Guests: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Brown, Craig Crawford, Chuck Todd, Steve McMahon, Terry Jeffrey, Ann Lewis
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: U.S. intelligence says Iraq is in a civil war, that the big problem is not terrorism but the sectarian fighting between Iraqi Shia and Iraqi Sunni, with American forces standing in the middle. So Bush says one thing and the intelligence tells us the other.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. The National Intelligence Estimate came out today with a grim assessment of the war in Iraq. The report said the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraq conflict.
Just today, the U.S. military confirmed six more American troops have been killed and that two American soldiers were killed in that Apache helicopter that crashed north of Baghdad.
Here at home, the war in Iraq took center stage at the Democratic National Committee‘s winter meeting, with Senator Hillary Clinton leading the charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I had been president in October of 2002, I would not have started this war! I would not!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: More on the Democratic contenders later. Plus, over seven feet of political muscle, an American basketball legend comes out and supports one of the top Democratic candidates tonight on HARDBALL.
But first, NBC‘s Mike Viqueira has the latest on the DNC meeting right here in Washington today—Mike.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, as these fired-up Democrats met for the first time since taking both houses of Congress last November, the war was on everybody‘s mind on the eve of this non-binding resolution debate that‘s going to take place all week in the Senate next week. You heard Senator Hillary Clinton say that if she had been president back in 2002, she would never have started the war, this notwithstanding the fact that she did vote to authorize the war when it came before Congress during that same year. She added that if Congress does not end this war before January of 2009, that she will do it when she‘s inaugurated on that same date.
She came out in favor of the resolution as kind of a first step. She characterized it as a first defeat of President Bush, but then said that Congress is going to have to do more, if that‘s not enough to make President Bush end this war now.
Compare that with John Edwards, who struck a populist tone economically and was much more forceful about what Congress should be doing now to end the war. Let‘s listen to Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a betrayal for this president to send more American men and women to die in Iraq when he knows that this is not going to succeed. It will not be successful in stabilizing Iraq, and it is not right through our silence for us to enable this president to escalate this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VIQUEIRA: And then there was Barack Obama, probably the third of the top three candidates here to speak to these delegates today. He stayed on the high road economically, trying to stay above it all, speaks of the need for hope and opposition to the cynicism that pervades American politics. He must have used the word “hope” at least 10 times in his five-minute address today, Chris. And here‘s what he had to say on the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let‘s have an honest debate about how to end this war in Iraq. As was mentioned, I was opposed to this invasion publicly, frequently, before it began. I thought it was a tragic mistake. But whether you were for it or against it then, we all have a responsibility now to put forth a plan that offers the best chance of ending the bloodshed and bringing the troops home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VIQUEIRA: And Chris, the others to speak today, Dennis Kucinich from the House—no surprise where he stands on the war, he wants an immediate withdrawal—and Chris Dodd, who came out against that resolution to be debated next week. He called it meaningless, and that the Senate should be doing more—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Mike Viqueira.
Steve McMahon‘s a Democratic strategist and Terry Jeffrey‘s editor-at-large of “Human Events.” Let‘s go to this question. Who‘s ahead on this war issue among the Democrats in this battle here at the Democratic winter meeting?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think whoever was against it
starts with an advantage, and whoever has repudiated is probably coming up,
and then -
MATTHEWS: Hillary is still—where? Where is she?
MCMAHON: Well, I think she‘s getting stronger to—or closer to a stronger repudiation than she was some time ago. And I think, you know...
MATTHEWS: If somebody comes up to you and says, I‘m thinking of robbing a bank, can I borrow your car, and you lend them the car thinking, Well, maybe they won‘t rob the bank, but here‘s the car, are you responsible for the bank robbery?
MCMAHON: That‘s a very good question, Chris.
MATTHEWS: If I were Hillary Clinton and somebody said, I‘m thinking of starting a war, can you give me permission to start the war, Yes, I‘m giving you permission to start the war, I‘m giving you congressional authorization, but—but there‘s no “but” at that point. You gave him the car.
MCMAHON: You gave him the car. But what happened is the person came and said, I‘ll take good care of your car. I‘ll fill it up...
MATTHEWS: But I‘m thinking of robbing a bank with it.
MCMAHON: Well, listen, this administration didn‘t tell the United States Senate or the Congress the truth about the war, and many members of Congress went along with it. There were other people who stood up and said, It‘s wrong under any circumstances to go. We don‘t believe the intelligence. But you know...
MATTHEWS: Yes, they told them there‘s $100,000...
MCMAHON: ... the people who voted yes...
MATTHEWS: ... in the bank, but there‘s only $50,000 in the bank.
TERRY JEFFREY, “HUMAN EVENTS”: Well, Chris, as a member of the United States Senate, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, Hillary Clinton got the intelligence directly. She got it from George Tenet, who was appointed CIA director by her husband. She went down to the Senate floor in October 2002, before she voted to authorize the war, and she said that Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda was in Iraq then. It‘s in the Congressional Record. Anybody can check it.
But here‘s the irony of Hillary Clinton...
MATTHEWS: In other words, she didn‘t tie her vote to authorize the war on WMD, she tied it to a number of things, which were relevant.
JEFFREY: She made the most specific case in her speech on the Senate floor that Saddam Hussein had real contacts with al Qaeda then. People can look at it in the Congressional Record. Here‘s...
MATTHEWS: I just read it today...
MATTHEWS: She just didn‘t make the point—however, she didn‘t say Saddam had something to do with 9/11.
JEFFREY: No. Right.
JEFFREY: She said he had ties to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda was in Iraq.
Here‘s the bigger irony about Hillary, though. When Hillary went into the Senate, she obviously was thinking about running for president. And I think she and her advisers were thinking very intelligently about how do you take someone and make them the first woman president, especially when, as of 2000, she‘s never been in elected office before. She had to develop the credentials to be commander-in-chief, especially because she was a woman. So she went onto the Senate Armed Services Committee, and she started creating Hillary the hawk.
What happens? We have 9/11. What happens after that? President Bush starts building the case for going to war in Iraq preemptively to disarm Saddam Hussein. What does she do? She gets with Bush. She gets as close to Bush as she can because she believes that‘s going to create this image of Hillary the hawk, the woman who can be the first commander-in-chief. The war goes wrong. Now she‘s going to try and re-create herself, in some sense, as someone who‘s anti-war because you‘re not going to get the Democratic nomination unless you can get the anti-war...
MCMAHON: She did not repudiate her vote. And I know Hillary Clinton gets the right enraged, as you can see from Terry here. She has not repudiated her vote. In fact, many liberals have been critical of her because John Edwards has and she has not. What she said is, she cast that vote based on faulty intelligence that she got from the Bush administration, which cherry-picked the intelligence. And then what she said today is she wouldn‘t have gone into war.
The Bush administration, remember, got the authorization to go to war with the assumption that they were going to run out the string on the diplomatic ties and let the weapons inspectors do their job. But as soon as they got the vote—you know, they‘re not used to telling the truth, and they didn‘t tell the truth then, either. They went right into Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What would they have done if weapons the inspectors had found weapons of mass destruction? What would they have done?
MCMAHON: I don‘t know what they would have done, but...
MATTHEWS: ... Hillary‘s alternative. What was that alternative route?
MCMAHON: I suspect that all the people who voted to give the president the authority to invade Iraq would have said, Go invade Iraq, there are weapons of mass destruction. But Chris, they didn‘t find any. There was a policy of containment...
MATTHEWS: But what about Hillary‘s case...
MCMAHON: ... that was working...
MATTHEWS: ... for going in based upon ties to al Qaeda? That was never disproved.
MCMAHON: Well, I think it‘s been disproved. The 9/11 commission said that there were no ties to al Qaeda. There were certainly no ties to the terrorists who flew...
MATTHEWS: She didn‘t say that. She said—I just read her speech on the floor, when she justified the authorization to go to war, and she did say he had ties to al Qaeda. That‘s what she pointed out.
MCMAHON: There certainly was evidence that there were al Qaeda members at different times in Iraq.
JEFFREY: Here‘s Hillary‘s bigger problem, is this case she‘s going to try and make now, because she‘s going to get outflanked by Edwards and Obama on the war, and she knows it‘s happening. It‘s not believable. And she‘s going to go out there—it‘s not just conservatives like me who are going to look at it, Come on, Hillary. Those Democrat liberals voting in the Iowa caucus, voting up in New Hampshire, voting out in Nevada, they‘re going to listen to this and they‘re listen to Obama, and they‘re going to say, Obama‘s telling the truth and Hillary isn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Are you for or against Hillary having voted for the authorization? Are you criticizing her for doing it or applauding her for doing it?
JEFFREY: I—I think...
MATTHEWS: I can‘t understand where you‘re coming from.
JEFFREY: I believe that at the time that vote was made in the Senate, based on the intelligence that they got from George Tenet, the National Intelligence Estimate that we‘ve all seen, that it was a credible vote to vote to authorize war. But then you‘ve got to...
MATTHEWS: So what‘s her problem?
MCMAHON: You‘ve got to stick by that vote politically. You‘ve got to be held accountable for it. And you got to stick by the consequences of it. The fact is, we‘re stuck in a war in Iraq that is horrible. It‘s not clear how we can get out. Whoever is going to be commander-in-chief is going to have to deal with a very complex national security situation in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: She can‘t wash her hands of it.
JEFFREY: She wants to have it both ways. She can get beat by someone who only...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that charge, that she voted for this war, so she‘s responsible for ending it appropriately?
MCMAHON: Well, what‘s appropriately? I mean, how many people do you have to sit here and watch die before you say, You know what? This guy doesn‘t know what he‘s doing. The people over there on the ground—it‘s chaos. There‘s a civil war. It‘s time for us to go home.
MATTHEWS: In that case, who beats her on the issue of the war?
MCMAHON: Well, I think anybody who was against the war from the beginning clearly has...
MATTHEWS: He opposed this from day one. He made it clear today in that speech we just saw before the Democratic National Committee that he was against it publicly. Now, Hillary wasn‘t publicly against the war because she voted for the authorization.
MCMAHON: But here‘s the...
MATTHEWS: So he can—how about Edwards, who‘s done a mea culpa?
MCMAHON: I—listen, I...
MATTHEWS: Is he in better shape than Hillary?
MCMAHON: I think that among a lot of Democratic primary voters, somebody who is clean and pure against the war, like Howard Dean was in 2004, starts in a stronger position. But I think that there are a lot of considerations in this choice. One of them is electability and winnability, and Hillary Clinton is making a strong case that she‘s been through tough campaigns and she‘s won them...
MATTHEWS: OK, I want to change the subject here because I think we don‘t know the answer to who‘s going to win on the war yet. But we do know how well the week went. Hillary said that—she told that joke, you know, Why would I know how to be prepared to deal with bad and evil men? Everybody knew it was about Bill. She never actually said it. OK, that‘s her decision. You don‘t have to explain every joke you tell. OK.
And then Biden got in trouble for the “articulate” thing about—the language he used, somewhat out of date, let‘s put it that way. Let‘s—it‘s at best out of date, the way he described the growth of opportunity or whatever for Barack Obama. Who got out of it best? Did she get out of it best or did he get out of it best?
MCMAHON: I think she did. I think she did because I think it demonstrated to people, certainly to the people covering her, that she had a bit of a sense of humor, which I think to some was surprising. And so I think she got out of it fine. I think Joe Biden...
MATTHEWS: So even though she—even though she did this to dodge and said she didn‘t mean it—well, she suggested—well, she never answered the question.
MCMAHON: She smiled and said, Listen...
MATTHEWS: So she was smart to never say she was dissing Bill.
MCMAHON: Absolutely. Absolutely.
JEFFREY: You know—you know what?
MATTHEWS: She shouldn‘t admit that she was using Bill as a joke.
MCMAHON: I think that—you know, I think that people have said she needs to loosen up on the trail, and she loosened up on the trail, and now people...
MATTHEWS: She‘s carrying this guy around with her as a joke! She‘s saying, yes, yes, I got an evil man!
MCMAHON: I don‘t know if she was talking about Bill.
MATTHEWS: Well, the women there knew it.
JEFFREY: That‘s why the audience was laughing. I don‘t believe Hillary‘s explanation. I saw Joe Biden on your show, Chris, and I do believe Joe Biden. And even though—and I‘m a conservative and I disagree with Joe Biden on just about everything. Let me say something in his favor. For 10 years as editor of “Human Events,” just every week when Congress was in session, I‘d send a reporter over to the Hill to ask the toughest question we could come up with to members of both parties. Most often, I sent them to the Senate because senators‘s answers are more consequential.
A lot of senators obviously didn‘t want to answer a tough question from “Human Events.” You ask Joe Biden a question, he would answer it.
MCMAHON: How long (INAUDIBLE)
JEFFREY: This is a guy, though—this is a guy, though, who‘s ready to stand up and answer questions. He came on your show and he answered questions. Hillary does not want to be exposed to spontaneous questioning from voters in retail politics in Iowa and in New Hampshire and in the press...
MCMAHON: Terry, you don‘t know that. Terry...
JEFFREY: ... because her handlers are afraid of the way she will react.
MCMAHON: Terry, Terry, Terry, what evidence do you have for that outrageous allegation? She was in Iowa just this week, and she was doing exactly what you say she doesn‘t want to do.
MATTHEWS: ... rope line? Did she let reporters ask her questions?
MCMAHON: She answered questions from reporters or she wouldn‘t have been talking about the joke she told. I mean, she obviously answered questions. She went to Iowa with an incredibly large entourage. And having spent some time in Iowa with incredibly large entourages, you have to move a herd around and you can‘t just open up everything for questions all the time. There‘s got to be...
MATTHEWS: Are you working for Hillary?
MCMAHON: No, I‘m not working for anybody. I‘m an armchair quarterback.
MATTHEWS: ... very protective of this lady.
MCMAHON: Well, I just think she‘s getting a bad rap...
JEFFREY: I think—I think it‘s a real question...
MCMAHON: ... from people like Terry.
JEFFREY: I think it‘s a real question in this Democratic primary campaign whether Hillary can go to the traditional sort of retail political environment in Iowa and New Hampshire, where you‘re literally going into people‘s living rooms, where you‘re vulnerable to questions directed from the people and from the press...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s see if Obama is equally—let‘s see if Obama meets your standards. I wonder how many of these people are willing to go out there and let reporters just hit them and hit them, hit them with questions and respond to them, because that‘s almost like you‘re giving the reporters a lot of chances to hit your chin.
But anyway, I am, of course, for it. I think everybody who runs for office ought to not be afraid of us because they‘re facing the frickin‘, you know, terrorists out there. They shouldn‘t be afraid of reporters.
MCMAHON: I don‘t think...
JEFFREY: And they should not be afraid of the grass roots of their own party in Iowa and New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: Anyway—whatever “frickin”‘ means. Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. Thank you, Terry Jeffrey.
Coming up: Clinton campaign senior adviser, an old friend of mine, one of the real party people in the Democratic Party, Ann Lewis, will be here. And later: Which Democrats will score at the DNC‘s winter meeting? Can one of them rise up to challenge Hillary and Obama?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Senator Hillary Clinton spoke to the Democratic National Committee‘s winter meeting today. She said she would not have gone into Iraq—this is a key statement of hers. She would not have gone into Iraq had she been president back in 2002 and ‘03 and vowed to end the war as soon as she gets into office, if she gets elected. And she didn‘t throw a lot of “if” there, either.
Ann Lewis is senior adviser to Hillary Clinton‘s campaign. Ann Lewis is one of the heroes of the Democratic Party. She has fought the good fight for women‘s rights and all the good causes for years and years and years...
ANN LEWIS, SENIOR ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: I‘m feeling more senior as you speak.
MATTHEWS: ... and she‘s Barney Frank‘s sister. Anyway, Hillary Clinton—let‘s take a look at what she said this week because I thought it was a brilliant piece of political burlesque. Let‘s take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Funny joke. Jokes are important. I think Hillary has looked at the—at the—as they say in Massachusetts, the shape of the race decides the winner. She‘s running against eight or nine guys, it looks like, including Barack Obama and Edwards and all the rest of them. And she says, I noticed one thing around this Democratic Party. Most people are women. I‘m a woman. I‘m playing my edge.
LEWIS: Right. She doesn‘t have many choices, by the way. It‘s not like she can decide whether to run as a woman or as a man, but as she said also in Iowa, I‘m a woman, I‘m a mom. But that‘s part of who I am. I want you to vote for me because of the person I am, because of the experience I have and because of the direction I will lead this country. And boy, do we need that kind of leadership today.
MATTHEWS: Ann Lewis, is this your time? As a woman activist Democrat for all these years, is this your time?
LEWIS: I‘d like to say, as somebody who has watched for the last six years as this country‘s gone in the wrong direction, this is our time!
MATTHEWS: As a woman, is this your time to get a woman in the White House?
LEWIS: I got the same answer as she would have. I can‘t do it any other way.
LEWIS: I know what I bring to this race. I know how I feel about what we‘re doing...
LEWIS: and I know what difference we‘re going to make.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a number of cards Hillary can play. She doesn‘t
have to play gender. She can play the Bill card. That‘s implicit, as
well. She can play experience in the White House for having worked there -
and worked there, literally, as first lady on a lot of issues for eight years. But she says, No, I think the card I‘m going to play right now is we need change in 2008, and one way we can have dramatic change in the White House is to put a woman in there.
And look at her surrounded by women. She tells the jokes. She says, We‘re in this together in a sisterhood. We got men to deal with. But you know, we can win this one. You don‘t think that‘s a solidarity issue she‘s raising there?
LEWIS: Oh, I think she‘s saying a number of things. But by the way, on the same trip, I have also heard her say, You know what? I know how Washington works. I know how the White House works. I know how the Congress works. I‘ll be ready to do this day one. If I get to the White House, I know how to make the change we need.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to give in to me, so let‘s stop arguing. I think she‘s out to get the women vote because she has a right to it because she‘s a woman, and you go for your people first.
LEWIS: I‘m not disagreeing with that.
LEWIS: I want to get the votes, but I want to get everybody‘s vote.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s not get greedy.
MATTHEWS: But anyway, ask you this—how does she—how does she take on a Barack Obama without landing a punch? Now, we saw this week where Biden tried to land a compliment and got into trouble, right? So it‘s tricky business when you‘re up against a real premiere candidate like Barack Obama, who everybody likes.
LEWIS: Absolutely. I think the best way you do this is you say, Here‘s who I am. Here‘s what I bring to this race. You saw her this morning speak to the Democratic National Committee. You saw the tremendous response she got from the heart of the party when she said to people, We can do this, we can win this fight. She said, I‘ve been through a few campaigns. I know what it‘s going to take. I know what we‘ve got to do when we get there. That‘s what people want to hear.
MATTHEWS: Is Bill Clinton going to be a problem in this campaign?
LEWIS: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself?
LEWIS: Bill Clinton has been around—in the first place, he‘s been around the world saving lives.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself?
LEWIS: He‘s going to do what he does best.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself...
LEWIS: Yes, he is.
MATTHEWS: ... not cause a publicity that gets her embarrassed?
LEWIS: He goes out—you go ask Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel how often they asked Bill Clinton to go out there an campaign for Democratic candidates.
MATTHEWS: I know he does a lot.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a multi-tasker.
LEWIS: He did it because people want to see him.
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s a multi-tasker! He‘s going to behave himself, right? No bad publicity. Did you see that story in “The New York Times,” though, a couple months back about Bill Clinton better watch it, front page, top of the fold, he better watch it?
LEWIS: You couldn‘t miss it. And I was interested to see that that was the most important news that “The New York Times” could have, was to try a write a story about people‘s private lives.
But you know what? At the end of the day, you read the story, it said there‘s no there there. Guess what? That‘s the story, folks.
MATTHEWS: Do you think “The New York Times” is going to stop running...
LEWIS: There‘s no there there. No. I think Bill Clinton is going to continue doing his work, going around the world, saving lives.
MATTHEWS: So he‘s going to behave himself.
LEWIS: He‘s going to be out on the campaign trail...
MATTHEWS: And he‘s going to behave himself so Hillary can be the first woman president.
LEWIS: You‘re all going to be applauding...
MATTHEWS: I think it‘d be great for the country...
MATTHEWS: ... if we were not once again distracted...
LEWIS: So do I.
MATTHEWS: ... by what you call private life. And I think the way to avoid getting distracted is to have nothing there to distract us.
LEWIS: Well, I agree with that. But we just spent how many minutes of this segment, three minutes, talking about there should be nothing to distract us? Why don‘t we stop talking about it and talk about the issues?
MATTHEWS: Well, because I want to have some assurances from people that I trust and like to spread the word that...
LEWIS: Why don‘t you watch...
MATTHEWS: ... he better watch it...
LEWIS: ... what he‘s been doing? Why not see what he‘s done for the last...
MATTHEWS: I am watching, unfortunately. Anyway, thank you, Ann Lewis.
LEWIS: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Up next: How are the presidential campaigns dealing on the age of the Youtube? That‘s the age we‘re in right now. Anything you do now can be on camera. And later: Hall of Fame basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the greatest scorer in the NBA history, who almost went to Holy Cross, on why he‘s supporting Barack Obama.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As the 2008 presidential campaigns get really under way, candidates are spending more and more time trying to win political battles on line. It‘s no longer about avoiding Youtube, it‘s about making Youtube work for you. HARDBALL‘s Jeremy Bronson has the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am fired up about our candidate-...
JEREMY BRONSON, HARDBALL (voice-over): If you thought 2006 was the year of on-line political video, you ain‘t seen nothing yet. Youtube, blogs and Web chats are dominating the 2008 race for the White House in a whole new way. Campaign strategists are devoting time and resources to figure out how Youtube can work for them and not against them.
In some cases, that can be tricky. Hillary Clinton‘s campaign had to handle its first Youtube hurdle when an open mike caught these dulcet tones in Iowa. The Clinton campaign decided to ignore the video altogether, and the strategy worked. Hillary‘s singing did not become Dean‘s screaming.
HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And then we‘re going to Washington, D.C., and take back the White House! Yes!
BRONSON: The John Edwards campaign used the same passive strategy towards this Youtube video, which shows the former senator fixating on his hair.
But Governor Mitt Romney used a different strategy to deal with his recent Youtube problem. His campaign recently caught wind of this video clip, which showed his liberal social views back in 1994.
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation.
BRONSON: Those positions could can hurt in a Republican primary, and so the Romney campaign responded immediately with this on-line message.
ROMNEY: I was wrong on some issues back then. I‘m not embarrassed to admit that. I think most of us learn with experience. I know I certainly have.
BRONSON: Campaigns are no longer simply responding to unexpected on-line video, they‘re figuring out how to use it to their advantage. Many of the 2008 contenders jumped into the race using the Internet.
EDWARDS: And I would ask you to forward this video to all your friends.
OBAMA: So write your e-mails and write your letters. I‘ve been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics.
CLINTON: With a little help from modern technology, I‘ll be holding live on-line video chats this week starting Monday.
BRONSON (on camera): The question now is whether any dark horse candidates could use on-line tools to break out of the pack and change the dynamic of this race. At this point in the election, anything is possible. Jeremy Bronson, MSNBC Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jeremy. Up next: Which one the Democrats will gain momentum at this DNC meeting here in Washington? HARDBALLers Chuck Todd and Craig Crawford will be here to size it up.
And this Sunday, “Meet the Press” kicks off its “Meet the Candidates” series with an exclusive interview with John Edwards for the whole show.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. NBC News justice department, correspondent Pete Williams, has some new developments in the case of those guerrilla marketers that snarled downtown Boston with signs that were mistaken for explosive devices. Pete, what‘s new?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well what‘s new here Chris, is that it like the city of Boston, the state and Turner Broadcasting are very close to a deal in which Turner would agree to pay Boston for the expenses involved in all the response, the firemen and the policemen, tied up traffic on Wednesday.
And in addition, Chris, and this is very interesting, it looks like the state will probably drop the charges against the two men who were charged yesterday with putting the signs up. They were charged with placing a hoax device. Now it looks like there will be a final deal on Monday. The terms are not exactly worked out, but it looks like both sides are optimistic they‘ll work something out on Monday.
MATTHEWS: Is Turner buying their freedom with this deal?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think it‘s a recognition on all sides that the best thing for the city is certainly to get some money to compensate for all the expenses that occurred in running around and chasing this thing.
There are some questions here about how soon—how early on the ad company that Turner employed to put these things up was aware of what was causing all the problems and failed to tell the city.
So that‘s a question. But the other thing here, Chris is I think the state realizes that it would be very hard to make these charges stick against the two men. They would have—the state would have to prove that they intended to cause this panic. And that case is pretty thin on that part.
MATTHEWS: Well they don‘t look too sad that they did though, do they anyway?
WILLIAMS: Well, they weren‘t exactly models of contrition in the courtroom, no.
MATTHEWS: No, I don‘t think so. Anyway, thank you very much, Pete Williams, for that report.
While the Democrats kicked off their big winter showcase right now. So who has the mojo, as we say, who has the fire? Who‘s winning the early fight? Here to talk 2008 politics are the HARDBALLers themselves, MSNBC‘s Craig Crawford and “The Hotline‘s” Chuck Todd. You guys know an awful lot. No, you do. I‘m a junkie, you guys are super junkies.
My sense is Hillary is doing everything right to appeal to the middle base of the Democratic Party, not the hard left. Is she doing everything right?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. On the war in particular, I may be a bit contrarian, but I think she is right where she needs to be for the long term on this war, particularly if things change and also for the general election. She‘s holding the gray zone, which isn‘t the bravest place to be, but it works.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk guy talk, OK? Could it be that she‘s realized the mathematics of the situation? We‘ve always watched—the Democratic base is African-American, is liberal, et cetera, it‘s labor.
But it‘s also enormously female. The Democratic Party is largely women. California, something like 60 percent. Hillary Clinton is playing that card. I swear she is.
CHUCK TODD, THE HOTLINE: Absolutely. It‘s also—and you said it to Ann Lewis in your interview. It‘s the one thing that she can be a change agent on. Her last name, she can‘t be a change agent. She‘s a senator. Senators aren‘t change agents.
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t you tell me this two or three nights ago? That‘s what where I got it from.
TODD: But no, you told him. I think what was interesting about these speeches is there was three we all cared about, Edwards, Obama and Hillary. You had Edwards, who only spoke to the people in the room. Right? That‘s why he got the most applause line. Yet, Hillary, who spoke a little bit to them and a little bit to us.
MATTHEWS: To the camera.
TODD: To the media. Obama skipped the room, only spoke to the camera and only spoke to the media.
CRAWFORD: Even though he said this campaign is not about TV cameras.
TODD: That‘s right. But he was about framing what his message is going to be as he moves on. He‘s trying to be a serious guy, right? He‘s trying not to be red meat guy because I guess what he‘s saying is I can do that any time I want.
CRAWFORD: I want to hit on your gender question because I think it‘s really critical. I really think there‘s a chance for a turnout among women voters because of these women at the top with Hillary, with Nancy Pelosi, that will change and expand the influence.
MATTHEWS: Let me try—we‘ve all talked about this, Jack Kennedy in ‘60. There were Catholics that never voted Democrats in their lives that when Kennedy ran, all voted Democrat, a lot of them did. Polish Catholics, Italian Catholics, Jewish people, black people, Hispanic people who were also Catholics. So many ethnic groups said here‘s our chance to break down the wasp door. This will be the first guy who‘s not a wasp, a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This door is opening for all of us. And Kennedy played that thing brilliantly.
CRAWFORD: I mean, I can imagine a lot of women come to the mailbox in primaries and general, if she‘s the nominee—even if they don‘t like her, realizing in the privacy of that ballot box, that booth, that this could be the only chance in their lifetimes to see a woman president.
MATTHEWS: And a guy comes along, whether it‘s Rush Limbaugh or somebody in the Democratic Party that takes a whack at her, I think women are more likely to say...
TODD: ... What‘s interesting is you‘re making the argument that they‘re hoping others in the Democratic Party are saying, you know what, this actually makes her more electable in the general. Because maybe Republican women, suburban women, might come over. Because her biggest—the biggest problem she‘s got, people don‘t believe she‘s electable.
MATTHEWS: Suppose she runs against a pro-life, hard-nosed conservative on cultural issues and she runs in the burbs. That‘s tough for a lot of Republican women to say no to the first woman and vote for somebody from out west, for example.
I‘m talking about the big suburbs where all the votes are. I‘m going to vote for somebody from Kansas instead of Hillary. I‘m going to vote for somebody from wherever, let‘s see, Arkansas instead of Hillary. And she runs as a suburban, pro-choice woman.
CRAWFORD: I think there‘s an evolution going on here, whereas in the early days when women first emerged at the top of the political ladder where they were trying to appear very masculine, prove that they could be tough. Now I think women like Hillary and Nancy Pelosi are comfortable with displaying their feminine side, their nurturing side in ways that men will find difficult to deal with.
MATTHEWS: They‘re dressing really well, did you notice? Did you notice the political women dress—I mean, by my limited fashion standards, beautifully well.
CRAWFORD: Well at they get more variety than men have.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t dress drab. It isn‘t like business suits.
TODD: Well men do variety by doing pinstripes.
MATTHEWS: Well we don‘t wear the same clothes. If anybody knows me, I‘ve got about three options, basically.
TODD: But you know, I‘ll say this. Don‘t underestimate the expansion that Obama can do with young folks. Do you know that today after the ...
MATTHEWS: ... Will they vote?
TODD: Fine, will Republican women vote for her?
MATTHEWS: No, the turnout. I‘ve been hearing this all my life. Joe Scarborough says it beautifully. If you bet on young voters, you will lose because they don‘t show up.
TODD: He went over to George Mason today and had 3,500 people show up.
MATTHEWS: Are they registered? Are they going to vote?
MATTHEWS: ... I drive people crazy like this. I say, they‘ll wear t-shirts. They‘ll even put bumper stickers on their cars. But will they show up on election day?
CRAWFORD: I‘ll tell you how to get the youth vote is to propose raising the drinking age. That will get them...
CRAWFORD: I mean, if you can go die in Iraq, but you can‘t get a
MATTHEWS: Vote for Obama. He‘s wet.
CRAWFORD: I think that would get their attention.
TODD: And I think that actually what we‘re looking at is sort of Obama‘s going to say that I can expand—I‘m hoping to expand the universe because I‘m going to be a generational change. And she‘s saying, I‘m gender change.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s talk about the guy who‘s now third man in this race—third person, John Edwards. You said that John Edwards, who was—who said John Edwards was working that—was working that room?
TODD: Working the crowd. He was speaking to the crowd. That‘s why he got five...
MATTHEWS: Is he saying, I‘m electable?
CRAWFORD: These guys are counting standing ovations...
MATTHEWS: ... of the Democratic National Committee crowd getting to the real pros who want to win. It‘s not like there are cigars in the back room, but it‘s the modern equivalent. Is he talking to them, saying, look, these other people are interesting, they‘re fascinating, but I can win?
TODD: He wasn‘t saying that. He said, I believe in the heart and soul of the Democratic—he was trying—he gave Howard Dean‘s speech from four years ago. He gave that, except the Southern accent makes him seem electable. I was talking to a Midwestern Republican governor today, who said—I said, who‘s the one person who can carry your state? He said Edwards.
MATTHEWS: Which state was that, roughly?
TODD: It was roughly in the Midwest. I don‘t want to give it away.
MATTHEWS: You know he didn‘t do that well in the Midwest. That‘s why I‘m asking.
TODD: No, it is the irony of it. But the assumption is—the assumption is that if he were the nominee, that the Southern accent, no matter how liberal he is...
MATTHEWS: I know how it works. Every time you hear a guy with a Southern accent, no matter what he says you think he‘s a conservative or a moderate. You just think that.
CRAWFORD: ... he‘s close to saying to what Howard Dean said last time, what got him so much attention at this even, was that he‘s from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Edwards was the closest to saying...
MATTHEWS: What about that YouTube of him gussying himself up with the mirror?
CRAWFORD: That‘s going to haunt him for the rest of his life.
MATTHEWS: I like that. The rest of his life?
TODD: Edwards is running against himself from 2003, though. That‘s the weird thing about that.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll talk about that as the days proceed. I—by the way, I love having—what do you call it—flashbacks of ideas you express here.
Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.
Thank you, Craig Crawford.
They do know their stuff.
Up next, Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, why he supports Barack Obama for president.
And later, Jerry Brown rakes the Democratic contenders. He‘s going to be on, too.
This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired from the NBA 18 years ago. He‘s still the all-time leading scorer for the NBA. He‘s the author of new book. He‘s a writer now and has been for quite a while. It‘s called “On the Shoulders of Giants: A Personal Story of the History of the Harlem Renaissance”.
Kareem, thanks for joining us.
Do you want to endorse somebody for president tonight on this program?
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, AUTHOR, “ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Well, I think Senator Obama is a very good choice. I had the pleasure of meeting him this past summer at the Senate building in Washington, and I was very impressed his knowledge of the issues and the fact that he has throughout his lifetime been a consensus-builder and someone who can build bridges to different segments of American society. I think that‘s something that we need at this point, and I think he would do an excellent job.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been a public figure since you were a kid. Do you think America—and you‘ve been in the public light. You know it. You know how people react to you, how people react ethnically to everybody these days.
What do you think is the chances that the country‘s changed dramatically enough from when we started with civil rights to today to pick an African-American president?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think we have to test the water. And if Senator Obama can get the confidence of the Democratic Party and get them to believe in him, I think that he has an excellent chance of winning. He understands what the issues are. And as I said earlier, he‘s very good at building bridges.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the bridges that his very existence reflects? A mother from Kansas, a father from Kenya growing up. And I‘m so impressed by the part about growing up in Indonesia. I mean, he‘s one of the few guys ever to run for president who knows what we look like from abroad. What do you make about that sort of—I mean, it‘s a very unique background.
KAREEM: I think he has a unique world view. He‘s seen this country from a lot of different perspectives and understands what America means both from within and without. That should work to his advantage.
MATTHEWS: One question and one question only. Joe Biden, what do you think of his little contratent (ph) this week?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I‘m glad he managed to do some damage control. I still think highly of him. Sometimes we get our foot caught in our mouth no matter how hard we try not to. He dealt with it. And I respect him.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about your book, Harlem...
ABDUL-JABBAR: Great place.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s—it says jazz, it says dance, it says everything. What does it say to you? What is Harlem?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, Harlem is home, my very first home. When I was three years old we moved just outside of Harlem. But I had to go back there on a regular basis just to function. All my mother‘s friends lived down there. And I ended up having to spend a lot of time there. I made quite a few friends in Harlem and played basketball there in the streets quite often.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of all the development out there now? It seems like economically it‘s just—I mean, there‘s everything on that street, the big Amsterdam Avenue and—what‘s the main drag in Harlem?
ABDUL-JABBAR: 125th Street.
Well, it was—one of the writers from the Harlem Renaissance, James Weldon Johnson, predicted back in the 1920s that at some point the real estate of Harlem would get to be so valuable that the people who were presently living there would not be able to afford to live there. And that process has happened.
But I think this renaissance will be a lot more beneficial to black Americans, and that there are many black homeowners in Harlem who will see an increase in the value of their property and be able to take advantage of the real estate boom.
MATTHEWS: Run through a couple of the top figures in your book. Tell me about some of the heroes of the book that were the foundation for today.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, let‘s see. Langston Hughes, an extraordinary poet, someone who influenced Americans‘ vision of black Americans and wrote some very touching poetry. Paul Robeson. He was an All-American football athlete, Phi Betta Kappa, singer, actor, activist and fought for change that would eliminate Jim Crow laws. Duke Ellington: master musician, broadcast from the Cotton Club, broadcast during World War II, enabled America to come together in support of the war effort from the black community. And the list goes on. Louis Armstrong.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a great story and great book cover. You‘ve got your picture on here, on the shoulders of giants. Hang on to your dreams, because—what was the newsline? Hang on to your dreams, because if your dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that will not fly.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Was that Langston Hughes or possibly Lorraine Hansberry?
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s Langston Hughes. I remember I used it for a speech I wrote for Jimmy Carter once, 1,000 years ago. Hey, good luck with the book. “On the Shoulders of Giants,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Thank you sir for joining us. And you have endorsed Barack.
Anyway, thank you for joining us.
ABDUL-JABBAR: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: The name of the book is that, “On the Shoulders of Giants.” Up next, evaluating the 2008 Democratic field with a former Democratic contender, former California governor and currently the attorney general of California, Jerry Brown. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Jerry Brown is California‘s attorney general. He was two-term governor of California and he‘s with us tonight to assess the Democrats vying for the Oval Office right now. Good evening. Governor Brown, let me tell you. Let me remind you, when you ran for president the last time in 1991, you didn‘t start to campaign until October of that year.
JERRY BROWN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CALIFORNIA: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: This thing is already underway and flying high.
BROWN: It‘s not only starting earlier, but because of the 24-hour news, there‘s a lot more coverage. But they have a lot less to say with all the extra coverage they‘re going to get with all the extra time. I think there‘s going to be a lot of room for mistakes, gaps, and that‘s what the media would love to go after.
MATTHEWS: Well, yes, what did you make of Joe Biden‘s comment this week, what he meant to offer as a compliment of Barack Obama, and he said that he was articulate, clean, all those good things, and it didn‘t play very well?
BROWN: Well, it was obviously he was expressing something that was on his mind and it just came out a little too unfiltered. But he‘s got a while to go. And I think that‘s the great problem with the Democrats, that there‘s so much time, there‘s so much difficulty in distinguishing one Democrat from another in a primary.
And they‘re all going to be taking on the president. I think there‘s a very good chance for a Democrat to win. Hillary‘s obviously the leader. But if you go back to ‘72 when Muskie was supposed to be like Abraham Lincoln in his demeanor, that old mean woodsman, and then he just sunk like a rock.
So there‘s the perils of the frontrunner and then there‘s the opportunities of those who are just behind. So I‘d say it‘s a little too early to tell. But in terms of just experiencing the money and the machinery, Senator Clinton has quite a leg up.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is what scares me, as a person who wants to have a really healthy debate and real kind of competition for the nomination of both parties. And of course I do it for a living, so I want it to be wild and exciting.
Hillary Clinton has so much money from both coasts that if they move up the California primary out in your state to February, she could win out there with that Los Angeles media market, which you can buy.
And you used to talk to me about that, how you can spend a certain amount of money in that market and move your number overnight and just do it with the force of advertising.
BROWN: Well, you can do that. But because of the name—I mean, no one has ever run with as powerful a name as Hillary Clinton. So she‘s way up there.
But now when you‘re way up there, everything you do is broadcast all that more widely and all that more loudly. So if there are any mistakes, it does open up the chance for a challenger. And if there are a lot of controversies, if someone comes on hard on the war or however they can put themselves in a challenging position, then they might be able through free media to break through.
But it looks pretty good for her, but it is early to be speculating. Particularly here we are in February. Let‘s wait at least until maybe November.
MATTHEWS: For whatever strange reason, states that are on the coast around the country have a proclivity to elect women as the United States senators. Washington state has two, California has two, Maine has two. Hillary‘s from New York, Texas has got Kay Bailey Hutchison.
It‘s funny thing, California seems to be very open to women politicians. I mean, in big positions. Do you think that Hillary would have a frontrunner position going into California in a primary as early as next February and winning the whole thing there? Because it‘s hard to beat her after that.
BROWN: Right. Well, if she can win in Iowa or New Hampshire, then she comes out in Nevada and California, of course. There it is. But, look, that‘s probably a very likely scenario, but I wouldn‘t rule anything out. It‘s awfully early.
And when you‘ve got to keep talking every day for the next several months, it‘s easy to make some mistakes and it‘s easy for people to get tired of you. After a while you have all this expectation and there‘s nothing more you can deliver except the same old face, the same old cliches.
It‘s going to get a little tired and that opens up the possibility for Barack or someone else to come on as the fresh face, as you get a fatigue factor that‘s going to set in-between February and next October. I mean, come on.
MATTHEWS: General, that‘s what you did back in ‘76. Jimmy Carter won all the early primaries and you came in there late and you won everything. You won six in a row, as I remember.
BROWN: He was getting a little tired after a few months. What‘s it going to be after 10 months? So, yes, you can come in at the end, maybe a couple of senators will win the east primaries, a few there. Who knows? You might be able to stalemate it and people might go to Nancy Pelosi as kind of a dark horse candidate.
MATTHEWS: OK, good luck with the oil companies out there, governor, general.
BROWN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Attorney General Jerry Brown. Play HARDBALL again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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