updated 3/11/2004 10:49:21 AM ET 2004-03-11T15:49:21

Guests: David Bossie, Patrick Guerriero, George Pataki, John Stossel, Alexander Haig, Dana Priest

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, John Kerry takes a shot at the Bush administration that he doesn‘t know you‘re going to hear. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We‘re going to keep pounding, I‘ll you.  We‘re just beginning to fight here.  These guys are—these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I‘ve ever seen.  It‘s scary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And Senator Kerry stands by that statement about the Bush people being crooked and liars.  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Well, that‘s one of the times that politicians say something when the mic is still on and don‘t want you to hear it.  I‘m Chris Matthews and this hour, we‘ll hear what one of President Bush‘s closest friends and supporters has to say about John Kerry‘s comments today. 

New York Governor George Pataki is going to be here. 

Plus, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig on CIA Director George Tenet‘s testimony yesterday that he had to correct statements made by Dick Cheney about prewar intelligence in Iraq. 

But first, with 236 left until the election, the ad war goes full flame. 

HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster joins us now with the analysis—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, some groups that are independent of the presidential candidates are now jumping into the fray.  Their advertisements are strong, but their tactics are controversial. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Calling the president‘s demand for a constitutional amendment on marriage gay bashing, a conservative gay group called the Log Cabin Republicans is now bashing the president. 

And they‘re using Dick Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian and who defended gay rights at the last vice-presidential debate. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The fact of the matter is we live in a free society and freedom means freedom for everybody. 

SHUSTER:  The television ad, which features Cheney and images of the civil rights struggle, is the first ad in the organization‘s 27-year history.  It will run in seven key battleground states. 

CHENEY:  But I don‘t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area. 

SHUSTER:  The Bush administration is also under attack from Democrats.  A group lead by former Clinton administration staffer Harold Ickes is launching a $5 million ad blitz in 17 states. 

ANNOUNCER:  President Bush.  Remember the American dream?  It‘s about hope, not fear.  It‘s about more jobs at home, not tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.  It‘s about giving our children their chance, not our debt. 

SHUSTER:  The Media Fund, as the coalition is called, has been underwritten largely by George Soros, other top Democratic financiers and unions. 

In the past, their large unregulated contributions went directly to the pear.  But new campaign finance laws prohibit that and any coordination with the party or presidential campaign is forbidden. 

Still, listen carefully. 

KERRY:  Our campaign is about replacing doubt with hope and replacing fear with security.

ANNOUNCER:  President Bush, remember the American dream?  It‘s about hope, not fear. 

SHUSTER:  Republicans say the group is a blatant violation of federal law, and they‘re demanding the Federal Election Commission step in.  But the FEC chairman told reporters today he doesn‘t think there is a problem, exasperating one of authors of the campaign finance reform. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  As my 15-year-old son was would say, Jimmy would say, “Duh, they‘re engaged in partisan political activities so therefore, they should be regulated.” 

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile...

ANNOUNCER:  Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. 

SHUSTER:  A Republican coalition is also running ads. 

ANNOUNCER:  Forty-two-foot luxury yacht, $1 million.  Four lavish mansions and beachfront estate, over $30 million.  Another rich liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he‘s a man of the people.  Priceless. 

SHUSTER:  Citizens United claims the spot will run in several states, but an independent ad tracker says the group has only bough time in Washington, D.C. 

One man behind the apparent effort to simply get the media‘s attention is conservative publisher Floyd Brown.  Sixteen years ago, Brown was involved with a Republican group that briefly ran the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis. 

ANNOUNCER:  Horton receive ten weekend passes from prison.  Horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping his girlfriend.  Weekend prison passes: Dukakis on crime. 

SHUSTER:  Back then, top Republican Party officials distanced themselves from the Willie Horton ad.  Now under the new campaign finance reform, they would be required to have that distance. 

But it‘s clear that despite campaign finance reform, some top Republican and Democratic attack ad specialists are still very much around and their work, Chris, is now part of this campaign—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

David Bossie is the president of Citizens United.  Patrick Guerriero is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.  HARDBALL, by the way, asked the Media Fund, that‘s a liberal group, for a representative, but they turned down our request.  That‘s the Harold Ickes group. 

Let me go to David Bossie.  That ad is great, by the way. 

DAVID BOSSIE, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS UNITED:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s funny.  I said to you before the show, you can sit in a bar and watch that and just chuckle.  You have these two elite guys, these two tops, these aristocrats having a good time. 

But I must ask you this.  How many cities are you paying the ad in? 

Because I want to correct the record if I have to here.

BOSSIE:  That was a ridiculous...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s fix it. 

BOSSIE:  Yes.  The facts are the facts.  We‘re on in, I‘d say, about a dozen states.  They‘re all battleground states.  We‘re up around the country.  We‘re up in every region of the country. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re spending a significant amount of money putting this out?  And we don‘t have to... 

BOSSIE:  Significant to us, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you...

BOSSIE:  I don‘t have George Soros.  I don‘t have big pockets like the Media Fund. 

MATTHEWS:  What you have is a case against George—against John Kerry.  Is John Kerry more of an aristocrat than the president is, in terms of his background?  They all went to prep school.  They went to Ivy League schools. They come from distinguished families, to put it lightly.  In fact, the president couldn‘t have come from a more distinguished family. 

So how can you attack John Kerry as an elitist if the president is not one?

BOSSIE:  Well, we‘re not saying that George Bush is not a man of wealth and means. 

MATTHEWS:  More than Kerry.  Kerry had to mortgage his house to stay in this race. 

BOSSIE:  Mortgages.  That is exactly right.  Now George W. Bush was a baseball club owner...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BOSSIE:  ... not a yacht club runner.  OK?  John Kerry is seen as a yacht club guy. 

George W. Bush is a likable fellow, a guy who the American people knows and they have decided they like him after four years.  He‘s a likable fellow. 

John Kerry is not known to the American people.  That‘s our job. 

We‘re educating the American people as to see who John Kerry really is. 

MATTHEWS:  But how is he different—and if you had to explain this to somebody from Mars or somebody from France, the difference in class—I hate that, we don‘t use that word much—the difference in class between one guy that went to Andover and the other guy that went to St. Paul‘s. 

They both went to Yale.  They were both in the same private club, Skull and Bones.  They both had big-shot fathers.  Bush had a much bigger shot father. 

Why—One guy joined the military, one joined the Guard. 

Why can you say that John Kerry was somehow some aristocrat if Bush isn‘t?  It‘s just how they act?  Is that what you‘re going by, how they present themselves?

BOSSIE:  No.  Exactly.  John Kerry is trying to—this is an ad that John Edwards wished he could have run in the primaries.  Look.  John Kerry is a guy who‘s out there running as an average Joe, a man of the people.  He is not. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I want to move along, because if you think at key points in his life he did not play the Bush cards, George—and I like him when I‘m with him, too.  The president‘s a very likable guy.  He is a regular guy in many ways   . 

But you don‘t think he called on the old man‘s legacy powers when he went to try to get into Yale or tried to get into the Guard. 

BOSSIE:  People know those things.

MATTHEWS:  All those were his advantages when he was growing up. 

BOSSIE:  The American people already know all of that. 

MATTHEWS:  What are you telling them they don‘t know? 

BOSSIE:  We‘re telling them who John Kerry is. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is he?

BOSSIE:  He is a rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  As opposed to a rich conservative from Texas. 

BOSSIE:  The American—Chris, you‘re harping on something the American people already understand.  They already know it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you what‘s significant in your ads?

BOSSIE:  What‘s significant is the American people don‘t know John Kerry.  We‘re running an ad campaign that is going to educate the American people on who John Kerry is. 

MATTHEWS:  And he‘s a guy who has appeared on occasion with Ted Kennedy.

BOSSIE:  On occasion.  Look.  That is—The real issue here is he was ranked No. 1 liberal in the United States Senate by “National Journal.”  That will be the next thing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go.  Let‘s go to my new friend here, Patrick Guerriero.  Let me ask you about the Log Cabin.  I spoke to your groups in the past.  You‘re all conservative, pretty much, on fiscal issues? 

PATRICK GUERRIERO, LOG CABIN CONSERVATIVES:  Real conservative. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re gay.  And you—What do you think about the vice president‘s predicament right now, having a gay daughter and having to defend this administration‘s—this administration‘s disagreeing with the idea of gay marriage?

GUERRIERO:  Well, the administration that we endorsed in the 2000 election, that administration that believed in state‘s rights, that believed we shouldn‘t be engaged in a culture war and focus on things like taxes and a strong defense and a limited government. 

MATTHEWS:  Your issues. 

GUERRIERO:  Those are the things that unite the Republican family and conservatives.  This election will be lost if we take a page out of the playbook of Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Houston convention. 

I can‘t figure out why the White House is listening to the failed presidential candidacies of Gary Bauer and Pat Robertson.  They should listen to the George Patakis and Schwarzeneggers of the world, who know we have to build an inclusive party. 

MATTHEWS:  But you zeroed in on Dick Cheney, a guy who I disagree with on several things.  But the point is I do think that being the father of a gay daughter and the way he‘s handled it is very admirable and very up front and fatherly. 

GUERRIERO:  Dignified. 

MATTHEWS:  And now isn‘t he in a very difficult situation now, to be hit by you guys from your side of the issue and being hit by the president from his side of the issue?  What‘s he supposed to do, say I disagree with the president?

GUERRIERO:  We actually...

MATTHEWS:  What would you like him to do?

GUERRIERO:  We‘re the only organization, actually, that has said that we thought attacking his daughter, Mary Cheney, was inappropriate.  Family members should be left out.  There are a number of organizations that are calling on her to make a public statement. 

We think a relationship between a father and a daughter is something that‘s private. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  You mean, some of the gay groups are trying to get her to go out and push.  Why do you use the father and daughter relationship in the ad, then, if you don‘t want to put pressure on him?

GUERRIERO:  It was the single most powerful example of a vice president or president standing up for state‘s rights and standing up for same-sex relationships, who should be treated equally under the law, whether it becomes tax fairness or health care benefits.

And Dick Cheney made the best case, I think, ever in public life in America, and he did that as a good conservative who was able to actually win an election in the year 2000. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got a new poll out, we look at it today, an MSNBC poll, that shows that Bush does gain on this, that he wins on it.  I mean, it‘s all these polls. 

But it shows he does better on the ban, proposed ban, constitutional ban on gay marriage as opposed to the more liberal position of Kerry, who supports basically states rights and civil unions.  At least he supports civil unions, you give him that one. 

GUERRIERO:  Polls are going up and down on this, but I do believe the president—the American people want a uniter, not a divider.  The country is just struggling with the whole issue of gay marriage and civil unions...

MATTHEWS:  Are you guys still going to—I hate to rush you, but I‘m being rushed. 

Do you—A number of years ago I spoke to the gay—to the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay Republican group, and you guys, I think, were saying that you weren‘t going to make marriage an issue, because it was a killer, very hard for the Republicans to deal with. 

Is it going to be a deal breaker for you guys, if you stay in the party, if the president keeps pushing this line?

GUERRIERO:  The issue isn‘t marriage.  The issue is our sacred constitution.  Good conservatives shouldn‘t tinker with the American Constitution.

And he‘s jeopardized the million gay and lesbian votes he received in 2000.  My memory is that race was pretty darn close.  You can‘t start losing good Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  How did you figure out that number?

GUERRIERO:  Exit polls.

MATTHEWS:  Exit polls.

GUERRIERO:  Consistent exit polls showed at least...

MATTHEWS:  How many Democratic gay votes were there?

GUERRIERO:  It was 25 percent of the vote was given to Bush-Cheney. 

MATTHEWS:  So one quarter of the gay vote in this country is Republican. 

GUERRIERO:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Interesting development.  Anyway, good luck.  Thank you. 

Thanks for coming.  David Bossie, I love tangling with you, boy. 

Coming up, John McCain says he‘d entertain—I love this word—He‘s entertain the idea of being John Kerry‘s running mate this year.  We‘ll ask New York Governor Pataki about that little sugarplum.

Plus, what does the New York Governor say to those who have complained about the Bush campaign‘s use of September 11 imagery in their ad campaign?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, George Pataki, friend and supporter of President Bush, on the campaign‘s use of September 11 in the campaign, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

New York Governor George Pataki is playing host to the Republican convention in New York this summer.  He‘s close friends with President Bush and will be joining the president on a visit to a groundbreaking ceremony of a 9/11 memorial on Long Island tomorrow. 

By the way, Governor, thanks for joining us.  Here‘s what Senator John Kerry said when he though the mics were off after a rally today with the AFL-CIO. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  We‘re going to keep pounding him, I tell you.  Just beginning to fight here.  These guys are—these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I‘ve ever seen.  It‘s scary. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Governor Pataki, what happens when a politician gets caught with the mic on when he thinks it‘s off?  He‘s calling the Republicans a bunch of crooked liars. 

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  Well, he got one thing right there, which is it‘s scary.  And it is scary that someone who has an opportunity to be the president of this country would talk that way, whether a mic is on or a mic is off.  There is no place for that in American politics. 

Everyone understands President Bush‘s integrity.  You can have legitimate disagreements on job policies, on the war on terror, on the war in Iraq and those are appropriate for discussion. 

But to engage in that type of vicious character assassination, not just of the president, but of his entire team, of Colin Powell and everyone else who has been involved in working to protect this country, is outrageous. 

And I think Senator Kerry, when he hears that, will rightfully be embarrassed, and I hope that he will apologize. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he was talking about Colin Powell in those remarks?

PATAKI:  He was talking about “those guys,” the entire team.  A crooked bunch from what—from the tape that I just heard. 

And I just think it‘s unfortunate, regardless of who he was talking about, that he could even think that.  And I hope that in his heart that‘s not what he‘s thinking, not what he‘s feeling. 

And it‘s certainly not what the American people need as we go into a debate about the future policies of this country that is important to each and every one of us. 

I think both candidates should focus on the positive, on the issues and this is certainly the wrong way to get started in a campaign.  And I hope that those statements are retracted. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it OK for the president to call, in every joke that he‘s been telling for the last week, that John Kerry is a waffler, a two-faced politician, as he‘s done in all these ads?

I mean, all these jokes he‘s been telling about the guy‘s on both sides of every issue.  I mean, he has a lot of funny way of saying it.  But isn‘t he saying something about the character of John Kerry, that‘s just as tough of Kerry calling the crowd around the president liars and crooks?

PATAKI:  Chris, that was totally different.  If you‘re talking about somebody who has taken positions on both sides of an issue or talked on both sides of an issue, as Senator Kerry has done time and again, I think that is very appropriate. 

I mean, to talk about protecting America from terror when you sponsored legislation that would cut the intelligence budget by over $1 billion, I think means that the rhetoric is different from what the person was actually trying to achieve.  And I think the American people have a right to know that. 

It‘s a totally different level to engage in the type of personal character assassination, as opposed to attacking someone on their record. 

And I think that‘s just unfortunate.  It doesn‘t have a place in politics.  And I would hope that Senator Kerry would say, “OK, let‘s talk about the issues.  That was out of bounds.  No one heard it—you know, I mean, no one was intended to hear it.  I‘m sorry that it was out.  That‘s not what I meant to say to the American people.  And let‘s move forward.” 

MATTHEWS:  Would it be OK, in your line of thinking, for John Kerry as a Democratic candidate to question the administration‘s use of intelligence in backing the need for war with Iraq?

PATAKI:  Of course.  That is a legitimate issue, and there‘s no question about that. 

But when you question the use of intelligence, intelligence that was the same intelligence that Tony Blair had.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

PATAKI:  That the United Nations had, that Bill Clinton had while he was the president, sure question the use of that.  But don‘t question the integrity of our president. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the ad campaign.  Are you comfortable as a New Yorker, as Governor of New York, the Empire State with the president‘s ad campaign, which includes images from 9/11, including victims?

PATAKI:  I think I‘m very comfortable with the president‘s ads that talk about his vision and his steady leadership and very challenging times.  And certainly I think it‘s important that the American people never forget what happened to us on September 11. 

You know, there was time and again when the towers were bombed in 1993 through when the Cole, USS Cole was bombed in 2000 when we turned away after taking certain limited action.  We cannot turn away this time. 

The American people have to remember that there are those out there who have attacked us before and would attack us again. 

So I think it‘s highly appropriate that the world is different.  The United States is different post-September 11.  And I think it‘s appropriate that the American people understand both that fact and also the extraordinary leadership that President Bush provided on September 11 and in the days and weeks and months and still to today, the tremendous leadership he‘s provided to try to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent it from ever happening again. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you think the polls, Governor, are showing that people are not comfortable with it, they don‘t think it‘s appropriate.  And especially what do you say to the families of the victims when they come out on television, as they did last week, and complain about the ads?

PATAKI:  Well, let me say that—I haven‘t seen any polls and it doesn‘t matter.  You do what you think is right.  And I know this president feels that way. 

The families have feelings far beyond what any of us can feel.  I mean, I was there just a few hours later and yet—and I lost friends.  I lost people who worked there, because I had put them in positions in the towers and will never forget them. 

But if you‘ve lost your husband or wife or child or parent, it‘s a magnitude different.  So, I respect the range of emotions that all the family members feel and have felt and will always feel since September 11. 

And there are going to be those who, when you‘re talking about 3,000 victims, the families of 3,000 victims, you‘re always going to have people who agree or disagree with you. 

But I think the important thing is that we never forget, as Americans, what happened on September 11, that we continue to have the resolve to go after those who would harm us, in Iraq and elsewhere, and certainly that‘s an important part of this campaign, and I think the president‘s record and his vision is appropriate to talk about. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to take a break, Governor Pataki.  Thanks for joining us.  We‘ll be back with you in a second.  I want your reaction to this talk of a Kerry-McCain ticket this year. 

Anyway, later, CIA Director George Tenet takes the hot seat over prewar intelligence claims.  Former supreme allied commander Alexander Haig will also be here.

And later ABC News‘ John Stossel on how he angered the so-called—well, he calls it that—the liberal media. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with New York Governor George Pataki. 

Governor, this morning in an ABC News interview, Senator John McCain, a Republican of course and one-time presidential candidate, said he‘d, quote, “entertain” the idea of joining John Kerry on the Democratic ticket. 

Let‘s take a look at what he said today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  John Kerry is a very close friend of mine.  We‘ve been friends for years.  Obviously I would entertain it.  But there is—I see no scenario, no scenario, no scenario where—I foresee no scenario where that would happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Governor, why do you think he said, “I‘d entertain that idea” being on a ticket with Democrat Kerry?

PATAKI:  Senator McCain is an American patriot, and he‘s proven that time and again.  And when you‘re asked by someone, “Will you serve in a capacity where you could have an impact on the country,” a patriot is going to have to think hard. 

But what struck me from that clip, Chris, is four times in a row...

MATTHEWS:  Ha! Ha!

PATAKI:  Senator McCain said no scenario, no scenario, no scenario, no scenario. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, I know.  But he preceded that with that word “entertain,” which just you know is going to grab everybody in our business. 

PATAKI:  Sure.  He‘s a patriot, and he‘s Senator Kerry‘s friend. 

MATTHEWS:  Would that ticket be—Would that ticket be a challenge in New York?  A tough ticket to beat?

PATAKI:  Well, first of all, I don‘t see it happening, Chris.  Not only because Senator McCain is a Republican, but also Senator McCain is the author of McCain-Feingold, campaign finance reform that gets soft money out of presidential campaigns.

And if Senator Kerry‘s backers, who are engaged in spending tens of millions of dollars in soft money, unaccountable, attacking President Bush in complete violation of McCain-Feingold, probably the law, but certainly the spirit. 

And I can‘t see a reformer like Senator McCain being a part of something that‘s so abuses one of the most important efforts to clean up and make more transparent to the American people the political scene. 

MATTHEWS:  Governor George Pataki of New York, loaded for bear.  Thank you, sir, for joining us tonight. 

Up next, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig defends the Bush administration‘s use of intelligence about Iraq one week before the anniversary of the beginning of that war. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half hour on HARDBALL, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig defends the Bush administration‘s use of Iraq intelligence.

Plus, John Stossel and why he thinks the government‘s too big and the media is too liberal.

But first, the latest headlines right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig defends the Bush administration‘s use of Iraq intelligence.  Plus, John Stossel on why he thinks the government‘s too big and the media‘s too liberal. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Next week marks the first anniversary of the war in Iraq. 

Joining me right now is Alexander Haig Jr., the former secretary of state for President Reagan and former supreme allied commander of NATO under President Ford. 

General, let me ask you the question, one big question about troop deployment and substitution.  Are you concerned that we‘re replacing all our service people over there in Iraq with fresh recruits and replacements all at once? 

ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, obviously there is going to be a little hiccup in the process of doing these things, but they quickly, very quickly, come up to speed.  They‘re all being well trained in the first instance or they wouldn‘t be sent. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a big question.  It‘s an old question here on HARDBALL.  It‘s about the reason we went to war. 

The director of central intelligence, George Tenet, yesterday testified before the Senate that he‘s had to correct the administration three different times about false statements by the people like the vice president.  He talked about a statement which was made by the vice president earlier this year to “The Rocky Mountain News” suggesting some close connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. 

He said that he had to correct the president, basically, about the State of the Union, because he said there had been some uranium purchased from Africa.  He had to correct them on that.  And then he had to correct them with regards to a January 22 statement by the vice president, Dick Cheney, that there was, in fact, evidence, conclusive evidence, that they had biological weapons, WMD, because they found those mobile vehicles over there. 

Does it concern you that there‘s such a disconnect between the statements made by this administration about the cause for the war and the hard intel? 

HAIG:  Not really. 

This is very common in any conflict of this complexity.  And I think the way you posed the questions, Chris, you had a little naughtiness there, because I don‘t think the director of central intelligence was quite as sharply drawn as your question was.  I do think that there is always a lot of fog in time of war. 

You know, we forget that this war has now become a highly politicized campaign platform for the parties, and that‘s wrong.  It‘s never been that way in the history of our country.  It‘s irresponsible and it makes the conflict more complex and encourages the enemy to continue to resist and, therefore, costs more lives. 

And I think it‘s time for Teddy Kennedy and some of these other bozos to get back in their boxes.  You know, after all, they don‘t have a heroic hero record of their own. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you mean we shouldn‘t be debating foreign policy, General? 

HAIG:  No, of course.  We always debate foreign policy. 

But you never raise the kinds of issues that are being raised now without absolute proof and the kind of proof that will be followed by immediate action.  That is not the case today.  This is vote-snatching.  That‘s all it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we had absolute proof that justified the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein? 

HAIG:  Well, I think the weapons of mass destruction issue was a product of going to the United Nations and our trying to cooperate with the British.  We weren‘t singing that song here in America. 

Our problem was that Saddam Hussein was a hero to the world of global terrorism.  And there are those that say it‘s not global, but it is.  It‘s a de facto coordination and cooperation and that‘s what we‘re dealing with.  I think we ought to cool some of this rhetoric in this campaign and get to the issues that are more amenable to actual proven facts and not opinion. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, we‘re trying to get those proven facts, General.  And you said that I gave a too sharp description of what the director of the CIA said yesterday in testimony before the Senate. 

But one of things he said in testimony before the Senate, I think, is pretty hot stuff.  He said, in August of 2002, when we were basically making the decision at the presidential level to go to war, that there was a secret briefing given by people inside the Defense Department, not the CIA, making the case for a connection between al Qaeda and the government of Saddam Hussein. 

That briefing was for Dick Cheney‘s people and for people in the NSC and for Mr. Bush.  Now the question is, is it possible, and isn‘t it important to find out whether the case made for war, especially along the lines of a connection to al Qaeda, was made outside the chain of command, outside the normal connection between the CIA and the president? 

HAIG:  Look, I think it‘s very possible for people to have all kinds of different attitudes based on snippets of complex information that come in from multiple source and multiple levels. 

And this happens in every conflict.  It‘s always been that way.  That‘s why I‘m very much afraid that this new compulsion to unify our intelligence collection agencies under one super boss is wrong-headed, because it‘s good to have them compete and it‘s good to have varying views.  But the listeners to those views are very frequently influenced by the last person they talk to. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Let me ask you—that‘s what I‘m concerned about.  Let me ask you this about the role of the United States troops.  We have so many troops over now in Iraq now.  And once that interim government takes control over there this summer, after June, would this be a unique situation or odd—or maybe a difficult situation for soldiers?  You‘re fighting basically to protect a government that was basically formed over there. 

What‘s the morale situation of soldiers who are basically, if not under the command, but basically fighting to a government not our own? 

HAIG:  Well, I think the American troops over there and the coalition troops—and there are other forces there—look at the polls today, how well they performed in a combat situation. 

No, I think these men are proud of what they‘re doing.  They know what they‘re doing is for the American people and the world and the values that we cherish and propose and espouse and protect to a greater degree than any other nation in the history of the world. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean there won‘t be a morale problem for our soldiers to be defending a government that is stood up over there, not our own government? 

HAIG:  Why, of course, it‘s prepared to do that.  It‘s been doing it. 

But the hope is that it‘s going to be a government that is going to share the values that democracy entails and is going to be a nation of law and order and rule of law and peaceful change and not a nation that has started war after war and has abused their own people and slaughtered people by hundreds of thousands.  This is not a—you could refight World War II with the same questions you‘ve asked just now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, I wasn‘t there, General.  You were. 

Thank you very much, Secretary—former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, former supreme commander of NATO.  When we come back, “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest on why CIA Chief George Tenet has had to privately correct Vice President Dick Cheney on foreign intelligence. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, CIA Director George Tenet says he‘s had to correct some of Vice President Dick Cheney‘s public statements about Iraq.  Does the administration have a credibility problem? 

HARDBALL back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Testifying before Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, CIA Director George Tenet defended the Bush administration‘s use of intelligence on Iraq.  But, at one point, he conceded that he needs to talk to Vice President Dick Cheney about intelligence he cited as proof of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. 

Here‘s when Senator Carl Levin grilled Tenet on correcting the vice president‘s use of intelligence.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  Have you gone to the vice president of the United States and said, you know, you said a document was the best source of information and it‘s quoted allegedly in “The Weekly Standard” and, Mr. Vice president, that is not the best source of information, according to us?  Have you said that to him? 

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR:  I haven‘t, sir, but I learned about his quote last night when I was preparing for this hearing.  I was unaware that he said that and I will talk to him about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Dana Priest is a reporter for “The Washington Post” on military and intelligence issues.  Her book is called “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peaces With America‘s Military.”  It‘s now in paperback. 

We begin with NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. 

Andrea, this is very tricky material.  But I have been, for the last couple of years, trying to figure this out, based on connecting dots and missing pieces, etcetera.  In the testimony yesterday, the most dramatic information I garnered from it was a statement by the director of the DCI, the director of central intelligence, that there was a secret unusual meeting in August 2002, just about the time our government decided to go to war, where people from the Defense Department from Doug Feith‘s office, the undersecretary‘s office, went over to—or deputy secretary—went over to—undersecretary—went over to the vice president‘s office and Bush‘s office and gave them a briefing on this strong connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  It was a briefing for Steve Hadley, Condi Rice‘s deputy, and the chief of staff, Scooter Libby, for the vice president, also sat in on it.  The vice president did not attend. 

MATTHEWS:  But that is a potent bit of information.  It could give us the real great reason why we went to war, the real reason, perhaps, the belief on the part of the vice president, on the part perhaps Condi Rice and the president that there was, in fact, an actual connection between 9/11 and going to war with Iraq. 

MITCHELL:  Well, clearly there was a back channel from the Pentagon to the White House.  We‘ve known this for quite some time.  So, Chris, that is not something new. 

The specificity of this, that this was a particular briefing in August of 2002, did just come out.  But I‘m not sure how much you can read into this.  We don‘t know exactly what transpired at that briefing.  I have talked to people at the CIA and NSC and the White House and they say it wasn‘t all that unusual.  So it may be that this was going on a lot more than any of us knew. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the failure of the DCI, the director of central intelligence—he admitted it yesterday—his failure to correct the vice president when, earlier this year, he made the same claim of a very strong historic connection between al Qaeda, the people who blew us up on September 11, and the Iraqi government? 

And he said he was quoting from a “Rocky Mountain News”—or telling a “Rocky Mountain News” reporter something he got from a Doug Feith memo that appeared in “The Weekly Standard,” the conservative magazine, and he hadn‘t been corrected on that, when the Pentagon had been told by the Central Intelligence Agency to stop saying that?

MITCHELL:  George Tenet said that he had only learned about that on Monday night, so that he‘s not even known that Dick Cheney had said that previously.  And, of course, that led to then questions from Carl Levin and Jack Reed and Ted Kennedy and other Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  ... as to, aren‘t you watching what he says?  Aren‘t you briefed on what he says?  Why don‘t you have someone in your office tracking what the vice president says, so that you can fix problems when they occur? 

Look, there was a lot said at that briefing yesterday.  And, basically Tenet was saying, you know, when I give them advice, I give it to them privately.  If I‘m going to correct them, I do it privately.  I give them the intelligence.  They are the policy-makers.  They are entitled to draw their own conclusions and reach different conclusions if they want to. 

He obviously does correct them on matters of fact.  But there was, as you say, a very contentious briefing.  He was grilled on this.  But he did not actually testify, as was written, you know, in the lead story in “The New York Times,” he did not say that he had specifically corrected Cheney on numerous occasions.  That wasn‘t his testimony.  In fact, he said the advice he give to the policy-makers is private. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about this thing about correcting or saying that he corrected the vice president with regard to the intelligence which was in the 16 words in the president‘s State of the Union last year where the president said there had been a purchase of uranium by Saddam Hussein from Africa and he had got around to that after the fact and told him that that was wrong? 

MITCHELL:  Well, in fact, the DCI, the director of central intelligence, acknowledged last July that while trying to challenge the National Security Council earlier in the year, they have did not fix the State of the Union before it was delivered.  They should have.  And they came to the party late, and that that was a serious error.  He acknowledged mistakes in his testimony both yesterday, two weeks ago, and also in the speech that he gave at Georgetown. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Dana Priest of “The Washington Post.” 

Dana, it seems like on a regular bass, the DCI gives the White House -

·         and it‘s the hawks in the White House, especially—a head start on bad intel.  He lets them use the bad intel, whether it‘s the al Qaeda connection to uranium, the deal that wasn‘t there, or whatever—or the vehicles apparently they claimed supported the argument of a biological capacity.  In every instance, the administration puts out the bad intel and finally the CIA director gets around to telling them they‘re wrong after he gives them a head start in disseminating this bad information. 

DANA PRIEST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, you have picked out some of the more tangential issues like “The Rocky Mountain News.”  What about all of those national broadcasts that the vice president went on and suggested that there was a definite link between 9/11 and Iraq and al Qaeda in Iraq?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PRIEST:  Those were statements that, in large public addresses, that the CIA traditionally vets.  So, what did Tenet say when he read those?  Did he actually agree that you could push the envelope on this and he still would think that it wasn‘t a misrepresentation? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PRIEST:  Or...

MATTHEWS:  How do you explain the fact that he was so slow to call the foul?  I mean, we‘re talking about going to war under false pretenses here and the defense—or the—why do I keep saying—director of central intelligence doesn‘t call the facts straight? 

PRIEST:  Because, before the war, there was not much light between George Tenet and the administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PRIEST:  And so there was no foul to call. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, thank you. 

And please come back, Dana Priest and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. 

Coming up, John Stossel tells us why he thinks the media is too liberal and “The Daily Show”‘s Jon Stewart‘s beef with us. 

HARDBALL.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  John Stossel joined ABC‘s “20/20” back in ‘81.  His signature segment, “Give Me a Break,” is now seen by over 12 million people each week.  John‘s new book is aptly titled “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

John, welcome.

JOHN STOSSEL, AUTHOR, “GIVE ME A BREAK”:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are the worst liberals in our business? 

STOSSEL:  I‘m to name names? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

STOSSEL:  No, I won‘t do that.

MATTHEWS:  Is that unfair? 

STOSSEL:  Well, Eric Alterman, clearly.  But in the mainstream media?

MATTHEWS:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In the old days, we grew up with Cronkite, who admitted he was a liberal, no big business there.  I think Brinkley and the rest of them were all liberals, Howard K. Smith, except he was a hawk.     

Do you think media today, Tom, Dan, Peter, do you think they are out-and-out liberals? 

STOSSEL:  Yes.  They are not as out as some of the conservatives, but I would say in the newsrooms I have worked, the vote last election, Gore got half the vote and Nader got the other half. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, in terms of voting patterns.  But in the newsroom, do you sense that there was a slant toward the campaign against of Al Gore against Bush?  Where they all laughing at him in their work, not in their private lives?

STOSSEL:  No, there is a bias toward bigger government and elites passing solutions from Washington.  But individual candidates, I would say they hate Republicans more than they hate Democrats, but that‘s it. 

MATTHEWS:  What is that about?  I am not going to challenge this, because I‘m not a fool, because I work in this business, too.  It‘s an East Coast business.  There‘s some things explainable by that.  It is an increasingly an Ivy League-led business, better educated, great institutions behind a lot of these people‘s educations.  It‘s centered around New York, not Salt Lake City.  That explains a lot.

What else explains the fact that the media is liberal? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Journalism school vs. business school?

STOSSEL:  That‘s part of it.  You hire people you are comfortable with. 

I think the kind of left-brain, right-brain thinkers, if that‘s true, that the analyzers, the critical thinkers go into economics and science.  And the people who emote and want to feel your pain go into law and journalism.  And they want to run your life.

MATTHEWS:  What difference does it make? 

STOSSEL:  It makes

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the Socratic method I‘m using here.  I want you to take a moment here and tell me, theme of your book, it must matter, because you are taking great pride in outing these people, at least thematically.  What danger has Cronkite done?  What have all these liberal anchormen and reporters done to us? 

STOSSEL:  Well, my favorite graph in “Give Me a Break” is the size of government, page 131.  It was small for the first 150 years of America and we did well with less than 5 percent of economy being controlled by the government. 

Suddenly, starting around 1950, shoots right up.  It‘s now 40 percent. 

That‘s harm to our freedom and our money. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of that is what we call entitlement programs, programs you pay into, Social Security, Medicare, programs that are large welfare programs based upon need, the defense budget, interest payments.  Has the federal government really gone into areas and done anything positively?  Or has this simply become a check clearinghouse for people who write in their money, send in their money, not because they want to, pay taxes, obviously, and get some money back in benefits?  Is that what the government has become, a dispenser of benefits from the taxpayer? 

STOSSEL:  Largely. 

And if you spend more than $2 trillion, you are going to some good.  But they are doing plenty of harm.  And the money would be better controlled by individuals. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people would like to know what it‘s like to go to work as a guy like yourself, who is anti-establishment, who‘s independent.  What‘s it like at ABC?  Do you feel like you have got to explain yourself more carefully in your thinking, your politics? 

STOSSEL:  Yes, sometimes.  A lot of people just won‘t talk to me.  I wish they would criticize these ideas, rather than just giving me that dirty look.

MATTHEWS:  Does Jennings look down his nose at you?

STOSSEL:  I think, while I‘m working there, he has the right to privacy of his relationship with me. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like a yes.

Let me ask you about the Nader thing right now.  Nader has not gotten a free ride in the media, one could argue because the media has so many liberals, they are afraid that he might get in the way of John Kerry winning this election.  What do you think?

STOSSEL:  Well, he‘s not gotten a free ride about, he is hurting the Democrats.  But as far as his ideas that corporations are destroying America, the biggest corporation is trial lawyers, inc.  And they are doing far more harm than the corporations he is screaming about and the reporters don‘t call him on that. 

MATTHEWS:  John Edwards, Ralph Nader both trial lawyers guys, right?

STOSSEL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And they get no grief. 

STOSSEL:  They get very little grief about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

STOSSEL:  Edwards made some of his money from his suits claiming cerebral palsy was caused by lack of cesarean sections.  Now we have many more cesarean sections and no less cerebral palsy.  It may have been a lie.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you about trial lawyers.  I think Edwards has gotten the biggest free ride in the world about that.  He gets all the money from trial lawyers.  In that last campaign in 2002, he went around the country.  He spent a couple million dollars of trial lawyers‘ money.

Nader always defends the trial lawyers.  He also always defends the unions all the time.

STOSSEL:  And the trial lawyers are looting America. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, how would you fix our system?  We have got Fox TV on the right now.  I think we‘re somewhere vaguely in the middle at MSNBC.  You got CNN, which has been accused in the past of being the Clinton news network.  I don‘t know if that‘s fair or not.  But what do we need? 

STOSSEL:  We need people to read “Give Me a Break” and see that we‘re scaring people to death.  We‘re encouraging huge government.  And I can‘t fix the press and I‘m not going to try to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  But you can fix the government.  You think less government is better? 

STOSSEL:  Yes.  Pass the Stossel rule.  Every new rule they pass, they have to repeal two old ones. 

MATTHEWS:  God, it would be a

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... then.

Anyway, thank you.  Good luck with the book.  The book is called—this is not as good as the book really looks.  It‘s a much better book than this.  It‘s called “Give Me a Break.”  And somebody should show that on television, by John Stossel.  Thanks for coming in.

Finally tonight, my friend Jon Stewart, the host of “The Daily Show,” has a little bone to pick with HARDBALL.

Here is what he said last night at the beginning of his show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW”)

JON STEWART, HOST:  I wanted to tell you a little story about the business, give you a little insight into how the show is made. 

We had an opportunity to have on the program on the 16th of this month, Bishop Desmond Tutu, who...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  ... as you know, won a Noble Peace Prize.  He was going to come on the program.  We were very excited.  We have had a Noble Peace Prize winner before.  We had Dr. Kissinger, but his Nobel Peace Prize, of course, given ironically.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

STEWART:  But Bishop Desmond Tutu, unfortunately, what we found out was, on the 18th, two days later, Bishop Desmond Tutu is scheduled to go on Chris Matthews‘ shows, the one that‘s—it‘s called (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

HARDBALL.  HARDBALL.

(APPLAUSE) 

STEWART:  And they won‘t let Bishop Desmond Tutu be on our show first. 

(BOOING)

STEWART:  I guess they are playing, what‘s the word I‘m looking for,

HARDBALL. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, Jon, direct to you, I‘ll give you a bishop if you give me a Stewart.  You come here, the bishop goes there.  In fact, the bishop goes there and we‘ll hope you will do the show. 

Anyway, join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests will include former “New York Times” reporter Jayson Blair and Mario Cuomo.  What a duo from the Big Apple.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END   

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