updated 1/13/2010 4:46:38 PM ET 2010-01-13T21:46:38

Guests: Julia Boorstin, Mark Halperin, Cliff May, David Corn, Eugene Robinson, Pat

Buchanan, John Heilemann

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  They‘re throwing the book at her.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

“Game Change.”  It‘s the hottest political book in memory, and tonight, we‘ve got the authors for the first half hour of a special edition of HARDBALL tonight.  We‘ll start with the unflattering report of Hillary Clinton as an unfocused candidate who eagerly sought to slime Barack Obama.  Why aren‘t her supporters fighting back now?  Could be because they‘re the source of all the negative stories in the book.

Then it‘s on to the Republicans, McCain and Palin.  How is it possible that Sarah Palin had to be tutored about World War I, about World War II, even about why there are two Koreas?  Is it possible that her head was really that empty?  And is John McCain plausible when he says, as he did on the “Today” show just today, that he didn‘t know anything about the vetting process.

Plus, are Republicans actually trying to sell us on the idea that 9/11, which they talked about all the time, didn‘t happen on George Bush‘s watch?  Three times recently, we‘ve heard them deny George W. Bush was president when the attack came.  What‘s going on here?  Three strikes, you‘re out.  That‘s what‘s going on.

Also, our own Gene Robinson says forget Harry Reid, what Bill Clinton said about Barack Obama being the guy that should have gotten him coffee—more on that later.

And Colbert‘s very funny take on the Harry Reid fiasco in the “Sideshow” tonight.

We start, however, with the new book, “Game Change.”  The co-authors of the book are with us tonight, “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin and “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann.  Congratulations, gentlemen, on the most exciting book to come out in a long time.  I‘m holding it up just for one more look at it.  There it is, “Game Change”—hell of a book.

Let‘s go to this.  This is the splash in today‘s “Politico”—amazing cover—“The Clintons stand alone.”  John Heilemann, you first.  The portrait you paint of Hillary Clinton is—well, you paint it right now.  Who is Hillary Clinton as she comes across in the 2008 campaign, as you discovered her behind the scenes?

JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-AUTHOR, “GAME CHANGE”:  Well, she comes across, Chris, I think, in the first instance, as a much more ambivalent candidate getting into the race than she—than most people expect.  A lot of people assumed Hillary Clinton was going to be running from the very beginning.  You know, we report in “Game Change” that all the way up until late 2006, her senior-most advisers thought there was a chance that she would forgo the run entirely.  And we portray her in—and that ambivalence carried through.

I think we portray her as a tough, ruthless candidate, as ruthless as anybody has ever thought.  But I think also think, balancing that picture, there‘s an awful lot of humanity in this book that we show about Hillary Clinton that people haven‘t discussed as much as they might, once they get a chance to read the book.

MATTHEWS:  You know, on that topic, ruthless, Mark, give me a description, if you can, verbally now of her behavior as apparently witnessed by one of her top people in your book after losing the Iowa caucuses.  How would you describe that vividly?

MARK HALPERIN, CO-AUTHOR, “GAME CHANGE”:  Two big nights for Hillary Clinton in this campaign, scenes that we recreate in the book that are pretty dramatic, in terms of her temperament, what you‘re asking about.  She loses the Iowa caucuses.  As recently as that day, she had been lead to believe—on the night before, rather, the Iowa caucuses—she‘d been led to believe that she‘d finish first or a close second.  That morning, she started to get indications there might be trouble.  She finishes a distant third.

And in the suite in the hotel—the Hotel Fort Des Moines (ph) in downtown Des Moines—she‘s in this room with her top aides, her husband.  Both Clintons are seething.  They‘ve got a range of grievances, a range of angers, including both of them convinced that Barack Obama has cheated to win the caucuses.  And she‘s so angry that night that one of her top lieutenants, someone who‘d worked with her for a long time, who was in the room that night, we say in “Game Change,” looked at her behavior, this lack of composure, this lack of leadership after a big loss, and said, Boy, I wonder if this woman should actually be president.

MATTHEWS:  James Carville has a suggestion as to who that person is. 

Is it that person, John Heilemann?

HEILEMANN:  Well, we‘re being pretty scrupulous here, Chris, about protecting our sources, and so I‘m not going to have anything to say about that.  But I can certainly say that the person who thought it was someone who was a deep believer in Hillary Clinton and who in that moment was stunned to see her lack of composure and her lack of resilience in that moment of defeat.

MATTHEWS:  So it was not Patti Solis Doyle, or you‘re not talking?

HEILEMANN:  I‘m not talking.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about this one.  Let‘s watch now—this is Drexel University, October 30, 2007.  To many people, this was a game-changing event in the campaign.  It‘s at Drexel U. in Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR:  Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver‘s license?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (R-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, wait a minute...

CLINTON:  And we have failed...

DODD:  Wait a minute.

CLINTON:  We have failed.

DODD:  No, no, no.  You said—you said, yes...

CLINTON:  No...

DODD:  ... you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON:  No, I didn‘t, Chris.

RUSSERT:  Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard.  Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor‘s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver‘s license?

CLINTON:  Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha.  It makes a lot of sense...

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton‘s answer.  I can‘t tell whether she was for it or against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, gentlemen, Tim Russert, the late Tim Russert, our beloved colleague here, one of the great journalists of our era, was doing something, consciously or not, that‘s called “middling” someone, John Heilemann.  It‘s when you force them to choose on television or in your presence between two loyalties.  She had to choose right there between Governor Spitzer, the guy she needed to back her in New York, and her knowledge that the position for people getting driver‘s licenses who are not in this country legally was going to kill anybody in a general election, and she couldn‘t decide.  And that exposed her as someone who tried to get it both ways.

I think that really opened up something about Hillary.  Tell us what you discovered in that moment, why it was important in your book and your findings.

HEILEMANN:  It did, and I‘ll tell you two things about it, Chris.  One is that, I mean, Hillary‘s staffers and her top aides saw that moment as a car crash.  And we recreate that moment when she‘s on stage at that debate.  And you have in the back room—you have Mandy Grunwald, her ad maker, literally yelling at the television set, saying, Stop, please stop, as she continues to stumble...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s Mandy saying, back the governor or back the general election, the easiest position to take, against illegal driver‘s licenses?

HEILEMANN:  I think what she‘s saying is just, Stop talking, please, and stop taking multiple positions because you‘re just digging yourself a deeper hole.  But the reason that debate is so important, Chris, is that at that moment, before that debate, Hillary Clinton was ahead by 35 points in the national polls.  She was cruising towards what everyone thought was the nomination.

And one of the great revelations in “Game Change,” I think, is just how confident she was.  We write in the book that it was literally a week or so before that that she first convened two of her top advisers, Roger Altman and John Podesta, to start planning not just for her eventual nomination but for—and on her eventual victory into the White House...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HEILEMANN:  ... but for her transition into the Oval Office.  A single vote had not been cast in the Democratic nomination fight, and she was so confident she would be president of the United States that she started a detailed, rigorous transition effort.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Mark, I want you to—because you‘re a Clinton expert.  You‘ve been covering them since they first arrived on the national scene.  Everybody sees you as really one of the real Clinton experts.  What did this tell you, that moment on television with Tim Russert there, what the—asking that tough question and her not really able to decide on her answer?  What did that tell you about her as a front-runner and what it did to the campaign?

HALPERIN:  Chris, my hat‘s off to your production team because that was extremely well edited.  You saw so much going on there.  That was a rich video segment, a scene we tried to create—we do recreate in the book.  You saw Chris Dodd playing a role there.  I‘d say the importance of that is that Dodd had not done very much to speak up against Hillary Clinton.  A lot of his advisers, we report in the book, were very anti-Clinton, urged him to go after Hillary.  He wouldn‘t.

The one time he did in any significant way was in that debate.  If he hadn‘t stepped up and spoken and called her on it and said, Wait a minute, Hillary, you seem to be giving two different answers, this could have well have turned out different.

You also saw there John Edwards and Barack Obama.  There‘s a scene during that debate not caught on camera, after the first break.  Edwards had been aggressive in going after Clinton throughout the beginning of the debate, Obama exceedingly professorial.  Edwards goes up to Obama during the break and looks him in the eye and says, Focus, focus, focus Barack.

They knew going in this was not...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) so right.

HALPERIN:  This was not just any debate.  Obama and Edwards both said to themselves, This is it.  If we don‘t stop her tonight, she‘s not going to be stopped and...

MATTHEWS:  You nailed something there, Mark, the inability of Barack Obama to go for the kill and the need for him to have allies.  What doesn‘t he have right now?  Allies willing to go in for the kill against his enemies.  Let‘s take a look—I‘m talking about right now in 2010.  He doesn‘t have allies at his level willing to go in and do the dirty work for him.  He‘s got to do it himself, and it‘s not working.  That‘s why he‘s not able to lead successfully so far.

Let‘s take a look—politically.  Let‘s take a look at this.  Mark Penn and Edwards, John Edwards—remember him—his adviser is Joe Trippi, on HARDBALL on December 13, 2007, another big moment in your book.  I want you guys to talk about why it was important.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Do you think those are appropriate shots at the opponent, or are they below the belt?

MARK PENN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, I think we‘ve made clear that the (INAUDIBLE) related cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising, and I think that‘s been made clear.   I think this kindergarten thing was...

JOE TRIPPI, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  I think he just did it again. 

He just said it again.

PENN:  This kindergarten thing after the—what the senator did...

TRIPPI:  Unbelievable.  They just literally...

PENN:  Excuse me.

TRIPPI:  No, no, no.

PENN:  Excuse me.

TRIPPI:  No, no, Mark.  Excuse me.

PENN:  Excuse me.

TRIPPI:  This guy‘s been filibustering on this.  He just said “cocaine” again.  It‘s like...

PENN:  I think you‘re saying “cocaine.”

TRIPPI:  This is what—no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, Joe Trippi‘s turn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Well, there‘s Joe Trippi jumping in there, Mark, and saying that

Hillary Clinton‘s guy‘s this hatchet man (INAUDIBLE) this case very—he -

according to your book, Mark Penn, who‘s a smart guy in a sort of intellectual way, went back afterwards and bragged to his campaign about how many times he dropped the “C” word, cocaine, on this show, HARDBALL.  Your thoughts, Mark?

HALPERIN:  Mark Penn, we report in the book, an alliance with Bill Clinton, were incredibly frustrated as 2007 proceeded, as Obama gained momentum in Iowa and nationally, that the campaign wasn‘t going after Obama, that they were doing nothing to bring him down.  That debate took place at the end of the year, pretty much on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.  And at the time, one of Clinton supporters, Billy Shaheen, national co-chairman from New Hampshire, had talked in an interview with “The Washington Post” about how Obama would be vulnerable as a Democratic nominee because of his acknowledgment of drug use.

Penn—that interview that you did, that segment with those three top advisers, occurred on the day of the debate.  Penn dropped it in.  Again, it‘s kind of an attempt to circumvent the Clinton campaign policy, no negative campaigning, because the decision was it would backfire in Iowa.  Penn did it in that interview, seeming to pretend to do it in an accidental way.  And then as you say, we report in the book, afterwards, he went back to the headquarters and bragged to people, all excited that he was able to slip the word in.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about Hillary‘s role in pushing this story.  What was her position, in your book?  Did she want to push the cocaine charge, that he was a dealer?

HEILEMANN:  She sure did.  She wanted to push Billy Shaheen‘s comments out, Chris.  And you know, it was—you know, when Shaheen first made those comments, her senior staff thought, This is a disaster.  I mean, this is going to backfire with us.  They believed the national press was on Obama‘s side.  They believed that the national press was looking for any way to make the charge against the Clinton campaign that they were ruthless and mean and overly negative.  And so they wanted to immediately cut Billy Shaheen loose.  They wanted to disown the comments, get rid of him.

Hillary Clinton‘s reaction on the conference call that night was, she was—first she was not going to cut Billy Shaheen loose.  She didn‘t think he should be gotten rid of.  She thought drug use was an entirely legitimate issue that had been legitimate in previous campaigns, and her literal verbatim reaction on the conference call was, Good for him.  Let‘s push it out.

MATTHEWS:  So she was concerned that the national press was unfairly calling her ruthless at the same time she was being ruthless, you‘re saying.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN:  I think that‘s an accurate assessment.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s yours, it‘s not mine.  Don‘t lay it on me this time!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This is your book, buddy.  We‘re pumping your book here, and you guys have her portrayed here in pretty rough terms.

We got to take a look anyway—Mark Halperin—they‘re going to stay with us for one discussion.  We‘re going to talk about the Sarah Palin—it‘s unbelievable how little this woman knows!  It‘s unbelievable that she ran for vice president and was unfamiliar with World War I, World War II, Korea, the whole ballgame.  What information did she have?  Has she ever taken an SAT afternoon (ph) exam, the one where they ask you what you know?  Don‘t put her on “Jeopardy”!  More on “Game Change” when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  So what did we learn about John McCain and Sarah Palin in the 2008 campaign?  We‘re back with “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin and “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann.  They‘re the authors of this fabulous new book, “Game Change.”

Here‘s John McCain this morning, today, on the “Today” show, answering a question from Matt Lauer about whether his campaign fully vetted Sarah Palin before they picked her as VP.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  And I‘m not going to get into it.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST:  But your comment...

MCCAIN:  I‘m not going to get into it.

LAUER:  ... that you just said, “I wouldn‘t know,” is somewhat surprising to me.  You were the presidential candidate.

MCCAIN:  Look, I wouldn‘t know what the sources are, nor care.  I know

I do know—I do know that I‘m proud of my campaign.  I‘m proud of Sarah Palin.  I‘m proud of the job that we did.  And I will always be grateful for having her as my running mate and the support we got from millions of Americans, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  You‘re laughing!  Who‘s laughing the loudest there, Mark?  John McCain comes across in your book—and I read the whole book, and it‘s great—as a man who was miserable almost from day one.  What‘s with the Republican Party picking nominees way past when they should pick them?  He should have been the nominee in 2000.  He would have been a happy warrior.  What was the misery factor about?  He‘s always just miserable.

And the language in this book—the “F” bomb is dropped constantly!  I mean, I‘m known to have used it.  I don‘t like being caught using it, but let‘s face it, it‘s all through your book, Mark.

HALPERIN:  It—it—it‘s certainly one of...

MATTHEWS:  Every candidate in this book prefers that word as his word of choice, it seems.  Your thoughts?

HALPERIN:  Apparently, there‘s a secret club in presidential candidates, and one of the things you learn at initiation is that word should be used as a noun, a verb and gerund whenever possible.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s an old Navy expression, by the way.  I can‘t use it now.  But Jack Kennedy—they used to talk about you—Ben Bradlee would talk about in World War II Navy in the South Pacific, they used it in every one of those word form.

Your thoughts now—I want to try it with you, John Heilemann.  John McCain—he‘s defending his choice now because he has to historically.  I mean, George Herbert Walker Bush has to defend Dan Quayle.  Once you make the choice, you‘re stuck.  But it seems to me she doesn‘t know anything going into this campaign.  Did they really have to tell her what the Korean peninsula looks like and why there‘s a North and South Korea?  Did they have to explain that to her?

HEILEMANN:  Well, I think there was—Chris, when they chose Sarah Palin, McCain‘s people made an assumption.  They chose her very hastily.  We know that now.  She was not vetted virtually at all.  I mean, we say in the book that she got less vetting than an assistant secretary of agriculture would have gotten.  John McCain—she was a virtual stranger to him.  But they all assumed that she would be at least of average intelligence and of average grasp for a governor of national and international issues.

It turned out that she was way, way below the mean.  And the truth was

in Minneapolis, we have scenes in “Game Change” where she‘s being tutored.  Steve Schmidt goes to her foreign policy tutors and says, You have a lot of work to do.  She doesn‘t know anything.  They lay a map out in front of her on the table in the suite in St. Paul and start, like, a Risk board.  And they start going through, literally giving her, like, a high school survey course in, This is the first World War, and it led then to the Second World War, and then we had the Cold War. 

They go through all of that.  As she goes up to Alaska on September 11 to do her first national interview with Charlie Gibson, the—the two days before, she does not understand, really—can‘t really explain the difference between North and South Korea.  She‘s still regularly saying that Saddam Hussein caused 9/11. 

The next—the next day, on September 11, her son is about to ship off to Iraq.  She can‘t really explain who America is fighting in Iraq.  She doesn‘t know what the Federal Reserve Board does.  This—that was the level of ignorance we‘re talking about. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Heilemann, you and Mark have got to answer this profound question.  How does the neoconservative right, the hawkish right, find such success in finding these empty vessels, like her, like W., like Quayle?  They find these empty vessels who know nothing about the world, nothing about foreign policy, who immediately begin to spout the neocon line.

I read her book.  It is full of that crap.  Where do they find these people?  They went on a cruise up there.  What, Kristol and Fred Barnes went on some cruise to Alaska and they found her at the docks with an empty head, saying, I‘m willing say what you want me to say?

Answer me, please, Mark.  You‘re a smart guy.  How did we put these marriages from hell together?  Empty heads.  Right-wing philosophy fills empty head.

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, “TIME”:  Chris, I‘m going to have to answer you by primarily say I understand why you‘re confused.  I see in Sarah Palin leadership qualities. 

And, you know, the country saw them, and we talk about them in “Game Change,” which have now projected forward, where she has a following.  She sold a lot of books.  She continues to sell a lot of books. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HALPERIN:  She has grassroots support. 

But the fascination that some neoconservatives have for her, it‘s not clear to me where it spans from, because she didn‘t have an agenda, a neoconservative agenda in Alaska. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HALPERIN:  And she hasn‘t really been a leader of formulating ideas.

So, I‘m as confused as you are as to what that affinity is based on. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, well, you know what it‘s based on?  It‘s the Yogi Berra line, we‘re lost, but we‘re making good time. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my favorite Yogi Berraism.  And that‘s it.  She‘s making good time, but she‘s lost. 

Here‘s Palin talking about Barack Obama on the trail on October 5 of 2008.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 5, 2008)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  This is not a man who sees America as you and I do.  We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

PALIN:  I‘m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.  You know, when she makes the snarky attacks, she does this rising of her voice to C above high C. 

Have you noticed that, John Heilemann, how she does that?  When she gets into her sarcastic mode—she‘s really good at it.  I mean, if that is what you mean by leadership, Mark, she‘s got it.  If that‘s leadership, it‘s frightening. 

Your thoughts?  What did you discover about her ability to lead without knowing? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, it‘s—I‘m not clear that there was anything that she demonstrated in terms of leadership in the 2008 campaign. 

And I would say that that clip you just showed, Chris, was right after the vice presidential debate.  She had just survived her debate with Joe Biden.  She came out with a new head of steam.  She thought that she was renewed.  She had overcome the last hurdle, the last obstacle.  And that was literally the moment when she started going rogue. 

And, you know, for the McCain people, their view at that point was that she had more or less blown all the opportunities they saw for her in terms of helping with the women‘s vote, the moderate vote, the independent vote.  All she was at that point was a magnet for the base and a huge headache. 

They—they hoped that she would kind of fade into the background for the last month.  They could ship her off to states where she might help with the base.  But she wouldn‘t go away.  And she consumed enormous amounts of energy and time on the part of the McCain staff. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HEILEMANN:  An, in the end, they ended up worried that she was in the end unfit to be vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  How did this latest acquisition of Roger Ailes at FOX discover that Joe Biden‘s last name was O‘Biden, Mark Halperin?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How did she get into her head O‘Biden?  It would be hard to be a commentator if you don‘t get the surnames right, but she‘s got to stop calling him that or people will think she‘s crazy.  Go ahead.  O‘Biden, where did it come from?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN:  Right.  Well—well, you know, during her debate prep, she was under a lot of pressure.  We report in “Game Change” she was under so much pressure that she fell into this blue funk, became, in the view of some advisers around her, catatonic and nonresponsive. 

But one of the things....

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN:  ... one of the things that was happening to her was she—she...

MATTHEWS:  No problem there. 

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN:  Yes,well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s make her vice president of the United States. 

Catatonic and nonresponsive, perfect to run the country. 

HALPERIN:  One of the things that happened was, she kept calling Joe Biden in these debate rehearsals O‘Biden.  Our sources were mixed.  Some thought it was like Obama/O‘Biden.  Some thought it might have be an Irish thing. 

And, in either case, they knew she was going to be held to a very tough standard.  If she went into that debate and she said Saddam Hussein had caused 9/11, if she said O‘Biden, it would have been a problem.  So, they had to come up with some way that she could avoid that problem. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

Let‘s end this festivity with a little fight time now.

John Heilemann, you‘re my close friend and colleague.  Did Harry Reid know that he was going to be quoted after that interview you had with him in which he used the term about light-skinned African-Americans and he used the word Negro?  Did he know when he sat there with you guys that he would be quoted in your book saying what he did? 

HEILEMANN:  Chris, as with all the other interviews in our book, we have not spoken about who we have interviewed for the book and we have not confirmed anywhere that we have spoken with Harry Reid for the book. 

So, I‘m not going to have much more to say about that, except to say that it‘s not clear to me how it is that, if we had interviewed Harry Reid, it‘s not clear how the fact—how what his view was about whether the conversation—what the status of the conversation was, whether that‘s exculpatory in some way. 

I mean, what has upset people is that these are his views.  As I say, we have not said whether we interviewed him or not.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m only asking you, John—John, you missed my question.  It was really simple.  Did—it‘s not about what you used in the book or who you quoted.  When you interviewed Harry Reid, did he know he would be quoted?  Was it for quotation? 

HALPERIN:  As I—as I said, Chris, we haven‘t confirmed that we have interviewed Harry Reid.  And I have nothing else to say on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I can confirm it. 

Let‘s go on.  Let me try with you, Mark.  Can you—was Harry Reid, the majority leader, aware that you could tape and use what he said in the interview you had with him?  Or was he under some other knowledge, some other belief? 

HALPERIN:  Chris, as your—as your friend Haley Barbour says, I was born at night, but it wasn‘t last night. 

I heard John‘s answer, and it‘s the same answer as mine.  We‘re just not talking about it because we—we thought was important to do in the book, Chris, to give everybody who we talked to confidence that we would stand by the rules that we set when we interviewed them.  We did that with everyone we interviewed in the book. 

MATTHEWS:  So, when he said in the book, according to your attribution, he said privately later, or later privately, that you‘re not even admitting that was to you guys? 

HALPERIN:  We‘re not talking about what we did to—who we interviewed for the book. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this is—this is where it‘s going to stand?  You never had an interview with Harry Reid? 

HALPERIN:  Well, we‘re just not saying whether we did or not, because, again, we‘re not doing it to be cute and we‘re not doing it out of some—some false sense of responsibility or not.  We‘re doing it because we promised all of our sources the same thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the problem if—here‘s the problem if he was quoted by you guys.  And you‘re not saying you quoted him. 

There must be some reason why you‘re not saying you quoted him, if you did.  Is there a reason? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, as I just...

MATTHEWS:  John, would there be a reason why a reporter would quote someone and not say they quoted them, unless there was a ground rule that said you weren‘t going to quote them?  What other reason could there be? 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  As I said, Chris, you are like a dog on a bone here.  But we have—we have tried to be steadfast with all of them.  We have done more than 300 interviews with more than 200 people. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HEILEMANN:  We made promises to everybody.  And we‘re going to keep them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, when—when you change your mind about the attribution, let me know, because ground rules are ground rules. 

Anyway, hell of a book.  I loved reading every page of it.  Everybody who loves politics who watches this show should read this book.  We will argue about ground rules later. 

Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, I have great respect for your work, great work here.  The name of the game is “Game Change.”  And may you knock “Going Rogue” off the top of the bestseller list. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next: the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

HALPERIN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”  Time to lighten up.

First, trying to laugh it off. 

Here‘s Colbert, Steve Colbert‘s grab on the brouhaha surrounding Senator Reid‘s choice of words to describe the political appeal of President Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”) 

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Now, because of this, we know it‘s OK to say, because both the president and Al Sharpton don‘t seem to have a problem with it.  And Attorney General Eric Holder said today, of Reid, “I don‘t think there‘s a prejudiced bone in his body.”

So, let‘s just all say Negro together, OK?  I say Ne.  You say gro.

COLBERT:  Ne.

AUDIENCE:  Gro. 

COLBERT:  Ne.

AUDIENCE:  Gro. 

COLBERT:  Jay the intern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Negro. 

COLBERT:  Morgan Freeman. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I didn‘t do that to him.  Anyway, Lenny Bruce lives again. 

Now for the number.  Here‘s Rudy Giuliani doing his usual thing against the president on terrorism in that Christmas Day attempt to blow up an American airliner over Detroit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR:  He can right now show real leadership by saying, I made a mistake.  He said the buck stops here about everybody else‘s mistakes.  But he didn‘t say the buck stops here about my mistake, treating these people as domestic criminals, not reacting enough to the Christmas bombing, staying on vacation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  So, how many Americans actually approve of the way President Obama handled that Christmas Day attempted attack?  In a new CNN poll, 57 percent.  Fifty-seven percent liked the way he handled it.  This one‘s for you, Rudolph, the red-nosed Obama critic.  A solid majority say the president did a good job, 57 percent, tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  We have heard a lot of Republicans suggest that the attacks of 9/11 were not on President Bush‘s watch.  Is this a line Republicans are pushing as a strategy?  Three times, we have heard this recently.  It didn‘t happen on Bush‘s watch.  What‘s going on?  It used to be all they talked about.  That debate‘s next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL.  When did 9/11 happen?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks seeing a broad sell-off today on a disappointing start to the earnings season and concerns about a possible government levy on banks—the Dow Jones industrials falling 36 points, the S&P 500 off 10 points,and the Nasdaq sliding 30 points. 

Financials under pressure today, as President Obama considers new taxes and fees aimed at recovering up to $120 million in taxpayer money used for bailouts—Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America all falling at least 2 percent. 

And Alcoa plunging more than 11 percent today.  The aluminum giant kicked off earnings season with a thud, posting profits well short of estimates. 

Video game industry leader Electronic Arts dragging on the Nasdaq, after lowering its full-year outlook for the second time in two months. 

And this just in from our news desk:  A major earthquake has struck off the coast of Haiti.  The U.S. Geological Survey puts the initial magnitude at 7.0.  Tsunami warnings are in effect.  There are reports that a hospital and some other buildings may have collapsed.  Stay tuned to MSNBC for more on this developing story—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Why are some Republicans denying that 9/11 happened on President Bush‘s watch?  First, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said on November that—in November that—quote—“We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush‘s term.”

And take a look at these more recent denials by Mary Matalin and Rudy Giuliani. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  We inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation‘s history. 

GIULIANI:  What he should be doing is following the right things that Bush did.  One of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror.  We had no domestic attacks under Bush.  We have had one under Obama. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why is it that the Republicans keep saying that 9/11 didn‘t happen, or certainly didn‘t happen under President Bush‘s watch?

Cliff May is the president of the Foundation For Defense of Democracies, and David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine a writer for PoliticsDaily.com. 

Cliff, I don‘t get it, because these are smart people.  And, yet, we have got—well, most of them are.  Dana Perino and Mary Matalin and Giuliani all were quoted recently as saying 9/11 didn‘t happen, or, if it did happen, it didn‘t happen under Bush‘s watch.  Yet, after—this comes after years of talking about nothing but 9/11, especially in Rudy‘s case. 

CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  Yes, 9/11 happened in ‘01, and President Bush had been president for nine months.  And all three of them clearly misspoke. 

I think the explanation is that the first nine months of President Bush‘s term had no theme to it, had no mission to it.  And what they meant to say, obviously, was that, after 9/11, fighting this war on terrorism became Bush‘s mission and that he kept the country safe.  There were no successful domestic attacks on the homeland for the remaining two terms.  That‘s what they meant to say.  And they‘re misspeaking. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Just a minute.  Just got to set this straight. 

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  That‘s wrong. 

That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Dana Perino and Mary Matalin are—they have one profession.  They‘re communications advisers to the Republicans.  That‘s what they advise them on.  They‘re not scientists.  They don‘t cut hair.  You know what they do?  They teach Republicans how to speak. 

They have systematically made the case that 9/11 didn‘t happen on Bush‘s watch.  Don‘t tell me it was an accident, Cliff.  I don‘t buy it. 

Your thoughts?

(CROSSTALK)

MAY:  Well, let me just respond to that, if I can, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, you can‘t yet. 

(CROSSTALK)

MAY:  All right.  Come back to me.

MATTHEWS:  Let David...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Then you can react.  I will get back to you. 

CORN:  You know, you ask if there‘s a strategy here.  When you have a rabid dog running around in circles, you don‘t say, what is this dog‘s strategy?

These people, I think, are frothing at the mouth in their anti-Obama hatred.  I mean, they want to undermine everything they say—that—that he does. 

Look at what Cliff just said.  Even after 9/11, there were no domestic attacks during the Bush years that led to any harm.  The Anthrax attacks?  The attack at the El Al Counter in LAX.?  There were plenty of—the domestic sniper.  There were plenty of domestic attacks. 

Bush had seven, eight years.  Not only did he not catch al Qaeda, he didn‘t really catch anyone in charge of the Anthrax attacks.  We think we know now who may be behind it.  But there was a lot going on. 

But they say, again and again and again, anything that pops into their head to make it look as if Obama doesn‘t care about terrorism.  When, according to intelligence officials, there have been more predator drone attacks that have taken out al Qaeda and Taliban figures in the last year than there were in the last three years of the Bush/Cheney administration. 

So, on their own terms—on their own terms, Obama‘s doing much better, whether it‘s the right policy or the wrong policy, in terms of taking out terrorists in Pakistan. 

MATTHEWS:  Turn back to Cliff.  Your thoughts? 

MAY:  Well, look, in terms of this being a strategy, Chris, you‘ve done political strategy.  I‘ve done some in my checkered career.  This is not a strategy.  I don‘t think it looks like a strategy.  Even Republicans couldn‘t come up with such a lame strategy as this. 

Look, I think the Bush people can say as an achievement that President Bush did pretty much keep us safe after 9/11, until he got out of office.  Yes, there was an Anthrax attack.  We don‘t know who.  We don‘t know.  It probably wasn‘t al Qaeda.  We don‘t say—yes, there was some guy that went crazy at the El Al desk in Los Angeles.  We don‘t know that this had an al Qaeda connection. 

What we‘re worried about now—what we should be worried about now is al Qaeda, and other militant Islamist organizations, and the rogue regime, of course, in Tehran.  Now, on some measures, I do think Obama has done well, just as David has said.  He has put more troops in Afghanistan and seems to be taking that theater in the war seriously.  He has certainly used a lot of drone attacks against terrorists, which a lot of people, evidently David is not among them, think he shouldn‘t be doing, because we‘ve got this situation where you can kill suspected terrorists, but if you capture them, he becomes a criminal defendant, with all the rights of any US citizen. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m on your side on that one.  Let me ask you this, it seems to be that you keep acting as if George W. Bush was somehow not responsible, when we have a famous presentation by Condoleezza Rice, the much respected former secretary of state, where she made a presentation before a Congressional committee, where she showed exactly what she warned the president.

Here she is, national security adviser at the time, Condoleezza Rice revealing for the first the title of the presidential daily brief that president Bush got in August of 2001, a month before the 9/11 attacks.  Let‘s watch and listen again, so that maybe this time Rudy Giuliani will be watching. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn‘t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country?  And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB? 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  I believe the title was “Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Cliff, your thoughts on that?  It seems to me—here‘s why I think it‘s strategy, when it‘s being conducted by Mary Matalin, who is a political strategist, closely allied with the former Vice President Dick Cheney—fair enough, that‘s her point of view—and Dana Perino, who is only known to us as a political spokesperson, and Giuliani, of course, himself, who‘s still trying to make his bones as a Republican because he‘s too moderate on some issues. 

It seems to me that the scary thing they‘re trying to do—it‘s not you, because I don‘t think you‘re just a partisan.  I think you‘re an idealogue.  It‘s to set up a horrendous doomsday scorecard, whereby the Republicans had no attacks on us during their watch, which is what these flacks are saying right now.  So when and if—certainly we have to face the future when when is probably the right word—sometime we‘ll be hit again at some point, because we have an enemy constantly looking for an opportunity to hit us. 

They‘ll be able to say, we weren‘t hit and they were.  Therefore, they‘re not defending America.  That‘s what scares me, that it is strategic, that it is political score keeping before the facts, setting up a situation where these people, like Dana Perino and Mary Matalin and Rudy Giuliani, constantly put out the big lie that they weren‘t hit on their watch.  Therefore, if this president is hit on his watch, they‘ll be able to say, see?  That‘s what scares me.  It is political. 

MAY:  I‘m probably not as political or partisan as you and David.  So to me, if we—

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a scorecard for you. 

MAY:  Let me finish my point.  If we have another catastrophic attack on American soil, I don‘t think the big story is how it affects Obama‘s popularity in the polls. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, not catastrophic.  Setting up the idea that we weren‘t hit on the Republican watch, to me, is grossly partisan. 

MAY:  Here‘s what I think is important: before 9/11, President Bush did not take militant Islamist terrorism seriously enough.  Neither did Clinton during eight years, when we had numerous terrorist attacks.  Nonetheless, we took the peace dividend.  Neither did George H.W. Bush, and neither did the President Carter after the Islamist revolution. 

What I hope is—what I hope is that President Obama will be successful, at least as successful, maybe more so, than President Bush in keeping us safe for the next three or eight years. 

OK? 

CORN:  You know, Chris, the scary thing is that Cheney and—Dick Cheney and others, again and again, act as if they shared no responsibility whatsoever for 9/11.  I mean, in those first few months, we now know that Dick Clarke and others tried to—you know, tried to wave the red flag. 

MAY:  What would you have them do that they didn‘t do, David? 

(CROSS TALK)

CORN:  I didn‘t interrupt you, cliff. 

MAY:  Yes, you did. 

CORN:  No, I didn‘t.  Paul Wolfowitz very famously—please, enough

already.  Paul Wolfowitz had a famous meeting early in the Bush

administration and said, listen, the problem isn‘t al Qaeda.  We don‘t know

the real problem is Saddam Hussein.  So he got it—he‘s never apologized for that.   

MATTHEWS:  Sarah Palin believes that Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11.  Thank you, David Corn.  Thank you, Cliff May.  Just a bit of misinformation on the part of the almost-vice president of the United States.

Up next—but if you don‘t know what World War I is and World War II is, and don‘t understand there‘s two Koreas, this is small potatoes, not knowing who it is on 9/11.  Cliff, thanks for coming on.  Please come on again. 

Never mind what Harry Reid said about President Obama.  What did Bill Clinton mean when he told Ted Kennedy that a few years ago, Barack Obama would be getting them coffee?  Much more on the hot new book “Game Change.”  That‘s in there.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the politics fix.  Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the “Washington Post,” and an MSNBC political analyst, and Pat Buchanan is also an MSNBC political panelist—analyst, and extremely well-known fellow. 

Eugene Robinson writes today in his “Washington Post” column, which won him the Pulitzer Prize, quote, “much worse, as far as I‘m concerned, was the quote the knew book “game change” attributes to Bill Clinton.  In an attempt to convince Ted Kennedy not to support Obama, Clinton is supposed to have said that a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.  I guess the one drop rule can still trump Harvard Law.”

Let‘s stay away from the tonal questions, which neither Pat or I are equipped to talk about at all, because a lot of that is old-time history.  Let‘s just move away from that and let‘s talk about the issue hire.  Did Teddy Kennedy hear Bill Clinton say something that seemed like bad territory to you? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  As it is portrayed—first of all, I think it is bad territory.  And as it is portrayed—

MATTHEWS:  Was he saying the guy was menial, the guy was below us or he was black? 

ROBINSON:  He‘s portraying him as kind of a modern day Pullman/porter. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think so?  Gene, I usually agree with you.  I think Bill Clinton may well have been saying—given his history, can‘t you just say he meant he was junior to us; he wasn‘t in the league with Hillary and me. 

ROBINSON:  Is that possible?  Sure, that‘s possible.  But as portrayed in the book, Teddy took great offense at this.  So it is not just me.  It was Ted Kennedy that thought he was saying what I think he was saying.  Now I don‘t know if he said it at all.  You know, Halperin and Heilemann, great reporters.  I wish there were more about sourcing in the book.  I heard that colloquy between you and them about—

(CROSS TALK)

ROBINSON:  -- if Bill Clinton just came out and said I never said that—

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He mentioned porters on trains.  They have a union, don‘t they, that‘s always been very, very strong, quite frankly. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you ever took the train, you‘d see his big statue.  Pat, are you willing to jump on Bill Clinton and say he made a racist comment?  I totally disagree with Gene on this.

BUCHANAN:  I think it was a slurring comment. 

MATTHEWS:  Slurring? 

BUCHANAN:  I tend to agree with Gene basically as to content of it.  Let me say this: he is that—what is his civil rights record?  Lyndon Johnson used the “N” word constantly, had a phenomenal civil rights record.  Richard Nixon used some bad terms about Jewish folks.  He sent everything he could to save Israel in the war.  Take the big things.  People make these kinds of comments, presidents.  They don‘t bother me in the least.  But I think the big things are really what counts. 

ROBINSON:  I got to agree with you there.  You got to look at the record.  Is it a surprise to any African-American or any Jew or anybody that maybe people sometimes say—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I disagree with you.  I‘m with Clinton on this.  I think everything in his vocabulary, everything since he got into adult life, has been to fight the tradition in this part of the country. 

ROBINSON:  You and I sat there when he gave that speech—

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back.  Let‘s talk more about this race in Massachusetts, which we‘re talking about the Kennedys here, I think.  Teddy Kennedy‘s seat could easily go Republican, according to the latest numbers.  You‘re watching HARDBALL.  Let‘s talk about that Kennedy seat, and it was Jack‘s seat, going R.  We‘ll be right back on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER:  Are you willing, under those circumstances to say, I‘m going to be the person; I‘m going to sit in Teddy Kennedy‘s seat; and I‘m going to be the person that‘s going to block it for another 15 years. 

SCOTT BROWN ®, CANDIDATE FOR MASSACHUSETTS SENATE:  With all respect, it is not the Kennedy seat.  It is not the Democrat‘s seat.  It is the people‘s seat. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was Scott Brown, the Republican candidate for the Senate up in Massachusetts.  The race is next week.  He doesn‘t think it‘s Ted Kennedy‘s seat and he‘s going to prove it.  Gene Robinson, the Republican candidate here has been running ads with Jack Kennedy calling for tax cuts, saying he‘s for tax cuts.  He‘s been saying, if I get in there, I‘ll vote to kill health care.  He has a shot at winning this race in Massachusetts.  A shot. 

ROBINSON:  This could be one of the most interesting contests coming up. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens if health care dies because Massachusetts votes for a Republican? 

BUCHANAN:  If this guy is elected, the best deal falls, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  The best deal? 

BUCHANAN:  The whole Obama revolution. 

(CROSS TALK)

BUCHANAN:  It‘s all over.  Sixty seats is gone.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, how far does it go? 

BUCHANAN:  Bring it back to the—

MATTHEWS:  The latest “Boston Globe” poll, Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, leads Scott Brown 50 to 35.  That‘s an average of all polls.  That‘s one of the polls.  But look at that.  That‘s what impressed me.  Look at that chart.  It‘s closing there. 

BUCHANAN:  But it is very, very tough.  Chris, you know Massachusetts.  That is a huge thing to overcome there.  I would bet on Coakley. 

MATTHEWS:  How about if they only let the Boston Bruins fans vote?

BUCHANAN:  Let south Boston vote and we have a good shot here.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEW:  The “Washington Post” will be covering this race.  It is a hot race. 

ROBINSON:  It is going to be a hot race.  I agree with Pat that Coakley will probably pull it out. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it smart for no Kennedy family member to run?  Does that say that maybe it was time to give the Massachusetts voters a breather on Kennedy people?

ROBINSON:  Which Kennedy family member was going to run?

MATTHEWS:  Joe could have ran. 

ROBINSON:  If Joe wanted—

BUCHANAN:  If Joe wanted a career—I thought they should have. 

MATTHEWS:  He would have been a formidable candidate.

BUCHANAN:  He would have won the thing.

MATTHEWS:  I think Joe would have walked away with it.  I think Vicki could have won, too. 

ROBINSON:  I think Vicki could have, but  she said no. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe they just want a breather themselves.  Thank you, Gene Robinson.  Nobody wants to make a bet.  You bet on the Dem? 

BUCHANAN:  I bet on the Dem. 

MATTHEWS:  You bet on the Dem?

BUCHANAN:  You give me two to one, I‘ll take—

MATTHEWS:  Find somebody out there.  The window is open.

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

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2010 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

,