Guest: G. Gordon Liddy, Ed Rogers, Jenny Backus, Evan Thomas, Richard Ben-Veniste
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Who was Deep Throat? Tonight, one of America‘s biggest political mysteries is solved, as Bob Woodward from “The Washington Post” confirms that a former FBI official was his anonymous source on the Watergate scandal, which led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Tonight, we close the final chapter of the Watergate scandal. Since 1972, one of the greatest topics of political conversation has been, who was Deep Throat? Bob Woodward‘s famous anonymous source took down Richard Nixon and crippled the Republican Party for years. And today, after 33 years, we now know the answer, 91-year-old Mark Felt, the number two man at the FBI during the Nixon administration.
He told “Vanity Fair” author John O‘Connor, “I‘m the guy they used to call Deep Throat.” And Bob Woodward has today confirmed it. Today, Deep Throat‘s grandson, Nick Jones, spoke of his grandfather as a national hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK JONES, GRANDSON OF W. MARK FELT: The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty, at much risk to himself, to save his country from a horrible injustice. We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well.
My grandfather is pleased that he is being honored for his role as Deep Throat with his friend Bob Woodward. Mark had expressed reservations in the past about revealing his identity and about whether his actions were appropriate for an FBI man. But, as he recently told my mother, I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal. But now they think he‘s a hero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is Mark Felt a hero? We‘ll get reaction from Pat Buchanan, as well as former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste and former Nixon aide Monica Crowley, who is now host of MSNBC‘s “CONNECTED COAST TO COAST.”
But, first President Bush held a news conference today and took some shots at Congress.
NBC White House correspondent David Gregory is at the White House.
David, why did he hold a press conference today?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he‘s been doing this on a monthly basis, Chris. And what you got a sense of today, as he made good on that promise to come out every month, is that he was in a mood to take on his critics.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Appearing in the Rose Garden today, the president sounded like a politician campaigning against Washington and particularly Congress, which lately has either stalled or set back his agenda.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My attitude towards Congress is—is—will be reflected on whether or not they are capable of getting anything done.
GREGORY: The president appeared to be criticizing both Democrats and Republicans when he spoke of John Bolton, his pick for U.N. ambassador.
BUSH: And so, I was disappointed that, once again, the leadership there in the Senate didn‘t give him an up-or-down vote.
GREGORY: Reporters challenged the president about whether he has got enough clout yet to muscle his Social Security plan through.
BUSH: I‘m not surprised that there‘s a reluctance and I‘m not surprised that there‘s been some initial pushback. Congress has a duty to come up with some solutions.
GREGORY: The president saved his sharpest attack for Amnesty International‘s recent report calling Guantanamo Bay prison the—quote—
“gulag of our times,” a charge the president called absurd.
BUSH: It seems like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of—and the allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble. That means not tell the truth.
GREGORY: The president insisted today that he‘s not worried about anything going on here in Washington. But, privately, Chris, aides admit to some frustration about the second-term agenda, which, in many ways, seems like it‘s increasingly stalled.
MATTHEWS: David, you know, watching the president‘s press conference live today, I was struck by the dichotomy between the difficulty of his agenda getting through and his sharpness of his mind. He seemed totally sharp today, but it was the agenda that seemed to be stalled.
GREGORY: Well, I think he‘s got the attack lines down and I think he
· he did do this to really put pressure on, not just Democrats, but Republicans, too.
But I must tell you, I felt it sounded a lot like a stump speech. All of the answers, there‘s a number of things that he sort of left on the floor, left unanswered. And this was an attempt to shake things up. I think it‘s an attempt to really prod Congress into believing that he does have enough clout and to warn them that, look, I‘m going to campaign against you while I‘m still president on Social Security and on this notion of a do-nothing Congress. I will try to, you know, accuse you of that if you don‘t start to move.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about some of the possible differences between what he said and what‘s going on out there. We heard from Jim Maceda, our colleague from over in Baghdad, this morning that things are not going very swimmingly over there, that the so-called Operation Lightning is not really taking effect as advertised. It‘s Americans who are doing, as Jim reported today, the heavy lifting over there, the really difficult assignments and going into those areas where they really don‘t like us.
And we are not really seeing a strong performance by the Iraqi security forces, the 40,000 of them that were supposedly unleashed in the last several days to secure Baghdad. The president sounded, however, today as if they are quite capable of performing that task.
GREGORY: Right. I mean, I thought he left a little bit of room there by saying that the Iraqi government will be capable of dealing with this insurgency.
But I also don‘t think he addressed what a lot of people are starting to worry about. And that is the prospect of a civil war, which has been a concern from the very beginning and whether a new Iraqi government, democratically elected yes—and that‘s laudable—that‘s important. We talk about the freedom movement going on in the Middle East. But will they be powerful enough to actually keep this insurgency at bay and is the—is the country beginning to come apart at all, with American forces still on the leading edge? So, I think—I think that‘s right.
I mean, I think there is a kind of reality check here that I don‘t know that the president is going far enough to deal with. His argument is, look, things don‘t happen as quickly as a lot of Americans may want, as those in the news media may want, but there is real, demonstrable progress here.
MATTHEWS: David, was there any reaction to the big story today? I hate to say that your story was bounced aside.
GREGORY: No. I agree.
MATTHEWS: But the big story was Deep Throat. Any reaction to the fact it was Mark Felt, a serving official of the federal government, who broke the Watergate story under Nixon?
GREGORY: You know, I was a little bit surprised. I poked around on this, this afternoon, Chris. And there was not a lot of conversation about it. I think there were those who are probably having a pretty good discussion about it, including those who were around at the time, those who followed this very closely.
You think about Karl Rove as somebody who during that era was working at the Republican National Committee. And it certainly shaped the lives of a lot of young Republicans, who came out of that and tried to rebuild the Republican Party, so not a lot that was being shared publicly. It goes back to a point that I think Tom Brokaw made today, which is, on any given day in Washington, there‘s a lot more going on than we are able to get our hands around. And that speaks to the importance of what Woodward and Bernstein and “The Washington Post” did by having somebody like a Mark Felt to give the American public some real insight into what was happening.
MATTHEWS: Well, I can imagine they don‘t want to go back and think about Watergate again.
GREGORY: Yes. Right.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not exactly a movable feast for Republicans.
GREGORY: Yes. Right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, David Gregory at the White House.
GREGORY: OK, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan was a longtime Nixon aide and loyalist. He still is. He‘s now an MSNBC political contributor. Evan Thomas is the assistant manager editor of “Newsweek” magazine. And Monica Crowley is a former Nixon aide. She is now the host of MSNBC‘s “CONNECTED COAST TO COAST.”
Evan, historically, the importance of Deep Throat?
EVAN THOMAS, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: Huge and relevant today in so many ways. That was the beginning of the end of executive power.
When Deep Throat started talking to Bob Woodward, that was the beginning of something—really a tectonic shift. The executive branch lost power. The White House lost power. It was the beginning of the rise of the counterestablishment, the press, “The Washington Post,” congressional investigators, special prosecutors. We had about three decades of that. Bush now is trying to swing it back.
I mean, that‘s very much—I think that‘s what the Bush presidency is about, actually, is pushing back against all those people who were chewing at their ankles for the last 30 years. All the—all the—all the journalists, all the prosecutors, all the lawyers, get rid of them.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have got a pair of the ankles right here, Pat Buchanan.
MATTHEWS: Pat, when you were in the White House working and writing speeches and being communications expert for Richard Nixon, what was your view of “The Washington Post”‘s coverage and all the stuff they were breaking thanks to Deep Throat?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the—when I was in the White House, “The Washington Post” was naturally and correctly considered the enemy, as Teddy White said, of the White House, as was CBS News. We knew who we were at war with. It wasn‘t Mike Mansfield, for heaven sakes.
And that was our view of “The Washington Post.” But about Felt, I think what he did is deeply dishonorable and shameful. Here is an individual who has taken an oath and who is part of a major investigation, who is running around, sneaking around at night leaking things to damage the president of the United States in the middle of a campaign. And I don‘t see what is heroic about someone who did that.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t the FBI responsible for law enforcement?
BUCHANAN: They are certainly responsible for law enforcement. They were investigating the material. The decision as to what is taken to a grand jury and who is indicted is the U.S. attorney‘s. And they are under an obligation not to leak that.
J. Edgar Hoover, in the course of investigation, found out that a mafia chief, Giancana, and Jack Kennedy were sharing a mistress. If he had given that to “The Chicago Tribune,” it would have been a shameful, discreditable, disgraceful act. And he should have been fired for it, even though he had uncovered it. They have got obligations when they are investigating these things to maintain the oath they have been—taken.
And Mark Felt did not do it. And I will tell you why he didn‘t do it.
MATTHEWS: Did not do what?
BUCHANAN: He didn‘t—I mean, or he did that. He leaked this material. He did it because they were bitter and resentful at the FBI after May, when we appointed L. Patrick Gray to be director, completely from the outside.
And the leadership there thought that, after—after Hoover had gone, since the 1920s, he would get—one of them would get the leadership and we had put somebody in charge. I think it was payback on the part of Mr. Felt. He was later indicted and convicted of a matter which I thought he should not have been. He was pardoned by Ronald Reagan. But to say he‘s a hero, I think it‘s being said simply because the man he was after was Richard Nixon.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look, Pat—excuse me.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at some of the file pictures of Mark Felt from the late 1970s. That‘s him there.
Do you remember this fellow?
BUCHANAN: Yes. Well, I defended him in columns when he was indicted and convicted. There‘s a picture of him...
MATTHEWS: What was he convicted for?
BUCHANAN: He was convicted of—they were conducting basically black bag jobs, I believe, against Vietnam protesters without warrants. And there‘s a famous picture of Felt and Miller on the stairs, I think it‘s of a New York courthouse, where 300 FBI agents, Chris, are standing beside them after they were convicted.
And I remember writing a very strong column saying, this man ought to be pardoned. This is shameful. He was acting in the interests of his country.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back—let‘s go back to the Watergate break-in.
MATTHEWS: And the Nixon cover-up in those tapes, the famous June 23 tape.
MATTHEWS: Nixon and Haldeman are talking, chatting away here about Mark Felt, the very guy who ended up being Deep Throat.
MATTHEWS: And they say, Mark Felt wants to cooperate with the Nixon people, because, yes, he‘s ambitious. So, they saw him as something of a suck-up, someone who was going to help your crowd in the White House...
MATTHEWS: ... deal with this matter of covering it up.
BUCHANAN: All right. I will say this.
MATTHEWS: So you guys at the time, Haldeman and the president, thought Felt was one of your guys.
BUCHANAN: Well, Haldeman...
MATTHEWS: It turns out, he was not one of your guys. He was one of Bob Woodward‘s guys.
BUCHANAN: Well, right.
BUCHANAN: But they were obviously—what were they ticked off about? Felt didn‘t get the leadership. L. Patrick Gray was named acting director of the FBI.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but this says, in real time...
MATTHEWS: ... after Gray got the acting directorship, it shows that Mark Felt here was working for you guys.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re—you‘re knocking him now, but back then you thought he was one of your loyalists.
BUCHANAN: I didn‘t know Felt. But, obviously, they thought he was a loyalist. They were mistaken.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Monica Crowley, who knows so much about Richard Nixon‘s mind-set.
I remember reading your wonderful book that you wrote about Richard Nixon, the one you wrote right after he passed away, about how he had the idea that Watergate, the sleuths, Haldeman and Bernstein, had a real guy. He wasn‘t a composite. He thought—Nixon thought there was a real guy who was Deep Throat.
MONICA CROWLEY, CO-HOST, “CONNECTED: COAST TO COAST”: Exactly right, Chris.
I mean, he and I had long conversations about Watergate over the course of the four years that I worked for him, from 1990 until his death in ‘94. And he was able to look at Watergate with great introspection, I think. And the burden of what had happened, he carried with him every day. When he talked about Deep Throat, he always, Chris, always referred to him as the source. He would never refer to him as Deep Throat, which was the moniker that Woodward and Bernstein had given to the source.
And he did believe that it was a single character. It was one—one individual with vindictive motives. As Pat Buchanan pointed out now about Mark Felt, he had these vindictive motives, that he was not promoted to head of the FBI. Nixon believed it was somebody with vindictive motives, perhaps somebody who wanted advancement in either media or the government and thought that, by leaking this information to “The Washington Post,” could advance their own career.
MATTHEWS: So, Nixon was wrong because...
MATTHEWS: Nixon was wrong there, because Nixon thought it was somebody who was going to try to get—to get in with the media by giving them all this dirt on him and thereby get ahead and build some sort of career in the media. He was wrong about that part, right?
And I also think—you know, well, he said that he—it was not a composite. And, also, he entertained the idea that perhaps Deep Throat did not exist at all, but was rather a literary device being used by Woodward and Bernstein to advance their story. He rejected that as well, ultimately.
But you know what was so interesting, Chris? When I was talking to
him during the last years of his life and he was really looking back with -
· with great emotion over Watergate, he really believed that Deep Throat had been incredibly disloyal. And when he grappled with potential names—and he would throw out a name or two at me and we would bandy it about a little bit—he would always say no, no, no, it could not have been him, it could not have been her. They were too loyal.
So, this whole idea that somebody in his administration who was serving at the pleasure of president would be that disloyal to him, as well as to the institution of the presidency, was something he could not even wrap his mind around, even in his last days.
MATTHEWS: We are going to come back and talk to Pat Buchanan, Monica Crowley, Evan Thomas. And we‘ve got much more. What a great trio to tell us from so many different perspectives about Deep Throat, the number two man at the FBI, Mark Felt. He is out. Bob Woodward has said, he‘s the man. He‘s Deep Throat.
And, at 9:00 Eastern tonight, a special edition of HARDBALL, “Deep Throat Revealed.” Our guest one will include Tom Brokaw and Robert Redford, the man who played Bob Woodward, famously, in “All the President‘s Men.” Bob Woodward is going to be joining us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ALL THE PRESIDENT‘S MEN”)
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: The story has stalled on us.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And you thought I would help?
REDFORD: I will never quote you. I wouldn‘t quote you even as an anonymous source. You would be on deep background. You can trust me. You know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a scoop. Coming up, after more than 30 years, the most intriguing political mystery of our time is solved, with the announcement that former FBI officer Mark Felt was Deep Throat.
HARDBALL returns this.
MATTHEWS: We are back here.
We‘re talking about the—obviously, the big story today, if anybody loves politics in America and has sides to take in the whole Watergate mater.
Pat Buchanan, bad guy, good guy, Mark Felt?
BUCHANAN: I think he‘s a snake.
Look, here‘s a guy who—as I say, he‘s a leader in the FBI and he is sneaking around moving flower pots around, leaking information from an investigation. What did Woodward and Bernstein get? They didn‘t break Watergate. They got the story of Segretti and the pizzas and all this other stuff. And here‘s Mark Felt doing that. I have always thought it was Felt the last 20 years, Chris, when people named me or Haig or Ziegler or Gergen, these people were loyal. And the individual that did this...
MATTHEWS: Did that bug you, that people thought you were the guy?
BUCHANAN: No. I thought it was stupid. There was a whole class in Illinois that studied this for a year and all 30 of them came to the conclusion it was me, when I told them I had given up cigarettes when I was in Peking months before it.
MATTHEWS: We had a life preserver of objectivity sitting here. So, let‘s take advantage of him.
Evan, you had no role with Nixon. Let me ask you this. Is this a big front-page story for “Newsweek” this week? Is this big-time?
THOMAS: I think it is a big story. I mean, I don‘t know how we will play it.
But there‘s a huge curiosity about this, endless guessing games, articles written. He is one of these kind of iconic figures.
MATTHEWS: This has freed up a lot of guys like Pat here, hasn‘t it?
THOMAS: I never suspected Pat.
MATTHEWS: A lot of guys are off the witness—off the—the—the suspect list here.
BUCHANAN: Chris, there‘s something deadly serious.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think you were ever on the list either.
BUCHANAN: There‘s deadly—something deadly serious here. People that brought down Nixon also resulted in the fall of South Vietnam, the death of hundreds of thousands of people.
MATTHEWS: The people that brought down Nixon were the burglars and the cover-up guys, not the journalists who exposed it and not Mark Felt.
BUCHANAN: Listen, the guy...
MATTHEWS: The perpetrators commit the crime, not the guys who catch them.
THOMAS: Nixon brought down Nixon.
BUCHANAN: The people who brought down—Nixon was brought down by people who were a hell of a lot worse than he was.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s a theory.
Anyway, thank you, Monica Crowley. Thank you for bringing us your incredible background on this. And I think your book was absolutely delightful.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: About the Nixon last years.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Evan, as always.
In a moment, reaction to the news that Mark Felt is Deep Throat from Richard Ben-Veniste. There‘s no friend of Richard Nixon. He was chief of the Watergate task force in the special prosecutor‘s office.
And, later, a 9:00 p.m. HARDBALL special edition tonight on Deep Throat.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Richard Ben-Veniste was the chief of the Watergate task force of the Watergate special prosecutor‘s office from 1973 through 1975.
Pat Buchanan, Richard, says that the real villains of Watergate were the ones who caught Nixon.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION: Well, of course he would. His team lost. It‘s absurd to listen to guys say now tonight that—that Mark Felt was disloyal to Richard Nixon.
Just get your arms around that. The deputy director of the FBI, who provides information that the FBI itself is being corrupted by the president of the United States, the deputy director of CIA sent to the FBI chief to tell...
MATTHEWS: Vernon Walters, right.
BEN-VENISTE: To tell L. Patrick Gray, stop the investigation. You‘re treading on national security interests in Mexico. All bogus. A lie.
And so, all of that, all the efforts to corrupt the CIA and the FBI came to naught when the plot unraveled. They weren‘t the only agencies. There were—the IRS. All of the other abuses which John Mitchell called the White House horrors, all unraveled little by little. But the start of it was Woodward and Bernstein with a lot of help backstage from somebody who knew where to look.
MATTHEWS: Woodward and Bernstein with the help of Deep Throat, Mark Felt, John Dean testifying early on in the Watergate investigations in the Senate. The tapes came out, of course. What was the key?
BEN-VENISTE: Ultimately, the irrefutable evidence were the tapes. You had John Dean laying it all out. He became the most corroborated witness in the history of the United States.
MATTHEWS: The tapes matched the testimony.
BEN-VENISTE: Absolutely, word for word. He did not exaggerate anything. If anything, he understated the case.
MATTHEWS: Would Nixon have served out his two-term presidency had there not been a major effort by “The Washington Post” to crack this story?
BEN-VENISTE: I don‘t he—I think he would have, clearly. I think he would have served out his presidency, although injured, if the tapes had not been disclosed, if we had not been able to get the tapes through the courts, through the special prosecutor‘s efforts, through—or subpoenas and Judge Sirica upholding them, all the way up through the Supreme Court.
MATTHEWS: Give me an ethical—ethical assessment. What‘s the role of a deputy director of the FBI in the course of a major national scandal?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, when the director of the FBI is involved in corruption, is involved in listening to the requests that he not pursue an investigation, then the deputy director is in a tough spot. Whistle-blowers are exceedingly important where corruption at high levels of government is going on. And there‘s no other way of finding out.
MATTHEWS: Was Deep Throat the whistle-blower of the century?
BEN-VENISTE: I‘d say so.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Richard Ben-Veniste.
In a moment, the president chastises Congress and says the request for documents in the John Bolton case are just stalling tactics.
And tomorrow, on HARDBALL, author John Harris and his new book, “The Survivor,” what a new book, what a powerful new book, evenhanded book on Bill Clinton‘s years in the White House.
And, don‘t forget, at 9:00 Eastern tonight, a special edition of HARDBALL, “Deep Throat Revealed.”
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In a wide-ranging Rose Garden press conference today, President Bush addressed issues both foreign and domestic. He also leveled a tough criticism of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Oh, I know, I‘ve read about so and so, you know, We‘re not
going to talk about this, and we‘re going to throw down this marker. But
in the meantime, the people are watching Washington, and nothing‘s
happening, except you got a president who‘s willing to talk about the issue
· and a president who, by the way, is going to keep talking about the issue until we get people to the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The president also dismissed Democratic demands for more documents on his U.N. nominee, John Bolton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Now, in terms of the request for documents, I view that as just another stall tactic, another way to delay, another way to not allow Bolton to get an up-or-down vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jenny Backus is a Democratic strategist and Ed Rogers is a Republican strategist. He worked in the first Bush White House.
ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: The Congress is away, the mice will play.
MATTHEWS: Not that the president is a mouse. But didn‘t he clearly -
· taking a shot at the Democratic—the Democrats in Congress? They are away on vacation.
MATTHEWS: He holds a press conference and says, those guys are not doing their job.
ROGERS: Good communication strategy by the White House. Congress is out of town. They have got the stage to themselves. Let the president get out there, reorient things, restate his priorities.
And, yes, he was gracious. He didn‘t name names. But when he attacked Congress, the Republicans are not the problem. It‘s the Democrats, particularly the Democrats in the Senate, that are stalling anything from happening in Washington today.
MATTHEWS: Jenny, your thought?
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that this was a panic press conference.
The president woke up this morning and he read a very good piece in “The Washington Post” by Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei, which basically said the guy is a lame duck. He‘s not getting stuff done. You get him out here today. He‘s testy, testy, testy. He obviously did not take his happy pills. And he goes out and he...
MATTHEWS: Stop right there, because I love this total analysis here. I thought he was very sharp today, but he may have been intellectually—how did you take it?
ROGERS: In charge, sharp, but had an edge to him.
ROGERS: There was some frustration that he‘s entitled to.
BACKUS: Entitled to?
ROGERS: I‘m glad that came through.
ROGERS: I mean, the same people that were saying he wasn‘t going to win reelection are now saying he‘s a lame duck. In Washington...
MATTHEWS: Is he a lame duck, Jenny?
MATTHEWS: Are you saying that?
BACKUS: I‘m saying...
ROGERS: Too many people want to measure winners and losers by the week. Let‘s wait.
BACKUS: Wait. No, no, no, no.
ROGERS: The president is doing just fine.
BACKUS: No, let‘s...
MATTHEWS: You raised the—you raised the lame duck issue. Deal with it. Is he a lame duck or does he still have clout in this town?
BACKUS: No, he does have clout in this town.
But I think that‘s the whole issue here. He doesn‘t want to take responsibility. This is a president who ducks from responsibility faster than you can see it.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s do—let‘s deal with this point by point, because we only have a few minutes.
The president said today that he thinks the Iraqi government will be up to the task of defeating the insurgents. Now, we at NBC just heard from Jim Maceda this morning, reporting from Baghdad, that, apparently, all the heavy lifting, as he put it over there, in terms of this effort to try to clean up and protect Baghdad, is being done by Americans, not by Iraqis.
ROGERS: Well, I think that‘s probably true. But it‘s less true today than it will be tomorrow, and etcetera, etcetera. Yes, it‘s Iraqi. Don‘t just hope for the worst.
BACKUS: No, I‘m not hoping for the worst.
ROGERS: As more and more Iraqi troops and personnel are coming online. And the dirty little secret about the insurgency in Iraq right now, the mayhem is fueled by individual suicide bombers. If we can beat that problem, we have beat the biggest bulk of the problem.
BACKUS: You cannot get your story straight in Iraq. First, it‘s like, Osama bin Laden is secretly planning everything in Iraq.
ROGERS: Nobody ever said that. Come on.
BACKUS: All of your commentators...
ROGERS: On Tim‘s show, be serious.
BACKUS: Well, first of all, it‘s Chris‘ show.
ROGERS: Chris‘ show.
BACKUS: But the second point is that I think that this administration does not have a plan to get us out of Iraq. They are just like the president is making it up as he goes along in the news conference today.
BACKUS: They‘re making it up as they go along. I‘m from a state—
I‘m from a state—I‘m from...
ROGERS: They‘ve had an election. They‘ve had an election.
BACKUS: Oh, come on, Ed.
ROGERS: There‘s a government now taking power. Give them a chance.
BACKUS: I have.
MATTHEWS: Still, it‘s murky over there.
Let me ask you about—you said the administration does not have a plan to get us out of Iraq. Hard charge. Do the Democrats on Capitol Hill have a plan to save Social Security? Do they? And, if so, what is it?
BACKUS: Well, I think the plan to save Social Security starts with a commitment to, like, reducing the deficit. I mean, that‘s what—if we don‘t—I don‘t think the Democrats need a plan to save Social Security, because, right now, Social Security is a lot stronger than the situation in Iraq is.
ROGERS: That‘s good. They are in denial. The Democrats, they don‘t have any plan.
BACKUS: Talk to the...
MATTHEWS: So, you don‘t have a plan.
BACKUS: ... to the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: The president has a plan.
BACKUS: Lindsey Graham has one plan. DeMint has the another.
ROGERS: You‘re opposition for opposition‘s sake, gratuitous opposition on every single thing. And that is not going to sustain them into the next election.
BACKUS: That is the most ridiculous thing.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s move on here.
ROGERS: Ultimately, they‘ve got to have a plan for something.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s getting very bicker—bickersome here.
MATTHEWS: But let me...
ROGERS: Not me. She started it.
MATTHEWS: I shouldn‘t be surprised.
I want to talk about John Bolton, who is the president...
MATTHEWS: He has a plan for the U.N., John Bolton.
MATTHEWS: Is the Democratic Party opposed to John Bolton‘s nomination and confirmation to the United Nations?
MATTHEWS: As a party?
BACKUS: As a party, yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are they pretending that it‘s only a—they only want more information?
BACKUS: They are not pretending that they are...
MATTHEWS: They were saying that...
BACKUS: They are joining...
MATTHEWS: Their public posture is, they want more information.
MATTHEWS: Now, you‘re revealing here that they are really against his nomination...
BACKUS: Well, of course they...
MATTHEWS: And seeking more information is simply a ploy.
BACKUS: No. That‘s your—well, that‘s your characterization of what I said.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you again. I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS: Jenny, let me ask you again.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe—do the Democrats want Bolton confirmed as U.N. ambassador or not?
BACKUS: Do Democrats across this country? No.
MATTHEWS: No, no. Do Senators? Do they want him confirmed or not?
BACKUS: The Senate Democrats, I think there‘s a large percentage that do not want him. And there are some that still have questions that are out there that are not answered yet.
And that‘s the problem with this administration. What is this president afraid of? Why won‘t he send—why won‘t he send this information down?
BACKUS: If his nominee is just as strong...
MATTHEWS: Let Ed respond.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president will offer up more documentation to get this nomination confirmed?
ROGERS: In exchange for the vote, I wish he would.
MATTHEWS: Guaranteed up-or-down.
ROGERS: A guaranteed up-and-down, I wish he would. Maybe I‘m not where the White House is on this.
MATTHEWS: You‘re where John McCain is.
ROGERS: But I want...
MATTHEWS: McCain, John McCain has said, let the leaders look at some of this.
ROGERS: I want John Bolton at the U.N. sooner, rather than later. And if it‘s a few more documents to get them to shut up and let there be a vote, so be it.
Next question. I really did go through the president‘s press conference today. We have proceeded well here, despite the arguing. Iraq was an issue, whether it‘s a situation under control over there or not. Social Security, do the Democrats have a plan or not? Third, is Bolton being opposed by the Democrats? As the president said today, he was struggling. It‘s a stalling tactic , leaning toward a filibuster. He wasn‘t sure how to describe it.
Now, here‘s the hot question. We all expect a Supreme Court nomination some time this summer, assuming the bad health will not get better of Justice Rehnquist, the chief justice. The president was open to the idea, it seemed to me, of consultation with the senators before he sends up a name.
ROGERS: Clearly, in the press conference, he was ready for that question. He had his talking points in order about how he does consult with the Senate, how he does seek their advice.
I think he was offering an olive branch there in that regard. And, sure. They are not going to spring a Supreme Court nominee on everybody. And they are going to consult. But, having said that, I think we are headed for a filibuster, whoever it is. The Democrats...
MATTHEWS: On the Supreme Court?
ROGERS: The Democrats are so captive of their special interest groups and they are so committed to raising funds and sustaining themselves to whatever power they have, that they are not going to along with a Bush appointee.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that Senate Democrats are independent of the pressure groups?
BACKUS: Do I think so? Absolutely. Look at the seven of them who went and cut a deal. I mean, I personally don‘t—I personally in my heart of hearts don‘t agree with the deal that they cut.
ROGERS: Good for you.
BACKUS: There are some...
MATTHEWS: You believe that they should be loyal to the pressure groups?
ROGERS: I think—no, I don‘t think it‘s the pressure groups. I think the bottom line is, we have got to be a party of...
MATTHEWS: Well, the People For the American Way...
MATTHEWS: Should the People For the American Way be able to dictate a filibuster?
BACKUS: I think Priscilla Owen was a terrible judge.
BACKUS: I think Janice Rogers Brown is a terrible judge.
MATTHEWS: Well, why didn‘t the Democrats vote against them, then?
BACKUS: Well, I wish they did. I‘m just telling you, I disagreed with them.
MATTHEWS: But you say the Democrats—you support the filibuster.
In other words, you don‘t want to have an up-or-down vote.
BACKUS: I don‘t want an up-or-down vote, because I want to stop them any...
MATTHEWS: So, you don‘t want to have Democrats vote against Priscilla Owen. You want them to stop the nomination?
BACKUS: I think they are bad enough that you want to keep them off the bench. But to go to the point on the Supreme Court...
MATTHEWS: Is there any nominee now that you can imagine for the Supreme Court by this president that would not be worthy of extraordinary treatment and therefore rejection by—by filibuster?
BACKUS: I think—I—here‘s what I...
MATTHEWS: Suppose Justice Scalia were put up chief justice.
MATTHEWS: Associate justice were put up for chief justice. Do you believe the Congress should filibuster him?
BACKUS: Yes, I do. This is a guy that wants...
MATTHEWS: Do you think Sandra Day O‘Connor should be filibustered if she is up for chief justice?
BACKUS: I don‘t know. No.
MATTHEWS: Should Clarence Thomas be filibustered?
BACKUS: Well, can I go back?
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you. I‘m trying to figure out how many people should be filibustered. Clarence Thomas?
BACKUS: Because if you look at, first of all, his temperament outside the court, you look at some of the decisions that he‘s made, you look at some of the decisions he‘s made inside Bush v. Gore, you look at some of the decisions he‘s made, I think I have a different interpretation of—I don‘t want him running the court. I don‘t think he has the right interpretations of what we want to do.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like we have got a filibuster coming up.
BACKUS: No, no. Let me finish this question. You go back to consult
· consultation. This president has not consulted. This president has tried to jam the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Why should he ask Barbara Boxer who they want to be the next Supreme Court justice?
MATTHEWS: I mean, let‘s be honest here.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Why should he ask Barbara—why should he ask the lefties on Capitol Hill what they think, when he knows they will oppose everybody he puts up there?
BACKUS: That‘s—first of all, that‘s your characterization, not mine. How do you know?
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you. Name some people that he would—that you don‘t will be filibustered.
BACKUS: I don‘t know. I‘ve got to see who he would put forward. He hasn‘t shown that. He tried to jam the Senate by putting up people that they rejected last time.
BACKUS: This president is only going to consult with the radical right wing on judges. Let‘s not kid ourselves.
ROGERS: That‘s a talking point from the election that didn‘t work.
MATTHEWS: I think we‘ve got the tone here.
BACKUS: I just watched him put 10 judges...
MATTHEWS: Coming up, President Bush‘s—Bush slams a report by Amnesty International that accused the United States, basically, of running a gulag, like the Soviet Union. He calls it absurd.
We‘ll be back with Ed Rogers and Jenny Backus.
And, later, G. Gordon Liddy reacts to the disclosure today that Deep Throat was former FBI official Mark Felt.
And, at 9:00 Eastern tonight, a special edition of HARDBALL, “Deep Throat Revealed.” That‘s tonight at 9:00, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that, in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I‘m not a crook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We are back with Ed Rogers and Jenny Backus.
Was Watergate, the crime of Watergate, the cover-up, which we discovered all about today because of finding out exactly who Deep Throat was, was Watergate a partisan crime? Was it an ideological time? Or could it have been committed by either party?
ROGERS: There was certainly partisan fallout. In 1974, after Ford had assumed the presidency, in those midterm elections, the Republican Party was dealt a blow that it felt for 20 years.
MATTHEWS: Up until Reagan and Newt Gingrich.
ROGERS: More than 20 years. Yes.
MATTHEWS: It seemed to me it took a long time for the Republicans to regain the momentum they had established in ‘68.
ROGERS: Gingrich finally exorcised Watergate from the Republican system.
BACKUS: Well, I think—and—and it‘s funny from my perspective. One of the messages I have been trying to work on with my party that may come back again is, there is a narrative that the American people get to a certain point where they get fed up with Washington and that—what‘s happening in Washington.
And they think people break the rules in Washington. That‘s a legacy I think that‘s left over from Watergate. I think that could, if the Democrats play their tactical cards right, that could come back now, maybe with what‘s happening with DeLay, but more sort of the sense that one party‘s controlling all the rules and they‘re bending the rules and breaking them.
BACKUS: I think there was some impact...
MATTHEWS: Do you some parties—or do you think presidents of either party show a pattern of being more honest than the other?
I just go through the most recent president we‘ve all been through, Clinton, Bush Sr., Carter. Is there any pattern of one party being more honest than the other, if you look at it objectively?
ROGERS: Well, there‘s certainly a spike in the dishonesty quotient around the Clinton presidency.
BACKUS: Oh, please.
ROGERS: As a matter of fact,...
BACKUS: Oh, come on.
ROGERS: As a matter of fact...
ROGERS: The notion, the nation that George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush ,the senior, was somehow in an...
MATTHEWS: And you really believe we went to war over WMD?
MATTHEWS: Do you really believe WMD was the reason we went to war?
ROGERS: Do I think believe that he was sincere and he believed it?
MATTHEWS: Yes, the president did.
BACKUS: Oh, please.
MATTHEWS: How about the people that fed it to him? Did they believe it?
BACKUS: WMD—like, that you can balance the budget and raise taxes?
ROGERS: The notion that Bill Clinton was anything other than an outrider among American presidents and the integrity...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the most honest president we‘ve had in 50 years, most honest, absolutely the most honest?
ROGERS: George Bush the father.
MATTHEWS: Who is your candidate?
MATTHEWS: Most honest president in 50 years.
BACKUS: Most honest president in 50 years?
BACKUS: FDR. Is that still 50?
MATTHEWS: You missed it.
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s not 50. I hate to break it you, but try—OK.
How about—you are not going to give me Carter, even.
Anyway, thank you, Ed Rogers and Jenny Backus.
When we come back, former Watergate burglar and radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy joins us to talk about the big revelation today that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.
And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 7, 1974)
TOM BROKAW, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It is clear that President Nixon is actively considering resignation. White House theories on just what he will to and when are a dime a dozen tonight. Only this much is certain. Richard Nixon will make that decision. And until he does, he still is president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Tom Brokaw reporting at the White House for NBC News back in 1974. Tom will be my guest at 9:00 Eastern for a special edition of HARDBALL, “Deep Throat Revealed.”
But, first, the name G. Gordon Liddy conjures up political images that have haunted and entertained Americans for years, from being one of the most colorful characters in the Watergate scandal to hosting his own radio talk show. Liddy is still as fiery and controversial as ever and certainly as much as he was 30 years ago.
Welcome. How is that for a buildup?
G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That is a great buildup, Chris.
MATTHEWS: So, there‘s life after Watergate, Gordon?
LIDDY: There certainly is. There‘s great life after Watergate.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, who did you think it was all these years?
LIDDY: I thought it was a composite. I still think it was a composite.
There‘s several things about the story that don‘t add up. One, Woodward wrote about how Deep Throat, he had a long friendship with Deep Throat. There‘s no evidence that he ever had any kind of friendship with Mark Felt. Secondly, why would the number two man at the FBI chose to confide in a young metro reporter for “The Washington Post” who had only been there for nine months?
Three, Deep Throat is given credit by Woodward with the story of the destruction of the tape. How would Mark Felt have known about that? On the other side of the coin, Mark Felt would have known about the FBI‘s investigation into the call girl ring that was being run out of the Columbia Plaza apartment. And that, of course, was the connection and that is what was being spied upon. Why wouldn‘t he have told Woodward and why wouldn‘t Woodward have reported it?
MATTHEWS: Because he didn‘t believe that was the case.
LIDDY: Well, if he didn‘t, he was ignoring a tremendous amount of evidence.
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking at the—at the notorious smoking gun tape of June 23, 1972, when Richard Nixon is trying to figure out who the hell broke into the Watergate, because he‘s about to go down for this guy.
He says, well, who was that? I can‘t use the word on television, but you can figure out, if anybody is watching, worst possible word you use about some guy. Is it Liddy? Is it that fellow? He must be a little nuts.
LIDDY: Yes, I remember that.
MATTHEWS: Well, the question is, were you operating under the instructions of Richard Nixon when you broke into the Watergate?
LIDDY: No. Absolutely not.
I was recruited for the operation by John Dean. As a matter of fact, when I sent my material forward, you know, the get from the wiretaps, I gave it to Mitchell, whom I was told was supposed to be getting it. And it would come back to me with notations on it and the initials J.D., for John Dean.
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you?
LIDDY: Well, it tells me it was a Dean operation. And I know why it was a Dean operation. And that goes back to what we were talking about before.
MATTHEWS: Why did Nixon cover it up, then? Why did he owe Dean the cover-up that would cost him his administration?
LIDDY: Well, Dean—I told Dean exactly what had happened when it went south.
And I expected him to tell his client, the president, so the president would know. He didn‘t tell him for nine months. So, here is the president, just as you accurately described. He‘s casting about, talking to other people, saying, who did this? What happened?
And John Dean, who knows exactly what happened, doesn‘t tell him for nine months.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Richard Nixon and what you know and have been able to piece together for this last third of a century. You were the Watergate burglar. You went down. You kept the secrets, right?
MATTHEWS: You have showed your will, your willpower, as you said in your book.
LIDDY: Well, you know, any damn fool can keep his mouth shut. That doesn‘t take a lot of talent.
Richard Nixon, the year before the Watergate break-in, called and told his staff, chief, H.R. Haldeman, go break into the Brookings Institution and get some stuff out of that related to the Pentagon Papers. After the Watergate break-in, a week later, he said, break in the Republican headquarters and make it look like both sides do it. Richard Nixon was capable of ordering break-inside, but he didn‘t order this one, right?
LIDDY: Actually, the one on the Brookings Institution was at my urging. As a matter of fact, we had planned the Brookings Institution thing. And the only thing it wasn‘t done, we were told, was that the fire engine we were going to use was too expensive. They didn‘t want to buy a fire engine and leave it there.
But with respect to break-inside, four times, somebody—and I don‘t suspect the Socialist Workers Party—tried to break into our thing. Our defenses were better.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But it doesn‘t—well, what does it tell you, that Richard Nixon did order break-ins? Does it tell you that he might have ordered the Watergate break-in?
LIDDY: Well, he didn‘t. He didn‘t. He didn‘t order, remember, the Brookings Institution. That was turned down.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he did. I read the tapes. He did tell Haldeman he wanted the place broken into. He wanted it broken into between 8:00 and 9:00. I sat and listened to the tapes. I broke that story many years ago.
LIDDY: If he did that, then why did they tell us...
MATTHEWS: And Chuck Colson has confirmed that he was sitting in the room when Nixon ordered the break-in of the Brookings.
LIDDY: Well, then why did they tell us...
MATTHEWS: This is in ‘71.
LIDDY: Then, why did they tell us they wouldn‘t do it?
I mean, I planned that. I planned the Brookings break-in. And we had the whole plan. And it came back to us and they said, no, it is too expensive. Don‘t do it. So, we didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Well, he had—I can tell you, in 1971, he was organized the break-in of the Brookings.
Let me ask you about the whole thing. What does Watergate mean to you right now, as the burglar?
LIDDY: Well, it‘s...
MATTHEWS: Was it Nixon‘s fault?
LIDDY: No. But what it was, was Dean‘s fault and the—what it means to...
MATTHEWS: He was counsel to the president at the time. And you say he ordered the break-in.
LIDDY: What it means to me is that, you have had this big scandal, major event in American political history. And they have got it all wrong in the history books as to what was going on and why.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you a question.
MATTHEWS: This is the key question for every historian.
You are on the inside. You were the burglar.
MATTHEWS: If Richard Nixon had said, after learning about the Watergate break-in, hey, look, I‘ve done a lot of dirty things in my life, I didn‘t do this one, I‘m not lifting a finger to protect those burglars, I‘m not lifting a finger to protect anybody involved in it, would he have gotten off?
LIDDY: Yes. And that‘s what he should have done.
MATTHEWS: He should have not taken the fall?
LIDDY: Yes. He should have done exactly what you have said. That would have been the, first of all, accurate thing to do, secondly, the politically smart thing to do. I mean, you have been in this town long enough. You know that.
MATTHEWS: What made him feel the compassion or the guilt or the cover-your-rear-end mentality to make him cover up for a crime he didn‘t know about?
LIDDY: He didn‘t know about it. And he was just confused about the whole thing.
MATTHEWS: So, his instinct was to cover it up?
LIDDY: Yes. I think that...
MATTHEWS: Order the FBI—order the CIA to cover it up by saying to the FBI, this is our operation?
LIDDY: Dean suggested that to Haldeman, who suggested that to...
MATTHEWS: Well, he did a good job. I‘ve been looking at the tapes.
Haldeman talked Nixon into it.
MATTHEWS: And Nixon did it. Nice friend.
LIDDY: Well, Dean, Dean is the nice friend.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Gordon Liddy.
LIDDY: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you, pal of mine, actually. I have got a friend who is a burglar.
I will be right back in an hour, by the way, for a special edition of HARDBALL on the revelation that Mark Felt—what a story—is Deep Throat. I will be joined by NBC‘s Tom Brokaw, former White House special counsel Chuck Colson, another guy who has changed his life. Plus, Robert Redford, the actor who played Bob Woodward in “All the President‘s Men,” he‘s going to be on live, too.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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