Guests: Karen Hanretty, Joe Trippi, Alex Castellanos, A.B. Stoddard, Chris Cillizza
MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST: His attorney general is under investigation, his top aide is ordered to jail, his immigration bill is going south and his poll numbers are in the gutter, a bad week for George Bush.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Mike Barnicle, in for Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL. It‘s hard work, a hard job being president, and this week George Bush earned his pay. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is under investigation by the very department he runs. Former White House aide Scooter Libby was ordered to prison for his crimes in the CIA leak case, and two former White House staffers were subpoenaed in by Congress the U.S. attorney scandal.
Plus, today members of Congress declare that the president‘s stalled immigration reform is the subject of continued negotiations and still could be brought to the Senate floor. It‘s not a breakthrough just yet, but there was great relief and joy today among White House officials. Ordinarily, of course, news that a presidential priority is not dead wouldn‘t be worthy of celebration, but these are tough times for George Bush.
HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has the latest.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today at the end of a tough week, President Bush received word from Congress that his immigration reform plan is still alive, and the president promised a Hispanic audience he would do everything possible to close the deal.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will continue to work closely with members of both parties, get past our differences and pass a bill I can sign this year.
SHUSTER: But aside from the glimmer of hope on immigration, nothing else today was breaking in the president‘s direction. In the Palestinian territories, the chaos continued as Islamic fundamentalists led by the Hamas terror organization seized control from moderates backed by the Bush administration. The lawlessness prompted “The Washington Post” this morning to print this headline: “Takeover by Hamas illustrates failure of Bush‘s Mideast vision.”
In Iraq, the U.S. military announced the deaths of more U.S. soldiers, bringing the overall death total to 3,513. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said the U.S. security crackdown is losing traction and that sectarian violence is again on the rise.
And here in Washington, administration officials confirmed that embattled attorney general Alberto Gonzales is now under investigation by his own department. The issue relates to the highly controversial firing of federal prosecutors. Several witnesses have given testimony backing up allegations the dismissals were politically motivated. And last month, former Justice Department aide Monica Goodling testified about a meeting with Gonzales once the uproar began, where the attorney general, in Goodling‘s mind, appeared to be trying to coach her testimony.
REP. ARTUR DAVIS (D), ALABAMA: What was it that made you uncomfortable about your conversation with the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales?
MONICA GOODLING, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AIDE: I just—I just—
I did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what happened, and I just thought maybe we shouldn‘t have that conversation.
GOODLING: And I so I didn‘t respond to—I didn‘t respond to what he said.
SHUSTER: Goodling‘s testimony has attracted attention because Gonzales stated under oath that he had not discussed the firings with other witnesses. And today administration officials confirm that the attorney general is under investigation by the Justice Department‘s inspector general, an in-house investigator who has the authority, if warranted, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
And all of these developments today come on the heels of an NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll earlier this week that found President Bush‘s job approval rating has dropped to 29 percent, the lowest since he took office. And since that poll came out, former White House adviser Scooter Libby has been ordered to report to prison this summer in the CIA leak case. Former White House political director Sara Taylor and counsel Harrier Miers have been ordered by Congress to provide testimony in the U.S. attorney scandal.
The Labor Dept reported that a surge in gas prices last month caused consumer prices to shoot up at the fastest pace in almost two years. And the Russians started blaming U.S. computers and NASA for glitches on the International Space Station that could force Cosmonauts to abandon the facility.
(on camera): President Bush, of course, has nothing to do with the problems on the space station, but it‘s yet another issue that may effect the national mood. And right now, pollsters say the national mood is the worst it has been in 30 years. It all makes the challenges for President Bush even more severe at a time when almost nothing seems to be going the president‘s way.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
BARNICLE: David, thanks very much. For more on these and other top political news developments of the day, we turn to Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Also joining us is HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum, the author of the new book, “No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner.”
Gentlemen, the both of you look marvelous. Business must be good.
Your ties cost more than the gross national product of several countries. But let me ask you, off of that report, George Bush -- 3,500 dead in Iraq, the immigration bill appears dormant, Libby on his way to jail, the attorney general on his way back to law school or someplace—who knows where he‘s going. What does this do to the Republican Party? How do you run for president as a Republican with the weight of this administration on it?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, ROMNEY SENIOR MEDIA STRATEGIST: I think there‘s no doubt that this has been, as the president has often said, hard work, and Republicans are having a hard time. The country‘s having a hard time. You know, this is a very—we‘re in a very complex era, international challenges and economic challenges across the globe and then all these problems here at home. But I think, often, the president also doesn‘t get credit for the fact that we‘ve had a good economy now for quite a while. MSNBC is selling more commercials than ever. We‘ve been safe since 9/11.
And those are the kind of things you don‘t get credit for.
But I think it‘s very clear that we‘re in a new era, and Democrat or Republican, the candidate‘s going to get elected for president next time is going to be somebody who represents change and a way forward into this new era.
BARNICLE: So Bob Shrum, there‘s a school of thought, given—given, again, the weight of all of these difficulties that the Bush administration is having, that if the Democrats cannot win the White House next time out, they perhaps ought to think of going into the aluminum siding business.
BOB SHRUM, AUTHOR, “NO EXCUSES,” HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I actually think whenever you write a party off, whether it was the Republicans after ‘64 or Democrats after 1984, you‘re wrong. You‘re always -- the other party‘s always going to come in at some point.
What I want Alex to tell me is that his candidate, Mitt Romney, is going to give that eloquent speech praising George Bush at the next Republican debate because the thing that‘s amazing is none of these Republicans talk about Bush when they‘re debating. His name is mentioned far more often at the Democratic debates than the Republican debates.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think you see all the Republican candidates praise a lot of good things in the Bush administration, the economy, like I said...
SHRUM: ... say his name? Why not say his name a little? You know, it‘s only one syllable first name, one syllable last name. Wouldn‘t be hard.
CASTELLANOS: Bob, Republicans also have the courage to campaign about the future.
SHRUM: Yes! I can see the don‘t want to run on the past!
BARNICLE: You know, one of the things about this president, and it was evident again in David‘s news report at the top of this hour—when you hear George Bush talk about immigration, he seems to be much more real, much more in tune with the reality of the proposed legislation and the difficulties surrounding the issue than he does when he speaks about any other issue. What‘s your take on that, Alex?
CASTELLANOS: Well, you know, I think we had a tale of two Republican governors a long time ago. And one was in California, Pete Wilson, and one was in Texas. And one saw America as a land of great opportunity, that we should have more legal immigration into this country. That was George Bush, and he became president of the United States. Republican Party‘s always tried to be the party of legal immigration and more growth. You know, your Irish ancestors—mine are Cuban—we all came here from somewhere. And as long as the Republican Party, I think, keeps that door open as a party of optimism and like that, it‘s going to succeed.
BARNICLE: Well, what happens...
CASTELLANOS: And that‘s who Bush is (INAUDIBLE)
BARNICLE: But what happens to the base of the Republican Party?
SHRUM: Well, this is the problem. There‘s a huge demand in the base
of the Republican Party, and you see it in these debates, to basically run
an anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant policy on this issue. And if that happens
the other governor you talked about, Pete Wilson, took what was a reliably Republican state most of the time, not all of the time, and turned California into a reliably Democratic state.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I‘ll disagree with Bob on that. I don‘t think there is that huge demand. There‘s a huge demand in the Republican Party for somebody to make Washington work. You know, Washington promised—
Republicans and Democrats promised this country we‘d have border security in 1986. They promised we‘d have employer verification. And now Washington is very arrogantly talking about it, saying, Well, why don‘t you take...
SHRUM: But that‘s not what Bush wants.
CASTELLANOS: Bush wants those put together with an earned path to citizenship. And so the 12 or 14 million people can come out of the shadows...
SHRUM: ... most of Americans want is comprehensive border security, which they were promised, comprehensive employer verification, which they were promised and haven‘t gotten.
SHRUM: And you leave out the third part—and you leave out the third part because your candidate has discovered, for example, that Republican primary voters hate it. Bush and Rove sit there and say, If we don‘t get this done and we alienate Hispanics, Republicans aren‘t going to win a presidential election for 25 years.
BARNICLE: Well, to Bob‘s point, Alex, what about that? You have California, New Mexico, Florida to some extent, huge hospitals populations. What do you do in those states when specific—Mitt Romney, your guy—I mean, he‘s not exactly a proponent of this immigration bill.
SHRUM: He was—two years ago, he was for the moderate immigration...
BARNICLE: He was for it before he was against it, right?
CASTELLANOS: ... immigration bill is a big bowl of Jell-o that Ted Kennedy hasn‘t even finished writing yet, and everybody‘s been asked to run around and grab this thing. We don‘t even know what‘s in it. Mitt Romney is not anti-immigration. Mitt Romney is for legal immigration. He thinks it brings great benefits to this country and he wants more of it.
CASTELLANOS: But there are laws here. There‘s...
SHRUM: What are we going to do with the 12 or 14 million people?
That‘s how Republicans got in trouble in California...
BARNICLE: ... Massachusetts and do the lawn.
CASTELLANOS: When a bucket‘s leaking water, the first thing you do is you don‘t figure out what you‘re going to do with the water, you stop the leaking.
SHRUM: Those are your candidate‘s lines, Alex!
CASTELLANOS: Those are the very first things you do.
SHRUM: You know, as a political analyst...
CASTELLANOS: But nobody...
SHRUM: ... that if you alienate the Hispanics...
BARNICLE: ... Republican Party‘s in terrible trouble for a long time.
CASTELLANOS: Stop the leaking, or you won‘t have any water.
BARNICLE: We‘re going to come back in a second because I want to beat up on the Democrats for a while, OK? Alex, you can put your gloves on. We‘ll be right back...
BARNICLE: We‘ll be right back with Bob Shrum and Alex Castellanos.
Later, the HARDBALL debate. Did Democratic lawmakers abandon the anti-war movement? Former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi will be here in the house to answer that question.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL with Bob Shrum and Alex Castellanos. Bob Shrum, let‘s start with you. It‘s the “beat up the Democrats” segment. Harry Reid...
BARNICLE: He indicates a few days ago the war is lost. Quite recently, within the last day or two, he basically says General Petraeus is an incompetent, he‘s in over his head. Is this really helpful to the Democrats?
SHRUM: I think telling the truth is helpful. I think what you saw in the paper this morning was a report out of the Pentagon that says the surge has actually not resulted in a diminution of violence. It‘s spreading across Iraq. More and more people are losing their lives. Come September, Petraeus is going to have to come to Congress, and I think he‘s going to face some very tough questions. And at that point, I think some of the Republicans are going to begin to walk away from Bush and this policy.
CASTELLANOS: Well, Bob, since we‘re into telling the truth, though, let‘s tell the rest of it. And the rest of the report is, of course, that the troops completing the surge are just getting on the ground, the people and the resources, this week, last week. So maybe we ought to give the team the chance to get on the field?
SHRUM: This is always the war of next week or next month...
CASTELLANOS: No, but seriously, though, the troops—Petraeus‘s troops are just getting there actually now. And that day, as it happens, Harry Reid tells, you know, fighting men and women of America, Hey, we‘ve already lost?
SHRUM: Listen, what we ought to for the fighting...
CASTELLANOS: How does that help?
SHRUM: ... we ought to get them out of Iraq. That war is a disaster...
SHRUM: ... General Casey kicked upstairs by Bush said sending more troops will just increase and feed the insurgency, and that‘s what‘s happened.
CASTELLANOS: So on the one hand, it‘s let‘s give the surge a chance to work. On the other hand...
CASTELLANOS: I never said give the surge a chance to work...
CASTELLANOS: On the other hand, the day they get there, we‘ve lost.
BARNICLE: Alex, I don‘t know what our poll numbers are showing on behalf of Governor Romney, or just Republican poll numbers in general, but the United States Army is broken. The United States Marine Corps is broken. How do you deal with this as a political candidate? The country wants this thing over.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think we have—we‘ve got a lot of challenges all around the world, and one of the things Governor Romney‘s called for is that we have to add to the military. We have to add at least 100,000 troops, go from 1.5 to 1.6 (SIC), and we have to really reverse all the cuts that we suffered in the military and our intelligence communities during the Clinton years.
SHRUM: Oh, my Lord! We‘re blaming Bill Clinton?
CASTELLANOS: Yes, we have. That‘s where it all started.
SHRUM: The problem is this stupid war that was based on a lie. We could increase the army by 150,000 troops immediately by just getting these people out of Iraq.
BARNICLE: Let me ask you both guys now because you‘re been both going at the issue of the war for a couple of minutes here, and it reminds me of the left-right, not necessarily that you‘re right or that you‘re left, but the left-right split that has existed in this country since Vietnam. This is a polarized city, Washington, D.C. Nothing gets done in the Congress as a result of it. It‘s a polarized country now. What can be done, if anything, during the course of the next few months of campaigning to sort of rid ourselves of the polarization and talk about the country, which is what people want to be talking about?
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think you have to start with, Do you have the perspective that this is actually a war or this is a police action against a few renegade terrorists, which seems to be what a lot of the Democrats in Congress, the way they view the world. I think Governor Romney and a lot of Republicans view this that we‘re in a long-term struggle with people that...
SHRUM: In very nice, gentle terms, Alex just gave a very partisan speech.
CASTELLANOS: No, but...
CASTELLANOS: ... and can we, do we agree on that? And if you don‘t agree on the fundamental premise...
SHRUM: Of course we agree that there‘s a war on terror! But the war on terror...
CASTELLANOS: ... then you have to mobilize the country...
SHRUM: ... should never have been turned into a war on Iraq. We should be—we would be a lot better off if Saddam Hussein was still sitting in his palace, writing romance novels than sending 150,000 Americans in there, spending what‘s going to be a trillion dollars and weakening ourselves with respect to Iran and the war on terror elsewhere.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think we‘re going to have a difference of opinion if you think Saddam Hussein—if was fine to leave him there, grinding up—grinding up people in meat shredders there and...
SHRUM: Now, wait a minute...
CASTELLANOS: Democracy is something that‘s only good for you...
SHRUM: No, you think—you think the Bush policies...
CASTELLANOS: ... but not for other people in the world. Democracy‘s not worth fighting for.
SHRUM: ... adds democracy in the Middle East?
CASTELLANOS: Read “The Washington Post” this morning. Eight million...
CASTELLANOS: Eight million people went to vote for it and at the risk of (INAUDIBLE) lives.
SHRUM: And they didn‘t get it.
BARNICLE: We‘ve had a healing process right here.
BARNICLE: Bob Shrum, Alex Castellanos, thanks very much.
Up next: Democrats are vowing to renew their push for troop withdrawal from Iraq after their job approval rating took a dive. Did they abandon the anti-war movement that got them elected?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With Congress‘ approval rating at 23 percent, and an anti-war coalition targeting 40 Republican lawmakers across the country this summer, Democratic leaders are now scrambling to refocus their anti-war efforts.
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to push for troop withdrawal in an upcoming Defense Department budget bill. And he criticized the war, as well as outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, during a conference call with a group of liberal bloggers.
Did the Democrats desert the anti-war movement?
Joe Trippi is a Democratic strategist who was Howard Dean‘s campaign manager back in 2004. And Republican strategist Karen Hanretty was Schwarzenegger‘s, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s, spokeswoman, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Joe, let‘s start with you.
Millions of people went to the polls last fall, voted not necessarily for Democrats, but voted against incumbents, and wanted to get us out of the war in Iraq. OK? The Democrats take control of the House and the Senate. They come to Washington, and they do nada.
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think, so far, Congress has let the people down.
The only way—the power to stop the war is the power of the purse that Congress has. They can‘t do anything else. Bush can stop anything else. That‘s the one thing they can do. And I think that‘s what the people—not—not the netroots, not some—some fringe group in the Democratic Party, but a majority of the American people want out, think this war was a mistake.
And Congress only has one way to stop it. And that‘s what people want them to do. The leadership has got a tough thing, because they have got to pull everybody together and—and push it forward.
BARNICLE: That‘s using—using the word leadership loosely in this case.
TRIPPI: Well, but, I mean—but I think that‘s the problem here. They have got to convince people in the House that this is what the American people want.
It‘s not some fringe group out there. It‘s a majority of the American people. And that‘s why they are there in the first place.
BARNICLE: You are shaking your head.
KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Here is why. I don‘t think the American people entirely know what they want, because, if they...
BARNICLE: They don‘t?
HANRETTY: No. No.
I don‘t think that—I don‘t think they know the details or the specifics of how they want it. They know they want things to be better, they are tired of a war, but they are not sure how to get from point A to point B. And that‘s where the Democratic Party, I think, and the leadership is stuck right now.
If that—if point B, which is a complete pullout, was really where the American people were at, I don‘t think that you would have the Democratic leadership sitting on their hands, and not really pushing for this and showing leadership, because they would have nothing to lose.
It‘s a lot like the immigration debate. If a majority of the people in America really liked the details of this current immigration bill, you would you see the Democrats pushing for it. They would have nothing to lose.
So, the question is—I think, to a large extent, Harry Reid right
now is just kind of playing the foil for the Democratic Party, while they -
while the people of America figure out the specifics of what they want.
BARNICLE: I would agree with you on the immigration bill. I think a huge number of people in this country don‘t understand the nuts and bolts of that immigration bill.
But I would disagree with you on the war in Iraq.
HANRETTY: I don‘t think they understand...
BARNICLE: I think everybody in America, almost everybody in America, knows that President Maliki, the Iraqi legislature, they are playing us for fools.
HANRETTY: But they don‘t know—here is what they don‘t...
HANRETTY: No, wait. Here‘s what they don‘t know.
And I think what the people of America are not quite comfortable with is, yes, we pull out, but answering the “But then what?” And I think that they are not quite sure about what does happen if we pull out. I think they do—I think they do—and I don‘t think Republicans or Democrats are really answering the “Then what?” question.
TRIPPI: I think the American people know, one, the war was a mistake.
But, even more importantly, they know we are now putting our troops in the middle of a civil war, and there is no way our troops can affect the outcome of a civil war.
HANRETTY: But—but why won‘t you, even, address the...
HANRETTY: OK. But then what? Then what happens?
I mean, if you look throughout history, so, the U.S. helps Afghanistan fight against the Soviet Union. We pull out after the Afghanis beat back the USSR. Then what happens? Well, there is a power vacuum that happens. And it...
TRIPPI: You have the administration now talking about...
HANRETTY: It‘s legitimate for the...
TRIPPI: ... looking at the Korea model for how long troops should be
BARNICLE: Fifty years.
TRIPPI: Yes, 50 years. And who is being straight with the American people about that? Not even the Republican leadership is being—or the president is being straight with the American people about that.
HANRETTY: I don‘t disagree with that.
TRIPPI: So, to say that the American people...
HANRETTY: But—but you have to...
TRIPPI: ... don‘t know what they want, maybe, if we had a little bit more leadership, and told the American people what was really going on...
HANRETTY: OK. Well, why don‘t the Democrats tell people...
HANRETTY: ... and just be honest with people, lay it on the table...
HANRETTY: ... be honest with them, and, if it‘s bad, just say, it‘s going to be bad...
HANRETTY: ... and let them decide?
BARNICLE: What has happened to the Democratic Party? What has happened to the Democratic Party, when you have so many committed activists, normal people, who are against this war?
They vote for these people, thinking, that, well, they are going to do something. They‘re going to cut the appropriations.
BARNICLE: They are going to end this war fiscally within the House of Representatives. And they don‘t do it. What happens to the party now?
TRIPPI: Well, I think that‘s part of the fight that you are going to
that are seeing, you know, opening up in the presidential primary side of things.
I mean, Edwards is the guy I work for. We have been out there saying, send the same bill back again and again, and make the president veto it. Make it clear to the American people who is stopping the troops from getting the money and who‘s not doing...
HANRETTY: Then why don‘t they do that?
TRIPPI: Well, that‘s what...
TRIPPI: That‘s what we‘re trying to do to affect the debate.
HANRETTY: If there is such a will among the American people, if there‘s a such strong will, why don‘t they do that?
BARNICLE: No courage.
HANRETTY: That‘s actually what I thought they would do.
If—it doesn‘t take courage to do what the American people want you to do, though.
BARNICLE: But, I mean, don‘t you think—I don‘t know anything. I come in from Washington from elsewhere, from out in the country, OK? But you see these people. Washington is like a huge city. It‘s like a big soundstage. Everybody is playing a part.
Half the people in the House and the Senate, they are afraid of a telephone call. So, why would you expect them to have the courage to vote against the war?
HANRETTY: If it gets them votes, they will do it. But, clearly, they don‘t think it gets them votes...
HANRETTY: ... which tells—which gets back to my original point, which is, the American people don‘t entirely know what they want.
TRIPPI: At some point, you have got to do what is—what is right and, not what is going to get you votes.
HANRETTY: I don‘t think that‘s how it works, but...
TRIPPI: When you‘re talking about—when you‘re talking about thousands of our troops...
TRIPPI: ... on the ground putting their lives on the line, one of these guys could put their career on the line.
BARNICLE: We will be back with the HARDBALL debate in a moment.
Still to come: Some women just can‘t get enough of Bill Clinton.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rallied for a third straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 85 points, the S&P up almost 10, and the Nasdaq gained 27 points.
Stocks getting a boost from data showing tame inflation at the consumer level last month—so-called core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy, rose just a tenth-of-a-percent. That‘s less than expected and follows yesterday‘s reading showing only a slight gain in core wholesale prices.
The nation‘s trade gap widened in the first quarter, due in part to higher oil prices. But the increase was slightly less than analysts expected.
And two top U.S. rental car companies are going green. Hertz and Avis plan to add a combined 4,400 hybrid vehicles to their fleets, some as soon as next week.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are back with our Republican strategist Karen Hanretty and Democratic Strategist Joe Trippi.
Here is what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said about outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace on Thursday.
Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, with General Pace, there‘s a long line of people who have indicated in various ways that General Pace was not the person to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That‘s why the name was pulled.
Peter Pace, I talked to him in my conference room, just him and I, and I told him how I felt, that he had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren‘t going right in Iraq. I told him that to his face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: Does that get to the point that you were making earlier? A lot of tough talk there from Harry Reid, but, when it comes time for the yeas and nays, they are not on the side of people who want to withdrawal from Iraq?
HANRETTY: No, they‘re—they are not.
It is a lot of tough talk. And I think it‘s just a waiting game, until September, when Petraeus comes out and delivers the bad news. And then it‘s not partisan, because no one looks at Petraeus as being a partisan in this war and in this game of politics.
And I think it is a waiting game, so that the Democrats are not just the anti-war crowd. They can‘t get branded by the Republicans. There are enough moderate Republicans that have already indicated they are going to break with the president. And I think that this is just all culminating to this fall.
BARNICLE: The mystifying—perhaps that‘s the wrong word—the infuriating thing about that phrase, waiting game, is that there are families, parents in this country whose son or daughter is going to be lost between now and September, as the politicians play this waiting game.
TRIPPI: The cynical waiting game. And that‘s just—you know, look, I think, in the future, people are going to look back at who stood up and who really had the courage to do what was right, right now, and that there‘s very few of them, to be honest about it.
I mean, right now, to say—we know what is going on now. Capitol Hill is waiting for Petraeus to come back in September, and then give everybody cover, so they can finally vote against this thing, and take the money off the table. The president won‘t do it.
And how many people are going to—how many of our soldiers are going to die while they wait for cover? That‘s—it‘s an amazing thing, that that is what is going on, because they are worried about their votes. Again, send the damn bill back over and over again until the president—you know, and make the president veto it.
But I don‘t—they are going to not do it. And I just think it‘s a tragedy that that‘s what has happened in the country right now.
HANRETTY: It‘s cynical from a political and a moral point of view.
But it is also very cynical, I think, from a larger policy point of view,
as you look at the ‘08 elections, presidential elections, coming up,
because, while—and this sounds crass—it‘s a distraction from what is
there is a bigger story.
They will come home. Those troops will come home eventually, whether it‘s, you know, they are dribbled home or they all come home in one fell swoop, which isn‘t going to happen.
HANRETTY: But there will be troops there, regardless.
BARNICLE: ... could be there for 10 years.
HANRETTY: There will always be a presence. There will be a presence there...
HANRETTY: ... for a decade or more to come.
But then—then what is not being discussed in all of this is the bigger question, not just what happens within this civil war in Iraq, but what happens with this greater fight against terrorism. And none of the candidates—really, we—I—you would think that the Republicans, to a much greater extent, would discuss this.
The Democrats really are not doing it either. Is there a threat of terrorism? And, if there is, what do we do about it? And it really hasn‘t been since John Kerry last year talked about the fact that this is a fight going on in...
TRIPPI: But this is—now we‘re getting really cynical, like, is there a threat of terrorism? Of course there‘s a threat of terrorism. And there‘s no—there‘s no candidate running for president...
HANRETTY: But no one talks about that. And no one talks about how to...
TRIPPI: ... of the United States who doesn‘t understand that we need to defend ourselves against these terrorists. But that‘s different...
HANRETTY: Well, except for your candidate, who says it‘s a bumper sticker.
TRIPPI: Yes. It is a bumper—the president uses it as a bumper sticker. The Republican Party has used it as a bumper sticker. And they have used it to bumper-stick Iraq.
HANRETTY: But your candidate is not out there talking...
HANRETTY: So, how are the Democrats, or your candidate in particular, or...
HANRETTY: ... candidates...
TRIPPI: This is like one of those ridiculous arguments.
HANRETTY: No, how are you going to fight it?
TRIPPI: And we are actually going to argue...
HANRETTY: How you‘re going to defend the nation is a ridiculous argument?
TRIPPI: Are you arguing that the president—that there‘s a candidate for president of the United States out there right now who does not think that there‘s terrorists out there that we have to stop?
HANRETTY: They‘re not laying out their proposal for how they‘re going to defend the country.
TRIPPI: Yes, we have.
HANRETTY: How? Where?
TRIPPI: We absolutely laid that out in policy statement after policy statement and speech.
HANRETTY: But, militarily, with things that explode upon impact?
TRIPPI: Oh, my God. Oh, explode on impact.
TRIPPI: Everybody scared out there? Is everybody scared now?
TRIPPI: Things explode on impact. That‘s what you guys do.
HANRETTY: No. That‘s a big deal, though.
TRIPPI: That is what the Republicans do.
HANRETTY: Is it going to be done through diplomacy and talk?
TRIPPI: No. It‘s scare and fear.
HANRETTY: Is it going to done through might and muscle?
TRIPPI: Let me just ask you something. We had a president once who said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And we now a president who says, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
HANRETTY: So, we should not be afraid, and...
TRIPPI: That is not what the American people are about. That‘s not what this country is about.
HANRETTY: That‘s not—that‘s not a policy answer for how you are going to deal with terrorism, though...
TRIPPI: Well, stay tuned.
HANRETTY: ... and how a candidate and how parties are going to deal with it.
TRIPPI: We have plenty of policy out there that we are going to keep presenting.
HANRETTY: Well, I hope you have it on a bumper sticker.
BARNICLE: We have brought people again together again.
Thank you, Karen Hanretty and Joe Trippi.
Up next, we will review George Bush‘s bad week, and show you further proof that women love Bill Clinton.
And watch “Meet the Press” this Sunday. Tim‘s guest will be U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Coming up: Why do women voters love both Hillary and Bill Clinton?
When HARDBALL returns.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now to rip through the headlines everyone is talking about today. And here to do it, “The Hill‘s” A.B. Stoddard and washingtonpost.com‘s Chris Cillizza.
First up. Bush‘s bad week. With his close aide headed to jail, with wrong track numbers at an all time high, with Alberto Gonzales under investigation, with another Samarra bombing in Iraq, with the unity government in Palestine no more, and with his immigration bill on the rocks, President Bush had a pretty bad week.
Can it get much worse? Does he have the capital to get anything done or is Bush becoming irrelevant? So let me ask both of you, you are both experts, is President Bush at the stage now that when the phone rings, in any senator or congressman‘s office, you see the congressman or senator in the background saying tell him I am not here? Is he at that stage?
CHRIS CILIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Well, where you are, where he is, which is under 30 percent job approval in the latest NBC “Wall Street Journal,” John McCain uses the joke a lot, it‘s family, friend and paid staff. You get the point where he is—There is not a lot of lower he can go, because there is a certainly number of people that will not leave him no matter what.
But yeah, there is no question. I think the fact that the Congress has been as changed as it has in this relationship to President Bush, it‘s so striking because we saw six years where Congress largely, a Republican-controlled Congress, largely followed the marching orders of the president. It turned against him in 2006 when Democrats labeled them rubber stamps for the Bush administration.
Following the president is a good thing when the president is popular.
When he is not popular, it really can hurt you.
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: If you look back to him passing the tax cut, passing No Child Left Behind, passing the Medicare bill, after September 11, this presidency now is unrecognizable.
But at the same time I would argue - I can‘t really channel President Bush but I think that he probably thinks that he is having a good week and that‘s because of the fact that the immigration bill just might—just might .
BARNICLE: You think he‘s .
STODDARD: I don‘t think the other stuff doesn‘t register with him think more. I truly don‘t think that he can be pressured. I think that he is in a free fall. He has nothing left to lose. If this immigration bill - if they manage to make it more restrictive and they bring it back, this is the most important thing to him right now. He knows no one is listening to him any more on Iraq. And immigration is his final frontier.
He thinks it will save his legacy and I think he wants it badly. And the fact that it‘s been revived, even for a few days is a miracle for him.
BARNICLE: Do either of you hear from any of the people you talk, any of the people you talk to on a regular basis here in the capital, do any of them find any irony of the fact that the president is just resolute, standing firm, continuously for days and weeks on end now for the attorney general of the United States, and yet he gives up Marine Corps General Peter Pace, Vietnam veteran, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, like that?
CILLIZZA: Well, I think that people I talk to is not that surprising, because we have known him for a long time with this president that the people he is closest to, the people he knew in the Texas days are the people he is not going to ever go away from him. Alberto Gonzales is firmly in that group of people.
Everyone asked when is Gonzales going to go? I stopped trying to predict it because it seems inversely proportional to the way everything else in Washington works. The worse it appears to get the stronger President Bush asserts .
BARNICLE: He is now like the John Belushi skit on “Saturday Night Live.”
The guest who would not leave.
Next up, woman love Bill. The NBC “Wall Street Journal” poll this week showed that women love Hillary Clinton, but surprise, women really love bill. They National Partnership for Women and Families is honoring Bill Clinton this year for his championship of their causes. The catch? This is second time the group has given Clinton the same honor. With so much love from women in the Clinton family, does Barack Obama stand a chance?
STODDARD: Polls are showing she has locked down the vote. I believe that she has it under lock and key right now. It is still early, and this is fluid. I think this is an example, and the reason I think this is because “USA Today” reported this week that African American donors of upper income are giving to Obama two to one over Hillary.
Now those were Clinton people, Obama did not take these people from Chris Dodd, OK? Those were Clinton people, that‘s a bloc that moved. And that shows there is still time for Obama to make some gains with women. I believe the Clintons have it locked for now, but I think it‘s still open.
CILLIZZA: There is one thing that I found fascinating. This is in a poll “The Post” did is the way that she is perceived by different age groups and education groups of women, she is really, really strong among 18-35-year-old women who tend to have high school education or less, and make $30,000 or less.
BARNICLE: Up the ladder?
CILLIZZA: You go up higher education, you go up higher income, even her contemporaries, 55 to 64, and that‘s her weakest group. And there are two Hillary Clintons that exist, I think, for women out there, if polling is to be believed.
One is that iconic Hillary Clinton, the trail blazer. I think that‘s how younger women view her. The other, the way her contemporaries viewer, I think is more someone who has sacrificed too much, made too many compromises.
BARNICLE: Do you think the higher up the latter that you go, women, professional women making pretty good money, lawyers and bankers and whatever, do you think part of it might be that they look at Hillary and say, you know, well, my career is good, you know, really, she ran for the United States Senate, and her husband was president, I am just as good as her, she is touting herself too much. Is that part of it?
STODDARD: I think so. I think that Hillary Clinton tried to - she wanted people to believe she was elected to the Senate by popular - was sort of dragged there, and most popular, and she did stand by her husband when he was unfaithful. A lot of people have a visceral reaction to that. She got somewhere because of her husband and that she stood by him for power.
There is another thing. She is just—she is running on experience, and that appeals to the certain women that we are talking about who support her. But, there is this experience versus change thing and it‘s a huge factor and it works against her. Women voters looking for change, and they want a post political leader are supporting Obama.
BARNICLE: And off of that, what effect, never mind just among women, the dynasty deal, do I want to go from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Clinton.
CILLIZZO: Yes, since 1980, a Bush or Clinton has been on the ballot ever four years. And that‘s stunning when you think about it in those terms. The biggest problem I think Senator Clinton has is exactly what A.B. said.
Can she make herself a vehicle for change? Can she—people want change. It‘s clear, whether it‘s Iraq, whether it‘s health care, whether it‘s just politics in general.
They think the system is broken, and they want to fix it. Can she make an argument for change having spent eight years in the White House against a guy who has been in the Senate for two years and really has that change mantle?
BARNICLE: We are going to be back with more from A.B. Stoddard and Chris Sillizza. You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: We‘re back with A.B. Stoddard and Chris Cillizza. Next up, Duke D.A. resigning. Embattled prosecutor Mike Nifong announced today that he‘ll resign his post as district attorney in the wake of ethics charges in over his handling of the Duke rape case. The charges including allegations that he withheld DNA evidence from the defense attorneys.
Today Reade Seligmann broke down in tears a he testified at the hearing recounting what all of this has done to his life and to his family. Nifong was in the very same room watching it all unfold. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
READE SELIGMANN, CLEARED OF RAPE CHARGES: I said, mom, are you alone right now? She said, yeah, what‘s going on. I said she picked me. And I could hear her on the other end of the phone. The life was sucked right out of her.
And then I tried to calm her down, and I just told her everything was going to be all right. And that, you know, we were going to prove that this didn‘t happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: You know, this guy Nifong ought to be disbarred as well as the fact that he has resigned. But the whole thing, the Duke case, I was just thinking of it, watching Reade Seligmann there, it is a fact that it remains in politics and in life in the country that race remains the third rail of our culture. I mean, it‘s so difficult an issue to approach.
CILLIZZA: Well, this story when it came out had all the elements. It had college, and raise, and this Mike Nifong character, who none of us had never heard of. And the first thing I thought of when I saw this was this guy has gone from a relatively small town district attorney into this national figure. And this was going to be something of a make or a break moment for him.
That he was either going to emerge as someone - this crime-fighting-getting to the bottom of this case. Pushing aside all the interests. Or it was going to break him. Because no one was sure about it. Well, it broke him. And today we saw evidence of what breaking you in the national spotlight mean.
BARNICLE: And again, on the race factor. Race is an issue. What‘s your sense of what the Obama candidacy is doing for this issue out in the country?
STODDARD: Well, it‘s interesting because he polling, I think, with African American voters better than he thought he would, the political observers thought he would. The Clinton campaign thought he would. He‘s definitely doing well. He has galvanized them a bit. He has to go much further.
I think it‘s interesting whenever I‘m with an African American who tells me they‘re going to vote Democratic and I ask them about Hillary and Obama, I‘m always so fascinated with them writing him off. They say it‘s really impressive and it‘s great but you know what, he‘s not going to make it. He‘s not going to last. And they just don‘t belief he‘s going to be able to go all the way.
CILLIZZA: In the last week, you‘ve saw Kendrick Meek (ph), a very influential Democrat in Florida, a member of Congress who was John Kerry‘s campaign chairman in 2004, endorsed Hillary, African American.
Maya Angelou, the poet, African American, I think there‘s a real sense of what A.B. is saying. I am not even sure the African American community necessarily believes in this Obama phenomenon yet.
It‘s sort of like, can this possibly be true? Can a guy who spent two year in the Senate really be the guy that will unseat the Clinton machine, the Clinton legacy?
STODDARD: And first black president.
CILLIZZA: And one thing that will go to that, I think, is if he beats her again in fundraising in the second quarter, he beat her in fundraising in the first quarter. I think that‘s going to go a long way to legitimizing and saying, well, this guy‘s not going away. This is for real.
BARNICLE: It‘s Father‘s Day weekend and Senator Jim Webb‘s son Jim has just returned from Iraq. Anti-war Senator Jim Webb, who ousted Republican George Allen in 2006 has his son home from war. He is just back from serving a tour in Iraq.
In an Oval Office meeting last year, President Bush asked Jim Webb how his boy was doing.
Webb, now famously replied, “That‘s between me and my boy, Mr. President.” Here‘s Senator Webb talking about his decision to support the surge strategy in an interview for tonight‘s “NBC Nightly News.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VA: My son‘s situation wasn‘t a part of my thinking. My son‘s a Marine. He‘s like all Marines. They‘re stepping forward to do their job. My opposition to the surge was very similar to my opposition to this entire endeavor and that was that there was no strategy involved. That we had not had a clearly articulated strategy in Iraq since before we even went in. And I was writing about it even before we went in that you don‘t have a strategy if you cannot articulate the end-point of your national goals. That was my objection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: You know, it‘s striking to see Senator Jim Webb highly decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam. Navy Cross, couple Silver Stars, and his son Jimmy Webb who was with a Marine recon unit in Iraq. Senator Webb, it‘s his son, he‘s a politician but it‘s his son.
And you think how very few families have been affected in the war in a country that‘s largely ignored it. But especially in politics here in the House and the Senate. So very few members of Congress have an investment in blood, their own children in this war.
CILLIZZA: I think one of the things that gave Jim Webb credibility when he was running against George Allen. Remember, it‘s hard to imagine when you see Senator Jim Webb. But when he was running at first it was sort of this lark. No one thought it was going to be serious.
And as the war got more and more troublesome politically for Republicans, Jim Webb was able to speak out in opposition of it from a position of strength which many Democrats were not able to do because he had served. And so attacking him on it for George Allen was not a smart political game.
And so I think you‘ve seen them carry that over that experience. There aren‘t that many people, frankly, who either have served or who have sons or daughters who have served. As opposed to the World War II generation when Congress was filled with veterans.
BARNICLE: That is striking. You can‘t compare anything to World War II, I don‘t think, in terms of service. But it‘s striking—so very few members of Congress, House and Senate have an investment other than politics in the war.
STODDARD: Well, John McCain‘s sons are in the military. He never ever talks about it. But I think it actually—because of his service and his father‘s and his sons‘. I think he really is—I think when he stands up for the surge for the war, I think he‘s standing on principles that because he‘s sharing the sacrifice you know people really can‘t question.
And it is the reason—it‘s not talked about a lot. But it is the fact that 535 members, very few of them, are sharing in the sacrifice but it is the reason why Charlie Rangel, congressman of New York, was trying to bring up the draft again. He was saying we need to revive this because we are making these decisions sending people into this war but we‘re not really participating.
BARNICLE: You know, we shouldn‘t hang it all on members of Congress, House and Senate for having so little investment in a war because we live in a country where no matter what you do today, after this program is over, you get a cup of coffee or you put gas in your car, you very rarely encounter anyone who is serving in Iraq or who have a family member in Iraq. There‘s just no sense of it.
CILLIZZA: One fascinating thing I found in watching Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail is she talks about how after 9/11 the only thing President Bush ask us to do is go shopping. And he should have asked us a lot more than that. It‘s that we all need to play .
BARNICLE: One point we should correct. Senator Webb opposed the surge. He did not support the surge. You can see the full interview with Senator Jim Webb and his son who has just returned from Iraq on tonight‘s “NBC Nightly News.”
Thank you A.B. Stoddard and Chris Cillizza. Have a good weekend and have a happy Father‘s Day. Join Chris Monday 5:00 and 7:00 for HARDBALL.
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