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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for March 8

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Ann Redington, Howard Fineman, Kate O‘Beirne, John Dickerson, Jenny Backus, Michael Smerconish, Michael Duffy, John Fund, Jill Zuckman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  If perjury was a high crime when Bill Clinton did it, why is it pardonable offense when Scooter does it?  Shouldn‘t what‘s impeachable for a liberal be illegal for a Libby?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.

I beg your pardon?  That‘s what conservatives are saying to President Bush, but so far he‘s bucking the pressure.  The questions tonight:  Would he?  Should he?  Will he?  Or won‘t he? 

Meanwhile, a dark cloud continues to cast a shadow over Vice President Cheney.  Tonight, a first look at “Time” magazine‘s cover story, “The Verdict on Cheney.” 

Plus, the Scooter Libby trial has moved out of the courtroom into Congress.  Today, Congressman Henry Waxman announced he would hold hearings into the CIA leak scandal.  Waxman‘s first witness:  the CIA agent at the center of this case, Valerie Wilson. 

But first, Wednesday night on HARDBALL, Ann Redington, juror number 10 in the Libby case, came forward and said she favored a pardon for Scooter Libby.  More of our exclusive interview with Redington in a moment.

But now, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report. 


DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Two days after Vice President Cheney‘s former chief of staff became a convicted felon, the push by conservatives to get Scooter Libby a pardon is receiving a boost from one of the GOP‘s most influential senators. 

Today, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told the “Washington Post,” quote, “Mr. Libby is a good candidate for a pardon, I‘ll put it that way.”

This is the same Lindsey Graham who, nine years ago, argued for President Clinton‘s impeachment. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  We‘re not a nation of men or kings; we‘re a nation of laws. 

SHUSTER:  Then, like now, the charges were perjury and obstruction of justice. 

GRAHAM:  Today, Republicans, with a small handful of Democrats, will vote to impeach President Clinton.  Why?  Because we believe he committed crimes resulting in cheating our legal system. 

SHUSTER:  Asked today about the difference between Bill Clinton and Scooter Libby, Senator Graham‘s office said, quote, “It‘s like apples and oranges.  The name of the offense is different.” 

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s office told MSNBC today that Republicans pushing for a Libby pardon, quote, “are engaged in hypocrisy.” 

Still, that charge has not stopped conservative lawmakers and pundits from calling on President Bush to pardon Libby immediately.  They argue that deliberate lies under oath about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson should have never been pursued. 

Two of the jurors in the Libby trial say they would be fine with a Libby pardon, not based on claims that Libby did nothing wrong, but rather because the jury wanted other government officials put on the spot, as well. 

DENIS COLINS, LIBBY TRIAL JUROR:  It was said a number of times, what are we doing with this guy here?  Where‘s Rove?  Where‘s, you know, where are these other guys? 

SHUSTER:  Juror Ann Redington would have preferred a trial on the actual administration leaks. 

ANN REDINGTON, LIBBY TRIAL JUROR:  If that‘s the crime, then I would much rather have sat on a trial for someone who was being tried for that crime. 

SHUSTER:  Redington and Colins sat next to each other throughout the trial.

COLINS:  I think, from the beginning, she was very careful to call on other jurors who seemed to be looking just for the facts that proved Libby‘s guilt.  And now, in the end, she voted along with us.  It wasn‘t that she didn‘t think Mr. Libby was guilty, but she wanted to make sure we didn‘t get into a mindset of, “Let‘s find the gotcha points.” 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So what do you think about the pardon, sir?

COLINS:  Well, as I said before, I felt like it was a long, you know, haul to get this jury done.  And if Mr. Libby is pardoned, I would have no problem with that.  But I‘m not even—that‘s not a question for me.  I did my job, which is doing the jury, and I‘ll leave that up to other people. 

SHUSTER:  One crucial person is President Bush, who has indicated he will not consider the issue for months. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This was a lengthy trial on a serious matter, and a jury of his peers convicted him.  And we‘ve got to respect that conviction. 

SHUSTER (on screen):  Convincing President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby may not be as easy as some conservatives think.  Mr. Bush has granted fewer pardons than any U.S. president in 100 years, and he has repeatedly explained his stinginess by pointing to Justice Department guidelines.  Those guidelines require a felon to be sorry for their crimes and to have been convicted more than five years ago. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  Now, for more of my interview with juror number 10, Ann Redington. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re joined right now by Ann Redington, who served on the Libby jury—she was juror number 10 -- Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review,” “Slate‘s” John Dickerson, and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.

Ann, I want to start the questioning with you and everybody can join in.  When you went into that jury room to watch this case unfold, did you sense that it was all about the war in Iraq? 

REDINGTON:  No.  No.  We, you know, definitely separated other outside issues from what we were there to hear and judge on. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you sense that the people who were being prosecuted here—or Scooter Libby, I should say him—was a representative of the Bush administration and that the case was being made against the Bush administration, not just against Libby? 

REDINGTON:  You know, I may have thought that somewhere, but that wasn‘t what the trial was about.  We were really, I think, very diligent about really just paying attention to what was being presented at the trial and not letting other things and other biases come in to play.  It just wasn‘t able to be done.  You had to pay attention to what was going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Kate, you don‘t agree with this whole procedure of having this trial.  You don‘t believe it should have been brought to a jury.  You don‘t believe there should have been a judgment and certainly not a guilty verdict.  Tell Ann what you think of what they did.

KATE O‘BEIRNE, “NATIONAL REVIEW”:  I don‘t believe there should have been a special counsel appointed.  I don‘t believe the CIA should have sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department. 

That was motivated, I think, by bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the White House.  They used this opportunity, I think, as sort of payback.  They didn‘t like the idea that they took responsibility for the 16 words about uranium purchase in the State of the Union. 

I think it was a bureaucratic dispute within the administration that got out of hand, that the Bush administration should have been far firmer on cracking down.  I think it‘s a really dangerous thing when these political disputes, both intramural and wider than that, because the president‘s partisan opponents seized on this, should not be criminalized in response with a verdict.

Senator Harry Reid said, “Finally somebody‘s been held accountable for manufacturing intelligence and smearing war critics.”  Now, juror number 10, you don‘t believe you held anybody accountable for manufacturing intelligence or smearing war critics, do you?

REDINGTON:  Absolutely not. 

O‘BEIRNE:  That‘s not what this case was about.

REDINGTON:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

O‘BEIRNE:  But that‘s how the president‘s political enemies have always used this case. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard, let me ask you about this.  It seems to me there are levels to this case.  One level is perjury.  The other level was the leaking of the name of Valerie Wilson by several people, including Richard Armitage, and also several people who had a political interest in doing so.

And at the bottom of it all, relevant or not, is the issue of how we developed the faulty intelligence for the war in Iraq.  They are all related, aren‘t they?  They may not all be essential to the verdict here, but they are all related.

HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, they‘re certainly related politically, and they‘re related factually, if not legally, because Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, had to show motivation in the case, Chris.  I think Ann would agree with that, that he had to say, “Why was Libby doing all this?” 

And that, in turn, required Fitzgerald to talk about what was a campaign to spread that information or antagonistic information about Joe Wilson and his wife out to the press, and therefore to the public.  And that, in turn, was because of the aggressive case that the White House was making to sell the war to begin with and then to defend the sale‘s efforts. 

So even though those other two things were not directly on trial, I think they did, in that sense, come into it.  And I wondered if Ann would agree with that, at least to the extent of showing motivation for why Libby was doing what he was doing.

REDINGTON:  Yes, I would agree with that.  But, you know, just to reiterate, that wasn‘t what we were trying him based on. 

FINEMAN:  No, I understand.  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the motive was for his perjury and obstruction, Scooter Libby? 

REDINGTON:  You know, like I had said, I think he got caught up in something.  You made him mad. 

MATTHEWS:  For what I said here?

REDINGTON:  I don‘t think anyone wants to really necessarily hear their name on TV, that he wanted to hear his name on TV. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think he was—I mean, a lot of people in Washington live for having their name mentioned in “reliable source.”  They just get excited all day because their name shows up there on the A-list somewhere.  Why do you think he is so impassioned by the need for anonymity, this guy, Scooter Libby? 

REDINGTON:  Well, it‘s just—maybe his personality.  I don‘t know. 


MATTHEWS:  How did you get that out of the trial, that he was most sensitive to that?

REDINGTON:  We got that from the Cathy Martin testimony.  We got that from Tim Russert, a number of different places. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, can I ask...

REDINGTON:  His own grand jury testimony, when he was upset, you know...

MATTHEWS:  I knew he was upset by us questioning the role that he and the vice president played in that trip to Africa and what they might have done with any report that came back, and I kept asking those questions on the 8th and 9th of July of 2003.  And then he called and complained the day after that. 

Howard, yes, go ahead. 

FINEMAN:  You know, I was just going to ask Ann a question about the role of reporters and the media in this.  What did you think, as a juror, not just in your jury role, but as a citizen, about all the reporters being subpoenaed and being brought in to testify?  Did that concern you at all?  Do you think a bad precedent was being set?  I‘d just be curious of your opinion about that, because a lot has been said about it. 

REDINGTON:  You know, I don‘t really have an opinion that there was a bad precedent being set.  I think, you know, you just need to be cognizant that everybody has kind of their own agenda they‘re trying to set forward, and that was very clear in the case, that, you know, journalists, just like everybody else, have some kind of agenda they‘re trying to push forward, and, you know, I  guess it‘s important to a lot of different sources to get your news. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to John Dickerson.  Do you have a question for Ann, who was on the jury? 

JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM:  I do.  If you can, leaving aside the testimony for a second, what was the argument that prosecutor Fitzgerald made that was most powerful to you for why this was an important case? 

REDINGTON:  Unfortunately, I don‘t think that his arguments were germane.  You know, it was really the evidence and the testimony that I thought was important.  So I didn‘t really...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s amazing.  You mean all the talk we got in the press about the brilliant summation and the long introduction of the case wasn‘t as valuable as the testimony?

REDINGTON:  It was brilliant.  I was very impressed that he was able to come up—you know, obviously, Zeidenberg had the easier part.  He got to lay out the case.  And then, you know, Patrick Fitzgerald had to kind of, on the fly, come up with his summation.  Brilliant, but it doesn‘t have anything to do with anything. 


O‘BEIRNE:  From the very beginning, the administration was understandably defending themselves from the charge that they had lied about the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, that obviously was the reason for going to war with Iraq, and that...


MATTHEWS:  They pled guilty to that.  They withdrew the charge that there was, in fact, a deal to get uranium from Africa.  They ended up admitting they shouldn‘t have said that.  Ari Fleischer said that.  Steve Hadley of the National Security Council said that.

O‘BEIRNE:  Not because it was a lie.  Because Joe Wilson had told them it wasn‘t the case before they...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would the administration admit that the president shouldn‘t have included the 16 words if they should have been included?  Explain the motive behind that.

O‘BEIRNE:  Because they didn‘t—they later said, which I think was a mistake, the British government still sticks to the charge. 

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t issue British dispatches in our State of the Union addresses.

O‘BEIRNE:  Allies depend upon others intelligence all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  That was a dodge.  Let me ask you this, did the United States believe there was a deal to buy uranium in Africa?


MATTHEWS:  And the answer is, no, they withdrew it.

O‘BEIRNE:  My question for Ann is this.  When Patrick Fitzgerald in his closing talked about the cloud over Dick Cheney, what did you understand that to mean?  Why is there a cloud over Dick Cheney? 

REDINGTON:  You know, I think he was trying to sort of indict the whole administration, but it wasn‘t the point.  I mean, that wasn‘t—we were there for one very narrow job, and that was to determine whether or not Scooter Libby lied to the grand jury and whether or not he lied to the FBI and, in doing so, did he obstruct justice?

FINEMAN:  Well, why do you think he was trying to indict the whole administration? 

REDINGTON:  Just an impression.  I mean, I think...

FINEMAN:  But if you got that impression, what do you think his reason for doing that was?  Did you think that Fitzgerald had an agenda, a political agenda? 

REDINGTON:  Well, I think everybody has an agenda, but, you know, I can‘t speak to what his reasons are.  I don‘t know.  But, I mean, clearly, everybody has some sort of an agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  You know why this case is fascinating, don‘t you?  Because it‘s fascinating about what we knew before we went to war with Iraq and whether we did, in fact, have hard evidence of a weapons system, a nuclear weapons system, in the hands of that bad guy, Saddam Hussein, or we did not have hard evidence. 

And at the time, a lot of people thought the evidence was very hard.  That‘s the reason we went to war.  Most undecided people said, “That‘s why I‘m for this war.”

And if it comes out at some point in the future that we don‘t have that hard evidence, that it looks like it was cooked, somebody‘s going to have to pay for that politically.  And that‘s what this case is about. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Well, the Silberman—Chris, you might remember the Silberman-Robb commission looked at that exact question you just asked.  And what did this bipartisan commission decide?  The intelligence community told policymakers that the nuclear capability was there and so were the other weapons. 

And they went on and said the intelligence community poorly served the policymakers, because they never told the policymakers how much of this intelligence that they acted so sure about was based on...


MATTHEWS:  OK, when the bipartisan commission gets to the level of examining the role of the White House officials, and how they used that evidence, then I‘ll be satisfied.  They have not proceeded to stage two.  When they get there, we‘ll know more about how the evidence was manipulated, if it was. 

It looks to me like that‘s a hell of a question, because this war is very costly, and a lot of people right now would like to know how we got in it. 

Anyway, thank you very much.  Ann Redington, you are a great citizen. 

Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  Kate O‘Beirne, likewise.  Howard Fineman and John Dickerson, thank you all for joining us.


MATTHEWS:  More on Libby‘s conviction and what it means for Vice President Cheney, when we return.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Wasn‘t that juror great, Ann Redington?  What an impressive citizen she is. 

But, anyway, given Libby‘s conviction now, is there a dark cloud—that‘s the phrase used, that cloud phrase was used by the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, about the vice president of the United States?  And what can President Bush do about that cloud over the head of Dick Cheney? 

Plus, could a pardon for Scooter damage the 2008 Republican candidates the way that Gerry Ford got damaged by his pardon of Richard Nixon.  Here to cut through all of it are our “Hardballers” tonight, Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish—as I sped up there—and Democratic campaign consultant Jenny Backus. 

Michael, you‘ve been on the radio for a couple of days right now.  What would be the reaction, if the president were—just this Friday night, at 3:00 in the afternoon, have Tony Snow, his press guy, issue a statement, “I am hereby pardoning Scooter Libby”?  What would be the reaction by the people? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The reaction would be mixed.  And I have to tell you that, outside the beltway, unlike inside the beltway, this is not exactly the Scopes trial.  I mean, I think, Chris, that you and I are political junkies, and we assume that everybody is into this.  I think most people don‘t understand it. 

In fact, I thought it was interesting that, at the end of that great interview, it‘s you explaining to Ann Redington what the case was all about.  And I don‘t know that she was buying your analysis, because I sure don‘t.

This case is about Scooter Libby lying under oath about being in a political firefight.  That‘s it. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I would say if I was defending the war policy. 

But let me ask you this, isn‘t it, in fact, the box that the case came in? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, it‘s the box that it came in, but it‘s not the trial that—I mean, the reason why...

MATTHEWS:  Sure, I never—Michael, if you were attentive, you‘ll notice—and vigilant to what I said, you‘ll notice that I never said that was what the case was about.  What I said was, the arguments, the people who all want Libby to be pardoned right now, are the hawks.  The people that are having questions about who love this prosecution and love the conviction of Scooter Libby are against the war.  Isn‘t that true? 

SMERCONISH:  Wait.  Everybody is wearing their normal jersey.  They‘re suiting up as conservatives.  And, by the way, I‘m not, because here‘s my view:  He lied under oath about being in a political firefight, nothing more, but don‘t pardon the man.  Because for all the spin that I‘m hearing from the right, everybody‘s evading the fundamental issue:  The man lied under oath.  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  Do you hold him to the same standard you held of Bill Clinton? 

SMERCONISH:  Yes, I hold anybody to that standard of lying under oath.  It‘s that simple.  I don‘t give a damn, frankly, about whether the investigation should have continued, should they have called it out, Joe Wilson—the man lied under oath.  We‘re over it now. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a purist, Michael Smerconish. 

SMERCONISH:  In this case.

MATTHEWS:  Jenny, are you as pure as this guy? 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s as pure as the driven snow.  He takes no sides in this.  I‘ve never met someone so pure.

BACKUS:  Well, you know what?  I mean, you‘re talking about the box.  I think it‘s also about the wrapping paper.  I think the Republican Party and the conservatives have missed the boat here.

This last election in ‘06 was like, “Please,” the American people were saying, “Please stop.  No more of this inside-the-beltway, partisan wasting our time while Rome is burning.”  And now we have the Scooter Libby trial.  The right and the president is answering questions about pardoning a guy in a trial that I agree with Michael, most people don‘t understand what it‘s all about.

I think you‘re right that the war is still hot.  You saw that in the NBC-“Wall Street Journal” poll.  It‘s going to be a huge issue.  But this pardon, I think the Republicans will make a big mistake, because they‘ll be involved again...


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Michael.  You say it will be a mixed result.  Let me ask you, the president is fighting back.  And I thought he gave a good speech this week on the war at the foreign legion.  I think it was a hell of a speech, the American Legion, rather.  Not the foreign legion, I don‘t know what I said that.  The American Legion, that is a hell of an organization. 

SMERCONISH:  The French foreign legion.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he gave a great speech.  It was really the best possible argument.  It was a neoconservative argument, but it‘s a very argument for why we went into the war in Iraq, it was how we‘re going to try to bring democracy and start something new over there they don‘t have.  It was a great case for the war.  Obviously, people have problems with it working out as well as he said. 

Will he be in the same stew that Gerry Ford was in for pardoning Richard Nixon should he pardon Scooter? 

SMERCONISH:  No, and I‘m tell you why.  The interview that you just did gave him unbelievable cover.  And the other fellow who‘s out there, who used to work for the “Washington Post,” is saying similarly that, you know, frankly, they don‘t care.  Well, my goodness.  If they don‘t care that the guy gets a pardon after they sat through the trial, why should we care? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you accept the fact that a pardon is an admission of guilt?


MATTHEWS:  That was Gerry Ford‘s decision.  He carried that verdict decision around—he‘s a Yale Law School-trained lawyer.  And to the day he died, Gerry Ford carried in his pocket the verdict decision.  And it was the reason he pardoned Richard Nixon, he said, because it said to accept a pardon is to accept guilt.  Do you believe that, Scooter Libby has to accept guilt implicitly? 

SMERCONISH:  Yes, well, I‘ll tell you why.  And it‘s not my thinking.  Michael Isikoff put something up at “Newsweek” that I think everybody needs to read.  And what it basically says is that the Bush administration has been following Justice Department guidelines that demand, first of all, that five years go off the clock and, secondly, that the defendant be remorseful. 

Now, I haven‘t seen any sign of Scooter Libby being remorseful.  I think he‘s a very likable guy, even to those jurors, by the way, but he‘ll have to express some remorse or it‘s not going to fit the prototype of what they‘ve been using. 

MATTHEWS:  Interesting.

SMERCONISH:  I think it‘s all politics.  I mean, and, again, that‘s the problem that the administration is looking at with this.  I mean, getting involved in a whole fight about pardons, it‘s good for the Bush administration in the short term.  It changes the subject away from the war.  But long term, it‘s all about the war, like you said. 

MATTHEWS:  If they‘re going to pardon this guy, and the president decides to do so, I think the right time to do it is now, if they decide to do it.

We‘ll be right back with Michael Smerconish and Jenny Backus.  When we come back, by the way, we‘re going to watch more about this, more coming here about amazing problems facing the vice president.  He‘s on the cover of “Time” magazine as we speak, and it looks bad.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with radio talk show host from Philadelphia Michael Smerconish and Democratic political consultant Jenny Backus. 

Let me go—Michael, look at these striking numbers here.  Let‘s take a look at Obama.  In just a month here, according to the new NBC-“Wall Street Journal” poll, Hillary is still leading, of course, but look how fast—from December to now, Barack Obama has gone for 18 to 28.  He‘s closing.  Hillary is doing great, but he‘s closing. 

SMERCONISH:  Yes, there‘s something that jumped off the page to me about these numbers:  25 percent of respondents said they‘re interested in learning more about Hillary Clinton.  What else is there to know?  I‘ve always said to you that we could run the race tomorrow about Hillary. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  And, by the way, I‘ve seen another poll which asked that question and it was 3 percent, people wanted to know more about her.  You know, I don‘t buy that, either.  I think people know a lot about Hillary. 

SMERCONISH:  Or they think they do. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Jenny?

BACKUS:  But I think that‘s coming in from the war.  I mean, one of the—if you look inside that poll, one of the biggest problems for Hillary is a lot Democrats, almost like 50 percent or 40 percent have a real big problem with Hillary‘s refusal to apologize on the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think people would rather Hillary were faking it and pretending to be a hawk, that would make them happier than if she really was a hawk?  Are they more afraid she‘s a real hawk or more afraid that she‘s just playing games? 

BACKUS:  I don‘t they know what she is, and I think that‘s what Michael‘s number is right there.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  Jenny, I agree with that.

Michael, let‘s go to the Republican side.  There another fascinating spike.  Giuliani went from 5 points ahead in December over McCain, a small, almost barely substantial lead, to 15 points or 14 points.  What is going on in the Republican side right now? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, what I think is that we‘re in that transition phase from name I.D. and popularity to slowly getting into the issues.  And I think that more and more people are coming to terms in the Republican Party with John McCain‘s war stance and they‘re uncomfortable with it. 

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t like it?  They don‘t like it?

SMERCONISH:  And they don‘t like it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, 55 percent say, quote, they‘re very uncomfortable with the fact that he‘s a hawk.

Let me ask you about crime.  Nobody talks about on national television, because it is seen as a local issue, but there is a pattern out there of murder spiking in the big cities and East Coast.  Rudy‘s known as a clean-streets guy.  You know, is this going to help him?  I hate to say crime and murder helps anybody, but does this catch on with voters, that Rudy is the tough cop? 

SMERCONISH:  I believe that it‘s not going to be the fundamental issue, because I think this is a battle—the presidential race that will be decided in suburbia.  And I don‘t think suburbia is facing the sort of issues that you‘re talking about. 

I mean, the whole key right now for the Republican Party is to nominate someone, not to win primaries, but to win a general.  I mean, Hagel is about to get into this thing on Monday.  He‘s got the right position on the war, but he‘s wrong on the social issues to win the general. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s very conservative on everything but the war, you‘re right.

BACKUS:  But this is might be one of those interesting kind of elections where I think the war is going to matter.  And I think Hillary and Rudy made a fundamental miscalculation when they—I mean, Hillary and McCain made a fundamental miscalculation when they got into this race, that the war wasn‘t going to matter in ‘08, and now it does.  And it was Hagel who gets in—I don‘t know.  I know a lot of independents, if he was the candidate, who would think...

MATTHEWS:  You know why—consultants, not you, always tell candidates to fight the last war. 

BACKUS:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  It can help build them as pro-war.  Don‘t you agree with

that, Michael?  They‘re always doing what worked the last time.  It‘s like

I don‘t know.  In our business of broadcasting, you know, people say, Well, let‘s try this, this worked two years ago.  I‘m see the same thing happening here.

SMERCONISH:  I think—I think this is a year for very new coalitions.  Look...


SMERCONISH:  ... the president has been rated -- 46 percent of Pennsylvanians say doing a poor job.  And yet either Rudy or McCain beats Barack or Hillary.  Explain that!

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s like the old days, when the same voter liked George Wallace and Bobby Kennedy.  They just wanted somebody to crack the establishment.

BACKUS:  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.

BACKUS:  And I think that goes to your point.  I mean, I think the problem for the Democrats and the Republicans, they‘re still fighting 2004.  We got to think even—go back two elections, 2006.  It was a change election.  People wanted to get out of the mess in Washington.  They wanted a different kind of candidate, which is Barack and Giuliani‘s appeal...

MATTHEWS:  Both out-of-towners, Chicago and New York.


BACKUS:  ... total different style of politics.

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t belt (ph) the Beltway on those two, Michael Smerconish, as much as you like to do that.  We‘ll be right—a little Howard Cosell there.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish...

SMERCONISH:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... from Philly.  And Jenny—thank you, Jenny Backus.

Up next: Libby‘s guilty verdict created a rift between the president and Vice President Cheney, or did it?  Are they still together, they still copacetic and just dealing with this and hunkering down together?  Has the vice president lost power in the White House?  “Time” magazine‘s cover seems to think so, and it just came out.  Michael Duffy‘s going to be here.  He‘s the guy that wrote the cover.

You‘re watching HARDBALL.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  With the Scooter verdict in, the verdict on Libby—and by the way, “Time” magazine reports in the issue that just comes out tomorrow, “It is hard not to conclude that Libby cooked up his story to protect Cheney.”

Michael Duffy wrote this week‘s cover story for “Time” magazine, showing a big cloud over Dick Cheney—there‘s the picture right now.  That magazine, by the way, now comes out on Friday, which is great for us because we get to scoop the weekend shows and everybody else, right?


MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you.

DUFFY:  That‘s the idea.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about this—Cheney—he‘s not going to like this cover, is he.

DUFFY:  Probably not.


DUFFY:  Well, this is not an administration that has ever been great about—you know, none is—about taking criticism.  But it is a point now where, at this stage of the presidency, he is an anchor kind of dragging the administration down across a number of fronts.

MATTHEWS:  The prosecutor, Fitzgerald, said there‘s a cloud over Cheney.  What did he mean, as you read that?

DUFFY:  I think what he was saying was that he could not see past the sand that Libby—he felt Libby had thrown in his face.  He was trying to make—he said, you know, I‘m trying to make a call on a pitch.  Somebody had beaned a batter.  They beaned Joe Wilson.  And when I‘m trying to look around the—you know, the catcher and see, you know, Did you mean to throw that—that pitch that way, he—you know, Libby threw stand in my face.  And he said, Until that sand is removed, there is la cloud over the vice president.  That was the context, the way he said it in his summation, I can‘t see because the vice president‘s top aide blocked—that was the quote—blocked my view.  And the cloud was—until that block is removed, there will be a cloud over the vice president.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he indict, if he believed that Cheney at every step of the way was instructing Scooter in what he told reporters, who he chose to talk to, et cetera, et cetera—why didn‘t he nail Cheney as a collaborator?

DUFFY:  It‘s an interesting question.  You have to ask Fitzgerald.  I don‘t think he felt he had the evidence—this is a very serious thing, to indict a vice president, a little different.

MATTHEWS:  Because Scooter was on the phone with people.  He got tagged by other witnesses, where Cheney was only in the room with Scooter.

DUFFY:  That‘s right.  And don‘t forget...

MATTHEWS:  So he need Scooter to nail the vice president, if the vice president did something wrong.

DUFFY:  And after the trial, someone asked Fitzgerald, If Mr. Libby contacts you and wants to talk now, what would you say?  And Fitzgerald said, Mr. Libby is like any defendant, if he wants to contact us or his counsel does, we‘ll be happy to talk to him.  So while he said the investigative part of the case is over, he also left the door open for potential leniency at sentencing for Mr. Libby, if Mr. Libby decides to change his...

MATTHEWS:  What could he give him?

DUFFY:  You‘d have to ask a criminal attorney.  I don‘t know. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.

DUFFY:  Presumably...

MATTHEWS:  Seems like everybody in this country who‘s watching the news knows that Fitzgerald has a pattern.  He goes for the number two guy, whether it‘s somebody in Chicago or somebody who works for Conrad Black or somewhere, and he nails that person to the wall until the person starts to cry for relief, and says, Oh, you want five years, not ten?  Then me something about your boss.

DUFFY:  Yes, but this is not a—this is not a Mafia guy who‘s going to go down.  Scooter Libby is going to, you know, take whatever he knows, if he knows...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not going to flip.

DUFFY:  ... all the way.  That‘s right, all the way down.

MATTHEWS:  Why are you confident that he‘s willing to be so loyal to the point of self-destruction?

DUFFY:  Because of the kind of stories he told in a grand jury under oath.  I don‘t think you cook those up unless you‘re pretty sure you want to stick with them.  And also, he has a pretty good shot here at all the—keeping the legal justice, you know, wheels in motion...

MATTHEWS:  Sure, because they might get an appeal...

DUFFY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... in a year or so.  They might not.  And at the end of the appeal process, they might get a pardon.  But the second they get a pardon, isn‘t there a question as to whether this White House, this president, intervened in the process to protect Cheney from Scooter squealing?

DUFFY:  Well, there‘s no evidence of that, either, but there is...


MATTHEWS:  It‘s circumstantial.  YOU say, Wait a minute.  the prosecutor was going squeeze this guy, get some more information out of him, and you said, Oh, you know, you can‘t do that, I‘m going to pardon him so you can‘t get it out of him.

DUFFY:  I think what‘s interesting about what Fitzgerald was saying in the summation—and I think the thing—the impression he was trying to leave was that he put a lot of pieces of evidence on the table at the trial that suggested that Cheney was driving the strategy.  He was leaking...


DUFFY:  He was riding the talking points.  He was getting the information declassified.  He was complaining about the way they were hanging Libby out to dry.  He made a very strong circumstantial case through the course of the 14-day trial that the vice president was driving the train here...


DUFFY:  ... and that his top aide was taking the fall.  And I think he even introduced a piece of evidence in which the vice president said Libby was the fall guy.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that Dick Cheney, based on your reporting, would ever be forced out or he would only quit if he thought it would help this president?  Is his loyalty President Bush superior to his own agenda?

DUFFY:  Sure, it‘s superior to his own agenda, but it‘s also—the president would have to want him to go, and he chose Dick Cheney because this wasn‘t someone who was going to do anything other than be loyal.

MATTHEWS:  The reason I raised that is Bob Gates has been so stunning as the new secretary of defense.  He‘s been able to be a clean broom over there at Walter Reed.  It‘s breathtaking to watch how well he‘s done this job.  Rumsfeld couldn‘t have done it that well.  A new vice president would mean a new—perhaps new secretary of state.  It would give the president a chance to really put together a new team.  And a new team may be what he needs right now.

DUFFY:  Yes, but he would have to move soon because it‘s getting kind of late.  And you know, his father gave his top aides—his father gave his top aides sort of the OK, the wink to go try to kick Dan Quayle off the ticket...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I read that in your piece.  I never knew that before.

DUFFY:  ... in 1994.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Is that new reporting to show that George, Sr....

DUFFY:  No, I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... was trying to dump him?  I knew he wasn‘t happy with him...

DUFFY:  I think it was...

MATTHEWS:  ... because he wrote in his diary it was the biggest mistake of my life or something.

DUFFY:  Bob Teeter and James Baker were given the wink and the sign to go say, All right, move him out.  And Bill Kristol heard about it, stepped in and leaked it to the press to stop it.  And the vice president went to see the president and say, You don‘t want me to go, and got the president on the record saying no.  And so that—but it‘s been done in the family once before.  It wasn‘t successful, but I don‘t think the son is the same as the father in a lot of respects, and I don‘t think he‘d be the same in this respect.

MATTHEWS:  So Cheney stays if the health holds.

DUFFY:  Cheney stays almost no matter what.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure.  Anyway, thanks.


DUFFY:  Exactly.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m being philosophical.  Who knows...

DUFFY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... when it comes to the future?


MATTHEWS:  Michael Duffy‘s staying with us.  He‘ll be joined by Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune” and John Fund of “The Wall Street Journal.”

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We‘re back with Michael Duffy of “Time” magazine, the guy who wrote the big cover that‘s coming out this week.  We‘re joined by Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune” and John Fund of “The Wall Street Journal.”

Let‘s talk—let‘s move on from Scooter for about five seconds.  I‘m sure we‘ll be back to him.  I want to ask you, Fundy (ph), what do you make of Giuliani‘s spike in the polls, a 14-point lead in our newest “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll over John McCain?

JOHN FUND, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  The dynamic of the Republican race changed last November when the Republicans took that thumping, and a lot of Republicans now are becoming more pragmatic.  They want a winner.  They look at Giuliani as someone who could put New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut in play.  And...

MATTHEWS:  You agree with that yourself?  Is that your assessment?

FUND:  I think he would, to some extent.  I also think there‘s some liabilities.  And remember, the latest polls show about three quarters of Republicans are not fully informed on Giuliani‘s record or his views on certain controversial issues.

So he is getting a real boost in the polls.  It‘s genuine.  Whether it‘s lasting is a separate issue.  I was at CPAC, where he gave that speech to the delegates.  They liked seeing him.  They liked the fact that he showed up and McCain didn‘t.  But his speech, as even the man who introduced him, George Will, says, was pretty mediocre.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  I mean, Michael Duffy, I saw him speak at the Hoover Institute a week ago.  He came in.  He told a few great jokes.  People loved him, great applause.  And then he gave a speech which congresspeople could have given.  It wasn‘t—Why doesn‘t he have a great speech ready?  Even Eisenhower ran for president, I mean, taking the Nazi surrender, but he said, I will go to Korea.  He had a plan.  Does this guy have one?

DUFFY:  Well, presidents always—all their best speeches always come in the first couple of terms.  You knew that, right?  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  No, but...


MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t a candidate for president, who‘s got plenty of time to think about it, have something to say?

DUFFY:  I just think he‘s working at—very much at the margins of change now—little things.  What he has to say after the war has very little credibility.  He has to—the only way he‘s going to get that back is through actions.  He can‘t really speak his way out of his problems now because what he...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) I‘m talking about Giuliani.

DUFFY:  I thought you were talking about the president.  I‘m sorry.

MATTHEWS:  No, Giuliani.

DUFFY:  Oh.  I‘m sorry.

MATTHEWS:  Why is Giuliani so loved now in the polls?  Answer that question, same question I put to John.

DUFFY:  He‘s new.  He‘s different.  He hasn‘t been around, and people didn‘t expect him to run.  Now he‘s running, and people say, This is great.  And also, McCain is crashing because he‘s so hard over on the war.


MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts.

JILL ZUCKMAN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  You know, the problem with Giuliani is that he hasn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t have a problem!  Look at his numbers!  What do you mean, “the problem”?  He‘s winning!

ZUCKMAN:  Sure, he‘s got great numbers, but you know, it‘s like a balloon, and...

MATTHEWS:  Why do you say that?  How do you know that?

ZUCKMAN:  Because I think that when another campaign decides to start sending information about his positions on abortion and gay rights and other things...

MATTHEWS:  If I could only make bets with people that say...

FUND:  Chris?


MATTHEWS:  John Fund, you are in your soul a conservative.  You understand the—don‘t Republicans, not even just conservatives but Republicans really treasure a leader, someone who can be strong, be there when something goes wrong and take over?

FUND:  Look...

MATTHEWS:  It is the daddy party.

FUND:  Look...

MATTHEWS:  I really think so.  Isn‘t that his appeal, Rudy‘s appeal?

FUND:  Yes.  And I agree with Jill that I think he has potential problems coming up as the opposition research works.  However, he can help himself.  If he had gone to CPAC and done the following—Look, I‘m pro-choice on abortion, but I‘ve rethought, you know, late-term abortion, parental notification.  I can see that, the validity there.  If he had said on guns, Look, in New York City, I thought we needed gun control, but I don‘t believe we need any federal—new federal laws.  I don‘t believe the feds should expand gun control—I think he would have helped himself a lot and he would not have retreated from his basic positions.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t he already say that he believes in urban gun control, but once you get out in the country, Kansas, the fields, the plains, you shouldn‘t have the same...


FUND:  Well, he didn‘t say that at CPAC, and he needs—we need specifics.


FUND:  Remember, if he—if a leader is going to go against some core tenets of the base of his party, he has to increase the comfort level they have dramatically.  That requires specifics.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t his—isn‘t his strategy so far, Michael, not to focus on where he‘s deficient with the conservative but to push where he‘s tough -- 9/11, crime, et cetera?

DUFFY:  Terror.  Exactly.  How he handles the prospect of another terror—and the other thing he‘s doing, which I think is missed by a lot of people, is that he‘s working parts of the country—Florida, New Jersey, California—that Republicans have for, you know, a certain amount of time said, We‘ll deal with those later, if we get to them.  When you have a Republican who can go into California and New Jersey and raise money and build an organization at this stage and take people away from other candidates, that‘s—that‘s really game-changing.


MATTHEWS:  ... my kind of people...

DUFFY:  That‘s game-changing strategy.


MATTHEWS:  ... I grew up with, by the way.

DUFFY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  The people that moved from the New York suburbs down to

Florida, the people that move into New Jersey from Philly, the people that

moved into Bucks County around Philly, the people that live in the suburbs

those are my idea of Republicans, and those people have been looking for a leader who is not a Bible Belt sort of person.

DUFFY:  And that‘s what the McCain people are watching.  That‘s what they‘re worried about, not what he‘s saying.  It‘s where he‘s going and how he‘s investing.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s doing it well.

FUND:  The other thing that Giuliani...

ZUCKMAN:  Well, but he doesn‘t have...

MATTHEWS:  Let Jill speak just a second.  I want to give her a break.

ZUCKMAN:  The problem is, he doesn‘t have an organization.  He doesn‘t have a field organization.  He doesn‘t have a good stump speech yet.  He doesn‘t have well thought out ideas...

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t have a stump speech.

ZUCKMAN:  ... on a variety of issues.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s my theory.  My theory is that men are rooting around for a reason to be against Hillary, and they‘re going to spend the next year trying to find out why they want to be against her because they want to be against her.  And they‘re looking for reasons to be for Rudy.  I think people always try to figure out how they can sell the guy they want to sell.  They want Rudy to be a hero because they want a hero like Rudy.  And they have this problem with Hillary, and I can‘t quite figure it out, but it seems to be emerging and I can‘t explain it.

We‘ll be right back with Michael Duffy, Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune” and John Fund of “The Wall Street Journal.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  We‘re back with Michael Duffy of “Time,” Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune” and John Fund of “The Wall Street Journal.”

John, why do you think “The Wall Street Journal,” “The National Review” and “The New York Post” moved so fast, not for calling for appeal, not to rail against the judgment of the jury, but to call so quickly for executive action by the president in the form of a pardon?

FUND:  Well, one of the things we have learned from the whole Libby disaster is that the independent counsel and the extent to which politics can be criminalized in Washington has gone way overboard.  I think there were elements of Clinton years where we saw that.  That‘s why both parties agreed to end the independent counsel law in 1999.  Now we‘re back in another mess.

Look, Scooter Libby made lots of mistake, and I think certainly, the jury acted, you know, in a very clear and fair way.  However, for this to go as far as it did when there was no underlying crime and when Richard Armitage was the original source...


FUND:  ... of all this and the prosecutor knew it, is a travesty.  So I don‘t think the—I don‘t think the pardon is going to happen.  I don‘t think it‘s politically realistic.  But is it the right thing to do?  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What would you have done if you had been John Ashcroft and one of the characters in the case was Karl Rove, whom you had employed as a consultant before, in your race in Missouri, and you couldn‘t very well try the case yourself, or in the regular line of work?  Didn‘t he have to bring in a special counsel to get himself, Ashcroft, out of the case?

FUND:  Well, you know, that‘s what Janet Reno used to say, and we all saw where that led.  Clearly, there are career people in the Justice Department.  And normally, what happens in the Justice Department is the political appointees are very leery of ever interfering with the career employees.  They certainly didn‘t interfere with them in the Sandy Berger investigation, which I think was a complete disaster on the part of the career people.  But what he should have done is said, I‘m not going to interfere at all.  I‘m just going to leave it in the hands of the career people.  I won‘t touch it at all.

MATTHEWS:  Jill, is there any way this couldn‘t have gone the way—you can argue, by the way—I can see these arguments—there was an underlying case against somebody for purposely outing an agent who‘s working undercover overseas.  There are a number of problems where he could have said—he could have called up attorney general and said—

Fitzgerald—you know, I don‘t see a crime here.  Let me tell you what happened.  I‘ll give you a report on it, but I‘m not going to just go on a fishing expedition and look for somebody to start lying here.

ZUCKMAN:  Well, you know, a lot of people would argue on flip side

that lying to a grand jury, lying to the FBI, is a crime-

MATTHEWS:  But John said it shouldn‘t have gotten than far.

ZUCKMAN:  Well, you know, if—the federal prosecutor said himself that our system of justice doesn‘t work if people are going to lie.

FUND:  But he didn‘t have to carry the investigation that far!  The point is—look, in a normal course of things, what should have happened here, not criminalized politics, Scooter Libby should have resigned.  There would have been egg all over the face of the administration.  But remember the other thing.  Joe Wilson has his own credibility problems.  The Senate Intelligence committee unanimously, Democrats and Republicans, said his story didn‘t add up.  There so no heroes in this story!

MATTHEWS:  I know one way this could have been...

FUND:  None!

MATTHEWS:  John Fund, you won‘t like my deduction here, but you‘re right.  If the president had used his executive responsibility and accountability in the White House, and after hearing there was a leak coming out of high administration officials, he could have surveyed people like Richard Armitage, and I think Armitage would have told him.  Mr.  Armitage, did you have anything to do with this leak to Robert Novak?  And he would have said, Yes, Mr. President.  Let me come over and talk about it.  And it would have been over.

But Bush stepped back and said, I don‘t want anything to do with this case...

FUND:  Look...

MATTHEWS:  ... and didn‘t tell his people to come clean.  If he had told his people to come clean, if he was really running that White House, he wouldn‘t have Scooter Libby now heading to the can.

FUND:  Chris, this was a failure of leadership on the part of President Bush and others in his administration, as well as an overreaction on the part of people who want to criminalize politics in this town and ruin people‘s lives unnecessarily.

DUFFY:  The other thing to remember is in 2003, when they appointed the special counsel, we were barely a year out of the Iraq—not even a year out of the Iraq invasion.  It was about the disclosure of the name of a covert agent, maybe a non—a special...

MATTHEWS:  Classified...

FUND:  But she wasn‘t!


FUND:  She wasn‘t!

DUFFY:  ... you have to understand, at the time, that was the mood of the town and the mood of the city, which is this is such a serious possible crime, they had to take it seriously.  The White House couldn‘t get in front of it and say, No, let‘s...

FUND:  Michael...

DUFFY:  ... let‘s do a different thing.

FUND:  ... in all candor, you know that if you read the law that she had to have been overseas in the last five years, and Joe Wilson himself admitted they came back to the U.S. six years ago.  Anyone who looked at the facts, rather than the mood, would have concluded there is no underlying crime here.

MATTHEWS:  The problem with that is, John, you may well be right under the law, but why did the CIA push—why did they refer to it the Justice Department?  That‘s the case.

FUND:  Ah!  Chris, you have identified the real problem here.  This administration all went to war with the CIA, and the CIA went to war with the Bush administration from the word go.  There has been an intra-administration civil war going on.  There‘s a civil war in Iraq.  There‘s a civil war in this administration, too.

MATTHEWS:  You know what‘s interesting?  I completely agree with you, John, although you and I may be on different sides of that civil war.  What do you think?

FUND:  I have to tell you, I think there‘s a mess here, and everybody has a responsibility.

MATTHEWS:  I think the intelligence community was basically shunted aside by this administration.  They wanted a more hawkish assessment of things.

FUND:  Granted.

MATTHEWS:  And they may well have been right, but they didn‘t...

FUND:  Granted.

MATTHEWS:  ... trust the usual intelligence sources.  They had to create their own...

FUND:  But Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... over at the Defense Department and in the vice president‘s office, and they had a parallel intelligence...

FUND:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... network, which got us into this war...

FUND:  Chris, we...

MATTHEWS:  ... on false...

FUND:  We are much closer to agreement...

MATTHEWS:  ... bogus intel!

FUND:  ... than you think.  The only thing is, just remember, our traditional intelligence sources have been wrong so often, from the Soviet Union on, that there‘s a natural suspicion on both sides.


FUND:  And that‘s the reason this happened.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We have to have a plenary HARDBALL some night and find we all agree on certain things.  Anyway, thank you, Michael Duffy, the cover of “Time” magazine—it‘s on the streets tomorrow.  It‘ll certainly be in your mailbox if you subscribe.  Jill Zuckman, thank you for joining us.  And Fundy, of course.

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests will include journalist Bob Woodruff, who survived a massive roadside IED attack in Iraq, and his wife, Lee.  What a—I‘ve done the interview late today.  These are beautiful people with an amazing American story about a marriage.  See you then.



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