updated 4/25/2005 8:30:05 AM ET 2005-04-25T12:30:05

Guest: Bob Dole, Lesley Stahl

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, one soldier‘s story from one of the heroes of the greatest generation.  Former presidential candidate Bob Dole talks about his new book and his life in the trenches, both in war and here in Washington. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

A senator, a war hero, a presidential candidate, a veterans activist, our guest, Bob Dole, is a man of great experience and many accomplishments.  We‘ll discuss his new book, “One Soldier‘s Story,” about his World War II experience in a moment. 

But first, in a joint press conference today in Kabul, Afghanistan, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attending, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced he would ask President Bush for long-term military security protection for his country.  However, when pressed, both Karzai and Rumsfeld sidestepped the question of us having permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan. 

Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT:  The Afghan people want a longer-term relationship with the United States, a strategic security relationship that would enable Afghanistan to defend itself. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  We find ways that we can be helpful.  It may be training.  It may be equipping.  It may be various other types of assistance, such as is the case here.  But we think more in terms of what we‘re doing, rather than the question of military bases. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Big question, Senator Dole.  Should the United States have permanent bases?  Should we the permanent garrison of countries like Afghanistan?

BOB DOLE ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Yes, I don‘t think the word permanent would apply.  I mean, we have different administrations, may have a different view.  I don‘t think you can make anything permanent.  It can be long-range.  We‘re still in the Balkan area, in Bosnia, for example, after all these years, when President Clinton said we‘d be there one year.  We spent about 30-some billion dollars. 

But I don‘t think anybody could say, well, I‘m going to—we‘re going to have a permanent role in Afghanistan.  And we can have these agreements.  And I assume they‘re long-term, but permanent is a pretty big word. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Iraq?  Same question, same answer? 

DOLE:  Same answer. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, I have always had a hunch about and you And people like Barry Goldwater.  And you‘re more a centrist than Goldwater.  Nixon, sort of regular Republicans, not hyphenated Republicans, supply-siders, neoconservatives.  You‘re sort of a regular Republican, right? 

DOLE:  Yes, regular. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, would you have invaded Iraq? 

DOLE:  Probably. 

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What would have been your reason? 

DOLE:  I think my reason would have been Saddam Hussein.  I had the great, I won‘t say privilege, but I did meet with Saddam Hussein I think in 1991, took a delegation over there, and not that makes any difference.  It‘s not relevant probably, but I did at least see the guy face-to-face.

But I think he was a menace and I think he had oppressed, killed people.  And I do believe everybody thought there were weapons of mass destruction, every country in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Weapons that could have been used against us? 

DOLE:  Could have been used against us, could have been used against -

·         well, probably, more or less, could be used against our neighbors, Israel, for example, a strong ally.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we have a Department of Defense.  Isn‘t it supposed to be defending the United States?  And what other reason do we have to have a military? 

DOLE:  Well, but one reason—one way you defend the United States sometimes is by preemptive action and by looking ahead.  You don‘t wait until you‘re attacked all time, until you try to get out of the mess you‘re in. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you think that he was a threat to—as a person who might attack the United States of America, Saddam Hussein, over there in Iraq, in a Third World, nothing country? 

DOLE:  Well, I doubt if he would have attacked us, but he could have attacked our allies, which would have had an indirect or a direct attack on us, Israel being our biggest, our best friend and the only democratic country in that area. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DOLE:  Until we have now Iraq and Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS:  You think Iraq was a threat to Israel?  Israel is the toughest country in that region.

DOLE:  I know, but they were a threat.  I remember carrying a letter from President Bush No. 41 to Saddam Hussein telling him to back off on Israel because it was a threat then.  This was 13, 14 years ago now. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your experience in the war.  Let‘s talk on your book right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Amazing book.  I was reading it last night with a cigar around midnight, or actually earlier than that, out back. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, I was in just in Rome—and I want—I really—most people who weren‘t in a war like that or any war just want to know a little sense of what it was like.  And that was a long time ago. 

DOLE:  Well, oh...

MATTHEWS:  We were just in Rome and I was struck by you saying you got a little R&R when you were in... 

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  A little R&R in Rome, right.

MATTHEWS:  In Rome.

What was it like to be in the streets of Rome after Mussolini had been knocked off and he was hanging up there somewhere in Milan?  What was it like to be in Rome in ‘45? 

DOLE:  I think it‘s probably not much different than it is now. 

I remember going to the Excelsior Hotel, which is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s still there. 

DOLE:  Yes, still there.  In fact, I was there—in November, we were in Italy.  And we went by the Excelsior Hotel then.  Just, I wanted to show my friends with me that—as a second lieutenant, I couldn‘t afford to stay there.  In fact, I don‘t think I would be allowed.  It was colonels on up at Excelsior.

But I went in there and I had a cup of coffee or a drink or something that night in 19 -- don‘t remember the exact day, but it probably was in February or March of 1945.  Now, I also attended a sports school.  A couple of Kansas coaches, one Kansas trainer and a Kansas track coach were there, and I went out and visited them for a couple of days.  But it was—we sat on Via Veneto...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DOLE:  ... and just watched the people go by. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it was like back to normal that fast after Mussolini and Hitler and all? 

DOLE:  Seemed pretty normal to me.  Of course, I didn‘t—you know, I didn‘t get all over the place. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  But...

MATTHEWS:  So that had been liberated by then.  It had been declared an international city.  We were back in there, the allies, thanks to you guys. 

DOLE:  And I attended the 40th liberation day of Rome and took—well, Senator Pat Leahy was with me.  He has some Italian...

MATTHEWS:  I think his mother is Italian, yes.

DOLE:  Yes.  Right.  So...

MATTHEWS:  So, how did you get back to the front?  Here‘s a guy, you‘re a young guy, and still in good shape, and you go to Rome for a vacation. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You thought everything was looking pretty good at that point.  Roosevelt was still alive, right? 

DOLE:  Everything looking pretty good.  We had good news on the war.  President Roosevelt was still alive.  And I don‘t know how I got a three-day pass.  I guess I was nice to my company commander. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  But—and suddenly...

MATTHEWS:  So you went back to the front by train?  How did you get sent up to the front again? 

DOLE:  I think we had trucks and things like that would convoy us. 

You know, I don‘t remember.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me ask you something I have always ask—always ask guys who fought against the Nazis.  Did you think of them as bad guys, not as just the enemy, you have got to kill the Jerries and all that, the Nazis, but did you think of them as individually bad soldiers, that they would shoot wounded? 

DOLE:  I don‘t think so, no.

MATTHEWS:  That they would—because you were talking about how they would shoot at the ambulances and all that and shoot at the corpsmen, at the...

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  Well, I think you had a little of that.  You were trained to have a little of that.  You were fed that information.  These are terrible, terrible guys. 

Well, the bad guy was Hitler.  I‘m not certain those young guys or any...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

DOLE:  They probably thought I was a bad guy, too.  But I grew up in a German community in Russell, Kansas.  A lot of people there came from Germany.  At least—they didn‘t.  Their ancestors did, and they were great people, hard-working farmers.  So, I didn‘t have any fix against the Germans. 

MATTHEWS:  Second question.  Did you think—a lot of war movies today I think do a service, unfortunately, to the Nazis.  They always make the soldiers look—they‘re all handsome; they‘re all tall; they‘re all blond; they‘re all incredibly good soldiers. 

Did you think, individually, that the fighting men on the other side of the line that were shooting at you and you were shooting back at were better than our soldiers man for man or not?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Nazis were tougher soldiers?

DOLE:  My view is, anybody shooting at you is a pretty good guy to be afraid of. 

(LAUGHTER)

DOLE:  So...

MATTHEWS:  But you didn‘t think of them as ferocious supermen? 

DOLE:  I don‘t think so.  I thought about how I could avoid getting hit.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Let me ask about George Patton, the guy in the movie.  You were under Mark Clark, right? 

DOLE:  Mark Clark.  And Mark Clark never called me.  I kept waiting for his call.  Of course, there were probably 10,000 second lieutenants.  He never asked me for my advice on the war. 

MATTHEWS:  So he was pretty high up? 

DOLE:  High up is right, yes.

MATTHEWS:  He went down to the Citadel afterwards, a big hero down there. 

DOLE:  Yes.  And is he buried there?  He‘s not buried there, no.

MATTHEWS:  No, but the place is still in honor of him at the Citadel in South Carolina. 

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of Ike? 

DOLE:  Oh, I loved Ike.  He was my—been my hero all my life, and not just because he grew up in Abilene, Kansas, which is 90 some miles from Russell, Kansas, just because—it‘s something of that smile of Eisenhower‘s. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, very optimistic. 

DOLE:  Yes.  But then, when he ran for president, I was just crazy as a young guy about helping... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How come the historians, who have sort of rediscovered Harry Truman, because of McCullough‘s book, when are they going to rediscover Ike and give him a break? 

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  I think it‘s in process.

When he left the White House, he was in the lower third of presidents, ranked in the lower third.  Let‘s see, 20, 30 years, 20-some years later, he was in the top third.  So I think he‘s moving up. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  I mean, you know, Eisenhower, really, you could say he started the desegregation of schools in Little Rock.  There are a lot of things he did, tough things. 

MATTHEWS:  Put the troops in.

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He also built the interstate highway system. 

DOLE:  Interstate highway system.

MATTHEWS:  And St. Lawrence seaway. 

But I thought...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you think the best thing about Ike is, he kept us out of Vietnam in ‘54? 

DOLE:  Kept us out of Vietnam.  And I think he was sort of a—he had that grandmother image to a lot of young people.  And of course he had all these veterans coming back home.  Whether Democratic or Republican, most of them had great respect for Eisenhower.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he could have kept us out of the war in Vietnam because he was so respected? 

DOLE:  Oh, yes.  I think he hated war.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

DOLE:  And the industrial complex. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And he was warning us about Kennedy and Rockefeller, the guys who believed in big military spending.

Let me ask you about the soldiers that never came home. 

DOLE:  They‘re the heroes.

I mean, some who came home are heroes, too.  But the real heroes never left Italy or the South Pacific or wherever they might have been stationed.  And I visited—you probably have, too—some of the cemeteries. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been to Normandy.

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  Oh, and they‘re—I want to give credit to Battle Monuments Commission, who keep track of these cemeteries and look like every blade of grass was—it‘s almost like my father was supervising.  He would make us mow the lawn and go around and clip it with scissors to make sure the grass was all trimmed.  And they‘re wonderful.

MATTHEWS:  I have to ask you a philosophical question. 

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Do you believe in an afterlife? 

DOLE:  I‘m not certain. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it could just be that those soldiers who get killed, that is just the end for them? 

DOLE:  I think—well, that would be my view.  I didn‘t—when I was wounded, I had this near-death experience, when your whole life kind of races in front of you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You got hit so hard, you said it was harder than anything you ever imagined being hit, it was so hard. 

DOLE:  I think so.  But I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  But you must have felt like you were gone.

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  It injured my spinal cord and I couldn‘t move anything. 

But I had this sort of near-death—I saw my little dog.  I saw my parents.  I saw my brother. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it really does flash before your eyes? 

DOLE:  Yes. 

And the young lady I was interested in.  I don‘t think she was interested in me. 

MATTHEWS:  Did she show up for that? 

DOLE:  Never.  Never showed up.

MATTHEWS:  I mean in that picture, in that flashback. 

DOLE:  Oh, yes.  She was in the flashback.  Her name was Angeline (ph).  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Did she know she was there? 

(LAUGHTER)

DOLE:  No, I don‘t think so.  She was back in Russell, Kansas. 

MATTHEWS:  You still carrying a torch for her? 

DOLE:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  You sure? 

DOLE:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to get you in trouble right now.

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  The one I was carrying a torch for in the book, Grace, passed away just about six months ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe old girlfriends never die somewhere.  You know, they‘re somewhere in you somewhere, the old ones.

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—well, I have asked you about an afterlife.

We‘re going to come right back and talk to—even tougher questions for Bob Dole. 

DOLE:  Yes, that‘s a tough one.

And, tomorrow, baseball is back in D.C.  And HARDBALL takes the field for the home opener...

DOLE:  And tomorrow is my anniversary.

MATTHEWS:  ... of the brand new Washington Nationals.

We‘ll be joined by Senator John McCain and Senator Jim Bunning, by the way, the Hall of Famer who pitched no-hitters in both the American and National League, especially for the Philadelphia Phillies.  That is tomorrow.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back with Bob Dole.  And, tomorrow, we‘ll be on the field for the home opener for baseball‘s new Washington Nationals. 

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Bob Dole, the author of “One Soldier‘s Story.”

How did—I know that convalescence—convalescence was brutal for you, years of it. 

DOLE:  Long.

MATTHEWS:  Long.

How did the experience of having been shot—and Churchill used to say it‘s great to be shot at and missed. 

DOLE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You were shot at and hit. 

DOLE:  Right.  It was good training for politics.

MATTHEWS:  Would you have been Bob Dole if you had not been hit?  If had gotten a break, gotten back from the war like you thought you were going to that weekend in Rome...

DOLE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you would have been as faithful a man to your own ambitions, your own hopes? 

DOLE:  I doubt it.  You know, I think you have to be honest about it. 

I don‘t know what I would have done.  I would probably...

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t you have been a regular, sort of happy-go-lucky local lawyer? 

DOLE:  Yes, I would have been a happy-go-lucky—I would go fishing and hunting and take vacations and do all those things.

MATTHEWS:  But dreamy-eyed, don‘t you ever think that might have been more fun than taking the licks you have been taking for 30 years? 

DOLE:  Well, the theory was, if I can‘t use my hands, I can use my head. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  And so, I will go to college.  And it seemed to me law was the best thing to do, because, even though you don‘t practice law, it teaches judgment, discipline, how to make decisions. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know how popular you are in this town? 

DOLE:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  No?  Always, long time. 

DOLE:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think you ever got it. 

DOLE:  No.  I think I have a lot of...

MATTHEWS:  The press loves you. 

DOLE:  A lot of respect. 

MATTHEWS:  The press loves you.  You know that.

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at press you‘ve been getting. 

DOLE:  Oh, well, I know the press.  Even the press who had to write against me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They liked you.

Let me ask you, you‘re a tough partisan, but you‘re part of the old tradition of this town, which was pretty bipartisan.  Name me some Republicans you respected over the years.

DOLE:  Howard Baker. 

MATTHEWS:  He was a leader of the Republicans in the Senate. 

DOLE:  Everett Dirksen.  I only got to serve with him about 11 months before he passed away.  But I knew about him because I had been in the House eight years and I knew about Everett Dirksen. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:   Henry Bellmon, that‘s a name from Oklahoma.

MATTHEWS:  Oklahoma.  Great guy.

DOLE:  You talk about a budget hawk.  This guy was such a nice guy. 

Warren Rudman.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  Who is still out there practicing law and doing a lot of work for the government.  You know, I could make—I could make a long, long list. 

MATTHEWS:  Those are senators and they‘re all—name me some Democrats you like.

DOLE:  Nancy Kassebaum, my colleague from Kansas.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

Name me some Democrats that you respect.

DOLE:  George Mitchell.  You know, we were leaders.  We disagreed on not everything, but we never had a cross word.  I would go to his office.  He‘d come to my office, and the same with Tom Daschle.  Tom is now in our law firm,  Alston & Bird.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re all partisans.

DOLE:  Well, you don‘t elect nonpartisan leaders.  You have got to carry the flag. 

Senator Russell from Georgia, Senator Sam Nunn from Georgia.  Senator Russell Long was sort of my favorite, because we were on the Finance Committee.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOLE:  And he would say, now, don‘t tax you; don‘t tax me; tax that fellow from behind the tree. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE:  And he got that from Uncle Earl. 

MATTHEWS:  Name a—oh, Earl Long.  Name a foreign leader you like or a couple of them, foreign leaders. 

DOLE:  Foreign leaders?  Yeltsin.  I liked Yeltsin.  I remember

meeting him at the airport one time when nobody else would go.  And I like

·         well, I like Tony Blair. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DOLE:  Yes.  I think he‘s a great guy.  He‘s probably more popular here than he is in England. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, that may be true. 

Thank you. 

DOLE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I was going to call you.  What did Bob Dole think about this, because you always talk about yourself in the third person.  But it‘s great.

Bob Dole, he wrote a book. 

DOLE:  And buy it.

MATTHEWS:  “One Soldier‘s Story.”  He‘s out there pitching hard and he deserves to have this book sold, because it has got good stories in it about getting through a war, you know, the tough way.  Anyway, go to HARDBALL.com for that.

When we come back, MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson takes a look at possible ethic problems facing House Majority leader Tom DeLay. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  House Republican Leader Tom DeLay has some advice for fellow Republicans, who are asked about his ethics controversy.  Blame Democrats for playing partisan politics. 

For the back-story on Tom DeLay and some scandals that have toppled other congressional leaders, we are joined by MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson—

Tucker. 

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC:  Thanks, Chris. 

While President Bush and other Republicans expressed confidence in House Tom DeLay, the lawmaker known as the Hammer continues to fight an uphill battle over alleged ethical misconduct.  Democrats are now out for blood and are hoping his possible downfall could be a way to change the balance of power in Washington. 

Here‘s a look at DeLay‘s current problems and how others in similar situations have rocked the House in the past. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Is the Hammer about to get nailed?

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER:  Bring it on. 

CARLSON:  Tom DeLay, the embattled House majority leader, has spent the last few days meeting with Republicans after taking a pounding for weeks over possible ethics infractions.  He‘s accused of accepting overseas trips from lobbyists and of having his wife and daughter on his political action committee‘s payroll. 

These allegations come in the wake of problems last year when he was admonished by the House Ethics Committee over other indiscretions. 

CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  You know, the standard is not necessarily what is legal and illegal, as much as what is proper and what is improper. 

CARLSON:  At the moment, DeLay seems to be tap-dancing on safe ground with his fellow Republicans.  But is there a tipping point? 

COOK:  I think it is going to take a little bit more, or maybe a good bit more to sink Tom DeLay.  I mean, don‘t underestimate his strength. 

CARLSON:  Scandal is nothing new to Congress, of course.  There‘s a long list of members who were admonished, who resigned or who were expelled for ethics problems since the first session of Congress in 1789. 

When Republican speaker-elect Bob Livingston‘s sexual indiscretions were exposed by pornography Larry Flynt in 1988, rather than deny the rumors, Livingston owned up to his past and resigned on the House floor.  New Jersey Democrat Robert Torricelli chalked up his decision to accept gifts from a campaign contributor as—quote—“a lapse in judgment.”  He was severely admonished by the Congress in 2002 and subsequently resigned. 

REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO:  I object. 

CARLSON:  But it was Democrat James Traficant of Ohio who took the top prize for racketeering and corruption.  His conviction in federal court three years ago today for bribery and taking kickbacks not only got him expelled.  It also won him an eight-year term in a very different kind of house. 

Then there was Newt. 

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  I had to make a decisive choice between my own interests and what I believe to be the more important cause of the country. 

CARLSON:  Newt Gingrich, the Republican speaker who roared in the 1990s, had to put his money where his mouth was and pay an unprecedented $300,000 fine for tax improprieties and lying to the House Ethics Committee. 

COOK:  Well, you know, Newt‘s problems embarrassed the caucus, all that, but it wasn‘t until the Republicans suffered some losses or a disappointing election that it came so much that it sort of tipped the balance and went the other way.  Obviously, that‘s not a consideration now, because the next election is 18 months or so away. 

CARLSON:  Today, with Tom DeLay in trouble, Democrats are once again smelling blood in the water.  They‘re making him the poster child for all they say is wrong with the Republican Party.  They‘re hoping that bringing down the Hammer will not only clean the House of their nemesis.  It may also help them nail down some new seats in the next election. 

COOK:  It would take three or four really big hits, I think, to sink Tom DeLay.  And maybe it happens.  Maybe it doesn‘t.  But they‘re not there yet. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  One final note.  Today, Tom DeLay said on his Web site he likens the GOP 1994 Contract With America with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights as one of the great articles of freedom.  The architect of that treatise, of course, that changed the balance of power in Washington, was Newt Gingrich, who had his own ethic problems, as we just saw.  DeLay can only hope that, in this case, history does not repeat itself—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, is he going to make it? 

CARLSON:  I think he is.  I agree with Charlie Cook.  I don‘t think the charges, the allegations against him now add up to a lot.  But I do think he has got some pretty motivated enemies.  Notice, they‘re not going after Denny Hastert, who is the actual speaker of the House.  A bunch of reasons.  DeLay has more arguably power, but he also has more enemies.  He has alienated people in Washington with his tone, with his style, not just Democrats, but also some people on K Street, even.

MATTHEWS:  Is this a way to get at the other Texan, the president? 

CARLSON:  Oh, absolutely.  Of course it is. 

On one level, both parties do it.  And it is—you know, you could argue it‘s kind of a distressing trend in that it‘s not an argument about ideas or ideology or even—even a program.  It‘s, you know—it‘s niggling ethics charges, at least at this point.  But, again, I think he has got some enemies who are going to keep digging for a variety of reasons until they find something. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s important to pick your enemies wisely, Tucker, right? 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Yes, I‘ve noticed that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Tucker Carson. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Still ahead, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl is going to join me. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Legendary newswoman Lesley Stahl has covered every major story in the last three decades, from Watergate to the assassination attempt on President Reagan to the Gulf War, before joining “60 Minutes” in 1991.  She covered three presidential administrations for CBS.  Now she is a correspondent for the news magazine.  Currently, by the way, “60 Minutes” is in its 37th season. 

Lesley, you are the kid on the block, aren‘t you, up there? 

(LAUGHTER)

LESLEY STAHL, “60 MINUTES”:  They call me the kid.  It‘s great.  It‘s great. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me talk to you about—I want you to talk about something you talked about at a recent lecture you gave in New York at the 21 Club.  You talked about the loss of civility in American life.  Give us a little hint of that, what you were talking about. 

STAHL:  Well, I had been to a dinner party in New York, civilized, very intelligent people.  And we were talking about the Middle East.  It was—we were invited because a woman named Irshad Manji, who has written a book calling for Islamic reformation. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

STAHL:  And so brilliant, by the way.  You ought to have her on some time. 

Anyway, we were talking at a high level.  And some man there said, you know, I‘m more worried about the Christian fundamentalists than the Islamic fundamentalists.  And someone else said, well, you can‘t talk that way.  And someone insulted the president.  And someone said, you can‘t insult the president.  And someone said  -- screaming.  This is—what about the First Amendment? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  And this was a group of people I have been with before.  I have never seen it, ever. 

(CROSSTALK)

STAHL:  And something is tearing apart here.  It‘s scary.

MATTHEWS:  I spoke at Tel Aviv University a couple years ago, just two years ago.  You can argue Middle East politics in Israel.  The hardest thing is arguing it here, because everyone is so touchy about.  But it seems it‘s getting into the political process, Lesley. 

When I worked on the Hill and you covered the White House, we got to know each other all those years ago.  You could actually have a debate on the floor of the House, and, afterwards, one guy would go across the well and say to the other guy, what are you doing this weekend?  Say hello to your wife for me and they would be friends again.  That seems to be fading. 

(CROSSTALK)

STAHL:  Very much, and rapidly and recently. 

You know, Tom DeLay is very much in the news, as you know. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course. 

STAHL:  I‘m not telling you anything. 

And I did  a story on him.  And, of course, he wouldn‘t give us an interview.  So, I went down to one of his, what do they call them, pad and paper interviews.  As the majority leader, he does talk to the press outside his office.  People come around with their notebooks.  And I asked him a question.  And I know I was respectful, because it was in my mind to be.  And he attacked me.  That was the answer.  It was the answer. 

MATTHEWS:  Personally?

STAHL:  Yes, something about CBS, not about me personally, but a smack across the head. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  You know, about CBS.  And it was the answer to my question. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that is because, for so many years, the Republicans were in the minority and they got tired of being the minority and, once they got in power, they got a little tyrannical? 

STAHL:  Well, I don‘t want to say it‘s the Republicans.  I want to say it‘s discourse in general. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  It‘s both sides.  It‘s all sides.  It‘s dinner parties.  It‘s an anxiousness, an angriness.  We don‘t like each other.  It‘s—and you know what?  It comes so soon after 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It was so nice then, wasn‘t it? 

STAHL:  And I—yes.  Didn‘t you think that we were all going to be together in a family? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I remember being on the J. Train, a subway in downtown Manhattan.  And people—there was a guy playing the sax and everybody was in a mellow mood in those months after 9/11. 

I have to tell you, over in Rome for the pope‘s funeral...

STAHL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe because of the civility of the Roman people, which is to me obvious.  They are so wonderful and warm and welcoming, much more so than even Paris, which is maybe a pretty city, but they‘re so nice in Rome.  They just are so nice.  And the people waited in line with tremendous patience and calmness and silence.  That struck me as so different than the pace of our own lives here at home. 

STAHL:  Well, I think we‘re capable of that at solemn moments.  I do. 

I know we are.  But it‘s the public discourse, the political discussion. 

We have lost the middle.  We have lost the whole middle in our country.  Someone said—it was Cokie Roberts.  I heard her on National Public Radio one morning saying, we don‘t have any middle people who everybody trusts anymore.  And I was thinking, Chris, when—I don‘t know where you were when Reagan was president, but he appointed Alan Greenspan to do a study of Social Security.  And he came out with his finding, and everybody said, oh, OK, it‘s Alan Greenspan.  We all listen to him, everybody.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  Alan Greenspan today, Harry Reid, the minority leader, called him a political hack.  We won‘t even listen to him. 

There‘s nobody we all listen to, nobody we all respect, no institution we all respect.  And this is—it‘s partly brought on by technology. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  It‘s partly that we only now are able to listen to and watch

what we want to watch.  So, it isn‘t that we‘re not—it‘s that we‘re not

·         we‘re choosing not to even hear the other argument on the other side. 

We‘re choosing only to hear what we want to hear.  So, when, finally, we do listen to someone who disagrees, instead of saying, oh, I know how to deal with that, we get angry. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, back in the ‘80s, when you were covering the White House, etcetera, I was with Tip O‘Neill.  I was his top aide.  And I have to tell you, they cut the deal on Social Security. 

And I have to tell you, the interesting thing that has changed, I‘m not quite sure—let me give you a different take on that.  I think there was a time when tough politicians who had deep beliefs on left and right were able to make each other look better.  I think Tip challenging Reagan made Reagan look better.  I think Tip never looked better than when he challenging Reagan. 

STAHL:  But they liked each other.

MATTHEWS:  I think a rivalry of ideas, where you have a different point of view, center-left vs. center-right in that case, given the wide spectrum in the world, between communists and whatever, I think that was a center-right/center-right deal on Social Security. 

And I think respect—I think rivalry can help the other guy.  I mean, sometimes, when you challenge a person‘s point of view, you make them look better.  And I think that that‘s how we built our country, by the way. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Jefferson and Adams didn‘t agree on anything, but they were colleagues to the death. 

STAHL:  But you can tell the audience much better than I can, because you were there with Tip O‘Neill.  Reagan and O‘Neill genuinely liked each other. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they respected each other.  You never know about those matters of the heart.  I could never figure them out.  There was so much rivalry.  But I do say, publicly, it was better. 

Let me ask you about the news industry itself.  And its taken a lot of wrath, because we have such a wide definition of what news is today, with, you know, stuff coming across the cable industry.  And it‘s coming out of blog sites and stuff that is unedited in a lot of cases, which is my big problem with it.  There‘s no editors around.  What do you make of what we‘re doing right now? 

STAHL:  Well, it‘s contributing to the public‘s continuing dislike of us and mistrust of us.  And we‘re all in this bull together. 

“60 Minutes” correspondents are the media.  So are the bloggers. 

They‘re the media. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Drudge Report.

STAHL:  Drudge Report, he‘s the media.

MATTHEWS:  The new Arianna report, whatever it‘s going to be.

STAHL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  But even all the different people who come on your show—and I was even thinking of this coming over here, because you‘re trying to elicit my opinions.  And I‘m not supposed to have opinions. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  And I thought, why am I doing this show at all?  I‘m supposed to be that person who is completely unbiased. 

And your job—and we love to come on and talk to you.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  But your job is to try to get me to tell you what I feel, what I think. 

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

STAHL:  And so all of that business is breaking down, because we‘re all thrown in the salad bowl together.  And it‘s unhealthy for my institution of mainstream media.  The public does not trust us.  And we are low down on the institutions that people respect.  And I understand it.  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

Let me tell you my job.  It‘s not only to elicit opinion from people that don‘t want to give it.  It‘s to fact-check every night, because we don‘t have a corrections page here at HARDBALL.  Every time someone says something on this show that I believe to be factually incorrect, in a matter of seconds, sometimes, within a minute or two, I have got to find the information through my ear or whatever and correct it.

STAHL:  That‘s the other thing.

MATTHEWS:  Because, otherwise, people assume, since I sat here and let somebody say something, it must be true.

STAHL:  Well, that‘s the other thing.

MATTHEWS:  And so I have to be the editor on site. 

STAHL:  This is technology. 

When I started out, we weren‘t on the air 24 hours a day.  We never rushed out, say, on the White House lawn and gave the report right off the top of our head. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  We went back to our booth; we called around; we checked; we went out and gave a very carefully vetted, reported, checked report. 

People now, with 24-hour television, the ability it go on the air from anywhere at any moment, you‘re just—everyone is shooting from the hip, everybody.  And it‘s a little scary.

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you to shoot from the hip? 

What will happen more quickly, a female anchor person on a major broadcast network or a female pope?  What will happen first?  What is coming first, Lesley? 

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL:  Or a female president, any one of those.  Never. 

MATTHEWS:  Which one is most likely of the three?

STAHL:  It‘s beginning to look like one of those when-hell-freezes-over things.  You know, I...

MATTHEWS:  No, I want an answer.  I want an opinion.

STAHL:  I‘m giving you an answer. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the most likely of the three, first female pope, first female president of the United States, first female heavyweight anchorwoman at 6:30 at night, 7:00 at night, the real thing, all by herself, not a co-anchor?

STAHL:  Serious answer?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  Serious answer could be president.  Could be president first. 

MATTHEWS:  Before anchor? 

STAHL:  Could be. 

MATTHEWS:  Before anchor? 

STAHL:  Could be. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what you‘re predicting.  You have stated an opinion here. 

STAHL:  I‘m thinking, unless, of course, at CBS, we get a multiple anchor situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that wouldn‘t count.

STAHL:  And then, in that case, yes, I think there clearly will be a woman. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think that counts.

STAHL:  But a single anchor, maybe a president before then, yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

STAHL:  Sad to say. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we won‘t have co-presidents, but want to have co-anchors.  There‘s the real deal and not the real deal.

So, you say we have a better shot at president than a single woman anchor on a network? 

STAHL:  Maybe.  Maybe.

But you‘re asking the same question.  And it‘s baffling, because our society, where women have done so much better than almost any other part, any other place in the world, politically—and we have many in the Senate and many as governors—we can‘t seem to grow a viable presidential candidate.  And it‘s a stunning thing.  Why can‘t we? 

It‘s partly our system, as opposed to the parliamentary system.  Look at countries that have had female prime ministers. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We have to get a woman governor of a major state, Pennsylvania, New York, Los Angeles.

STAHL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Los Angeles—California.  Hasn‘t happened yet.  Michigan is the closest, but Jennifer, unfortunately, is Canadian. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Lesley Stahl. 

And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll be back with Lesley Stahl.  And, Friday, I‘ll play HARDBALL with Jane Fonda here.

HARDBALL returns after this.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Lesley Stahl. 

I want to correct myself, as the managing editor, in effect, that, obviously, Jennifer Granholm is a naturalized American. She was from Canada. 

Lesley, let me ask you about the role of the media.  “60 Minutes” is one of those feisty journalistic corners of the world, where you count on you folks to take on the big shots.  Do you think you can do a job of going against—I mean, Eliot Spitzer up in New York does that.  Traditionally, people like Ralph Nader do it. 

I‘m getting nervous lately that the big—since we don‘t have any Democrats in Congress controlling those committees, like John Dingell and Ed Markey and those guys, they don‘t control committees anymore, that we don‘t have enough subpoena action out there.  Are we keeping a check on corporate power in America right now? 

STAHL:  You raise the best question, and it‘s not just corporate power.  It‘s political power as well. 

There aren‘t many institution left that, as you say, can go and investigate and stand up and be brave, because that‘s what it‘s taking now.  And I know that we can.  “60 Minutes” can.  We should.  We should do more than we‘ve done.  And we need more.  We need more on the corporate front.  We need more on the political front. 

You know, if the press doesn‘t do these things, sometimes, our system won‘t be as self-cleansing as it has been in the past.  It‘s so essential that the press remain strong and viable.  I‘m so worried about our—the state of the American press, the mainstream media, as they call it.  I‘m deeply worried, because the system needs us.  I‘m also worried at what technology is doing, where there isn‘t a place where everybody tunes in and listens to get that middle—middle, well-thought-out analysis, because an uneducated electorate—without that, our democracy isn‘t going to work.

And I‘m just so concerned, really.  I mean, I know that we like to be flip and fun and so forth. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

STAHL:  But I‘m seriously deeply worried. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  I‘m worried about what a failing press means for the future of our system, really. 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder where the Upton Sinclairs of today are, the people that are checking into how our food is being treated, how our water is being protected, how our airlines are being—so you get up in an airplane, you know it‘s been mechanically made safe. 

You know, everybody says they don‘t like government, but, damn it, when you‘re in an airplane, you want to make sure that somebody has checked that plane out.  When you‘re eating a can of food, you want to make sure somebody has made sure it was clean when it went in there and it still is protected.

I mean, I think of so many parts of our life.  And I don‘t hear that sort of Teddy Roosevelt trust-busting...

STAHL:  Well, here‘s what I‘m worried about.

MATTHEWS:  Muckraking stuff going on out there, where people keep the big boys honest.  And I count on “60 Minutes” to do some of it.  But...

STAHL:  Well, we had a—Steve Kroft had a great piece last week on how the homeland security money is being spent around the country.  Here‘s what I worry about.

I worry about, we do a really strong investigative piece like that and it doesn‘t resonate.  That‘s what I‘m worried about. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean the cops in D.C. spending money on leather uniforms rather than on defense? 

STAHL:  Yes. 

And these local communities getting a whole—local communities where there‘s virtually no chance of a terrorist attack getting as much money as a larger, somewhat larger city, and they‘re spending the money on things that have nothing to do with terrorism.  It was a terrific report.  And I‘m worried that the public isn‘t paying as much attention to us and what we‘re telling them.  So, even when we do, do what you‘re calling for...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

STAHL:  What is the effect of it?  So, both sides are important. 

MATTHEWS:  I always remember—we talked a couple of months ago, when you were nice enough to be on.  And I said how I always imagined back in the good old days, when you were one of these tough reporters covering the White House, and you would do a big tough piece on somebody in the White House and your news director, news president, would say, good, tough piece, Lesley.

Is there somebody out there now saying, when you go after an industry on “60 Minutes,” good, tough piece; we like that? 

STAHL:  Sure.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  We are not going to lose our personality.  Our DNA is our DNA and we‘re committed to it.  So, we‘re going to be there. 

But what I‘m telling you is that, if the public continues to lose faith in the media, I‘m worried about the effect we‘re going to have.  If we do these stories, sometimes I just worry that it‘s wafting out there, you know, and... 

MATTHEWS:  You know what, Lesley?  Can I give you some advice, dear? 

STAHL:  Yes, please. 

MATTHEWS:  Wonderful colleague, don‘t worry about the polls, because the polls are wrong.  The people—I know the ratings in this business.  When you do a Schiavo story, everyone watches.  People are interested in that story, because it was a grand story, whatever you think of it.  I thought of values and the role of government and the limitations of government and life and all the important things in our world. 

And the people afterwards said, well, the media didn‘t do a good job because they—basically saying we overplayed it.  They watched it like bandits. 

STAHL:  Well, of course they watched...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They will say after the O.J. case, too much coverage, and everyone watched it. 

So, when people say they didn‘t think that the media did a good job, then you have to ask them, well, where did you learn all about this from?  You learned all about it from the media and you watched every second of it. 

STAHL:  Well, wait a minute. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STAHL:  I hope we have another minute, because the reason the Schiavo situation...

MATTHEWS:  Fifteen seconds.

STAHL:  ... was played over and over was because the public wanted it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

STAHL:  We are giving the public what they want, almost too much. 

We‘re not doing those other stories enough that you‘re complaining about. 

They wanted to watch that story.  And they did. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I just mean, don‘t believe these polls, because I think that a lot of people give the politically correct answer.  Of course I spend all my time watching the “Lehrer” hour.  I spend all my time watching—reading “The New York Times.” 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Drop it, OK?  People watch everything.  They‘re not that special. 

STAHL:  You think?

MATTHEWS:  And people are—yes, because I am.

Anyway, thank you, Lesley.

STAHL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great have you back, Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes.” 

STAHL:  Great to be back.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, the inspirational story of soldiers wounded in America‘s and how generations come together on the ice at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This week on HARDBALL, we‘ve been showing you some inspiring and transforming stories from the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic; 350 participants engaged in a variety of winter sports last week in Colorado.  And part of the camaraderie stems from the fact that the veterans span the ages. 

More now of our special coverage, “For the Brave.”  Here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This winter clinic is not just for veterans wounded in Iraq.  See that hockey player, red No. 10?  Here he is without the skates.  Joe Hineman is 82 years old.  He lost his left leg during World War II. 

JOE HINEMAN, WORLD WAR II THERE:  The mortar came in and, of course, it exploded in the trees and came down and hit me in the left thigh, a lot of shrapnel in the left thigh. 

SHUSTER:  Thanks to this annual event, Hineman learned to ski at age 70. 

HINEMAN:  What are we waiting for? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know.

SHUSTER:  And he started playing hockey three years ago at age 79. 

HINEMAN:  Sometimes, they run into you and knock you over and that kind of—it‘s kind of fun. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  Do you push them back and hit back?

HINEMAN:  Oh, yes.  You always try to push back, yes. 

SHUSTER:  Now, does anybody take any sympathy on you because you‘re older? 

HINEMAN:  Oh, no, no.  Oh, no, no. 

(LAUGHTER)

HINEMAN:  No, it‘s all part of the game. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Although it is not just a game. 

HINEMAN:  It keeps me thinking in positive terms about myself. 

SHUSTER:  And it‘s a lesson that is passed on from veteran to veteran. 

HINEMAN:  How is that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s good.  That‘s real good. 

HINEMAN:  That hockey player in red is Michael Kuhn.  In 1998, the former Navy man was injured in a car accident. 

DEB KUHN, MOTHER OF MICHAEL KUHN:  Michael was partially ejected and, unfortunately, he was in a coma for 13 days, traumatic brain injury. 

SHUSTER:  But, for three years, Michael has been coming to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.  The experiences here have helped his rehabilitation. 

D. KUHN:  Are you ready, Michael? 

SHUSTER:  And his self-esteem. 

TOM KUHN, FATHER OF MICHAEL KUHN:  Sled hockey today I think is probably the most fun he‘s had in a long, long time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, this is going to give you a lot of control. 

SHUSTER:  Not that skiing isn‘t enjoyable.  Michael is now doing that, too.  But, today, he is on the ice.  Michael Kuhn picked up a few assists and he scored a goal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good job, buddy.

GORDON MANSFIELD, V.A. DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY:  Try to show these folks that life goes on and all parts of life go on, and that they can—they can develop some abilities that will help him go forward. 

SHUSTER:  And, as these veterans work on their abilities, all they say they need is the right equipment, a little patience from the rest of us, and that we listen carefully. 

MICHAEL KUHN, DISABLED VETERAN:  So much fun. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  So much fun, indeed.  Congratulations and thank you. 

M. KUHN:  Thank you. 

SHUSTER:  Way to go, Michael.

(APPLAUSE)

SHUSTER:  As important as this week is to the participants, it is even more special to their families and caregivers.  We‘ll have their dramatic journeys tomorrow. 

I‘m David Shuster, MSNBC, in Snowmass Village, Colorado. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  If you would like more information on the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, go to va.gov or miracles.dav.org. 

Baseball is back in D.C., by the way.  And, tomorrow, HARDBALL takes the field for the Washington Nationals‘ home opener.  And we‘ll be joined by Senator John McCain, plus Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who threw no-hitters in both the National and American Leagues.

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

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,