updated 6/13/2005 1:55:11 PM ET 2005-06-13T17:55:11

Guest: Bill Maher, Bill Moyers, Darrell Hammond

MATTHEWS, HOST:  Is public broadcasting too liberal?  Tonight, Bill Moyers responds to charges that PBS is a left-wing bastion.  Plus, my hear “Saturday Night Live” alter ego, Darrell Hammond.


DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  That was the loony bin.  They need you back by 8:00. 


HAMMOND:  All right.  We get it.  Moving on.  Hah!



Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Republicans on Capitol Hill are setting their sights on public broadcasting.  Yesterday, a House subcommittee voted the slash federal funding for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting by 25 percent, $100 million.  It is the latest round in the battle over whether public broadcasting has a liberal bias, as some Republicans allege, and whether tax dollars should underwrite the network‘s programming. 

This week, I sat down with Bill Moyers, who has spent more than 50 years in journalism, mainly with PBS.  He has charged conservatives with mounting a pressure campaign in the Congress and corporate boardrooms to stifle free speech on PBS.  His latest collections of essays, “Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times,” is now out in paperback. 

I began my interview by asking Moyers about the state of American broadcasting. 


MATTHEWS:  Right now, there is a highly successful conservative cable network called FOX.  Why isn‘t there a highly successful liberal network? 

BILL MOYERS, PBS:  I don‘t understand it.  I think the people who run television think that liberals and progressives don‘t get worked up about anything.  I think that they think they‘re too subtle, too complex, too erudite, let‘s say, to really defame them.


MOYERS:  And I think they don‘t want that kind of television anymore. 

In one sense, also, the people out in the country who listen to FOX News, who listen to Rush Limbaugh, they like red meat.  And, you know, by nature, it is very hard for a liberal to throw red meat, simply because the issues are more complex than you can reduce down to a sound bite, although I think we have to learn to speak in that new grammar. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there was a time, certainly in the ‘30s—we had Russell Crowe on earlier this week talking about the ‘30s and how bad they were—where the red meat throwers were on the left.

MOYERS:  Oh, yes.  No question about it.  But times have changed since

·         the Democrats in power 40 years, ran out of the whistle—or ran out of steam, became corrupt, became complacent, didn‘t build a constituency, were run by the guys in Washington, lost touch with the country.


I mean, I have—I have no question but that after 1960, the Democrats lost touch with the nerve of this country. 

MATTHEWS:  You write about it here. 

MOYERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened?  You said that they got surrounded by the beltway in Washington, that somehow the Democratic Party became an establishment and lost touch with real people. 

MOYERS:  Yes, they lost touch with people who were barely holding on.  And I was a poor boy from East Texas.  My parents never made very much money.  They died poor, but happy. 

But they always felt that the Democrats in Washington knew about their situation, was concerned about it.  And, by the way, I never had books in the room, but there was a public library.  I went to good public schools.  My brother went to college on the G.I. Bill.  I hitchhiked to college along a public highway and rested in a public park. 

And my folks knew that somehow this—that this was the result of our collective action, of our government.  And they just accepted the fact that Democrats cared about them.  And then, after the ‘70s, something happened.  I wish I knew what it was, except a lot of Democrats in Washington became more concerned with their cash constituents than they did with their voting constituents. 

MATTHEWS:  The money people. 

MOYERS:  The money people.  They started taking their cues...

MATTHEWS:  The trial lawyers. 

MOYERS:  Trial lawyers, courtroom—look at -- 50 Democrats voted for the bankruptcy bill, which makes it very hard for ordinary people to get a second chance, have a fresh start.  That wasn‘t the trial lawyers.  That was the corporate money that was coming. 

Even “TIME” magazine, I mean, I don‘t have to quote Marx or Lenin or “Nation” or “The American Prospect” or “In These Times” or “Progressive.”  I just quote “TIME” magazine, which says we now have a government of the few at the expense of the many.  I‘m not making that up.  That is not Bill Moyers.  That‘s the heart of the Time Warner imperium.

“TIME” magazine says we now have a government of the few at the expense of the many. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me quiz you on this.  I think you make the big point, not just—well, let me ask you the questions.  You know where the Republican stands.  They‘re for the war in Iraq. 

MOYERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Where is the Democratic Party on that issue?

MOYERS:  A lot of Democrats voted for the war in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So they don‘t have a position as a party.

MOYERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You know the Republicans want to take Social Security and bring in personal accounts.  What‘s the Democratic Party‘s position on Social Security? 


MATTHEWS:  Do they have a clear position on anything? 


MATTHEWS:  Energy?  The war?  Social Security?  I have a—well, you tell me.  Do they have a position? 

MOYERS:  By the way, I‘m not an advocate of...


MOYERS:  I‘m not a spokesman for the Democratic Party.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m talking about the clarity in the public debate today. 

MOYERS:  Here‘s what I think happened. 

The conservatives on the night that Lyndon Johnson—and I was in the White House—crushed Barry Goldwater, beat him by the biggest plurality any candidate had ever received, the Republicans decided, the conservatives decided that was the end of the campaign, but it was the beginning of a movement.  And they set out and took over the Republican Party and made it their instrument. 

The ideology of the conservatives is now the soul of the Republican Party.  And they‘ve reduced it down to some very effective sound bites, limited government, no new taxes, personal responsibility, and faith in God.  Nobody set out to take over the Democratic Party.  It was taken over, as you say, by the trial lawyers, by the cash constituents in Washington. 

And there is no ideology, no soul in the Democratic Party now because it wasn‘t taken over by people who really believe and really care about what is happening to average people.  

MATTHEWS:  Well, could it be, Bill Moyers, that the New Deal succeeded?  A lot of people like my dad went to school on the G.I. Bill.  You got the G.I. Bill, right?  I got to school on National Defense Education Act loans, right, to a large extent. 

I had a full fellowship to graduate school with a National Defense Education Act fellowship.  I was in the Peace Corps.  We benefited.  We grew, a lot of American, because of the programs that were started by Democrats.  Could it be that the middle class today is middle class largely because of the G.I. Bill, because of Social Security, because of the student loan programs, and therefore they don‘t really think like Democrats anymore?

MOYERS:  I think that‘s true. 

We came out of the greatest postwar era, the greatest era of posterity in the period after World War II.  I was—my boat was lifted by that period, as were yours and so many other...


MATTHEWS:  Mine was definitely lifted.

MOYERS:  ... of the boats.  And we did create—particularly by the way—particularly among the poor blacks in this country, government programs were essentially the main instrument for their achieving middle-class status, beginning to think of themselves as middle class. 


MATTHEWS:  The portion that have done that.

MOYERS:  Yes.  It‘s not most of them.  It‘s—but—but—but then for those people who had achieved middle class, they had the means now, the luxury now.  I don‘t mean luxury in living, but they had the time to think about other things than making a living and making ends meet.  That is changing.

In fact, what deeply troubles me and why the Democratic Party is really fumbling this ball is that, if you travel the country as I do, and you do often, if you listen to ordinary working people out there, you know that they no longer feel the governing elites understand them or speak for them.  Millions of them can hardly pay their bills.  And the Democrats are forgetting that those people who were in the middle class are slipping and the working-class people in this country, or the working people in this country, can hardly make ends meet. 


I watch Sunday television.  I never see a really good articulate labor leader on television.  What happened to the George Meanys and the Walter Reuthers we grew up with?  Where are the strong, articulate voices of the working person, the working family out there?  That voice that you‘re talking about, who worries about trade policy, who worries about tax policy, who worries about being trained for the job, where are those voices on Sunday? 

MOYERS:  Well, where are they on public broadcasting?  I mean, I made a speech recently in which I said, you won‘t hear the losers in the class war, even on public broadcasting, because we too represent the consensus of the corporate underwriters, the establish. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  No, but they‘re not—they don‘t have speakers.  I‘m telling you, I can‘t think right now of a labor leader that could match wits with a Dick Cheney on television? 


MATTHEWS:  They don‘t want to get out there and debate, like they used to.  People on the center or the political left, or center-left, you tell me who the great spokesmen are for labor right now.


MATTHEWS:  Who are the great spokesmen against this administration‘s trade policies or this administration‘s tax policies?  Who are they?

MOYERS:  There are some wonderful people at the grassroots level, activists taking place, people like Beth Shulman, who writes about working people.  They are terrific.  But they never get on television.  We put celebrities on.  We put elites on.  We put establish people on.  But we never give working people a chance, by the way, to speak for themselves.


MATTHEWS:  Well, they should get elected to Congress.  Then we will put them on. 

MOYERS:  Do you know you have a better chance of being elected to the legislature in Russia if you‘re a member of the working class than you do being elected to Congress in this country?

Look what happened in New Jersey this week.  Two multimillionaires are going to be running against each other in—for the Democratic gubernatorial election in November.  I mean, you can‘t do it as a working-class today person in this country.  It is not just politics.  It is a lot of other things.  When I went to Washington, Chris, in 1960, the difference between rich and poor was 20-fold.  It is 75-fold today.  Money has drowned out the conversation of democracy. 

MATTHEWS:  And what are we going to do about it? 

MOYERS:  Well, we‘re going to have to start listening to those people I‘ve been listening to out there.  You cannot travel this country, I repeat, without being impressed with the fact that some people are mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore. 

They are organizing in L.A.  Look at the new mayor of Los Angeles.  I mean, he is not a leftist in the sense you think of a leftist.  He has got some conservative values.  He‘s trying to move beyond left and right.  This is going to come not from Washington.  It is too late.  Washington is gone.  The movement that speaks for regular people is coming from the grassroots, from organizers, from activists and people like that. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come right back and talk to Bill Moyers.  We want to talk about public television.  Is it left?  Is it too left?  Is it somewhere where it should not be or not?  I also want to talk about these cultural issues, because I think the conservatives in this country, when they hear people talking like you talk, they say, well, let‘s change the subject to something more palatable, like abortion rights and gay marriage.  And they win on those issues.

We‘ll be right back with Bill Moyers.



MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Bill Moyers on why the conservatives are winning the battle of the airwaves.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s eighth anniversary. 

A House subcommittee Thursday voted to slash federal funding for public broadcasting by 25 percent, down to $300 million.  Bill Moyers has been at the forefront of the fight over whether public broadcasting has a liberal bias, as some Republicans charge. 

Here now, more of my interview with Bill Moyers. 


MATTHEWS:  Bill Moyers, public television, you personify it, to a large extent.  You are the face of big picture, long-headed thinking, long white papers on important subjects.  Are you too liberal for public television? 

MOYERS:  Well, the chairman of Corporation For Public Broadcasting thinks I am. 

And here‘s the irony.  He was watching television one night, according to what he told “The Washington Post.”  I‘m not making this up either.  “The Washington Post” two weeks ago says he was watching public television, watching my broadcast.  I was doing a documentary about what is happening to the working people of a town in Pennsylvania called Tamaqua about—they‘ve been devastated, factories moving out, jobs going to—to—to China, to Honduras, Central America.

As when—as he was watching, he told “The Washington Post,” it was more than I could take, liberal advocacy journalism.  He was mistaking liberalism for journalism.  I was reporting.  These were people talking for themselves, the kind of people in our last segment we were discussing.  He was—he couldn‘t take it.  You know why he couldn‘t take it? 

Because the one thing ideologues don‘t want—and this is my complaint about television today—the one thing they don‘t want is reporting from the ground up that defies the party line.  And the chairman of the CPB, an ally of Karl Rove, a conservative...

MATTHEWS:  Ken Tomlinson. 

MOYERS:  Ken Tomlinson.

I‘ve never met him.  I‘ve tried to meet him.  He didn‘t want to get together and—and—and—last year, when I asked him.  He couldn‘t take the fact that this reporting from the ground about these people you and I know so well was at odds with the official view of reality in Washington, which is, everybody is doing well. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ken used to edit and publish some of my stuff at “Reader‘s Digest.”  So I am not going to join the attack on Ken. 


MOYERS:  Oh, I‘m not attacking him.


MATTHEWS:  But let me ask you about that kind of reporting.

MOYERS:  Have him sometime.


MATTHEWS:  Edward R. Murrow reporting, “Harvest of Shame,” “Point of Order,” the great broadcasts with CBS in the old days, would he consider those to be too liberal? 

MOYERS:  You would to have ask him. 


MOYERS:  And I‘ll be glad—I‘ll be glad to come on your show with Kenneth Tomlinson any time you can get... 


MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll see if we can put it together.


MOYERS:  But here‘s the thing.  You said long white papers, etcetera.

But most of my—much of my reporting in the 35 years I‘ve been on public broadcasting has been about real people.  I‘ve been out there listening to America.  That was the title of my first book.  The show that got him so upset was about working-class people. 

I spent the whole decade making four films about two families in Milwaukee who were hardly making it in the new global economy.  That‘s where my reporting has come from.  It is not my interview with Joseph Campbell that upset the right. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MOYERS:  It is reporting about people who are not—who are barely holding on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the irony, I guess, we would say, worse than the irony, is, if you don‘t fly across America from coast to coast, if you drive across it, you go through places like Michigan City in Indiana or you go to Spencerville, Ohio. 

Most of America, all the way across the North, and the center part of the country, is filled with small town with not much happening anymore, except the blockbuster movie theater and a small restaurant. 

MOYERS:  Lots of pain. 

MATTHEWS:  And Sioux out in Iowa.  We were out covering the campaign with people like John Edwards, following them around.  So much of the country looks like that.  It looks like it has been hit by a tornado in terms of the de-industrialization of America. 


MOYERS:  On the eve of—on the weekend before George W. Bush‘s second inauguration, “The Economist,” “The Economist,” the pro-business, pro-capitalist publication from—from—that looks at us with keen eyes. 

“The Economist” concluded—and I‘m not making this up—quote—

“The United States is on its way to becoming a European-style class-based society.”

“The Wall Street Journal” last week said that if you were a born—a child born in the last four decades—last few decades on—in Europe or in Canada has a better chance of getting out of poverty and experiencing prosperity than the child in this country.  And the American Political Science Association, one of the best organizations in this country, concluded that inequality is rising so fast in this country that it threatens the quality of democracy. 

Those are not left-wing, Marxist publications.  Those are mainstream business publications, deeply concerned about what‘s happening between the coasts of this country, where people are truly in misery. 

MATTHEWS:  How do people who are in that center part of the country, on the center-left or left part of the country, make their case on economic issues, where I think there is a debate that could be won?

MOYERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When the Republicans are so effective, and the conservatives, the church people as well, in making the issue abortion rights, where a lot of people are concerned there are too many abortions, the gay marriage issue, which threatens a lot of people with a total challenge to their cultural way of life?

And fair enough.  But the Republicans, this president particularly, last election, something like 13 states had balloting on the issue of gay marriage the very day they were voting for president.  Everybody believes that helped the president and hurt the Democrats. 

MOYERS:  I‘m a church person.  I grew up in a deeply Protestant culture and a deeply Baptist congregation in Texas.  I‘m an evangelical.  I have moral concerns, too. 

And I think the answer is for those who disagree with it—and the conservatives have—I agree that moral issues are important to conservatives.  But they‘re equally important to liberals, but we don‘t say either/or.  We should say and/and, that you should be concerned about moral issues and concerned about the quality of life for millions of people.  By one estimate, 80 million people in this country are having a hard time paying their bills.  And you mentioned the success of the New Deal.

MATTHEWS:  But I don‘t know of any Democratic liberal person or commentator who is effective at addressing both the cultural questions with some traditional values and the concerns about the economy, which really can be very unfair to certain people.  Who is out there doing that? 

MOYERS:  Well, not now, but there was Cuomo and the governor of Iowa, the lieutenant governor. 

MATTHEWS:  There was William Jennings Bryan, too, but I‘m talking about recently.



MOYERS:  ... what happened to him.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Cuomo has been out of business for a while.  I mean, there aren‘t many spokespeople out there from this point of view which you‘ve addressed. 

MOYERS:  Somebody has got to get up and say, yes, the New Deal did succeed, but the 25 years of the Republican—the 40 years since, when the conservatives took over, they set out to undue the New Deal.

You read Bill Simon, who was Richard Nixon‘s secretary of the treasury, wrote a polemic called “A Time For the Truth.”  And it was, we have got to take it back, boys.  We‘ve lost it since the Depression and the New Deal.  And the last 40 years, they‘ve—what was behind George W.  Bush‘s failed effort to phase out Social Security?  They know if they can crack that stone, they can undo the social contract that enables some people..

MATTHEWS:  Well, they want a personal part of the—they want personal accounts as part of Social Security. 

MOYERS:  Well, I‘m not against personal accounts, but you have got to build them on the floor.  You have got to—everybody should have a floor.  And then, if you have got the means, you build above that. 

But nobody is out saying—nobody is speaking—economics is a moral issue, Chris.  You know that. 

MATTHEWS:  You are all piss and vinegar.  You are amazing. 


MATTHEWS:  You are amazing.  You are something else. 


MOYERS:  ... issue.

MATTHEWS:  You should run for parliament. 

MOYERS:  From parliament.  I don‘t have the accent. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill Moyers.  Bill Moyers, “Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times,” thanks for joining us on HARDBALL. 

MOYERS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Good luck with the book. 

MOYERS:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  In a moment, Rock the Vote celebrates its 15th anniversary. 

We‘ll take you to their anniversary party. 

And, later, my “Saturday Night Live” alter ego, the great Darrell Hammond.

And this Monday on the eighth day of our eighth anniversary, I‘ll sit down with a big interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  This is G. Gordon Liddy.  This is the eighth anniversary of Chris Matthews and HARDBALL.

JOE PANTOLIANO, ACTOR:  Happy anniversary, HARDBALL.  I can‘t believe it‘s eight years.

STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Congratulations, HARDBALL.  Chris Matthews, don‘t stop talking. 





MATTHEWS:  This is anniversary week, not just for all of us here at HARDBALL, but also for the voter registration group Rock the Vote.  The organization is synonymous with efforts to get young people to register.  But they‘re planning to expand their portfolio. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster attended the big anniversary dinner and has the report. 


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Rock the Vote awards dinner is one of the coolest and always manages to attract the biggest name in entertainment and politics.  But this was the first time in the group‘s 15-year history the event was in Washington. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  And I‘m proud to be associated with all of you. 

SHUSTER:  And it is part of a new strategy. 

JEHMU GREENE, PRESIDENT, ROCK THE VOTE:  We are definitely beefing up our lobbying efforts.  We are making sure that the issues that the one million subscribers to Rock the Vote care about are going to be represented here in this city and across the country. 

SHUSTER:  One issue clear to everybody who walked the red carpet is Social Security.  Rock the Vote opposes the president‘s plan to create private accounts and is telling Congress:

GREENE:  That we don‘t want to be saddled with $5 trillion in debt, that we do not want to have our benefits cut. 

SHUSTER:  But some Rock the Vote supporters say the arm-twisting is inappropriate. 

REP. MARY BONO ®, CALIFORNIA:  Hopefully, I can get more involved with them and bring them back to simply being an organization that gets people out to vote and get them involved. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  It sounds like they want to be more of a lobbying organization. 

BONO:  Well, if they do, they‘re going to lose half of us. 

SHRUM (voice-over):  From the beginning, Rock the Vote has been provocative.  The music industry formed the organization in 1990 to battle censorship and get young people to vote. 

MADONNA, MUSICIAN:  Dr. King, Malcolm X.  Freedom of speech is as good as sex. 

SHUSTER:  Conservatives, though, were infuriated. 

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER:  Nonsense, they‘re nonpartisan.  They‘re far-left, anti-conservative bashers.  If they want to do that, let them do that.  But they have got to identify themselves. 

SHUSTER:  In 1993, President Clinton praised Rock the Vote‘s activism for helping to get the motor voter law passed in Congress.  And during the 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns, Rock the Vote released dozens of ads urging young people to express themselves on Election Day. 





SHUSTER:  But, in those two elections, the trend of young voter turnout was flat.  Then came the 2004 election.  The number of 18- to 29-year-olds who voted went up by four-and-a-half million. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Now, we may have specific disagreements on an issue or two, but the fact is, they‘ve been very successful in getting young people registered to vote, out to vote, involved in the political process. 

SHUSTER:  So, the lawmakers were there this week alongside the celebrities, including the musical group the Black Eyed Peas, “American Idol”‘s Randy Jackson, singer Maya and NFL player Shawn Springs. 


SHUSTER:  It was, Chris, an interesting mix, as Rock the Vote celebrated their success and vowed to try and leverage it in the future.  One of the politicians who was there this week was Senator Barack Obama, rising Democratic star from Illinois.  He has kept a very low profile over the past year, but we managed to catch him on the red carpet. 

We asked him about the seven Democrats who broke party ranks, reached a deal with Republican on judicial nominees, allowing three controversial judges to go through. 


OBAMA:  Look, the fact is, we didn‘t have the votes.  And so, I think my colleagues decided, let‘s make the best out of a bad situation.  But, ultimately, if you look at the specifics of the judicial records of some of these nominees, we could do a lot better. 


SHUSTER:  And since Obama is so elusive, Chris, we asked him about sitting right here with you. 


SHUSTER:  When are you going to come on HARDBALL?  Chris Matthews...


OBAMA:  I‘m looking forward to it.  I love Chris.  I love Chris.  I‘m going to make it happen. 


SHUSTER: “I‘m going to make it happen.”

And, Chris, as you know, Obama is said to be a man of his word. 

MATTHEWS:  Great, David.  Thank you. 

In a moment, my interview with the great Darrell Hammond, who plays me on “Saturday Night Live.” 

And later, Bill Maher joins us. 

You‘re watching the eighth anniversary of HARDBALL on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s the eighth anniversary of HARDBALL.  And it wouldn‘t be complete, any anniversary show, without the presence of this man in front of me, Mr. Darrell Hammond of “Saturday Night Live.”  You know him as me. 


MATTHEWS:  So, look, let‘s talk about somebody more important that you cover, Bill Clinton.  I believe that, when you do Bill Clinton, that you are Bill Clinton. 


HAMMOND:  I am bulletproof. 



MATTHEWS:  What is the soul in Bill that you go for when you imitate him? 

HAMMOND:  I think he is delighted to be himself.  I think he is delighted with life.  I think he is super, super curious.  And, for the most part, I think he probably looks for all the positives and tries to agree with people as much as possible and probably only disagrees when he has to. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the mischievous part of him, the part that knows who he is and can‘t stop and it doesn‘t want to stop it?

HAMMOND:  Well, I mean, you play Clinton with a twinkle in his eye. 

There‘s no question about that. 


HAMMOND:  Do we really need a president? 


HAMMOND:  I mean, I kind of fixed everything, right?  Laws are good.  The money is good.  Al Gore, George W., they‘re just going to mess up what I made good. 



MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to you about another guy you do who I just love, because—because I find him so intriguing, not necessarily in a positive way.  That‘s the vice president of the United States. 

That snarl that you do, your lip curls up, like Elvis Presley, but not quite as nicely, what is going on when you‘re doing—who is Dick Cheney?  He is a mystery man to a lot Washingtonians. 

HAMMOND:  Is he really?  I mean, I...

MATTHEWS:  Well, because he became vice president after running the selection committee for vice president. 

HAMMOND:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And he seems to have a lot of power, but you can‘t tell how much. 

HAMMOND:  He is smarter than most, probably smarter than—I‘m sure smarter than me, maybe even you. 

His intellect is just fabulous.  I mean, those shows where Tim Russert is interviewing him, that is just classic television.  But the way that we have played him is the way that I think, sort of an italicization or an exaggeration of the way people see him, which is a tough guy.  But then we give him one-liners to do.  And that‘s resonated with I think both—people on both sides of the aisle. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to you about a guy who has not gotten—you‘ve never done him, but he is always on “Saturday Night Live.”  Will Ferrell did him and the new guy does him, the president.  There‘s certain ways he walks. 


MATTHEWS:  Sometimes, he seems like he has to show he is a little more macho than he really is. 

HAMMOND:  I don‘t think he‘s faking that. 


HAMMOND:  I think that‘s his body language. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Texas. 

HAMMOND:  I think that‘s Texas.  And I think that‘s kind of the way he is. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of him?  How many layers are there to that guy, the president? 

HAMMOND:  I don‘t know. 

I think he‘s got a lot of heart.  I think he absolutely believes the things that he says.  I know he‘s particularly effective when he is talking about the war on terror.  There may be other things like wetlands, which don‘t fascinate him quite as much. 


HAMMOND:  But I think he‘s myopic.  I think he has got a lot of heart and I think there are times when he is impatient when trying to make—say the same point in Cleveland that he made in Detroit, you know. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is his trick?  Because he grew up pretty well off, not a billionaire, but pretty well off, old money.  His father was president.  His mother was from that world, too.  Went to prep school.  And yet he seems to have the common touch, more than Gore does, more than Kerry does. 

HAMMOND:  And a lot like Clinton does. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  How do you think that works? 

HAMMOND:  You don‘t teach it.  I don‘t know where it comes from.  I don‘t think you teach that. 

MATTHEWS:  I saw a great scene where Kerry, John Kerry is running for president.  He goes into a diner and he starts giving this poor young woman sitting there at the diner table his five-point program on the economy. 


MATTHEWS:  And Bush goes in and sees a family of four kids, sees there‘s one boy and three girls.  Hey, what is it like there, dude all alone by yourself?

HAMMOND:  Right.  And everyone ends up laughing and back-slapping. 


HAMMOND:  Yes.  He‘s got it. 

MATTHEWS:  Great stuff. 

Let me ask you about what you‘ve got.  You‘ve got Sean Connery. 


MATTHEWS:  What made you decide that Sean Connery was really this dirty old man that couldn‘t wait to get on “Jeopardy‘ to make these double entendres? 

HAMMOND:  You know, I don‘t think I expected—it made no sense to me to have Sean Connery yelling at Alex Trebek.  And it still doesn‘t.  It doesn‘t make sense to anyone.  And yet people laugh at it.

MATTHEWS:  I was with your mother last night.  She had no complaints.


HAMMOND:  Not a fan of the ladies, are you, Trebek? 


HAMMOND:  It‘s the most popular thing I‘ve ever done when I play clubs around the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Sean Connery? 

HAMMOND:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean more than Clinton, more than Gore, more than Cheney. 

MATTHEWS:  What about me? 


HAMMOND:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 


HAMMOND:  Oh, you‘re up there.

MATTHEWS:  What is it like? 

HAMMOND:  You‘re up there.  I mean, you‘re up there to the extent that people are going to yell your name out if I go too long without doing something about you. 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Chris, it‘s a pleasure to be here. 

HAMMOND:  Good God, you said like five words.  I‘m already bored to death. 

Hah! Hah!

And, suddenly, the national deficit is higher than Rush Limbaugh at a Mexican pharmacy.


MATTHEWS:  So, what do you do when do you me? 

HAMMOND:  I do you being uncomfortable, slowly being driven mad by the events of the world around you. 


HAMMOND:  Hello?  Yes, he‘s here.  Yes, OK. 

That was the loony bin.  They need you back by 8:00. 



MATTHEWS:  I like it when you do me when I‘m really happy when I‘m doing HARDBALL, and I got somebody on the show that says something really ridiculously over the top, wrong, but so wrong, it is comical. 

HAMMOND:  We‘ve started having you smile over the years. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  And I just smile because it is almost sublime. 


HAMMOND:  Now we‘re talking.


HAMMOND:  He‘s us.  You‘re us.  And you‘re being, sitting there being slowly being driven mad by events around you.  And we can all identify with that. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the mood of the country right now?  What do you smell out there? 

HAMMOND:  I don‘t—I haven‘t been—usually, I go out every summer.  And I think, by the end of the summer, I could probably tell you a little bit more about that.  But, I mean, if you could be more specific. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the country confident about the war on terrorism?  You mentioned it.  Are they worried about it? 

HAMMOND:  I think—I think national security is probably foremost in everybody‘s minds.  I haven‘t really been out there enough.  I think, around September, I could probably tell you more about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think people are waiting for that other shoe to drop, another September 11? 

HAMMOND:  That‘s not anything that I‘ve heard. 

MATTHEWS:  No, they‘re not worried about that particularly?

HAMMOND:  I wouldn‘t be able to say without... 

MATTHEWS:  Because it‘s is funny, because if you look at all the polls

·         and we look at them every night around here—the country is still roughly 50-50 politically, for Bush, against Bush, for the war, against the war, a little more against the war now, Democrat, Republican.

Maybe that‘s why we‘re so divided in Congress, in Washington, because there isn‘t one side in charge. 

HAMMOND:  The thing that has fascinated me more than anything else in my career—I mean, I‘ve certainly played 100 cities in the last 10 years.  And you can see the good sort of God-fearing, little-league-coaching, lawn-mowing taxpayers looking at the same picture and seeing two different things.


HAMMOND:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  And some people see Bush and they get really mad at me. 

They say, you don‘t know how great this guy is.


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t seem to be caught up in him yet. 


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t get it. 

HAMMOND:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And other people say, he‘s the dumbest guy.  I‘m embarrassed he is our president.  It‘s like the same guy. 

HAMMOND:  I have never understood that.  People are looking at the same picture and seeing two different things. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Zell Miller.  You were there with us the night of Herald Square, 2004, down there in hot New York, summer in the city.  And this guy goes—goes ballistic. 

HAMMOND:  Yes.  And the writers at “S&L” went ballistic, too. 


WILL FORTE, ACTOR:  What did you say to me, boy? 


HAMMOND:  I said you can‘t honestly suggest that Senator Kerry would arm our troops with spitballs. 

FORTE:  It was a metaphor, Chris!


FORTE:  I‘ll tell you what.  I wish we was in the days when you could still challenge a man to a duel.


MATTHEWS:  Who is the guy that does him whenever you do Zell Miller? 

HAMMOND:  Will Forte. 

MATTHEWS:  Will Forte.  Is he going to be all right?  Because I watch him with tremendous sympathy.  I think he‘s very funny.  But that blood vein right down the center of the front of his forehead is ready to go.

HAMMOND:  It‘s interesting.  I just was in...

MATTHEWS:  Our producers were talking aneurysm the other day watching this guy.  It‘s a little scary. 

HAMMOND:  I didn‘t really realize physically the extent to which he puts himself into this. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s got a—you have got to pull him back a little. 


HAMMOND:  I mean, it‘s interesting that your face could actually redden beneath the makeup, but that‘s what‘s been happening. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s purple. 

HAMMOND:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, anyway, I want to thank you. 

HAMMOND:  I want to thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And I want to thank Zell Miller. 


MATTHEWS:  You can thank Zell Miller for me.

Darrell Hammond, what a great guy.  Thanks for coming on HARDBALL. 

HAMMOND:  Thank you.  All right.  Bye.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  In a moment, comedian Bill Maher will be with us.

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

This is the eighth anniversary of HARDBALL, right here on MSNBC.


ALLISON JANNEY, ACTRESS (singing):  Happy birthday, Chris Matthews. 

Happy birthday, eight years of HARDBALL.  Happy birthday, Chris Matthews. 

Happy birthday to you.



MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Bill Maher says he hopes something good will come out of the war in Iraq.  My interview with Maher when the eighth anniversary of HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  Since HBO‘s “Real Time With Bill Maher” isn‘t back on until August, Bill Maher is out on the road with his take on politics and pop culture in cities across the country. 

I caught up with Bill before a performance this week at Washington‘s Warner Theater. 


MATTHEWS:  Bill Maher, thanks for joining us. 

You‘re sitting there at historic Warner Theater in Washington.  Has the audience out there changed over the war in Iraq?  I‘m looking at these polls saying that most people now think it was a mistake.  They think we‘re less safe than we were before the war. 

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  I think that the audience that comes to see me and has been coming around the country, I think they were so against the war from the get-go that there‘s no change in them.  I‘ve changed a little about it.  I got encouraged after the election.  And I still think something good could come out of it, even though I wasn‘t for going into it.

MATTHEWS:  So, if we do build a democracy in Iraq, the way we got there is OK? 

MAHER:  Most wars probably were entered into by way of a series of lies. 

And if the outcome is something that saves more lives in the long run

·         I mean, you asked about, are we safer now?  No.  What President Bush has done, even if it works, will be good for generations to come, not us.  We‘re screwed, Chris, because not only does this make the Arabs who hate us madder, but we have no homeland security.  You know that‘s just a bunch of pork-barrel nonsense now. 

So, I feel completely defenseless.  I‘m more nervous than I was at any time since 9/11.  We could not have done anything worse.  That is the Muslims‘ worst nightmare, that we would invade a country in the heart of their world and then have our hillbilly women folks pointing at their wiener. 

MATTHEWS:  You said something about low-hanging fruit a while back and it got an Alabama Republican congressman quite upset with you, calling for the cancellation of your HBO show because you talked about how the recruitment effort so far has picked up the low-hanging fruit and therefore it is getting harder and harder to recruit people. 

MAHER:  Well, first of all, it wasn‘t an off-the-cuff remark.  This was in the middle of a set comedy piece, in “A Modest Proposal” tradition. 

By the way, I can understand why the congressman wanted to deflect attention away from the gist of what the piece was saying, which was that now that we cannot meet our recruiting goals, perhaps the people who should step up and go to fight the war are the ones who wanted it in the first place, those kind of chicken hawks.  I‘m sure he‘s one of them. 

By the way, I never heard of this congressman before. 

So, you‘re welcome, Congressman, for getting a little famous off this. 

But what I would say to him, if he was here, if I had him on my show, was, he implied I was somehow a traitor for saying this.  First of all, it was not an insult to the military.  Second of all, I‘m a comedian.  I‘m not really in a position to help or hurt the troops.  I think our troops are a little stronger than have to worry about what a comedian says. 

But a congressman, he is actually in a position to do something, like get them armor and some of the other things that they desperately need. 


Let me ask you about Deep Throat.  Were you surprised it was Mark Felt, the number two guy at the FBI? 

MAHER:  I was shocked, mostly because I‘d never heard of Mark Felt. 


MAHER:  I‘m still not sure it‘s Mark Felt.  I don‘t know what that means.  Mark Felt.  Oh, my.  That was the biggest disappointment of any secret I‘ve ever had out.  They‘re going to open up the Fatima letter and say it says something about Jerry Lewis. 

MATTHEWS:  On the lighter side, earlier this week, Bill, we had on a good number of the 14 senators, Republicans and Democrats, who are trying to make the Senate work, instead of logjamming it or holding it up over endless debates.  Are you optimistic that the center will hold? 

MAHER:  I hope it doesn‘t, Chris.  I would love to see the Senate shut down. 

How much worse could it be?  What would happen?  The country wouldn‘t get asbestos reform?  What does this Congress do?  Do they take care of issues like homeland security?  No.  They pass bills that only help corporations, bankruptcy bills.  Oh, they ended the estate tax, the death tax.  You know, how much worse could it be if they didn‘t go to work?  It‘s like pulling the plug on your computer when it freezes.  It may not fix it, but it couldn‘t hurt. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much for joining us on HARDBALL, Bill Maher. 

MAHER:  Thank you, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  The eighth anniversary of HARDBALL will return in a moment. 

When we return, more from my appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” 

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS:  This week, as part of HARDBALL‘s eighth anniversary, I was a guest on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”  Take a look.


JAY LENO, HOST:  Let‘s talk about presidential candidates in 2008.


LENO:  Has Hillary got it sewn up for the Democrats?  Anybody else even close? 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary is probably going to win the nomination. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, she has got it.  She‘s moved to the center.  She‘s on Armed Services.  She backed the war.  She has been moderate.  Until yesterday.  And, all of a sudden, she flared up and started going after the Republicans, saying that they‘re shameless and they don‘t get it. 

LENO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And—but I think she‘s running.  And I think she‘s going to win.

LENO:  What would that make Bill?  Would he then be first lady‘s man? 


MATTHEWS:  That is the trickiest question.  Jay, you are on to the greatest sitcom in history.  This is the greatest.

Here‘s Bill Clinton, first gentleman, with nothing to do.  And if he was trouble when he had a job, imagine when he has got nothing to do. 




MATTHEWS:  And he‘s sitting around, and he‘s probably hanging around the refrigerator and he‘s killing time. 


LENO:  Waiting for girls to come to the refrigerator, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And then he says, so what is she—who is she meeting with today? 

And I can just see him.  Oh, she‘s meeting with Putin today.  And Clinton goes crazy:  I know Putin.  I should be over there.  She says not to come over. 



MATTHEWS:  And I can see this.  You‘re not to come over. 

And then she‘s calling over to the East Wing, saying, who is he with now? 


LENO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I knew it was her.  And it would be a great sitcom between the two of them, because a president who was president, but isn‘t president anymore, has got nothing to do except to decide whether we put this person next to that person at the next dinner for the Italian president or whatever. 

LENO:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And, meanwhile, Hillary is making all the calls. 

LENO:  Well, who...

MATTHEWS:  And she‘s going to have to decide in the campaign if she‘s going to officially say, if we‘re faced with a big crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, a big issue, am I going to bring Bill over and have him stand over my shoulder when I make these big decisions or not?  Or am I going to keep him out of it?  And I think she‘s going to have to say, I bring him into it, which makes it two for the price of one, which means he‘s really running for co-president. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It is really different.  We‘ve never been through this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is really interesting, because she would have his old job.  That‘s so weird.  I never thought about it like that.

MATTHEWS:  She would have his old job and he may want it back. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been here, dear. 


LENO:  Who would run against Hillary? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you the guy that could beat her. 

LENO:  Yes. 


LENO:  McCain, OK.



LENO:  Now, if McCain ran...

MATTHEWS:  McCain is a moderate.  The latest poll out—I looked at a Harris poll this week.  It said that four out of five people in this country want a moderate in politics.  They don‘t want any more left or right.  They want down the middle.  They want people who are independent of their parties.  McCain fits the Bill.  And the press loves McCain.  You can see that every time he comes on. 


LENO:  And he would be older than Reagan when Reagan... 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But, you know, we‘re all getting older, you know? 

LENO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s 71, but I‘ll tell you, he looks great. 


MATTHEWS:  And the other thing is, he went to war. 

And he spent those five-and-a-half years in Hanoi Hilton.  And he has paid his price. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And a lot of people, especially in the press, who did not, feel a lot of responsibility toward this guy.  He is a very popular guy in D.C.  And I think he or Rudy Giuliani—don‘t underestimate Giuliani. 

LENO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He is the best speaker in the country. 

LENO:  Would Giuliani take vice president? 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes. 

LENO:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  It would be interesting.  McCain-Giuliani might be too liberal on some of the issues.

LENO:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  But I think, in the country, for years, the best speaker in the country was Jesse Jackson. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no doubt about it, the best speaker. 

And now I think it is Giuliani.  And they can‘t even spell his name in the South. 

LENO:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  But they call him—somebody said they‘re going to call him Rudy.  That will be enough. 

LENO:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m for Rudy. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  So he could—Giuliani.  It sounds great. 

LENO:  Now, how about—now, Howard Dean?  What seems to be happening there?  It seems to be—the Democrats seem to be turning on him.  He‘s head of the Democratic National Committee. 



MATTHEWS:  Somebody should tell him. 


MATTHEWS:  He needs a tuning fork, doesn‘t he? 

LENO:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s a little off-kilter.  He‘s calling people pretty bad names lately. 

LENO:  He said, I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for, which—well, at least you knows where he stands.

MATTHEWS:  But then he‘s going after individual people who happen to vote Republican. 

LENO:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Which is strange.  He says things like, they never had an honest day‘s work in their life.  He‘s talking about half the country. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s kind of strange.

And then who‘s the other guy?  Harry Reid, this Mormon guy from Nevada, a regular, soft-spoken guy? 


MATTHEWS:  He calls—are you one of them?


MATTHEWS:  He‘s calling them—he was calling the president a loser the other day. 

LENO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And calling the head of the Central Bank, Greenspan, a hack. 

LENO:  Well, quick question.  Can they change—can they get rid of him before the convention? 

MATTHEWS:  I think he‘s testing that right now. 

LENO:  Really?  OK.

MATTHEWS:  I think Howard Dean has got a problem with—I think the public does not like the name-calling.  They don‘t like the filibuster that slows things down. 

They don‘t like the gamesmanship of shutting down the government.  They want people that are effective.  And that‘s why McCain looked good two weeks ago when he cut the deal with the 14 guys in the middle. 


LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he could get something done.  The public wants things done on Social Security that fixes the system for the young people.  They want this war cooled off and us out of there. 

LENO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  They want these things done.  And they don‘t want to see a bunch of politicians pointing fingers at each other, I don‘t think. 

LENO:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my view.


LENO:  Chris, always a pleasure, my friend. 

MATTHEWS:  You, too.

LENO:  Chris Matthews, middle-age heartthrob. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to thank everyone at MSNBC and NBC News for making our eighth anniversary week such a success.  And it‘s not over yet. 

On Monday, the eighth day of the eighth anniversary, I‘ll interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

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



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