updated 9/1/2009 10:40:30 AM ET 2009-09-01T14:40:30

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Sam Allis, Steve Kornacki, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Duncan Hunter, Steve Kornacki, Sam Allis, David Corn, Sam Tanenhaus, Jeanne Cummings


Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: back to the fight.  Tonight, we return to that central question of American political life.  What kind of a country do you want to live in, one that abides by international law and treats our enemies according to the Geneva Conventions, or is this to be a country that does whatever its leaders and its public servants decide is necessary in its defense, anything they decide is necessary?

We know where Dick Cheney stands.  And that‘s how you pronounce his name, by the way, Cheney.  He is with the whatever-you-think-is-necessary people, who just happened to be led by Dick Cheney.  He‘s defending the Bush/Cheney era‘s use of what a lot of people call torture. 

He is attacking the Obama White House for investigating the abuse of prisoners.  He is taking the unusual role of defending the CIA itself, an agency he bullied and ridiculed for eight years in his role as vice president. 

And he‘s getting hit by John McCain, who has two advantages over Cheney.  One, he knows what it means to be tortured.  Two, he knows what it means to serve his country.  This gives him a good measure of credibility in fighting Cheney‘s claims that the interrogation method—methods Cheney has defended have saved the country. 

So, who is next, by the way, up in Massachusetts?  With the loss of Ted Kennedy, who will fill his Senate seat from Massachusetts?  Will it be Joe Kennedy, his nephew?  Will it be Ed Markey, who pushed through that historic bill on energy and climate change? 

And it‘s one thing to be attacked by conservatives, but are President Obama‘s allies going wobbly on him?  What do they want when it comes to issues like health care?  At some point, these folks are going to have to learn to distinguish between the perfect and the possible. 

Also, Tom Ridge is now saying he never meant to suggest that top Bush administration officials were thinking more about politics than security when they pushed to upgrade the security warnings the weekend before the 2004 election.  But didn‘t he just say exactly that in that book?  We‘re going to have him on Wednesday, by the way, to make it clear where he stands, whether he stands with the book he wrote or with this latest sort of—well, we will see what it is.  That‘s in the “Politics Fix.” 

And proof once again that words have meaning—members of something called the Texas Nationalist Movement—that‘s really what they call themselves—want to take Governor Rick Perry up on his suggestion that Texas truly secede from the United States of America.  They want a referendum on the ballot.  Would that put Texas on the other side of Pat Buchanan‘s security fence?  That‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But we begin tonight with former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s attack on the Obama administration for investigating possible CIA abuse of prisoners. 

Duncan Hunter is a former U.S. congressman, a former candidate for president, by the way, on the Republican side.  He formally represented the state of California.  He was succeeded by his son, who served in the military.  And Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, she also joins us. 

Mr. Hunter, thank for joining us.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at what former Vice President Dick Cheney said over the weekend. 


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now, you get a new administration.  They say, well, we didn‘t like those opinions.  We‘re going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred. 

I—I just think it‘s an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of—of, well, I think intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration. 

They‘re going to out and investigate the CIA personnel who carried out those investigations.  I just—I think it‘s an outrageous political act that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say. 


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter, do you share the vice president‘s argument that what Eric Holder, the attorney general, is doing in looking at possibly prosecuting these people as partisan in nature, in other words, an attempt to exploit the situation to help get votes in the next election, a partisan move for partisan purposes?  That‘s what the vice president is accusing him of. 

HUNTER:  Yes, Chris, for this reason, that the initial scrub on these operations was made a couple of years ago. 

One person was turned up as having violated the law, and that person

was punished.  But, beyond that, what we‘re talking about is water-boarding

water-boarding.  That‘s what—that‘s what the vice president is talking about.  That‘s the enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA used. 

That‘s a technique where you make a—a terrorist feel or be afraid of the idea that he is going under water, when, in fact, you‘re not putting him under water, but it does scare the heck out of him.  We water-boarded precisely three people.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the guy that killed 3,000 people in New York, was the prime guy who got water-boarded. 

And—and we pulled—we scared him, because that‘s all water-boarding is.  We scared him.  We—we water-board, incidentally, hundreds of our own military personnel.  They water-board themselves in training to toughen themselves up. 

But we scared Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  When we scared him, he told us about three—three new plots that we didn‘t know about.  One was to hit the Marines in North Africa.  Another one was to hit the United States itself again a second time.  And the last one was to hit the British at Heathrow Airport or another location. 

So, Mohammed Sheikh—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the guy who planned the attack that killed 3,000 New Yorkers, was scared.  Now, at the same time, Mr. Obama‘s operatives here a few weeks ago shot three pirates through the head to save one hostage. 

Now, if you—you can shoot three pirates through the head to shake one—or shoot them through the head to save one hostage, why can‘t you water-board the guy that killed 3,000 Americans to get information on new plans to hit this country? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re a military man.  I don‘t have...

HUNTER:  I think that‘s a question that liberals have to answer. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we all have to answer, not just liberals. 

What about the Geneva Conventions?  And what about this technique they were using to click a gun next to somebody‘s head when he is blind—when he is blindfolded? 

HUNTER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They had a guy with a hood over his head, and they convinced him they were about to hit him with a buzz saw.  They had one guy they threatened to rape his mother in front of him. 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  How about threatening to kill his children?

MATTHEWS:  One about all that stuff?

HUNTER:  Yes, the Geneva—the Geneva Convention, first, if you look at the—the Geneva Convention was analyzed by the lawyers in place, and they came to the conclusion, especially about water-boarding, because that‘s the primary thing, that, since we do it to our own soldiers, by the hundreds, incidentally, and it doesn‘t hurt them, and they—and it makes them tougher, and it doesn‘t hurt anybody—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gained weight after he was water-boarded—we decided that, since we do that to our own soldiers in training...


HUNTER:  ... we‘re not going to consider that torture. 

Now—now, the question for liberals is, if you consider—consider that torture...

MATTHEWS:  You know why we did that, though.  I want to go on to the congresswoman.


HUNTER:  But wait just a second.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, look, you know why we did...

HUNTER:  If you consider that torture...


MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re not putting the...


MATTHEWS:  You‘re not being honest here, Congressman. 


HUNTER:  ... then are we torturing our own soldiers?

MATTHEWS:  We did that because the Chicoms—because the Chinese communists were doing it in Korea, so we did it to prepare our guys, G.I.s, in case they got picked up.  You didn‘t give the context.

HUNTER:  So, what‘s wrong with that?  So, what‘s wrong with that? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you never explained why we‘re doing it. 


MATTHEWS:  Because we believed the enemy was torturing out prisoners.


HUNTER:  Baloney.

MATTHEWS:  And we wanted to prepare them to be tortured.  We didn‘t do it as part of their training.  We said, this is what happens if you‘re... 

HUNTER:  Korea has been over for a—well, you‘re wrong about that, Chris. 

Mr.—Senator Levin was very—I‘m sure, very shocked when he saw that we do it with our own folks.  But the point is, if we do it, are we torturing American soldiers?  You have to answer yes if you consider water-boarding to be torture. 

Are we torturing our own soldiers?  Answer the question. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re preparing them to face torture. 

HUNTER:  No, we water-board them.  We don‘t prepare them for water-boarding.  We water-board them.  Are we torturing our own soldiers? 

MATTHEWS:  Look, you‘re getting into a game here.  Do you think it‘s within the bounds of the Geneva Convention...

HUNTER:  Well, that‘s not a game.  That‘s a—that‘s a reasonable question. 


MATTHEWS:  Is it within the bounds of the Geneva—is—is it torture?  Is it torture?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  You know, I would love to jump in here. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re in here.  I‘m sorry.  I‘m holding you off too long.  You‘re a guest.  Go to it...


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 



WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Chris.

And I appreciate the opportunity to point out that it‘s unbelievably disingenuous of the former vice president, who was part of an administration who basically crafted an entire Justice—Department of Justice that was—that rose and fell on politics, to suggest that now the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder is pursuing this investigation based on politics. 

At the end of the day, no one is above the law.  John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, said that water-boarding is—is torture.  The Geneva Convention says that water-boarding is torture.  In addition to water-boarding...

HUNTER:  No, it does not. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me.  I --  I let you finish.

HUNTER:  Geneva Convention does not say that. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, Duncan, I let you finish. 

The—the—the—in addition to water-boarding, we also subjected these prisoners—these prisoners to threatening to kill their children, using a drill next to them while they were blindfolded and naked. 

And, look, at the end of the day, the heinous crimes that these people committed, I mean, no one feels a bit sorry for them.  But when it comes to making sure that our—our prisoners and our detainees in other countries get the treatment that we want to make sure they get and that they are not tortured, we have to make sure that none of our lawyers who give advice to our interrogators, nor our—our interrogators, are above the law. 

And we cannot continue the downward spiral of—of torture, and make that the—the policy of—and law and—and acceptable practice in—in this country.  It‘s simply unacceptable. 

And, with all due respect, Duncan, to say that those—those—that information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealed as a result was a direct result of water-boarding, even Frances Townsend, the former director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, disagreed with that on TV this week, and said that you couldn‘t really make a direct connection that the vice president tried to make. 

And, in fact, the FBI interrogator who questioned him before the CIA came in and water-boarded him and tortured—and used torture got information that was incredibly valuable in two days, instead...

HUNTER:  Let—let me—let me answer that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Mr.—Mr.—Mr. Hunter, let me..


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... of the extremely lengthy period of time that they subjected...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... where they got nothing.



MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter, I want you to listen to McCain here.  Here‘s Senator McCain here.  And then you react to that yourself. 


MATTHEWS:  Senator McCain on this issue.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I think that these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit.  I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed.

And, so—and I believe that information, according to the FBI and others, could have been gained through other methods. 


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter. 

HUNTER:  Yes.  Yes. 

Chris, if—if John McCain, my old friend, is suggesting that, if we had just talked nicely to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he would have told us about those plans to attack America, the Marine encampment at North Africa and Great Britain....

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, the proof is in the pudding.


HUNTER:  Well, I got—I got—no, wait a second.


HUNTER:  I got.  Now, let me finish. 


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  They got valuable information within two days.

HUNTER:  Let me finish.  Let me finish. 

I—we talked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a long time, and we water-boarded him on multiple occasions.  Now, if talking nice to him would have elicited that information, I‘m sure that he would have put that off.  But the real question for Debbie is this. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But guess what?  If I can jump in.


HUNTER:  But, Debbie, here‘s your...


MATTHEWS:  ... got that information before they water-boarded him.


MATTHEWS:  So, I‘m not sure here about the facts. 

HUNTER:  Let me...


HUNTER:  Let me finish. Now, you gave a long...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Duncan, they got valuable information from him when the...


HUNTER:  Hey.  Hey.




MATTHEWS:  ... let Mr. Hunter talk.


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter, you have got 15 to 30 seconds here.  Go ahead. 

HUNTER:  OK.  Let me talk. 

Debbie, what you should really concentrate on is the fact that the Israelis use a much more stringent method of interrogation.  I look forward to you asking for the Israeli prime minister to step down, because they do it.  Do you think they should stop doing it to protect the country? 


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  This is America.  The last time I checked, this is the United States of America. 


HUNTER:  So, you‘re not going to ask the Israeli leadership to step down? 


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter, that is kind of ridiculous, the comparison. 


HUNTER:  That‘s not ridiculous. 


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We‘re—we‘re talking about practices in the United States.

And the United States doesn‘t torture.  No one is above the law, including Dick Cheney...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... including the—the lawyers that—that he pushed to...

HUNTER:  And water-boarding is not torture. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... to require—well, I—I think that—that, when the investigation is completed, it‘s quite possible that you will be proven wrong. 

The FBI investigator that questioned him before the CIA stepped in and tortured him got more valuable information within a couple of days, as opposed to the weeks and weeks in which they got virtually nothing, that you can‘t even tie the information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave to the CIA after they tortured him to those—those—those practices. 

No one is above the law...


HUNTER:  So, the—so—OK.  So, Debbie, so, Debbie, so the—so the—so the American SEALs torture...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We should not—we should not be spiraling ever downward.

HUNTER:  So, the American SEALs torture themselves, the Air Force tortures itself, according to your definition that water-boarding is torture.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s not torture.  That‘s preparing...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Give me a break. 

HUNTER:  And there‘s no problem with Israel doing very enhanced methods of interrogation.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s preparing our troops. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Congressman...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s preparing our troops. 

MATTHEWS:  ... even the most normal intelligence could help you with this.  I don‘t know why you‘re not applying it, because you have it. 


MATTHEWS:  Obviously, the service people know they‘re in training. 

They‘re not going to be killed. 

HUNTER:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  That captured person who is one of our enemy has no idea what we‘re doing...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  They‘re getting ready for what they might be subjected to in other countries. 

MATTHEWS:  ... when we submit him to water torture. 

HUNTER:  So, we scared—so, Chris—Chris, use your common sense.

MATTHEWS:  So, don‘t tell me it‘s the same thing.

HUNTER:  We scared Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  We scared him, but we didn‘t hurt him.


HUNTER:  We scared him.  And he gave up three—three potential terrorist plots, and you don‘t think it‘s worth it. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  There isn‘t anyone that agrees that the information we got from him after he was tortured is tied to the torture.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no evidence of that.  Let me...

HUNTER:  I disagree. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No one agrees with that.  There‘s no—name one expert...


HUNTER:  Direct quote—direct quote from the CIA—direct quote from the CIA:  The interrogation methods gave us pivotal information.  That‘s a direct quote. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  And direct quote from Frances Townsend said that that is not true.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What are your—what are your limits?  Mr. Duncan—

Mr. Hunter, what are your limits—what are your limits on what we can do to a prisoner? 

HUNTER:  I think what Americans—the—the—the standard should be, if we use it with our own soldiers in training, as we do water-boarding, then it should be allowed with people who have killed thousands of Americans.


MATTHEWS:  We threaten them with death?  We threaten them with death?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  You can‘t compare getting our troops ready for the torture they might face at the hands of another country as a detainee...


HUNTER:  Yes. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... to what we practice on our detainees.  Those -

those are apples and oranges.

HUNTER:  So, limit it?  No.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  So, you want our troops to be tortured?  You want our troops to be water-boarded?

HUNTER:  So, you‘re saying we can do it to our soldiers, Debbie. 


HUNTER:  You‘re saying we can do it to our soldiers.  We can‘t do it to terrorists.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Because the chance of them being...


HUNTER:  That‘s nuts.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Duncan, the chance of them being subjected to it in another country...


MATTHEWS:  OK. OK.  This argument is getting...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We have to make sure that they can get ready for it.  You‘re comparing apples and oranges.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re—we‘re...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  And—and what happens...


MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, I thank you.


HUNTER:  ... prepare them for.


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Hunter—Mr. Hunter, you‘re hanging on this like a life board.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  What happened to two wrongs don‘t make a right?

MATTHEWS:  And I want to tell you something.

Every service person who comes to serve our country, even the worst kind of boot camp, like Parris Island, knows that there is always a chance of an accident.  But they also know that none of the—the—the—the...

HUNTER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... drill instructors intend to kill them, never believe that, ever.  And, therefore, it‘s not the same as what happens to a terrorist who is picked up by us.  And you know the difference. 

HUNTER:  Chris, Chris, if you—Chris...


HUNTER:  That people that go through survival training...


MATTHEWS:  One is being threatened with death, and the other is being threatened with tough training. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We get them ready.  We get them ready in case—in the event that they‘re tortured.

HUNTER:  The people that go through survival training do not what‘s going to—do not know what‘s going to come. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they do know that their...


MATTHEWS:  ... is not out to kill them.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... getting them ready in the event that they are tortured in another country. 

HUNTER:  OK.  So, what you‘re saying...

MATTHEWS:  What I‘m saying is common sense, though.

HUNTER:  What you‘re saying is that scaring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was bad. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much for coming...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... get our troops ready.

What you‘re saying is...




HUNTER:  Hey—hey, Chris, what you‘re saying is that scaring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was bad...




HUNTER:  ... even though he killed 3,000 Americans.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... just preposterous.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m siding with John McCain...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No one is above the law.

MATTHEWS:  ... because he has been there in both regards.  He served has this country.  And he‘s been tortured.

HUNTER:  I have got two sons who are serving in Iraq or have served in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  And I—I have always pointed that out, sir.  I always try to point out your service to your country and your sons‘ service.

HUNTER:  And I think they‘re safer because of the methods that we have used. 


Thank you very much, Congressman.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, there isn‘t any direct evidence of that. 


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

And I don‘t call you Debbie.

HUNTER:  Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  And I don‘t keep referring to Israel when you‘re on the show either.


MATTHEWS:  Duncan Hunter, thank you, sir. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Will another Kennedy replace Teddy in the Senate?  Could his nephew Joe go for the seat?  We will look at the leading candidates for Kennedy‘s seat up in Massachusetts.  That‘s coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Real question coming up:  Is the left going negative on President Obama?  HARDBALL comes back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Shortly before he died, Senator Ted Kennedy had asked that the Massachusetts state law being amended so that a placeholder, somebody to fill his seat, could be given that seat by appointment, until a special election is held this January. 

And, today, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick reiterated his support for such an action to be taken by the state legislatures, who have agreed to hold a hearing next week to get the matter going. 

Right now, Governor Patrick has also set a date of January 19 for the big special election.  By the way, that means we‘re going to have a primary in early December in the Democratic and the Republican Party to pick Ted Kennedy‘s successor. 

So, that‘s coming up rather quick.

For a look at possible successors to the late Senator Kennedy, we turn to “Boston Globe” columnist Sam Allis, who is author—one of the co-authors of the book “The Last Lion,” which is out now, and “New York Observer” columnist Steve Kornacki. 

Sam, buddy, thank you very much. 

It‘s very early in the business, I know, but everybody has waited decently until today.  It‘s a very busy political country, an especially busy commonwealth.  Is it Joe Kennedy‘s to take, if he wants it? 

SAM ALLIS, COLUMNIST, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”:  I think that‘s pretty close. 

But no one has a clue what he wants to do.  I don‘t think he knows yet.  He has got a little bit more time, Chris, to make up his mind than the others, who have to act very quickly. 

What we don‘t know is if he still has the fire in his belly to do all this.  He left after 12 years in the Senate before, and we‘re not sure that he wants it that bad.  He‘s got a very nice arrangement now with Citizens Energy, which is the nonprofit that gives cheap oil to low-income people, which also has some very profitable for-profit pieces to go with it. 


ALLIS:  And he may stay.  I don‘t—I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve, it seems like Joe Kennedy is more of an executive.  He likes running his own company, doing his own thing, not voting on, what, 500 votes a year over things you‘re not even that interested in, you may get cornered on. 

What do you think? 

STEVE KORNACKI, “NEW YORK OBSERVER COLUMNIST”:  Well, Joe Kennedy‘s thing was always—when he got elected to the House originally in 1986, he was 33, 34 years old.  The question was never, Was he a lifer in the House?  The question was, When does he make his move to go to statewide office?  His dad was in the Senate, John Kerry was in the Senate, and he was sort of blocked there, so it was always the governorship.

In 1990, he had a chance.  He passed.  In 1994, Bill Weld was at 80 percent in the polls.  You know, he took a pass there.  But 1998 was supposed to be the year for Joe Kennedy to run for governor.  He was basically off and running for governor, and then there was sort of the scandal with his divorce, there was the scandal with his brother, Michael, and the babysitter.  And in, you know, late 1997, he got out and decided he wanted to be out of politics altogether.

Since then, people have sort of been waiting.  Listen, you‘ve got the Citizens Energy thing.  He kind of likes that, but it‘s also good for his political visibility.  I mean, he stars in their television ads.  They have slick...


ALLIS:  ... political-style television ads.  They run all over Massachusetts.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Only in Massachusetts, Steve, can you say, Thanks to our good friends in Venezuela...


MATTHEWS:  ... I‘m able to give you the cheap price of oil, which is Hugo—only in Massachusetts!

By the way, Sam, I want you to respond to this.  Here‘s Joe Kennedy giving—well, it was a classic Joe Kennedy speech, but it was obviously given for his uncle at the funeral, at the wake the other night up at the Kennedy Library.  Here he is.


JOE KENNEDY, TED KENNEDY‘S NEPHEW:  He was telling me never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.  You stay in the race.  And if people don‘t have health insurance, you stay in the race.  If people don‘t have adequate health care, adequate housing, you stay in the race.  If people aren‘t being treated properly, you stay in the race.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that had a bit of a political ring to it, even in that circumstance.  Let me ask you, Sam, about the three other guys I‘m looking at—Ed Markey, who did such a good job getting climate change through—and I have to say he‘s a good friend of mine.  I really like the guy.  I think he‘s a great public servant.  Stephen Lynch, who‘s from Southie.  He‘s a pro-life guy, which would separate him from the rest of the field.  Marty Meehan, who left the House a couple years ago to become a leader in the University of Massachusetts system.

What do you think?  And then I also hear from people that know their stuff that Martha Coakley, the AG, would be the toughest to beat if a Kennedy doesn‘t run.

ALLIS:  Martha Coakley is a very attractive candidate, Chris.  She has acquitted herself well as attorney general.  She will be the only woman in the race.  She‘s got a lot going for her.  Meehan has been nakedly ambitious for so long, and he got out.  He‘s back—he went to Lowell.  He‘s made more money there.  He‘s got a big war chest, 5 million bucks, and I think he‘s going to jump back in.

Steve Lynch brings a lot of votes in Boston, but I don‘t know where he does with the rest of the country.  And in terms of his shoes, I don‘t think they‘re even close to some of the others who want to run against him.  Michael Capuano, who‘s the former mayor of Somerville, if Joe runs, he probably wouldn‘t because he would be the Kennedy candidate within that field.

And now that Vicki definitely isn‘t running—at least, that‘s what Governor Deval (SIC) said today that she told him, she‘s not running—we hadn‘t heard that before—this may be a smaller field than we think.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think the field is going to be—check me on this, Steve, then Allis.  I think the field‘s going to include the following people.  I think it‘s going to include Stephen Lynch.  I think it‘s going to include Martha Coakley, and I put her as the frontrunner.  I think it‘s going to include Marty Meehan and maybe Eddie Markey.  What do you think?

KORNACKI:  Can I—here‘s what I...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think Joe Kennedy‘s running.  I don‘t think any Kennedy‘s running.  I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  I know it‘s great “People” magazine stuff, I don‘t think it‘s going to happen.  So I‘m going with this—Markey, Lynch, Coakley and Meehan, maybe Capuano.  What do you think?

KORNACKI:  I think you got—you have two very specific scenarios, and you‘re right, they hinge on Joe Kennedy.  We‘ll take Vicki out of it, take her at her word for this point.  If Joe Kennedy runs, I think you have a three-way race.  Joe Kennedy will be in, Steve Lynch will be in.  The important thing to know about Steve Lynch is he is not afraid to run against a legacy candidate.  His political career was sort of made in 1996 in Massachusetts by running against the son of Billy Bulger in the heart of Bill Bulger country, South Boston, for a state senate seat, and he beat the Bulger machine.  He‘s not afraid of this.  He wants it.  He...

MATTHEWS:  He and kept Max Kennedy out of that—he kept Max Kennedy out of that seat, too.

KORNACKI:  Well, some would say Max Kennedy kept Max Kennedy out of the seat, but the other thing that I think...

MATTHEWS:  You mean that speech he gave in Southie that got him—that wasn‘t so successful.

KORNACKI:  The other candidate, I think—and you‘re right, too—is Martha Coakley, I think especially if it‘s Joe Kennedy and Steve Lynch.


KORNACKI:  She sees an opening, you know, as the female candidate.  But if Joe Kennedy, doesn‘t run, then the donnybrook scenario comes.  Then you‘re looking at Ed Markey.  Then you‘re looking at Marty Meehan.  You know, then you‘re looking at Capuano getting in, maybe even somebody like Jim McGovern or Niki Tsongas.  That‘s a real wild card.  But then you have a real wide-open race.  Otherwise, if Joe Kennedy‘s in, I think it‘s a three-way race.

MATTHEWS:  You know, that‘s a debate...

ALLIS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... I do want to moderate up there.  What do you think—what do you think, Sam Allis?  Can I get to moderate that debate?  I hear the word donnybrook, I just love it.  Allis, last word.

ALLIS:  It‘s strange and wondrous times up here.  But one, I didn‘t interpret Joe Kennedy‘s speech as saying he‘s going to run at all.  I think people are misreading that.

MATTHEWS:  I think so, too.

ALLIS:  Secondly, I don‘t think Eddie Markey is going to run.  He‘s got a wonderful position in the House.  Yes, he‘d love to get it, but I‘m not sure he‘s going to leave.  And if I were betting, I‘d say he‘s not going to run for the Senate.

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s a free shot, remember.  You don‘t have to give up anything.

ALLIS:  True.

KORNACKI:  Just your dignity, if you lose.

ALLIS:  True.

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you guys tough!  Kornacki, you are tougher than I am, but you might be right.  But Sam, you don‘t think Ed will run.  OK.


MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, guys.  It looks like we got to have all eyes on Joe Kennedy for the next couple days or weeks.

KORNACKI:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: It looks like Sarah Palin‘s decision to resign as governor has opened up the door to a lot of wealth.  Apparently, she‘s going to make—well, wait‘ll you hear the tons of money walking in her direction on the speaking circuit.  We got the facts.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, coming up, only on MSNBC.


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

Careful what you say.  Remember back in April, when Texas governor Rick Perry talked up secession from the union?


GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  Texas is a unique place.  When we came in the union in this 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention.  We got a great union.  There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.  But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the ignorance of these people is unbelievable.  There is no secession clause.  When Texas joined the union, they could increase themselves to a number of states, but nothing about leaving the union.  Anyway, that was resolved in the Civil War, you might say.  Looks like Rick Perry, however, has started something.  A group calling itself the Texas Nationalist Movement held a secession rally this Saturday on the steps of the state capitol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some folks say, Well, is secession legal?  Well, you got to ask George Washington what he thought about legal secession.  He could care less.  He did it anyway.  You go ask Sam Houston what he thought about secession.  He did it anyway.  Even though it may have been illegal, he did it anyway!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Governor Perry, I and the rest of the people of Texas, if you abrogate this leadership, we will pick up this banner, and we will march it forward!  (INAUDIBLE) of the vote for secession, we will be (INAUDIBLE)


MATTHEWS:  Well, that guy who was shouting about Sam Houston should know that Sam Houston, the hero of San Jacinto, who won Texas independence from Mexico, was actually evicted from office for opposing secession from the union and refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the confederacy.  A little check on the history books would be a help before you go a rally.

Next up: Bob McDonnell‘s—Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, got a lot of explaining to do right now.  He‘s—well, he‘s being forced to answer for something he wrote in a master‘s thesis back when he was in grad school he wrote back in ‘89.  Therein, he takes a shot at working women.  He calls them detrimental to the American family.  McDonnell said this weekend that his take on issues over the years has changed, in particular what he wrote about women in the workplace.  He said that was an academic exercise and it doesn‘t reflect his current views.  It better not.

And finally, a quick preview of our friend, Mr. Tom DeLay‘s, turn on “Dancing With the Stars.”  There he is, the man once called “the hammer” in practice sessions with his dancing partner.  You can see Mr. Twinkletoes out there in those new pumps of his he showed on the show the other night.  Anyway, I guess if—I guess F. Scott Fitzgerald was dead wrong.  There are second acts in American life.

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Sarah Palin is no longer in elected office, but people apparently still want to hear what she has to say.  According to Politico, how many speech requests is Sarah Palin fielding right now?  Over 950 speech requests.  I know it.  I knew she was going to do it, say what you will.  But just like Howard Stern, the reason people will pay to hear her is that they have no idea what‘s going to say next.  Anyway, a speech next month in Hong Kong to the Investors‘ Forum.  I‘m betting there‘s a lot more to come.  About a thousand speaking requests so far already in to hear the former governor of Alaska, tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next:   Is the far left going wobbly on the president?  Does he need the far left, or can he have the far left mad at him?  That‘s ahead.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Is the left wing of the Democratic Party going to cause trouble?  Are they going wobbly on Obama?  Let‘s hear about it from David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine, and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”

I want to start at the center of the hurricane, David Corn, yourself, sir.  Are you getting antsy about Barack Obama?  Are you part of his problem?  Are you the name for his pain right now on this public option?


DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, I‘m glad you‘re focused on my antsiness.  I think the problem was that a lot of liberals, bloggers, writers, reporters and citizens, people who I hear about through e-mails, are not going wobbly, as you put it, but they‘re beginning to worry.  There‘s a wariness that Barack Obama, while they had very high expectations for him—and I think rightfully so, I think he earned these high expectations during the campaign—that he may not be fighting hard enough and holding firm enough on some key fronts.

You mentioned health care, but there‘s also Afghanistan and climate change, Bush investigations, “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  On a lot of these issues—areas, he‘s made some progress, but people are still wondering if he hasn‘t really gone to the mat for what he said he believed in during the campaign.  That‘s really the issue here.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, on that topic, George Will, your column—column—fellow colleague at “The Washington Post,” calls—I‘ve never gotten an advance on one of his columns before—it calls for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  That‘s kind of interesting, that the people like—on the right are doing that.

But what do you think of the president?  Is the Democratic candidate who‘s now the president of the United States—is he now betraying the cause?

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, no, he‘s not betraying the cause.  Look, I‘ve written columns urging him to be—to go further on investigating the excesses, and I think crimes, of the Bush/Cheney administration with regard to torture and to hold firm on the public option.

But politically—and this is HARDBALL, after all—politically, I think it‘s probably useful for the president, in some ways, to have the left baying at him.


ROBINSON:  I think that probably helps him with the middle.

MATTHEWS:  Are you baying?  I mean, are you Sister Souljah here?  Are

you going to play the part of—you know, I‘m even willing to break with

David Corn, you know, I‘m a real (INAUDIBLE) here.  I‘m really one of the -

are you ready to play the part of the blocking back, or whatever, here?

CORN:  If that‘s the sacrifice I have to make to get comprehensive health care reform, in this country, I‘m willing to do it.  But seriously, there are different ways of compromise.  I don‘t believe making the perfect the enemy of the good or the possible.  But I do think that Obama, to certain degrees, miscalculated...

MATTHEWS:  Are you married?

CORN:  Am I married?

MATTHEWS:  Are you married?

CORN:  Oh, I believe I am, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re not familiar with that phrase, the perfect being the enemy of the good?


MATTHEWS:  I argue that all of the time in self-defense!

CORN:  Chris, I think about it every day.


CORN:  But vis-a-vis Obama, I mean, I think he entered the health care debate thinking he could do this in a non-partisan fashion, and I think that was a miscalculation.  I think it‘s ending up in a very polarized manner.  And I think he is getting—at this stage, he is getting the worse for that. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s funny.  What has changed, Gene and David, has been this tone of the country.  We did come in in January with the sense, well, maybe this guy will get a few breaks here from the other side.  And now we‘re down to Olympia Snowe, it looks like. 


ROBINSON:  That‘s right.  And so, you know, how do we get there?  Well, there would be two competing narratives about that.  Mine would be that the Republican party is—has adopted a strategy of saying no, basically.  And Obama, I think, in my opinion, has offered and has offered and has offered, and maybe has offered too early, you know, on some occasions, and hasn‘t gotten anything in return. 

But is it—is it helpful for him in the—in the medium term and in the long run to be seen to continue to offer?  I mean—you know, I think there is a sentiment out there in the country that wants bipartisanship.  And I think the White House calculates that to be seen as the party that‘s trying to offer that -- 


ROBINSON:  -- is a good thing.  And if you fast forward—you know, everybody is starting to think about 2010.  You know, by then, the economy could be coming back.  We could be out of this cycle of unemployment. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re saying—

ROBINSON:  Things could be getting better. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait and do it later.

ROBINSON:  No, no, I think you‘ve got to do health care now. 

MATTHEWS:  I think now, too.  Let‘s take a look at the former president, Bill Clinton, who really knows what he‘s talking about in politics, especially on this front, where he went through that hell in ‘94.  Here he is offering advice to the left and saying this.  Let‘s listen. 


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m just telling you, we need to pass a bill and it needs to be the best bill we can possibly get through Congress.  But doing nothing is not only the worst thing we can do for the economy and the worst thing we can do for health care, it‘s the worst thing we can do for the Democrats.  And don‘t you think the Republicans don‘t know it. 


MATTHEWS:  That is the voice of god, sir.  David Corn, that is the voice of god, because it‘s the voice of truth and experience.  I completely buy what he said, completely.  Because when you lose in politics, you lose.  And if you think you‘re going to get any credit from the center or from the right or any of the commentators from that part of the world for losing, you‘re crazy. 

The Democratic left will be pounced on and blamed for defeat.  So this idea you‘re waiting for the perfect bill or you won‘t go without the public option is suicidal.  But that‘s my thought.  Your thoughts? 

CORN:  That‘s not necessarily the issue.  And I can remember a day, Chris, when you didn‘t think Bill Clinton was so god-like.  But that aside, I do think there is a way to have a clear fight.  I mean, one of the problems I think Barack Obama is having here—and I always say this—

I‘m hesitant to second guess the political wizards of this White House, because they have done a pretty good job without my advice so far. 

But having said that, I think the health care fight has become a very muddy fight now.  It‘s not a clear battle, and it‘s unclear what he stands for, in terms of the details of this bill. 

And you can‘t just pass anything.  It has to be something that people recognize as good for them.  And they have to have a clear understanding of this bill.  So to that degree, I think Bill Clinton is right.  Passing something is better than passing nothing.  But if it‘s something that‘s unclear and people don‘t really understand, and it can be demagogued even after passage, that doesn‘t necessarily help—

MATTHEWS:  Do you honestly think that‘s going to happen?  Do you honestly think you‘re not just fighting a straw man, David?  Do you really think he would pass a piece of crap?  Do you think he‘d want to do that? 

CORN:  Listen, I‘m not sure he may want to do that.  But if you let Congress proceed the way it‘s proceeding, you may come up with something that is a big mess that‘s unclear to most Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, OK.  I think it should be about a page or two long.  It should be that everybody has got to enroll.  Everybody has got to be part of it.  And it should regulate and control the insurance industry so it doesn‘t make a killing out of this. 

ROBINSON: Absolutely.  Bill Clinton‘s message cuts both ways.  I think it‘s also a message to Democrats who may be recalcitrant, who may be unwilling to stick with what is the majority view in the Democratic caucus of what the bill ought to look like.  And part of that message is, you know, if the Democrats go down in 2010, who is going to lose?  It‘s those Democrats in those marginal districts that are going to be in trouble.  And that it is better for them, for the Democrats, to pass a bill, even if it goes further than they think they might be comfortable with. 

MATTHEWS:  I admire the net roots and I admire people on the left for standing for something that really matters to them and to the country.  I am completely for national health care, but I do know from experience, going back to Truman, back to Nixon, back to Carter, in every case, the liberals have had a shot at it, and they have acted like the PLO, in a sense—in this sense—don‘t anybody write in saying I‘m accusing them of being the PLO.  They have never missed a chance to let a chance go by.

What is it that Shimon Perez always said?  They never miss an opportunity to blow an opportunity? 

CORN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the Democrats.

CORN:  Right now, it‘s not the left that‘s controlling the ball game here.  It really is the White House and Max Baucus and others.  So if anything is going awry, it‘s not because people on the left are criticizing what‘s happening. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  Before you get to 69 or 60, you got to get those first 59.  I haven‘t seen them yet, either.

ROBINSON:  Fifty or 51. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t buy that.  I‘m not going to crazy land.  Anyway, Eugene Robinson, David Corn—everybody is entitled to an opinion here on HARDBALL.

Coming up, former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge pulls back on what he wrote in that book.  By the way, he is coming on Wednesday, and I‘m going to ask him, do you believe what you wrote in that book?  He voiced suspicions in that book that people like Rumsfeld and Ashcroft were playing politics with terror alerts.  I‘m going to ask when he comes on if he still believes that.  I think he still does, even though he‘s working around the edges of that. 

That‘s coming up next, by the way, in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Time now for the politics fix.  Joining me right now is Jeanne Cummings, assistant managing editor of “Politico,” and Sam Tanenhaus of the “New York Times,” whose new book is “The Death of Conservatism,” one of the great books that‘s come out in recent years about which way the conservative movement is heading. 

Let me go to the question on the deck right now.  Sam, your thoughts about what‘s happening in Massachusetts?  Not a good example of Democratic governance in its flummoxing this whole question of filling Ted‘s seat at this point.

SAM TANENHAUS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, you know, you wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed.  Let‘s say we had a state where a Republican appointee might be the filibuster vote who could take down health care.  I‘m a tremendous supporter of health care, supporter of Barack Obama and the Democrats on this.  I think they‘re right.  But the rules are the rules. 

And I think the structure of politics is the thing we forget about most, we take most for granted, the systems, the rules, the way things have been done all along.  If there had been an idea in play for quite some time to do the process a little differently, that‘s one thing.  You wonder what the cost might be if we get this razor-thin vote, with all the issues your guests have been talking about, and to have a hand-picked appointee who pushes the bill through. 

MATTHEWS:  You think this would be an ex-post facto law?  They‘d just be shoving it through for one purpose, to get a vote on health care? 

TANENHAUS:  Well, that‘s how it could look.  That‘s not necessarily the case.  But politics is all perception, as we know, or often is.  This is a case where you look at the great legislation we‘ve seen in modern times.  You go back to the real predecessor to this, which would be the Medicare bill that LBJ passed, Lyndon Johnson passed in 1965. 

Look, that was mainly Democrats too.  There were 13 Republican senators who signed on.  There he had enormous majorities.  He had a very prosperous, booming economy.  GDP had gone up eight percent that year. 

We‘re in much tougher, stricter times.  It‘s hard to say what the fallout from something like this might be. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Jeanne, I‘m not sure the Democrats are able to see

what it‘s like to be a Republican or imagine being a Democrat looking at a

Republican doing what they‘re doing right now, which is to try to make up

for screwing around before.  Several years ago, they decided to not let the

governor of Massachusetts pick an interim appointee when someone lost their

died in office or had to leave for some other reason.  Now they want to fill the seat so they get a vote on health care. 

You assume, like I do, they‘re going to go ahead and just make that vote next week, and get it over with? 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO”:  I certainly think they will and I‘m not surprised they will.  I‘m not so sure it‘s such a bad thing or a surprise.  The Democrats can look down at Texas and see the way Tom Delay used the redistricting process to benefit his party.  This sort of thing goes on all the time. 

What I wonder about, or what think, is that the first piece of legislation that they passed in the Romney era to prevent him from filling Kerry‘s seat, if Kerry had won the presidency, that piece of legislation really wasn‘t very responsible.  It left the states for months and months without any representation. 

In the end here, they might come up with a piece of legislation, provided it‘s written very clearly in there, that the interim appointment doesn‘t run for office, that‘s a little more responsible. 

MATTHEWS:  My thoughts basically.  I want to come back and talk about who‘s going to fill that seat up there, and also about Tom Ridge.  I think the Kennedy era is over, in terms of electing senators in Massachusetts.  That‘s my hunch.  We‘ll see.  Jeanne Cummings coming back.  Sam Tanenhaus back for the fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the “Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings, and Sam Tanenhaus, author of this great new book, “the Death of Conservatism.”  I‘m holding it up here.

Last question, quickly, before I get off the Kennedy thing; will there be another Kennedy in Massachusetts as senator?  Jeanne, yes or no?

CUMMINS:  I doubt it.  I really like the idea.  Joe Kennedy might get in.  But it‘s not going to go easy.  There‘s going to be a big fight in that primary.  I think it‘s time to move on. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree, fresh start in Massachusetts? 

TANENHAUS:  Yes, let it end on a high note.  This is the last of the great New Deal liberals.  Let‘s end it there. 

MATTHEWS:  Smart thinking.  What do you think of Tom Ridge?  Is he actually hedging today?  Here he is.  He‘s going to be here on Wednesday.  We‘re going to try to nail him on this pretty tough. 

You first, Sam, is he hedging when he said he wasn‘t pressured, having said in this new book of his that he suspected there was politics afoot in deciding on whether to put us on alert that weekend before the election of 2004? 

TANENHAUS:  You know, Chris, he may be hedging, but this tells us about something of the atmosphere of the Bush administration.  I heard Richard Hass say once that one thing you look for when you are having a policy debate—this is Richard Hass, who worked with Colin Powell in the State Department—is that you want to be able to make your case.  You know you‘re not always going to win.  But you want to be able to make your case. 

In the Bush administration, he never thought he was able to make his case.  That is, the atmosphere could be such that if, all right, even if you‘re not directly pressured, you‘re feeling pressure constantly.  I think he was probably more candid about that in the book than he‘s being right now. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to push him on that when he comes here on Wednesday.  I really want to know.  Your thoughts, Jeanne?  Is the book right or is this back pedalling or softening up right? 

CUMMINGS:  I think it‘s interesting he says he didn‘t mean to imply that he was under pressure.  He didn‘t imply it.  He said it.  He said that he was.  I—you know, I think that Ridge has always been a very cautious politician, never one to get too far out in the front of any debate.  I think he found himself out there right on the edge of, you know, a major controversy, and his instincts have taken over, and he‘s now trying to work his way back into a safer position. 

But in the cool and quiet moments—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Go to go. 

CUMMINGS:  -- writing his book, he said the other. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to try something from the Middle Ages when he comes on Wednesday.  Will you recant, governor?  I believe he will not recant.  I think he‘s sticking with the book.  Thank you, Jeanne Cummings.  Good luck with the good, Sam Tanenhaus, “The Death of Conservatism,” a hell of a book. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 



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