Guests: Nancy Giles, Michael Isikoff, Tom DeFrank, Jill Zuckman, Michael Crowley, John Edwards
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The race for president hits the fast track.
From here to New Year‘s, one mistake could kill you.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. If you build it, they will come, and they came in the thousands from the fields of Iowa, from small towns in New Hampshire, towns in the suburbs out in South Carolina. People turned out in droves to see superstar Oprah Winfrey and Senator Barack Obama. But will the people who got to the stadiums get to the polls? Can a daytime star promote votes? Can the most famous woman in the country convince voters, especially women and blacks, to vote for Obama instead of a woman who could be elected the first woman president of the United States? More on the Oprah factor in just a moment.
And Scooter Libby filed a motion today to dismiss his appeal from his conviction. Does this mean President Bush might give Scooter the best Christmas present ever, a pardon?
Plus, Democratic candidate John Edwards is kicking off his bus tour in Iowa. He‘ll make a pit stop on HARDBALL tonight.
And why is this man smiling? We‘ll get to that in tonight‘s “Big Number.”
And tonight, live at 7:00 PM, my HARDBALL “Power Rankings.” With the race this close in both parties, you won‘t want to miss them.
But we begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster and his report on the double O‘s, Oprah and Obama.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, there were four events over two days, and going into the weekend, the expectations for both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey were huge.
(voice-over): The rally in South Carolina was the biggest of all.
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How‘s it going, South Carolina?
SHUSTER: But for the Obama campaign, the green (ph) opportunity actually started hours before any of the weekend rallies began.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you supporting (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
SHUSTER: Here in Iowa, as in South Carolina and New Hampshire, every person who arrived had to provide a phone number or e-mail to gain access to the hall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you supporting (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m (INAUDIBLE) That‘s why I‘m here.
SHUSTER: Campaign officials estimate a third of all the attendees in Des Moines, as many as 5,000 people, were new to the Obama database.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t take your ticket. They‘ll take the tickets at the door.
SHUSTER: And everybody was treated to a spectacle reminiscent of a concert or sporting event. There were ushers, long lines to get in...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I should have brought more fudge (ph).
SHUSTER: ... and even a pre-game band. The rhythm-and-blues went on for an hour. Then in front of a crowd the fire marshal estimated at 12,000, Michelle Obama came out and introduced Oprah Winfrey.
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: The first lady of television, Oprah Winfrey!
SHUSTER: Winfrey spoke in her winning confessional type of style.
OPRAH WINFREY, TELEVISION TALK SHOW HOST: I am not here to tell you what to think. I am here to ask you to think. Seriously.
SHUSTER: She took an indirect jab at Hillary Clinton.
WINFREY: I challenge you to see through those people who try and convince you that experience with politics as usual is more valuable than wisdom won from years of serving people outside the walls of Washington, D.C.
BUCHANAN: And then she spoke about Barack Obama‘s position on the Iraq war.
WINFREY: And long before it was the popular thing to do, he stood with clarity and conviction against this war in Iraq!
SHUSTER: After 20 minutes, it was time for the main event.
WINFREY: Barack Obama!
SHUSTER: Barack Obama gave a revved-up version of his standard campaign speech.
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On January 3, I need you to stand up with me. I need you to caucus for me. I need you to stop settling for what the cynics say is possible.
SHUSTER: And he spoke about his main themes of hope and change.
OBAMA: And that‘s why I need your support, Iowa, to bring about a change!
SHUSTER: Thirty minutes later, Obama was done.
OBAMA: Thank you, Iowa. I love you.
SHUSTER: As the campaign music blared over the speakers, the crowd began to file out of the hall. The key question: Did the Oprah appearance work?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the main draw, obviously, but I mean, when it comes down to it, we‘re not talking books and we‘re not talking CDs, we‘re talking president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like Oprah. I love Oprah. I watch her every day. I buy her books and everything else. So maybe (INAUDIBLE) she may (INAUDIBLE)
SHUSTER: Whatever the voters here in Iowa think of Barack Obama, or any of the other candidates for that matter, those impressions will literally be frozen for the next 36 hours. A huge ice storm is coming through the Hawkeye State, Chris, and that means even though the campaign events over the next two days may not be canceled, it will be extremely difficult for residents here to actually get to those events—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and Nancy Giles is a social commentator. Let‘s run the numbers. They‘re amazing, just in over the weekend. For anybody interested in politics, wait until you see these numbers. A new MSNBC/McClatchy poll in Iowa has Hillary request 27, Obama with 25 -- so close—Edwards very close, as well, at 21. A new NBC/MSNBC/McClatchy poll in New Hampshire has Clinton with 30, Obama 27, again, so within the margin of error, and Edwards down at 10.
Let‘s take a look at South Carolina, another nail biter, Hillary Clinton at 28 percent, Obama at 25 percent and rising, with Edwards at 18. Now let‘s take a look at some of what we call the internals. According to the new MSNBC/McClatchy poll in South Carolina, Hillary wins the female, the woman vote, 34 to 21, but Obama carries the African-American vote 37 to 21.
Here‘s what Oprah had to say to those who say it‘s not Obama‘s time.
Let‘s get going with what she said. Let‘s take a listen to Oprah here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: There are those who say that it‘s not his time, that he should wait his turn. Think about where you‘d be in your life if you had waited when the people told you to. I wouldn‘t be where I am if I waited on the people who told me it couldn‘t be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me, Nancy, that is sweet stuff because there you have the most successful woman in the country telling the people of—if she‘d listened to people who doubted her and said, Wait your turn, she wouldn‘t have gotten it.
NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: Goodness gracious. I know. I mean, there‘s really not much you can say to that. I thought she spoke—Oprah spoke very powerfully, very provocatively.
GILES: And I think one of the most interesting things about the Oprah and Bill versus Obama and Hillary, you know, celebrity endorsement thing, is maybe more than anything else, it shows that, like, not all black voters think the same way, in the same way that not all female voters think the same way. And heck, let‘s take it one step further. All white male voters don‘t think the same way, either. I mean, if they did, then there would only be, like, one candidate for Republican president, now, wouldn‘t there. I mean, people need to open their...
MATTHEWS: Well, there are a lot of candidates.
GILES: ... minds to the facts that people think different ways. But boy, Oprah was powerful. Powerful.
MATTHEWS: She made “Wait your turn” sound like back of the bus.
GILES: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it really resonated with me.
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan has another—he is one of the white guys we have on the show.
MATTHEWS: I want to give him a shot.
GILES: Of course. That‘s only fair.
MATTHEWS: We‘re talking about ethnicity and gender here, but it may not be all your gender or your ethnicity, but here we are, black women—
65 percent of the African-American vote in South Carolina on the Democratic side is women.
MATTHEWS: I‘m amazed that these numbers—I know 67 percent of the vote in the primaries and caucuses on the Democratic side are women. Women have a lot of clout here, and there you have Obama getting the endorsement of the most powerful woman of the country.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what‘s most important (INAUDIBLE) Chris, because of the numbers you showed, is not South Carolina, it is Iowa that is so close. What those numbers tell us, it is a dead heat, Chris, in Iowa and in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: But who‘s rising and who‘s dropping?
BUCHANAN: This is—well, this is the importance of Oprah. She clearly has given his campaign new excitement, also freshness, also something new. And the phrase I saw in what she said, which was interesting and could be turned into, I think, a very powerful message at the end, “Vote the dream.” In other words, look, we got all this experience. That is yesterday. Vote the dream. Vote the hope. Vote tomorrow. And if—listen, if Obama wins Iowa, he wins New Hampshire, and South Carolina...
MATTHEWS: You believe that?
BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven‘s sakes...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what you mentioned here. Here‘s Oprah Winfrey talking about—well, she‘s talking down experience as an advantage. She‘s talking up life experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: You got sense enough to recognize that the amount of time a person spends in Washington doesn‘t mean a thing unless they‘re accountable for the judgments they made with that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GILES: Oh, my gosh!
MATTHEWS: Nancy, that word “accountable” is one of the great words of our time. It sounds like a good government word, but it‘s come to have some bite. And the bite I hear her saying is, She voted for the war, she‘s accountable for voting for the war. That‘s her experience. She voted for this terrible war in Iraq. Do you like what she‘s done or not? Not how many years has she sat in Washington.
GILES: Well, I think it‘s a couple of things. I think, yes, it is kind of a veiled remark toward Hillary. But I think, on a larger level, it‘s about politics in Washington in general and the fact that there is this Beltway mentality that, in a way, almost excludes the people who put those politicians in their place, the people that they‘re supposed to represent.
And you know, this whole argument of whether Obama has experience versus Hillary‘s experience—I just feel like the experience you get is being president of the United States. That‘s the experience you need to be president. Day one, the learning curve begins.
I also have to say, Chris, that I‘m stunned that I actually agree with what Pat Buchanan said leading into this clip. It‘s a momentous day for me. Wow.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me—Chris, what you want—what is the key question? It‘s when you go into that caucus, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about, The country‘s in trouble and we need a steady hand on the wheel and we can‘t risk something, or are you thinking, as a lot of voters do, Look, let‘s take a shot. It‘s the future. Let‘s vote the dream. Look, if you‘re saying that going in there, you‘re going to say, I know he‘s fresh and I—but that‘s—that‘s what they did for Reagan as...
MATTHEWS: You know you‘re saying the same thing, you two, from totally different perspectives, Nancy and Pat. I know you have different perspectives in a lot of ways. We are in a rut in this country.
MATTHEWS: We are in a rut in a war. We‘re in rut in our illegal immigration...
MATTHEWS: ... where they‘re rubbing (ph) entitlement pros (ph). You name the issue, we‘re in a rut. Energy—we don‘t get nothing done.
MATTHEWS: And I don‘t think it‘s just because...
GILES: National health.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t buy your theory, Nancy, it‘s because Washington‘s cut off from the rest of the country. It‘s because Washington‘s so sensitive to any slight tremor out there, it won‘t take a chance.
GILES: Well, but I think that...
MATTHEWS: These congresspeople want to stay in for life.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want to lose an election. They‘re scared to death of the people at home.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want to touch—they don‘t want to touch gasoline taxes. They don‘t want to touch the border. They don‘t want to touch anything. They don‘t want to touch the war. They don‘t want to touch the soldiers.
GILES: But I really think...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want to be touching nothing! And that‘s...
GILES: I feel that...
MATTHEWS: ... why we‘re stuck.
GILES: ... they‘re out of touch, though. They‘re out of...
MATTHEWS: I agree.
GILES: I mean, they are trying to play politics...
MATTHEWS: I agree. I agree with both of you.
GILES: ... but they‘re cut off from what people really represent.
You know, they want...
MATTHEWS: So you both think—this is exciting, Pat. You believe the country wants change.
BUCHANAN: I think it does. I really do. And I think the excitement
and the energy—I think if people go in there and say that, I think they
look, if Obama wins Iowa, Chris, he will roll through New Hampshire...
GILES: I agree.
MATTHEWS: ... and through South Carolina. And as you said, we are facing, as in a title of a great book, a day of reckoning.
MATTHEWS: What about the big guns...
MATTHEWS: I have to jump ahead because I‘ve got to make my “Power Rankings” tonight. I need all the help I‘m getting here. Nancy...
MATTHEWS: ... what about the big guns? I have seen so many idealistic Democrats, whether it‘s Gene McCarthy or it‘s Tsongas or it‘s Gary Hart—every four, eight years, there‘s an idealistic Democrat that comes along who gets blown away by the interest-group-driven insiders, whether it‘s Mondale or whoever it is. They always do get beaten.
Now, I want to ask you this. In the end, Obama has the stadiums. He‘s got Oprah. He‘s got the music. But in the end, the inside boys get together—and girls—and they get in the inside and they figure out how to beat this guy. They beat him on super-Tuesday. They beat him in Miami. They beat him in New York. They beat him where there‘s a lot of big ethnic group action they can work. They work the old thinking. They work fear. They always do it. Do you think it won‘t happen this time?
GILES: I don‘t think so. I think that the country is really, really exhausted, mentally exhausted at representatives that aren‘t doing what they‘re asking them to. And I agree with Pat—choke, choke—I really do. I think that there is a feeling of getting something knew new. And even the steady hand that he referred to as—you know, whatever that would mean. I don‘t think the steady hand has been working. It still got us in a war. It still got us horribly in debt...
GILES: ... and it still doesn‘t have...
MATTHEWS: ... got to ask this question. You‘re obviously an African-American woman, and you will...
GILES: Thank you for recognizing that.
MATTHEWS: I want your reaction to this...
MATTHEWS: No, no. I can say nice things, too, but get in trouble for saying nice things about women, so I won‘t say anything nice.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the only reason I won‘t say anything nice.
GILES: Got it.
MATTHEWS: But here‘s what. What do you make of Andy Young‘s comment the other day that Bill Clinton has had more African women—African-American women than Obama‘s had? Now, that is a certain—and then he said, I‘m just clowning.
GILES: Well, what...
MATTHEWS: I mean, are they that desperate they have to make comments like that in clowning mode?
GILES: Oh, my.
MATTHEWS: What is that about?
GILES: I don‘t know. I could ask a couple of things, like exactly what did he mean by the word “have.” That‘s the first thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, we know what he meant.
GILES: OK, I‘m kidding. And then the second thing is...
MATTHEWS: You‘re clowning.
GILES: I know. I just was clowning. The second thing is I don‘t—
I really don‘t know that agree with that. Again, there‘s this notion that
well, see, the thing I always wondered is, people say that they thought of Bill Clinton as the first black president. Well, Chris, he‘s white. And just because he has an office in Harlem and likes soul food, that doesn‘t make him black. So I‘ve always been a little confused about all that.
MATTHEWS: The only reason he has an office in Harlem, let‘s remind ourselves, because he couldn‘t get the higher-priced real estate in midtown because he got caught trying.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s not forget that.
BUCHANAN: Let‘s talk to your question about, Will the establishment stop him? It always has in the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party. The problem the establishment has now, Chris, is this is not a marathon, this is a 100-yard dash. There are five days from Iowa to New Hampshire, and if he gets that momentum going in South Carolina...
MATTHEWS: OK, so you buy...
BUCHANAN: ... you can‘t catch up with him.
MATTHEWS: ... the blow-out theory. You buy the...
BUCHANAN: Oh, I‘m a momentum man all the way.
MATTHEWS: You believe the blow-out theory works.
BUCHANAN: The momentum—look, in other words, if Hillary wins Iowa...
MATTHEWS: And if you had won Arizona, you would have beaten Dole.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know. The establishment would have come back. Really, the establishment as so strong then, and they weren‘t going to take me. But Obama...
MATTHEWS: Nancy, your thoughts—I need a big prediction here.
GILES: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: If Obama sweeps these first four, including Nevada, if he sweeps all four of them...
BUCHANAN: Well, he‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... can he win this thing?
GILES: I think he can. I think the other added implement (ph) is that we‘ve had so many debates and so much campaigning for an extra year. So it almost is sort of moot now, and I think the excitement is building for Obama.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is better than Christmas morning...
BUCHANAN: How do you take it away from him?
BUCHANAN: How do you take it away from him?
MATTHEWS: ... you‘re the best. Nancy, you‘re younger than Pat, but you‘re as smart.
GILES: Hey, thanks!
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for joining us. It‘s great to have you on.
Anyway, coming up at 7:00 Eastern, the HARDBALL “Power Rankings,” as I said, which presidential candidates are showing the power this week? And later: John Edwards is in the hunt out in Iowa. How‘s he going to top Hillary and Obama both? He‘ll join us from Des Moines tonight a half hour from now.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Scooter Libby will not appeal his conviction in that CIA leak case, his attorney said today. The CIA leak case was about how the Bush administration made the case for war with Iraq. And now if the only person to face criminal charges will not appeal his conviction, where are we left? And is a presidential pardon coming down the tracks? “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff covered the CIA leak investigation. He‘s the author of “Hubris,” which is out in paperback, a great book, by the way. It‘s the most authoritative book on this whole situation of how we got into the war, how they made the case, the WMD case, and how they defended it against people like Joe Wilson.
Let me run through a couple of questions for you, a little bit rhetorical. But they have, I think, answers. Can we look at some of these questions?
This is the latest case where you have to wonder—any reasonable person has to wonder about the extent to which the administration has acted to cover up the way it made and then defended its case for war with Iraq, why it allowed itself to be caught in criminality to do so. Ask yourself the following.
Why did the chief of staff to the vice president obstruct the criminal investigation into the CIA leak case? Why did he so flagrantly lie under oath? Why did he, in the words of the prosecutor, throw sands in the eyes of the prosecutor?
Why did he, Scooter Libby, refuse to testify when faced with 30 years of imprisonment? Why did the vice president not testify? Why did the president commute Mr. Libby‘s sentence, after having promised he would punish those who leaked? Why does the administration refuse to release to the Congress the interview Cheney and Bush had with the special prosecutor?
Why did they insist on doing that interview together, like the Menendez brothers? Why did Libby just drop his appeal, which would have led to a second trial, where, again, he would have the opportunity to testify in his own defense?
And any reasonable person would have to say, this administration was willing to take—to go to any extreme, to take any heat, to allow any assumption out there of guilt, rather than being allowed to be questioned under oath as to how we made and defended our case for war.
Again and again, Mike Isikoff—you‘re smiling, because you and I have been through this so long—again and again and again, they take the opportunity to cover up, rather than let somebody testify. Scooter won‘t testify. The veep won‘t testify. They don‘t want to have a second trial. They don‘t want to talk about it. They want to commute the sentence and probably pardon the guy.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, “NEWSWEEK”: Right.
Look, from a purely practical standpoint, from Scooter Libby‘s vantage, look, he‘s been—the sentence is commuted. He doesn‘t have to serve in prison. The appeal was for a new trial. Even if he were to win the appeal, as his lawyer, Ted Wells, pointed out today, all it—it would just result in a new trial...
MATTHEWS: But they said they wanted one.
ISIKOFF: ... that would drag on for another year beyond—of course they did.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re innocent, don‘t you want to prove it?
ISIKOFF: It would drag on and it would have cost millions of dollars.
ISIKOFF: He does have the stain of being a convicted felon on his record. And he will, unless and until President Bush pardons him. The timing...
MATTHEWS: If Bush pardons him, is he rebarred? Is he back into the law business?
ISIKOFF: He can be, yes. I mean, if you—you can‘t be a convicted felon and practice law. If a pardon absolves you of your conviction, then you can certainly reapply to the bar. But...
MATTHEWS: But everyone knows who has been pardoned. Let me just break this theory a little bit.
ISIKOFF: OK. Sure.
MATTHEWS: We know that Oliver North was convicted. We know that he got out of it on an appeal kind of situation, what the right wing used to call a technicality.
MATTHEWS: Elliott Abrams had a problem. He got out. If you have been convicted of a felony, you sort of are a convicted felon in the eyes of the city, right?
ISIKOFF: Well, yes, but you can reinvent yourself. Oliver North has a TV show. Elliott Abrams is serving in the White House. George Steinbrenner, another convicted felon pardoned, has been owner of the New York Yankees for the last 25 years, 30 years. So, I mean...
MATTHEWS: Does this suggest there‘s a deal here for Scooter to keep his time, keep his powder dry...
ISIKOFF: I—I think...
MATTHEWS: ... and wait for the team to come and save him?
ISIKOFF: I think there‘s no question he wants a pardon. And his supporters want him pardoned. I mean, he does have a long legion of supporters in the conservative community who think he got railroaded here, he got—and thought he got a raw deal.
MATTHEWS: But he has never testified as to the truth of what happened.
MATTHEWS: If he were innocent, why didn‘t he say so?
ISIKOFF: Well, he did say was innocent. And he was convicted.
MATTHEWS: No. He‘s never testified under oath.
ISIKOFF: No, no, he—oh, sure he did in the grand jury.
MATTHEWS: In a grand jury.
ISIKOFF: In fact, the most damning testimony against him was...
ISIKOFF: ... Patrick Fitzgerald played the tapes of his grand jury testimony.
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t he go to trial? Why didn‘t he bring Cheney into the court with him and defend him?
ISIKOFF: Well, look, because—why didn‘t he?
ISIKOFF: I don‘t think the vice president wanted to testify and be cross-examined by Patrick Fitzgerald...
MATTHEWS: What did he have to hide?
ISIKOFF: ... and have to testify under oath.
Well, it‘s very interesting, because, as you know, there is—there are these FBI 302s, the FBI interview reports, of—of the FBI interviews with the president, with the vice president, with Karl Rove, with others.
MATTHEWS: OK. Is the Congress going to get them?
ISIKOFF: Waxman is making a bid for them. He‘s making the point that Dan Burton got similar FBI 302s when he was investigating the campaign finance scandals. Why shouldn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Should the public get to see what the president and the vice president said?
ISIKOFF: Well, from a public interest point of view, sure. Anybody who‘s interested in this case...
MATTHEWS: Why are they hiding them?
ISIKOFF: Well, they haven‘t given an explanation for that yet.
It‘s going to be very hard. You can‘t claim executive privilege, because it‘s not talks between the president and his advisers.
MATTHEWS: The prosecutor, Fitzgerald, wants the Congress to have these documents. He has said so.
ISIKOFF: Well, he has not said anything publicly. Waxman‘s staff, consulting with Fitzgerald‘s staff, says that their understanding is, Fitzgerald has no objection to turning them over.
MATTHEWS: Who makes this call, Mukasey, the new A.G.?
ISIKOFF: Mukasey is going to make this call. It‘s going to be a very interesting test for him.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just think the public would like this thing cleared up. And maybe we assume we won‘t get it cleared up. But how did they make the case for war and how did they cover up the way they made it? And that‘s clearly what is the heart of this whole thing.
ISIKOFF: I think that‘s the heart of the case.
MATTHEWS: And, unfortunately, it looks like the cover-up continues, because not only has Scooter never testified. The vice president has never testified. We don‘t get to see the testimony. He gets commuted. He gets pardoned. And everything gets shoveled under the rug for 20 years in the history books.
ISIKOFF: Right. But we will still be talking about it on HARDBALL, I‘m sure, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, I want to know how we got in this war. And I want to see...
ISIKOFF: No. I—look, that‘s what...
MATTHEWS: I want to know—I want to know, as a citizen, how we got in this war. s probably gone with more black women than Barack.
ISIKOFF: Yes. Right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you Michael Isikoff...
ISIKOFF: Of course.
MATTHEWS: ... who has done a lot of the great work on this.
Up next: What does Rudy Giuliani find that is so funny?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So, what else is wild out there?
Well, Andy Young, playing rear guard for his pal Bill Clinton, says, he was just clowning when he said that the former president has had more black girlfriends than Barack Obama ever had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY YOUNG, FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR: Bill is every bit as black as Barack.
YOUNG: He‘s probably gone out with more black women than Barack.
YOUNG: I‘m just...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine the outcry from the Hillary blogs if a Clinton critic had dropped that little sugar plum?
Frankly, this next one is almost unbelievable.
On National Public Radio, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, paid on—to speak, actually, as we know, on behalf of the president and the presidency, recalled not knowing what the Cuban Missile Crisis was when a reporter referred to it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, I got asked about the
Cuban Missile Crisis, and I was panicked a bit, because I really know about
nothing about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just last week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a nice Kevin Costner movie about it.
PERINO: It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I‘m pretty sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It had to do - it did in fact have to do with Cuba and missiles, Dana.
PERINO: Yes. Well, so I will have to get back to you on that one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
PERINO: Well, I came home and I asked my husband...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah?
PERINO: I said, wasn‘t that like the Bay of Pigs thing?
And he said, “Oh, Dana.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I challenge you, everyone watching right now, go find someone, anyone you can find, the age of the president‘s spokeswoman who doesn‘t know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was, the one time in the history of the Cold War when it threatened to become World War II.
I will say I again. The worst thing that can be said of this administration is its crying lack of history of an historic sense. Every mistake we have made in Iraq and many other places has been made before, by the French, the British, the Russians. And now we have the president‘s spokeswoman unaware—and thinking it‘s cute that she‘s unaware—of the most dangerous moment of the second half of the 20th century.
Finally, it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” On Sunday, Rudy
Giuliani endured—I think that‘s the word for it—an hour-long
grilling, a great grilling, from NBC‘s Tim Russert on “Meet the Press,”
questions about his finances, the security detail for his then girlfriend,
and his indicted partner Bernard Kerik, who he put up for homeland security
homeland security secretary, and question and question.
In each case, Rudy had a similar response. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Why would you do business with people who help Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, he said he didn‘t remember it. That was his first recollection.
RUSSERT: Is that a problem?
GIULIANI: I wish you had shown Florida. It would have...
RUSSERT: But they did represent Citgo, which is run by Hugo Chavez.
GIULIANI: That‘s a stretch.
RUSSERT: It‘s not.
GIULIANI: No, no, no...
RUSSERT: No, one more—and I‘m going to give you a chance on this.
One more. A Las Vegas developer...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It was hilarious.
Our “Big Number” tonight is—yes—the number of times Rudy Giuliani laughed on “Meet the Press” when asked tough questions. Fifteen. This guy is a laugh a minute. Tonight‘s “Big Number,” 15.
Up next, John Edwards, he‘s coming here. He‘s still out in the big fight in Iowa. He‘s fighting it out, out there among the three of them.
Can he steal a win there from Oprah and from Hillary? He‘s coming to
HARDBALL, live from Des Moines, next
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closed up 100 points on the Dow Jones industrial average, the Nasdaq gaining by nearly 13, in advance of what is expected to be a Federal Reserve decision tomorrow to cut interest rates between 25 and 50 basis points. A half-point cut is considered possible, but less likely. A cut would help out struggling homeowners who are trying to keep up with their adjustable-rate mortgage payments, and eventually trickle down to the prime rate that commercial banks charge.
A future gauge on home sales rose unexpectedly today, with pending sales of existing homes up six-tenths-of-a-percent. However, pending sales were still down more than 18 percent from a year ago.
And oil prices traded down today, with crude oil falling 42 cents in New York, closing at $87.86 a barrel.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: We‘re right back.
We‘re going to the roundtable. Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune,” she‘s up in Manchester, New Hampshire. Tom DeFrank, the great author of “The New York Daily News,” and Michael Crowley—I love these Irish names -- Crowley of “The New Republic.”
Thank you, gentlemen.
And thank you, Jill.
Jill, we‘re here. It‘s happy news. Good. Let—there you are.
Let‘s go to the latest polling.
JILL ZUCKMAN, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE CHICAGO
TRIBUNE”: I‘m right here.
MATTHEWS: I basically don‘t think there‘s been a big change in who I think is going to end up winning this thing. But I do think these numbers are incredible.
Take a look at the first three events, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, first of all, Iowa. They‘re basically all even. I mean, you can say that Edwards is a little bit off the pace, but Hillary and Obama are together there. They are—obviously, Obama is going up. Hillary is coming down a bit.
Let‘s take a look at New Hampshire, which only follows it by four or five days. And look at New Hampshire, the same numbers, 30 percent, 27 percent, just basically together, these two.
It‘s like—remember, Tom, Nixon and Kennedy? Every two weeks, they would have the numbers right next to each other for months?
Let‘s take a look at this one. This is South Carolina, where Hillary had a pretty damn big advantage before, but this is the even—the number we‘re going to show you now is before the arrival of Oprah down there.
Look at this number, 28 percent Clinton, 25 percent Obama. Geez. They‘re just there, Tom. I mean, I remember—every time I look at these numbers, I remember. Jack Germond used to say for years, don‘t look at the early numbers. They don‘t mean anything.
I‘m seeing real numbers. These aren‘t early numbers. These are a month before the voting. Look how close they are.
TOM DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, and the other problem for Hillary, Chris, is that Obama is now within the margin of error everywhere in the early going, except Nevada. And he‘s got the mo‘. She doesn‘t. It‘s been a bad month...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in the serial effect, that one leads to the next?
DEFRANK: I‘m a big-mo‘ person, as 41, Bush 41, would say. And I think one does lead to the other.
It‘s a little different this year, as we all know. But I think, if—if Hillary or Romney or anybody loses the first two, it‘s going to be hard for them the rest of the way.
MATTHEWS: Jill, give me an Oprah impact statement from the weekend up there in New Hampshire.
ZUCKMAN: Well, it was interesting. I was there last night, along with Michael.
And all the voters I talked to said they were there because they were curious. They wanted to see the spectacle. They didn‘t know who they were going to vote for. They hadn‘t made up their mind.
But the fact is, she got them out there for him, and they—she got them to listen to what he had to say. And it‘s up to him to now seal the deal with them. Whether they walked away happy or not, he‘s still got a few more weeks to try to get them to listen to him.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Michael Crowley?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: I mean, that place—that place was rocking when she came on stage. I mean, I thought that the crowd noise was higher for Oprah than it was for Obama.
MATTHEWS: Was it mostly a white crowd up there?
CROWLEY: Absolutely, overwhelmingly white. But, you know, you‘re talking about New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: In New Hampshire, yes.
CROWLEY: But, you know, I think it was a great event for him. I did...
MATTHEWS: Did they seem to be responding to Oprah‘s personality? Did they all seem to know her?
CROWLEY: Yes. Yes, I think so. I mean, I think that something that she did well was to have a kind of casual, informal vibe up on the stage, that people in the crowd seemed to react to, little jokes and asides that had people laughing and cheering, and kind of, you know, girlfriend talks that women—jokes that women in the audience seemed to really respond to.
So, I thought she was really making a connection, did a very effective job with it. And some people argue that, in South Carolina, for instance, that some people thought that she actually outshined Obama, which is not what I saw in New Hampshire. But I found it plausible.
MATTHEWS: Tom, you and I must still have the same reaction to this, being old white guys from America.
MATTHEWS: You know, I see three African-American people up there, incredibly attractive people, right? Just they are. They just are attractive people. It‘s a fact. They‘re glistening. They‘re charismatic. I think Michelle Obama is dynamite. I know she‘s a little too spunky for some old-time people, but it works for me.
It‘s an amazing sight, as an American, to see this.
DEFRANK: Whatever it is or isn‘t, Chris, it is good for democracy and it‘s good for America.
And, of course, it‘s great theater. It‘s much better than Barbra Streisand endorsing Hillary Clinton. That is for sure.
MATTHEWS: It‘s better than Mondale and Dukakis.
DEFRANK: Taking it away from politics, it‘s kind of exciting, to tell you the truth, and that‘s one of the problem‘s Hillary‘s got.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jill out there, do you buy the theory that one thing leads to another?
ZUCKMAN: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, Chris, there is a study that was just done by a couple of economists at Brown University showing that voters in Iowa have 20 times the amount of power in their vote because of momentum than any other voter, and that voters in New Hampshire have something like 12 to 15 times the effect, because each vote triggers the next wave. So if someone does really well in Iowa, they‘re going to get a better look in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: OK, Mike, I want to start with you, because I have been through this thing so many times. Every time you watch the Democrats party pick a presidential candidate when there‘s and open presidency they start out with a great bout. And Ron Brownstein said this as well as anybody, better than anybody. There‘s always a battle between the idealistic candidate, whether it‘ Gene McCarthy, and it‘s the interest group candidate with Hubert Humphrey, or Mondale is the interest group candidate or the Clintons. And they always have an idealist running against them, somebody who wants to clean out the system. They don‘t want to appeal to interest groups, no pandering.
In fact, Tsongas used to called Clinton the Pander Bear. The Panda Bear always wins, the one that plays to all the usual interest groups, you know, labor, teachers, gays, pro Israel—you go through the whole list of Democratic constituency groups. The ones who pander best always win in the end and the dreamers die. Is this year different? I don‘t think it is, because, in the end, I‘m a cynic, in the sense that I think in the end, the interest groups control the Democratic party. In the end, the dreamers die. What do you think? what‘s going to happen—Don‘t say fighter. That‘s such a metaphor. What‘s fighter mean?
CROWLEY: OK, but, you know, the philosopher king, the professor, versus the more conventional politician. I don‘t pretend to know.
MATTHEWS: Will the dreamers win this time?
CROWLEY: I don‘t pretend to know. I will say, you know, you go back to the fun of the Oprah rallies. Oprah is very cool right now. I mean, that‘s sort of a cool thing. Barbara Streisand is a little bit of a stale celebrity. The Oprah phenomenon is very exciting and cool.
MATTHEWS: Are you listening Barbara?
CROWLEY: Apologies to Barbara. Love her work. But the Dean campaign was very cool. The Dean campaign was sort of a trend. Young people were drawn to it. It almost felt like a social movement. And it fizzled in the end. So, who is to say?
MATTHEWS: Do you think this time that the new breed wins and the old breed doesn‘t? I‘m asking Tom first.
DEFRANK: It‘s too early to know, but what makes it different maybe this time is you‘ve got a really legitimate African-American running for president and you‘ve also got a phenomenon, a dynamic out there where the country seems to be sick of everybody.
MATTHEWS: Why does his—or him being African-American change the usual dynamic, whereby the interest group guy, the old breed insiders win and the outsiders lose?
DEFRANK: I can‘t answer that yet. But you just get a sense that there‘s something in the water. Here‘s an anecdote quickly, Chris; someone I know very well who is a card carrying Hillary lover drunk the Cool Aid but has never spun me, never spun me, for the first time in this campaign is scared you know what-less about the dynamic going on here.
MATTHEWS: Jill, who wins the insider or the outsider this time, the dreamers or the interest group crowd?
ZUCKMAN: We‘ve talked about this before. I have never seen a dreamer win. Maybe this time will be different, but this dreamer, if that‘s what we‘re calling Barack Obama, is counting on a lot of young people to come out and help him get over the top. Every dreamer who counts on young people sees it crumble in the end.
MATTHEWS: I just hope the dreamers—I can say this, if you want to vote for one of these people, vote for him. Don‘t say you were too busy going to Starbucks that day, or there was a great movie you wanted to see, or you had to link up with somebody, or hook up, or whatever the phrase is these days. Vote your beliefs.
We‘ll be right back with the round table. We‘ll talk about Rudy Giuliani and his hour with Tim yesterday. That was great television. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The latest MSNBC McClatchy poll showed John Edwards in a close third in Iowa, a more distant third in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. Today, John Edwards kicks off what he calls his Main Street Express Tour, and he joins us now from Iowa.
How is Main Street different from Straight Talk, senator?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t know, Chris, I‘m not sure it is that different.
MATTHEWS: You make up these names, I just wonder if they have some significance. That‘s all.
EDWARDS: I think in this case, we all know—you know very well from spending time in Iowa, you do an awful lot of campaigning on small town main streets in Iowa. I think that‘s what means.
MATTHEWS: When I was out there eight years ago, senator, you gave the best speech. There‘s no doubt about. Everybody who‘s a reporter knows you gave the best speeches. You had the room going, and rocking and rolling. This time around, the camera seems to have shifted to Barack and Oprah and to some lesser extent to Hillary. Is it hard to keep the spotlight on you, even though you give the best speeches?
EDWARDS: No, I don‘t think so, Chris, not in Iowa. The people here are paying very close attention. I think a lot of these caucus-goers haven‘t decide who they‘re going to caucus for yet. I think you‘re describing correctly. I think we‘re pretty much in a dead heat here. Somebody will emerge with a lot of momentum. And the things I‘m talking about, which is bringing some real change to the country and making sure everybody gets a chance, is the kind of things they respond to.
MATTHEWS: You know, you have got Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. I like both of them as actors. In fact, I really like both of them. They‘re fabulous actors. But they don‘t have the star quality of Oprah, do they?
EDWARDS: I don‘t know. Chris, I‘m the one with the star power, not these actors.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t need these show business people, is that what you‘re saying?
EDWARDS: No, I‘m just—I think it‘s great to have them, I love having my supporters. I‘m sure Barack loves having Oprah. But I think at the end of the day, mostly what they do—and I heard a little bit of your previous segment—is they get people there and then we have to make the case as to why they should caucus for us or vote for us. I think that‘s the bottom line.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the general. I look at the generic—
You know what the term generic means. You‘re an expert as politics, as
well as being a public figure. When they ask people are you going to vote
for the Democrat or the Republican next year, the answer is generally about
the latest one is incredible; it‘s 50 say Democrat and only 35 say Republican.
However, when you put Hillary‘s name up or the other guy‘s name up—
Barack‘s name up against a known Republican, a name like Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani wins. I‘m just going to ask you, have you got a better shot at being the generic Democrat than either Oprah or Hillary—Not Oprah. That‘s the trouble with this weekend—Barack or Hillary? Have you got a better shot at being the generic Democrat?
EDWARDS: Now we know who you were focused on between Barack and Oprah.
MATTHEWS: I know. It‘s my fault.
EDWARDS: Here‘s what I know, you left out the important statistic, which is that I beat Giuliani and I think all the Republicans in the national polls and I‘m the strongest general election candidate. I think most of the empirical data supports that.
MATTHEWS: How do you prove it? You got a month.
EDWARDS: Yes, good point. I think I got to make the case that the things I‘m for, what I want to do to change Washington, what I want to do to strengthen health care, end global warming, et cetera—the things I care about are things that will work everywhere in the country—that I‘m the candidate that has won in a red state, who grew up in rural America. And, you know, at the end of the day, the last two Democrats that were elected president of the United States they talk like this, Chris. I think that‘s a pretty good case to make here in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: You mean they‘re southerners?
EDWARDS: What do you think I mean?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. You‘re in a great mood, that‘s all I can tell you. Here‘s a theory some people have—I heard this from one of the top people with Barack—that Hillary Clinton‘s getting very personal attacking Barack. But knowing the history of Iowa, she knows that‘s going to hurt her. But she‘s willing to do it, even to look dirty and tough, because that‘s the only way to bring him down, and it‘s more important for her to bring him down, and let you win Iowa, and sneak past both of them. It‘s still better for her to have you survive Iowa if it will bring down—if she has to play suicide bomber, she‘s willing to do it, to make sure Barack doesn‘t win out there, that you do.
She would rather face you down the road than Barack, that‘s the theory. That‘s why you have been nice lately and Hillary is getting tougher?
EDWARDS: Yes, I‘m going to tell you, if anybody in their campaign is doing that kind of calculation that far out, all they‘re going to do is shoot themselves in the foot. We have a real battle in the trenches going on right here in Iowa, and then we‘re going to go to New Hampshire for the next battle, then to Nevada and then to South Carolina. Somebody‘s going to emerge. Somebody‘s going to have huge momentum going into February 5th. All I can say is, I know these people in Iowa. They know me. They trust me and I feel good about my chances here.
MATTHEWS: How do you have the edge, because you‘re going to have to have the edge because you‘re down in numbers. How do you get your people to show up at the Thursday night caucuses in higher percentage numbers than the other people‘s?
EDWARDS: Well, Chris, the one thing that we know how to do is organize in Iowa. I have terrific people on the ground here. We have precinct captains all over the state. We have county chairs. We have rural county chairs. And we have people who have true believers. I mean, they believe in not just me, but they believe in what we need to do to change the country. They‘ll be there on caucus night.
The people who come to my events in Iowa, those people are caucus goers. I don‘t have to guess about what percentage are going to show up, et cetera. These are people who truly believe in me and what I‘m trying to do for the country. They‘ll be there on a cold January 3rd night. The others, I guess, have to answer that for themselves.
MATTHEWS: There is an argument that you have got the labor people, the tougher people that are used to a rougher and tough life more than the elite, and that the rougher people, the tougher people, the labor people are less intimidated. They‘re willing to walk into a room because they have had to walk into rooms all their lives to get jobs. And they‘re going to be willing to walk into those rooms in a way that maybe some of the more intellectuals may not be able to handle, which is to walk where you‘re not welcome, walk where you‘re not used to being, where your comfort zone is behind you, and walk in that room and say I‘m here for John Edwards, that you might have that kind of person?
EDWARDS: I can tell you the people that are for me are fearless. They‘re not afraid of anything. They will be there on January 3rd and they‘ll stand up. They will stand up proudly. And I like my chances, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We all like you. John Edwards, thank you, sir. And how is Elizabeth doing?
EDWARDS: She‘s doing great, thank you for asking.
MATTHEWS: OK, she‘s great. Thank you very much, John Edwards, running for president. He‘s just starting out there with the Main Street Express. We‘re going to come back with the round table to see what everybody though of John Edwards just now. We can go right at him right away—I like the way we do this. We‘ll be right back with the round table, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: Why would you do business with people who helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
GIULIANI: First of all, he said was he didn‘t remember. That was his first recollection.
RUSSERT: Is that a problem?
GIULIANI: I wish he had shown Florida. It would have—
RUSSERT: But they did represent Citgo, which is run by Hugo Chavez.
GIULIANI: Tim, that‘s a stretch.
RUSSERT: It‘s not.
GIULIANI: No, no, no.
RUSSERT: One more and I‘ll give you a chance on this. One more, a Las Vegas developer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s Rudy Giuliani laughing his way through “Meet The Press” yesterday. We‘re back with the round table. Tom Defrank, those were tough questions. I thought they were brutal, at times asking Rudy if he would give Secret Service protection to his mistress in the White House? I mean, you can‘t get more—he ripped the bark off the guy and he kept laughing.
DEFRANK: This was a rare exception to the old rule, Chris, about there‘s no such thing as bad publicity. This was bad publicity. And it went on for 45 minutes. However you think Rudy Giuliani did, he spent 45 minutes having to answer bad news question. And at the end of the day, none of the stuff went away. It‘s all going to be back.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Edwards? We just saw him. He was laughing too. He‘s in a great mood. I‘m not being sarcastic, I thought he was the happiest guy I have seen on the show in months. Why is he happy when his numbers are not so great? Has he just got a different attitude about this?
CROWLEY: The key for him is to show that he‘s not out of it. There‘s some people who follow the campaigns who say it‘s Obama and Hillary. He‘s always there saying I‘m alive. I‘m well.
MATTHEWS: Jill, your last thought here. You‘re up there in New Hampshire, but let me look at his number for you. He‘s within striking distance in Iowa of just winning this thing?
ZUCKMAN: That‘s right. And he‘s working hard in New Hampshire. He‘s been laying the ground work here so that if he somehow pulls it off in Iowa, then maybe, just maybe, he could do well in New Hampshire, rather than having a come back by somebody else.
MATTHEWS: By the way, we have no way to count likely caucus attenders. Anyway, thank you Jill Zuckman, Tom Defrank and Michael Crowley. In one hour, which presidential candidates are showing the power this week? I‘ve got the power rankings at 7:00 tonight. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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