Guests: Tom DeLay, G. Gordon Liddy, Mark Green, Howard Fineman, Nick Calio, Jenny Backus
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Howdy, partner. Why are the Iraq war hawks attacking President Bush for not pardoning Scooter Libby? Has Bush decided to say no? Is the Cheney chief of staff headed to the hoosegow?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
I beg your pardon? Tuesday Scooter Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for crimes he committed in the CIA leak investigation.
If Scooter Libby was doing his job when he did what he did, why are his bosses sinking him? Why is he facing two and a half years in federal prison? Where is the loyalty? Where is the love? Where is the pardon?
In a moment, we‘ll discuss this with former majority leader, Tom DeLay. And later a HARDBALL debate with Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy and Air America‘s Mark Green.
An 800-pound gorilla. Why do the Republican candidates for president spend more time talking about not being descended from monkeys and so little time saying they‘re following in the footsteps of George Bush? We‘ll get into that with our HARDBALLERS later.
But first, former Texas congressman, Tom DeLay.
Mr. DeLay, it‘s always good to have you here.
TOM DELAY, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Because you enjoy this business as well as I do.
DELAY: That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, what is going on? I‘m looking here at the lead editorial just posted by the new conservative, if you will, “Weekly Standard”. “So much for loyalty or decency or courage. For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street; decency is something he‘s for as long—he‘s for as long as he doesn‘t have to take any risks in its behalf; and courage—well, that‘s nowhere to be seen. Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?”
What a tough indictment by people supposedly loyal to this president. They say he‘s already decided not to pardon Scooter Libby. What do you think?
DELAY: Well, I don‘t know if that‘s the case or not. I hope it‘s not the case. The president should pardon Scooter Libby. I mean, what—what‘s he worried about? Is it his ratings? I mean, his approval ratings?
MATTHEWS: They‘re low, you mean?
DELAY: Yes. This—this is a travesty of justice. This is a hostile judiciary and a man that is trying to support his president and what his president is doing. He may have been found guilty of perjury, and I‘m not privy to everything that went on in that courtroom.
But this is about a guy trying to recall conversations about a crime that a runaway prosecutor—and I know a lot about runaway prosecutors.
MATTHEWS: You think Fitzgerald was a bad prosecutor?
DELAY: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the jury made the wrong decision?
DELAY: I don‘t know that.
MATTHEWS: Did the judge make the wrong decision?
DELAY: The judge certainly made the wrong decision.
MATTHEWS: So the judge is wrong, the prosecutor‘s wrong.
Everything‘s wrong except you.
DELAY: No, he gave him a sentence based upon a crime that was not proven. I think the sentence—you ought to give the sentence based upon the transgression that you‘ve been found guilty of.
MATTHEWS: But you say in this letter. You said here that he did—you said perjury is a grievous crime.
DELAY: It is. And if he committed perjury, than he ought to pay for it. But at the same time, you have to look at the circumstances of this. And what I‘m saying is Scooter Libby was caught by a runaway prosecutor and a politically hostile judicial system. And if you had been against the war, he probably would have been let off.
MATTHEWS: You think—you think Fitzgerald was driven by his antagonism toward the war?
DELAY: No, I think Fitzgerald was driven by Fitzgerald, and what happens when you have these special prosecutors. That‘s why we did away with the special prosecutors.
MATTHEWS: Did you watch the jury when they came out of the Scooter Libby case? They seemed amazingly nonpolitical to me.
DELAY: And they also said he ought to be pardoned.
DELAY: He ought to be pardoned.
MATTHEWS: You say in this article—you say that Scooter Libby should be pardoned because there was no underlying crime behind the perjury?
MATTHEWS: Well, what was the underlying crime behind Bill Clinton‘s perjury?
DELAY: He was—Bill Clinton perjured himself.
MATTHEWS: Well, what was the underlying crime? What was the underlying crime to his perjury?
DELAY: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: The underlying crime here, you‘re denying exists. Was that anybody leaked the name of Valerie Wilson.
DELAY: No, the difference was Scooter Libby was trying to recall conversations in support of his superiors. On the side of Clinton, he lied to protect himself. And he was found guilty, many different ways by many different...
MATTHEWS: So who was Scooter protecting?
DELAY: I don‘t think he was protecting anybody. He was trying to—to recall conversations.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t believe that he wasn‘t covering for Cheney?
DELAY: No, I don‘t believe he was covering for Cheney. Can you remember conversations you made a week ago?
MATTHEWS: No, but these are a whole series of...
DELAY: Right. Much less three weeks ago?
MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that.
But he was claiming things happened that didn‘t happen. That‘s why, why I questioned it. It wasn‘t that he was forgetting things.
DELAY: What he was found guilty of—what he was found guilty of was he didn‘t recall a specific conversation that he had with Tim Russert.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, he was saying Tim Russert told him about the identity of Valerie Wilson, and he didn‘t.
DELAY: Well, we can try the case right here. The point is...
MATTHEWS: Well, right, but you think he was right?
DELAY: I don‘t know if he was right and wrong. He was found guilty.
Now the president—now the president...
MATTHEWS: Did you remember—do you ever remember something that didn‘t happen? Did you ever claim that something happened that didn‘t happen in your whole life? I forget a lot of things. But I don‘t remember things happening that didn‘t happen. That‘s called loony. Isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: Or dishonest.
DELAY: He was trying to recall conversations that he had with other people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you to...
DELAY: And he wasn‘t—by the way, he wasn‘t found guilty of leaking Valerie Plame‘s name.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. You say his crime was supporting President Bush and his leadership in the war on terror. Do you believe that Scooter Libby was operating on the business of Cheney and Bush at the time he got in trouble? Was he doing their business...
DELAY: No, what I found out was Richard Armitage, and we all now know. Richard Armitage is the one who—who leaked Valerie Plame‘s name.
MATTHEWS: And—Scooter Libby.
DELAY: And he‘s against the war. So he gets to get out of a get out of jail free card.
MATTHEWS: The other people that leaked were Ari Fleischer, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
DELAY: None of them found guilty.
DELAY: None of them charged.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know why. Why weren‘t they charged?
DELAY: Because there was no evidence that they were guilty. And of course, they had the support.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re for the pardon. And you believe he should be pardoned. Do you think the president of the United States has the moxie and the guts to do that?
DELAY: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll do it?
DELAY: I don‘t know if he will. But I hope he will.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they‘ll let him go to prison? Next week the judge is going to rule on bail, if he rules there‘s no bail.
DELAY: Now‘s the time to decide. The president needs to decide right now before he steps into any jail.
MATTHEWS: So once in he‘s in a jail do you think that‘s already too late?
DELAY: Yes. Absolutely. He should not—this man should not serve any time in jail.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about the debate last night. You watched, right? It‘s amazing stuff.
Here‘s the president‘s debate last night. Mike Huckabee from Arkansas, the governor gave a strong response on, of all issues, I didn‘t think Mr. DeLay would be arguing evolution in the 21st century. But here we go again. We‘re talking about us and the monkeys and everything. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. To me it‘s pretty simple. A person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own.
And the basic question was an unfair question. Because it simply asks us in the simplistic manner, whether or not we believed, in my view, whether there‘s a God or not.
Well, let me be very clear. I believe there is a God. I believe there‘s a God who is active in the creation process. Now how did he do it and when did he do it and how long did he take? I don‘t honestly know. And I don‘t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.
But you know, if anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it. I don‘t know how far they will march that back. But I believe that all of us in this room are the unique creations of a God who knows us and loves us and who created us for his own purpose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here we are back in the Scopes trial, the monkey trial. He did lay it out there, even though he talked a lot about the way most of us look at things, somewhere between the literal interpretation and the—and the imagery or rhetoric or whatever, the way people talked back in the Old Testament.
But he clearly said, we are not descended from the primates. Where are you on this one?
DELAY: Well, first of all, let me talk about the debate.
DELAY: I thought it was a pretty spirited debate, and I—and I thought they did a pretty good job. There are some things that I‘m very disappointed about. Global warming, not one of them took on global warming.
MATTHEWS: But they agreed with it.
DELAY: More or less. And that‘s very disappointing. They‘re running for a primary. They‘re not running for the general election.
Secondly, they ought to get together and negotiate who asks the questions. If you‘re going on CNN, CNN had an agenda. They wanted to make these guys look like Neanderthals.
So what is the subject of evolution? And gays in the military. And abortion and—not the issues that are important to Republican primary voters. Not the issues that are important to the American people that they‘re thinking about.
MATTHEWS: Do you think gays in the military is an issue that, just bringing it up, helps the Dems? I think the Democrats were right down the line in saying open—open the service by gay people, openly arrived at or whatever. You think that‘s a positive message?
DELAY: It‘s a way—and you‘re using it. You‘re using evolution on your show. It is a way to throw it out there and then try to create an issue that‘s not an issue with the American people. The American people don‘t go home at night and debate evolution.
MATTHEWS: Look, I grew up in this country, too. I know we don‘t argue about this every day. But 6o percent of the people believe, basically, the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. So it‘s not like it‘s an exotic position that Huckabee is taking there. Or you might have.
DELAY: Well, you...
MATTHEWS: It‘s not an exotic position.
DELAY: You‘re sitting there, and you‘re giggling about it.
MATTHEWS: I‘m giggling, because I said—I‘ll say to you on and off the air, I think it‘s fascinating that, in the 21st century, we‘re having the monkey trial all over again. And I still think it‘s weird. It‘s on Broadway right now.
DELAY: Why is it brought up? You have to ask yourself, why is it brought up?
MATTHEWS: We had the first debate at the Reagan Library. One of the people called in this question. It wasn‘t a media person that came up with the idea. It was somebody who wanted to know the position.
You‘re laughing. But you know?
DELAY: Yes. Why was it brought up? Those are not issues that are important to people...
MATTHEWS: Everything is not—everything is not a conspiracy. You can‘t shape the battlefield like Schwarzkopf and say we‘re only going to talk about these three or four issues. Now, let‘s talk about...
DELAY: I‘m talking about things that are important to the American people, problems that we need to be solving. How do these people feel about those kinds of problems?
MATTHEWS: But there are people—whether you believe in evolution...
DELAY: Not set them up as Neanderthals. And I don‘t, by the way, I don‘t believe in evolution.
MATTHEWS: OK, you don‘t believe in it. So you‘re a Neanderthal.
We‘ll be right back with Tom DeLay. He‘s staying with us.
And later, should President Bush pardon Scooter Libby? Another indication of Neanderthal thinking. Just kidding. G. Gordon Liddy is coming here. There‘s a state-of-the art fellow. He‘s coping to the HARDBALL debate.
And tomorrow on HARDBALL, actor Ben Affleck joins us to tell us who the Hollywood crowd likes in the presidential race, if anybody. Submit your questions for Ben on our web site. Don‘t ask about evolution. HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re here with Tom DeLay, the former majority leader of the House, who does believe in evolution. Anyway—doesn‘t believe. I‘m sorry.
DELAY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: In the debate last night, Governor Romney was questioned about his religion. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Kennedy some time ago said he was not a Catholic running for president, he was an American running for president. And I‘m happy—you know, proud member of my faith. You know, I think it‘s a fair question for people to ask, What do you believe? And I think as you want to understand what I believe, you could recognize that the values that I have are the same values you‘ll find in faiths across this country. I believe in God, believe in the Bible, believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe that God created man in his image. I believe that the freedoms of man derive from inalienable rights that were given to us by God. And I also believe that there are some pundits out there that are hoping that I‘ll distance myself from my—my church so that that‘ll help me politically, and that‘s not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is that enough?
MATTHEWS: Does he have to go any further than that, do you think?
DELAY: No. I think that‘s a very good answer. The only thing that I would question, and that, hopefully, this is another question for him, Which comes first, America or his faith? Because that‘s what people of faith in this primary is going to be looking at. And when he invoked John Kennedy, people had this impression that, I‘m running for president, and I‘m going to push my faith aside. To people of faith, faith comes first, and...
MATTHEWS: But you know, he tells...
DELAY: ... and then the country comes second.
MATTHEWS: But Mr. DeLay, he does tell the story of one of the—I think the first president, one of the leaders of the LDS church, the Mormon church, that was—he was once asked about this, and he said, When it comes to—no, was it someone else who says, You have to—you have to follow the law, not the religion, if it comes to between the two. And you say he has to follow the religion.
DELAY: No, no, no. I didn‘t say religion, I said faith. His faith is who he is. That has nothing to do with his religion.
MATTHEWS: So he can‘t dismiss his religion.
MATTHEWS: Like Kennedy did.
DELAY: No one can It‘s who you are. And if he is—if he equivocates or...
DELAY: ... tries to back around, that‘s going to...
MATTHEWS: But this is the problem. This is the problem in my religion. Suppose you have—if you‘re a Roman Catholic, for example, and neither you or he is, I am—and your bishop says, or one of the bishops of the country says, If you don‘t vote the right way on this issue involving abortion rights—not abortion, abortion rights—you‘re excommunicated or you‘re not going to communion, that does influence your public policy position. Religion does invade your public space. You can‘t say it‘s not—it‘s not relevant (INAUDIBLE) told how to vote.
DELAY: Then if I were a Catholic, I would say that I have a faith and I have a belief in the Catholic church, and mine is not what the bishop‘s is. And I don‘t take my orders from the bishop.
MATTHEWS: Right. But you‘re a great...
DELAY: I‘m a Baptist...
MATTHEWS: But you‘re a great Protestant. That‘s a Protestant answer to a Catholic question!
DELAY: Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: I mean, I agree. I agree that‘s a (INAUDIBLE) Let‘s take a look right now at...
DELAY: But your faith is who you are and what you believe.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s move on to something a little less deep.
MATTHEWS: This is what people are saying about the—let‘s take a look last night—the candidates—there wasn‘t a rally ‘round the flag last night, Mr. DeLay, for your party. Let‘s watch the candidates talking about the president, who is a Republican. We don‘t have that—we don‘t have that ready? But we‘re going to get that. Did you feel last night they were supportive of the president, all these 10 or so candidates for the Republican nomination?
DELAY: Well, I think they were telling it like they saw it, and people took it as criticizing the president. The president himself will tell you he made mistakes after we took out Saddam Hussein. You know, the president himself will tell you that this is a new kind of war and you‘re going to make mistakes as you try to learn how to fight this war. And yet some people see that as criticizing the president. I think—I think if you—if you looked at Newt Gingrich on another network a Sunday or so, that was criticizing the president. I don‘t think...
MATTHEWS: Boy, he‘s tough.
MATTHEWS: What‘s Newt up to?
DELAY: He said what he‘s up to. He‘s going to run a race like the new president of France.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I think he‘s confusing himself with DeGaulle.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s waiting for this country to come asunder so that he can come save us.
DELAY: Well, I don‘t know about that, but...
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s got a little problem of being a messianic thinker about himself, he might think he is...
DELAY: I think he‘s a very brave guy.
MATTHEWS: ... the savior?
MATTHEWS: No, but is he thinking—does he think he‘s the savior?
DELAY: I don‘t know. You‘d have to ask him that.
MATTHEWS: Ha! Come on! You were so close!
MATTHEWS: Would you vote for Newt Gingrich for president?
DELAY: Sure, if he...
MATTHEWS: If you had of a choice of him and...
DELAY: If he was the nominee...
MATTHEWS: But if you had a choice...
MATTHEWS: If you had a choice between him and somebody else for the nomination, would you probably go with him?
DELAY: I don‘t have a candidate.
MATTHEWS: Ha! Do you think—do you think Mitt Romney can lead the Republican Party effectively?
DELAY: Yes, I do.
DELAY: I don‘t think that I‘m going to vote for him, but...
MATTHEWS: Brownback, for example, said last night that Rudy Giuliani cannot be the nominee of the Republican Party because he‘s pro-choice. He cannot be.
DELAY: Well, I don‘t think he can win the nomination, but—because the party is still the pro-life...
MATTHEWS: Sure is.
DELAY: ... strong party. And I‘m just—I think—if you look, he‘s never gotten over 30, 33 percent in these polls that are useless. He‘s pretty much maxed out.
MATTHEWS: Are you coming back politically? You going to run again for the House?
DELAY: I doubt it. No.
DELAY: I like what I‘m doing.
MATTHEWS: How about an Al Gore...
DELAY: No. I‘m going to do what the Lord wants me to do.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re no—you‘re no man descended from the ape, either. Anyway, thank you, Tom DeLay, for joining us.
Up next, selling the presidential candidates. Who‘s winning the marketing war apparently that‘s going on right now? And who looks the most -- isn‘t this an overused term—presidential?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Voters in the 2008 presidential race will have had a good, long time to shop around for a candidate, which makes the selling of the candidate more important than ever.
So, whose marketing machine is clicking out there? Who has got the hot brand, if we—as we say these days?
Donny Deutsch is host of CNBC‘s “The Big Idea.” And he‘s chairman of Deutsch, Inc.
Donny, you‘re the man.
DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST, “THE BIG IDEA”: How are you, buddy?
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton was from the Illinois, Chicago suburbs.
She went back east and became a big story in the Ivy League. She married Bill Clinton, become an Arkansan, a Razorback. Then she became a Knickerbocker, a New York City Manhattanite, in Chappaqua.
And now I hear she wants to be known as a middle-class person from the middle of the country, from the middle of the century, from somewhere out in the middle West. Is that going to sell?
DEUTSCH: No, I—you know, I want to go to—the initial premise of the segment is, who is doing the best job?
Who is the hot brand?
DEUTSCH: Al Gore. Very simple. And here‘s why.
A brand is a set of values that people can believe in. Right now, Al Gore has it all. He‘s the quintessential outsider, because he‘s not in it. He‘s the quintessential guy who has been there. He has got the experience.
He‘s passionate. He‘s got his cause.
MATTHEWS: And he‘s green.
DEUTSCH: And he‘s green. And he‘s: I don‘t care. I‘m going to tell it like it is.
He—his marketing machine, particularly if he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, I think he‘s an unbeatable candidate. I think he would be the next president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: And you think he will run?
DEUTSCH: I think he will run.
And he‘s also—he‘s got that, you know, “Come on in, he‘s going to save the day” brand. Every—if you were going to create—if you and I were going to sit down from scratch and go, OK, let‘s do a movie, let‘s do a scenario where we create a guy who lost the election, but he actually won, so, he‘s the comeback kid...
MATTHEWS: Yes. But...
DEUTSCH: You know, every little...
MATTHEWS: ... you‘re talking about November.
DEUTSCH: OK. But, once again, he‘s still on—he‘s still on the sideline. That‘s the good news for him.
We‘re going to get wear-out factor with these people. You know, you and I, we‘re in the media. We watch this stuff. We‘re excited. I don‘t think people at home are sitting home watching 10 candidates. I don‘t think they care at this point. The sound bites, we‘re getting excited about.
I think, when people think about Hillary Clinton, they think about her regardless of what they‘re saying in the debates—same thing with Barack Obama, same thing with—with all the candidates.
MATTHEWS: How much do you want to bet me even money that he doesn‘t run? I say he doesn‘t run. You say he does.
MATTHEWS: ... want even money on this?
DEUTSCH: I will even give you odds. I think how will you know—tell me why he‘s not going to run, and I will tell you why he will run.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s awful late in the game, if he gets in after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in October. He would have to come in by November. He would have to enter all those caucuses and primaries, which commence immediately in the new year.
MATTHEWS: How does he even get on the ballot that fast?
DEUTSCH: Whoa. If I‘m him, I wait for the tsunami Tuesday. Why do we have bother with New Hampshire, Iowa? To me, it‘s a new world. With the way that Tuesday is set up, a guy can come in late. I don‘t think ever, until this election, you could have. Now you can.
I think the people who, frankly, right now, their brands need...
DEUTSCH: ... need a little work, I think Barack Obama. His brand going in was fresh, blank page. That was to his advantage. The disadvantage, he‘s not filling that page up at all. So, his brand going in is great. Right now, he‘s not filling in the dots.
Mitt Romney has the same thing, great blank page. You know, he looks presidential, interesting guy, great businessman. Put the Mormon thing aside. He‘s not filling in the page.
Giuliani has a very clearly defined brand. If he could skip the primaries, he‘s a very electable—electable guy.
MATTHEWS: Well, you don‘t think Romney has been coming up a bit?
DEUTSCH: I don‘t think so. I think that there is something, to me, the camera doesn‘t like.
I saw him on “60 Minutes.” I have seen the debates. People don‘t want a politician today. And this guy—once again, you and I, we‘re going to sit an office, a mad scientist‘s office. Let‘s create a presidential candidate. It‘s—there is something there. There‘s something too polished there. I think that‘s going to scare people at the end of the day.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he looks like an artist‘s conception of a president, one of those people that like—that was in the—in the Al Pacino movie where they had a wholly created woman, anchorwoman? Do you think he‘s a...
MATTHEWS: ... he looks like he‘s confected?
DEUTSCH: That‘s my point. Even—I think they actually airbrushed in the little gray sideburns.
This guy is too—if you and I were going to say, let‘s cast a guy for a president, and we cast him, you would say, no, he‘s too perfect. He‘s too pretty. Nobody is going to believe it. That looks like a guy we cast.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about old-shoe fellow himself, Fred Thompson? There‘s a guy that has been on television, played big shots, like presidents, I think. I think he played presidents. Is he central casting‘s real perfection?
DEUTSCH: Yes, I think the problem is, he‘s been around too long.
I think that‘s McCain‘s problem. I think we need freshness on some level. That‘s Hillary‘s problem. You know, the fresh guys don‘t have the experience. The old guys have been around.
The one thing I do know as a marketer, the one thing that is going to drive everything, people want to make a hard right turn. And each one of those candidates have a different challenging issue making that hard right turn. The new guys, you go, I‘m not seeing anything there. The guys that have been around, you know, I‘m tired—I‘m tired of Clinton. I‘m tired of McCain.
Giuliani all going in has the most to work with of the current people, but, surely, he has got the—the whole primary issue that‘s going to very difficult for him.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about Obama.
Let me go back to Hillary for a second. Can Hillary sell herself so many times? Or does she risk the carpetbagger problem of constantly trying to sell herself to the new opportunity?
DEUTSCH: But the interesting thing, although she keeps—you and I know she keeps kind of doing this a little of this dance—she‘s grown in the polls, because the one thing she has got going for her, you know, you like her or not, you see her up there in a debate, and you go, you know, this might be a men among boys here.
She really, really has got her stuff down. You may not like her, but this is a woman that has done her homework, that really knows where she‘s going. Even if she‘s changing gears, she knows she‘s changing gears. You see Barack up there, and he‘s kind of like, I‘m kind of happy to be here and I don‘t want to make a mistake here.
And that is not what people want.
MATTHEWS: Interesting. What a calibration that is. In other words, it‘s better to be seen changing gears than not doing it?
DEUTSCH: You know what? That‘s—we—we almost expect—you know, when we say, OK, politicians are following the polls, they‘re this and this—you know, it‘s very interesting.
I was at a fund-raiser—or I was at a little dinner...
MATTHEWS: So, we want to see the actors put on their costumes; we want to see the backroom; and, as long as we can tell that they‘re playing a game that we understand, we—we would rather see them playing that game than not?
DEUTSCH: I will give you a personal—a personal experience.
I went to a little cocktail thing for John Edwards. He walked into the room. He kind of—now, I was probably the wealthiest guy in the room, and I‘m a guy with a TV show. Wasn‘t sure who I was.
Hillary walks into a room, she could tell you how much money I have made, exactly what I‘m doing on my TV show. I know she‘s working me, but you know what? I expect you to do that. And that‘s OK. That‘s part of the...
MATTHEWS: And you don‘t like not being known.
DEUTSCH: Well, of course not. But that‘s a whole other issue.
DEUTSCH: That‘s a psycho...
DEUTSCH: That‘s a whole psychological show we will do, you know?
MATTHEWS: OK. And you don‘t—did you—what role did you play in the Bill Clinton first-time campaign, ‘92?
DEUTSCH: We worked on—he hired a bunch of advertising people. He was one of the smart people.
DEUTSCH: He brought on a bunch of general people. We did a lot of the commercials. Stephanopoulos, Mandy Grunwald, Carville ran it. We executed a lot of the stuff, rode on the bus with him, did all the documentary footage.
DEUTSCH: A lot of fun.
MATTHEWS: Well, Don, I got a book coming out this fall. I have got to talk to you. You know your stuff, man.
DEUTSCH: You know...
MATTHEWS: Donny Deutsch, what a smart guy.
DEUTSCH: I have got to tell you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You‘re bragging on the show. You‘re good-looking. You‘re bragging about your money. You‘re bragging about being known by pols.
MATTHEWS: You openly admit, if they don‘t know you are, you give them the shove. You are the most outrageous ego I have ever had on this show.
DEUTSCH: No. No.
MATTHEWS: And I have been on this show.
DEUTSCH: Oh, I have got to tell you something.
I did a full hour with you on my show. You popped, my friend. We did big numbers when you came on “The Big Idea.”
MATTHEWS: The check‘s in the mail.
Anyway, up next: President Bush, will he pardon Scooter Libby? G. Gordon Liddy is coming here. I cannot believe that we have booked Gordon Liddy to talk about a pardon, because we know all about his role in Watergate. Liddy is coming here to sit right there in the HARDBALL debate, up against Mark Green.
And, tomorrow on HARDBALL, one of the most informed of the Hollywood experts, Ben Affleck. Whatever you think, left or right, the guy knows his stuff. He will be fascinating.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ended sharply lower for a second straight day on worries about inflation and a potential rise in interest rates. Also, higher yields are making bonds more attractive and equities less so.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 130 points—the broad-market S&P 500 down 13.5. The Nasdaq lost 24.
Those inflation fears were fueled by data showing higher-than-expected labor costs in the first quarter. Meantime, worker productivity slowed sharply. An interest rate hike in Europe also hurt stocks here.
The National Association of Realtors now estimates that existing home sales will drop more than 4 percent this year. That‘s compared to its previous prediction of a nearly 3 percent drop. The group also says that new home sales will plunge more than 18 percent.
And gasoline futures continued their downward trend, as the government reported an unexpectedly large increase in inventories this week.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It‘s time now for tonight‘s big HARDBALL debate.
Should Scooter Libby receive a presidential pardon? He faces two-and-a-half years behind bars, plus a $250,000 fine. Will President Bush save a key member of his war brain trust, or will he let him face jail time?
Our debaters tonight, G. Gordon Liddy, who served time in jail himself for his role in Watergate, and Air America president Mark Green.
Mark, you first.
Should Scooter Libby be pardoned by President Bush?
MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: No.
A jury of his peers said the evidence was overwhelming. A judge appointed by President Bush 43 said the evidence was overwhelming. He committed a crime, which is obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI. And you do the time, you pay the time.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Liddy...
G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: ... you have done time.
LIDDY: Yes, I have.
MATTHEWS: Why shouldn‘t this guy do time?
LIDDY: Because I did time because I really did something.
Bear in mind that Mr. Fitzgerald, when they started this, knew who the leaker was, and knew it was not Scooter Libby.
MATTHEWS: Well, Libby was one of the leakers. He just wasn‘t the first.
LIDDY: No, he was—he was not the one who, you know, did the deed.
Secondly, he knew that there was no violation of either the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act.
So, what does he do? He goes and starts asking questions of people in and around the administration, and he gets a conflict between the recollection of Tim Russert and Scooter Libby.
He chooses to believing Tim Russert, rather than Scooter Libby, and he
and he prosecutes him.
LIDDY: Obstruction of justice? Obstruction of what? There was no crime.
GREEN: May I comment on that, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Sure. React.
GREEN: How do you know there was no crime?
The prosecutor said that he was pursuing, potentially, Richard Armitage, Vice President Cheney, who we now know did leak the name. The standard for the ‘82 act that you mentioned is quite high. You have to knowingly release the identity of a CIA agent that you know is covert.
While Fitzgerald was pursuing it, Scooter Libby lied to people about what happened. So, Libby frustrated the potential of a charge of the act under—under the 1982 law.
And, so, I don‘t understand why Republican partisans are soft on crime when it comes to it happening to be done by a Republican. I believe in law and order. If you commit a crime—you agree perjury and obstruction of justice is a crime—you should go to jail.
As a judge said—and, remember, this judge is not some left-wing judge. He was appointed by President George W. Bush.
You—you left out one of the key elements of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. And that is that the person has to have been posted within the last five years abroad in a covert position. She was not. So, there wasn‘t any question about the violation of that. And there wasn‘t any question about any potential violation.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think a jury of all those jurors decided that he was guilty of perjury and obstruction? Why did the judge find him—these are not Democrats. These are people who were appointed, as—as Mark said, by Republican presidents. And the jury was, from what I could tell, pretty apolitical.
Why did they find him guilty? Why did everybody in this case find the case tight?
LIDDY: Well, I don‘t think they found the case tight.
You—what you have here is something that reasonable people certainly can disagree on. And that is people‘s conflicting memories. That‘s all there was. You have got no documentary evidence. You have got no forensic evidence. You have got none of that.
And you just might just as well be prosecuting him for impersonating a human being and being a fugitive from the board of health. And there just was no crime here.
That being the case, then I think the president has a moral obligation to pardon him, and to do it right away, just cut this thing right off at the knees. As a matter of fact, he should have done it a good while ago.
MATTHEWS: You know, this is just the argument—excuse me, Mark. I don‘t want to get in your time here.
But this is exactly the argument a lot of people made on behalf of Bill Clinton. Back when the president was impeached—and he was impeached and almost convicted, although that was a partisan vote in the Senate, basically—the argument was made by the defendants of the president, OK, he lied in a deposition involving Paula Jones, and he lied about a relationship with a woman, but there was no underlying crime here. Therefore, he shouldn‘t have been impeached over perjury and obstruction of justice.
MATTHEWS: No, just a minute.
And the same thing you guys are saying now, because there wasn‘t this Espionage Protection Act violation, therefore, his perjury, proven or not, his obstruction of justice, proven or not, should be thrown out because there was no underlying crime.
Well, I ask you, what was the underlying crime of Bill Clinton‘s—in the case of the impeachment and the—almost conviction?
LIDDY: Well, the impeachment...
MATTHEWS: There was no underlying crime.
LIDDY: An impeachment is just an indictment. It‘s a...
LIDDY: That‘s all...
MATTHEWS: But everybody at the time on the left said, oh, there‘s no underlying crime. And, therefore, he shouldn‘t have been convicted of—he shouldn‘t been impeached for perjury.
You guys are using the same argument now.
LIDDY: The argument that I‘m making is quite different from that with respect to President Clinton, which I made at the time, if you will recall.
I mean, President Clinton, you know, said something that was absolutely not a fact and demonstrably not a fact. And what they had was forensic evidence, you know? Remember the blue dress and all of that.
MATTHEWS: How can I forget?
LIDDY: There is no forensic evidence here at all. What you have got is Tim Russert said, I remember it this way.
And he says, no, I remember it that way.
MATTHEWS: But there were seven or eight witnesses who said that he knew this information before he ever talked to Tim Russert.
GREEN: You don‘t usually have...
MATTHEWS: And they brought them all to the stand.
GREEN: You don‘t usually have forensic evidence when you‘re lying.
There‘s no stains involved.
Here‘s the difference. After $70 million and a special counsel, Bill Clinton, of course, was never prosecuted. Here, we have a Republican Justice Department and a Republican—and—and an independent counsel being convicted of a crime.
You say there is no evidence. The only people who disagree with you are a jury and a judge, who use the word overwhelming evidence, which is different that no evidence.
Look, I do think—not that Bus should—I do think Bus will pardon him. President Bush has shown such a contempt for the rule of law. Look at the U.S. attorneys investigation. Look at the two Supreme Court decisions overturning him on the lack of due process in Guantanamo. Apparently when George Bush was told he had to faithfully execute the laws, he took it literally. He creates his own reality, Chris.
I think he will pardon him because he can‘t go much lower in the polls, said a Republican supporter of his in the “Washington Post” today.
MATTHEWS: I have to ask you the same question, Gordon. Will he pardon him?
LIDDY: I don‘t know whether he‘s got the nerve to pardon him or not. He‘s so wrong on so many things these days. His biggest problem right now is this immigration, this illegal alien amnesty thing. He‘s pushing that in the face of the base. He doesn‘t have to run again. But a lot of other Republicans have to run again. And he‘s just tearing the party to pieces.
MATTHEWS: So this would be three strikes, you‘re saying. If he doesn‘t do it—you‘re saying he will do it or won‘t do it? You‘re saying he‘s afraid to do it? Why would he attack his base by not pardoning at this point?
LIDDY: Why would he attack his base by calling them bigots and racists and all that because they oppose him on the immigration bill?
GREEN: The other part of his base, big employers, want him to do it. If George W. Bush has challenged his base, neo-conservatives on the war, the religious right on Terry Schiavo, or any of these votes—I don‘t know an instance when he‘s directly challenged his base. So I assume he won‘t in this instance. He‘s not running again. And whenever he‘s been shown that he‘s done something unpopular and wrong, he shrugs.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘ve got to say this one comparison, Gordon Liddy, you never threw Nixon on the tracks. And this guy Libby has never thrown Cheney on the tracks. Did he take the fall like you took the fall?
LIDDY: Let me tell you the message that this sends though. It‘s the same message when I was in prison. They used to consult me. And I would tell them, look, if you get called to the captain‘s office, stop at the door and look inside. If the captain‘s alone, go inside and find out if your mother died or something like that.
If you see there‘s two guys there, they‘re cops or federal agents, don‘t even enter the room. Because if you enter the room and you come back out—you know, you get killed if you‘re a rat in prison. People will say you talked to the police. If you don‘t have a conversation—if there was no conversation, then you don‘t have to worry about it. What this says is if the FBI comes knocking on your door, saying we would like your cooperation; we want you to talk to us about this, that or the other thing, your answer should be no thank you.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s what Scooter said.
GREEN: Forgive me. The lesson is patriots support the rule of law.
MATTHEWS: OK, Mark Green, thank you sir. Thank you G. Gordon Libby. It‘s great to have you on the show, Gordon, because you are an iconic fellow.
LIDDY: Good to be back.
MATTHEWS: Up next, what is behind Rudy Giuliani‘s recent surge in the polls? He keeps going up. Rudy Giuliani, the guy they say can‘t win, keeps winning the polls at least. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘ve dug into the big headlines of the day. Now it‘s time to tell you what it all means. Let‘s bring in the HARDBALLers, Democratic consultant Jenny Backus, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, and former Bush advisor and top lobbyist in Washington Nick Calio.
First up, beating out Bush. The Republican candidates failed to fight each other in Tuesday night‘s debate, but they did go after their increasingly unpopular president. I‘m surprised by this, but take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM TANCREDO ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president ran as a conservative but governed as a liberal.
TOMMY THOMPSON ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I certainly would not send him to the United Nations.
REP. RON PAUL ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been so disappointed in the president in so many ways.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m going to give you a little straight talk. This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem with this immigration plan is it has no real unifying purpose. It‘s a typical Washington mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How scared are these candidates for the Republican nomination of their politically toxic potential predecessor? Nick Calio, you‘ve worked in a major position for President Bush, what are these guys running to if they‘re running from the Republican president in the White House?
NICK CALIO, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR: Well, Chris, I don‘t think it‘s any secret that politicians don‘t want to be associated with another politician with low poll ratings. I think there are levels of disagreement between the president and the candidates involved, some whom I guess I would describe as marginal or fringe. Tom Tancredo criticizing the president, big deal.
I think that the criticism of the handling of the Iraq war is justified in many respects. So I don‘t think there‘s anything unusual here. And I think a number of people who were there were just expressing disagreement over certain aspects of policy.
MATTHEWS: Well is it simply that, Jenny Backus, the war? Is it immigration? Certainly there is a lot of opportunity to demagogue, if you will, opposition to the president on the war. There‘s a lot of running room out there on the right.
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think here is the problem: the Republicans are going through what the Democrats went through. It‘s this huge identity crisis and I think they have a real problem. They don‘t know who is driving the party. This was Karl Rove and Bush that were supposed to remake the entire world for the Republican party after 2004.
It didn‘t work. So now they‘re stuck with it‘s a change election and they need some way to show change. The only way to do it is to sort of gently tap George Bush. But they‘re really not breaking with Bush on the thing that‘s killing Bush. That was a generous tap, the war.
MATTHEWS: Back in 1998, George Bush Sr., the first George Bush, rather, read on a campaign pledge to be kinder and gentler. That was a gentle tap against Reagan. But this is not gentle.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”: Yes, that was the gentle tap. Except that the late Lee Atwater‘s whole strategy on behalf of papa Bush was to grab Ronald Reagan by the ankles and not let go. He said to me, we‘re not going to put any daylight, not an ounce of daylight between Reagan and Bush.
MATTHEWS: What was kinder, gentler all about?
FINEMAN: That was a very kind and gentle way of doing it. That was the kindest and gentlest way of doing it.
BACKUS: But Reagan‘s not Bush now.
FINEMAN: Right. This is a different situation. I talked to Republican strategists for the column I wrote in “Newsweek” this week, who say they don‘t even want—they‘re going to predict that if these candidates are smart, whoever wins, that George W. Bush does not speak at the Republican Convention in Minneapolis.
MATTHEWS: At all?
FINEMAN: At all.
BACKUS: That won‘t happen.
FINEMAN: Last time there was a war this unpopular and a president from Texas, Lyndon Johnson—
FINEMAN: 1968 -- who did not speak at the Democratic convention.
Now, admittedly, the country is not torn, at least it doesn‘t look that way in the streets, but it is divided. And, you know, these are Republican consultants I was talking to, not Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk about the strange doings last night, talk of evolution back and forth, of monkeys back and forth, of lightning striking in the middle of a Giuliani event last night. A lot of weird stuff happening at that Republican debate last night. You‘re watching HARDBALL now, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Jenny Backus, Howard Fineman, and Nick Calio. By the way, we just learned that Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the 9/11 man, has decided he‘s not going to compete in the Iowa straw vote this summer. Boy, that‘s amazing.
But let‘s take a look at what happened last night with Rudy Giuliani. Did God strike GOP debate is the headline. It came down with a vengeance, and with little warning at the Republican debate Tuesday. When Rudy Giuliani was asked about a Catholic bishop up in Rhode Island, who has been blasting him for his position on abortion. As Rudy was answering the question, here is what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- Catholic bishop—
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That is the lightning that is having an effect on our system.
GIULIANI: They‘re going to leave me alone, John. Well, I guess I am here by myself. Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that is happening right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So what do we make of that? You can make light of the fact that the deity is coming down on you from above? I mean, there are certain things that are sort of a joke.
FINEMAN: The deity said, do not compete in the Iowa straw poll. That is where of the pro-life activists are going to be, in Iowa. Not all of them—
MATTHEWS: On the Republican side.
FINEMAN: -- on the Republican side. That is part of the calculus. Rudy is saying, you know what, Iowa is loss for me anyway, I think he‘s saying. Whatever I get there, I get. Maybe it‘s a tactical mistake, but that‘s what he‘s doing.
MATTHEWS: Nick Calio, I sometimes think that when we look down on the Sunni and the Shia and the other people in the Middle East for fighting over religion, we now find ourselves in the United States of America having a presidential election about lightning striking a candidate, about abortion rights, and whether we are descended from, as Huckabee put it, primates.
We‘re back to the monkey trial here in 2007. Is this good for the Republican party, this sort of internecine debate over first beliefs, primary beliefs?
CALIO: Well, over primary beliefs, Chris, I actually do think it is a mistake. I did not want to hear about evolution. I think people can have their beliefs in private. And as long as it does not have an impact on policy, that is fine. People have different beliefs. They live with those. I do not think it should be a major element of the Republican debate for president.
Nor do I think that, you know, whether Romney is a Mormon or not should be a major part of the debate. Abortion rights, that is a different story. That‘s going to be with us forever as a political issue. But in terms of whether it was Newton, whether the apple fell or not, it is just not working for me, personally.
MATTHEWS: Jenny, is this good news for the Democrats, that the Republicans are fighting this intramural fight over age old, perhaps never ending arguments?
BACKUS: It is. And the other problem is it is not about issues that voters care about right now. I mean, the Democrats won in 2006 a lot because of luck, but because also people thought we were the party that cared about what people in their daily lives cared about. The fight about evolution seems, you know, 50 years ago. Abortion rights, for a lot of people, a lot of younger people—
MATTHEWS: I am not a media critic, certainly because of I‘m part of the media. And I‘m not going to get involved in the intramurals of media criticism. But do you think it is a fair shot at Tom Delay, who sat here, and I think a lot of people agree with him, that CNN set this up last night, that we, in our own way, set it up when we had our own debate at MSNBC, at the Reagan Library, by even raising questions like—even allowing audience questions to come through about evolution, that we are just bear baiting. We are like rattling the bars of the cage to the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: It‘s like, all right, argue about evolution.
BACKUS: No, because I think it is a tactic that goes against science and against progress. There is a sense in ideology that those people scoff at Democrats for Al Gore, for saying that he cares about global warming. Well, now Al Gore is pretty much right. Or Democrats talking about new technology.
I think that the Republicans have use evolution and abortion rights as a values issue, as a moral—
MATTHEWS: Howard, is this a battle over science and modernity? Are the Republicans being forced to defend traditional beliefs, fundamental beliefs about the Old Testament in a politically modern campaign environment, which is unfair?
FINEMAN: Well, I wouldn‘t blame it on the media, frankly. I‘m going to disagree with you.
MATTHEWS: Not me, Tom Delay.
FINEMAN: All right. And I also think it is a fundamental and it is relevant. I would disagree. I think it is very relevant.
MATTHEWS: Science is important to understand.
FINEMAN: Science is important. And when you are talking are curriculums in schools, that is where the rubber meets the road in American society. Are you going to have people elected to the school boards who are going to take evolution and science textbooks out of the curriculum and replace them with something else?
MATTHEWS: What did you say of McCain last night saying, leave it up to local school boards where they teach evolution or creationism.
BACKUS: I thought that was a chicken way out. It is sort of what McCain does on some of the social value issues. A lot of the people—at least in 2000, a lot of us, some sort of middle of the road Democrats, said I could vote for McCain because he‘s not as nutty. I was at the DNC and we saw his voting record. But I think he is trying to have it both ways.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right to Nick, and ask you about—do you think a Republican who is pro-choice—I hate the short hand, and you do too, I‘m sure—who believes in the ultimate right of a woman to make a decision about abortion, life and death, and all that is involved, perhaps, is that going to be a deal breaker for Rudy Giuliani?
CALIO: I am not sure. Everybody disagrees with me, Chris, mind you. But I‘m not sure that it is. I think if people take a look at Giuliani and decide that he is a good leader, and will be a good leader, the abortion issue may not discount them. I think it would be for him to tell people that that is where he stands, and that‘s what it is. But look at all these other things.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right, but I‘m not sure. Anyway, thank you Howard Fineman, as always buddy. Thank you Nick Calio. And thank you Jenny Backus. Tomorrow night on HARDBALL, actor Ben Affleck. I think we‘re going to have him for most of the hour and you can submit your questions for Ben. You‘re laughing Howard. He is really smart.
FINEMAN: You‘re not going to have the HARDBALLers for the whole.
MATTHEWS: -- more issues than you can believe. Anyway, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com with questions for Ben Affleck. Start sending them in right now. Now it is time for “TUCKER.”
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