updated 8/16/2004 9:29:00 AM ET 2004-08-16T13:29:00

Guest: Bob Ingle, Joe Kyrillos, Joe Cryan, Blanquita Cullum, Jack Krugman, Robin Bronk

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Governor James McGreevey announced he‘s gay, but has he painted his party into a political corner?  We‘ll talk to the leaders of the New Jersey Democratic and Republican Parties.  And how celebrities are using their star quality in this presidential election.  Plus, the Bush campaign hopes their new political ad, “Victory,” will score a perfect 10.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Republicans in New Jersey are demanding that Governor Jim McGreevey resign immediately.  McGreevey announced he had had an affair with another man and would step down on November 15, a move that would allow the Democrats to hold onto the governor‘s office up through 2006.

Bob Ingle is the Trenton bureau chief for Gannett newspapers.  He joins us now from Los Angeles.

Let me ask you, Bob, the two big questions.  Why did the governor give up the governorship?  And two, who‘s going to get it next?

BOB INGLE, TRENTON BUREAU CHIEF, GANNETT NJ NEWSPAPERS:  Well, I think he gave it up because it was very obvious that with that threatened lawsuit and the other problems that he‘s been having, that he probably couldn‘t be reelected.  He‘s way down in the gutter in the polls before this broke.  And the other question was...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Who will get it next?

INGLE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  How‘s it work?  He‘s quitting November 15, which allows—prevents the holding of a special election this year.  Is that going to hold?

INGLE:  I don‘t know.  The Republicans, I think rightly, are protesting that, that it looked like a political move, which I think is going to cost McGreevey some sympathy.  And it also gives them something to campaign on right now.  It‘s an issue that I think people can get involved in.  I think a lot of New Jersey—and the majority of people there are unaffiliated—are going to resent it being set up in such a way that the Democrats would continue to control the governor‘s office.

MATTHEWS:  Is there any way legally the Republicans can stop the governor from doing what he wants to do, quit after the deadline for a special election?

INGLE:  I don‘t think there‘s any way legally they can do it.  The constitution is all set, and I think September 3 is the date.  What they can do is they can create enough noise that the party is going to fall out of favor with the majority of the voters in New Jersey, and they certainly don‘t want that.

MATTHEWS:  Could it be that a quick election could help someone like Jon Corzine, if he ran?  In other words, the Democrats could turn a corner on the Republicans.  You want a quick election?  We‘ll have one.  Jon Corzine‘s running, and he‘s going to win.

INGLE:  And Jon Corzine is a good candidate and he probably could.  But Jon Corzine, as you know, Chris, is working to help elect Democrats to the Senate in November.  And I think they would much rather him continue with that task than to step into the governor‘s office right away.

MATTHEWS:  What happened in New Jersey as a competitive state politically over the last 30, 40 years?  I remember we had Clifford Case there, a moderate Republican.  It seemed like—it just seems to never elect Republicans to the Senate, U.S. Senate.  And the governorship goes back and forth.  But it seems—the Republican party seems very anemic up in New Jersey.

INGLE:  It is anemic.  I think that‘s a good way to describe it.  They allow good opportunities to go unchallenged.  Why that happens, I don‘t know.  You‘d have to talk to the leadership of the Republicans about that.  But your observation is a good one.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you for the advice.  We‘re about to follow it. 

Bob Ingle, thanks for joining us, from Gannett.

Joining me right now is the vice chairman of the Republican—the New Jersey state Democratic Party, Joe Cryan.  And Joe‘s known Governor McGreevey for more than 10 years.  I‘m also joined by state senator Joe Kyrillos, who‘s chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

I‘ve got to go right now to Joe Kyrillos.  Senator, why is your party so anemic?

STATE SEN. JOE KYRILLOS, CHAIRMAN, NJ REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE: 

Well, I‘m not sure we are anemic.  I have a little echo in my ear there, Chris.  You know, the state has definitely trended Democratic in the last few year, there‘s no doubt about that, since the Clinton years for certain.  But it‘s not Massachusetts.  We‘ve got 51 percent, or 53 percent of the state senate vote in the last election.  Nevertheless, we only have 45 percent of the seats.  But it‘s still a long way from other places where there really is an anemic Republican Party.

We‘ve got some work to do.  Like a lot of places in the Northeast, we‘ve got to try to change the brand image of the Republican Party.  Governor McGreevey is helping us do just that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, you‘ve had chances before, like when Jon Corzine came in there and bought that Senate seat, based on his winnings in the stock market.  You want to be able to stop him, just entering politics with a bundle of money.  Let me ask you this.  Who would be your candidate if this seat opened in this November and you got the special election you‘re trying to get this year?  Who would you run?

KYRILLOS:  Well, remember, Jon Corzine barely won his election.  He spent $68 million, more than‘s ever been spent maybe anywhere for a United States Senate seat, while Al Gore was winning the state by 16 points and Ralph Nader had 4 points.  So there was a big, big variance.

I‘m not sure who our party would put up.  There are a lot of good names out there.  I think the main thing that I wanted to say today, and I think most New Jerseyans...

MATTHEWS:  Could you get Tom Kean, who‘s so popular right now as head of the 9/11 commission, to go back to his old job in this special situation?

KYRILLOS:  Governor Kean...

MATTHEWS:  Could you get Christie Todd Whitman to run again?

KYRILLOS:  Well, those are both great names that you‘ve thrown out there.  They‘re both friends of mine, and they both were very, very competent, able leaders for New Jersey.  People appreciate them now, more than ever, following the last three years of Jim McGreevey.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re going to come right back with Joe Cryan and Joe Kyrillos we‘re talking to.  And later, a hot war of words between Senator John Kerry and Vice President Dick Cheney.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   We‘re back with New Jersey state Democratic chairman Joe Cryan and Republican state chairman Joe Kyrillos.

Let me go to the Democrat, Joe Cryan.  Mr. Chairman, is your party proud of the governor and what did he yesterday?

JOE CRYAN, VICE CHAIR, NJ STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  Yes, we are.  We‘re proud of the fact he stood up, spoke out and put the citizens of New Jersey first.  And we‘re also proud of his record.  The governor‘s got a long list of accomplishments he‘s going to be able to point to, stem cell...

MATTHEWS:  Has he been a clean governor?

CRYAN:  Personally, Jim McGreevey‘s been a very clean governor. 

Everyone who knows him says that he‘s an individual...

MATTHEWS:  Why did you say personally?

CRYAN:  Because, clearly, there‘s been some allegations surrounding the people around him.  But as an individual, no one‘s ever questioned Jim McGreevey‘s character.

MATTHEWS:  Why does his name show up in these papers, these legal papers?

CRYAN:  With Cipel?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, with all these—why is his name being—why is he so close to these events that he seems to be part of them?

CRYAN:  Well, he‘s been—the Kushner thing, with Charlie Kushner, was part of a variety of different issues.  But whether the governor‘s—his name comes up because he‘s the governor.  He‘s the CEO of the state.  And it makes...

MATTHEWS:  Is Machiavelli a word he often uses in common conversation?

CRYAN:  Actually, you know what?  He does use literary allusions.  And I would tell you this.  Machiavelli‘s in 3 or the top 10 “New York Times” best sellers.  But irregardless of that, Jim McGreevey‘s got a record to be proud of.  He‘s announced his—what he‘s going to do.  He‘s allowed for a transition in government.  And we‘re very proud of Jim McGreevey in New Jersey.

MATTHEWS:  Were you happy when he named a guy who was apparently his lover head of security, of homeland security for the state of New Jersey, a man with no apparent training for the job?

CRYAN:  I think, clearly—and the governor acknowledged yesterday that he had some questionable actions there.  It‘s a situation he‘s dealt with.  He‘s announced his resignation.  He‘s moving on with it.  I mean, clearly, it wasn‘t the right choice at the right time.

MATTHEWS:  But this was two years ago he did this.  And nobody like did you anything about it.  Why didn‘t you...

CRYAN:  Actually, there...

MATTHEWS:  ... blow the whistle on him?

CRYAN:  Chris, there was an outcry at the time.  He was never really appointed.  The senate, in particular, Senator Kyrillos will tell you, was loud on that, and the appointment actually didn‘t go through.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of this upcoming suit that was—we were talking about it late this afternoon, by the attorney for the guy, the lover, whatever, Golan Cipel?

CRYAN:  Right.  Golan.

MATTHEWS:  Golan Cipel.  Do you think this is going to go somewhere politically?  If he gets sued, doesn‘t it just raise the whole question of...

CRYAN:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... his malfeasance in office?

CRYAN:  No.  Chris, politically, it‘s over.  The governor‘s announced his resignation.  Jim McGreevey has already said, Look, November, I—

November 15, we‘re moving on.  So politically, I think this story is over. 

The governor closed...

MATTHEWS:  OK, politically, where do you stand on democracy?  Do you like democracy?

CRYAN:  I love it, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you hold an election this November for governor and get this over with?

CRYAN:  Why do that?  We have...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you like democracy...

CRYAN:  We have a constitution...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... because of your guy—if Governor McGreevey...

CRYAN:  Chris, we have a constitution in New Jersey.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Of course.

CRYAN:  We have a constitution that works.  It‘s worked very well.  It worked...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why not use it...

CRYAN:  ... four years ago...

MATTHEWS:  Why not use it...

CRYAN:  ... under Governor DeFrancesco (ph).

MATTHEWS:  ... to promote democracy?

CRYAN:  It worked very well.

MATTHEWS:  Why not have the—why not have the governor quit before...

CRYAN:  Well, how about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and then have an election, so it‘s democratic?

CRYAN:  Well, Chris—Chris, think about it this way.  How about a third (ph) election?  There‘s been no primary.  The Republican and Democratic Party voters wouldn‘t have an opportunity to select candidates, be a minimal season. I like democracy enough to know that the national stage is what‘s important this year.  The most important in my lifetime‘s history is in the presidential race this year for the White House.  And in New Jersey, we‘re going to have a national referendum with that, and we‘ll look at the state next year.

MATTHEWS:  Why would the presidential election this fall get in the way of having a governor‘s election?

CRYAN:  Chris, look at it.  You‘ve got 60, 70 days left to go.  Rather than have state committees, which is the process to nominate candidates at this point, you wouldn‘t have a primary process.  You argue about democracy.  I would argue with you that democracy would be taken from people.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking if it would be more democratic to have the people vote.

Let me go to Mr. Kyrillos.  Do you think it would be more democratic to let the people of New Jersey pick a governor this fall?

KYRILLOS:  Well, look, of course, I do, Chris.  And of course, most of the people of New Jersey think that, as well.  And of course, this story has not ended yet, unfortunately..

CRYAN:  Joe, if you let it move—you know, you should let the governor—he‘s made his decision.  Let‘s move on with...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you were to poll New Jersey, gentlemen, right now, would the people polled say they want to have an election this fall or let the parties continue on the way they‘re going?

KYRILLOS:  I think the people would like to be able to choose their governor.  Moreover, Chris, I think...

CRYAN:  You know, Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

CRYAN:  You know, you guys were in the majority in the senate...

(CROSSTALK)

KYRILLOS:  Hey, Joe, Governor Whitman left to serve in the president‘s cabinet.

CRYAN:  Right, and she...

KYRILLOS:  It was a completely different...

CRYAN:  And we‘re all breathing our air as a result.

KYRILLOS:  ... completely different time and place.  But Chris, look, clearly, you know, we all feel for Jim McGreevey on a personal level, and he made the right call to resign.  But he should get on with his life.  He doesn‘t need to go through what‘s going to happen in the next three months...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, three more months.

KYRILLOS:  We‘re here talking about his supposed lover or his certain lover and a possible lawsuit.

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

KYRILLOS:  ... people of the state don‘t need to hear all that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be my prediction...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... that we will be talking about it.  Thank you, Joe Cryan.  Thanks for joining us, Joe Kyrillos.  Thanks for joining us, both of you gentlemen.  A difficult situation.

Up next, a week-long war of words between John Kerry and Vice President Dick Cheney.  We‘ll get an update from the campaign trail.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Eighty-one days before the election now.  And for several days now, the Bush and Kerry campaigns have been trading shots over the administration‘s handling of the Iraq war and John Kerry‘s vote in the Senate before that war.  But what has made the debate so dramatic is the that principals themselves, John Kerry, President Bush and Vice President Cheney, have been delivering the body blows themselves.  Here‘s HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In his most aggressive attacks so far, Vice President Cheney this week hammered John Kerry for charging that the war on terror has been handled recklessly.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans.

SHUSTER:  Cheney‘s mocking image of Kerry as obsessed with sensitivity is based on this.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side.

SHUSTER:  In context, according to the Kerry campaign, his complaints are reasonable.  And Democrats point out that Bush officials, from the president on down, have also spoken to the need to be sensitive.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now, in term of, you know, the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice, obviously is—we need to be very sensitive on that.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  We can ask of our troops to go out there and be, on the one hand, very sensitive to cultural issues...

SHUSTER:  Semantics aside, the Bush campaign did manage this week to put John Kerry on the defensive.

BUSH:  My opponent hasn‘t answered the question of whether, knowing what we know now, he would have supported going into Iraq.

SHUSTER:  On Monday, Kerry took the bait.

KERRY:  Yes, I would have voted for the authority.  I believe it is the right authority for a president to have.

SHUSTER:  Then on Tuesday, the president had the opening he wanted and went in for the kill.

BUSH:  Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we‘ve not found the stockpile of weapons we believed were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

SHUSTER:  Actually, the vote was to give the president the authority to decide.  But the distinction between that and supporting the invasion has been lost on most voters.  And even congressional Democrats say John Kerry blew it this week by enabling the Republicans to frame the debate.

CHENEY:  Our country requires strong and consistent leadership for our actions overseas, and the same is true for our policies here at home.

SHUSTER (on camera):  The Bush administration, though, is not exactly a paragon of consistency, after repeatedly changing their reasons for the war.  But that hasn‘t been the focus this week.  Instead, John Kerry has put his own complexities under the spotlight, and the Bush campaign, sensitive or not, has been thrilled.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  MSNBC‘s Felix Schein is on the campaign trail with John Kerry up in Portland, Oregon.  And MSNBC‘s Priya David has been on the campaign trail with Vice President Dick Cheney.  Let me go to Priya, sitting with me right now.  Priya, what is this argument over the word “sensitive”?  What‘s wrong with that?

PRIYA DAVID, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, according to John Kerry, nothing.  He released a statement today...

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to anybody, what‘s it mean?

DAVID:  ... saying, you know, Don‘t worry about it...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the word choice?

DAVID:  Well, you know, what they‘re trying to do is frame that John Kerry is weak.  That‘s the message that they‘ve had all along.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s get some...

DAVID:  It‘s a very typical message.

MATTHEWS:  ... straight—Dick Cheney is probably the man most responsible for the fact we‘ve had troops in Saudi Arabia for 10 years.  That‘s what drove the terrorists to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  They were angry that their own holy lands were besmirched—basically, dumped on by the United States for 10 years.

That sensitivity might have saved us a horror, knowing how angry those people would be about us putting our troops, 10,000 troops in the holy land near Mecca and Medina.  Why is it stupid to be sensitive to those kinds of insults to a country?

DAVID:  Right, but when you...

MATTHEWS:  It caused people to kill themselves to come get us.

DAVID:  And kill us when they come here.  I mean, when you hear the Cheneys speak out on the stump, though—and this is both Lynn and Dick Cheney when they‘re out there—they say there‘s something wrong with those people who think there‘s something wrong with us.  Nothing‘s wrong with us.  Something‘s wrong with the rest of the world.  We don‘t need to be sensitive.  We need to destroy these people.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DAVID:  This is the language they use all the time.

MATTHEWS:  Well, unfortunately, it begins to sound like na-na-na-na-na-na in the schoolyard, calling people fruits and words like “sensitive.”

DAVID:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Sounds to me like the “San Francisco Democrat” that Jeane Kirkpatrick engaged in back 20 years ago.  It seems pretty juvenile.  If it bothers Kerry, that‘s his problem.

Let‘s go right now to Felix.  Does this really bother Kerry, to be accused of being sensitive?

FELIX SCHEIN, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER:  No, Chris.  You know, boys can‘t be sensitive, but in this race, this really isn‘t an issue.  John Kerry is willing to go mano a mano with Dick Cheney on service.  In fact, he said out here yesterday that, you know, he was in Vietnam when Dick Cheney wasn‘t, and he was in Vietnam when George Bush wasn‘t.  If they want to make this an issue, he‘s more than happy to fight on the strength front and fight on the defend America front.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SCHEIN:  But really, he‘s really trying to turn a corner out here.

MATTHEWS:  Does he believe we‘re better off...

SCHEIN:  It‘s more about domestic issues for John Kerry...

MATTHEWS:  ... for having—let me ask you, I know you‘re covering the guy, you‘re not working for him, Felix.  does John Kerry, the senator, the Democratic candidate for president, believe we‘re better off for having gone to war with Iraq or not better off, in terms of the number of enemies we face, al Qaeda recruitment, casualties, the whole shebang.  Are we better off for having gone to war or not?  Yes or no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will he answer that question?

SCHEIN:  ... better off or not.  I think—no, he hasn‘t answered that question.  He wants to have it both ways on this one.  In fact, someone asked him the other day whether or not he would have gone to war, and he said we might definitely have gone to war.  It‘s nuance for John Kerry.  You can‘t find him one way or the other on this particular issue, which is one reason you‘re not hearing him say a whole lot about it.

On the stump, it‘s a very secondary issue.  He‘s trying to have strength, on the one hand, and then quickly focus to domestic issues.  But there‘s no discussion of Iraq.  All he‘s promised is that he can change it around, and the only way he can change it around is by changing the presidency.  But he hasn‘t argued out to exactly why he‘d be the one to do that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Felix—let me ask Priya, is there a sense on the Cheney side, and certainly the Bush side, that they‘ve got him here, he won‘t really stake out a position?

DAVID:  Yes, this is exactly what I was—you know, actually, they‘re elated that he did say, Yes, I would have voted the same way.  They‘re thrilled.

MATTHEWS:  And then they transport...

DAVID:  Either way, they would have been happy.

MATTHEWS:  ... that into yes, he would have supported the war.

DAVID:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Which he hates them doing.

DAVID:  Exactly.  He—but they‘re happy.  They now have it.  They can now go ahead and form the argument however they want.  And now they can go back and attack him on his record in the Senate and say he didn‘t attend these meetings...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DAVID:  ... the Senate Intelligence Committee meetings.  He was wanting to cut back the intelligence and defense budget.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DAVID:  So now they can go ahead and plow through and attack him on that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know what they‘re using, the politics of ridicule, and it‘s brilliant, because if you have the self-centered confidence of a Dick Cheney, who has tremendous self-confidence, for better or worse, he knows that he can go out there on the stump and make a fool out of John Kerry and not feel bad about it.

DAVID:  And he took a moment to let the crowd laugh when he said that line, when he said, Oh, can you believe that John Kerry said he wanted to fight a more sensitive war?  Pause.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s perfect.

DAVID:  Let the audience laugh at that.  He loved it.

MATTHEWS:  Politics of ridicule—is it hurting?  Is it hurting, Felix, over there on the Kerry side?

SCHEIN:  Well, you got to remember, they—Kerry backed himself into a corner.  He‘s promised to run a positive campaign, so where does he go?  He doesn‘t really have a lot of punch to throw around.  And if he does, of course, they can turn around and say, Where‘s the optimistic campaign that you‘ve been promising the American people?

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SCHEIN:  And John Edwards, as we all know, he wears more of a white glove than a boxing glove.  And so he hasn‘t really pulled up his end of the bargain on that, either.  Dick Cheney can outbox...

MATTHEWS:  Where is John Edwards...

SCHEIN:  ... John Edwards...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Where is John Edwards in this fight?  Is he on the sidelines?

SCHEIN:  Oh, he‘s definitely on the sideline.  And when they try to roll him out, Senator Kerry makes a comment himself and steps all over him.  That hasn‘t worked well at all, at this point.  They‘re going to have to perfect this twosome.  In fact, John Edwards made some comments on this today and just kind of rolled it into his general stump speech, and it didn‘t really make much of a splash.

As far as the rapid response is concerned, they‘re going to have to pick it up a notch if they want to go toe to toe on this particular issue.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I find it fascinating, being a student of politics, like a lot of us.  And I think—you know, Franklin Roosevelt destroyed his opponent in 1944 by talking about “My dog Fala (ph).”  And Reagan destroyed Carter, my old boss, by making fun of him, saying, “There you go again, Mr. President.”  Ridicule is a damning weapon.  And this side, the one you‘re covering, Priya, is doing a great job this week with ridicule.  It‘s interesting to watch why Kerry can‘t seem to figure this fight out.

Anyway, Priya David, thank you, cover the—so well—cover the Dick Cheney campaign this week.  And Felix Schein, thanks for covering Kerry for us.

You can follow Felix and Priya‘s campaign reports on our Web site, hardball@msnbc.com.

Up next, by the way, “The New York Times‘s” Paul Krugman and radio talk show host Blanquita Cullum are going to take a look at the latest political ads and new poll numbers in the battle for the White House.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Paul Krugman is the columnist with “The New York Times.”  He is author of the book, “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century.”  And Blanquita Cullum is a radio talk show host. 

I want you, Paul, to go through what you think were the political traces that Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey went through yesterday to make his best possible presentation at his worst possible moment in his life. 

PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, my verdict on McGreevey, I think he has actually been a pretty good governor, but he has got really lousy political judgment.  And he has had really lousy choice in intimate.  So there‘s been a lot of stuff swirling around him, never stuff about personal corruption, but always about him being too chummy with people who probably were corrupt.  And in a way, I have to say this sort of personal crisis that he went through was almost a kind of a godsend.  It allows him to go out on a note saying I have sinned, I have betrayed my wife, I‘m on my way out.  And I don‘t think Democrats or Republicans will be particularly sorry to see this particular, sort of silly chapter in New Jersey politics to come to a close.  

MATTHEWS:  In other words, the gay stuff, being a gay man, which you pointed out was his chief announcement, and having had this relationship with a state employee that he put into a rather posh job with no training, are the cover for worse. 

KRUGMAN:  Well, yes.  And the funny thing is that it‘s sort of—it‘s a three-layer cake here.  On the one hand, this is cover for the stuff that‘s worse; on the other hand, the stuff that‘s worse didn‘t actually affect the job he was doing as governor of New Jersey, which was pretty good.  So at some level...

MATTHEWS:  Except for the corruption.

KRUGMAN:  But it didn‘t—it was really, as far as we could make it, it was really minor league stuff.  On the big issues of handling the budget, a whole lot better than Schwarzenegger actually in California.  So, you know, this is sort of—the trivial has triumphed the less trivial, but that in turn would have triumphed over the substance.  So, you know, I hope we can just sort of put this whole embarrassing thing behind us. 

MATTHEWS:  Blanquita, could he have been reelected if he had not made this announcement, if he hadn‘t been pressured by this staffer he hired and was going to apparently sue him or disclose his gay relationship? 

BLANQUITA CULLUM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Maybe.  Maybe.  I think that there are underlying things that kind of come up and embarrass him.  You know, one of his biggest contributors, he‘s been named several times in a 47-page document.  I think there are going to be a lot of things to embarrass him.  But I think, really, it was a very clever way that he manipulated the whole issue. 

When he got out there, he played right to the Christians and so forth, and he talked about my truth and he talked about his problems, to try to make people respond, which I thought was very clever, of not being bigots and saying, oh, poor thing. 

But on the other hand, I think that the Democrats are going to rue the day, because I believe that the hammer is going to come down and more is going to surface.  And it is not just trying to write this issue off as just something it was just sex, kind of like the Bill Clinton thing, it was just sex.  And anybody who says anything, you know, he has a right to his sexual preference.  They‘re going to find out that there‘s more to it.  And I think it is going to be pretty, pretty bad. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I thought he went—he covered the bases the other day when he gave that press conference.  I was taken with it as a person.  I thought, well, here‘s a guy going through hell.  He had to cover up his reality all these years.  But I thought about it afterwards, like I usually do, I get quite skeptical about these guys, and I go, wait a minute, he always knew what he was.  The only reason he‘s telling us the truth now is because he is about to be sued and disclosed.  It was really a political move.  It wasn‘t a personal sort of coming to Jesus kind of thing for anybody. 

KRUGMAN:  Yeah, if I can just say, I mean, I don‘t cut him a lot of slack here, because, you know, suppose it had been an affair with a female employee.  We would all have been really upset, and it‘s really not different.  That‘s the correct...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would he have been out the door if it had been a girlfriend, a babe, so to speak, who he put in a position of $110,000 a year to guard New Jersey against terrorism in the very months after 9/11?   Would people have laughed that off or focused on the fact—suppose he just said, yeah, I‘m a horny heterosexual and I just had to do this sort of thing.  Whereas this time he says, since I‘m a gay man, it explains everything.  I mean, this sort of odd sexual defense he posed.  Blanquita‘s point is I think that he used his sexuality, his orientation, as sort of a cover for his behavior, when in fact the behavior is what‘s at issue here.

CULLUM:  And the other thing...

MATTHEWS:  Well...

(CROSSTALK) 

KRUGMAN:  Well, let me just say, I think that‘s right.  I think it‘s -

·         he actually—you know, this was a classy but, you know, a performance that leaves a little bit of an aftertaste, a bad aftertaste.  But you know, who cares, right?  This is a—he‘s on his way out.  I don‘t think people voted for McGreevey when he was elected, really.  They were voting against Schundler, they were voting against the ghost of Christy Whitman.  I don‘t think this is—so, you know, I don‘t think this really shakes things up very much. 

CULLUM:  Well, sure it does.  I mean, it‘s really creepy, for one thing, that he would go through all these shenanigans to get this guy‘s papers to come in from Israel, a guy who clearly was put in one of the most important jobs for the state, that‘s dealing with homeland security.  New Jersey has been a place that people have been focusing on, where, you remember, New York City is just across the pond there.  And the other...

KRUGMAN:  I will not vote for McGreevey for any future office. 

CULLUM:  But the other thing is, you know, let‘s be honest here.  And it‘s really—can we be really honest here and talk about the situation with this infidelity?  Because if you‘re a woman watching that, you know, I mean, look at that poor thing, having to tough it out, to cover up for him.  It‘s hard enough when a woman has to accept an infidelity from another woman, but to have to accept another infidelity from a man...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she was surprised? 

CULLUM:  I‘m sure she was crestfallen. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she was surprised? 

CULLUM:  I‘m sure she was surprised.  And think about it.  This is a terrible thing.  It‘s a humiliation. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at them, look at them coming out here.  This woman is, I mean, there is a Stepford quality to this person that is kind of amazing. 

CULLUM:  I feel so strong...

MATTHEWS:  Look at the way she behaves.  Why didn‘t he let her say something yesterday? 

CULLUM:  Because she‘s still probably (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MATTHEWS:  Now, why did he have her stand next to him if she wasn‘t going to say something?  She‘s a human being. 

CULLUM:  She was there to make him look like a human being. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn‘t he say—she say something? 

KRUGMAN:  Guys, guys...

CULLUM:  He should have turned to her and really apologized. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Paul.

KRUGMAN:  We don‘t know what is behind this.  I mean, the—there‘s a pretty good chance, you know, the rumor mill says that this does not come as a surprise to her.  You know, this is—the truth is, I don‘t think I care very much about Jim McGreevey. 

CULLUM:  Paul, she‘s the victim, and the thing is—well, can we be honest about this again?  You know, whether you‘re gay or you‘re not gay, now we have become a sophisticated enough society to have gay politicians.  It‘s one thing to say, he struggled with this as a young guy. 

MATTHEWS:  We haven‘t seen that yet.  Let me tell you something...

CULLUM:  He was married twice. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, Blanquita, if he had run for office as a gay man and said, I have got this partner who had just come in from Israel, I intend to give him a job with the government, although he has no training, he would not have—even in New Jersey, I don‘t think he would have won. 

CULLUM:  Well, because that would have been seen as corrupt. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but I‘ll tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In other words—this idea that the country is open minded about this I think is wrong.  I think if people have a choice, they vote against guys like this in this kind of a situation. 

CULLUM:  But then so then they—he has to be dishonest to be able to get the gig.  He has to marry two women, have two children.  He has to lie to the federal government.  He has to bring a guy in who has been charged with the most responsible—this guy should be kicked out immediately. 

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) politics in New Jersey, having grown up and spend all my summers there working or as a kid with my family.  I can‘t believe the Republican Party is so weak it is going to put up with this transition to another Democrat, then another Democrat after that, probably Jon Corzine.  What happened to the Republicans of New Jersey? 

CULLUM:  Well, maybe they‘ll get a little bit more muscle. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back with Paul Krugman and Blanquita Cullum.  That‘s my pending question.  What happened to the Republicans in a big state like that?  Up next, the latest ad from the Bush campaign.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman and the radio talk show host Blanquita Cullum.  Let me just get to the point I did before, Paul.  Are the Republicans going to roll over and let Governor McGreevey after this confession yesterday, call the shots for the next couple years in New Jersey politics? 

KRUGMAN:  I don‘t quite know how state politics works really in New Jersey.  But the truth is, it‘s a very Democratic state right now.  And I just don‘t—nothing—this is not going to change that.  With Bruce Springsteen endorsing Kerry pretty strongly, the Democrats are in the saddle here. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s a safe vote for the safe state for Kerry. 

Do you agree?

CULLUM:  No, I don‘t.  I think what happens here, the Republicans don‘t have to do anything but hold the guy‘s coat, because he is going to unravel before their eyes.  And if they think, the Democrats think this guy is going to last until November 15, well, Virginia, there really is a Santa Clause. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s another Illinois where the Republican Party for some reason, strong nationally is going to sleep locally.  Here‘s a new ad, by the way, from the Bush campaign.  It is running during coverage of the Olympics.  And it is also airing in fitness centers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over):  I‘m George W. Bush and I approve this message. 

ANNOUNCER:  In 1972, there were 40 democracies in the world.  Today, 120.  Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sun rise.  And this Olympics, there will be two more free nations and two fewer terrorist regimes.  With strength, resolve and courage, democracy will triumph over terror and hope will defeat hatred. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good ad. 

CULLUM:  It‘s a great ad. 

MATTHEWS:  No problem with that?  Good ad, huh? 

KRUGMAN:  I can‘t see it from where I am. 

MATTHEWS:  It looked great.  It was a swimming meet.  It was a lot of flags a lot of countries.  The people all looked great.  They‘re all competing for these countries, then you see these two new countries come in at the bottom of the script there, Afghanistan and then you see Iraq come in as the new entries, nations competing in the Olympics. 

KRUGMAN:  They‘re counting on people not reading the news from Afghanistan and Iraq.  But, it might work. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this morning in American theme in the president.  I see it in the music and kind of the mood.  A lot of picture of Laura Bush.  Is this the time where people feel we‘re in peace and prosperity and it is calm like it was in 1984 when Reagan did it? 

Let me go to Blanquita.  Do you really feel that synchronizes with the mood of the country right now economically and in terms of our world position? 

CULLUM:  Well, I think they see it is morning in America.  But morning in American doesn‘t necessarily mean that everything is smooth.  But what‘s happening here is that there is a move towards democracy.  We‘re seeing more jobs, we‘re seeing businesses prospering better.  Of course it‘s going to be a struggle, but I think Americans, and especially those people who supported the president in the past, really applaud what he‘s been doing. 

And I think they‘re going to be detractors on the other side.  This is going to be an interesting battle, because they‘re going to be people like Paul who will totally disagree with that. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Let me just ask you as a Republican.  It‘s a fair question.  Ronald Reagan composed it back in 1980.  Are we better off economically than we were four years ago? 

CULLUM:  Absolutely we‘re better off four years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  We are?  Are we better off in terms of friendships in the world and alliances in the world and support in the world in terms of terrorist numbers of terrorists in the world than we were four years ago? 

CULLUM:  I think we are better off in the sense that in dealing with the issue of the war on terrorism, we really know who stands with us.  And the ironic thing is, there‘s no place...

MATTHEWS:  We know that.  But are we better off? 

CULLUM:  Yes, we are.  Because frankly right now everybody is facing a war on terrorism.  Everybody is having to deal with the terror of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.  So, I think we‘re better off because we‘re dealing with it more progressively.

MATTHEWS:  Paul, do you think the American people would vote right now and say they‘re better off economically than four years ago, like they did with Reagan.  Let‘s be honest, Reagan won that argument.  And better off in terms of our position in the world. 

KRUGMAN:  Reagan was presiding over a genuine economic boom with lots of job creation.  Things getting much better from a bad start.  But with things getting much better.  That‘s just not true today. 

You look at the number of jobs created over the past year and it is enough to keep one population growth.  It is not an improving labor market.  Don‘t take my word for it, the polls show that by very heavy margins, Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction.  All of those right track, wrong track polls are very strongly, you know, saying that people are not happy. 

So, this is a very funny theme to be playing right now.  It is playing into this era of good feeling which is just not out there in the American public.  It is not just people like me.  Many of these polls 60 percent of the population thinks that things are on the wrong track. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the new report by the congressional budget office today.  It is no more Democrat than Republican with the congressional controlled by Republicans.  Saying that most of the tax cuts went to basically the top 1 percent, the middle class have a higher burden than before.  How can that be better off for most voters than 4 years ago?   

CULLUM:  And it‘s also saying that 629,000 new jobs were there for businesses.  And they‘re also saying some of those new jobs...

KRUGMAN:  Oh, my God.  You‘re not going to do that one are you? 

CULLUM:  Excuse me.  I am going to do that one.  And let me tell you, I‘m going to do it, because I‘m also a small business person.  Remember that 80 percent of all businesses is small business.

And a lot of people complain about...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you...

KRUGMAN:  Let me say...

CULLUM:  Excuse me for one second, Paul.  But people say, it‘s the upper 1 percent.  In the Democrats‘ mind, what is wealthy?  Is it...

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s just percentages.  Let‘s get crudely political, do you get more votes from the middle or the top?

CULLUM:  Frankly, if we‘re going to look at the upper 1 percent. 

KRUGMAN:  Can I get a word in edgewise here?

MATTHEWS:  Next time, Paul.  Please come back.  We‘ll talk about the book.  Paul Krugman, Blanquita Krugman, I‘m out of time.  Sorry, Paul.

Up next, the executive director of the Creative Coalition is going to join us. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, obviously, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The Creative Coalition is an organization that brings celebrities into the political process.  Robin Bronk is the executive director of the coalition, which just released a new book entitled, “If You Had Five Minutes With the President.” 

If you had five minutes with the president, Robin, what would you tell him? 

ROBIN BRONK, CREATIVE COALITION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:  Well, I did have five minutes with the president back in the early ‘90s, and I went into labor.  So I wasn‘t talking a lot.  But I was there. 

MATTHEWS:  You were breathing, huh? 

BRONK:  I was breathing.

MATTHEWS:  But not talking.  Imagine now that you‘re not pregnant. 

What would you say if you walked into the White House and talked to either president?  Either the president or possibly John Kerry if he gets elected? 

BRONK:  You know what?  As the executive director of the Creative Coalition, I have an agenda.  It is the Creative Coalition agenda, which means public funding for the arts, freedom of expression, and making sure the First Amendment is alive and breathing.  So that‘s what I talk about. 

MATTHEWS:  So I‘m the president—let‘s imagine I‘m George Bush, and I say, look, nice try.  You know, you represent a lot of rich Hollywood stars.  Why don‘t they kick into the arts?  I have got a lot of working people down in Texas and around the country who are barely making a living.  You‘re asking them to pay more taxes so the elite can have more symphonies and more opera.  Why should they do that? 

BRONK:  Oh, that‘s not what that‘s about, Mr. President.  What it‘s about is we‘re talking about runaway production, bringing television and film production back into the United States of America. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s to the unions.  They‘re all in the Democratic Party.  They‘re all in bed together.  Why should I—you go to the Democratic side and tell the unions to stop making it too expensive to make movies in Hollywood, and they wouldn‘t be running off to Vancouver all the time. 

BRONK:  Mr. President, do you know what‘s so great about this country?  It‘s that we have this democratic process.  And this is the perfect issue for you to latch on to.  Runaway production.  We want to work with the unions, with business leaders, to bring $18 billion back into this country. 

MATTHEWS:  One more question, Ms. Bronk, speaking as the president. 

What drives movies out of the country?  Why do they go overseas? 

Especially to Canada, to make movies?  Labor rates.

BRONK:  It‘s cheaper. 

MATTHEWS:  Because of what?  Why are the rates cheaper?  Because of the Republican Party? 

BRONK:  It‘s you know why?  MATTHEWS:  Because of my tax system? 

BRONK:  No.  This is such a great issue, Mr. President.  It cuts across party lines. 

MATTHEWS:  You want me to subsidize the movie industry? 

BRONK:  No, what I want you to do is subsidize America.  Make America work, keep America working.  Bring back this industry into the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  What do I have to do to get the movie industry to make more movies in the United States? 

BRONK:  We have to together, Mr. President, create government incentives to bring this industry back into the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  Tax breaks.

BRONK:  It could be tax breaks.  There is a lot of different ways to do it.  The states are doing it, and you should be very proud of the states...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  Let me be John Kerry for a minute.  I just got elected president.  I‘ve just been inaugurated.  What should I do? 

BRONK:  Mr. President, the time is for economic development.  And the best issue that I can bring to your attention is to bring film and television production back into the U.S., and you can be a hero, and we‘re going to help you do it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I get your message.  I‘m playing—I‘m both presidents, or one potential president. 

Let me ask you this about Hollywood.  How come there seem to be—you work with a lot of these people, and I know some of them.  I used to go through a list of people that I might know a little bit.  And they seem to be a little tone deaf.  Obviously, they‘re very creative, very smart, they‘re talented, or they wouldn‘t be where they are.  But when it comes to speaking in public, so often seem to be over the top, gross, raunchy, or elitist.  Why don‘t they learn—why don‘t they go home to their home towns, meet their parents, have dinner and talk to the press after that with their parents sitting there?  Why don‘t they try to connect with people, regular people? 

BRONK:  You know, I can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they do that?

BRONK:  You know what, because I don‘t think you can lump all...

MATTHEWS:  Name one that‘s done that effectively.  Name one who‘s effectively gone home. 

BRONK:  Wait a minute.  It‘s like saying all congressmen write bad checks. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question.  Give me an example of political people in Hollywood or in show business, Broadway, who have been very effective at not alienating the other side. 

BRONK:  I can name a lot.  Look at Fran Drescher, what she‘s done for the health care industry, what she‘s done for women‘s issues.  Look at Joe Pantoliano.  Look at your own Ron Reagan, what they‘ve done for the arts in America.  And we—that‘s the whole raison d‘etre for the Creative Coalition.  It is not about celebrities getting up on a soap box.  What we‘re about is activists who happen to be celebrities, and they don‘t check their activism at the stage door. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you like Charlton Heston saying, out of my cold dead hands when he‘s pushing gun rights? 

BRONK:  Charlton Heston is one of the best public advocates you have. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.  And you like him. 

BRONK:  I think he is a terrific actor.  I think he‘s a brilliant activist.  And I think the NRA has been brilliant in marrying celebrity and politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me some others. 

BRONK:  Again, look at Minnie Driver has been active.  Eric McCormack.  It‘s a lot of our authors in the book, because what‘s great about this book is these are the celebrities, these are the activists who have been active in their communities for their whole lifetime, who come from families who have been active.

MATTHEWS:  Can you explain, I mean, most journalists seem to be liberals, or more than there are conservatives, I think that‘s fair to say.  Why are more Hollywood actors liberals and Democrats? 

BRONK:  I think that social welfare issues these days cut across both party lines.  Typically, your Hollywood talent are artists, and they come from liberal arts backgrounds.  And I guess you could say across the board, whether you‘re an actor, whether you‘re an artisan, whether you‘re a painter, you probably will be more acclimated to social welfare issues.  So if you say that, you know—I can‘t say—I can‘t say that all Democratic politics is about social welfare issues.  Can you?  I think this is arts...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just still trying to get to the bottom of why most Hollywood people, they seem to have a pack mentality, is what I‘m suggesting.  I guess, a lot of people out in Hollywood seem to be wanting to get in step with other Hollywood people for fear of hurt—being hurt, either in their career or socially. 

BRONK:  I don‘t think so.  Honestly, I think that, look, you and I know...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t believe that.

BRONK:  You and I know, being...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that fairly obvious?

BRONK:  ... being a political activist, that‘s pretty much not great.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a lot tougher to be a conservative in Hollywood than a liberal.  

BRONK:  Yeah, well, you know what, it‘s a lot tougher to be a political activist as an actor... 

MATTHEWS:  It is?

BRONK:  ... than it is to be a dry cleaner. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t some of them sort of save their career by getting involved in politics?  It gets them out there when they normally wouldn‘t be getting any phone calls?

BRONK:  Look, you‘re putting yourself out there...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that‘s getting...

BRONK:  I don‘t think so.  I think, you know, you have got to believe, and you‘ve got to be vested into an issue. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ben Affleck, is he going to run for office? 

BRONK:  I have no idea.

MATTHEWS:  Do you like him?

BRONK:  He‘s a great guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he be a good candidate?   

BRONK:  Is he smart?  Is he...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.

BRONK:  I don‘t—he seems like a smart guy.  Is he invested in a particular community?  Is he invested in an issue?  If he is, then absolutely.  We are—public service right now is at an all-time low.  Isn‘t it time that everyone got involved in it?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Well said.  Robin Bronk.

To read an excerpt from the Creative Coalition‘s book, log on to our Web site, hardball.MSNBC.com.  Join us again Sunday night at 7:00 Eastern for a special edition of HARDBALL.  That‘s this Sunday night.  Right now, it‘s time for the COUNTDOWN with Keith.

END   

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