Guests: Lynn Sweet, David Talbot, Vincent Bugliosi, Pat Buchanan, Bob Herbert
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mexico versus the United States, Hillary versus Bill, nice Rudy versus rude Rudy, Oswald killed Kennedy versus somebody else did, Rosie versus Rosie.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Here‘s the political news. Miss USA gets booed at the Miss Universe contest down in Mexico City. That‘s likely to warm American hearts.
“The Weekly Standard,” a magazine whose literary standard is praised even by those, me included, who question its political bent (ph), shows how a pair of new books exquisitely expose Bill and Hillary Clinton as a couple of soap opera characters.
Rudy Giuliani, usually no day at the beach, is smiling his way through the summer, grinning even when people ask him the worst possible questions on 9/11. Fred Thompson has jumped out in the betting odds for the Republican presidential nomination. He‘s now even money with Mitt Romney without even hitting the track, and almost up to Rudy, who‘s been running hard.
John F. Kennedy would be 90 years old today, and two new books excavate the old fight between those who, like me, think Lee Harvey Oswald killed him, and those who can‘t live with the notion of a loser killing our cold war hero, who became in death the prince of Camelot.
Memorial Weekend saw American deaths in Iraq surge to 112, the deadliest month this year. It comes amid word, to be believed or not, from some unnamed senior administration official that we‘re reducing our forces next year over there.
And sleepless in Manhattan. Rosie O‘Donnell says it was the split screen—you‘re looking at it—that did it. For her, it was seeing her producers exploiting her fight with Elisabeth Hasselbeck that for her ruined “The View.”
Chuck Todd‘s NBC‘s political director, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and Lynn Sweet is with “The Chicago Sun-Times.” Well, let‘s start with this one. We didn‘t expect to hear news from Mexico City, but here is it. Miss USA got booed in Mexico City last night at the Miss Universe pageant. Telemundo says it was led by anti-American Venezuelans. Reuters said the booing came from Mexicans. Let‘s listen and see if we can tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next is USA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she smiled right through it, Howard. But I‘ll tell you, that‘s about the worst PR I can think of for this Mexican immigration bill, which is mainly helping Mexicans become legal Americans, who they came here illegally and now to have them boo us like this—in fact, this woman like this, to get—she smiled right through it, but that‘s class, but they weren‘t very classy.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it‘s one thing for the American soccer team to get booed in Mexico, which they do all the time when they play down there—that‘s one country against the other and then—mano a mano, literally.
FINEMAN: Yes, this was cheap looking. And it‘s true that there are 12 million to 15 million illegal immigrants here, many of them, most of them, perhaps, from Mexico, so...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) they be booing?
FINEMAN: I don‘t think so. They probably were—some of them were probably watching the show and maybe even rooting for the American contestant.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Sad stuff. Chuck?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don‘t—it‘s not all about immigration. I don‘t—don‘t underestimate the anti-Americanism that is prevalent all around Latin America. It‘s really bad. I‘ve got some relatives that live in Mexico City. They‘ve noticed that—they‘re Americans, or ex-pats. They‘ve noticed this anti-Americanism. They feel it. It‘s about Iraq. It‘s about immigration. It‘s about American imperialism. Whether you—you know, whether you want to talk about that issue or not, that‘s how Latin America sees us. So this is more than immigration, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What is it about immigration, though, that bothers Mexicans? I mean, if 12 million are here illegally, that‘s a fairly benign, even if it is passive, policy. It‘s hardly predatory to let—what other country in the world lets 12 million people from some other country come in there and live there illegally?
TODD: Well, not only that, in Mexico...
MATTHEWS: How can you be mad at that?
TODD: No, and that‘s what I mean. The booing I don‘t think is about immigration, Chris. I really think the booing is more about Iraq, it‘s more about America and the role in the world and America being, you know, the bully that you beat up on.
TODD: So I wouldn‘t...
TODD: I wouldn‘t over-read into the immigration aspect of it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m going to read into it because I‘ll tell you one thing, if an American audience in New York or Washington or LA had booed a Mexican woman after she made a mistake like that by tripping, and mocked her the whole week, we‘d be talking to—PC dispensers of the major newspapers and the media‘d be going all over it, saying how terrible a country we are. Lynn Sweet...
TODD: Well, look—oh.
MATTHEWS: I‘m serious. I don‘t know why they do it. They want to have good relations with us. This is not a Vicente Fox. This is not the pan (ph) politics that gets people elected down there. It must be a minority of elite or angry people. But this is the kind of thing people do remember. Lynn?
LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”: Well, I think it was a massive focus group, and I do think it speaks more to anti-American sentiment rather than some mass movement and this audience knowing—even knowing even if they were aware that Congress had an immigration bill...
SWEET: ... up again. And you know, the Mexican government does have issues thinking that, you know, there should be a way for their people to come and go and come back again. And there is resentment that the U.S. is so resistant to it, even before we had gotten into the more complex parts of the immigration bill.
But the public diplomacy of the United States has not been able to succeed in turning around the image of the country, and that‘s what you saw here.
MATTHEWS: You mean if it was—well, I think you might be wrong there because the old bracero method, whereby people would come up to the California fields and pick crops, then go back after the season was over with some money in their pocket, that was considered to be exploitative, Lynn. That was considered a bad policy. Now we‘re saying that‘s a good policy, braceros?
SWEET: No, I‘m just saying from the Mexican government point of view...
MATTHEWS: I know. From their point of view.
SWEET: Circularity. I think that‘s the word that they use, to be able to come and go and come. But going back to this—this horrible—well, I just feel for this woman who plopped on her behind...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Well, they didn‘t feel much for her, did they.
SWEET: ... you know, in a beauty pageant.
MATTHEWS: They saw it as a chance to dump on us.
SWEET: No, and that‘s—yes, even though you would think most contestants...
MATTHEWS: I think MSNBC ran this 4,000 times today, by the way. Let‘s not let‘s do it again. Could we stop this joke? Let‘s stop—no, let‘s stop doing that picture. Somebody seems to get a kick out of that, somebody doesn‘t like women or something.
Anyway, Bill and Hillary Clinton made the cover of this week‘s “Weekly Standard.” The conservative magazine calls the Clintons “a riveting saga of lust and ambition.” Lynn Sweet, it‘s all about these two new books that have come out, Van Natta‘s book and Gerth‘s book, and of course, Carl Bernstein‘s. These books haven‘t even hit the shelves yet.
SWEET: Right, which is interesting because I usually like to read a book before I talk about it. But I think this speaks to, Chris, the incredible fascination that the American public has, based on what the publishers are willing to pay money for, on the private lives of the Clintons. And if you look at the list of how many dozens and dozens of books have been written about this couple, the...
MATTHEWS: Why is it...
MATTHEWS: Let me correct you there. If it‘s the private life, how come we always know about it? How come the women involved either hold press conferences, as Gennifer Flowers did in New York, or they bring legal suits or they yap about it on tape recorders? If you call it private, why it is always public? Not one involvement of the Clintons has ever been broken by investigative reporting, even Kathleen Willey, who came forward on “60 Minutes.” It‘s always the women who want us to know about the relationships with Bill. It‘s never investigative reporting.
SWEET: Well, your honor, Mr. Matthews, I used “private” in the words of—“private,” like meaning the topic of one‘s intimate life usually is private. In this case, I understand. I‘m not arguing with you, Chris.
SWEET: Of course, these women, you know, in the ‘90s came forward.
So we‘re talking about private life that becomes public.
MATTHEWS: I know.
SWEET: But the whole subject of the relationship, even the stuff that presumably there‘s things we don‘t know, is—just seems to have—publishers are betting that there is...
SWEET: ... an incredible fascination on behalf of the public.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SWEET: The point for the campaign...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that 200,000 bucks -- 200,000 copies in each -
Howard, do you think it‘s a good bet, that Lynn‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... all the books they‘re—they‘re printing 200,000 of one, 175,000 of the other...
FINEMAN: Actually, it‘s more than that. I thought the number‘s up close to 600,000 in what they‘re anticipating the printings are for the two books...
SWEET: Why, sure, she...
MATTHEWS: Did you hear that, Lynn?
FINEMAN: ... two books together, 450,000 for one...
FINEMAN: ... I think 200,000 for the other book.
SWEET: I‘m not surprised. Lookit...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Lynn.
SWEET: Each of the Clintons had best-sellers in their own right, so
from a publisher point of view, which is—you know, they were able to
kind of nail it with Obama‘s book and the Clintons‘ books. They have some
they‘re not in this for any reason except to make some money, and they know that the Clintons, if nothing else, can sell books, their own included.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, what do you make of this story that they leaked the information on these books right before this past weekend to kill it over Memorial Day weekend, that the Clinton crowd leaked some aspects from the book, they got a copy of it?
TODD: I think it‘s a very plausible scenario because it worked. It seemed to do that. And now the story—you know, they were able to scoop the scoop. I mean, Carl Bernstein...
MATTHEWS: And they killed the story?
TODD: No, they haven‘t killed the story, but you know, in a way, they may have blunted at least the initial impact of it. But the impact of this story of the Clinton relationship was never going to be about a new book, it was always going to be about a new revelation that‘s new since the election. It‘s sort of like what made—what made Bill Clinton‘s personal life an issue in his presidency. It had nothing to do before 1992 because the voters decided that and they knew about it and they processed it and they elected him anyway. It was what he did in office.
So the only way the Clintons‘ personal life becomes an issue, I think, for Hillary Clinton, is if it‘s something after they left the White House.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
FINEMAN: And so I think these books, while good talk show fodder, probably won‘t have the political impact that they fear and the Obama people are looking forward to.
MATTHEWS: Of course, we know what‘s over at the National Archives, right?
MATTHEWS: The past as prologue. We‘ll see. Anyway, Rudy Giuliani is playing Mr. Nice Guy and keeping his cool on the campaign trail these days. Here‘s some video. Talk about how cool he‘s gotten. We‘ll see how deep this runs in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said on ABC video with Peter Jennings in an interview that you were aware the tower was going to collapse in advance. We‘d like to know who told you the towers were going to collapse in advance, sir? And also, we‘d like to know who else you told.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR NYC MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the fact is that I didn‘t realize the towers would collapse. I never realized that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stated (INAUDIBLE)
GIULIANI: What I—what I...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
GIULIANI: If I—if I—if I can complete the sentence, if you give me the courtesy to complete the sentence?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course (INAUDIBLE)
GIULIANI: Our understanding was that over a long period of time, the way other buildings collapsed, the towers could collapse, meaning over a 7, 8, 9, 10-hour period. No one that I knew of had any idea that they would implode. That was a complete surprise. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s how “The New York Times” describes his new mode of operation. “The dyspeptic not to be -- ‘not afraid to suggest his opponents have really deep-seated psychological problems‘ Republican mayor of fact and legend has taken a holiday. What‘s left on the presidential campaign trail is a commanding daddy of a candidate, a disciplined fellow who talks about terrorism and fiscal order and about terrorism some more.”
He does—we didn‘t have a clip from before that, but I looked at it today. He was smiling, no matter what this woman was saying and questioning whether he was really responsible for the deaths of 9/11. He just smiled and smiled.
FINEMAN: That smile looked a little bit like the Joker‘s smile...
MATTHEWS: In “Batman”!
FINEMAN: ... in “Batman.”
FINEMAN: ... really big and really permanent.
FINEMAN: But you can see just behind it the flicker of the real Rudy.
FINEMAN: I mean, “commanding daddy” is not the phrase I would use because “daddy” implies some generosity of spirit.
FINEMAN: What‘s appealing about Rudy Giuliani is not the generous side, what‘s appealing about him is the tough cop side.
MATTHEWS: Right. You just wait until daddy gets home.
FINEMAN: Yes, that part...
MATTHEWS: That Daddy.
FINEMAN: ... of the daddy. It‘s the tough cop side, so...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
FINEMAN: And he can smile all he wants, and I understand why they‘re trying to do it, but come on. That‘s not why...
MATTHEWS: ... this saccharine new Rudy, or do you like the old one, the one that was really what he was? Lynn?
SWEET: Well, I think that you have to like somebody who is a little more—it was a little more just happy to be there.
SWEET: And I think it‘s important when you‘re dealing...
SWEET: ... with candidates, if they are snarly and that they look like they are—just don‘t want to talk to you, that is the surest way to start driving away people.
SWEET: And I don‘t know if I‘m convinced that this is a personality makeover or if it‘s just a try-out for him. But certainly, it‘s a lot better to have this story than the opposite, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: I agree with you completely. It‘s better than Rudy‘s angry streak. By the way, they stuck in an old come-over picture there, making him laugh, which knocks our argument. Anyway—Chuck, did you see that? You got to watch those file clips.
Anyway, Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Lynn Sweet are staying with us. And tomorrow on the “Today,” show, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Can you handle the excitement?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with NBC News political director Chuck Todd, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman and Lynn Sweet of “The Chicago Sun-Times.”
Fred Thompson‘s still making up his mind about running for president.
Some people say, I believe he‘s running, but the bettors aren‘t waiting. People placing wagers all over at Intrade.com have Thompson‘s odds going up. Howard, he‘s not in the race yet, he‘s already caught up to Mitt Romney, who I mentioned is on the “Today” show tomorrow. He‘s already caught Romney, and he‘s catching up to Rudy.
MATTHEWS: And he‘s not even running!
FINEMAN: Part of this is the Zen of running by not running. You always look great sometimes before you get in, not always afterwards. But more seriously, he‘s a guy who seems to pull together the strands of the Republican conservative coalition that have fallen apart. He‘s got a strong record on cultural issues as a cultural conservative from the South, which, by the way, is the base of the Republican Party, tough on defense. He‘s got that presidential “Law and Order” image. He‘s a tough guy and a strong candidate and was very popular in Tennessee, and he now carries the hopes of a lot of conservatives who don‘t find among Romney, Rudy or McCain their ideal candidate. And he‘s on paper, at least, as close as you can get. That‘s why he‘s going to get in the race.
MATTHEWS: Lynn, he fits the need for a Bible Belt candidate, doesn‘t he.
SWEET: Yes, he does. But he can‘t wait too long because these polls are good for him, but he‘s got to get in these states and organize, especially with this February 20 super national primary going on because unless he can translate (INAUDIBLE) to state organizations that can pass the petitions that are going to, you know, open up soon, to get these delegate names on ballots and to get prominent Republicans who will run for him, who aren‘t sewn up by the other...
SWEET: ... three top candidates—that‘s why—you know, that‘s what‘s kind of really having to happen now. You know, all so well and good, Chris, and gentlemen, that, you know, he‘s doing well in polls, but there is only—you can only go so long before he has to realize, which I‘m sure he does, that you got to start sewing up some prominent names in these states, so you can have delegates and actually get elected to the convention in Minnesota.
MATTHEWS: Today, by the way, would be John F. Kennedy‘s 90th birthday, amazing fact for a lot of us my age. Two new books about the Kennedys and JFK‘s assassination are out right now. We‘re going to be talking to those authors in just a moment.
Chuck, why do you think this still remains one of the issues that just gets at our soul, this question of who killed Kennedy?
TODD: Well, I mean, it‘s what got me into politics. It was the first political book I remember reading. One was “Profiles in Courage,” and the second one was a book by that lawyer in New Orleans, you know...
MATTHEWS: Jim Garrison.
TODD: ... Jim Garrison, about who killed Kennedy. So it‘s a political whodunit. I mean, you know, it‘s, like, why—it‘s a true crime story, and we all know the way true crime stories throw in politics, throw in this—this—this way we‘ve romanticized the Kennedy period. What strikes me is Kennedy would be 90. That‘s younger than Gerald—Gerald—we just Gerald Ford, and he was 94, I believe...
TODD: ... when he passed away. So think that—it feels like he‘s two generations ago, and yet he would only be 90. It‘s a stunning fact. And I think that‘s why this assassination thing always just fascinates folks.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and his—I think his mom lived well into her 90s.
Anyway, at least 112 U.S. troops died in Iraq this month, the bloodiest month of the year so far. According to the Pentagon, the total number of U.S. troops now killed over there of our people 3,450. Howard, you can read that either way politically. You can say that‘s a tribute to the courage of Americans, and it certainly is, and sacrifice like we‘ve never seen in this kind of murky situation. But it‘s also an argument against the war. This is going to be argued both ways after this Memorial Day.
FINEMAN: Oh, there‘s no question. It‘s going to be argued every day from now through election day in 2008 and on into history. I think probably, it is the murkiest. It turned out to be the murkiest. It didn‘t start out that way with the stunning clarity of 9/11, but it‘s gotten geometrically murkier as we‘ve gone along, so that at this point, I would say it‘s murkier than Vietnam was, even though there were demonstrations in the street. There still was communism. There still was the Soviet Union.
There was China. There was Russia, et cetera. Here the enemy isn‘t quite
known as a face beyond Osama bin Laden, and I think people are more
confused in this country now than they even were at the depths of Vietnam -
in the depths of Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: Well, from the—from the sublime to the ridiculous, Rosie O‘Donnell still reeling from her earlier experience on “The View.” Today was the first show without her.
And, over the weekend, Rosie spoke on her blog about why she left. It had to do with politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O‘DONNELL, COMEDIAN: When I saw the split-screen, that‘s when I knew it was over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
In the corner of my eye, in one of the monitors, I saw a split-screen.
And I thought to myself, that is...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, people said it looked like Jerry Springer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People in the green room...
O‘DONNELL: Yes. Aye, ya, ya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that—Lynn, you are from Chicago.
SWEET: Hometown of Jerry Springer.
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
I mean, this is so interesting, because...
SWEET: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: ... somebody on the political anti-war side—in her case, I guess you can say the left, although it‘s always tricky to use that term in America—she does not make a big case for her side of the issue, whether it‘s guns against Tom Selleck, or whatever.
SWEET: Well, I don‘t know why you think that.
I think the—her views—I mean, the show was called—is called “The View,” after all. You—they bring on people that have strong views.
It went over the top. And I don‘t know if she—see, I don‘t think people on the left, or the progressive movement, necessarily, have thought of her as the—the one leader of—of—of it all, any more than Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a leader on—on the right.
What it was, actually, I thousand, was riveting daytime TV...
SWEET: ... on a show called “The View,” where you certainly had a bunch of them.
And I—I can tell you, the—it—it‘s—the clips have been shown almost as much now as this Miss USA falling her behind, which shows that there is an endless fascination, if nothing else, for people mixing it up.
I don‘t know what Barbara Walters is going to do now, because...
SWEET: ... I actually thought that the mix was pretty good for the show, because it made you want to tune in to say, who is Rosie going to fight with next, or what is she going to have an opinion on?
SWEET: So, I did not see this as—as—as—it made a reason to tune in, rather than—than not. So...
MATTHEWS: Chuck, we have had—we have had...
SWEET: ... isn‘t—isn‘t that supposedly good?
MATTHEWS: Yes, Lynn.
Well, Chuck, we have always had iconic figures, whether they were Michael Moore on the one side, or Ann Coulter on the other, or Rosie O‘Donnell on one side, Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the other.
It seems like Jane Fonda icons end up grabbing the—the spotlight in these more important debates, you can argue, than these people are themselves, perhaps.
No, that struck me as a video resume today. It didn‘t strike me—it struck me as an—as an audition tape for her own show, or something like that. That didn‘t—you know, I guess she was trying to sort of apologize for how it looked, and that it was not what—I guess—I guess she was trying to say it was not what “The View” was supposed to be. I am not—I am not going to speak to what “The View” wanted it to be, but it seemed to me that was a video resume, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, thank you very much.
We will be right back.
I want to thank Lynn Sweet, thank Howard Fineman and Chuck Todd for joining us the day after Memorial Day.
Up next: two new books, as I said, about the Kennedy assassination, one said Oswald did it. The other said, well, he is waiting to think about it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This would have been John F. Kennedy‘s 90th birthday. His assassination in Dallas in 1963 is seared into our national consciousness. And, despite the passing of time, conspiracy theories continue to swirl about his murder.
Journalist David Talbot writes about Bobby Kennedy‘s suspicions of a plot behind his brother‘s murder and his own quest for the truth is a new book called “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.” And Vincent Bugliosi uses his prosecutor‘s eye to debunk every conspiracy theory connected to the assassination in a book that has been 20 years in the making called “The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” Actually, it‘s called “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.”
Let me start with David Talbot.
Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy?
DAVID TALBOT, AUTHOR, “BROTHERS: THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE KENNEDY
YEARS”: You know, Chris, my book is not a conspiracy book.
What I wanted to look into is what Bobby Kennedy, the attorney general of the United States and his brother‘s devoted protector, what Bobby Kennedy was saying and—and doing to solve this crime.
And he started to, that very afternoon, look into various angles into the crime. And I believe what he was looking at from that day on was at the CIA Mafia‘s secret war on Castro as the source of this plot.
MATTHEWS: Did he believe that that was the case?
TALBOT: I believe he did. And he was looking into it until the day he died.
Not only that, but he probably was on the right track. We now know, based on evidence that the Church Committee and House Assassinations Committee came up with in the 1970s, that a number of these figures who Bobby was looking at might very well have been figures of suspicion.
MATTHEWS: So, you believe what?
TALBOT: I believe that Bobby...
MATTHEWS: Based upon all your time on it, what do you believe?
TALBOT: I believe that Bobby Kennedy and much of the Washington political elite, Lyndon Johnson, even members of the Warren Commission themselves, like Richard Russell, the senator from Georgia, Richard Nixon, a number of high-level officials, including Bobby Kennedy, believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the complete story.
And Bobby Kennedy was determined, once he got back to the White House, if he had won in 1968, he was determined to reopen the case.
MATTHEWS: And what happened to Bobby?
TALBOT: We know what happened to Bobby. Bobby didn‘t make it.
MATTHEWS: Well, he was killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Do you believe there was something...
MATTHEWS: ... more to that?
TALBOT: I don‘t go into that in the book, although Vincent Bugliosi, I know, himself was among those, back in the 1970s, if I recall—And, Vince, correct me if I am wrong—who did have his suspicions about Bobby Kennedy‘s assassination. I think there‘s a number of unanswered questions about Bobby‘s death as well.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Vincent Bugliosi.
You have got a huge book here, sir. And I wanted to ask you. I—I am one of those who believes that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy. I believe he—the best argument against all the conspiracy theories, which debunks all of them, I believe, is that Lee Harvey Oswald had a job at the Texas Book Depository long before there was a motorcade route that day.
It was a crime of opportunity. It was not a conspiracy.
What is your view, sir?
VINCENT BUGLIOSI, AUTHOR, “RECLAIMING HISTORY: THE ASSASSINATION OF
JOHN F. KENNEDY”: Well, I believe that Oswald acted alone, and that I present 53 separate pieces of evidence showing that Oswald killed Kennedy.
And, under those circumstances, it would be humanly impossible, Chris, for him to be innocent, at least in the world in which we live. I am talking to you. You can hear me. There will be a dawn tomorrow. Only in a fantasy world can you have 53 pieces of evidence pointing towards your guilt, and still be innocent.
With respect to conspiracy, Mr. Talbot suspects the CIA, mob, et cetera. Let me just make this observation. First place, there is no credible evidence that the CIA or mob or any other group was involved in the assassination.
I told the jury in London, when I prosecuted Oswald—Gerry Spence defended him—I said, three people can keep a secret, but only if two are dead. And, after close to 44 years, not one credible word, not one syllable has leaked out.
Number two, there is no evidence that Oswald had any association or connection with any of these groups. The FBI conducted 25,000 interviews, found nothing.
Taking it one more step, if you will give me the time—actually, two more steps—assuming, for the sake of argument, that one of these groups wanted to kill President Kennedy, Oswald would have been one of the last people on the faces of this earth whom they would have gone to.
Why? Well, number one, he was not an expert shot—he was a good shot, not an expert shot -- $12 mail-order rifle, notoriously unreliable, extremely unstable. Here‘s a guy that defected to the Soviet Union, pre-Gorbachev. I mean, even today, who in the heck defects to the Soviet Union?
BUGLIOSI: He gets over there—let me finish—he gets over there, wants to become a Soviet citizen. He is turned down.
What does he do? He slashes his wrist, tries to commit suicide, just the type of person that the CIA or mob would want to rely on to commit the biggest murder in American history.
Final thought: Assuming that the CIA or mob or whatever group there was wanted to kill Kennedy, and, for whatever crazy, bizarre reason, they said, we want to use Oswald, let‘s see if where that takes us makes any sense.
Once Oswald shot at Kennedy and left the book depository building, one of two things would have happened. Let me tell you the least likely thing first. The least likely thing is that there would have been a car waiting for him to help him escape down to Mexico, or wherever.
BUGLIOSI: ... conspirators would not want—wait a while—would not want their hit man to be interrogated by the authorities. But that is the least likely scenario.
Let me tell you, Chris—and you are a bright guy—let me tell you the most likely thing, by far, that would have happened. If the CIA or mob or any of these other groups were involved, once Oswald left the book depository building, there would have been a car waiting for him, driving him to his death. You know that would have happened.
Instead, Oswald is out on the street with $13 in his pocket, trying to flag down...
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
BUGLIOSI: ... buses and cabs.
Chris, if I could just...
MATTHEWS: Vincent, we have to come back.
We are going to start with—we are going to start with David when we get back.
You will have more time, David, when we come right back after this.
Please stay with us. We have got a dispute here.
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MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And stocks closed slightly higher today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 14 points. The S&P 500 was up two points. And the Nasdaq gained almost 15 points.
Gasoline future fell by their largest amount in months today, after a series of refinery restarts. June gasoline futures dropped 9.5 cents.
Oil prices also plunged today, falling $2.05 in New York trading, closing at $63.15 a barrel.
Lehman Brothers and Tishman Speyer are teaming up top buy real estate investment trust Archstone-Smith for more than $22 billion, including debt. Archstone is one of the biggest apartment owners in the country.
And President Bush will nominate former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick as the new president of the World Bank. He would replace Paul Wolfowitz—Wolfowitz, who resigned amid an uproar, after he arranged a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend. Zoellick is currently a vice chairman of Goldman Sachs.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are continuing to talk about the Kennedy assassination with David Talbot, author of the book “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” and Vincent Bugliosi. His book is called “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.”
Let me go right now to David.
You wanted to respond to what we just heard from Vincent.
I mean, Vince says that it‘s I that is blaming this on the CIA and the mafia. That‘s not the point of my book. I‘m looking at what the Washington elite and Robert Kennedy himself were doing and saying about this crime.
You know, the forensics game is a game that anyone can play. Lawyers can cherry-pick and—and omit and distort information as they see fit. But the fact is, we now have more and more evidence that points in the direction of a conspiracy.
Just last week, an FBI metallurgist released the results of his analysis, which said, we can no longer definitively say that the bullets came from one gun in Dealey Plaza.
We have acoustics evidence. And Mr. Bugliosi chooses to analyze this in the fashion he wants to. He has used a rock musician named Steve Barber (ph) as his main source on the acoustics evidence from Dealey Plaza. But he, as far as I know, has not interviewed the scientists who have actually carried out these tests.
But the point is, I wanted to look at what Robert Kennedy was—was saying and doing on this, and—and—and the people in the motorcade, who were reporting back to Bobby Kennedy.
You know, Kenny O‘Donnell, the White House aide, and Dave Powers, both very loyal to the Kennedy team, reported back to Bobby that they heard shots from the front, from the grassy knoll area, as well as from behind.
These are two World War II veterans. They know the sounds of gunfire. That was the impression of many of the people in the motorcade. Jackie Kennedy says, I don‘t want to take my suit off, which is soaked with the gore of her husband, her pink Chanel suit, because I want them they to see what they have done to my husband.
It was “they” that was very much in the minds of these people that day in Dallas.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Vincent Bugliosi.
Sir, what is your response to these—these assumptions? I mean, the fact that all these people thought there was something beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, what does that add up to you?
Mr. Bugliosi, we don‘t have him here.
Let me ask you how you deal, David, with this argument I make, which
is, if you had Lee Harvey Oswald working at the book depository well before
weeks, several weeks, before there was any motorcade route that day, how did any conspiracy plot develop around using Harvey Oswald as one of the shooters?
TALBOT: Well, there are still interesting questions about how Oswald...
MATTHEWS: No, answer that question. Answer my question. How did he get that job before there was a parade route?
TALBOT: He was—as far as I know, he was given—he was—he was told about the job by the people he was living with at the time in the boarding house.
TALBOT: And the—the Paines. And we don‘t know how he—he exactly got to be there, ahead of the motorcade route. But I think Oswald‘s connection to this is...
MATTHEWS: But, if you believe that he was there before the motor—no, you have got to go to this question.
TALBOT: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: If you accept the sequence that this guy had this job, and, then, all of a sudden, there‘s—several weeks later, there is a parade route rolling by him, then somebody had to coordinate the whole thing from the White House.
Somebody in the White House had to put the president within shooting range of Lee Harvey Oswald. That‘s the problem with all these conspiracy theories.
TALBOT: Well, it‘s—it‘s not the White House, no.
What we now know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Well, who put him there? Who put the president...
TALBOT: Well, let me just finish.
MATTHEWS: ... right there?
TALBOT: Let me finish.
Lee Harvey Oswald had the fingerprints of U.S. intelligence all over him. I didn‘t say that. Senator Richard Schweiker from Pennsylvania said that, one of the first senators to look into Dallas as a member of the Church Committee back in the 1970s. How did Lee Harvey Oswald get to the Soviet Union and back with such ease?
MATTHEWS: No, I will not let you do this. David, you have to answer the question. How did Lee Harvey Oswald get his job right above that parade route before the parade route was set, unless there was a massive conspiracy involving everybody, the Irish Mafia and everybody else you mentioned there?
TALBOT: No, you are throwing the net out way too wide on this.
MATTHEWS: Tell me who would have put the president within shooting range of Lee Harvey Oswald.
TALBOT: I suppose that elements of U.S. intelligence, people working for the government—
MATTHEWS: Told the president to drive under the book depository so that Oswald could shoot him?
TALBOT: People weren‘t telling J.F.K. to drive. First of all, he wasn‘t driving the car.
MATTHEWS: Who put his car there within range of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Who did that?
TALBOT: The point is, we don‘t know for certain. You don‘t know for certain. And you don‘t know for certain.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you the question. I don‘t know the answer, because it involves the belief—I want you to answer the question.
BUGLIOSI: Chris, can I leave now? Are you through with me?
MATTHEWS: No, Vincent. We had a technical problem. You‘re back Vincent. Don‘t get mad at me. I would ask you now, isn‘t that a central problem with all the conspiracy theories, that Lee Harvey Oswald was there first and Kennedy was taken there.
BUGLIOSI: Well, I want to address myself to a couple things that Mr.
MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.
BUGLIOSI: He said it‘s not the CIA or mob. David, who ever was behind him, whether it‘s the military industrial complex or the FBI or whatever it is, once they had him kill Kennedy and left the building, they would have driven him to his death. So don‘t narrow it down to the CIA or mob.
The other thing you said, just last week, somebody came out with some new evidence on the metallic composition of these bullets. I will tell you how new it was David. You want to know how new it was? It‘s already in my book. OK? It‘s an old argument. Everything you‘re saying is old. It‘s not new.
The other things he says, I relied on a rock scientist. Do you really mean that? The national academy of sciences, 12 distinguished scientists confirmed—
BUGLIOSI: -- that impulse sounds took place one minute after the assassination, when the limousine was long gone down the Stemmin (ph) Freeway, on its way to Parkland Hospital. I want to read a couple things, Chris.
BUGLIOSI: This is a letter that RFK wrote to the Warren Commission on August 4th, 1964, that David knows about. He says I want to state definitely that I know of no credible evidence to support the allegation that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy. Adding I have no suggestion to make at this time regarding an additional investigation which should be undertaken by the commission prior to the publication of its report.
The report comes out and he says on September 27th, 1964, this is R.F.K., I am convinced Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for what happened, and that he did not have any outside help or assistance. I am completely satisfied that the commission investigated every lead and examined every piece of evidence. The Warren Commission inquiry was thorough and—
TALBOT: Chris, can I respond to that?
MATTHEWS: Yes, you can.
BUGLIOSI: Now David believes that he was lying here, is that correct?
TALBOT: Vince, you are a great courtroom lawyer. You can I know shut people up. But let me respond. Here is my point. Robert Kennedy‘s power to investigate this crime was evaporating the minute his brother died. F. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, who was in charge of the investigation, hates Bobby Scotts and vice versa. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, also has a poisonous relationship with Bobby.
Bobby is determined to control the investigation himself as best he can. That‘s why he holds on to the president‘s brain literally and tissue samples after the autopsy in Bethesda . He wants as much evidence as he can to control the investigation when he gets back to the White House. He has to, in the meantime, say things publicly about the Warren Commission.
But privately, and you know this, if you read Arthur Schlesinger‘s biography or Evan Thomas‘, biography of Bobby Kennedy—those are the two standard biographies. Certainly you read those.
BUGLIOSI: There is a division on that point.
TALBOT: Both of them say that Bobby Kennedy felt it was a public relations exercise. The Warren Report was a public relations exercise. That‘s what he was telling the people closest to him.
BUGLIOSI: Wait a minute. I want to make my point. You are saying that he may have been lying when he said what he did?
TALBOT: He was being strategic. Bobby Kennedy was a shrewd political player.
MATTHEWS: Vince and David, we want to come back and have this on the air. Please hold up. We‘ll be right back with David Talbot and Vincent Bugliosi. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We are back with the authors of two new books about the Kennedy assassinations, David Talbot, the author of “Brothers, the Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” and Vincent Bugliosi, who has written “Reclaiming History, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” Let me ask you, Vincent, we are going to get David back on the satellite in a second here. But is your conclusion, after all this amazing work for 20 years, that it‘s as clear as we thought it was at the time, that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy?
BUGLIOSI: Absolutely. It‘s all pure moonshine. Within hours of the shooting, local law enforcement down there knew that Oswald had killed Kennedy and acted alone. That‘s one reality.
But the second reality is because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of literally—and I am not exaggerating, thousands upon thousands of Warren Commission critics and conspiracy theorists, who have examined every single aspect of this case for close to 44 years, and made hundreds upon hundreds of allegations, this simple case, which remains very simple at its core, has been transformed into the most complex murder case by far in world history.
Just to give an example, one of my end notes, not the main text, one of my end notes on acoustics in the manuscript ran to 120 pages with 60 footnotes. I want to make one point about what David is saying. If he is saying that what I just read to you, that RFK said basically is a lie, that he did not believe it, then he is saying something, by definition, much, much, much worse, because he is, by definition, saying that here is RFK believing that the CIA or mob or whatever other group David wants to believe in, was behind he assassination, and you are the chief law enforcement officer in this country, with the vast resources of the Department of Justice, including the FBI, and you do not—
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.—
BUGLIOSI: Wait a while. Wait a while.
BUGLIOSI: You do not use them to find out who murdered your brother, and then—
MATTHEWS: David, finish up.
BUGLIOSI: Then by definition you are participating in the cover-up of your brother‘s murder.
MATTHEWS: David, respond to that. Please, David you are back on satellite.
TALBOT: Bobby Kennedy thought that elements of his own government were involved in the assassination of his own brother. He knew he had no power to move against these forces as attorney general. His power was evaporating by the day. Hoover wouldn‘t even send agents to pick Bobby Kennedy up at the airport after the assassination in Dallas. He was contemptuous of Bobby Kennedy. And that‘s a well known fact.
Lyndon Johnson, we know what the mutual contempt between Lyndon
Johnson and Robert Kennedy. So it‘s absurd and naive of Mr. Bugliosi to
think that Bobby Kennedy has the power to go after these people at that
point. That‘s why Bobby Kennedy was determined to run for the presidency,
so he could not open up the investigation with the power of the White House
MATTHEWS: I would love to do an hour. Gentleman, I am out of time.
BUGLIOSI: Are you saying that for nine months RFK had the power—
TALBOT: Can I add one thing? I am sorry.
TALBOT: The first critics of the Warren Commission were the members of the Warren Commission. Richard Russell, the senator from Georgia said this, he said, I think somebody else worked with Oswald on the planning of the assassination. He said that shortly before he died. And also said the majority of the commission felt the same way I did.
BUGLIOSI: No, he did not say that. He did not say that.
TALBOT: Yes, he did.
BUGLIOSI: This guy attended six of the meetings out of about the 80.
TALBOT: He said it on Cox Broadcasting in Atlanta, shortly before his
death of lung cancer. You don‘t have your history correct. You don‘t have
your history correct, Mr. Bugliosi. You‘re not a historian and you‘re not
BUGLIOSI: Well, I am relying on Barber. Are you saying that the FBI and LBJ were also involved in the assassination?
TALBOT: No, that‘s what you are saying. Because you are trying to tar everyone with that brush. No.
BUGLIOSI: He would have used the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorneys to go after somebody who he believed had murdered his brother and you‘re saying he did not do that.
TALBOT: Bobby Kennedy was looking into every lead, but privately.
MATTHEWS: OK, gentlemen, thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: “Brothers,” David Talbot, and “Reclaiming History, the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” by Vincent Bugliosi. Thank you gentlemen. Up next, MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and Bob Herbert of the “New York Times.” This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers, although I think we have already seen them tonight, Bob Herbert of the “New York Times,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. Pat, this is never going to go away, this fight, is it? With all the evidence this guy—incredible work, Bugliosi‘s put together.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree and I agree with you. I think there is probably a significant—a fourth or a third of the country is never going to believe that John F. Kennedy was not killed by a conspiracy.
MATTHEWS: It had to be a right-winger?
BUCHANAN: They say the CIA and Mafia, Mafia, CIA. It goes to the government. That movie did a lot to do that, the Garrison movie.
MATTHEWS: Well that was totally irresponsible. What do you think, Bob Herbert, are we ever going to get a consensus that this guy, this loser did it?
BOB HERBERT, “The NEW YORK TIMES”: No. I agree with you as well, Chris. I think it was a loan gunman. I think people think that this was such an immense tragedy, which it was, that they just don‘t want to believe that one nut like this guy Oswald could have caused this. So they conjure up conspiracies, and it‘s always going to be that way.
MATTHEWS: Unfortunately, most of our history, Malcolm X, what‘s his name, the guy who was head of the Nazi party—
MATTHEWS: All these guys get gunned down by one --
BUCHANAN: Lincoln was killed by a conspiracy.
MATTHEWS: That was a conspiracy, but Garfield and McKinley and—these Puerto Rican nationalists tried to shoot Truman. Somebody almost killed Teddy Roosevelt. Somebody almost killed Franklin Roosevelt. Let me ask you about this Miss America thing, Pat. A beautiful woman gets up there, happens to trips. Throughout the week, she is mocked and booed by the host country nationals down there. They don‘t like America down there.
BUCHANAN: Well, I think, look, your friend Tip O‘Neill said all politics is local. All politics is tribal. When you get together large numbers of people like that in a foreign country, they don‘t like us. When the soccer team played Mexico, Mexico scored, down you know what they chanted, Obama, Obama.
MATTHEWS: She looks Latina. I mean, why were they so tough on this poor woman. She trips and they still boo her.
BUCHANAN: They are a bunch of bums.
HERBERT: It‘s not just tribal. I agree that it‘s tribal but so much of it is also irrational. You don‘t know who to attack. You don‘t know who to express your dissatisfaction with. So it comes out very often in absurd ways.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about another thing, this Rudy—I want
to ask you, Bob, about Rudy. We only have a few minutes. Rudy Giuliani is
following the old Churchillian rule of grinning when he fights. He is
going around through crowds with this—somebody said it earlier tonight -
the Joker‘s smile on his face. He is smiling when women say you‘re responsible for the horrors of the World Trade Center and all this. And he is still smiling. What is this? Is this a new Rudy?
HERBERT: I have covered Rudy for many, many years. I cannot believe he is going to be able to maintain that smile all the way through this election. Something is going to set him off.
MATTHEWS: Did you say erection? I thought you were going to say—mind‘s going in strange directions.
BUCHANAN: He has done a tremendous job, Chris. There‘s no doubt about it, in terms of his appearance in the debates. He has handled himself well under criticism and under fire.
MATTHEWS: Nixon got a new face and he was a happy guy for a while and then he went back to being angry again.
BUCHANAN: We got him some rest. He didn‘t get any rest in 1960.
Take a look at the Iowa Straw Poll. I‘ve been telling folks, Rudy doesn‘t
look like he is prepared for that. He could face a defeat, not only
defeat, but a minor humiliation if he runs third or fourth. And he could,
because I think McCain and Romney are -
MATTHEWS: He doesn‘t care what you say, Pat. Look at him smile there. Pat Buchanan and Bob Herbert—I read your column all the time. Join us again tomorrow night for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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