Guests: Jim Gibbons, Mike Medavoy, Chris Cillizza, Oscar Goodman; Alexandra Pelosi
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The smart money has got Hillary Clinton at 50/50 to be the Democratic nominee in ‘08. One in five, she‘ll win the whole thing. Let‘s follow the money. From Las Vegas, let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews reporting tonight from the Pure Nightclub at Caesar‘s Palace in Las Vegas.
The battle for bucks and bling goes to Beverly Hills these days. Which candidate will be the next big star in Hollywood? Can a Clinton sequel, with Hillary of course, beat Obama at the ballot box? These are the early questions in these early days of the 2008 race at the White House. Tonight we‘ll look at who‘s ahead in the Left Coast, Hillary or Obama?
Later we‘ll talk with the Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman on why this state, Nevada, will matter so much in 2008.
We‘ll also have a report on developments in Scooter Libby‘s trial from HARDBALL‘s David Shuster. Let me give you a little advance on that. If you have been watching the news the last couple days, if you watched here last night, if you‘ve been reading the newspapers, it‘s unbelievable, it‘s like picking up a rock and looking at the bug life underneath.
We‘re now learning the role the vice president played in watching the news shows like this, finding out what‘s going on on television, making sure that his interests are protected day to day, hands on, the vice president, not Scooter Libby, the vice president calling the shots day after day, telling people who ho leak to, which television shows to go on. Figuring out the whole strategy, how he could protect himself legitimately or not. We‘ll find out that from the trial, from the charge that he knew he was knew there was no nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein and failed to notify the president in time to keep that challenge, that threat out of the 2003 State of the Union address.
So we‘re learning an awful lot, thanks to David Shuster‘s report. And we‘ll get more of that tonight.
Let me tell you, this trial is going to tell you more than whether Scooter Libby lied. It is going to tell you who was behind the effort to put together the evidence to led us in to war with Iraq, who was behind to make sure that the right evidence was presented to the American people and other evidence perhaps was not. We‘re going to learn a lot under oath.
For the first time we‘re going to have people like Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States, Scooter Libby, and all those White House aides operating in court with their hand on the Bible. For the first time, they have to really tell the truth. They can‘t carve it.
Of course in courtroom situations we‘re going to find out where they can not tell us certain things. What I want to know is one simple thing. If it was the vice president‘s question about whether there was any truth to those Italian papers, that there was a deal with Saddam Hussein and the government of Niger to buy the uranium materials, if that was he who triggered the CIA into sending Joe Wilson over to Niger to check out that story, why didn‘t he get a report back to the findings?
Joe Wilson says he found out there was no deal. If that‘s the case, why didn‘t that information get to the vice president‘s office? Or if it did, why didn‘t the vice president do something with that information in time to correct the upcoming State of the Union address?
I‘ve asked George Tenet of the CIA that simple question and he says things like ask Cheney. Look, in courtroom I hope one of things it gets to in that courtroom under oath is what the vice president has to say under oath. And I‘d like to hear it. I‘d like to hear Scooter Libby under oath and all those people. It is going to be fascinating.
Anyway, I‘m reporting tonight from the Pure Nightclub out here in Vegas. I‘m of course lucky enough to have been selected to be one of the judges in the Miss America contest. So let‘s go right now to Michael Okwu who has the report on that full-blown money battle.
We‘re talking about the Left Coast right now. Who‘s winning, the hot new kid on the block, Obama, or the traditional power of the Clintons? Let‘s take a look.
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s an all out, no holds barred good old Western gold rush.
Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both angling to a amass campaign war chests, setting their sites on super rich Hollywood.
SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, USC POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: California is and has always been the ATM of American politics.
OKWU: In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the movie, television, and recording industries gave between $30 million and $40 million to federal candidates and parties, the vast majority to Democrats.
(on camera): Democrats have always counted on the Hollywood star power and dollars to win elections. This year the money is even more important as the candidates reject public funds.
NOAH MAMET, DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISER: People, instead of just giving let‘s say $1,000, now you can give a maximum of $2,300.
OKWU (voice-over): Noah Mamet is an L.A. based Democratic fund-raiser with a star client list.
MAMET: So people are giving their family and their friends to give and they‘re raising money as well, because they‘re excited about it.
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Money in Hollywood, the person who wins that race, it helps them early on, just, again, signal that they‘re the leader.
OKWU: Right now observers say the smart money is on Clinton and a support network dating back to her days in the White House, her connection to the party‘s last rock star.
TRIPPI: Hillary benefits from Bill Clinton‘s success in Hollywood when he was running. I mean, he was able to deep pocket Hollywood supporters.
OKWU: Contributions already from the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Tom Hanks, Sharon Stone and Jerry Seinfeld.
But photo ops like this may rankle a frontrunner. Hollywood loves a fresh story and Barack Obama is the Democrats‘ new leading man.
TRIPPI: Hollywood Democrats are definitely attracted to Barack Obama.
He‘s charismatic and he is speaking to their hearts.
OKWU: Out here Obama has drawn comparisons to Jack and Bobby Kennedy and has won support from bold-faced names like Oprah Winfrey, Matt Damon and Halle Berry, who reportedly declared she‘d collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear. This week Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen and Steve Spielberg, the powerful trio behind DreamWorks studio, sent out invitations for a $2,300 a plate Obama fund-raiser.
Katzenberg, a former Clinton supporter is switching camps. His partners, like other Hollywood bigs, may be hedging their bets.
TED JOHNSON, “VARIETY”: A lot of fund-raisers tell me that donors, the people they know, are going to give to multiple candidates. The reason is they want to see how this race really shakes out.
OKWU: The crowded Democratic field is putting pressure on candidates like John Edwards to win support here and get more funds fast, especially now that the California primary may move up early.
MAMET: It is so expensive to campaign here. You can‘t for door to door, you have to advertise statewide.
OKWU: But the problem for the pack, the Democrats‘ two superstars.
TRIPPI: Right now I can‘t tell you who is going to get the most campaign dollars in Hollywood. It could be Obama, it could be Hillary. It is going to be very tough for any other candidates to make headway there at all. Those two are the 800 pound gorillas that are clearly the sucking up all the oxygen in Hollywood.
OKWU: Nudging for elbow room in rarefied air.
For HARDBALL, Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.
MATTHEWS: Great report. That was Michael Okwu.
Here to talk about Hollywood‘s role in helping to pick the next president from a real insider, studio chief Mike Medavoy, he is the chairman of Phoenix Pictures and he is also a big political fund-raiser and has always been a big supporter of Bill Clinton in the past. He‘s undecided for 2008. But his wife is supporting Barack Obama.
Michael, thank you very much, Mike Medavoy. You‘re one of the big Democrats in Hollywood, how important is if which way the Left Coast goes in terms of fund-raising and celebrity power?
MIKE MEDAVOY, CHAIRMAN, PHOENIX PICTURES: It‘s all starting early. And quite frankly, I would hate to be the frontrunner, because the frontrunners usually get more scrutiny by the press and therefore it makes it a lot harder. I would agree with the reports that I‘ve read in the last week or so, that people are going to hedge their bets.
The Clinton machine will be whoever‘s already given to Clinton will probably be helpful, but I think Barack Obama is certainly the new name to come out here, it‘s a fresh name, and one that‘s already being attacked, partly because of his name, partly because he apparently didn‘t have enough experience. Which, you know, it‘s all being countered.
So Hollywood has—the reason you‘re doing this program, obviously, is because Hollywood is important, because the cameras follow not only the candidates, but the people who support them.
MATTHEWS: Is it a safe bet - Mike, is it a safe bet—let‘s talk—I‘m out here in Vegas, so I‘m thinking about betting. Is it a safe bet for a Hollywood person who is politically sophisticated to say look, I want to be avant-garde, I want to be with the hot new kid, I want to be with Obama but I also know if he fades in the first three or four primaries, I can always be accepted back in to the Hillary camp for the general election?
MEDAVOY: I think you‘d be welcome to the Hillary camp if you were supporting Barack Obama rather easily. The thing about politics is the people in politics, they don‘t care where the money, where it comes from eventually.
They certainly don‘t want to—They want to be as inclusive as possible. I mean, I remember the Clinton ‘92 election. I was there alone, basically, trying to get people—the first event we threw for Clinton I think I had 40 friends I had to kind of arm wrestle to get in. And 30 others who came as a curiosity issue.
The town was supporting other candidates.
MATTHEWS: How much of it is heart and how much of it is head? I mean in Hollywood, you, as a producer, have to make big money decisions on where to put the money for an upcoming picture, where to go with development and all that.
But when you bet on a candidate, is it a lot of heart, the old phrase growing up back East was NBC, November doesn‘t count, liberals want to win the primaries.
MEDAVOY: I think it‘s both, obviously. I think people come late to the issue. For me—I‘m—I‘m been an old time friend of Chris Dodd‘s so for friendship‘s sake, I will continue to support Chris while he‘s in the race. And I‘ll wait to see where it all goes.
None of this is predictable, quite frankly. The thing the Democrats have by having Barack Obama, who‘s black, a woman, a Hispanic—everybody gets represented. I think that will help the Democrats, because I think it will energize the party.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of these betting odds? A professor back at Penn, he used to be at Stanford, I just talked to on the phone the other is getting some credibility for the fact that he studied betting odds, and betting odds, he says, are best leading indicator, better than polling of what‘s going to happen in an election. People with money tend to know instinctively where the action is, where it‘s going to head.
Hillary is about a 50/50 bet, a flip of the coin, black or red out here in Vegas, to be the Democratic nominee. But when you ask who is going to win the general election, her odds stretch out to four to one. She is about a one chance in five. Why would people want to get behind somebody who‘s a one shot in five to win the general?
MEDAVOY: I think it‘s too early to make that call, quite frankly. I mean, I know you‘re a Vegas, but I wouldn‘t be betting on any candidate at this point. That‘s basically what I‘m doing is I‘m letting it play out a little bit. Because quite frankly, the Democrats want to win and they are going to get behind somebody who can win. I don‘t think anybody is going to place their bets on anybody, or shouldn‘t place their bets on anybody until they‘ve figured out where it‘s all going to go.
MATTHEWS: When do you think you‘ll know?
MEDAVOY: I‘m going to let it play out a little bit. I don‘t know. When I feel really comfortable with what‘s going to happen next, you know—you‘ll meet all the candidates—I have met a lot of them. Some of the ones I met who I was really impressed with dropped out. Some of them who I wasn‘t impressed it dropped out.
So I‘m going to wait and see. I will look at everybody, and then make a decision.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s talk about the power of the medium we are on now, television. I just know how much it costs you, what it costs to put an ad on the air and what the L.A. media market looks like in terms, if you can‘t get in that L.A. media market, you are not going to win a statewide race out there. If we have a February 5 primary and Schwarzenegger gets his way and moves that primary up to very early in the going, Hillary Clinton seems to me unbeatable in that game.
Is that true? Is that the way you see it? She has so much celebrity, so much money, she can saturate that market with TV ads.
MEDAVOY: You know, I think it‘s—money is a lot and plays a big part in it, but quite frankly I think it is going to be more than money. And I think candidates will get money, no matter who they are.
MATTHEWS: What about her husband? I‘ve been down there in Santa Monica, for the guys in the Birkenstocks, the intellectuals, the people that on the beach, the people that work 60, 70 hours a week, everybody has one thing in common, it seems to me, in that area of Los Angeles, along the beach, everybody was in love with Bill Clinton. Will that transfer?
MEDAVOY: That‘s true. But nobody was in love with Bill Clinton at the beginning. And the truth of that matter is that as we all know day-to-day events change everything. I mean, people are upset with Hillary‘s support of the war. They know that Barack Obama didn‘t support the war.
MATTHEWS: It‘s true.
MEDAVOY: All the news that‘s taking place right now it‘s playing out is going to shift everything. The one thing that‘s pretty clear to me is that you can get a liver transplant, but you can‘t get a brain transplant.
MATTHEWS: You mean Hillary can get the message she better be against the war if she wants to carry California.
MATTHEWS: Mike, you‘re an expert. It‘s great to have on you the show, on HARDBALL. Thank you very much.
Good luck in what you decide to in picking the next winner and being with the person you believe in.
Coming up, will Nevada help decide who wins in 2008? These states didn‘t seem to matter when they were all Republican. Is this state in play as they say out here in the gambling world? Can the Republicans lose in Nevada? We‘ll talk about that with the governor of the state, the Republican Governor Jim Gibbons. We‘re here on the rooftop patio, I love this name, the Pure Nightclub at Caesar‘s Palace in Las Vegas right along the Strip here.
I‘m a judge, lucky to be a judge in this year‘s Miss America contest.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Nevada has been known as the Wild West of politics, but could it become a new battleground for the 2008 elections for president.
Republican Jim Gibbons was elected governor here and he is governor. Governor Gibbons, let me ask you this. Is Tim Russert right, is this the part of the country that is going to be the new Florida, the new Ohio, this is where the election is going to be decided?
GOV. JIM GIBBONS, ® NV: Well, first of all I want to welcome you to Nevada. We‘re happy to have you here.
MATTHEWS: You know why I‘m here, don‘t you?
GIBBONS: Well, of course, you‘re here for the Miss America pageant.
Let me say that Nevada is a unique state. And in this election .
MATTHEWS: Which state ain‘t unique?
GIBBONS: Well, not like Nevada.
GIBBONS: They‘re all not like Nevada.
Nevada is going to make all of these candidates walk a political tightrope. Because if you‘re on the evangelical or conservative Republican side you‘re going to have to come out and support gaming, the industries that are important to Nevada. Otherwise you are going to have look at where is your stand on Yucca Mountain. A very, very contentious issue.
MATTHEWS: Tell me the Yucca Mountain issue because most people watching - I didn‘t—hadn‘t been thinking about it in a while. What‘s the issue?
GIBBONS: Well, every other state that has a nuclear power plant want to get rid of that nuclear waste of their backyard and in 1982 they decided to put it all in Nevada. So Nevada has been against the world, so to speak in fighting .
MATTHEWS: What do you want to dump it?
GIBBONS: Anywhere but Nevada.
MATTHEWS: Of course, but what‘s your proposal? Remember, you guys, Republicans are always saying Democrats need an alternative. OK, what‘s your alternative?
GIBBONS: By alternative is doing reprocessing and reducing the waste, so we don‘t have to have a Yucca Mountain. Looking at new alternative fuels, like thorium based fuel, which allows you to use that reprocessed fuel, burn plutonium.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your theory of having the dump here?
GIBBONS: Well, the first part is, as you look at Nevada and we‘re a tourism-based economy. It isn‘t that science isn‘t good when we talk about this. What happens is the perception is that this is a dumping ground.
And any problem in the rest of every other state is going to be looked at as being solved by dumping it somewhere in Nevada.
MATTHEWS: This could get bigger as we rely more on nuclear, right?
We clearly seem headed that way.
GIBBONS: Well, unless we do more technology. If we invest in that technology of reprocessing, then we can get away from that...
MATTHEWS: So conservatives like Brownback and Mitt Romney and anybody, Rudy Giuliani—anybody comes in on your side of the fence, you‘re going to say, be careful of the Yucca Mountain issue?
GIBBONS: Well, I think any political candidate, Democrat or Republican, coming to Nevada is going to have to accept our gaming and lifestyle. You know, what goes on in Las Vegas stays in Vegas except in politics.
MATTHEWS: Except your electoral votes. Except your electoral votes.
They go back to Washington.
Can Hillary Clinton win out here? Can—is this state—the theory I‘ve heard advanced is that the western states like this were settled by women pioneers as well as men. There‘s none of that old macho thing you get in the industrial northwest, northeast like Chicago around there. It‘s not “da Bears.” It‘s not this tough guy deer hunter thing out here.
Do you buy that, that this is more of an equality area?
GIBBONS: Well, I‘ll tell you, there‘s been a lot of glass ceilings broken by women in Nevada. And we have a female speaker of the assembly, first one in Nevada in its history. We have a female attorney general. Women are very—you know, I mean, very competitive in political organizations.
MATTHEWS: Arizona is like that. A lot of women in power.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s open season out here on the general election? In other words, now that Reagan is gone, now that Bush has had a tough time, is this state open to a Democrat winning? Can a—can an Obama or a Hillary or John Edwards win out here?
GIBBONS: I think if they win the hearts and minds of the voters—we‘re a 50/50 state. If you can come out hear and win the hearts and mind of Nevada voters, you can win Nevada.
MATTHEWS: You were on armed services committee when you were in the House of Representatives. So I‘m going to ask you the question they‘ve got to answer right now. Will 20-some thousand more American troops kicking down doors in Baghdad win that war?
GIBBONS: It‘s going to change the policy of how we address that war, that conflict over there, rather than changing the logistics aspect of it. If you change the policy of how we treat those insurgents and the terrorists that are over there, then we can win that war.
MATTHEWS: You really believe that government over there is willing to take down the killing squads and the militia?
GIBBONS: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the bet we‘re making here.
GIBBONS: And that‘s the one that‘s going to change the outcome of this war.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it could turn out that it was the worst mistake since Vietnam to go in there?
GIBBONS: No. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Do you still think it might be—do you still think it‘s probably a good bet?
GIBBONS: Well, I‘ll tell you something. When you look at—back at history you see the thousands and thousands of innocent people that died under the previous regime there, how can you sit here and say that changing that regime wasn‘t a good idea? Was it—were we able to project and predict what would occur today? I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what we argue about on this show.
Governor Gibbons, thank you for having us. And I want to thank Jim Gibbons, the new governor of this state.
Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is going to report on the bug life -
I love that phrase—the bug life under the rock we‘re all discovering in the Scooter Libby case.
And later, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman.
You‘re watching HARDBALL from the Pure Nightclub, on the patio, at Caesar‘s Palace, overlooking the strip in Las Vegas, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today was a day off in the Scooter Libby trial back in D.C., but the proceedings this week involving testimony from high-level government officials painted a vivid picture of the Bush administration and the backroom campaign waged by Vice President Cheney to undermine a high profile critic of the war in Iraq and perhaps—perhaps undermine an investigation.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has the report.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trial of Scooter Libby we learned this week that Vice President Cheney was deeply involved in actions that led to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson. And a string of prosecution witnesses testified Mr. Cheney‘s involvement started before Wilson‘s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote this op-ed publicly criticizing the Bush administration‘s main case for war with Iraq.
But two months earlier, this column with criticism of Cheney and references to an unnamed ambassador‘s findings prompted calls from the vice president‘s office to the CIA.
Cheney‘s press secretary, Cathy Martin, testified she spoke with CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, now an NBC News consultant, and learned about Wilson‘s trip and that his wife worked at the CIA. Martin testified she immediately told Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby.
Later, just after Wilson went public, Martin testified that Cheney himself dictated these talking points to refute Wilson‘s charges, including one point from a secret intelligence document Martin thought was still classified.
Martin also testified the vice president personally directed Libby, who did not usually deal with the media, to call specific reporters and that in one instance, with “TIME” magazine‘s Matt Cooper, the vice president wrote out what Libby should say.
All of this despite the fact that months later, in mid-September, the vice president was telling the American public he had virtually no knowledge about Joe Wilson at all.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe Wilson. I‘m saying Joe Wilson, he never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back. I guess I‘m saying I don‘t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn‘t—
I have no idea who hired him and it never...
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: The CIA didn‘t?
CHENEY: The CIA, I don‘t know.
SHUSTER: The trial has also revealed that when the Bush administration agreed to retract part of the president‘s 2003 State of the Union speech, Vice President Cheney demanded that CIA director Tenet take complete responsibility for the mistakes, despite the blame that rested with the Bush White House national security team.
As bad as the trial has become, though, politically, for Vice President Cheney, it is worse legally for Cheney‘s former chief of staff and confidant, Scooter Libby.
In addition to Cathy Martin, who currently works for President Bush, three other government witnesses have now given evidence that directly contradicts Libby‘s testimony in the leak investigation.
For example, the CIA‘s Craig Schmall testified that Libby prompted him to write down on a classified document the names Joe Wilson and Valerie Wilson in June of 2003. Libby was charged with perjury, in part, for stating under oath he first heard about Valerie Wilson later that summer from reporters.
So Libby‘s lawyers have been trying to discredit each of the witnesses who contradict Libby‘s timeline, including that witness from the CIA, who Libby and Cheney trusted for all their daily intelligence briefings.
In other words, the vice president‘s office trusted him with the nation‘s most sensitive intelligence, but the jury should not believe the CIA official‘s honesty now.
SHUSTER: That argument backfired on Libby‘s team in court this week when jurors, who are allowed to submit questions for the judge to ask witnesses, wrote out a question that challenged the integrity of a Libby lawyer.
Next week the trial will reconvene with testimony from former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer during the course of the CIA leak investigation. Fleischer asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Then he received an immunity deal.
And next week, Chris, he will be the fifth government witness to testify about the actions taken by the office of the vice president—
MATTHEWS: David, a big part of our job on this show is to ask the questions that people want answered.
Why did we go to war with Iraq on the charge that they were building nuclear weapons if we got a report back on this trip to Africa that they weren‘t buying uranium ore? Why did the vice president proceed with that claim? Why did he let the president make that claim? Will we get the answers to those questions in this trial?
SHUSTER: Well, we‘re starting to get them, Chris. And what it shows is that the question is even deeper than it seems. Because we‘ve already gotten evidence that that issue about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger was discounted by the CIA, to the point that the president in the fall of 2002 actually had that claim stripped out of his speech.
So in other words, we‘re already getting testimony that there were battles between the State Department and the Bush—and the Bush White House and the CIA over that very intelligence.
We‘ve already gotten testimony that, in fact, that Joe Wilson‘s trip to Niger was based on forgeries that were so obvious that they were forgeries that officials said it would have only taken a few days for anybody to realize they were forgeries.
And yet, part of the vice president‘s talking points as far as trying to suggest, hey, this intelligence was actionable intelligence, was worth putting in the State of the Union at the time was because Cheney was referring to comments made on those forgeries, even though everybody knew that they were forgeries.
So it‘s even deeper than you can imagine, and these are all questions, Chris, that I‘m sure will be even more interesting when Scooter Libby takes the witness stand, and certainly, when Vice President Cheney takes the witness stand in his defense—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, we count on our leaders, including the vice president and president, not to use bogus documents to make a case for a war. If they believe in a war, they should give honest reasons.
And so I hope we find out in this case whether Vice President Cheney led us into war based on bogus documents he knew to be bogus, a deal that he knew was not made to buy uranium ore in Africa or not.
It‘s still cloudy. We‘re behind this thing. We‘re trying to figure out who‘s behind the curtain. It looks like the curtain‘s name is Scooter Libby. Who‘s the man behind the curtain? Maybe we‘ll find that out, too.
Thank you very much, David Shuster.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, more on where the left coast money is going in the race for 2008. HARDBALL‘s Chris Cillizza of TheWashingtonPost.com and Ted Johnson. We don‘t have guys on too often from this organization, “Variety”. He‘s coming here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL from Las Vegas.
So where is the Hollywood money heading in 2008? Will the big shots who love Bill Clinton love Hillary just as much? Or is there a new blockbuster named Obama?
Chris Cillizza is a reporter and author of “The Fix” for
TheWashingtonPOst.com. And Ted Johnson is a managing editor of “Variety”.
He covers Hollywood and politics on Wilshire (ph) and Washington.com.
First, I want to get an answer from you, Chris. Is it permeating in Washington in the political crowd back there the role the vice president may have played was much bigger in this whole stink about this leak of the CIA agent‘s identity?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: I think it‘s getting there. I mean, I think the vice president drew a fair bit of attention to himself yesterday with the interview that he did where he was, you know, quite combative about a variety of topics from Iraq to his daughter to, you know, any other thing. So I think the focus was on him right from the get-go.
And obviously, everyone is following this trial pretty closely. This is sort of, you know—this is political theater writ large when it comes to Washington. So yes, I think people are getting more aware of it. I mean, I think people are letting it play out. I don‘t think anybody is rushing to a judgment on the vice president‘s role.
But I think people are watching closely and reading the stories and, you know, watching you guys.
MATTHEWS: I‘m finding it fascinating to learn, even though I‘ve been around so long, about how what seems to be the reality is really cooked up by the person in the back room, using flacks—press secretaries, people like that, -- to create a certain notion, using other people to do the dirty work for him in a way that allows him to look a certain way, even though he is in that certain way. It‘s a lot—it‘s a lot like the “Wizard of Oz”.
Let‘s take a look about this big money issue. We‘ve got Ted Johnson joining us from “Variety”.
Ted, what is it about Obama? Is it just—is it to show you‘re avant-garde, you‘re behind Obama? What‘s the appeal to the Hollywood types?
TED JOHNSON, “VARIETY”: Everyone I‘ve talked to says it‘s all about the fact that you can bring a new kind of politics to the system.
It‘s so interesting. People aren‘t backing him for the issues. They‘re so attracted to his charisma. So I guess it‘s not much of—I guess it‘s not much of a surprise they‘re attracted to his star power. That seems to be the main thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s a lot of this about being hip, you know, but every time there‘s an AIDS fundraiser or something for Israel or whatever, is a lot of this just you‘ve got to be there where the action is in Hollywood if you want to get ahead? In other words, are they joining these things because they want to get in favor with their colleagues?
JOHNSON: Oh, yes. There‘s definitely some of that that happens. But you know, you have to realize that Hollywood is hit up for money election cycle after election cycle after election cycle.
MATTHEWS: Right. Are these fund-raisers another way to get more swag
out there, being known as the top guy for this cause? The top guy with the
does that give you more swag in your industry?
JOHNSON: Oh absolutely. It gives you kind of an extra bit of cache.
It says to you, hey I don‘t just make movies, I don‘t just act in movies, I really can hob knob with the movers and shakers in Washington. So that definitely is a big part of it. Sort of the whole ego aspect of it.
MATTHEWS: How would you divide the people who sit down and read “The New York Times,” every day and know what‘s going on, people like Rob Reiner, for example, some of the others. From the people who simply go where the glitter is who aren‘t that deep or that broad in what they understand about politics. How many in Hollywood, give me a percentage, how many really know what they‘re talking about when they get involved in fund-raising?
JOHNSON: I would say about 50/50. I think one interesting thing is you have the big star names who are out there and you have people who kind of show up for campaigns and create a lot of attention, but then you have the producers and the directors and then you have occasional actors like Rob Reiner who are very much concerned of the issues. They have their own political consultants that they‘ve hired to kind of guide them along. There actually is quite a bit of heartfelt concentration in what‘s going on in Washington.
MATTHEWS: That is fascinating, because I know Richard Dreyfus, has an assistant Donna Bajarski who has for years helped him do his political work. They seem to be almost political producers for them.
JOHNSON: Oh absolutely. One big reason is that every election cycle or in this case, even before a lot of these candidates declared they are hit up for money. They‘re doing meet and greets, they‘re establishing ties, and talking about the candidates. They really want to lay the groundwork for raising money in Hollywood. So you also—I guess if you‘re a high-profile person, you also have to be able to politely say no to candidates that you don‘t want to give money to. But you still want to be in the game. So it‘s kind of walking a fine line for a lot of them.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Chris Cillizza. Chris you and I live in Washington. To us Hollywood still has all the glitter and excitement to us is lotus land, it‘s wild. But isn‘t there a contradiction building here. You know the Democrats like to be the party of the people, even if it doesn‘t always sell. Here they are engaging in a money game. Hillary Clinton doesn‘t want to operate by federal spending limits, she‘s made that clear. She‘s going to go with all the money she can raise, including from Hollywood, blow the other candidates out like Obama. Isn‘t this going to be a big pot latch? How much money can you waste on a campaign to become the leader, to become the nominee?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Look, I don‘t think that‘s unique to Democrats. I mean if we‘re talking about $100 million dollars—
MATTHEWS: No, but Democrats are supposed to be above that, but Democrats are supposed to be above being the party of loot. They always say the Republican Party is the party of the rich, right?
CILLIZZA: They do say that. I mean John Edwards clearly had the two Americas, you know the sort of poor to the middle class and then the upper class, there‘s no question about that. But I think they would differentiate by saying well we have friends in this community, in the Hollywood community, and other communities, the trial lawyer community, but we don‘t cut breaks for them in the way that Republicans do. Republicans have friends in big business and they write legislation that favors them. Now, that may be a distinction without a difference, but I think that‘s what their response would be at least.
MATTHEWS: You mean Hollywood, let me check back with Ted, is this to say that Hollywood producers don‘t expect politicians they help get elected to be responsive to their industry concerns?
JOHNSON: Yeah, I think in large part Chris is right. They want an invitation to the White House often or they just want to have that personal connection. But you don‘t see people giving unless it‘s an egregious case like a Joe Lieberman, who‘s attacking Hollywood all the time. But you don‘t see people giving because there‘s some kind of issue that‘s going to affect the entertainment industry. They‘re concerned about the other issues that the rest of the country is concerned about.
CILLIZZA: And Chris just remember, I mean look people—
MATTHEWS: Is Hollywood antiwar? I‘m sorry I have to find out this from Ted. Hollywood is the seed of antiwar fervor. Is it still the antiwar capital?
JOHNSON: Yes. I definitely see that, you see in the movies that come out of Hollywood, you see that in a lot of the documentaries that are coming out of here. I don‘t think Hollywood is as liberal as maybe the heartland of America makes it out to be, but I think you can safely say it‘s antiwar. Jack Pawlenty recently came out against the war, he just wrote an op-ed piece in “The Politico”. So he‘s a very respected figure in Hollywood. And he‘s not what I would say is the far left of Hollywood. So I think it‘s really safe to say that.
MATTHEWS: Yeah I don‘t think Jack Pawlenty is a far left, either. By the way, thank you much. Great having you on. Ted Johnson from “Variety” and Chris Cillizza as always, “Washingtonpost.com.”
Up next, documentary maker Alexander Pelosi, do you know that name?
Her mom is the Speaker of the House, on her new film about evangelicals. I‘ve seen it, it‘s something to watch. And the question is, are the evangelicals going to dictate who the Republicans run in 2008? It sounds like they have enormous power. You‘re watching HARDBALL from the pure nightclub, this isn‘t the evangelical center right here, it‘s Caesar‘s Palace in Las Vegas on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. A big week for the Pelosi family this last one. Earlier this week during the state of the union address, President Bush opened his speech with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to begin the state of the union message with these words, madam speaker.
[cheers and applause]
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And last night a documentary by the speaker‘s daughter Alexandra premiered on HBO, “Friends of God, A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi,” was written, directed and produced by Alexandra Pelosi. Welcome Alexandra. You know I saw your movie the other night and I know I MC‘d that thing afterwards, but I have to get to the big question, how powerful are these people who bring their politics largely from their church experience to the ballot box, how powerful are they have you figured out, in picking the next Republican nominee?
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, PRODUCER, “FRIENDS OF GOD”: I think you probably know better than I do. I mean I don‘t know the answer to that, but as Jerry Falwell says in my movie, you can‘t win without them. Al Gore learned that, John Kerry learned that and Hillary will learn it in 2008. Those are his words, not mine. I‘m just saying, they think that they have the power to pick the president.
MATTHEWS: Well here‘s a clip from the documentary where you talked to one of the main characters in the film, the preacher Ted Haggard who got into big trouble after you did this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED HAGGARD: You know all the surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh come on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No way.
HAGGARD: Oh yeah, but let‘s just find out. How often do you have sex with your wife?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day.
HAGGARD: Every day?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twice a day.
HAGGARD: Twice a day some times. Ok, how about you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I would call that serendipity. It reminds me of when they made the movie about Bill Clinton and the Monica, “Wag the Dog.” They had the girl in a beret before they even met Monica. How did you know that Ted Haggard was going to get into this huge trouble that would make so much of this seem a bit hypocritical?
PELOSI: I would love to say that I was so smart, that I knew all along and I was plotting and planning for this to happen, but I think it was just I was in the right place at the right time. But you know Pastor Ted spends a lot of his time talking about not just sex but the two main issue that they campaigned for, and their party is really abortion and gay marriage. So it‘s all sort of sex related. So it seems relevant to me that he was talking about sex, because it seems like they do so much in the church to campaign against gay marriage and against abortion, so.
MATTHEWS: Yeah he obviously a lot of people know the story, the scandal was here‘s a guy preaching the straight lifestyle, anti-gay, anti-gay marriage and it turns out he had a male lover who basically turned on him and didn‘t like him one bit and thought he was a hypocrite, among other things in that relationship. But you, when you were doing this movie, you had no idea that this scandal was afoot?
PELOSI: No. But Pastor Ted was my tour guide through the red state. It really brought me into this world, which you need someone to give you the entree and he stood up for me. When I met him, he was really open to having cameras follow him every where he went, so—strange.
MATTHEWS: You know what I thought when I saw your movie I thought it was a great look at America. You know when we live in the big cities, you‘re from San Francisco originally and I‘m from Philadelphia, we don‘t really get to know America the heartland between, say, Pennsylvania and the California border. And I thought it was great, because a lot of people watch now think I‘m ignorant because I don‘t know that word. But I‘ll tell you, when you see that star-spangled world of churchgoers with these big mega churches and you see how happy they are and exuberant they are in their faith, it has a very positive aspect to it. I thought the movie was not negative, I thought it was splashy, it was a bit of a cartoon in a way, but I thought it was about America and therefore I liked it.
PELOSI: Well Chris you have the distinction of being the first person to interview me on television to talk about my movie that‘s actually seen my movie. And that‘s a good thing. Because you know Bill O‘Reilly spent a lot of time last night railing against the movie, but hadn‘t seen it, since it hadn‘t even aired on TV yet. And so I think it‘s good that you take the chance to talk about things—to know about what you‘re talking about. I commend you for that.
MATTHEWS: And I commend you for that deep level of sarcasm against O‘Reilly. I think that‘s great. Any way, I‘m not saying a word. But any way I think it‘s important before you review a movie, to actually see it and to look at it with an open heart. I think some people who are very religious, very Christian in an evangelical tradition will say very much that I liked that picture you showed. Maybe there was some irony there with regard to Ted Haggard. But that‘s not our fault and I thought it was a great piece of work. You are a great documentary maker. I loved your one on George Bush. I think it helped make him president, I know that wasn‘t possibly your goal, but I thought it was a great movie you did on George Bush when he was running for president. Any way, thank you very much, Alexandra Pelosi, filmmaker. Her film‘s called “Friends of God,” a road trip with Alexandra Pelosi.
Up next, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. You‘re watching HARDBALL from the Pure nightclub in Caesar‘s Palace in Las Vegas on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So who‘s the odd on favorite to win the 2008 presidential election. Here to handicap the race is Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. I‘ll tell you what‘s in the intrigue book right now. It‘s almost 50/50 for Hillary to win the nomination, about 1 in 5 to win the general. Are Democrats making a mistake to bet on someone who is a one in five, even though she‘s the odds on - or at least the 50/50 odds first to win the nomination?
MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN, (D) LAS VEGAS: Now if any of your viewers
understood the question, they have to be a genius
MATTHEWS: Is it smart money to bet on a one in five, four to one?
GOODMAN: Well it‘s not smart money. I think you will have to see how it‘s going to play out before you place your bet. You don‘t want to bet anybody whose - what‘s called an out price, somebody who can‘t lose. And it‘ll get to that point.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this state, you know we‘ve been out here - one of the reasons I‘m out here, well the number one reason I‘m out here and the exclusive reason I must be honest is because I‘m judge of the Miss America contest, which I love to do.
GOODMAN: And you look so happy, really, and you look younger.
MATTHEWS: It‘s rejuvenating. Let me ask you about this part of the country. My colleague Tim Russert says and he tries to be smart about these things, he said this is the new Florida, the new Ohio. Out here, this array of states, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, are going to be in play, more so perhaps I would argue than the south, which tends to be Republican, or the industrial Midwest, which may have a problem with a modern, as Bill Clinton would say, uppity woman like his wife. Out here, it seems more friendly to women.
GOODMAN: We‘re very ecumenical out here. We don‘t play favorites, we really vote for the person.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re a Democrat?
GOODMAN: I‘m a registered Democrat, but unfortunately as the mayor I run as an independent but I‘m a registered Democrat. And will probably be very active in the caucus if my phone calls mean anything. Everybody is calling me and asking me to support them of course, and I‘m keeping my options open.
MATTHEWS: Edwards upset everybody with the power of labor behind him out here. Can he beat the big two, Obama and Hillary out here with labor behind him?
GOODMAN: Well labor is going to be important because the way these caucuses work is you just have to be a registered Democrat and you can participate in it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas. I want to thank our host here at Caesar‘s Palace, I‘m sitting right here by the way on the patio. Play HARDBALL with us again on Monday, with Senator Chuck Schumer. He‘s coming, he‘s a power house, see you then.
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