updated 6/3/2009 11:02:31 AM ET 2009-06-03T15:02:31

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Margaret Brennan, Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Jonathan Landay, Andrea Lafferty, Manuel Miranda, Warren Strobel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Is Dick Cheney covering his tracks?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

The right wants a fight.  Sonia Sotomayor made the rounds on Capitol Hill today, and while Senate Republicans are trying to strike a moderate tone with the president‘s Supreme Court nominee, the hard-line right wants a fight, and they want it to be bruising.  There‘s talk even of a filibuster, if only to slow down the hearings and make the nominee pay for each inch toward the nomination.  Can Republicans gain by this woman‘s loss?

And Vice President Cheney has given yet another speech trying to defend his record and undercut Obama, but what he‘s saying doesn‘t square with what he did.  Here‘s the president telling NPR about Cheney‘s speech at the American Enterprise Institute last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He also happens to be wrong, all right?  And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn‘t get a very good grade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Two reporters who‘ve been covering Cheney‘s arguments will be here tonight to truth squad the ex-VP.

Plus: What was candidate Barack Obama thinking when he looked at Hillary Clinton as a possible running mate and as his future secretary of state?  What did he think Bill Clinton‘s role would be?  Well, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe has some real gems in his new book, “Renegade.”  He‘ll be here.

And Minnesota‘s Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, announced today he‘s not running for a third term.  Is the field already forming for 2012?  Are we starting to see the list of those Republicans who think they might be able to beat Obama, or at least do well enough in 2012 to earn the nomination in 2016?  That‘s in tonight‘s “Politics Fix.”

And we witnessed a touching moment today at the White House.  President Obama, with Nancy Reagan holding his arm, signed the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act honoring the 100th anniversary of President Reagan‘s birth, which is coming up in 2012.  We‘ll have that in tonight‘s HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But we begin with the right wanting a fight over Sonia Sotomayor.  Manuel Miranda is chairman of the Third Branch Conference and Andrea Lafferty is with the Traditions Values Coalition.  Andrea and Manuel—

Andrea first.  Do you want to do to Sonia Sotomayor what the liberal Democrats led by Ted Kennedy did to Robert Bork?  Do you want to “bork” her?

ANDREA LAFFERTY, TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION:  Well, what we would like to do is use it as a teachable moment to talk to the American people about what should encompass a good judge.  Should a judge be an activist judge or someone who accurately interprets the Constitution?  We also think it‘s important—you know, there was a Hispanic who was torpedoed a few years ago, Miguel...

MATTHEWS:  Estrada.

LAFFERTY:  ... Estrada, and so if there‘s a concern about promoting someone who‘s Hispanic, why weren‘t they there for him?

MATTHEWS:  And he was up for what?

LAFFERTY:  He was up for a court position, but they were fearful that he would ultimately be up for the Supreme Court.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look here—before I get to Manuel, I want to show you something that Ted Kennedy said on the Senate floor back in 1987, when Robert Bork was up—and he‘s a conservative—he was up for Supreme Court Justice.  Quote, “Robert Bork‘s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens‘ doors at midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government.”

That‘s very strong language.  I think it had a lot to do with bringing down Bork, what the conservatives call the “borking” of Robert Bork.  Manuel, are you going to be that tough?

MANUEL MIRANDA, CHAIRMAN, THIRD BRANCH CONFERENCE:  No, not at all.  In fact, we don‘t want to take that tack at all.  In fact, your lead-in really is not accurate, Chris.  We didn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  OK, how is it inaccurate?

MIRANDA:  We didn‘t call for a fight.  We didn‘t say anything about bruising.  What we said was have a great debate so that you can catalyze to the American people the nature of what‘s at stake...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me choose my words...

MIRANDA:  ... the issues that divide us...

MATTHEWS:  ... in describing what you‘re up to, sir.  I get to choose the words to describe what you‘re doing.  You can choose the words you speak, I‘ll choose my words.  Go ahead.

MIRANDA:  Well, the letter we wrote, which is the nature of the story, is basically a call for Senate Republican leaders to have a great debate, a debate that catalyzes all the issues, those that divide and define us, to the American people.  We didn‘t—we don‘t want anything that happened before to any other nominee to happen to this nominee.  We want this nominee to have an unprecedented debate on the issues, not any distortions, not any crazy talk, not anything like that, just a debate on the issues.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why isn‘t that already happening?  Why do you think you need to make that case?  You have Republicans on the Hill.  You have 40 members of the Senate who are Republicans, who I assume are positioned to criticize this nomination and to do what you just said.  Well, how do you want it to be different or more severe?

MIRANDA:  Well, not severe—again, a term I would not use.  I want it to be unprecedented in that—the nature of a debate is to bring all the issues to the fore, and that has not been done—Ginsberg, Breyer, as few days as 29 days to be confirmed.  No.  The American people slumbered during many years over the Supreme Court in part because the Senate, when it gets to confirm nominees, doesn‘t really debate the issues.  We want a debate.

MATTHEWS:  So where are you on...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Where are you on filibuster?  Where are you on cloture, cutting off debate?  Where are you on the idea that Republicans should use...

LAFFERTY:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... their minority—let me ask—well, Manuel first.  Do you think the Republicans should use their right to filibuster?

MIRANDA:  I don‘t think that the Republicans should use a Democratic filibuster—a filibuster intended to obstruct a vote.  However, it‘s perfectly in the Senate precedent and tradition to—you could agree for a certain time, leaders could agree for 10 days, 20 days, or they could choose to simply file cloture.  Those are all things that they have to decide.  What we simply asked for was a great debate that brings the issues to the American people, so that people, as Andrea put it, can learn from this debate and...

MATTHEWS:  How long would you like it to go?

MIRANDA:  ... that it isn‘t rushed through.

LAFFERTY:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  How would you like it to go, Andrea?

LAFFERTY:  The point is...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to figure out-...

LAFFERTY:  The point is that she...

MATTHEWS:  ... what you want that‘s not coming anyway.

LAFFERTY:  She has an incredible record.  She has over 3,600 cases from one court.  People need to go through that.  We need to look at her cases, see where—the positions she‘s taken, the statements she‘s made.  Maybe there are other statements where she has said, We make policy on the court.  No, that is not what a court does.  A court interprets the law.  Politicians make policy.

And so the American people—we think this is great.  We want the American people to have a chance to understand where she‘s coming from and to understand what a judicial activist is, and it‘s going to take some time...

MATTHEWS:  How much time?

LAFFERTY:  ... because by the president‘s own admission, she has the deepest record of anybody in about 80 years.

MATTHEWS:  How much time?  Andrea, you first.  Give me a time because the president would like to have her ready to serve on the Supreme Court...

LAFFERTY:  I think historically...

MATTHEWS:  ... when it sits in October.

LAFFERTY:  I think, historically, people have taken a couple of months...

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to...

LAFFERTY:  ... to go through their documents.

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to get it done—would you like to see it get done in time that allowed for her to take her position—since Justice Souter is retiring this month, are you ready for—would you like to see her ready to take the Court position in October?

LAFFERTY:  I want to make sure that there‘s a full debate on her record and let the American people see where she is...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK, I‘m trying...

LAFFERTY:  ... where the president is...

MATTHEWS:  ... to delineate what you mean by full debate.  How many months?

LAFFERTY:  We need time.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s June.

LAFFERTY:  You know, they wanted—they wanted to move it through in a month.  That‘s outrageous.

MATTHEWS:  How many months would you like to do it?

LAFFERTY:  I‘d like to see a number of months to go through...

MATTHEWS:  Give me a time, if you can...

LAFFERTY:  ... her record...

MATTHEWS:  ... because you‘re making a case here.  I‘m trying to figure out what the case is.

LAFFERTY:  We don‘t know what‘s there.  People have to sift through her statements.  They have to sift through her positions on—at the court.  It‘s going to take some time.

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see them go through each one of the cases, each one of the cases that she‘s heard?

LAFFERTY:  Well, at a minimum, there needs to be some review.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m trying to find out what you‘re all talking about.  You‘re saying I‘m misinterpreting what you‘re saying.  I have a sense that you‘d like to see, in effect, something that really slows down this and makes her pay for each inch on the road to confirmation and makes this very tough on her.  Fair enough, but just say that.  You‘re using nice language...

LAFFERTY:  No, we just want...

MIRANDA:  No.

LAFFERTY:  ... a conversation.  We want—as I said, we want teachable moments.

MATTHEWS:  Teachable moments.

MIRANDA:  Chris, we‘re...

MATTHEWS:  Give me a sense of the time limit and give me a sense of what you think is a reasonable length of debate, beginning when they begin the debate.

MIRANDA:  Chris, may I answer that question?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... asking you, and I can‘t get an answer out of you.  How long a debate...

LAFFERTY:  How do we know?  How do we know what‘s in all of these documents?  We don‘t know, Chris.

MIRANDA:  Well, Chris, let me answer that question.  I think that there probably will be a confirmation by the beginning of the next term.  I don‘t think that‘s really the issue.  What we mean by a great debate isn‘t a question of time.  We don‘t think that this has to be a prolonged process that somehow invades into the next session.  What we mean by a great debate is effort during the time...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It sounds like you‘re criticizing the Republican members because they are in charge of vetting this thing from the other side of the aisle.  Don‘t you have confidence in Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Jeff Sessions?  Don‘t you have confidence in the Republicans, Mitch McConnell leading them on the Hill, or do you have doubts about them, sir?  You first, Manuel.

MIRANDA:  I have absolute confidence in Jeff Sessions...

LAFFERTY:  Right.

MIRANDA:  ... and in the committee members, both Democrats and Republicans, that they will accomplish their job and do it very well.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then why are we here talking about this?

MIRANDA:  We‘re...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you here to make this case, if you think it‘s already been made?

MIRANDA:  We‘re talking—no, you are right.  We are concerned.  We expressed that concern in the letter, that we...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your concern?

MIRANDA:  That Republicans in the past several years and during the Ginsberg and Breyer nominations slumbered and did not engage in a large debate.  We do not want just hearings and then a vote.  We want a wholesome debate that communicates, that will educate our children about the issues that matter for a generation.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Just for the viewers out there, Andrea, so they understand why you‘re on the air tonight, are you worried that the Republicans will be too soft, too easy on this nomination?  What words would you use...

LAFFERTY:  I wouldn‘t use...

MATTHEWS:  ... to express your concern?

LAFFERTY:  Yes, we...

MATTHEWS:  What words would you choose?

LAFFERTY:  We just want it to lay it out there.  We‘ve had conversations with a variety of different people.  We should have a right to send a letter stating our position.  We are encouraged by the fact that they want to look at the documents, they want to...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

LAFFERTY:  ... review her position.  I know you‘re looking for a good fight, but what we want to do...

MATTHEWS:  No, I think you are, but...

LAFFERTY:  We wanted to use the letter...

MATTHEWS:  ... I think you‘re trying to find the nice language.

LAFFERTY:  ... as a teachable moment.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re trying to slow down this nomination, but you‘re trying to do it with all kinds of sweetness.  I think you want this to drag on.  That‘s why you‘re reprimanding your own party for not being tough enough.

LAFFERTY:  There was no reprimand.  There was no reprimand.

MIRANDA:  No.  Again, Chris, we‘re asking for a great debate.  We‘re not asking for a conclusion, we‘re asking for...

MATTHEWS:  Every filibuster in our lifetime has said all they want is a great debate.  It is the language of everyone who filibusters, all they want is more time, when what they really want to do is slow something down.  Fair enough.  I just wish you‘d say so...

MIRANDA:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  ... because that‘s what you seem to want.  How many months, sir, do you want this debate to go on.  Just give me a number.

MIRANDA:  I think that we‘re going to have...

MATTHEWS:  How many months?

MIRANDA:  I think we‘re going to have hearings by July and a vote in September, and I think that if the effort is made...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MIRANDA:  ... in that period of time, everyone should be happy.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Fair enough.  Andrea, how many months would you like to—would you like to have it over by September?

LAFFERTY:  I want it over when we have vetted—when she‘s been vetted properly and the American people have had a chance to understand her positions on...

MATTHEWS:  Is three months enough?

LAFFERTY:  ... issues from international...

MATTHEWS:  Is three months enough?

LAFFERTY:  ... law to...

MATTHEWS:  Is three months enough, Andrea?

LAFFERTY:  That‘s a fair amount of time, sure, if, in fact, we‘re able to go through all of her cases and her positions...

MATTHEWS:  OK, we got to get going.  But thank you very much for joining us.

LAFFERTY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just having a hard time getting to clarity on this. 

But thank you very much, Manuel...

MIRANDA:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... and thank you, Andrea Lafferty.

LAFFERTY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: Dick Cheney‘s been doing a lot of talking, and a lot of what he says doesn‘t hold up.  We‘re looking at the experts who are coming here to truth test this guy.  Is the former vice president on sound ground when he criticizes President Obama?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Former vice president Dick Cheney continues to defend his record and to criticize the Obama administration, but some of his statements just don‘t pass the truth test.  Let‘s turn to two reporters who‘ve been fact checking the former vice president‘s public statements.  Jonathan Landay is national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers and Warren Strobel is their foreign affairs correspondent.

Let‘s move on to a couple thoughts.  Here‘s the former vice president trying to blame former CIA director George Tenet for making a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The prime source of information on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda was George Tenet, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and who testified, if you go back and check the record in the fall of ‘02 before the Senate Intelligence Committee in open session, that there was a relationship—he didn‘t say collaborative relationship or operational relationship, which are code words sometimes that get wrapped up in this debate, but that there was a relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq that stretched back 10 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But Dick Cheney pushed the Saddam-9/11 link two different times on “Meet the Press” back in 2001 and 2002 during the run-up to the war, and he was very specific back then in saying that Saddam had some connection to 9/11 because of a meeting that occurred between representatives of Saddam Hussein and the killers of 9/11, particularly Mohammed Atta.  Here is he nailing it, saying, We got to go after Saddam Hussein because he had something to do with attacking us on 9/11, much more particular than anything he just alluded to in statements previously made by George Tenet.

Here he is, the vice president, making the case for war as I remember it, and you, too, remember it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  It‘s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service.

We have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, that‘s what really got to me during this whole war, the way that he was able to say we had to go to war with a guy, and it was all country music Western, too, back then—We got to get even, Remember how you felt?  I remember the whole drumbeat of the damn thing.  We got to go to war with Iraq because they somehow attacked us on 9/11.  Cheney was relentless on this subject, and now he‘s falling back to some general commentary by George Tenet.

You first, Jonathan, and then Warren on this topic, about how he‘s trying to tie this to Tenet.

JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he‘s referring to something that George Tenet actually writes on in his own book.  It‘s a hearing that took place on October 17th, 2002, in which George Tenet talked about how—that as far as the CIA was concerned—the vice president—the former vice president is mischaracterizing what George Tenet said.  He said that there were sporadic contacts between al Qaeda and Iraqi representatives over a period of a decade.

He used the word “relationship” in saying the following—and I‘m not going to get it exactly right, but he said, As far as the CIA was concerned, the relationship was probably one between rivals who were looking at how they could exploit one another.  That‘s how he used the word “relationship.”

MATTHEWS:  And Warren, he used that now—he‘s using that now as his alibi for his claim that got us into the war, that somehow, we were getting even with Saddam Hussein for having played a role in attacking us and killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

WARREN STROBEL, MCCLATCHY FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  I think that‘s absolutely right, Chris.  I mean, look, he‘s backing off from where he was.  For all these years, he said that Saddam had something to do with 9/11.  Now he‘s backing away from that, but he has his alibi, this cover of, There‘s some sort of relationship there.

And if you look at every single study that‘s been done, not just what George Tenet said but a study by the Joint Forces Command that looked at captured Saddam documents, if you look at the Senate Intelligence Committee study, if you look at the 9/11 commission report, they all say there was no significant collaborative...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

STROBEL:  ... operational relationship.  The rest of it is just dots in the air, basically.

MATTHEWS:  And I just love it when he assumes that avuncular fashion, like Uncle Bill telling us the truth.  You know, Uncle Dick, Here‘s the truth, and it‘s not the truth.  Here‘s Cheney again recently, posing as a CIA defender, when he, in fact, had been pushing the CIA around every time he went over there, the half dozen times he went over to Langley to push them around and get them to doctor their case for us to go to war.  Here he is now, claiming to be their best friend.  This is just not the truth, and you can check with any reporter who‘s covered this story.  Here he is, claiming to be the best friend of the CIA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  At the CIA, our people are left to wonder if they can depend on the White House or Congress to back them up when the going gets tough.  Why should an agency employee take on a difficult assignment, when even though they act lawfully and in good faith, years down the road, the press and Congress will treat everything they do with suspicion, outright hostility and second guessing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here is what a really great reporter for “The Washington Post” wrote back when it mattered, back in 6/5/03, after we got into that war that we were led into by Cheney. 

“Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide”—that‘s Scooter Libby—“made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda”—Catch it? -- “creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration‘s policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials.”

And, so, Jonathan, Cheney was pushing them around over there and getting them to try to conform to his ideological ambition to get us into war by claiming some connection between Saddam Hussein and what happened to us on—the horror of 9/11. 

And now he‘s out there saying he‘s their best friend. 

JONATHAN LANDAY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT,

MCCLATCHY:  Well, look, there‘s two points. 

First of all, we know that, when they were preparing George—Colin Powell‘s speech to the U.N., Scooter Libby tried to push this nonsense about Mohamed Atta meeting with an Iraqi agent in Prague...

MATTHEWS:  Right.   

LANDAY:  ... into Colin Powell‘s speech, and they refused to do it. 

But, second of all, let‘s remember who started beating up on the CIA first.  It was Donald Rumsfeld and—and—and Mr. Cheney. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

LANDAY:  How did they do it?  They were talking about how incompetent the CIA was, that they had failed to detect the Indian nuclear test, that they had failed to detect the North Korean missile test, and that it was their fault that they were unable to know the full extent of Saddam‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LANDAY:  ... nuclear weapons program before the first Gulf War. 

So, let‘s talk—who started demonizing the intelligence community first?  It was Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld. 

MATTHEWS:  Warren, I don‘t understand this guy, Cheney.  Does he assume everybody else is a balloon head, some stupid person, that they forget that he and Scooter Libby were at war with the CIA, that that was the whole thing about the outing of Valerie Wilson, Valerie Plame, all that war was their attempt to get even with them at the CIA, that there was a war going on in the months after 9/11, after we went to war with Iraq? 

Do they expect everybody forgot that, so Cheney can come out now and said, we were on the same side of the CIA?  They were the ones that outed the agent. 

WARREN STROBEL, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY:  I think that‘s right. 

I mean, it‘s sort of the question of the—the big lie.  And I—you know, Cheney‘s argument is not with us.  It‘s with the facts as—as we know them. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STROBEL:  But they keep repeating it often and often enough, they believe that maybe the American public will buy it. 

And the other part of this, Chris, I think, is that, you know, he‘s—he‘s emerged or appointed himself as the—the true defender of the Bush administration‘s security legacy. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STROBEL:  He‘s out there almost every weekend in almost unprecedented fashion for a former vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Scooter Libby lost his law license.  He lost—he‘s got 400,000 of community service hours to do.  He‘s got a felony record now because they were going to war with the CIA.  Does everybody forget this?

Let‘s take a look at—here is Dick Cheney again here talking about only a few bad apples being responsible for Abu Ghraib.  He‘s—he‘s still saying it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  There has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations. 

At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates, in violation of American law, military regulation, and simple decency.  For the harm they did to Iraqi prisoners and to America‘s cause, they deserved and received Army justice. 

And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, John McCain, Lindsey Graham joined a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee that said: “The abuses of detainees in CIA—in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of a few bad apples.  The fact is that senior officials and the U.S. 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.”

The facts are there.  It‘s bipartisan.  And the vice president comes again against the facts and say it was a few bad apples, when it came from the top.  It came from him.

Warren?

STROBEL:  You know, it‘s—the senior officials include Donald Rumsfeld, who was Cheney‘s closest ally in the Bush administration.

MATTHEWS:  And Cheney is pushing all the time for more intel to prove a 9/11 connection to Saddam, right? 

STROBEL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys are great. 

By the way, you ought to get a—you ought to get a Pulitzer for this. 

Thank you, Jonathan Landay.

Thank you very much, Warren Strobel.

Congratulations to your boss at McClatchy for giving you the time to do some great journalism.  Thank God we have got some facts to go up with against Cheney‘s constant effort to revise history. 

Up next, look at these amazing pictures.  We are going to share the event that brought former first lady Nancy Reagan back to the White House.  There‘s a solid look at America right there.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”

I cannot believe this.  Here is Patricia Blagojevich proving she‘s

willing to do what is necessary, whatever is necessary.  As you may recall

two months ago, a judge in Chicago said that her husband, Rod Blagojevich -

that‘s B-Rod himself—couldn‘t leave the country to go down to Costa Rica to do that NBC reality show “I‘m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!”

So, Patti Blagojevich filled in for him—in fact, filled up for him, as they apparently need the money to pay the legal bills.  You can see Patti Blagojevich there in the show‘s premiere last night wading through the jungle. 

But there‘s—that‘s nothing.  Here she is swallowing what even most politicians won‘t. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “I‘M A CELEBRITY... GET ME OUT OF HERE!”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Patti Blagojevich for the ladies and Lou Diamond Phillips for the men.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... snakes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let them know what it is. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, you will be eating a tarantula. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Patti...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Go, Patti!  Go, Patti!  Go, Patti!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Two...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... left to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lou.  Come on, Lou!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s go, Lou.  No drama, Lou.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Her husband, watching safely from home in the land of deep-dish pizza, told a Chicago radio station earlier today that he and his two daughters were glued to the tube last night. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 

ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR:  The part where, you know, they had to eat—she had to eat the tarantula...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, man.

BLAGOJEVICH:  ... that was painful. 

(LAUGHTER)

BLAGOJEVICH:  But, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

BLAGOJEVICH:  But, see, when I—and I watched that, but there‘s an example of a mother‘s love for her children.  As I watched her do that, it was—it was kind of a—you know, I was moved. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if I were her, I would move. 

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Yesterday, I praised the president for taking Michelle Obama to a Broadway play.  I think it‘s important, by the way, to set an example, like President Kennedy, did of support for the arts.  It also turned out to be a great promotion for the great white way. 

The first couple saw a performance of “Joe Turner‘s Come and Gone” on Saturday.  Well, the matinee show was only three-quarters full.  And guess what?  How many more tickets for “Joe Turner” were sold the following day?  Well, according to “The New York Post,” three times as many. 

It turns out the man who takes pride in keeping things under control and being no-drama Obama also knows how to boost the dramatic arts.  How is that for Obama drama?  The first couple gives Broadway a ticket boost three times over. 

That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Now to a nice moment over in the White House today.  You have got to believe that not even a herd of elephants was going to keep Nancy Reagan from this event.  There she is in Washington today, at the White House, watching as the president signed the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act, which sets up a panel to plan activities for the anniversary of President Reagan‘s 100th birthday on 2011. 

Mrs. Reagan will also be in the Capitol tomorrow, as President Reagan‘s statue is unveiled in the U.S. Capitol.  We are going to be there, too.  And she will lunch later with first lady Michelle Obama. 

Up next:  President Obama has been on the job for over four months now, but we still have some things to learn about how he got there.  MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe is the author of the new book “Renegade:

The Making of a President.”  That‘s out today.

He‘s coming here with the morsels.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks posting modest gains, after yesterday‘s big rally.  The Dow Jones industrial average finishing Tuesday‘s session up 19 points, the S&P 500 up almost two, and the Nasdaq higher by about eight points. 

A day after filing for bankruptcy protection, General Motors announced that it has a preliminary agreement to sell its Hummer brand.  GM didn‘t name the buyer, but CNBC is reporting it‘s a machinery company in China.  GM says that the deal will save about 3,000 jobs in the United States. 

Another glimmer of hope for the housing market—pending home sales rose 6.7 percent in April.  It was the third straight monthly increase. 

And oil briefly topped $69 a barrel today, the highest level since November.  Crude finally closed at $68.55 a barrel, down just 3 cents for the day. 

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

Welcome back to HARDBALL for a real treat.

Richard Wolffe covered the entire length of Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign and shares his insider account in a new book—I love the title—“Renegade: The Making of a President,” which renegade happens to be his Secret Service code name. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE: THE MAKING OF A PRESIDENT”:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let‘s take a look at the hot stuff here.  “During the transition, Obama and his team weighed the pros and cons of making Hillary Clinton secretary of state.”  Here is from your book, Richard.  “But they really counted on Hillary to be the ultimate safeguard against both her husband and her own ambition.  ‘It‘s in her interests to keep him in line,‘ warned one senior Obama aide. 

“Others in Obama‘s inner circle said the president-elect believed

Clinton needed to demonstrate that she was a team player and to shape her

own career and legacy. ‘There are plenty who don‘t trust and thinks she

still harbors something,‘ said another senior adviser—quote -- ‘It‘s

still potentially problematic down the road.  Barack‘s thinking on this is

that it‘s not in her interests to mess with us.  She can‘t win that fight

internally, and she‘s smart enough to know that she won‘t want that fight

publicly.‘”

Fascinating. 

WOLFFE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When did you get all this?

WOLFFE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  When did he decide to pick her, by the way, for secretary of state? 

WOLFFE:  You know, I had the first interview with him in the Oval Office, the print interview.  And he told me—he was very insistent that he knew he wanted her as his secretary of state before the primaries were over. 

You have got to remember that, at the time, he and his friends and his family, everyone, felt very strongly, really intensely and bitterly about the way the primaries had gone on and been extended, not that—that she had fought hard, but the way it had got extended. 

So, an extraordinary amount of strategic thinking to say:  I want her as secretary state. 

By the way, not vice president.  That wasn‘t really on the table. 

MATTHEWS:  Never.  OK.

Well, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—quote—“had a heated discussion on the tarmac of Reagan National Airport.  Clinton grew agitated, waving her arms and picking her—poking her finger at him.”  That was at the president-elect—or almost president at that point—“as she hurled his own negativity back at him.  Instead of responding with anger, Obama tried to chill his rival, placing a hand on her arm.  Clinton recoiled from the gesture, which seemed either patronizing or restraining, or both.

“Obama boarded his plane with a new sense of wonder—quote -- ‘I

never saw that look of concern in her eyes before,‘ he told his senior

aides.  ‘I think we can win this one.‘”

WOLFFE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that is right out of a boxing match.

WOLFFE:  No, this is December of ‘07.  So, this is actually before Iowa.

And, remember, at the time, we‘re all thinking this guy is a rookie, and, you know, has he got the stomach for the fight?

MATTHEWS:  He smelled fear. 

WOLFFE:  He saw it.  He saw that weakness, and he—he tried to get inside their heads, both her at the time and then later on with former President Clinton. 

So, I—you know, something we underestimated about this guy all along was how strategic he was in—in changing the game.  And that‘s what we saw right there on the tarmac, and that‘s what he was looking for. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.

And here you are talking about Bill Clinton, Obama on how he dealt with Bill Clinton during the campaign—quote—“‘We had to figure out a way to deal with a former president who was just lying, engaged in bald-faced lies,‘ he told me later.  But what about this singular focus on the Clintons, rather than hope or change?  People said Bill Clinton got into his head.”  That‘s into Barack Obama‘s head. 

And here‘s—here is Barack talking to you.  “‘Yes, but I got into his,‘ he said with a broad smile.”

WOLFFE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What a gamester. 

WOLFFE:  Yes, exactly. 

But, you know, he still got suckered into things, because, all the way through New Hampshire, what was he debating?  The meaning of hope.  I mean, it was so nebulous.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he was high up in the air.  He was thinking:  I‘m in a—I‘m in a pit bull situation with the Clintons. 

WOLFFE:  Right.  But then Clinton had suggested that all he was, was good words and fancy dreams, and it meant nothing.

So, he went out and portrayed himself as a guy who meant something.  But he forgot what Iowa was all about.  So, you know, it went back and forth.  These were two worthy opponents. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WOLFFE:  Very interesting, though, that he thought he was influencing them.

And, in South Carolina, remember how that played out...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

WOLFFE:  ... with Bill Clinton.  That‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Lots in the book.  There‘s a lot of candy in there for us political junkies for the Clinton relationship with Barack Obama and where that‘s heading. 

Number two, let‘s come back to the—the Barack Obama relationship with the president he succeeds. 

WOLFFE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What did President Bush tell his successor about why he didn‘t pardon Scooter Libby? 

WOLFFE:  Well, this was in a limo ride up to the Capitol.  So, this is a very private moment.  And, you know...

MATTHEWS:  This is the ride. 

WOLFFE:  This is the ride up... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, they‘re talking about Scooter Libby on the way to White

to the Capitol. 

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  Well, remember that President Bush has had this intense lobbying effort.  And—and some of this came out, not incidentally, from President Bush, but it was from the vice—former vice president‘s office, about how unhappy they were that the pardon wasn‘t granted. 

Bush did not like pardons, period.  He felt that, under the pardon rules, people needed to serve their time and show remorse.  Scooter Libby had not done either, certainly not shown any remorse, because both Cheney and Libby were saying, there was nothing wrong, no harm was done, right? 

And, so, what he was complaining about here was the access.  I mean, this is interesting, that a guy who was known for sort of being cozy with lobbyists or big corporations was saying, you know what?  People with access get a unique perspective on pardons.  What about the—the small guys?  There‘s something wrong, he said, to Barack Obama about the unfettered power of pardons, that these well-connected people can use it, and the others—others.... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Did he see Scooter as operating with the team and for the team when he did his mayhem, when he committed perjury and obstruction?  Did he think he was working for the team at the time, or this was some outside extracurricular he did?

WOLFFE:  It‘s not clear to me.  But I tell you what is clear, that he thinks he did something wrong and that Libby needed to pay the price for it, whatever that price is.  He reduced the price considerably.  What he did not like was the really intense lobbying that came from the vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Cheney is afraid of Scooter Libby and what he might write in his own book some day? 

WOLFFE:  I think they‘re joined at the hip.  I don‘t know that there is any fear there.  There‘s trust. 

MATTHEWS:  You know me, I‘m a complete cynic.  I think he defends him publicly because he‘s afraid he will come at him one of these days.

WOLFFE:  Who knows what goes on—

MATTHEWS:  Congratulations.  You‘re a hell of a reporter.  I will read every word and I will report back to you, sir.  Richard Wolffe, the book is called—what a great name—“Renegade: The Making of a President.”

A reminder, tonight and tomorrow at 9:00 Eastern on your NBC station, a special presentation, Inside the Obama White House with Brian Williams. 

Up next, the right wing wants a fight over the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, despite what they said earlier in the show.  Will Republicans in the Senate give the base what it wants?  Can they score points against Obama over this nominee?  What‘s the win here?  Is it defeating that woman or just hurting Obama and hurting her in the process?  The politics fix coming up next.  This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back in time for the politics fix with MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Pat, I was somewhat unsatisfied with our earlier guests at the beginning of this show, because I think people on the right want a real bruising battle over this Sotomayor nomination.  They don‘t want it to go smoothly.  They want a lot of friction and a lot of heat.  What do you think?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t know if it‘s friction or heat.  They certainly do want a long battle, Chris, I think, and to lay out the record of Judge Sotomayor, especially on the issue of race-based justice, her long record, as reported in the “New York Times,” all the way back to Princeton and Yale, basically believing that it‘s OK to discriminate against white males as long as you‘re advancing people of color who have been held back in her judgment. 

For example, the Allan Bakke case, 1978.  White medical school guy got higher grades than almost ever single minority, kept out because of his race.  She was apoplectic, or alarmed, it was said, when that court decision came down throwing out the quotas. 

Chris, we have to have this out.  I agree with John Cornyn.  This has to be laid on the table, but it ought to be laid out case by case.  What do you believe?  Is that what we want on the court?  Stop the name-calling. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you, Lawrence, do you think she will lose if the issue becomes the Ricky case up—Ritchie case, rather, up in New Haven, where the white firefighters did well on the test, had the test thrown out because no African-American did well in it.  Do you think that is a good issue for Democrats or a bad one? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, there is no way she is going to lose on the basis of that case.  She was following settled law.  Remember, it was the city of New Haven.  She was finding for the city of New Haven.  Meaning, she was finding in favor of a local government making its own local governing decision, which is something that Pat and his side of the world always championed until it became convenient to yell about this particular case. 

MATTHEWS:  What about they raised the principle.  Suppose the guys who don‘t like her on the committee say, what about the principle?  Should law be used to offset the advantages of whites, even if it‘s about results, not process? 

O‘DONNELL:  Look, if the Supreme Court confirmation vote is simply on the basis of affirmative action, she‘s going to win and she‘s going to win with 60 votes or more.  So affirmative action is not a controversial thing.  Rush Limbaugh and Pat think it is.  There are still some old white men out there who think affirmative action is an extremely contentious thing in this country, when, in fact, it isn‘t. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Pat, have you nailed her yet?  Have you found something on her that you think will keep her number down below 70? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I find it hard to believe any Republican is going to vote for her. 

MATTHEWS:  Any Republican?  There‘s 40 of them. 

BUCHANAN:  I find it hard to see a Republican who will vote for them who will ever be considered for national office, I should say.  Listen, race preferences were rejected overwhelming majorities in the state of California, in the state Michigan, in the state of Washington, as well as Nebraska.  I think here is a case, Chris—she tried to overturn a law in New York state which prohibits felons from being allowed to vote who are in the penitentiary.  She said because there are so many Hispanics, so many African-Americans in the penitentiary, this law has a disparate impact on minorities, and therefore, under the Voting Rights Act of Congress, they have to be given the right to vote. 

This is insanity, and that‘s what this woman believes in.  It‘s her whole career.  Read David Kilpatrick in the “New York Post” Saturday.  It‘s laid out. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought denial of voting rights to felons was common law. 

I thought that was a common law practice going back many hundreds of years.

O‘DONNELL:  Why did she find against the black worker in a hospital in Long Island who thought she was discriminated against?  She found against the black plaintiff in that case.  So, Pat, she‘s got thousands of cases here.  You can harp all day long about your horrors in the face of affirmative action, and all the discrimination you and your family have suffered over the years from the time you were slave holders here. 

BUCHANAN:  Lawrence, it is not you and me and Chris Matthews who are affected by these decisions.  It‘s dyslexic white guys like Frank Ritchie going up and really succeeding and doing his damndest just to be a lieutenant in a fire department, while she gets a scholarship to Princeton and a scholarship to Yale Law.

That‘s what‘s unjust.  It shouldn‘t be done to black folks, and it shouldn‘t be done to white working class guys.  And that‘s our case. 

O‘DONNELL:  Pat, the scholarships at Princeton are based on financial on financial needs.  They are color blind.  I know that breaks your heart to think about it that way, but that‘s the way it is. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, how many have been hauled out of their high schools and given scholarships to places like Princeton and Yale?  White working—let me tell you something, white Christian males are the most under-represented in --  

O‘DONNELL:  Tell me who on the Supreme Court currently has a more distinguished academic background than Sonia Sotomayor, through her own academic achievements, graduating first in her class from Princeton.  Who on the Supreme Court, which of the white men have a better academic record than that in college? 

BUCHANAN:  Someone—I agree with you if you‘re talking grades and things like that.

(CROSS TALK)

O‘DONNELL:  The fundamental lie of you and your crowd is she did not deserve to get into Princeton.  That‘s where your lying begins, with your affirmative action. 

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence, strong charge.  Let Pat deny.  Are you denying that she was qualified academically to go to a quality school like Princeton?  Did she get in because of reverse discrimination?  Are you saying that? 

BUCHANAN:  My guess is she‘s affirmative action.

Let me make this point.  Jonathan Turley read 30 of her decisions and said that they were pedestrian, not profound in any way.  There‘s no distinguishing characteristic of them.  You read Scalia‘s stuff, I don‘t care whether he was third, fourth or fifth—you read some of those decisions, you read Rehnquist, you‘re reading something brilliant. 

That‘s why we opposed Harriet Myers.  She‘s a fine woman and a good lawyer, I‘m sure.  But she did not have what we think are the qualifications.

I will say this, I wouldn‘t oppose Judge Sotomayor on the grounds—she has experience and if she‘s not a genius, so what.  If she is, so what.  It‘s on the grounds of race-based justice. 

MATTHEWS:  How well does she compare to Howard Carswell? 

BUCHANAN:  Harold Carswell?  I would think probably she‘s right in the same league, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat, that‘s an insult.  You know it.  Lawrence, your case, your witness.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, I‘m glad you brought that up, because what‘s this about for Pat and Limbaugh and these guys who want to call her a racist is they‘re playing defense.  They‘ve all been called racists themselves over the years, sometimes with very flimsy evidence, that they‘ve had this label thrown at them.  And they are so thrilled that they feel like they have gotten a legitimate chance now to throw the label back.  And in the process, they want to completely—they want to completely devalue what the word racist actually means in a country where what it means, Pat, was lynching.  That‘s what it meant. 

BUCHANAN:  -- explain to me what I believe.  I do believe this, Chris.  As for Obama, this is going to drive Obama out of the center.  It‘s going to hurt him with those Pennsylvania Democrats, you know, the bigoted ones who are in love with their bibles and guns.  When they see that he supports race based justice and it‘s OK to discriminate against white males for a really good cause, of course, he‘s going to be hurt very badly with them.  He‘s going to be driven out of the center. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pat, that‘s what I wanted to hear.  You just gave me what those two earlier witnesses wouldn‘t give me, the strategy, which is to show the evils of Barack Obama.  We‘ll be right back to talk to Pat Buchanan as the unmasking continues with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Let‘s talk about the Republican party‘s come back effort with Good and Pawlenty himself from Minnesota.  Governor Pawlenty is announcing basically he‘s running for president.  It‘s in his wording today.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back with Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Let me talk politics now.  You start, Pat, with your party, erstwhile party, the Republican party.  Are you a Republican, by the way?  I keep trying to get it straight. 

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t register by party in Virginia, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  How about you answer orally rights now. 

BUCHANAN:  I vote Republican except when I‘m on the ballot. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Good and Pawlenty himself, Tim Pawlenty, the—how would you—he‘s apparently dropping out of running for reelection, which a lot of people—I‘m included—think that means he‘s getting himself ready to free himself to unleash the surly bonds of St. Paul so he can run for president.  What‘s that say about the field that‘s forming up now?  He and Mitt Romney so far.  What does the field look like against Obama coming up? 

BUCHANAN:  I think Pawlenty is doing the right thing.  2010, don‘t waste—he‘s been a governor twice.  He‘s a nice guy.  He‘s a conservative from a moderate state.  He‘s a very attractive fellow.  However, Chris, if you break out from one or two percent, where he is at, you need one of two things.  You need the charisma of a Jack Kennedy, or you need an issue like Goldwater and McGovern had, which can really vault you up to the top. 

It‘s hard for me to see how he makes it into the finals as one of the top candidates.  But he would be an excellent candidate for VP, if he runs a very good, strong race. 

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence, your thoughts about how the field is starting to take shape here, because it‘s—clearly Mitt Romney is running.  I think clearly this fellow is running.  What‘s that tell you?  Is it Sarah Palin against these guys, the somewhat moderate conservatives? 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ve long said that Pawlenty is the best player they have.  He has been vetoing Democratic tax increases in Minnesota this year.  He doesn‘t have the horrible flip flop record that Romney has.  The best thing he has going for him, he hasn‘t already lost, like everyone else who is headed for that field. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it hurts him that he has changed religions? 

O‘DONNELL:  No, Pawlenty is the most solid candidate they have on every score that you have going on into this thing.  Romney a proven loser.  Palin is a joke and will remain so.  And Pawlenty has got the real governing experience, more than all the rest of them. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, right now Sarah Palin would wipe up the floor with him in Iowa.  He wouldn‘t—

O‘DONNELL:  She‘s a joke.  She‘s a joke, Pat.  It‘s just in your family.

BUCHANAN: -- the strongest candidate they‘ve got.  He is an enormously attractive guy.  He has changed, but he‘s come around to the right side of things for Republicans and conservatives.  If I had to bet on one guy right now, I‘d certainly bet on Romney.  I think he has handled himself very, very well. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- for the nomination right now next time around? 

BUCHANAN:  I think if you looked at the field right now, I would say Romney would probably be the strongest candidate, yes.  Experience in economics; the guy is a real success in business.  He knows his onions there.  People are confident.  He‘s got a good, soft image and he has come around to the conservative point of view. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to study this a little more.  Thank you very much, Pat Buchanan.  I want to know why you just said that.  Lawrence O‘Donnell, thank you.  Join us again tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

Why did Pat say that?

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

transcript

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,