Guest Sen. Barbara Boxer, Holly Bailey, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Allen, P.J. Crowley, Sam Brownback
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Pat Robertson endorses Giuliani. Brownback endorses McCain. Weyrich endorses Romney. Has the Republican power brokering already begun?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from my hometown of Philadelphia, where I‘m speaking tonight at my high school, Lasalle (ph). Lots of hot political news tonight. First up: Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani won the endorsement of Pat Robertson, and struggling Senator John McCain got the nod from former Republican candidate Sam Brownback of Kansas. Is the political power brokering and deal making for the Christian right going on right now, 10 months before the Republican convention? We‘ll talk to MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough and Senator Brownback himself in just a moment.
Plus: Is the Bush administration trying to censor scientists on global warming? We‘ll talk to Democratic senator Barbara Boxer here on HARDBALL.
And the situation in Pakistan is dire, to say the least. Today President Bush described a conversation he had with President Musharraf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message was that we believe strongly that—in elections and that you ought to have elections soon and you need to take off your uniform. You can‘t be the president and the head of the military at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘ll have a sharp update on the crisis in Pakistan later in the show from NBC‘s Richard Engel, who‘s in Islamabad, and Andrew Mitchell in Washington.
But we begin tonight with the latest on the news of two big endorsements in the 2008 presidential race. Here‘s Pat Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Today it is my pleasure to announce my support for a mayor—America‘s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and a proven leader who‘s not afraid of what lies ahead and who will cast a hopeful vision for all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining us now, NBC political director Chuck Todd and the host of “Morning Joe” and a man who gets it on conservative politics, Joe Scarborough. Joe, I have to ask you right up front, is Pat Robertson OK?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “MORNING JOE”: With who? I mean, with evangelical—I sounded like Ann Coulter there for a second. With whom, Chris?
SCARBOROUGH: Of course he‘s OK! I mean, he‘s the jackpot.
MATTHEWS: Let me read you, Joe, some of his statements. “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women, it‘s about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
MATTHEWS: He said that in ‘92. Here‘s another one he said.
MATTHEWS: “You say you‘re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that and the other thing. Nonsense. I don‘t have to be nice to the spirit of the anti-Christ.”
MATTHEWS: Is this—I‘m just saying, Is he OK? That‘s all.
SCARBOROUGH: And I already told you, yes, he‘s OK. And Jerry Falwell said that Bill Clinton killed people, and Jerry Falwell said in 1980 that God doesn‘t hear the prayers of Jews, and yet Ronald Reagan won in 1980. And you know, you‘ve got extremism on both sides.
SCARBOROUGH: And there are some people saying some extremist statements. But this is an extraordinarily important endorsement for Rudy Giuliani because you‘ve got all these social conservatives splitting up. Rudy Giuliani—if you just look at the numbers game, Chris, as you know very well, there‘s six major Republican candidates. Five of them are pro-life. Giuliani doesn‘t have to get half of the children leaders, evangelical leaders on his side. He‘s just got to split it up. If he gets 20 percent, 25 percent, it‘s huge. And I really can‘t think of a bigger name to come down on his side than Pat Robertson.
MATTHEWS: I agree. That‘s my hunch looking at it from the north. I‘m up here in Philadelphia looking south, and I‘m trying to figure out the Bible Belt, how it will react.
Chuck, your sense of this importance of this endorsement today by Pat Robertson of Rudy Giuliani?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it‘s certainly symbolic. I mean, what the Giuliani campaign‘s hoping it will do is that it will stop people like you and I from saying, Oh, geez, you know what? Social conservatives are never going to line up behind Giuliani. Well, they can say, Well, ha, ha. See? We got one. And not just one, one who everybody knows his name.
Now, does he have a following like he once did? No. Is he going to suddenly have a power base in Iowa that he can hand over to Giuliani? No. But he might be the protection that other evangelical leaders who aren‘t as well known are looking for. He may serve as cover, and then suddenly, Giuliani can go and get a whole bunch of other of these folks.
But you know, let‘s also remember this isn‘t about who Robertson endorsed, it‘s about who he didn‘t endorse. Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are the two people that didn‘t get either Brownback or Robertson today. And that‘s a good day for Rudy Giuliani because he doesn‘t want Thompson or Romney to be able to coalesce these folks. And by having these endorsements come out today, what we saw, Robertson and Brownback, it shows that, you know, the social conservatives aren‘t coalescing. And neither Thompson nor Romney seem to be getting a leg up there.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to the same question of Robertson and what he said, though, the Reverend Pat Robertson said today in explaining his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, was he agreed with him on Israel—I guess on the support of Israel—and they‘ve both had prostate cancer. And these are—well, they are surprising reasons to forge a national coalition from a Christian conservative and a three-times-married Roman Catholic. But you go on.
TODD: Well, look, I—look, here‘s the other thing, and that is Islamic fundamentalism is an important point. You know, that‘s the one part of this agenda of evangelicals that Rudy‘s always been with them on. I mean, Rudy is ready to—he believes that there is a war against Islamic fundamentalism. I mean, the folks that this believe that this is a religious war, a lot of evangelical Christians feel this way, and that‘s why the war trumps abortion and gay rights.
TODD: And they‘re willing to overlook that because they believe Giuliani is on their side in bombing these folks, in going after them and being aggressive.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know that part, but I want to go to Joe on this. Joe, you also know that some people on the extreme Christian conservative side believe in Armageddon, literally. And they want Israel to be united so it sets up the end of the world. You know what‘s going on with some of these people.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but of course, those people are voting for Ron Paul, so that‘s not...
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s a joke! Please don‘t e-mail me! I‘m just joking with you, Ron Paul and Ron Paul supporters!
No, the thing is, though, here, most importantly, evangelicals are always seen as—or have been painted in the past as cartoon-like characters. What Pat Robertson and other evangelicals supporting Rudy Giuliani—remember, we were talking about this this morning on the show very early, Chris, that people in northwest Florida and evangelicals are splitting their vote. A lot of them are going with Giuliani. It shows a sophistication in these voters.
SCARBOROUGH: They really don‘t care about Rudy Giuliani, what his personal position is on abortion or gay marriage. You know what they care about? They care about John Roberts. They care about Sam Alito.
You always have these Democrats running around, these Democratic Catholics saying, You know what? I am personally against abortion, but I think everybody should have the right to have a safe abortion. This is just the opposite. You got evangelicals saying, We don‘t care what Rudy Giuliani‘s position on abortion is, all we care about is what type of judges he‘s going to pick for the Supreme Court. If they‘re strict constructionists, he can be for abortion on demand, as far as we‘re concerned. We want another Sam Alito, we want another Scalia, and then we‘ll overturn Roe v. Wade. If this guy will give that to us, at the same time, being economically conservative...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and taking on Muslim radicals, he‘s our man. And today, Robertson checked that off.
MATTHEWS: I guess we now have cafeteria Baptists to go with cafeteria Catholics. Anyway, here‘s John Ashcroft, the former AG, when he was asked if he could support Rudy Giuliani. Quote, “I‘d support a president who would nominate to the bench conservative judges, and I believe the Republican candidates that are offering themselves will pledge themselves to do that.”
Chuck Todd, that sounds like he‘s OK‘ing Rudy, another break for him today.
TODD: Well, he is. And you know, we forget—you know, Rudy—Rudy was down here yesterday. He did that interview with our own Brian Williams. And you know who he had along with him? Ted Olson. You know, Ted Olson is a symbol to a lot of conservative activists in this town that sort of sends a signal that says, Look, if he‘s got Ted Olson advising him on judicial issues, it is sort of a reminder of just what Joe was saying, he is going to appoint Samuel Alito. He is going to appoint John Robert.
SCARBOROUGH: Chuck, you know who‘s an even a bigger symbol? Miguel Estrada. Miguel Estrada, a guy that a lot of conservatives believe just got absolutely smeared...
SCARBOROUGH: ... by the Democratic Congress. He‘s also on Giuliani‘s side. People know Miguel Estrada in this legal community, this conservative legal community in Washington, and they know he‘s a true believer. He and Ted Olson aren‘t going to support Rudy Giuliani unless they believe that he‘s got another John Roberts or Sam Alito ready to nominate.
MATTHEWS: In the interests of balance, let‘s also talk about Sam Brownback, who dropped out of the presidential fight a couple weeks ago, has endorsed John McCain. What do you make of that, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Sam worked with John McCain, and so obviously, I think there‘s a personal component to that. Sam Brownback is beloved by conservatives. But again, the most important thing here for Giuliani is that, you know, he just draws even. If he can divide evangelicals up four or five ways, he wins because got the economic conservative behind him and he‘s also got the 9/11 conservatives behind him.
So today was a huge win. And you know, I‘m not downplaying Sam‘s endorsement of Senator McCain, but at the same time, you get Pat Robertson, that is a big, big win.
MATTHEWS: Is the brokering that I thought wouldn‘t come until the convention next summer, or the weeks just before it, already beginning between the secular wing of the Republican Party and the religious wing, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: No. You don‘t have a divide. You‘re going to have the religious wing also supporting Giuliani, too, at least 33 percent of them. I remember—I went down, I gave a speech in south Florida to an evangelical high school in south Florida. I talked to the 10 (ph) board of directors. They wanted to talk politics. I made them close their eyes because I knew they would lie if I just asked them this outright. Close your eyes, bow your heads, tell me who you‘re going to vote for. Five of those 10 rock-solid evangelicals, south Florida conservatives, raised their hands and said Rudy Giuliani.
I said, Now open your eyes, and when they opened their eyes and I told them how they voted, everybody gasped. Oh, who would have voted for Rudy Giuliani? Well, evangelicals are voting for Rudy Giuliani, and there‘s not going to be this great divide in the Republican Party that people are expecting because evangelicals are—the ones I talk to are splitting 30 percent, 40 percent for Giuliani.
MATTHEWS: But doesn‘t he have to pick a big, large, Southern Baptist on his ticket to balance things out?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, that‘s why everybody‘s talking about Mike Huckabee. I think that would be a perfect choice. But at the same time, conservatives and religious conservatives, enough religious conservatives are going to Giuliani right now to get the nomination.
Listen, the one person that is the thorn in this man‘s side is one of the most powerful evangelicals, and his name is Dr. James Dobson. Dr. Dobson has said he can never support Rudy Giuliani. Whatever it takes to get James Dobson on Rudy‘s side, or at least to neutralize him, that‘s what the campaign now has to focus on because he‘s the only guy out there that could coalesce enough religious conservative to get a third-party candidate that can cause Rudy problems.
SCARBOROUGH: I just think that‘s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. “Morning Joe”—I love meeting you in the morning, Joe. Thanks for having me on...
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... sometimes. It‘s great show. I love your team, by the way.
SCARBOROUGH: I do, too.
MATTHEWS: Mika and Willie Geist. Anyway, Chuck Todd, thank you, as always.
Coming up at 7:00 Eastern tonight, the HARDBALL “Power Rankings.” We‘re going to tell you who‘s got the best chance now to challenge the top Democrat, Hillary Clinton. That‘s the HARDBALL “Power Rankings.” We‘re doing the Democrats tonight, who‘s second, who‘s third right behind Hillary? That‘s live at 7:00 Eastern tonight.
Up next: Is it good politics for House Democrats to bring up impeaching Dick Cheney? I‘ll ask Senator Barbara Boxer when we return.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Despite all evidence to the contrary, the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and the Congress of the United States about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich‘s attempt to impeach Dick Cheney yesterday got some publicity in the House of Representatives before his bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee. So why not get to the root of the war in Iraq with a debate on how Bush and Cheney did get us into that war? And why did the White House recently edit scientific testimony on global warming?
For all those questions, Democratic senator Barbara Boxer of California joins us right now. Senator Boxer, I just got a report from the House Judiciary Committee, and even though they thought they killed this bill over there by referring it to that committee—you served in the House—the quote, “The committee staff will continue to consider the many abuses of the administration, including the vice president.” That‘s their statement. Do you think there‘s any life to this proposal to consider an impeachment of Cheney?
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I have to say this administration got us into a devastating war based on false pretenses. Holding people accountable is what we do in this country. I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with it. However, what we must also do is get us out of this mess that they got us into. So I don‘t want to see us—you know, see us turn away from that.
But I think we need to do both. I think looking at what happened, it means that we hold people accountable. We make the record for the next president. We can‘t have these abuses of power. But we must also concentrate on what we need to do now and a lot of if things you mentioned. I mean, this is green week on your station.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right.
BOXER: And one of the very important national security issues we face, frankly, is climate change. And I heard Sarkozy speak today to the Congress—the president of France—and he made it a point of saying that this is a crucial issue. America really isn‘t leading, and we have to lead. And so there‘s lots we have to do. There‘s lots in front of us, but we can‘t let people get away with what they did in the past.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the White House is hiding information, scientific information, from the American people about climate change?
BOXER: I don‘t think there‘s any doubt about it. We had the head of the CDC in before my Senate Environment Committee. And we asked her, Julie Golberding (ph) -- or Gerberding—I know another Golberding. This is Julie Gerberding. And she said many things, but as I looked in her written testimony, Chris, the written testimony was very odd. It didn‘t say much.
So I went up to her afterwards and I said, Doctor, what happened to your testimony? She said, Well, it went through a few hands. Well, indeed, we learned from a whistleblower within the CDC that that—her original testimony was redacted. Many pages of it were redacted. And it has to do with what are the public health impacts of unfettered global warming.
In other words, if we take no action, what‘s going to face us? What kind of new vectors are we going to have? What‘s going to be the impact on our children? What‘s going to happen to our people when they face these higher temperatures? And a lot of that was redacted.
And by the way, we wrote the president. He gave our letter to Fred Fielding, the chief counsel over there, his counsel, who said, Executive privilege. I don‘t have to tell you what she wrote. Now, we pay the salary of the head of the Center for Disease Control and we deserve to have that answer for the American people.
So yes, I think they‘re hiding this. I think they‘re hiding a lot of things. It‘s their way. It‘s their habit. It‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at that moment in the testimony, Senator Boxer, that you‘re talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOXER: I want to hear from our people who are charged with keeping Americans healthy and safe and our communities healthy. And guess what? We couldn‘t hear from them. We couldn‘t hear from them because just the part that my two colleagues talked about was in—was omitted. So you may want to trust in an international panel and not care what your own government thinks. I care what my own government thinks. I pay taxes to make sure that we have the best people at the CDC. And guess what? We do. And they don‘t deserve this kind of treatment from politicians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the question, I guess, is what would be the motive for hiding this information, for censoring it, as you say?
BOXER: Well, I believe the administration just doesn‘t want to really do any meaningful legislation.
They have already said they‘re not interested in really doing tough legislation. They said technology will solve the problem; we don‘t need a cap and trade system; we don‘t need real goals for reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
And, so, if we have more and more information that, yes, we‘re on a dangerous path here, it builds momentum for the kind of legislation that I‘m working on with Senators Warner and Lieberman and Clinton and many others in the United States Senate and in the Congress.
MATTHEWS: Would you bet right now that we‘re going to get a bill capping CO2 emissions out of this Congress?
BOXER: I would say, for the Senate, I‘m very optimistic that we will have a bill out of my committee. It‘s already come out of subcommittee. It is a strong, strong bill.
And I believe we‘re going to get it out of that full committee. That would be, you know, amazing, because it‘s never gone that far before. And then the question is, can we get the 60 votes to get it through the United States Senate? If we don‘t, I think people will be held—will be held accountable by the voters.
Americans understand this. They know something‘s wrong. They want to protect our kids and our grandkids from the ravages of global warming, if we don‘t check it. And I think it will be a huge issue in the presidential election. But, yes, we‘re making major progress here, Chris. It is just remarkable.
Thank you very much, Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
BOXER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: John McCain gets a boost from conservative Senator and former presidential candidate Sam Brownback. We will ask Senator Brownback why he‘s endorsing McCain, and tell you what else is new in politics.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new in politics? Well, “The New York Post” cover says it all, right on the front page, “Flubba.” Bill Gets Hell from Hill Over Licenses.”
It‘s now been a full week since that Philly debate, and Hillary Clinton is still dealing with the fallout. Senator Barack Obama and Chris Dodd both have slammed Bill Clinton for suggesting that critics of Hillary‘s performance on that driver‘s license issue were out to swift-boat her.
And, now, according to “The New York Post,” a senior adviser to Hillary‘s campaign has called Bill Clinton‘s remarks counterproductive. Hmm.
Flipping right—Mitt Romney has picked up an endorsement from conservative activist Paul Weyrich, who said—quote—“I believe that he has flip-flopped in our direction, if you will, the direction of the values voters. And I think he will stay there.”
Well, if you‘re not with the one you love, love the one you‘re with.
More big endorsement news today: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback has come out for John McCain.
Senator Brownback joins us now.
Senator Brownback, you ran a tough campaign. You were in there for the longest time. Now you are supporting one of the guys who survives you in this contest, John McCain. Why him, among all your rivals, have you chosen him to endorse?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS: You know, there‘s a number of good candidates on the Republican side, Chris, but I think John is the full package.
He‘s a fiscal conservative. He‘s got a 24-year pro-life voting record. He‘s a pro-life candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. He has foreign policy experience, which I think is important. And the guy is clearly ready to be commander in chief.
I had real questions about the surge, but this is the McCain surge. It‘s working in Iraq. And I think that full package is such that I think I ought to support him. And, on top of that, he‘s a legitimate American hero. He put his life on the line. He was in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. He‘s done it all. And I think he deserves my support and I think he deserves the support of the country.
MATTHEWS: Is this a personal endorsement of a man you respect, as you have said, or is it an endorsement of his policy on Iraq?
BROWNBACK: Well, it‘s a personally endorsement, but it is also saying that the surge is working.
Now, I don‘t think we have gone far enough. I think we need a political surge, as you have heard me say before. I think that‘s starting to actually happen organically now in Iraq, is what I‘m seeing coming forward. But there‘s also a voting record here on life. There‘s a strong fiscal conservatism record that I have witnessed in the United States Senate.
Like I say, I think the guy is the full package. And there‘s no surprises in this package. You know pretty much John McCain. He has been around on the national scene for a long time. I just think it‘s time, really, for our team and our side to give him a second look. And you‘re seeing that surge, that McCain—McCain momentum really pick up now.
MATTHEWS: Are you for a constitutional amendment, Senator, that would basically ban abortion generally?
BROWNBACK: I am, Chris. And I—you know me. I believe that life begins at conception...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just trying to figure out if you think McCain is with you.
Is McCain with you on that?
BROWNBACK: I believe he is.
As a matter of fact, I know he is on that issue. And he‘s got a long voting record on the life issue. We have had some differences on other topics before, but he has had a consistent pro-life voting record.
MATTHEWS: Are you going up to New Hampshire for him? It seems—the way we all look at these things, we keep looking where a candidate has a real shot to break through.
And everybody around here seems to think, although McCain has fallen back in the pack, largely, he‘s not one of the front-runners right now, he has a lot of support nationally, just not in some of these early states.
Where do you think, as a political person, he has his chance to break through and win this nomination?
BROWNBACK: Well, I think New Hampshire really is probably the best spot, but I wouldn‘t give up on Iowa.
I think, if John would invest the time and the organization, invest the resources in Iowa, I think he has got a real chance in Iowa, because of the full package.
But I think the breakthrough moment is probably more in New Hampshire. And I think there‘s a good chance for him to continue that momentum into South Carolina.
He was pointing out today that the nominee in the past 20 years on our side of the aisle has won two of the front three states. That‘s been the person that‘s won two of the front three has gone ahead to be the nominee. I think he has a real chance of being able to do that.
Plus, I think he‘s got a package that the whole of the Republican Party can support, and that can reach out to moderates and independent voters and some Democrats in the fall. He can beat Hillary.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m always impressed, in those rare moments, Senator Brownback, when one U.S. senator endorses another U.S. senator, because it seems so rare.
MATTHEWS: But congratulations. You have joined the pack again.
MATTHEWS: You‘re back in there for a man we all respect around here, Senator John McCain.
Thank you very much, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Chris.
On Friday, Senator McCain joins us on HARDBALL. He is going to come here with his 90-some-year-old mom to show us that he‘s only one of the middle generations in that family.
Up next: Pakistan on the brink. Will terrorists get their hands on the country‘s nuclear arms? That is the question we are going to try to get to tonight with Richard Engel, who is over in Islamabad, and, of course, Andrea Mitchell, who knows so much about that region.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
DARBY DUNN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Darby Dunn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A major sell-off on Wall Street today. Stocks plunged on credit market concerns, rising oil prices, as well as another record low for the dollar and a record loss by General Motors. The Dow Jones industrials fell nearly 361 points. The S&P 500 lost 44, the Nasdaq 76.
Stocks started falling this morning when General Motors reported a company record $39 billion loss for the third quarter on a huge tax-related charge. GM shares fell more than 5 percent today.
After the closing bell, tech bellwether Cisco Systems reported, quarterly profit rose 37 percent and earnings beat analyst estimates. But, in after-hours trading, Cisco shares are down 5 percent.
Oil hit an all-time high, above $98 a barrel, then retreated. Crude closed at $96.37 a barrel, down 33 cents for the day.
Meantime, home heating oil prices soared 15 cents over the past week, climbing to a record $3.11 a gallon.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message was that we believe strongly in elections and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform. You can‘t be the president and the head of the military at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Bush just hour ago calling on Pakistani President Musharraf to restore order in his country and take off his uniform.
More on reactions here in the U.S. in just a second.
First, here‘s NBC‘s Richard Engel‘s report from Islamabad.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF: Chris, opposition to General President Pervez Musharraf‘s state of emergency is growing.
Across Pakistan today, there were more protests. Here in Islamabad, once again, it was the lawyers who are leading this charge. But, for the first time, they were joined by students. They‘re asking that Musharraf end the state of emergency, return to the supreme court, which he has disbanded, return to the constitution, and return to the path of democracy.
The students say they will continue to demonstrate unless their demands are met. Also today, for the first time, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had her supporters out on the streets. They were in front of parliament, on one side, a row of riot police.
They were separated from the demonstrators by just a single coil of barbed wire. Scuffles briefly broke out, as the riot police tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas.
Benazir Bhutto also issued an ultimatum. She says, unless Musharraf steps down as army chief and returns to democracy, she will lead an even bigger demonstration on Friday. She hopes to bring a million to a million-and-a-half people on the streets.
Then, unless her demands are met, she says she will continue this movement, and, next week, hold a nationwide march. The—tonight, the U.S. ambassador here in Islamabad met with Benazir Bhutto. And the State Department is calling on all sides not to take any action that could lead to widespread violence—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Richard Engel, who is over in Islamabad.
Andrea Mitchell is NBC‘s foreign affairs correspondent. And P.J.
Crowley is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress.
Andrea, you first.
What‘s the best we can hope to come out of this turmoil in our allied country over there?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Very difficult to say, because the U.S. had hoped to broker a deal between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf for some sort of an enlarged government, a coalition government, if you will, to enlarge the democracy.
That has not worked. And now she‘s in a position where she can no longer afford to negotiate politically with Musharraf, not after the steps that he has taken. She will have no political future at all if she now begins to deal with him again.
So, at this stage, they need to get him to take off his uniform and reverse what he‘s done against the courts, let the supreme court justices come back, the 17 that he‘s fired. No sign that that‘s really going to happen. They had resisted letting the president call him, Chris, until today. They were withholding that as the maximum leverage.
How that is an important leverage, it is hard to imagine, but they had so little leverage, that they were withholding the presidential call until today, a very tough phone call from George Bush to Musharraf to tell him, you have got to take off the uniform; you have got a reversal of this.
But, that said, they‘re not yet willing to withhold, you know, billions of dollars in aid.
MATTHEWS: You know—you know, P.J., it seems to me that, back when the shah was tottering, we said, totter some more is our advice to him, give in to the streets.
Taking off the uniform shocks me as a proposal, because he‘s head of the military. If he takes off his uniform, and he‘s no longer head of the military, he has no claim as commander in chief of the country anymore, does he?
P.J. CROWLEY, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL DEFENSE AND HOMELAND SECURITY,
CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: No, he doesn‘t. And this is a conundrum, as Andrea just said.
I don‘t think—I think Musharraf has crossed a line here. And I think, quietly, we should be talking with the Pakistani military about engineering a soft landing and having Musharraf step aside entirely, and clear the way for new leadership in Pakistan, because there‘s a—there‘s a conflict between the supreme court on the one hand that was prepared to rule that he was ineligible to be reelected as president, even as the president and commander in chief.
So, at some point in time, I think Musharraf has become part of the problem. He‘s no longer part of the solution. We say we‘re for democracy as a stated policy in fighting terrorism. But we end up still using ally and dictator in the same sentence.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Benazir Bhutto, an interview we had right here on HARDBALL back several years ago, to get a look at her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 27, 2003)
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: I would like to see Washington start with the democracy in Pakistan.
I mean, Pakistan is a very important country. It‘s the second largest Muslim country. And what happens in Pakistan has an effect in the rest of the Muslim world. And the Muslim people have to choose between Osama bin Laden‘s call for dictatorship and for violence as a tool to somehow empower ordinary Muslims...
BHUTTO: ... and the call of democrats, who feel that empowerment comes through a pluralistic society and the rule of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Andrea, how do we have—do we have any way to conceal or control those weapons over there, those nuclear weapons? They‘re in the hands of the military. That means who is ever head of the military has got those weapons in their hands.
Are we going to support the military if it holds those weapons? Or are we going to support Benazir Bhutto, as she tries to get control of them, as well as head of the country?
MITCHELL: Well, I think there are already connections between the U.S. and the military. There is a deputy army chief of staff, Ashfaq Kiyani, General Kiyani. There‘s talk already that he may be the next step, some sort of a transitional government. So clearly, there are back channel conversations going on. They seem to be fairly confident at this stage, despite what one of the generals said today here at the Pentagon—they seem to be fairly confident right now about the security of the nuclear weapons.
But, obviously, if the government were to collapse completely, and Islamists were to take over, that would be a completely different situation. As for Bhutto, she has been America‘s best hope for a transition in Pakistan, according to this administration. She‘s had very close connections and many, many conversations with people in the administration before she went back.
I talked to her over the weekend, after she landed back in Karachi from Dubai, and she said they will protest this martial law. She‘s not going to back down now, she says. And they‘re planning this enormous protest on Friday, despite what, as Richard reported, the appeals from Washington to pull back and to try not to risk what could be a very dangerous situation.
MATTHEWS: Is she truly a kleptocrat (ph), someone who steals money when she gets in power, or is that one of those south Asian deals where they always use the power of the judiciary to put these charges against people who are out of power?
MITCHELL: There are people on all sides who have been making the case, pro and against Bhutto. I‘ve gotten to know her a little bit. And, of course, she says that the charges were trumped up against her. There are a lot of allegations that have been made. But right now she has been working very closely with this administration to try to come in and broaden the democracy there.
But clearly, Musharraf is not prepared to let that happen. And that‘s why he has been refusing to give up the power base that you and P.J. have been talking about.
MATTHEWS: P.J., who do we put our money on if you had to be a tough realist over there? I mean, we know we believe in democracy and, in this case, democracy with a country as developed in its democracy as Pakistan has been on occasion. Is it a good bet to go with the people‘s will over there?
CROWLEY: I think so. Certainly, we as a country are very unpopular in the Islamic world, in Pakistan. If we‘re going to win this war on terror, we‘re going to win it through the battle of ideas, and we have to be practicing what we preach. I think we make a mistake where we personalize relationships with other countries. We have had a Musharraf strategy for six years. We have needed a Pakistan strategy.
I think you have to work and focus on building institutions. That starts with an independent judiciary. So I‘m not sure we should tie our future to either Musharraf or Bhutto. We need to balance our aid, help the military. It‘s the one stable element within Pakistan. But also begin to help Pakistan build stronger institutions of civil society. That‘s what we‘re seeing in the streets, with the lawyers and the academics and the students. They should be part of the solution and we need to find a way to support them.
MATTHEWS: We have not been so lucky with our Democratic push over there. I don‘t want to put down democracy. I love it, like we all do. But we saw with Hamas winning on the West Bank; we saw Ahmadinejad winning in Iran; we saw with Algerian elections along the way, Nigerian elections; democracy tends to go to the most radical forces in the streets. Is Pakistan a case where we might get a pretty decent government through the Democratic process, Andrea?
MITCHELL: Well, in fact, we‘ve heard a lot of talk in the Bush inaugural and afterward of democracy on the march. Things have not worked out that well, as you pointed out, in all of these places. the difference is that Pakistan has a very large middle class, has this intellectual judiciary, the lawyers, remarkable pictures of the lawyers in the streets, of these men in suit and ties being arrested and tear gassed. You have got Chaudhry and the rest of the Supreme Court under house arrest.
That‘s where America has to put its bet. I think there‘s a future there in Pakistan. But if we stay too long with Musharraf and bet on the wrong horse, we will increase the anti-Americanism and probably radicalize the result. This is very analogous to what happened with the Shah back in the ‘70‘s.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of the middle class, I have never seen such well-dressed protesters. I‘ve got to say, Andrea and P.J., those protesters, those lawyers look better dressed than our lawyers. Anyway, thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell and P.J. Crowley.
Up next, much more on Pat Robertson‘s really stunning endorsement of Rudy Giuliani today. Plus, how much ground has Obama made up against Hillary? Lots of poll data to show he is, in fact, gaining on Hillary Clinton. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe I can bring this country together in a way that Senator Clinton cannot do, in fact, no other candidate can do. And the reason I believe that is because I don‘t carry the baggage of the 1990‘s. I‘m not interested in fighting the fights of the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s bring in the round table now, Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” Holly Bailey of “Newsweek Magazine” and Jonathan Allen of the “Congressional Quarterly.” Gene, what do you make of Pat Robertson? I think that‘s a wide-open question, first of all. And then what do you think of him endorsing the three-time married Roman Catholic who doesn‘t go to church, being pushed here by a man once called an agent of intolerance by John McCain. Is this a marriage made somewhere besides heaven or what?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: This is an odd couple. Pat Robertson doesn‘t have the vast influence among religious conservatives that he once had. But what I find fascinating is this is a man who, after 9-11, said it was god‘s punishment for abortion and Internet pornography. And so I‘d love to be in the room when he and Rudy Giuliani discuss 9/11, because Rudy‘s the 9/11 candidate.
MATTHEWS: Talk about 9-11 terettes (ph). Anyway, let‘s go to Holly. I am surprised by this because you would think Pat Robertson would holding out for someone who agreed with him on the usual array of issues, opposition to abortion rights, opposition to gay marriage, gay rights, period, the usual shebang. He looks like he‘s going across the aisle to a guy on the secular side of the Republican party.
HOLLY BAILEY, “NEWSWEEK”: This is basically the splintering of the social conservative movement, I think. You know, earlier this week, we saw Paul Weyrich endorse Mitt Romney. This morning, Sam Brownback, as you had on earlier in your show, endorsed John McCain. I think in the next couple of weeks—or coming weeks, I should say, we‘re going to see a lot of these people start endorsing people across the field. And if there‘s no unification here, they‘re all supporting other people.
MATTHEWS: Well, John, it reminds me of something we used to see at the old political conventions in the history books, where they would actually meet in the back room in order to form a coalition to put a ticket together. These guys from totally different worlds would meet, smoke cigars and say OK, your man has got it. I‘m going to back him, but here‘s the deal. I want the right kind of judges, or I want the VP job.
Is this the campaign convention already beginning here almost a year before the convention?
JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: I think so, Chris. Let‘s not forget that Pat Robertson is a Republican political insider. He ran for president on the Republican ticket in 1988. His father was a senator from Virginia. Obviously, the parties have shifted some. But look at Pat Robertson. He‘s been in politics a long time. I think he knows when to endorse and when not to.
That said, I hate to be a buzz kill, but I‘m not sure that political endorsements matter a whole lot. You may remember Al Gore‘s endorsement in 2004.
MATTHEWS: Of whom?
ALLEN: Or not. Of Howard Dean.
MATTHEWS: I know. Let‘s take a loot at the latest—Well, polls do matter, because we produce polls, NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll just came out. It‘s got the president‘s disapproval rating. It‘s ticked up. This is disproval, Gene, 63 percent. It‘s getting three points close to the Richard Nixon high mark for low mark back in 1974. Look at this comparison now. Basically, there‘s the president‘s disapproval going up to 63 percent, almost to the two thirds mark, where Dick Nixon was when he went down.
I don‘t know if it feels as bad as Watergate. Do you think so?
ROBINSON: It‘s different. The whole atmosphere is different. Watergate was—you had a presidential crime at the heart. You had impeachment. You know, it was a different atmosphere. Nonetheless, George Bush does seem to be going for modern record. You know, the public, I think, has just had it with this president and is ready to turn the page.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re laughing, but I‘m dead serious. Do you really think people—let‘s just talk about the majority of the people, the 60 some percent who say they disapprove of him. Do they think he‘s evil, like a lot of people thought Nixon was? Is it that bad? The numbers suggest it does.
ROBINSON: Some people think he‘s evil. I think a lot of people think he‘s not a very good president. They think he‘s not done a very good job at president. He‘s made tactical blunders and strategic blunders, and will leave the country in a situation that it will take us many years to recover from. I think that‘s why they think he‘s a bad president.
MATTHEWS: Is this Sadism? People just love to tell pollsters, you know, I can‘t stand the guy. What is this about? They want him to feel pain. They want him to know his no-count position, it seems. I‘m amazed that these numbers are so close to Nixon. I remember Watergate. It was a sink hole. Nixon was despised. People drove past the White House blowing their car horns, saying, resign. Holly, you weren‘t here, but I was.
BAILEY: Right, I wasn‘t here, but these numbers aren‘t very surprising to me. The numbers for George W. Bush have been low for the past two years, this low, record lows. But I think this is just showing fatigue with the war. I think that is the biggest issue, fatigue with this presidency, and they want to see change.
You know, I think it is going to be interesting to hear some of the Republican presidential candidates. A lot of them agree with President Bush on the issue of the war. And how many of them are going to try to jockey to be the change candidate.
MATTHEWS: Are they going to let him speak at 10:15 in the morning on Monday of the convention next summer. Anyway, back with our round table. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table. Let me ask you—Gene first, and then Holly, and then John. It seems to me that if you look at all the scattering of poll data—we look at all of it here at HARDBALL, all of it—it looks like Barack has got a bit of a bump going here. He‘s going up. Edwards is not, but he is. Why do you think he‘s going up and Edwards hasn‘t grabbed on to this anti-Hillary boomlet?
ROBINSON: I think Barack really is kind of the an anti-Hillary. In a way, Edwards—well, he has been doing the attacking. I think maybe he‘s making people take a second look at the alternative. And the kind of default alternative is Obama. You also have to remember that he has the money, and the campaign organization to better capitalize on any movement that there is. I understand there‘s a decent bump for him in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: I‘m seeing it in all the polls. Let me go to Holly. I see all these numbers. They‘re not dramatic. They‘re about four or five points he‘s going go up; Hillary is going down. I see a guy who looks like he thinks he‘s going up. I see buoyancy in the step of Barack Obama.
BAILEY: Yes, that‘s what‘s really interesting. Barack Obama, on the campaign trail in August and September, seemed to sort of drag just a little bit. But lately he seems to have lot of momentum, seems energized by that. I think it makes a huge difference on the trail. People see that.
MATTHEWS: Is John Edwards just a little bit too stale in a public recognition, John?
ALLEN: I think he‘s got a committed core of supporters, but it‘s hard for him to break out beyond that. He was on the ballot last time. Obama is the fresh new face this time that is attracting Democrats who are sort of anti-establishment or don‘t like Hillary Clinton, or who do like Obama.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it the craziest things in our lives, Gene? You and I are about the same age. Isn‘t it amazing; now we think of the African American guy as the safer bet. I mean, what kind of a world do we live in, where all of a sudden we‘re saying, he‘s a safe bet. Hillary is the one that we don‘t know about.
ROBINSON: Exactly. He‘s supposed to be more electable? This is—it really is amazing. And he‘s the guy with all the money and all the organization.
MATTHEWS: Call grandma with the news, and tell her, guess what.
ROBINSON: Really. But, you know, he‘s got that generational thing working for him, too. And this theme of, I can get you passed these fights that you‘ve been having since the ‘60s. That‘s an interesting theme for him.
MATTHEWS: I think if only people your age, Holly, were voting in this election, we‘d have a totally different result come next November. What do you think?
BAILEY: I agree. If you look at the poll numbers for Barack Obama, he‘s up among young people. The problem for him is that young people usually don‘t turn out to vote in places like Iowa. So if he can perhaps change that and we talk about—
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you get him to do that. You know what‘s great about people that are young? They come home, they don‘t even tell you what race their teacher is or ethnic group. They don‘t think it‘s important. Holly, thank you. John, thank you. Gene, thank you. Join us again in one hour at 7:00 for day three of the HARDBALL power rankings. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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