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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for May 9

Guests: Lt. Pete Hegseth, Jon Soltz, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Christopher Shays, Susan Molinari, Chuck Larson, Howard Wolfson, Clarence Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Money talks.  Democrats in Congress put President Bush on a war allowance—some now, some later if Iraq delivers.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome to HARDBALL.

The White House is gearing up for its second big battle over the war in Iraq.  Today, Vice President Cheney was greeted by bombs when he made an unannounced trip to Baghdad with a message to Maliki: Settle your country‘s sectarian and political differences, and do it fast.  This is game time.  That‘s what Cheney said.

On the domestic war front, President Bush said he would veto any stopgap bill from House Democrats that would only fund the war through the summer.  Later, a congressional debate over the Iraq funding bill here.

Plus, Senator Hillary Clinton has widened her lead over Barack Obama in a new “USA Today” Gallup poll.  We‘ll talk to her communications director, Howard Wolfson.

Also, there‘s a tough new TV ad out there now from an anti-war group that has retired generals targeting moderate Republicans on the war.  We‘ll show you a video in a moment.

But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on today‘s war news.


DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As Vice President Cheney arrived today in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders, a senior administration official called it “game time.”  It was an acknowledgment that what little support remains in America for the U.S. occupation is quickly running out.  Iraqi officials acknowledge sectarian violence is rising again.  Political reconciliation between warring factions is going nowhere, and yet the Iraqi parliament has decided to take a two-month recess.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I did make it clear that we believe it‘s very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain.

SHUSTER:  As it stands, most Americans are already opposed to keeping the war going.  A new “USA Today” Gallup poll shows that nearly 60 percent support setting a timetable for withdrawal and sticking to it regardless of what happens in Iraq.  And only 22 percent of Americans accept the administration‘s argument that withdrawing would increase the likelihood of new terror attacks in the United States.

Those numbers, combined with the president‘s approval rating, which according to “Newsweek” has now dipped to just 28 percent, have started breaking apart Republican unity on funding for the war.  One after another, top Republicans have declared the administration now has four months to show significant progress.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP:  And clearly, no one would expect us to pursue a plan that wasn‘t working, and so that September timeframe is one that‘s important, and we‘ve been talking about it as an important timeframe.

SHUSTER:  But the news from Iraq could move that up.  The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq has now risen to 3,381.  And then there is that issue of the Iraqi parliament taking a summer recess, despite no progress on sharing oil revenue or on rewriting the Iraqi constitution.  On Capitol Hill today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I‘ll be blunt.  I told some of the Iraqis with whom I met that we are buying them time for political reconciliation, and that every day we buy them, we buy it with American blood, and that for this group to go out for two months, it would, in my opinion, be unacceptable.

SHUSTER:  Democrats are coming together around legislation that would cut in half the money the administration says it needs to fund the war through September.  Half would be approved immediately.  The rest, $52 billion, would be contingent on a second vote in July following an administration progress report.  But the White House promises to veto the measure, declaring that in the midst of the surge, reviewing Iraq‘s progress two months from now is too soon.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It‘s a war.  And in a time—and it is something where progress is something that our people are devoted and dedicated to achieving, but it is not something that appears with a snap of a finger.

SHUSTER:  More than four years into the war, however, patience is running out as the impact is felt even in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kansas.  President Bush toured the area today, delicately sidestepping earlier comments from the Democratic governor that key National Guard equipment is not available for the clean-up because half of it is in Iraq.

(on camera):  From Baghdad, Vice President Cheney is headed to meetings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.  The vice president will consult with friendly Arab leaders and perhaps explain to them the political realities emerging here at home.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Let‘s bring two Iraq war veterans.  Jon Soltz supports troop withdrawal from Iraq.  He‘s a member of  They today launched an ad campaign in which three retired generals, two of whom were commanders in Iraq, directly take on President Bush personally.  We‘ll see that ad in just a second.  And Pete Hegseth, a former U.S.  National Guard, who opposes troop withdrawal.  He‘s a member of the Vets for Freedom.

Now let‘s watch that ad featuring retired major general, former Iraq commander, John Batiste.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have always said that I will listen to the requests of our commanders on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President.  You did not listen.  You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps.  I left the Army in protest in order to speak out.  Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril.  Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.  Senator Collins, protect America, not George Bush.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to ask Lieutenant Hegseth, what do you make of that?  The—one of the top commanders from Iraq is now criticizing the president for not listening to the troops over there.

LT. PETE HEGSETH, VETS FOR FREEDOM:  Well, I think that he makes a fair point that we‘re—I was up in that region he was in, north of Baghdad, and we did not have enough troops for quite some time.  But President Bush has listened and is listening, and he now has a general on the ground that has the right strategy, and he needs the time to see that strategy through.

And we cannot fight a war from the rearview mirror.  There were mistakes that were made, and there may have been someone at the top of the Pentagon that pushed back requests that generals made, but that does not change the fact that we now have the right strategy and the right general, and we need to pursue it aggressively.

MATTHEWS:  So you believe it‘s working, what we‘re doing over there right now?

HEGSETH:  Well, I think we‘re in the—heading in the right direction.  It‘s too early to tell.  And certainly, July, as the Democrats have proposed, is too early to determine whether or not a true counterinsurgency campaign...


HEGSETH:  ... can succeed...

MATTHEWS:  July is when they‘re talking about getting the second traunch of money approved, based upon the president certifying—well, he‘s certifying that the political process is over moving—is moving over there, that they are reconciling with each other, that they are dividing up the oil revenues, neither of which is likely to happen if they‘re on vacation over there.

Jon Soltz, what do you make of the fact that the Iraqi parliament is taking off, our guys are getting shot at over there and killed in some cases?

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Yes, sir.  I think it proves the point exactly.  I mean, as Secretary Gates said, we‘re buying the Iraqis time with blood from troops like myself and our other brave fighting men and women.  And it‘s an absolute sham for us to continue on this course, where the Iraqis are less committed to securing their country than we are.

The larger context on the war on terror—I mean, Votevets is the largest Iraq and Afghanistan organization that‘s a pro-troop, pro-military organization in the country.  And this is about Osama bin Laden.  This is about defeating al Qaeda.  And with 90 percent of our strategic assets fixed in Iraq, by us continuing to stay there in the manner we are, then we‘re giving al Qaeda exactly what they want, which is the inability of America to project force across the world.

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, let‘s listen to what the American people are saying right now.  When asked to do—what they think the United States, whether we made a mistake or not in sending troops to Iraq, it‘s now up to 58 percent of the Americans who said it was a mistake.  That number keeps growing, as we all know.

Let me go to Lieutenant Hegseth.  If that number keeps growing, as it seems to be growing relentlessly, of people who think Iraq was a mistake for us, how does that affect the war effort and continuing this effort to try to surge our way to stability over there?

HEGSETH:  Sure.  I think it‘s definitely going to undermine that effort, but I would come back with a statistic that came out of the same poll, that said that 55 percent of Americans would be ashamed if we were seen to have lost in Iraq.  And so I think the American people would like to see a strategy that‘s successful, and we finally have one.  We have a general that can implement it, enough troops to do it, and we‘re protecting troops into the population in Baghdad.  And we need—that general needs to be given the time to have that strategy work.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the charge within—the other statement within this poll, the other—the Gallup poll fact here, or finding—it‘s not a fact, it‘s a finding—that 22 percent believe that our forces in Iraq are preventing a terrorist attack here at home, which is a big part of what this administration argues, fight them there not here.  Only about 1 in 5 people accept that argument.  But then 17 percent disagree.  They think that having troops over there is causing more trouble, causing more attacks over here because it‘s driving up the enemy suicidal hatred of Americans?

HEGSETH:  Well, there‘s no doubt that al Qaeda has drawn the line in the sand in Iraq, and so regardless of those numbers, we are fighting al Qaeda there, whether we were in ‘03 or we weren‘t in ‘03.  They‘re there now.

MATTHEWS:  Are we encouraging recruitment of suicide terrorists by being in Arabia, holding territory in Arabia, occupying a country, or are we reducing the number of recruits of al Qaeda?

HEGSETH:  Sure.  With a certain potential—with a certain percentage, we are doing that.  But a successful strategy brings out the moderates and those that would support us.  And I think We finally have one that can do that.

MATTHEWS:  Are you impressed with the effort to create a stable democracy in Iraq?

HEGSETH:  I agree with John McCain that it has been terribly mismanaged from ‘03 to ‘06.  He‘s totally right on that.  But I am impressed with the changes that Petraeus has made, and I think projecting troops into the population gives us a chance.  I saw it in Samarra.  I saw it in Baghdad.  And I think we can do it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Jon Soltz on that.  You ran a pretty tough ad there, showing General Batiste basically going after President Bush.  How is that going over among vets?

SOLTZ:  I think it goes over great.  I mean, 72 percent of Iraq war veterans last year thought we needed to be out of Iraq, you know, within a year.  There‘s tremendous support out there and...

MATTHEWS:  You mean more than the average person, the non-military person?  We‘ve got a new poll that shows that only—that 6 in 10 people, a majority but not that much, support setting a timetable for withdrawal and sticking to it, regardless of what happens in Iraq.  And you‘re saying to me that you‘ve got 70 percent of actual vets who come back from the front who think we should get out.

SOLTZ:  Absolutely.  That‘s the Zogby poll from 2006.  I mean, not only are the vets on our side, but the American public‘s on our side and veterans across the country.  I mean, veterans—we want to—we want to protect America.  A lot of us joined not because of 9/11.  I happened to be in before that.  But this is about al Qaeda.  It‘s about 9/11.  We are attracting terrorists into Iraq.  I think the lieutenant misses the key point that this is a Shia-Sunni religious revival war that‘s happened inside of Iraq.  And al Qaeda‘s, you know, not really the al Qaeda that attacked us...


SOLTZ:  ... in this country.  They‘ve stolen the brand, and they‘ve flooded into the country to fight the Shia.  And Iran is stronger inside the region now, and we have an administration that‘s undermined our troops in the field...

MATTHEWS:  OK, respond to that, Lieutenant.


HEGSETH:  Chris, he doesn‘t speak for all vets.  And whether or not they‘ve rebranded themselves, this is a war of perception.  Al Qaeda has drawn the line in the sand in Iraq.  They‘ve said, We are al Qaeda in Iraq.  We‘re affiliated with Osama bin Laden.  And we‘re going to defeat the Americans, just like we defeated the Russians in Afghanistan.  This is going to be the second fall of a great empire.  And I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  Like the Russians were—do you think the Russians were smart to go into Afghanistan?

HEGSETH:  Well, that‘s a whole ‘nother question, and not one...

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not a whole other question!  Do you trust the leadership that took us into Iraq?  In other words, you know how they watch the movies commercials, “From the people who brought you,” and if you saw a movie you like, they‘ll get you to watch the new one.  Do you buy the good judgment of this administration in taking us into Iraq?  And if not, why do you trust their judgment now?

HEGSETH:  Well, I—I trust their judgment that they‘re...


HEGSETH:  ... honest people—now?  I—absolutely.  I think they‘ve changed course.

MATTHEWS:  Do you trust the judgment that took the American army into Arabia?

HEGSETH:  Yes.  That‘s where the—that‘s where the enemy is.  That‘s where...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!

HEGSETH:  ... the enemy continues to be.

MATTHEWS:  What enemy was it that we went into to fight?

HEGSETH:  Well, they made a mistake in linking al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein...

MATTHEWS:  No, why—was it good judgment...

HEGSETH:  ... too closely in ‘03.

MATTHEWS:  One simple question, which you‘re going to have to (INAUDIBLE) You‘re a veteran.  Every American has to deal with this question, as long as we all live.  Was it a good idea, good for America, to put the American Army into Iraq?  Yes or no.  Was that a good idea.

HEGSETH:  I think, if done correctly, it could be and would have been. 

And I think it still can be if...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  It happened.  Was it a good idea to do it? 

This is history, sir.  It happened.  Was it a good thing to do or not?

HEGSETH:  I think it was, but it was poorly managed.  And we need to -

and regardless whether it was or wasn‘t, at this point, we‘re there, and that question is over.  And the question that needs to be answered is, What are we going to do...

MATTHEWS:  No, the question...

HEGSETH:  ... to bring about a successful outcome in Iraq?

MATTHEWS:  The question continues, sir.  Otherwise, we‘ll never leave. 

The question is always there, whether we stay or how long we stay.


MATTHEWS:  I mean, you would say stay a year or two, right, or three or four, right?

HEGSETH:  I would say stay as long as it takes...

MATTHEWS:  Well, no, “as long as” doesn‘t work.  You got to come out with how long because the American people will keep our army...


MATTHEWS:  ... somewhere for a reasonable period of time.  If you say “as long as necessary,” that‘s like saying indefinitely.  Indefinitely is not going to sell.

HEGSETH:  I wouldn‘t say indefinitely because Jon is right, we‘re paying in American—in American blood.  But we...

MATTHEWS:  How about we stay there as long as they don‘t go on vacation over there?

HEGSETH:  Absolutely.  You‘re 100 percent right.

MATTHEWS:  I shouldn‘t be—I don‘t want to kid around war.  I‘m sorry I said.  You can‘t kid about these guys.  But boy, the PR, the public relations of that parliament, skipping town for two months when we say this is all about right now and the surge winning by September—well, there‘s only four months until September, and they‘re taking half that time off.  And we say we‘re staying there so they get their act together politically and start dividing up the oil revenues and dividing up the power.  How can they do that when they‘re on retreat?

HEGSETH:  No, that‘s pretty frustrating, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  We‘re all in the same boat, guys.  Thank you.  We are all in the same boat.  Thank you, sir.

HEGSETH:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mr. Soltz.  Thank you, Lieutenant Hegseth.

SOLTZ:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: House Democrats get ready to approve another Iraq war funding bill, but it‘s got strings attached which would withhold half the money until President Bush gives the certification that that government over there, which, by the way, is going on vacation, is doing its job.  That‘s going to be a hard thing to certify in July, since—let‘s see, June, July—that‘s two months they‘re off.  How can they get this job done by July?  Interesting conundrum here.

And later, top campaign advisers from the McCain, Giuliani and the Clinton campaigns all coming here to HARDBALL tonight.

You‘re watching it on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The House of Representatives is likely to vote tomorrow on a new Iraq war spending bill.  Democrats want to give President Bush about half the money he needs right now and make him certify political progress before he gets the second half.  They‘re putting him on an allowance, basically.  The White House is already threatening another veto if the Democrats do that.  But Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California is here to explain it.  She‘s on the Homeland Security Committee and Armed Services Committees, as well.  And the Republican congressman joining us is Chris Shays, a familiar face here.  He‘s from Connecticut.  He‘s on the Homeland Security and the Oversight committees.

Let me ask—Congresswoman Sanchez, you start and explain.  How does this fencing (ph), this allowance you‘re putting the president on, work?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, the biggest problem has been that our generals have said that, militarily, they‘re doing a good job.  And we know they‘re doing a good job.  The problem has been the economic construction or reconstruction of Iraq, which hasn‘t really happened, and also the political issues going on—for example, disarming the militia, voting for a new constitution, amending it, et cetera.  And those things which our president said back in January should be happening have really not happened.

So what we‘re trying to do is say, Listen, you‘ve got to push these politicians to do the right thing in Iraq.  You got to get things going.  It‘s not a military issue anymore, it‘s an issue of economic stability and also of political stability.  And unless you tell us that it‘s really happening, we‘re not going to give you any more money.  So this bill votes the money that he‘s asked for and more, and then gives him half of it and says, In July, you have to tell us what‘s really happening.  And if it‘s not, then you‘re not getting any more.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Shays, how can the government over there make these political steps, this progress, between now and July if the parliament‘s taking off the next two months?  That takes you right to July.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS ®, CONNECTICUT:  Well, it can (ph).  And I had a conversation with the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N.  He called me up and said he‘d read what I‘d said on the wires at 4:00 in the morning, was talking (INAUDIBLE) and told me that he thinks it‘s outrageous if they do and that his understanding is they won‘t.  But then I heard from Darrell Issa, that said when he was there this last weekend, he‘s told other people they will.  So if they take a two-week—two-month vacation, it will be very, very destructive.

But let me just say this funding bill is crazy because we‘re only going to succeed, as we all agree, if it‘s all three parts, military, economic, and political.  And if you start to take one part away, the economic part, then we just undermine the other parts, and our military, as well.

I think what‘s going to ultimately happen is Reid is going to decide to take up a bill and fund for the rest of this year, the fiscal year, until the end of September, and I think that‘s about as sensible as he can do at the moment.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Sanchez, what‘s wrong with funding through the end of the fiscal year?  That would get you to the end of the surge test, you know, where everyone‘s sort of agreeing that we will know by September whether the surge is working.

SANCHEZ:  No, no, no.  Chris, let‘s go back.  Petraeus originally said that it would be the middle of the summer.  That‘s not September.  Now he‘s changed through September.  Now the Republicans are talk about September. 

But, today, the Pentagon said 35,000 more troops to be—put them on call, ready to go for the next year. 

And, so, what that‘s saying is, it‘s no longer a surge.  It‘s an escalation of the war.  A surge, by definition, goes up, and it comes down.  This is not what the Pentagon noticed today to their own troops.  They‘re escalating the war.  And this is the reason why we need to say, look, no political solution to this, no more troops going in.

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with Congresswoman Sanchez and Congressman Shays. 

And later, Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson is coming here. 

And, this Sunday, on NBC‘s “Meet the Press,” an exclusive interview with Republican presidential candidate—there he is—John McCain. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California and Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut.

Congressman Shays, you start this time. 

What happens if General Petraeus says, in September, when we get through this round of fighting in Iraq, he wants another six months? 

Because generals never give up.  They know can-do is the spirit, gung-ho, we can win, Geronimo.  I have never heard a general say, “Can‘t win this one, Mr. President.”

Suppose he comes back and says, “I just need six more months.”  When will you pull the string on the guy and say, you have done your duty; mission accomplished; we‘re getting out of there?

SHAYS:  Well, I mean, the whole issue is, he needs to tell us if this surge is working.  If the surge is working, then we shouldn‘t stop it.  If it‘s not working, we should stop it.

So, I mean, I have never believed that we‘re...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he might say it‘s not working?

SHAYS:  You know, absolutely.

Let me just tell you about Petraeus.  I mean, we all wanted him.  He has—he didn‘t design this war.  He didn‘t make all the early mistakes.  He‘s not tied to the past.  He‘s got his own reputation.  And he‘s a man of tremendous integrity.

And I realize generals want to complete their mission.  But he‘s going to give us an honest assessment.  And he‘s going to put it on our laps to decide what to do.

I just hope that it‘s not in the gray area.  I hope we know, one way or the other, how it‘s going, and, you know...

MATTHEWS:  How do you know that he has stopped the 1,300-year-old civil war between Sunni and Shia?

SHAYS:  Well, first off, I—I dispute the 1,300 civil war with the Shia and Sunni.  They‘re not fighting everywhere.  They‘re fighting some places. 

The key is, can we take back Baghdad and show that we can have folks live together and keep the peace somewhat?  We don‘t have to keep it perfectly.

The key is to enable the Iraqis to take our place, and know that we have replaced their army, their police, and their border patrol.

Bottom line, though, Petraeus will give us an honest answer.  And I will give an honest answer to my constituents.  And, if it‘s failing, plan B is to take the perimeter.  And, if that fails, then we‘re out of there.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Congresswoman Sanchez.

Do you believe—do you go along with the Hillary Clinton idea of pulling back and having, like, a residual force in Iraq that stays there indefinitely?

SANCHEZ:  Well, I would just say that we‘re in the middle.  Our troops are in the middle of everything happening.  And it‘s not just al Qaeda.  It‘s separatists in there.  It‘s a civil war.  It‘s a religious war.  You don‘t know who your friends are and who your enemies are.  Every time you go out, it‘s really, you know, demoralizing and really wreak havoc on our...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but I didn‘t ask you that.  I asked you, do you go along with...

SANCHEZ:  ... on our people.

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t ask you that.  I asked you, do you go along with Hillary Clinton?

SANCHEZ:  We need to get our troops...

MATTHEWS:  No.  Do you go along with Hillary Clinton?

SANCHEZ:  We need to get our troops out of the way.

MATTHEWS:  Do you go along with Hillary Clinton‘s...


SANCHEZ:  So, we need to get our troops out of the way.

MATTHEWS:  Do you go along with Hillary Clinton‘s plan for a residual military force in Iraq indefinitely?

SANCHEZ:  Well, no, I would not agree with that.  I think we need to move our troops out and put them in the perimeter of Iraq and let people inside decide whether they want to have a real country or not.

MATTHEWS:  So, you would take the troops out of Iraq?

SANCHEZ:  That‘s correct.  I would.

MATTHEWS:  Because Hillary doesn‘t agree with that.  She wants to keep a residual force there, perhaps up to—who knows how many?  Half that many we have there now.  And you don‘t like that idea.

SANCHEZ:  Well, before we did the surge they were killing our troops. 

Now we have done the surge.  They‘re killing our troops.

I mean, when is it going to end?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s always a good question.

Thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut—Loretta Sanchez, of course, from California.

Up next:  How important is abortion rights in the fight for the Republican nomination?  Rudolph Giuliani adviser Susan Molinari is coming here.  And McCain adviser Chuck Larson is coming here.  They both will be here—and, later, Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

As expected, Fed Reserve policy-makers left interest rates unchanged for a seventh straight meeting.  The Fed also signaled it‘s not likely to change rates any time soon.

With that, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at a new record high of 13362, after gaining 54 points.  The S&P 500 gained almost five.  And the Nasdaq gained 4.5 points.

Gasoline inventories rose for the first time in three months, which could ease pressure on gas prices.  Oil inventories also rose.  And that pushed oil prices down 71 cents in New York trading, crude closing at $61.55 a barrel.

And a major homebuilder says the housing downturn is getting worse, luxury builder Toll Brothers reporting second-quarter earnings will be down 19 percent over last year—the company also telling Wall Street it may not meet earnings projections. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

At the Reagan Library debate last week, Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani‘s response to a question about Roe v. Wade has echoed the longest and the loudest. 

Here it is. 


MATTHEWS:  Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for America?


MATTHEWS:  OK to repeal?

GIULIANI:  It would be OK to repeal.  It would be also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent.  And I think a judge has to make that decision.

MATTHEWS:  Would it be OK if they didn‘t repeal it?

GIULIANI:  I think that—I think the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it.  We‘re a federalist system of government, and states can make their own decisions.


MATTHEWS:  Senator John McCain, also running for the Republican nomination, talked about the difficulty a pro-choice candidate, like Rudy Giuliani, would have winning his party‘s vote. 

McCain told the Associated Press—quote—“I think it‘s one of the fundamental principles of a conservative to have respect and commitment to the dignity of human life, both the born and unborn.  It makes it tough, because the Republican Party is basically composed, to a significant degree, by people who are pro-life, just as the Democratic Party has pro-choice candidates.”

How important will this issue be to Republicans?

I‘m joined now by Susan Molinari of the Giuliani campaign and Chuck Larson of the McCain campaign. 

Is your candidate going to continue to make this an issue?

CHUCK LARSON, SENIOR MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, I think it is an issue, simply because, in Iowa, 70 percent of the caucus-goers are pro-life.  And they describe that as the top issue for them into determining who they are going to support.

So, I think it‘s going to be a challenge for folks that have held that as a core value of theirs to simply set it aside, after 25 years, and say that that‘s no longer an important issue to me. 

That‘s the challenge I think the mayor faces in Iowa. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan? 

SUSAN MOLINARI, SENIOR GIULIANI CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, I don‘t think anybody‘s asking them to set aside their core issues. 

I think what—what polling has shown us and what people are responding to is that Rudolph Giuliani, while he disagrees with them on a very important principle, also has led the city of New York from one that was rotting to the core to one that has rebounded by using very conservative principles on cutting taxes, on welfare reform, on tough laws, and dramatic reductions in crime.

He is someone who showed amazing leadership and comforted this country through 9/11.  So, the fact that he disagrees on this issue, which is a core issue, I think still gives him an amazing, historic opportunity to win this primary. 


MATTHEWS:  What percentage of Republicans—generally, including suburban Republicans where I grew up, suburbs of Philadelphia, suburbs of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, what percentage of Republicans, people who—not people—activists, but who vote Republican, are pro-choice or pro-life?


MATTHEWS:  About half and half? 

LARSON:  The most recent numbers I have seen for Iowa...

MATTHEWS:  No, no, I don‘t want to hear about—I know, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa.

LARSON:  No.  I would say...

MATTHEWS:  Nationwide.

LARSON:  I would say it‘s higher than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Higher than 50/50?

LARSON:  I think, without doubt, the Republican Party of Iowa is a pro-life party.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘m asking—I know you‘re working in Iowa.


MATTHEWS:  But I‘m asking nationally. 

MOLINARI:  You know, and I—but let‘s just say—a “USA Today”/Gallup poll came out, still has Mayor Giuliani 14 points ahead among Republican primary voters.  So, again, I...


MOLINARI:  No one is saying this isn‘t an important issue, but...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look of how this issue has been—been hounding him. 

Here is Rudy Giuliani yesterday on Laura Ingraham‘s radio show.  Let‘s listen. 


LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  On the issue of abortion, when you say you hate it, and then it comes out that you actually donated money to Planned Parenthood, several different donations, I think, totaling—I don‘t know—was it 900 -- $900, something like that, why would donate to something like Planned Parenthood, that makes hundreds of millions of dollars off the procedure that you say you hate? 

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  Because Planned Parenthood makes information available.  It‘s consistent with my position.  I disagree with it.  I think it‘s wrong.  I think there should be a choice. 

If there is going to be a choice, there are organizations that are going to give people information about that choice.  I just as strongly support the idea that a woman should have information about adoption at that time. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that straight talk?

MOLINARI:  It is straight talk.  Look...

MATTHEWS:  I thought Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice. 

MOLINARI:  Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice.  And he has sad consistently...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why he gave to Planned Parenthood.

MOLINARI:  ... he‘s pro-choice.  But he‘s also given to adoption programs and Hale House and a whole host of other programs.  And while he was...


MATTHEWS:  But why Planned Parenthood, which is identified as an abortion-rights organization? 


MOLINARI:  Well, it also does—it provides information on how not to get pregnant and provides adoption...


MATTHEWS:  I agree with all that.  I know all this stuff.

MOLINARI:  And Rudolph Giuliani...


MATTHEWS:  But, when you say you give money to Planned Parenthood, it‘s perceived as a donation to the pro-choice point of view. 

MOLINARI:  You know, Rudolph Giuliani is pro-choice.  He‘s never said he‘s anything but pro-choice.

But, again, this is—but he gives money to other organizations.  And, by the way, when Rudolph Giuliani was mayor—you heard these numbers at the debate. 


MOLINARI:  Adoptions went up, and—and abortions went down.  So, what he did when he was in charge was to enforce values that we all agree with as Americans.  Maybe we should spend some time talking about that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Senator McCain, who is on this show all the time, and is welcome as hell all the time, comes on this show, generally, and has, in the past, said, he doesn‘t want to change the law.  He doesn‘t want to outlaw Roe—repeal Roe v. Wade. 

Now he‘s for repealing Roe v. Wade.

LARSON:  No, that‘s...


LARSON:  No, that‘s not—no, that‘s not true whatsoever.  He has consistently supported the repeal of Roe v. Wade. 

MATTHEWS:  He has? 

LARSON:  Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  He never talked about it. 

LARSON:  He has a 24-year pro-life voting record. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t talk about it.

LARSON:  Absolutely, he has.

MATTHEWS:  He does?

LARSON:  He‘s a states-rights activist, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, of all the times he‘s been on this show, I have—I don‘t think he‘s ever brought the issue up.

LARSON:  No, no.  Absolutely, he is...


MATTHEWS:  He‘s brought it up?

LARSON:  I don‘t know whether he‘s brought it up on your show or not. 

I try to watch as often as I can. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but I don‘t think he does bring it up.  It‘s not an issue he has ever run on. 

LARSON:  But he has consistently said he supports repealing Roe v.


MATTHEWS:  He‘s never run on that issue.

LARSON:  Well, he has a 24-year pro-life voting record.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just wondering why, all of a sudden, Senator McCain, who talks about security concerns of this country and winning the war in Iraq, all of a sudden, is talking about abortion.  He never did before.

LARSON:  What I would encourage you to do is look at his voting record.  He has a 24-year pro-life voting record.  That‘s where the rubber hits the road.  And he‘s been very, very consistent.

MATTHEWS:  But so did Ronald Reagan, but he never did anything about abortion rights. 

LARSON:  Well, Senator McCain has been there.  He‘s been a strong supporter of the life position.

MATTHEWS:  You think Ronald Reagan ever did anything about abortion rights? 

LARSON:  I know, as president, he did.

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

LARSON:  Oh, absolutely.  He changed the funding at the federal level, also stopped abortions in military hospitals.  That‘s very important. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  But he never tried to outlaw abortion. 

LARSON:  Well, the most important thing we can do...

MATTHEWS:  He just didn‘t.

LARSON:  ... is make a change on the court. 

MATTHEWS:  Neither did McCain.

LARSON:  We can appoint strict constructionist justices.  And Senator McCain has a great record of helping confirm...


LARSON:  ... two of our court‘s most...

MOLINARI:  As a matter of fact, both of our candidates agree on that. 

I think all the Republican candidates agree that strict constructionist judges are the way to go, and share those values.

MATTHEWS:  Whatever—well, then you‘re waffling, too, because...

MOLINARI:  No, not at all.

MATTHEWS:  ... because you believe—you‘re pro-choice. 

MOLINARI:  Strict constructionist judges...

MATTHEWS:  Do you want a judge—do you want judges to come in and repeal Roe v. Wade or not? 

MOLINARI:  You know, this is—this is what you tried to get Rudy on very well. 

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t try.  I asked him a question. 


MATTHEWS:  I was surprised he wasn‘t prepared.

MOLINARI:  Rudolph Giuliani believes very strongly in the Constitution and appointing judges who, in fact, interpret the Constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MOLINARI:  A little hard to answer in a 30-second... 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s input.  What about output?  Does he want it repealed or not? 

MOLINARI:  What he said is, you know, that, if you believe in the Constitution, how the judges determine it is the way this nation should go, good day, bad day, the right day.  That‘s all Mayor Giuliani said. 

And that‘s very consistent with what he said and what I believe a lot of Republican conservatives believe. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you can leave it up to the courts.  But, eventually, if the courts find the other way, you have to decide whether you want to repeal the Constitution or not. 

MOLINARI:  And then the states...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not for repealing the Constitution, is he? 


MOLINARI:  He‘s for however the judges, in their judicial...


MOLINARI:  ... determine that.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  He‘s not for—your guy is for repealing the Constitution.

LARSON:  Absolutely.  He believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he has a very clear-cut...


MATTHEWS:  ... pro-life position?

LARSON:  And he has a...

MATTHEWS:  And he would repeal it, if he had to?

LARSON:  Absolutely.

MOLINARI:  Right. 

And Mayor Giuliani is based on constructionist judges and interpretations of the...

MATTHEWS:  But not on repealing the law?

MOLINARI:  It is the interpretation of the Constitution..


MOLINARI:  ... based on...


MOLINARI:  ... jurisprudence.  I mean, I don‘t understand why that is something that somebody who believes in the Constitution and strict constructionist judges would determine. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, McCain brought it up.  Laura Ingraham brought it up. 

I didn‘t bring it up, but I follow the news. 

This is in the news now, this debate.

MOLINARI:  So I guess the question is if strict constructionist judges determine that Roe v. Wade should stay in place, what do those candidates say should happen? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Roberts may be with you and Alito may be against you.  What people have a right to do is ask politicians where they stand if they‘re running for president, because the president has a role in our constitution as much as the judges do.  

MOLINARI:  Sometimes it takes the time to answer the question. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what, he knew it was coming.  Anyway, Susan Molinari, Chuck Larson.  I can‘t hand out previews of coming attractions.  Any way, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson is coming here. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As you know we keep tabs on HARDBALL on all the big presidential polls every day of the week.  The latest “USA Today”/Gallop poll shows that after the first Democratic debate a couple weeks ago, Hillary Clinton has widened her lead over Barack Obama.  The poll has Hillary increasing her lead over Obama from five points—look at it there at 31 to 26 -- to now 15 points, 38 to 23, a 15 point lead now for Hillary Clinton in the Gallop poll. 

We‘ll keep looking at all the polls, which has got Howard Wolfson smiling up there in New York.  Because 15 points is enough to win a game in any sport.  Howard, you know, I‘ve been watching this campaign.  That‘s what I do here at HARDBALL, as you do.  I don‘t have the Republican race figured out at all yet.  I think that‘s really up for grabs.  But it really looks like Mrs. Senator Clinton is really getting hold of that lead on the Democratic side. 

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  We had four really good polls this week, Marist, then Gallup, and CNN and Rasmussen.  And they all showed her lead increasing up to about 15 points.  I think the debate had a real impact on this race.  There were only approximately two million people who watched it, but I think they were all primary voters and they all told their friends about it, and they read about it the next day. 

I think people looked at that debate and they saw that there was one candidate on the stage who was ready to lead on day one.  You know, we face huge problems, huge challenges as a country, huge challenges at home and abroad.  People are looking for the candidate with the right kind of experience to step in, the right kind of strength, and the ability to get things done. 

I think People took a look at all the candidates up on the stage.  It‘s a good field.  There are good people running.  But they came away with a strong impression that there was one candidate who was ready to lead. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what many people think was her brief—not brief, but her shining moment at the debate. 


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Having been a senator during 9/11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack and the impact that it has far beyond those who are directly affected.  I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate.  If we are attacked and we can determine who is behind that attack, and if there were nations that supported or gave material aid to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond. 

Now, that doesn‘t mean we go looking for other fights.  You know, I supported President Bush when he went after al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.  And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decision that I would have made had I been president because we still haven‘t found bin Laden.  So let‘s focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can to destroy them. 


MATTHEWS:  Why do you think that went over so well?  I think it‘s an objective statement that that response—it was so comprehensive.  It was strong, but it was, as she said, prudent.  But it did involve retaliation.  It wasn‘t just defending a city, in terms of playing defense.  But it was a strong offensive attitude.  Why do you think that went over so well with the viewers? 

WOLFSON:  I think it‘s a serious presidential answer.  It‘s the kind of answer that you would want a president to give.  We face threats in this world.  And there may be a time where a president gets woken up at 2:00 in the morning and has 15 minutes or half an hour or ten minutes to respond to a serious threat, to an attack on our country.  We want somebody in that position who knows that we should use our force, when to use it, and use it prudently, as she said.  She was the one who gave that answer.  It was the right answer, a serious presidential kind of answer. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the distinction between her and the man who‘s coming in second, Senator Barack Obama?  What‘s the difference between the two of them, as you see it, on Iraq? 

WOLFSON:  Well, since they‘ve been in the Senate, they‘ve essentially voted the same way.  There was one issue where they voted differently.  Senator Clinton voted against a nomination.  But other than that they have voted the same why since they‘ve been in the senate.  I think though where people are looking is what are you going to do going forward.  What are you going to do to get us out of this mess?

MATTHEWS:  How are they different going forward? 

WOLFSON:  Well, I‘ll let Senator Obama and his campaign speak for themselves.  I‘m not going to run them down or disparage them in any way.  I can just say that I think people know what Senator Clinton stands for.  They know that she‘s got the strength and the experience to lead us out of Iraq, as she says, you know, she‘s going to do everything she can in the Senate to do everything we can to get the president to change his course.  But if she doesn‘t end this war, she will.  I think people have the real sense that she has the strength, and the ability, and the experience to do just that if she becomes president. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s nail this down.  And you do it in your words, because you‘re our guest, Howard.  Lead us out of Iraq.  She‘s spoken to the “New York Times” about a residual military force after this near future period, leaving behind a residual military force in Iraq of U.S. forces.  Flesh that out. 

WOLFSON:  Well, she has talked about a residual capacity in the region. 

MATTHEWS:  No, in the country of Iraq, she said. 

WOLFSON:  Yes, to respond to, for instance, al-Qaeda, to make sure that al-Qaeda does not gain the kind of strong foothold they‘re going forward that they had in Afghanistan, and essentially turn that country into a launching pad for attacks on this country.  And that‘s the kind of, I think, a reasonable response that she supports.  It‘s actually the kind of reasonable response that most Democrats support. 

Most Democrats understand—it‘s in the Senate bill and the House bill.  Most Democrats understand—

MATTHEWS:  I understand.  I‘m just trying to get your point of view. 

She‘s not for a permanent military base in Iraq; is that correct? 

WOLFSON:  That is correct. 

MATTHEWS:  But she‘s there.  Does she want a sizable force?  I‘ve heard the number 70,000. 

WOLFSON:  Yes, that was a number that a pundit used.  She has not given number, because she doesn‘t think, as president, it would be prudent to give a number.  She doesn‘t know what conditions we‘re going to face when she becomes president.  But she believes that we do need to have a capacity to deal with these threats.  And I think the American people understand that. 

MATTHEWS:  But not completely?

WOLFSON:  Well, not in a way that would allow al Qaeda to essentially turn Iraq into another Afghanistan.  So we‘re talking about a small residual force.  I can‘t give you a number.  It is not going to be a large force.

MATTHEWS:  Because you know why I‘m asking this.  There‘s a tremendous suspicion in the Middle East that no matter what we say, we‘re looking for permanent military bases there, whether to protect oil, protect Israel.  They fear some sort of neo colonial presence in their countries permanently.  And this is an historic concern by all Arab and Islamic people, that the west always wants to come back east of Suez and get a foothold again. 

WOLFSON:  I think you raise an important point.  I think you raise a very large point about the fact that this administration has lost credibility around the globe.  George Bush and his administration cannot go to foreign countries and get them to be on our side, to get them to work with us to do the kind of things that we all know need to be done.  Hillary Clinton will start from strength in that regard.  She has been to these countries.  She has talked to these leaders.  She was really America‘s face around the world during the 1990s.  So she will come in with a great deal of credibility to make the kind of changes that need to be made. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard, you‘re so far ahead in all the polls now, Senator Clinton, and your forces are so successful.  You guys are so smart and so brilliant.  Why don‘t you take the summer off? 

WOLFSON:  You‘re setting me up, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Take the summer off so these other guys can catch up and make it more interesting come Labor Day.  What do you think of that deal? 

WOLFSON:  We‘ve had a good couple of weeks.  I think the debate was a major moment in this campaign.  I think there was some real movement toward Senator Clinton after the debate.  But this is going to be a long race.  It is going to be a tough race.  There are good people in this race.  This is a good field of people.  We don‘t take anything for granted.  We‘re not taking any time off. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you‘re not the tortoise, you‘re the hare? 

WOLFSON:  We‘re running a marathon like it‘s a sprint. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got it all down now, don‘t you Howard.  Thank you. 

Come down to Washington.  We‘ll be waiting to hear you.  We want to get you in this seat the next time.  Thank you very much Howard Wolfson, communications director for the Senator Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. 

Up next, the Gallop poll has Rudy Giuliani with a double digit lead now, but will a fight over abortion rights hurt him?  The “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page is coming here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Clarence Page is a columnist for the “Chicago Tribune.”  Let‘s start with the easy one, abortion rights. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m just being sarcastic.  Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York, is from a city that is pro-choice.  He is pro- choice.  Everybody who has followed his career knows he is.  And now he has to explain some new dispensation, some new Rudy.  Shouldn‘t he just say I am pro-choice and leave it at that? 

PAGE:  Well, he‘s obviously pro-choice.  There‘s no question about it. 

I think his big problem would be if here were perceived as a flip-flopper.  So that‘s why he‘s got to stay pro choice, but also pointing out that he‘s not pro-abortion, put it that way.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an easy one.  But how does he get around the problem of presidents appoint Supreme Court justices?  And it‘s not just that he‘s pro-choice, he would be asked by the conservative right, are you going to name pro-choice judges.  And now he is saying that I‘ll appoint strict constructionists, usually meaning pro life judges, because they wouldn‘t have thought up Roe v. Wade. 

PAGE:  Well, ask any law professor—Ask any law professor, Chris, and they will tell you that constructionist is one of the most elastic words when it comes to defining.  He‘s going to say that.  But I think strategically Giuliani‘s best shot is to—is triangulation.  In other words, the rest of the candidates are turning rapidly anti-choice, so if he can keep them evenly divided and slip through those most conservative states in the primaries, then he has a great shot, because he‘s got more independent voters who are stepping in to help them out. 

MATTHEWS:  The big states, like California, New York and Florida, where there‘s a lot of pro-choice Republicans, despite what this fellow said a few minutes ago, because Iowa is different. 

PAGE:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this conundrum of our war funding.  The Democrats want to fence off the money and give the president an allowance, basically.  So much now, a little bit later, if the Iraqi government takes action to actually democratize and bring in all the sides and divide up all the oil money.  The Iraqi government is taking the next two months off.  The way the Democrats have written the bill, the president has to decide in two months if they‘re doing anything.  Well, we know what they will have done in two months—nothing. 

PAGE:  Right, they‘re kicking the can down the road.  I think it is significant that Dick Cheney was in Iraq today trying to persuade the various factions to get together. 

MATTHEWS:  Game time.  The quote attributed to his plane was Game Time. 

PAGE:  Wasn‘t the Spirit of Strom Thurmond this time. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I was thinking the shot clock in the NBA is 24 seconds, as you know.

PAGE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And I was reminded today that we have 24 weeks now to win over there.  So he‘s basically saying to these guys, the shot clock is ticking. 

PAGE:  That‘s right and they are trying to put some pressure on them, but they are going to be off for a couple of months.  Are the Democrats hoping it will be a slow news time in the summer and nobody will care; I doubt that that‘s going to be the case.  People are going to be paying attention and what they‘re going to come up with at that point remains to be seen. 

Right now, they‘re just looking for a negotiating tactic so that they can meet Bush halfway somewhere, and he will sign the current authorization. 

MATTHEWS:  Final pint, Hillary seems to be solidifying her lead. 

PAGE:  Yes, she does, doesn‘t she?  That first debate surely did not hurt her.  Of course, you predicted that, didn‘t you, that the first debate was going to help her really, because she came across as strong. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you Clarence Page of the “Chicago Tribune.”  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.  Thanks for that encomium.  More HARDBALL.  Tomorrow‘s guests include US Congressman Rahm Emanuel and Dr. Richard Land.  We‘re going to here from the Christian conservatives tomorrow.  Right now, it is time for “TUCKER.”



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