Guests: Michael Weisskopf, Ed Gillespie, Bill Maher
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: HARDBALL‘s anniversary celebration continues tonight with a special look back over the last seven years and cutting edge political comedy from HBO‘s Bill Maher and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie on ribbons, medals and war records. And the human cost of war with “TIME” magazine‘s Michael Weisskopf.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, and I‘m back in Washington tonight to mark HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary. Bill Maher and Ed Gillespie will join me in a moment.
But first, fighting resumed in Fallujah for the second straight day today in Iraq as the U.S. forces dropped 10 laser-guided bombs on buildings sheltering insurgents.
MSNBC‘s Carl Rochelle is in Baghdad—Carl.
CARL ROCHELLE, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, those AC-130 gunships back at it again tonight, hitting targets in Fallujah, striking them hard. You know that aircraft.
You can see these pictures through the night vision cameras. That‘s why the pictures are green. They‘re slow scan, and the feeds so they look a little weird sometimes, but what you get is a lot of blossoming.
This aircraft carries a heck of a lot of firepower, 105 millimeter Howitzer, 20 millimeter Gatling gun, 40-millimeter cannon, very precise when it can hit targets and it hits targets on the ground.
That‘s exactly what it is doing tonight, essentially the same thing one of them did last evening.
The coalition will tell you they are trying to resolve this thing peacefully, to keep the ceasefire in place. In fact, they do say the ceasefire is in place but let me give some examples.
This afternoon about dusk a couple of F-15 fighters rolled in the northeastern section of the city and put at least three bombs on a building in that area.
Earlier in the day, when the Marines were trying to take a former train station, they came under fire, called in Cobra gunships, Huey helicopters. They called in fixed wing aircraft. And for about 2 ½ hours they pounded that target into the ground.
And last night AC-130 gunships hitting targets in the Jowan (ph) area, where Marines have come under fire.
Now our representative down in Fallujah said that 10 buildings were destroyed by that heavy hitting last evening and one was severely damaged.
But the only casualties were injuries; no one was killed in that area. One of the reasons is because most of the people have cleared out of that area because it has become such a fire zone.
Still, fighting going on, almost every day, the U.S. and the Iraqi security people trying to get joint patrols together to go out and go in the streets and get those weapons, to bring that ceasefire into effect.
So far it hasn‘t happened. And every day for the last several days we‘ve had this kind of fighting there, more of it tonight.
Chris, back to you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Carl Rochelle in Baghdad.
“TIME” magazine‘s Michael Weisskopf knows from personal experience how high the cost of war is. He lost his right hand covering the war in Iraq.
Michael, thanks for joining us tonight.
MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, “TIME” MAGAZINE: Thank you.
You‘re a political reporter as well as a foreign correspondent so when you go into a place, you smell it out. What does your sense of smell tell you about the situation in Iraq right now?
WEISSKOPF: It‘s a hairy place for reporters, Chris. And reporters can go about business one of two ways. You can stay within a fairly safe area around the hotels and operate in what‘s known as the Green Zone, which is protected.
MATTHEWS: How big is that?
WEISSKOPF: Probably about a mile square. It‘s not a big area but there are a lot of...
MATTHEWS: What kind of area is it? Is it a downtown area of Baghdad?
WEISSKOPF: Downtown. Lots of the former palaces are there, lots of places where official Baghdad...
MATTHEWS: That‘s where all the big shots are now?
WEISSKOPF: That‘s right. That‘s where you get the coalition government and also the Iraqis.
MATTHEWS: What has that done to downtown Baghdad? The fact that it‘s like in Washington, D.C., you and I know it, it‘s right downtown. It was a big center of the city called the White House. You can‘t drive past it anymore. All the cabs and everything has to go around it.
Is that what‘s happening in Baghdad, there‘s a whole part of the city cut out and the rest of the city and country have to go around it?
WEISSKOPF: It reminds me a lot of a Washington look alike after the King assassination when there were riots here and there were barricades all over and barbed wire all over and, of course, troops in that case, our National Guard standing with rifles, with automatic rifles.
And so you have a sense of being in a war zone, almost anywhere you go in Baghdad these days.
And the other way, of course, you can cover this is by going out with American troops and then you become embedded. And when you become embedded, you have about the same odds of getting hurt as a soldier.
MATTHEWS: Do you feel—if you had to put the odds on going out on your own with maybe a guide or two or going out with a unit, what‘s safer?
WEISSKOPF: Going out with a unit is safer, simply because you‘ve got men in uniform and armed, and their experience at this point in watching out for the danger spots in a place like Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: What do the civilians—You know, you see these old war movies we grew up with, like pictures of the French during the Nazi occupation. And you‘re always wondering, what‘s going through the heads of these people as the Vairmont (ph) marches down the Champs Elysee.
What kind of faces look back at you when you‘re going in a convoy or you‘re going on your own with an escort?
WEISSKOPF: It depends on where in Baghdad you travel.
I was in a Sunni area, a place called Odamiyah (ph), and I was traveling with the 1st Armored Division. Odamiyah (ph) was a tough place. These are mean streets; these are anti-American folks.
MATTHEWS: They like Saddam.
WEISSKOPF: They‘re loyal to Saddam. He was a Sunni.
And there is a—when I passed through in a Humvee, you had in the eyes of the adults a great deal of resistance, hatred, a sense of being occupied, which isn‘t fun for anyone.
The kids, on the other hand, consider it fun and wait for the Humvees to stop so that you can—they can ask you for autographs or for American money or ask you about George Bush.
MATTHEWS: What do they say about Bush, the kids?
WEISSKOPF: They only can mouth slogans like “Bush good.”
MATTHEWS: They know that gets them a quarter or what?
WEISSKOPF: Yes. A quarter of Iraqi money.
MATTHEWS: A quarter of Iraqi money. Let me—Tell me about your—
I know you‘re probably going to write about this as the great writer that you are, but give us a brief preview of what it was like to be as a journalist and get hit and badly wounded.
WEISSKOPF: I was driving on a brisk night in early December in a roofless Humvee in a patrol. At the end of the patrol, we stopped in traffic, still within a—within the Iraqi community. Somebody lobbed a grenade into the Humvee.
MATTHEWS: Which kind of grenade?
WEISSKOPF: The phosphorous grenade. It was not like a pineapple.
And when I first heard it, I thought it was a rock. I looked down, in fact it was not. I picked it up to throw it out.
MATTHEWS: Was it smoking?
WEISSKOPF: It was smoldering. I picked it up and—to throw it out and it must have just left my hands when—my right hand when it exploded and took off my right hand.
MATTHEWS: How many seconds did it take for that thing to hit and then explode?
WEISSKOPF: It must have taken about three seconds.
MATTHEWS: From the time you saw it and lobbed it out.
WEISSKOPF: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: If you hadn‘t lobbed it out, what would have happened?
WEISSKOPF: Well, these grenades have a kill zone of five meters.
MATTHEWS: And you were definitely within this five meters.
WEISSKOPF: And so were about five others, including four soldiers and a photographer.
MATTHEWS: So all five of you would have been blown be to bits, probably?
WEISSKOPF: That‘s the thinking, yes.
MATTHEWS: And in the air—it was outside—How far away was it when it exploded?
WEISSKOPF: It was probably within inches of my hand...
WEISSKOPF: Yes, because it took off my right hand.
MATTHEWS: And did you go into shock or did you—what happened?
WEISSKOPF: There was a—there was a moment of shock, yes.
MATTHEWS: But you feel the pain right away?
WEISSKOPF: I‘ll tell you about that when I write.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you deserve—that‘s your story.
Let me ask you about the military situation over there and then the political. Let‘s start with the military.
When you saw that report from Carl Rochelle just a moment ago on our air right now, and you saw the attacking of the big—we‘ve got the ammo, the ordinance to drop on those targets, how is that going to proceed?
Is this like Vietnam, where we bomb—We spent more bomb ordnance in Vietnam than we spent in all theaters of World War II, and we basically had to withdraw.
WEISSKOPF: There are two centers now of military action in Iraq, and it is sort of a tale of two cities and an important distinction.
Fallujah is an area with a heavy concentration, again, of Saddam loyalists. These are disgruntled Ba‘athists, some of them in the military, which was cashiered soon after Jerry Bremer got in.
And this is an area which has been resistant from the start, even in the—my first trip to Iraq in—last spring, there was resistance. There was stone throwing. Not nearly as fierce as now.
Then you‘ve got a place south of there called Najaf. And Najaf is a holy city for the Shia. And right now a man by the name of Moqtada al-Sadr is sort of a runaway cleric, a Shia cleric who is in Najaf, who has declared war, basically, against our troops.
This is a much different kind of place, because if we go in there with firepower, there‘s a chance we will hit very holy shrines such as the shrine of Ali, which is dear to Muslims all over the world and will have a much larger impact on—within the Arab world and with all of Iraq than what happens in Fallujah.
MATTHEWS: Are you optimistic we can stabilize that country in two or three years?
WEISSKOPF: The jury is out. It‘s—The CIA keeps on saying every—that the next three months are vital because it‘s—it may take that long before the insurgents actually begin winning over the local population.
It‘s really just—it‘s not clear to what extent there is sentiment favorable to the insurgents within the larger population. I can tell you in the times I have been there, between last spring and last December, a six-month period, the anti-Americanism had grown dramatically.
MATTHEWS: It usually does during occupations.
MATTHEWS: No surprise. Thank you. Congratulations. Not congratulations. I feel for you. And we‘re going to have you on if you ever write anything called a hard cover book. You‘re a hero. OK?
Michael, thank you very much. Michael Weisskopf, one of the—perhaps one of the heroes of this war. He‘s been over there covering it. He took the risk; he paid a price so you know what‘s going on over there.
Coming up, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, I‘ll be here with his reaction to my interview yesterday with John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president.
And later, Howard Fineman, Bill Maher and Ron Reagan will be here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Republican national chairman Ed Gillespie responds to my interview yesterday with John Kerry when HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I released all my military records. Mr. Gillespie thought it was important enough to go travel to another state, make a big speech, demand that I release my records, I did, everything. All of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: All of it. That was Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry last night on HARDBALL, talking about my next guest, Chairman Ed Gillespie of the Republican National Committee.
Where is this fight going? Is it over war records, over all records? Is it over medals? Is it over voting in the U.S. Senate over military appropriations? What‘s the fight about here?
ED GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, Chris, I saw that last night and I saw your job interview with John Kerr—your interview with John Kerry.
You know, it was remarkable to me that he was talking about that I was calling for him to make his records public. I wasn‘t. What I was saying was he promised on “MEET THE PRESS” that he would make all of his records available.
A reporter went to his office to get them, and guess what, they said, “Oh, no, we‘re only releasing the ones we‘ve already released.” He had to reverse himself again 24 hours later.
MATTHEWS: Why this fight? Why is there a fight over a guy who everybody knows got three Purple Hearts, a bronze and a star? Why don‘t you—Why is anybody arguing about this?
John McCain said the other day, a Republican, drop it. Drop both charges, the Bush National Guard stuff, drop the Kerry service record.
GILLESPIE: Chris, I‘m not talking about a service record. You have heard me say time and time again that I admire and respect Senator Kerry for his actions in Vietnam. He deserves all the credit for that.
What the problem is here, it‘s not what I‘m saying. It‘s what John Kerry is saying. If he would stop contradicting himself, these things go away.
What happened was, he said on “MEET THE PRESS,” “I‘ll make them all available. A reporter from the “Boston Globe” went, as you well know, and he said, “No, we‘re not making them all available.”
I said, you know, when President Bush said on the same program, “I‘ll make all mine available,” he made them all available and John Kerry should just keep his word.
Once he did, I didn‘t say a word about it. I said that‘s great; he made them available. He should have done it the first time.
MATTHEWS: So you weren‘t trying to fish in troubled water there?
GILLESPIE: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t see an opportunity to jump on this guy because he hadn‘t given all his records out?
GILLESPIE: No. I saw an opportunity to jump on him because he said something and did something different, like he does all the time. That‘s the issue here is he says one thing and then...
MATTHEWS: For some voters who aren‘t—viewers who aren‘t particularly focusing on this issue, back in ‘71 -- I was a capital policeman at the time, I watched that, too, and I didn‘t know what I made of it at the time. This is so many years ago. It‘s a third of a century ago.
This guy goes with a lot of other Vietnam vets, and they throw medals across the fence. It was right out on the west front of the capitol, and everybody thought they were his medals. Fair enough. That‘s an absolute assumption everybody had a right to make.
It turns out later that they were not his—they were his service ribbons, which he know says last night were the same as medals.
What‘s wrong with him saying they‘re medals if they‘re ribbons, or they‘re both the same thing?
GILLESPIE: Because what he said was, he said, “Well, I never implied that I threw my own medals.”
MATTHEWS: But he threw his ribbons, though.
GILLESPIE: He did. But hang on one second. Because he said I never implied that I threw my own medals. And then he said on an interview on television...
MATTHEWS: Channel 4.
GILLESPIE: Yes. He said, “I threw my medals.” So there...
MATTHEWS: OK. What happened was—I agree with you. I‘m with you on this but here‘s the problem.
GILLESPIE: Can I finish the rest?
MATTHEWS: You‘re arguing—You‘re arguing about a third of a century ago and a local Channel 4 reporter here in Washington, WRC, saying you threw your bronze and your star and he said beyond that and then he said other ribbons, other medals, right?
But he didn‘t actually say, “I threw my bronze and my—and my silver.”
GILLESPIE: What she said was you threw your Bronze Star, your Purple Heart and your Silver Star, and he said, “That‘s right, and then a few other medals.” And so the fact is he said...
MATTHEWS: But he said he threw away those ribbons.
GILLESPIE: But then fine. Then later on he said when he was running for the Senate and people came to him and they said, “Well, we were upset you threw your medals,” he said, “I didn‘t throw my medals. I just threw my ribbons. There‘s a difference. I didn‘t throw my medals. I threw my ribbons.”
And then he comes out now, when he said—what makes this current, by the way, Chris, is he said it in “The L.A. Times” just five days ago and then he says—now he says there‘s no difference between medals and ribbons.
MATTHEWS: We‘re talking about electing a commander in chief of the United States armed forces around the world, including especially Iraq and Afghanistan.
And the question of his medals, is that as big an issue as who performed military service during military service age and who did not? He went to the war. Cheney had three deferments. He had three Purple Hearts.
Isn‘t that a bigger issue?
GILLESPIE: No, it‘s not.
MATTHEWS: Cheney is attacking his—is attacking him.
GILLESPIE: What Vice President Cheney talked about was the votes he‘s cast and the positions he‘s taken. Chris, you‘ve been in politics yourself. That‘s what elections are about.
Elections are about what are the votes you‘ve cast, because that‘s an indicator of how you‘re going to behave if you‘re elected. The fact is, I put out a memo today from his 1984 campaign when he first ran for the Senate, where he listed all of these programs that he wanted to cut and weapons programs he wanted to cancel.
He says now we‘re cherry picking. Look, his career is a cherry tree.
MATTHEWS: I understand. You‘re very persuasive, but let me ask this. John McCain, who is a Republican, he‘s a bit of a renegade as we all know, be he did say the other day, drop it on both sides.
Would your side be willing to drop—make the following deal? No more talk about Vietnam—protesting the war itself, the fighting, just drop the whole thing? Would you agree to that? Stop talking about Vietnam.
GILLESPIE: Chris, I‘m not talking about Vietnam. I‘m talking about his...
MATTHEWS: Your side would never mention that again, the medals or ribbons, no matter what they are?
GILLESPIE: Let me say—Let me say, and I challenge you and defy you to find anywhere where I‘ve said anything that contradicts what I‘m going to say to you right now.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that?
GILLESPIE: OK. Senator Kerry deserves credit for his service in Vietnam, but his policies on national security are wrong.
MATTHEWS: Including his objections to the Vietnam War?
GILLESPIE: Well, he has a First Amendment right to object to the Vietnam War.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that should be part of this campaign?
MATTHEWS: His position on the Vietnam War?
GILLESPIE: I don‘t think it‘s relevant, and I haven‘t talked about it. What was relevant was when he said—this flap over the medals was only relevant because five days ago he said, “I never said I threw my medals,” and then it turns out he did say he threw his medals.
MATTHEWS: So at some point we can stop talking about the medals and the Vietnam War?
GILLESPIE: Sure. I‘m...
MATTHEWS: And we‘re talking about his voting record...
GILLESPIE: ... in the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: A liberal voting record suggests what about his—his support for the war? His support for American security?
GILLESPIE: That his policies on national security are wrong. Look, this is someone who voted for the Iraq war today and now says he‘s an anti-war candidate. Said it on your program.
Here‘s someone who voted against the first war in 1991. If he had his way Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad. He would still be in Kuwait.
MATTHEWS: Would a senator of either party who voted for every weapons system that came up on the line and said, “I‘m for everything that everybody puts out as a possibility as a weapons system,” that person‘s a better national security person than a person who discriminates?
GILLESPIE: No. No. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Because of Cheney‘s discrimination.
GILLESPIE: Sure. Everybody—When you said after the collapse of the Berlin wall, a lot of people were looking to recoup the peace dividend. People were rolling back.
He was in favor of these cuts at the height of the Cold War when Russia—then the Soviet Union—was armed and after us. And then also, by the way, he proposed a $6 billion cut in intelligence funding in 1994, one year after the World Trade Center was first attacked.
MATTHEWS: Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Up next, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman weighs in on the fight over John Kerry‘s war medals.
And later, Bill Maher will be here. He‘ll probably talk about the medals, too.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Love that red ball with the seven on it. Welcome back.
“Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC News political analyst. I think he is the MSNBC News political analyst.
Thank you very much. Tim and you, and a few of those guys.
Let me go—Let me go to this question, how did they get involved with this fight—we just had Gillespie on. I‘m sure nobody wanted this fight. I‘m trying to think who wanted a fight about the medals and the ribbons and whether there‘s a difference?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don‘t think the White House could resist, because they think it helps them on two levels.
No. 1, they get to talk about Kerry as a supposed flip-flopper, you know, different stories about the issues, whatever it may be.
And it also—they‘re trying to twin it up with a previously scheduled advertising run of ads attacking Kerry for being, quote, “troubling on defense.”
So even though Ed Gillespie, the head of the RNC, may say, “We don‘t really want to talk about Vietnam and we don‘t want to talk about the issues of Vietnam,” they do.
And they want to try to portray Kerry as weak on defense by running the ads about his votes against various weapons systems, while at the same time recalling Kerry‘s history as an anti-war protester in Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: You know the funny thing is, this issue seems to wear out every once in a while and then it comes back like gangbusters.
During the primary campaign we covered, clearly for a while there I thought, like, Kerry‘s service record wouldn‘t count at all. Then all of a sudden it counted like mad in knocking off Howard Dean.
FINEMAN: Well, that...
MATTHWES: Because then people began to believe in the cause of the Vietnam vet.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t the White House a little worried that all they‘re doing is warming themselves up for an October assault, with TV ads all day long showing what a hero this guy was?
FINEMAN: Well, that—If that‘s going to come, it was going to come regardless of what they did. They‘re trying to extract whatever benefit from their side they can out of it right now. If that‘s how Kerry is going to finish up in October.
But you raise a very good point. Kerry is the one who brought Vietnam to the fore, because it was his calling card in Iowa and New Hampshire. It was his way to catch the support once Dean fell apart.
And what the emotional strength of Kerry‘s campaign in the primaries was “I‘m the guy who fought on the battlefields. I‘m the guy who was there. I‘ve got these veterans around me, and I can win this election because I can beat George Bush on that political battlefield.”
And what the RNC And the Bush-Cheney campaign are saying is, “Well, we‘re going to muddy it up as much as we can if you try that.”
MATTHEWS: But you know what‘s always worked, whether Ike against Stephenson or George Bush I when he ran the first time, or Reagan‘s war, the involvement he had in the Vietnam—the second war, the extent he did have it. Kennedy with PT-109, General Grant, all the presidents who were former generals.
When has being a war general or a war veteran not helped?
FINEMAN: I think it‘s always helped in certain cases, and you have Jimmy Carter, for example, who was one, was a Navy man.
FINEMAN: And he wrote a letter to you that I want to read.
MATTHEWS: Oh, god.
FINEMAN: It‘s April 21 from Jimmy Carter to Chris Matthews.
“Congratulations on seven successful years of hosting HARDBALL. We have always admired your incisive reporting on the political scene in Washington and other critical global issues. MSNBC is a welcome player in the all news field on television. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, the ever-serious Jimmy Carter.”
MATTHEWS: I can hear him say that. I can also hear MSNBC saying that.
Let me ask you about you, Howard Fineman, my favorite guest on this show. What is your most memorable experience—I can‘t believe somebody wrote this—on HARDBALL, personally speaking?
FINEMAN: They‘re all memorable, Chris, but I‘ll tell you that—a good story I heard from Ed Markey, your friend and mine, a Congressman.
He said he called you after it was announced that the show was going to expand from 30 minutes to 60 minutes.
FINEMAN: He said, “Chris, this is great. Now you‘ll actually be able to let the guest answer the questions.”
MATTHEWS: See, he didn‘t know what was coming.
Thank you, Howard Fineman. I mean it. Howard—by the way, HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary continues in a moment with Bill Maher and Ron Reagan.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, our seventh anniversary celebration continues with Bill Maher and Ron Reagan.
But, first, it‘s time for the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week. I‘m here with Ron Reagan.
Ron, thanks for joining me.
RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: I couldn‘t be happier to be here, Chris. And happy seventh anniversary. And I‘ll tell you, you deserve it. You‘re a very famous guy these days.
Here‘s really something of an icon. But a lot of people, well, they don‘t really know you. They don‘t know where you come from, what makes you tick, what‘s going on beneath that boyish mane of blonde hair. But we‘re going to remedy that. Just take a look at this.
NARRATOR: From the mean streets of Philly to the center of power in the nation‘s capital, for 30 years, Chris Matthews has been Washington‘s truth seeker.
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I remember some pretty tough questions and a great interview with a then candidate for president, then Governor George W. Bush.
ANNOUNCER: He fought with important people.
MATTHEWS: Governor George Bush makes his first appearance in the first-in-the-nation primary state. We‘re here in New Hampshire with him and he knows it.
BUSH: Matthews, good to see some of the larger personalities are starting to arrive here.
BUSH: ... for the show, by the way.
NARRATOR: He fought with their staff.
MATTHEWS: Were you fired by Senator Kerry?
CHRIS LEHANE, FORMER KERRY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I left voluntarily on my own, although I appreciate the question.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t fire you? You sure of that? I just want to know, were you fired—you sure you weren‘t fired? You weren‘t told to leave?
LEHANE: Have you ever been fired from a job, Chris?
NARRATOR: He was feared.
DAVID KIPEN, BOOK CRITIC, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: HARDBALL was the ultimate. It makes Baghdad look like a piece of cake.
NARRATOR: And fearless.
MATTHEWS: But you‘ve never even got married and settled down and have kids. How can you hold it against a guy who has been a good family man?
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m not saying he‘s a bad family man.
NARRATOR: Chris Matthews, the man behind playing HARDBALL.
Christopher John Matthews was born on December 17, 1945, in bucolic Philadelphia. Early on, he showed signs of greatness, a winning personality. He learned the art of negotiation in the toughest school of all, the dinner table, in an Irish family with five kids. He seemed headed for a military career until he entered the hallowed halls of the College of the Holy Cross.
And then a letter came from the United States government, no, thankfully not from Robert McNamara. It was from the Peace Corps, and he left for Africa. He taught economics while the people of Swaziland taught Chris about the search for fairness and truth in government.
But Uncle Sam called again, this time with an offer he couldn‘t refuse. He went to work in the White House, writing speeches for President Jimmy Carter. But it wasn‘t enough for Chris. He became the right-hand man to the speaker of the house, Tip O‘Neill.
By now, Chris and his beautiful wife, legendary news anchor Kathleen Matthews, were one of Washington‘s hippest and hottest couples.
CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Kathleen is a wonderful woman. They‘re a fantastic couple.
NARRATOR: They would become the proudest parents of Michael, Thomas, and Caroline. And then he wrote “HARDBALL,” a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how to play and win in politics.
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”: I helped Chris Matthews come up with the title “HARDBALL” for his first book and therefore the title for this show.
NARRATOR: “HARDBALL” became a must-read, and it‘s now must-see TV.
HARDBALL made history.
MATTHEWS: You know, it takes real guts to write a book about that mayhem. I mean, I covered it. It was the best thing I ever did here on MSNBC, every night, five hours a night. But what‘s to brag about? What‘s to brag about? It was a disaster.
KATHERINE HARRIS, FORMER FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: Actually not.
MATTHEWS: One hour past the U.S. deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, American troops are poised on the Kuwait-Iraq border and ready to invade. You‘re looking at a picture of downtown Baghdad right now, which we will continue to monitor throughout the hour.
NARRATOR: And headlines. In 2004, he was mentioned as one of the most powerful people in television news, with some legendary battles.
MATTHEWS: When you went into the draft board that day, were you hoping to get deferred?
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was not looking forward to going to Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: Were you hoping to be deferred?
REGIS PHILBIN, TALK SHOW HOST: Isn‘t it something, that HARDBALL? He gets right into the faces of those guests.
rMD+BO_ rMD-BO_ANDREW HEYWARD, PRESIDENT, CBS NEWS: thought Mike Wallace was tough, until I met Chris Matthews.
NARRATOR: He took the show on the road and the HARDBALL college tour was born.
PHIL GRIFFIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: When we arrived at campus, it was amazing. The kids would be all over Chris. It was like he was a rock star, a rock star albeit dressed in a suit, wingtips, and a button-down shirt.
NARRATOR: His battle cry...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
NARRATOR: ... was often imitated but never matched.
JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: I guess they‘re playing—what‘s the word I‘m looking for—HARDBALL.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
NEAL SHAPIRO, PRESIDENT, NBC NEWS: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
CLAIRE SHIPMAN, ABC NEWS: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, SOUTH AFRICAN LEADER: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
NARRATOR: It was clear he had become a certified cultural icon, with “Saturday Night Live”‘s Darrell Hammond imitating him.
DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: The White House name exposes the name of an undercover CIA agent. You got so many bullets flying around Iraq, it‘s beginning to look like the final scene in “Scarface.” And suddenly the national deficit is higher than Rush Limbaugh in a Mexican pharmacy.
Joining us tonight, the spokesman for the Gore campaign, Mr. Bill Daley.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, Chris, can I just say that
HAMMOND: No, you can‘t. Stick around. I‘m going to go outside and shout at cars.
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
NARRATOR: “Jeopardy”: appearances.
MATTHEWS: Historic moments for $800.
ALEX TREBEK, “JEOPARDY” HOST: On March 30, 1865, General Fitzhugh Lee was enjoying a shad bake and missed the Battle of Five Forks in this war.
MATTHEWS: What is the Civil War?
MATTHEWS: What is the Civil War? What is the Civil War?
TREBEK: Yes, but the show is “Jeopardy,” hosted by Alex Trebek.
TREBEK: When it‘s “Jeopardy” hosted by Chris Matthews, then you can come in before you‘re recognized.
MATTHEWS: My ambitions don‘t rise that high.
TREBEK: All right, thank you. Go again.
NARRATOR: Interviews on “The Tonight Show.”
JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: Please welcome Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: And as a guy who does what I do for a living, which is basically stage fights every night, and I‘m the Don King of this business, I love hardball. I want to see a guy that can come out there and out-debate this guy.
NARRATOR: And more...
MATTHEWS: “Roll Call” is reporting on its Web site that Senator William Sterling Jr. is not a Democrat. According to voter records, he‘s been a registered independent for the last 10 years. The Democrats woke up this morning controlling the Senate. They could go to bed tonight with the Republicans running the show. What this means is, depending on which way he votes for majority leader, this guy Sterling could change the balance of power in the Senate.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: I know not everybody gets it, but I totally get it. I get it because you‘re smart, you‘re opinionated and you‘re blonde.
NARRATOR: But his battle to define the political scene with his unique, rapid-fire interviewing style shaped the national political debate.
WESLEY CLARK (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The thing about Chris is, he asks the best questions in the world. The trouble is, he asks too many of them.
JOHN MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, you know, he seems to have a very intense style, which is something I can relate to.
BOB SHRUM, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: And he‘s made a lot of news. He‘s also a lot of fun to be on with, because you argue and argue and argue and every once in a while you actually get a word in edgewise.
MCCAIN: When I did “Saturday Night Live” and he was imitated and we did an interview, it was far superior to anything both in content, knowledge, and depth than any interview that he‘s ever done with me.
NARRATOR: He became a favorite on Don Imus‘ show.
MATTHEWS: Unless you want to vote for the Bush light ticket of Lieberman.
NARRATOR: Everybody from President Bush...
BUSH: I see that chairman Jim Matthews is here with us. Chairman, I‘m glad you‘re here. He‘s the smart brother. It‘s an inside joke.
NARRATOR: ... to the “Queer Eye” guys are watching HARDBALL.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Matthews, HARDBALL. Who is going to give it up for Chris Matthews?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, looks like Bob Dole is his stylist. What is with this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s kind of a good look, though. It sort of works for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like a little kid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... with the color.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His hair is pretty good, but it can get a little floppy at times when it gets a little too long. So he needs to stay on top of the haircuts.
NARRATOR: Best-sellers would follow, “Kennedy and Nixon,” “Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think,” and “American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions,” a Sunday show. But he is more than book-smart.
CHARLIE ROSE, TALK SHOW HOST: Chris Matthews is my hero. He loves politics. He loves music. He loves America.
NARRATOR: Now he‘s working the 2004 election with news legend Tom Brokaw. As MSNBC‘s election anchor, Chris Matthews is still searching for the truth. He‘s pitching the hard questions right down the middle of the plate, playing HARDBALL.
REAGAN: Well, we‘re not quite done with you yet, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think you can beat that. That is so nice.
REAGAN: Well, we‘re going to try.
Now, you are something of a cultural icon now. But there‘s one thing
you‘re missing here that all cultural icons
MATTHEWS: Thanks in advance, sir.
REAGAN: I know, you‘re thinking this is about the size of an Emmy, but...
MATTHEWS: It‘s similar.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no, it‘s not.
REAGAN: It‘s your very own...
MATTHEWS: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
REAGAN: Limited edition bobblehead doll. Guys like you need these. It‘s a very limited edition. Right now, there‘s only one of them, and this is it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I got my head screwed on. That guy
REAGAN: Let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: It‘s really good.
REAGAN: It is.
MATTHEWS: What does it cost to have one of these made?
REAGAN: Oh, you don‘t want to know.
MATTHEWS: I think you have to make a lot more to sell them.
MATTHEWS: But it looks great.
REAGAN: There‘s going to be more of them here. And the proceeds
MATTHEWS: “The Queer Guys” were knocking me for button-down collars and I see that the button-downs are removed.
MATTHEWS: As for prescription from those guys.
REAGAN: Now, there will be more of these that are available for sale. And the proceeds benefit the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, which is for sarcoma cancer research.
REAGAN: Sarcoma is a very rare cancer, but it still effects about 200,000 people a year. You can go to sarcoma.com and find out more about that.
And you have loyal HARDBALL viewer John Edgel (ph) to thank for this particular bobblehead.
MATTHEWS: I do thank you, John. I thank you.
REAGAN: He is Mr. Bobblehead.
MATTHEWS: Now let‘s try to get this in mass production.
REAGAN: And somebody has just thrust before me here a letter to you...
MATTHEWS: Hot off the wires.
REAGAN: From the office of—gee, look at this, my mother.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really? That‘s great.
REAGAN: From the office of Nancy Reagan. And should I read it or would you like...
MATTHEWS: I would love to hear it.
MATTHEWS: From the son‘s mouth.
REAGAN: All right.
It says: “Dear Chris, it hardly seems possible, but I‘m told you are celebrating your seventh anniversary today with HARDBALL. Congratulations. Wasn‘t it just yesterday that my husband and I were in the White House and you were working with speaker Tip O‘Neill at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue? A lot of things have changed for both of us since then.
“You still have a passion for politics, though. And I do enjoy your fair and fearless approach to the issues of the day. Have a wonderful anniversary celebration. I hope to see you out in California soon. Sincerely, Nancy.”
MATTHEWS: That‘s great. She‘s great. Your mom is great. And thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: We‘re all friends, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, as Tip O‘Neill used to say, after 6:00.
MATTHEWS: Which carries a lot of meaning.
And thank you, Ron.
REAGAN: You bet.
MATTHEWS: And coming up—I‘m not reading prompter again—back—so much for nonchalance—comedian Bill Maher is going to join us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week continues with comedian Bill Maher.
HARDBALL back in a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Was Clinton a good president?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clinton did a good job of moving this country forward. He had issues about his personal behavior which we‘re all aware of.
MATTHEWS: But was he a good president.
EDWARDS: I think the things he did for the country were very good.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Was he a good president?
EDWARDS: I think the things he did for the country as president were very good, yes.
MATTHEWS: Why do you hesitate to say he was a good president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary.
Joining me is comedian Bill Maher, the host of HBO‘s “Real Time,” which returns on July 30 live at 11:00 p.m.
Let‘s take a look at what John Kerry told me last night about the distinction between his Vietnam medals and his Vietnam ribbons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it wasn‘t a distinction at the time, Chris. You know, as I said previously, you know, I didn‘t have my medals with me, but that wasn‘t the issue. Lots of veterans didn‘t have them with them. Your medals and your ribbons are the same thing, fundamentally. The ribbons are medals. They‘re the ribbon that‘s attached to the medal. You wear them every day and it‘s a symbol of your medals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bill Maher, what do you make of this fight over whether he threw ribbons or medals in 1971, a third of a century ago?
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: Why are you covering this? Why are you taking this bait, seriously? Why are you even letting them bait you into covering this complete nonissue? This guy has medals. This guy has ribbons. The other guy didn‘t go. That‘s the whole story.
The other guy is a draft dodger. They were both rich kids in the ‘60s. One of them went to where the bullets were flying and one of them found a way not to go and then he lied about that. Stop covering the medals.
MATTHEWS: All right, I did have to cover it because he had a lot to say last night. Apparently, John Kerry wanted to go on and make clear something where he—maybe he should have shut up about it, but he wanted to make clear that he was being truthful because he said medals and ribbons mean the same to a guy who actually served in the military.
MAHER: Look, one guy went into the National Guard, which back then was a way of getting out of it. On top of that, he had the nerve to say to Tim Russert, and, you know, if my Guard unit had been called up, I would have gone. How very brave, Mr. President, considering that only 8,700 out of 2.5 million men and women who went to Vietnam, only 8,700 Guard people were ever called up there, 0.03 percent. So there was no chance he would have been called up.
That‘s George Bush for you. Hold me back, hold me back.
MATTHEWS: Well, he did say in a recent press conference with everyone watching—apparently, 30 million people watched this press conference recently—the president was asked if he ever made any mistakes, and he said he hadn‘t made any.
MAHER: He was drunk until he was 40. That‘s not a mistake?
MAHER: And what about Iraq? What about the fact that he
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking about his four years as president, Bill.
Well, what about Iraq? I mean, and I‘m not even talking about the decision to go into Iraq, which, you know, doesn‘t look so good nowadays. But what about the fact that as of today—I‘m looking at this news about Fallujah, and I hear what President Bush is saying. Do you remember Baghdad Bob, the guy we all laughed at because he was saying things that were completely crazy?
MAHER: OK. Well, President Bush sounds like Washington Bob right now. I swear to God. He‘s saying, it‘s only a few troublemakers. It‘s a few rotten eggs that we‘re fighting over there.
Are you kidding? Is he joking?
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he going up in the polls? We got a Pew Research poll. We could show you any poll. They all show him moving up, where he was behind.
So what is President Bush doing the last month that‘s so good and what‘s so bad, I guess you would have to say, about John Kerry‘s performance the last month or so? What‘s going on?
MAHER: Well, for one thing, he‘s getting the media to cover this nonsense about John Kerry‘s medals. So Joe public, as President Bush would call him, sits home and goes, well, gosh, there was a controversy with Bush‘s military history and now there‘s a controversy with John Kerry‘s military history. I don‘t know who to vote for. It‘s nonsense. It is nonsense.
One guy actually has honor and integrity, although I will admit that John Kerry certainly is not burdened with charisma, and the other guy only has the words honor and integrity. He‘s never connected them to anything.
And he never connects anything
MATTHEWS: What can John Kerry do? Life is unfair, as Jack Kennedy once said, but what happens when you have got a guy like George Bush who may be a swell, who may have gotten breaks to get into Yale, breaks certainly to get into the National Guard, all his life were breaks, maybe to make a ton of money with a baseball team?
But he comes off, fairly or not, as sort of a regular guy, whereas John Kerry, who was the balls-out guy, went to war, did the job for the country, won the three—earned, you would have to say, the three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, saved lives, killed the enemy, he comes off as kind of cold. And then the American people are like thermometers. If the guy is warm, they like him. If he‘s cold, they don‘t. Is that fair?
MAHER: And, also, this is something I said before, but I think it bears repeating in this instance to your question. The true axis of evil in America is the brilliance of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people.
George Bush has $180 million to spend. With that kind of money, he could convince Americans to drink paint, and he probably will.
MATTHEWS: Is that your prediction?
MAHER: In fact, I believe that‘s his environmental policy.
MATTHEWS: Is that your prediction for November, November 2, that the American people eat paint?
MAHER: Vanilla paint, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I‘m beginning to think like Jonestown here. I‘m getting worried. It‘s one thing to drink the Kool-Aid, but to drink the lead-based paint?
MAHER: I‘m just saying, with enough money, you can convince people of anything. And that is what George Bush does. He is one of the most cynical presidents we‘ve ever had, I believe, because with that kind of money, he plays on people‘s fears, he plays on people‘s ignorance, and he plays on people‘s shortsightedness.
MATTHEWS: If you were one of those guys in a boxing ring, the guy with the towel over his shoulder and the bucket next to the contender, John Kerry—you know those guys, usually names like Bud or something like that, Andy, would you know how to warm the guy up for these national appearance? Would you know how to tweak him and pinch him and punch him and get him to come out there a little more—a little red-meaty?
MAHER: No, you can‘t do that. John Kerry‘s campaign slogan should be, do not resuscitate. I‘m sorry. That‘s just who he is.
MAHER: But you know what? That‘s who he is. Why do people have to like the guy? Why do they have—I hear people say, I don‘t know if I‘m comfortable with John Kerry. You know what? You don‘t have to go to bed with him. Just vote for him.
We‘re such babies about it. We don‘t—you know, in the days before television, people didn‘t judge presidents on whether he was sunny or warm or likable. They judged on whether he was the best man for the job. I would like to bring that criteria back now that we‘re at war.
MATTHEWS: It must be great not to have to be fair and balanced, Bill.
Thank you very much, Bill Maher. Good luck.
MAHER: Speaking of fair and balanced, on your anniversary, I just—
I got some statistics. In seven years, for you, Chris, 1,841 interrupted responses, 3,621 guest bullied into crying, and 2,974 unfairly rephrased positions. That‘s quite a record, Chris. Congratulations.
MATTHEWS: What a toter you are. Thank you very much, Bill Maher.
Good luck with the show, 11:00 HBO. It‘s dynamite, “Real Time.”
MAHER: All right.
MATTHEWS: HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary continues after this.
REAGAN: We‘re back with HARDBALL and a special—well, it wouldn‘t be the seventh anniversary without a seventh anniversary cake. Chris, this is for you.
REAGAN: And you‘re going to have to blow out these candles here.
MATTHEWS: Well, I can do that easily.
REAGAN: You can do it? OK. Here we go.
MATTHEWS: All right.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: You knew it would be easy, didn‘t you? You knew it would be easy?
REAGAN: You have friends at the White House, I want you to know.
This is special—you see your picture here painted on the cake.
REAGAN: Special edible paint courtesy of the White House.
MATTHEWS: Oh, God.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I want to thank everybody for that great salute to the seven years here. And it reminds me of a friend of my father‘s who decided to have Christmas whenever he wanted to. He would just tell the kids to take a nap and they woke up. Santa Claus had been there. That‘s how I feel today.
Thank you for this celebration, Howard, my buddy.
FINEMAN: You‘re welcome, Chris.
MATTHEWS: This guy Ron, what a guy, what a funny guy, what a smart man of parts he is.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thanks for this studio audience, which we never have, tonight, and our editor, Chris Pendy, who did all the work on that review of the seven years.
Our seventh anniversary continues all week long. Tomorrow, I‘ll be at the Pentagon, first time since the march on the Pentagon in ‘67, for an exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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