Guests: Sherwood Boehlert, Pat Toomey, Donna Edwards, Ed Rogers, Joe Trippi, John Harwood, Charlie Cook
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight in little old Democratic Rhode Island, will it be the Republicans who throw the bums out? Will old line Lincoln Chafee, heir to Yankee domination get booted from the Senate by angry conservatives the way anti-war folks lumped Lieberman? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL, a special decision 2006 edition tonight, 56 days, eight weeks before the election and nine states and Washington D.C. are holding primaries today. Voters are going to the polls in Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and D.C. The most races in one day until Election Day November 7th.
The midterm election is about power and Democrats can smell it. In the House, Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to take control. It‘s not easy, but Democrats look like they have a fighting chance. Over in the Senate, Democrats need to pick up six seats to be in charge. That‘s a rougher task.
But one race where Democrats could pick up a seat is in the spotlight today and tonight. The biggest race today comes from the smallest state, Rhode Island. President Bush and the Republican Party are laying it all on the line, putting their support behind Republican incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican. Chafee is in big trouble facing a challenge from the right. If he loses today‘s primary to Senator Laffey—I‘m sorry, Steve Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, the talk in Republican circles is the party will write off the Rhode Island seat in November.
It‘s going to be a tough one. But the bigger question is will this be a first big defeat for the President Bush and for Karl Rove? Tonight, we‘ll talk about the races, the people, the polls. Remember, if the Democrats win 218 seats on Tuesday November 7th, the world press will declare that President Bush has lost control of Congress over the Iraq war. A Democratic victory in the House would also give the opposition some real power, the speakership, the majority leadership, committee chairman and subpoena power.
But right now all eyes are focused on Rhode Island and HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the high stakes of this race.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In little old Democratic Rhode Island, it‘s a big, bruising Republican primary battle between the moderate GOP incumbent Lincoln Chafee and the hard-line conservative Steve Laffey.
STEVE LAFFEY, RHODE ISLAND SENATE CANDIDATE: He is an irrelevant senator, he has accomplished almost nothing done there.
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE ®, RHODE ISLAND: How can you claim to be a reformer when your candidacy has been paid for by a questionable organization?
SHUSTER: Top Republican pollsters say that in a general election against Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse, Laffey, the mayor of Cranston and an anti-abortion crusader would get trumped.
So national Republicans, eager to keep control of the U.S. Senate, have lined up behind Chafee.
JOHN HARWOOD, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: In an adverse environment like Republicans are facing this year, they‘ve got to cut every corner they can to try to preserve their numbers.
SHUSTER: The result has been one of the most bizarre Republican primaries in the country because even though Chafee voted against the war in Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and most restrictions on abortion, national Republicans led by presidential strategist Karl Rove have given Chafee more than $1.5 million and our helping him smear his opponent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To cover up a charge that he stole confidential material from a former employer, Steve Laffey doctored his resume. Steve Laffey, untrustworthy, unpredictable, unreliable.
SHUSTER: One Chafee ad borrows a line used in countless ads against Democrats, mocking Laffey as tax and spend Steve Laffey. And then there is the brutal Chafee attack ad based on one memorable city council meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The file on Steve Laffey? Police document he talked down to the wife of a firefighter, and then had to be restrained. On radio he said luckily people who didn‘t support his campaign were older and dying.
SHUSTER: For his part, Laffey has gotten a boost from the conservative taxation cut organization Club for Growth, which has been blasting Chafee as a Washington insider.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who‘s so hypocritical he opposed a tax cut for you while he backed a pay raise for politicians?
SHUSTER: And Laffey himself has repeatedly hammered Chafee‘s bipartisanship on issues like immigration.
LAFFEY: I watch on T.V. a bunch of U.S. senators trying to hand out amnesty for illegal aliens and trying to allow foreign workers to make more money than Americans. That‘s wrong. The bill we need down in the United States Senate and Congress is to secure our borders first, and then enforce the laws against employers.
SHUSTER: Today, anti-abortion groups from Ohio launched tough phones calls against Chafee, and more than a dozen voter turnout specialists from the Republican National Committee worked to help Chafee and hurt Laffey. It was the final exclamation point in a race whose tone shocked Republican voters in Rhode Island. Intrigued independents were allowed to vote in today‘s primary and delighted Democrats.
SHUSTER: The polls in Rhode Island closed tonight at 9:00. The question is will Republicans vote for pragmatism or ideology in a race that political junkies across the country are watching? I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Pat Toomey is a former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania. He‘s now the president of the Club for Growth. He supports Mayor Laffey in that race to upset Linc Chafee. And Congressman Sherwood Boehlert of New York is a member of the Republican Main Street partnership. He supports Senator Chafee.
Is Senator Chafee being unfairly attacked here, Congressman?
REP. SHERWOOD BOEHLERT ®, NEW YORK: Of course he is. All the ads that have come out—for example, it‘s almost laughable. He supported pay raise for politicians. Everybody supported getting federal employees and increasing pay, a cost of living adjustment annually. That‘s the Ronald Reagan formula. And members of Congress get that same thing minus one half a percent. So everybody supports that, pretty much.
MATTHEWS: Pat Toomey, do you say that he‘s out there filling his pockets by voting for a pay raise? Is that a fair charge if he went along?
PAT TOOMEY, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: The fact is there are opportunities to strike out congressional pay raises and he chooses not to support them and Sherwood knows very well...
MATTHEWS: ... Wait a minute, you‘re saying that a congressman, unlike every other federal employee, should take a real cut in pay? No, no, if you don‘t get a cola, that‘s a real cut in pay. Are you saying he should have voted to say no we should not get the cola?
TOOMEY: You know, I would much prefer and I voted this way when I was in the House, to keep the pay rates about level at least until we get a balance budget and get this budget under control.
MATTHEWS: You mean, keep...
TOOMEY: I don‘t think it‘s unreasonable.
MATTHEWS: ... the same, but really less in real terms.
TOOMEY: I don‘t that‘s reasonable.
MATTHEWS: In other words, contain to reduce the real purchasing power of a congressman.
TOOMEY: Sure, yes. I think that‘s perfectly reasonable, especially when we are running huge deficits, growing government at an unsustainable rate and Sher has picked one minor point, a fair point, from my point of view—but let‘s look at this. This is a guy who opposed all the Bush tax cuts, gets one of the worst ratings on any kind of record about the citizens against government waste, national tax payer unions, tremendous wasteful spending. He can‘t even vote for George Bush for president. What kind of Republican is this?
MATTHEWS: He said that?
TOOMEY: He admitted that, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What do you say, Congressman? How can you support a guy who won‘t vote for his own president?
BOEHLERT: This is a guy whose honest and the people of Rhode Island have come to expect it, that he could have finessed it and said, “Well I supported Bush” and no one would have challenged it. But he said in this last election, he had a write in vote for the president‘s father, the first president Bush. The honesty and integrity and courageousness of Linc Chafee is well known.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a fairly popular position these days, by the way. Isn‘t that a pretty popular position? OK, I‘m having fun here. Serious business tonight. If Lincoln Chafee goes down in this Republican primary, what does that say about the future of the Republican Party? An incumbent moderate Republican from the northeast gets blown away by an arch conservative, who‘s probably—will never get elected in general.
TOOMEY: First of all, I totally dispute that.
MATTHEWS: You think he‘ll get elected?
TOOMEY: I think he‘s got a very good shot at getting elected in the general, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: In White House?
TOOMEY: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: In a state that‘s what, 90 percent of Democrats?
TOOMEY: This is a state that‘s elected a Republican government for 12 years running now.
MATTHEWS: When‘s the last senator elected on the Republican ticket?
TOOMEY: Before Chafee it was his father, who was not nearly as liberal as he is. This is a state that has routinely, not always, but often had one of the House member as a Republican, so it‘s entirely possible. And look at the type of campaign Steve Laffey is running. It‘s not a conservative ideologue that you might expect in Alabama or Kansas. This is a guy who is running as an anti-establishment populist. It‘s true, it‘s a legitimate message. He got elected in a democratic city of Cranston and he‘s—this guy has always been underrated.
MATTHEWS: How could he elected—I don‘t got sides—I‘m just talking politics here. How does a guy who‘s pro-life and that‘s a very respectable position, maybe a revered position for a lot of people, in a state that‘s so clearly pro-choice? So if your guy wins in this primary, he loses in the general, doesn‘t he?
TOOMEY: No, I totally disagree. Look, I understand, he‘s got a tough race. And this is a tough environment. But Lincoln Chafee‘s got a tough time of winning this seat, as well. And not only that, the biggest problem Steve Laffey will have after he wins tonight is admittedly overcoming the $1.5 million of smear attacks that the National Senate Committee has dumped on him. What they should have done is taken that money and used it to beat out Sheldon Whitehouse.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s be very fair. Let‘s show an ad that your guy is running against Chafee. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lincoln Chafee‘s wide world of wasteful spending. Chafee voted to spend $200 million on the bridge to nowhere in Alaska, $50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and a half million on the Montana sheep institute. Then, Chafee voted for higher income, Social Security, and gas taxes, over a trillion dollars in higher taxes. Lincoln Chafee spending is just too taxing. Club for Growth PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well now we‘ve seen a fair and balanced ad. What do you make of that, your turn, congressman? That was an ad against a colleague of yours, Lincoln Chafee, who is not a sleaze ball, is not a clown. Thad ad makes him look like a clown. They put hats on him, it makes him look like a clown.
BOEHLERT: If this wasn‘t such a serious manner, that ad would be laughable. Voted for a $200 million bridge to nowhere. You know what, Pat, in the United States Senate here‘s what the vote was: 91 to four for the overall transportation bill. Buried within that bill, most people didn‘t know a thing about, was a $200 million earmark for this infamous bridge to nowhere...
TOOMEY: One problem about that, Sherry, there was also an amendment offered by Tom Coburn that said, let‘s not spend $200 million on a bridge to nowhere and let‘s instead spend this...
MATTHEWS: That was the floor?
TOOMEY: Yes, it most certainly did.
MATTHEWS: What was the vote on that?
TOOMEY: I don‘t know exactly the vote, but there were a lot of yes votes. It failed. Lincoln Chafee voted to spend the money on the bridge to nowhere instead of...
MATTHEWS: He voted against the amendment?
TOOMEY: Absolutely. And it was a free standing amendment on just that bridge, Sherry. This wasn‘t buried in anything.
BOEHLERT: The money was reserved by a very influential senator, Ted Stevens of Alaska, taking it out from the bridge to nowhere and reserving for the state of Alaska to use on transportation project. And keep in mind, 91 votes yes, four votes no.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re....
TOOMEY: You‘re talking about a different vote.
MATTHEWS: The people watching now really don‘t care about massive appropriations. They want to know where the money is being thrown away, and they want to know whether Lincoln Chafee voted to build a bridge to nowhere. Did he?
BOEHLERT: No. I say no.
MATTHEWS: Why do you say no?
BOEHLERT: Well, because the record is absolutely clear, he was opposed to the bridge to nowhere, as a number of us were.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me take your side for a minute. Isn‘t it better for the Congress to have a few more Geronimo types like this guy here, that stand up and are willing to be unpopular in the institution, have everybody say, you‘re just a clown, you‘re are showing off, we know what you‘re doing, you‘re playing to home. Because then, occasionally guys will say, I‘m not going to be party to some big, humongous bill that has some of this crap in it.
BOEHLERT: Well, here‘s what we need...
MATTHEWS: What‘s wrong with the guy standing up and saying, no?
BOEHLERT: He was a very valuable member of Congress, and he‘s a valuable ex-member of Congress. But the fact of the matter is, the agenda he would have gets about 50 votes out of 435 in the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: But wouldn‘t every member of Congress vote against the bridge to nowhere?
BOEHLERT: Sure, if it was clearly identified as the bridge to nowhere.
BOEHLERT: No, no, the Alaska people wouldn‘t, but the Congress would in general.
MATTHEWS: Is everybody afraid of Ted Stevens?
TOOMEY: That‘s exactly what Sherry just acknowledged, and that‘s exactly why these senators say, I‘m going to continue—on a free standing vote on just that bridge, I don‘t want to upset Ted Stevens.
TOOMEY: He will punish their own pork projects.
MATTHEWS: Is that what you‘re saying? Is a lot of what Congress has to do, it‘s like being at high school, and there‘s the known school yard bully, and if you don‘t kiss his butt on the right moments, he will come and get you in the school yard. Is that what you are talking about?
BOEHLERT: Well, nobody‘s kissing any part of the anatomy. But I‘ll tell you what, in every single major bill, there is always something that is unacceptable to...
MATTHEWS: Why can‘t there be a way for members to raise and say, I just found some bad stuff in here, some pork, I want it out?
BOEHLERT: Well, we are proceeding right now with reform, we‘re going to have earmarks clearly identified. The sponsor has to be identified, the amount of money has to be identified. That‘s what we absolutely need.
TOOMEY: And we ought to do that. Except that when we have had examples, where Jeff Flake would go down of the House floor, and say, here‘s a particularly egregious pork project, all by itself, let‘s get rid of this one, can we have that vote? But, Sherry...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this question. Let me get to the voters, the voters watching tonight, not just from Rhode Island, are wondering if the Democrats are going to get control of the Senate. If your guy wins tonight, Laffey, who was dynamite on this show, he even talks faster than I do, the guy‘s unbelievable, if he wins, you say he could win the general and hold that Republican seat, why? What basis do you have for saying that?
TOOMEY: I‘ve said before, first of all there is a history in Rhode Island of electing Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Not right-wing Republicans.
TOOMEY: Well, this guy is not running as a right-wing Republican.
TOOMEY: He was on your show, you yourself said you liked him. He is going to win.
MATTHEWS: But I still think he‘s too conservative for that state.
TOOMEY: This guy, he is anti-establishment.
BOEHLERT: The only one that takes that position, the Republican Senatorial campaign committee says if Lincoln Chafee loses this, I don‘t think he will, but if he loses...
MATTHEWS: OK, bottom line, do you expect support from the national Republicans if your guy wins?
TOOMEY: I think they‘ll come around.
MATTHEWS: You think they‘ll come around. Boy, that‘s a battle cry.
TOOMEY: Well, I think it‘s a disgrace what they‘ve done.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to get establishment support for an anti-establishment candidate.
TOOMEY: Not at first. Until we show that this is winnable, which we will.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Pat Toomey, a true believer.
TOOMEY: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: Even if he‘s a little off-base sometimes. Anyway, thank you, thank you. Congressman, congratulations on your career.
TOOMEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You‘re leaving untouched, unscathed, how many guys can say that?
TOOMEY: Well, listen, I think a lot of guys, because I work with...
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to be nice to you, I‘m trying to say it‘s great.
TOOMEY: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Steve Laffey will be with us tomorrow. He says, win or lose, which I like, there‘s spunk. Coming up, Democrats will decide today the fate of seven term Maryland congressman Albert Wynn. He‘s been on the show a lot.
His challenger‘s coming here. Donna Edwards says his vote for the Iraq war was wrong, and saying he is sorry isn‘t enough. I guess love doesn‘t mean not having to say you‘re sorry.
She‘ll be here next. You‘re watching HARDBALL. MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It‘s primary day in nine states, as I said. And “Decision 2006” moves on. Right here outside of Washington, Maryland Albert Wynn is in a tight race to keep his job. He faces a Democratic primary fight from someone who used to work for him.
Challenger Donna Edwards is here with me tonight, she says that Wynn‘s vote for the Iraq war was unacceptable. Congressman Wynn was unable to be here tonight. We hope we can have him back at some point.
But Donna Edwards is sitting right here. What is wrong with voting for the war in Iraq? A lot of Democrats did, in fact, most of the Senate Democrats voted for this war.
DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
Well, in fact, in our Congressional district, which is a majority African-American district, most African-Americans members of the Congressional black caucus, in fact, didn‘t vote for that war. And I think in our district, which is a really progressive district, that Mr. Wynn owed it to us to know what we wanted, and we clearly did not want a vote for that war.
MATTHEWS: Why‘d he do it?
EDWARDS: You got me.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know why he voted for the war?
EDWARDS: I don‘t know why he voted for the war. I mean, he says, that he voted because of the national security issue, because he says, somehow, that today he knows something that he did not know then. But I say we actually know everything that we knew.
MATTHEWS: OK, so the Democratic party—well, I may be very sympathetic to that view—but as a party person, you‘ve got to explain to me why Democrats have a right to bump somebody out from their party when they never took a party position? To this day, I have a hard time figuring out what Democratic party stands for in this war? Help me.
EDWARDS: Well, let me...
MATTHEWS: What is the party position in this war?
EDWARDS: Let me just tell you something. I don‘t know that there is a party position. What I do know is that the voters of the fourth congressional district deserved a vote against that war. Now in some other congressional districts, that may not be true. In the fourth...
MATHEWS: Harold Ford, Jr. is running for the Senate in Tennessee. He‘s got a good shot, he‘s got a shot. He voted for the war. Are you rooting for him?
EDWARDS: Maryland is not Tennessee. And Maryland‘s fourth congressional district, which spans Montgomery and Prince George‘s County just outside of the District of Columbia is not Tennessee. And so our Congress member has a duty and obligation really to represent our interests. And our interests were not in voting for that war.
MATTHEWS: Did you write him and say please vote against the war?
EDWARDS: I wrote him and asked him not to vote against the war, e-mailed him and asked him not to vote against the war, asked for meetings and asked him not to vote against the war, as did many, many thousands of people in our congressional district.
And it isn‘t just the war, Chris, with Mr. Wynn. Mr. Wynn votes with this Bush administration on a range of really important, you know, definable issues, and it‘s unacceptable anymore for us. Repealing the estate task for the bankruptcy bill that benefited bankrupt credit card companies.
MATTHEWS: Why did he do that?
EDWARDS: Because he is voting with the interests that serve him. He serves on the powerful ...
MATTHEWS: You mean he—in a district that is working class, he has voted to keep or not—he has voted to keep the estate tax.
EDWARDS: To repeal.
MATTHEWS: He‘s voted to repeal it?
EDWARDS: He‘s voted to repeal the estate tax four times. So he‘s a believer. And that would take a trillion dollars out of the treasury. So how do we fund our education system? How do we fund healthcare? How do we fund the pressing needs that we have in our community when Mr. Wynn is actually voting against the interests of working people in our district?
MATTHEWS: Who‘s he influenced by if not by the majority of the district?
EDWARDS: I think, frankly, he is influenced by all of those industry interests. You know, he‘s succumb to powerful ...
MATTHEWS: In the district?
EDWARDS: Not in the district. He sits on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and if you just look at his ...
MATTHEWS: Are you saying he‘s bought? Is he bought?
EDWARDS: You look at his campaign finance—I will tell you one thing. His industry interests are influencing his vote, estate tax, energy bills.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you the toughest question. A friend of mine who is a Congressman says you can sit on a subcommittee markup and you can look around the room, and when everybody is alone there together with no cameras, and he said you can tell by their eyes who has just been bought.
They start acting a certain way, almost like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and he calls it being tanked. They look like they are in the tank. Are you saying Albert Wynn is in the tank for industry?
EDWARDS: What I‘m saying is that Albert Wynn votes against the interests of our district, and it‘s really clear that he‘s voting in favor of industry interests, whether it‘s oil and gas, telecommunications, banking and credit card industry, the entire gamut. You just look at his campaign contributions, you look at his votes, and it‘s against the ...
MATTHEWS: OK, who are you voting for in the primary today for U.S.
Senate? Are you voting for Cardin or are you voting for Mfume?
EDWARDS: Well, it‘s on the record. I am a long-time supporter of Kweisi Mfume.
MATTHEWS: So am I.
EDWARDS: Well, there you go.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Donna, for your time.
EDWARDS: Well, there you go.
MATTHEWS: I voted for him. I got a vote. I voted today. Look at this.
EDWARDS: I did too.
MATTHEWS: Where‘s your paper?
EDWARDS: My sticker is in my ...
MATTHEWS: I love my pin. I was told to wear this tonight because I am proud to have voted this morning, even though they completely screwed up the absentee ballots, since I‘ve been out of town.
MATTHEWS: I couldn‘t have voted. Maryland screwed it up again. I can‘t tell you how bad it was. The person giving out the ballots this morning said she did not get her absentee ballot, so something is going on over there in Maryland.
EDWARDS: It isn‘t just absentee ballots.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an embarrassment, it‘s a sacrilege to deny people a right to vote in this country because of screw-ups. Anyway, thank you very much. Good luck in your race. say said it to everybody, especially challengers, because the only way we‘re going to change government in this country for the better—if we ever do—is people having the guts to run against incumbents and take it on popular people. Thank you, Donna Edwards.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The polls close in Maryland, by the way, at 8:00 p.m.
Eastern. I think they‘re keeping it open an extra hour.
Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will have the final report on 9/11 in his series on the five unanswered questions of 9/11. Did foreign governments have knowledge of the plans for 9/11 before they happened?
You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Five years after the September 11th attacks, we are bringing you the final report in our series on the top unanswered questions about the 9/11 plot. The key to stopping any terrorist attack rests in part on getting help from U.S. allies out there. But did two crucial countries in the war on terror look the other way before 9/11?
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
SHUSTER (voice-over): Five years after 9/11, it‘s the question that brings the most frightening perspective to U.S. foreign policies today. Did the governments of Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, now strong U.S. allies, have advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks?
STEVE EMERSON, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: I believe there is a strong likelihood that individuals within Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were well aware of the plot being carried out by Mohammed Atta and company. It doesn‘t necessarily mean the regimes were aware, but certainly there was a knowledge about a fatwa or a religious degree mandating that Muslims crash planes into building.
SHUSTER: Before 9/11 the Pakistani government was one of the few in the world to have diplomatic relations with Afghanistan‘s al Qaeda-dominated Taliban rulers, and Pakistani intelligence had deep contacts.
ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST: Their service, called the ISI, had a very strong relationship with the Taliban. They clearly had contacts inside al Qaeda, so the question is, did the ISI have prior knowledge of this plot, and if they did, did they inform Islamabad and President Musharraf and his government of it?
SHUSTER: And when it comes to Saudi Arabia, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Some of them received money in the U.S. through an account that went through the Saudi embassy.
CRESSEY: Does that mean the Saudi government had prior knowledge of the attacks? No, I‘m not sure. We still don‘t know. What it does mean, though, is that the Saudis did have a relationship with the hijackers and the extent of that relationship is still unknown.
SHUSTER: Six months after 9/11, U.S. and Pakistani forces successfully abducted al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, a capture noted by President Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was spending a lot of time as one of the top operating officials of al Qaeda, plotting and planning murder. He is not plotting, and he is not planning any more.
SHUSTER: But under interrogation, as first reported by journalist Gerald Posner, Zubaydah gave personal contact information about four Saudi princes and the head of Pakistan‘s Air Force. Zubaydah charged the men were deeply involved with Osama bin Laden and had been meeting with bin Laden for years.
Officials from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia deny the charge, and U.S. officials say Zubaydah later recanted, saying he lied to avoid torture.
But in the summer of 2002, shortly after the CIA shared Zubaydah‘s initial claims with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence officials, four of the five men named by Zubaydah died within weeks, and each under strange circumstances.
Were the officials murdered so the Saudi and Pakistani governments, both allies of the U.S., could bury embarrassing pre-9/11 links to al Qaeda? Intelligence analysts are not sure.
In the early 1990s, the Saudi royal family took a see no evil approach to bin Laden. Then, after bin Laden vowed to destroy the Saudi regime, the government revoked bin Laden‘s citizenship in 1994. And in the late ‘90s, the Saudi royal family considered bin Laden an enemy.
Still, when Congress released a report on 9/11 three years ago, 27 pages were redacted. President Bush explained it this way.
BUSH: We have an ongoing war against al Qaeda and terrorists, and the declassification of that part of a 900 page document would reveal sources and methods that will make it harder for us to win the war on terror.
SHUSTER: But intelligence sources in Congress say the redacted section contains information about Saudi Arabia. Did the Saudi government know about 9/11 in advance?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA BIN LADEN UNIT: Saudi Arabia said that they were expecting a big operation but they didn‘t know when it was going to happen exactly. So while I don‘t think we‘ve documented any assistance of foreknowledge, I think it would be again whistling past the graveyard to assume that people didn‘t know that something bigger was coming than we had seen before.
SHUSTER: As for Pakistan, U.S. analysts believe Pakistani intelligence had more information about 9/11 than President Musharaff has acknowledged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the ISI probably did know something was going on. I think they probably did know a big attack might be coming. I‘m not sure sure they had the tactical information of where, when and how, at least I hope they did not.
SHUSTER: Still it is an open question. And on this, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the knowledge of foreign governments is just one of several crucial questions that remain unanswered. I am David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: What a tough series of reports those have been. Anyway, thank you, David Shuster. A reminder, you can see all five parts of David‘s series. It‘s good to see them all together on the five unanswered questions of 9/11. Just go to politics.MSNBC.com.
Up next, veteran political operatives Ed Rogers and Joe Trippi will be there to break down all the action of this big primary day. What does it mean for November? Can Lincoln Chafee—love that name—survive today? Can he survive again in November? And tomorrow, Bill Maher is back, and he‘s coming to HARDBALL right here. We‘re going to find out what he thinks about the midterms, I‘m sure it‘s very tough, and whether Republicans can hang on to power. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It has been a big day for politics here already on MSNBC, with hot primary elections in Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. Is the president‘s party facing a fierce political tsunami come November? Will anti-Iraq and anti-incumbent fervor bring about the downfall of politicians across the country?
Democrats need to pick up six seats to win the Senate. In the House, they need to pick up 15. Here‘s now to go over this stuff, we‘ve got Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, one of the heroes of our show. And of course, Ed Rogers, one of our good friends, in both different ways, of course.
You know, the Democrats are out there complaining right now, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid of the Congress, that these speeches that the president has been allowed to give—he gives them in daytime, that‘s fair enough. But he got to give a primetime speech last night on all the broadcasts and cable networks. Joe, was that a political speech last night?
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It was definitely a political speech. And it was no way to—normally Democrats would have a way to answer that, but they didn‘t last night because of the specter of the
MATTHEWS: ... And the president‘s people put out the word Friday—it would be a nonpolitical, a cease fire speech, I thought it was political. What did you think, Ed?
ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, come on.
MATTHEWS: Well come on, what did you think? Do you think it was a case for the Iraq war or not?
ROGERS: Can the president of the United States not give an acknowledgment on the anniversary of 9/11?
MATTHEWS: Yes, but why didn‘t he do that?
ROGERS: Well that‘s exactly what we did.
TRIPPI: And we‘re two months away from the election.
ROGERS: It was in a political context, yes, it happened, but was it political? Did he make a partisan appeal? No, he didn‘t, come on.
MATTHEWS: Why did he -- 3,000 people last night in New York over their graves to make a pitch for the war? That‘s what he did.
ROGERS: Hey, because it‘s topical, because people want to know, because you—everybody else talks about it a lot, and there‘s no possibility the president could give a speech, and there‘s no possibility that the Democrats won‘t complain about it.
MATTHEWS: He went to New York for two days of commemorating the loss of 3,000 Americans, and the respective and their families, and that was the purpose of two days of media coverage. The president capped it off with a political speech.
ROGERS: Well that‘s your opinion.
MATTHEWS: No, that‘s what everyone in the press room said today, I was listening to it.
ROGERS: Give him some credit, come on. He had to say something about what‘s going on in the world.
TRIPPI: Neither party should have politicized yesterday, the president did, that was a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to his 9/11 Oval Office speech last night.
Let‘s judge this if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes. America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over, so do I. But the war is not over and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROGERS: Please. That‘s a legitimate, articulate point of view. It does not say vote for one party or the other.
TRIPPI: It‘s pre-network time where the president yes, was able to give his legitimate view, the Democrats were not able to give our legitimate view.
MATTHEWS: So let me ask you a middle point here. Could it be that you are right, the president was legitimate in his use of national television time, but he did make a case for his war in Iraq, that he supports now even in the way he‘s handling it—should the people who don‘t think he‘s handling it the right way be able to speak as well?
ROGERS: Well they‘re speaking. They are speaking every day on the front page of the newspapers.
MATTHEWS: On prime time?
ROGERS: No, no. The answer is no.
TRIPPI: Why not?
ROGERS: For better or worse, every now and then, the president of the United States has to go on the national airways, and they don‘t have to take it by the way. They can take it or not take it, has to go on the national airways and acknowledge some event, some occurrence, some point of view, and yes, the fact of the matter is, the opposition can‘t reply.
ROGERS: When the Republicans aren‘t in power, we won‘t do it either.
MATTHEWS: I want to move on to the Rhode Island race which is happening tonight. The most controversial issue in the country today right now is the way in which the president is fighting the war in Iraq. Do we agree on that?
ROGERS: No. Maybe the war in Iraq, not the way the president is fighting it.
MATTHEWS: OK, the war in Iraq is the most controversial issue. He gave his point of view in that war last night. Should the Democrats get a chance to do the same?
ROGERS: They are doing so all over the country.
TRIPPI: ... prime-time the way the president...
MATTHEWS: You guys want it, so let me move on...
ROGERS: I mean, it‘s a little offensive.
MATTHEWS: Offensive to whom?
ROGERS: The president is not the political enemy. He is not on the ballot in November. He‘s not on the ballot ever again.
TRIPPI: ... the anniversary of 9/11...
ROGERS: Politicize it by making it...
MATTHEWS: I am as caught up in this as any American. I thought the president was fantastic, the way he went tribute to the dead, when he went over and laid the wreaths at the two spots, and the way he went to the firehouse with the firefighters and the first responders. I thought that was magnificent. I was so proud to have a leader that did it just right. It was sacramental.
And then he goes on national television and rips the scab off the Iraq war issue...
ROGERS: No, he doesn‘t.
MATTHEWS: ... and makes the case of a partisan pol.
ROGERS: (inaudible) we have troops in the field that are fighting a war that...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a policy decision
ROGERS: ... is consequential and important. And for him to not acknowledge that, that would be offensive.
TRIPPI: And you know, it would not bother me if we had equal time on it, but we didn‘t, and he used it for political purposes.
MATTHEWS: Let me start here, who do the Democrats want to win this Republican primary in Rhode Island tonight? Linc Chafee, the incumbent, a moderate, who voted against the war, voted against Bush, or do you want Laffey to win so (inaudible) trouble?
TRIPPI: Laffey would cause more problems...
MATTHEWS: (inaudible) Democrats that the right-wing guy beats the moderate.
TRIPPI: I think the Republicans are in trouble up there anyway, because I think Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic nominee—or the guy running unopposed, pretty much—is sitting there with this fractured Republican Party, and I don‘t think that the Republicans know quite what to do. They‘ve got—it‘s actually the Republicans...
ROGERS: We know what to do.
TRIPPI: The Republicans are supporting Chafee, when he has opposed them on everything. The war, choice...
MATTHEWS: Where are you?
ROGERS: Oh, come on, I‘m for Chafee. He‘s the person that is most likely to win that seat. And I‘m for a...
MATTHEWS: So (inaudible). You want—you want the outsider to win so he gets (inaudible)...
MATTHEWS: You want the moderate, the guy who‘s been against Bush to win, because he‘s the only way you can hold the seat.
MATTHEWS: I love honesty.
MATTHEWS: So this is where we go in this election, total cynicism. We back guys we don‘t believe in—we don‘t believe in guys, but all that matters is numbers. All that matters is numbers.
TRIPPI: Very consistently for the outsider.
MATTHEWS: Who is going to win tonight? We have a 5:00 show, we‘ll do a 7:00 show. What do you think? On the 5:00 HARDBALL show, the day of the election, who will win the Republican primary? I want to put this on the record, to see how good you guys are. Ed Rogers.
ROGERS: I‘ve got to say Chafee, because that‘s who I‘m for, but I don‘t feel good about it.
TRIPPI: I think Laffey may pull that out. I think he may do it.
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t want to be in your shoes, because I can‘t pick this. Anyway, I love honesty, even though it‘s totally cynical. I love the way we introduced you guys as former operatives. It makes it sound like you‘re a little dangerous.
Anyway, thank you, Joe Trippi, thank you, Ed Rogers.
Up next, we will talk more about what today‘s primaries mean for November with NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook and CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here to dig into today‘s primary elections and the hottest races for the midterms are CNBC chief Washington correspondent and “Wall Street Journal” political editor John Harwood, who has been in the field talking to candidates.
John, let‘s talk about something we have not gotten into. We have talked about the Iraq war here a lot. It‘s a big picture impact for all the elections and probably helping the Democrats, let‘s be honest. But let‘s talk about this anti-incumbent thing out there.
Up in Pennsylvania, where I‘m from, a whole slew of big shots lost because they raised their pay in the state senate and they got caught doing it. (inaudible), people I never even paid attention to. Joe Lieberman lost. People say hadn‘t been home in 15 years. Is there a screw-these-guys, to put it kindly, they‘ve not been doing the job for us, they‘re just in Washington doing nothing? Is there some of that out there?
JOHN HARWOOD, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think there is a lot of that, but I think there is a solid Republican tilt to that. You can‘t disassociate the anti-incumbent thing from the fact that voters know who‘s in charge of Washington, they know that Republicans have got the White House and both houses of Congress, and I think there is a particular Republican tilt to that feeling.
MATTHEWS: So when you ask people, what kind of a job has the United States Congress been doing, before these big congressional elections, they know the party label, who is running the place? You are saying they all know that? They say we don‘t like the way Congress is doing.
HARWOOD: I think they do. And when we ask in our “Journal”-NBC poll about how do you feel about Congress, you get majorities in both parties saying they are unhappy with Congress. So that negative feeling is out there. But when you post up a Republican and a Democrat on the ballot, generically, you get an advantage for a Democrat.
MATTHEWS: I have been waiting all my life for a year in which people really do say to all bad incumbents, the incumbents that aren‘t in touch with them, who seem to be taking their jobs for granted, really whack them out of there. But inevitably, it‘s more like what you say. It seems like the people can‘t decide two emotions at the same time. They‘re either mad at one party or they‘re not. They are never mad at both parties, is that right? In other words, will we see a significant number of big shot Democrats go down this time or not?
HARWOOD: No, I don‘t think you will.
MATTHEWS: So, Granholm couldn‘t lose. Well, and Cantwell...
HARWOOD: Granholm could lose. I think it‘s a little bit different...
MATTHEWS: The governor of Michigan.
HARWOOD: Yes. I think it‘s a little bit different being an incumbent in the state house, when you are the incumbent governor, as opposed to being an incumbent member of Congress in the minority. Jennifer Granholm is—sits atop the Michigan...
MATTHEWS: She‘s responsible.
HARWOOD: ... state government, and she‘s held by voters responsible in part for the economic problems of that state and the feeling that she hasn‘t been responsible.
MATTHEWS: You make me feel very good about our democracy. I was looking the other—I mean it. Because sometimes you think, you know, you watch Jay Leno interview people, they don‘t seem to know anything. And it makes you go, they‘re voting, they don‘t know anything?
But in Connecticut, where you have a weak Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger, the guy with the gambling thing, whatever is it, the wampum card—we had some fun with him, I must say. They seem to know who he is, and only 3 percent will vote him—are supporting him now in the polls. So people really do seem to keep up to date, they read the papers, they watch these programs, and they seem to know who is really in play and who isn‘t.
HARWOOD: You know, all of us who cover politics go back and forth on the question of how smart the voters really are, how much do they really know when they go into the voting booth. But I think there is a certain amount—there is more savvy among the electorate than there has been in the past. They know what the two parties stand for. There are more avenues of communication. They‘re hearing from a lot of people.
MATTHEWS: Savvy is a good word.
HARWOOD: Yes, and I suspect that Schlesinger is going to do a lot better than 3 percent in the polls...
MATTHEWS: He says he‘ll be pulled along by the coattails of the Republican governor up there. But I like the fact that people are really paying attention, because this election may be as important as the presidential election in many ways.
HARWOOD: But I do think, Chris, there is the possibility that you have emerging a backlash against both parties that would play out probably not in ‘06, but in ‘08. John McCain could be the leading edge of that, and if Joe Lieberman wins as an independent in Connecticut, that could be the canary in the coal mine. .
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right and I think it‘s the change agent in 2008 and this drives a lot of Democrats watching crazy. It may not be a Democrat. The person we pick to depart from the Bush strategy could well be a Republican.
MATTHEWS: We will be right back with John Harwood.
And in a moment, Charlie rMD+IN_rMDNM_Cook is coming here. He‘s an expert on elections.
You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with John Harwood, and we‘re also joined now with by the “National Journal‘s” Charlie Cook, author of “The Cook Report” and our new partner in POLITICS.MSNBC.com. By the way, try that. Start using it. As I said before, if you love polls—and I love them—go to POLITICS.MSNBC.com, and just punch up Virginia polls, Pennsylvania polls. You get anything.
CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: There‘s a great map on there.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a great map. You also can do MapQuest like where you‘re driving this weekend. You can actually punch up a place on the map, like Pennsylvania, and they‘ll tell you what is going on there, and especially you get to hear Chuck Todd, what he thinks.
COOK: Our family vacations, we would drive cross-country with the “Almanac of American Politics.” My kids loved it.
HARWOOD: And now you can plug it into your Hertz NeverLost and go to every campaign.
COOK: There you go.
MATTHEWS: Just remember, if you can‘t afford Europe, you always have Quebec, right? That was our family motto growing up. We can‘t go to Europe, but we‘ll go to Quebec.
Let me ask you serious, Charlie, tonight we‘re going to have a poll result, probably about midnight from Rhode Island. Is it going to be another potential Lieberman case where a party dumps a big time incumbent, in this case Linc Chafee, because he isn‘t quite in tune with the majority of Republicans?
COOK: It could very easily happen, but the difference is there is no back door for Chafee. There is no independent candidacy option. What we don‘t know is that independents outnumber Republicans in the state by, you know, four or five to one.
Independents can vote in the primary. If a bunch of them vote in the primary, than Chafee survives. If it‘s only Republicans, he is toast. And because there is no real history of Republican primaries in Rhode Island, we have no earthly idea how ...
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s a great deal to be able to be unaffiliated, John, because you register unaffiliated in those states and vote can vote in either primary. But in a state like Maryland, if you don‘t affiliate, you can‘t vote. You‘ve lost your—in a state like Maryland which is Democratic, you‘ve lost your power to pick anybody, right?
HARWOOD: Exactly. But the one thing Chafee has going in the front door is some heavy-duty logistical support from the Republican apparatus. The whole turnout machine, I think that‘s going to matter.
COOK: You know, Elizabeth Dole and the Republican Senatorial Committee have been criticized on a lot of things this cycle, but they have made it very clear if Chafee loses, we are out of here.
MATTHEWS: So they will not give a buck, despite the fact that Pat Toomey sat in that seat a half ago and said they will come around, they‘ll bring the money in, they‘ll help my conservative candidate. In the end, you don‘t think they will?
COOK: The guy is 30 points behind. They‘ve got places to spend money where it might actually make a difference, the Republican Senatorial Committee. I don‘t think they‘re going to drop a dime.
HARWOOD: Chris, you have to follow the polls.
MATTHEWS: OK, the voters out there watching this show—OK, I want to ask you the same question I put to John, because I smell it out there. John says generally, the pendulum swings. That‘s the way it works. If it‘s an anti-Republican attitude because they‘re running the show, that‘s the kind of vote you‘re going to get, an anti-Republican thing. It‘s not anti-incumbent. It‘s particularly the Republicans.
Do you sense there is some big name, brand name Democrats out there who are going to lose this November based on the pattern of guys like Lieberman losing, maybe Linc Chafee losing in the primaries?
COOK: I don‘t think so. I mean, you look at the House of Representatives—you know, Alan Mollohan has had scandals out the yin-yang ...
MATTHEWS: West Virginia.
COOK: In West Virginia. I don‘t even think he is going to lose. You know, in the Senate, Bobby Menendez is an appointed senator. He might, but that‘s just the appointed senators have a dismal record anyway.
The outside shot may be Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, but there are not going to be more than—Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan, maybe. But there aren‘t going to be more than five incumbent Democrats, House, Senate, governor combined that are going to lose reelection. It could be a lot less than that.
MATTHEWS: Well, then how can you be so careful then about not predicting a big, Democratic win in the House then? If no Democrats are going to lose and only Republicans are going to lose, why are you squeamish here, Charlie, about trying predicting a victory for Democrats.
COOK: Because I am a naturally cautious person. I have stuck my rear end out here on this election. That‘s why. The thing is, we don‘t know—normally, to get to net 15, you have to gross 20, you know, because you‘re gong to lose five. Well, this time, Democrats only have to net 15 to get 15 maybe, or 17 to get 15, because there just aren‘t a lot of offsetting opportunities for Republicans.
HARWOOD: Until Republicans get a miracle, say in South Carolina, with the John Spratt seat, but that doesn‘t look likely.
COOK: But that doesn‘t look like it‘s going to happen. It‘s just environmentally. But the thing is, we can tell which way—which way the wave is going, but there has never been any precision in terms of seeing how big it‘s going to be.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about—hey, gentlemen, you‘re both pros. Let‘s imagine you running tomorrow morning‘s story. You‘re writing at midnight tonight. You are on the last edition, whatever the journal has, and you are trying to get it in there tonight. If Chafee goes down, what is your nut paragraph, what does it say? This is part of a trend, this is part of what?
HARWOOD: I would say that the Republican establishment tried to engineer a pragmatic outcome, and the party faithful would not go along with it, just like the same thing is true with Ned Lamont in Connecticut.
MATTHEWS: So the Democrats voted against a guy that they did not think it was a Democrat anymore?
MATTHEWS: And Republicans will vote against a guy they don‘t think is a Republican.
HARWOOD: And that you can‘t herd these Republicans to take the pragmatic course as the leadership wants them to.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, is this a case of the party ruling up rather than ruling down, where the people at the bottom say, I don‘t care what you say in the White House or what Karl Rove says, I‘m voting for somebody I believe believes what I believe, and I‘m voting against people who don‘t, whether I‘m a Democrat or a RepublicanrMD+IN_rMDNM_? I am voting my conscience and my philosophy, don‘t tell me to protect the party numbers in Congress.
COOK: I think it would say, there is a limit to how far away from the rest of the party you could get, and survive, and Lieberman learned that in Connecticut, Chafee could learn that there.
MATTHEWS: OK, we grew up—I grew up in a country which was interesting because the parties were not philosophical. We had a Republican Party which was based, the establishment party that the “New York Herald Tribune” in New York, always Republican senators from Pennsylvania, from the Northeast, all the way through New England.
There was always a Republican. In New York we had two Republican senators. That party, a moderate Republican easterner, is about to die, isn‘t it? And Linc Chafee will be one of their last victims, right?
COOK: And just as the conservative Democrats are pretty much gone in the south, too.
MATTHEWS: No more conservative Democrats in the south, no more northern liberals in the Republican Party.
COOK: That could happen.
MATTHEWS: That‘s not good, I don‘t think. We will talk about that in a whole show. Anyway, thank you John Harwood. Thank you, Charlie Cook.
I will be back in an hour for another live edition of HARDBALL. We‘ll have more on that big primary in Rhode Island. Unfortunately we won‘t have the results yet, but we‘ll be closer.
Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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