Guests: Eugene Robinson, Michael Smerconish, Bing West, Joe Trippi, Susan Page, Christopher Buckley
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: President Bush attacks Speaker Pelosi for speaking to the Syrians, but Secretary Baker says we need consensus on Iraq. And Rudy Giuliani says Bush and Congress should compromise on funding the war.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
This morning, the hawkish editorial page of “The Washington Post” attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s trip to Syria. Speaker Pelosi took on her critics on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: While there may have been some questions about the timing of our visit to Syria, there is absolutely no division between this delegation and the president of United States on the issues of concern that we expressed to President Assad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk to our HARDBALLers, “Washington Post” op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish about the Speaker‘s visit in a moment.
Plus, grim news from Iraq today. Five U.S. soldiers were killed in three separate attacks outside of Baghdad, and four British soldiers killed in an ambush in southern Iraq. Former secretary of state Jim Baker, the man who was supposed to help the president find his way in Iraq, says the administration should embrace now the recommendations of his Iraq Study Group. How can America get out of Iraq? We‘ll have more on that and on the war later.
And did Obama‘s campaign turn the Internet into a money machine? Will these early supporters go out and vote? Political analyst Joe Trippi, the man who started all this with the Dean campaign, will talk about the political force of the net.
But first, HARDBALLers Eugene Robinson and Michael Smerconish.
Eugene, it‘s great to have you here on behalf of “The Washington Post.”
MATTHEWS: Why is “The Washington Post” trashing Nancy Pelosi for doing basically what Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton said to do, engage the neighborhood over there in the Middle East?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”: I‘m pleased to be able to tell you I‘m not a member of editorial board, and you know, I write my columns, they do their editorials. I can tell you where I stand on it, which is that...
MATTHEWS: First of all, let‘s hear what your newspaper, the mother ship, has to say on this topic. This is the editorial page. I‘m quoting from it. You know, this used to be a liberal newspaper, “The Washington Post,” back in Nixon‘s day with Ben Bradlee and other back there, Meg Greenfield, the editorial page editor. It is not a liberal paper. It‘s a hawkish paper.
Quote, “We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush‘s military strategy and regional diplomacy, but Ms. Pelosi‘s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it‘s foolish.”
Pretty strong, Gene.
ROBINSON: Pretty strong. You know...
ROBINSON: ... they should tell us what they really think. You know, I mean, I think that she‘s right on the substance. She‘s clearly right on the substance. Of course, we should be talking to Syria. And you know, this policy that if we don‘t like a regime, you know, we pretend—you know, we cover our ears and we don‘t talk to them, is absurd. If Syria can be helpful or is being harmful in Iraq, in Lebanon, whatever, we should talk to them. You know, I think there‘s a question about the style and the timing. I think...
MATTHEWS: ... time to talk to Bashar Assad and...
ROBINSON: I kind of wish—I think there‘s a lot of value in sending the message to Syria and the world that Americans and the new Congress have a different idea of how to conduct diplomacy and foreign policy from the Bush idea. I think it‘s useful message. I wish...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s—that‘s...
ROBINSON: ... she had sent, you know, Jim Clyburn or Steny Hoyer or somebody to do it...
MATTHEWS: ... go Michael Smerconish, my buddy. Let me ask you, Michael, your view. Do you share that of the hawkish “Washington Post” editorial page, their view that this is a foolish trip for her to undertake?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I‘m somewhere between what Eugene just offered and what his newspaper offered on the editorial page. I want somebody to be having dialogue with the Syrians. My choice would be that it‘s Condoleezza Rice. If Condoleezza Rice is still refusing to have that kind of engagement with the Syrians, I hope someone at a high level of government is having conversation.
But where she made her mistake is that she misrepresented Israel‘s point of view. She took a message or she said was bringing a message from Ehud Olmert that he then disavowed. At least, I‘d like her to be accurate in it. I want the dialogue...
MATTHEWS: We don‘t know—and let me...
MATTHEWS: Let me be blunt here. How do we know—I talked to the Israeli embassy yesterday to check it out. I wanted to do what you, Michael, just did, was to check, make sure when she says she‘s carrying water from the Olmert government, the Kadima government over there, to Syria that she‘s really doing it. From my understand their point of view is, yes, she said she was going. They knew she was going. She said, Can I convey any message? They said, yes, when you stop supporting terrorism, we‘ll deal with you. That‘s not exactly an opening, it‘s a statement of recorded (ph) past fact.
But you never know how Olmert talked to her when he was with her. You don‘t know whether he was...
ROBINSON: ... everybody in the Middle East always disavows everything. So you know, I mean, it‘s possible that Olmert is telling the truth and she got the message garbled, but...
MATTHEWS: ... who‘s had a history of success (INAUDIBLE) came our of the meeting with President Bush...
MATTHEWS: ... and said certain things a while back. Remember that?
ROBINSON: Exactly. Exactly. So...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) president said he said.
ROBINSON: Yes. Exactly.
SMERCONISH: But you know, Chris, all that we know for sure is—and I‘ve got it in my hand—is that Olmert issued a statement, the prime minister‘s office...
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s his position.
SMERCONISH: ... statement, Hey, she got it wrong.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he‘s a politician, too, though. Why do you think he‘s the voice of God?
SMERCONISH: Oh, I don‘t think he‘s the voice of God, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, don‘t give me...
MATTHEWS: ... he tells the truth and American political leaders don‘t tell the truth. Is that how you judge things?
MATTHEWS: He‘s a politician. He may well have been schmoozing with her. He may well have said, You know, it‘d be great if you could get some message back from the guy. Maybe you can break the ice over there.
MATTHEWS: ... kinds of things.
SMERCONISH: You know what I find interesting? I find it—and I know you‘re going to talk about Jim Baker. I mean, here‘s Baker coming out today, saying, Why not the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group relative to Iraq? But you know they made recommendations relative to Syria, as well, that would have direct bearing on this subject. He was silent on that. Now, maybe it was a question of timing. Maybe he already filed that op-ed page before...
MATTHEWS: OK, what are you saying...
SMERCONISH: ... this issue came up.
MATTHEWS: What are you saying between the lines?
SMERCONISH: I‘m saying, all right, between the lines, why didn‘t Baker take a position and say, Hey, Pelosi is doing what we‘ve recommended, in the same way that we‘ve recommended...
SMERCONISH: ... a different position on Iraq?
MATTHEWS: And he didn‘t want to say that because the president‘s on the ropes right now.
SMERCONISH: There you go. That is what I am saying.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes. I hate all this agreement here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Iranian situation. Ahmadinejad, who‘s no friend of our country or Israel‘s or anybody else‘s (INAUDIBLE) side of the world, who clearly is playing that card as much as he can—let‘s take a look at what Tony Blair said just yesterday about the release of those 15 hostages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We bear you no ill will. And the country, we respect Iran as an ancient civilization, as a nation with a proud and dignified history. And the disagreements that we have with your government we wish to resolve peacefully through dialogue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Too soft, Michael?
SMERCONISH: No, I don‘t think too soft. I think it had a successful outcome. I‘m aware of those who are on the right who did a lot of—John Bolton and others—who did a—Newt Gingrich—who did a lot of saber-rattling over this. Hey, I‘m just happy the thing had a peaceful resolution. That Ahmadinejad—I‘m not convinced that at the outset of that press conference, he knew that an hour into the press conference, he‘d be announcing their release. I mean, I think‘s is that irrational.
MATTHEWS: You think he just impulsively said, I want to get some good ink out of this?
SMERCONISH: Yes, I think that is a very realistic possibility.
MATTHEWS: OK. Eugene, I have a theory. He didn‘t know what else to do with these guys.
MATTHEWS: He certainly couldn‘t execute them. They‘re serving military people, no worse than making the mistake of going across an international line, if they did—if they did do that...
MATTHEWS: ... which is problematic. But you certainly don‘t execute or imprison guys who are military people in action.
ROBINSON: No, and I think there probably was no constituency inside the Iranian government for a—you know, a show trial or something like that.
ROBINSON: Well, I think, you know, he felt he had made the point he wanted to make, actually. I mean...
MATTHEWS: You think he ordered this. Michael, is it your sense—and I know you cover these things, it‘s a hot-button issue. Do you think he ordered the picking up of that crew? Did they go out and grab these guys to make a point, to show their toughness?
SMERCONISH: I think absolutely that he did. I think that he‘s on the ropes because in his own political fortune at home, my understanding is that he‘s not done so well. He hasn‘t made good on a lot of pledges and promises that he made. And you know, this rallied the home base. I mean, they had 60,000 people in a soccer stadium chanting, Death to the Brits, a week or so ago. And I think that this played to his constituency.
MATTHEWS: You know, I got to tell you, that is the healthiest-looking bunch of sailors I‘ve ever seen. These guys looked like movie stars over there. I don‘t know what it was. They looked like they were central casting‘s idea of a modern navy coming out of “Vanity Fair...
SMERCONISH: Except for that...
MATTHEWS: ... or something. Huh?
SMERCONISH: That hideous clothing that they left the country wearing.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean Russian overcoats...
SMERCONISH: They made a trip to Brooks Brothers, for goodness sakes.
MATTHEWS: No, I think they‘re still getting their clothing supply from Moscow.
MATTHEWS: But why are we getting into cosmetics here? Let me ask you, Michael, just summing up the week, do you think that this “push me, pull me”‘ thing over Iraq spending is going to end up in something like—you know, even the tough guy himself, Rudy Giuliani—and you know he‘s tough—said, Why don‘t they come out with a compromise at some point down the road? The president‘s right to say no to the deal that he just got offered, but why don‘t they cut a deal, the Republican president and the Democratic Congress?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think Jim Baker has offered a very realistic deal. And you know, shame on the Bush administration for having rebuffed the Iraq Study Group, just in the same way they did the 9/11 commission up front, because I still don‘t know what‘s wrong with what Baker is saying in print today. I think it‘s a good way to go, not hard and fast dates, but give some framework to getting out of there.
MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, you got the hottest mayor‘s race in the country up there, and I can‘t wait to get up there to moderate that debate. What an exciting contest that is up there for your mayor‘s race.
SMERCONISH: The most difficult to predict in the time that I have been watching. So we‘re ready for you.
MATTHEWS: There‘s only one office more personal in Philadelphia than mayor—well, there may be only one office as personal, that‘s president. The mayor of Philadelphia is a very important emotional thing to everybody that lives in that city and in the suburbs. It‘s a hot one.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Smerconish. Thank you, Gene Robinson—not of “The Washington Post” editorial board.
Coming up: John McCain says Iraq is improving and areas of Baghdad are safe enough to walk around in. Congressman Mike Pence says a Baghdad supermarket—a marketplace he just visited is just like markets out in Indiana, sort of a Hoosier environment. What‘s the real story on the ground? Former Marine Bing West is leaving tomorrow for his 13th trip to Iraq since the war began. He‘s coming here on the way to the war zone. And later on, hardball? Rudy Giuliani tells South Carolina Republicans that he can still be their guy, despite differences over issues like abortion rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, there are differences. How big are the differences? And if that‘s real important to you, if that‘s the most important thing, then I‘m comfortable with the fact that you won‘t vote for me. I mean, that‘s your right. That‘s what this is all about. I learned in my first race for mayor, and then every time after that—I hope to win, I expect to win, I do not expect to get 100 percent of the vote.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Senator John McCain said Iraq is improving earlier this week, after walking through a Baghdad market under heavy guard. But Iraqi merchants disputed his assessment and said they fear for their lives. What‘s really going on in Iraq? A great question. Bing West is the national correspondent for “The Atlantic” magazine. He says a second civil war is brewing over there right—in fact, it‘s taking place right now in Anbar province—you‘re looking at it right now—different from the one in Baghdad. He leaves tomorrow for his 13th trip to Iraq since the war began.
Bing, thank you for joining us. Let me ask you, when you think of the war in Iraq, tell us what it looks like in your mind. Who‘s fighting with who, and where?
BING WEST, “ATLANTIC MONTHLY”: Well, there are two different wars, Chris. The war in Baghdad is between the Shiite militia and the Sunni insurgents, and that‘s the war that‘s getting all the attention. But the real heartland of the insurgency, of the Sunni terrorists, is out in Anbar, to the west. And that‘s an area about the size of Utah. And out there, it‘s the Sunni tribes that are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, that are the extremists out there. So that‘s an entirely different war. There are two wars going on in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What do the Sunni tribesmen want? What‘s their ambition in this war?
WEST: Well, the Sunni tribesmen at first were just trying to stay out of it and said, Fine, if the insurgents want to fight, that‘s fine. But then gradually, al Qaeda became more and more powerful, began to take a larger cut of all the economics. They were hijacking people. They were stopping trucks. They were diverting fuel to Jordan and getting more money. Then when the sheikhs began to say something, they simply popped them. They killed them. So at some particular point over the last year or two, they just went too far with these tribes. They‘re...
MATTHEWS: It sounds like the bad old IRA to me.
WEST: More than one. There are about 25 of them, and they...
WEST: ... the tribes, and they basically said, We‘re going to fight back.
WEST: So now the al Qaeda terrorists have to take on these tribes, and that‘s going to be tough for them.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do we play a role in this? Americans—we‘ve got 150,000 troops over there, more or less with this surge, or after it even, and can we settle that fight between al Qaeda and the Sunni tribesmen you describe in Anbar?
MATTHEWS: Can we win that fight for ourselves by pacifying that war or not?
WEST: Absolutely not. The only way that that war is going to be won
be out there is when the tribes take control, city by city and town by
town, very much like the old West, with Tombstone, when you get the tough
gunslinger who can finally become the sheriff. That‘s what‘s going to
happen out in Anbar, and it‘s not going to be the Americans. The Americans
the Marines are very glad that they can begin to stand back and let the tribes and let the Iraqi soldiers take the fight. So they—they—the Marines like this development, that the tribes have turned against al Qaeda in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Two things surprise me, and that is the lack of surprise on the part of this administration. We know from history, everyone with any knowledge of the world we live in, that countries don‘t like to be invaded. Eventually, there‘s a resistance, an insurgency, if you will, and to defeat that insurgency is a dirty business involving interrogation and spies and torture sometimes. So it‘s a rotten business, but we knew that going in.
And we also knew there‘d been 1,300 years of warfare, either cold or hot, between the Sunni and the Shiite groups. Why didn‘t we see all of this coming with just a little bit of expertise?
WEST: Chris, if I could, answer that, you know, I‘d be the director of CIA or something. I mean, I...
MATTHEWS: But is there any way—is there any—let me put it to you more bluntly.
MATTHEWS: Is there any justification for not knowing that these
obvious things are obviously going to happen, and if we decide to go into
that country and occupy it for X many years—now it‘s four years so far -
we should have known that. The president should have known it and acted accordingly.
WEST: I believe that the military and the intelligence agencies should have been much more blunt with the president four years ago. That having been said...
MATTHEWS: Were they afraid of him? Was George Tenet too loyal, too much of a family retainer to give the president the facts?
WEST: My view is that we had an intelligence community that was so focused on quantitative bean counting and technical things that they overlooked the cultural dimensions of Middle East. And General Zinni had it right in saying, You should pay much more attention to the cultural than you are. So I think it was—trained analytic incompetence had a lot to do this.
MATTHEWS: Was Tenet intimidated by a president who didn‘t want to hear the truth?
WEST: I certainly can‘t answer a question like that.
WEST: I have no—no inside knowledge in that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a question that lingers because he‘s book‘s coming out. He‘s a bright guy. Everybody likes George Tenet. But the question is, Was he under so much pressure from the boss that he couldn‘t challenge him, that he couldn‘t say, Mr. President, the history of that part of the world is hell, you could win there, you end up being the enemy, you get killed. You end up being the bad guy because you have to put people under control. You‘re going to have all this stuff like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo because it comes with the French and the English experiences when they tried to do it.
WEST: But look—OK, but that‘s coulda-shoulda-woulda—yesterday. I can say, because I know the man, that General Petraeus gets it. And I can say that the president has listened to him. So today, I think Petraeus knows what he‘s doing.
MATTHEWS: Can he win with his surge, based upon your reporting?
WEST: No, not with the surge. All he can hope with the surge is to bring things to a certain level of normalcy, and then turn it over to the Iraqis, the way the Iraqi Study Group has recommended. I mean, what Secretary of State Baker, former secretary of state, said is still true, that gradually, we have to get our combat troops out, leave some intelligence troops and logistics and many more advisers behind. I think Secretary of State Baker is still onto something that is absolutely key.
MATTHEWS: Are the forces that we‘ve trained over there rugged enough, tough enough, ruthless enough to do the job?
WEST: If you look at what the tribes are doing out in Anbar, the ruthless part is beginning to emerge when they—when the al Qaeda in Iraq has to use chlorine bombs against them.
I will tell you how it is, Chris. At the battalion, the Iraqi battalion, level, the small level where you are down to 400 or 300 Iraqi soldiers, they are performing better and better. The problem is linking it all the way back to the ministries.
The real problem is the entire institution and bureaucracies, forgetting the logistics, et cetera. Is the fighting spirit there? I think you are seeing that emerging more and more. Is the—is the underpinning of having an institution there? Not yet. That is going to take a lot longer.
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s to stop that government from being undermined five minutes after we leave there, no matter what year it is? We leave in ‘09, we leave in—we leave in ‘012 -- or 2012 -- whenever we leave, the day after we leave, what‘s to stop a military coup?
WEST: Oh, well, what would be wrong with a military coup, if it‘s the right military guys who pull the coup?
MATTHEWS: Oh, you have...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re—you are a very practical American, aren‘t you? So, you don‘t buy this we are out there to spread democracy, are you?
WEST: I want to see enough stability, and I want to see the terrorists beaten. That‘s the number-one goal...
WEST: ... and then some stability in Iraq.
And—and you are beginning to see, with these Sunni tribes, that they have had it with being pushed around by al Qaeda in Iraq. And I think that is very positive.
And General Petraeus has promised that he is going to come back this summer and report to the White House and to Congress. And I think Petraeus is a pretty straight guy. I think, this summer, we will have a pretty—pretty good idea of how things are going.
MATTHEWS: Who are the outsiders in al Qaeda? We always try to—I always try to ask who our enemy over there—we‘re fighting the Sunni insurgents. We‘re fighting the Shiite militia. We‘re fighting on the side, perhaps implicitly, of those tribesmen on the Sunni side.
But who are these outside al Qaeda types? Who are they? Where did they come from?
WEST: First, there are not that many of them. There are probably only about 5 percent of al Qaeda in Iraq are really outsiders.
They are coming across the border from Syria. And they come across at the rate of about 60 -- 30 to 60 a month. So, if—if—if Mrs. Pelosi wanted to help things over there, she should have put this right in the lap of the Syrians...
WEST: ... and said...
WEST: ... knock it off. But these...
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
Let me ask you this question.
MATTHEWS: This is the last question.
The president says, and his people say, and the Republicans generally say, and the Democratic hawks say, if we don‘t fight them there, they will come and get us here. Who is “‘em,” apostrophe-E-M? Who are these “‘em” who are going to come and get us here if we get out of Iraq...
WEST: I got to tell you, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... from Iraq?
WEST: Chris, I—I have been out with 30 battalions, and I have watched these—I have watched these terrorists. If they could hit us, would they hit us? No doubt in my mind. We don‘t...
MATTHEWS: But are they coming here? Are they interested in America once we leave Iraq, or are they just interested in reclaiming their own piece of the action over there? Is that what they want?
WEST: Oh, I think—I think they have a degree of hatred that—that far exceeds what we are able to—to grasp.
I saw Zarqawi take over Fallujah in July of 2004. And, if he could take—if those extremists could take over another city, I have no doubt in my mind they would—they would spend nights trying to figure out: How can we hit America, or how can we hit Europe?
I mean, they are real haters.
MATTHEWS: So—so, they‘re...
WEST: They are real haters.
MATTHEWS: But are they—but they‘re not—they‘re not Iranian—
Iraqis, though. What are they?
WEST: Well, some of them—some of them would be. It‘s this—it‘s this tight little group.
MATTHEWS: Zarqawi came out of the—came out of the Palestinian refugee camps.
WEST: And right—correct. And, right now, it‘s an Egyptian who is in charge of al Qaeda in Iraq.
So, they will—they will migrate...
WEST: ... wherever they can find a home ground.
But—but I don‘t think the Congress or the president is going to give—give them a city anywhere in Iraq at any time from which to operate. I think that would be very foolish to do that.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Bing West.
WEST: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You sound like the voice of knowledge.
MATTHEWS: Up next: The Democratic presidential candidates rake in more than $30 million more than the Republicans -- $30 more million Democratic dollars than Republican. It used to be the party of rich. Remember the Democrats always said that? Well, they‘re—now they‘re the rich party. They are cashing in. What is going to be their advantage online, using the modern technology of politics?
You‘re watching HARDBALL. And that‘s coming right in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Big fund-raising bucks have been reported by many of the presidential hopefuls. And a good portion of it came from a relatively new source, the Internet. Barack Obama raised nearly $7 million from over 50,000 online donors. That‘s almost a quarter of his total take of $25 million.
Joe Trippi is a Democratic consultant who knows the ways of the Web, and how important this—you are really—I‘m sitting here, sir, with one of the pioneers.
MATTHEWS: Back in the Dean campaign, back in the Deaniac days, you said we could build campaigns today on the Internet, and you could raise volunteers, you could communicate with them, and you could raise money. And it is happening now.
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: It is happening.
MATTHEWS: You can beat the big old money people.
It‘s—and I think Obama really rocked a lot of people yesterday with that report, because the important thing is that 100,000 people that he has.
TRIPPI: It took the Dean campaign...
MATTHEWS: That‘s like—that‘s like three or four foot—baseball stadiums of people.
TRIPPI: It took us in the Dean campaign nine months to reach 100,000 contributors. So, he has done that in three.
And the more—the—the bigger problem for the Clinton campaign is, he can go back to every single—just about every single one of his contributors, and ask them again and again and again...
MATTHEWS: How does this automated thing work? Because I looked it up on the Web site the other day. Somebody told me about it here. And you look it up. There‘s like a page on the Web site where you can say, check me off. You check off that you want to, what, be dunned every month, or...
TRIPPI: Yes. Yes. You—it‘s a—it‘s a—you are basically a monthly contributor to the campaign...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what our parish priest wants us all to do.
MATTHEWS: They‘re into that now, too.
TRIPPI: We started that—Dean started that at the DNC...
TRIPPI: ... last cycle. And then—and now the Obama campaign and...
TRIPPI: ... up on it.
MATTHEWS: And these people are checking off this automated, take out my 50 bucks a month kind of thing?
TRIPPI: Yes. And the problem that Hillary has—and we saw this in 2004 -- is...
MATTHEWS: So, you have a monthly mortgage, and you have your monthly political contribution?
And the problem is, if you—if you—if you have built your campaign on maxed-out $2,000, $2,300 donors, you can‘t go back to them. They have maxed out. And Hillary has a lot of those.
MATTHEWS: OK. Can you beat the usual suspects, like Ellie Smeal there, and Anne Wexler, and Ann Lewis, and all the people that we have known in Democratic politics for 30 years? Can they be beaten? Can the establishment—and they‘re good people—can they be beaten by these irregulars like you...
TRIPPI: They are going to be beaten by them, because it‘s—it—there‘s too many people. You can‘t—you can‘t do it on a maxed-out base anymore, because you are going to run out.
In 2004, all the people that—all the candidates that were sitting there raising $2,300 a pop, you know, the big dinners...
TRIPPI: ... they declined every quarter. The campaign—the Dean campaign, we kept—we quadrupled how much we raised. And then we doubled how much we raised.
MATTHEWS: Is the old ethnic money—and it‘s always the ethnic groups that feel most endangered, the smaller ethnic groups—are they running out of zeal to give to candidates? Or are they divided on the issues?
MATTHEWS: Or is that money not there where it used to be?
TRIPPI: No, that—the—the problem is, that money is splitting up. It‘s with Barack Obama.
TRIPPI: It‘s with John Edwards. It‘s with Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is getting a lot of it.
But she—but when—when you put the two together, as both Obama have done, and I think John Edwards has done...
What is he going to do with all the money? What would a guy like Obama do...
TRIPPI: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... to convert money into being able to beat Hillary Clinton in the polls?
TRIPPI: I think you have enough money to do the early states. And you keep—you—what they‘re going to do...
MATTHEWS: What, advertising?
TRIPPI: Yes, with advertising.
But I think what they are going to do is hoard it, so that they can stay in for the distance.
TRIPPI: That‘s what...
MATTHEWS: One of the nice things—and I won‘t make a value judgment here—about Obama, Barack Obama, I don‘t know how he raised all the money, but I know that he has forsworn taking PAC money...
MATTHEWS: ... which is a good thing.
MATTHEWS: He‘s not taking money directly from people who are giving the money to get something done.
TRIPPI: Right. John Edwards has made that same—is doing the same thing.
MATTHEWS: But Hillary is taking PAC money?
TRIPPI: The Clinton campaign is not. She is taking it. That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: And how does she justify it?
TRIPPI: I don‘t know. That‘s where I think this thing is—the game is changing.
TRIPPI: The game is changing.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the Republican side. Let‘s be equal.
MATTHEWS: Mitt Romney has gotten a ton of money, more than anybody else, yet very few people know who he is.
Can he convert a zealous group of people—maybe LDS people, Mormon people, business connections—can he take a small cadre of people, maybe all the people maxed out, and convert that into popularity? It looks like he is doing well up there in New Hampshire already.
TRIPPI: Well, he is going to have to use—I mean, look, the—the thing that you want is the resources to get your message out there. He has got that. And now—and that means, yes, he can communicate in a way that helps build...
MATTHEWS: So, Barack Obama is taking massive popularity and converting it into money. This guy is going to take money and convert it into popularity?
TRIPPI: Into a message that he hopes turns into popularity.
MATTHEWS: We will see. Interesting. Money makes the world go around.
Thank you, Joe Trippi. You are the—you‘re the pioneer. You‘re Daniel Boone.
TRIPPI: There‘s still Daniel Boones out there; trust me.
MATTHEWS: As the money pours in for the Democrats, is the lust for change—I love that phrase, since I wrote it—the biggest reason they are doing so well? Are people just wanting change right now?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Rebecca Jarvis, with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending the shortened week on an up note—the markets will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day with a 30-point gain. And, for the week, the Dow is up more than 200 points. The S&P 500 gained more than four points today. And the Nasdaq was up more than 12.
DaimlerChrysler shares rose more than 5 percent today on news of a $4.5 billion cash offer for Chrysler. It came from billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian. He once offered $22.8 billion for Chrysler in an unsuccessful 1995 takeover bid.
And first-time jobless claims were up more than expected this week.
They jumped by 11,000.
And 30-year mortgages inched up this week to a nationwide average of 6.17 percent. However, rates remain near their low for the year.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The campaign cash has been counted, and the results tell us a lot about the strength of the parties, not just the candidates. And, today, in South Carolina, Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani condemned abortion personally, but defended a woman‘s ultimate right to have an abortion, a position that could cost him with those conservatives.
Joining me now to get it all are John Harwood, CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for “USA Today.”
Let‘s take a listen to Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I‘m against abortion. I hate it. I wish there never was an abortion. And I would counsel a woman to have an adoption, instead of an abortion.
But, ultimately, I believe it‘s an individual right and—of a woman
to make that choice. I also, on public funding, or funding of abortion, said I would want to see it decided on a state-by-state basis.
I tell people what I think. I tell them, evaluate me as I am, and do not expect that you‘re going to agree with me on everything. I don‘t agree with me on everything.
GIULIANI: So, I can‘t imagine you‘re going to agree with me on everything.
And I do follow the Ronald Reagan rule of 80-20. You know, if we‘re 80 percent friends, we‘re not 20 percent enemies.
Yes, there are differences. How big are the differences? And, if that‘s real important to you, if that‘s the most important thing, then I am comfortable with the fact you won‘t vote for me. I mean, that‘s your right. That‘s what this is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Harwood, is it possible that reasonable talk like that will work with all kinds of people? Or are we so polarized that you can‘t say what most people think, which is, they have got a moral problem with abortion—as a birth-control device, certainly—but they believe, in the end, after all the reflective consent or discussions, and after all the time limits and everything else, a woman has to make the ultimate decision?
That sounds like most people‘s opinion. Will it sell politically?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will sell some places, and it won‘t sell others.
But I think it fits Rudy Giuliani‘s strategy in a couple of ways. First of all, he is not likely to play in a big way in Iowa. He is going to play in New Hampshire. That—that rhetoric might go down OK in New Hampshire.
And, then, he is also looking beyond South Carolina, to those big early states, California, among them, where the pro-choice philosophy plays extremely well. The other thing—reason it...
MATTHEWS: Why would a voter trust Mitt Romney, who is on the record as recently as three years ago as pro-choice, who says he is not anymore, more than a guy who openly says, we disagree about the law, but we don‘t disagree about the morality issue?
It seems more—one seems a lot more authentic than the other.
HARWOOD: Well, that‘s exactly the next point I was going to get to, which is, Mitt Romney, who, of course, now is a bigger player than we thought in this race because of his financial success, Giuliani wants to make a strength contrast with Mitt Romney, and say: I‘m not somebody who flip-flops around, who tries to tell you exactly what you want to hear. I‘m strong.
He is going to invoke the 9/11 and the security issue. And he‘s going to rise or fall on that dimension, and not try to pander to people on the abortion issue.
MATTHEWS: Susan Page.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: You know, I—I disagree.
I think this is a—this is a big, big problem for Rudy Giuliani, to take this position, in places like Iowa and South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: But it‘s his—but it is his position.
PAGE: Well, it is his position. And so credit to him for being—for being candid.
MATTHEWS: Does he have any choice? Does he have any choice?
PAGE: Well, he could take the path that Romney has taken, which is to change positions. And a lot of...
MATTHEWS: What, somersaults?
PAGE: A lot of candidates have changed position as they have sought national office.
So, credit to Rudy Giuliani for saying what he‘s said before. But, when you go to places like South Carolina and Iowa, the Republican Party has very strong proportion of values voters. And this is the issue on which they vote.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this, because this is a numbers question.
If you campaign across the country, and you have the money to pay for your campaign, as Rudy says he does, can he get through these countries—come in—in the parts of the country where they are very passionate about the issue, come in second or third there, but then move on to Michigan, move on to California, to—to Texas, to Florida, to New York, to New Jersey, to Pennsylvania, where he can win big? Isn‘t the question, in a race where there‘s three or four strong candidates, of just trying to do your best where you can and fight it to the end?
PAGE: It‘s possible that works, especially with this big February 5th primary we‘re going to have with contests in California and New Jersey. But we don‘t have any history of that working for a candidate.
MATTHEWS: I know we don‘t. It used to be he die in the south. You used to die in the bible belt. Now you can—
PAGE: He has to do well in Iowa or New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: Sean, your assessment, looking at the map, can a candidate appeal around the country, do well some places, do better other places and end up on top on an issue as tricky as abortion rights?
HARWOOD: I think it‘s going to be really, really difficult. And I agree with Susan, it is a problem in Iowa and South Carolina, and this was a bold statement by Giuliani. My point is that it fits the strategy that he seems to be adopting. Rudy Giuliani is fundamentally out of step with Republican conservatives who are very important in the south. And so his candidacy is not going to rise or fall on South Carolina. He is looking before that and after that on the map.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk tactics, both of you. You first Susan. Just in general in politics, is it smart for him to come out and admit it? Bobby Kennedy used to say, “hang a lantern on your problem.” If you‘ve got a political problem, lay it out there, so the other guy can‘t come along—or other woman can‘t come along and say, hey, guess what, this guy is not with us on abortion.
PAGE: I think that‘s smart. And I think there‘s also some benefit to being yourself, being authentic.
MATTHEWS: Are people that generous, to say I disagree with the guy, but I respect him? Do people do that anyway more?
PAGE: Some people will on some issues. But to a certain proportion of the Republican primary vote, to which abortion is the number one—
MATTHEWS: Is a voting issue.
PAGE: Is their number one issue, is their defining issue, is the thing you have to get past before you can think about something else.
MATTHEWS: I think you are right. We will be right back with John Harwood and Susan Page. They‘re staying with us. Up next, President Bush gives a big Swift Boat donor a recess appointment, a gift, Belgium. He gets Belgium for kicking into the Swift Boat funds, 50,000 bucks gets you Belgium these days.
And later, retiring baby boomers be aware, satirist Christopher Buckley has a modest proposal for you and it ain‘t life. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with CNBC‘s John Harwood and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page. Well there‘s a hot issue out there right now. It‘s about the question of why this fellow, Sam Fox, got to be ambassador to Belgium, which, of course, is a perk you get from being close to the president. Well, of course, Sam Fox was the guy that put 50,000 bucks in the hands of those Swift Boat ad guys that trashed John Kerry during the last election. Here is Senator Kerry skewering this guy, Sam Fox, who just got this ambassadorship, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You did see fit to contribute a very significant amount of money in October to a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, correct?
SAM FOX, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BELGIUM: Correct.
KERRY: Why would you give that amount of dollars to a group that you have no sense of accountability for?
FOX: Well, because if 527s were banned, then it‘s banned for both parties. And so long as they are not banned—
KERRY: So two wrongs make a right?
FOX: Well, I don‘t know, but if one side is contributing, the other side—
KERRY: Is that your judgment? Is that your judgment that you would bring to the ambassadorship, that two wrongs make a right?
FOX: No, I didn‘t say that two wrongs made it right, sir.
KERRY: Why would you do it then?
FOX: I did it because politically it‘s necessary if the other side is doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He will make a great ambassador. Here is Vice President Cheney, by the way, talking about the recess appointment. This guy was just put in by recess appointment, which means no Senate confirmation of Swift Boat donors, Sam Fox. Here is Rush—on Rush, the vice president talking about that fellow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Sam well. He is a good friend of mine and has been for many years. I think he is a great appointment. He will go do a superb job as our ambassador to Belgium. I was delighted when the president made that appointment. He clearly has that authority under the constitution. And you‘re right, John Kerry basically shot it down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Susan Page?
PAGE: Well, you know, John Kerry really did skewer him in that hearing.
MATTHEWS: Who skewered first?
PAGE: Remember, the White House knew they were going to lose in committee. They pulled the nomination back. But Bush demonstrated yesterday that he retains, despite all his troubles in his second term, the power to do a lot of things, including making appointments like this. But what is the cost? What is the cost when he goes back and wants to make a deal on immigration, or wants to get this spending bill through? I think there is some cost here.
MATTHEWS: Is this, to use the street expression, screw you? Is that what he is saying to the Congress?
MATTHEWS: Let me go to John Harwood, perhaps for a more fashionable way of describing it. Isn‘t he basically putting his thumb in the eye of the senators and saying, look, this guy kicked in to basically trash the reputation of John Kerry, who fought in Vietnam and I didn‘t. But even though he did that and spent 50,000 bucks to put these ads on the air, I‘m going to make him ambassador to Belgium, just to show John Kerry what I think of him.
HARWOOD: There‘s no question about it, Chris. And this is something that‘s going to inflame the base on both sides. You had Cheney bragging about it with Rush Limbaugh today. Democrats are incensed. They think this was sort of a sneaky move. He hadn‘t foreshadowed it when he pulled the nomination. But, you know, I‘ve got a question that arises out of your earlier conversation with Daniel Boone Trippi there. If you are Barack Obama and you build your campaign on small donors, how do you figure out who to make ambassadors after that.
MATTHEWS: You are so wily. That is a problem, because—what I like about this, John, to continue in this same mood, is now we know what it costs for an ambassadorship to Belgium. Brussels costs 50 K. This is not new. And by the way, I am not pretending to be a virgin, Susan. I know that ambassadorships are bought and paid for. And the own only ones that you don‘t get are the ones that matter, the big ones, the tough ones, right?
HARWOOD: So could you get one for 100 bucks?
MATTHEWS: That would be an insult to the country we were about to name. But I think it would be spectacular career thing to do for a couple of years, represent this country. I guess I have to say, good for you Sam. But the fact is, you are getting it because you kicked into a sleazy campaign to destroy a soldier‘s reputation.
PAGE: What country would you take?
MATTHEWS: We were talking about that and I‘m not going to say, but I would like to represent America anywhere, any time, in any capacity. I love this country. And to be an ambassador, to stand before a third world country or a European country and say, I‘m here for America, is a great honor. And I have to say, in the spirit of generosity, congratulations Ambassador Fox. Anyway, thank you John Harwood. Thank you, Susan Page.
Up next, one of my great heroes, Christopher Buckley. He‘s coming here. He‘s got a new satire, which basically talks about saving the social security system by getting rid of the people who are on it. A little scary stuff coming here. A little bit of Logan‘s run from Chris Buckley, coming here in a moment.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. His last book, “Thank You For Smoking,” lampooned the lobbying world in Washington. It was turned into a movie, of course, starring Aaron Eckhart and Katie Holmes. His brand new satirical novel is called, “Boomsday.” Welcome Christopher Buckley.
Well, you know, there have been many solutions proposed to the social security problem. Some have said let people retire later, like 78, you now, which nobody wants to do. There has also been suggestions of doing means tested, that if you make big money, you‘re down at Boca Raton, you shouldn‘t get the full ticket, if any of it.
Lots of solutions. The solution you offer in this book is perhaps the most dramatic.
CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, AUTHOR, “BOOMSDAY”: Well, may I say, the solution the main character in the book offers—
MATTHEWS: Whom you created.
BUCKLEY: Whom I created.
MATTHEWS: And speak for here.
BUCKLEY: Yes, she—
BUCKLEY: Yes, but let me put a little distance. Her name is Cassandra. She‘s a 29-year-old Washington blogger.
MATTHEWS: Easy for her to say.
BUCKLEY: Indeed, harder for me to say, but she proposed taking a page from Jonathan Swift‘s modest proposal. She proposes that the time has come for the government—if the government is not going to do anything to address the Social Security crisis, then the government should incentivize Boomer suicide.
MATTHEWS: And what does that mean?
BUCKLEY: Well that means you get tax breaks for offing yourself. You get a nice tax package if you off yourself at age 65, slightly less at 70, and so forth. But you can‘t then decide at age 80 that you are not going to do it. There have to be substantial penalties for non-withdrawal.
MATTHEWS: And what would they be?
BUCKLEY: Well, that is left to the imagination.
MATTHEWS: What drove you? Because all satire has a point. “Thank You For Smoking” was about the insidiousness of these Washington lobbyists, who will do anything and enjoy it. That lunchtime scene, where you had the booze lobbyists, the gun lobbyists and the smoking lobbyists yucking it up, as to their most ridiculous claim or the day ever week, when they met together.
BUCKLEY: Who‘s product has killed more.
MATTHEWS: By the way that—
BUCKLEY: The so called Mod-Squad, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Merchants of Death. What do you make of this proposition? Because when you did it, you must have said, we‘re never going to solve this social security problem. There is going to be a pass through of money from working people in their 30‘s and 40‘s to people in their 60‘s, 70‘s, 80‘s and 90‘s. And that‘s just not going to change, so this book is going to say, the only thing that is ever going to work in this business is death?
BUCKLEY: Well, this book is an attempt to force discussion. In fact, here we are. It‘s—George Bush, back in the halcyon days of mission accomplished, gave a State of the Union Address, when he was going to reform Social Security. And he said, look, when social security started in the 1930‘s, there were 15 workers to support every retiree. It‘s now down to three and it will soon be 2. To quote Tom Friedman, some things are true even if George Bush says them. So it is a problem. I is a ticking demographic time bomb.
MATTHEWS: So the 30-year-old has to pay half his payroll tax, for working, goes to one other person, if you want to look at it that way.
BUCKLEY: Look at it that way.
MATTHEWS: And so basically, he‘s working all year so someone else doesn‘t have to work all year.
BUCKLEY: Exactly. I happen to have two children, so they are my workers, who will support this retiree.
MATTHEWS: Do they know that that‘s the deal, that you feed them until 20? The rest of their life, they work for you.
BUCKLEY: Will you still feed me, will you still need me, when I‘m 64?
MATTHEWS: Why did you decide on that traditional retirement age?
It‘s not anymore, age discrimination laws now, I must inform you, which will prevent anyone from doing this kind of mayhem here. But why did you decide that 65 would be, as you put it, the time to off yourself?
BUCKLEY: Well, obviously it‘s comic fiction. That is the plan that is proposed. Cassandra, my heroin, she proposes this on her blog knowing full well it‘s never going to happen. She calls it a meta-issue. It‘s a way, again, of forcing the discussion.
MATTHEWS: What‘s a meta-issue?
BUCKLEY: A meta issue is something that is not a concrete issue, but it is sort of a hyping of—
MATTHEWS: Like global warming, I mean something to talk about, but it‘s a true thing.
BUCKLEY: If you want to talk about inconvenient truths, this is certainly one of them, the social security crisis. In 2008, the first of the 77 million baby boomers are going to start to retire. This may be a problem greater than drowning polar bears. I have great sympathy for drowning polar bears.
MATTHEWS: So all the people born when their fathers got home from World War II, and they were produced as a result of that happy homecoming, those numbers are when it really blossomed. And thereafter, the number of people that are going to be retiring is going to be so much greater than the number of people working.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to face a crisis. Why did you pick a blogger as your protagonist?
BUCKLEY: Because I just love saying the word blogger.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean?
BUCKLEY: Well they are very of the moment. They are aux current. I reviewed Anna Nicole—I almost said Anna Nicole.
MATTHEWS: You know that name hasn‘t actually been ever spoken on this show before.
BUCKLEY: I almost said Anna Nicole Smith. I meant Anna Marie Cox, the famous blogger, who‘s now—
MATTHEWS: The Wonkette.
BUCKLEY: The Wonkette, and whose book I greatly admired and reviewed for the “New York Times.” But I‘m fascinated by this new breed. I don‘t know all that much about them.
MATTHEWS: They are called the Pajama-Hadeen, and the joke the other note—Tucker Carlson used it at a big dinner we went to. He said that they are home in their mother‘s basement. They are down there blogging in their mother‘s basement. So it has a generational snarl to it. They are caught up in their generational tude. They‘ve got to put shoes on and go out to work. Now they‘re going to come after me. You are great out there, anyway.
The book is about a hero blogger, Cassandra.
BUCKLEY: Heroin blogger, Cassandra Devine.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure we distinguish gender wise any more. Hero is like actor, I think. Anyway, Christopher Buckley has done it again. Good luck. Buy this book. You‘ll laugh your but off. Anyway, Christopher Buckley. The name of the “Boomsday.” Join me again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests will include the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Richard Land. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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