Guests: Dick Sauber, Bill Carter
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Is this America, the FBI raids the CIA looking for evidence on poker and prostitutes. The same week we‘re told the government has been collecting our phone records. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL.
The public is torn tonight: they don‘t like what President Bush has been doing with his second term. Just 29 percent now say he‘s doing even a pretty good job.
At the same time they think Bush‘s collection of our phone records is acceptable in guarding the national interest. With the majority of the country behind the president on this issue, will critics still try to derail General Michael Hayden‘s nomination in the hearings next week? More on this in a moment.
Law enforcement officials search the house and the agency office of Kyle Dusty Foggo today, the outgoing number three official at the CIA, who is under investigation in the notorious Duke Cunningham scandal.
Later, the Friday night HARDBALL HotShots tonight, with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson. They‘ll be here to talk about the politics—in fact, the dangerous politics of this past week.
Plus “New York Times” reporter Bill Carter, the author of “Desperate Networks,” has the big scoop on the small screen.
But first, we turn to NBC News investigative producer Bob Windrem with more on the FBI‘s unprecedented raid today on the home and offices of the former number three man at the CIA.
Bob, thank you for joining. I‘ve never heard of the FBI raiding the
BOB WINDREM, NBC NEWS: That‘s correct, Chris. What we‘re told is, the way this unfolded is at 8:00 a.m. this morning, the Office of Inspector General, which has been looking into Foggo along with the FBI, informed the Office of General Counsel inside the CIA that within a half-hour a raiding party of FBI agents would be at the agency to search the offices of Foggo. Foggo, as you noted, is the number three official—or, was the number three official—at the CIA.
Sometime later, Foggo arrived. He was escorted off the premises, and as one senior U.S. official told me today, you can be sure that his badge no longer works.
Again, this is unprecedented; it‘s never happened before. Aldrich Ames, the spy of a few years ago, he was arrested off-site and then FBI agents came to his office and went through it looking for evidence in the spy case. But in terms of going to the CIA, and executing a search warrant, this is a first.
MATTHEWS: Who can okay something like this?
WINDREM: Oh, this is something that I‘m sure went all the way up to the attorney general. And what we are told is, that the outgoing CIA director, Porter Goss, probably only had minutes warning that this was about to happen. But you can be sure that something this sensitive would have gone at least as high as the attorney general‘s office.
MATTHEWS: Is there reason to believe that this is connected to the Duke Cunningham scandal?
WINDREM: Absolutely. The key players in this are Foggo and Brent Wilkes, who is a defense contractor who has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Randy Duke Cunningham case. There are allegations—again, only allegations—that Foggo was provided with certain gifts and benefits from Wilkes in return for CIA contracts. Foggo‘s lawyer says that he never wittingly gave a contract to Brent Wilkes, but one of the allegations is that there were vacations involved here, that Foggo received vacations—particularly at a hotel in Hawaii. And that is one of the things that we know that the FBI is looking at, and the Office of Inspector General at the CIA is looking at this evening.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the role and the rank of the FBI and the CIA. I remember going back to Watergate, Nixon was trying to use the CIA to keep the FBI off his tail. Is there a protocol here about who‘s bigger or who gets to investigate who?
WINDREM: I think the key thing here, Chris, is that this is a law enforcement case, and therefore that would trump it, because this is—remember, this is not a case about intelligence. This is a case about corruption. And I think that trumps anything.
And obviously, within the last few years, the CIA has lost some of its primacy, and again, Porter Goss, who essentially was pushed overboard by the Bush administration, cannot have that much power within those councils anymore.
MATTHEWS: What does it tell you, Bob, that the FBI attacked with only a half-hour‘s notice—they did not even inform the lame duck director of the CIA that they‘re coming there with—you know, the SWAT team basically is coming to dig up dirt on the number three guy, and they never even warned Goss until—what -- 30 minutes before the raid.
WINDREM: Or perhaps even less. They warned the Office of General Counsel, rather than the director‘s office, so it may have been and almost certainly was less time for the outgoing CIA director.
I think what this says is, that overall, the FBI is taking this case much more serious than we were led to believe earlier in the week. We were led to believe earlier in the week that was a case that had not yet reached the stage where they were really looking deeply in to Foggo. They certainly were looking into Defense contracts, but in this particular case, we were told that the case against Foggo had not advanced as far as the case against other officials in other departments.
MATTHEWS: Unprecedented stuff here. Thank you very much. Bob Windrem.
Dick Sauber, a former federal prosecutor and an expert on the federal court that governs federal spying on the American people. He also represents “Time” magazine reporter Matt Cooper, one of the journalists at the center of the CIA leak case.
Let me ask you for your perspective on this. What do you think is going on here that the power of the federal government through the CIA is being challenged by the power of the federal government through the FBI? I mean, this is powerful stuff.
DICK SAUBER, FISA LEGAL EXPERT: It is unprecedented, as your report just said, but it does highlight the issue that the FBI is the primary law enforcement agency within the United States. Which spills over into the other stories of the day, and that is who is the—which is the primary agency to gather information about possible criminal activities in the United States.
So where the NSA and the CIA now seem to be focused on domestic collection of some kind of intelligence information, whether it‘s foreign or domestic, the fact that the FBI executed a raid at the CIA does sort of highlight the issue, as to who has primacy here.
MATTHEWS: But it also shifts attention away from the serious business, perhaps—well, serious business—of chasing terrorists and what they might be doing here, to that good old-time corruption of prostitutes and poker games. It sounds like the old cigar days.
Tell me a little bit about Dusty Foggo, this guy, the number three guy. Who is this character that has warranted this amazing raid for his papers and other materials at the CIA today?
SAUBER: Well, a couple things, Chris. First, to get a search warrant at all, the FBI would had to have demonstrated, at least to their superiors at Justice, that there was evidence of criminal activity, within his office or within his home, that they were afraid would disappear, or that they had reasonable information to think he would get rid of. That‘s the basis to execute a search warrant.
To get a search warrant of an office at the CIA, where the FBI agents come in armed, I presume with security clearances, to come into a building that is probably one of the most fortified in the United States, has to have been an extraordinary series of approvals within the Department of Justice.
And I agree, anything less than the attorney general approving this raid would have been ludicrous.
MATTHEWS: All this is apart from the problems, the bureaucratic problems, that Porter Goss had as CIA director. This is a separate matter, right?
SAUBER: It is a separate matter, but I think it does highlight some of the issues. This administration has made a mess of the CIA and the administration of the CIA, just at a time when the work of the CIA could not be more important. I just think that it highlights the fact that the last two years appear, at the CIA, to have been wasted and counterproductive.
MATTHEWS: Under Porter Goss.
SAUBER: Under Porter Goss.
MATTHEWS: And he was put in there to try to clean up whatever wreckage was left behind by Tenet.
SAUBER: He was, but from the very first day he was appointed, let alone from the first days he went in there, it seemed to be clear to lots of people in Washington that it was the wrong appointment at the wrong time, and that he was going about it in a way that was particularly counterproductive to the effective gathering of intelligence that we seem to need in this country.
MATTHEWS: What do you think is coming next here? They‘ve gone over and raided the CIA at Langley, a place that was almost untouchable by most people‘s standards. They have raided the house of Dusty Foggo, the number three guy at the agency. What‘s next?
SAUBER: I think this is a far more serious and widespread investigation than we were led to believe. And I think it was proper for the Justice Department not to tell the director of the CIA, Mr. Goss, because he seems to have been mentioned in connection with some of these activities—the lobbyists, the poker games, et cetera also. So whether he‘s involved or not, it was appropriate for them not to give him any warning so has not to be accused of playing favorites.
MATTHEWS: What role would the president of the United States, our chief law enforcement official of the government, play in such a raid? Would he have to okay it through the attorney general?
SAUBER: You know, I believe—he would not have to okay it. But I believe if the attorney general is doing his job in an appropriate way, he would not have told anyone in the White House in advance that this raid was going to take place. He might have called them as the agents were on their way to give them a heads up, but if there‘s anything that we‘ve learned in this city from the last two hundred years of relationship between the attorney general and the White House, it‘s that the attorney general should not give a heads up to the White House about a purely law enforcement activity involving administration officials.
MATTHEWS: You know, we count on the CIA to protect us from overseas attack and to know who‘s coming to get us. We‘ve been through George Tenet, a former Hill staffer, who became a very strong friend of the Bush family, both father and son entrusted by them but not really an agency man.
We‘ve watched this battle between leakers at the CIA now for three or four years, attacking people in the vice president‘s office, the hawks in the administration against the more dovish people in the CIA. When is the president of the United States going to get control of that agency and make it his agent?
SAUBER: Well, it‘s a good question. What exactly should the president be using the CIA for? I think the revelations over the last several months indicate that whatever the relationship between the White House and the CIA, it‘s been dysfunctional.
And whether he chooses an insider or someone from the outside, it does seem to me that they need a leader, someone who is going to understand the professionalism of the people within the ranks of the CIA and provide a product that can be used throughout the government of the United States to help in some of the most important things that we have facing us.
MATTHEWS: It seems like instead of trying to use it to find out information about what‘s going on in the world, he‘s used it to rubber stamp what his ideologues and this administration have already told him. Somebody in the vice president‘s office tells him something, somebody from the Defense Department tells him something, and then he gets mad at the CIA that the don‘t back up that Intel.
When in fact we‘ve seen in the war buildup to Iraq, the CIA was more hesitant, the insiders, rather, the bureaucrats. The agents inside the belly of the beast there have said be careful here, it‘s not all here about the nuclear, and the president is beating them down again by putting Porter Goss in there.
He‘s beating them down again perhaps by putting Hayden in there. He wants them to decide what he thinks is the truth rather than to tell them the truth.
SAUBER: It does seem...
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t that seem what he‘s doing?
SAUBER: It does seem as if the administration has misused the CIA, and they‘re trying to have it both ways. They blame the CIA for not supporting them, and then when something goes wrong, they blame the CIA for providing bad intelligence. So it just isn‘t the way , I don‘t think, to use the intelligence agency. And unfortunately, this is a terrible time for it, and it has the potential to really undermine the effectiveness of the CIA.
MATTHEWS: Ideally, he should use the CIA the way a general uses his g2, the guy who is the intelligence officer who helps him fight the battles and win him, because he is the guy that tells him what‘s going on, on the other side.
This president seems to suspect the CIA to hate its bureaucracy and to keep bringing people in there—maybe it is the vice president doing it—to stifle it and to put it under control, but not really to be a useful tool. Anyway, that‘s my feeling.
We‘ll be right back with more with Dick Sauber, who knows what he is talking about. We‘ll ask him about this government phone call collection. Why do they need to know who you and I have been calling on the phone the last couple of years? And is it legal? Does it help us catch terrorists?
And later, our Friday special feature, “The HARDBALL Hot Shots.”
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back with more on the government‘s secret phone database right now with attorney Dick Sauber.
Dick, this idea that the federal government through the National Security Agency was tracking electronic data transfers overseas to people perhaps in al Qaeda didn‘t bother a lot of people. They said I don‘t know anybody that far overseas anyway. I don‘t talk to people in Abu Dhabi. I don‘t talk to people in Saudi Arabia. This isn‘t going to affect me.
This latest revelation from “USA Today” says that they‘re out to gather phone lists from every single American, who you have been calling, how long you have been on the phone, et cetera, et cetera, when you made the call, et cetera. Is this a violation of their limited authority?
SAUBER: I think it‘s unclear, whether it‘s a violation. We don‘t know a lot about it. What they say doesn‘t seem to mesh with other things that we know, but it does highlight the question of what the NSA is doing.
It‘s an agency whose mission—you go to its web site, it defines itself and the executive order establishing it defines it as an agency geared to finding foreign intelligence information of use to the United States government.
So the first question you have is who said it‘s OK to start gathering purely 100 percent domestic information, which again, according to “USA Today,” seems to be what they‘re doing. But this information about what the NSA and other agencies are doing is going to come dribbling out over the next several months.
And it just highlights the central question, what has the government decided to do and under what authority? And there‘s no reason why we can‘t have an open and robust debate about what the right power should be. This is information that if it‘s helpful in protecting the United States, we do want to get it, if we can do it properly and legally.
MATTHEWS: The president is very upset that this information got out. He was upset the first time. You could see it in his grimace yesterday when he walked into the diplomatic entrance way of the White House to make that press statement. He doesn‘t like the fact that the American people and the world and the enemy now know that we‘re collecting this telephone information.
SAUBER: I‘m not sure in a foreign intelligence sense what value it is that the United States is doing everything it can to listen and track telephone calls. I mean, If people don‘t assume that, I don‘t know what they‘re thinking.
MATTHEWS: Is there a way of looking at patterns of phone calling? For example—I‘ll go back to the obvious -- 9-11, Mohammad Atta that morning, the days before was making feverish phone calls along with another 18 hijackers. They‘re getting together their act. They‘re planning how to get their money together, get their tickets together.
All that feverish activity of a group of people that include a lot people in the watch list. Wouldn‘t that noise level, had we been aware of it through electronic surveillance, have saved us?
SAUBER: I don‘t know the answer to that, but I think from what little I do understand, that this kind of data tracking is useful mostly in retrospect and in hindsight. Once you identify people who are known terrorists and who are dangerous agents of foreign powers, then you go back and see what their patterns were, who they spoke to, who they dealt with, et cetera, et cetera.
I‘m not sure how much value this has in preventing future acts, so much as opposed to once you find out who you‘re looking at, you go back and see everything they‘ve done.
MATTHEWS: Well, what does this mean when the government says that they‘re picking up a lot of chatter out there, a lot of noise level? I thought it was this very thing, electronic information that showed a lot of getting together, a lot of feverish activity.
SAUBER: Well, again, what “USA Today” says in its report is that there is no content review inflated.
MATTHEWS: I knew that.
SAUBER: So they‘re not picking up any chatter. They‘re picking up patterns. They‘re picking up ...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t mean literally chatter, people gabbing on the phone. I mean 10, 20 calls a day. A lot of coordination going on.
SAUBER: Right but the chatter, I think—when they talk about chatter, they‘re talking about key word identification.
MATTHEWS: I see. So that‘s content.
SAUBER: So they are picking up content and trying to put those contents together with the individuals.
MATTHEWS: OK great. Thank you Dick Sauber. You know your stuff.
Up next, the “HARDBALL Hotshots.” MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough will be here to talk Democrats cursing Democrats and who‘s got your phone records. Lots of political noise this week that‘s probably bothering a lot of people.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yes, it‘s that time, the time for our special Friday night feature, “HARDBALL Hotshots” with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson. Get set for the week of polls, spies, and Snow. Tony, that is.
Let‘s dig into a week in which a top CIA official had his office and his house raided, a week that the president‘s poll numbers took a dive, and Democrats were out there fighting Democrats.
First, spy versus pie, Ben Franklin said “He who would trade liberty for some temporary security deserves neither liberty nor safety.” This week, we learned that the federal government is mining information on every call that you make, every birthday wish to grandma, every hello to your kids in college.
Back in December the “New York Times” exposed the president‘s program to spy on calls going in and out the country. The majority of the American people backed the spy program but has it gone too far? Will the CIA confirmation hearings next week bring on a backlash against the president?
Let‘s go to Joe Scarborough. Your damage report, is it something people are willing to put up with, having our phone lists checked and kept by the government in order to catch the Mohamed Attas of this world?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: Well, you know, this program scares the hell out of me, but it doesn‘t bother Americans. You saw the “Washington Post” flash poll where 66 percent of Americans were perfectly fine with this program, which is just in line with what I learned when I was on the Judiciary Committee in Congress.
I was always horrified that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno and the Clinton administration would push forward these roving wiretap programs, and I always—I was always frightened by it. I‘d go home to the district and I would complain about it, I‘d wave my fingers.
Liberals would agree with me, conservatives would agree with me, but the teeming masses in the middle just couldn‘t care less. Their attitude is simple. If I‘m not a member of al Qaeda, I‘ve got nothing to worry about. And that is a dangerous position to take.
MATTHEWS: Is that your reading on the public, Rita?
RITA COSBY, HOST, “LIVE AND DIRECT”: Absolutely. It doesn‘t seem that the public cares about this. It‘s funny, when it come down, I asked a few friends of mine, you know, who are not in the news business what their reaction was and they said look, if we didn‘t do anything wrong, I don‘t care.
They‘re not listening in on the conversations. They‘re listening in on who called who, so the track record and their feeling is we don‘t have anything to hide and if this is going to stop one Mohamed Atta as you suggested, Chris, they feel it‘s worth it.
MATTHEWS: Tucker, your libertarian temperament, how does it respond to this invasion of privacy?
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”: Oh, I don‘t—I mean, obviously, I don‘t care for it at all. I agree with sadly, with Joe and Rita that the average person could care less. It‘s interesting though, people are still calling Bush a conservative. Since when are conservatives so willing to trust the government? Right?
I mean, this reminds me of the RICO statutes designed to foil organized crime, in practice used against all sorts of people. White collar criminals, drug dealers, you name it, the RICO statutes are used against them. This stuff stays on the books, its purpose always expands, that‘s the nature of government. We‘re using it to go after al Qaeda now. What will it be used for 20 years from now? Nobody seems to care. I care though.
SCARBOROUGH: And just imagine—just imagine if Bill Clinton tried to pass something like this.
CARLSON: I agree.
SCARBOROUGH: It just—even after 9/11, Republicans would not stand for it.
MATTHEWS: Rita, you know, the American people are—I think are particular in their need to keep ourselves private. We don‘t want people to know what guns we have, we certainly don‘t want gun registration, people who own guns don‘t. People don‘t want to have a national I.D. card, it seems. People don‘t want to have—they consider abortion rights a privacy issue.
I mean, it seems like anywhere you go, people say I‘ve got the Fourth Amendment, I‘ve got the Fifth Amendment, I‘ve got the Second Amendment, I‘m going to use every right I‘ve got to keep you out of my face. In fact, I don‘t even want to take public transportation. I want to get in my car and do it my way. Why would a public that thinks like that not care that Uncle Sam is putting your phone list together?
COSBY: I think because it‘s post 9/11, Chris. That‘s the bottom line. I think the world has changed since 9/11. You look at everything, they want to make sure their home is safe, they want to make sure their world is safe. They‘re willing to have some invasions so we don‘t have to see what we saw at the World Trade Center again and I think that that‘s the one exception.
I think you hit it right on the head, Chris. I mean, we‘re such a country where it‘s don‘t do this, don‘t do that. In fact, I remember, when the headline hit, when oh my gosh, they‘re looking at my phone record or someone else‘s phone record, and then I thought about it as a lot of other Americans have, and they said, you know, wait a minute.
If this could stop somebody—and that is their reaction, I‘m telling you, of people I‘ve talked to. They feel like, you know, things are OK. If it‘s dealing with security, if it‘s going to make us safe, that‘s the number one priority.
MATTHEWS: OK. Will Michael Hayden be confirmed despite this, Joe, as CIA director?
SCARBOROUGH: I think he‘s on the bubble right now. I think you‘re going to have Republicans and Democrats alike that are very frustrated at the president‘s arrogance, at the administration‘s arrogance and they are going to beat the hell out of him when he goes up there and doesn‘t want to talk about this program or talk about anything else that this administration is passing without Congress advising or consenting.
MATTHEWS: And then will he get in as CIA director, after all the bashing of the guy?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, in the end he will.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think Rita and Tucker? Will he make it, Michael Hayden?
COSBY: Yes, he‘ll be a little bruised but he‘ll get through.
CARLSON: Yes, he will and this story—I think the leak of this story was designed to hurt him and it would be interesting to find out who leaked it, because I think it‘s clearly an effort to derail his nomination but it won‘t work.
MATTHEWS: Well as a journalist, it‘s a hell of a scoop at “USA Today,” where everybody is feeding off the story that they have and they seem to have exclusively, even now. I‘ll be right back with much more.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “HARDBALL Hot Shots” with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson.
Next up, Bush slides down the poll. Two major polls this week showed the president‘s approval rating at a dismal 31 percent. That is below the freezing point, but he gets even worse. A new Harris poll released today has it even lower at 29 percent. Is this a point of no return? Short of unforeseen national events, can the president find any way to win back the broken hearts and critical minds of voters across the country, Democrats and Republicans apparently.
If Democrats seize Congress come November, will they make George Bush‘s life a living hell? I think that‘s two questions. I‘m going to start with Tucker. It seems to me, the No. 1 law of physics is that if something is moving in a certain direction doesn‘t change direction unless acted on by an outside factor.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: That may be the first rule of physics. Is that a fact here politically?
CARLSON: Oh yes.
MATTHEWS: The president can‘t start to go up unless he does something or something happens?
CARLSON: Hence his press conference on Monday night about immigration. I mean, I think if the president had taken a conservative position on immigration and on spending, he‘d be at 45. Because, you know, the reason he is at 31 percent or 29, depending on the poll, is because his base is deserting him, and they are deserting him over those two issues.
I mean, immigration, you cannot—it‘s difficult because, you know, everyone in our world, everyone on the coast, thinks oh, immigration, you know, who cares? But people do care a lot.
MATTHEWS: I know they do a lot.
CARLSON: They really, really do.
MATTHEWS: But I wonder why you think the president can change tune on that and do a 180 from being Mr. Over the Border to Mr...
CARLSON: I am not sure it is going to be successful.
MATTHEWS: ...Close the Border.
CARLSON: He‘s trying though. He‘s going to try. He is going to say send the National Guard down to the border. I mean...
MATTHEWS: But nobody is going to believe that, are they?
CARLSON: I‘m not going to believe it until he, you know, says look, let‘s build a wall. You know, it‘s going to take a lot to convince me.
MATTHEWS: I will take a middle course and say I think most people know that people come here to get jobs and if you outlaw their chances of getting a job, you stop the flow, at least the huge flow of illegal entry.
CARLSON: Well, that is exactly right.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s not going to do that, is he?
CARLSON: Of course not, because that will alienate the only part of his base that remains with him, and that‘s business.
COSBY: Yes, and also, look, he‘s trying to coddle it both ways too because he wants to keep the business interest, but he is also still trying to appeal to the Hispanic vote. So he is trying to sort of try to throw a little bit here, throw a little bit here.
MATTHEWS: No, those two sides agree.
COSBY: Yes, well, they do agree.
MATTHEWS: Business wants cheap labor, and cheap labor want jobs.
MATTHEWS: It is the other people that don‘t like the dirty deal.
COSBY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And he is still trying to bring in a little bit of the conservatism.
MATTHEWS: How? How is he moving right?
COSBY: I mean, he‘s trying to say, look, I‘m going to step up enforcement, the sort of word enforcement, but the question is, is that enough? I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Joe, you‘re the politician. You have got the experience here. You know how voters move. Are voters going to have their heads turned by a president who has been so pro-legalization, so pro-guest worker to come on and say I‘m going to sing the national anthem in English and some other tap dance and convince them to change—that he has changed?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. I will tell you why. Voters only care about what you did yesterday. Now what does George Bush say? George Bush says to these people that want cheap labor, his friends on Wall Street, I just gave you 77 billion more dollars of tax cuts, tax cuts on your capital gains. You listen, you want me writing tax law over the next two years instead of Charlie Rangel in the House. You don‘t want those people to take charge.
Immigration is the only issue that matters to conservatives in middle America, to such a degree that I‘ve got to do a 180. He‘s got to send troops to the border, and if he does it, he can be very American about it. He can say, you know, John Kennedy said for all of our weakness, we‘ve never had to put up a wall to keep people in our country. Well, we may have to put it up to keep them out.
So he goes conservative on immigration, and he starts vetoing spending bills left and right. He lurches wildly to the right in a way that will make “The New York Times” editorial page freak out, make you freak out, make Tucker and me in many areas freak out.
COSBY: But I would never freak out, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: But that‘s how he wins. That‘s all he can do. Because that gets him from 29 to 45.
MATTHEWS: Rita, do you believe he‘s going to do this lurch?
COSBY: I think he may try to do a little bit of a lurch and actually maybe even bigger than a slight lurch. But I do think it is going to have an impact? It may have somewhat of an impact, but there‘s a long way to go from 29 to 45 or 40 percent. I think it‘s going to be a tough one to bring back.
MATTHEWS: It seems, Joe—I think you must be right, Joe, because otherwise going on television and giving us a progress report on the legislative action on an immigration bill nobody really wants would seem to make him sink even further into bad numbers.
Look, next up, a chilly snow day. Tony Snow, the new press secretary, kicked off his new role as White House press secretary. So how is he doing? Snow crammed the press into his personal office today, instead of the usual briefing room, but reporters say it was too packed. They couldn‘t even hear him.
When Helen Thomas pressed Snow on NSA spying, he said honestly I cannot answer the question because I don‘t know enough about it. “The Washington Examiner” reported Thursday that Snow unleashed major criticism of White House coverage. One White House e-mailer reporter said “The New York Times” continues to ignore America‘s economic progress.
Another White House e-mail said CBS News misleadingly reports that only 8 million seniors have signed up for Medicare prescription drug coverage, and yet another attack from the White House on the media, “USA Today” claims poor often minority Medicare beneficiaries are not enrolling in Medicare drug coverage.
Let‘s start with Rita on this. Is it smart for Tony Snow to start hitting the media like he‘s a blogger out there?
COSBY: You know, I don‘t think it is, and I‘m a little surprised that Tony is doing that because Tony is very close to many people in the media. I mean, I‘ve known Tony for years. A lot of us have. I‘m a little surprised.
On the other hand, he is one of these guys who wants to hold people accountable. I think we‘ll also see a bit of a softer side to Tony Snow too. I think we‘re seeing a little bit of his attack mode, but I think we‘ll also see him befriending, you know, keeping those relationships that he has in the press. And I think he‘s going to try to put a little bit of a softer image on this president.
MATTHEWS: OK. Is he trying to get a softer image for the president by having a stronger image for himself, Joe? Is he trying to earn his bones by showing he‘s tougher on the press so the president will trust him?
SCARBOROUGH: And, again, I say this to my Democratic friends, it‘s only political advice, lurch to the right, attack “The New York Times,” attack CBS News, go after—listen, when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment they sent Carville out to go after the press. They sent Carville out to go after Ken Starr. They went after special prosecutors. They went after judges. They went after everybody.
If this guy—if George Bush doesn‘t want to lose Congress and get impeached, they better start attacking. That‘s political advice. And Tony Snow is not going to soften up this president. He has got to get tough if they want to win.
MATTHEWS: Tucker, your turn. I‘m sorry.
COSBY: You know, Chris, I think he‘s got to do that to keep the base, I agree. But he‘s certainly not going to win friends, you know, in terms of the press corps. I think, they‘re going to be vicious on him...
SCARBOROUGH: He doesn‘t want to be friends with the press.
COSBY: And he doesn‘t, but I think the president needs a little bit better relationship with the press than he had with the prior press.
MATTHEWS: I have to give Tucker a chance here. Tucker, you‘re the man of nuance here. Tucker, you‘re the nuanced guy. Is this smart to have a Tony Snow, Mr. Nice guy play bad cop? So that he goes out there and smashes us, point by point, day by day.
CARLSON: Yes. Look, there‘s some truth in it for one thing, which always helps, right? Snow could also say plausibly, I worked in the press, I have some understanding of how it works. He can say in the most general terms, he‘s not going to attack reporters individually by name I don‘t expect.
And when he says, look, CBS and “The New York Times” are liberal news organizations, that‘s objectively true, and everybody knows it‘s true. And I think, you know, at this point, Bush‘s job is not to win back disaffected Democrats, it‘s to win back people who voted for him. They‘re the people he needs back. They are the people Republicans need to turn out, you know, this November. And it helps. It gets them fired up for good reason too.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Chris, when you‘re at 29 percent, there ain‘t no time for nuance. You‘ve got to get to 45 percent.
COSBY: Good point. Good point.
MATTHEWS: When HARDBALL returns, Nancy Pelosi announces that if she‘s in charge of the House, she promises not to impeach the president. We‘ll find out what that‘s all about. You‘re watching “HARDBALL Hot Shots” only on HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “HARDBALL Hot Shots” with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson.
Next up, Democrats bring in the noise. With George Bush‘s numbers down in the basement, Democrats have a good shot at winning back Congress come November. The stakes are high, but so are tensions within the Democratic Party.
“The Washington Post” reports that yesterday Representative Rahm Emanuel, who is leading the Democratic campaign committee in the House, stormed out of the National Committee Chairman Howard Dean‘s office after a fight over how Dean was spending campaign money.
Congressman Emanuel was heard to unleash a, quote, “trail of expletives.” He says that Dean is squandering cash too early and too freely. According to “The Post,” also this week Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi put out word that if Democrats win back the House this fall, there will be no attempts to impeach George Bush under her watch.
Well, let‘s start with that simple one for both parties here.
Rita, why is Nancy Pelosi promising not to do what some people think she might do maybe, which is to try to impeach the president?
COSBY: Well, she‘s trying to keep those moderates, those folks happy. And, again, we were just talking about the last block, this is all about politics, playing to those key folks, playing to those folks that she‘s hoping are going to eventually help them win back the House.
MATTHEWS: Tucker, why is she saying I won‘t impeach?
CARLSON: Because she‘s trying to seem non-scary, non-threatening. Impeachment is not the question anyway. I mean, Bush is not going to be convicted, So that‘s irrelevant. The question is, the investigation. There will be, if Democrats take either chamber, a lot of investigations. It will be 1997 again. And you know, that‘s what matters. I guess, you know, she‘s not going to promise not to do that.
MATTHEWS: What was 1997? What was 1997?
CARLSON: 1997 was a point in history in which there were—I don‘t know how many investigations in the Clinton administration, more than I remember. I was covering it at the time, and I can‘t even recall all of them. It was like basically everybody in the entire building had been subpoenaed that year.
MATTHEWS: What is this, Joe? I promise not to throw you in the briar patch? I mean, why is she saying, I‘m not going to do what everybody figures she might do? What does she gain by saying I won‘t do it?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, most people think she had a shaky performance this past weekend on “Meet the Press,” and there was a fear that there may be all those investigations that we ran against Bill Clinton in 97, 98, and 99.
I would just tell Tucker, we didn‘t conduct enough investigations.
CARLSON: I loved them. I am not against them.
CARLSON: That was the high point of my life.
SCARBOROUGH: Because when you have got “The New York Times” saying that Clinton, you know, engaged in all of this foul play, we were pretty inept at it.
But Nancy Pelosi is afraid she‘s going to scare moderates, just like Rita said. But I think it‘s a stupid promise to make. You don‘t promise you‘re not going to impeach a president. If they‘re impeachable offenses out there, you lead where the evidence takes you.
MATTHEWS: Joe, you start here again. Why are the Democrats fighting publicly? You know, marriages are ruined sometimes by financial arguments. Why are the Democrats on the verge of victory publicly fighting with each other?
SCARBOROUGH: Because it‘s so close that Rahm Emanuel can just taste it, and here‘s a guy who‘s tough, as you know. He‘s a street fighter, and I‘d bet he would be a great ward boss. You have got Howard Dean, a guy that they obviously think is a little bit loopy, the former Vermont governor. Think about the massive lead that he lost and think of the millions of dollars, I will say that he frittered away.
This guy is not who I would let guard my bank account if I wanted to take over Congress. And he‘s apparently blowing money in stupid ways again that‘s concerning Rahm Emanuel.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. What a group, Joe Scarborough, thank you, Joe. Thank you Rita. Thank you Tucker.
Up next, author Bill Carter on the politics and personalities of television news. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
If you think politics is in a state of flux, wait until you hear about the news organizations covering it. In the past year, some major developments are dramatically changing the TV news landscape as we know it.
How it all plays out is going to be told to us right now by “New York Times” reporter and author of the new book, “Desperate Networks.” Bill Carter has been following every step and misstep along the way, and is here to explain how it all goes. Look, we have got three networks we grew up with, and then we‘ve got all the other networks, including this one—MS, CNN, Fox—who‘s winning?
BILL CARTER, AUTHOR, “DESPERATE NETWORKS”: Well, you can say the viewer is winning because he has got a lot more choice than he had before. You know, obviously, Fox has made a huge impact on the marketplace.
They‘ve created a brand and are making money off it.
But I think the broadcast networks are still doing pretty well in news, and especially NBC. NBC is winning in the morning and they‘re winning in the evening. That‘s impressive.
MATTHEWS: And what do you think that is all about?
CARTER: That‘s all about having thought through the transitions. I mean, they‘ve done extremely well when talent leaves, bringing in new talent. you know, Bryant Gumbel leaves, Matt Lauer moves in. Katie Couric is leaving, Meredith Vieira, great choice. They had Tom Brokaw leave, they had Brian Williams ready. They had him teed up, ready to go.
MATTHEWS: And this network I know, NBC, generally has done a lot of work to make sure that the ground was laid for Brian, that it was it was a nice, smooth, build up.
CARTER: Beautiful transition. Yes, that‘s a G.E. thing, by the way.
They‘re always saying ...
MATTHEWS: By the way, don‘t you like that thing where the “Nightly News” starts with Brian where it has that little history? It shows Brinkley and those guys before him?
CARTER: Yes, exactly. It‘s classy.
MATTHEWS: It‘s very—and it‘s shows a continuum and a legacy.
CARTER: Exactly. And the audience that‘s been there before is very comfortable. They‘re very comfortable with Brian already.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go inside the White House. You got a book called “Desperate Networks.” I don‘t want to keep flogging this for you, but I want to ask you some political questions. Does it matter who the press secretary of the president is?
CARTER: You know, I wouldn‘t have thought so before, but it seems to now. It seems to be there‘s so much more contention in the water, in the air now, that I think it‘s making a difference. And you can see already. You have Tony Snow, before he‘s even practically in the job, he‘s attacking the media.
MATTHEWS: You see—well, I said a of couple minutes ago, being always Machiavellian and liking Tony, what he‘s trying to do is earn his bones with these guys, become a made man of this administration, and the only way to do that is to show you‘re more mad dog than the president.
Because otherwise, the president will be saying to you—and I‘ve been in this situation—your pals in the media are giving me a hard time. Better to go in the room and say, those SOBs, Mr. President, I hate those guys. They‘re screwing you and I‘m going to get them.
CARTER: Yes, well, that may be good for the administration. I don‘t know ...
MATTHEWS: That‘d be good for Tony inside the administration.
CARTER: Maybe it is, but is it good for relations with the press going forward?
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
CARTER: I don‘t think so. I think there‘s already too much contention in that relationship. They—at the end with Scott McClellan, it was like—it was really like they turned him off completely, like he didn‘t know anything and they weren‘t trusting what he said.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know why I‘m arguing in this direction with you, because I‘ve never had a worse time with an administration, especially the vice president‘s office. They never stop calling up, and yelling and complaining. That doesn‘t work, does it?
CARTER: No, I think, you know, they‘ve been—I think they‘re blaming the messenger now. It‘s all about that. It‘s all about attacking the media.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the pack mentality, because anybody out there who‘s a conservative—our audience is pretty split, basically, pretty diverse. You know, when you see a guy going down like Nixon was in the toilet, I mean, you see these great bumper stickers at the time, “Get Off His Back.” I love those things, because everybody knew what it meant.
Well, with Bush—I‘m not saying I‘m feeling particularly sorry for anybody in politics. They chose their life, but Bush is down there. You know, Lou Harris, a liberal pollster—let‘s get straight on that—has got him down to 29. Is it too easy now to bash him? Even the money guys in our business saying hit him again.
CARTER: Yes, but you have to say that the media didn‘t go after him for a long time.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about it. We were embedded, I think, too much on the political end of the thing.
CARTER: Yes, way too much. So when it turns around, and is also, I think, because the Congress is controlled by one party, the press is starting to think well, we‘re the only oversight. You know, we are the oversight. If there‘s no oversight in Congress, who‘s breaking these stories about the NSA? Who‘s covering all that?
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a favorite topic of mine, which is the war in Iraq. OK, I‘ve been skeptical about the arguments made. I‘ve been—you know, I can‘t say right or wrong, but I think there‘s been real questions about the case made.
And—but I see the media still in this lazy habit of assuming if you‘re pro war and this was a smart thing to do—mentally embedded with this—you‘re treated as the majority.
The fact is, Cindy Sheehan is more representative of most people‘s thinking now, as far left as she seems, because most Americans for months now believe it was a mistake to go to war, yet the mainstream media continues to act as if most people support the war, and it‘s the outside weirdos that oppose it. That‘s not true. The average American opposes this war.
CARTER: That‘s what the polls are telling us.
MATTHEWS: But why is the media still acting as if it is a gung ho country on this?
CARTER: I don‘t know. I think the media has been very much courting favor with the administration for a long time.
CARTER: Because I think that was the only way to get access with these guys. They‘ve been very difficult to talk to, they‘ve been very difficult to get—and you see that playing out. In this town ...
MATTHEWS: You‘re singing my song. I think you‘re right. I think
there has been much—the word embedding is, of course, appropriate for
people, like David Bloom went out there and lost his life, really risking -
getting in the tough conditions of war, but when you start thinking like the party you‘re covering, the politicians you‘re covering, you‘re not covering them.
CARTER: I‘ve seen more comment recently about that whole embedding thing was a psychological ploy almost and it worked kind of very effectively ...
MATTHEWS: To get us support.
CARTER: ... to get the media saying we‘re involved, you‘re more involved that way. You know ...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the late Peter Jennings. What was he like? Was he great?
CARTER: Peter was—I thought he was really great on the air. I thought he was a great anchor and a great correspondent. He was a little stiff, though. You know, I mean, and he was ...
MATTHEWS: A little British.
CARTER: A little British and a little hard to get close to, I think. And the fact that he succeeded on television is remarkable because that doesn‘t usually work on television.
MATTHEWS: I know we don‘t like the above the battle kind of guys.
Dan Rather, bad ending—long career but bad ending.
CARTER: Bad ending. I always got along great with the guy.
MATTHEWS: Me too.
CARTER: I thought he was a really good guy and a courtly guy, you know, a southern ...
MATTHEWS: Very old school.
CARTER: ... old school guy. I really enjoyed his personality.
MATTHEWS: A real gentleman, but yet he trusted the wrong sources.
CARTER: He sure did. That was a mistake of monumental proportions because as I ...
MATTHEWS: And we had that nut on here and we knew he was a nut. We spent a lot of time with that guy. We knew he wasn‘t reliable.
CARTER: I know, and if you‘re going to do a story about the president in the middle of the campaign, you have got to have it nailed six ways to Sunday, especially a story that everybody accepted anyway. There was something fluky going on with this National Guard thing.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t do the crime if you can‘t do the time.
MATTHEWS: Bill Carter, the name of the book is “Desperate Networks.”
I guess that‘s about like “Desperate Housewives”?
MATTHEWS: Play HARDBALL with us again live at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern on Monday night followed by President Bush‘s prime-time address to the country about immigration. Will Congress and the country get on board with his plan to control the borders? We‘ll see Monday night.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”
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