updated 3/23/2004 3:34:39 PM ET 2004-03-23T20:34:39

Guests: Jim Wilkinson, Bob Graham, Uzi Landau, Hanan Ashrawi, Steve McMahon, Rick Davis

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight the politics of terrorism, a new book by a White House whistle-blower ignites a political firestorm over where the buck stops on national security. 

Plus, Israel assassinates Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin and the secretary-general of the U.N. condemns the action, saying the killing is against international law. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, and this is HARDBALL. 

If you haven‘t watched or read the newspapers all weekend, a very significant former White House staffer, who was at the center of the war against terrorism, has essentially blown the whistle on the Bush administration‘s national security policy. 

Richard Clarke, who served as the top counter-terrorism adviser for the past three presidents, accused the Bush administration of ignoring the al Qaeda threat in a new book he wrote, entitled “Against All Enemies.” 

The first bombshell was dropped on “60 Minutes” last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER:  Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he‘s done such great things about terrorism.  He ignored it.  He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.  Maybe.  We‘ll never know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Richard Clarke said that Donald Rumsfeld wanted to target Iraq immediately following the 9/11 attacks and said that President Bush had tried to intimidate him, Richard Clarke, into making that Iraq-al Qaeda connection. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE:  Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq, and we all said, “But no, no, al Qaeda is in Afghanistan.  We need to bomb Afghanistan.” 

And Rumsfeld said, “There aren‘t any good targets in Afghanistan.  And there are lots of good targets in Iraq.” 

The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, “I want you to find whether Iraq did this.”  Now, he never said make it up, but the entire conversation left me with absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And on “Good Morning America” today Clarke came out swinging against national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for dropping the ball on al Qaeda. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE:  I think both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration did much less than they should have. 

I think the Bush administration—the president personally—received intelligence briefings every morning about the al Qaeda threat.  And yet, he never asked for a meeting, never chaired a meeting on what we‘re going to do about it.  Condoleezza Rice never chaired a meeting on what we were going to do about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Condoleezza Rice took a swipe at Clarke‘s credibility and effectiveness this morning on “THE TODAY SHOW.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  He had been the counter-terrorism czar when the embassies were bombed in 1998.  He was the counter-terrorism czar when the Cole was bombed in 2000.  He was the counter-terrorism czar for the entire period in which the al Qaeda plot was being hatched that ended up in September 11 of 2001. 

MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW” HOST:  You‘re listing these things because you don‘t think they‘re very positive resume items? 

RICE:  The key is here that Dick Clarke had been around a long time.  And when Dick Clarke was asked by me to provide to us ideas that could be used to fight al Qaeda more effectively, he asked for a principles meeting, but the list of ideas that he gave us were several—several of which, by the way, we took up, but most of which had been already tried or rejected in the Clinton administration. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  NBC News‘ David Gregory is at the White House. 

David, what‘s the biggest bombshell here, the alleged failure to deal with al Qaeda before 9/11 or the failure to go directly after al Qaeda after 9/11 but to instead focus on Iraq?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think it is the latter.  I think it is the argument that this administration was so obsessed with Saddam Hussein that they were, in his mind, Richard Clarke‘s mind, taking the eye off the ball, and that was Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and doing real damage to the al Qaeda network, which still poses such a threat. 

And instead, he paints a portrait of such a significant view within the administration, even at the president‘s level, trying to pin this on Saddam Hussein, trying to find a leak, trying to find a—really, political justification for mounting an invasion of Iraq, which, of course, the administration ultimately did. 

MATTHEWS:  Did the president deny over the weekend the accusation made by Richard Clarke that he personally, in the situation room in the White House, where war plans are developed and events are followed, that he made that push to this guy, go find me some evidence to link this to Iraq?  Has the president‘s men or women denied that the president said that to Mr.  Clarke?

GREGORY:  Well, let‘s be very careful.  Certainly, they are denying any suggestion, which is, I suppose loosely made by Richard Clarke, that they were basically saying go make up a case.  That was not the suggestion at all. 

There is a question about whether this conversation even took place.  The president apparently does not recollect that it happened.  But nobody here is saying that it didn‘t. 

What they say is, look, whether it happened or it didn‘t happen, the point is the same.  The president wanted to keep an open mind.  He was not dissuaded that al Qaeda was responsible, but he wanted to find any evidence, if it existed, that Saddam was behind this in some way. 

So they couched this in a much more innocuous way, saying that he was not trying to steer the investigation at all. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the earlier reports I got sort of indirectly coming out of those meetings that were at Camp David and the other meetings that occurred in the days after 9/11, right after 9/11, was that the president wasn‘t merely focused on al Qaeda, but he was gradually—in fact, he told Wolfowitz at one time to shut up, that he did not want to hear about Iraq.  He wanted to focus on the guys who got us 9/11. 

But this makes it seem, this report by Mr. Clarke, that the held-over terrorism expert, and then the report we got a couple of months ago from Paul O‘Neill, the former secretary of treasury under the president, that the president himself and the people around him, the vice president especially, but I guess Rumsfeld, in this case, made up their minds somewhere before any of this heat got going after 9/11 that they were going to go to Iraq. 

Is that a new development, that they all agreed from the beginning we‘re going to Iraq?

GREGORY:  No.  It‘s not a new development.  Because, as you say, at those Camp David meetings, after the president had gone directly to Ground Zero to see for himself the devastation of the attacks. 

At that meeting there was discussion about whether to go after Saddam Hussein, whether this was the time to strike him and that he had evil designs, that there was concern about a follow-up attack or a kind of protracted campaign of terror. 

It is also fact that the president and the vice president said no, it‘s not the time.  But it is also fact, as history has borne out, that it was simply put on the back burner.  That it would be a sequencing of this.

But look, I think there‘s two views here.  This is what the American people have to decide as they sift through these varying accounts, which is the charitable view, which is frankly that this was just a disagreement about policy, that the administration wanted a much broader view of the war on terror and how to fight it, that it includes going after the likes of al Qaeda, but also going after nation states like Iraq, who could ultimately aid the likes of al Qaeda with banned weapons.

Or the view of Richard Clarke, which is that this is an administration that was so singularly focused on Iraq, that it went on a dangerous excursion, a reckless diversion from the war on terror. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  David Gregory.  Great report.  Thank you much for joining us.  David Gregory from the White House.

Jim Wilkinson is the deputy national security adviser for communications. 

Mr. Wilkinson, thanks for joining us tonight.  What is the White House

·         the president‘s response to this charge that he had a single-minded determination to go after Iraq and he was dammed if he wasn‘t going to find some evidence to prove they had something to do with 9/11?

JIM WILKINSON, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: 

Well, Chris, let me first, before I answer that, let me show you something we‘ve just learned. 

I brought this on the air here.  This is the January 26, 2004 edition of “Publisher‘s Weekly.”  It shows that this book was supposed to be on sale on April 27.  Now, either the publisher or Dick Clarke, or both together, it seems to me might have moved up the publication of this book to go perhaps maybe go on sale the week of his public testimony before the 9/11 commission is happening. 

This is the January 26 edition of “Publisher‘s Weekly.”  It‘s available on the Internet. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WILKINSON:  And someone needs to be asking—well, someone needs to be - - well, Chris, you‘re an old Washington hand.  Do you think maybe the book went on sale the week he was testifying publicly before the 9/11 commission is an accident?  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that could well be a marketing move.  I guess the question I want to ask you about is...

WILKINSON:  OK.  Let me stop you right there.  The—Chris, if you‘re saying it‘s a smart marketing move, certainly you wouldn‘t want Clarke or the publisher to profit off his 9/11 testimony, when this commission is out there trying to find answers.  Certainly Dick Clarke wouldn‘t want to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an interesting point, but I want to get to the profound question here.  Either Dick Clarke is telling the truth or he is not.  Do you believe he‘s telling the truth in this book?

WILKINSON:  I believe when I go to try to find the book, I‘ll probably most likely find it in the fantasy fiction section. 

This is a man who asked to brief the president one time, and it was on the issue of cyber security. 

I work for Condoleezza Rice.  I get to work with her every single day with all of our senior directors.  This is a man who refused to come to those meetings because he thought those meetings were beneath him. 

He asked to brief the president one time.  Facts are pretty clear. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he was in fact held over—in a held-over position.  I understand he was the president‘s.  However, he was his terrorism adviser. 

I just want to ask you, when he writes in the book that he spoke to the president in the days in the situation room right after the attack of 9/11, and the president repeatedly said, find some evidence connecting this to Iraq, did that conversation occur, do you know, or not?

WILKINSON:  I think the American—we have no record that that occurred.  But let‘s stick with...

MATTHEWS:  Does the president send the word through his staff to you that it didn‘t happen?

WILKINSON:  But let‘s move to the real issue.  The president obviously, as all Americans would want him to, is asking for any connection. 

Iraq was the nation that was firing on our pilots every single day.  It was a nation that had tried to kill an American president.  It was a nation that had used WMD‘s against his own people. 

So I want to talk about Dick Clarke, but if he‘s going to make accusations, we ought to look at his own record. 

Dick Clarke was in charge of terrorism for this country when the African embassies were bombed.  He was in charge of terrorism for this country when the USS Cole was bombed.  He was in charge of terrorism for this country in the years preceding 9/11, when the threat was building.  He was in charge of terrorism for this country in June of 2001 when the FBI says 16 of the 19 hijackers were already here. 

Perhaps Dick Clarke ought to write a book about his own record. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.  Do you have any comment about the charge in the book that Secretary Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, said that there‘s no reason to attack Afghanistan, because Afghanistan didn‘t have any good targets, whereas Iraq does have good targets?  Is that something that happened or it didn‘t happen?

WILKINSON:  Chris, I wasn‘t in the room.  But I again want to go back to the book.  If you read the book, Clarke also talks about his belief that bin Laden may be somewhere chanting and exerting mind control over American leaders.  This is really some strange stuff, “X Files” type stuff that we‘re seeing in some of these writings. 

And again, all you hear from Dick Clarke is my impression was, this might have been.  Where are the facts?  And the facts are on this president‘s side.  He‘s going after al Qaeda day and night. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Jim Wilkinson from the National Security Council. 

Coming up, we‘ll talk to Senator Bob Graham, who defends Richard Clarke‘s assertions that the White House did not act quickly enough to stop al Qaeda. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Senator Bob Graham joins us to talk about whistle-blower Richard Clarke‘s accusations against the White House, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE:  The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, “I want you to find whether Iraq did this.”  Now, he never said make it up.  But the entire conversation left me with absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

Senator Bob Graham is a Democrat from Florida.  He‘s the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

What does that tell you, that testimony on “60 Minutes” last night from Dick Clarke?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA:  It was the truth, and it was from a  very credible source.  Dick Clarke has been one the most involved Americans in counter-terrorism for the better part of three decades.  Very well respected.  Happens to be a registered Republican. 

This was not a partisan attack, and he pointed out some weaknesses in the Clinton administration, as well. 

But I believe he is describing his developing relationship with George W. Bush very accurately. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what he‘s doing there is basically saying the president used the horror of 9/11 to go after an old target, Iraq. 

GRAHAM:  And that‘s—it continues to be the case.  If you listen to the president‘s speech in Orlando on Saturday, he was still talking about a relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. 

Chris, there‘s no shred of evidence that there‘s such a relationship.  There‘s hardly any evidence that there was any kind of interchange between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. 

And the final thing that they pinned it on was weapons of mass destruction, which might be made available to al Qaeda, so that it might use them in an act of terrorism.  And now we can‘t find the weapons of mass destruction. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well...

GRAHAM:  This is the most cobwebbed linkage between 9/11 and a front for a war in Iraq that has ever been constructed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s another little sugar plum.  In his book Clarke wrote about how he briefed Condoleezza Rice on al Qaeda during the White House transition. 

Quote, “As I briefed Rice on al Qaeda, her facial expression gave me

the impression that she had never heard the term before so I added, ‘Most

people think of it as Osama bin Laden‘s group, but it is much more than

that.  It‘s a network of affiliated terrorist organizations with cells in

over 50 countries, including the U.S.‘”

Here he is suggesting that Condoleezza Rice, the president‘s top foreign affairs adviser, had never heard of the terrorist group that attacked us 9/11. 

GRAHAM:  I don‘t know whether she did or not.  I do know this, and I‘ve known Dr. Rice for a long time.  Her principal expertise was on the Soviet Union.  That‘s what she gained her academic and political credentials on. 

As Mr. Clarke said, basically the second Bush administration acted as if nothing had happened since the first Bush administration left office and that we were still primarily focused on the Soviet Union. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks for joining us. 

U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former chairman of the select committee on intelligence. 

Up next, the assassination of a Hamas leader in Gaza has many Palestinians calling for revenge, a look at the situation in the Middle East with Palestinian legislative council member Hanan Ashrawi and Israeli Knesset member Uzi Landau.  Both coming up. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by an Israeli air strike early Monday morning. 

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the action, and the United States denies having any advanced warning of the attack. 

Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestinian legislative council.  She joins us from Ramallah.  And Uzi Landau is Israel‘s minister of intelligence and a member of the Israeli Knesset.  He joins us from Jerusalem. 

Let me go to Minister Landau.  Minister, let me ask you this.  Why did your government, the IDF, target Sheikh Yassin for assassination?

UZI LANDAU, ISRAELI MINISTER OF INTELLIGENCE:  Mr. Sheikh Yassin is Israel‘s Osama bin Laden. 

Just to understand, his followers were those who handed out candies at the time that the Twin Towers were bombed and collapsed.  And he basically is one whose followers are responsible for hundreds and hundreds of Israeli casualties who have been murdered over the past three years. 

Just note that proportionally speaking, Israel has lost 45,000 people out of such terrorist attacks, for which Sheikh Yassin is highly responsible, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Why...

LANDAU:  If you look for the many attempts—If you look for the many attempts of trying to reach peace, he is perhaps one the major reasons why many of these attempts failed, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did—why has it taken—why did Israel decide to move now, using the comparison you drew, sir?  If the United States knew where bin Laden was, he‘d be dead in five minutes or captured in five minutes.  You have had this man under surveillance now for years.  Why did you choose to act today?

LANDAU:  Well, it‘s a very good answer.  In fact, there is quite a

debate within our cabinet and for a long time as to whether or not we are

perhaps a little too lenient on the Palestinian terrorists.  And primarily

·         and particularly so about the leaders. 

I think that we should have taken care of many people like Sheikh Yassin a long time ago and perhaps, if we would have done that, many terrorists activities—we would have saved many, many lives and perhaps chances for peace. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to...

LANDAU:  Just much higher today.

MATTHEWS:  I understand.  Let me go to Hanan Ashrawi.  Mrs. Ashrawi, you‘re a member of the legislative council in Ramallah.  Let me ask you, what is the reaction among the Palestinian people to this assassination?

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL:  Well, of course, it‘s one of horror, of shock, of outrage.  And of course, knowing that Sharon is intent on entering a new cycle of violence, provoking the Palestinian people, using assassination as a matter of policy, but now targeting political leaders and spiritual leaders. 

And the fact that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is a quadriplegic who‘s in a wheelchair, who was assassinated using three missiles, torn to bits.  This is something that the Palestinian people have taken to heart as an assault on all the Palestinian people.  Not of Hamas and not on Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and not on Muslims only. 

This has become a national issue, and an act of utmost arrogance and violence and of utmost lawlessness by the Israeli government that insists on acting outside the law and yet claims self-defense. 

If we use the same logic that Uzi Landau uses, then, of course, the Palestinians have to assassinate most of the Israeli government, because they‘re responsible for killing over 3,000 Palestinians over the last three years. 

And, of course, what happens to the rule of law?  What happens to due process?  What happens to the presumption of innocence?  You cannot act with such lawlessness and impunity, and with such tremendous arrogance and get away with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mrs. Ashrawi, I have to ask you why do you believe—you‘re not a member of Hamas.  Obviously you‘re a rival of Hamas.  But why do you believe Hamas has declared a fatwa, an attack on the United States because of this?

ASHRAWI:  I don‘t know that Hamas has declared the fatwa.  Fatwas are declared by the religious leaders, like sheikhs.  But anyway, there are many analogies people are saying, and not the false analogies that Uzi Landau uses with Osama bin Laden and the Twin Towers.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ASHRAWI:  That‘s so flimsy and transparent it‘s not to be dignified by a response, even.  That spin is totally unacceptable. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand that spin.  But let me ask you this.  Why—why—why is Hamas mad at the United States?

ASHRAWI:  When it comes to—yes.  Yes, because Israel uses U.S.  funds, over $3.5 billion annually, uses U.S. weapons, Apache gun ships, to do its assassinations. 

The U.S. should be very careful about the liability Israel presents to your standing and credibility in the region.  You cannot have Israel—you have a law in the U.S. about the use of your weapons and your funds.  And if Israel continues to use American weapons and funds for purposes of assassinations, land grabs, illegal acts, and getting away with it. 

And if the U.S. continues to use vetoes in the U.N. In order to shield them from the consequences of its actions. 

And if people like Bush continue to describe Sharon as a man of peace, when everybody in the whole world sees that he is a man of war and a man of tremendous aggression, then of course they will make the association that the U.S. is not only shielding Israel, but supporting it. 

We have to disengage this alliance that is very negative and very destructive for the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re going to be right back and talk about that alliance with Hanan Ashrawi and Uzi Landau, minister with the Knesset, minister with the Israeli government. 

And later, attack ads are already flying back and forth in the battle for the White House.  The HARDBALL ad team will take a look at what it takes to make a successful political ad, most of the negative, with two people who‘ve made them. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

*

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, more on the tension in the Middle East after the death of Palestinian leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin.  And later, we formed the HARDBALL ad team to show you how a political ad is made. 

This is MSNBC.  But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Israeli Minister Uzi Landau and Hanan Ashwari, who is with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

In response to the assassination today, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the group linked to Arafat‘s organization, released a statement saying, “War, war, war on the sons of Zion, an eye for an eye.  There will be a response within hours, God willing.”

Minister, let me ask you this, sir.  Did you expect this kind of retaliation to this action by your government? 

LANDAU:  Sir, we‘re not speaking about retaliations.  The Palestinians have started to kill all of those amongst us already for a number of years, and they are using each time a different excuse. 

The only thing that governs as to whether or not they are going to kill us is their ability.  They can do.  They do it.  Today, of course, they will say that this is in retaliation.  This is an excuse.  But please note, we have started with these targeted killings of their leaders, those really responsible, like Sheik Hamas (ph), only after they have killed many scores amongst us.  And what we are doing is in total self-defense. 

And please note, when Mrs. Ashwari is trying to describe Sheik Hamas as a spiritual leader, as a political leader, we should then ask ourselves, is a spiritual and political leader setting up a whole educational schooling system that raises kids up from a very young age to become shahids, that is martyrs, and sacrifice their life to kill many Jews so that they could find their way to heaven?  Is this is a spiritual leader?

MATTHEWS:  Take a look at what Condi Rice, the national security adviser to the president, had to say today about the assassination.  Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Let‘s remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheik Yassin has himself personally we believe been involved in terrorist planning.  But, of course, the United States did not have advance warning.  The fact is, it is very important that everyone step back and try now to be calm in the region.  There is always a possibility of a better day in the Middle East. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that comment, that rosy comment by the national security adviser? 

ASHWARI:  It‘s amazing.  Whenever the Palestinians kill an Israeli, it‘s utmost condemnation and labels of terrorism, even though we‘re under occupation, and we‘re not supposed to even defend ourselves.  It‘s Israel that‘s defending itself, even though it‘s the one who is attacking and assassinating and demolishing homes and so on. 

And what is amazing to me is that, now, we are supposed to use restraint and that we shouldn‘t respond.  Of course, I‘m against violence of all sorts, and Condoleezza Rice more than anybody else knows that.  The question is, you cannot ask a people under occupation, being shelled and bashed, to use self-control and restraint when you know that such actions, especially the assassinations of leaders, are made on purpose in order to provoke a response and in order to start a new cycle of revenge. 

Now, when they talk about spiritual leaders, I don‘t want to quote to Mr. Landau all the spiritual leaders and rabbis in Israel who advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the killing of Palestinians who called us vipers and snakes and congenital liars and so on, and we should have been killed.  All these are spiritual leaders and rabbis.  We didn‘t go and assassinate them. 

Most of your government is against peace and is far assassinations.  We don‘t advocate their assassination.  There has to be a minimal moral quality of responsibility when you talk about human beings.  This is absolutely unacceptable.  We said there has to be due process.  Dr. Rice and others understand this.  You cannot set yourself up as judge, jury, and executioner. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  One last question for Minister Landau.

What does Israel have to give away to find an Arab leader willing to defend—to police their own terrorists, to kill their own terrorists?  What would it take for Israel to—you think the Arabs would accept as a deal, to actually become their own policemen and stop this terrorism? 

LANDAU:  The only thing the Arabs have to do, and particularly the Palestinians, is simply to fulfill their agreement.  We just signed an agreement eights months ago, the road map. 

And the major, most important step which the Palestinians had to fulfill is simply to dismantle their terrorist organizations.  We have fulfilled our commitments over there. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Hanan Ashwari and Minister Uzi Landau.

Up next, the HARDBALL ad team shows you how to make a political ad. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, David Shuster and the HARDBALL ad team takes you behind the scenes of political ad-making—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As most of you know, television drives the presidential election, and the reason candidates spend half their time fund-raising is to pay for the ads. 

But before any ad is ready for air, an interest group or campaign ad team must make a series of important tactical decisions.  To demonstrate that process and to reveal some of the tricks of the trade, we assembled our own HARDBALL ad team and asked them to produce ads on two real-live candidates, politicians.

HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster headed up our team.  Republican strategist Rick Davis and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon will join us in just a few minutes to grade David‘s effort.

But first, David Shuster, ad meister—David. 

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, to better help us understand the tactics and strategies behind political ads, our team went through the process of actually assembling our own ads for a hypothetical presidential election between two prominent politicians, North Carolina John Edwards and Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  We started with advice from two veteran ad strategists.  Steve McMahon is a Democrat who most recently worked for the Dean campaign. 

STEVE MCMAHON, FORMER HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MEDIA ADVISER:  If it‘s not credible and believable and consistent with people‘s beliefs and experience, it‘s not going to be effective for you. 

Art Hackney is a Republican who has produced more than 300 ads. 

ART HACKNEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  If you‘re going to be the leader of the free world, your role as a leader is going to be something that‘s fair game. 

The HARDBALL ad team included research director Howard Mortman, producer Christina Jamison (ph) and myself.  We wanted to replicate the entire ad process, everything from batting around ideas...

MCMAHON:  Cheney, Halliburton, to Bill Frist leading HCA.

SHUSTER:  To writing the narration and editing the visuals. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We have a still of him with Santorum, too, don‘t we?

SHUSTER:  But the very first step in the production of any political ad is research and polling. 

HACKNEY:  You‘ve got to decide who are you airing this ad for? 

SHUSTER:  The next step is a brainstorming session like this one, Bill Frist‘s negative ad. 

MCMAHON:  If you said, for instance, with health care costs going up, can we trust Bill Frist to tow the line, to bring health care costs down, as an executive at Columbia HCA, this is what happened, and as a result, taxpayers got stuck with the bill. 

HACKNEY:  You‘ve got to be very, very careful if you‘re going to deal with somebody like a Frist, because you do—if you‘re sitting there, you would be looking at all of his positives as well and determine, you know, going too far with a negative or a comparative ad or just drawing some conclusion like Cheney was the head of Halliburton and somebody way down in Halliburton did something bad, Cheney is bad, you‘ve got to be very careful what line you draw before you draw it. 

SHUSTER:  What about drawing the line between Frist‘s leadership in the Senate and the country‘s problems? 

MCMAHON:  You say, with three million jobs lost, what has Bill Frist, the Republican leader, done?  Nothing.  Nothing to create jobs, nothing to lower the deficit. 

SHUSTER:  Agreement came quickly on a potential Bill Frist positive ad. 

HACKNEY:  Somebody who will stop on a highway in an accident and climb up, roll up his sleeves and save a life and risk the potential exposure for doing that, that speaks volumes. 

MCMAHON:  It‘s enormously powerful, because it‘s really hard, once people see somebody that way, to come back in later and say, you know, take a closer look at Bill Frist. 

SHUSTER:  Then we raised a possible John Edwards negative.  Edwards was a trial attorney before entering the U.S. Senate, and 60 percent of his campaign money comes from trial lawyers. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that the perfect fair game for an attack out on John Edwards? 

HACKNEY:  No, absolutely not.  It will always come back and talk about how all they‘re trying to do is—and there‘s always an example of the poor little kid who would be crippled for life. 

MCMAHON:  You come after him as a trial lawyer and he flips it around and suddenly you have a little girl who is on the camera saying they call him a trial lawyer, but let me tell you who John Edwards is to me. 

SHUSTER:  The John Edwards positive? 

MCMAHON:  Most powerful aspect to Senator Edwards‘s positive message would be his bio. 

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA:  When I was young, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer, and people would say, wait a minute, now.  Your father works in the mill.  No one in your family has ever been to college.  How is that going to happen? 

MCMAHON:  Most people in America haven‘t heard that.  And basically he‘s somebody who grew up in a middle-class town with middle-class values, and he never forgot where he came from.  He spent his early adult life fighting big corporations, taking on people who were—you know, and you just sort of—you tell the story. 

HACKNEY:  You see how he started to move and people started to pay attention to him.  And that story is a very compelling one. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, we were told, keep the writing tight. 

MCMAHON:  Short sentences, punchy words. 

SHUSTER:  Remember the importance of audio cues. 

HACKNEY:  You can take some bad visuals and make a great spot if you‘ve got good music. 

SHUSTER:  Source the claims and testimonials. 

MCMAHON:  It can be smaller.  People don‘t necessarily want to read the source, but they want to know it‘s there, and they want to know that you‘re not just putting something out that can‘t be substantiated. 

SHUSTER:  And pay attention to the photographs. 

HACKNEY:  Always watch what you‘ve got in the way of a shot and what the eyes tell you, whether or not they just—you‘d say, I‘d follow that guy anywhere. 

SHUSTER:  The next step in our process involved writing out some scripts.  Producer Christina Jamison started lining up elements with our tape editor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And it doesn‘t look like he‘ll stand up to the ordinary guy thing. 

SHUSTER:  And HARDBALL briefing editor Dominic Balone (ph) came to my aid regarding Bill Frist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think he was involved in the accident.  He happened to be driving by right where it was happening, something like that. 

SHUSTER:  Then there was another ad team meeting, this time to compare potential script narrations. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bill Frist is the Senate‘s Republican leader, but look what those right-wing Washington Republicans—and we‘ll show pictures of (INAUDIBLE) there—and lobbyists have done under his leadership. 

SHUSTER:  But there was a major problem.  Our ads had to be 30 seconds. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it‘s a little long. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  .. cut down on it, but it I think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can put it in the computer, time it out and editor it down.

SHUSTER:  Bill Frist positive. 

(on camera):  In the Capitol, when two police officers were shot, Bill Frist was there trying to save them. 

(voice-over):  John Edwards negative? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Edwards, the closer you look, the less you see.  Alternatively ending, John Edwards, too young for too long. 

SHUSTER:  The Edwards positive ad, we found, was easy. 

SHUSTER:  ... go to college and paid his own way through law school and dedicated his career to families and children. 

SHUSTER:  And then it was off to MSNBC headquarters. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, then what you have to do is actually take the scripts and send them to R.J.

SHUSTER (on camera):  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gordon (ph), an audio technician, helped us pick our music, creepy music for the negative ads, inspirational music for the positive ads. 

(on camera):  I think what I‘m going to do is have Gordon or have R.J.  track it with the tag, a couple of different tag lines, just to cover us. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Edwards says there are two Americas. 

Actually, there are two types of politicians, those who—help me.  Excuse me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, this is take two, when you‘re ready. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Edwards says there are two Americas. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Some of the photos and videotapes had to be changed, like this picture of Bill Frist. 

(on camera):  The only problem with that one is you‘ve got two Democrats standing behind him. 

(voice-over):  And even once the ads seemed ready, a closer look revealed potential conflicts between the images and the narration.  Over the line?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Manufacturing headed overseas. 

SHUSTER:  The image of an American factory at full blast was changed to a shot of a factory closed down.  An opening shot in the Bill Frist negative ad seemed too upbeat, so we slowed it down and put it in black and white.  But, after four days, we reached agreement and our ads were finally ready for air. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Now, granted, four days is an eternity in a political campaign.  And I‘m sure our guests will tell us that they usually don‘t have that long.  But, Chris, we tried to follow the process just the same. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thanks, David.

Coming back, we‘ll see the actual ads.  You‘ll never believe another ad again as long as you live. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with David Shuster, Rick Davis and Steve McMahon.

Now let‘s take a look at what the HARDBALL ad team came up with. 

First up, Senator Frist.  Positive ad, then negative ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  He‘s the leader of the Senate and he is a doctor who is still saving lives.  In Florida, he treated the victims of an awful highway accident. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the Tennessee Republican stops to assist the victims. 

NARRATOR:  In the Capitol, when two police officers were shot, Bill Frist was there trying to save them.  He is also saving American jobs, helping small businesses, and protecting our national security.  Bill Frist, a record of accomplishment and the right prescription for everyday Americans. 

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster.  If this message were real, I would approve it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  Bill Frist is the Senate leader.  But here‘s what he and his Republican right-wing friends have done, two million jobs lost, 43 million Americans now without health insurance, soaring budget deficits, manufacturing headed overseas, and a society bitterly divided over culture and values.  And now Dr. Frist wants to lead to nation?  Even “TIME” magazine wondered, “Is he equipped for the job?”  The Hippocratic oath says, do no harm.  Has Bill Frist forgotten? 

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster.  If this message were real, I would approve it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And, Bill Frist, if you‘re watching, remember, we did the positive one, too, not just the negative one. 

Here‘s John Edwards, the ads on him, positive and negative. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  John Edwards is the son of a mill worker who attended public schools and was the first in his family to go to college.  He paid his own way through law school, dedicated his career to working families and their children and, for 27 years, has stood up against the powerful corporations. 

EDWARDS:  I will be a champion for regular people every single day.  I will fight my heart out to bring back America‘s dream. 

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster.  If this message were real, I would approve it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  John Edwards says there are two Americans.  Actually, there are two type of politicians, those we trust to handle dangerous times and those most interested in career advancement.  Edwards made millions suing hospitals and family doctors.  Then, before completing a single Senate term, he set his sights on the White House.  His own record shows most of his money is coming from trial lawyers.  But is John Edwards ready to lead? 

EDWARDS:  Not so fast. 

NARRATOR:  That‘s right, Senator.  Not so fast.  America needs a leader, not a lawsuit. 

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster.  And if this message were real, I would approve it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  David, that is great work.  I think everybody now sees what it is like.  You may have a favorite candidate.  But after you‘re finished with him, he doesn‘t look so favorite.  But the same ad team does it both ways. 

I want to ask Rick, what do you think about the ad.  And let‘s start with the Republican guy.  You‘re a Republican ad guy.  What do you think of this stuff on Frist? 

(CROSSTALK)

RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN 2000 CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Well, I think the process is pretty legit.  What they went through is the same kind of time-consuming but intense effort to try and produce something that millions of people will see in a very short period of time, a very tight window. 

What they didn‘t have is a candidate hovering over their shoulder saying, oh, I liked that.  I didn‘t like that. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of micromanagement usually.

DAVIS:  Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  Could you tell an ad is negative or positive from the music standing in the other room? 

DAVIS:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  The music is grim.

DAVIS:  You have your positive music, which comes right out of “The Sound of Music.”  And then you have this grim “Friday the 13th” kind of music for any kind of negative ad you want to put on. 

MATTHEWS:  And this use of old news clips, that has become a real nefarious trick, because then you don‘t have to have your guy saying it.  It‘s the newspaper that say he‘s a crumb. 

DAVIS:  And make sure there‘s a really nasty looking picture of the candidate attached to that newspaper clip.  And make sure it is in black and white.  That was exactly the right kind of decisions they were going through.  Hey, this picture is way too nice.  Let‘s turn into black and white and slow him down.  That will make him look evil. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve McMahon, that stuff you did that we just saw there on John Edwards, now, of course, I saw John Edwards in action.  He looked pretty good out there on the stump.  But the way that ad made him look like he was the biggest sort of high school campaign campus pol I ever came across. 

MCMAHON:  Yes, it was a pretty good ad.  Of course, I would like to believe they had some pretty good coaching, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  No, they did a terrific job. 

Listen, there‘s no question that John Edwards‘ life story is the most compelling thing that John Edwards has going for him.  And you could see that as the campaign progressed and people found more and more out about him. 

And when you can take the values that he acquired growing up in a small town and apply them to people‘s lives and what kind of president, what kind of leader he would be...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  ... that‘s the most credible type of advertising that you can produce...

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t...

MCMAHON:  ... because it‘s consistent with the story.  He‘s not becoming something to become something. 

MATTHEWS:  I would bet that half the million or so lawyers in this country, by the way, had working-class parents who hadn‘t gone to college.  And yet that ad makes it sound like he is Superman. 

How many guy‘s—how many guy‘s fathers were milkmen and painters and other kinds of tradesmen and the kid gets to be a lawyer and he makes it sound like he‘s just invented nuclear science. 

MCMAHON:  Well, listen, one of the most powerful things Gephardt had going for him was his bio.  His father was milk truck driver. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  These are things that people—look, in a political campaign, what people are wondering, are you—is the person that I might be voting for more like me or more like somebody else? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  And when you can give them those kind of markers that give people a sense who they are, where they came from and what they‘re all about, it leaves people to believe they‘re more like me.  And it is much more difficult later on for somebody who is a negative ad maker on the other side to bring in a contrary kind of representation, because people just don‘t believe it at that point. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Rick, what is more fun, doing negative or positive? 

DAVIS:  Oh, the negative ads are much more fun. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Tell me the feeling you get

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  You can imagine what is left on the floor of the cutting room.

MATTHEWS:  You realize that you are really incinerating somebody‘s character before a couple million viewers out there, what does that...

DAVIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When you go to bed that night, do you have any twitch, oh, my God, he‘s coming in the window to get me?

DAVIS:  Well, you do wonder what kind of psychological makeup the candidate you‘re attacking is... 

MATTHEWS:  How do you justify it?  Do you say, well, is this is a tough business? 

DAVIS:  It‘s a tough business.

MATTHEWS:  If you can‘t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen?

DAVIS:  It‘s not beanbag, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hardball. 

DAVIS:  This is hardball.  And what you see on TV, these are actually pretty mild compared to a lot of tough ads that I‘ve seen around. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the limit on how bad you‘ll go? 

DAVIS:  What is acceptable to people like you. 

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  Are you going to beat me up for putting that ad or are the stations going to run it?  There‘s sort of a new attitude now where stations don‘t even run ads that are too tough.  And you have got to pass that smell test. 

I don‘t want necessarily the ad to become the issue, but maybe that is my strategy. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve, is the fact you now require the candidate to say, this is my ad, I paid for it, is that keeping the stench factor a bit lower? 

MCMAHON:  It‘s making it much more difficult, because candidates would much prefer what we refer to in the business as a drive-by shooting.

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  Where as the negative ad sort of comes up, the harsh music goes on, the information is presented and it is gone, and people are like, oh, my God, did you see that?  Did you see what that guy just did? 

Now, when you have to stand up there and say, I‘m Fred Schmed and I approved this message, it takes it down a notch, because people understand Fred Schmed might have a motive to want to dirty up his opponent. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever been out on a Friday evening, having a drink or two with your beautiful wife, Cynthia (ph), and up to the table in a nice restaurant comes a guy that you slimed, and he says to me—you, Steve McMahon, you‘re the one that ruined my life?  And here‘s my wife.  Would you like to meet her? 

Have you ever had a moment, a bicentennial moment like that, Steve? 

MCMAHON:  Most of the time, we‘re working out of time, Chris, so that doesn‘t happen too often.  But I have had people that I‘ve worked against who later came back and hired our firm to work for them a second time. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God.

MCMAHON:  And we just tell them, you know, they could have saved a lot of time. 

MATTHEWS:  You smooth bastard, you.  Anyway, by the way...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We tried to get Senator Frist and Senator Edwards to get their point of view, but we haven‘t heard back from them yet.  I think we will tomorrow.

Anyway, thank you, David Shuster.  Great piece, Emmy Award-winning, it ought to be.  Rick—maybe it will be.  Rick Davis, Steve McMahon, thank you all.

Last Friday, we ran out of time with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, but we wanted to show you what you missed. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Archbishop Tutu, it seems like you‘ve come here and it‘s created something of a turmoil between myself and one of my friends and rivals, Jon Stewart.  He wanted to have you on the show, but I got you on the show.  And I want to show him your book.  And thanks to me and my good offices, Archbishop Tutu, the Nobel Prize winner, is willing to send you a book as well, Jon.  So don‘t complain.  Be happy. 

Archbishop Tutu, do you have a comment for Jon Stewart?

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, SOUTH AFRICAN LEADER:  Yes, well, as the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission...

(LAUGHTER)

TUTU:  ... I‘ll come between you two guys.  Next time, I‘ll come to your show, Jon. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Well, that‘s a good way to handle it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Your turn next, Jon. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  History in the making. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  We‘ll talk with Shoshana Johnson and Patrick Miller, two POWs who were captured with Jessica Lynch, about what it was like to be captured and how the war changed their lives. 

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

END   

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