updated 2/12/2010 12:02:00 PM ET 2010-02-12T17:02:00

Guests: Tom Brokaw, Robert Bazell, Savannah Guthrie, David Gregory, Robert Bazell, Andrea Mitchell, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Judd Gregg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Former president Bill Clinton has been hospitalized in New York City after complaining of chest pains.  A hospital source in New York tells NBC News that he went into the hospital under his own power and received a stent.  President Clinton, who is 63, had successful bypass surgery back in 2004.

NBC‘s Savannah Guthrie is at the White House with the latest news. 

Savannah, the president‘s condition?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  We don‘t know.  And in fact, Chris, there are very few details we have right now.  We know he went to the hospital today with chest pains, that he had has apparently been outfitted with a stent for his heart.  You mentioned he has had heart problems in the past, having had a quadruple bypass back in 2004.  It‘s expected he‘ll spend the night in the hospital in New York.  How serious this is we just don‘t know yet.

The White House is aware of this.  Unclear at this point if the president has been told.  However, I do know within the last hour, the press secretary was with the president in the Oval Office, so presumably, he would have briefed the president, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Savannah Guthrie.  Let‘s go right now to David Gregory, who‘s with me here.  He‘s moderator of “Meet the Press,” and of course, on top of this story, as well—David.

DAVID GREGORY, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Well, Andrea Mitchell also reporting that the president—former president had chest pains, had talked about it with his doctor, and they had discussed having a stent.  You talked about his history of heart disease, and we know people with heart disease and what the complications are like, even having had a quadruple bypass, which he had several years ago.

Just look at his schedule.  This is a very vigorous former president, who has a rigorous schedule, whether it‘s getting involved in negotiating the release of those young women from North Korea or campaigning most recently for Martha Coakley up in Massachusetts.  He is on the go.  He appears to maintain a healthy weight.  I can‘t speak to his diet precisely.  But nevertheless, these are issues that keep creeping up on somebody who deals with it.

MATTHEWS:  We just got a report—I just got it in my ear, David, that according to a spokesman for the former president, Bill Clinton, he‘s had two stents put in, in his coronary arteries.  He‘s in good—here is the full statement from his spokesman today.  “President Clinton was admitted to the Columbia campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest.  Following a visit to his cardiologist, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries.  President Clinton‘s in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti relief and long-term recovery efforts.  In 2004, the president underwent a successful quadruple bypass operation to free four blocked arteries.”

Now, a lot of doctors will tell you this is maintenance, that...

GREGORY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... it‘s the kind of thing you have to do if you have heart disease.

GREGORY:  Absolutely.  Look, I mean, my father has heart disease and has had procedures over time that has been exactly that...


GREGORY:  ... maintenance, and has preserved his ability to work and maintain a certain schedule.  And there‘s no reason to think it‘s not the case here.  But heart disease is still heart disease.


GREGORY:  It‘s the kind of thing that can keep creeping up and become very dangerous very fast.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, and of course, you have the stents—they‘re done through open-heart surgery, they‘re put in through catheterization through your groin it‘s done.  They‘re quite good at this right now and it‘s quite safe.

GREGORY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  The president‘s probably very lucky to have gone to the hospital when he felt those symptoms.

There he is, our stock footage there of the president.  I think it‘s interesting, David, they put out so quickly, his spokesperson up there in New York, that he is going to continue with the Haiti work.  He is going to get back to work.

GREGORY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He may spend the night in the hospital, but I‘m sure that that was optional.  He probably is doing that just for safety.

GREGORY:  And I interviewed him just several weeks ago, talking about his work in Haiti with former president Bush, as well, and he looked quite vigorous.  I mean, he looked quite good at that point and has appeared to be in very good shape physically and has maintained that schedule, has since been to Haiti.  So by all accounts, he‘s been just fine and has acted rather quickly when he did have signs of discomfort.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s amazing, we have a number of former presidents that are still in pretty good health and they‘re quite young relative to our presidents of the past.

Robert Bazell joins us right now with the expertise he has at hand, NBC News chief science and health correspondent.  Robert, thank you for joining us.  Give us a sense of the—well, the lack—I don‘t think it‘s urgent, this procedure, but tell us what you know.

BOB BAZELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, from the statement that we just heard from the Clinton people that you read, it sounds like it is not urgent in the sense that he did not have a heart attack.  He had what he had before, which is the arteries to his heart were closing up.  The last time he went to the hospital, after a lot of discussion among physicians, they decided to do the bypass surgery, where you bypass the blocked arteries.

This time, they decided to go in with the stent.  As you properly described it, it goes through a wire called a catheter through the groin and then a balloon opens up the clogged arteries, and a piece of metal, the stent, which is like a piece of mesh metal, opens up the clogged artery, restoring the blood flow to the heart.

It‘s a very good sign that he—this was a procedure that went on over—a problem went on over a few days.  In other words, he didn‘t have a sudden chest pain that might indicate a heart attack.  He was again having the problem that led him to have the bypass before, which is a shortness of breath and feeling not particularly good because your heart isn‘t getting enough oxygen.

But it didn‘t come on suddenly, so all indications are is that this is not a terribly serious thing, as you said.  It‘s become a very routine part of American medicine.  Probably a million of these are done every year in the United States.  And he—there‘s every indication that he will recover very soon.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think it‘s another statement, Robert, that we live in a very good time if you have heart disease, that we have this—as David said, your dad has it, and the fact that we‘re able to have this procedure available on such quick notice, without a heart attack, avoiding a heart attack, certainly extends your life.

BAZELL:  Well, the biggest progress in American medicine in our time has been against heart disease.  It used to be—it used to kill millions of people a year, and now it still does.  It‘s the greatest killer.  But the life expectancy is way greater now than it was before.

GREGORY:  Also, you have a recognition on the part of the former president who has a very intense schedule, but is also very quick to respond to any symptoms, which appears to have been the case here.

MATTHEWS:  Good for him.  You know, good for him.  He got in there, he dealt with the problem.  He had some symptoms, he didn‘t say, This‘ll pass.  Robert, that is just in terms of informing our viewers who care about the former president a lot and care about this situation of heart disease, the fact that he was—what I found—the only thing that was a little bit of a wrinkle was that he had the chest pains two days ago and had originally intended to go in yesterday, went in today.  I guess we‘ll find out more about this in the hours ahead.

BAZELL:  Well, exactly.  But that also indicates that it was not a terribly serious problem.  He wasn‘t to the point where he could barely get up out of a chair or walk across a room.  It was something that was coming on slowly.  He recognized it.

And of course, once you‘ve had any kind of heart problem, whether it‘s a heart attack or bypass surgery or angioplasty or a stent, you become acutely aware of any symptoms all the time and you‘re watching yourself all the time.  And it‘s very easy for heart patients to get confused between the kind of exhaustion that somebody like President Clinton would have from his frequent travels and—and just being out of breath because your heart is clogging up again.

So that was why he probably had—and we‘re guessing, of course, here

conversations with his physician before he decided to go in again.  This is the same hospital, we should point out, where he had the heart surgery in 2003.  So he is—you know, he‘s in good hands.  It‘s a very big hospital.

And they‘re calling me right now, so let me take the call and I‘ll get back to you.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Robert, thank you.  I want to go to Andrea Mitchell, who‘s also covering this story.  It‘s interesting, as Robert Bazell pointed out, to use the clinical term, the presentation is similar.  If you had the symptoms before, it recurs in a similar fashion.  A man of the IQ of this former president knows exactly what he‘s facing.  Andrea, join us on this with what you have.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you know, he was in Haiti only earlier this week again, and a lot of questions have been raised at the State Department.  There was a report in “The Miami Herald” and questions came up yesterday and again today at the State Department about an expanded role for Bill Clinton in Haiti, that the Haitian government was being—was considering a redevelopment organization that would be led jointly by leaders such as Bill Clinton.  It was never denied he was going to be the outside person to help lead the reconstruction of Haiti.

So we know that he‘s been very active, very involved.  Whether he‘s as physically fit as he was in the immediate aftermath of his previous surgery, and his physical regimen then—it seemed to me that in some of the pictures from Haiti this past week that perhaps he‘s put on little bit of weight.  You know, that diet has always been an issue with him.

We know that his original surgery was back in 2004, that, in fact, in September of 2004, he was very ill, very ill indeed.  But not long afterwards, about a month later, I was covering him out on the campaign trail for John Kerry in Philadelphia.  I think you were there as well that day, Chris, so you know that he did...


MATTHEWS:  I remember that day well.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.  And he didn‘t look so great then.  But he began to really regain strength and activity.  And he‘s been in terrific shape, as David Gregory can attest to having done that interview with him and with the other former president, George W. Bush, that very interesting day at the White House, David.

GREGORY:  Right.  The other thing is, the other prominent politician, Dick Cheney, the former vice president, who had a history of actual heart attack in his White House years, had a stent put in, had the kind of maintenance that he dealt with through that time.  And it just goes to the original point that getting very good medical care, being on top of these symptoms, being really aware of what the symptoms are can reduce this to nothing more than maintenance, even when you have a very intense schedule, like a politician or former president.


MITCHELL:  Well, speaking of...

MATTHEWS:  Just to bring us up to date...

MITCHELL:  Speaking of intense schedules...

MATTHEWS:  ... on this—I have to bring people up to date on this, Andrea.  Just a second.  I want to tell people what‘s going on here.  We‘re doing something unusual tonight, breaking into our usual lead here.  The former president has gone into a New York hospital, New York Presbyterian, to have a couple of stents to put in, obviously, to deal with the fact that he‘s had some coronary problems and he‘s opening up those valves.  And he‘s in good spirits, according to his spokesman.  He‘s going to continue his hard work on Haiti.

It looks like, from my experience with this and knowledge of it, it‘s

about maintenance of a man who‘s had heart disease, had open heart a while

four—well, six years ago now, and has had to keep up with it.  And this is the kind of thing that heart patients have to do from time to time.

Andrea, your thoughts on that.

MITCHELL:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  I think the people have to know the perspective here.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.  I just want to point out that he‘s back on the Columbia University campus of Presbyterian, of New York Presbyterian.  And this is the place where he went after having first been taken to a Westchester County hospital closer to Chappaqua when he first had that heart experience, then taken to Columbia Presbyterian and to that exact campus.  So he‘s probably dealing with the same doctors, who are familiar with his treatment.

Speaking of intense travel schedules, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was at the White House today for a meeting, or was scheduled to be at the White House, not covered by any of us, a private meeting with the president, and then was supposed to leave tomorrow.  Still on her schedule to leave tomorrow for Doha, for Qatar, and then Saudi Arabia.  So she‘s got a trip tomorrow that extends through Tuesday, and they say that trip is still scheduled.  We don‘t know, obviously, until she leaves tomorrow night whether or not it‘s actually taking place—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think that makes perfect sense, given what we know so far.  It is not an urgent situation.  Robert Bazell has made that clear.  David, as far as you know from your family history, this is something that goes on.

Again, the former president has had two stents placed in his arteries, his coronary arteries, to remove any blockage.  It‘s a procedure which is fairly normal now and routine, in fact, and quite safe.

Here‘s Robert Bazell with more of the science.  Robert, thank you.

BAZELL:  Chris, yes, I just got a call from the hospital, and they were waiting for Clinton‘s people to release the statement that they confirmed exactly that it‘s true that he is in the hospital and he had two stents.  It was probably done by Jeffrey Moses (ph), Dr. Jeffrey Moses, who‘s the head of the interventional cardiology there.  Although I don‘t know that, it would seem like he would be the likely person to do it on someone of President Clinton‘s stature.

As we‘ve been pointing out, this is very common.  This is a man who has heart disease.  And once you have heart disease, you have it for life, no matter how much medication you take, no matter how much you watch your weight and watch your exercise and watch your diet.

And I don‘t think that his traveling has a lot to do with bringing on the symptoms.  I think it‘s much more that he‘s somebody who‘s predisposed to having that clogged—plaque buildup in the artery that clogs the artery, the blood flow to the heart, and that needs to be opened up sometimes if it gets too bad.  But these stents are becoming very routine.  I think there are in the neighborhood of a million of them a year.

He will probably be in the hospital for a few days because they want to make sure that they don‘t close up again, which is a common problem with them.  They can do that sometimes.  It happened with Vice President Cheney when he had his stent.  So it‘s—he‘ll be fine, by all indications, but he will be in the hospital probably—certainly overnight and probably for a few days after that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Robert Bazell, it‘s great having you.  Thank you so much for the update.  I don‘t think we can get a better report than that right now.  As we said, his spokesman, the former president, made clear that he‘s had two stents put in.  The hospital has now confirmed that to Robert Bazell.

And just to get the statement out again, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries.  The president‘s in—the former president‘s in very good spirits.  He‘ll continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti‘s relief and long-term recovery efforts down there.  And apparently, based upon your reporting and others, he‘s going to be quite vigorous in his public activities.

GREGORY:  And we can just report, as well, that the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is now headed to New York City, as you would expect.

MATTHEWS:  You can confirm that now?

GREGORY:  Yes, we‘re just getting that word.

MATTHEWS:  So she‘s not changing her plans because of this.

GREGORY:  Well, it doesn‘t appear that way.  I don‘t know what her—in terms of the travel plans tomorrow, but she is headed up to New York City presumably to be with him, so...

MATTHEWS:  On the way to Qatar.

GREGORY:  Yes, if she‘s on the way, we‘ll see what her travel plans are tomorrow.

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you.  Great reporting from everybody.

It looks like it‘s not an urgent situation.  It‘s a routine matter for people who have heart disease.  You have to do this once in a while, get some stents put in.  That‘s what the former president did today after experiencing chest pains over the last couple of days.

Our NBC reporters are staying with us throughout this story.  Much more on president—former president Clinton, who‘s been hospitalized, as we said, up in New York, probably spend the night there, then get out.  Anyway, thank you, everyone.  Senator Judd Dodd—Judd Gregg is coming up next.


MATTHEWS:  Former president Bill Clinton has been hospitalized in New York City, as we‘ve been reporting.  He‘s undergone a procedure to receive two stents in his coronary arteries.  Secretary of state Hillary Clinton has left Washington for New York to be with the former president.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman is chief medical editor NBC News.  She joins us now from Vancouver.  Doctor, thank you for joining us.


MATTHEWS:  You know, I guess people are surprised by this, but it has become somewhat routine in heart medicine, the implantation of stents.

SNYDERMAN:  Well, it‘s become routine, but I guess I‘m going to be a -

not quite as rosy as everyone else who‘s gone before me, and that‘s to underscore that because heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, for anyone who‘s already had problems, like President Clinton, anytime you‘re exhausted or don‘t feel well, it‘s a sign that there could be trouble.  And for men to wait for that crushing chest pain as a sign of a heart attack is really putting off a potential problem.

So if anything, I think what we‘ve learned today is that if you‘ve gone through a vessel bypass or if you‘ve had stents put in, and you suddenly don‘t feel well and you can‘t explain it, you can‘t put off seeing a physician.  You need to get to the hospital right away.

MATTHEWS:  So a general lack of wellbeing?  Is that how you‘d describe it, or a general exhaustion?  What would you call a key symptom for having a heart—a potential heart attack, is what we‘re talking about here?

SNYDERMAN:  You know, when you say, As a man who‘s had heart disease, I just don‘t feel well, and it‘s hard to describe, or it‘s overwhelming exhaustion or shortness of breath, that‘s all the more reason to play it safe.  We know from autopsies done in children who have died from other illnesses that that kind of early heart disease in our country can be seen as early as toddlers.

So the fact that President Clinton had his blood vessels bypassed in 2004, and not stents, is an indication that the heart disease was rather severe.  We know that.  So because he is, I think, sort of the face of heart disease for so many men who lead—to really huge, big, bold lives, there‘s a lot for all of us to learn from him.  He lost weight.  He‘s never been a cigarette smoker.  He changed his diet.  He‘s been good about exercise.  Those are all really positive things.

But once you have heart disease, you have heart disease.  So to think that the stents are no big deal is like being a little bit pregnant.  It is a big deal and you have to address it.

MATTHEWS:  And how do you?  How does a man like Bill Clinton, who‘s working on AIDS with the Clinton Global Initiative, with all those—work he‘s doing in Africa, with his social life, with his—just his business, how does he address it?  Not eat—no more hamburgers?  Is that what we‘re talking?  He doesn‘t smoke. 

SNYDERMAN:  Well, look, yes, it does mean no more hamburgers. 

And, look, I know how trite this is going to sound, but you have to dial in to some intuitive part in your body where you start to balance what you feel in your gut and what you feel in your chest.  And I know it‘s hard for people who are driven and who are never on the right time zone and who are real go-getters, but you have to find that spot, because so many times in heart disease, there isn‘t just one single easy symptom, like crushing chest pain. 

Sometimes, it can be something as nebulous as overwhelming nausea, or not feeling well, or, frankly, just not being on your game.  And, if you experience that, and you have a history of heart disease, all the more reason you have to see your heart doctor or an emergency room physician immediately.  You can‘t put these things off for two days. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about what happened today with the president.  Two days ago, he experienced chest pains.  He called his doctor, his cardiologist in New York.  He made an appointment.  For whatever reason, it didn‘t happen until today.  He went in for the procedure. 

What—what do you think went on when he went in?  Did he get a stress test when he showed up, or did they move immediately with the catheterization? 

SNYDERMAN:  Well, it‘s hard to tell.  You know, these are physicians who know him intimately.  And they know better than anybody what the insides of his blood vessels look like. 

VIPs many times sort of go to the top of the diagnostic list of procedures.  So, the idea of his having an angiography right away is not really out of the question. 

And the real secret to whether you can put a stent in is whether the blood vessel disease is localized and not too long.  You know, the problem with stents is, they‘re only so long.  So, if the blood vessel is damage is longer than the stent, it doesn‘t do much good.  And that‘s why he had coronary artery bypass in 2004. 

But, obviously, they must have thought that they could get through this blockage, slip those stents in, and restore the blood supply to his heart. 

MATTHEWS:  Now, what would be his prognosis, besides perhaps safety overnight at the hospital tonight?  What would he have to do?  Will the doctors say take it easy, begin a more boring lifestyle?  Would they say, you have to eat even less, be even skinnier, do more exercise? 

What would a—or would a doctor say, you know, this is a—this is the gene pool you were born in, and this is what you have as part of your genetic reality?  What will the doctors say to him? 

SNYDERMAN:  They will tell a little—they will throw a little bit of everything at him, knowing darn well that the patient they‘re speaking to probably isn‘t going to slow down, that he has a crazy life, that he‘s going to be jumping all over the world. 

They know who they‘re speaking to.  The idea that he‘s probably already on statins and aspirin and leading a cleaner life with regard to his diet and exercise, they know that.  He has been a patient who‘s conformed to the routine. 

But, at the end of the day, we are what we eat as teenagers and young adults.  Stress plays a role.  So, all of those things together—they will go back to square one, and they will reiterate everything.  And he will be a very good patient. 

But a reminder again that, for all of us who have been in this kind of situation, you have to figure out when you‘re not at the top of your game, and that‘s when you have to check it out with your authority figures.  And, for President Clinton, those authority figures are his cardiologists. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, in all seriousness, if he were to go retreat into an abbey somewhere and eat carrots for the rest of his life, would that really change that much? 

SNYDERMAN:  No, I mean...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, isn‘t this a lot of this just how he was born? 

SNYDERMAN:  Well, I don‘t think—that‘s—but that‘s not the point.  No one‘s telling him to go eat carrots and alfalfa sprouts and meditate for the rest of his life.  I mean, we know that that‘s not the issue.  But it‘s a compounded series of factors, diet, exercise, stress. 

You know, he‘s been a very good patient.  He‘s listened to everybody. 


SNYDERMAN:  And we have watched him shed his—shed the weight.  And we know he‘s been in touch with his physicians.  But, at the end of the day, once a heart patient, always a heart patient. 

And when you don‘t feel well, you can‘t just say, well, I was in Haiti last week.  I‘m exhausted.  That might be true.  But you still have to pick up the phone.  You have to make a call to those physicians.  And if they say, get in here, you can‘t put them off for two days.  That means get in. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, boy.  Great advice.  I think the two bits of advice are so powerful and easy to understand.  One is that general sense of not feeling good.  And a lot of people just assume that‘s just the way things are.  They‘re feeling low. 

SNYDERMAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  And, in fact, it means something in terms of your health.

SNYDERMAN:  It does mean something. 

MATTHEWS:  It means something serious. 

SNYDERMAN:  It means a lot. 


It means a lot.

MATTHEWS:  And, secondly, to do something about it, and to do something like call your doctor. 

I think you‘re so helpful to a lot of people watching tonight, as well as those just covering this big news story, the president getting the two stents in his coronary arteries today, which—well, we will—we will talk more about. 

It‘s great having an expert as a colleague.  Nancy Snyderman, Doctor, thank you so much for joining us. 

SNYDERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  We will be sticking with you as this story continues here tonight.  We will have much more on the condition of former President Bill Clinton, an active man who had to go into the hospital today to get two stents for his coronary arteries.  Some would call this maintenance.  Others would call it a serious warning.  Others are just saying this is part of our education about what heart disease means, and it means it never goes away. 

The former president up in New York City, let‘s all pray for him—back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Former President Bill Clinton had two stents inserted into one of his coronary arteries a while back.  He‘s been—been hospitalized up in New York City with chest pains, and the procedure‘s already taken place.  And he‘s apparently in good spirits.  He‘s going to get back to work fairly soon, after spending the night in the hospital. 

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire was elected to the Senate back in 1992, the same year that President Clinton won the presidency. 

We wanted to talk to you about health care.  Let‘s talk about the former president‘s health care. 


MATTHEWS:  We all love—this former president is quite a figure in our lives. 

GREGG:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  And he has to look out for his health, like so many of us.  Your thoughts about this guy‘s hyperbolic—I don‘t know what the right word is.


MATTHEWS:  This man leads quite a life. 

GREGG:  He sure does.  And we‘re all hoping he‘s doing well.  And Kathy and I certainly wish him the best.  And it sounds like he is, from the reports I have been listening on your show here, Chris. 

I think served the governor when he was governor of Arkansas and then had the chance to serve him when he was president in the Senate.  You know, I can‘t think of anything worse for your heart probably than running for governor in Arkansas four or five times, as he did.  Think of all the barbecues he had to eat.


GREGG:  And then moving on—moving on to the presidency‘s job, you can‘t even quantify the stress of the presidency.  You can‘t quantify it.

And, so, obviously, he‘s been through a lot.  But he‘s in good shape, or at least he always appear to be in good shape when I have talked to him and met him.  And he‘s obviously still leading an extraordinarily active life.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGG:  What he‘s doing in Haiti is spectacular, in my opinion.  And we just wish him the best, just wish him the best. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s so interesting, Senator, about former presidents.  I remember watching Kennedy‘s inauguration back in ‘61, as you did, and my dad saying to me, the happiest man in that room or on that stage is Ike Eisenhower, because he doesn‘t have the—the pressure on him anymore. 

GREGG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And yet here‘s a fellow that looks like he wants more pressure.  He keeps going back into the arena, facing the lions, if you will, again and again, helping his wife run for president the other—two years ago now, with all the stress...

GREGG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and mayhem of any presidential campaign. 

GREGG:  Well, what he‘s doing, I think, is exactly what former presidents should do, and what I think we‘re seeing George W. Bush start to do, and what clearly Jimmy Carter did. 

And that‘s use the status of his personal position, which was president of the United States, leader of the free world, to try to advance very important issues relative to making the world and the country better.  And he‘s certainly done that, extraordinarily, I think. 

And what he—as I said, what he‘s doing in Haiti is extraordinary.  But he has a whole series of things he‘s pursued here since he‘s been president, which have been just goodwill missions that raise not only the issue that he‘s on, makes that—makes that addressed more effectively, but it also raises, I think, people‘s respect for him, and for our nation, because he is obviously a senior statesman in our nation, although he‘s not quite that old, quite honestly.  He‘s the same age as I am. 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s not old at all.

You know, Lyndon Johnson died at the age of 64, and we thought he was 100 years old at the time.  Of course, he smoked and drank and he didn‘t exactly take care of himself after he left the presidency. 

Well, you‘re a politician, Senator, and I respect you for that.  And wonder if you could give us some insight into why a man like Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton.  I mean, the pressure that he seeks in life, he doesn‘t want to go sit and eat carrots and live in a monastery. 

GREGG:  No, you know, there—there is this—I don‘t know what they call it—AAA personality, or this desire to go out and be productive and contribute.  And, obviously, he has it in—in just—at a very high level.  He wants very much to have an impact.  And he has had an extraordinary impact, obviously, president of the United States, obviously governor of Arkansas for many terms, and now a senior statesman. 

But it—it—there are certain personalities who pursue these very challenging lifestyles, which put a lot of stress, not only on you, but, more importantly, on your families.  I mean, you have got to remember, your families are—are living and dying, or living and suffering with the same things that you‘re going through every day, but they can‘t go out and sort of take on the folks in a public way.  They just have to experience it. 

So, it is an extraordinarily intense experience to get engaged in the ring.  But, you know, Theodore Roosevelt said, you either get in the ring or you‘re not going to have much of a life.  And that‘s a paraphrase, by the way.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.


GREGG:  He said it much more eloquently. 

But, as a very practical meantime, that‘s the truth.  You know, you either get in and try to change things, or what the heck.  What are you doing?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was at the Sorbonne speech.

But I have to tell you, the one thing that the man we‘re looking at

right now, the former president who had the two stents put into his

coronary arteries, owes a lot to the Granite State.  And I was just asking

now that I have you...

GREGG:  He does, by the way.  But he‘s been very appreciative of it, too.  He‘s always been—he and his wife, Hillary, have been extremely attentive to the people here in New Hampshire for years. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that grab.  What hold does this man we‘re looking at with Senator Clinton—she got herself back into that campaign two years ago by winning up in New Hampshire...

GREGG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... pulling the upset against Barack Obama.  He made himself the comeback kid back in ‘92, when you won that year, pulling a big upset. 

GREGG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he almost beat Paul Tsongas, having been way back in the polls. 

GREGG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it about New Hampshire and this guy?  The Granite State, live free or die types, seem to like this Democrat—both of them.

GREGG:  Well, I think—I think he has a natural way of communicating with people, and always has.  And it‘s—his greatest strength is his ability to make people feel comfortable about who he is and what he‘s about.  And that has always been the truth of his success, or the essence of his success. 

In Hillary‘s case, I think she came here, and she was sort of down, obviously, after Iowa.  And she came here and just showed herself for being the person that she is, and not only a very strong person, as an individual, with very strong views, but also a person who is sensitive, and willing to show that—that side of her, which she really wasn‘t before. 

You know, there was that question that was asked over in Portsmouth where she got quite emotional about it.  And I think people said, wow, you know, I like that.  I like the fact that she‘s not only a strong individual, but she can show a little emotion. 

So, they have always connected extraordinarily well here in New Hampshire.  And equally important, as I said earlier, they stayed in touch.  You know, they never said, after New Hampshire, left the state and never came back.  They always come back.  And they come back fairly regularly over the years. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I guess we‘re going to talk a lot about the president‘s health in the next hour.  And I have to tell you, thank you for coming. 

GREGG:  Pleasure. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Senator, I have to get back to the point you made, Senator, the interesting personality aspect of our health. 

A couple of months ago, we were at Cafe Milano, which is a big hangout here in Washington.  You know, some strange customers hang around there sometimes, but the former—former president was in there one night.  And we were having an NBC party, and I walked into the room, and he had come in and said hello to us. 

And there he was surrounded by 20 people having this gigantic dinner with all these people.  And I said, why does this guy need this?  Why doesn‘t he just go home and relax?  And he was out there sort of entertaining 20 people at a time at one table. 

It was—it‘s—we all are who we are.  And there we are—by the way, we‘re looking at these great stock pictures of the former president doing what he likes to do.  And it‘s in—he‘s in the arena all the time. 

GREGG:  Yes, absolutely.  Did you check what he was eating?  I hope he was eating correctly. 


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  It‘s pretty rich food over there. 

But, anyway—anyway, well, thank you.  We‘re going to talk to you later tonight in our second edition about the hope we have for a—we do have it here at HARDBALL—for some kind of a compromise on health care. 

Senator Judd Gregg, we will be back to you for our second edition at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Still ahead, we will be joined by NBC‘s Tom Brokaw, who is out of Vancouver.  He‘s going to talk about former President Clinton.  He‘s been doing some reporting about that. 

The former president is up in New York, a New York City hospital, spending the night, after having two stents placed in his coronary artery.  He‘s apparently in good shape, good spirits, according to his spokesman.  He‘s going to get through this thing.  He has heart disease.  He‘s tending to it.  That‘s the good news. 

We will be right back after this.


MATTHEWS:  As we have been reporting, former President Bill Clinton went into the New York Presbyterian Hospital up at Columbia University today after experiencing chest pains for the last couple of days.  He had a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries.  He‘s in fine shape and good spirits, according to his spokesman.  All the reports are very positive. 

Secretary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, will be going up to visit him on her way on a long-term trip—longtime-planned trip out of the country.  So, everything looks pretty OK for the former president.

Let‘s bring in NBC‘s Tom Brokaw, who‘s up there in Vancouver getting ready for the Olympics.  And he‘s been following this story and doing some reporting on it.

Tom, thank you for joining us. 

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  My pleasure, Chris.  Well, I don‘t know a lot more to add to all that.  Obviously it lit up his staff all over the world, they‘re in touch with each other.  I said to one of them, I hope this is going to be good news when he told me that the statement would be coming out.  I said we all do.  I think that they‘re feeling that way.  Look, I‘m not a physician, I‘m not Nancy, but I do think as a man of a certain age, that these are, again, wakeup calls. 

And the president has been pushing himself very hard.  In modern medicine, you can live with stents.  But he‘s probably going to have to do a lifestyle check of some kind, as a result of this experience.  You know, on the other hand, former vice president Dick Cheney has had stents and heart attacks and he is still going strong and any number of other people are.  The advances in cardiac medicine are astonishing in so many ways.  The president was very proud of how he had changed his habits after he had had the first episode.  Now, whether he stayed with that or not, I don‘t know.  I do know that he has been pushing himself very hard on a schedule.  We‘ve been working with him on getting him to sit down to reflect on his generation, the baby boomer generation.  And it‘s where in the world is Bill Clinton today.  So maybe this will be a wakeup call. 

MATTHEWS:  You have to wonder, Tom, every time you go to a doctor, he‘ll tell you it‘s a combination.  You say, what‘s causing this?  He‘ll say it‘s a combination of things.  And it will be your diet, your lack of exercise, your genes.  And there‘s always the temptation to fall back on the genes and say this is the way it is.  I guess the former president has the same situation everyone else on this planet does, that you‘re sort of your physical outlook is a function somewhat of who your parents are, what sort of genes you inherited and also your habits. 

But you‘ve got to wonder, Tom, you know him very well that your sort of metabolism, here‘s a man of action who gets out there, who wants to get up in the morning and live, who doesn‘t want to go off and sort of mentally or physically retire. 

BROKAW:  Well, no.  But you can live and still take care of yourself.  You know, we all, after a certain age, I think fall into patterns where we say, maybe I‘ll skip the cardio exercise this morning.  Or maybe I don‘t want to work that hard at it. 

And it is a constant in your life.  You know, I go through that myself.  As you know, I‘ve worked out pretty hard most of my life.  But I let it slide if I get on the road for a long time.  I‘m on an airplane early in the morning, until late at night.  Or then I get to wherever I‘m going and I really don‘t want to do that.  So I don‘t know what his regimen has been.  But I hope that he has been working hard. 

But if you just watch him for the last couple of weeks alone, all the late nights and going down to Haiti, coming back, being at the U.N., raising the money, rocketing around the world in a lot of other ways, I just don‘t know how much time he‘s had to take care of that regular physical regimen that you should be doing. 

And by the way, there have been a lot of advances in that, for especially men of Bill Clinton‘s age.  And dare I say I‘m older than he is, and for me as well, about what they‘re learning about how you exercise.  More accelerated bursts, always doing something cardio every day.  And I don‘t know whether he‘s been after that or not. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Tom, you look in fabulous shape.  I want to ask you about the president‘s sort of mission in life.  You‘ve got a mission in life, too.  I mean, the man drives himself for a reason.  I think he does want to be a citizen of the world.  He has grand—I don‘t mean ambitions in a narrow sense.  You know him very well.  Tell me, if you can, what drives him these days.  What makes Bill Clinton get up in the morning?

BROKAW:  I think it‘s built into his DNA, frankly.  I think it‘s been that way since he was a boy wonder in Hope, Arkansas, and Little Rock, Arkansas.  He always wanted to be the guy at the head of the parade, doing things.  He loved running for student council president, running for Congress from Arkansas, running, as you know, for governor know, losing, then going back and running again running for president when he was an unlikely choice for that. 

And I also think he wants in some fashion to make his place in history more prominent and more permanent.  He went out of the White House with a lot of good feeling.  But there was still that deep scar that was left over from the Monica Lewinsky affair in which he lied under federal oath.  Impeachment proceedings were initiated against him. 

And I think he now wants to spend the rest of his life trying to show that Bill Clinton was more than that.  I thought it was very heartening the other day when he showed up with President George W., when he showed up with President Bush the 43rd, George W. Bush, and to see these two young men, baby boomers really, I think of them still as being young, coming together as they were great political adversaries, and saying we can do more now for the world by working together.  Not just the two of them, but the country, and how we have kind of common ground to pursue. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  I think that‘s a good analysis.  I think he is kind of a Joseph Conrad character, a Lloyd Jim (ph), a man who wants to—like we all do, redeem any flaws in the past.  And end on a good note in life and to leave a good biography, if you will.  I think it‘s fascinating.  What did you make of Dr. Nancy Snyderman‘s talk about the fact that at a certain age, you have to begin to recognize symptoms, they call them in medicine, presentations.  If you‘ve had chest pains, if you had that general sense of not feeling good, act on it?

BROKAW:  Well, I wake up in the morning testing all my pains aptly.  But you do think about it a lot more.  I mean, I‘ve read every account there is of people I don‘t know and people I do know who have had heart attacks.  And apparently it‘s unmistakable.  I mean, if you‘re at all alert to your body, when you—when the heart starts to go wrong, you really know that. 

Now, we all have those episodes when you say, I wonder if that‘s something going on there.  I‘m pretty careful about that stuff.  And, you know, you‘re coming out of the holiday season, incidentally, where you probably were a little more intemperate in how you ate or what you did.  But yes, in fact, you do have to pay more attention to it. 

But the good news is, and in President Clinton‘s case, I think Nancy would agree with me on this, that we‘ve made so many advances in cardiac treatment and treating exactly these kinds of conditions.  And there‘s no better place in the world than Columbia Presbyterian to get that done. 

MATTHEWS:  Great.  It‘s all great information for us all.  Thank you, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who is right next to you there, and thank you, Tom Brokaw, out there in Vancouver.  The weather looks nice.  They don‘t have the snow we have here, but they have some.  Anyway, thank you both for that late reporting there.  We‘re going to be right back more to talk about the president‘s condition as we finish up this first edition of HARDBAL tonight.  We‘ll be back, by the way, at 7:00 Eastern with more on the president‘s health.  But of course, the big stories tonight, it looks to be like there might be a break-through, a small glimmer of light on the possibility of a health care break-through which will include some bipartisan help from a certain Republican senator named Judd Gregg.  We‘ll be talking to him.  We‘ll be right back with more of this episode of HARDBALL.  Actually it‘s an edition of HARDBALL.  We‘ll be right back.



BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  On this day with high hopes and brave hearts in massive numbers, the American people have voted to make a new beginning.


MATTHEWS:  That was former president Bill Clinton celebrating his presidential victory back in 1992.  He had just defeated the first President Bush, Bush 41.  Tonight he is in a New York hospital having received two stents in a coronary artery.  And we‘ve heard before, Bush 41, he says, “We have been in touch with President Clinton‘s staff and of course Barbara and I wish him a speedy and full recovery.”  That‘s from the man who was defeated back in ‘92.

Let‘s bring back NBC News chief of science and health correspondent Bob Bazell.  It‘s so great to be with you, Bob.  Just give us a background on the president‘s health, how he got to today, what he did today, what was done for him.

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF SCIENCE & HEALTH CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Bill Clinton has cardiovascular disease and he is certainly not alone in that.  It‘s so common that 1 million of these stent operations are done every year in the United States.  Now Chris, when you think there‘s about what, 315 million Americans, that gives you an idea of the immensity of this—how common this treatment is and how relatively safe it is.  Most of these people do just fine.  He will probably spend the night in the hospital. 

But what happens is cardiovascular disease is a progressive condition where plaque, the material that contains cholesterol builds up in the arteries and eventually starts knocking off blood flow to the heart.  Now if the plaque ruptures and causes a complete blockage, that‘s a heart attack.  And that can cause muscle damage to the heart.  We have to emphasize over and over again, even though President Clinton had bypass surgery in 2004 and he had two stents put in today, he has never had a heart attack. 

So there‘s no evidence or reason to think to think that he has damage to his heart and muscle.  And therefore there‘s no reason to think that there‘s anything that‘s going to happen in the future that‘s going to slow him down. You were just talking to our colleague Tom Brokaw who was talking about President Clinton‘s stressful lifestyle, but there‘s a lot of debate among cardiologists about whether that kind of an active lifestyle actually causes heart disease.  Actually, I think most people these days don‘t think it does, and the idea of telling somebody to slow down because they have heart disease is not what would happen. I think you‘re going to see that he‘ll get a much higher dose of medication to bring down his cholesterol even further and he‘ll be told to get back on the road and do what he does best.  Maybe he needs more cardiovascular specific exercise, but moving around doesn‘t cause heart attacks—heart disease.

MATTHEWS:  You know, now that we are on the topic and we‘re talking about the former president and the fact that he had two stents put in and some people consider that maintenance, and some think it‘s more serious than that, but the question comes back to what do you do about it?  And you know, you hear so many stories of people who retire at maybe 65, 67 and don‘t live another six months.  And then—

BAZELL:  Yeah.  That is—

MATTHEWS:  that makes your point.

BAZELL:  It does make the point.  And then I think that the relationship—stress that causes heart disease is the kind of stress where a person loses his or her job and can‘t support the family.  That stress has been shown in both animals and human beings to cause heart disease.  That is stress.  That‘s not the stress of an active person who is having a fulfilling life.  That is certainly the description of Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  I love that analysis because it‘s the way I want to live.  Thank you Robert, stick with us.  We will be back with Robert Bazell to give us more an update and more of an analysis about what the former president went through today, with the procedure he went through at New York Presbyterian up at Columbia University.  We‘ll be right back with more on former president Bill Clinton.  This is going to be the front page news story tomorrow.


MATTHEWS:  We are back with Robert Bazell talking about the former president‘s condition.  We have been reporting now for an hour that former president Bill Clinton has been admitted into New York Presbyterian Hospital up at Columbia University for the implanting of two stents in his coronary artery.  Dr. Bazell, just give us a sense, we only have a minute or two, for the people now to have a good update on the president‘s outlook. 

BAZELL:  First of all, Chris, I am not a doctor, but I have got to tell you that his outlook is very good.  Many of the cardiologists I have spoken to say the usual procedure here is that the person spends one night in the hospital.  They‘re little bit groggy when it is over, they go home and then they go home and they have to take it easy for about a week to make sure that everything is all right.  The big danger it will close up again. 

Again, we have to emphasize, President Clinton neither during his 2004 bypass surgery nor today did he have a heart attack.  He just had a closing off of the blood supply to his heart.  Both were remedied by these procedures and there is every reason to believe that he can go back to living a life that was as every bit as active as it was before he has had these procedures. 

MATTHEWS:  Was he under anesthesia for these stents being put in?

BAZELL:  He‘s under a mild anesthesia where he remains conscious but he was not under the kind of anesthesia that makes you unconscious.  So he would have been up and very aware of what was going the entire time and talking to the doctors and I‘m sure he was cracking jokes, knowing him. 

MATTHEWS:  And how soon will he be back on his feet?

BAZELL:  He will be able to go home probably tomorrow.  I can‘t say for sure, they might keep him an extra night.  That decision will be made tomorrow, but he is not going to be in the hospital for a very long time and he‘ll probably rest at home for about a week before he goes back on the road again to do the things that he has been doing so well in the last few weeks and months.

MATTHEWS:  Robert Bazell, thank you so much for the reporting on the president‘s condition today and the procedure he went through.  Everyone is happy that it‘s behind him and the president is going to be back on the road again soon, the former president.  We‘ll be right back ourselves, an hour from now with a live eastern, 7 Eastern edition of HARDBALL, a second edition tonight all about the big political stories tonight, including the possibility of a deal on health care.  It‘s time now for “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz.



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