Guests: Tyler Drumheller, Terry Jeffrey, Ron Reagan, Lynn Sweet, Jim Warren, Sen. Ben Nelson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: This is the week nearly four years after it started that we see the reasons for war. Dick Cheney pushed the fear of Iraq‘s nuclear weapons, although there were none. The Pentagon pushed an Iraq-tied Al-Qaeda, although there was none.
So why did we go to war?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good Evening. I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.
This week the Scooter Libby trial has put the spotlight on the Bush administration‘s aggressive push to go to war with Iraq. Today more insight on what was going on inside the Defense Department that bolstered the case for war. A new report for the Pentagon‘s Inspector General concludes, quote, “dubious”, close quote, intelligence former Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith was twisted to fuel the White House‘s case for a preemptive war against Iraq.
The Iraq war has claimed the lives of over 3,000 U.S. troops so far and thousands of Iraqis citizens. Today the U.S. military said three more U.S. soldiers killed in combat in the western Anbar Province.
The American people made it clear, many think, in the last election that they expect this new Congress to take action against the war. This week a debate in the U.S. Senate was stymied by Republicans. Next week the House plans to debate the war.
In a moment we‘ll talk to Senator Ben Nelson about what the Senate‘s going to do after all.
Plus, Senator Barack Obama will make it official tomorrow when he launches his campaign for president from Springfield, Illinois. I‘ll be there in Springfield tomorrow morning to cover the event. And tonight I‘ll have a preview of the announcement.
Plus, Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC‘s “Mad Money” look tell us how the Bush administration‘s foreign policy has affected your financial future.
But first, it was a big week in the trial of Vice President Cheney‘s former Chief of Staff and confidant Scooter Libby. And HARDBALL‘s David Shuster was there for it all. Here he is with a recap of the week.
David, you‘ve done a great job. Tell us, by the way—as you tell us about the trial, tell us what it tells us about how we got in this war?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, what‘s happening with this trial is we are getting the curtain lifted, not only on the tactics the Bush administration used to sell the war before it started, but then also on the tactics the Bush administration used after the war had begun, weapons of mass destruction had not been found, and yet the Bush administration and, in particular, the office of Vice President Dick Cheney were vigorously trying to convince the public through the media that in fact they were justified in going to war.
We‘re getting all sorts of picture of the media at times being witting and unwitting in these administration tactics...
MATTHEWS: We were never witting here.
SHUSTER: We were never witting at HARDBALL. And that‘s why this show and you in particular have played such a role in this case.
But as far as the case is actually concerned, we‘ve been going back and looking at more of the grand jury audiotapes because here is Scooter Libby, somebody who never talked to the media before the war, certainly after the war had begun, about the intelligence and what was going on in the office of Vice Presidency.
And what we‘ve been doing now in going through these audiotapes is we‘re finally starting to get a glimpse of at least how not only Scooter Libby was dealing with the media, but how he was dealing with federal prosecutors once the criminal investigation began.
Just to recap, the crucial issue in this case is when exactly did Scooter Libby learn about a CIA operative, Valerie Wilson? Libby testified under oath that he first learned about that operative, Valerie Wilson, from NBC‘s Tim Russert and that this happened just two days before Valerie Wilson was outed.
Tim Russert testified this week that he and Scooter Libby never spoke about Valerie Wilson. And what we‘ve learned in the trial is five that government officials who worked with Scooter Libby have testified that they heard Scooter Libby talking about Valerie Wilson in the weeks before the date of Russert conversation.
Furthermore, two people you may recognize. White House former press secretary Ari Fleischer was the president‘s spokesman and Cathie Martin, who has often spoken on behalf of Vice President Cheney. Both of them testified about conversations with Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson just days before Libby‘s conversation with Russert—again, just days before Valerie Wilson was outed.
And there was also evidence this week that Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby talked about Valerie Wilson during that crucial week as well.
But at the grand jury, Scooter Libby had memory problems. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
QUESTION: From July 6th up until the point when you spoke to Tim Russert, but not after, is it your testimony that you have no recollection of discussing Wilson‘s wife‘s employment at the CIA with either Vice President Cheney or Ari Fleischer?
SCOOTER LIBBY, FMR. CHIEF OF STATE TO VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes, sir. In that period I have no recollection. That‘s correct.
QUESTION: And do you recall discussing with Cathie Martin between July 6th and July 10th the fact that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: No. As I say, when I heard it from Tim Russert, which was on the 10th or the 11th, I was surprised by what I heard, and that‘s all I really recall from that week. So, I don‘t recall any other discussion earlier in that week about it.
QUESTION: Prior to your conversation with Tim Russert on July 10 or 11, do you ever recall a conversation where Cathie Martin told you that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: No, sir.
QUESTION: Prior to you conversation with Tim Russert, do you ever recall telling Cathie Martin that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: No, sir.
QUESTION: Prior to you conversation with Tim Russert on July 10 or 11, do you ever recall a conversation where Cathie Martin told you that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: No, sir.
QUESTION: And do you recall an occasion on or about July 8th where Cathie Martin came into the Vice President‘s Office with you present, and the Vice President, and indicated that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA, that she had learned that?
LIBBY: On July 8th?
LIBBY: I—again, sir, I don‘t recall. What I recall—all my recollection on this point in hinged on my surprise when I heard it from Tim Russert.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Scooter Libby must have also been surprised when he was there in the grand jury and suddenly realized that Cathie Martin and Ari Fleischer had given testimony that was contradicting what Scooter Libby wanted to give criminal investigators. That may explain, of course, why his voice was dropping.
But what is so intriguing is that prosecutors are convinced that the reason Scooter Libby was lying was to protect Vice President Cheney—maybe not legally, but at least politically at a time when the White House that anybody who was involved in this would no longer be working for the administration.
And one of the most intriguing aspects on this audiotape is when Scooter Libby is testifying about a conversation with Vice President Cheney on Air Force Two. This was July the 12th, two days before Valerie Wilson was outed. And the office of the vice president is trying to figure out what to do about phone calls from reporters who are analyzing Joe Wilson‘s criticism of the Bush administration and trying to write pieces.
The evidence shows that Scooter Libby was given talking points by Vice President Cheney about how to respond to these reporters. And under oath Scooter Libby says he cannot rule out the possibility that he and Vice President Cheney discussed leaking Valerie Wilson‘s status at the CIA to reporters as part of an effort to undercut her husband.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LIBBY: I don‘t recall specifically having a conversation with him about sharing with—about Wilson‘s wife. But it‘s possible. I just don‘t recall it.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say you had—in a prior FBI interview, you indicated it was possible that you may have talked to the Vice President on Air Force Two coming back from the ceremony involving the U.S.S. Reagan about whether you should share the information with the press about Wilson‘s wife?
LIBBY: It‘s possible that would have been one of the times I could have talked to him about what I had learned from Russert and what Karl Rove had told me about Novak—Mr. Novak.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHUSTER: In other words, it‘s possible that Libby and the vice president may have discussed leaking to reporters Valerie Wilson‘s status but only, according to Libby, because they learned it from reporters, not because they had learned it themselves.
And that, of course, is the crux of the issue here, Chris. And that is we‘ve always known that this was an administration that seemed to have a deft ability about using the media to get their agenda—to get their message across. And here we have a situation now where it appears that Scooter Libby at least has been caught.
They were trying to blame reporters for this, when, in fact, the evidence shows that they were learning this information from government officials. They thought perhaps that reporters would never testify. And, in fact, it took a year and a half of litigation for prosecutors to be able to get reports to testify. That pushed all of this past the 2004 presidential election.
But now that reporters have testified, prosecutors are absolutely convinced Scooter Libby lied and that he was doing it to protect Vice President Cheney.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s imagine we‘re writing the history—the first draft of history, which is journalism right now, and we‘re trying to figure out how we got into this war with Iraq when there‘s so much information now that there were not weapons of mass destruction and there‘s no apparent connection with Al-Qaeda. And so those were the reasons most people supported the war. They feared nuclear weapons being used against Israel, against us. They feared a connection between those who attacked us on 9/11, that those people may have been involved with Iraq in some way.
Now we find out neither of those cases are true. And the reason the vice president—perhaps this is the prosecution‘s case here—the vice president was so upset about reporting about that and other things about the initial story from Joe Wilson, who went to Niger in Africa and determined there was no deal by Saddam Hussein to buy nuclear materials, was so upset about that, because it upset the apple cart. It said, “All of the arguments made for month after month about why we had to go to war, WMD, et cetera, et cetera, were bogus.” And they caught in guy and they said, “He‘s going to upset everything we‘ve tried to do here in terms of justifying this war.”
Is that—is that what sprung them into action, that may lead to the
well, it‘s leading to the prosecution—to the conviction of the chief of staff?
SHUSTER: Based on the testimony so far, Chris, it does appear that they were convinced that if this information got out, if the information from Joe Wilson wasn‘t beat down, it would reinforce the image of Vice President Cheney hovering over the CIA, pushing intelligence, pushing the intelligence analysts.
MATTHEWS: Well we know he was—that we know from many other sources. He took six trips to Langley, pushing and pushing and pushing. He pushed the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate. He pushed the CIA and later, when he got into trouble in justifying the war, he blamed all of that on the other agencies. He said, oh, they did that when he had pressured them to do it.
SHUSTER: Right and the sensitive issue here was this reinforced the idea that in fact, Vice President Cheney was driving this. Remember, it was Vice President Cheney as you know who made the initial inquiry, who tasked the CIA to go look into this rough intelligence that I found that suggests Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Africa.
The CIA—whether it was prompted, regardless of who decided whether Valerie Wilson should go, the CIA decided...
MATTHEWS: ... Big question, why did the vice president care so much that he might be tagged as the person who triggered this trip to Africa? Because he feared that he would then be believed to have gotten a report back from the CIA and if he had gotten a report there was no deal with Niger, he never told the president.
But that‘s an if. You know, I‘ve never been able to—I have said this on show, I will say it again until I get the answer—I‘ve never been able to establish whether the vice president got a report back on that trip. I don‘t know why he‘s so afraid of this issue or was afraid of this issue that he had to take these steps that may have gotten his chief of staff into big trouble, may get him into trouble historically, unless he did get a report back.
And when I checked with the CIA director, I said why would the vice president send a trip over there, ask you guys for information and not get a report? The director of central intelligence said to me, to my face, ask him, ask Cheney, which doesn‘t get me anywhere except to say is he implying that Cheney did get a report and won‘t admit it?
Where are we on this? And I‘m still, by the way—these are the questions I asked in early July of 2003, which apparently drove the vice president crazy to the point that they were transcribing notes of this program verbatim so that Vice President Cheney could pour over them overnight. I‘m kidding here, but I wish he was a Nielsen family because his apparent attentiveness to HARDBALL was historic.
SHUSTER: Well, and what makes it even more interesting, Chris, is you are obviously not just a thorn in the side, but they expected you and HARDBALL to play the way a lot of the rest of the other media did and that is they wanted you to say well, because the White House and because the office of the vice president and because the CIA says one thing, well, that must be the gospel. And the fact that there was one reporter, yourself and some others who are still skeptical and said no, the point is did the vice president know or not? That‘s the issue. Because of that, that‘s why they went crazy.
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s only one condition under which we would have operated like that. That is if we were in Cold War Bulgaria and we might have operated like that. Otherwise, we are going to exercise the First Amendment. Thank you very much and lots of skepticism against power. You have been doing great. I love your reports, I love them, and I know the audience does.
Up next, Barack Obama will make it official tomorrow in Illinois in Lincoln country. Can he beat Hillary? That‘s the big question. Let‘s go to a couple of Chicago people that know him well, Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune” and Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun-Times.” They‘re going to be here. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tomorrow, Barack Obama makes it official, announcing he‘s in the race for president. Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun-Times” is in Springfield, Illinois, where Obama will make the announcement, where I‘m going to be tomorrow morning. Jim Warren is managing editor of the “Chicago Tribune.” I believe you‘re in Chicago, right?
Let me go to Lynn, who‘s on site. What‘s the temperature like out there?
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Chris, it‘s a little cold. Bring your long underwear.
MATTHEWS: I heard that, I don‘t want to hear that. Let me ask you, in your mind‘s eye, try to project from your reporting what Obama is going to try to accomplish the next several months?
SWEET: He is going to try and say he is doing a different campaign. He is a different type of politician. He is going to try and turn in the next few months everything that you might think is a negative into a positive. His lack of experience in Washington, he will turn into a positive.
And what he‘ll also try and do in the next several months is try and do two things at once. While he is mining the Democratic establishment for their support and money, he‘ll also try and be reaching out to new segments of potential Democratic primary voters, especially hitting college campuses. That‘s some of the outlines. He‘ll also keep talking about what he sees—what he talks about, and that is his politics of hope, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, Jim Warren, the same question, project if you can the future of campaign, just through the next couple of months. What is he doing going to try to do? Is it what Lynn says, go for the outsider, bring in people who haven‘t voted before? Try to suggest a new kind of politics?
JIM WARREN, CHICAGO TIMES: Well I think first of all, broad strokes, starting tomorrow, themes of national unity, hope, inclusiveness, generational change and let‘s not forget his being against the war in Iraq and wanting folks to come back home.
Some of that stuff obviously will be critiqued instantly as sort of vacuous platitudes. As Lynn said, he‘ll be then hammered very expected about alleged inexperience, about lack of a really substantive policy record, about supposedly excessive liberalism. But I think he can rebut all of those.
In the short term, which I think is much more important, he‘s going to go to Iowa and New Hampshire and work his butt off and see if the sort of prom king status that he‘s had in the last four or five or six, seven months will be maintained as he has to do to sort of retail politics that he really hasn‘t done a lot of. And he is also going to have to, I think, exhibit and grow a bit of a thicker skin than he has exhibited in the past because he will be attacked in ways he never has before.
MATTHEWS: Lynn, will he be opening himself to questioning by reporters who bump into him or meet him at events? Or will he be very averse to that kind of inquiry?
SWEET: Well, I think there will be two Obamas. I talked to him, there are very few reporters around yesterday after the Illinois breakfast when I was in Washington—only a few other reporters showed up and he was accessible.
I think when we get into the campaign bubble, which starts just a few hours from now, it will be different. But he can‘t—part of the challenge of the campaign, Chris, is that he has to manage the frenzy about him. Now Hillary Clinton did a pretty good job of it when she did her big trip through Iowa a few weeks ago and this will be the challenge.
Interesting point, Barack Obama has no press conference scheduled as he starts this weekend blitz. Hillary Clinton did. So at no point is there scheduled even for a meeting of the local press corps, who will be with him. Maybe that changed, maybe they won‘t.
The public schedule he put out is not the entire schedule of things that he‘s doing. For example, he doesn‘t have on there a big mega fundraiser he has in Chicago Sunday night. So maybe they will add things and maybe there will be other events that we don‘t know with about, where at least there will be a chance to do a little a press conference with him to talk about the local things.
In Washington, though, he‘s going to be accessible. Almost every senator is accessible in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Jim, how does he get from 20 to 35 in polling?
SWEET: What does he do?
WARREN: Well, first of all—well, first of all, he‘s got...
SWEET: Can I say one quick thing...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Lynn, I‘m sorry.
How does he catch up—if he doesn‘t catch Hillary, all of this is just background music. He‘s got to catch Hillary in the polls.
SWEET: He‘s going to—first of all, he has to win the money primary because he‘s starting way behind her. And I know that the Obama campaign doesn‘t like to talk about money and doesn‘t want to emphasize it. And he has a new announcement already on his website that went up just about an hour or so ago, his pre-announcement announcement. He wants to have a match of dimes and dollars on it.
But, Chris, whatever his message is, whatever his hope is for this campaign, if he can‘t raise a lot of money fast, it‘s going to be very difficult to close that gap that you just talked about.
MATTHEWS: OK, Jim, the same question. How does she get—how does he get up to where she is, Hillary?
WARREN: Well, I don‘t think first and foremost it‘s a matter of money. I think one can spend a little bit too much time in Washington and be convinced that this is all about money and high-priced consultants.
First of all, he is going to have to exploit the celebrity status. There are going to be a lot of folks in Iowa and New Hampshire for starters who are going to be coming out for curiosity‘s sake. He has to absolutely knock it out of the park then and there. He has got to make sure starting tomorrow that there are no huge gaffes. He‘s got to make sure that he‘s not on the defensive when he‘s dealing with us.
Already one seasoned example of the sort of thing that is going to hit him and I think that could conceivably stymie him, even the B.S. story about the, you know, the Muslim school in Indonesia. As well as that I think was rebutted, the fact is I think it‘s done a little short-term damage. And I have run into folks who have bought into that total, absolute B.S.
MATTHEWS: I know. I have, too. And the question is—people who care a lot about Israel, for example, are very worried about somebody who may have had hard militant training in Islam. And people worry about our security. Is there anything to that story that anybody real believes, Jim?
WARREN: No. First of all, I don‘t think it‘s, you know, substantive and fair at all...
MATTHEWS: That he went to a madrassah school when he was in Indonesia? There‘s no substance to that yet. Nobody‘s been able to harden that up. It‘s just a push by somebody with a point of view?
WARREN: Well, remember, the thrust of the story...
SWEET: On the contrary, every report that came out is that it wasn‘t true.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Jim?
WARREN: ... and in that sort of stuff, particularly in the world that we now live and the bloggosphere, is going to be coming out. And he‘s got to realize there‘s some lessons to be learned from the Kerry campaign and you better to be far more aggressive in making the counterattack. We still don‘t know, based on the Illinois experience, how good is he going to be at that.
Remember, to repeat the obvious, that Senate campaign he had was against an absolute pushover, now, in Alan Keyes. And even then, when he debated Keyes, there were moments when he showed himself to be a little bit thin-skinned. It‘s going to come a lot harsher now from a lot more able candidates like Hillary Clinton and others. And this is going to be a real interesting test.
But I think, to answer your question, the next couple of months he has got to work his butt off in Iowa and New Hampshire and exploit that celebrity status he has and make people want to come back for a second time.
MATTHEWS: Good thought. Thank you very much, Jim...
SWEET: There‘s also just the point...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Lynn, let‘s talk.
SWEET: There‘s also just the point of—also just the point you have to have a lot of organization. His campaign needs to get organized in Iowa very fast. And we‘ll see a little test of it this weekend.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much both.
Hey, Lynn, I‘ll be out there in the cold with you.
And Jim Warren, thank you from Chicago.
A reminder: I will be in Springfield tomorrow morning for Obama‘s speech. Watch it all. It‘s also going to be on the “Today Show” tomorrow and MSNBC all morning and probably on “Nightly News” tomorrow night.
When we return, a new report from the Pentagon‘s inspector general concludes—you‘ve got to wonder about this—dubious intelligence from the Pentagon was manipulated to make the White House‘s case for war in Iraq. Does it ever get any worse? It just gets worse how we got in the war and the bogus stuff that was thrown at us to get us into the war.
And later, CNBC‘s Jim Cramer plays hardball.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, more insight into what was going on inside the Defense Department that bolstered the case for the war back in 2002 and 03. The Pentagon‘s Inspector General has issued a new report that concludes dubious intelligence from former Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith was manipulated to make the Bush administration‘s case for war.
Senator Ben Nelson is Nebraska Democrat who sits on the Armed Services Committee.
While this comes on top of all the stuff that‘s coming out of the Scooter Libby trial—in that case it was about nuclear case for war, which was—has been undercut by all the evidence. Since now we‘ve got a lot of undercutting going on by the inspector general of the Defense Department that there really wasn‘t a hard case for an Iraq connection with Al-Qaeda.
What‘s your reaction to it, Senator Nelson?
SEN. BEN NELSON, (D) NEBRASKA: Well, I think nobody is surprised any more about what comes out. I think it‘s the makings for a spy novel. I‘m sure Grisham is looking at it for material to write a book.
But it‘s so unfortunate. I think the report said inappropriate.
Well, it‘s beyond inappropriate. It‘s unfortunate. It‘s—I think most
everybody would expect that what you get from the White House would be
something that you could trust, you could rely on, and that it would work -
that it would materialize. In this case, it‘s been just the opposite.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me, without getting too dramatic, Senator, what the inspector general is accusing Doug Feith of—and anyone else who tried to push us into war with weak intel is waging an aggressive war. That‘s an international crime, not that we‘re ever going to have, you know, war crimes trials against our own people. But it is a crime to start a war without a reason. Did these guys, based upon what you‘ve seen, simply want the war and look for evidence to justify it?
NELSON: Well, you‘ll have to ask Doug Feith what his purpose was because I don‘t know. But when the inspector general says from the outside, apparently an objective view, that the office was inappropriate in its use of this information, the way it presented, it‘s pretty hard to draw a very positive conclusion for what his purpose was.
But you‘ll have to ask him as to what his motive was.
NELSON: You‘re easy—to impute a motive that it—not being a good one for sure.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Senate right now. You seem to be in a stalled position because both sides want to have their kind of vote on the floor. Is there going to be a breakthrough in the next week or so where you‘re going to actually have an up or down vote on the war in Iraq and the decision to increase the number of troops over there?
NELSON: Well, I think we will eventually get to the discussion of Iraq again. And yes, I hope we will get an up or down hope on the Warner-Nelson-Collins resolution. I think there are more than enough votes to pass it. It got blocked with the so-called filibuster, which was very surprising. The people who were on the bill and who supported the bill—the resolution and the bill, voted to filibuster it. I.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, party discipline.
NELSON: It is hard to understand.
MATTHEWS: Party discipline rules in procedural votes, I have learned it all my life. It is easy to corral people into the usually voting manner if you just say, vote the party.
Anyway, thank you, Senator Nelson, for taking the time tonight.
NELSON: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Tyler Drumheller is the former chief of clandestine operations for the CIA over in Europe. He is also the author of “On the Brink.”
Tyler, how do you read this latest little wrinkle here that Doug Feith, the undersecretary of defense, apparently cooked the intel to get us into war, saying there was a connection to al Qaeda by Saddam Hussein?
TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS, AUTHOR,
“ON THE BRINK”: Well, this is actually what I think a lot of people in the intelligence community have known for a long time, is conflict between military intelligence and civilian intelligence techniques.
And what they did was—whereas normally they would get the intelligence from the CIA or whoever, and take it for what it is worth, having been collected by people in the field who knew what they were talking about, and doing—they didn‘t like what they were getting. It didn‘t fit in with their sort of academic view of what was going on in Iraq.
So instead, Feith‘s group took and sort of vacuumed up all of the intelligence across the community, all the rumors, emigre reporting, loose cables, all these sort of things.
MATTHEWS: You mean, the always reliable Chalabi?
DRUMHELLER: That‘s right, and things that were would not normally make it in to a regular CIA or even DIA intel report. And they put together what they believe—they put together a view that was then used by people in the administration to say there were meetings with Mohamed Atta in.
MATTHEWS: In Prague.
DRUMHELLER: In Prague. There were connections between—there were medical treatments in Baghdad of al Qaeda personnel. And none of this was ever validated intelligence. And it—but they used it as real intelligence. I saw in the paper today that Feith said he was just saying this is sort of a different view. But in fact what they said in the reporting was used as fact all over the place.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s possible that five or six people got us in this war? If you just take the deputy level of Feith and Wolfowitz, who is a bit above him, and Scooter, then throw in the vice president and Rumsfeld, it seems to me that like—there was like—there were about five columnists in the country pushing the war, it seems like there were about five people inside the administration who said, we want to go to war. We are going to find a reason for it and we are going to sell it to the president. And they did it. Is that what happened here?
DRUMHELLER: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Or did the president want to go to war and he hired a bunch of hawks to justify it?
DRUMHELLER: No, I don‘t know if it was five or six. I don‘t think it was the president, in all honesty. I think it was a group of people, though, that saw this, revolving around conservative think-tanks and intellectuals, and that they had a vision for the Middle East and they were driven by that. And then that was seized on by politicians who saw it as useful.
MATTHEWS: But there was crazy—some of that vision was, we are going to bring the Hashemite monarchy back to Iraq, it was crazy.
DRUMHELLER: Yes. Well, yes. I agree with you. And it is—but it was seized on by people who were looking, I think, for something tangible to use as an alternative to the way the policy in the Clinton administration had gone. And even that.
MATTHEWS: Was there any way of knowing that the president ever fully understood the kind of counsel he was getting from these folks? That they really had an ideological objective and he was going along with their mission, not they going along with his? Or were they just all operating in tandem, they all wanted to go to war in the worst way, they would have thought of any excuse to get in it?
DRUMHELLER: Well, I can‘t say for sure what the president—what he was thinking, but I can tell you, I think that what he—the president runs this as sort of a CEO. And when he was presented with the information by the people who were his advisers, he went ahead on it. But it fit his view of the world too.
MATTHEWS: Just think there were people out there maybe with the best intentions, though they are ideologues that I don‘t agree with, that thought that somehow invading Iraq and taking it over would bring peace to the Middle East. It has done the opposite.
DRUMHELLER: Oh yes, I.
MATTHEWS: It has blown the whole region up.
DRUMHELLER: No. I believe that a lot of these people are very sincere—still very sincere about it, but the fact is it‘s a disaster that is not going to go away. It‘s going to get worse and worse.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s like the Nazis didn‘t know there was a Russian winter. Didn‘t they know there were Sunnis and Shias over there ready to fight with each other the minute we pulled down the curtains?
DRUMHELLER: Well, when you are only talking to each other and only reinforcing each other‘s ideas, it becomes very powerful.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, you know, a lot of this instinct could have warned of.
DRUMHELLER: Yes. It should have.
MATTHEWS: Two years in the Peace Corps could have warned you of a lot of this stuff. Anyway, thank you, Tyler Drumheller. Thanks for coming in.
DRUMHELLER: Thank you for having me.
MATTHEWS: We are going to learn more about this unwrapping of this birthday cake we got from these people back in 2003 as the weeks go on.
Up next, does John Edwards have a blog problem and did he fix it?
Maybe he didn‘t. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Each of the 2008 campaigns is using online strategies to get ahead right now, the candidates are. But sometimes it can cause trouble. This week John Edwards had to deal with an Internet problem of his own. It has to do with those bloggers out there that he hired for his campaign. This is an interesting story that you haven‘t heard before because it was technologically impossible before.
HARDBALL‘s Jeremy Bronson has the report.
JEREMY BRONSON, HARDBALL REPORTER (voice-over): The 2008 presidential campaigns are scrambling to connect with voters on the Internet, sometimes skipping TV and radio all together. This week the John Edwards team learned firsthand the hazards in the brave new world of campaign blogging.
Earlier this month the Edwards campaign hired two bloggers to write about the former senator‘s plans and proposals. In theory, a campaign blog let‘s a candidate communicate directly with voters. No reporters to muddy up the message. No expensive ad buys needed. But the plan may have backfired.
The Washington Post reports that conservative bloggers dug up material that the two Edwards bloggers had written on their personal Web sites before joining the campaign. According to The New York Times, references to President Bush‘s, quote, “wingnut Christofascist base,” and vulgar language in talking about pro-life voters.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Bloggers by nature are iconoclasts. They are many times against the establishment. They like to traffic in rumors and gossip that isn‘t confirmed. There is a real danger of hiring a blogger if you are a candidate and having them go out and say some things that will embarrass you.
CRAIG DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: You should see the stuff
that they said about our blessed mother, about the Virgin Mary, the most
vile, disgusting things dealing with orgasms and sperm and the like, which
it is absolutely mind-boggling that these kind of sick people would ever get a job working with any public official.
BRONSON: John Edwards responded on Thursday with this statement, quote: “The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte‘s and Melissa McEwan‘s post personally offended me. It‘s not how I talk to people. And it‘s not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people.”
But the Edwards campaign faced a tough political choice: fire the two bloggers or keep them on staff. In the end, Edwards chose to keep them, saving himself from the ire of the online left but earning criticism from conservatives.
(on camera): To a large extent, all of these new media strategies are just that, very new and candidates are trying to exploit them at the same time they try to figure out how it all works.
Jeremy Bronson, MSNBC, Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jeremy Bronson. Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers, MSNBC‘s Ron Reagan and Terry Jeffrey of Human Events magazine. Let me start with Terry.
What is it that these bloggers of the left did that required that John
or would require, most people think, that John Edwards got to dump them?
TERRY JEFFREY, HUMAN EVENTS: Well, it‘s precisely what they said, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Give me some of the words.
JEFFREY: Well, I will read part of it. OK. This is Amanda Marcotte, if that‘s how you pronounce her name, said, quote: “What if Mary had taken Plan B after the lord filled her with”—and I‘m not going to read.
JEFFREY: And then she goes on to say: “You would have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology,” endquote. Now, I will tell you, from what I first heard about this controversy without looking into it—
I‘m not a politically—I‘m not into political correctness. I thought, we will give these people a break, you know, one gaffe. When I read what they actually wrote, it was outrageous.
I mean, this really is vile, anti-Catholic bigotry. You can‘t come back after it and say, I really didn‘t mean to give offense. These words were written to give offense, specifically to Roman Catholics. And I find it interesting that in The New York Times reporting, they don‘t quote this.
Why don‘t they quote it? They don‘t want people to know what they said. I just—it‘s completely insupportable. Remember when George Bush went to Bob Jones University in 2000? I did a Lexis-Nexis today. There are 104 stories, The New York Times did about that. I wonder how many stories they are going to have about this outrageous anti-Catholic stuff that these people, John Edwards, says, OK, they can work on my campaign.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an old theory I‘ve had about The New York Times. But let‘s go to Ron Reagan, your view on this, do you think that John Edwards would be wise to dump this duo that has been involved in this very anti-Catholic propaganda?
RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, I think that the other candidate who are running for president ought to send John Edwards thank you notes for not firing these people. All of these people are going to use bloggers—or they presumably will, but had John Edwards fired them, it would have been a green light to all the Swift Boaters to say, let‘s go combing through every blog that anybody has written who is working for a campaign now, and torpedo people‘s campaigns, using their words, you know, against them.
This is a collision of two worlds here, really. You have got the mainstream media, you have got inside the Beltway Washington and politics, colliding with a much more populist raw, profane, sometimes offensive world that is the blogosphere.
MATTHEWS: But what about fellows like Bill Donohue, who sometimes reminds me of my stomach, I mean, literally, my gut Catholicism, my ethnicity, he is so tough and he comes out there and he is much harder than you are on these bloggers and basically says, these people are anti-Catholic bigots out of the Thomas Nast cartoons of the 19th Century, why would you want to be tied into them if you are going for the swing vote?
Ron, you know the swing voters, Catholic, generally, most other ethnic or religious groups have tied themselves to one party or the other, the Catholics seem to be out there floating as possible votes for both parties. Why do you want to have an excuse for your other side who is against you to dump on you?
REAGAN: Well, you don‘t want an excuse. And the interesting thing is here that the candidates have to—they have got to reckon with the fact that they are using bloggers. And the bloggers employ sarcasm. They employ satire, vulgarity at times, as we all do when we are not on television or running for office.
MATTHEWS: Well, I unfortunately use vulgarity on television.
REAGAN: I didn‘t want to get into that. But the bloggers.
MATTHEWS: I had to apologize for that (INAUDIBLE), and I do again. But you are right, these people have—bloggers as a group have very tough senses of the other side‘s motives. They always attribute the other side‘s motives to really being horrible. They are not—there is a good guy-bad guy attitude.
JEFFREY: Look, you know, any inanimate object is a tool that can be used for good or bad. The Internet is an incredibly powerful communication tool, the most powerful communication tool ever invented. Masses of people can communicate with one another. They can go around MSNBC. They can go around FOX News. They can go around The New York Times.
But there does seem to be a trend where the Internet can drive the political debate in this country right down into the gutter. And the question is whether you are going to have major presidential candidates like John Edwards going down into the gutter with them.
You know, you have Barack Obama is going to tell us all he wants to lift up the level of debate. So far he is not giving us any substance in the debate.
MATTHEWS: I think you are right. I think you‘re generally right. I think bloggers, the people—obviously the big people of—now with some vintage like The Drudge Report, are very powerful in setting the agenda. And you are (INAUDIBLE) saying the new kids on the block are setting the agenda, too.
JEFFREY: Right. Well, there is no doubt about it. This is the most powerful communication medium. Television.
MATTHEWS: Instantaneous and there are no editors and no sensors.
JEFFREY: There has got to be better standards and there is good stuff out there. There is no doubt about it. This is horrible stuff.
MATTHEWS: Ron, last word, do you think that John Edwards should stick to his team—his blogging team?
REAGAN: Yes, absolutely. Listen, if John Edwards had folded, everybody on the right would know that John Edwards can be put.
JEFFREY: Wait a minute.
REAGAN: . into a defensive crouch and that way.
MATTHEWS: He‘s entitled to his opinion.
REAGAN: . he would be spending the entire campaign in that crouch.
JEFFREY: But, Ron, did you actually read what they wrote?
REAGAN: Yes. I did. I did read some.
JEFFREY: Is it not anti-Catholic bigotry, Ron?
REAGAN: You know, I don‘t know what.
JEFFREY: Yes or no? Is it anti.
REAGAN: .. was on their mind—no, I can‘t give you a yes or no because I can‘t read their minds.
JEFFREY: You don‘t know whether this is anti-Catholic bigotry?
REAGAN: I cannot give you a yes or no, Terry, because I cannot read their minds. Keep in mind, Terry.
JEFFREY: No, you can read their words.
REAGAN: Can I answer you, Terry?
JEFFREY: Yes, sure.
REAGAN: Can I answer you? Keep in mind that the bloggers employ satire and cynicism and vulgarity and it‘s in a context. And if you take those remarks out of the context, you lose the flavor of it. Now maybe they are and anti-Catholic, I don‘t know these people. But I‘m not willing to say so on your say so.
JEFFREY: These statements, on their face of them, are anti-Catholic.
MATTHEWS: How can we check this out? Just tell me what the people can watch.
JEFFREY: I got this off of the Catholic League.
MATTHEWS: OK. How do you—we should tell them to go look up—what are the bloggers‘ names?
JEFFREY: You can go to the Catholic League for the religious and civil rights Web site, Bill Donohue has posted their words there.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s one place. Maybe you can link it up to another. Let‘s all look at the facts here over the weekend. Hey, Ron, thanks for coming on, take care.
REAGAN: Glad to be here.
MATTHEWS: Terry Jeffrey, I share your view, generally, generally.
CNBC‘s “MAD MONEY” host Jim Cramer is coming here. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Is President Bush‘s foreign
policy alienating investors to the point where they are sending their money
spending it outside the United States? Jim Cramer is host of “MAD MONEY” which airs at 6 and 11 p.m. on or our sister network CNBC. His latest book, by the way, it is out now, is a big hit, “Jim Cramer‘s Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich.”
You know, Jim, I‘ve got an investment adviser, his name is Dan Saunders (ph), he is at Wachovia, he is a great guy, he speaks English. And he has been telling me for months the place to put your money is overseas. What is going on?
JIM CRAMER, HOST, “MAD MONEY”: First of all, he is dead right. I have upped my allocation from 10 to 20 percent for people. The money is leaving our country in record amounts, going overseas, those markets are doing much better. There is no backflow, Chris. No one wants to be here.
MATTHEWS: But why is America not the best place in the world to invest in right now?
CRAMER: Well, first, in.
MATTHEWS: I mean, why—I shouldn‘t say America, businesses operating in this country, why aren‘t they the best bang for your buck?
CRAMER: We have now seen two-thirds of the S&P 500 report. Almost all of the strength of these major companies is overseas. We are weak domestically but we have also happen to have high short-term interest rates. We‘re not an ideal place to invest. The profit picture is better over there. And again, their indices already are well ahead of ours. Chris, the money is being made over in Europe and Asia, not here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about fiscal policy. We have watched the ballooning of the federal deficit, some of it is due to the war, some due to security concerns and needs in this country since 9/11. But a lot of it has just been loosy-goosy spending by Congress with no vetoes by the president. What is the impact on our investment futures of that policy?
CRAMER: Big money worldwide is run by very smart people. It‘s not like the old days. You get Brazilians who are brilliant, Argentineans, Russians who understand things, Middle East, and they look at us and they think, those guys never stopped spending. They don‘t care about a balanced budget. Let‘s go to Germany, let‘s go to France, to Switzerland, that‘s where the returns are because they are disciplined. We are viewed as profligate.
MATTHEWS: So we are the new Brazil.
CRAMER: Well, Brazil is actually pretty good. Brazil is.
MATTHEWS: I mean, we are the new-old Brazil?
CRAMER: Yes, I know.
MATTHEWS: We are what Brazil was.
CRAMER: I regard Brazil as being one of the most disciplined countries on Earth these days. And it has been a fabulous investment. And by the way, so is Mexico.
MATTHEWS: So why did we get into Latin American fiscal policy while Latin America came up with good old northern European fiscal policy? What happened here?
CRAMER: Well, I think that these countries recognize that they had to break with America, that they had to develop their own policies. And every time the Federal Reserve sneezes, they used to get pneumonia.
Now the Federal Reserves sneezes, and they frankly just keep on moving. So I think those countries are really paradigms of the new growth economies, 8, 9, 10 percent growth with low inflation. Chris, we have 3, 4 percent growth with the same inflation. Why come here?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Now is it true that people who speak loud and fast with the most passion and the smartest?
CRAMER: I will take that. But then again, people from Philadelphia speak that way.
MATTHEWS: I grew up in a big family, we talked fast, we ate fast.
Hey, we will be right back with Jim Cramer. He is a man who talks turkey.
You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with Jim Cramer, the host of “MAD MONEY” on
The name of your book is “Watch TV, Get Rich.” What does that mean?
Are you telling the truth?
CRAMER: A little hubris. But what I‘m actually writing is a cautionary book. A lot of people get too enthused about my show and they watch TV and they instantly do what I say. Chris, you know you have got to do some homework. So it is how to use the show to make money without being reckless.
MATTHEWS: Well, I—we—are you saying that you are not enough information?
CRAMER: I‘m saying that I‘m a great starting point. I feel like one day I may not be there. Your stock goes down. You have to know what you own, not what Cramer tells you.
MATTHEWS: Do we need to know where you live when we take your advice?
CRAMER: Look, I think that what you really have to understand is that I impart common sense in the book, on the show, but it‘s not—it‘s too ethereal on the show. Sometimes the printed word, as you know, because you write books, the printed word has got a lot of power.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that a person can make a good retirement income, I mean, regular people out there.
MATTHEWS: Will the stock market grow in reasonable periods of time, like five-, 10-year periods so you can reliably end up with enough money or more money at least substantially if you retire and keep—have had investments in the market?
CRAMER: Without a doubt. You can have the time and inclination, you will make more money than any mutual fund, any hedge fund, any S&P 500 Index fund, but you have got to have both time and inclination.
MATTHEWS: So the money hasn‘t been taken out of the money by the time the rich people are done? These initial stock offerings and the big shots, they haven‘t taken the value out of a stock before it reaches the market?
CRAMER: No, but the big shots, you can participate. I mean, the biggest shot of all is Fidelity, and they are open to everybody. There are hedge funds, obviously, that are just open for rich people, but you can be in a hedge fund equivalent, a Sears Holdings, a Goldman Sachs, those are largely big funds that are run by companies.
MATTHEWS: Would you invest in Macao with the casinos over there?
CRAMER: With Steve Wynn? Yes. With—I would do that. I would do it with Las Vegas Sands. Those places are dropping seven times what they drop in Vegas.
MATTHEWS: I know, it‘s unbelievable. Anyway, thank you very much, Jim Cramer. Good luck with the book.
CRAMER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: “Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich.” He makes me look tame.
Play HARDBALL with us next week for full coverage of the U.S. House debate.
And there is going to be a vote on the Iraq war.
And watch MSNBC tomorrow, I will be in Illinois, in Springfield, Lincoln country, for Barack Obama‘s presidential kickoff. Right now, Rita Cosby picks up our coverage.
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