil production because of stormy weather.
And CNBC‘s Charles Gasparino reports, Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O‘Neal has told people he is on his way out. He‘s reportedly negotiating the terms of his departure, after Merrill lost billions of dollars in the subprime mortgage market.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It‘s time now to go to the 2008 candidates for president and check where things are headed.
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut joins us now.
Congratulations, Senator Dodd, on the Red Sox—four in a row. I can‘t congratulate you too much on kicking the hell out of the Redskins the other day.
Do you think they rolled up the score nastily?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: A 45-point spread, do you think that was a little rubbing it in?
DODD: No, it‘s just how good the Patriots are. They can‘t help themselves, you know? This is a time for New England.
Look, this is a—here we are. Carry to politics, you have had a well-financed presumptive favorite out in New York. You got this challenger in New England in 2004 behind...
MATTHEWS: See, there, you‘re going to complete that thing, with the Boston College team being undefeated at 7-0, the Patriots 7-0, the Red Sox winning it in four, and Chris Dodd is now going to beat the spread.
DODD: There you go. You made my case for me.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how you‘re going to beat Obama, who‘s on his way to maybe challenging Hillary in Iowa.
I never figured out the rationale to your candidacy, because you‘re a great senator. Everybody likes you. You have got a safe seat. You have always been impressive as a senator. You‘re second generation in Connecticut. You are part of the reality of Connecticut politics. And you‘re putting it on the line in a race that includes Hillary Clinton—and you‘re friends with the Clintons. I don‘t get it.
DODD: Well, look...
MATTHEWS: Is that profound enough?
DODD: But no, look, the view is, here, electability and also whether or not you can govern. And I spent 26 years bringing people together to get the job done. I think the country‘s so sick of the fighting that‘s going on. Nothing seems to be moving.
Many people in this country think our best days are behind us. It makes me angry to hear that, but I think a lot of people feel that way. They think we‘re more isolated in the world today, less safe, less secure.
And, so, I bring a quarter-of-a-century of experience. On every major piece of legislation I have offered, from family and medical leave, child care, financial services, election reform, the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, I always brought Democrats and Republicans together.
It‘s a skill set you acquire. You can have native ability, but skill sets, you acquire. And I think the country this time around, after six years of on-the-job training in the Bush administration, is looking for someone with some bold ideas with the ability to get results.
So, it brings a unique set of qualities on domestic and foreign policy issues that I say, respectfully, I don‘t think is there with the other candidates.
MATTHEWS: But how do you bring about that choice with Hillary? Hillary is out there with these incredible numbers. Women seem to be voting for her in large numbers. Minorities are voting for her, poor people, working people and old people. She seems to have corralled every interest area of the Democratic Party right now.
DODD: No, I don‘t think so yet, not at all.
In fact, in Iowa—you know Iowa better than I know Iowa, and you have been around long enough to know—four years ago, John Kerry was behind by 20 points on December 23 in the contest in New Hampshire, and two or three weeks later won it. People are just beginning to focus on this.
MATTHEWS: Can you bring Teddy Kennedy in, like he did?
DODD: Well, no. Senator Kennedy‘s been a good friend; he‘s staying out of the race on this one.
MATTHEWS: No, but he came in for Kerry like a bandit. He came in there like...
DODD: He made a big difference for him, was a great help to him.
MATTHEWS: He hugely—Yes.
DODD: I‘m knocking on that door, but he‘s waiting a while here to see how things develop, and I don‘t blame him. I understand that. But at some point here, I‘m out there a lot and people are clearly moving.
Let me tell you this; 82 percent—we have called about 75,000, Chris, of the likely caucus attendees; 82 percent are undecided. I‘m telling you, it‘s a very different feel out there.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the voter, because you know the voter. And whether they vote for you or not, you ought to be able to help us here.
Do the voters choose the following, column A, somebody to be smarter than Bush, but basically go the same route—go to war with Iraq, keep the war going, probably end up going to war with Iran? Or do they want something from column B, a much different approach, take us to a different place?
DODD: Much different approach. Much different.
MATTHEWS: But Hillary is basically column A. She‘s a smarter Bush.
DODD: Well, and I say that respectfully. Look at the debate at Dartmouth College.
MATTHEWS: Maybe smarter.
DODD: When the question at Dartmouth was asked by Tim Russert, your colleague, “Would you commit to the end of your first term our troops would be out of Iraq?”
The so-called three leading candidates said, “I can‘t make that commitment.” That‘s a stunning answer.
DODD: That‘s six or seven years from today here. And when I was asked the question, I said, “Absolutely.” The policy, despite the heroic efforts of our troops, which are truly heroic, has not worked.
And you need only to talk to the troops on the ground there and they will tell you that flat out. We‘re not bringing these people together, religiously or politically.
Here, it‘s now $10 billion every month, I think it is. Here, some four million have left the country; 80,000 to 100,000 have died.
MATTHEWS: That would be an 11-year war...
DODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... if we‘re still fighting at the end of the next president‘s term.
DODD: A Democratic candidate that can‘t say, categorically, “This has not worked. It‘s put us at greater risk. We‘re more isolated in the world today”—and I don‘t think you have to leave the region. This isn‘t a question of only utilizing your military force.
There are plenty of other things. Look what the administration, Chris, is now doing in North Korea. You don‘t read about North Korea any longer.
At long last, they‘re coming back to the approach of diplomacy. Instead of threatening war in North Korea, they tried, actually, what many recommended—what I recommended. And, as a result, we‘re seeing a peaceful resolution of talking North Korea out of acquiring nuclear weapons. That‘s the kind of approach that we need to at least try with Iran, which poses similar threats.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this election right now. When do you think it‘s going to become—really pick up speed? When are people going to...
DODD: ... right now.
MATTHEWS: You say that people aren‘t committed in Iowa. And I agree. A lot people—I saw it. And the Republican side, you read they haven‘t decided what to do.
MATTHEWS: When are they going to start locking into candidates?
DODD: I think probably around 1st of December or so. That‘s been history, what people tell me. Tom Harkin, who knows this better than anyone, says it‘s the last 10 days. I mean, John Kerry said the same thing to me, people to maneuver. You‘re working. You‘re talking—but the last 10 days or two weeks.
MATTHEWS: OK. Are we going to have a Christmas vacation this year or are we going to go right through the—my wife and I have discussed this. January 3 -- we used to get that week off. In fact, most businesses, you could get off between Christmas and New Year‘s, right?
DODD: Not this year. Not this year.
MATTHEWS: Now, we‘re going to—I just figured out that we‘re going to be doing shows the end of the Christmas week. Christmas is midweek. We will be doing shows through the end of that week...
DODD: That‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: ... in preparation for these Iowa causes on the 3rd.
DODD: On January 3, that‘s right. And you will be right there. And then, five days later, you‘re in New Hampshire on January 8.
MATTHEWS: So, it‘s not going to be Dick Clark this year. It‘s not going to be Times‘ Square.
MATTHEWS: It‘s going to be you guys.
DODD: Right out there in Des Moines. You can watch the ball fall in Des Moines.
MATTHEWS: You know what someone once said, the last person leaving Des Moines, please turn out the lights. But we are going to spend the new years, welcoming the new year in Iowa. Good luck. You know, you sound really good today. Thank you.
Like the haircut, too. Thank you Senator Chris Dodd. Up next—it wasn‘t 200 dollars. Up next, we‘ll run the numbers on the latest polls out of Iowa. We were just talking about them. And who‘s going up out there and who‘s slipping? I think Edwards is slipping. We‘re going to talk about that when we come back and also the new TV ads with Rudy and Barack Obama featured. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s talk about what‘s happening out there in Iowa and what‘s coming up at the round table. Joining us right now, “The Chicago Tribune‘s” Jill Zuckman, who is up in New Hampshire, “Newsweek‘s” Holly Bailey and the “Washington Post‘s” Perry Bacon.
We‘re going to start with Holly, with the same question to everybody; let‘s all look at the University of Iowa poll. It‘s just out. It shows Hillary Clinton, the senator from New York, leading with 29 points, Obama, statistically in a tie with her, and Edwards fading to 20. Your thoughts on this Halloween number, Holly?
HOLLY BAILEY, “NEWSWEEK”: I think, you know—I think the race is still pretty fluid. If you look at the polls over the past couple of weeks, everybody is sort of up and down. But I think generally you see Edwards, who seems to have a lock on the state a month ago, seems to be sinking a little bit in the polls.
MATTHEWS: Edwards is going down. Who is coming up? Is Obama coming up?
BAILEY: It looks like Obama is coming up, but he‘s certainly not catching up with Clinton. She‘s built a notable lead.
MATTHEWS: Two points off with a five point margin of error. Let‘s go to Jill Zuckman. Jill, you‘re in New Hampshire. You want to take a look at this Iowa poll with us?
JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Of course I do, Chris. I don‘t really trust hardly any polls in Iowa. There‘s a real big problem because you‘re not testing whether people are going to vote. You‘re testing whether they‘re going to go out and spend hours, their entire evening, on a winter night to commit themselves to one candidate. In Iowa, they tend to make up their minds at the last minute. So there‘s no reason anybody should be getting out because of this poll.
PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: The general trend line is that over the last three months of poll is generally that Edwards is slipping slightly, Senator Clinton is going up slightly and Obama is in between them. But he‘s probably tied with Hillary statistically. So I think it‘s still very close, but I think there is a little bit of a dynamic we see now.
MATTHEWS: The poll average by the Real Clear Politics website, which I use, shows Edwards trending down. That‘s one that—the Real Clear Politics, you should look it up if you‘re interested in these numbers, because Real Clear Politics on your computer—just look it up. It tells you the running average of all the polls.
Let‘s take a look at the Republican side. Governor Romney is leading and Huckabee is coming up. Let me go to Perry Bacon; Huckabee, he was kind of a laughing matter for a while, and he‘s now a very serious candidate. Is he the biggest threat to Romney? I noticed Romney took a shot at him the other day. Is he afraid of Huckabee?
BACON: I think in Iowa there is some danger of Romney—Romney‘s been leading throughout, but Huckabee is coming up slowly. Huckabee has also entered double digits in national polls too now. So I think his message and—he‘s sort of a very—he‘s a pastor and he has a very appealing message for social conservatives, particularly. So I think he is a threat for Romney in Iowa in particular.
MATTHEWS: You really see him in double digits in a national poll?
Which poll is that?
BACON: I think it was a Rasmussen survey.
MATTHEWS: Rasmussen? Let‘s MoveOn.com here. We‘re not doing Rasmussen polls here. Come on. The polling average in Iowa shows Huckabee trending up. What do you think?
BAILEY: I think he‘s trending up. One thing that you have to remember when you look at Romney‘s numbers in Iowa is he spent tens of millions of dollars there running ads. He‘s been spending every other week there. He‘s spent a lot of time on the ground there. Huckabee has been there twice, I guess now three times, since he won the Ames Straw Poll. And he‘s trending up and I think it‘s a big story there.
MATTHEWS: What is the Huckabee appeal?
BAILEY: The Huckabee appeal, I think, is that people like him because they believe he‘s a real social conservative and also if you watch him speak, he‘s fun to watch. I think a lot of people really buy into that.
MATTHEWS: Jill, what do you see as Huckabee‘s strength?
ZUCKMAN: Chris, he‘s like the Cinderella candidate. Huckabee has not spent millions of dollars introducing himself to Iowa voters. They didn‘t know him the way they didn‘t know Romney. And he‘s been doing it all on his own, essentially with shoe leather, and going to these debates and getting to know people around the state. And it‘s coming together for him to a certain extent.
MATTHEWS: Is it purely an Iowa phenomena, or do you sense something up there in New Hampshire as well?
ZUCKMAN: I think he‘s got a lot more room to grow in Iowa than New Hampshire. I don‘t think New Hampshire is quite as socially conservative as Iowa is. But if he does really well, better than anybody expects in Iowa, I think people in New Hampshire will give him another look.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s the best possible news for Rudy Giuliani, because if he can thump Romney in Iowa, with Mike Huckabee, then he can do well in New Hampshire and really get a band wagon going. Here, by the way, is the latest radio ad from Rudy Giuliani in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had prostate cancer five, six years ago. My chance of surviving prostate cancer—and thank god I was cured of it—in the United States, 82 percent. My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England, only 44 percent under socialized medicine. You and I should be making the decisions about what kind of health care we get with our doctors, not with a government bureaucrat.
Government has never been able to reduce costs. Government never increases quality. We have the best health care system in the world. We just have to make it better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, that is classic Live Free or Die, self reliance, the Granite State. Perry, this is like main lining right into that psychology of New Hampshire, which is leave me alone. I don‘t trust socialism. Is it going to work in these days, when people are really challenged on health care?
BACON: I don‘t know. The problem with that message is—I
understand what the idea is—all the candidates are saying this. So it‘s
not a very distinguishing message for Rudy Giuliani. I think Mitt Romney -
In every debate, if you watch the Republicans, they all criticize Britain and France, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, for having this idea of much more government mandated health care.
MATTHEWS: And does it work? Perry, I‘m not going to let you go. In the America of today, in the Republican world, is it still safe to run against, quote, socialized medicine as being enough, and that‘s what Rudy Giuliani is doing there.
BACON: I think it is a good message. I actually think it is a good message for where he is in New Hampshire particularly.
ZUCKMAN: But Chris, it‘s not any different than any other Republican candidate. And what he‘s doing is he‘s continuing to run against Senator Clinton essentially. And the question is, whether voters are going to—that‘s going to help Republican voters decide among the Republican primary candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s one way to prove that you‘re a Republican, show that you detest Hillary Clinton more than anybody else does, right? Isn‘t that one of the tests of the Republican party right now, Holly? I‘m more anti-Hillary than you are?
BAILEY: That‘s why you keep hearing Hillary come up at the GOP debates. She‘s the number one topic, it seems, there half the time.
MATTHEWS: She could be a giant dart board for these people, right? They just keep throwing darts at her. We‘ll be right back with the round table. By the way, that might be the smartest politics, because having just been at Fenway Park and heard some of the rumbling behind me about Hillary; “Is she really going to be the nominee? Tell me she‘s not going to be the nominee. Tell me I don‘t have her as president.” That was what I was hearing behind me. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I asked Senator Clinton to join me in not taking money from Washington lobbyists, she refused. Not only did she say she would continue to take their money, she actually defended it. And today, Senator Clinton has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate from either party, more money than any Republican candidate.
She has taken more money from the defense industry than any candidate from either party. She‘s took more money from Wall Street last quarter than Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama combined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s John Edwards hitting Hillary Clinton today in New Hampshire. We‘re back with the round table. Let‘s start right now with Holly. Is this going to work, because he‘s clearly hitting Hillary where she‘s guilty. She‘s very much the establishment candidate. She‘s doing the establishment thing, taking money from the interest groups, whatever they are, saying she really doesn‘t pay much attention where the money comes from. That‘s Bill Clinton politics. That‘s what they did in the White House. Is it going to work?
BAILEY: He‘s been saying this for months, and it hasn‘t helped him in the numbers polls wise. But this is sort of interesting. Barack Obama was out over the weekend saying he‘s going to take a tougher stance against Senator Clinton. But I sort of think his supporters want to him to talk some of this talk that John Edwards is talking, but it‘s not helping Edwards.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s look at the latest Obama ad playing in Iowa. It concerns Social Security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Barack Obama and I approve this message.
We‘ve got 78 million Baby Boomers who are going to be retiring.
There‘s going to be more money going out than money coming in.
If we have failed to have a real honest conversation about Social Security, it will not get fixed. This is a program that millions of people depend on.
I don‘t want to just put my finger out to the wind and see what the polls say. I want to bring the country together to solve a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think that have? Let me go to Perry Bacon. He said he wants an honest discussion about Social Security. But he then he makes the point of saying anything that might bother anybody.
BACON: That‘s true. But I think it‘s interesting to watch that ad and listen to what he said over the weekend as well. We moved to different parts of the argument for Obama. He‘s spent a lot of time in this campaign talking about how he opposed the war before Hillary Clinton did. That seems not to have worked.
What he‘s saying now is something distinctly different, which he‘s basically calling Hillary Clinton calculating, and someone who has a poll before she does anything. I‘d be curious to see how that works if that starts registering. That‘s a new argument he‘s making right now.
MATTHEWS: Has this been poll tested, this theory that you can get Hillary for not being tough on Social Security, when most Democrats want a candidate to simply promise to give them all they have ever gotten from Social Security without raising taxes?
BACON: I expect the actual policy distinction between Hillary and Obama is small. When President Bush tried to reform Social Security a couple years ago, we found that Democrats could win by saying they will protect your check. So yes, I think you‘re right about that.
MATTHEWS: I think I saw what happened to Paul Tsongas when Bill Clinton went after him. He was being honest. That was Tsongas. Bill Clinton was BSing the issue, and BSing the Social Security issues, always seems to work. Jill, I have yet to see a candidate win by saying they‘re going to get serious about reforming and saving Social Security when it gets to particulars.
ZUCKMAN: Exactly. Once you put something specific on the table that you want to do, then everybody attacks you for it. So, to a certain extent, not aligning yourself with one strategy or another is a way to go into a negotiation. Chris, what I find so interesting about this is that Senator Obama‘s supporters look to him for inspiration. And what remains to be seen is whether they‘re going to be turned off by him training his sights on Senator Clinton in a critical way.
MATTHEWS: What is he supposed to do then, Jill to arouse interest in this campaign and to separate himself from the easy vote for Hillary, which is a fairly easy vote. You vote for Bill Clinton‘s wife. You vote for the status quo. You vote for the centrist. The woman seems to have a lot of experience. Why not vote for her? Doesn‘t he have to make the case?
ZUCKMAN: Well, he has to make the case for himself. And certainly the media would like to see him go on the attack against Senator Clinton.
MATTHEWS: I want to see an issue-orient debate here instead of just who do you like. I would like to see the debate, the decisions that have been made about this war in Iraq, the decisions that seem to be being made right now about Iran. Why don‘t they draw some differences so the voters can choose and have a role in this thing.
BACON: Chris, I think they‘re trying to do that. What we have found is that it‘s very difficult to tell the difference between Obama, Edwards or Hillary on issues. I think that‘s what the problem is—
MATTHEWS: It‘s easy if you‘re willing to make it easy. Let me go to Holly here. It seems to me that Obama has been opposed to this war from the beginning. Hillary has been voting for the war since the beginning. There seems to be a Grand Canyon of difference here.
ZUCKMAN: There‘s a difference there. But they have been attacking her on that vote and it doesn‘t seem to be hurting her as much.
MATTHEWS: Maybe the Democrats get what they deserve. If they can‘t pick a candidate who offers a different policy then Bush, maybe they should get the Bush policy? Is that a fair charge? If they don‘t want something different, then stop complaining.
Anyway, thank you Jill Zuckman, thank you Holly Bailey. It‘s up to them—
MATTHEWS: Thank you. It‘s great to have you here.
BAILEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Join us again tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 for more HARDBALL. Then at 9:00, the Democrats debate in Philadelphia. After the debate at 11:00, we‘re coming back and we‘re going to go into who won the damn thing. Anyway, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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