Guests: John Fund, Mark Green, Jack Carter, Alan Schlesinger, Chris Cillizza, Jeff Zeleny
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: What wins elections, the Republicans‘ focus on fear, or the Democrats‘ focus on anger? The Republicans‘ focus on terror, or the Democrats‘ focus on Iraq?
And what‘s the story in Connecticut. Who are the Bush people actually pushing? The guy who won the Republican primary or the guy who lost the Democratic primary? And George Allen wasn‘t saying “Hakuna Matata.” Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL.
Eighty-four days now before the congressional midterm elections and President Bush is, again, trying to put the spotlight on national security. Today he visited National Counterterrorism Center, but are we safer today than we were five years ago?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is safer than it has been, but it‘s not yet safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The Democrats are now determined to fight the political battle over national security. 2008 front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton of New York came out blasting President Bush today for not doing enough. Tonight we‘ll debate the politics of a very simple question: Are you safer?
And later, Republican Senator George Allen apologized for calling a rival campaign worker a “Macaca,” a derogatory term for a North African, something that could come back and haunt his 2008 presidential aspirations.
And why won‘t the Republican leaders come out and support their party‘s own candidate up in Connecticut? We‘re going to talk to the candidate tonight himself, and find out why they‘re ignoring him.
But first, with the midterms around the corner, the political war over national security is on. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has the report.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the second straight day since returning from vacation, President Bush tried to boost his political standing by keeping the focus on homeland security. Today, at the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia, he took partial credit for thwarting last week‘s terror threat.
BUSH: Because of the good work in Great Britain and because of the help of the people here at NCTC, we disrupted a terror plot.
SHUSTER: Analysts say the Bush administration had little to do with unraveling the plot. In any case, Democrats have decided to engage in the political battle over national security and are now opening fire.
A new Internet ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows a Osama bin Laden, refers to an increase in terror attacks, and points to nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
Yesterday, Senate Democratic candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee attacked the Bush administration for shutting down a CIA unit trying to find bin Laden. Quote, “The president told us that the British attacks are a stark reminder that the nation is at war with Islamic fascists. Yet, his administration has dismantled the very infrastructure that is responsible for catching those terrorists.”
In New York, Senator Hillary Clinton says the Bush administration has not done enough to secure the homeland. Quote, “We still have not done what we need to do to protect our ports, our borders, our bridges, our transit systems, our rail lines. It‘s a long list.”
Earlier this month, Clinton blasted the Bush administration for the problems in Iraq, and called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s resignation.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Because of the administration‘s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.
SHUSTER: Republicans have trampled Democrats on national security politics in the last two elections, but the political landscape has changed. In the latest “Newsweek” poll, a record 62 percent of voters disapprove of President Bush‘s handling of Iraq. And last week, that anger over the war led to a historic upset in Connecticut of three-term incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman by Democratic, anti-war challenger Ned Lamont.
NED LAMONT, CT DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: It‘s time we fix George Bush‘s failed foreign policy.
SHUSTER: In the case of Senator Clinton, by ratcheting up attacks against President Bush, Clinton is trying to blunt Democratic anger at her for voting to authorize the Iraq war in the first place. But as Clinton steps up criticism of the administration, her Republican Senate campaign opponent is seizing the opportunity to bloody her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Hillary Clinton he opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9/11. She‘d leave us vulnerable.
SHUSTER: In Virginia, Republican Senator George Allen is getting attacked over national security from the left, specifically his support for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely. Like Clinton, Allen is trying to use his Senate campaign this fall as a springboard for presidential politics in 2008. But at the moment, Allen is on the defensive.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA: My friends, we‘re going to run this campaign on positive constructive ideas.
SHUSTER: At that very same event this week, Allen pointed to S.R. Sidarth, who was born and raised in Virginia, and is monitoring Allen events for Democratic opponent Jim Webb.
ALLEN: Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
SHUSTER: Macaca is a term that can refer to monkeys. Allen says he was making reference to the young man‘s mohawk haircut. In any case, Allen has now apologized.
(on camera): And with that apology, the Allen campaign is hoping the Virginia Senate race will soon return to a debate over national security. That debate over how to make America safer is now erupting in almost every race as the battle for Congress intensifies.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, David Shuster.
Let‘s bring on OpinionJournal.com columnist John Fund and Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate who is now running for attorney general of the state of New York. Thank you, gentlemen.
You first, John. What‘s going to win this election—put on your political analyst hat. I know they‘ll be some advocacy in this, but put on your hate and try to decide this. Do voters vote fear or do they vote anger?
JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, I think for the next 85 days, we‘re going to see an increasing number of negative ads from both sides. I think a lot of voters are going to tune them out. It‘s think it‘s going to be a choice between the Republicans who have not given people much confidence that they are winning the war in Iraq or the war on terror, and the Democrats.
Only 27 percent of the American people told the “Washington Post” in a resents survey that they think the Democrats have much of a plan to win either. Both parties polled negatively on the war on terror, so the question really becomes a question of degree. Neither party polls well.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Mark, the question anger and fear. We know the fear factor, it‘s 9/11 again. We saw it again this week with the British broken story over there, where they smashed that plot to blow up nine planes over the Atlantic. And, of course, 9/11 is always a big thing where you‘re from, New York City. And then of course anger, the public‘s anger over this frustrating war in Iraq. It seems by so many people‘s standards to have been unnecessary.
MARK GREEN, NEW DEMOCRACY PROJECT: In terms of the facts, there‘s
stubborn things as, of course, Ronald Reagan used to say. So fear won,
speaking generally, in ‘02 and ‘04 because we were that much closer to 9/11
I was 40 blocks north, five seconds later I saw the burst of flame from the World Trade Center. It‘s a real issue, obviously.
But now because Bush is provably failing in Iraq—I love Bob Herbert‘s column on it. He said if you think we should have gone into Iraq and it‘s working, you‘re either not reading the papers or you need therapy or you‘re not watching HARDBALL.
Conclusion, while they may poll both poorly, as John said, on terrorism and Iraq, one of the two parties has a monopoly in Washington, in the House, the Senate, the executive branch, and the clergy and the courts and corporations. That‘s Republicans.
So if we‘re failing abroad, our presence is fomenting and metastasizing the insurgency and more terrorism, which will come back to us eventually, the Republicans will be blamed, because in the sixth year of an eight-year presidency, you know the pendulum effect. The party that‘s regarded as in power gets shellacked at the polls.
MATTHEWS: John, what about the problem for Republicans that Iraq goes on? There‘s not going to be one of these shift in politics from the White House in the policy in Iraq between now and November. Iraq is the one guaranteed sore sport, whereas terrorism seems to strike its ugly head intermittently.
FUND: That‘s right, but the terrorists may well attack before the election. They want to affect the election. If we get distracted by another terrorist plot or, Lord help us, some kind of attack on us or American interests abroad, the entire subject matter changes.
One thing though, that I think the Bush administration can ultimately say—and of course, obviously, you have to knock on wood. It has been five years since 9/11, and we all expected after 9/11 that by this time there would be another attack on the homeland.
So far, there has not been and various attacks have been thwarted, so the Bush administration is clearly in charge of a failing policy in Iraq. The American people are upset about that, but in terms of the homeland, the American people have done fairly well the last five years. We have not been attacked.
GREEN: Let me address something that John said. I agree that the Bush people can claim good credit because we haven‘t been attacked, but Americans every night see Baghdad blowing up, 100 people a day being killed. From Bali to Spain and to London subways and almost flights, it doesn‘t seem that we‘re safer.
And of course, if Bush invaded Iraq to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, then one can‘t fault him alone for this. There obviously isn‘t peace and stability in the Middle East, quite the opposite. And so I think it may have been convincing in ‘02 and ‘04 when Bush said I‘ve kept you safer. But, you know, even analytically, we‘re going to spend over a trillion dollars, counting debt in Iraq. For $10 billion, we could arm every airliner with anti-missile devices. For $40 billion—which is a lot of money to you and me, but not in terms of a trillion, we can make sure that not five percent, but 50 percent of all containers coming into our ports from Baltimore to New York are inspected for a nuclear device, God forbid.
So I think the Bush people should be on the defensive, and I hope there‘s—I mean, I‘m in New York, we‘re all Americans—I hope there‘s no attack. But that omission of an attack is no longer an excuse.
One last point. Remember how Democrats ran against Hoover, election after election?
MATTHEWS: About 50 years.
GREEN: And eventually, we became a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox, and you can‘t do it anymore. Bush is running on the bloody shirt of 9-11. And because of our proven failures abroad in Iraq and in the Middle East, I think—I don‘t think that has legs anymore.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, John, you raised an interesting point there, the possibility of timing, of political timing of an attack against the United States. We saw that, of course, in Spain, where the government that was supporting our coalition of the willing against Iraq in the Iraq war was knocked out of office in an election, because, let‘s face it, they were hit there by this—by the subway bombing.
Do you think the bad guys out there, whether al Qaeda or someone related to al Qaeda, think that bombing us, hitting us in a very bad way before the election, would hurt or help this administration? What would be their motive, their goal?
FUND: You know, lots of people have motives. The Iranians six months ago were on the ropes. They were having the Europeans close in on them. There were going to be sanctions on their atomic energy program. We were talking about Iran as a rogue nation. Iran has managed to change the subject. There are Hezbollah proxies, have had suicide bombings and rockets. We don‘t talk as much about Iranians‘ nuclear weapon program. We talk about Hezbollah. So the Iranians may well want to humiliate us and distract us again from confronting before the election.
MATTHEWS: Well, how—I‘m just trying to find out—if we get hit between now and September whatever—first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, the election day, do you, a priori right now that that would be an attempt to knock off the Bush administration? Or do you think it would be to help the—it would be an attempt to help the Democrats; in other words, to beat the Bush people?
FUND: I don‘t think our enemies hate the Bush administration so much as they hate the entire United States of America. They hate the government.
MATTHEWS: But why would they hit us before...
FUND: They want to create maximum...
MATTHEWS: You raised—John, you raised this issue.
FUND: They want to create...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just trying to find out what you meant. You suggested...
FUND: They want to create...
MATTHEWS: You suggested a minute ago that they‘re going to hit us to help the Democrats beat Bush.
FUND: Chris, if you create mayhem before an election, you help to destabilize the government, you throw the voters into concern, and you may have affect the election. If you‘re given credit for affecting the election, that makes it more likely that you can control events in the future.
GREEN: I couldn‘t disagree more, John. First of all, neither of us are really—can put ourselves in Osama bin Laden‘s or Nasrallah‘s head.
FUND: We have lots of enemies, not just Osama bin Laden.
GREEN: I said Nasrallah also, and Hezbollah. But since we can‘t imitate them, let me give it a try. If Bush wants to run on fear—and it worked in the midterms and it worked in ‘04 -- and if bin Laden himself, on the Friday before the general election in ‘04, tried to scare America, I think he was trying to help Bush, because radicals profit when their enemies are in power.
So if, as most people now agree, that our war in Iraq is recruiting more radicals in al Qaeda—not only in Iraq, but around the world—you better believe that while Bush is today bragging, thank God there‘s been no attack, if there should be, he‘ll then say, now more than ever, you need a tough government going after these guys. I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that an attack will be exploited to promote the fear mongers.
FUND: If the attack comes in such a way that it exposes, once again, the incompetence of our intelligence agencies or our frontline defenders, you can bet that there will be a much swifter backlash. There will be a lot more second guessing about who failed to protect us than there were after 9-11. It took a couple of years before the 9-11 Commission was formed. That would happen much more quickly if there were a second attack.
MATTHEWS: Do you guys think that the attack on 9-11 was meant to trigger a massive U.S. action, aggressive action in the Middle East?
MATTHEWS: John, do you think they knew we‘d come in there to Afghanistan and then into Iraq?
FUND: We have, from the interrogations of Osama bin Laden‘s lieutenants, their belief that we had pulled out of Beirut, we had pulled out of Somalia, we had not acted to really get Osama bin Laden after the Tanzania and the Kenyan embassies, and the USS Cole, we never went after them after that, either.
So they presumed that maybe, if we had a cataclysmic terrorist attack,
we might just pull our horns out of Middle East. And that was ultimately -
or Saudi Arabia, at least. Getting our troops out of Saudi Arabia would have been a signal victory for them. I don‘t think they anticipated the extent of the attack because our previous responses were so weak.
GREEN: We are out of Saudi Arabia.
FUND: No, we have troops there.
GREEN: We have largely pulled out the way bin Laden wanted, and I don‘t disagree with that.
FUND: We have the same—we have almost the same number of troops there that we had five years ago, about 16,000. Look it up.
GREEN: All right, I‘ll defer to you on that. I think it‘s less, John. But in any event, I don‘t know why they attacked. And it may have been just to show it to America that he was powerful. And since then, bin Laden has—bin Laden is more popular than the American president in Muslim and some non-Muslim countries. There‘s only one indication of the immense cost to our goodwill. Rumsfeld himself says ultimately, it‘s a battle our hearts and minds. The military may be able to defeat a fixed state. You can‘t defeat a guerrilla movement.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think anyone‘s arguing we‘re more popular in that part of the world now then we were five or six years ago.
Anyway, thank you John Fund, thank you Mark Green. Mark Green‘s going to stay with us, talk about his new box, “Losing Our Democracy.” And later, President Bush and leading Republicans are mum—there‘s on old time word—on supporting Joe Lieberman‘s Republican opponent Alan Schlesinger. Mr. Schlesinger, who seems to be overlooked by the Republican Party, and his friend in the White House, is going to come here and talk about not getting any attention.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Mark Green to talk about his new book, “Losing our Democracy.”
Mark, you are tough. This show is HARDBALL. You‘re much tougher. You talk in your book about the vice-president of the United States, duly elected twice now as incorrigible liar. Give me specifics, give me evidence.
GREEN: When he was on with Gloria Berger (sic), saying...
GREEN: Right, Borger. Saying I never said that Mohammed Atta had met with al Qaeda agents in Prague. And then John Stewart gleefully showed the tape of him saying it. Now, you and I could say something and have forgotten we said something originally. There‘s always an excuse. So frequently does he say to John Edwards in the debate, I‘ve never met you, I‘ve never seen you before, sir.
All the mistakes going up, leading up to our Iraqi invasion, could be attributed to just bad intelligence or wish fulfilling. At a certain point, it‘s a matter of degree, like going from cold to hot water to scalding water. He‘s a vice president of the American Enterprise Institute and military bases. He just gives speeches to flock.
And Bush and Cheney, in my view, unlike Nixon and Clinton, who would analyze facts which would lead to conclusions. They arrive at conclusions and then work backward to facts, so it is anti-science, it is unempirical, that you lie or make a mistake is something other presidents have done, other vice presidents have done. They are radicals though, Chris, in my view, hence losing our democracy. They are trampling on the values of the flags they fly, far more than a few fools every year who burn it.
MATTHEWS: Well let me get back to Cheney, because he impresses me by his political ability. He‘s running in the mid 20‘s in job approval. He doesn‘t seem to need public approval. It‘s almost like he‘s beyond democratic approval or democratic accountability. He does things that bother most people, like he has energy task force meetings with oil executives and basically comes out with an energy policy that I don‘t know, we have high gas prices whether it‘s his fault or not. He doesn‘t seem to have to respond to that. Even President Bush has to answer questions. This guy doesn‘t. How does he do it?
GREEN: He‘s No. 2. He‘s a bucket of warm spit, said James Garner. I‘m sorry, you and I know, that‘s James Garner, the vice president to Roosevelt. But in fact, he‘s a bucket of warm spit who‘s partly run...
MATTHEWS: ... That‘s where the guy said, his job‘s not worth a bucket of warm spit. But the fact is, it is a powerful job. He is very much the president‘s conciliary on the war. He‘s very much the leader of the neoconservatives. He uses their influence and their ideas and their brain power to move the president.
GREEN: It is sad, for me as a proud progressive Democrat to acknowledge that because both chambers are Republican, he has never investigated for condoning torture, which has had a huge backlash against us both in Iraq and around the world, and for excusing lawlessness.
You know, President Bush willfully and criminally violated the law with wireless wiretaps. I‘m for wiretapping foreign agents. We have, as you know, a foreign intelligence surveillance court.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t the British pretty good at wiretapping? Is it working for them?
GREEN: Their laws are their laws. It may have—I hope it worked in this situation. But our FISA Court has turned down five requests for wiretaps in the last 4,000. It works, not good enough for Bush. Apparently when George W. Bush took the oath to faithfully execute the laws, Chris, he took it literally.
He doesn‘t care about law, which is just a political bother to him. Why? It‘s all about funds to big business, policies to his base, the religious far right, on Terri Schiavo, her stem cells, and so losing our democracy argues that this is a radical bunch.
MATTHEWS: You say he loses our democracy. But what‘s his hold on this country, because the fact is although he‘s down the numbers—he is down, the numbers down, he won two elections, and you know, I‘m not sure people hate this guy. I think he‘s—people—well maybe they‘re starting to sympathize with him, but I don‘t know, he does have a political hold on this country, more than most Democrats I can think of.
GREEN: He ran against Clinton‘s indiscretions in ‘00, he ran on 9/11 after. Pepsi beats Coke in blind taste tests. They have a superior brand. Until now, until all their policies are being repudiated, the brand of flags and faith and anti-gays has worked. But at the moment, he‘s gone from the mid 50‘s as you know to the mid 30‘s, and I don‘t think the trick can work anymore. One last thing, just before I came on...
MATTHEWS: ... By the way, taste is a matter of taste. I like Coke, OK? So it may pass tests with people who are strangers to it, but I like Coke. A lot of the people still, a third of the country, still roots for Bush after every mistake that‘s been made, every bit of WMD that‘s been disproven, all the thing about the happy Iraqis greeting us, all the stuff that they promised this administration has been proven wrong and yet a third of the country hangs in there rooting for the guy.
GREEN: Forty-two percent of Americans believe in demonic possession. This is a tough argument we have to make. Just before I came on, I saw the “Newsweek”—I saw Joe Scarborough saying that five times more Americans know who the “Three Stooges” are than Sam Alito.
So in this country, there are a big body of people who believe more in the Bible than the Constitution, they don‘t know the Bill of Rights until they come after them. So Republican librarians didn‘t much care about the Bill of Rights until the Patriot Act started telling them they have couldn‘t—they had to watch out, the books that they rented out—that they let out at the library and they could be reported for it.
Ultimately, this administration, if you connect the dots, is assaulting our democracy. President Bush in volume and quality cares way more about democracy in Iraq than America losing our democracy.
MATTHEWS: “Losing our Democracy” by Mark Green—good luck in your race for attorney general.
GREEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, it‘s primary day in Nevada. The likely Democratic nominee for Senate is Jack Carter, remember that name? Son of former President Jimmy Carter. He‘s running, he‘s probably going to win the Democratic nomination today. We‘ll talk about his chances of winning the general in November. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It‘s primary day out in Nevada today and Jack Carter, the son of former President Jimmy Carter is running in an uphill race apparently for the U.S. Senate there. He‘s the likely Democratic candidate against incumbent senator John Ensign in this race, which is Carter‘s first race for public office.
Mr. Carter, Jack Carter, thank you for joining us tonight. Why are you making a run against this guy who looks to me on the list as being pretty safe, John Ensign?
JACK CARTER (D), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, Chris, contrary to what a lot of your other people have been saying, I think that this election is about bringing America together and I think that the partisan politics is something that has been working against us for a long time and I am convinced if you get together and talk about going back to the old way of bringing people together to solve problems, that that‘s what this country really needs.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re running as a Democrat, right?
CARTER: Oh yes, I‘m running as a Democrat because I think that Democrats are for working men and women in America, but there‘s a lot of problems out there that are neither Democrat or Republican, Iraq is one of them, as you‘ve—actually, you haven‘t really found that yet.
MATTHEWS: Well yes—but it seems to me there‘s two positions on Iraq, one is we should have gone and one is we shouldn‘t have gone. Which is yours?
CARTER: Well the real point about Iraq is that if we had involved more people and brought a lot of people together and had come up with a decent plan to start with and gotten competent to run it, we would not have the situation that we‘ve got there now, so with a real problem there again was partisan politics.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have gone?
CARTER: Well no, if I had been in there, I probably would not have voted to go into Iraq. But that was because I was not convinced of the evidence, particularly since we had people looking there on the ground and also because we were unable to come up with a real coalition of people around us to go in, so I probably would not have for those two reasons.
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t that worth arguing about, isn‘t that worth dividing the country‘s opinion on? I mean, it seems to me one person will walk into a room and say I think we should have gone into Iraq and the other one says we shouldn‘t have. Isn‘t that something worth debating? Why do you want to find some common ground when it would be fictitious to say there is common ground? What‘s the common ground on whether we should have gone or not gone? Don‘t you have to make up your mind?
CARTER: I think the common ground was to really include people. This entire—oh, I‘d say for 15 or 20 years now, but really seriously in the last six years has been an effort to divide. It‘s been an effort to achieve the 51 percent that people need by just carving out just enough to get that 51 percent.
There‘s not been a real effort on either side to reach across party lines and come to a consensus about anything, and that is what I think led to us going into ...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s supply your role here, your discussion point here. Let‘s take it back to 2002. We‘ve been hit by the al Qaeda forces, we lost 3,000 people, we went into Afghanistan and destroyed the Taliban, which had been protecting al Qaeda over there in Afghanistan and then the decision was what should we do next?
Some people would have said we should have pursued al Qaeda with everything we had, everything agent we had in the world, worked with everybody in the world and nail and destroy that organization. The other group, neoconservatives, the president, the vice president said no, we have to have a big band, we have to really show them who‘s boss. We‘re going to blow them out of Iraq. Where would you have been and what‘s the common ground between those two views? I can‘t see it.
CARTER: No, the common ground is not between those two views in the sense that you put them. The actual common ground is let‘s include more people in our decision making process. Right now, the national security is primarily the province of the administration. The Congress has just been sitting on the sidelines and letting the administration go. There‘s a lot of experience in that Congress.
MATTHEWS: That‘s true. That‘s true, but isn‘t that what you‘re talking about, some kind of consensus? But my criticism is that a lot of people went along with the decision to go into Iraq, even if they didn‘t think it was well considered, for fear they might be accused of being treasonous or accused of being not supportive of national defense when they should have had followed their own instincts and brains and their own sense of history and made a judgment which was courageous instead of consensus.
CARTER: Well, to some degree I agree with you, but once again, if there had not been an issue of I am right and you are wrong and there is no middle ground, that‘s the that problem we have. There is a middle ground, there is a middle ground that is mainly let‘s pass around the information and find out if there‘s any input into it aside from what we have right now.
And if we had waited another three months or something like that instead of just being in a hurry to get in there, we had people on the ground looking for weapons of mass destruction and we probably could have put together a much broader group of people in the international level too.
MATTHEWS: Well, I wish we would have found evidence not to go because it turns out it wasn‘t what we thought it was. Thank you very much. Jack Carter running as the Democratic candidate—looks like he‘s going to win tonight—running against John Ensign for the Senate race in Nevada. Don‘t say Nevada—Nevada.
Up next, Republican Alan Schlesinger is facing Democrat Ned Lamont and Democratic primary loser Joe Lieberman in Connecticut‘s Senate race this November. Why won‘t Republican leaders endorse the Republican candidate?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Last week, three-term Senator Joe Lieberman, once his party‘s nominee for vice president, suffered a brutal loss in Connecticut‘s Democratic Senate primary. Tonight, we talk to the Republican nominee, Alan Scheslinger, who goes up against Lieberman and Democrat winner Ned Lamont this fall.
Mr. Schlesinger, what is all this thing? I have got to get this past us here. Were you banned from any casinos in Connecticut, that you‘re not allowed to play blackjack at places like whatever—Foxhood or whatever it is up there?
ALAN SCHLESINGER ®, CT SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, they‘ve talked about my skill at the game a couple of times in the campaign. It has nothing to do with this race, and it‘s ...
MATTHEWS: It has something to do with this show. Were you banned from casinos in Connecticut because you were counting cards from blackjack tables?
SCHLESINGER: To be honest with you, some casinos have said, yes, we love your play. Some casinos have said, no, we don‘t like your play.
MATTHEWS: So they banned you?
MATTHEWS: What do they mean they don‘t like your play?
SCHLESINGER: They say they prefer that I don‘t play because of my skill level.
MATTHEWS: And how do they say that?
SCHLESINGER: Well, they say it in those words.
MATTHEWS: Do they tell you to leave?
SCHLESINGER: Oh, a couple of times in casinos they‘ve asked me to leave.
MATTHEWS: Well, how can you run for the United States Senate in a state where you‘re banned from some of these facilities? That seems like that says something is wrong with you, like you‘re not credible.
SCHLESINGER: Actually, no. It has nothing to do with the race, and that issue has been dealt with over and over.
MATTHEWS: OK, have you had, in the fairly recent past, huge gambling debts that you‘ve had to pay?
SCHLESINGER: No, that‘s not true. I had a dispute in 1989 and ‘92 and I settled them and I paid them.
MATTHEWS: How much?
SCHLESINGER: This has all been mudslinging.
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s not mudslinging if it‘s true. How much have you owed, your biggest gambling debt? What was it?
SCHLESINGER: I think it was $10,000.
MATTHEWS: OK, so do you have a gambling addiction, sir?
SCHLESINGER: No, I do not. I think I‘ve played once this year.
MATTHEWS: OK, so you‘re over it, right?
SCHLESINGER: I never had a problem. I just enjoy it recreationally.
MATTHEWS: OK, I mean, you‘re over that. When you run up a $10,000 debt at a gambling table, I would call that probably overdoing it a bit for most people.
SCHLESINGER: I think to Ned Lamont, that‘s lunch money. It depends on how much you‘re worth and how much you play.
MATTHEWS: OK, did you ever use a false name to get a wampum card at an Indian-owned casino?
SCHLESINGER: Yes, that‘s the same story that you‘re referring to. I
MATTHEWS: Well, is it true or not?
SCHLESINGER: Oh, absolutely it‘s true. It‘s a marketing program for a casino and I didn‘t think it was anyone‘s business when I play at a casino, just like you can play anonymously. And I just didn‘t want my name on any of their marketing lists.
MATTHEWS: OK, so you used. What name did you use?
SCHLESINGER: Alan Gold.
MATTHEWS: Alan Gold?
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s it. Now let‘s talk about the campaign. Have you gotten any positive support from the president of the United States who is in your political party, or anyone else in your party that‘s endorsed you, to give you a sense the Republican Party really does want, you know, Alan Schlesinger to win this election?
SCHLESINGER: Oh, I‘ve been getting support from all over the state—more Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. What‘s happening with the White House is very clear. I‘m not going to allow Washington and the media to hijack this race and turn it into a national referendum on the Democratic future, the Democrat Party‘s future.
I‘m going to bring it back to the voters. This is a race about who will be elected as the voice of Connecticut in the United States Senate. As we approach the—all of the debates, and as we get closer, people are going to see that I am the voice of moderate and conservative voters in Connecticut. And I‘m going to do a hell of a job for them. I‘m not going to let this runaway and become some type of a referendum on Democrats.
MATTHEWS: I got you. I think it‘s fair enough that a Republican candidate should support—should get the support of his leaders. Here‘s the thing, though. I asked Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman last week on this show whether he, the chairman of your party, would endorse you for the Senate. Let‘s listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that a Republican should vote for Joe Lieberman or should vote for the candidate of your party? You‘ve got an opportunity now to endorse. Who are you endorsing?
KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think it‘s up—I think it‘s up to the Republicans individually to make that...
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to endorse? Do you want them to vote for Joe or for Alan?
MEHLMAN: I think they‘re—look, I think they‘re going to make their decisions, certainly on the issues of the day, whether it‘s taxes, whether it‘s the issue of ANWR. I agree with Alan more than I agree with Joe Lieberman.
MATTHEWS: Are you endorsing Alan?
MEHLMAN: So on both issues, that‘s one of the...
MATTHEWS: You‘re not talking straight here.
MEHLMAN: I‘m letting Republicans in Connecticut make that decision.
That‘s the right way I think it should go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s throwing it up there. It‘s like a jump ball, as far Ken Mehlman is concerned. Doesn‘t that bother you? He was out there, by the way. We talked to him in Ohio, campaigning for the Senate election of DeWine out there, Mike DeWine. He took sides there, he won‘t take sides for you. Have you called him yet and said would you please endorse me, I‘m your candidate?
SCHLESINGER: Chris, look, again, they have their own agenda at the White House and in Washington, and it has nothing to do with the voters.
MATTHEWS: Why are they pushing Joe Lieberman to win the—so he can
side with the Democrats in the next division on the floor of the Senate? I
mean, if Joe Lieberman has promised—I don‘t know if that‘s good or not -
but he has promised to be a Democrat if he gets to the Senate. Why do they want another Democrat in the Senate?
SCHLESINGER: They don‘t. They don‘t. They would love to have me in the Senate. But I have to earn my stripes. And that‘s what I‘m going to be doing. You see, this has been a three-way race, yet all—everyone in the media has been talking about the two Democrats. Once it‘s truly a three-way race and people are going to hear my message, I think it will be a true three-way race.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s help you here.
SCHLESINGER: The Republicans will believe that I can win.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—OK, here‘s something I don‘t know and I‘d like the answer to it. Are you more hawkish or less hawkish on Iraq and other fights in the Middle East than Joe Lieberman?
SCHLESINGER: It depends on the issue.
MATTHEWS: All right, Iraq. Would you have gone to Iraq?
SCHLESINGER: At the time, absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, what‘s the difference between you and Joe, then, on Iraq?
SCHLESINGER: On Iraq, very little, except I have put out there Maliki‘s results of saying, listen, we‘re going to get our troops replaced within the next couple years. I think we should keep his feet to the fire and have at least 50 percent of our troops replaced by this time next year.
Now, with that being said, the big threat is Iran and Ahmadinejad.
And I—if you‘re not going to find anyone more hawkish than me on that.
This guy is looking to take over the Middle East and to hurt us.
MATTHEWS: Do you take the position taken by a lot of people, like Bill Kristol, who are very ideological on this, and very tough, forward-leaning I think is the phrase they‘d like, and they want us to hit those nuclear facilities before anything gets done over there that‘s more dangerous. Do you take that view?
SCHLESINGER: Better safe than sorry, Chris.
MATTHEWS: So you think the safe move is to attack Iran?
SCHLESINGER: The safe move is to make sure they never...
SCHLESINGER: ... get close he to nuclear weapons.
MATTHEWS: Do you support attacking Iran‘s nuclear facilities?
SCHLESINGER: If necessary. If there‘s no other alternative, yes.
MATTHEWS: And when would you blow the whistle, when would you go?
SCHLESINGER: That‘s up to the administration at this point. I‘m not going to sidestep them. I would encourage them to take every, every possible protection for our national security.
MATTHEWS: OK. Alan Schlesinger...
SCHLESINGER: Can I...
MATTHEWS: ... good luck in this race. Go ahead, quick.
SCHLESINGER: Chris, I‘ll tell you, we got to start talking domestic issues, because I‘m running against two liberals. And I am the only moderate conservative. You haven‘t even heard about immigration, Social Security, Medicare. Anything that affects the average person that I talk to when I‘m campaigning, you would think they don‘t hen exist because everything is about this Democratic referendum.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I...
SCHLESINGER: We‘ve got to get that out there.
MATTHEWS: ... have to admit I‘m focused on foreign policy in this race, as a lot of people are. By the way, the latest polling tells us the number one concern of the American people nationwide is Iraq.
SCHLESINGER: It is probably the number one.
MATTHEWS: So I agree with you about all the—look, I wish we could have you back. You bring Joe back with you. You bring Lamont back with you. We‘ll have a debate here, OK?
SCHLESINGER: Anything you want.
MATTHEWS: You get them together, we‘re going to carry it, OK?
SCHLESINGER: Chris, I‘m you‘re man. Any time you want.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re not my man yet, but rMD+IN_rMDNM_I‘m not voting in Connecticut.
Anyway, thank you. Up next, HARDBALL‘s Chris Cillizza of washingtonpost.com and Jeff Zeleny of “The Chicago Tribune” will be here to talk about war politics, much more.
And tonight on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” a mystery marine who rescued police officers in 9/11 has kept his identity secret—until now. You‘ll meet him tonight at 9:00 Eastern on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With about 80 days now until election day, the hottest debate is over national security, right now at least. Republicans won, but it was the same way in 2002 and 2004. Will 2006 be different for the Democrats?
Chris Cillizza is a reporter, and author of “The Fix” for washingtonpost.com. And Jeff Zeleny is a reporter for the “Chicago Tribune.” Two big newspapers.
Let me ask you this. Is the president always going to win the argument about domestic security—Chris.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: I think he‘s going to win it among his base. And in midterm elections, that‘s what‘s important. The Republicans need to find a way to energize their base. The Democratic base is energized because they hate the president, and they‘re going to turn out and vote against him. Republicans don‘t have that same thing. Their base is not as excited. National security and terrorism, the threat of terrorism, drives the Republican base, turns them out.
MATTHEWS: Are they going to make the case effectively that the Democrats are going to jeopardize our national security?
CILLIZZA: The question—I think it‘s two different arguments.
MATTHEWS: In the House.
MATTHEWS: If the Democrats take over the House, are they going to jeopardize American security? Are they going to make another 9/11 more likely?
CILLIZZA: I think it‘s a harder sell than it was in 2002, harder sell than it was in 2004. We‘re further removed, number one, from September 11th. And number two, I think...
MATTHEWS: And we‘re closer to Iraq?
CILLIZZA: Exactly right. And Iraq bleeds into national security and terrorism and foreign policy.
MATTHEWS: Jeff Zeleny, your thoughts from Chicago?
JEFF ZELENY, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: One thing matters above all. Can Republicans succeed in selling the war and the war on terror as one thing? I‘m not so sure it‘s as easy this time. I was out in Indiana in three swing congressional districts, talking to voters. And just what you‘re picking up among voters. It‘s A, OK to be against the war right now, so that‘s not as much of an issue. So it just depends if Republicans can link those two things. And we‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: I guess it‘s back in ‘74 and ‘75, although I didn‘t like the way we left Vietnam, we should have left them with the fighting ability to take on the north, but once we decided to leave, I think the American people decided that we could survive without winning in Vietnam. It was somehow separate from our strategic global challenge from the Soviet Union, you know, in terms of economics and ballistic power and all that sort of thing.
ZELENY: The thing right now is, in 2004 it was sort of unusual for anyone to be against the war, even Democrats. Right now, it‘s commonplace for Democrats and even a few Republicans, so I think Democrats need one more sentence.
MATTHEWS: Why is there still a big differential on Iraq if that‘s true? Every time you look at the polls, the internals, you see Republicans much more believing that Iraq is part of the war on terror.
ZELENY: I think they still support the president. Those are core Republicans, you know, his core support, who will probably not ever fall away from him. But you know, in the middle, those moderates, who are Republicans that need to win back—or to hold on to the House and to hold on the Senate, you know, they‘re wavering.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about—let‘s put Iraq aside. Let‘s take for granted that most people don‘t like the war, they would like us get the hell out of there, and the numbers prove that. But when it comes to defending the country on issues like intelligence, tough intelligence, you have to get by not breaking the rules but moving them, questions of wiretaps, questions of prisoner interrogations and how tough you get to find out who the bad guys are. Are the Democrats vulnerable on that, Chris? That they look too civil liberties oriented and not tough enough on security end of it?
CILLIZZA: I think you‘re seeing an example of it in the New York Senate race. Obviously, Hillary Clinton is going to win, but one of her potential opponents, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer is running an ad with a very provocative picture of Osama bin Laden, saying Hillary Clinton has jeopardized our national security because she is opposed to the NSA wiretapping program, and because she voted against the PATRIOT Act.
Now, John Spencer is sort of you know, he has got a very little microphone and Hillary Clinton has got a huge megaphone, so I‘m not sure that‘s our test case, but we‘re going to see more of things like that.
MATTHEWS: But, Jeff, will we see less Democrats‘ queasiness about surveillance because of this thing that happened in London the other day?
ZELENY: I‘m not sure that—I think Democrats are afraid of the civil liberties union, the wing of the party sort of taking over here. That is not a good issue in all of the states where they need to win—in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Indiana. So I think that is still a losing issue for Democrats if they look weak on this, and it‘s difficult for them to criticize and not look weak.
So in the final two months, two and a half months, I think it‘s a problem.
MATTHEWS: I think we‘re going to get much closer to individual—finding out who is a dangerous passenger, whether they‘re carrying a knife or not. I don‘t think somebody carrying a Swiss army knife is dangerous on an airplane. I think some people getting on with nothing are more dangerous.
We‘ll be right back with Jeff Zeleny and Chris Cillizza. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Rival campaigns always track what their opponents say out on the trail. Senator George Allen is on the hot seat for some recent comments caught on tape by a supporter of his opponent, Jim Webb. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA: Friends, we are going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas. And it‘s important that we motivate and inspire people for something.
This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he is with my opponent. He is following us around everywhere. And it‘s just great. We are going to places all over Virginia, and he is having it on film, and it‘s great to have you here. And you show it to your opponent, because he has never been here and probably will never come. So it‘s good.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
His opponent is actually (inaudible) with a bunch of movie moguls. We care about fact, not fiction.
So welcome—let‘s give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
My friends, we are in the mist of a war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, “Washington Post” reported as part of its coverage of this event, “In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several web sites that track ethnic slurs.”
George Allen has apologized and said he doesn‘t know what the word means. Hmmm. And could it be a problem for him in 2006? He‘s running for president in 2008.
We are back with WashingtonPost.com‘s Chris Cillizza and the Chicago Tribune‘s Jeff Zeleny.
Well, you know, this is what we are going to get for the rest of our lives. This is a very diverse country and people get mad at each other and take shots. Here is a guy mad at some guy who‘s around tracking him, we used to call truth teams, truth squads in politics, go and catch the other guy, and lo and behold, the guy holding the camera is attacked with an ethnic slur while he is holding the camera. And that‘s what we just watched, his footage.
Is this suicide by George Allen? Why would he accuse the guy using a racial slur knowing he‘s got a camera on him?
ZELENY: I mean, Senator Allen, he clearly was focusing on the audience before him. Perhaps what he was forgetting was the broader audience, including these voters in Northern Virginia, where immigration is huge. And...
MATTHEWS: How many South Asians, for example, Indians and people from India and people from Pakistan and people from all different parts of Arabia all over Virginia? But the important question is, I want a better answer from you. Why would he do it, using a term that he knows means North African—it‘s an old (inaudible) expression, the term the French used, who left Algeria. Why would he use it?
CILLIZZA: When someone sent this to me yesterday, I thought this is so strange, because if you watch that tape, he looks right at the guy from Jim Webb‘s camp...
MATTHEWS: The guy he calls a macaca.
CILLIZZA: Right. And it‘s not as though he doesn‘t—it‘s not as though you see a side shot of George Allen where the guy is taping. George Allen is clearly aware that the guy from the Jim Webb campaign is there. He looks at him and he says, hey macaca, you know.
And what the Allen people told me, and I talked to some of them today, they said, look, he was trying to be humorous, it did not come off all that well. He went up to the guy before and after, said make sure you drive safely, did you get something to eat? That George Allen was not meaning to single this guy out. Unfortunately, it doesn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Well, the guy didn‘t take it that way.
CILLIZZA: And it doesn‘t come off that way, and that‘s the reality, is that it‘s strange to me because George Allen is polished. This is not George Allen‘s first race.
MATTHEWS: I like the guy, but I think—I don‘t—I think that‘s—
I would like to hear a better explanation.
ZELENY: And even more importantly when he said welcome to America. I think something like that is...
ZELENY: He was born in Fairfax County, you know, just a few miles from the capital, so.
MATTHEWS: Well, the guy looks from that part of the country, I mean -
that part of the world, but he has to be more careful about—before he impugns people. I mean, generally, it‘s not nice to be a politician that makes fun of people‘s ethnic background.
Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza—I want (ph) to understate that—
Jeff Zeleny, thank you, gentlemen.
Play HARDBALL with us again Wednesday. Our guests will include Senator Joe Biden tomorrow and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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