Guests: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Barton Gellman, Ron Suskind, Lynn Sweet, John Feehery, Matt Cooper
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Is the most powerful vice president in history beyond accountability? Do the checks and balances of government not apply to this guy?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
Tonight: The vice president is getting hit hard on several fronts. “The Washington Post” is exposing the darker side of the vice president‘s role in the war on terror. Cheney says he doesn‘t have to answer any questions, certainly not from the Congress or the press, certainly not from the Congress, which is responsible under our Constitution for spending government moneys. He say he doesn‘t even work for the executive branch.
But what about those millions of dollars we pay for his enormous executive staff of tough policy makers and operatives, you know, the ones who planned and sold the war in Iraq, the huge office space and travel expense of this man? If he operates as an executive, shouldn‘t he be answerable to the usual accountability? Should the man with the lowest approval level in the U.S. government be unaccountable?
Plus, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus. U.S. congressman Rahm Emanuel, wants to cut—cut off all funding for Cheney‘s operations if he doesn‘t begin to answer some questions. He‘ll tell us why in a moment.
Plus, a new HARDBALL feature tonight, “Video ‘08,” the hottest video on air and on line for the presidential race. Tonight, NBC political director Chuck Todd on Senator Barack Obama‘s first television ad of the campaign.
But first, Representative Rahm Emanuel. Congressman Emanuel, you are a tough leader of Congress. Will you cut off the funding for the vice president‘s office if he continues to deny that he‘s a member of the executive branch?
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: I mean, Chris, I mean, you said it in your introduction. He is acting like he‘s unaccountable to anybody. Here he is—I mean, he‘s taking an unbelievable step, saying he‘s not a member of the executive branch, he‘s a member of the legislative branch, therefore, he doesn‘t have to provide information, national intelligence information, national security information.
So I said, If that‘s your logic, then we shouldn‘t be funding you through the executive branch. And either Wednesday or Thursday, my amendment will be on the floor because the funding for the executive branch is on the floor. And I‘ll strike the money for the vice president‘s office. He can live off the Senate presidency budget that funds him up here. And that‘s fine. But if he‘s going to be funded in the executive branch, he complies with the rules that apply to everybody. He is not above the rules of the executive branch...
MATTHEWS: Can you carry that amendment...
EMANUEL: ... and he‘s—
MATTHEWS: ... Congressman? Can you carry that amendment on the subcommittee appropriation? Can you do it?
EMANUEL: Well, I feel pretty strong right now, based on everything I‘ve heard from my colleagues, that they think this is unconscionable, his actions, that he is unaccountable. I mean, do you understand? Does that mean that the ethics law of the Senate applies to him, not the ethics law of the executive branch? Nobody believes what he‘s trying to claim in the legal argument he‘s presented. If he believes it, so he doesn‘t have to answer those questions, if he truly believes he‘s a member of the legislative branch, therefore, we won‘t fund the executive branch office.
MATTHEWS: Do you know, Congressman...
MATTHEWS: ... how much money is spent by the taxpayer to give this guy a huge operations staff, a huge policy staff? He‘s got travel over the world. Who‘s—do you know how big a budget he has right now?
EMANUEL: And he also has—and he also has—he has a residence. He has an entire operation that supports him a vice president. And then he also has, as you said, the travel. I mean, it‘s in the millions of dollars. And it‘s not in my interest, because I—having worked in the executive branch—he is a legitimate member of the executive branch. I want him to comply with the laws that apply to the executive branch.
He came up and his lawyers came up with this cockamamie argument that he‘s (INAUDIBLE) legislative branch, therefore doesn‘t have to answer questions or provide the material. So if that‘s the argument and they really, truly believe that, not just as a legal position but that‘s what they believe, therefore, we shouldn‘t fund him through the executive branch. I‘m willing to live by the word in the legal argument he‘s made. I don‘t believe they believe it. What they‘re trying to do is avoid accountability, and this is the one place where Congress appropriates the money. I‘m going to hold them accountable.
MATTHEWS: Hasn‘t he...
EMANUEL: And I think my Democratic colleagues and Republicans will.
MATTHEWS: Hasn‘t he won a court fight already about his ability to keep secret his—you know, we all know he‘s an oil patch guy from Wyoming. We know he used to work for the oil companies. He was a big executive. We know he has a lot of friends in that world. But we also know he will not tell you or anyone else or the public who he meets with to get energy policy for this administration, and he won a court fight, didn‘t he, to keep that secret?
EMANUEL: He did, and it was based on executive privilege. But that was executive privilege, which he claims he‘s not part of. That‘s the...
EMANUEL: That‘s the hypocrisy of the (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: ... win the court fight, then?
EMANUEL: Because he is, and the court acknowledges that the vice president is in the executive branch. Therefore, that logic says he must comply with this information. And I think everybody acknowledges that his position is ludicrous, that the lawyers have taken on his behalf, so he can deny any accountability here. And one way or another, we‘re going to have the vice president not act like he‘s above the law. And what happened for a long time—the president‘s allowed him to act like this. The Republican Congress were enablers by not holding anybody accountable. And we have a vice president six years‘ training (ph) acting like he is not accountable and not held to the same standard every other American is, and...
MATTHEWS: Suppose he...
EMANUEL: ... what I‘m saying here...
MATTHEWS: Well, suppose he thumbs his nose at you, Congressman, and the whole Democratic caucus and the whole House of Representatives and says, I‘m not going to give you what you want. I know you want to know what I‘m up to, who I‘m meeting with. I‘m not going to let you know. I‘m going to classify information when I want to, declassify information when I want to.
MATTHEWS: You guys can go to hell. Are you going to try to impeach him? What will you do, will you go along with Kucinich?
EMANUEL: No. No because what I‘ll say is, I agree with you now, you‘re a member of the legislature, here‘s $100,000 and your Senate presidency office, and that will be your staff.
MATTHEWS: Wow. You think you can carry this, Congressman.
EMANUEL: I think I‘m going to have this fight, and I think what people are going to know at the end of the process—we have a vice president who exudes a level of arrogance and unaccountability to the American people, that thinks he‘s above the law. And we are going to take this to him, and understand that there are consequences to an argument—look, think about this. Every 8th-grader who graduated from school with a class in social studies, believing that the vice president was a member of the executive branch has to be retaught U.S. history because...
MATTHEWS: Well, the irony is, he doesn‘t have any authority under the Constitution. All his authority comes, obviously, as an appointee of the president. The vice president simply gets to preside over the Senate, and he gets to succeed the president under the 23rd Amendment. But all the authority he has is given to him by George Bush. Do you think it‘s right for this president to give so much authority to someone besides himself?
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, you know, we know—do I think it‘s right? Look, the president makes the decision how he wants to listen to the counsel of his vice president. He‘s the commander-in-chief. He makes the decision. This is the most powerful vice president, and the president‘s structured it that way.
What I do think is you have a person who is acting and conducting himself as he‘s unaccountable. And as you said in the earlier case, when he was able to withhold the information from the energy meetings he had with big oil companies and executives there, he invoked executive privilege, the position that the vice president is a member of the executive branch. And yet they—on this recent case, he‘s now saying he‘s a member of the legislative branch. You cannot do that just based on convenience. There are rules and laws that apply.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘ll be interesting to see who wins this...
EMANUEL: My point is, you have to pick your office, and then we‘ll decide how those rules apply. But you don‘t just cherry-pick them when it‘s convenient.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s going to be interesting to see, Congressman. You‘re a smart guy. You know the legislative branch. You know the executive branch. Who wins, you or him? I‘m betting on Cheney because the guy never loses, ever, a fight. He wins every bureaucratic fight you and I have ever seen him fight. And this time, you‘re up against him. You got to get a lot of votes to beat this guy.
EMANUEL: You forgot one other person and the one other entity in this thing, and that‘s the American people.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll watch and see if they get involved in this. Somehow, they seem to overlook this character. Anyway, thank you very much, U.S. congressman Rahm Emanuel...
EMANUEL: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... who‘s leading the fight to cut off funding for Dick Cheney‘s vice presidential office, if he doesn‘t begin to answer some questions and offer some accountability to the U.S. Congress.
Anyway, coming up, the guys who broke this big story in “The Washington Post” about the vice president, which we are using tonight to get to the truth.
And tomorrow, the always controversial—and I know some people aren‘t going to like this and some are going to love it—Ann Coulter. There she is last time she was here, with her sunglasses on, dressed for success. There‘s Ann Coulter out here. We‘re going to stake her out in the sun and find out what happens. What a show it‘s going to be. I think we‘re going to do the whole hour with her if she keeps it hot, and you bet she will. That‘s Ann Coulter tomorrow.
If you have any questions for this lady, jus8t send them in to hardball.msnbc.com. And say what you will, she sells books.
Thursday on “HARDBALL Plaza,” another big—it‘s a debate, actually, between Christopher Hitchens, who says there is no God, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who believes there is. We want your questions on that one. Just again go to Hardball.msnbc.com for the big question of faith and belief and God.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now more on that “Washington Post” big year-long investigation into Vice President Dick Cheney, describing, among other‘s Cheney‘s campaign to expand his presidential power—all presidential power. With us is “The Washington Post” reporter, the hard-changing investigative reporter—well, in this case investigative—Bart Gellman, who wrote this big front page series that‘s been running all this week. And also author and journalist Ron Suskind, another very impressive guy, who wrote “The One Percent Doctrine” and is making it as a book author, which is always impressive.
Here‘s how Dick Cheney reacted when Dan Quayle, the former vice
president, told him that his job as vice president would entail a lot of
traveling, fund-raising and funeral-going. Quote, “Cheney got that little
smile, Quayle said, and replied, ‘I have a different understanding with the
Well, let me ask you about that, Bart, that different understanding. This president of the United States—does he have, in effect, a co-presidential relationship with George Bush?
BARTON GELLMAN, “WASHINGTON POST”: I wouldn‘t go that far. There‘s -
there‘s some precedent, maybe. It turns out that back when folks were trying to negotiate a dream ticket with Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford as his number two, Dick Cheney was involved in those negotiations, trying to see if there was enough to meat in the job to interest Gerald Ford. Ford said no to it. Quayle thinks that Cheney said yes to something a little bit like that. There‘s no question in my mind that George Bush is the boss and makes any decision he wants to make.
MATTHEWS: But when it comes to those hard, iron issues of war and intelligence, isn‘t Cheney pretty close to being a partner?
GELLMAN: Look, Cheney and anybody else is a partner just as much as Bush wants. He is clearly the closest adviser. And Cheney lives in his operational world in which your match your objectives to your available (ph) needs. He understands how to move the levers of government.
GELLMAN: He‘s a detail man. Bush isn‘t those things.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. Well, let me get (INAUDIBLE) Ron Suskind.
You wrote about Paul O‘Neill, when he got dropped by this administration.
RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, “THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE”: At Cheney‘s...
MATTHEWS: How tough an insider is Cheney?
SUSKIND: Yes, he‘s the best bureaucratic fighter we‘ve seen in modern times. And what you see is the devil is in the details...
MATTHEWS: Since J. Edgar Hoover, probably.
SUSKIND: Certainly. The devil‘s in the details. Bush has broad pronouncements, sweeping ideas, but Cheney gets the execution, and often execution‘s all that matters. Bart‘s piece, my book show that again and again and again. That‘s what determines outcomes.
MATTHEWS: So when the—just to have a little fun here, because I do like to have fun, Bart, let me ask you this. Based upon your reporting, can you extrapolate to how the vice president was chosen? How did he get this job?
GELLMAN: I‘m not an extrapolating guy...
MATTHEWS: OK, well, then...
MATTHEWS: I‘ll go to Suskind for that one. It seems to me this guy, as you say, is great at operations. The president-elect, or about to be elect, says, I think I need a vice president, so I‘ll put Dick Cheney in charge of picking a VP for me. What do you know, a few weeks later, I pick Dick Cheney as the VP.
SUSKIND: Well, there‘s some self-selection that went into that choice. Dick Cheney was there in the right place at the moment. He said, Look, why not me? And all...
MATTHEWS: But every time a name came up, like Tom Ridge, he says, Too bad Tom‘s not right with us on choice. Too bad—on abortion rights. Too bad Cheney (SIC) didn‘t vote for the MX. That kind of thing.
SUSKIND: ... already a co-dependency operates...
SUSKIND: ... from the very start. That‘s the best way to put it, a co-dependency...
SUSKIND: ... between Bush and Cheney...
MATTHEWS: How do you see that, Bart? How do you see the relationship?
GELLMAN: Well, you put your finger on something important about the vice presidential selection, which is that when you‘re running the process, 99 percent of what you‘re doing is ruling people out, looking for negatives, looking for factors that are going to kill somebody. So if you kill off enough people, there‘s not many left in the room.
MATTHEWS: It‘s like “10 Little Indians,” you know, in the Agatha Christie. If there‘s only one left in the room, you‘re the vice president of United States. Let me ask you about the big stuff in here, the role he played with regard to torture, intelligence gathering. It sounds to me, based up on all the words in your long take-out pieces last couple days, the vice president had his thumb on the scale. He said, We‘re going to be tough on these prisoners.
GELLMAN: Well, he plays a dominant role in figuring out how to extract intelligence from captured prisoners. He believes strongly that there‘s an ongoing mortal threat to the United States that you can‘t coddle al Qaeda and its allies, that the way you win a war like this is with intelligence. And so he plays a dominant role in creating a new legal distinction between torture, which you can‘t do, and cruelty, cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment, which would be forbidden by the Geneva Conventions but he believes not forbidden here.
MATTHEWS: How about water boarding?
GELLMAN: Look, he came pretty darn close to telling a radio interview that he thought that was a no-brainer. We do—I do not know whether he advocates that as a method now. What I do know is that he is dead set against forbidding it, as a matter of law, because he believes the commander-in-chief has to have the flexibility now and in the future to make that decision.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘ve always tried to figure out, Bart—maybe you‘ve gotten close to this, maybe your colleague, Bob Woodward, can help here at some point—how it all came together as a perfect storm to go to war and to put the American army into Arabia back in 2000, 2003. Certainly, there was the president‘s experience with his father, the frustration Cheney had in not being able to box up—to hole up (ph) Saddam Hussein after that first Persian Gulf war . Certainly, there was the ideological influence of some of the deputies, like Wolfowitz. But who put it all together? Was it Cheney who was the key player, the ringmaster that brought the impulse of the president, the hard-nosed point of view of himself and the philosophy all together to say, We‘re going to go into Iraq? You know how it happened?
GELLMAN: I can‘t say I know everything about that by a long shot. I think that Cheney had situated himself at the crossroads of all the importance of streams of power in this government, and it would be unlikely that big decisions are made without him being at the right place and the right time to put the right words in the ear of the president.
MATTHEWS: What do you think...
GELLMAN: But ultimately, Bush decides.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s assume he‘s watching right now, and the vice president just heard Rahm Emanuel on this program say that he‘s going to cut off all expenditures for his office—no more travel, no more staff, no more offices—unless he admits he‘s a member of the executive branch and has to take and accept congressional accountability? What will he do, just laugh?
GELLMAN: I think he would smile that little half-smile of his. I think it‘s an interesting constitutional question. I doubt the power of the purse gives Congress the ability, in effect, to shut down a coordinate branch of government.
And by the way, I‘m not sure that Rahm Emanuel stated it accurately. What Cheney‘s office has said is that the vice presidency is unique in that it is neither executive nor legislative branch, but attached by the Constitution to the latter. What that means in terms of the applicability of executive orders is a mystery, but one thing is not a mystery. If the president says it doesn‘t apply to the vice president, then it doesn‘t. It‘s his order.
MATTHEWS: Ron, who‘s going to win this fight between Rahm Emanuel this week, cutting off funds in the appropriations for the vice president (INAUDIBLE) vice president‘s says, You don‘t dare do that to me?
SUSKIND: Cheney is tactically forceful. This is a game to run out the clock. He sees constitutional crises potentially ahead. His bet is they‘ll never get there before the curtain comes down.
MATTHEWS: Wow. I love this fight. You know why? It‘s real. He might have to leave the building. Anyway, thank you very much, Bart Gellman, Ron Suskind. Congratulations (INAUDIBLE) part of the big piece. We‘re all getting up early now. And I like the way you kept it out of the bulldog on Sunday, so we had to read the later editions.
Anyway, up next, Barack Obama‘s first TV ads—they just came out. They‘re running in Idaho. No, they‘re running in Iowa. And it‘s going to be part of our new feature on this program “Video ‘08.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The fastest moving presidential election in history is moving full steam ahead, obviously. The campaigns are fighting for your attention with Internet videos, TV ads, and much more. This year, the campaigns are competing, however, with independent and sometimes even anonymous video-makers who have something to say about the election.
On HARDBALL, we are going to bring you the sites, bites, and fights that everyone is talking about this year. We‘re calling it “Vide08.”
Let‘s look at some of the “Vide08” moments that have grabbed our attention already this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope to
keep this conversation going (INAUDIBLE) November 2008.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: A mental institution, Michael it
might be something you ought to think about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Baby, you‘re the best candidate of the new Oval Office. You will get your head of state. I can‘t leave you alone, because I got a crush on Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know that—
that old Beach Boys song “Bomb Iran.”
MCCAIN (singing): Bomb, bomb, bomb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, what‘s the
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You will
B. CLINTON: My money‘s on Smash Mouth. Everybody in America wants to know how it‘s going to end.
H. CLINTON: Ready?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I feel pretty, oh so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and bright. And I pity any girl who isn‘t me tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd is MSNBC News political director.
Chuck, what is changing—I got to—I can see what is changing in the...
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is going to be fun.
MATTHEWS: These are things that nobody in big power chose to put on the air, but everybody is watching.
TODD: It is.
I think that this is—if you‘re a campaign manager for—for one of these major presidential campaigns, it is quite scary, because this is—you are not going to be able to control some of the things. I mean, look at the Edwards thing and the “Bomb Iran” and the one—the Obama ad with the Apple Macintosh thing against Clinton.
Those were not produced by the campaigns. I mean, some of the campaign stuff can go viral and can get interesting, but this unproduced stuff that will end up becoming the conversation and—quote, unquote—
“go”—what they want is to “go viral,” right, where just friends are e-mailing it to each other and just sending it around...
TODD: ... becomes the watercooler. To get those moments, and you‘re not in control of that, as a campaign manager, that‘s—that is scary.
MATTHEWS: Especially the fact that people are used to watching commercials if they have to, if they don‘t TiVo, for example.
But now people are pursuing these little bites, these little nuggets. I mean, I find myself, when I get into work and somebody say, did you see this video, and I will go looking for it, you know, and I—and I eat it up like everybody else, but it is almost like an appetite we‘re developing now, isn‘t it, for these things? We want a couple of these a week, just to enjoy the campaign.
TODD: It is.
And, you know, look, you have seen it on regular commercials. I mean, more and more, we realize, in this TiVo generation, that you have to make your commercials must-see television. You have got to make them entertaining.
And I think what you‘re going to state with YouTube, you are going to see, on one hand, the campaigns using it as a testing ground, you know, the Clintons...
TODD: ... putting out the “Sopranos” thing campaign to try to see if they can get people to watch their message and watch their ads. But you are also going to see it as a way to—to try to make a better ad and make an ad that becomes...
MATTHEWS: Have you seen the algorithm ad, where they say—the guy punches up “chicks with swords,” and it is like a scene from “The Producers”?
MATTHEWS: These gorgeous women come out all swinging swords around.
TODD: I haven‘t...
MATTHEWS: And you see that he checked that he just wanted to look at chicks with swords. It‘s very funny.
TODD: I‘m afraid to Google that.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at our Vide08 clip tonight, which is from Barack Obama. It‘s June. I don‘t have to tell you that. He has millions of dollars to spend. He is beating everybody, or certainly even with Hillary.
Here is his first TV ad in this race for the presidency. Let‘s watch our first Vide08.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Barack Obama,
and I approve this message.
There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States.
KIRK DILLARD ®, ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: Senator Obama worked on
some of the deepest issues we had, and he was successful in a bipartisan
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Legislation that he carried, he believed in. He was not carrying it for a group. He was not carrying it for lobbyists.
DILLARD: Republican legislators respected Senator Obama. His negotiation skills and an ability to understand both sides would serve the country very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, Barack thinks, in Iowa, people like bipartisanship, clearly.
TODD: Well, it‘s interesting. That is a tough question. I don‘t know if that is true.
I think that Iowa caucus-goers sometimes are the most partisan. You know, what‘s interesting about the Republican that they used in that ad, Senator Dillard, he actually has endorsed John McCain for the presidency.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to complain that his voice and words were used to help Barack?
TODD: No. He obviously—no. They obviously got permission.
TODD: I have talked to the Obama campaign.
TODD: They got his permission to do this.
And he decided to do it. And—and, look, Obama—it is a great general election message, and it may be a great message in New Hampshire, Chris, where they want to get those independents, where they want to get those people to cross party lines. And, maybe, right now, it is a smart message, because people are so upset with Congress and the presidency. You know, they‘re—sort of the pox on both houses.
TODD: So, it may be.
Iowa, it‘s an interesting test case. You will see some of Obama‘s opponents say, hey, this guy is already trying to work with the Republicans.
TODD: Shouldn‘t we care about the Democrats first?
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re being tough.
Let me put the nicer sign on it, which is to say, if the hidden message is, “Hillary is a polarizer; I am not,” it might work. Who knows.
TODD: No. That‘s—no, I—look, I don‘t disagree. And I think this is the—this is the right time, potentially, for this ad.
TODD: The public is certainly upset at both parties right now for how they‘re handling Washington.
MATTHEWS: Well, we are going to keep on testing this stuff with you, Chuck. You know your stuff.
TODD: All right, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You know as much as I know.
Anyway, up next...
TODD: I try.
MATTHEWS: ... tonight‘s HARDBALL debate: Who is running the country, anyway, the vice president or his purported boss, the guy he doesn‘t even call when he shoots somebody?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
I‘m serious. He didn‘t call when he shot that guy.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC
A rally fizzled, and stocks closed lower on concerns about the subprime mortgage sector. The Dow Jones industrial average erased a triple-digit gain and finished the day down more than eight points. The S&P 500 fell almost five points. The Nasdaq was down nearly 12.
Sales of existing homes fell for the third straight month in May. The drops was three-tenths-of-a-percent, which is in line with expectations. The median price of homes sold also fell for a record 10th straight month.
And Dow Jones-News Corp. talks have reportedly kicked it up a notch. The Dow-owned “Wall Street Journal” reports the two sides are close to an agreement on editorial control of the newspaper. An agreement could clear a major roadblock to News Corp.‘s $5 billion takeover bid.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight, on the HARDBALL debate—and it is a debate—is Dick Cheney running a secret government? The vice president is refusing to report documents his office classifies or declassifies. He can do anything he wants, he says, as required by presidential order. He does not go along with those orders, because he believes he is an agency of the executive branch and exempt. Actually, he believes he is not.
So, where does the vice president exist in this government? If he is not in the executive branch, he is in the legislative branch. But he controls huge portions of the executive branch. Who is he?
We begin tonight with Melanie Sloan, who is with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. And Frank Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy.
Melanie, make your case. What is the vice president doing wrong? Is he exceeding his authority? Is he abusing it? What is he doing?
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND
ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: He is completely abusing it. He is saying that he is a fourth branch of government all by himself.
There‘s the judiciary, the legislative, the executive, and then there‘s the Cheney branch.
MATTHEWS: Frank Gaffney?
FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: It is
my understanding the president‘s executive order exempts him and treats him in much the same capacity as the president himself, not an agency, but part of the top leadership of the United States government.
MATTHEWS: Is he accountable to the Congress?
GAFFNEY: I think he is accountable in some respects—in that respect, not.
MATTHEWS: ... does he have to answer questions? I mean, you lead the fight here. You think he is breaking the rules. What is—breaking the law, even, the Constitution. Isn‘t that what you believe?
SLOAN: That‘s right.
If Mr. Cheney does not want to be part of the executive branch anymore
he has been arguing last week that he is actually part of the Senate—then the Office of Senate Security should come in and take a look at how he‘s treating classified material, if he‘s a senator.
GAFFNEY: He‘s not a senator, of course. He‘s the vice president of the Senate.
There is an executive order. It does not apply to the president. I think we all agree with that. That is not a constitutional arrangement. That‘s the arrangement the president has established. I think he is within his rights to establish that the same applies to his vice president as well.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to—let‘s go to specifics. People who watch this program care about energy policy. They care about foreign policy. Let‘s start with something close to home, energy policy.
The vice president is well known to have organized an energy task force. That was the basis for this administration‘s energy policy, with regard to importation of oil, et cetera, et cetera, everything, refinery capacity, everything. He refuses to tell anybody who was in that room with him.
Frank, is that—you think that is kosher?
GAFFNEY: I personally would not withhold information about that, but that is not my call to make. He has made the call on the basis of his prerogatives in the executive branch. And I think that‘s his...
MATTHEWS: What are those prerogatives? Why should a person who makes policy for the United States government have a secrecy of surrounding that policy-making?
MATTHEWS: Chris, having served in government, you understand full well the importance of having the ability to obtain information, advice, counsel on a confidential basis. And I think that is the prerogative that the vice president is trying to insist upon.
SLOAN: People around the world admire our government for being an open form of government. And here we have the vice president who is undermining that completely by making everything he does and every piece of paper a secret.
And I think it‘s is a real problem. You know, it‘s time after time. We saw this example with Google Earth. He had his house, the vice president‘s mansion, taken off Google Earth, even though the White House and the Capitol are still on it.
MATTHEWS: What is Google Earth? I‘m sorry. You‘re ahead of me here.
SLOAN: It‘s a satellite system where you can check any address in the world on Google, but not the vice president‘s house, although you can find the White House.
MATTHEWS: But I hate that thing.
SLOAN: Well, but it‘s just yet another example...
GAFFNEY: You‘re with the vice president.
MATTHEWS: I agree..
MATTHEWS: I mean, talk about security problems. A lot of people have anonymous addresses in this world, because they don‘t want to have to hire Secret Service agents to take care of them. What‘s wrong with that?
SLOAN: It is the Naval Observatory, in addition. And we have—the White House and the Capitol are both there.
It is just another example of how the vice president...
SLOAN: ... is obsessed with secrets.
MATTHEWS: I am going to switch sides here. And my thumb is now going to his side.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
MATTHEWS: Do think the vice president is within his rights to deny the Congress its request for a list of those who visit and—visit him at the residence of the vice president?
MATTHEWS: Keep that secret as well, all his visitors secret?
GAFFNEY: Again, if it were up to me, I don‘t think I would make that call.
But, on the other hand, I can understand the importance of the vice president being able to obtain confidential counsel as he sees fit.
And the difficulty we have, let‘s be honest, is, the kind of information-sharing that we can all agree in principle is a nice thing to do in open government and all that can, in fact, have a chilling effect on the kind of counsel that you get. And that‘s a consideration for these guys.
MATTHEWS: You know, I am a big fan of yours, obviously, Frank.
GAFFNEY: And I‘m a big fan of yours, too, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s not get too friendly.
MATTHEWS: But you sound like Giuliani on abortion.
GAFFNEY: It‘s that “but.” There‘s that “but.”
MATTHEWS: You say, I would not have an abortion myself, or my—my partners wouldn‘t, but—or wife wouldn‘t, but I think everybody should have a right to.
So, you‘re saying, basically, that the vice president should be—would be much better off for the republic if he would clear some of this stuff with us, let us know some things, and not be so secretive. Is that your point of view? Secrecy is not helping his position?
GAFFNEY: If I were vice president, I would try to make such information as I thought could be made available, without chilling the counsel I‘m getting.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. OK.
GAFFNEY: But he‘s making the judgment on a more comprehensive basis.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s where it gets hot, Melanie. Please jump in here. We talked earlier tonight to Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who is, of course, head of the Democratic Caucus of the Congress, who is trying to cut off funding for the vice president‘s office.
He is a statement from Megan McGinn, who works for the vice president
she‘s deputy press secretary—about what Emanuel has said:
“Congressman Emanuel has a choice to make. He can deal with the serious issues facing our country, or he can continue to play more partisan politics.”
OK, let me ask you this. Do you support the idea, Melanie, that the U.S. Congress should cut off funding for the executive offices of the vice president as long as he denies being part of the executive?
SLOAN: Absolutely. If vice president doesn‘t want part of the
executive branch anymore, then he can go fund his branch of government all
MATTHEWS: Frank Gaffney?
GAFFNEY: I think this is ludicrous. The vice president is serving in a critically important capacity in a time of war.
MATTHEWS: OK. All those people...
GAFFNEY: This amounts to games. This amounts to games.
MATTHEWS: All those people that work for him who are policy advisers, who are operatives who get things done for him, all those people all do serve in an executive capacity. You agree with that, right?
GAFFNEY: I think most days.
MATTHEWS: How can they take orders from someone who is not an executive there?
GAFFNEY: I think they take orders from the vice president...
MATTHEWS: Who is an executive.
GAFFNEY: ... who serves in these discrete capacities for the president, above agencies. They work for the vice president and his office.
MATTHEWS: So, he is a legislative official who works in vice president‘s office?
GAFFNEY: He is the vice president of the United States.
SLOAN: The person who is...
GAFFNEY: And the people who work for him work for the vice president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Should we change the Constitution...
GAFFNEY: If they were just functionaries, you wouldn‘t worry about it. But they‘re not. They‘re doing important work...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a big question, Melanie. Wouldn‘t we better off simply to make this rational and make the vice president a part of the executive branch and make it official?
SLOAN: He already is part of the executive branch.
MATTHEWS: Well, not...
SLOAN: The person who is playing games...
MATTHEWS: He is right, technically.
SLOAN: No, he is not right.
SLOAN: Technically, he is part of the executive branch, and this is just a game.
MATTHEWS: He has no executive authority at all, none, under the Constitution.
GAFFNEY: He‘s vice president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: He is simply there to preside over the United States Senate as chief presiding officer, and to replace the president, should that be necessary. But he has no executive authority at all.
SLOAN: Well, just because—he has whatever authority that the president gives him.
SLOAN: His authority is entirely derivative.
MATTHEWS: That is what you‘re saying.
GAFFNEY: That‘s exactly what I‘m saying.
It‘s entirely derivative. And the vice president is given...
MATTHEWS: And you know what happened to Lincoln‘s first vice president? He went back to Maine. He just went home, because Lincoln didn‘t want to do anything with him.
Anyway, thank you.
GAFFNEY: This is the most consequential vice president in the history of the country. And I‘m glad he‘s there.
MATTHEWS: Is he the best?
GAFFNEY: I think he is.
SLOAN: Oh, the worst.
MATTHEWS: I knew you would say that.
MATTHEWS: I tricked you into that.
GAFFNEY: Oh, that is a trick.
MATTHEWS: Frank Gaffney, on behalf of the American Enterprise Institute.
GAFFNEY: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Melanie Sloan.
Thank you, Frank Gaffney.
GAFFNEY: The Center for Security Policy.
MATTHEWS: Center for Security Policy.
GAFFNEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, in the shadows with Dick Cheney, more of this fight, faith fights with Rudy Giuliani. And, by the way, his church, my church, is coming after Rudy.
On the air, by the way, with Barack Obama, and his new ad, we will talk about that again. And moving right with the Supreme Court, what‘s it all mean? We are going to talk about it with on our HARDBALL roundtable tonight.
And don‘t forget tomorrow‘s special guest—Is that the right word? -
Ann Coulter. We‘re going to stake her out in the sun.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Up next, in the shadows with Dick Cheney, more of this fight. Faith fights with Rudy Giuliani. By the way, his church—my church is coming after Rudy. On the air, by the way, with Barack Obama and his new. We‘ll talk about that again. And moving right with the Supreme Court. What does it all mean? We are going to talk about it with our HARDBALL round table tonight.
And don‘t forget tomorrow‘s guest—is that the right word—Anne Coulter. We‘re going to stake her out in the sun. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s bring in tonight‘s panel.
Lynn Sweet is political reporter and columnist for the “Chicago Sun Times.” John Feehery is a former top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He has a job like I used to have. And House Majority Leader Tom Delay; he also worked for him. We also have Matt Cooper, who is famous for being the husband of Mandy Grunwald. He‘s the Washington editor for “Conde Nast Portfolio,” a very fine magazine.
First up, angler; that‘s the Secret Service code name for Vice Present Cheney. This week the “Washington Post” shows it is about more than fishing with a huge look inside Cheney‘s time in office.
Here‘s a taste of what they reported: quote,” the vice president‘s unseen victories attest to traits that are often ascribed to him, but are hard to demonstrate from the public record; thoroughgoing secrecy, persistence of focus, tactical flexibility in service of rigid aims, and close knowledge of the power map of government.” That is for sure. “On critical decisions for more than six years, Cheney has often controlled the pivot points, tipping the outcome when he could, engineering stalemate when he could not, and reopening debates that rivals thought were resolved,” well said.
Six years into this presidency, is Cheney a plus or minus for the Bush administration‘s agenda, and President Bush‘s legacy? Matt Cooper, is this guy helping or hurting George Bush?
MATT COOPER, “CONDE NAST PORTFOLIO”: I think it‘s hard to see how he‘s helping right now, Chris. Look, this series in the “Washington Post” was not surprising in its overall conclusions. Everyone knows how powerful Dick Cheney is. But the level of detail is really quite extraordinary. And when you see him doing complete end runs around Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, and Colin Powell, on these issues of torture and who is a detainee and who is a captive, it is really quite breathtaking.
MATTHEWS: Lynn Sweet, you are a political reporter. What do you think the president thinks of reading this article? Is he surprised that Cheney is getting all the ink? Is he offended that it makes it look like Cheney is more powerful than he should as a number two man? Or is he saying exactly the way I want it?
LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN TIMES”: My guess is, not being—my mind reading machine is off today. I would think that there‘s nothing in there that will be a surprise to him, and I think President Bush is—if his worst problem is whether or not he is perceived as a puppet of vice president Cheney, then I think, knowing how things are going, it is not a bad day for him.
That Cheney has run a shadow operation is well known. The details that are emerging are breathtaking. That he now is arguing he is not a member of the Executive Branch is baffling.
MATTHEWS: John? Is Cheney a plus or a minus for the president?
JOHN FEEHERY, FMR. SPEAKER‘S SPOKESPERSON: I think he is a plus from
an operational standpoint, because he is helping the president run the whole government. From a P.R. standpoint, he has been a disaster and he‘s been a disaster for a while.
MATTHEWS: When you worked on the Hill, did you get a sense that he was a strong V.P. that had a big influence, a big thumb on the scale of decisions with the president?
FEEHERY: When the speaker wanted to get something done, he turned first to the vice president, and then the president. He really had a great relationship with the vice president. The vice-president has played this game for a long time, 30 years of high-level interaction in the government. He‘s the guy who could get things done. The speaker loved him.
MATTHEWS: Matt, a lot of reporters have fallen for the vice-president over the years. They thought of him as an honest broker, a moderate. He wore button-downed colors like you and I. He talked softly. He had a wife who is a writer, sort of an establishment figure. And a lot of people got him mixed up with Leon Panetta, one of these real honest brokers.
I have always felt, watching him in all kinds of roles, that he is a tough, tough partisan.
COOPER: Yes. Well, Chris, look, you know him for when you were in the House of Representatives. You know, I had the experience of trying to do a little reporting about Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and later discovered that Dick Cheney was on Air Force Two pencilling the talking points that I was given. So, you know, he is into everything and he is into it in a big way.
MATTHEWS: Your sense that the president is totally copacetic with this man‘s enormous role?
COOPER: You know, I think, again, it‘s like mind reading. I have to believe that at some point, you know, this is not where Bush wanted to be, at 26 percent popularity. I think he has got to be a bit angry about it, and I think if you‘re him, you have to blame somebody, to a degree.
MATTHEWS: Lynn, back to an old point that viewers of this program, and certainly I, care about, the war in Iraq and how badly it is going for us. Does anybody really believe we would be at war Iraq if the vice president, this man, did not want to be there, that his power is that large? He could have stopped this thing?
SWEET: Oh, I think so. More than start it, we might not have been propelled to do it. He was intent, along with a bunch of other people who had laid the groundwork, as you recall, way before President Bush even said he decided to go. So this was a concern—Iraq was a concern, proceeding President Bush‘s concerned with, Vice-President Cheney.
And, again, I think the current revelations only put more bricks on the wall that he was building as we know more worry about how the vice-president operated. It is more than just a funny story about how he might have accidentally shot a friend in the face.
MATTHEWS: Funny, accept the guy whose face it was. If it was your face, it would not be funny. The guy just turns his gun and points it at you, and fires, and then does not even call the president that weekend to say there might be some bad publicity coming out of Texas this week, Mr. president.
SWEET: That is the point. He has operated in his own world, and the extent of the Cheney world, the extent of the shadow operation is now coming out. I think, when—President Bush is looking for legacy issues right now. That is why he is going for immigration in a big way. This legacy cannot be written the way he wants it as long as it is going to end up with a Cheney shadow presidency.
MATTHEWS: Around the table real quick, does anybody think the next president, Democrat or Republican or independent, whatever the president might be, will ever have a vice-president the strong?
MATTHEWS: Lynn, the next president, will he—
SWEET: No, not like this. Authority yes, overwhelming power, no.
MATTHEWS: OK, up next Rudy‘s faith. When John F. Kennedy ran for president back in 1960, he had to convince voters that he wasn‘t too Catholic. This year Rudy Giuliani is fighting charges he is not Catholic enough. Like they did with John Kerry in 2004, some Roman Catholic bishops are speaking out against, of course, Giuliani‘s pro choice position.
On top of that, Giuliani is being pressured by a priest abuse advocacy group to fire a suspended priest from his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners. What‘s this all about? Could Nixon, the Quaker, have ran today? What is this climate mean to Romney the Mormon?
John, a good question to you, are we in a time where religion is interfacing—intervening with politics so much you cannot hide it?
FEEHERY: I do not think so, not with Rudy right now. There are Catholics that are pro-choice, Catholics that are pro-life.
MATTHEWS: We know that. It‘s about the same with any religion.
FEEHERY: It runs the gamut. So I do not think the bishops have the power that they once had, especially in the Republican primary.
MATTHEWS: Matt, it seems like they are determined not to let a Catholic pro-choicer be president.
COOPER: Right, and I don‘t see why they don‘t take the same line for those who are against the church‘s position on say the death penalty.
MATTHEWS: Or the war in Iraq or immigration. Because the Catholic church is liberal on almost all issues except that on.
COOPER: And they never hold a test on those. But I think in the end it‘s not going to swing it.
MATTHEWS: How about in big cities, Lynn, like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, where there are older populations of more traditional Catholics; do you think that Rudy will get hurt by the bishops?
SWEET: No, because even though—Chicago, where I‘m sitting now, big
Mayor Daley has paved the way.
MATTHEWS: Did you just say hell?
SWEET: No, I did not. I didn‘t even come close to that. It‘s my Chicago accent that‘s getting in the way. I said Mayor Daley has paved the way for big city mayors to come in, like Giuliani, who might be more liberal, might be supportive of abortion rights, and might have run ins with the Catholic church hierarchy. Senator Durbin had criticism from the Catholic church for years often on this, and I think people take it in stride. And there is a sense in big cities, especially for figures that are operational, seen more as operational than ideological—I think it won‘t help, but that will not be determinative in this case.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a thought John?
FEEHERY: I do not think this will hurt Rudy in the primary, but in the general, the fact is big city Catholics don‘t vote in the Republican primary. So this is not going to have any impact on Rudy in the primary.
Now the question is, does it hurt him in the general election against Hillary? A lot of big city Catholics are going to go to Rudy just because of the ethnic thing.
MATTHEWS: Because they feel background similar. I agree completely with that. A lot of people feel more tribal than they do religious sometimes. We‘ll be right back with John Feehery and Lynn Sweet and Matt Cooper, what a group. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. I mean it. It‘s a good group.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Lynn Sweet, John
Feehery and Matt Cooper. Up next, Obama adds ads. Barack Obama‘s campaign announced today that he‘s going on the air in Iowa for the first time—
Iowa I should say—for the first of two spots about his career in public service. Here they are. I think these are called recognition or reputation ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Obama worked on some of the deepest issues we had and he was successful in a bipartisan way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legislation that he carried, he believed in.
He was not carrying it for a group. He was not carrying it for a lobbyist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican legislators respected Senator Obama. His negotiations skills, and an ability to understand both sides would serve the country very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it is grand stuff with the music. Lynn, is it too high brow for Iowa, a gritty caucus goers?
SWEET: No, of course not. These are biographical ads. What is interesting is that he has a Republican state senator in it. Excuse me. And I think—
MATTHEWS: Well, that guy will take some heat, won‘t he?
SWEET: No, he‘s been out front, Kirk Dillard (ph). He has been, I think, the official Republican guy that everyone goes to when they write their biographies and stories. And they‘ve been friends. He came through for a friend. I don‘t think it hurts him. Maybe he‘ll end up voting for somebody on the Republican side for president, but he is the go to guy, it seems, for Obama stuff.
I think it is interesting that he is willing to make a commercial, because Chris, as you know, being someone to talk to reporters for a biographical reportage is one thing. Taking a step of being in an ad or allowing your name and likeness to be used is something else. So maybe he was—no, no.
MATTHEWS: You can never get out of it once you‘re in it.
SWEET: Hey look, it is a good investment for him, because, no matter what happens, Barack Obama, at the least, is going to be a senator from Illinois and he is going to have one big chit owed to a state Republican senator.
MATTHEWS: I love the way Chicago and Illinois politicians think, John. It is like you always think not about who is going to be president of the United States. You think how can this help me in the next log rolling operation.
FEEHERY: Get Obama out of the Senate, so Kirk can take his seat.
Maybe that‘s what he‘s doing there. This is pretty good politics.
SWEET: I thought that‘s your seat. John‘s from Illinois.
MATTHEWS: I just love it in Chicago, Matt, where they have a guy like Roman Pachinski (ph) on the Ways and Means Committee. He‘s moving on up and Boss Daley, the old man, just calls up and says, we need you to run for alderman, because we‘re trying to do something here. And then the guy gives up his career, or that hopeless race against Percy.
SWEET: It was a promotion.
MATTHEWS: I know it was a promotion.
COOPER: But you notice in those ads, there is no feel of Chicago.
The second ad was about him being a community organizer on the south side. If you look at the images, it makes it look like he was working with factory workers in Pittsburgh or farmers. There is no—in a way, the ads obfuscate his Chicago-ness.
MATTHEWS: They clean him up.
COOPER: They clean him up.
SWEET: Well, no.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. We got two Chicago people here. When is Barack Obama going to engage with Hillary Clinton? John, you first. When is he going to stop, take his foot off the brakes and say I‘m going to gas it up and go after Hillary. Is it September? When is he going to do that?
FEEHERY: He is in a tough spot, because the more he does that, the more he hurts his own reputation. He has to do it because he is down in the polls. I mean, that‘s the problem he‘s got.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t he letting Hillary shape the battlefield, Lynn, by saying, any time he criticizes Hillary, who is the front runner and deserving of criticism, because front runners should get hit, he is accused of being below his own standards. He‘s been tricked into this, hasn‘t he? Lynn?
SWEET: It is only because—look it, he has taken on his—his campaign has taken on Hillary. Obama himself hasn‘t decided to do it himself. He got in trouble last week when his campaign put out that memo that was leaked, where he went after Hillary for befriending the Indian American community.
COOPER: But, Lynn, that was a stupid memo.
MATTHEWS: You know what? He‘s got to trick her into attacking him. Somehow he has got to call a foul like in the NBA and get her on the attack. The minute she attacks him, he can slam her. But until she attacks him, he can‘t win the race. Any way, Lynn Sweet, John Feehery, and Matt Cooper, that‘s my assessment here.
Anyway, tomorrow we‘ll be live on HARDBALL plaza. I won‘t get a word in. We have the very outspoken, often controversial Anne Coulter out there in the sun. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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