updated 4/27/2004 10:30:59 AM ET 2004-04-27T14:30:59

Guests: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Jeanne Shaheen, Marc Racicot

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia‘s ambassador to the United States, defends his country on its relationship with the Bush administration.  And speaks out in the war on terrorism. 

Plus, the battle for the White House heats on both fronts.  Was Senator John Kerry trying to have it both ways back in 1971, when he said he threw his war medals on the capitol steps? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and you‘re watching a very special edition of HARDBALL.  I‘m out here in Los Angeles, kicking off HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week.

Tonight, I‘ll be on the “TONIGHT SHOW” with Jay Leno, and all this week we‘ll be celebrating with special guests, tributes and surprises. 

We‘ll continue our HARDBALL anniversary tour tomorrow, stopping in the battleground state of Ohio for an exclusive interview with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. 

And on Thursday night, an exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over at the Pentagon. 

The HARDBALL anniversary will be the best political party in the country all this week.  So make sure you join us on MSNBC.  Indeed, it has been a magnificent seven. 

To kick it off, yesterday I interviewed Saudi Arabian Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Washington.  I began by asking him why many hawks in the Bush administration consider Saudi Arabia the bad guys. 


MATTHEWS:  Why are so many people around this administration and supportive of the war with Iraq targeting your country now for assault?

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR:  I know the president isn‘t.  And the vice president isn‘t.  And senior cabinet officers are not. 

The rest is mystifying for me.  There‘s no reason why people would be anti-Saudi Arabia, particularly if they‘re in the government, because they‘re... 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m talking about?  Criticism‘s coming from the civilians in the Defense Department, people who support the war in Iraq, what we call the neo conservative crowd.

The ideologues behind this war have targeted your country, not just Iraq.  What‘s that about?

BIN SULTAN:  Now that you specified it, I can assure you, all of those people, when I meet them, they‘re very friendly and nice with me.  So I don‘t know why. 

MATTHEWS:  But the pen is mightier than the sword.  And they keep nailing your country.  They say you‘re the bad guys. 

BIN SULTAN:  Well, obviously, it‘s not working. 

MATTEHWS:  Let me ask you about that division. 

You have a great dynastic, almost, relationship among the Bush family and the Saudi royal family.  Friendship for generations, going back to probably the oil days of the late ‘40s when you had Zapata Oil over there. 

Why is that—again, why is that not shared by those in the administration who seriously, and their supporters of the press, they just don‘t like Saudi Arabia.  I mean, it keeps coming up. 

You must get the clippings every morning. 


MATTHEWS:  It‘s always bad about Saudi Arabia.  It‘s never good. 

BIN SULTAN:  That is true.  But that‘s the bad news. 

The good news is every time people predict that, they get eggs on their face.  Because Saudi Arabia has had a consistent solid relationship from the time my grandfather met with Roosevelt until today. 

You talk about very good relationship between our family and the Bush family.  We had good relationship with Clinton family.  I went and saw a movie with him in the White House. 

We had good family relationship with Reagan.  I go to the family quarters with the President Reagan and his family.  Carter.  All of them.  We know them well. 

Why nobody says the Saudi family and the Clinton family or the Carter family?  It is—it is strange, what‘s happening in this town.  But I can understand after 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  Is someone running a public relations campaign against your government in this country?

BIN SULTAN:  I believe so.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Can you tell me who you think it is?  Or do you have to be diplomatic?

BIN SULTAN:  I think I‘d better be diplomatic.  But I think it‘s not a mystery who.  Your audience know.  But what I wanted to say is...

MATTHEWS:  Is it because of your country‘s perceived antipathy towards Israel?

BIN SULTAN:  That is one, one part.  I find, to be very honest with you, some of the hard—some of the very conservative Christian religious people are more aggressive against my country than some of the Jewish organizations. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that about?

BIN SULTAN:  That is the mystery that I still cannot figure out. 

There‘s no reason why that should be the case. 

But I can understand.  Part of it is after 9/11, with 15 Saudis being out of the 19.  But as I said before, on your show and other shows, that this shows you that 9/11 planners were targeting not just America but the Saudi-American relationship. 

Why?  Saudi Arabia is the flagship for one million Muslims, with the holy lands being with us. 

MATTHEWS:  Your government has protected the holy land. 

BIN SULTAN:  And we‘ve protected and served the holy land.  Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserve in the world. 

All these things means that bin Laden and his ilk will never control the Islamic world if they don‘t control that part of the Islamic world.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Why do they choose to go in our direction?  They hit us, they hit your relationship with us. 

BIN SULTAN:  Because that is very, very important relationship.  And the history tells that we always stood up with you when it counted.


BIN SULTAN:  And when it was not popular.  And you always stood up with us when it counted, also. 

Think about it.  In 1990, America sent half a million soldiers to help us, vis-a-vis the invasion of Kuwait.  That was not done in Bosnia. 

So those people realize that if they can destroy the Saudi American relationship, then they have a chance to win there.  They almost succeeded after 9/11. 

And unfortunately, there are some people who are misguided in the body politique in this country and in Arabia, who still don‘t want to take yes for an answer.  They still talk about the people I smuggled from this country. 

Why 9/11 commission just came out and that, there was nothing there. 

They still talk about the charity. 

MATTHEWS:  You know the power in this country of, especially people who live in New York.  I know a lot of people who live in New York.  They still, to them, everything changed after 9/11.  They‘re terrified still to this day.  Women and men both. 

And they‘re terrified because they see 15 young Saudis give their lives.  And not just give their lives to get us.  And these are people that just came here. 

But were shrieking in ecstasy as those planes hit the building.  They were thinking that they were going to heaven, to nirvana.  Absolutely convinced of their goodness. 

We can call them evil ones.  You can call them evil ones.  But as long as young Saudis think they‘re good when they do this—can you explain it?  Is it nationalism?  Is it generational?  Or is it religious?

And the reason I say it is nationalistic is bin Laden says, there‘s a reason why these young people kill themselves.  In 1921, 80 years ago, Europe carved up that part of the world, your part of the world. 

And they said there will be an Israel, basically.  There will be a Saudi.  We‘ll be Heshamites.  You guys knocked out the Heshamites.  But basically, the Brits and the French put your part of the world together. 

Is that what the anger is about?  Explain to me why bin Laden hates us.  And why do those kids hate us?

BIN SULTAN:  Bin Laden...

MATTHEWS:  They did before they committed suicide.

BIN SULTAN:  Right.  Bin Laden started with good intentions and went off the reservation somewhere in the middle of that and became a cult.  And now he doesn‘t hate you.  He hates all of us. 

You should have heard the sermons this week of our al-Imam, religious leaders after the bombing that took—that was done to my country, in our capital three days ago. 

Bin Laden, the first time I met bin Laden, he came to see me with his brother in Saudi Arabia to thank me for the effort we‘re doing to get the Americans to help the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. 

So our relationship with America has always been cashed in to support Arab and Muslim causes.  And...

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s so interesting to Americans.  We were on your side. 

BIN SULTAN:  So were we. 

MATTHEWS:  And we were on the side of Mujahedeen, because we wanted to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. 

BIN SULTAN:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  And yet that impulse, that nationalistic impulse to throw out the foreigner, is it any different than their impulse to throw us out of Saudi Arabia?  Is that the same impulse?

BIN SULTAN:  You see, there‘s a perception made that everybody in Saudi Arabia is a bin Laden.  Or everybody sympathizes.  Not you.  I‘m saying, I hear that every day in the media here. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you how we could have avoided 9/11. 

If we had not had our 10,000 troops in Saudi Arabia all these years since the war, the Gulf War, would that have prevented those young men from wanting to come out and suicide? 


MATTHEWS:  Was it the insult on the land, on the holy land?  What was the motive?

BIN SULTAN:  Well, I‘m telling you.  The motive became that they considered anyone who is not a believer in what they think is an infidel. 

People here think infidel means they are Muslim.  Those people think Saudis who are not with them are infidels.  Some of those people, Chris, they would not shake hands with their parents because they watch TV.  I mean, it is really far out. 

MATTHEWS:  Because their parents watch TV? 

BIN SULTAN:  Or they will not eat from the same plate.  So this is not even a fringe, not extreme.  This is a cult. 

MATTHEWS:  But we understand there‘s two main groups of Muslims. 

There‘s the Sunni.


MATTHEWS: And the Shia. 


MATTHEWS:  Which—what are these—Where are the bin Laden people fitting in here? 

BIN SULTAN:  They‘re Sunnis.  They‘re Sunnis, yes.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Well, what do they have against other Sunnis? 

Your government, for example. 

BIN SULTAN:  First, they are against Shia total.  They think they should be killed. 


BIN SULTAN: Shia.  And that is preposterous, because they‘re Muslims, too. 

And they‘re against anything to do with modernization.  They want us to go back to the Seventh Century, basically. 

And if you‘re Amish, you call them.  If you want to stay before—they‘re still—yes, as long as it‘s people.  But those people feel they are driven.  That everybody who is not with them is an atheist, is an infidel.  That includes the religious leaders, et cetera. 

But let me...

MATTHEWS:  Do you fear them?

BIN SULTAN:  I really don‘t fear them. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you have a bodyguard.  Is that because of your fear of bin Laden or is it just political protection?

BIN SULTAN:  I think if you are in Washington and you are a Dallas Cowboy fan, you should fear from the Redskin fans.  I don‘t fear them per se. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a lighthearted...

BIN SULTAN:  That‘s the reason I have a bodyguard. 

MATTHEWS:  Is your government targeted by bin Laden as well as our government?

BIN SULTAN:  Absolutely.  Our government and our people now.  And this is—this is the big mistake they made when they began to hurt Arab Muslim Saudis and blow them to pieces.  That‘s when the Saudi people began to consolidate. 

But let me tell but the Saudi attitudes you asked me about, anti-Americanism.  This is a poll from John Zogby.  This is an American poll.  Not Saudi.  These statistics.

Ninety-one percent of Saudis say the people of Saudi Arabia have no quarrel with the people of the United States of America.  Ninety-five percent of the Saudi people believe that bin Laden‘s claim—actions are not consistent with their values.  Ninety-four percent of Saudis feel bin Laden‘s actions have harmed both the kingdom and the people of Saudi Arabia. 

Then “The New York Times” comes with an article that says people have bin Laden‘s picture on their T-shirts.  Well, how many people did they see?  Ten?  A 100?  This is 12 million people there. 

Second, people talk about...

MATTHEWS:  That doesn‘t mean—In this country, you see a lot of young kids on liberal college campuses with Che Guevara.  They think it‘s no different than Bob Marley. 

BIN SULTAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  But what does it mean to have a bin Laden T-shirt on in your country?  Is that an act of war?  It‘s legal, obviously.

BIN SULTAN:  It is not legal. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not legal?

BIN SULTAN:  No.  Because now, No. 1.  Everybody talks about bin Laden and Saudis.  We have stripped his nationality in 1995. 

Chris, at the time when we were calling some of those people terrorists, your government and the west are calling them dissidents. 

And when we were told, if you let them just speak their mind, freedom of speech, it would be OK.  Guess what?  You heard what the speech was, and now you understand why we didn‘t like it. 

MATTHEWS:  I could say the same thing to President Mubarak, too. 

BIN SULTAN:  Exactly.  They killed—they want to kill Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and now we know they want to kill Muslims who don‘t agree with them. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back with Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia‘s ambassador to the U.S.  When we return, why young Saudis are heading off to Iraq to fight and kill Americans. 

And later, I‘ll ask Prince Bandar what Saudi Arabia plans to do about America‘s skyrocketing gasoline prices.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia‘s ambassador of the United States on why young Saudis are leaving home to fight Americans in Iraq, when HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week continues.



DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL:  Chris, you may be the boss of HARDBALL, but if you work for me, I guarantee you one thing, you‘re fired. 

Happy seventh anniversary, Chris.  You really deserve it.  You are a true pro. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary.  More now with my interview with Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. 

I asked Prince Bandar about reports this weekend in “The New York Times” that young Saudis are leaving Saudi Arabia to fight and kill Americans in Iraq. 


MATTHEWS:  “The New York Times” reported this past several days, that a lot of people from your country, it‘s not just that, the 15 people were part of the attack on Iraq. 


MATTHEWS:  But a lot of young people in your country are getting, they‘re saying goodbye to their parents, their girlfriends, their wives, whatever.  They‘re packing up and they‘re heading across country into Iraq to fight us. 

Explain why they‘re giving up their lives, their whole being to go get killed fighting us.  Why are they doing that?

BIN SULTAN:  If—If this is true, Chris, this would be a major development in my country.  But with all due respect, just because “The New York Times” said it, it doesn‘t have to be right. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘re talking to somebody who disagrees with you.  I don‘t think “The New York Times” makes up stories. 

BIN SULTAN:  No, I don‘t think they make up stories, but I think they met 10 people and they said that. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain the 10. 

BIN SULTAN:  Why the 10?

MATTHEWS:  Why does anybody—if this country had any Americans, young Americans.  I have to tell you something, going anywhere besides fighting the war we‘re fighting, off on their own like they did back in Spain in the 1830‘s and went to war and got themselves killed, we would consider it quite interesting.  We‘d want to know why.  You‘re not interested, are you?

BIN SULTAN:  No.  We are interested.  We don‘t see that as “The New York Times” described it.  Our borders with Iraq is very important to us so that no one flow either in or out of it. 

And we‘re not seeing that kind of movement, to be very honest with you.

MATTHEWS:  So there‘s no recruitment—There‘s no recruitment either by al Qaeda or by any other organizations of young Saudis to go into Iraq and fight our coalition?

BIN SULTAN:  There may be attempts. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are they doing it?

BIN SULTAN:  They‘re doing it because...

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got a poll there saying we‘re all popular in your country. 

BIN SULTAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Well, who are these people that don‘t think we‘re so popular, and they‘re going into Iraq to fight us?

BIN SULTAN:  If you‘re going to make the judgment on Saudi Arabia as a culture, as a country, based on those few people.  Can you imagine what we would think about your culture if we judged everybody who is blond and blue eyes, have to watch out because he‘s going to blow up another Oklahoma like McVeigh did? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But that was disturbing to our country.  We have been very conscious of the fact we have some young kids in this country, and high school age, who are very alienated by cliques and the jocks and that whole thing.  We‘re all trying to figure that stuff out.

BIN SULTAN:  Same here.  Why are we different?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m more interested than you are.  Are you interested in the fact that you‘ve people who grow up the way you did, under similar circumstances... 

BIN SULTAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re giving up everything to go kill Americans?

BIN SULTAN:  Or kill Saudis.  The thing is much more sophisticated than just kill Americans.  They‘re killing Saudis right now. 

And we are not going after them just with force, Chris.  We are using force and an actual dialogue. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.  You‘re very careful as a diplomat, but maybe I‘ll try one more time. 

If you were an American, and you spent most of your life here, actually.  But if you‘ve grown up here and you‘re a native American and you cared more about this country than Saudi Arabia. 

Would you salute the president‘s very aggressive hawkish tendency, preemption, prevention, go to Iraq, in addition to fighting al Qaeda.  Would you be that hawkish if you were an American, as this president?

BIN SULTAN:  Before 9/11, no.  After 9/11, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you continue this hunt for terrorists?  Would you go into Iran?  Would you go into—would you get tougher even with Syria?

BIN SULTAN:  I would that pick up a fight just for the sake of picking a fight. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Syria?

BIN SULTAN:  Same thing.  Because remember, each situation is different. 

Libya has given up all its, without even a fight.  North Korea is now trying to look for an agreement.  Iran, they signed an agreement. 

So people have to understand.  The Iraq and Afghanistan were unique. 

It didn‘t start in 2001 when this president took over.  This the second war we have with this guy.  This is 13 years with him. 

I said when I left that meeting with Cheney and—Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld and General Meyers, “If Saddam had any brains, he will accept the deal they‘re giving him diplomatically through the U.N.  Because there‘s going to be war, and he‘s finished.”

But he didn‘t listen.  He didn‘t learn. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, I‘ll ask Prince Bandar what Saudi Arabia is doing about the rising cost of gasoline in this country and whether there‘s a deal to lower prices just before the election.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week. 

In his new book, “Plan of Attack,” Bob Woodward writes about a secret deal to lower gasoline prices in this country just before election day.  I asked Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., about it. 


MATTHEWS:  Are we going to have cheaper oil prices in November?  Are you going to make good on your deal?

BIN SULTAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to make good on this deal?

BIN SULTAN:  No. 1, Chris, there was no deal. 

MATTHEWS:  So we‘re not going to...

BIN SULTAN:  No. 2. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to give us higher priced oil just to prove there‘s no deal?  Is the average consumer going to get screwed so you can prove we didn‘t have a deal? 

BIN SULTAN:  Damned if I do, damned if I don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about you come in with—Why don‘t you make a deal with me now?  Why don‘t you—Can you deliver cheaper prices?  Can you get it down to $25?  What is it now?

BIN SULTAN:  We‘re trying our best.  We believe that an oil price should be between $22 and $20.  Anything more than that is bad for your economy and bad for us.  And we just...

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see Bush reelected?

BIN SULTAN:  I said once when somebody asked me, I like to see every president I work with to get reelected.  But that decision is the American people‘s decision.  Not mine. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see cheaper oil that would help Bush get reelected?

BIN SULTAN:  I like to see cheaper oil that will help the American economy and the American people. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you met with John Kerry yet?

BIN SULTAN:  I know John—Senator Kerry for a long time.  And but I haven‘t met him recently. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he be a good friend of Saudi Arabia?

BIN SULTAN:  I have no reason to think otherwise, because if the president is anything to go by, we were friends with all presidents of the United States of America. 

But remember, Chris, you guys are going through your tribal warfare now.  And any common sense talk is not worth discussing until you finish this tribal warfare.  And then I think we can be more rational.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what you call elections here, right? 

BIN SULTAN:  That‘s what we call your elections, because we know what tribal warfare means. 

MATTHEWS:  Actually, elections are better. 

But anyway, thank you very much, your highness, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.  Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon and changing your plans. 

BIN SULTAN:  Chris, thank you very much and congratulations for your anniversary. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

It‘s a very Middle Eastern number, too.  Seven.  Very interesting number. 

BIN SULTAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  A very Arabic number. 

BIN SULTAN:  It will be a lucky number. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much. 

BIN SULTAN:  Thank you, Chris.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, it‘s the state that could decide this year‘s election, Ohio.  We‘ll preview the hot race there between President Bush and John Kerry.

Plus, Bush-Cheney reelection chairman Marc Racicot and Kerry campaign chairman Jeanne Shaheen will be here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, we‘re celebrating our seventh anniversary.  And we‘ll get a report from Ohio, the battleground state that could decide this election.  Plus, the chairs of the Bush and Kerry campaigns preview the battle for the White House.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.




In my line of work, I‘m around a lot of guys who play hardball.  But the difference is, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, they‘re only out there every fourth or fifth day.  Chris Matthews brings the heat every night. 

All right, Chris, let‘s play HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week.  Tomorrow night, I‘ll have an exclusive interview with John Kerry.  Kerry is starting a jobs tour in the Midwest and I‘ll be talking with him in the battleground state of Ohio. 

That‘s where HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster is tonight

·         David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  We‘re here at the Slovenian national home in Cleveland.  This is a great facility for your interview tomorrow night and for Kerry to talk about the jobs with Ohio voters. 

Kerry is coming to a state that his campaign believes could be crucial to their election.  It is a state that George W. Bush won four years ago.  And Republicans acknowledge that if the Democrats win it this time, that could turn the election. 


SHUSTER (voice-over):  The Bush campaign says Ohio is a state the president must win.  Ohio has 20 electoral votes.  It was the only large Midwestern industrial state to back Bush four years ago and no Republican has ever lost the Buckeye State and still won the White House. 

So the president‘s reelection campaign has started early with an unprecedented ground organization and a barrage of television ads Democrats call misleading. 


NARRATOR:  John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Patriot missiles, B-2 Stealth Bombers, F-18 fighter jets, and more. 


SHUSTER:  Still, the challenges for President Bush are enormous.  His approval rating in Ohio has dropped from 76 percent a year ago to 46 percent today.  And since Mr. Bush took office, Ohio has lost 230,000 jobs.  It‘s a huge issue the president himself acknowledged in a recent visit. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ohio‘s unemployment rate is higher than the national average.  Manufacturing communities like Youngstown and Cleveland have been hit especially hard.  I understand that.  I know there are workers here concerned about their jobs going overseas.  I share that concern. 

SHUSTER:  John Kerry has been lashing out at the president every time he stops in the state. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ohio has lost 170,000 manufacturing jobs.  Ohio has serious issues about the increase in taxes, property tax and sales tax.  People are hurting. 

SHUSTER:  For Kerry, Ohio presents a tantalizing opportunity.  The state has a large industrial and union base.  Voters tend to be moderate in their social views and more accepting of big government than other parts of the country.  Furthermore, Al Gore only lost Ohio by three and a half points despite giving up on the state weeks before Election Day. 

Like the Bush campaign, John Kerry plan an enormous get-out-the-vote campaign and Kerry has also been running television ads across the state. 


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My priorities are jobs and health care.  My commitment is to defend this country. 


SHUSTER:  Ohio‘s political map looks like this.  Voters are overwhelmingly Democratic from Toledo east of Cleveland and across the Northeast down to Steubenville.  Republicans do well in the southwest around Cincinnati and central Ohio is politically moderate.


SHUSTER:  So why is John Kerry starting here in Cleveland?  Partly to fire up the Democratic base at the beginning of this campaign, and then start to move south to central Ohio, Chris, where this election is going to be won or lost—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster in Cleveland. 

I‘ll be in Cleveland tomorrow for an exclusive interview with presidential candidate John Kerry.  Up next, the chairman of the Bush and Kerry campaigns, Marc Racicot and Jeanne Shaheen, battle it out here when we return. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Sign up for our free daily e-mail.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the leaders of the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns butt heads here on HARDBALL, as our seventh anniversary week continues after this.



KAREN HUGHES, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Chris, I want to congratulate you on your seventh anniversary.  And thank you for holding us all accountable by asking those tough questions.  You‘ve helped a lot of candidates prove their mettle.  I remember some pretty tough questions and a great interview with a then candidate for president, then Governor George W. Bush at that restaurant in New Mexico.  It was a great show.  And, really, I think you‘ve helped a lot of candidates and me come on the show and prepare for tough questions. 

So keep at it.  Let‘s have another great seven years.  And let‘s play



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The latest Pew Research Center poll finds that President Bush‘s job approval ratings have improved over the month of April, despite a rise in the concern about the violence in Iraq; 48 percent approve of the president‘s overall job performance, up from 43 percent earlier this month. 

Former Montana Governor Marc Racicot is the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.  And former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen is Senator Kerry‘s campaign chair.

Marc, I want to start with you, sir. 

Let‘s talk about Ohio.  The president took that state last year—last time around by 3.5 points.  Why has it become a tossup?

MARC RACICOT, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  Well, it‘s always been important to a Republican candidate.

As you know, a good student of history, you don‘t win the presidency as a Republican unless you win Ohio.  That‘s the history of the United States of America.  Obviously, it was very close in 2000.  We believe it will be close again in 2004, as will a number of other states.  And, as a result, we‘ve been on the ground for quite some period of time there, working very diligently. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Shaheen.

Governor, what is your case for winning in Ohio?  Why should Kerry come out on top on election night there when the Democrats lost it last time? 

JEANNE SHAHEEN, JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN CHAIR:  well, Ohio has become a tossup because they‘ve lost thousands of manufacturing jobs since George Bush has become president. 

John Kerry is on a jobs-first tour.  He‘s going through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan this week, talking about his plan to create good jobs, to close down those tax incentives for companies that encourage them to go offshore and create jobs, rather than creating them in Ohio or Pennsylvania or West Virginia.  People want to see that there is a president who has a plan for how we turn this economy around and put people back to work. 

Under George Bush, we‘ve lost 2.6 million jobs.  Manufacturing job loss is at a 50-year high.  People want to see that there is a plan.  John Kerry has one to put people back to work. 

MATTHEWS:  How can you blame President Bush for the recession which kicked in within a matter of a couple weeks of him becoming president? 

SHAHEEN:  I‘m not blaming President Bush for the recession.  I‘m blaming him for a failure to address it beyond saying that he is going to make the tax cuts permanent. 

The fact is, this president does not have a plan for what we‘re going to do to create good jobs again for people.  He does not have a plan for how we can lower the cost of health care, which has gone up 49 percent since he took office and which is one of the biggest challenges that businesses have in trying to keep their employees covered.  He doesn‘t have a plan to reduce the deficit.  In fact, he‘s taken the biggest surplus in this country‘s history and turned it into the biggest deficit. 

And his answer for how he is going to address it is to make the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent in this country permanent. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you say, Governor, to those—and I don‘t think it is a partisan problem or it‘s a partisan question.  But—and you‘ve done it.  You drive through parts of the Midwest, the old—it‘s called the Rust Belt, although that‘s kind of a knock.  And then the town, all there is basically a blockbuster, maybe a smalltown diner.  Everything else is closed.  All the factories around the edge of the town are closed. 

Are we ever going to see a rebirth of that America?  Or are we going to have to move to some other version of economic success? 

RACICOT:  Well, the president from the very first moment he was sworn into office, realized that the economy was in recession, faced thereafter in a very short period of time, of course, the war on terror, and then, of course, corporate scandals, all of which he addressed very aggressively.

And every economic indicator, absolutely economic indicator, reveals that the president‘s actions have turned this economy around.  The fact of the matter is, he has a plan for virtually all of the things that make economic development difficult, a health care initiative.  The energy bill, which Senator Kerry didn‘t even show up to vote upon, has been a part of the president‘s initiative.

SHAHEEN:  Which failed. 

RACICOT:  And, in addition—it failed because Senator Kerry wasn‘t there. 


SHAHEEN:  It failed because you couldn‘t even hold the Republican Congress to vote for it. 

RACICOT:  I listened to you as you spoke.  So, if you would be quiet until I answer the question, then you can respond. 

SHAHEEN:  Fair enough.  I will let you finish. 

RACICOT:  And he has addressed issues that have to with tort liability.

And all of the things that have plagued the economy, the president has moved very aggressively to address.  And virtually every economic indicator says we‘re pointed in the right direction.  Senator Kerry doesn‘t have a health care initiative. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, you know, I didn‘t ask about health care.  I want to know about one thing, Governor.  Those small towns in the Midwest, in the Rust Belt, which extend all across the Great Lakes from Buffalo all the way westward, are they going to be rebuilt and flourishing again or do we have to look elsewhere for jobs in this country? 

RACICOT:  I don‘t think we have to look elsewhere for jobs in this country. 

The president has indicated from the very beginning that he has felt

that small business, as it has always driven the economic engine of this

country, is critically important to be focused upon.  That‘s why there have

been aggressive trade initiatives on his behalf, why he‘s addressed

currency valuations around the entire


MATTHEWS:  What has he done to save—what has he done to save American industry?  These industrial towns, I‘m talking about a very vivid picture.  And everybody watching this show right now, HARDBALL, knows exactly what I‘m talking about, those industrial town of the country, all across the northern plain of that—northern rim of the United States.  They all had jobs. 

Kids grew up and had their father‘s job, their uncles‘ jobs.  They stayed with the company.  What happened in Flint, Michigan?  What happened to Spencerville?  What happens to small towns?  Are you going to rebuild them?  That‘s your center.

RACICOT:  I know about that—I know about that story, too.  I know about that story, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to rebuild? 

RACICOT:  Having grown up in a state very, very similar to that. 

Absolutely, every effort to being undertaken to make certain that we are as competitive as we can possibly be. 

MATTHEWS:  Where do we see the reindustrialization...

Jeanne, you pick up here, Governor.

Where do we see the reindustrialization of America?  Where are these industrial job?  They‘re taking hamburger jobs most people are having to take.  Instead of making $13 in the old days, you‘re making $8 now.  What are we talking about here in terms of real jobs for guys, men and women, heavy jobs requiring some skill?  What happened to those jobs?  And are we going to get them back or not?  Or is this just all talk about softening the landing, is what we‘re talking about, it seems, so far tonight. 


SHAHEEN:  Well, actually, John Kerry has a short-term plan and a long-term plan.  His short-term plan is to stop the outsourcing that has been supported under this administration. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you do it? 

SHAHEEN:  And to do that by ending the tax incentives that encourage companies, in fact, make it more profitable for them to put a factory in India than to put one in Ohio. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me give you an example. 


MATTHEWS:  Governor, I‘m going to give you an example.  Stop all this talk, loose talk. 

I bought one of those XM radios for the car.  You get about 200 stations on them, like CNN, MSNBC.  You get everything.  It‘s great, OK?  I love it.  It has Broadway.  It has all that.  I had to call a guy in India to get that installed.  Why am I talking to somebody out in wherever, in  Bollywood or somewhere.  Why am I talking to that guy to get my car installed with a radio in America?

A car in America, I want to listen to American radio and I‘ve got to go to Bangalore        to get it put in.  Tell me why and how you‘re going to stop that.

SHAHEEN:  Well, absolutely. 

And, again, first of all, we need to know what jobs are being outsourced and to keep that data in the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce.  We don‘t currently do that.  Then we need to review why we‘re losing those jobs.  But we also need tax credits for small business and manufacturing companies to create jobs here.  And long term—and I think this is what is really important—long term, we have to recognize that what has kept this country great has been investments in innovation, in science and technology, and investments in our work force. 

And we have got to continue to do that.  Under this administration, we have not done that. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Governor—let me go to Governor Racicot.  Just a minute.

Governor Racicot, you know what I‘m complaining about is what most people complain about.  There‘s nothing original about what I‘ve said.  Outsourcing, industrial jobs, we used to call them men‘s jobs, big heavy-lifting jobs, factories, building cars, building refrigerators, building things, not just services.  Is that coming back or is that something we have got to live with, that whole change toward services?  I‘m worried we‘re losing the service jobs. 

How come some guy in India has to explain something to me when somebody could use that job here?

RACICOT:  Well, Chris, unquestionably, the economy is changing drastically.  If you take a look at Honda, for instance, we have a very productive work force in the state of Ohio, a huge number of Honda employees. 

As a matter of fact, my recollect is that 10 percent of Honda‘s worldwide employment forces is located in the state of Ohio, 16,000 workers.  And that doesn‘t count all the businesses, 165 of them, who are furnishing parts and other implements that allow for them to be productive. 


MATTHEWS:  Is Ohio better—is Ohio—on behalf of the Bush campaign, Bush-Cheney, is Ohio, the state of high Ohio, the battleground state of Ohio, better off than it was in 2000 right now? 

RACICOT:  I think that we have to constantly focus on the economy, as the president has. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it better off than it was in 2000? 

SHAHEEN:  No.  They‘ve lost


SHAHEEN:  Over 220,000 jobs. 


MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, let me ask the question, Jeanne.  I‘m asking the Reagan question to a Reagan guy.  Is Ohio better off than it was in 2000, four years ago? 

RACICOT:  I think that Ohio and the entire country is better off with the president‘s plans and initiatives and tax plans in place that allows for more investment to be made in manufacturing and the creation of new goods and services. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll come back.  I think that‘s no, the answer.

Anyway, Governor, Governor Racicot, it‘s a tough question, because the whole country went through a hell of a lot of in 2000, 2001, etcetera.

Anyway, we‘ll be right back with Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire, Marc Racicot, the former governor of Montana, in just a minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush reelection campaign, and Jeanne Shaheen, chair of the Kerry campaign. 

The Bush-Cheney campaign has launched a new ad campaign this week. 

Let‘s take a look.


BUSH:  I‘m George W. Bush.  And I approved this message. 

NARRATOR:  As our troops defend America in the war on terror, they must have what it takes to win.  Yet John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Patriot missiles, B-2 Stealth Bombers, F-18 fighter jets, and more.  Kerry even voted against body armor for our troops on the front line of the war on terror.  John Kerry‘s record on national security, troubling.


MATTHEWS:  Jeanne Shaheen, respond to that ad. 

SHAHEEN:  That ad is nothing but an effort to smear John Kerry. 

He has put his life on the line for defense of this country.  He has supported an increase in defense spending.  He is strong on defense and supports this country and our troops in Iraq and has—it is outrageous that the Bush campaign is attempting to smear him in this way. 


MATTHEWS:  Did he vote—is there anything that‘s dishonest in that ad that you know about, anything incorrect in that ad? 

SHAHEEN:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  What was incorrect? 

SHAHEEN:  It is dishonest to suggest that he voted against body armor for the troops in Iraq, when, in fact, we know that even Dick Cheney admitted that there are troops in Iraq now who did not get the body armor that they should have gotten because of the failure of this administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, didn‘t he vote against the $87 million for the occupation, which included the body armor? 

SHAHEEN:  It included a whole range of things.  But the fact is, the commanders on the ground and Iraq were not at risk because of that $87 billion.  In fact, the president himself said he was going to veto the $87 billion if it had certain things in it.  So that‘s nothing but a red herring. 

The question is, was John Kerry and has he been strong on defense throughout his entire career?  And the answer to that is yes.  Since he first volunteered after getting out of Yale to go to Vietnam and serve in the military and displayed tremendous courage and valor under fire while he was in Vietnam, he has supported our veterans and the military ever since that time.  And for this administration to suggest otherwise is just unconscionable. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look, Governor Racicot.  Let‘s take a look at what Senator Kerry said about his Vietnam medals.  And this is back in 1971. 


KERRY:  I gave back, I can‘t remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts. 

KERRY:  Well, and above that, I gave back the medals.


MATTHEWS:  When asked about that interview today on “Good Morning America,” John Kerry, here is what he said. 


KERRY:  I threw my ribbons.  I didn‘t have my medals.  It‘s very simple.  We threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through. 


MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts on that, Governor Racicot?

RACICOT:  Well, this, like the ad that you just talked about, Chris, is entirely accurate. 

And it points to the notion that it‘s very troubling when you consider the statements in the record of Senator Kerry.  We‘re talking about, what does he see?  What will his judgment be?  What kind of a president and commander in chief would he be?  Whether he threw his medals or not is not the important point of that story.  It is that he has waffled.  He has gone from one position to another. 

Interestingly enough, it happened with the discussion about his SUV as well.  He told an automobile workers group that in fact he drove SUVs.  Then, on Earth Day, he said that he was looking for a hybrid car to serve as the campaign vehicle and said that he didn‘t own an SUV.  His family did.

All of these issues, Chris, have to do with the character and the capacity to be consistent, to exercise sound judgment.  When Jeanne talks about what he did in reference to serving his country, we‘ve always said that that should be a matter of pride.  But, on his first entry into the United States Senate, he set about with a memo during the height of the Cold War to eliminate all of these weapons systems that we use now in Iraq.  That‘s just an irrefutable fact. 

And the American people ought to know that he has tried to eliminate billion of dollars in intelligence spending after the first World Trade Center bombing. 

MATTHEWS:  Governor Shaheen, your response? 

ANNOUNCER:  That‘s what this is all about.

SHAHEEN:  Well, this is nothing but a red herring to take away the attention of this country on the fact that we are one year since the day that George Bush dressed up and landed on an aircraft carrier and said mission accomplished and we have lost more men and women in Iraq since George Bush claimed the war ended than we did during the armed combat.


SHAHEEN:  And there is no plan.  And there is no plan to address how we get out of Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you one last question, Governor Shaheen.  If John Kerry had been elected president in 2001, had taken office in 2001, would we be in Iraq right now? 

SHAHEEN:  You know, I don‘t think we know the answer to that.  But we do know that...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that troubling, that we don‘t know? 

SHAHEEN:  ... John Kerry would have done everything possible to try and reach a peace agreement, rather than...

RACICOT:  He would have sent the FBI over there, which is totally inadequate. 

SHAHEEN:  ... to go to war.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, Governor Shaheen, you don‘t know whether you would be there.

But Governor Racicot, you‘re sure he would not be there. 

RACICOT:  Well, he‘s called it a law enforcement action. 


SHAHEEN:  No, because John Kerry said that war should be the last


MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to go.

Thank you, Governors.  Thank you very much.  Governor Racicot, Governor Shaheen, thank you very much.

HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary celebration continues all week long.  Tonight, I‘ll be on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” luckily.  And tomorrow, I‘ll be in Cleveland with an exclusive interview with John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee.  And then on Thursday, I‘ll talk with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over at the Pentagon. 

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


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