updated 3/20/2008 11:03:35 AM ET 2008-03-20T15:03:35

Guests: Linda Douglass, Bill Maher

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Five years later, mission not accomplished.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Five years ago today, we broke some old rules, that the good guys don‘t invade other countries, that America doesn‘t start wars.  All this was camouflaged in different language, of course.  We didn‘t invade, we did a “regime change.”  We didn‘t start a war, what we did in invading, overthrowing and occupying Iraq was a “preemption of a war.”

But 9/11 didn‘t change the old realities.  People don‘t like other people coming in and taking over their country.  Countries have fights within their borders—Shia versus Sunni in the case of Iraq, north versus south in our case—that outsiders would be wise to stay out of.  So here we are, five years afterwards, after we went into Iraq with the bugles blaring and the crowds cheering.  Today, we face the titanic realities that history told us to predict but our leaders told us to ignore.  Two trillion dollars later, a war that was promised by the president‘s chief economic adviser to get us cheaper gas, an Iraqi reconstruction that would pay for itself with Iraqi oil, has ended up costing us trillions.  And for some American families, the cost has been worse.

As Fred Kaplan begins his great new book about the war, quote, “Nearly all of America‘s blunders in war and peace these past few years stem from a single grand misconception, that the world changed after September 11, when, in fact, it didn‘t.”

In a moment, we‘ll get into the politics of the war.  Who does it help, who does it hurt in the 2008 presidential race?

Also, the reviews are in on Senator Barack Obama‘s speech on race in America the other day.  The media loved it.  How about the voters?  We‘ll talk to two guests with very different views on whether Obama did what he needed to do yesterday.

Plus, we‘ll have the “Politics Fix” tonight, as always.  What‘s Hillary up to in Michigan?

And here I am taking a break, by the way, from the campaign on “Ellen DeGeneres” today.  We‘ll have later—we‘ll have more on that later.  I got confused by the very notion of it.

But we begin tonight with the war in Iraq.  Joining us now to talk about the 2008 presidential race and the politics of the war because everything has political impact, especially war, NBC political director Chuck Todd and “The National Journal‘s” Linda Douglass.

Let‘s take a look at the latest polling on this, although I hate to talk about polls when it comes to blood, and that‘s what we‘re talking about.  Here‘s a new poll that shows—Do you think we can have victory in Iraq?  Is it still possible?  And it‘s 53 percent, a majority, now say, No, we can‘t win over there.  And I think we know what “win” means.  That means you can come home with pride and honor intact.  Forty percent say, Yes, we can still win.  On the other question, What‘s the most responsible thing for the U.S. to do right now?  Fifty-two percent say, Withdraw most of the troops the first year of a new presidency, but 43 percent say remain.

You know, Linda, it‘s not overwhelming in one direction.  It is tilting towards, Let‘s get out, we shouldn‘t have gone in, but not clearly.

LINDA DOUGLASS, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  There‘s huge ambivalence over what to do now.  I mean, it‘s clear that the majority of people think it was a bad idea to go in.  They think it was a mistake.  They think it wasn‘t worth it.  But when you look at—there was a Gallup poll out just a few days ago that showed that most people believe that we have an obligation to stabilize the country before we leave.  So people are very divided because they‘re worried that we‘ve made this terrible mess, we‘ve left these people exposed, and now what do we do?

MATTHEWS:  The trouble is, when you‘re in quicksand, it‘s hard to stabilize the quicksand before you pull yourself out of it.  If you stay long enough to fix Iraq, you may never leave.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, and I think that that—that‘s sort of what I think could become the central argument in the general election, particularly if it‘s Obama and McCain because I think you have Obama, whose instinct is to just get everybody out and then, if it needs fixing, come up with a new plan to fix, where McCain is saying, Look, we know it‘s a mess.  We know it‘s a problem.  We mismanaged it.  But we can‘t get out now.  We have to stay.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I think the American people may have a question mark about what they‘re going to get from the Democrats, but they have a very clear image of what they‘re getting from the Republicans because this is what they‘re promising.

Here‘s the president today at the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate and Iraq would descend into chaos.  Al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones, fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq‘s borders with serious consequences for the world‘s economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s his backup man, the vice president, Dick Cheney, today in Oman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Two thirds of Americans say it‘s not worth fighting.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So?  You‘re not—you don‘t care what the American people think?

CHENEY:  No.  I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.  There has, in fact, been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better.  That‘s a huge accomplishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, does anybody at this table think that guy could get elected president this year?

(LAUGHTER)

DOUGLASS:  Well, that certainly doesn‘t help John McCain.

TODD:  I don‘t know if he could get elected in Wyoming, at this point, statewide.  That is to just be that flippant about—I mean...

MATTHEWS:  How about a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, which is one of our founding documents?  What‘s wrong with a decent respect for the thinking of the American people about this war?  The people who are paying the price for this war, not somebody with five deferments.

TODD:  Well, that...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that‘s a fact.  He‘s not paying the price.

TODD:  That‘s always been the disconnect between Cheney and (INAUDIBLE) that he decided to get into elective politics because I think he—you know, he wants to just worry about the task at hand...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... and he‘s never minded the political store very well.

MATTHEWS:  But I‘ve never seen such a dismissal.  It‘s one thing to say, I‘m Abraham Lincoln, I know this war‘s unpopular, but to say, “So?”

DOUGLASS:  Well, but Dick Cheney has not cared ever in the course of this—two terms of this presidency whether he personally was popular.  It used to be popular that President Bush and Vice President Cheney stuck to their guns.  It‘s kind of worn out its welcome, that strategy right now.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DOUGLASS:  But what struck me was what the president said about how leaving Iraq would be bad for the economy because that‘s—the Democrats‘ argument is that the reason we are in such terrible economic shape is because of the war in Iraq, which is costing...

MATTHEWS:  Well, all the money we‘re borrowing from Japan to pay for this war, it‘s all being borrowed on the sleeve, right?

DOUGLASS:  Well, it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s all on credit.

DOUGLASS:  Two or three or four is the most rather extreme estimate of the cost of the war, when you factor in gas prices and all of the costs of taking care of the veterans when they return.  It‘s been a massive cost, and it‘s amazing that the president would bring that up today.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Back to the campaign.  Here‘s Senator John McCain, a man who we all respect—but here he is in Jordan today, or yesterday, actually, making his comment about why we‘re in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, it‘s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.  That‘s well known.  And it‘s unfortunate.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  You said that the Iranians were training al Qaeda.  I think you meant they were training extremist terrorists.

MCCAIN:  I‘m sorry.  The Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.  Not al Qaeda.  I‘m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a fundamental question, of course, why we‘re in there, who we‘re fighting.  We overthrew the government, we overthrew Saddam Hussein to get in there.  And as we got in there, of course, created an opportunity.  Al Qaeda came in there.  Are we fighting al Qaeda, with its roots in the Sunni culture, or are we fighting Iranian agents?  That‘s a tricky question, isn‘t it, Linda, and he got it wrong.

DOUGLASS:  Well, he certainly got it wrong, either unintentionally or intentionally.  I mean, it could be he‘s trying to gin up more opposition to Iran because he was easily corrected, meaning that he must have known that it was the Shiite extremists that Iran is training.  But Barack Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... keep it simple.  Al Qaeda attacked us 9/11.  They‘re our enemy.  They have found their way into Iraq since we got there.  Fair enough.  We got to deal with those guys.  They are our enemy.  The Shiites are the majority population in Iraq.  You can‘t get rid of the majority population.

DOUGLASS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about what he said today.  Here‘s Senator McCain today in his statement.  Now, this requires Talmudic reading here.  Here‘s what he said.  Quote, “The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable.  Al Qaeda and Shia extremists, with support from external powers such as Iran, are on the run but not defeated.”  Again he conflates the issue of al Qaeda, who attacked us 9/11, and the Shias we got in trouble with because we‘re in their country.

TODD:  Yes.  That wasn‘t a slip of the tongue.  I mean, that was a—first of all, it‘s a printed statement, so it‘s not a slip of the tongue.  It‘s very much...

MATTHEWS:  So who are we fighting?  Who are we getting killed by?

TODD:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  Why are we there?

TODD:  ... look I think that is a fundamental question.  You know, you go back—and I go back to your first question about victory and victory‘s not possible.  We go back to where somebody in this campaign, one of the two presidential candidates, is going to have to define what victory is...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... because that‘s always been the sort of—that‘s the moving...

MATTHEWS:  Victory means you can come home.

TODD:  But what is victory there?  Like, what is the...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I mean.

TODD:  What is the marker...

MATTHEWS:  Whatever that is, it‘s defined by your ability to come home.

TODD:  And John McCain...

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t call it victory if you‘re stuck in the mud or stuck in the quicksand over there, can you.

TODD:  John McCain, who has criticized the Democrats for not wanting to win this war, is going to have to define the war, and so he‘s going to have to define victory at some point in this campaign, and he has yet to do it.  You know, you—it‘s always vague terms, When things are stabilized.  Well, what is that?

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to the other skillet here.  Here are the Democrats trying to deal with the issue.  Here‘s Barack Obama today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, Senator Clinton has tried to use my position to score political points, suggesting that because I want to withdraw prudently and would listen to our commanders on the ground, that I‘m somehow less than fully committed to ending the war.  She makes this argument despite the fact that she‘s taken the same position in the past.  So ask yourself, who do you trust to end a war, someone who opposed the war from the beginning or someone who started opposing it when they started preparing a run for president?  Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shia, Iran and al Qaeda.  Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaeda ties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Sarcasm is dangerous in a war situation.  Let‘s look at Senator Clinton in a speech on Iraq this Monday, two days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  One choice in this election is Senator McCain, who is willing to keep this war going for 100 years.  You can count on him to do that.  Another choice is Senator Obama, who has promised to bring combat troops out in 16 months, but according to his foreign policy adviser, you can‘t count on him to do that.  In uncertain times, we cannot afford uncertain leadership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Linda, what happens if Hillary Clinton does win the nomination, she pulls ahead of Barack Obama?  She faces in debate that man, John McCain.  He says, You also voted to authorize the war, like I did.  We cast the same vote, and then when it got unpopular, you turned tail and we disagreed.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What happens if he confronts her with that?  What does she say at that point?

DOUGLASS:  The same thing she‘s been saying in the Democratic primary, which is, I was lied to.  The administration gave me bad information.  I believed here (ph) -- all the other Democrats who have come out against the war since, who believed all this bad information.  Maybe you, John McCain, knew that it was bad information, but you still support the war, in spite of the fact that you know that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

MATTHEWS:  But she begins to sound like somebody who bought a low interest loan that was going to balloon and she didn‘t read the fine print, Chuck.

TODD:  No, I think that that‘s—that‘s the fundamental decision the Democrats are making when it comes to the war issue.  But we‘re assuming the war issue is going to be the top two or three.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I know.

TODD:  I don‘t believe it.  I mean, I think, frankly...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s watch al Qaeda and what they pull...

TODD:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  ... because they can make it a top issue in 5 seconds.

TODD:   They can (INAUDIBLE) quickly, but the long debate of the general election, if it‘s not on the economy, I‘d be shocked.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with Bob Woodward, the Watergate reporter, who says it‘s always in the backdrop.  It‘s always sitting there.  Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.  I think the word “change,” by the way, has a lot to do with the war.  Anyway, thank you.  But the economy is treacherous, as well.  Linda Douglass, Chuck Todd.

Coming up, the one and only Bill Maher.  We‘ll talk about the presidential race, Barack Obama‘s speech the other day, and of course, the war.  Five years on now, mission not accomplished five years later.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Every Friday night at 11:00 PM, Bill Maher offers up a unique look at politics on HBO‘s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”  Tonight he‘s with us from Los Angeles with his take on the big events of the week.

Mr. Maher, sir, here we are, almost at the end of the cycle of picking a president.  The Republicans have picked Bill—or John McCain.  The Democrats, what are they up to?

BILL MAHER, HBO “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  Well, you know, when I was a kid, I remember my father and mother, who were, like, dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, liberal Democrats—they would always tear their hair out because they would say, you know, The Democrats are the party that‘s never organized.  They‘re always fighting amongst each other.  The Republicans are organized.  They get up in the morning.  They have their candidate by February.  And obviously, nothing has changed.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You know, I sometimes think if you go to a movie theater, Bill, and go to—everybody that comes 10 minutes early—you know those people that come 10 minutes early to movies and they sit there all organized...

MAHER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and then the people that come in in the dark with their big boxes of popcorn and gallons of Coke and...

MAHER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... Did the movie start early, or what happened here? 

They‘re the Democrats.

Let me ask you about a more serious question.  Bill Maher—Barack Obama—did you think his speech yesterday had the emotional and the historic impact that some of us did?

MAHER:  Yes.  I thought it was a great speech, but I‘m supposed to. 

You know, I‘m that (INAUDIBLE) white progressive who loves what he does. 

But he is.  He never fails to rise to the occasion.

I think history will look back and see him as—I keep using the analogy of Jackie Robinson—the Jackie Robinson of politics.  And I say that because Jackie Robinson, of course, had to be absolutely perfect.  When Branch Ricky (ph) picked Jackie Robinson, he picked him not just because he was a great ballplayer, but he said, I need the guy with the exact right temperament, the guy who can take it when they yell out racial epithets at him in St. Louis.  And that‘s Barack Obama, the way he is threading this needle, too black, too white, it‘s just amazing.

Not everybody‘s going to love that speech.  I think there‘s a lot of -

you guys have been talking about it—you know, blue collar workers, Reagan Democrats, whatever you want to call them, but people who think, Well, you know, we had a racial problem in this country, but that all ended when Bill Cosby got a TV show in 1980.  What‘s all the talk about race?  So there‘s that guy, who is never going to be swayed by this speech or any speech.

But it was such a pleasure to hear a speech for adults, to adults, that didn‘t pander, that was eloquent.  You know, it‘s like reading a book nowadays, Chris, you know?  So much writing is—it‘s not really writing.  You read a John Grisham book, and it‘s, like—you know, it‘s just an outline for the script for the movie.  And then once in a while, you read great writing, and you go, Oh, what a pleasure.  And that‘s was what it was like to listen to that speech for me.

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘re right about Branch Ricky and Jackie Robinson.  I must say, as a Philly guy, a lot of that was coming from the Phillys dugout, that really bad stuff, that trash talk against Jackie Robinson...

MAHER:  Oh, it was everywhere.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let me ask you about...

MAHER:  Yes.  Boston, too.

MATTHEWS:  That is—well, I‘ll say no more about that one.  I can talk about my city.  Boston is trickier when it comes to that topic.

Let me ask you about the mother—the grandmother comment.  I guess a lot of us were taken with the fact that he‘s defending his relationship with his minister, Barack Obama is, with Jeremiah Wright, and then he offered a parallel, which was his white grandmother—he had white grandparents on his mother‘s side—and the way she talked about black men and her fear of them, the stereotypical language she used that made him cringe as a young boy who was black.  What did you think of that, that he introduced that very personal—almost ripping the scab off of American—sort of the secret talk that goes on in our different racial dugouts?

MAHER:  Well, when black folks get in trouble, Chris, they always go to the grandmother.  But I thought it was very affecting.  Actually, what I thought was that Americans are so narcissistic.  They‘re so—such navel gazers.  They only live in their own little world.  It was just astounding to me that in 2008, somebody had to go through the ABC‘s of what racial relations are like in this country, that people still don‘t know.

I mean, people wouldn‘t know what goes on in a black church.  They could be—they could be preaching jihad every week, and nobody would know about it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  I mean, we learn this every time there is a racial episode in this country, be it O.J. or the Jena situation.  Every time, people are absolutely shocked at what is going on, because, obviously, there really isn‘t a lot of dialogue between the two races. 

Yes, they work together now. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Bill O‘Reilly...

MAHER:  They‘re...

MATTHEWS:  How about Bill O‘Reilly being surprised that people...

MAHER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... at a restaurant used knives and forks and spoons and they...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  Right.  And they weren‘t screaming for...

MATTHEWS:  And he was so amazed up in Harlem that they actually used utensils. 

MAHER:  Right.  He thought it was...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Some things are beyond imagination for some people to—the things they say. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  He thought it was going...

MATTHEWS:  Anyway...

MAHER:  ... to be dinnertime at the...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  Chris, would you let me get my joke out?  You asked me a question.

He thought it was going to be dinnertime at the Apollo. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  He was just going to have dinner...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MAHER:  ... stay for a little of the dogfighting, and then leave. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this. 

Do you think there‘s a—let me get to the tough political question here.  What is the disconnect between Barack Obama and working-class regular guys, the guy you call—and I don‘t even like phrases like that, Joe six-pack, Joe bag of donuts, the regular out there guy who makes a little less than maybe the national average, who is working every day 40, 50 hours a week, hard work, tired, comes home at night, doesn‘t want to hear about affirmative action, doesn‘t want to hear about racial change or developments on that front.

How is he—he is not connecting with that guy, apparently. 

MAHER:  Well, you know, I can sort of understand why that is.  And—and I think we all have sympathy for people who are struggling, basically, economically. 

I thought it was great that Barack Obama, in the speech, made the point that you are not being kept down by the immigrants or the black guy.  That is not who is your problem.  Your problem is the corporation, the greedy corporation and those people who—who put politicians in office, who do the bidding of those corporations, who rapaciously plunder the workers‘ pensions, who take their jobs overseas and so forth.  That is the real problem. 

I mean, that‘s that book “What‘s The Matter With Kansas?” that the lower-middle-class people keep voting against their economic interests.  They keep voting for people who want to repeal the estate tax and want to just shovel more money into the richest—pockets of the richest 1 percent in America. 

That is the challenge for a politician like Obama, or really any Democrat, is to convince those people who their real problem is.  And their real problem is that corporations have taken over America. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, great.  It is great to have you on, Bill.  You‘re a thoughtful guy.  I agree with almost everything you say. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But John McCain is going to be tricky, though, for the Democrats, because he is a war hero.  And although you list that—that list of attack on the Republican policies if you are a regular person, how it hurts you economically, suppose they go into that voting booth in November, and they don‘t choose between their economic interests and the richer guy‘s economic interests; they choose the war hero, the guy they identify with personally?

MAHER:  Well, that is very—that is very possible. 

You know, we are one terrorist attack away from John McCain, I‘m sure, rising in the polls by 10 points, because people think, oh, yes, he is tougher.  Of course, he is not tougher about the war.  He‘s dumber about the war.  He‘s dumb about the war, because he thinks that, by keeping troops in the heart of the Muslim world, that‘s going to help the war on terror. 

That‘s exactly what started the war on terror.  That‘s why bin Laden was so angry at the U.S., is, because we had troops in Saudi Arabia.  And we pulled them out after 9/11, by the way.  Of course, then, we go right back in and plant them in the—in the heart of the Muslim world and build Pizza Huts. 

That is why young Muslim men want to come here and blow themselves up and kill us.  And, until we solve that mental problem, we‘re never going to win this war on terror.  It is not about what happens in Iraq.  We need to get out of Iraq, not—not build bases there. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a gutsy man, Bill Maher, and a funny guy.  I‘m glad we had a serious conversation at a serious time. 

Good luck with your funny show, Friday nights at 11:00 on HBO. 

Everybody ought to watch us.

MAHER:  Come join us soon, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got to get HBO.  Just get HBO just to do...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  Never miss you.

MATTHEWS:  I would love to come back.

Last time we were on that show, it was wild. 

Anyway, Friday nights at 11:00, Bill Maher, “Real Time.”

Up next: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, look out.  I have got the highlights of my appearance on today—actually, today on Ellen DeGeneres‘ show. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new in politics? 

Well, it‘s a showdown in “The New York Times.”  You may have read

Maureen Dowd‘s column on Sunday.  She wrote—quote—“The dollar is

crumbling.  The recession is thundering.  The Dow is bungee-jumping, and

the world is disapproving, yet, George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly,

tap-dancing and singing in a one-man review called ‘The Most Happy Fella.‘”

That‘s a reference, of course, to this little presidential routine right before that press conference with John McCain.  There he goes. 

A funny line from Maureen, right?  Well, not according to the late Gene Kelly‘s wife, Patricia.  In a letter to “The New York Times” today, she responds—quote—“To suggest that George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly represents not only an implausible transformation, but a considerable slight.  If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.  When Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky, and Willie Mays, he was delighted.  But to be linked with a clunker, particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing, would have sent him reeling.”

Boy, does that woman defend her husband‘s legacy. 

Maureen obviously meant no insult to Kelly, just to the target of her usual assaults, the president. 

And, in case you missed it, I was lucky enough to appear on “Ellen DeGeneres” today.  Here‘s a bit of that routine.

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

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”:  All right, our next guest is never at a loss for words as host of the popular daily cable news show HARDBALL.

Please welcome Chris Matthews. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(MUSIC)

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  That was the best dance ever. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... little too physical. 

DEGENERES:  Wow.  That was the best dance I have ever had. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m such a fan. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I am such a fan of this lady, I‘m telling you. 

DEGENERES:  Can I...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Such a fan. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Every day, when we do our show, the makeup room has you on. 

DEGENERES:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  So, that is Ellen time for everybody.  We all get in there and watch you. 

DEGENERES:  Oh, I love that.

MATTHEWS:  We know your whole story. 

DEGENERES:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  We love it. 

DEGENERES:  Thank you. 

I love you, too.  And you know that...

MATTHEWS:  What are you people—how come you are all off today? 

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Who are these people? 

DEGENERES:  I know.  No, they take time off for Ellen time.  This is their Ellen time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

DEGENERES:  When we...

(CROSSTALK)

DEGENERES:  When we go to commercial after this, I hope to see that dance as we go to commercial, because I really...

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  I need to see what happened.  I think it was my fault.  I take responsibility. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It started as kind of a Philly dog.  You know, you go like this, you know, like this.

DEGENERES:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s sort of like a...

(CROSSTALK)

DEGENERES:  Yes, it started fine.

MATTHEWS:  It started fine, yes.

DEGENERES:  And then something went terribly wrong. 

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  I want to see that on HARDBALL tomorrow. 

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  All right?  We will play...

MATTHEWS:  What happens here stays here. 

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES:  Yes.  Yes.  It is kind of like Vegas. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s great.  I had a lot of fun out there. 

We went out, by the way, back to Los Angeles and back out here all in less than two days. 

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.

As the fight for the Democratic nomination continues, Barack Obama is using a very pointed strategy to beat Hillary Clinton.  The strategy is a simple one:  Tie Clinton to Bush and McCain wherever possible. 

Take a look at Barack Obama‘s speech today in North Carolina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Clinton, Senator McCain and President Bush have all made the same arguments. 

Senator Clinton, Senator McCain and President Bush have all distorted and derided this position.  The same three individuals who now criticize me for supporting a targeted strike on the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks are the same three individuals that supported an invasion of Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  In that same speech today, how many times did Barack Obama tie Hillary Clinton to George Bush and John McCain?  Eight times, eight attempts to paint Hillary as a Bush/McCain replicant—tonight‘s “Big Number.”  

Up next:  Did Barack Obama accomplish what he needed to with yesterday‘s sweeping speech about race in America?  The reviews are in.  What about the politics?  We will get to that when we come back. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A huge sell-off following yesterday‘s big rally, with financials and energy putting pressure on the Dow, which fell 293 points, after gaining 420 points just yesterday.  The S&P 500 lost 32.  And tech stocks on the Nasdaq dragged it down to a 58-point loss. 

Stocks plunged along with commodity prices.  Oil fell $4.94 in New York‘s trading session, closing at $104.48 a barrel.  Meantime, gold fell $58.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, closing at $944.70 an ounce.  That‘s a three-week low.  Silver also fell, as did corn and wheat. 

And, for the second day in a row, an investment bank reported better-than-expected earnings.  Morgan Stanley‘s results followed those yesterday by Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, all helping somewhat to ease fears following the collapse of Bear Stearns. 

And Delta raised domestic airfares by $10 round-trip to offset rising fuel costs.

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

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Well, that riveting speech yesterday on race by Barack Obama continues to reverberate across the political spectrum.  From the newspaper editorial pages, to the Internet, to the campaign trail, Americans are digesting those powerful remarks, replaying them in their minds, and talking about Barack Obama. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you very much, everybody. 

(APPLAUSE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today, the reaction to Barack Obama‘s speech was strong. 

“The Dallas Morning News”—quote—“Has any major U.S. politician in modern times ever given a speech about race in America as unflinching, human, and ultimately hopeful as the one Barack Obama delivered yesterday?”

According to “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”—quote—“It was stunning.”

“The Philadelphia Inquirer”—quote—“He spoke with such grace and candor about America‘s need to overcome racial divisions, that his own political calculations seemed inconsequential.”

The conservative “National Review Online”—quote—“Eloquently written and at times moving.”

Conservative writer, but Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan—quote—

“This searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America on my adult lifetime.”

OBAMA:  But the anger is real, it is powerful.  And to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

SHUSTER:  On YouTube, in the 24 hours after the speech, it had already become the number-one video of the week, with more than a million hits. 

OBAMA:  If we simply retreat into our respective corners we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care or education or the need to find good jobs for every American.

SHUSTER:  Senator Clinton, according to her spokesman today, saw excerpts and called it a good speech. 

At the White House today:

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I haven‘t talked to the president about that speech. 

SHUSTER:  There was some conservative criticism of Obama.  Rush Limbaugh called the address disingenuous. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Some of you might think that this is the forerunner of an inauguration speech.  Or I have even heard something say it was the most important racial speech since Martin Luther King. 

That is a bunch of bunk.  That is just—this was a political speech in the state where the next primary is being held. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Obama was hoping to contain the public outrage over the hateful comments of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.  But according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres—quote—“This is far and away the most damaging issue of the campaign for him, and his wonderful speech did nothing to make it go away.”

And Republican Congressman Peter King told “Newsday”—quote—“I think it is an obligation of any opponent to use this issue to make Reverend Wright a centerpiece of the campaign.  Obama‘s speech was disappointing and shameful.”

(on camera):  What really matters, though, in a political campaign is what the voters think, especially in upcoming primary states like Pennsylvania.

So, the question is, did Barack Obama‘s speech have an impact, and, if so, how? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.  And Joe Madison is a talk show host on XM Radio.

Joe, I want to ask you this.  What do you think of Limbaugh‘s comments?  What do you think of Peter King‘s comments?  Do you think people just can‘t stand the fact that the guy gave a good speech. 

JOE MADISON, XM RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think they should put Rush Limbaugh and Jeremiah Wright in a ring and put boxing gloves on them.  Whoever wins determines the winner.

It was an outstanding speech.  What I don‘t understand is what are white men afraid of?  I mean, they have all the power.  They have tremendous influence in this country.  I can‘t believe that a single pastor of a relatively small church compared to some of the mega-churches would be so threatening to white males in America. 

MATTHEWS:  A verbal flag burning doesn‘t bother you? 

MADISON:  First of all, I would never—I‘ve never heard that kind of language in any church. 

MATTHEWS:  You heard it from him. 

MADISON:  Any church I attended. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the one he attended. 

MADISON:  It was wrong and Obama said so.  What do you ask from the white man?

MATTHEWS:  You ask what white people are afraid of.  They don‘t like people—

MADISON:  They are afraid of that word, GD?  They probably invented it. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t think white folks are afraid of Reverend Wright.  It‘s what Reverend Wright said.  Joe Madison described it.  I have never heard that in any church, black or white, Catholic, Protestant in my life. 

MADISON:  I do admit, I did hear it one time, and it was Mayor Coleman Young, the late  Mayor Coleman Young said it at a church, and then he immediately asked the preachers to pray for him. 

BUCHANAN:  I was in St. Louis.  I heard J.D. Stoner give a speech.  Do you know who J.B. was? 

MADISON:  I know who J.B. Stoner was. 

BUCHANAN:  He turned out later to have been somewhat maybe involved in the Birmingham Bomber.  I heard him talk about black people that way, the way Jeremiah Wright talked about white folks. 

MADISON:  Pat, that is a little unfair.  Jeremiah Wright, in all the years I have known him, has never, never, never suggested that any white person be physically harmed in this country. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me make my point then.  The point is this effects—nobody is afraid of Jeremiah Wright.  It tells us something about Barack Obama, who for 20 years sat there and listened to these anti-American racist rants, never stood up, never denounced them, never criticized them. 

His speech was excellent.  It was well-written.  It was very well-delivered.  It was a skillful political speech, Chris, because the objective was to change the subject from why I sat there and listened to Reverend Wright to America‘s responsibility for the real problems in the African-American community. 

He has got this behind him.  He smartly moved today, get on to the war.  He‘s got the African-American vote in Philly.  He has to get Altuna and Johnstown.  You don‘t go out there and tell those folks they haven‘t done enough for African Americans.  Those are white folks, Joe, who don‘t run this country and don‘t run the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Lots of people worry about Jeremiah Wright.  There are probably plenty of Jeremiah Wrights out there on both sides of this fight.  A lot of people like me were worried about what it said about Barack Obama. 

He answered that question. 

MADISON:  Are you talking about the same black guy that carried Idaho?  Are you talking about the same white guy who carried Wyoming—the black guy who carried Wyoming?  I‘m suggesting to you that both of you need to go to black churches more often. 

BUCHANAN:  Why? 

MADISON:  I‘ll tell you why—

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t want to hear that, Joe. 

MADISON:  First of all, if you go, you won‘t always hear it.  Secondly, I have been to black churches all my life, and I think I have been black a little longer than you have.  Just a little bit, maybe.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MADISON:  Let‘s just say at least for this show.  I‘m here to tell you, we do to ministers what everyone does.  You may not directly confront the minister.  You might when you walk out and say reverend, I don‘t know if I liked that speech.  But you do go home—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Did Barack ever do that? 

MADISON:  First of all, to suggest that for 20 years he didn‘t say a word, how does he know that? 

BUCHANAN:  When did he get up there and say, look—

MADISON:  How do you know that?

BUCHANAN:  He didn‘t say it.  He said—why didn‘t he say, I took Reverend Wright aside and I said, stop that filth and garbage, reverend, or my child and my wife, we‘re walking out of this church.  He didn‘t do it.  He didn‘t stand up like a man.  He slipped a punch and he got out of Philly and he‘s down there talking about the war. 

MADISON:  The church is—the black church, particularly that one, is much more than Reverend Wright.  I don‘t recall too many presidential candidates going after the Jones‘ when they said that black people couldn‘t vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Stay here.  We‘ll be right back after this break.  More with Pat Buchanan and Joe Madison when we come back.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re book with radio talk show host Joe Madison and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Joe, I want to get back to the speech and whether it worked with the people it had to work with.  I think one of his biggest problems was we have a poll here that shows that 36 percent of independent voters, where he‘s had all his strength, were less favorably inclined to him because of his connection with Reverend Jeremiah Wright before he gave the speech.  That is a big problem. 

MADISON:  It is a big problem.  I tell you what I did this morning; I played the entire half an hour speech.  I think we do a disservice when we play sound bites, what I call snap shots.  If anyone heard that speech uninterrupted like I played it this morning, I think you walked away saying, that was one heck of a speech.  And no one should be offended by that speech, no one. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is going to upset the big thinkers among the super delegates?  Are they going to run scared or are they going to feel better after yesterday?

BUCHANAN:  The speech, I agree with Joe—the speech is a good speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Will it stop the hemorrhaging? 

BUCHANAN:  No, it will not stop the hemorrhaging for this reason, Chris, the Reverend Wright, as you heard Peter King say, is going to be draped around the neck of Barack Obama this entire campaign by Republicans and 527s. 

MATTHEWS:  Not by Democrats. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, no.  Here‘s the thing; he succeed with the editorial

writers.  He succeed with the television commentators.  I don‘t think when

the people out in Pennsylvania and places like that, grass roots Democrats

I think this is a real problem for him.  They see somebody like Wright. 

And Wright is everything they despise.  They say, what was Barack Obama doing hanging around with a guy like that?  He didn‘t get away from that.  The speech itself is fine.  He did not solve that problem. 

MADISON:  Well, see, this is such a double standard.  What was Trent Lott doing hanging around with Strom Thurmond?  Why the double standard?  I will say to white America, especially you white men, there‘s nothing to be afraid of. 

BUCHANAN:  They‘re not afraid, Joe. 

MATTHEWS:  Why the reaction? 

BUCHANAN:  We don‘t like to hear our country spat upon and ranted against and the U.S. government accused of putting AIDS into black folks when that is a lie.  It sounds like something from Fidel Castro. 

MADISON:  First of all, it‘s a debate that goes, and it goes on every day. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there an active debate about AIDS being perpetrated by the government? 

MADISON:  Yes.  It‘s a debate that goes on.  It goes—

BUCHANAN:  You say the debate is going on. 

MADISON:  And you also had a candidate that said, I don‘t agree with that. 

BUCHANAN:  You say a debate is going on.  Most of the guys I know, when they say they hear that guy, we don‘t want to talk to you.  You go ahead and mouth off.  We don‘t want to hear from you. 

MADISON:  Then don‘t join Jeremiah‘s church. 

BUCHANAN:  We want to know why a guy did and sat there for 20 years and wants to be our president. 

MADISON:  Then I suggest you go to the church and listen to a full sermon. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t need to hear anymore than that. 

MADISON:  There‘s your problem, close minded.  What did he just say; I don‘t need to hear it. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for coming on. 

MADISON:  Oh, any day.  We‘ll have dance lessons afterwards. 

MATTHEWS:  I think I‘m better than you.  Pat Buchanan, Joe Madison.

Up next, the politics fix, is there anything left for the Democrats to fix.  This is process.  I don‘t like process, but what happened to Michigan and Florida?  Can‘t the Democrats get their act together?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was, of course—that was Hillary Clinton in Detroit today.  We had a bit of that before, pushing hard for another primary in that state.  Let‘s take a look now at Hillary Clinton in Detroit today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Two and a half million Americans are in danger of being shut out of our Democratic process.  I think that‘s wrong and frankly it is un-American.  And we cannot let that continue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about that with “The Salon‘s” Joan Walsh and the “Washington Post‘s” Jonathan Capehart.  Joan, it seems to me Hillary Clinton wants another vote in Michigan.  It‘s unlikely to occur.  Barack Obama looks like he‘s in a holding game.  He is not sure what he wants in those states. 

JOAN WALSH, “SALON”:  He is not commenting.  I think she has the high ground on this one, because she is not saying seat the delegates that I, quote, won, which she didn‘t because they didn‘t compete there.  She is saying, vote again.  It looks like they aren‘t going to.  It looks like Florida won‘t, Chris.  I can‘t believe it.  I think it is a train wreck. 

I can‘t believe the Democratic party, Terry McAuliffe, Penny Pritzer (ph), Howard Dean, can‘t get together, raise the money, come up with a strategy, because it is not fair not to seat those delegates.  It is a disaster for the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, do you agree that this works well for Hillary Clinton, in terms of the moral case?  She wants a vote for those state.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Oh, absolutely.  How can you say to two of the largest, most populous states, no, don‘t vote?  I think it flies in the face of Senator Obama‘s—the raison d‘etre of his campaign, change.  How can you argue for the politics of change, a new way of doing things, when you are saying, well, I don‘t want you to vote.  Don‘t vote.  That is the biggest American franchise, the vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the question, Joe.  I know if it was Catholic school they would simply have to sit outside and wouldn‘t get to vote.  In this case, it is not Catholic school.  They have to vote.  The question is: can you allow a bunch of rich guys in the Democratic party to pay for a campaign?  I mean Jon Corzine and Eddie Rendell are out there shaking the cup to try to raise money for this. 

They are talking about unlimited campaign contributions, the old style, 50,000 dollars, 100,000 dollars contributions, corporations, labor unions, mostly pro-Hillary people.  Will that look good?  Will that look like democracy, Joan? 

WALSH:  I think it will look better than not seating these delegates.  I agree there are problems with it.  I know the Obama campaign has raised legitimate issues about can it be done fairly, legally, et cetera.  But I‘d rather see the money go to see Michigan and Florida vote than be wasted on ads and negative ads and all the other garbage that it will be spent on.  So I think that‘s a good use of rich people‘s money. 

CAPEHART:  Right.  What better use for the money—of the money than to allow people to vote? 

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s Obama going to do here?  Come on, help me. 

CAPEHART:  What‘s Obama going to do? 

MATTHEWS:  Besides say no. 

CAPEHART:  I think Obama has to figure out how to say yes. 

MATTHEWS:  To what?

CAPEHART:  To something that allows—

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a compromise—Here‘s a compromise, Joan, as if we‘re really the big shots here talking about it.  But sometimes these things work their way into the real world.  How about if he says look, Senator Clinton, I‘ll let you have another vote.  I‘ll help you raise the money.  I‘ll let Rendell raise the money, and Corzine, the rest of the big guys, know how to raise money; on one condition: whoever gets the most votes at the end of this process—the most votes—is the nominee.  No more talks about super delegates. 

I will play by the rules of who gets the most votes if you‘ll play by the rules and stop right there.  Do you think Hillary Clinton would accept that deal? 

WALSH:  Probably not—

MATTHEWS:  At the end of the whole process, the candidate who gets the most votes from voters in all of the primaries, re-held primaries, all the caucuses, the original primaries, total vote wins, winner take all, no more talk. 

WALSH:  No pledged delegates?  That‘s interesting.  I don‘t know.  I‘m sure—

MATTHEWS:  If they would agree to a simple Jeffersonian principle, the person who gets the most votes gets to be the nominee.  No more talking.  What‘s wrong with that deal?  And he can say, I‘ll let you have those retakes if you promise to shut up and quit and hand over the sword if I get the most votes. 

CAPEHART:  That‘s a very interesting idea. 

WALSH:  But she could wind up with the most votes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right!  The beauty of what I said, Joan, either guy can win, but at least it was Democratic and would stop all this plutocratic stuff about, well, when it‘s all over, the smart people will decide whether you were right or not, right? 

I think we‘ve found the answer.  Joan, I think we‘ve found.  I think we‘ve found the truth.  Thank you, Joan Walsh.  It‘s great having you on, Jonathan Capehart.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.  It will be winner take all if they all get the vote.  Right now it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.

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

END   

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