Guests: Pat Buchanan, Kenneth Walsh, Jim Dyke, A.B. Stoddard
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney‘s former chief of staff, was found guilty on four out of five charges against him in federal court at noon today. Over the next hour we‘ll examine that verdict, its effect on American politics and the Bush administration, and the amazing impromptu press conference given by one juror on the courthouse steps.
Despite what prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may claim, this was never a case just against one man. The proverbial trees were the charges against Scooter Libby, but the forest was the picture of executive politics and the run-up to war.
We are joined now by the host of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS,” Chris Matthews himself.
CHRIS MATTHEW, HOST, “HARDBALL”: Hey, Tucker.
CARLSON: Denis Collins, a former “Post” reporter, one of the jurors, said point blank, “We had a lot of sympathy for Scooter Libby.”
CARLSON: You really got the sense listening to his press conference that here we‘re talking about the big issues, the war, the way the White House is run, and in the end, it comes down to these perjury charges. Almost like the wrong charges against the wrong guy. There was more.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I was taken with how analytical he was. It wasn‘t like there was a lot of sentiment. If there was any sentiment, as you say, it was for the convicted.
MATTHEWS: But they found that the evidence was so strong, that the case brought by Fitzgerald was so well told and developed, that there was no defense. In fact, I think it‘s interesting. They spent, what, 10 days in the jury room?
MATTHEWS: And only—there‘s only two days of defense? For all this talk about...
MATTHEWS: We were told this was another Johnny Cochran...
MATTHEWS: ... a brilliant defense lawyer. Maybe he is, but in this case he just couldn‘t come up with a defense, including his own guy. He couldn‘t put Scooter on the stand, he couldn‘t put the vice president on the stand.
CARLSON: Now, why wasn‘t the vice president on the stand?
MATTHEWS: That‘s a good question.
CARLSON: Would it have helped?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. If he didn‘t—if he didn‘t want to tell the truth, maybe it was better off where he was, not showing up. I don‘t think they really want to tell the truth in this case. I think this is a hard case for the defense, very hard.
CARLSON: Why was Ari Fleischer granted immunity? That‘s been the one thing that sort of bothered me from the very beginning.
MATTHEWS: All I know is that he turned out to be the guy who said I did talk to—I didn‘t talk to Walter Pincus, but...
MATTHEWS: ... he did talk to Walter Pincus. So he wasn‘t a good witness.
CARLSON: But it‘s kind of inconsistent, don‘t you think, for the prosecutor to say of Scooter Libby, look we want to get—we want to get the facts no matter what...
CARLSON: ... and then in the case of Ari Fleischer, gives him immunity without even knowing what he‘s going to say?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know, except that there‘s a particular thing here with the prosecutor. Fitzgerald kept saying during the indictment, a big press conference he gave, he said it was like somebody throwing sand in the face of the umpire. This guy tried to screw up this case. He really held it against Scooter Libby from preventing him from investigating this case. He felt that Scooter Libby clearly—and maybe the vice president—prevented him from getting to the truth.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s why he really held it against him.
CARLSON: I thought—as I understood, he knew the deep truth about the case in the very beginning, which was Dick Armitage over at the State Department is the one who leaked the name.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s the truth—look, the only reason we‘re arguing about this case...
MATTHEWS: ... as I told you before we went on the air, it‘s like the famous Alger Hiss case in 1950. That was about espionage and communism and the Cold War.
MATTHEWS: This is about the war in Iraq, it‘s about the case made for the war in Iraq, and an attempt to punish anybody who questioned that case.
MATTHEWS: Clearly, the vice president may be involved in three levels of cover-up here. One is the Libby—the Libby perjury.
MATTHEWS: The second is the leak itself to discredit Joe Wilson. And third and most important, putting together a faulty WMD case for war. So all three layers are coming out here now.
CARLSON: But here‘s the difference. We learned later when the Soviet files came to life that Alger Hiss actually did commit treason...
MATTHEWS: Not only that, he was a spy.
CARLSON: But that‘s what I mean.
MATTHEWS: He got the order of Lenin on the way back to the altar.
CARLSON: Exactly. When the Venona files came out we found that out. In this case, Scooter Libby is being charged not with starting an unwinnable war...
MATTHEWS: But he did leak. He did leak.
CARLSON: He did leak. But we‘ve determined, have we not, or have I missed something, that that, in fact, wasn‘t a crime/ And if it is a crime, why isn‘t someone being charged for it. Why is Dick Armitage free?
MATTHEWS: Good question. I never understood why they‘re not being charged with a crime.
MATTHEWS: Why isn‘t he being charged? We‘ll see. I don‘t know. Maybe they thought perjury was an easier case to make. The same reason Alger Hiss wasn‘t hit with espionage.
MATTHEWS: There was a statute of limitations problem then, but sometimes he went for the charge he can win.
CARLSON: Do we even know the basic facts of the case? I mean, do we know what capacity Valerie Wilson was serving in when she was over at CIA headquarters? Was she covert?
MATTHEWS: Look, I look at it from the point of view of politics.
MATTHEWS: This is the way I cover everything.
The vice president of the United States raised the question with the FBI—with the CIA, rather, and said, what‘s the story—it was some bogus thing. I don‘t know who wrote these phony Italian papers up. It said there is a deal by Saddam Hussein to buy nuclear materials from Africa.
So, he thought it was true. He hoped it was true. He goes to the CIA and says, would you check this story out? This looks like something we can use to make the case for war.
Joe Wilson gets assigned the case to go over there. I don‘t know why, but he got—maybe his wife recommended him. That‘s apparently what happened.
He goes over there and comes back, issues—gives some kind of verbal report. And I kept asking, how come the report didn‘t get back to the VP? He‘s the guy that raised the question.
MATTHEWS: And I asked George Tenet this, the former CIA...
CARLSON: It‘s a good question.
MATTHEWS: And he said, “Well, ask Cheney.” Well, it‘s high school time again. “Ask Cheney? Why don‘t you tell me? Did you give him a report?”
It‘s never been clear whether the vice president out and out lied or the vice president just wasn‘t served well by the CIA in this case.
CARLSON: We know that there was this profound division, a hatred, really, between the vice president‘s office...
MATTHEWS: And the CIA.
CARLSON: ... and the CIA. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: You know, because you and I read the same newspaper, “The Washington Post,” and every day it was being fade by CIA people.
CARLSON: Yes. You can talk to anybody who works over there, and they literally hate each other.
MATTHEWS: Because they believe the vice president‘s office, under the leadership of Scooter and the vice president...
MATTHEWS: ... was hopelessly neoconservative, hopelessly pushing a case for war...
MATTHEWS: ... no matter how much ground they had or not.
CARLSON: And elements in the White House believe the CIA was not acting in the best interest of the country.
MATTHEWS: The CIA did not believe the war was well-founded.
CARLSON: That‘s right. And they had profound suspicion about them.
What is interesting about this case is all of a sudden, you are beginning to see cracks within the vice president‘s office. I think.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
CARLSON: Cathie Martin, right, the spokeswoman...
MATTHEWS: I was so taken with her.
CARLSON: Her testimony was devastating.
MATTHEWS: She was treated like a gopher. When I read that she went to Harvard Law...
MATTHEWS: And she was pushed aside as a flak, which isn‘t the top job in the office anyway—remember?
CARLSON: Right. To replace (ph) Mary Matalin.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, she was used as a flak, and then she was told, no, let Scooter handle this. This is a big boy‘s job. Remember?
MATTHEWS: Scooter had to do the leaking. I thought that was a pretty derogatory way—you know, a dismissive way of dealing with this woman of her academic background. And I think she also didn‘t like the fact—I‘d like to think that she didn‘t like the dirt that was going on, that she didn‘t like the game they were playing.
CARLSON: I mean, does that suggest that not everyone in the White House, or even in the office of the vice president, is behind Scooter Libby?
MATTHEWS: Could be.
CARLSON: Do you think he was hung out? Do you think he was the fall guy...
MATTHEWS: No, I think he is guilty as charged. I think he lied.
CARLSON: Well, of course. I don‘t think there‘s any disagreement—I was
against this from the very beginning and I think he lied. I mean, that‘s -
you know, I watched the trial. But on a deeper level...
MATTHEWS: I think the vice president...
MATTHEWS: Remember we used to watch “Columbo”? We always knew from the beginning of the show when it happened.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, the bad guy always known what he‘s done.
MATTHEWS: It‘s never—the vice president knows that from the day this started—if you look at the trial record, just the trial record, he was telling Scooter who to talk to in the press, he was saying, don‘t bring me in to this, don‘t do details. Right?
CARLSON: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Remember all that stuff about “I wrote the memo? Me?” And then he said, don‘t get into any details.
He particularly told him (INAUDIBLE) he was telling every day—telling Scooter—who to talk to, go see Judy Miller, take her to breakfast, blah, blah, blah. Very instructive role all along the lines. So everything Scooter did he was doing under instruction, apparently, in the line of duty.
MATTHEWS: In the line of duty. That‘s what we know. And yet, the vice
president didn‘t get indicted. The only thing that happened to him was he
was—the only thing that was said was, in the final summation, Fitzgerald
said there‘s a cloud over the vice president. And that was the last story
going to the jury
But you‘re right...
CARLSON: I have a problem with him saying that, but doesn‘t—I mean, doesn‘t this sort of deepen...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think he should have done that without an indictment?
CARLSON: I don‘t think he should. Fitzgerald came out today and said, “We don‘t accuse people unless we are going to indict them.”
MATTHEWS: But he did. You‘re right.
CARLSON: But he did. He absolutely did, which I thought was phony.
But more to the point, the tragedy here, people did things wrong in the White House—this war is wrong, in my view—and yet you have a guy who is not responsible ultimately for those things being indicted now, convicted for something that has almost nothing to do with those things.
MATTHEWS: Well, this was what happened in Watergate. Halderman and Ehrlichman swung (ph), Nixon walked. This isn‘t new. Is it?
This happens in politics. The big guy walks and the little guys pay the price.
MATTHEWS: But, you know, you‘ve got to be—you know, it‘s one of those things from St. Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons.” You know, if you were as loyal to your country and your honor as you were to your boss, you would be safe. You wouldn‘t be naked to your enemies.
Scooter‘s problem was he was loyal to Vice President Cheney.
CARLSON: Will they be loyal to him?
MATTHEWS: He ran with the wrong crowd. You hear me? You want to hear me say it again?
CARLSON: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: He ran with the wrong crowd. And we‘ll see what Cheney does to look out for—will (INAUDIBLE) pardon for him? Will Cheney resign?
Cheney is now under the cloud. What‘s he going to do?
CARLSON: Yes, but, I mean, what—you know, why would Dick Cheney care? He doesn‘t care about his approval ratings. He‘s not going to be indicted, we don‘t think. Fitzgerald said today he‘s not bringing any more charges.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Bush thinks of this? It‘s your show. I‘m sorry.
I do wonder about Bush. What does he think about Vice President Cheney?
CARLSON: He‘s probably bitter.
MATTHEWS: He‘s been better off.
You know, one of the ways the press has covered this isn‘t quite accurately. Scooter Libby was not just chief of staff to the vice president.
CARLSON: Right. Of course. No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: He was assistant to the president.
CARLSON: That‘s right. And he was in...
MATTHEWS: And yet the president sees to have been completely exonerated for his behavior.
CARLSON: I bet he‘s pretty grumpy at Dick Cheney at this point.
Chris Matthews, thank you.
MATTHEWS: I think that guy on the hunting trip wasn‘t the only guy that got shot by Dick Cheney this year.
CARLSON: Be sure to tune in to “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” tonight at 5:00 for more of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of this verdict.
I‘ll be back again at 6:00 p.m., by the way.
Coming up, much for on the Scooter Libby verdict, including the trial‘s window on the role of the vice president in the selling of the Iraq war.
Plus, President Bush vowed early in this investigation that he would rid his administration of information leakers. What today‘s verdict means for the commander in chief in the midst of the troubled war in Iraq.
Stay tuned for that.
CARLSON: From the beginning, there have been two threads to the Scooter Libby trial. The first has been the fate of Vice President Dick Cheney‘s former chief of staff in the eyes of the law. And that was settled today. The second, probably more nationally significant thread, has been the trial‘s inspection of the Bush administration‘s case for war in Iraq and how it was communicated to the rest of us.
For continued analysis of today‘s verdict we are joined by MSNBC political analyst and former Reagan White House communications director, Pat Buchanan, and chief White House correspondent for “U.S. News & World Report,” Kenneth Walsh.
Welcome to you both.
Let‘s get right to the question that‘s going to be obsessing everyone as of tomorrow morning, and that‘s the question of a pardon.
Harry Reid came out today and issued a statement. I think a number of Democrats did. “President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.”
Howard Dean came on our air on MSNBC earlier today and said that Bush incentive to pardon Libby to “shut him up.” Now, I think Howard Dean is a bit of a crackpot, but is there something there? Is there something Libby, at this point, could or would say that would hurt the administration?
KENNETH WALSH, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, I think there‘s a couple of points here.
One is that the—as I understand it, this pardon process depends on the person admitting some culpability here. In other words, you don‘t just—just pardon somebody. They have to admit that they did something wrong and they have remorse for it.
WALSH: Now, whether Scooter Libby does that, I don‘t know.
The other thing, there‘s a long tradition that at the end of a presidency, that‘s when these pardons occur.
WALSH: That‘s what President Clinton did. That‘s what President Bush the father did. It goes way back many, many years. That‘s when I think this might happen.
So—and if you look at what the lawyers are saying, the process of appeal is probably going to string out for about 18 months. That‘s at the end of the Bush presidency.
CARLSON: During which time Scooter Libby will remain free?
WALSH: Yes. Well, if he‘s appealing, sure. And, you know, he‘s asking, first of all, for a new trial. That‘s going to take a while to decide. Probably not get one, almost definitely not.
Then he‘s going to go through an appeals process which will take a while. So, I mean, this is not something immediate here. And so they‘re going to go through this process. Scooter Libby will be free, and then, after maybe after things settle down, or whatever, then things might look a lot different.
WALSH: That‘s when I think the pardon would be triggered, not now.
CARLSON: Does—is Scooter Libby a loaded gun pointed at the White House?
I mean, could he hurt them?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don‘t think so for this reason. He‘s a convicted perjurer. And what‘s he going to go in and say, “Look, I was lying all the time, my trial was a fraud, and Cheney really did this and that and it wasn‘t me”?
He‘s not credible if he did that. And it would be a stupid thing to do. And I don‘t think he‘s that stupid, although he was stupid to perjure himself.
So, no, I don‘t think he‘ll do it. I do think he will get a pardon at the end of the administration, just like Cap Weinberger did. I think Cap was indicted, you know, by that prosecutor just about three days before the election.
BUCHANAN: And then the president pardoned him as he left office, and I think that‘s what Scooter will get.
CARLSON: I‘m just hearing in my ear now that Dick Cheney has issued a statement on this, and he says he is “very disappointed” with the verdict. This is a marked contrast...
CARLSON: ... to the statement that the president issued through—it seemed like the lowest of the junior level spokespeople today...
BUCHANAN: Right. Right.
CARLSON: ... saying he had seen it and he respected—or some nonsense.
BUCHANAN: Well, he‘s very—Scooter Libby, as you were mentioning, is very close to Cheney. And he‘s worked very hard for him, been enormously loyal to him, very close to him.
That‘s a very natural statement by Cheney.
WALSH: And Cheney has said all along that Scooter Libby is one of the best men he‘s ever worked with in his public life.
WALSH: And so, I don‘t think that‘s erased very quickly.
BLITZER: But then why did—why in the world...
BUCHANAN: At the Christmas party, Scooter got a standing ovation coming in to Cheney‘s house.
CARLSON: Yes. No, I think—I think—and, you know, his loyalty has been on display—Scooter‘s has been on display from day one.
But given all of that, given how remarkably close he is to the vice president, why did the White House, when Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed special prosecutor—and you just knew if you lived here for more than a year this is going to be a disaster, you could just feel it—the Bush White House got out and said, you know, this is a man of remarkable integrity? They endorsed him from day one, thereby closing off any, you know, later attacks.
WALSH: White Houses—and I‘ve been covering this for a long time. I used to cover Pat when he was in the White House, in fact, in his windowless office. But basically, White Houses just do not see this coming. It‘s amazing how this happens—with Kenneth Starr, with Clinton, with one special counsel after another.
They‘re under pressure to make something happen, to get an issue off the table. So they put these special counselors into power and then they never stop. And they become inexorable, and that‘s what happened in this case. And Fitzgerald was a great prosecutor, and he is. It‘s just that they unleashed these special prosecutors and then they never stopped.
CARLSON: Let me just, if I can, I just want to read the vice president‘s statement. This is Dick Cheney‘s statement about the Scooter Libby verdict. As I said, we heard earlier from the president, who really said nothing at all other than, yes, I watched it, yes, I respect the verdict, yes, I respect the jurors. It was—you know, any time you see...
WALSH: But, I mean, the other thing that Pat was saying...
CARLSON: Let me just read—this is what Dick Cheney has to say—and I‘m quoting now.
“I‘m very disappointed with the verdict. I am saddened for Scooter and his family. As I‘ve said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service. Since his legal team has announced that he is seeking a new trial, and, if necessary, pursuing an appeal, I plan to have no further comment on the merits of this matter until these proceedings are concluded.”
This is actually—the fact he‘s appealing is a godsend for the White House because they don‘t have to, by their own rules, comment upon it, right?
WALSH: Right, yes. Exactly. That‘s what they were saying.
But as Pat was saying, just look at the signs here. That Christmas party, that‘s the vice president‘s Christmas party at his residence.
He‘s invited Scooter Libby there at least two years in a row, because I saw him two years in a row, and he is treated almost like a rock star. This is the vice president‘s friends, guests of the vice president . And so obviously, the vice president has always thought very highly of him. Maybe that‘s a message he‘s sending to Scooter Libby, that I still think very highly of you and we‘ll figure all this out in the end, and maybe that means a pardon.
BUCHANAN: And it‘s also a message—it‘s also a message Scooter did nothing wrong.
BUCHANAN: If he‘s right—but look, I admire Cheney for inviting the guy to his Christmas party.
CARLSON: Good for him. I agree.
BUCHANAN: The guy‘s been—you know, they say Harry Truman, the best thing he ever did, the only thing that my father liked about him, he went out to the funeral of that guy, that crook, Pendergast, that put him into office when Pendergast had gone to prison.
CARLSON: Good for him. I‘m all for loyalty.
BUCHANAN: So, you have loyalty...
CARLSON: but that is one thing you can say about the Bush administration.
CARLSON: Some of it hurts them, but I have to say that is one thing about them that is true and I think admirable.
Ken Walsh, Pat Buchanan, thank you both very much.
BUCHANAN: Thank you.
WALSH: Thank you.
CARLSON: Coming up, there was news beyond Scooter Libby today, including Hillary Clinton‘s plea for women to support her. I am Hillary, hear me roar.
Plus, we‘ll have the latest on the outrageous treatment of wounded American soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Hospital and across this country. Who is to blame? What can be done to fix the problem? And what got done today?
Stay tuned for the news.
CARLSON: Ultimately, the Scooter Libby trial was about the run up to the Iraq war. Today was another bloody day in that war, as multiple bombings killed scores of Shiite pilgrims. Here at home, the government reacted to the scandalous mistreatment of wounded American veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The Senate held hearings and the president appointed Bob Dole, the former senator, and Donna Shalala, the former cabinet secretary, to oversee an investigation of the government‘s treatment of the war‘s wounded.
Meanwhile, new polls show national pessimism on Iraq. Democrats on Capital Hill appear to be weakening in their legislative opposition to President Bush‘s prosecution of that war. Here to tie it all together the associate editor of “The Hill, A.B. Stoddard, and former Republican National Committee spokesman, Jim Dyke. Welcome to you both.
Dan Balz of the “Washington Post” has a revealing interesting piece, just out on the web on hour, ago, kind of an over view of what the Libby trial means. He ties it to the war in Iraq. And he says, Scooter Libby is just one in a string of officials whose careers have been stamped by the war. Bush‘s legacy is at stake. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lost his job over the war. Other officials, including Cheney, Condi Rice, Colin Powell have seen their reputations affected by the war.
The war kind of is the original sin for Bush. Everything ties back to it. Doesn‘t it Jim?
JIM DYKE, FORMER RNC SPOKESMAN: No question everything ties back to it. I think that‘s what you saw in the 2006 elections, the Iraq war. The trouble now is do the Democrats become marked by that war and what is going on with the supplementals in Congress, and their parties running on ending the war, and now having to legislate that, and implement policy, is a pretty tricky situation. I think they are probably pretty happy about the Libby verdict today, because it a distracts what they are trying to do on Capitol Hill. But they‘re not going to be able to get past that.
CARLSON: And we were going to lead with that, in fact, today, until the verdict came down. You cover the hill, A.B., and so you know better than most, it‘s about the supplemental. It‘s about the spending bill coming up, and a lot of liberals, mid 70, 75,76 liberals in the Democratic caucus, want to use the vote on that to end this war. But Nancy Pelosi is much more cautious. Is there a revolt brewing?
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: There is. And she has got a little time to try to quell this. I mean, she‘s going to try to stop it. They are going to try to get in line, try to come up with a unified position.
CARLSON: How weird that Nancy Pelosi is the more conservatives voice on the war all of a sudden.
STODDARD: Nancy Pelosi would like to be speaker in 2008 and the party would like to see a Democrat in the White House. And so they are walking a line, and we‘re into month three now of this for them. The Scooter Libby verdict is going to be a good distraction, as well as the Walter Reed scandal. It‘s going to buy the party a little more time to get their act together in Congress, but this war funding vote is coming up. And this is the big one. And they have to come up with a unified position. They‘re having a terrible time right now trying to find one.
CARLSON: Is there a chance—I mean, it seems she is in a tough position, because that‘s her core constituency, progressives, liberals in her party.
STODDARD: Well, they don‘t really have anywhere else to go. They really don‘t. They‘re going to have to keep doing this public, private, good cop, bad cop, legislation with teeth, legislation without thing that they are doing. What they are hoping to do is what they planned in January, just continue to chip away at the patience and tolerance in the Republican party, to try to continue to pressure Bush.
They don‘t want to do the rifle shop. They just want to continue to the death of 1,000 cuts. And that‘s because their ultimate design is to keep it Bush‘s war. It is Bush‘s war and they want to keep it Bush‘s war.
CARLSON: But it‘s also a war that the public really disapproves of. I mean, it‘s not clear what the public wants to do next, I don‘t think. I think the polls are contradictory on that question. But one question that is absolutely clear, do you approve. No, they don‘t. To see the Democrats backing down at this point is remarkable.
DYKE: And I think what you also see is people, and maybe the 2006 vote was more reflective of that, at least in my opinion, the implementation of the war and how it‘s been conducted, as opposed to ending the war. And I think the Democrats made the assumption after the 2006 election—It may have been a mistake. They came out and said, this vote was a vote for ending the war. And now they have got to deal with that from a policy stand point. And that‘s where they‘re having real trouble. Because the rhetoric of ending the war doesn‘t meet, when you talk about non-binding resolutions. And their liberal base, that wants to end this today, understands that.
CARLSON: If you were the vice president, what would you be worried about Scooter Libby saying?
DYKE: What would I be worried about?
CARLSON: Yes, what would you be worried about him saying?
DYKE: I think it‘s all out been said. I think it‘s all been out there. I think it‘s all been said. I think that the real issue of whether Joe Wilson was credible was solved a long time ago. He was determined to not be credible. This has become about something else. Patrick Fitzgerald didn‘t bring charges against anyone for going after Valerie Plame. He brought charges against Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice. And that‘s a totally different issues than where we started, which is what the Democrats are so concerned about.
CARLSON: It‘s so unsatisfying too, A.B. No matter where you are on this, and I from day one have said prosecuting this guy for lying about a crime he didn‘t commit is a travesty. And they shouldn‘t have done it, even though he was guilty. I thought he was guilty, but I don‘t they should have prosecuted him. The point is, even if you did think he ought to be prosecuted, it‘s not emotionally satisfying. He wasn‘t convicted of getting us into an winnable war. It was convicted about something that was three steps removed from that war.
Will there be real Democratic investigations, led by Congress, into the genesis of this war and will they result in action?
STODDARD: Well, they were talking for months about how they were going to be looking at it, and so this might increase the appetite for oversight of pre-war intelligence again. But then, again, that is looking back. And they can busy themselves with that, but they have to look forward. And the big question that the base is asking is what are they going to do on the war?
They really have to sort of prioritize with care about where they conduct their oversight and what they look into in the past. They can‘t just spend all their time looking back. And so, is it the contracting in Iraq, is it pre-war intelligence? They have to really choose carefully. So I don‘t know—we‘re all thinking today, from their very happy reaction, that they are going to be jumping on this, now that it‘s official, back on to pre-war intelligence. But I can‘t say for sure that that‘s going to be a priority.
CARLSON: Is there a downside for President Bush in pardoning Scooter Libby?
DYKE: I don‘t know. He‘ll do it when he‘s on his way out of office. So no, if he were to do it. So there wouldn‘t be any downside. I think the discussion of whether that will happen will help the Democrats politically in the short term, but --
STODDARD: No matter what, I think that the Scooter Libby thing is really the first time that—however you feel about the war and whether or not the pre-war intelligence was cherry picked or anything like that, they are now sullied. This is a sullying of their ethical record. This is the first official—
CARLSON: But they seem so sullied already. I‘ve never needed to believe they lied in order to believe they were culpable for one of the biggest mistakes.
CARLSON: People already were mad at the Bush administration for getting us into this war. Does this make them madder?
STODDARD: Yes, but even for their own loyal soldiers. This is about lying and it‘s about scheming and it‘s about putting politics first. And it is—really, even if it doesn‘t change the debate on Iraq. It‘s still a huge mark on the president and vice president.
CARLSON: We will be right back. Coming up, Hillary Clinton tries to enlist the support of women in self-consciously feminist campaign for president. Over the weekend, meanwhile, she wrapped herself in the aura of the civil rights movement. What protest movement will she harness next? We‘ll tell you.
Plus, there were developments in the Walter Reed Army Hospital scandal today. We‘ll have the very latest on who‘s being blamed, what‘s being done to right a genuinely deplorable situation? Stay tuned for that.
CARLSON: Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton described herself as a ground breaking presidential candidate to an assembly of black voters in the south. Today she moved on to another enormously important voter block, women. They represent 60 percent of the voters in the Democratic primary, so Mrs. Clinton‘s moves are understandable, but will she succeed in lining women up to vote for her?
Back to discuss this, associate editor of the “Hill, A.B. Stoddard, and former Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke.
A.B., I got an e-mail from the Hillary Clinton campaign telling me that the Hillary campaign is celebrating Women‘s History Month with the launch of Women for Hillary. That‘s a nationwide network of women leaders who will reach out to friends, colleagues, et cetera on Hillary‘s behalf. Then it said this—I want to put this up on the screen.
“Hillary is poised to make history as the first woman to occupy the White House. Imagine the pride each of us will feel on inauguration day as we watch Hillary take the oath of office. Imagine the message that symbol will send to young women. There are no limits on how far they can go,” exclamation point, which we did not add. There is no smiley face, but there is an exclamation point.
Why is Hillary making a self-consciously feminist message, this direct pitch to women? Is she worried about women not voting for her? And is “I am a woman” a reason to vote for somebody?
STODDARD: The woman factor, the idea of her becoming the first woman president, is obviously very exciting.
CARLSON: Not for me.
STODDARD: I think it‘s a good move. Any man who is going to vote for Hillary Clinton is not going to not vote against her because she is trying to get the woman‘s vote. OK, so it‘s a safe move. You‘re not going to lose anybody. And she actually is worried that there are women swooning for Barack Obama. And they are not just black.
CARLSON: Yes. No woman I know likes Hillary?
STODDARD: This is a problem, is that whenever I can get around a Democratic law-maker, strategist, anyone who is really a member of the party, and I ask them they say, well, my wife is for Barack, but I can‘t come out of the closet yet. And I asked a woman friend of mine, who‘s a Democratic lobbyist just a few days ago. She said, well my woman friends, we want to be for Hillary, but we just don‘t feel it.
So, if it‘s Oprah—The problem is, as a woman, you need to also be excited about that person and she is really doing a good job, I guess, on the trail at sort of speaking to women in a good way and warming up and becoming more accessible and friendly and open—
CARLSON: I don‘t understand what it means—
STODDARD: She can‘t win without them.
CARLSON: I know, but what does that say about female voters? She‘s a woman too, I‘ll vote for her?
STODDARD: No, it is a little—
DYKE: Second question answered first, which is no, people will decide whether they‘re going to vote for her based on the issues that they associate with her and the policies that she plans to put forward. That‘s the way people make decisions.
CARLSON: Do you really believe that.
DYKE: I do. The same number of people who will vote for a black man because he is black or a white man because he‘s white will vote for a woman because she‘s a woman. Maybe it all evens out. But to the first question, what about this? And it ought to be a signal to Republican candidates that this is a campaign that is very well organized.
I love to pick on Hillary as much as anybody else, but Republicans were lauded in 2004 for micro targeting and being able to go and segment and reach out to specific groups and that is what she is doing. It‘s a brilliant organizational task. She is using modern technology to do it. It‘s very smart organization. Now, in the end, does it get her anything, as far as votes, no more so than Hispanic outreach or other outreach based on purely “I am Hispanic,” or “I am a black man.” But when you go to people with policies in that context, if she has that organization built, there‘s a real chance she could move some people.
CARLSON: That is interesting. She is a sophisticated campaigner, there‘s no doubt. The question is, is Obama as sophisticated. And here‘s a clue, and I‘m not sure how much to read into it. His pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. (ph) -- he‘s the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and his spiritual mentor—was apparently disinvited to an Obama event recently. This comes after some criticism aimed at their curriculum, and the church was criticized, by me among others, as being racially separatist.
And so Obama‘s campaign said, look, people are criticizing us, we‘re not going to affiliate with him in public. Here is what the Reverend Wright himself said just the other day to the “New York Times. He said, quote, “When Obama‘s enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli with Louis Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.”
STODDARD: You know, what‘s interesting about this.
CARLSON: I want to interview this guy. I can tell that would be a good interview.
STODDARD: Obama called him the night before the event, which is sort of a little 11th hour, called himself and the reasoning is, we don‘t want to attract any negative attention to your church, which we love so much, but then, once he got Wright to stand down, he asked another Pastor Mott, who also works at Trinity United to come, who then turned him down.
So, it wasn‘t really about the church. Because, if it had been, he wouldn‘t have asked the second in line to come in Pastor Wright‘s place. It is a clumsy move and it will get around.
CARLSON: That sound like amateur hour to me.
DYKE: The ability to be successful in a presidential campaign is not just determined by the candidate itself, or the policies, but the way the campaign operates, and how it responds. And this was handled so poorly, and is an indication of maybe the way the Obama campaign may handle other issues. And that will begin to be a problem for him.
CARLSON: You‘re in this business, the people he has hired, is it the A team on the Democratic side so far?
DYKE: I think, just guessing, and it‘s the other side, I would be more comfortable speaking for the Republican side, but from what I can tell, I think the A team is probably with Hillary Clinton. Those are the people who did Bill Clinton‘s campaigns twice, so incredibly effective. And I think that has got to be a concern for the Obama team.
Certainly you can get support and excitement, but having the team behind you to be able to communicate your message effectively, respond to crisis and control the story, the narrative of who you are, so that people rally around your candidacy, and elect you president, is critical.
CARLSON: No, and it‘s complicated as hell. Speaking of the A team, I would say virtually every Republican I‘ve ever met, with the except of Jim Dyke, is now working for John McCain. I mean, he‘s hired like every consultant ever. And yet, conservatives still hate him. Conservative officialdom mocks John McCain. Can he really be nominated, A.B., if conservative groups almost unanimously dislike him?
STODDARD: The McCain campaign is really now working hardest to discredit the Romney campaign. For some reason that seems like—even though Giuliani has this staggering lead in the polls. Getting Romney out of the way—
STODDARD: I really think John McCain is well positions, only if
something bad happens to Rudy Giuliani, and I mean something beyond. I
STODDARD: I was at CPAC and I talked to my Republican friends and sources and everyone says, that‘s it.
STODDARD: I can‘t find one person who has anything good to say about John McCain anymore.
DYKE: There are some core issues that are troubling to people. And there are governing philosophy issues, his opposition to the Bush tax relief, which is a pretty important component of the Republican, the Gang of 14 on judges, which was something that upset conservatives. I think he could come out and explain that and say, maybe in the short-term --
CARLSON: You really think that they‘re willing to accept Rudy Giuliania, who‘s like against banning partial birth abortion? They don‘t care?
DYKE: That‘s the governing philosophy. I think Rudy Giuliani has to deal with that. He has to deal with the governing philosophy component on that, which he seems to think is judges.
STODDARD: I disagree. I think McCain‘s popularity has decreased because of a series of events and not these long-standing issues.
STODDARD: But also, he didn‘t show up at CPAC and he announced on Letterman. These are the things that people raise in conversation when they talk about why he‘s not doing well. They are mad at him.
CARLSON: They despise him personally. I think it‘s unfair for whatever it‘s worth.
DYKE: McCain-Feingold is the third one that‘s been lingering for a while.
CARLSON: Which Bush signed, but nobody ever points that out. I hold it against him to this day. A.B. Stoddard, Jim Dyke, thank you both.
Coming up, on a day dominated by news about the run up to the war in Iraq, there was news about one of the most horrifying results of that war, the mistreatment of wounded American soldiers in U.S. government hospitals. The latest developments in that scandal that began at Walter Reed when we come right back.
CARLSON: The Senate held hearings today about the shameful conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital and President Bush made splashy appointments to a commission to investigate the treatment of wounded American veterans. Here with the latest on this on-going story of national outrage is NBC News‘ Chip Reid. Chip, welcome. What‘s the latest?
CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Tucker. I think what you‘re really seeing happen here in on Capital is that Democrats have been so deeply frustrated that they thought the won the election on the basis of the Iraq war, and they may well have, but they‘ve been so unable to really pass anything with any kind of meaning. All they‘ve been able to pass is that non-binding resolution over there in the House.
They just don‘t have the votes to get anything through the Senate or so far anything of substance in the House. But this is something they can really sink their teeth into. You don‘t need 60 votes in the Senate to hold hearings. And so I think this is a story that really has legs. They‘re going to beat this horse over and over again, I think, and with good reason.
Because everybody agrees that what has been uncovered here is just absolutely atrocious. But beyond that, beyond highlighting what‘s going on here and criticizing the administration for what‘s going on in the hospital, and they believe in hospitals across the country, they are also going to use this in a big way for political purposes. And Carl Levin made that clear today in his opening statement in the Armed Services Hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Today‘s hearing is a another example of the lack of planning for a war that was premised on the assumption that combat operations would be swift, casualties would be minimal, and that we be welcomed as liberators, instead of being attacked by the people we liberated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So Tucker, this is not just about atrocious treatment of Americans who were wounded, and many of them grievously wounded in this war. The Democrats believe this is also another sign of the lack of planning and the incompetent conduct of the war by the Bush administration.
CARLSON: Chip, we heard today about the appointment of Bob Dole, the former senator and presidential candidate, and Donna Shalala, the former cabinet secretary, to a commission. What exactly will that commission do? What will they investigate?
REID: Well, everything. I mean, it is just completely open ended. They can look into the military health system all across the nation and there is good reason to believe that they will have plenty to look into. I know John McCain and others in today‘s hearing said they are already getting reports from all across the country about problems. The “Washington Post” has says they have gotten hundreds, even thousands of tips and leads from people following their initial publication of the story about atrocious conditions in military facilities all across the country.
So I think Bob Dole and Donna Shalala are going to have plenty to look into. And there is really no significant limits on what they can do here. There is also an administration investigation. Seven different cabinet departments are all getting together to look into this. You can bet they are going to be looking into to it in a big way in hearings here in Congress. This story really has legs and I think it is largely because it is not just Walter Reed. There is a big belief out there now that it‘s much broader than that, that it is all across the country, a real systemic problem.
CARLSON: I suspect that belief is justified. Chip, very quickly, what about Walter Reed itself? Have those rooms that we read about so vividly in the Post, have they been cleaned up?
REID: No, not yet. What they‘ve done is moved people out. Now Tucker, interesting, there‘s a big debate going on over whether Walter Reed should be closed. It was supposed to be closed in a few years, because of the Base Realignment Commission. Now people are saying wait a minute, that is probably a big part of the problem. How do you get the best people to go and work at Walter Reed, if they know in just a few years it is going to disappear?
So they are now talking about the possibility of reversing that decision and keeping Walter Reed open.
CARLSON: That makes sense to me. NBC‘s Chip Reid at the Capital.
Thanks a lot Chip.
REID: You bet.
CARLSON: That does it for us. Thanks for watching. up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris. We‘ll be back tomorrow. See you then.
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