updated 4/23/2009 2:53:57 PM ET 2009-04-23T18:53:57

Guest: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. John Ensign, Robert Baer, Bob

Tyrell, Cynthia Tucker, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Torture, communist-style.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Chicago.  Leading off tonight:

Manchurian candidates.  What to do with the higher-ups who borrowed the torture methods the Chinese communists used against our soldiers in Korea to use on terrorist suspects in our captivity?  We punished the enlisted soldiers for what happened at Abu Ghraib.  What do we do with the higher-ups who a Senate committee now say were the folks who set the standard for stripping prisoners and the rest of those softening-up techniques that got those enlisted folks thrown into prison?

Is President Obama willing to prosecute Bush-era officials for torture?  We do know this.  He‘s now not only open to a bipartisan inquiry, some sort of 9/11-style independent commission, he hasn‘t ruled out prosecuting those who devised the legal basis for the tough interrogation techniques.

So just how far up the chain of command do we go, former CIA director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush himself?  It‘s a debate that has split Washington.  Let‘s hear it from both sides tonight.

Plus: Whatever you call it—coercive techniques, enhanced integration, torture—does it work?  Do we get real-time information that can save American lives, or will prisoners say anything to get the interrogators to stop?  That‘s the hot debate within the intelligence community, and tonight we go inside.  We‘ll get an insider‘s perspective from Bob Baer, a former CIA operative, who speaks from experience.

Plus: It was one of the most famous lines of any political speech from the 1960s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARRY GOLDWATER (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Republicans just loved it when Barry Goldwater there talked that way in the 1964 convention.  Some loved it even after Goldwater lost 44 states.  Well, at least some Republicans are talking that way again now.  They seem to be saying, in effect, conservatism in defense of ideological purity is no vice.  And in that spirit, there are now primary challenges afoot to two relatively moderate GOP U.S. senators, John McCain of Arizona, who fights the right on immigration reform, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who tends to vote down the middle politically.  Is this the way back to power or the way into the wilderness?

In the “Politics Fix” tonight: This whole torture debate is likely to tell us a lot about the kind of president Barack Obama intends to be.  Will he buckle to the left and netroots and pursue an investigation into torture, having said he didn‘t want to, or will he go post-partisan and leave the past to the historians?

And finally, check out the compliment that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid to Ron Paul, the Libertarian candidate for president last year, when she testified on the Hill today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  At the risk of going over our time, I just want to say, having campaigned during the last presidential election, you had the most enthusiastic supporters of anybody I ever saw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the former Goldwater girl showing her youthful ideological roots tonight.  We‘re going to have that in the “Sideshow.”

We begin with the news that those harsh interrogation tactics came from the highest levels of the Bush administration.  Senator John Ensign is a Republican of Nevada.  He‘ll be joining us in a minute.  And U.S.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a Florida Democrat.

Congresswoman, thank you.  I want you both to listen to this.  A newly declassified Senate Armed Services Committee report on interrogations is out now.  Committee chairman Carl Levin put out a statement today that said the following.  Quote, “The record established by the committee‘s investigation shows that senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques.  Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses.”

Congresswoman, “the abuses.”  We‘re talking Abu Ghraib, we‘re talking the rest, stacking up prisoners naked, humiliating Arab and Islamic men.  All of that seems to be within the purview of what came from the higher-ups.  What do we do now?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I think what we have to is we have to draw a very bright line between those individuals that were carrying out orders, carrying out instructions and implementing that policy, and the people who actually crafted the policy and directed those individuals to torture.

I mean, what we did under the Bush administration‘s torture policies was risk portraying the United States of America as hypocrites when we are chastising nations around the world for their torture tactics and engaging in human rights abuses, when we were engaging in them ourselves.  And it‘s a stain on America‘s reputation, one that President Obama has ended.

And now what we need to do, as the House Judiciary chairman, John Conyers, has said we would do, is we need to open up hearings and begin to investigate what the people who directed this policy were getting at and get to the bottom of it.

MATTHEWS:  Should we ask Jay Bybee to retire from the court out of the ninth circuit?  He‘s one that approved it and sits on the federal bench.  Should he go?

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think we need to take the, you know, first things first approach, taking a look at who exactly was responsible for these memos, where was it initiated.  We need to go through the process.  You‘re still innocent until proven guilty in America, but it doesn‘t look very good.

MATTHEWS:  Would you draw the line at prosecuting the former president or vice president?  Would you draw the line against that?

SCHULTZ:  I would not.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s President Obama today—actually, it‘s from yesterday—saying he‘s open to a review of some kind.  Here‘s President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think for Congress to examine ways that it can be done in a bipartisan fashion outside of the typical hearing process—that would probably be a more sensible approach to take.  I‘m not suggesting that, you know, that should be done, but I‘m saying if you‘ve got a choice, I think it‘s very important for the American people to feel as if this is not being dealt with to provide one side or another political advantage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  How do we go about this, Congresswoman, investigating the behavior in this regard of the vice president and the president and possible prosecution, which you discussed there?  How do we go about that?

SCHULTZ:  Well, the first step we need to take is acknowledge that what we‘re dealing with is torture.  I mean, your next guest, Senator Ensign, has actually said as recently as this weekend that the interrogation tactics that were used under the Bush administration policy were not torture.  And even John McCain, his former Republican presidential nominee, you know, acknowledged and called waterboarding and those other forms of interrogation torture, noted that after World War II, Japanese soldiers were executed for engaging in waterboarding and declared it torture.

So I mean, the very fact that we have Republican leaders that are elected in the Congress that are saying that this—these tactics aren‘t torture, that‘s problem number one.  But what we need to do—and I do agree with President Obama, as Chairman Conyers, it would be best if we can proceed in a bipartisan fashion, establish a truth commission, as Chairman Conyers introduced at the very beginning of this Congress.

But as he said today in his announcement, that if it takes too long, then justice and getting to the bottom of this and who made these decisions can‘t wait and we‘re going to need to proceed with hearings in the House Judiciary Committee.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if it turns out those who drew the lines and said it was OK to use waterboarding and other coercive techniques violated the law and those people who did so include the vice president and the president, what do we do?  You say we might consider prosecuting them, but how do we do it?  Under what law do we go after them, under international law, U.S.  law?  What do we hit them for, if we do it?

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think we need not to get ahead of ourselves, Chris.  I think we need to make sure that we are examining—certainly, the buck stops with the president and the vice president.  But the question is, did they specifically issue those orders or were they more general?  And I think we‘re getting a little ahead of ourselves before we start talking about prosecuting the president and vice president.  But we certainly need to examine who and how and why the individuals in the Department of Justice ordered CIA interrogators to torture detainees that were detained after 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  But in principle, you have no problem with us looking at the whole potential criminality of the behavior of anyone here in this regard?

SCHULTZ:  There is no one that is above the law in the United States of America.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Republican senator John Ensign of Nevada sits on the Homeland Security Committee.  I was stunned, Senator, to read that—again, people have read it before—that the ideas for how to use things like—or torture techniques or coercive techniques like waterboarding and all the rest of it came from our study in preparation of our GIs going into North Korea and facing the Chinese communists, who were notoriously quite ready to use these kind of techniques with regard to their purposes, which was to get our troops to lie and to say things that weren‘t true.

Our purpose is to protect our country by getting people to tell the truth.  But doesn‘t it shock you that we went and studied the methods of the Chi-coms?

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE:  Well, Chris, I think that you‘re making some pretty inflammatory statements.

MATTHEWS:  Which one?

ENSIGN:  Because you‘re comparing...

MATTHEWS:  Which one?

ENSIGN:  The part about studying what the North Koreans, for instance, used.  They didn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  No, the Chinese communists in North Korea used them.

ENSIGN:  And the Chinese communists.  OK.  They didn‘t just use things like waterboarding.  They went way beyond that.  And it‘s just like the North Vietnamese.  They went way beyond what most Americans would agree as torture, OK?  But when you look at the reports that actually were released...

MATTHEWS:  But the report—all I‘m saying...

ENSIGN:  Wait a second...

MATTHEWS:  No, don‘t call me inflammatory.

ENSIGN:  No, no, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m quoting from the committee report of Carl Levin.  If he‘s inflammatory...

ENSIGN:  That‘s a Democrat committee report.

MATTHEWS:  ... say that.

ENSIGN:  That is a Democrat committee report.  That is a partisan committee report, and you‘re reading—as a matter of fact, he uses the words abuse.

Chris, let‘s state the facts.  First of all, when, if you objectively read what the memos that were released—and you see that—the extreme care that was taken—we had medical personnel present when any of these enhanced interrogation techniques were being used.  As a matter of fact, to test whether they are, in fact, abusive, we put a lot of our military personnel through these same kinds of things.  I wouldn‘t say we‘re torturing our own military personnel.  They went through it.  They—you know, certainly, it was hard on them, but it isn‘t—we put our Navy SEALs, in the training they go through, way worse than what we would ever put al Qaeda through.

And the bottom line is, is that—and the report that was released, or the statement that was released by Obama‘s director of national intelligence said that these enhanced interrogation techniques helped prevent serious al Qaeda attacks on the United States, including one in California.  And that‘s something that‘s being lost in all of this, is that we were right after September 11th and we were asking the intelligence community to make sure they got information to keep the American homeland safe, and that‘s exactly what these enhanced interrogation techniques actually did.

And I would argue very vociferously that these were not torture techniques.  These were—this was not...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  ... Abu Ghraib.  And Abu Ghraib—and you lump that in together, Chris, and I have to point this out.  You lump in Abu Ghraib together.  Abu Ghraib was an abuse.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  OK, that wasn‘t—that wasn‘t to get...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  ... information out of prisoners, that was to make fun of them.  That was just to abuse prisoners...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  ... and that was not the same thing as our intelligence people were doing.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me show you on camera what I‘m looking at.  This is the Senate Armed Services Committee inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.  Now, let me read to you what you said I was being inflammatory.  Let me read to you directly from this report, which—the primary document here.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of”—quote—“a few bad apples acting on their own.”  This is the report of the committee, the full committee.  “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees.  Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate information, intelligence, that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies and compromised our moral authority.”

Well, I don‘t know how you can accuse me of being inflammatory when I‘m reading directly...

ENSIGN:  Because this...

MATTHEWS:  ... from the committee report.  And they particularly talk to the Abu Ghraib situation, of the “few bad apples,” the language you just used.

ENSIGN:  Chris, the reason I said it is because you didn‘t preface that with saying that that was a Democrat report.  That was a Democrat partisan report.  And you have to understand where the people who were doing that report, where their ideology comes from.

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, Senator John McCain is part of what you call a Democrat report.  It‘s the full committee report.  Why do you keep saying Democrat, using that adjective?

ENSIGN:  Because it was a Democrat report.

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by that?  It‘s the committee—Armed Services Committee report, went through three months of review by the Defense Department until its final release just yesterday.  It seems to me this was vetted, sir.  You say it was some Democrat report.

ENSIGN:  The Democrats are in control of the—of all of the committees.  This was a Democrat majority report.  This was not with the participation of the minority, where the minority signed and said, Yes, we agree with these views.  That was not the case...

MATTHEWS:  Kelly O‘Donnell of NBC News has reported that John McCain, a member of the Armed Services, ranking member, has signed off on the document I‘m reading from.

ENSIGN:  Well, I disagree with you.  We had a discussion at lunch today about this, and many members of the Intel Committee and Armed Services Committee who are Republicans completely disagreed with the report.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  And that‘s why I‘m saying it‘s a Democrat partisan report.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go through what you don‘t like.  Do you believe that it was a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib, that that was not a bunch of enlisted people operating under some general guidelines for softening up prisoners?  You disagree with that.  You say it was just a few bad apples.

ENSIGN:  Oh, I think that there was general abuse going on at Abu Ghraib.  I think that‘s been condemned by the highest levels, and people were held accountable for that.  That‘s completely different than what was going on.  And that‘s why I think it‘s wrong to kind of, you know, mix what we‘re talking about here.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m reading from the report.  Senator, I am...

ENSIGN:  Well, I know, but I‘m talking about...

MATTHEWS:  ... not an expert.  I am a generalist reading from the committee report making the very points you call inflammatory.  One, they make particular reference to the Abu Ghraib situation, a “few bad apples” and your argument.  They make particular reference to the fact that they developed these intelligence-gathering techniques from the Chinese communists, used to prepare our soldiers at that time, now being reused, replanted, if you will, to be used by our interrogators.

I‘m simply reciting the record, sir, and you‘re calling it inflammatory.  Maybe the record itself is inflammatory.

ENSIGN:  No, Chris.  What I want to separate here is what we were doing as far as the Intelligence Committee is—or the intelligence community was concerned.  The memos that were released earlier talked about the techniques, the advanced interrogation techniques...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ENSIGN:  ... that were used to get information from people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  Those kinds of techniques, which I believe are not torture, that was not what was going on at Abu Ghraib.  That‘s why I‘m saying lumping them together I think is wrong.

What went on at Abu Ghraib was not for intelligence gathering.  It was to humiliate prisoners.  It was people basically getting their jollies and it was absolutely wrong and it was an embarrassment for this country.  And I was very strong in condemning that at the time.

However, what we‘re talking about here is something totally different. 

This is what our intelligence community was using to get information...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ENSIGN:  ... to keep the American homeland safe, and they were using techniques that were not torture.  The United States did not engage in torture.

MATTHEWS:  So you disagree with this committee report that assigns blames for the higher-ups for that behavior, that abuse by the enlisted people are Abu Ghraib.  You disagree with that report.

ENSIGN:  Oh, I think that there were some higher-ups.  How high up as far as Abu Ghraib is concerned, I don‘t think that, you know, it probably went any higher than field commanders or the general that was implicated at the time.  However, it is separate than...

MATTHEWS:  OK, I just want to...

ENSIGN:  ... what the big issue is.

MATTHEWS:  I just want to read this sentence to you, and you can agree or disagree with Senator Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.  He said this in a statement today.  “The record established by the committee‘s investigation shows that senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques.  These senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses.”

Now, that‘s a strong statement tying together the behavior that has been attributed by you and others to a few bad apples to the higher-ups who set the guidelines.  You, sir, call that a Democrat report, even though John McCain signed onto that report...

ENSIGN:  OK...

MATTHEWS:  ... and you disagree with the summation statement by the chairman of the committee.  That‘s all I‘m asking.

ENSIGN:  I will try to answer it again, Chris.  Separate out what you‘re talking about, what the intelligence community was using for people like—who were captured from al Qaeda, who we were trying to get information from, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who we got information to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ENSIGN:  That‘s different than what was going on at Abu Ghraib.  Whoever was responsible for the type of behavior that went on at Abu Ghraib should be held accountable.  I‘ve said that a long time.  That was an abuse.  That wasn‘t for intelligence-gathering.  That was just abuse, you know, of prisoners, you know, by, you know, people, and however high up that went, that, you know, should be investigated, and I think it has been investigated.  Those were abuses.

There were not abuses, what we‘re talking about, the people who were at Guantanamo Bay and other places around the world, where our intelligence community was using enhanced interrogation techniques to get information that kept the American homeland safe.  That‘s what I‘m trying to say is, don‘t put these things together.  Keep them separate, and then I think it‘s a fair discussion.

MATTHEWS:  Again, Senator, with all respect, I didn‘t put them together.  Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did so in a report which took three months to clear through the Defense Department community.  It‘s been vetted.  It‘s in the report released yesterday.  I quoted to you from the report, which do bring together the higher-up guidelines, the framework, it said here—the framework for dealing with these prisoners that led to the abuse of those prisoners at the lower level.  You have a disagreement with that committee, sir.  Thank you very much, Senator John Ensign.

ENSIGN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for coming.

Coming up: Do torture and harsh the interrogation tactics used during the Bush administration era work?  Dick Cheney says waterboarding and the other harsh methods yield—in fact, did yield intelligence that we needed to keep ourselves safe.  Is there any way of really knowing whether that‘s true?  And does the damage to America‘s image outweigh the benefits we may have gained from this torture?  We‘ll ask someone who really knows what he‘s talking about, former CIA officer, operative, Bob Baer, who‘s been there.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As the Obama administration decides what to do about the Bush administration‘s legal decisions on interrogating detainees, let‘s turn to a simple question.  It‘s a tough one.  Does torture work?

Bob Baer is a former CIA officer and author of “The Devil We Know.” 

Bob Baer, I‘m going to bow to your knowledge of this subject.  It‘s a cruel subject.  It‘s a cruel business. 

Under duress, will people tell the truth if tortured? 

ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TIME.COM:  Under duress, under the threat of duress, under black—people will tell what they think you want to hear. 

It is an unreliable tool.  And the reason I say this is, I spent 21 years in the CIA in and out of prisons watching these techniques, in one way or another, reading reports.  And the countries that torture uniformly produced inaccurate intelligence.  Torture does not work. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re sitting with the president of the United States, our new president, Barack Obama.  He faces what looks to be a ticking-time-bomb situation.  He‘s gotten intel that something is coming our way that‘s big.  He has KSM in custody.  He‘s got Zubaydah in custody.  He may have someone else in custody. 

Is it useful to take a crack at one of these people, to use torture, if it might yield success in preventing catastrophe?  Is it worth trying?  That‘s the cutting-edge question, it seems to me.

(CROSSTALK)

BAER:  No.  No, that‘s a loaded question. 

Those situations almost never, never arise.  And what happened with Abu Ghraib and the water-boarding is, it was a fishing expedition, which is something entirely different.  It‘s sort of like the local police running everybody in when a crime has been committed and water-boarding them. 

It just doesn‘t work.  There are some rare, rare exceptions, but almost never do terrorists send two people at two different times that know each other‘s plans.  They‘re just smarter than that.

So, what we‘re doing is, we‘re giving up our values, our rule of law, where the chances of actually producing are—are zero. 

MATTHEWS:  One last time, you have got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in custody.  You have got Zubaydah in custody.  You believe there‘s another 9/11 coming.  The year is 2002.  Do you go to extreme measures or do you stick with what you just said; you can‘t rely on torture? 

BAER:  You cannot rely on torture.  And we did exactly that to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.  And they went on about the second wave, all these other attacks, Padilla, other ones, that were only fantasies in their minds.  And that‘s what it produced. 

It tied up the FBI for all these years now following these false leads.  It got us nowhere.  And nobody who has been on TV defending torture, including the former director, Michael Hayden, can point to a single place where it saved lives. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BAER:  He talked about the arrest of somebody, and that was it.

If you‘re sitting having a drink or a cup of coffee with a bunch of CIA guys, spooks, really experts, guys who are hard men and women who have been through this for years, would they agree with you?  Or is this a unique position of you?  Or is this a real consensus you‘re giving us? 

BAER:  It‘s a fairly good consensus. 

The CIA, at the working level, people who knew the Middle East, were against this.  And I have talked to my colleagues.  A lot of them are out now.  They said, this is nothing but trouble.  It doesn‘t work.  The CIA, in its heart...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BAER:  ... has never liked this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me give you something to quibble about.  This is tough.

In a letter to colleagues on April 16 -- that‘s of this year—

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, by the way—he‘s the new guy

said that—quote—“High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.”

Then, last night, the same Dennis Blair, now director of national intelligence under Barack Obama, seemed to back away from that in this statement—quote—“The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means.  The bottom line is, these techniques have hurt our image around the world.  The damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us.  And they are not essential to our national security.” 

Your thoughts on those two interestingly, somewhat different statements. 

BAER:  Well, Chris, Blair has to protect the intelligence community. 

It‘s under a lot of pressure. 

But I can assure you this.  If there was an instance that these interrogations led directly to the savings of lives, and they could prove it, this information would be leaked by now, simply to defend the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community.  And it hasn‘t. 

Now, they can prove me wrong by declassifying all this stuff, and I will say I‘m wrong.  But, until now, they have not.  They have not—including Dick Cheney—have not pointed at a single concrete instance where it worked. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s a question.  What does the president think?  We have a new president with a new point of view, a new world view.  He was out at the CIA, at Langley, the other day.  And I think it‘s amazing that we have presidential speeches out in public at the headquarters of the CIA.  Well, we do now. 

And he said to you guys—he was pointing out to the women and men who have to do the intel work—say, you have to operate on a special constraint here.  You can‘t be one of the bad guys.  In other words, you can‘t use things like torture, even if you feel like it or think it might work. 

He seemed to imply that that constraint was sort of like an arm tied behind your back if you‘re an American good guy.  Did that imply, to you, imply that he thought that the bad guys on the other side, where we send people, like in—I‘m not going to mention the countries, but we can guest the list, where they don‘t have these scruples, and don‘t—and do believe in torture, that they can get stuff we can‘t get? 

And that, to me, sounded like a very subtle implication he thought we might be able to get more if we were worse, if we were nastier. 

BAER:  No, I think he‘s—what he‘s saying is, listen, you guys, you were dragged into this, probably against your will, and I‘m not going to punish you.  Yes, we know what we‘re up against.  But we‘re going to have maintain our values, even if we lose some of the small battles on this. 

But, at the end of the day, again, it goes back, it is not good intelligence.  And the CIA knows this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s what—here‘s from “The New York Times” just today—quote—“Even George Tenet, the CIA director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-downing technique known as water-boarding.  The top officials he briefed did not learn that water-boarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war crimes trials after World War II and was a well-document—documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition.  One water-board used under Pol Pot was even on display at the Genocide Museum in Cambodia.” 

What do you think of the—the history, the—the providence, if you will, of—or the prominence of water-boarding? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of it? 

BAER:  Well, you have George Tenet is—is bowing to pressure, White House pressure, under pressure of 9/11.  And he caved in, and he sacrificed the CIA by dragging it into this.  And this is what we‘re facing. 

And, yes, water-boarding is illegal internationally and in this country.  We have prosecuted.  It does go back to the Spanish Inquisition.  It is torture. 

When you water-board Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, I can pretty well safely say the man is almost brain-dead.  This is torture. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about one last thing, which is fascinating to me, as, like most of the people of our generation, I was fascinated by the film “Manchurian Candidate.”  Who wasn‘t?  I mean, certainty, that was a film about assassinations of presidents, frightening, right-wing, left-wing, all these moles. 

And, by the way, there‘s Laurence Harvey.  He played an American soldier who was brainwashed when he was a prisoner in the Korean War, a prisoner of the Chinese communists, who used brainwashing, we called it at the time, to try to convince a guy to do—and they did.  They got him so conditioned that he was going to act as an assassin. 

BAER:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of this report that has just come out that—that some of the material, in terms of our techniques now, came from what we trained our soldiers to resist when captured by the Chinese communists in North Korea? 

BAER:  Google it.  In 1957, an Air Force report comes out and said, the Chinese did this, but the key wording is, to produce false confessions. 

And this is what I suspect we‘re getting from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is a false confession.  That‘s why the Chinese did it.  That‘s not why we did it, but that‘s what we got. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they were looking for turncoats and people to turn in their own country dishonestly by brainwashing. 

We‘re looking to get truth from people on the other side.

BAER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Yet, we found ourselves using the techniques, which had an adverse mission. 

BAER:  Well, it‘s—it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like incompetence to me. 

BAER:  It‘s embarrassment, and we‘re creating more enemies, trust me. 

People look at this and all that...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  Well said.  Thank you, Bob. 

It‘s great having your expertise and your experience and your patriotism available to us. 

Thanks for joining us, Bob Baer. 

Still ahead:  What‘s the way back for the Republicans, going hard-right or moving to the center?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next: out of power, and perhaps on the skids.  Which way does the Republican Party need to go to get back on top?  To the middle or to the right?  That debate is next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks stumble at the close, after a solid rally midday.  The Dow Jones finished almost 83 points to the downside.  The S&P 500 lost six, the Nasdaq losing most of its gain, but still ending up two points—eBay shares climbing late after hours, after its first-quarter earnings comfortably beat forecasts, with eBay‘s PayPal unit reporting an 11 percent increase in sales. 

Apple is advancing in extended trading, as well, after reporting sales of iPhones more than doubling from a year ago.  Apple‘s profit jumped 15 percent in first quarter, well ahead of Wall Street expectations. 

And shares of Morgan Stanley fell almost 9 percent on the day, after its quarterly loss was worse than expected.  The investment bank also slashed its dividend to just 5 cents a share, citing worsening conditions in commercial real estate. 

GM shares finished lower, and now there‘s word the company may be preparing to close most of its U.S. factories for up to nine weeks this summer to preserve cash. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris Matthews and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and to sheer politics.

Today, John McCain got a challenger for his Arizona Senate seat from his own party.  Chris Simcox is founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and today called McCain soft on immigration.

Moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter is being challenged right now in the Pennsylvania primary next year by Pat Toomey, who ran against him six years ago.  He‘s the former president of the conservative group Club For Growth. 

So, is this the way back for power for Republicans?

Joining me right now is Bobby Tyrell, of “The American Spectator”—I haven‘t seen Bob in forever—and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who is a contributor to The Daily Beast.  Boy, that‘s scary.

Let me go, Bob Tyrell, your thoughts.  I mean, are these just regular primary challenges?  I would expect that Toomey is more of a threat to Specter than Simcox, or whatever his name is, to McCain. 

What‘s your thought? 

BOB TYRELL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR”: 

Well, first of all, I want to wish you happy Earth Day, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TYRELL:  And I think that this is somewhat to be expected. 

Toomey, of course, did well last time around in—in his challenge, and he will probably do well this time. 

I think Simcox is really from far out, and I don‘t think he‘s going to give a hard—McCain a very hard time. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you see this as a pattern of—of the Republican Party into some kind of purge? 

I mean, I‘m from Pennsylvania.  I know the politics up there, obviously.  And I wonder whether there‘s a Republican, almost a “Last of the Mohicans” thing going on in the northern part of the country. 

You look at people like—pretty good candidates, like John Sununu, losing, before that, Linc Chafee losing, you wonder whether the moderates are getting wiped off the map, and is that a good thing for the Republican Party?

TYRELL:  Well, Chris, you have got to look at the whole—the whole game.  You have got to look at all that‘s going on right now. 

The Republican Party is about where it was in 1992 nationally.  And, in 1994, look where it came back to, a trouncing victory over the Democrats. 

What—what will decide, to a large degree, the life of—or the strength, the vigor of this party for the elections two years from now is the performance of the president of the United States.  And right now, some of the things he‘s doing, which are so risky with the economy, suggest to me we‘re going to have a huge inflation.  Taxes are rising all over the country.  And in foreign policy, after that—after his world tour this month, I think that you could have world—foreign policy problems all over the world. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way—Bob, I think he wants to inflate the economy.  We can talk about that on another show.  Let me go right now to Mark McKinnon.  I‘ll go back to my question, can the Republican party afford to lose people like Gordon Smith in Oregon, John Sununu up in New Hampshire?  Can it afford to only have one or two senators up in the northeast?  Can you build a party in the south and somewhere in the west?  Is that enough of a base for a national political party? 

MCKINNON:  No, it‘s not.  The Republicans have got to expand the base.  We need strong senators like that, and those in the northeast that we‘re losing.  George Bush attracted conservative Democrats and independents like me with a compassionate conservative message on issues like education reform, immigration reform. 

We‘ve got to have an immigrant friendly message.  We‘ve got to expand the tent.  If we don‘t get a message out there that attracts growing demographics like Hispanics, then we‘re going to be out of power for a long time, not just at the federal level, but the local and state level as well. 

MATTHEWS:  You say the same thing, Mark, about gay rights and gay marriage.  Do you think the Republican party, given who is in it, could ever go along with a gay-friendly, as you put it in one of your notes today, point of view? 

MCKINNON:  I think we‘ve got to.  I think, in many ways, it‘s the civil rights issue of this decade and looking forward.  I was glad to see my old friend Steve Schmidt step out on that issue.  And I think increasingly we‘ll see more Republicans do it. 

The Republicans have got to—we can‘t just revert to old mantras from the Reagan days.  There‘s got to be new messages, new faces.  We have to talk in a different language in order to attract new people and expand the tent, if we ever expect to be in the majority again. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob, your thought on that tricky question?  Because we all know that the 2004 election, at least in Ohio, turned on the issue of the same-sex vote out there, in terms of the initiative.  It did help the Republicans get a large African-American vote up in Cleveland.  It can be pivotal.  Is it essential to the party to stay hard against gay marriage, same-sex marriage, to you, Bob? 

TYRELL:  Well, I think it‘s essential for the party—frankly, as I say, no, I don‘t think that‘s the most important issues.  I think the most important issues are the economic issues.  What Mark refers to is old Reaganite mantras, as a matter of fact, are very solid political—economic policies that led to 25 years of growth in this country.  And this economic slowdown has in no way had anything to do with the validity of cutting taxes, fiscal responsibility, economic growth. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine a political party—Mark you first, it‘s Goldwater-esque, in the last era of Goldwater, meaning libertarian, less government, period?  Can you sell that with the religious right?  Or will they say no, we want to be orthodox here.  We don‘t like abortion.  We don‘t like stem-cell.  We don‘t like same-sex.  We will not be in your party if you don‘t champion those causes. 

MCKINNON:  Listen, I think unless there‘s a degree of tolerance within the Republican party and a willingness to expand on the foundation of the Reagan message—I agree with Bob.  Listen, the Reagan mantra is—built this party, built this economy, made us build a strong economy.  I think we do need to return the fiscal fundamentals to the Reagan foundation. 

But we have to grow and expand beyond that.  If we don‘t grow beyond that particular message, we‘re going to keep the base right where it is, and we‘ll be in the minority. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at something that will remind us all of our Goldwater roots, including mine, including Hillary Clinton.  Here‘s Barry Goldwater back in ‘64 at the San Francisco Republican Convention, back when San Francisco Democrat wasn‘t a code word for the bad guys.  Here it is, ‘64 convention with Goldwater talking. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY GOLDWATER, FORMER SENATOR:  I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.  And let me remind you, also, that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bob Tyrell, what did you think of that then?  What do you think about it now? 

TYRELL:  Well, I thought it was lovely poetry then.  I think it‘s lovely poetry now.  But you have to remember that he was speaking for a kind of cutting-edge point of view.  The—what was then called the new right.  And his views were the building blocks on which Ronald Reagan built his four years, the age of Reagan, as historians now call it.  I think it‘s kind of antique to bring it up, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s fun. 

TYRELL:  I‘m not embarrassed about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Me either.  You know what?  I brought it up for one reason, because people here remind me that that cost the Republicans 44 states that election, that‘s all.  Your thoughts, Mark McKinnon.  I liked it.  I thought it was charming.  It is antique.  But Goldwater got six states and they were basically Dixie states, for perhaps the wrong reasons, by the way, on the civil rights front.  He may have agreed with them, but he didn‘t agree with their purposes.  And getting Arizona.

Six states they picked up with that anthem.  What do you make of it, Mark? 

MCKINNON:  I think antiques are great, but we ought to leave them in the museum.  Although I will say that sort of that southwest libertarianism, there‘s a strong streak of that out there right now.  And I think the Republican party would do well to look at that, and some of the populist fervor we‘re seeing.  I think it has a strong libertarian streak.  So I think as Republicans look to expand the tent, the circle, we do well to keep an eye on the libertarian—

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, you know who paid tribute to that southwestern streak of libertarianism, the Ron Paul streak today?  Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state today.  In Senate testimony—House testimony congratulated Ron Paul for having the most passionate group of followers in the 2008 election.  I would argue that perhaps Barack had a few passionarios (ph) as well.  Isn‘t that funny.

Bob Tyrell, you‘re right, it‘s antique.  Call me old-fashioned. 

Mark Mckinnon, thank you.  Bob, it‘s good to see you again. 

Up next, those harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the highest level of the Bush administration come directly from what we used to call in the old days the Chi-Coms, the Chinese communists who fought us in North Korea.  Should President Obama push for an investigation?  Should he do something about it?  Next on the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for politics fix with Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor of the “Atlanta Journal Constitution.”  Thank you, Cynthia, for joining us.  And Joan Walsh, editor in chief of “Salon.” 

Cynthia, what do you think President Obama should do given the new intel on the intel, the word from the Senate Armed Services Committee, having been vetted through the Defense Department, that, in fact, the higher ups did approve a lot of these abuses? 

CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION”:  Well, Chris, President Obama and his aides have clearly lost control of this issue.  What the president was trying to do was walk a very thin line.  He didn‘t want to cover up the misdeeds of the Bush administration.  After all, he had run on a platform of transparency in government.  But he was really trying to soft pedal or minimize this idea of prosecuting anybody, because that‘s so divisive. 

But the issue has gotten away from him and it looks like the hot potato has probably fallen to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The president said the other day that it will be up to the attorney general to decide whether anybody will be prosecuted.  So we are all now waiting to hear what decision he‘s going to make. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a heck of a hot potato, Joan. 

JOAN WALSH, “SALON”:  It is, but it does belong to him, Chris.  Cynthia is absolutely right.  I think the key thing to remember here is that this is not Obama‘s decision, frankly.  This is Holder‘s decision.  It‘s got to be outside the realm of politics.  And it‘s got to be about the law.  And I think there‘s a lot of evidence that laws have been broken and that our country has been shamed in this situation.  And I think Holder has a lot of thinking, asking, digging to do.  And I assume he‘ll get moving on it. 

I don‘t know how it will start.  But I don‘t think that he can do nothing at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to get back to you, Cynthia.  I question whether it is Eric Holder‘s, because this is a question, a larger question of national reputation, and whether we go after these people, whether we prove a conviction or not.  But isn‘t a moral question of national leadership for the president alone to decide whether we really try to get to the bottom of this? 

TUCKER:  I think the president decided that the best way for America to own up to the things—the torture, because I don‘t think there‘s any other word for it—the torture committed in our name, under the Bush administration, was to release the memos.  He did that.  Apparently it was a very difficult decision for him to make.  He contradicted or disagreed with the advice of his CIA chief, Panetta.  Panetta did not want the memos released. 

The president decided it was in our best interest for all Americans to know what was done in our names and the name of the national security.  And that was the best way for him to show our allies that we have indeed turned the page; that not only does America not torture under this president, but we weren‘t going to conceal what we had done before. 

But I think the president had also made a political calculation that there was no good to come from trying to prosecute people.  That there—it would be very divisive at a time when he needs Congress.  He needs votes in Congress to pass some very difficult things on the economy and health care.  So I don‘t think the president wanted anybody prosecuted. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘ve got to move forward on this.  I‘m going to come back and ask you about this new Senate report that came out of Armed Services, under Carl Levin‘s signature, and apparently as well the signature of John McCain, that really brings this to the highest levels of responsibility.  This isn‘t a question of a few bad apples.  I‘ll get to that with you, Cynthia Tucker and Joan Walsh, when we come back with the politics fix, and the rest of it with HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Cynthia Tucker of the “Atlanta Journal Constitution” and Joan Walsh of “Salon.”  I want you both to look at this new report from the Senate Armed Services Committee, just came out tonight.  And it‘s on the treatment of detainees.  Quote, “the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of a, quote, few bad apples acting on their own.  The fact is that senior officials in the US government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques.  They redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality.  They authorized their use against detainees.  Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives.  They strengthened the hands of our enemies.  They compromised our moral authority.”

Cynthia, powerful words from a committee of the United States Senate, after months of vetting by the Defense Department.  It takes the abuses of places like Abu Ghraib up high to the chain, perhaps to the top. 

TUCKER:  That‘s correct, Chris, very powerful words, and all the more powerful because they have been investigated.  There are documents.  There are memos that back up everything that this Senate report said. 

On the other hand, this is no great surprise.  Didn‘t we all know that

torture had been authorized at the very highest levels of power in the Bush

administration?  So, yes, it‘s—it is certainly different to have it all

investigated better than detailed, but it‘s certainly not surprised to know

--

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  I always—Joan, I always thought to just—human intelligence and experience all these years that those enlisted folks at Abu Ghraib did not make up all that kind of behavior, that a lot of that came with the information they had been given from higher-ups, from middle level officials, that led them to believe this was part of the softening up of their detainees for later interrogation.  And they went further than they should have.  But they didn‘t originate these ideas. 

WALSH:  They did not originate it.  Oh, my god, Chris.  I was yelling at the television set.  You did such a great job with John Ensign.  He is so wrong.  They brought commanders over from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib to begin the tougher—

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Joan, you and I have memories, because we covered this as its happened in realtime.  We heard that report.  When Cambone and the rest of those guys brought it up.  Good to see you.  Thank you, Cynthia.  Thank you, Joan.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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