updated 7/21/2004 9:10:57 AM ET 2004-07-21T13:10:57

Guest: Sen. Trent Lott, Sen. Bob Graham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, former national security adviser Sandy Berger is the focus of a criminal investigation into his taking of documents from the National Archives.  Plus, Senators Bob Graham and Trent Lott on the political ramifications of the September 11 report.  And Ron Reagan on Michael Moore‘s documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and how it‘s changing the political landscape in Washington and Hollywood.

From Los Angeles, let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for removing documents from the National Archives.  The documents dealt with anti-terrorism efforts during the Clinton administration and were being viewed by Berger to prepare for his testimony before the 9/11 commission.  Berger says he sloppily removed a few documents, but returned them once he was notified they were missing.  But he also says he accidentally threw a few of the documents away.  Berger denies that he was trying to withhold evidence from the 9/11 commission.

Joining us now are Senators Trent Lott, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Bob Graham of Florida, who used to chair that committee.

Let‘s start with Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi.  What does your sniff test tell you here, Senator?

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  It doesn‘t smell good.  When I first heard about this late last night and early this morning, I didn‘t know, you know, what to think and didn‘t put too much stock in it because I know Sandy Berger and have worked with him, and I just couldn‘t believe that he would take, you know, classified documents out.  But when you start finding out that he stuffed some of these documents not only in his coat pocket but in his pants, and that it was highly classified, very sensitive information, plus, he took notes out, which is also classified—once you take notes about classified information, you can‘t remove that.  He knows better than that.  Now some of the documents are missing.

And then the final nexus that I have found out this afternoon, as I‘ve tried to get more information about what‘s going on here—this is a criminal investigation.  I don‘t think it‘ll be lightly dismissed.  But now there seems to be a nexus between documents that he removed or made use of and things that the Kerry campaign have been saying.  Now, that begins to really look bad.

MATTHEWS:  Let me to go to Senator Bob Graham in Florida.  You chaired the Intelligence Committee.  Sir, what do you make of this?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), FORMER INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR:  Well, I can‘t comment, Chris, on the specifics of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice.  I do know Sandy Berger, as does Trent.  He has served this nation for many years in a very honorable manner.

One of the concerns that Trent and I also share is the excessive classification of material.  There has been a tendency, as happened with the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the events leading up to the war in Iraq, for material that might be embarrassing but is not of a national security interest to be classified.  We‘ve introduced legislation with Senator Wyden of Oregon to set up an independent panel that can review documents that have been proposed for classification to see if they justify being withheld from the American people.

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s not the point here, Senator.  The point here is, why would someone remove—that he has admitted removing these documents from the National Archives?  If he wanted the information on those documents, he could have jotted it down while he sat there.  He took actual documents, some of which he now cannot find.  Isn‘t that a serious matter?

GRAHAM:  Well, it‘s a serious matter, but as to the details, until there‘s more known of this investigation, I don‘t feel confident or appropriate to comment.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he should be part of the Kerry campaign?

GRAHAM:  That‘s a decision for John Kerry to make, as to whether he believes that he has the continuing confidence in a man who has had a distinguished career in national security and foreign policy areas to continue to advise him on those subjects in the campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Let me to go Senator Lott.  Do you think the Congress has any role here, with regard to its oversight over intelligence, to conduct a probe of its own in this matter?

LOTT:  It could be.  There‘s an ongoing Justice Department investigation now, and I think it‘s probably premature for Congress to jump in.  But once again, we have been looking at how classified information is treated, whether it‘s accurate or not.  Bob Kerrey (SIC) I have joined Ron Wyden in saying that, you know, we need some independent commission to decide what should be classified because I think, clearly, it, you know, quite often goes overboard.

But when you‘re talking about after-action reviews, or when you‘re talking about port security, which could reveal vulnerabilities even now, then you get into a real tough question.  I mean, maybe that should have been classified.  And I want to reemphasize to you, Chris, if he took notes from classified material, that, too, is classified and cannot be removed from the room.

I think, you know, in the line of what Bob is saying, let‘s wait.  There‘s an investigation underway.  Let‘s see how far this goes.  We don‘t know quite how serious it is.  But again, it looks bad.  Sandy Berger, who is very capable, a very intelligent man, dealt with a lot of classified material, knows better than this.  Why did he do that?

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  You know the business.  When a man goes back in or a woman goes back in to look at notes that they may have taken back in—made back when they were in office and they had to submit them to the National Archives under law, and they go back and just to refer their memory, to refresh their memory, to testify before the 9/11 commission, why wouldn‘t they be allowed to take notes so they‘d have clear testimony when they went before the committee—the commission?

LOTT:  Well, you‘re supposed to refresh your memory, which...

MATTHEWS:  In the room.

LOTT:  In the room.  And you can probably take notes.  But if it is of highly sensitive classified material, you cannot take that kind of information, even in your own handwriting, out of the room.

MATTHEWS:  Even if it‘s something that you originally wrote yourself, as an official.

LOTT:  If you‘re the president‘s foreign policy adviser and you have inside classified information, highly sensitive, that might have involved, you know, shooting missiles into Sudan or into the desert of Afghanistan, which I discussed with Mr. Berger repeatedly at that particular time, or information about vulnerabilities that you saw after the fact, which, if revealed publicly, could create problems, no, you don‘t have a proprietary interest.  You—that is people or the government‘s documents.  Shouldn‘t be revealed.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Senator Graham.  Let me ask you about a big story that came out yesterday that the 9/11 commission is going to report that Iran played an instrumental role in the attack of 9/11 by giving safe passage?  In fact, they agreed not to stamp the passports of those killers, apparently, the strong guys, the muscle men on those planes that really did all the physical work against our people—going through their country, didn‘t put the passport stamp on, allowed them to go through incognito.  Does that suggest we went to war with the wrong country over there, it should have been Iran?

GRAHAM:  Well, what is frustrating to me about this, Chris, is that in our joint inquiry, we had a long section about the role of foreign governments in assisting the terrorists.  That was exactly the provision, those 27 pages, that was censored before it could be—the report could be completed.  That kind of information, when a foreign government is giving assistance to people who have as their goal to kill Americans, that information ought to be made available to the American people, so they‘ll have the means by which to evaluate who the real threats are.

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Did someone keep that information about the Iranian role secret...

GRAHAM:  Well, I can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  ... so that they could focus all the ire of the American people on Iraq?

GRAHAM:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Was that it?  Was this sort of a blocking effort here?

GRAHAM:  Chris, I can‘t even answer that question because the information relative to foreign governments‘ involvement has been kept away from the American people.  Now, there have been some aggressive media people who have unearthed some of this information and it has been made available through them, but not through the government.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Senator Lott—the president of the United States made a real effort in the months before—before the war with Iraq to educate the American people as to the danger of Iraq, of Saddam Hussein particularly.  Why didn‘t tell us about Iran?

LOTT:  Maybe he should have.  But keep in mind, we have known that Iran is a very dangerous country.  There‘s been a lot in the media about their continuing efforts in the nuclear area.  I have personally had discussions with some leaders overseas about our concern about them transferring technology or parts or equipment to Iran that can be used.  But “The Post,” “The Washington Post,” “Time” magazine, “Newsweek,” “The Washington Times,” they have all come out with information about what Iran did in relationship to al Qaeda or in the bombing of the USS Cole.  There‘s very troublesome information out there now in the public arena that—maybe it earlier had been classified—that makes—that reaffirms that we have to be very cautious and continue to watch very carefully the Iranian government.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if some other country in 1941 had helped the Japanese sneak through Pacific and hit Pearl Harbor, we would have been at war within the next day.  Why didn‘t this administration alert us to the role of Iran?  I don‘t get it, unless they really wanted to us go to war with Iraq and didn‘t want us to be deflected by the truth.

GRAHAM:  Well, Chris...

LOTT:  Well, I‘m not sure what they knew or when they knew it.  Some of this information, at least to me, is relatively new.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s new to me.  Senator Graham?

GRAHAM:  Chris, you‘re also assuming that the only foreign government that provided assistance to al Qaeda was Iran, based on this new information.  I don‘t think that‘s correct.  There were a number of instances in which our people were put at greater risk because of the actions of foreign governments.  Unfortunately, for reason that are inexplicable to me, that‘s been withheld from the American people.  I hope that this instance in Iran will be the basis of the government telling our people who are our friends and who our enemies really are.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  But Senator Graham, do you know for a fact that any other government helped the al Qaeda people hit us on 9/11?

GRAHAM:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Who?

GRAHAM:  I cannot say that.

MATTHEWS:  Is it among usual suspects?

GRAHAM:  Well, I don‘t know who your usual suspects are.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about—how about—how about the kind of governments the president lists in his “axis of evil”?  How about that for a start?

GRAHAM:  Well, let me say this.  There is—as Senator Lott has just said, there has been some reporting in those newspapers and magazines about this, so it‘s not completely withheld from the American people.  And some of that has been declassified.  But the government has not been forthcoming in saying, Here‘s who was involved, and here‘s what we‘re going to do about it.

MATTHEWS:  I‘d love to know that list.

LOTT:  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Senator Lott.  We got to come right back. 

Senator, why don‘t you hold on there.  We‘ll come right back to you after this break.  We‘re coming back with Senator Lott and Senator Graham.

And later: just six days to go before—I can‘t wait—the Democratic convention in Boston.  I also can‘t wait for the Republican convention.  Top strategists for the Bush and Kerry campaigns will be here.  Plus, NBC‘s Katie Couric on why voters in the non-battleground states sense (ph) their votes won‘t affect the outcome of this election.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator Trent Lott and Senator Bob Graham. 

You were saying, Senator Lott?

LOTT:  Well, just one final point with regard to Iran, whether or not we maybe should have been looking at them more instead of Iraq.  There are a number of countries around the world we have problems with.  You don‘t always to go war because there is a—you know, a problem.  You work through a variety of venues.  Now, at some point, you reach a decision.  You have to decide whether you go in and take them out, like we did with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein and Iraq.  But clearly, Iran is a continuing concern which we have to address in a number of ways.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know whether Senator Kerry, your colleague on the Hill, would have taken to us war with Iraq or not?

LOTT:  Who knows.  He did...

MATTHEWS:  You think he knows?

LOTT:  He did—well...

MATTHEWS:  Does he know?

LOTT:  He did vote for it.  And the Congress did vote overwhelmingly back in the late ‘90s, I think ‘97 or ‘98...

MATTHEWS:  And so did John Edwards.

LOTT:  ... for the Iraq Liberation Act.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that—let me—let me straighten you out on that, Senator.  If you go back to the language of that act you voted for, it says nothing about forcible overthrow of that government, nothing about a U.S.  invasion, nothing about that.

LOTT:  But it...

MATTHEWS:  It was simply support the forces in the country financially and whatever, if they are capable of overthrowing the government.  Nothing about the United States going into that country.

LOTT:  I believe it did talk about regime change.

MATTHEWS:  Through local efforts supported by us, but not by—it does not authorize a war with Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The decision made—you folks made in 2002 to go to war with Iraq, I wonder why Hillary Clinton supported it, why Kerry supported it, why Edwards supported it, why a lot of liberals supported it, and now they‘re saying they‘re against the war.  Senator Graham, what‘s going on here?  Is Kerry for or against this war?

GRAHAM:  Chris, there was an intervening act between the passage of that legislation in Iraq in the late ‘90s and the decision in 2002, and that was 9/11.  Suddenly, we recognized that we were faced not with another nation state but with a tribe of tribes that was committed, religiously, with zealotry, to kill Americans.  The question that we had to face in October of 2002, in my judgment, was which of these evils was the greater threat to the people of America?  My judgment was al Qaeda, and that we should have stayed on the war in Afghanistan until we had crushed al Qaeda.  Then we could have asked, What are other enemies that threaten our people?

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people think like that.  Let me ask you, Senator -

·         Senator Graham first, then Senator Lott.  Will we solve our intelligence deficiencies by naming sort of an uber-boss, a chief of intelligence above all the agencies?  Senator Graham first.

GRAHAM:  No.  It‘s an important step, and we should take it, and then we should follow the uber-voice with a decentralization around the missions.  We need to have some intelligence people who are focused exclusively on the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, some specifically on the Caspian Sea region, which many people think is going to be an area of great destabilization in the future.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM:  The real issue...

MATTHEWS:  I only got a minute here.  I got to get to Senator Lott.  Senator Lott, do you support the establishment of a cabinet-level officer for the president?

LOTT:  I do.  But I have to say right up front I agree with Bob Graham that the director of national intelligence won‘t solve all the problems.  The CIA, our intelligence community, didn‘t get into difficulties overnight.  It‘s been around for 30 years for a variety of reasons, including the Congress not adequately or properly funding them.  But it is a step in the right direction.  Or if not that reform, what other reform?  We do know that our intelligence failed us before going into Iraq, and we need to do a better job.  So let‘s get about having a hearing and deciding what is the best thing to do.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Senator Trent Lott and Senator Bob Graham.

Up next, Ron Reagan takes a look at the power of political movies and the impact they‘re having on Hollywood this election year.  And later, the battle for the White House with top strategists from both campaigns.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Michael Moore‘s movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” is a bona fide hit.  It‘s taken in over $90 million in just four weeks, and as MSNBC‘s Ron Reagan reports, it‘s breathed new life into an old genre, political documentaries.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “FAHRENHEIT 9/11”)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  With everything going wrong, he did what any of us would do.  He went on vacation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over):  And everybody else, it seems, is going to the movies.

PETER GUBER, FILM PRODUCER:  In Hollywood, it‘s always about money.  I mean, you know, Hollywood operates by the golden rule.  He who has the gold makes the rules.

Reagan:  And This summer, Michael Moore is Hollywood‘s surprise golden boy.  Not bad for a guy no one will ever mistake for Brad Pitt.  Not only is he achieving his personal goal of telling everyone to vote George Bush out of a job, he‘s also figured out how to make a buck by filling movie seats with Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between.

MARTIN KAPLAN, ANNENBERG SCHOOL, USC:  What filmmakers and exhibitors and distributors have discovered is that there‘s a new way to sell popcorn in the lobby.

REAGAN:  It‘s called the documentary.  Remember them?  And from now until election day and beyond, you‘ll see plenty of them at your local cineplex.  Most are anti-Bush.  Some are apolitical.  Here‘s a hit list of some of the more popular offerings.  There‘s “Uncovered: The War on Iraq” by Robert Greenwald, which asks the question, Did Bush deliberately lie to the world about the war in Iraq?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “UNCOVERED”)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... that Saddam Hussein had the material to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

PETER ZIMMERMAN, FORMER CHIEF SCIENTIST, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS

COMMITTEE:  The sarin that they were making in 1990, 1991, had a known shelf life of about two months.  You made it 12 years ago and it had a shelf life of two months, it may not be safe to drink, but it isn‘t sarin nerve gas any longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Taking on the issue of bias in the media is “The Control Room,” a look at the Middle East news agency Al Jazeera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “THE CONTROL ROOM”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Your journalists have—have a position on the war.  Are they capable of being objective?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are any of the news broadcasts that I tune into not taking a position on the war?  This word “objectivity” is almost a mirage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  There‘s even one about Bill Clinton, “Hunting the President,” which chronicles the right-wing obsession with bringing down his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “HUNTING THE PRESIDENT”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was a sense in Washington that Clinton was not their kind of person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The strategy was to use anything to inflict damage to his presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAPLAN:  And as long as these things continue to attract audiences, exhibitors will show them.  The religion of distributors is money, it‘s not politics.  And if right-wing documentaries, if “The Passion” is going to attract an audience, then people are going to play that, too.

GUBER:  What is interesting to me is whether or not theatrical film-going will become a forum for political advocacy, in terms of documentaries.  I don‘t believe so.  I believe they‘re unique to themselves, and I believe that most people want to go into these movie theaters and be entertained.

REAGAN:  Which is exactly why filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg is presenting an alternative.  His documentary, “America‘s Heart & Soul,” the film Disney decided to distribute after they took a pass on “Fahrenheit 9/11,” is not political by design.  It celebrates, says Schwartzberg, the people and culture of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “America‘s heart & soul”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Music is my life.  And it just takes me higher and higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN (on camera):  Well, here we are in the theater, and there‘s your movie and there‘s Michael Moore‘s up there.  Do you feel in some ways that you‘ve sort of been caught in the middle here politically and that you‘re being, you know, used by both sides or maybe just one side?

LOUIS SCHWARTZBERG, FILMMAKER:  Yes.  I think it‘s unfortunate that we live in such polarized times because the film tried to be very inclusive.  I started it 16 years ago, did not have a political agenda.  In no way is it like the counterprogramming to “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

REAGAN:  Now, we know what message people will come away from “Fahrenheit 9/11” with, or most people know by now.  What about your movie?  Are they going to come away with a 180 view of the country from Moore‘s?

SCHWARTZBERG:  No, not at all.  It‘s not a 180 view because it was never intended to be a 180 view.  They‘re going to just come away feeling good about themselves.  It‘s a story about unsung heroes.  There‘s no preaching.  I‘m not telling anybody who to vote for.  But in a way, I think it‘s the strongest political statement you can make.

REAGAN (voice-over):  We‘ll see come November whether people want to feel good about themselves or just good and mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t forget it.  In November, do something about it!

REAGAN:  And whether box office numbers turn into votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ron Reagan.

Up next, top strategists for the Bush and the Kerry campaigns preview their plans heading into the Democratic convention next week.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, top strategists for the Bush and the Kerry campaigns duke it out just days before the Democratic Convention.  Plus, NBC‘s Katie Couric on how some American living in lopsided states sense their votes won‘t matter this election. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)  

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Six days to go until the Democratic Convention in Boston. 

I‘m joined right now by Terry Holt, the national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, and by Ann Lewis, senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. 

Welcome back, Ann.  It wouldn‘t be a Democratic campaign without you out front.  Have you seen “Fahrenheit 9/11” yet? 

ANN LEWIS, NATIONAL CHAIR, WOMEN‘S VOTE CENTER:  I have not. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You blow my mind you haven‘t seen it.  It is the biggest propaganda film in history and it‘s pro-Democrat and you have not seen it. 

LEWIS:  I have not.  I‘ve got to tell you.  All right, I‘m now going to tell the whole audience I‘m a very old-fashioned person.  I like to get my information from books. 

MATTHEWS:  From books?  You are old-fashioned. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS:  I know. 

You remember—Richard Clarke‘s book, “Against All Enemies,” was just I thought a terrific presentation.  I don‘t know how many times I want to hear those facts over and over. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to Terry Holt, a man of today, a man of today‘s medium, media. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Terry Holt, you‘re a movie nut.  I can tell, because you remind me of me.  Did you see this movie yet? 

TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  No, I haven‘t seen it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Are you afraid you‘re going to get stunk up if you go in there? 

I do have the latest numbers.  Only 17 percent of Republicans like yourself intend to see it; 61 percent of Democrats intend to see it, 38 percent of the country.  I just did the math.  If those people really do live up to what they‘re promising themselves to do, that movie will make $1 dollars.  Do you believe that, Terry? 

HOLT:  Well, you know, I prefer my fiction fiction, and I prefer the History Channel. 

(CROSSTALK)  

HOLT:  This is an exploitation of the idea of 9/11 like no one has ever seen.  I think anybody who accuses anyone of politicizing 9/11, the first example, the first one on the list would be this guy.  And he‘s doing it for money.  Ultimately, you know, it is just another movie. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why does the president—why does your candidate, the president of the United States, use pictures of 9/11 and the bombing of the World Trade Center and the fumes coming up in your TV commercials? 

HOLT:  Well, and you remember...

MATTHEWS:  You said politicizing.  That is politicizing by definition. 

HOLT:  Well, Chris, you remember, we were roundly criticized for that even though it was a very respectful approach.  This is just a grab for cash on Michael Moore‘s part. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, where do you stand on this?  Do you think we should use 9/11 in political commercials and in TV—and in left-wing or whatever documentaries or not? 

HOLT:  I think any time you use those images, you need to be respectful of the memory of the folks that died on those days and respectful of the values of the country.

But it is free speech.  Michael Moore, you know, he can make movies as long as he wishes.  This is America.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Terry, I recommend you see it.  The first half is blabber and propaganda and dishonest and connecting dots that don‘t even exist.  The second half of the movie is powerful stuff.  Maybe you should go halfway through, like I used to do with my dad.  He would take us to the movies halfway through and then we‘d see the beginning of the movie at the end.

HOLT:  Well, as you know, Chris, I have got a job. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  All right.  OK.  We all work.  Don‘t give me this.  And you work until midnight. 

Let me go to Ann Lewis on a touchier subject today, Sandy Berger.  He has been on this program 100 times.  He‘ll be back again.  What was he putting in his clothing?

LEWIS:  The 9/11 Commission has said this had no impact on our work. 

So that‘s the important thing. 

Now, as to why he did it, he is going to have to make that clear for himself.  None of us were in the room with him. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there were archival people in there, who are nonpartisan, Ann, nonpartisan people in there.

LEWIS:  Right.  And that‘s why we know about it.

MATTHEWS:  Who saw him stuffing stuff into his clothing. 

Terry, what do you make of this, clothing? 

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS:  He was talking about notes that he took himself.  He was talking about memos he worked on. 

And all these originals are still in the presence of, the possession of the 9/11 Commission.  This sounds to me like an embarrassing incident that is going to be forgotten in a day or two. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s not—the FBI is investigating this.  It is not an embarrassing moment. 

HOLT:  No, it‘s serious.

MATTHEWS:  It is a criminal investigation.  The question is, did he try to hide evidence of a failure of the past administration to protect us from terrorism?  And, of course, that is serious business, Ann, to say that.

HOLT:  It is a very disturbing image to see the former national security adviser stuffing documents into his pants. 

The real question is, you know, Sandy Berger is a key adviser on the John Kerry campaign.  On February 27, he held a conference call that they wanted to keep on background, but ultimately got on the record, where they highlighted the very specific subjects that are now in question with these documents.  And so I think this is a former Clinton administration official, now a senior adviser to Kerry.

And there are key questions to be answered from the Kerry campaign as to whether or not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  If he just wanted to reproduce something, he was allowed to write down what he had. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He could have reproduced anything he wanted by pencil or whatever else.  When you go into these archival places—I‘ve been in the Nixon Library.

LEWIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t take anything out.  In this case, it was his own material that he had submitted to the government for the National Archives.

LEWIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t take anything.  And you know the rules when you walk in.  They tell you, don‘t take anything out of this room.  Do you think it was an accident he took the stuff out, Ann? 

LEWIS:  You know, I honestly do not know.  I know he had both notes he had taken that he had made as he was sitting there and then documents he clearly shouldn‘t have taken.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS:  I just want to go back and say, this is serious stuff.  That‘s why we have to keep our focus on what‘s important. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LEWIS:  And what‘s important is that the 9/11 Commission is going to come out in two more days and they‘re going to say, here‘s what we‘ve done.  Here‘s what we need to do.  Here‘s what we can do better to make this country safe and secure. 

MATTHEWS:  Simple question here.  Do you think this was a setup?  Do you think the timing of this was to deflect attention away from the 9/11 Commission, which could be hurtful to the administration.

LEWIS:  I honestly do not think it was a setup.  But I do think, having said that, that we have also got to keep our attention on what is really much more important, which is the report of that commission.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I was stunned when I picked up the paper today.  It is on the front page of every paper.  It‘s right at the top of the fold in “The USA Today.”  This is big news by everyone‘s account, because he was in fact the Condi Rice of the Clinton administration.  And he‘s now being accused of stealing papers from the National Archives, which may be incriminating in terms of the political responsibility of the previous administration. 

I don‘t think it was a light matter.  I think, if it was the other side, you‘d be jumping all over them.

Terry, the simple question.  Did Arnold Schwarzenegger say something he shouldn‘t have said when he referred to the legislators from California, majority Democrats, that they were girly men?  Is that something he should retract before speaking to your convention, yes or no?

HOLT:  No.  I mean, come on, he was using a pop cultural icon.  Who doesn‘t know of Dana Carvey‘s—do you ever use the things that have been said about you on “Saturday Night Live”?  Come on.  Give him a break.  Give him a break.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Look, nobody wants to give people more a break to me when it comes to something stupid. 

Let me tell you something, Terry. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s called me a girly man because I can‘t smoke cigars in my house.  I don‘t think he meant something anti-gay or like an old term, we grew up with like calling a guy a fruit or something like that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think he meant you‘re a wuss. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT:  The joke originally was targeted at him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, let me tell you something.  That‘s not true, because I‘ve talked to him.  It‘s not something he got from “Saturday Night Live.”  He said, that‘s what we used to say back in Austria.  So it‘s from him personally. 

This is from me personally.  I‘m telling you what he says when you‘re with him.  He‘ll call a guy like me, when he‘s trying to razz us, you can‘t smoke cigars in your house.  I can.  You‘re a girly man.  Let‘s—we‘ve made too much of this already.

We‘re coming back with Terry Holt and Ann Lewis.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back with more from the Bush and Kerry campaigns.  And later, NBC‘s Katie Couric on why Americans living in lopsided blue or red states sense the campaign is taking place without them.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with more with Terry Holt of the Bush-Cheney campaign and Ann Lewis of the Kerry-Edwards campaign.

Terry, will you be sending a hit squad up to Boston next week to nail the Democrats?  And who is going to be on it? 

HOLT:  Well, there will be a lot of image making in Boston next week.

John Kerry needs to remake himself.  It‘s expectation.  I think they‘re probably going to have a pretty good week.  But we will have a strong presence up there to tell some of the problems and challenges of the Kerry agenda.  And I think that you can expect to see us.  There may be some alternative programming, but, ultimately, I think we‘re going to just try and hold him accountable for some of his record and some of the things that he‘s done. 

MATTHEWS:  Who will be some of your feature players? 

HOLT:  Well, I think you‘ll see Ed Gillespie taking a team up there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ed is going up.  Who else?  No, I need some news here.  Who is going up besides Ed?

HOLT:  I didn‘t come to this show to make news, Chris.  You know that. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m here to try to get it from you.  Why are you with withholding the names of the people who are selected to be your spokespeople in Boston?  Just get them out now.  We‘re going to look forward to this.

HOLT:  We‘re going to make an announcement this week.  And I think you‘ll certainly be on the e-mail list for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re so coquettish. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to call you a girly man.  That‘s what I‘m going to call you. 

HOLT:  Go for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to Ann Lewis.  Let‘s go back to Ann Lewis here. 

Let me ask you about the convention coming up. 

LEWIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there‘s going to be a clear-cut statement from the candidate for president as to what the Kerry presidency will or would look like, so you walk away like did you with the New Frontier, before that, the Fair Deal. 

LEWIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  The New Deal, a sense of what it is going to feel and look

·         Ronald Reagan when he came and gave his speech as a Republican, you got a sense of what it‘s going to—are we going to know what John Kerry is going to do with four years of the presidency? 

LEWIS:  That‘s exactly right. 

We have got two goals for this convention. 

MATTHEWS:  You are?  OK.

LEWIS:  Right. 

The first one is for people to know who John Kerry is.  Again, it‘s the longest extended presentation he can make to millions of American who still don‘t know him.  People may know a little bit about his Vietnam service.  They still don‘t know he was a prosecutor, for example.  So filling in the biography. 

Second, equally important, where is he going to lead the country?  Where is the direction we go for the next four years?  This is a great opportunity.  And can I just say, Chris, the idea the Republicans would be doing negative spin during the convention, they already spent $75 million on negative ads.  They were attacking John Edwards the day he was announced.  The Bush-Cheney campaign has been a lot more negative than positive.  So I‘m afraid that‘s not much news to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to find out

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT:  ... New York alternative convention and the protesters you guys have coordinated? 

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS:  We are not coordinating with any protesters. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, both of you, both of you.  Will we know—I want to ask Terry the question first, then Ann, to be more provocative.

Terry, do you think at the end of the long speech—I assume it will be a 40-minute speech, a real stem-winder by Kerry.  Will we know at the end of that speech whether he would have taken to us to war with Iraq or not? 

HOLT:  No, we‘re not going to find that out. 

MATTHEWS:  Ann, will we know—will we know, Ann, at the end of that speech whether he would have taken us to war with Iraq or not? 

LEWIS:  Yes.  I think what we will know is, here are the conditions, John Kerry would say, in which America needs to be prepared to go to war. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no, that‘s not the same thing.  That‘s not the same thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS:  Yes, it is, because the question is

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you know whether he would have taken us to Iraq? 

LEWIS:  I think, having heard him and talked with him about this, I know what the conditions are that he now feels should have been set before the United States would go to war.  And I will leave it to John Kerry next week to talk about whether he feels we met those conditions. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re the student of politics and you‘re the spokesman.  Would we have gone to war had John Kerry been president the last four years? 

LEWIS:  As a student of politics, I know enough not to get out ahead of my candidate...

HOLT:  Oh.

LEWIS:  ... when he‘s going to be talking on an issue of national

security, which is

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT:  We should have known this months ago.

MATTHEWS:  I find it baffling.  It‘s the No. 1 issue of the campaign. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And we can‘t get a clear statement from the Democrats. 

LEWIS:  Oh, I think it will be very clear.  But that‘s what the convention is about, Chris.

HOLT:  As Kerry said...

LEWIS:  And with all respect, I‘m happy to talk to you.

HOLT:  My goodness.

LEWIS:  But John Kerry is going to talk to the American people about security, about what it takes to keep this country safe. 

MATTHEWS:  All right. 

LEWIS:  That‘s what we‘re going to do at the convention. 

MATTHEWS:  I just want to know where the anti-war vote should go, either to Nader or to Kerry.  And it seems to me at least Nader is saying he is against the war.  I don‘t hear Kerry saying this was a blunder to go to war, it was the wrong thing to do.

He offers all these conditions, as you call them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We know right now whether the conditions have been met.  If they‘ve been met, he should have gone to war.  If they hadn‘t, we shouldn‘t have gone to war.  Tell us. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS:  Anyway, Ann Lewis, it‘s good to have you back out on the front again. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Terry, as always. 

NBC‘s Katie Couric when we come back on how this election is being fought in a handful of battleground states, leaving many in the rest of the country saying they feel left out of fighting.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With the election now 105 days away, the battle for the White House really comes down to a handful of battleground states.  And in the rest of the country, however, some voters may believe that their vote simply doesn‘t count. 

NBC‘s Katie Couric reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Get a load of you, get a load of you.

KATIE COURIC, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This summer, many of us would rather just kick back and get away from it all.  It‘s not surprising we‘re thinking more about floating or boating than voting.  But get a load of this.  What if you came back from vacation to find the powers that be were deciding this election for you, told you your vote didn‘t matter?  You‘d probably be angry. 

But could that have actually already happened without you realizing it? 

RICHARD S. DUNHAM, “BUSINESSWEEK”:  The problem is only one out of four votes will really matter because of the state you live in for president. 

COURIC:  We‘ve already heard complaints from voters themselves. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because you go and vote and you say to yourself, was it worth even going because it‘s not going to count? 

COURIC:  And in a controversial in-depth cover story, “BusinessWeek” magazine recently estimated that fully 75 percent of American voters are essentially disenfranchised.  The magazine says that‘s because of the so-called red-blue divide and the assumptions made by the political parties. 

DUNHAM:  If you happen to live in a state that is heavily Democratic or heavily Republican, then it almost doesn‘t matter who you are for, for president because you can predict reliably that that state will go one way or the other. 

COURIC:  It sounds nothing less than un-American.  Yet critics of the parties say it‘s true. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  There‘s got to be more to life.

COURIC:  They say there‘s got to be more to our political life.  The way the critics see it, states like California, which have voted heavily Democratic in recent years, and those like Texas, which have voted heavily Republican, are simply written off by the minority parties in those states. 

So a Republican voter in California might feel as if his or her vote will be washed away in the Democratic tide, but a Democratic might feel taken for granted. 

STEVE JARDING, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CONSULTANT:  I think there are large pockets of America that are absolutely being forgotten, that are absolutely being decimated out there and neither party seems to give a damn about it. 

DR. LORENZO MORRIS, HOWARD UNIVERSITY:  If you ignore them and take them for granted, it makes them stay at home. 

COURIC:  That troubles many elected officials, like Democratic Governor Mark Warner of GOP-dominated Virginia.  He got elected by making a strong push for rural voters, who usually vote Republican. 

GOV. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA:  One of the things that scares me the most about our country‘s politics right now is the effect of how the national campaigns only target certain states. 

COURIC:  And those would be the swing states. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  It don‘t mean a thing if it ain‘t got that swing.

Your vote might not mean a thing, the critics say, unless of course you live in a state where the parties are running neck-and-neck, places like Florida, Ohio, or here in New Mexico. 

JOAN JAVIER, NEW VOTERS PROJECT:  Our campaign is trying to take a different approach to getting young voters involved, going to places that you wouldn‘t traditionally think of as being hubs for political activity, like a fitness center. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Get your kicks on Route 66.

COURIC:  Party activists are already getting their kicks on the swinging thoroughfare in America. 

NEIL SIMON, KOB-TV REPORTER:  I was driving around on Central Avenue, the old Route 66 that goes right through Albuquerque, and I saw a woman hitting up the bars with whole forms, stacks of forms trying to get people to register to vote.  We‘re seeing a voter registration effort like I‘ve never seen. 

COURIC:  But for the great majority of us, there is not nearly the same level of outreach from the parties.  This is not entirely a new phenomenon.  But in 1976, for instance, nearly 40 states were considered competitive.  This year, it looks as if just 17 or 18 states will be. 

HANS NOEL, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, UCLA:  People get really frustrated with what they see as a foregone conclusion. 

COURIC:  According to “BusinessWeek,” this year‘s electoral map is so skewed to the small number of swing states that it‘s almost unrecognizable.  It shows Ohio having effectively double the electoral clout of California, which has three times the number of people.  And look how the map depicts states like Kansas, Nebraska, and even New York.  If the Electoral College gave grades, they‘d all flunk. 

DUNHAM:  Every person has a vote.  The problem is that some votes count more than other votes. 

COURIC:  There have been attempts to abolish the Electoral College.  But some activists are afraid that would be an even less inclusive approach. 

ED VITAGLIANO, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION:  I think you‘d find candidates gravitating to the big urban centers when they run their campaigns, because that‘s where all the votes are going to be. 

COURIC:  But a growing number of activists in both parties are fed up that so many voters team to be taken for granted and they want the parties to make a stronger pitch to all voters. 

JARDING:  Aren‘t you going to represent all the people?  Then go out and touch all the people.  I want all the votes, John Kerry.  I want those electoral votes, George Bush.  You owe it to the American people to do that.  They‘re not doing that.  They‘re concentrating on the so-called purple states.  And I just think it‘s a mistake. 

COURIC:  And others say the entire bodypolitic could use a transfusion.  Congressional districts have been redrawn by many legislatures so much in favor of incumbents that fewer than 35 House races out of 435 are expected to be competitive this year.  But if you think all this means you shouldn‘t vote, think again. 

MIKE VALLANTE, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY:  You are taking for granted that some people have died for and are dying for right now today if you don‘t go out and you go vote. 

COURIC:  In fact, political scientists say the only possibly way to remake the political process is to be part of it and cast your ballot. 

MORRIS:  Voting is the simplest, easiest test of willingness to change the world. 

VALLANTE:  And if you don‘t do it just because you‘re—quote, unquote—“turned off,” then shame on you.  You should get involved to get turned on and change things, whether it‘s as a Republican or a Democrat and be an American and exercise that right. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Katie Couric.  I wish I was voting in Pennsylvania this year.

This coming Sunday, join NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and me for a special presentation, “Picking Our Presidents.”  Tom and I look back on the greatest moments of America‘s political conventions. 

Here‘s a clip featuring Bill Clinton‘s long speech in 1988. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  First of all, it was Bill Clinton‘s debut on the national stage.

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  It was one of the worst speeches given at a convention.  He was nominating Michael Dukakis.  And he got up there and he groaned on and groaned on and groaned on.  And when he said in conclusion, people begin to cheer. 

And I saw him the next day.  And I had known him because he‘s been the governor of Arkansas and we used him on “The Today Show” for various things.  And he started for him.  And I literally kind of slipped out of the way.  I didn‘t know what to say to him. 

MATTHEWS:  You were afraid he‘d say, how did I do?

BROKAW:  Well, he knew at that point how he had done. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BROKAW:  He was making the rounds.  He went on “Johnny Carson.”

MATTHEWS:  Her went on “Carson.”

BROKAW:  And that should have told you something about Bill Clinton at that point. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s “Picking Our Presidents.”  What a great interview with Tom Brokaw this Sunday at 8:00. 

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

END   

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