Guests: John Edwards, Chuck Todd, Lois Romano, Ron Christie, Armstrong Williams
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Coulter clash. Tonight, John Edwards jumps into the fight for his wife, Elizabeth.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL. Tuesday night on HARDBALL, sparks flew between conservative author Ann Coulter and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. But tonight, the question is whether (ph) with Coulter selling books and Edwards courting voters, who wins in this primetime political fight? We‘ll talk to Senator John Edwards about this raw political moment in a moment.
And more bad news for Vice President Cheney. The House Democrats are moving ahead to evict him from his offices and his official residence on Massachusetts Avenue here in Washington. And the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the White House and vice president‘s office for documents related to President Bush‘s warrantless wiretapping. Can Cheney survive these storms? More on that in a moment.
But only one story is rocking this city tonight, and that‘s the clash between Ann Coulter and Elizabeth Edwards here last night. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has a report on the anatomy of the feud.
MATTHEWS: Elizabeth Edwards, go on the line—you‘re in the line with Ann Coulter.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was dramatic, confrontational and the newest chapter in a bitter political feud that began four years ago.
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS”: Yes, we‘ll have a debate.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I‘m asking you politely to stop personal attacks...
COULTER: And how about you stop raising money from the Web page!
SHUSTER: In November 2003, Ann Coulter wrote a column attacking John Edwards and accusing him of using his son‘s death for political gain. Coulter wrote, “If you want points for not using your son‘s death politically, don‘t you have to take down all those ‘Ask me about my son‘s death in a horrific car accident‘ bumper stickers?”
The shocking comments ignited a political firestorm. Earlier this year, Coulter continued to target Edwards by using a derogatory word to describe him at a conservative political conference.
COULTER: But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word (DELETED), so...
SHUSTER: On Monday, Coulter stepped up the attacks on Edwards again while plugging her latest book.
COULTER: I wouldn‘t insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards. That would be mean. But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I‘ve learned my lesson. If I‘m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I‘ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.
SHUSTER: The Edwards campaign immediately cashed in on the controversy by featuring it on their Web site in a fund-raising appeal. While the campaign was raising money, though, Elizabeth Edwards decided to confront Coulter herself.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: We can‘t have a debate about issues if you‘re using this kind of language.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) making this call?
COULTER: Yes, why isn‘t John Edwards making this call?
MATTHEWS: Well, do you want to respond (INAUDIBLE) end this conversation.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: I haven‘t talked to John about this call.
SHUSTER: Every major blog and Web site that covers politics and covers the news has featured the video, from The Drudge Report to Huffingtonpost to TVNewser. And the downloads keep coming on YouTube.
COULTER: But as for a debate with me, yes, sure.
COULTER: Coulter has a lengthy record of provoking critics and making new enemies, all of which fuels her notoriety and book sales. Shortly after 9/11, she referred to the Muslim world and said, quote, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”
While covering the 2004 Democratic convention for “USA Today,” Coulter began one article with, “Here at the spawn of Satan convention in Boston.” Last year, Coulter attacked the 9/11 widows known as the “Jersey girls.” Quote, “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them. I‘ve never seen people enjoying their husbands‘ deaths so much.”
So how did the Ann Coulter/Elizabeth Edwards confrontation happen? Before Tuesday‘s HARDBALL appearance, MSNBC promoted that viewer comments and questions would be part of the program.
TAMMY HADDAD, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HARDBALL: The Edwards campaign called to ask if it was possible that Elizabeth could talk to Ann Coulter live on the air, and we told them yes.
SHUSTER: In turn, Haddad had a conversation with Coulter.
HADDAD: I talked to Ann before the show and told her that we had gotten a call from the Edwards campaign and that Elizabeth might call in. And she was fine with it.
SHUSTER: In the third block of the show, Elizabeth Edwards was patched in.
COULTER: ... just another...
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: I‘m making this call as a mother. I‘m the mother of that boy who died. My children participate. These young people behind you are the age of my children. You‘re asking them to participate in a dialogue that‘s based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues, and I don‘t think that‘s serving them or this country very well.
COULTER: I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No!
MATTHEWS: No, she said you should stop being so negative to people individually.
COULTER: Right, as opposed to bankrupting doctors by giving a shyster Las Vegas routine in front of juries based on...
SHUSTER: This morning, the confrontation got more air time on the “Today” show.
MATTHEWS: My hunch is that in human terms, Elizabeth Edwards has won this round.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elizabeth has won.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right.
SHUSTER: The attention is just what the Edwards campaign was hoping for, according to MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You want to get into fights with people who are terribly unpopular with the constituency you‘re after, so people will say, Good, the Edwardses are after Ann Coulter. She really deserves it. Good for them. They‘re standing up to the beast, as it were.
SHUSTER (on camera): The Edwards campaign is also raising more money off of Coulter. Today, the campaign added another fund-raising appeal on their Web site featuring a video clip of Coulter‘s appearance on HARDBALL.
As for Coulter, she is also benefiting from the confrontation. Over the last 24 hours, sales of her latest book have soared.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Last night, Ann Coulter responded to Elizabeth Edwards with a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) making this call?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: We can‘t have a debate about issues if you‘re using this kind of language.
ANN COULTER: Yes, why isn‘t John Edwards making this call?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Yes, Senator Edwards now, I guess the question last night was why didn‘t you make the call, rather than Elizabeth, to Ann Coulter on the HARDBALL set?
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the simple answer to that is Elizabeth, I guess, heard her and knew she was on and called in. So I thought it was appropriate that I come on today.
MATTHEWS: OK. Did you talk with your wife, Elizabeth, beforehand about this, her decision to call in to the program?
JOHN EDWARDS: Elizabeth made this decision on her own to call in, I guess based on what she was hearing from Ann Coulter and I think something Ann Coulter had said a couple of days before.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, what is your reaction to what you heard last night and heard today about what happened last night?
JOHN EDWARDS: I applaud Elizabeth. I think that when people like Ann Coulter—and it‘s not just her, unfortunately, it‘s her and people just like her, Karl Rove and all those people. I mean, when they engage us in this kind of hate-mongering, you have to stand up to them. You have to stand up to them.
They start this fight, but we have to be willing to be strong and to fight back because if we don‘t, Chris, what happens is all the important things—men and women dying in Iraq, those who don‘t have health insurance, et cetera, their issues don‘t get heard. Instead, it‘s this—it‘s this low-level dialogue with this name-calling, which is what we see.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of the role of trash talk in politics generally, this willingness on the part of partisans to enrage the other side by going over the top? I mean, is that a smart tactic? Does it work? Does it debase the politics?
JOHN EDWARDS: Oh, it clearly debases the politics. There‘s no doubt about that. It makes it very difficult to talk about issues that affect people‘s day-to-day lives. And it‘s why, when this kind of hate-mongering and this hate language is used—and I just—I feel the need to point out this woman didn‘t just use it against me. I mean, the things she said about Senator Obama, the things she said about Senator Clinton, they all fall in the same category.
And they‘re calculated to create an emotional response. They‘re calculated to make people hate. And if you don‘t speak out against it, then that means you‘re tolerating this kind of language and it means you think it‘s OK. It‘s not OK.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of someone who‘s a person who writes a column, went to Michigan Law School, has a fine education, apparently, from what I can tell, is quite a writer, a good writer, uses comments like, I hope that the terrorists kill this guy, things like that? What do you make of that stuff? Where does it come from?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, it means a couple things. Number one, she‘s smart enough to know better. She knows exactly what she‘s doing. She‘s not alone. I mean, if you look at what she‘s doing and you look at what‘s happened in the past, for example, the Swift Boating of Senator Kerry, I mean, I think a lot of this is very coordinated, very calculated. They intend to create a result.
And what they hope is that we won‘t say anything, we‘ll just let them continue this hateful dialogue. And we‘ll try and hope that the country will hear us talk about important things, issues that affect the lives of Americans every single day.
But we have to fight back, Chris. We have to be strong. We have to speak up. That‘s what Elizabeth did yesterday, and I‘m proud of her for it.
MATTHEWS: Elizabeth had one—I think Elizabeth may have made one strategic error last night. That‘s assuming that she could get Ann Coulter to express shame.
JOHN EDWARDS: Yes, I don‘t think she has any shame. There‘s no doubt about that. And her response to any effort to raise the dialogue, to talk about things that people care about, is to attack in a mean, hateful, mean-spirited way. I think that‘s just the way she behaves. That‘s who she is. And I think that‘s a lot of what we see from these people who are just—that are crazy. I mean...
JOHN EDWARDS: ... there‘s nothing remotely mainstream about them.
And normal people are repelled by them.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you explain the fact that you see people with good educations walking around the streets of New York and Wall Street, people with big business jobs in equity firms—hedge fund people—all buying books by Ann Coulter?
How do you explain the fact that even last night‘s fight involving your wife, Elizabeth, and Ann Coulter probably helped her sell some more books to these kind of guys?
JOHN EDWARDS: Because I think there is a segment of the population that responds to this sort of hateful craziness. It‘s always been true, Chris. It‘s been true my whole lifetime.
When I was young, growing up in the South, people were very responsive to name-calling of African-Americans, prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans. And people would say the most outrageous, demeaning things about good human beings. And there would be a response.
And so there‘s always been hateful language, hate-mongering in this country. It‘s been true for as long as I‘ve been alive and it‘s still true today. But that doesn‘t mean we have to tolerate it. We have to speak out about it. We have to stand up.
MATTHEWS: Can you dismiss this as hate speech and negativity and debasing of the political process and at the same time have your campaign use the comments made by Ann Coulter to raise money? It‘s clearly part of your Web site e-mail campaign solicitation effort now. Two e-mails have gone out now to raise money off of Ann Coulter‘s attacks on you and your family. Do you think you can do both, attack her and exploit her?
JOHN EDWARDS: Here‘s what I think. I think that we can say to America that we‘re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior, we‘re not going to tolerate this kind of hate language and we‘re going to stand up and we‘re going to fight.
And if we ask Americans, other good Americans to join us in standing up and being strong, there‘s nothing wrong with that. And that‘s exactly what we‘re asking them to do. And I hope there‘ll be lots of people who will join us in standing up and doing the right thing.
MATTHEWS: Have you raised a great deal of money? There was a report today that you‘ve had your best, most successful e-mail hitting back at Ann Coulter that you‘ve had so far.
JOHN EDWARDS: We are raising money. I don‘t know the numbers. I hope they go up. I hope we get more and more people who join us in this cause because this is important.
MATTHEWS: Do you think people should buy Ann Coulter‘s books?
JOHN EDWARDS: No.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll be right back. That‘s a good answer. John Edwards. We‘ll be right back with John Edwards, who‘s coming on tonight to follow up on that incident here last night involving Ann Coulter and her very strong words, many people believe over the line, against the Edwards family. We‘ll be right back with John Edwards.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Senator John Edwards, talking about what happened last night involving Elizabeth Edwards and Ann Coulter.
How‘s Elizabeth doing?
JOHN EDWARDS: She‘s actually doing real well, Chris, but thanks—first of all, thank you for asking. She‘s...
MATTHEWS: Well, you know we love her, or I love her personally, because she‘s the greatest person in the world and she battles with you as to who‘s the best of the two of you. She is a piece of greatness, I think. But that‘s my opinion.
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, I‘m a little biased. I share your view. But she‘s doing real well. She‘s on her treatment. It seems to be going well. We‘re staying on top of it and monitoring her. And she‘s out on the campaign trail, working hard.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about how you explain this kind of—it wouldn‘t be a tit for a tat—this nastiness the other night, to your older daughter, your college-age or actually law school-age daughter, Kate. How do you explain these kinds of things that happen in politics?
JOHN EDWARDS: You know, I think the truth is, Chris, I don‘t need to
explain it to Kate. I mean, she‘s extraordinarily mature for her age. She
understands that these sort of things go on in politics, that you have to -
if you care about what we‘re doing—this is what we‘ve always—
Elizabeth and I have always taught our children. If you care about what you‘re doing, if you want to make the lives of other people better, sometimes, if you‘re going to do it politically, which is what we‘ve chosen to do...
JOHN EDWARDS: ... you‘re going to have to endure some attacks and be willing to stand up and fight back.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Have you heard from any of your colleagues? I mean, they‘re your colleagues, but they‘re also your rivals for the nomination. Has anybody stood up and said to you, Don‘t let her get away with that, meaning Ann Coulter?
JOHN EDWARDS: No, but in fairness to them, I‘ve been almost—traveling almost nonstop since this happened yesterday, so—and I‘m confident they will. I mean, I—as I said earlier in our discussion, the things that this woman has said about some of the others who are running for the nomination are outrageous and have to be rejected.
MATTHEWS: Yes, what did you make of her attack on Hillary? She made fun of her build, her weight. She made fun of a couple of things. She made fun of Barack Obama‘s middle name, Hussein. What do you make of that, that sort of general invective you get from her now?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, I think, first, as to Senator Clinton, this is demeaning and offensive to women at large. It‘s offensive to Senator Clinton, who‘s a terrific senator and a great leader in this country and a great role model for a lot of women. And for her to demean her that way is completely unacceptable.
And Senator Obama—I mean, here‘s an African-American man who‘s running for president of the United States, who is in many ways a role model for a lot of young African-Americans in this country. And for her to make fun of—first of all, it‘s something he has no control over, his name.
JOHN EDWARDS: And to make fun of and demean him in that way is just -
it‘s completely consistent with what we see from these crazies. And somebody has to speak out about it and stop it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. If we want everybody in the world whose name‘s Hussein to be our enemy, we are really stupid because there‘s millions of people with that name.
Anyway, thank you. By the way, what‘s the reaction out on the road now? You‘ve been campaigning, as you said. Are people rooting for you in this regard? Are they mentioning it or what?
JOHN EDWARDS: Oh, yes. Yes. I‘ve heard it a lot just since yesterday. People are very excited about the fact that we‘re standing up and speaking out about this hate-mongering. They want to see strength. They want to see us standing up and fighting back.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator John Edwards. Please come back. You‘re always welcome on HARDBALL, as is the lovely Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us tonight.
JOHN EDWARDS: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: How smart is Ann Coulter? We‘re going to ask CNBC‘s Donny Deutsch about the Elizabeth Edwards/Ann Coulter confrontation in what it means about the strategies employed by people like Ann Coulter.
Plus, “Video ‘08” (ph), Donny‘s take on all the new political ads out there right now, and they‘re all coming out fast. And tomorrow, we go back to “HARDBALL Plaza” for another, well, kind of debate on religion, politics and Iraq, Christopher Hitchens versus the Reverend Al Sharpton. That‘s going to be something to watch. Send your video questions, by the way, to get in on this fight to HARDBALL.msnbc.com, same as Tuesday.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So who is winning this game between Ann Coulter—it is a serious game with the Clinton—actually, with the Edwards camps. Donny Deutsch, host of CNBC‘s “THE BIG IDEA” is with us.
Is there a genius behind the Ann Coulter invective?
DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST, “THE BIG IDEA”: I don‘t know if I would use the word, genius. She is certainly very clever. Let me give you a little inside baseball when she was on my show a little while ago. She is doing the show. We are talking our stuff. We go to a commercial break. I say, Ann, how is the book doing? And she goes, well, you know, it is down to number five, I think that Russert guy, he is going to be number one.
I say to her, well, you have got to say something her, let‘s get it cooking. Come back from the commercial break, she is calling Clinton gay. She says, Bill Clinton is gay. Next night on “The Tonight Show,” on “Letterman,” can you believe what Ann Coulter said. She gets it. She is in media critter. Love her or hate her, she understands what she is doing. The more of outrageous, the more absurd, boom, she sells books.
There are no surprises. It is not debate, is she mean, is she nice, that is what she does. It is very simple. Now.
MATTHEWS: But they are not slurs, they are sort of off-the-wall comments. Nobody thinks Bill Clinton or Al Gore is gay. And it is—when she makes these charges, it is not like she is saying somebody really is something, it is an off-the-wall statement.
DEUTSCH: Now let‘s—so she wins there. Now Edwards, Edwards who just got the last 15 minutes on HARDBALL, in some ways won because Edwards is part of the discussion today. At the end of the day, though, I think what is the real headline here, once you get past Ann Coulter, who is no different than Howard Stern. They may hate each other, they do the same thing. They understand. And Donald Trump, when he gets on and calls Rosie fat, everybody covers it.
It is absurd, it is ridiculous, it is good theater. At the end of the day, though, the person who is going to be elected president of the United States is going to have nothing to do with this. People are tired of hate in the real world. It is good numbers for us. Right now I think the zeitgeist, though, I think whether it is Barack, whether it is Gore, whether it is Bloomberg, whether Hillary, they are not going to get into any of this.
Edwards will never be elected president of the United States engaging in this. It is that simple. He will get his airtime. People—it is kind of fun to watch, you and I both.
MATTHEWS: But, Donny, you say that, but look what happened to John Kerry last time when he tried to ignore the Swiftboaters.
DEUTSCH: But I think there is a way to do it. Once again, you can take your shot at it. But that is it. For this to be like a central part of what you are doing—I think the way you ignore it, the way you take it on, you just go, you know what, (INAUDIBLE) you know, nanny-nanny-poo-poo, that‘s what it is. I mean, you don‘t ignore it. You don‘t take it sitting down. But you don‘t make it a cause celebre.
Who is Ann Coulter? Ann Coulter is a really clever journalist. John Edwards is not running against Ann Coulter.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to the rest of the show. Donny, we are glad you were here because every day HARDBALL‘s “Vide08” will deliver the hottest, most debated, most talked about videos from the 2008 campaign and I‘m glad you‘re here. Here is some of the best out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I‘m asking you politely to stop personal attacks.
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: How about you stop raising money on your Web page then?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Amnesty means that you have got to pay, you know, a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The strength in America is not just in the Oval Office.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not agree with myself on everything.
PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: The Republican machine is already hard at work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that Barack chose to try and effect social change, you know, how you understand that motivation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Now let‘s look at the latest crop of political ads. Here is a new ad by the Edwards campaign running up in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. EDWARDS: The strength of America is not just in the Oval Office, the strength in America is in this room right now. It is the American people and it is time for the president of the United States to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Does that grab you, Donny?
DEUTSCH: I think the images itself are pretty trite, but there is a great line in there. It is time for America to be patriotic other than something—other than have to do with war. That is a really swift, crisp thought that is the ultimate rebuke to the entire Republican position, you know, if you are against Iraq, you are un-American, you are unpatriotic. I think that is a wonderful line, actually.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Great primary ad.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Obama. Here is an ad he is running out in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that Barack chose to try and effect social change, you know, how do you understand that motivation? The pay stinks, the hours are bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three years later, Barack went to Harvard Law but returned to the community to lead a voter registration drive and defend civil rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was inspiring, absolutely inspiring to see someone as brilliant as Barack Obama, as successful, someone who could have written his ticket on Wall Street, take all of the town and all of the learning and decide to devote it to the community, and to making people‘s lives better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God, it is Bobby Kennedy stuff. Does that work?
DEUTSCH: It is funny you say that. I thought about Bobby Kennedy. I will tell you why that is smart for Barack. The two big issues for him, well, he is kind of charismatic, but he hasn‘t done anything yet. Very specific tactics. He is a go-to guy. He does things. And an elderly smart white guy endorsing him, two elements there. But once again, a lot of Bobby Kennedy there. I saw the same thing.
MATTHEWS: All right. Let‘s go to Paul Newman here, one of our most popular actors, here he is making a pitch—a fund-raising pitch for Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWMAN: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is the only organization focused exclusively on electing Democrats to the Senate. While the election may seem far off, the Republican machine is already hard at work, launching attack ads, raising money, trying to regain power. But with your help today, the DSCC will be able to fight off those attacks and widen our majority in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEUTSCH: You guys buried the lead in that one. He starts the commercial by saying he was on Nixon—you know, the anti—he was on Nixon‘s hit list, and I think that is an ingenious way to kind of scare about Big Brother out there. Two thoughts on that, I never knew Paul Newman got so old. I do not believe in any celebrities.
I think at the end of the day, nobody cares, but there is something compelling about this guy who was blacklisted by Nixon, saying watch out for Big Brother, George Bush and the Republicans. So I think there is something effective about it. Actually, all three today that we talked about have some zotz (ph) to them.
MATTHEWS: Paul Newman, do you think he might be too old to do ads?
DEUTSCH: Yes, you know, I do not think anybody cares. I do think though, once again, if you had an excuse to tote out Nixon, these are Nixon days, a lot of Nixon going on here, not a lot of.
DEUTSCH: I think that is the only value that had. Hey, I was one of the guys Nixon tried to take down. Be careful out there. Other than that, he is too old, celebrities—nobody cares about celebrities. They don‘t hurt. They don‘t help. Nobody cares. It‘s that simple. They act, they sing, they talk. I do not care, celebrity, whether you are—I don‘t care whether you are Republican or Democrat, who you vote for is completely irrelevant.
MATTHEWS: I know. But you know, if you are running for office and Paul Newman shows up to campaign for you for a couple of days, that is a morale-booster, I‘m sorry.
DEUTSCH: It‘s not—you know what, it is all nice.
MATTHEWS: It makes you feel better.
DEUTSCH: I would rather have Bon Jovi, you know, on my side than not, he is a good friend.
DEUTSCH: But at the end of the day it just does not matter.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Donny Deutsch, for the insight into this media world. “THE BIG IDEA” airs, by the way, weeknights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNBC.
And to see the full ads and all the latest political news, by the way, you can always go to hardball.msnbc.com. Up next, our HARDBALL debate tonight, how far is too far when politics get personal? Let me put it bluntly, did Ann Coulter break the rules?
And don‘t forget that tomorrow we will be back on HARDBALL Plaza for a big debate between author Christopher Hitchens and the Reverend Al Sharpton. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tonight on the HARDBALL debate, the politics of personal attack. Ann Coulter was wrong to say what she did the other night. That is the debate point tonight. Our debaters tonight, HARDBALL political analyst Hilary Rosen and radio talk-show host and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams.
Hilary, it‘s your ball on HARDBALL. You say it was wrong what Ann Coulter which said last night.
HILARY ROSEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought the worst thing that Ann Coulter did was completely dis Elizabeth Edwards‘ viewpoint.
She did not acknowledge any amount of feelings going on in this debate. So
but as far as whether she should be out there doing what she does, I sort of believe, you know, in the sunshine laws, let it out there because she just sounds like an idiot.
MATTHEWS: Was Ann Coulter wrong to attack the family, to make fun of the death of their child? To make fun of—well, that? That is enough.
ROSEN: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think she gets respect for it. I think she has sort of become the Anna Nicole Smith of politics. People watch her because her outrageousness is mesmerizing. But I do not think it is effective and I don‘t think it works.
MATTHEWS: For the negative (INAUDIBLE), Armstrong Williams.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST & SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:
Well, Ann Coulter has to be loving this moment. Everybody is talking about her. You certainly had her on. You thought she was relevant. It is guys like you that give her credibility.
So if I could show up on TV like Ann Coulter and say the things I say and people want to hear it, I would show up too. I thought it was kind of pathetic that Mrs. Edwards would allow herself to just call in and lower her standards to talk to Ann Coulter.
I mean, Ann Coulter would have had no credibility with this had John Edwards‘ wife not called in. Obviously Ann Coulter is getting to her, getting under her skin. And so she needed to respond. Ann Coulter always says this. This is no different than what Michael Moore says about the president in his movies and the things that he puts out. People don‘t get as bent out of shape.
So Ann Coulter is selling books. I mean, many people don‘t take her seriously. I think what she said is outrageous, but as long as people are given a forum to say these things, why should she stop, she is selling books, she is making money.
ROSEN: Well, she gets a political alliance with a significant amount of the Republican Party and the right wing, and I think that the outrageousness doesn‘t get discounted, it doesn‘t get attacked, and it doesn‘t get dissociated.
WILLIAMS: The right wing? You have got to be kidding me. Ann Coulter is so isolated from the right wing, the middle wing. Have you read.
ROSEN: She was the featured speaker at the conservative association forum two months ago.
WILLIAMS: Let me tell you this, have you heard the latest thing she said about President Bush? You have got to be kidding me.
ROSEN: Well, she is not alone in her criticism.
WILLIAMS: Ann Coulter is on an island by herself. OK? She is alone.
ROSEN: She is not alone. Because she is obviously out there with a significant amount of conservative support. She had them out there in the plaza last night.
MATTHEWS: What did make of those people last night who were cheering every word she said last night?
ROSEN: You know, their age was scary. Young women, applauding her sort of outrageous sexist behavior was kind of scary to me and I...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. EDWARDS: These young people behind are the.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That is Elizabeth Edwards talking, chastising basically Ann Coulter for rallying those young people to her cause.
WILLIAMS: You know, I have tremendous compassion for Mrs. Edwards. And the fact that she is battling breast cancer. I thought their press conference was just tremendous that they had several months ago. I mean, and obviously she is very protective of her husband, but her husband has become somewhat irrelevant.
I mean, Ann Coulter is going to say which she has to say. Elizabeth Edwards should understand that she is fair game. This is what politics is all about, and it is unfortunate that she allowed herself in being protective of her husband. Or maybe it was a scheme by she and her husband to sort of make him relevant again. Because ever since he has been running his hand through his hair, paying for these $400 haircuts, he has suffered in the polls. And people.
MATTHEWS: . effort to try to exploit the attack?
ROSEN: Well, I don‘t think Elizabeth Edwards called in yesterday with a fund-raising effort in mind.
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute, they already had a Web site raising money on this.
ROSEN: But that was a long time ago. I do.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, it was yesterday.
WILLIAMS: Yes, please.
ROSEN: It was after the fact that they set up this latest thing.
MATTHEWS: It was after the other morning when the comment was made by Ann Coulter on a morning program, and she had said it before, where they went after her on the question of whether John Edwards should be assassinated by a terrorist or not.
ROSEN: Are you saying you believe that Elizabeth Edwards called in to the show yesterday.
MATTHEWS: No. I happen to know a fact here, which is they had begun the fund-raising effort already.
ROSEN: Well, I think it is two-fold. I don‘t think that she fights back just to raise money. I think she fights back because it is something that she feels compelled to do. And by virtue of what Ann Coulter said, I do not blame here. But I do think that.
MATTHEWS: Are they right to raise money off of these attacks?
ROSEN: You know, I take Edwards at his word. He—raising the money, at least it is not going in his pocket. It is going out to further the cause.
WILLIAMS: Oh, Hilary, come on, you know better than that.
ROSEN: No, no, no, wait, wait a minute.
WILLIAMS: This is a business.
ROSEN: I think that he—I think he lost some of his moral authority
by putting it up on the Web site.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We are reaching.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to try to shame you, Armstrong, because you might be shame-able. I know Ann Coulter ain‘t shame-able. Do you think it is even reasonable by the widest stretch of misbehavior, the Karl Rove rule, riot large—or writ large, do you think it is OK to say that this guy has a bumper sticker that says—this is John Edwards she is talking about, Ann Coulter, that has a bumper sticker that says “ask me about my dead boy.” Do you really think that is OK?
WILLIAMS: Yes. He has the bumper sticker.
MATTHEWS: He does have the bumper sticker that says that?
WILLIAMS: Does he have the bumper sticker?
MATTHEWS: No, no, no! She has accused him of having such a bumper sticker.
WILLIAMS: Well, listen, Ann Coulter says some things that make so many people so uncomfortable. She is so insensitive. But she—you know, she has crossed the line. She will say anything.
MATTHEWS: And you do not accept there is an ally on the right, then?
WILLIAMS: No, no. No, no, no.
ROSEN: This is like—because.
MATTHEWS: Why not? Why not?
WILLIAMS: Because Ann Coulter does what is in her best interest. She has no loyalties to the Republicans on the right. She has loyalties to what gets her publicity, what sells her books. It is all about Ann Coulter. She is in love with herself. OK? It is Ann Coulter all the time, 24 hours a day.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at that little—the younger woman—I have got to be careful about that, that younger woman behind her, the blonde girl there, right behind her. She is the kind of person, yesterday, maybe we will get another shot of her, they were absolutely -- there she is. They were—throughout yesterday‘s—it was—to me, I could not believe it. Every time Ann Coulter said something, no matter how far over the top, those young people were just screeching with excitement.
WILLIAMS: Well, she has a cult following among young people. You know, I‘m oftentimes invited to speak to these young Republicans. I have got to tell you, they love her. They worship her.
MATTHEWS: Is it because she is wild and she will say things nobody dares to say anymore?
WILLIAMS: They think it is cool. They think it is chic.
WILLIAMS: It is disrespectful. It is what on TV now. It is the rebellion movement.
MATTHEWS: Here is my theory. Maybe we can end the debate right now, I have a theory. Today we are basically garbed in political correctness. There are many things you can‘t say. As long as people are restricted, and maybe properly so, on what they don‘t say, no hate speech, things like that, there will be a market for people that can get away with it, and because the outrage becomes entertainment.
ROSEN: Which is why.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t like that theory.
ROSEN: I think it is true.
WILLIAMS: No, no, no, no. It is entertainment.
ROSEN: And it is one of the reasons why John Edwards is relatively safe in responding. But for instance.
WILLIAMS: Oh, Hilary.
ROSEN: . Senator Clinton couldn‘t, and Barack Obama couldn‘t, because he is going to be in a position where he can do things that are more aggressive, that are outside the box.
MATTHEWS: Who is this?
ROSEN: John Edwards. He has to do those things to change the debate and raise different discussions.
WILLIAMS: You know what is even sadder, and I hate to say this, it is John Edwards who has now exploited his wife and her situation.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he is?
MATTHEWS: How has he done that?
WILLIAMS: Because he—for him to come on your show—I watched the interview, and say that he was not aware that his wife was going to call in.
WILLIAMS: I don‘t believe that.
ROSEN: To exploit somebody, somebody has to be a victim. Elizabeth Edwards is not a victim.
WILLIAMS: No, she may not be a victim, but her husband is a politician who cares more about his political career and about becoming president of the United States...
ROSEN: That is absolutely ridiculous.
WILLIAMS: I know you would say it is ridiculous. But.
ROSEN: And she doesn‘t believe that, so there—you (ph) have no right to believe that.
WILLIAMS: He is just as bad as Ann Coulter. They belong together.
They should do a comedy show together.
MATTHEWS: We have been trying to check that question out. Armstrong, you may be right, I don‘t know. But we have been trying to check that out. Apparently, according to Elizabeth, she did not tell her husband ahead of time. Now you can—who knows what evil lurks. But.
WILLIAMS: You expect her to come on your show.
MATTHEWS: I know, I know, I know, I know, I know! Thank you for asking—for talking to our audience, thank you.
MATTHEWS: You are a great guest. Thank you, Armstrong, thank you. Write a book called “Godless” and we will have you back on. Anyway, Armstrong Williams, thank you, Hilary Rosen.
Up next, more on the Edwards-Coulter fight. We know Ann Coulter sells more books, but what does John Edwards get out of this little rigmarole, this rhubarb?
And in an iVillage exclusive, for the first time ever, the first lady of the United States writes an online journal all week for her first dispatch. Laura Bush describes the sights and sounds of her trip to Africa. Every day this week she will post a journal and photos of her visit. Go to www.ivillage.com.
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s bring in our roundtable tonight, our hot panel. Chuck Todd is NBC‘s political director. Ron Christie is a former aide to the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. And Lois Romano is with The Washington Post.
Everybody likes the way I pronounce the name Cheney because that is the way he does pronounce the name. Anyway, first up, the Edwards-Coulter confrontation. John Edwards came on HARDBALL today to defend his wife. And here is what he said about Ann Coulter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. EDWARDS: I don‘t think she has any shame. There is no doubt about that. And her response to any effort to raise the dialogue, talk about things that people care about, is to attack in a mean, hateful, mean-spirited way. I think that is just the way she behaves, that is who she is. And I think that is a lot of what we see from these people who are just—that are crazies. I mean, there is nothing remotely mainstream about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Did the confrontation help Edwards campaign or sell Coulter‘s books or both? Lois, you are first.
LOIS ROMANO, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don‘t think it really did either. He used a very interesting word. And that is shame. And I think that is why Elizabeth called. She was trying to shame Ann Coulter. And Ann Coulter can‘t be shamed.
I mean, I agree with John Edwards on that. She is not conservative. She is not provocative. She is hateful. And she is narcissistic. She is in her own little world. And she cannot be shamed.
And I think the net-net was that Elizabeth Edwards ended up dragging herself down instead of elevating the dialogue.
MATTHEWS: Ron Christie, I‘m not sure you agree, because I‘m not sure I do that she is not selling books even as we trash her.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER DICK CHENEY AIDE: Of course she is selling books. I mean, Ann Coulter—I have no idea why Elizabeth Edwards would have gone on your show yesterday. Ann Coulter is going to say whatever she can to get in the headlines. Look, you have talked about it all day. We have been on “The Today Show” talking about this. Ann wants to get her name out and do anything that will get her name out in the public realm. I think it is Ann being Ann.
MATTHEWS: Is there no risk?
CHRISTIE: Well, for Ann Coulter? Of course not.
CHRISTIE: Of course not. There is no risk for her.
MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson (sic), is it possible that somebody who is out there freelancing with commentary like she does, making fun of somebody who has lost a child, who has been—who died young, or making fun of the idea of assassinating somebody, how do you make it, Chuck?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Look, I think it is pretty transparent what the Edwards folks are up to. They are trying to raise money. We are three days away from June 30th, second quarter. It is a gigantic marker in the presidential race. This is a very convenient target.
The irony of this is that the Edwards campaign has given Coulter oxygen, it is the very thing she needs to live as far as in this fantasy world.
MATTHEWS: OK. What about the other way around, Chuck? What about the idea that Edwards was a little dull out there until this event, and that sometimes attacking from a defensive position, as Ronald Reagan did with “there you go again,” as Claire McCaskill did in the last campaign against Rush Limbaugh, can that help Edwards?
TODD: Oh, it can, because I think he needed some life. Look, he is in danger of being out of the quote-unquote “first tier,” right? The pundit class here in D.C. is ready to create a new second tier and say, hey, it is you and Richardson battling for third place over there and we are just going to have Clinton-Obama here. So he needed some juice. So you know what.
MATTHEWS: Boy, you are right. Didn‘t I say that to you this morning somewhere? Ha! That is what I do worry about. I do—not worry about, the one thing I do think could happen in this campaign is that it is possible that Richardson could be in the process of overtaking Edwards for number three, when there is very few other places to change.
Let me go right back to Ron Christie on that. Let‘s talk about Cheney right now. The Democrats on Capitol Hill, the Congress people who now control the subpoena power and everything else are talking about evicting Cheney, taking him out of his house on Massachusetts Avenue, that big mansion, taking him out of his offices at the Executive Office of the President, the West Wing, and dumping him out into the street like an evictee.
CHRISTIE: Do these guys not have anything better to do, Chris? War on terrorism, I mean, actually getting legislation passed through the Congress. This big six for ‘06, they haven‘t done a thing.
CHRISTIE: They have not done a thing this year.
MATTHEWS: But is there—Lois, you are laughing, is there a better picture for the morning Post than that of the vice president‘s possessions out on the street because the Democrats, led by Rahm Emanuel, have evicted him?
CHRISTIE: That will never happen. That will never happen.
ROMANO: It‘s not going to happen, but the Democrats are obviously loving this. I mean, our series has really been provocative. And it‘s like Gonzales. I mean, I do not think the Democrats want Gonzales to resign. They just want to keep demanding that he resigned and keep uncovering everything that‘s going on. So the vice president is just a very good foil right now for the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: What is his—let me go back to Ron. You worked in the vice president‘s office. When you worked in the vice president‘s office, did you feel you worked for the executive of this government? Or the legislative branch?
CHRISTIE: Well, I actually felt like I worked for the legislative branch, because I was an employee of the United States Senate; I had a Senate parking pass...
MATTHEWS: Oh, really?
CHRISTIE: ... and I had a Senate ID. Yes, I did.
MATTHEWS: Even though you worked for the vice president.
CHRISTIE: Yes. The vice president of the United States is the president of the Senate. I mean, “The Post” is making this big to-do of Cheney thinks he‘s in the legislative or maybe he‘s in the executive—I was paid by the Senate. “The Post” with this series, with no offense to Lois, I think has made much ado about nothing as it relates to the vice president, other than trying to sell newspapers and say that Cheney is on the side of business and Cheney‘s Mr. Stealth Vice President or Darth Cheney.
I think it‘s a disservice to what this vice president has done for this country.
MATTHEWS: So you—this four-day series is a nothing burger.
CHRISTIE: I think there are a couple of interesting articles, particularly relating to how the vice president worked with the president and worked with the Congress to enact the tax cuts that have done so much for the economy. But if you look at the series today, where it talked about the environment, and Cheney was reaching down and Cheney was trying to get people to circumvent business—I‘ve got to tell you, Chris, the year that I spent working for the vice president, the Klamath Basin you were talking about, 1,400 farms, you were talking about people who were on the verge of losing their livelihood and their jobs. He did exactly what you would hope the vice president would do, which is to work with the Congress to make sure that these folks, who have been pinched by the Endangered Species Act, found a way to have water to farm, had (inaudible) water for their irrigation. It was a smart move for him to have done it.
MATTHEWS: Lois, what‘s told us more about the vice president, this four-day series in “The Washington Post,” or the fact that he shot somebody at a hunting trip and never told the president? I would argue that that one incident has been more educational than all the words in a newspaper.
ROMANO: Well, I think it‘s a little bit of both. I mean, I think the series is really a fine piece of journalism, because...
MATTHEWS: Well, you would say that.
ROMANO: Well, I would, but listen, I mean, look at the reporting they have done. And so many people spoke on the record, including the chief of staff to the president...
MATTHEWS: But you were misquoted, Ron.
CHRISTIE: I was. Lois, I spoke on the record...
ROMANO: Oh, is that right?
CHRISTIE: ... and in fact, I had mentioned that the vice president took a very keen interest with what was going on in the Klamath Basin, and it came back as, oh, Christie says the vice president wanted to find his way around the law. I never said that.
MATTHEWS: Have you written a letter to the paper saying that‘s wrong?
CHRISTIE: I have sent a letter to “The Washington Post,” to the editor. Lois, check your inbox over there.
ROMANO: OK, I will, I will. Well, I can‘t speak to that, Ron. But I mean, I do think that there was a lot of detail, and you know, maybe since the hunting accident, but a lot of people really are interested in how this vice president operated. You know, he is very—he is kind of private. He is quiet, he does not talk to the press. And I think there was some, you know, your error notwithstanding, I think there was some very good reporting in there that illuminated that.
MATTHEWS: It wasn‘t his error; it was “The Post‘s” error.
We‘ll be right back with Lois Romano and Ron Christie and Chuck.
We‘ll be back. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Chuck Todd, Ron Christie and Lois Romano.
Here is more—this is the last bit of this we‘re going to show you.
Here is some of the fight from last night between Edwards and Coulter.
This is up there with Graziano-Zale. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COULTER: And I don‘t mind you trying to raise money. I mean, it‘s better this than giving $50,000 speeches to the poor...
EDWARDS: I‘m asking you—I‘m asking you politely...
COULTER: ... just to use my name on the Web pages.
But, as for a debate with me, yes, sure.
EDWARDS: I‘m asking you politely...
COULTER: Yes, we will have a debate.
EDWARDS: ... to stop—to stop personal attacks.
COULTER: How about you stop raising money on your Web page, then?
COULTER: No, you don‘t have to, because I don‘t mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Chuck, the problem with debating Ann Coulter is she has this Gatling gun of stuff to throw at you. And it may not be relevant entirely, but it is discouraging to the other side of the argument.
TODD: Well, she doesn‘t—she plays by a different set of rules. You know, there‘s rules of sort of political decorum, that, for instance, in Elizabeth Edwards, you know, there are things that she probably wishes she could say, and if her husband weren‘t running for office, she would say it, but she can‘t. Ann Coulter, on the other hand, will say anything. And that...
MATTHEWS: If she thinks the other person is a witch, she can‘t say it, but you can bet that...
TODD: That‘s right. Ann Coulter would say it.
MATTHEWS: ... Ann would have no problem saying it.
TODD: It‘s sort of like taking a boxer, Chris, and telling him, OK, now go fight mixed martial arts, but you have got to stick with the boxing, and the other guy can start kicking you, and you can only use your fists. It‘s, you know, it‘s an unfair fight.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this debate? Do you think there will be one?
CHRISTIE: No. This is over. You‘re talking about Ann Coulter and the Edwards, round two?
MATTHEWS: Yes, having a debate about this in person?
CHRISTIE: No, they‘re not going to have a debate about this in person.
MATTHEWS: Well, Coulter would go along with it.
CHRISTIE: Of course she would. I think Chuck Todd‘s point from the previous segment was right on the spot. Edwards is right before the June 30th filing deadline for financial disclosure. No one has been paying any attention to anything he‘s been doing, other than his hair incident and the YouTube thing with that little brush through the hair, and this. It‘s a (inaudible) campaign. I think he‘s...
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying that Ann Coulter is a life preserver, somebody to grab onto and use for political survival?
CHRISTIE: I think John Edwards is going down on the SS Titanic out there on the political sea, and he‘s going to hold on to anything to try to stay a little bit more afloat for the next cycle.
MATTHEWS: Lois Romano, mother of two, speaking as a mother of two, because you have two beautiful daughters and you know what it means to have -- well, you‘re lucky enough not to have had misfortunes like—certainly like the Edwardses, but doesn‘t a mother have to defend her young and her husband when he‘s attacked and threatened with basically terrorist assassination is what Coulter took a shot at him, and also made fun of their love for their lost—their son Wade?
ROMANO: Right, but I agree with Ron. I mean, you can‘t argue with Ann Coulter. I mean, she‘s in her own world, she‘s narcissistic, she‘s only out to promote herself. And I don‘t know what—I was actually kind of shocked by the phone call. I don‘t know what strategically the Edwardses were trying to accomplish. Maybe it was fundraising, maybe it was to give life to this campaign. But I think the net result was that it was very demeaning for Elizabeth Edwards. I mean, you have Ann Coulter yelling at her, you know.
MATTHEWS: I know, it is. It is demeaning. Thank you, Lois, very much for coming on. Lois Romano, Chuck Todd and Ron Christie.
Tomorrow, we‘ll be back on HARDBALL Plaza for a big debate, a really big debate between author Christopher Hitchens and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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