Guests: Jerry Rafshoon, Ed Rendell, Melinda Hennenberger, Chris Cilizza, Holly Bailey, Tyler Drumheller, Bob Baer, Thomas Blanton, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Melanie Morgan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The CIA splashes its horrors. Let‘s listen to the worst.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. Bombshell. Suddenly, we‘re on the verge of an historic disclosure, the horror stories of the American CIA. Who did they try to assassinate? What governments did we overthrow? Who did we hold captive? Those are the CIA so-called family jewels, and we, the American people and the world, are about to inherit them. In a matter of days, the agency will open the vault and tell us what mischief it‘s been up to since its creation after World War II. Let‘s get an early peek at what‘s coming out tonight.
And our big debate: Have we had it with the two parties? Polls show the country headed in the wrong direction right now, and both parties, Democrats and Republicans, in dreadful public regard, with both losing to “None of the above.” So do we stick with two or go with three or four choices in 2008? And just to pick an example, why do the Democrats dump on women who don‘t agree with him on abortion? If they‘re pro-choice, why not respect women‘s choices?
But first the CIA‘s secrets. Tyler Drumheller is the former head of CIA operations in Europe. Bob Baer is a former CIA officer and joins us by telephone. Thomas Blanton, who‘s also with me, is with the National Security Archive.
Let me go with Tyler right now. I am fascinated. Are we going to find out how many times we tried to kill Castro, whether we killed Trujillo, whether we knocked off Arbenz, whether we knocked off Mossadegh over in Iran? How much are we going to find out in the next couple of days?
TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF EUROPE OPERATIONS: Well, if
this really is the family jewels, as they call them, put together by William Colby and Helms at the end—during the Church hearings at the end of the Nixon administration, the Ford administration, yes, that‘ll all be in there. It‘s all there. It‘s been put together for years.
MATTHEWS: Tom, should we be as optimistic about getting all this mischief out in public, all these attempted assassinations and all this dirty work?
THOMAS BLANTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: Yes, because General
Hayden showed up to speak to the diplomatic historians, and he had to give them something. Otherwise, they were going to boo him out of the room. And so he presented them with declassifications, much to their credit. It takes guts to put your dirty laundry out in public. But what we‘re going to find are, in effect, the senior CIA officers ‘fessing up because what happened...
MATTHEWS: They‘re all dead now, right, everybody‘s who done all the dirty work...
BLANTON: Many of them are dead. The CIA directors are. But a CIA director comes to the office one morning in 1973 and finds out a couple of his old buddies were part of the Watergate burglary and says, Wait a second, why am I reading this in the paper? What else bad have we ever done? And he said to every single senior CIA officer, Send me a memo. I want to know the dirt. I want...
MATTHEWS: But the CIA wasn‘t—it wasn‘t active CIA agents who broke into Watergate, was it?
BLANTON: No, it was Hunt and McCord, were part of that team. They were former. But they had help from the agency.
MATTHEWS: Bob Baer, before I go to the evidence we have so far, I want to ask you, how important is this disclosure? Are we going to find out our history of dirty work, of killing people, trying to kill people, overthrowing governments?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Oh, I think it‘s all going to come out. We suspected this for a long time, and enough of it has leaked out in the press. I‘d like to say that it‘s a good idea to get this stuff out, to know the worst, in order to get the CIA back on track, to make it quit doing the same things.
MATTHEWS: I know that Kennedy—Nixon tried desperately to find out what his predecessor and rival, Jack Kennedy, had done and Bobby had done with regard to knocking off Castro, with regard to withdrawing air cover from the Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs.
Let‘s go through a couple of things we know already. In 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told President Ford, quote, “Helms”—he was head of the CIA—“said all these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow. For example, Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro.”
Here‘s Jim (SIC) Colby. He told President Ford back in the ‘70s, quote, “We did—we did have a New York and Los Angeles program in the ‘50s of opening up first-class airmail from the USSR. For example, we have four letters to Jane Fonda. That is illegal, and we stopped it in 1973. In San Francisco, we had one with respect to China to find out who the contacts were. Some letters were opened.”
Finally, Jim Colby, the CIA director said...
MATTHEWS: ... to the president—Bill Colby said to the president, quote, “We have run operations to assassinate foreign leaders. We have never succeeded.” He cited Castro, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, General Sneider of Chile, et cetera.
“There‘s another skeleton, a defector we suspected of being a double agent we kept confined for three years.”
Let me go through them all. Tom Blanton, is it generally the scuttlebutt at the CIA that we tried to knock off Castro many times?
BLANTON: Oh, absolutely. And actually, there‘s a whole report by the CIA inspector general that reads like a movie script, all the different scenes. You know, the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a CIA agent was in Paris, giving a poison pen (ph) to one of his assets.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Fitzgerald.
BLANTON: No, it wasn‘t (INAUDIBLE) Fitzgerald, it was at his orders and...
BLANTON: On that very day, a French journalist was in Havana meeting with Fidel Castro with a different message for Fidel, which was, We want to get talking. These are the two tracks of American policy. What we‘re about to get next week is the dirty track.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Trujillo, Tyler. I heard that—at the time, I thought there was a crazy message at the last minute from Kennedy not to kill the guy, but the assassins went ahead and did it.
DRUMHELLER: That‘s the story. We‘ll find out next week when this comes out or when this comes out—the real challenge for the historians, for historians on this, because all this was in—Bob‘s right, it‘s good this comes out. It comes out for the sake of the agency. But it‘s a challenge for historians to put it into the right context at the time. These guys—this is the legacy of the OSS. These are guys who thought they were fighting for the existence of the country, and that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Was assassination part of the toolkit of the OSS during World War II? Of course, it must have been. But it‘s all right to kill Nazis, right? And that carried over.
DRUMHELLER: Yes, and it was—they saw this as part of the war, of going forward in the war. Now, whatever comes out in it—my fear is that it‘s going to hurt—it‘ll hurt morale inside the agency a little bit because people—not so much the things they say they did, but if there are things in here that they tried that didn‘t work out.
MATTHEWS: Bob, how is it going to help our relations with Iran, which are already dreadful, if we disclose publicly that we, in fact, overthrew their elected government back in the early ‘50s and put a monarchy in charge, the shah, that we did that and we‘re going to admit to that?
BAER: You know, Chris, it‘s not going to help in the short term, but in the long term, at least we can open our archives, which the Iranians won‘t and never will.
MATTHEWS: So you think the bloodletting that‘s necessary apart of this sort of truth and reconciliation effort is, on the whole, a good thing? Even if it means admitting that we may have knocked off Trujillo, tried to knock off Castro, changed the government in Guatemala, changed the government in Iran, and we did it all, and we‘re now admitting it all, you think altogether, we‘re better off?
BAER: Absolutely because what it demonstrates is that covert action doesn‘t work and the CIA should not be involved in it. It just hurts us diplomatically, hurts the morale of the country and the CIA. And we get this out, and I hope it doesn‘t happen again.
MATTHEWS: Tom, why do we keep—I know it sounds bloodthirsty. I know nothing about assassinations as an operative. I‘m not one.
BLANTON: Good thing!
MATTHEWS: Thank you. I just watched this in history. But here we are with the most powerful government in the world, our own. Are we just not ruthless enough? I mean, all those times you hear about Castro, we tried to use, like, defoliant in his beer, we tried to put LSD in his recording studio, all the—his pen had...
BLANTON: There were a little more serious actions.
MATTHEWS: ... but all these crazy efforts, and they all failed. This guy‘s been in office since the ‘50s.
BLANTON: We did a few more serious things, like hiring the Mafia to go down there on an implicit deal. They thought they‘d get off on federal charges in the U.S. if they bumped him off.
MATTHEWS: Like (INAUDIBLE)
BLANTON: Yes, absolutely, all these guys.
MATTHEWS: Johnny Roselli.
BLANTON: Absolutely. You know the stories.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know it. I know this stuff. But I‘m just trying to get it from the horse‘s mouth now.
BLANTON: But you know, they have this little map down in Cuba in one of those museums that has sort of examples of all the times they almost nailed Castro. And the one they point to as the closest that we ever came to knocking him off is an ice cream stand in the lobby of the Ministry of the Interior museum, where they said the poison pill had been delivered. Fidel walks through the lobby every day and gets an ice cream cone. They stashed it in the little ice cream cart, but it stuck to the freezer coil. And so Castro comes in, orders his ice cream cone, and the vendor‘s down there trying to...
BLANTON: ... can‘t get it off. They arrest him and haul him off.
MATTHEWS: ... Catholic and a good Christian. Sometimes I think somebody‘s on the side of Castro because he has gotten through—a bad guy has gotten through a lot of bad stuff.
BLANTON: Your big question was, Are we wimps? You know, Are we tough enough in the world?
MATTHEWS: No, no!
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to open this up because you‘re the experts.
BLANTON: But look at this—this stuff, the skeletons in the closet, is what Colby called it—you know, what it feels like is there‘s a black bag of dirty tricks, and any time we as a country really feel threatened—we felt really threatened in the 50s and ‘60s—we feel real threatened today.
MATTHEWS: Well, we should have felt...
BLANTON: We have a tendency to go back in there and...
MATTHEWS: ... put missiles in his country to blow us up! I mean...
BLANTON: And the Soviets hauled them out without telling him.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go...
BLANTON: ... high and dry.
MATTHEWS: ... my liberal friends on the left will want to know the answers.
MATTHEWS: Well, everybody I seemed to hang around with in Washington sometimes in the old days. Democrats—how about that? They all think that we knocked of Allende, that in fact, we killed Allende down in Chile. Is that true?
BLANTON: We set up the conditions for the coup, and I think that that‘s well documented because...
MATTHEWS: But did we kill Allende, or did he kill himself?
BLANTON: ... of Clinton‘s declassification...
MATTHEWS: The elected socialist president of Chile back in the ‘70s, did we kill him or did he kill himself?
BLANTON: We don‘t know...
MATTHEWS: The story we put out was that he killed himself.
BLANTON: He may have killed himself, but he killed himself with people closing in on him with machine guns and tanks blowing up his palace. And you know, he knew he was going to die.
MATTHEWS: Bob Baer, do you know?
BAER: Henry Kissinger. There‘s the answer.
MATTHEWS: Henry Kissinger killed Allende.
BAER: He set up the conditions. He went to the Army, said, Let‘s do it (INAUDIBLE) and everybody else.
MATTHEWS: Well, we know we led the coup, but did we kill him?
BAER: No, he killed himself.
MATTHEWS: OK. He killed himself. What do you think, Tyler? What do you know?
DRUMHELLER: I think he killed himself because he didn‘t want to be captured by the...
MATTHEWS: OK, the overthrow of the elected government of Iran back in the ‘50s, did we do that?
BLANTON: Absolutely. But we lucked out.
MATTHEWS: You‘re smiling here about this stuff, Tom!
MATTHEWS: I love the way you guys talk about this. We kill guys, we overthrow governments that are elected freely, we take people captive. And we call it the family jewels. It‘s all irony, isn‘t it, with you guys.
BLANTON: Well, no, actually. I like Colby‘s phrase for it.
BLANTON: He called it skeletons in the closet.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s...
BLANTON: They keep walking out of the closet, these skeletons.
BAER: Hey, Chris...
MATTHEWS: So now we‘re going to know. Yes, Bob?
BAER: You know it‘s not all going to come out. When I was still in, I ordered a couple of files related to the Kennedy assassination, 20 volumes in one case. They had disappeared. So we‘re never going to ever to get to the bottom of it completely.
MATTHEWS: Whoa! Are you going to—do you believe that there‘s a CIA role in the Kennedy assassination?
BAER: No, I don‘t, but there are files like that missing, and we‘ll just never get to the bottom of it. This stuff is compartmented, black tape, whatever the names are, or sometimes just thrown away.
MATTHEWS: Is the CIA loyal to America right down the line?
MATTHEWS: Are all the agents very patriotic?
DRUMHELLER: Absolutely. Yes.
BLANTON: Absolutely. They do the bidding of the president. They‘re not a rogue elephant.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I thought...
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s us doing the bad stuff, then, because they‘re doing it for us.
BLANTON: For the president.
MATTHEWS: For the president. Anyway, thank you. Tyler.
DRUMHELLER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You were the most tongue-tied here tonight. These guys are unbelievable. Bob Baer...
MATTHEWS: ... thank you, of Time.come...
MATTHEWS: You‘re all great tonight. What an amazing story. I will read every inch of this, and so will everybody else who‘s been fascinated by the CIA for all these years.
Next Tuesday, by the way, on a totally different front, out here on the HARDBALL plaza, we‘re going outdoors and we‘re going to have a special guest, somebody who likes to drive people crazy. That‘s Ann Coulter out in the sunlight. And if you want to have an answer to your question to her, the wondrous (ph) Ann Coulter, send it to Hardball@msnbc.com and we‘ll ask her.
And coming up next: Is the federal government really on our side on global warming? Maybe not. Melanie Morgan and Robert F. Kennedy are going to be here to debate that question.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has written an in-depth piece in this week‘s edition of “Rolling Stone” on global warming. He reports that big business is finally, finally realizing there‘s gold in those hills, especially those green hills. So if big business does get behind global warming or fighting global warming for a profit, what kind of results can we see?
Robert Kennedy, Jr., joins us right now this evening, along with conservative radio talk show host Melanie Morgan. Bob, thank you for joining us. Give us your sort of view right now of American enterprise and whether it‘s getting to the task of dealing with this environmental threat.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR., SR. ATTORNEY, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE
COUNCIL: Well, you know, the problem is that we‘ve rigged the market. You can design a free market any way that you want. You can design it to actually help the society, in which case, you know, we can solve the problems of global warming. There‘s tremendous amounts of money to be made simply by exploiting the inefficiencies in the market.
Unfortunately, we‘ve rigged the market today that rewards inefficiency, that rewards bad behavior and that penalizes good behavior. It penalizes the good people in the marketplace.
What we want to do is to stop the subsidies to the fossil fuel industries that are so damaging to all of us. On average, the oil industry receives $17 billion of free direct federal subsidies every year, another $800 billion, almost $1 trillion in indirect subsidies, the damages that they do to our health, which are unreimbursed, the military protection that they receive, about $100 million a year, in addition to the $100 million they‘re now receiving each year in Iraq, and all these other externalities that, if we had a true free market economy in the country, they would be reflected in the price of oil, gasoline that we pay at the pump. Gasoline would cost 13 miles (SIC) per gallon, and we wouldn‘t be able—you know, people would be screaming at Detroit to give us cars that get 40 miles per gallon or 50 miles per gallon. And guess what? You know, we are an entrepreneurial society, and Detroit would figure out a way to solve that problem. And you know, we‘re making those kind of cars today, but...
MATTHEWS: But how can we—how can we as a country decide to stop protecting the oil lanes from the Middle East?
KENNEDY: Well, what we need to do—I mean, the most important thing we need to do from a national security point of view, from an economic point of view, from a foreign policy point of view is to eliminate our dependence, particularly on foreign oil. We did this back in the 1980s. You know, in 1979, we had fuel economy standards in this country that worked. We went from 18 miles per gallon to 27.5 miles per gallon in six years, and we reduced oil imports from the Mideast by 87 percent.
Our economy, incidentally, Chris, grew by 27 percent during that period. If we had left those fuel economy standards intact—Ronald Reagan rolled them back—we would not have had to import one drop of oil after 1986. Think of what that would have done to our history. The World Trade Center would probably still be standing. We would have avoided two Gulf wars. We would be a prosperous nation. We wouldn‘t be, you know, bound (SIC) down in this Mesopotamian quagmire that has destroyed our reputation and destroyed the reputation of democracy across the globe.
MATTHEWS: Melanie Morgan, your response?
MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, I‘m absolutely shocked to hear that Bobby Kennedy is saying that if we had different CAFE standards earlier, that 3,000 Americans would still be alive after the bombing of the twin towers. It‘s ridiculous.
But you know, I have to say that we probably killed two trees today printing out your tome for “Rolling Stone” magazine. And I read that through, and it just strikes me that—and you have to buy the premise or you don‘t buy the bit. You are saying, in essence, that man-made global warming is real. And count me among the skeptics who say that man-made global warming isn‘t real.
What is real, though, is a massive money push by many organizations, 12,000, in fact, like the Sierra Club and your organization and many others, in order to make this a personality of cult (ph). Global warming is still far from settled, and there are many, many scientists stepping forward today who are saying, in fact, that there‘s just some science out there that you and others are quoting that is—it‘s just wrong.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Robert Kennedy to respond.
KENNEDY: Yes, I mean...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
BLANTON: Let me respond to that. I mean, the only people who can make that argument still today are people who don‘t go outside. I mean, go to Glacier National Park, where there were 127 glaciers at the beginning of the century and there are 17 left today. They‘ll all be gone within 10 years. I was in the Arctic this week, and you know, you have Alaska essentially melting in front of us.
Nobody seriously argues—you know, the IPPC (ph) report just came out. It‘s the 2,500 top scientists from 120 nations around the world, and they reached a global consensus that global warming is real, that we are causing it, that its impact is going to be catastrophic. You can get a talk radio...
MORGAN: Those scientists...
KENNEDY: You can get a talk radio show host who says that she knows more than the top 2,500 scientists on the earth, but then, you know, the public has to choose who to believe.
MORGAN: And—and, you know, on the other hand, you could get another talk show radio host, like yourself, who says—who makes these outrageous claims, along with Al Gore and his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” or you can listen to “Science and Medicine” magazine, which says there is no evidence at all of greenhouse gases causing global warming. And there are 4,000 other scientists and teachers from around the world saying the same thing.
You know, we can argue all day long about this, but the fact of the matter is, there is an enormous economic price that we are being paid, also, in terms of health. I was the one who led a crusade in California, in the California state legislature, to ban the use of MTBE, methyl tertiary-butyl, which was a gasoline additive that all of you people said was going to—it was settled science. It was going to clean up the air...
MORGAN: ... and cause all these emissions to go away. What happened?
It poisoned our groundwater.
MATTHEWS: OK. One last question, Robert.
KENNEDY: Well, here you go. Let me—let me just—Chris—
MATTHEWS: Where is the president on this?
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t the president with you, Robert, on this now?
KENNEDY: Chris, let me just answer that.
MTBE was not put in gasoline by the environmental community. We opposed it. The EPA opposed it. It was forced down our throats by Shell Oil and the oil industry. This is just—you know, this is total fabrication by the right.
MORGAN: That is a revision—that is a revisionist version of history, Bobby.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you both—maybe I will try with Melanie.
Doesn‘t the president now at least give lip service to the threat of global warming caused by CO2 and other causes? Doesn‘t he do that now? I hear him.
MORGAN: Well, yes, absolutely. And it‘s just ridiculous.
But, then, the president has also been caving on any number of issues, because of enormous public opinion that has been shifted as a result of billions of dollars in propaganda that‘s been...
MORGAN: ... spewed out. And—and, you know, I really resent that my kid has to—to sit through three showings in high school of “An Inconvenient Truth,” without any balance to it.
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, the president has seen something along those lines, because he is agreeing with Robert.
And I am surprised, too.
We will be right back with Melanie Morgan and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
And later: our HARDBALL debate tonight—we already have a debate here—is a three-way race good for the White House, good for the country, or a bad thing? We have got Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, defending the two-party system. And we have got Jerry Rafshoon pushing for a third alternative, maybe a fourth alternative.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We continue our debate right now between Melanie Morgan and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert, I have to ask you about this report that is coming out from the CIA. We got word they‘re apparently going to put out all their family jewels, as they call them, all the mischief the CIA has been up with all the years.
In 1975, the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, told President Ford
quote—“Helms”—that‘s Helms, the head of CIA—“said all these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow. For example, Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro.”
Do you have any thoughts on that?
MATTHEWS: It‘s apparently all going to come out next week.
KENNEDY: No. That is completely inconsistent with everything that has been found.
The Church Committee investigated this for almost a year, and found out that my father not only had nothing to do with those assassination attempts, but was furious, and rebuked the CIA when he found out about it. It was inconsistent with everything else my father did while he was in office and everything that his aides said.
Richard Helms, this was—was a rogue operator who—and this is what the Church Committee found out, who had run those operations by himself.
Now, you know, the quote that you have is a quote that is very self-serving, a quote by Richard Helms, as well as a quote by Henry Kissinger.
KENNEDY: Richard Helms, a very, very antagonistic relationship with my father. He despised my father. My father did not trust him. And—and he was a very secretive and a very deceptive man.
And it doesn‘t surprise me that he would say something like this or that Kissinger would say something like this. But it‘s completely inconsistent with the facts, as they have been laid out by the Intelligence Committee and by the aides who watched my father function during that time. And it‘s inconsistent with everything he did during, for example, the Cuban Missile Crisis...
KENNEDY: ... his concern, his deep concern, that we should be a moral nation, that we shouldn‘t do anything that would compromise our moral authority in the eyes of the world.
MATTHEWS: So, he wasn‘t involved with either Mongoose or AMLASH, either of those operations?
KENNEDY: He found out about them afterwards.
And the way he found out, you know, his aides were present, like John Seigenthaler and Dick Goodwin, at the time when he walked out of a meeting with two CIA agents who disclosed that they had tried to kill Castro using a cigar with a bomb in it.
KENNEDY: And he was absolutely furious, and regarded them as kind of crackpots. And he was very, very angry that they had used the mob, which, of course, he had a history of—of antagonism with, in order to further their operations. He was furious at Helms.
And I—it doesn‘t surprise me that, after he died, Helms would then try to connect him to muddy the water. But, you know, the—the evidence is this, that Helms really took over the CIA, because he was instrumental in helping John McCone, who was the CIA director, in covering up the suicide death of his wife.
And, after that, McCone let him alone, and Helms went off as a rogue agent with Operation Mongoose and these other operations designed to murder Fidel Castro, that, when my father found out about it, that he didn‘t share the information, my father found out about it through other agents, and went after Helms.
And it doesn‘t surprise me that, after my father died that Helms or Kissinger would fabricate this kind of thing.
KENNEDY: But, you know, it‘s inconsistent with everything the Intelligence Committee found, who investigated it thoroughly.
MATTHEWS: Melanie, what‘s your reaction to the news that the CIA is going to come out with its family jewels, admitting a role in overthrowing the elected government in Iran, the overthrow of the elected government in Chile, trying to knock off Castro, knocking off Trujillo, the whole thing with Arbenz down in Guatemala?
The whole history of the CIA and those activities are apparently going to be now admitted to. What do you make of that, in terms of our history and our values?
MORGAN: Well, what I have to say is, I‘m extremely disappointed that this information is coming out right now, in the middle of a hot war, when we have American men and women who are serving in harm‘s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I understand the need for disclosure, and—and I‘m totally in favor of that, more sunlight, better. But I question the timing. The time looks suspiciously political to me. And I think this is one of the biggest things that the Bush administration...
MATTHEWS: Why would the CIA want to...
MORGAN: I think this is one of the biggest...
MATTHEWS: Why would the CIA want to mess with the war effort?
MORGAN: I‘m not saying that they want to mess with the war effort.
What I‘m saying is, I think there has been a concerted effort, between a deep-seated conflict between the CIA and George Bush in the war on terror. And I think that there is a lot of political motivation there. And—and I‘m sorry to see it happening right now.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I agree with you on that. I do think there is an amazing, amazing intramural fight, a civil war almost, between the CIA and the vice president‘s office and the president‘s office.
Anyway, thank you, Melanie Morgan.
Thank you, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Up next: Is a three-way race for the White House a good thing for America? Unity08‘s Jerry Rafshoon and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell are going to debate that. Two parties better than three parties or four parties? Let‘s have it out.
And next week, out on HARDBALL Plaza, as I said, our special guest—although the word special is kind of interesting here—Ann Coulter. If you want her to answer your questions, go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. I‘m sure she will have a wicked response.
Take a look at what happened when Ann Coulter was at HARDBALL Plaza last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that Hillary Clinton is godless, Bill Clinton is godless, every Democratic candidate for president is godless, right?
MATTHEWS: I have your case. It says it here...
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM”: You keep
turning it into a person. I‘m describing liberalism as a religion. Yes, I think it is a godless religion. And anyone who believes in God, if they knew what liberalism stood for, as for sucking the brains out of little babies, would flee the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a sweetheart.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
VERA GIBBONS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Vera Gibbons with your CNBC
A volatile week on Wall Street ends, with stocks falling on hedge fund troubles—triple-digit losses for the Dow, down 185 points, the S&P 500 off more than 19, and the Nasdaq down 28.
Today‘s sell-off was sparked by a $3.2 billion bailout. Investment banker Bear Stearns is loaning the money to a struggling hedge fund it controls. The fund ran into problems because of investments in the ailing subprime mortgage market.
Stocks were also hurt by a slight uptick in oil prices, crude up 49 cents, closing at $69.14 a barrel in New York trading.
And it was a big day for Blackstone. Its shares rose 13 percent in today‘s Wall Street debut. The stock ended the session at just over $35, after the initial price of $31 -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
“None of the above” is doing pretty well in presidential polls. Now Mike Bloomberg and Ralph Nader are teasing that they might get into the 2008 race themselves.
Tonight‘s HARDBALL debate: Is the race for the White House helped or hurt by more than two nominees?
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is here. He‘s the former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And Jerry Rafshoon is a former communications director for the Carter administration and co-founder of Unity08.
Sir, the affirmative. Why do we need more than two great political parties?
JERRY RAFSHOON, CO-FOUNDER, UNITY08: Well, the American people seem
to feel that way. There is a new “Newsweek” poll that says 57 percent say, yes, should there be a third major party, and 36 percent say no.
The system is broken, Chris. The system is broken because the two parties can‘t seem to work together. We‘re badly polarized. And the American people feel that nothing happens in Washington. And Unity08 is the idea of having a bipartisan ticket, a Democrat or Republican or an independent in one of the parties, to be elected on a—to be nominated at an online convention in June.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Governor Rendell.
Governor, you have been an active Democrat your whole life. Why do we need two parties? Or are you against having more than two parties, I should say?
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I‘m not against it in principle, but I think it‘s counterproductive.
Look at Ralph Nader, who has, for years and years and years, campaigned on a cleaner environment, on controlling greenhouse gases. All his third-party candidacy did, as you know, Chris, as we got closer to election—Jerry can quote those polls, but, as you get closer to election, all third-party candidates collapse. And all he did is set back the effort for a cleaner environment in this country and this world by about a decade by throwing the election to George Bush.
Third-party candidates cannot win in America. As the election gets closer, people go back to the base party they have always belonged in.
The time for a third-party candidate, if at all, is when the two parties have no differences. The differences are so stark today, on Iraq, on national health care, on energy independence, the differences are so stark about the things that Americans care about, that there is no need for third parties.
And all Mr. Bloomberg, who I admire greatly—I think he has been a sensational mayor, and he has got a lot of guts and courage—all his candidacy or Ralph Nader‘s candidacy would do was keep the reactionary Republican Party in control of the White House.
MATTHEWS: Suppose, Jerry, that...
RENDELL: And then you‘re going...
RENDELL: And then you‘re going to have gridlock.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Suppose—suppose the same thing happens, and Bloomberg does what Ralph Nader does, and deny the—the underdog—or, in the case of Al—Al Gore lost New Hampshire, three electoral votes. He would have won it if there hadn‘t been a Ralph Nader candidacy.
MATTHEWS: He would have won Florida.
MATTHEWS: And, so, -- so, the wrong guy, in a sense, gets elected because you have a third guy screwing it up.
RAFSHOON: Well, let me be clear.
A unity ticket is not trying to take votes from the red states‘ or the blue states‘ candidates. It‘s a centrist coalition, a bipartisan coalition. And it‘s designed to stop the polarization.
It‘s not—it‘s not the same thing as previous Nader-like third-party candidates, which were usually based on the idea of being a spoiler, not being a Ralph Nader, who thought that Al Gore wasn‘t liberal enough, so he was challenging him along—on the fringes.
We‘re talking about a coalition candidate, a coalition ticket, one time only, to fix the polarization which has led to the paralysis of the two—two parties not working together.
Frankly, Ed Rendell would be a perfect unity candidate.
MATTHEWS: You charmer.
RAFSHOON: Ed Rendell has—well...
MATTHEWS: This is an ex parte arrangement here.
MATTHEWS: And we‘re having a debate here, and he is trying to buy you, is what‘s going on here.
RAFSHOON: You have got a Republican Senate. You have got a Democratic House by one point, by one—one person, and you have a Republican speaker. You were smart enough to get that kind of coalition.
And you work bipartisan—in a bipartisan manner to get things done in Pennsylvania.
RAFSHOON: Most of your people in the state don‘t think things get done in Washington by the two parties.
RENDELL: No, no. And there is a lot of truth to what Jerry is saying.
I think—and I have become almost despairing, Chris, of getting the sense of bipartisanship between both parties that we once had. And, if I felt an independent president...
RAFSHOON: But we can do that.
RENDELL: Well, let‘s assume for a moment, independent President Mike Bloomberg has been elected. Does that automatically...
RENDELL: Yes, the country may be ready for an African-American, and may be ready for a woman, Chris, do you think the country is ready for two Jews born in New York on the ticket? but no, seriously—
MATTHEWS: Different boroughs at least.
RAFSHOON: What would you like for running mates?
RENDELL: But seriously, there is no guarantee that an independent president, even one with the skills of a Mike Bloomberg, gets the Democrats in Congress and the Republican Congress to work together. You know, there is no guarantee of that. If I believed that an independent could do that and would forge the issues that are necessary for us to move on for the next half decade, then there might be something to what Jerry‘s movement is all about.
But there is absolutely no guarantee. I think the best guarantee—and obviously, I‘m a partisan, Chris. But the best guarantee, this Democratic Congress has disappointed some people, but because expectations were too high. They don‘t have enough of a margin, and they are facing a presidential veto. The country should give a Democratic president a Democratic Congress and see what can be accomplished on Iraq, on energy independence, on health care. That‘s what we need.
MATTHEWS: Governor Rendell, is what we have now as good as it gets? These two parties that maybe can agree on immigration next week and put together some sort of Jerry-built thing? Is this the best we can do with a right track vote now of 29 percent? Most Americans, three quarters of Americans think we‘re on the wrong track as a government and as a country. The Democratic party, which did very well in the last elections, is under 30 percent in job approval.
Jerry has the case here against the establishment. Are you defending the establishment or what are you doing here?
RENDELL: No, I think—and again, I‘m not—as you know, I‘m not a guy who bashes George Bush on everything. But I think Bill Clinton, George Bush, George Bush the first, they missed—and you know how much I think Bill Clinton was a great president. But because of some of the advice they got, they didn‘t get to Washington and try to break the mold. It became a bunker mentality right away.
I think we need a president—and it can be independent. I grant Jerry that. But it can also be Republican or Democrat—who comes in and says gentlemen, ladies, for the next five, eight years, we‘re going to try to do what‘s right for the American people.
MATTHEWS: Look at this guy. Jerry and I agree we need you is what I think. You are a reasonable guy.
RENDELL: Let‘s work together.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to get Brian Dennehy (ph) to play you in the
movies when the time comes. You are one superstar. Thank you very much,
Ed Rendell, a very popular governor of Pennsylvania, who has his Ocean City
tan. I can see he‘s been down there already this last weekend. And Jerry
RAFSHOON: And he is a true independent.
MATTHEWS: Well, not really. Up next, a top Romney campaign staffer allegedly impersonated a police officer. What kind of business is CEO Romney running anyway? And watch “Meet The Press” Sunday for an immigration debate between Congressman Luis Gutierrez and MSNBC‘s own Pat Buchanan. That‘s going to be hot. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s dig into to today‘s headlines with the “Washington Post‘s” Chris Cilizza, “Newsweek‘s” Holly Bailey, and Melinda Hennenberger, author of “If They Only Listened to Us, What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear.”
First up, Romney aide probed. This is a weird one. A high-level staffer for Mitt Romney‘s campaign is facing investigation right now for impersonating a state trooper. The aide allegedly called a company in Wilmington, Delaware, threatening to give a ticket to one of its drivers. On another occasion, the same staffer allegedly, under the guise of being a police officer, pulled over a “New York Times” reporter who was trailing Mitt Romney‘s car, and claimed to have run a check on the reporter‘s license plate. Unbelievable.
Three years ago, the same Romney aide was cited for using flashing police lights on the top of his car while working in the state house. Anyway, today the campaign said—Romney campaign said that this staffer, aforementioned, has taken a leave of absence to address these complaints. Well, can a candidate keep selling himself as Mr. CEO, the super manager of our time, the savior of the Olympics, survive with such a staffer running amok.
Holly, you know this guy. He calls himself Trooper Garrity (ph), apparently. Who is this customer?
HOLLY BAILEY, “NEWSWEEK”: He is a bodyguard for Governor Romney. Every time you see Governor Romney, he is there. He is shadowing him. He travels with him when he is doing interviews with reporters.
MATTHEWS: Does Romney know he is up to these dirty tricks, impersonating a police officer?
BAILEY: The campaign has said that he did not. The campaign has—initially when the stuff came up, they said, you know, we‘re not going to comment on this, because it didn‘t happen when he was on duty with us.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever hear him use the title Trooper Garrity in describing himself?
BAILEY: No, I didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go. Chris Cilizza, I know you love this stuff. This is political junkie-dom of all time. This is like the days of Paul Corbin and Dick Tuck (ph) and—who‘s the other guy? Who was the other guy that was Nixon guy, the dirty tricks? I‘ll think of his name in a minute. He had an Italian name. Sigretti (ph). Sigretti, Cilizza. What do you make of this guy?
CHRIS CILIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST” He had an Italian name.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you.
CILIZZA: Look, Holly is right, anyone who has been with Governor Romney on the trail knows who this guy is. I have seen him any number of times. He is usually, frankly, talking into his sleeve or he has a microphone.
CILIZZA: And so I think what it looks like—again, it‘s what it looks like, not what it is. But what it looks like is somebody who got a little bit overzealous. This is the guy who is the lead person protecting Governor Romney. It sounds like he got a little overzealous in terms of his power.
MATTHEWS: The politics I know, Chris, is packed with politicians who are clean as a whistle that always have a hatchet man around, somebody to do the tough work, somebody to do the Jilly Rizzo (ph) work—excuse me Jilly—the tough stuff. You don‘t think the governor knows who this guy is, in terms of his M.O.?
CILIZZA: There is no question that the governor knows who he is. I don‘t think though it‘s fair to insinuate that the governor knows this guy is out there impersonating a cop and that sort of thing. I do think it‘s somebody who he is probably pretty loyal to. This is a guy who he spent a lot of time with. And, as we have learned from another former governor who became president, George Bush, those who were closest to him in his early days in Texas are the people he still stays with. I think we might be seeing some of the same there.
MATTHEWS: You know, I worked in politics so many years ago. There is always somebody in the campaign like—One southern guy working for Carter; he used to call him the Reverend Billy Peaches. He was a (INAUDIBLE). There was another guy used who used to call himself Michael Sanchez of Radio Tijuana. He had a whole another accent and everything, totally different personality. I am not unfamiliar with these strange characters, Chris.
CILIZZA: Don‘t forget Joseph Stefan (ph) in Maryland, the guy who called himself the Prince of Darkness. He basically admitted to being Bob Ehrlich‘s heavy, the governor of Maryland‘s heavy. So—
MATTHEWS: Next up, what do women want? In a “New York Times” op-ed today, Melinda Hennenberger, who sits across from me right, said the Democrats are alienating pro-life women with their rhetoric on abortion. She says that many pro-life women oppose the Iraq war and cross their arms at the word Republican. They are natural Democrats. They are desperate for a way home. She goes on, “What would it take to win them back? Respect for starters, and not only on the night of the candidate forum on faith. And, as it turns out, you can not call people extremists and expect them to vote for you.”
Has Hillary heeded this message or not, and how about Obama, Melinda? Your question is great. Why do Democrats act so arrogant and self-assured on the issue of abortion rights, to the exclusion of people who disagree with them?
MELINDA HENNENBERGER, AUTHOR, “IF THEY ONLY LISTENED TO US”: You
know, the traditional answer from Democratic leaders is anyone who would leave over abortion is lost to us, period. And sad as that might be, there is nothing we can do about it. In fact, these voters themselves said throw us a crumb. There is everything to be done about it.
These women have not found a comfy new home in the Republican party. They are deep in their hearts Democrats, who are really truly desperate for a ride home. They want to see more support given to pro-life Democratic candidates, and a lot of times in races where the other option is a Republican who agrees with the Democrats on nothing.
MATTHEWS: Well, Pennsylvania is packed—where I come from—with pro-life Democrats, who vote for people like Casey and his son Casey. Holly, what do you think of this argument in the paper today by Melinda here?
BAILEY: I think she has a valid argument. The fact is that, you know, unfortunately in politics right now, it seems that the road to the nomination is through appealing to the extremist sides of the party. It‘s just a fact. Rudy Giuliani lately has been trying to make the argument that he‘s the one. If moderates want to win, to vote for him. But it doesn‘t seem like it‘s really getting anywhere, because at the same time you still see all the stories about his stance on abortion and people saying he cannot win the nomination if he is pro-choice.
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying the Republicans are just as narrow as the Democrats?
BAILEY: Pretty much.
MATTHEWS: Chris, your thought, quickly. Do you think it‘s right for Melinda to say that pro-life people should be welcomed to the Democratic party and not disdained?
CILIZZA: I think the most important thing that Melinda noted was all the statements that came out from the Democratic presidential candidates after the Supreme Court ruling upholding the partial-birth abortion ban. As always, context in politics really matters. We‘re in the middle of a very heated Democratic presidential primary. As Holly rightly points out, this is about appealing to the base.
The reality is whatever the great middle in this country thinks about abortion, the base of the party, from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, they all want to hear the most strident rhetoric possible against anyone who looks like they are trying to infringe on abortion rights. I think that‘s why we saw all those very fiery statements.
MATTHEWS: You have nailed a larger truth, which is the Democratic candidates for president are always taking these base positions, like we don‘t think English is all that important in this country, and we are for gay marriage. They keep taking those extreme—We don‘t like don‘t ask, don‘t tell. They keep going further left on everything. Melinda?
HENNENBERGER: Democrats cannot win without those religious swing voters they are insulting. Since these are people who are looking for a way home, I just can‘t imagine they are not going to send a car for them with a really respectful driver.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much. We‘ll be right back with our panel. An interesting panel tonight, loaded toward smart women. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Chris Cilizza, Holly Bailey—not Holly Barry—and Melinda Hennenberger. Next up, Leno buries McCain. Catch this, once Jay Leno says your campaign is done, is it all down hill from there. On Thursday‘s “Tonight Show,” just the other night, Jay Leno put the shiv in John McCain‘s campaign coffin. There‘s a mixed metaphor. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: Hillary Clinton has picked “You and I” by Celine Dion as her campaign theme song. And a related story, John McCain‘s campaign song, also by Celine Dion; it‘s theme from “Titanic.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Chris, the only way that joke worked with that audience, which is not the most political audience in the world out there is because people get that John McCain is in deep trouble.
CILIZZA: You know what‘s amazing in this? In six months, we‘ve seen John McCain go from the candidate who looked like he had the most scenarios to win the nomination—you know, all these campaigns have scenarios. Well, we win Iowa and we lose New Hampshire. He looked like he had a panoply of potential scenarios.
Now, it looks like he‘s got to win in a state Iowa, or at least show much more strongly than we thought he needed to, that he skipped in 2000. He skipped Iowa entirely, said it‘s not that important. I want to focus on New Hampshire. Iowa is now looking like the fulcrum, the lynch pin, if he has any chance of the nomination. So you have seen a guy with all these different scenarios, now narrowed down to one. It‘s really stunning.
MATTHEWS: By the way, speaking of one, he‘s one point behind Mike Huckabee in the latest polling in Iowa. Melinda, he‘s below Huckabee. He‘s seven and Huckabee‘s eight. It‘s unbelievable.
HENNENBERGER: Well, the thing is Democrats liked John McCain more than a lot of people in his own party in 2000. And when he lost—
MATTHEWS: Republicans got the message.
HENNENBERGER: -- over his support in the war. And a lot of Republican primary voter were not big fans. I still say it‘s not completely over for him, because I‘m not sure Republicans have met the candidate they‘re in love with yet.
MATTHEWS: They like none of the above so far. They like anybody that‘s not running. Holly, what about this. It used to say when Cronkite said the Vietnam War wasn‘t winnable, that was the end of the war. Now Jay Leno is telling jokes. By the way, it used to be with Carson that way—
Johnny Carson. If he told a joke with a certain set up, and that was bought, that premise, then that was the truth.
BAILEY: Yes, John McCain is really in trouble, not because people are whispering about his fund raising. But it‘s really the battle of perception. I mean, it‘s all the whispering about his fund raising, about whether he has the fire in the belly. It has just been piling on lately.
MATTHEWS: And the bad news makes him look sad.
MATTHEWS: And sad people don‘t win. So you‘ve got to fake the happy. He‘s got to be the joker out there. But life hasn‘t been good to him lately. Chris, your thoughts. Is McCain in trouble or is he gone?
CILIZZA: I was just going to add—I‘ll throw one name into the mix that the McCain people, I think, are really clinging a lot of hope to, Senator John Kerry in 2004. Remember, we were all writing John Kerry‘s political obituary a month or two months before the Iowa caucus. Low and behold, he winds up coming back and winning. I think that‘s where they are now. They‘re looking to things like that to hope—and as Holly points out, fight that perception fight. And that‘s going to be hard.
MATTHEWS: Thanks Chris Cilizza, good to have you, Holly Barry—
Holly Bailey, thank you for joining us, Melinda Hennenberger. Join us again next week for more HARDBALL. On Tuesday Anne Coulter is going to be our guest on HARDBALL plaza. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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