Guests: Roger Simon, Sally Bedell Smith, Michael Isikoff, Carla Marinucci
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary Clinton is 60. But what else is she?
Let‘s go inside on the frontrunner.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Even if you weren‘t born yet, you know about Marilyn Monroe‘s birthday serenade to Jack Kennedy on his 45th birthday back in ‘62. It was an iconic image of that era.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS: (SINGING) Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Mr. President, happy birthday to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Barry Bonds (ph) wasn‘t the only one. Anyway, last night, Hillary Clinton added her own twist on that historic birthday song when Elvis Costello serenaded her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELVIS COSTELLO, SINGER: ... happy birthday, Mrs. President...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mrs. President—certainly not out of the question now. Polls show she‘s leaving the Democratic rivals in the dust, ahead of nearest challenger Barack Obama by, catch this, 30 points. And even though she‘s been on the America public‘s radar for nearly 20 years, the question still remains—and it‘s our question tonight—Who is Hillary Clinton? And what makes the Clinton marriage tick? What makes her tick? What makes them click? We‘ll dig into that with Sally Bedell Smith, author of the new book, “For Love of Politics.”
Plus a report by “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff that President Clinton is keeping a tight rein on documents in the Clinton library that relate to communications between him, Bill Clinton, and her, Hillary Clinton. Why the close hold on those documents? What is being hidden?
But first, this report from HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Hillary Clinton‘s 60th birthday bash and fund-raiser last night, her campaign had a lot to celebrate.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a good and great country. Let‘s go out and change it and make history together! Thank you, and God bless you!
SHUSTER: On top of the celebrities‘ tributes and over a million dollars raised at this event, the latest national poll from “The LA Times” and Bloomberg shows Clinton with 48 percent, Obama 17. The 31-point spread is the largest Clinton spread over Obama ever. A string of polls indicates that Obama‘s fade is largely the result of growing favorability ratings for Clinton, as well as some lingering concerns about Obama‘s experience. Furthermore, the polls show Clinton‘s Senate vote to authorize the war in Iraq has not proven to be an obstacle, despite Obama‘s constant hammering.
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Too many Democrats fell in line with George Bush and voted to give him the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. So let‘s be clear. Without that vote, there would be no war.
SHUSTER: This week, the Obama and Clinton campaigns have been fighting over Iran. Last month, Clinton voted for a resolution authorizing President Bush to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, and this week, the White House announced the freeze of assets of two powerful parts of the Iranian regime, the Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force. In the short term, experts say the policy will jack up tensions.
KARIM SADJAPOUR, IRAN EXPERT: By labeling elements within the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist force, it really undermines the prospect of any type of a diplomatic resolution with Iran.
SHUSTER: Obama‘s campaign charges that Hillary Clinton‘s position is enabling the Bush administration to march towards another war. Last night, the Clinton campaign staff pointed to Obama‘s calls last year for being tough with Iran. And in harsh language, a Clinton spokesman said, quote, “Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once buoyant campaign, Senator Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton.”
The Clinton strategy appears to be designed to neutralize Iran as an issue before Obama can gain any traction. And in a sign of the Clinton concerns in first caucus state of Iowa, last weekend she sent a mailer to Iowa Democrats arguing that her Iran vote was aimed at diplomacy.
In the meantime, in front of the cameras, Clinton is ignoring Obama altogether and taking aim at Rudy Giuliani. The Republican frontrunner recently declared he is putting aside his loyalty to the New York Yankees to root in the World Series for the Boston Red Sox.
CLINTON: I have been a fan and I remain a fan of the New York Yankees. No changes, no looking to curry favor with anybody else!
SHUSTER: Never mind that Hillary Clinton was a Chicago Cubs fan until she moved to New York to run for the U.S. Senate.
(on camera): But the senator‘s own inconsistencies and style do not appear to be hurting her with most Democratic voters. Slowly but surely, Clinton is widening her national lead over Barack Obama, underscoring a sense among many Democrats that barring something unexpected and dramatic, Clinton‘s nomination may soon be unstoppable.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Sally Bedell Smith‘s the author of “For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton, the White House Years.” Sally, old buddy, this one of my favorite topics because I have no idea what the answer is to a lot of these questions. And I do believe, having read much of your book, that there‘s so much you know about the people. How many years have you spent trying to figure out the Clintons?
SALLY BEDELL SMITH, AUTHOR, “FOR LOVE OF POLITICS”: It was a three-year project...
BEDELL SMITH: Full-time.
MATTHEWS: Trying to get to who they are.
BEDELL SMITH: Seven days a week, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about a couple things. First, well, let‘s talk about the news tonight. All this BS about the Yankees and rooting for the Red Sox, if you‘re Rudy Giuliani—everybody in America doesn‘t have a team in the World Series. You end up losing sometimes in the division races. You don‘t get through the play-offs, so you end up rooting for one of the two teams. How could—what does she mean when she makes fun of Rudy for rooting for the Sox? What is that about? Is it all just a joke?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, she‘s taking advantage of an opportunity. And she‘s extremely good. She‘s very—you know, she has an excellent political team working for her and...
MATTHEWS: But did she think up this malarkey about, I‘m going stick with the—doesn‘t she step back for three seconds and say she grew up in Chicago. You‘re always loyal to the team you grew up with as a kid. She went to the Yankees so that she could run for senator from New York. It‘s so obvious. Well, why is she—doesn‘t she know she looks like a fraud?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, she—I mean, my sense, going all the back to when she first ran for the Senate, is that her political pollsters test almost everything that she puts out there.
MATTHEWS: Like where to go on vacation.
BEDELL SMITH: Well, exactly. I was getting to that. In 1995 -- well, that was for him. When—you know, when he was heading toward the 1996 election and they went out and did a survey and they found out that swing voters, that they needed very much, really liked people who went on outdoorsy vacations. So instead of going to Martha‘s Vineyard, where they‘d been going for the first couple of years, they for two years took a little detour and went to Jackson Hole because that was more appealing to swing voters.
That gets to kind of the essence of what this book is about, “For Love of Politics,” a political bond. They‘re a very compelling couple, and they are glued together by this bond, this love of politics. It has carried them through everything, all sorts of personal turbulence. And the reason I focused on these eight years, to show how they operated during that time, how they‘ve worked in tandem as a political unit gives us a pretty good idea of what we could expect, to have two presidents in the White House. That‘s what we face. It‘s un—it‘s really unprecedented.
MATTHEWS: What are they hiding? Why is the president so determined to keep these documents that had to do with their communications, Bill and Hillary‘s communications between each other, hidden from people like you trying to report the history here?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, only they know what they‘re hiding. But I went down there in March of 2005, expecting—I‘ve been to other presidential libraries, and I thought, well, I‘d walk in and—it was—it was empty. Now, granted, it wasn‘t that—hadn‘t been that open that long. But I talked to archivists and I said, Look, I really want to get—I want to find out—people, very smart people have told me how they would write each other‘s speeches and how he would give her advice on her Senate campaign. And he said, Well, no, you can‘t see the speeches because that‘s policy. Those are policy questions, and that‘s out of bounds. You can‘t see his contributions to her speeches for the Senate race because that‘s political.
And in the end, President Clinton decides what‘s off-bounds, what‘s going to be permitted, and things, according to this archivist, that were personal or political or had to do with policies would not be released. And that is pretty much everything.
You know, there have been Freedom of Information requests that began to pile up there starting in January of 2006. And when I was in there in 2005 and said I had a deadline of the spring of 2997, he said, Forget about it. You know, maybe—you know, maybe 10 years away, you might be able to find something like that.
MATTHEWS: What‘s with her clapping? Why is she always clapping? There we see her—I don‘t know any—is this a Chinese thing? What is this clapping? She doesn‘t clap like you do at a movie you like or something. She claps when she meets people. She claps—is that Tom Friedman? I mean, she claps when she stands at a luncheon. What is all the clapping about?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, it‘s—it‘s funny you should say that because that‘s the image on the cover of the book, of the two of them clapping, but...
BEDELL SMITH: But the wonderful subtext of that is they‘re clapping, but they‘re not really paying attention. She‘s whispering something to him and he‘s listening intently. And it‘s just another sort of visual image of...
MATTHEWS: Is this show business, this thing we‘re watching?
BEDELL SMITH: Mike McCurry said one thing to me that I thought was fascinating, which is that they have mastered the science of public interaction. So when they‘re out there, they know exactly what to do and what plays.
MATTHEWS: Is it for show?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, they‘re performing. All of—all of what a lot of politics do on the stump...
MATTHEWS: Do they live together?
BEDELL SMITH: They have not really lived together since she began running for the Senate, since they bought their house up in Chappaqua. And she operated out of that house...
MATTHEWS: ... when he says, I talk to her almost every day on the phone, I mean, that sounds like a guy who‘s out, you know, in Vietnam or somewhere, or Iraq.
BEDELL SMITH: Well, no...
MATTHEWS: talk to her almost every day on the phone. Is that their deal?
BEDELL SMITH: That is—I mean, that‘s—that‘s an indication of how closely they consult. One of their friends said their marriage thrives on distance. Another one said to me that they‘re happiest when they‘re doing what they love to do, but they don‘t like to be pinned down together. And—but they were pinned down together a lot of the time in the White House because that‘s where they were living.
BEDELL SMITH: But the fact that they consult all the time is another manifestation of this tight bond. I mean, during the presidency, he was very dependent on her. When he was asked before he took office who he wanted in the room with him when he wanted to make...
BEDELL SMITH: ... a major decision, it was Hillary, not the vice president.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but you‘re skirting this issue. Is it going to be a problem next year, year after?
BEDELL SMITH: You mean if she were to win?
MATTHEWS: If he—if she‘s the nominee, say starting in January 29, after Florida, and the Democrats are stuck with her as their nominee, is he going to create an embarrassment?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, I think it‘s something that they obviously are thinking about and worrying about. One of the things...
MATTHEWS: You know why I that‘s true? Because when you ask—several months ago, I asked this of a couple of the flacks that work for here, and they don‘t deny there might be a problem. They just say, Well, that‘s a personal matter. We don‘t talk about personal matters. In other words, their way of dealing with what might be a problem—and I have no idea if it is—is to simply say that whole area of discussion is personal and therefore, below the level of discussion. Therefore, it can‘t hurt us.
BEDELL SMITH: But again...
MATTHEWS: But we know it has because his private matters inevitably become private. (SIC) We know the name of every woman he‘s been involved with—everybody. You know, there‘s never been any investigative reporting. Paula Jones filed a lawsuit. Gennifer Flowers had a big press conference. Monica Lewinsky blabbed about him on some tape recording with her pal, Linda Tripp. We have this stuff thrown at us, and they keep saying, Private matter. If it‘s private, why do we always know about it?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, because the private and the public intersect in their lives in a way that we‘ve never seen before. One of their long-time friends, Susan Thomases, said to me, you know, tolerating his weakness is part of their relationship.
MATTHEWS: Does she exploit it and get power by knowing that he‘s always feeling guilty with her? In other words, did she get power—I heard this from David Gergen. She got power over health care financing, the biggest issue of that administration...
BEDELL SMITH: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... because he was so hooked up in the problem of Paula Jones that she just squeezed it out of—OK, give me the health care thing, and I‘ll be quiet.
BEDELL SMITH: Well, I think—I tell...
MATTHEWS: Is that the kind of...
BEDELL SMITH: They decided...
MATTHEWS: Is that the kind of exploitation, or what do you call it—what do you call it, blackmail? What do you call it?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, it was an undercurrent throughout their whole presidency. There were always personal problems. There were...
MATTHEWS: And she exploited it to get more power.
BEDELL SMITH: Well, look, before he took office, she wanted health care. She wanted to swing for the fences. They both wanted to swing for the fences. They had a very expansive agenda. And wiser people were saying, No, no, no, you should do Welfare first. Bill Clinton has a lot of experience...
MATTHEWS: Pat Moynihan said that.
BEDELL SMITH: Pat Moynihan and very smart people said that.
BEDELL SMITH: He had a lot of experience in Welfare. It would have been a bipartisan...
BEDELL SMITH: ... agenda—you know, it would have been a bipartisan initiative. It would have passed. It would have been on Democratic terms.
MATTHEWS: Will you vote for her for president?
BEDELL SMITH: Oh, I—I—that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Will you? Would you consider voting for her?
BEDELL SMITH: That‘s between me and the ballot box.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no! Would you consider...
BEDELL SMITH: No...
MATTHEWS: You know more about her...
BEDELL SMITH: I never talk...
MATTHEWS: ... than we know. Would you consider voting for her?
BEDELL SMITH: I have never talked about who I—I‘ve ever...
MATTHEWS: You‘re telling me everything about the Clintons, you won‘t even discuss whether you...
BEDELL SMITH: Well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: After all this study...
BEDELL SMITH: That‘s why we...
MATTHEWS: After all your study, you won‘t—you‘re not willing to say that you would consider her for president...
BEDELL SMITH: That‘s (INAUDIBLE) private...
MATTHEWS: ... or is there some deerment (ph) impediment, something really wrong with her that we should know that you can‘t even write about?
BEDELL SMITH: I—well, I...
MATTHEWS: Is there something you couldn‘t put in the book?
BEDELL SMITH: I have written a book that is about this unique marriage...
MATTHEWS: It‘s a fascinating topic. Is there anything you didn‘t put in the book that you know is really important that we should know, but you couldn‘t put in the book because it‘s too staggering?
BEDELL SMITH: Not really, no. I put in—I did extensive reporting. I talked to 160 people, cabinet officers, people in the administration who worked for him, who worked for them, people who knew them intimately, who were in the room and could explain the dynamics of their relationship. And that was my goal, was to...
MATTHEWS: Who do you like more?
BEDELL SMITH: ... tell people...
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Who do you like, Bill or Hillary, more?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, I think they‘re—you know, they are—they are two halves of a—you know, he is...
MATTHEWS: Who do you like more?
BEDELL SMITH: Who would be more fun to be in a room with?
BEDELL SMITH: Bill. I was...
MATTHEWS: Who do you think‘s more honest?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, I think both of them thrive on secrecy. He has said that he is a secret keeper. He loves...
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
BEDELL SMITH: He savors secrets. He‘s written that.
BEDELL SMITH: She loves to be a hidden hand. I think one of the most fascinating things about their relationship is, although there has been a lack of trust in certain essential personal parts of their life, that when it comes to politics, they only trust each other. And that make a lot of decisions on their own that other people don‘t necessarily know about.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
BEDELL SMITH: They did that all the time during the Clinton administration and...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Did she believe that Bill was innocent on Monica from the beginning? Did she think that was all a right-wing conspiracy, or did she know what was going on?
BEDELL SMITH: Well, as one of her close friends said to me, that she would have instantly believed it if she‘d heard he‘d gone out somewhere in one of—in his travels and had some sort of assignation with anybody. What she had a hard time grasping was, as this friend said, who had been talking to her, that he was so insane that he would...
BEDELL SMITH: ... conduct a relationship like that in—adjacent to the Oval Office for 18 months.
MATTHEWS: Well, he must have really wanted to, then. Sally Bedell Smith is staying with us. Her book is called “For Love of Politics.” That tells you a lot.
And when we return: Can any of the Democrats topple Hillary for the nomination? The reason we‘re talking about her tonight is not just because of this great book, it‘s because she now is beginning to look like the Democratic nominee, based upon these incredible poll numbers. Barack Obama is down to 17 points nationally.
Anyway, when HARDBALL returns, more on her fight with Obama and her odd dig at Rudy Giuliani the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I have been a fan and I remain a fan of the New York Yankees. No changes, no looking to curry favor with anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELVIS COSTELLO, MUSICIAN (singing): Happy birthday, Mrs. President...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That‘s Elvis Costello singing—actually, supposedly acting like Marilyn Monroe at that birthday party for Hillary‘s 60th the other day. It was a fund-raiser, of course. Like so much of the Clintons‘ life, they use it for fund-raising purposes or political purposes.
Sally Bedell Smith has written about that, “For the Love of Politics.” And joining us now is Roger Simon, the chief political columnist for Politico.com, one of the best political operations now.
Let me ask you about this.
A lot of people are going to vote in the primaries, and they‘re going to vote in the general election, and they‘re going to vote on Hillary Clinton. And she is the front-runner in many ways. She‘s got about a 40 percent chance of being the next president right now, the way I look at it.
Roger, you first.
Are we going to get a partnership, sort of like two people in the room, one there pretty regularly, sort of like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock...
MATTHEWS: ... working together, with Bill Clinton as Mr. Spock in this case, working together? Or are we going to get Hillary Clinton as president, with an occasional call to the lifeline of Bill Clinton for his old expertise? Which is the better model to imagine as president?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: Mr. Spock without the funny ears.
Why would she not have him as a full partner? What is the down...
MATTHEWS: In the room?
What is the downside of that? Bill Clinton haters aren‘t going to vote for her anyway. Was Bill Clinton bad for the United States? Did he plunge us into an endless war for mistaken reasons, or was he good for the United States? That‘s her pitch. She can use him in areas where he has real expertise.
MATTHEWS: But will he be present? Will he be in the room?
In my book that has just come out, I keep asking the question in one of the chapters, who is in the room? It‘s my favorite political question. When it hits the fan, who is there with you? Dick Cheney, fortunately or not—maybe not—is always there with the president. Is he going to be like Dick Cheney, always there with her?
SALLY BEDELL SMITH, AUTHOR, “FOR LOVE OF POLITICS”: I think he‘s going to be omnipresent. I think it‘s in his nature. I think that they have joked about it. They have said he would be first laddie, or he would be...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not going to be some roving ambassador over in...
SMITH: He‘s not going to be a roving ambassador.
Listen, if she were to win, and the Democrats were to have both houses of Congress, he‘s going to want to be in the engine room, helping her, as she helped him. She was largely responsible for getting him elected in 1992, because she stood by him in lots of crises. She demanded a seat at the table. She had a seat at the table. And the same goes now.
He‘s out—he‘s very involved in her campaign. He works on her speeches. He critiques her performances. He offers strategy. He calls in chits and gets labor endorsements.
He will, and, also, because he has been the only person in that whole White House—would be—who had sat behind the Oval Office for eight years and made all those decisions.
MATTHEWS: OK. Co-presidency, is that where we‘re heading?
SIMON: Well, I don‘t think she wants to label it a co-presidency.
MATTHEWS: No, but we can.
SIMON: She doesn‘t want to...
MATTHEWS: We‘re allowed to label it any way we want.
MATTHEWS: What do you think is going to happen?
SIMON: She‘s not going to run as two for the price of one, but I think she is going to use him.
And I think she could use him as a roving ambassador in the Mideast. He certainly has greater credibility to work out a Mideast peace plan than some of our other presidents have.
MATTHEWS: OK. She‘s got a meeting coming up with Putin...
MATTHEWS: ... prime minister of Russia, perhaps, at that time.
MATTHEWS: She meets with him. She talks it over with him. When she has to make decisions about how to prepare herself for that meeting with Putin, where‘s Bill?
SIMON: In the room. Why wouldn‘t he be?
MATTHEWS: In the room. I‘m just asking.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not being accusatory here, Roger.
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to figure out what people are voting for.
SMITH: Well, can I take that to the next—to the next question?
And the next question is, if that‘s the case, where‘s the accountability? Where‘s the transparency? What‘s the impact on the poor vice president, who is now going to be going to funerals all over the world again? What‘s going to—what‘s...
MATTHEWS: Maybe that‘s what vice presidents should be doing. Maybe we would be better off.
MATTHEWS: Can I offer an editorial here?
MATTHEWS: In the last seven years, we would have been better with the guy going to funerals.
SMITH: What‘s going to happen to the secretary of state...
SMITH: ... the national security adviser, the secretary of the
treasury? If he was a—a sort of super-uber adviser, it—it—it just
you know, it could create a lot of confusion.
SMITH: There was—because...
MATTHEWS: Is Bill Clinton up to the job of being disciplined enough personally—he was never the most disciplined guy in the world. Now, I‘m not knocking him. I‘m not that disciplined about a lot of things, like food and stuff.
But is he disciplined enough to be a good co-pilot for Hillary Clinton, and not mess it up?
SIMON: Nobody knows.
I mean, I think, when it came to the—the business of the nation, he was very disciplined. When it came to his personal life, he was obviously not disciplined.
SIMON: Does he know the consequences of that now? I think he knows the consequences of screwing up.
MATTHEWS: ... mentally, you know?
Are you confident that there will be a stable relationship, if you were to vote on this one?
MATTHEWS: I want to know if it‘s going to be stable.
MATTHEWS: We do not want another sitcom for another eight years.
SIMON: You know, it‘s truly said, no one can understand anyone else‘s marriage.
MATTHEWS: Does anybody really want the sitcom to continue? Most sitcoms run about four years. This ran eight. Do we want another eight of it? I‘m just asking.
SMITH: Some of them—some of them jump the shark, too.
MATTHEWS: I know. And we say enough of that. Take it off the air.
MATTHEWS: I find them both amazingly likable people when I‘m with them, especially Hillary.
I do find a fraudulence, a public fraudulence, in all this Yankee/Red Sox stuff. It‘s so hokey, so baloney, so B.S. It makes me wonder about how much more B.S. there is. When you can actually pretend it‘s an issue that somebody roots for the Sox, when your team loses the division, I mean, who cares?
SIMON: She always complains that the press psychoanalyzes her lighter moments, when she‘s trying to be not cold and trying to be warm. But I think Sally made the...
MATTHEWS: By the way, her voice rose when she was attacking him over the Sox.
MATTHEWS: It was the worst of both worlds, Sally. It was the fingers on the blackboard and a stupid topic.
SIMON: I think Sally made a good point earlier, though, that, when you see them on the stage together—I went to the last Hill and Bill fly-around.
SIMON: He always listens to her when she is talking. She always listens to him when he is talking.
That‘s not always the case when you get spouses on stage, because they have heard each other give this speech 100 times.
MATTHEWS: Is the real...
SIMON: It doesn‘t matter if it‘s real or stagecraft.
MATTHEWS: You‘re—you don‘t mind...
SIMON: It works for the audience.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
SMITH: That‘s the science...
MATTHEWS: Sally, great book. The title of your book, “For Love of Politics,” a great title. I think that tells us all.
Roger Simon, one of the best.
We will have more on the Clinton documents fight ahead with—the documents fight ahead with “Newsweek” investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, who knows all about this effort to keep from us the relationship between Bill and Hillary that was on paper.
And, up next, 40 years after being taken captive in Vietnam, John McCain is hitting back at Rudy Giuliani over the torture issue, something he knows intimately about.
And, if you‘re by a bookstore this weekend, check out this little book. It‘s got the insight on everything I have learned in the last 36 years doing this. Take a look at it in the bookstore and buy it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for some hot politics.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, as we know. Just the other day, Rudy Giuliani and Sam Brownback were miles apart on the issue of abortion rights. But here‘s how things stand now, at least for the present.
Rudy is pro-choice, but he‘s committed to naming strict constructionist Supreme Court judges, presumably men and women who will find it hard to find a right to abortion in the Constitution. Now, after a meeting with Brownback, Rudy has added more reason to believe he might help create a Supreme Court ready to throw out Roe v. Wade.
He refers to the right of abortion discerned in that Supreme Court decision of 1973 as a right—quote—“that presently exists.”
Would he refer to the right of religious—free religious expression or the right to bear arms as a right that presently exists? I doubt it.
Mr. Giuliani is playing Brownback. He‘s giving him just enough on the abortion-rights issue to tell his pro-life people that this New York fellow might just be a good deal for the cause. Stay watching.
Speaking of Rudy Giuliani, McCain is nailing him for fuzzing up
another issue, saying he‘s not sure whether water-boarding constitutes
torture. McCain said Rudy‘s comment revealed a lack of experience—quote
“All I can say is that water-boarding was used in the Spanish Inquisition. It was used in Pol Pot‘s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today.”
On our hypocrisy watch, last night, in Hillary Clinton‘s 60th birthday bash in New York, she told the crowd:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been a fan and I remain a fan of the New York Yankees. No changes.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, everybody. I‘m Milissa Rehberger.
Breaking in with interesting news out of Georgia. You are looking at 21-year-old Genarlow Wilson, who has been let out of jail after serving two years of a 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Here‘s the thing. He was only 17 at the time. This has been a very controversial case because of the sentence he was given. He has just been let out of jail today. Georgia‘s Supreme Court ordered the release of him. He‘s been in prison, again, for two years. The court ruled 4-3 today that the 10-year sentence that Genarlow Wilson—seen here—was cruel and unusual punishment and directed a lower court to reverse the conviction immediately and release him.
And here he is, about to speak his first words.
GENARLOW WILSON, RELEASED FROM PRISON: Well, it feels great.
QUESTION: Talk a little bit about your experience behind prison walls and what was going on through your mind during these two-and-a-half—or more than two-and-a-half years waiting to see what would happen?
WILSON: I have been very confused for the most part, not knowing what to expect, you know, from all the disappointments we dealt with early on.
But, you know, I‘m finally happy to see that we, you know—we have got justice now, you know, that...
QUESTION: Genarlow (OFF-MIKE) think this day would ever come?
WILSON: Well, I seen it coming, but I didn‘t exactly know when.
QUESTION: How did you hear the news this morning?
WILSON: Someone actually told me that they heard it on the radio, but I was in total disbelief.
You know, I was waiting to see it for myself before I took anyone else‘s word for it.
QUESTION: Did you have any expectation that it would happen today?
WILSON: No, I didn‘t. Actually, I just stopped trying to figure the courts out and stopped trying to put a date on it. I was just going to let it happen itself. And then, when it came, I was going to deal with it.
QUESTION: So, was this just a routine day? You got up expecting for another day behind prison? And next thing you knew, the world came?
WILSON: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: But did you believe it? There‘s been so many twists and turns in your case in the last two years, where you thought you were close.
Did you—when you heard it, did you think, it can‘t be really true?
Did it seem a little surreal for you?
WILSON: Yes, it did. It felt unreal, and just until I signed the papers to actually let me know that I was leaving, because we actually went through this before back in June. So, I was just hoping that it wasn‘t a repeat of that.
QUESTION: Now, what‘s the first thing you want to do tonight? Do you want to go get a meal or what do you want to do?
WILSON: Oh, yes. But, basically, I‘m just looking forward to spending time with my family.
QUESTION: Genarlow, any bitterness at all?
QUESTION: ... hug your sister as a free man and hug your mother?
Just a few moments ago, we all saw that.
WILSON: It feels wonderful. I have been away from them long enough.
I‘m just ready to try to piece back my life.
QUESTION: Any bitterness or anger? Or what‘s your emotion?
WILSON: Oh, of course not. This has definitely been a learning experience.
QUESTION: What have you learned?
QUESTION: What have you learned?
WILSON: I couldn‘t even put it all into words right now.
QUESTION: What would you say to your supporters?
WILSON: Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: What do you plan to do with the rest of your life now? This has obviously changed your life. What would you like to do with your life?
WILSON: Well, my first priority is to try to get in school as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Where do you want to go to school?
WILSON: I have no idea yet.
QUESTION: You want to continue pursuing football at all, or...
WILSON: Yes, I‘m definitely looking back on trying to get back in sports. And I would like to major in sociology.
QUESTION: Genarlow, do you think racism played a role in your—in this ordeal?
WILSON: I wouldn‘t necessarily say that. You know, I...
QUESTION: Do you believe in the justice system in this country?
WILSON: After now, yes, I do.
QUESTION: Genarlow, are you second-guessing your decision not to take plea deal? Or what do you think about that?
At times, you know, I dealt with adversity. But now I‘m glad that I stayed down for our cause. And now my family and myself are finally going to have to—I mean, we will finally get to deal with happiness now.
QUESTION: So, you were insistent you‘re not a child molester. Talk about that.
WILSON: Oh, of course not. You know, I have never accepted that label. I accepted the situation that I allowed myself to get into. But I never accepted that label.
QUESTION: Any regrets, Genarlow, looking back at all? Any regrets at all?
WILSON: As far as, you know, standing up and fighting for what I believe is justice, no.
QUESTION: What do you have to say to all the supporters, all the people who believed in you and believed you were going to be getting out?
WILSON: Well, I want to say thank you very much. It means a lot to me and my family that so many people came to our defense and stood up and fought for us.
QUESTION: And your attorney, B.J.?
WILSON: Oh, she‘s wonderful.
QUESTION: What is the first thing you would like to do when you go home tonight?
WILSON: Get some rest.
QUESTION: Where‘s the welcome home party?
WILSON: There‘s not going to be any more parties for a while.
QUESTION: Did you ever think you would see today?
You have been listening in to 21-year-old Genarlow Wilson, his sister, Gaya (ph), and his mother, Juanessa Bennett, there, as he has been let out of prison after two years of a 10-year sentence that the Georgia Supreme Court today ruled cruel and unusual punishment after he caught having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was only 17 years old.
That it is for now. Let‘s go back to HARDBALL.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JUANESSA BENNETT, MOTHER OF GENARLOW WILSON: What is going on? And I was just screaming. I walked—I ran around the house, inside the house, 20 times before I could decide what I needed to do. And then I was like, OK, well, I need to wash my hair. OK, I need to brush my teeth. And then I was like, B.J., I don‘t have any clothes in my closet.
BENNETT: So, it was—it was—you know, it was amazing.
QUESTION: ... completely out of the blue for you, too.
BENNETT: It came completely out of the blue. We had no idea that this was going to come down today.
QUESTION: Were you giving up hope? Were you thinking this is just not going to happen?
BENNETT: You know, I didn‘t give up hope, but what I did is reevaluate myself. And I had to come at peace with myself, because I was starting to get agitated and irritated.
But I—I never gave up hope, you know, in, you know, the judicial system. And I never gave up hope in all the prayers that went out for us.
QUESTION: He says that he has learned lessons. What lesson do you hope he‘s learned?
BENNETT: I know he‘s learned a lot of lessons now.
REHBERGER: Conclusion to this case of Genarlow Wilson, out of prison after serving two years of a 10-year sentence that many people thought was terribly unfair.
More on this later—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the Friday roundtable. Craig Crawford is down in Florida. He‘s a “G.”—actually, a “C.G.” columnist, a “Congressional Quarterly” columnist, and MSNBC political—political analyst. And Marla Marinucci—Carla Marinucci is a political reporter for “The San Francisco Chronicle.” Michael Isikoff is here with me. He‘s an investigative correspondent for “Newsweek.” And Mike knows all about the research issue with regard to the Clintons.
I want to go around the table, and start with Craig Crawford, and then go to Carla, based upon your reporting, how you can assess this.
Craig, we asked the question in the last section. We asked it of Roger Simon and also of Sally Bedell Smith. Is the election—or the nomination—let‘s start with that—of Hillary Clinton, if it comes, will that be to nominate someone for president who will serve as president and occasionally rely on the advice of a former president, her husband? Or will we be basically electing two people, one, of course, the premier person, the other one secondary, to work together on the major issues of our time?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think a lot of voters are supporting Clinton in the polls right now because Bill Clinton is in the equation.
I really don‘t think Hillary Clinton would be doing as well as she is. I think there‘s a hidden vote for her because, for one thing, a lot of Democrats love Bill Clinton, but also the two-for-one factor, and also the pure entertainment value, Chris, of Bill Clinton as first gentleman.
MATTHEWS: Carla Marinucci, do you believe that people you meet out in the poll—out there when you go out there to cover these events are looking at these two people as a partnership?
CARLA MARINUCCI, POLITICAL WRITER, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: I
think, in some respects, they are, Chris.
But I have got to say, I think Hillary Clinton has been very careful when it comes to this equation. She was out here recently in California. I asked her if this was going to be a two-for-Clinton presidency. Her answer was, nice try with that question, but I‘m not going to answer it.
She did, however, say look, if there are—if I do make it to the White House, it‘s going to be a woman in the driver‘s seat, and she‘s going to know how to ask directions.
I think that‘s a pretty clear message to women voters out there that, yes, there‘s a team there, but she‘s the boss. And I think she made that clear also in that recent debate when she said, My husband is not here to answer the questions on torture. I‘m the one in the hot seat.
MATTHEWS: But the funny thing is you make reference to the typical driving experiences of husband and wife in America. When I drive somewhere, my wife tells me where to go. I mean, I never know where to go. When I‘m on my own, I can make it. But I inevitably rely—do I make a turn here? Do I go there? Which way do I go? And she always has this implicit GPS in her head and she tells me.
If that‘s the case, if that‘s the role model here, then Bill Clinton is sitting in the passenger seat; he‘s telling her where to go.
MARINUCCI: You know, I think women understood what she was saying there, which is this is going to be my time. I think she said that in many different ways out on the campaign trail. This is my time. This is my job. As a woman candidate up for the job, you have to look at me first. And I think that‘s been very clear throughout her whole campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s try to figure out—we have Mike Isikoff here, one of the premier investigative reporters around. How do we discern how they work together in the White House, because there‘s this problem you‘re pointing to of trying to get the record out. Explain the problem of getting the record out about how Bill and Hillary operated for eight years in the White House.
ISIKOFF: Right, I wrote a story about this in this week‘s “Newsweek,” but basically the Clinton library opened a couple of years. It‘s the repository for something like 100 million records of the Clinton presidency, 78 million written, another 20 million emails. And the Clintons, you know—Bill said he wanted this to be an open institution. He was going to take steps to release the documents.
But here we are on the eve of the presidential campaign. It‘s been almost two years now since the Freedom of Information Act has applied to Clinton presidency documents. And something like only one half of one percent of the nearly 100 million records at the Clinton library have been made public. And that which hasn‘t includes almost all the policy records and scheduling records and memos and notes of First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is of course running for president.
MATTHEWS: When you want to find out about something, they say, oh, that‘s politics. You can‘t look at it. If it‘s something to do with policy, they say that‘s policy. By the way, who‘s in charge?
ISIKOFF: It‘s run by the National Archives. But, as I discovered when I pressed the people at the Clinton library who are archivists working for the Archives, that former presidents maintain a great deal of control over what of their—which of their records get released. And, in fact, as I discovered, Bill Clinton has written a number of letters to, in particular—to the Archives, one after his presidency, in November of 2002, in which he gave some pretty explicit instructions on which records he wanted to be withheld.
He said he wanted to, you know, make public as much as he could, but certain categories should be withheld. And among them are some pretty broad categories. For instance, confidential communications regarding a sensitive policy personal or political matter that is contained within a presidential record. That‘s a pretty broad category of records. Confidential communications on foreign policy topics, confidential communications involving legal issues, including but not limited to matters in litigation and matters subject to investigation.
That‘s Whitewater. Well, Bruce Lindsay (ph), his loyal confidant—but the one that‘s particularly striking is communications directly between the president and the first lady and their family, unless routine in nature. So all policy memos, all advice that she gave him during their eight years in the White House are off limits under this directive.
MATTHEWS: So with the record she‘s running on, the record of experience as first lady and partner of Bill Clinton, we can‘t get to?
ISIKOFF: Well, we haven‘t so far. Now, he clearly—
MATTHEWS: Have you got a Freedom of Information—
ISIKOFF: There are numerous people who have filed Freedom of Information requests. None have gotten any responses to date of substantive first lady—
MATTHEWS: But you‘re on the case.
CRAWFORD: But Chris, I don‘t see why a family member really would have to produce records. I know Hillary Clinton is a special case. But the first lady is not a Constitutional officer, even a paid staffer. Why would there be any more right to her records than Chelsea‘s?
MATTHEWS: No, the communications with the president.
ISIKOFF: That‘s an interesting wrinkle in and of itself. These are communications to the president. We know, for instance, that Hillary Clinton wrote memos on welfare reform, on health care.
MATTHEWS: She was the point person on health care.
ISIKOFF: Yes, but the language on the families is particularly interesting, because you might ask the question, who is that about? It says their families. We certainly know that‘s not Chelsea. That‘s his family as well. Their families would include, for instance, Euw Rodham (ph), Tony Rodham, both of whom were representing clients who got last-minute pardons from the president, who were petitioning Bill Clinton for pardons.
Those pardons came under investigation later by Congress—as well as Roger Clinton, who also got a last-minute pardon. So it could have been a way of covering all those.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with everybody here on the round table and also some new polls on the 2008 race. They‘re getting very big for Hillary, although Rudy can still be challenged on this fact. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table. Let‘s start with Carla Marinucci of the “San Francisco Chronicle.” We‘ve got a new field poll out of California, the biggest state, of course, that shows Hillary Clinton at 45 percent in the polls and Obama at 20 percent; 25-point lead in the big bonanza state of February 5th. This is extraordinary news, isn‘t it?
MARINUCCI: You know, Chris, she has been doing the groundwork here that‘s paying off for her big time. A year ago here in San Francisco, I would sit down with Democratic women voters and hear them say, no way am I going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Too much baggage, she‘s the past. That‘s not the case anymore. She has switched that around. And I think Barack Obama can‘t catch up with her here in California.
I‘m seeing—the last rally she did on Oakland, 14,000 people showed up, many of them young women under 25. She has really captured that crowd. She‘s captured the working class women. At this point, this is a tough challenge for any of the other Democrats here in California.
MATTHEWS: Craig, what I‘m told is shifting—I think Ron Brownstein (ph) of the “L.A. Times” had this together in his column today or yesterday, that Hillary was always pretty strong among working women, people of moderate income, people who worry about minimum wage and basic health care, the problems of most Americans. It‘s the elite, well educated people that are turning toward her now. What do you make of that assessment?
CRAWFORD: I also noticed—I went to several of her book-signing events back when she had that book out and I noticed a lot of—I hate to say it really, but I would say middle class housewives, you know, lining up 3,000 at a time to get those books signed. I mean, that‘s anecdotal, but I think the numbers have born that out. As she moves into this primary, there‘s a real the train is leaving the station effect at this point in the Democratic race.
MATTHEWS: I feel it too. By the way, Mike, that‘s a very handy fact for her, because her numbers are rising above Obama right now. Every shot he tries to take at her now can be responded to by that knee-capping of saying, he‘s desperate.
ISIKOFF: Sure. I mean, he had an opportunity, I think, you know, four or five months ago, when there was a great wave of enthusiasm about him and excitement to really rise to that and realize that she was still a front-runner and try to exploit some of her vulnerabilities, particularly on Iraq. That was the one thing he had going for him. And he really didn‘t do that. He really didn‘t deliver.
Those first few debates, he was not forceful; he was not aggressive, and didn‘t sort of distinguish—make a real effort to distinguish his position from hers. He may have blown the opportunity, the best opportunity he had at that point.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Carla. You‘re out there in San Francisco covering this state from that perspective. Has Arnold Schwarzenegger got himself another leg up through what seems to be his timely handling of the fires out there.
MARINUCCI: Look, this guy is just a master when it comes to political communication and he showed it this week. From the beginning of those fires, he was out and around the state. Action, action, that is his whole mantra. The point was, I think to the voters of California, big contrast to the way Katrina was handled. Bush and Schwarzenegger have not always gotten along, not been a friendly relationship, but they were out there this week together.
I think the message to Californians were it‘s going to be OK. That‘s what they wanted to hear. They wanted to make sure Bush is going to follow up on this, in terms of money and resources, but Schwarzenegger—the message was so strong. The guy was all over it.
MATTHEWS: From what I know out there, the moderate Republicans of California have been waiting for this guy for a long time, people like Jerry Parsky (ph), a lot of the people that you know up there in northern California, moderate Republicans, have been praying in their own secular way for deliverance by a guy like Schwarzenegger away from the far right.
We‘ll be right back with the round table. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the panel. Let me go to Craig right now. Craig Crawford, and Carla and also Michael—It seems to me that there was a given assumption going into this race for the Democratic nomination for president next year that the war issue would be the defining issue, the decisive fact. Hillary was a bit more moderate on it. She had voted for the resolution authorizing the war in 2002. She would be are vulnerable on that.
Also she has made somewhat more hawkish statements about the need to go after Iran, with regard to its nuclear program. But Craig, she is rolling up the score against the number one opponent of the war. What is going on?
CRAWFORD: You know, the two most stunning political moves, plays in the campaign so far are her finessing the war issue with her liberal Democratic voters and Giuliani finessing his liberal social views with conservative Republican voters. Just based on that, I would say they should be the nominees. They are that good politicians.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we are trying to create over in the third world. Isn‘t it politicians? It‘s called democracy. These people are professionals. We want to see these guys running Iraq so we can come home. We want good politicians. Let me go to Carla. I don‘t want to get cynical, but a politician is someone who can, to use the beautiful word, used by Craig, finesse. Wouldn‘t we like it if the Sunnis could finesse the relationship with the Shia, and the Kurds could finesse the relationship with Turkey? Then we wouldn‘t have to be there.
MARINUCCI: Look it, Hillary is a master of finesse. And, Chris, I‘m speaking to you from the capital of MoveOn.org, the capital of Code Pink. This is where Daily Kos has its base. These progressive voters are watching Hillary. Are they happy with her? No way. But when it comes to this Iran issue, look, she is thinking ahead. This is a general election strategy. Her biggest problem has got to be what is Bush going to do next year if he ratchets it up in the middle of this whole campaign?
I think Hillary is playing it very carefully, and it is all about next year.
MATTHEWS: I think Hillary is very much thinking ahead to next summer, whenever President Bush has the option to do something about Iran. She has to be aboard that. She can‘t be somebody saying, don‘t do anything because once he has done something, and it seems to be effective, she is once again in the position of being a dove in a time of war.
ISIKOFF: She may have a little bit of a problem with that vote that she cast for the Kyl/Lieberman amendment, which declared—which urged the administration to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorism organization. Actually, you know, what Bush did yesterday was slightly less than what was called for there. Although he imposed sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard Corps, it was for being weapons proliferator, and it was only the Quds force, a segment of the IRGC that was declared a terrorist force.
So it was actually less than what Hillary Clinton called on him to do.
MATTHEWS: I want to get Michael.
CRAWFORD: I have a hard time buying Obama‘s criticism for that when he didn‘t even cast a vote at all on the subject. If that was reversed and Hillary was attacking somebody for a vote she didn‘t cast herself, that‘s all we would be talking about.
MATTHEWS: Craig Crawford, you‘re great. Carla Marinucci, it is delightful to have you on from the Chronicle. It‘s good to see somebody is still working at that paper. Mike Isikoff, buddy, thanks for joining us. Join us again Monday for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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