Guests: Sen. Joe Lieberman, Linda Douglass, Chrystia Freeland, Chris Cillizza, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Does Bill Clinton want his wife to win this thing?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Is John McCain back in the hunt? He‘s picked up three key endorsements over the weekend. Both “The Des Moines Register” and “Boston Globe” endorsed him, and today independent Democrat Joe Lieberman endorsed McCain. Has the maverick got the mo? We‘ve got Senator Lieberman joining us in just a moment.
Plus: What‘s going on in the Clinton headquarters? On Friday, Bill Clinton said supporting Barack Obama is, quote, “a roll of the dice.” Then this morning on the “Today” show, Hillary Clinton is asked to explain her husband‘s comments. We sort through the details.
Then Ralph Nader. A new documentary, “An Unreasonable Man,” tracks his life and political career. So what‘s he planning for ‘08?
Plus, we‘ll break down the new numbers, the poll numbers, with NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook in “Polls Apart.” And we‘ll give you your daily “Politics Fix” when our HARDBALL panel breaks down the latest campaign news.
But first, here‘s Senator Joe Lieberman endorsing John McCain today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: You know, I know it‘s unusual for a Democrat to be endorsing a Republican. It‘s even unusual for an independent Democrat like me to be endorsing a Republican. You know, political parties are important in our country, but they‘re not more important than what‘s best for our country. They‘re not more important than friendship. They‘re not more important than our future. And that‘s why I‘m proudly here to urge Republicans and independents in New Hampshire to come out on January 8 and make John McCain the next president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Lieberman joins us right now. Senator Lieberman, it is wonderful to see you back in action at the presidential level.
MATTHEWS: Here you are, sir, an independent man...
LIEBERMAN: A cameo role, Chris, right.
MATTHEWS: ... an inconvenient man—no, it‘s more than that, sir.
Are you still a Democrat in your soul? Are you a Democrat?
LIEBERMAN: I am a Democrat. But what I said today I really believe, which is that the stakes are so high in this presidential election that you got to go with the person you think provides the best leadership for our country. And I know McCain very well. For 20 years, we‘ve worked on national security, 9/11 commission, global warming, lobby and ethics reform. I think you can break through the partisan gridlock and unite the country not only to confront Islamist extremism, but to get some things done here at home. So that‘s why I supported him.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to campaign for him in New Hampshire and throughout the primaries, as long as he lasts?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. I hope he lasts a real long time. I was up there today. I‘ll do my best to help him out. I think—he is second in New Hampshire, Chris. I think people are—this race is wide open right now, and I think people are taking a second look at John. I believe he‘s got some momentum in New Hampshire, and if he wins New Hampshire, which I believe he can, I think he‘ll go on to win the nomination.
MATTHEWS: You have passed over a lot of Democrats that you know pretty well. You serve in the Senate, obviously, with Dodd, with Biden, with Clinton, with Obama. You‘ve known Bill Richardson for a long time, and all the others. Are all the others out of your consideration? Are they just not strong enough for America for you to endorse?
LIEBERMAN: Look, these are a lot of fine people. A lot of them are my friends. But you got to go with the best at this time in American history. And I think particularly on national security and the ability to work across party lines to get things done, including in the war on terrorism, John McCain is the best, so I decided to go with the best.
Incidentally, you and I are both students of the great Tip O‘Neill. All those Democrats, not one of them asked me to support them. John McCain did ask for my support. I thought about it...
MATTHEWS: You know the rule. People like to be asked.
LIEBERMAN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: You remember the most basic information. I guess—I guess I‘m wondering because it isn‘t just that the Democratic leaders who are trying to win the nomination have gone very anti-war. Even though Hillary‘s hard to read at times, the general notion is even Bill Clinton now says he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning, although I don‘t believe anybody believes that.
The party base left you in your primary last time around.
MATTHEWS: They seem to be supporting the anti-war position. So you‘re not just coming out against the current leaders on the Democratic side, you are basically at odds with the Democratic base on foreign policy right now, aren‘t you?
LIEBERMAN: I am, and I truly regret that because I am a Democrat. I became a Democrat when John F. Kennedy ran for the presidency. I was—I have been a great admirer of Truman, and people like Humphrey and Scoop Jackson afterward. And to me, what it means to be a Democrat, progressive reformist on domestic policy and a strong, principled foreign and defense policy, and I don‘t see that among the Democratic candidates.
Ironically, I see it a lot more in John McCain and any of the leading Democratic candidates. So respectfully, because I like these people—we just have a significant difference of opinion—in this election, I‘m going with John McCain.
MATTHEWS: Right now, without looking in the rearview mirror, which is of no value at all to you or to me...
MATTHEWS: I mean, I‘ve said on this show I voted for Bush the first time. I mean, not everybody can see the future, OK? I mean, we really can‘t. But looking into the future, sir, do you think John McCain will be an improvement on Bush?
LIEBERMAN: With all respect to the incumbent, I do, and I think for two reasons. One is when I say John can unite the country and break through the partisanship to go back to that tradition of partisan politics ending at the water‘s edge, which made us strong for a long time—John has strong opinions about foreign policy, but he is always reaching out to try to find common ground, to bring people together, and I think it‘ll be very important for him to do that.
Secondly, on some of the things that the current president has just
said no to, like doing anything about global warming, John has been a
leader. He and I put in the first major bill about six years ago on that
subject. So—and you know what else? You know him. He is a restless
reformer. He is unhappy with the status quo in Washington today. And
although he‘s been around here a long time, I actually think he represents
he would represent as president more change from the status quo than just about any other candidate running in either party.
MATTHEWS: So he‘s a changed candidate from the president, as you see it right now.
LIEBERMAN: I do. Look, as you know, I‘ve supported some of the basic foreign policy decisions of this administration, but I think John will not only keep those principled decisions, but he‘ll implement them in a way that will allow us to break through some of the partisanship, and that will make us stronger against the Islamist terrorists who threaten us.
And never forget that though McCain and I supported the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and neither one of us regrets that...
LIEBERMAN: ... John was very early and loud out against Secretary Rumsfeld and the Bush administration strategy in Iraq, which was not working. He said we needed more troops and we need a better counterinsurgency strategy. It‘s now being implemented under General Petraeus, and it‘s working.
MATTHEWS: Right. Does Hadassah ever give you hell for wearing that turtle—that crewneck sweater? Because I noticed all three of you gentlemen, all about my age, are all up there in New Hampshire wearing crewneck sweaters.
MATTHEWS: My wife gives me nothing but hell about crewneck sweaters.
MATTHEWS: She says they make you look fat and everything else. Why are you all three guys wearing crewneck sweaters? Let‘s take a look at this. Is this a youth vote effort by you three guys?
LIEBERMAN: No, I would say it was a matter of necessity. It was very cold in New Hampshire this morning. And I will also directly answer your provocative question. Hadassah loves that red crewneck sweater.
MATTHEWS: Well, Merry Christmas to you!
LIEBERMAN: Happy Hanukkah to you!
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much...
LIEBERMAN: Take care, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
LIEBERMAN: All the best.
MATTHEWS: Linda Douglass is with “The National Journal,” and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst. What do you make of that Howard? We‘ve seen a lot and we‘ll see more, Joe Lieberman, independent Democrat, endorsing the most—well, the most—one of the most hawkish, if not the most hawkish, Republican candidate.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, to me it‘s just a symbol of this wide open race all the way around. And to some extent, party labels don‘t matter. And in New Hampshire, that‘s particularly true. The largest group of voters in New Hampshire are undeclared.
MATTHEWS: How much swag does this guy have up there (INAUDIBLE)
FINEMAN: I think he has a little. He‘s from the lower part of New England, but it is New England.
MATTHEWS: Is there still a Scoop Jackson Democratic vote? Is there, like, a particle of the vote up there that‘s still hawkish, old school?
FINEMAN: I think there‘s a little bit. Not that much. You‘re right, most of the independent vote in New Hampshire is anti-war.
FINEMAN: It‘s a big anti-war state now. But there may be a sliver, and that‘s the one that McCain has to have, and Lieberman can help him.
LINDA DOUGLASS, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: But if you look inside the polling in New Hampshire, what you see is that people who were concerned about the war are less concerned about it now than they were.
DOUGLASS: The news about the war is better. McCain himself thinks all of that has begun to help him. It‘s begun to kind of mollify the people...
DOUGLASS: ... who were only voting on the anti-war. And secondly, what Joe Lieberman was talking about with respect to global warming, that has been a huge issue for McCain. That‘s an issue that really appeals to independents in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: Well, don‘t sell your air-conditioning just because it‘s December.
MATTHEWS: This war continues.
Here‘s Hillary Clinton this morning on the “Today” show. This is to me the hottest part of the campaign right now. It‘s what‘s going on in that Clinton inner core right now. Her, Bill, Mark Penn, Mandy Grunwald—what are they up to? They are losing ground. What are they up to? Let‘s watch this morning on “Today.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Senator, you‘re not really addressing this question, though. Your husband said it‘d be rolling the dice with America‘s future if he were elected. What is the risk to America if Barack Obama is the president?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, he not only said that, but “The Des Moines Register” editorial implied that. And a lot of people are making up their minds among real candidates, not abstractions, not hypotheticals. And I welcome that scrutiny. I welcome that kind of, you know, examination of our records, our experience, our qualifications, our vision for the country. That‘s what elections are about.
CLINTON: You know, this is...
GREGORY: But you‘re—but you‘re...
CLINTON: ... the way elections are as you move toward decision making.
GREGORY: All right. So you‘re choosing not to answer that question.
Let me ask you another issue that has to do with...
CLINTON: Well, I‘m—no. No, wait a minute. No, wait a minute. I am making the case for my candidacy.
GREGORY: Right, but your husband...
CLINTON: I am very happy that I have...
GREGORY: But Senator Clinton, his very clear statement...
CLINTON: I have strong supporters, and I have editorial support. Well, you know, I think that voters will have to judge us, and that‘s what I welcome. I invite people to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Linda, her husband takes the shot at the guy. He calls it a roll of the dice. We know what he‘s up to. He‘s not an independent pundit. He‘s her spouse. And she won‘t back it up. She‘s allowed to testify against her husband, even if she doesn‘t want to.
DOUGLASS: Well, he is kind of playing the traditional role of a vice president, where he‘s the one who goes out and says, you know, all the critical...
MATTHEWS: The (INAUDIBLE)
DOUGLASS: ... things, and she can always be positive.
MATTHEWS: But she‘s denying any relevance to what he‘s saying!
DOUGLASS: Yes. Well, you know, and it was incredible. I mean, it clearly was incredible. These two people are married to each other. They are a married couple. They‘re a political team. They obviously talk the whole thing through. But there is a theory that he‘s a little out of control right now. And one of the things...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s pushing that theory?
DOUGLASS: Well, certainly, people who are watching the campaign, people who know the Clintons...
MATTHEWS: Are the Clintons...
DOUGLASS: ... are concerned about what he‘s saying.
MATTHEWS: Are the Clinton women, as opposed to the Clinton men and the pro-Hillary Clinton people, trying to blame Bill for the recent problems? Are they getting that scary about this thing?
DOUGLASS: Everybody‘s afraid to blame Bill for anything.
MATTHEWS: Somebody‘s out there doing it in the paper.
DOUGLASS: Everybody is afraid of being quoted.
MATTHEWS: You read the papers. They‘re out there trashing the Bill. Bill—they‘re trashing Bill Clinton. I mean, that‘s pretty risky business.
FINEMAN: Well, I saw...
MATTHEWS: I would think.
FINEMAN: I saw some of the top Clinton people over the weekend, and I got a sense that they haven‘t quite formed a circular firing squad yet, but they‘re getting close because they‘re under a lot of pressure. They‘ve lost the commanding lead that she had. Barack Obama is moving around, is hard to hit. You know, he sticks and moves, sticks and moves...
MATTHEWS: Yes. What‘s this...
FINEMAN: ... in boxing terms.
MATTHEWS: ... Jonah and the whale? Are they going to throw Bill Clinton over the side...
FINEMAN: No. No.
MATTHEWS: ... because the whale wants him?
FINEMAN: They talk—Bill and Hillary talk 10 times a day, OK? They talk to—may be them right now.
FINEMAN: They talk 10 times a day, and they know what‘s going on.
Bill did not do this as a freelance matter.
FINEMAN: You‘ve got in the space of several days, Bill Shaheen from New Hampshire going after Obama, Bob Kerrey endorsing Clinton and going after Obama in an indirect way.
MATTHEWS: Well, the fact that he‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... his mother‘s a Muslim, his grandmother‘s a Muslim...
FINEMAN: And Bill Clinton doing it on “Charlie”...
FINEMAN: Bill Clinton doing it on “Charlie Rose.”
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to “Charlie Rose.” Let‘s look at the latest tat (ph) here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m telling you what I told her in January. You can‘t accuse me of lowering expectations because I disagree with the conventional wisdom of the political press.
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Are you unhappy with anything about the campaign?
CLINTON: No, I‘m—let me finish.
CLINTON: Now, you started this, so let me finish.
CLINTON: So my view of this is that I never thought she had a big lead in Iowa and never thought she could have one. But in New Hampshire, the biggest problem there is that the Republicans have been steadily attacking her for two reasons, in all their debates. They advertise against her and do all this stuff.
And I think that—but I think it‘s a miracle that Hillary has a chance to win. She might win this thing in Iowa, but—and I‘m not low-balling it. You can look at the facts here. I think it‘s a miracle because of the way the thing has played out.
CLINTON: Let me close with this because it‘s important. And fairly, we‘re over, and your people need to take you—you need to go wherever you need to go. I mean, your people are pushing me, so it‘s...
CLINTON: America may want to make a different decision. It depends on what you think—you, the voter, you, Charlie, you, everybody watching us—should be the question of this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He‘s behaving like a card shark!
MATTHEWS: I mean, here‘s a guy with a brilliant IQ, a great record in many ways, and yet he‘s sitting there at that table, trying to game the thing with the hands and all these incredibly wacky spins he‘s trying. Hillary was ahead in Iowa. She‘s been ahead in New Hampshire. Stop the nonsense! He‘s playing the old game of saying, I‘m the comeback kid. He was ahead in New Hampshire when he lost by 8 points and declared himself the winner. Are they going to pull this trick again of saying they won when they lost? Is the national press going to fall for this game again?
DOUGLASS: Well, I mean, obviously, he‘s trying to lower the expectations, but what you can really see...
MATTHEWS: Well, why would we listen to him when he‘s a total card
shark here? He‘s pushing her number, and everybody‘s talking to him, like
I mean, even Charlie‘s there, sitting like he‘s talking to a pundit!
MATTHEWS: He‘s not an independent thinker!
DOUGLASS: One of the things he said on that program that was really
interesting was when he was going after Barack Obama‘s experience, saying,
Look, this guy‘s only barely been in the Senate. He‘s the least
experienced person ever. I, myself, Bill Clinton, didn‘t run in 1988
because I decided I wasn‘t ready. Well, remember, in 1988, what really
happened was, yes, he did have a young daughter, but he also was confronted
by accusations about womanizing and...
MATTHEWS: He had his own person down there do the “bimbo eruption” check and discovered there are just too many bimbos to stop from erupting, so he decided not to run. And now to spin this around, Howard, and say, This is an object lesson for my wife? Isn‘t there any limit to the decency factor here?
FINEMAN: No. You have to be born without the gene that produces the emotion of shame in the human soul, and that‘s Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Do they go to the Jerry Lewis school of chutzpah here?
FINEMAN: And he...
MATTHEWS: I mean, where do you learn...
FINEMAN: I know.
MATTHEWS: ... not to be embarrassed by your own paper trail?
FINEMAN: He got out the phrase that they wanted to get out, which is voting for Barack Obama is a roll of the dice.
MATTHEWS: Right. They wanted that out.
FINEMAN: That‘s what they want, because this election right now, oddly enough, isn‘t about Hillary. Everybody knows Hillary. It‘s about Obama and whether the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are going to be willing to trust him.
MATTHEWS: Do the president and Mark Penn and Mandy sneak down to the reservoir of public opinion every day and throw a little poison over the side into the reservoir?
We‘ll be right back with Howard Fineman—anyway, later on tonight. First edition, 7:00 o‘clock, Howard‘s coming back. Linda, thank you very much.
Coming up, the man some say is responsible for the election of George W. Bush. In fact, a lot of people say it. Ralph Nader is coming here.
And later, new numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire. We‘re going to pick the polls apart. And tomorrow, HARDBALL hits the campaign trail. We‘ll be up in New Hampshire. Our first guy we‘re going to go after, this guy. We‘re going to spend a lot of time with him. Then we hope to spend a lot of time with John McCain, who may be on, let me put it this way, the comeback trail.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a clip (SIC) from a new documentary called “An Unreasonable”—wait a minute. That wasn‘t—anyway (INAUDIBLE) political career of former presidential candidate Ralph Nader airing tomorrow on PBS. Ralph Nader‘s here to talk about his role in the 2008 race. Nader is also the author of “The 17 Traditions.” I have to ask you about your book, first of all.
RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. You owe an apology to my mother, wherever she is, bless her soul. You said in ‘04 that she never gave us sweets when we were growing up. This is 17 ways my mom and dad raised their four children in a factory town in Connecticut in the Depression and World War II. And it‘s extremely valuable for parents today with young children. It‘s the only book I have ever written that everybody loves.
MATTHEWS: So, you are giving advice now about raising kids?
NADER: No. I am just a scribe for my parents...
NADER: ... who had very good judgment. You should do it for your son, too.
MATTHEWS: I like all parental advice.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about political advice. You are a man of the progressive spectrum.
Is there anybody in this campaign you like the looks of that can win, so that you wouldn‘t...
MATTHEWS: ... have to run? Like, for example—let me run through them—do you like Barack Obama? Do you like John Edwards? I assume you like some things about Kucinich. But about those two front-running candidates, could you support either one of those guys?
NADER: I do like Kucinich.
But the front-runners, Edwards now has the most progressive message
across a broad spectrum of corporate power damaging the interests of
workers, consumers, taxpayers, of any candidate I have—leading candidate
I have seen in years.
MATTHEWS: well, he is with you, I mean, very pro-labor, wants labor reform, wants to get rid of Taft-Hartley, a lot of things, very much for the progressive line. What problem would you have with this guy at this point? Any?
NADER: Well, let‘s see if he wins.
The key phrase is when he says he doesn‘t want to replace a corporate Republican with a corporate Democrat.
NADER: That‘s very key.
I mean, he raises the issue of the concentration of power and wealth in a few hands that are working against the interests of the vast majority of American people. The data, the documents are overwhelming in that respect.
MATTHEWS: People aren‘t used to this discussion of structural change since the ‘60s. It‘s unusual in American politics to be this clear and stark.
NADER: That‘s right. That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: When you say corporate reform, or you say you don‘t like the way the corporations dominate American life, politically, socially, economically, what is your main argument?
NADER: The main argument is what 72 percent of the American people told “Newsweek”—“BusinessWeek,” rather, in 2000, that corporations have too much control over their lives. That means they have control over their jobs. They can ship them abroad. They can give 47 million workers a non-living wage, one of every three workers.
They can block any kind of health care of all Americans, which results in thousands of deaths every year who can‘t afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine. They can distort the public budget, huge military expenditures, half of the operating budget.
MATTHEWS: So, what is the alternative to corporate power?
NADER: Sovereignty of the people. It‘s people taking back their government. It‘s people cleaning up campaign corruption, making sure the votes are counted, putting public funding for public campaigns.
It‘s empowering workers to form more unions. It‘s controlling Congress, 535 people, who put their shoes on every day, like you and me. They‘re out of control, the majority. The Democrats have been caving in the last few months, again, on energy, on the war, on the food farm bill, on civil liberties. You can‘t make a long enough list...
MATTHEWS: Why do labor—let me ask you about big labor.
MATTHEWS: When you and I were growing up, it was George (INAUDIBLE)...
NADER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... the guy with the big cigar. He would walk on the Hill, and everybody would light his cigar.
MATTHEWS: What happened to the power of labor? Why did the corporations win all the big fights?
MATTHEWS: Because you don‘t hear of any big strikes anymore. The labor—we can live with the writers strike, but, in terms of big structure of American industry, nobody—nobody is ever striking.
NADER: The laws in NLRB are very obstructive, more obstructive than any other Western country for workers forming unions. Then comes NAFTA, WTO that reduces or strips the workers of bargaining.
MATTHEWS: By creating a global labor market and everything else.
MATTHEWS: ... all the resources.
NADER: You guys in this factory in Louisiana, you want to start a union? We will be over the border. We will be in China in a few months. So...
MATTHEWS: And that‘s how it works?
NADER: That‘s how it works. And the other thing is...
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens? You are tough on corporations.
NADER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s what you do. You are a reformer. But what happens when Chrysler—this is what I worry about—when the Chryslers sell their companies to Cerberus, to some equity company, that has absolutely no personal responsibility or corporate responsibility for workers‘ retirement, for the health care of an 80-year-old guy whose family worked three generations for a company making cars?
MATTHEWS: What happens when that happens? Won‘t we wish we had the corporations back again?
No. What it—well, actually, the private equity are stripping the shareholders and investors of any power over them.
MATTHEWS: I have got to ask you.
MATTHEWS: We talked about your book, “Seventeen Traditions,” by Ralph Nader. It‘s available in bookstores, right?
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about politics.
A lot of Democrats, not on the left, center-left, mainly, blame you for the last election, because your numbers were so damn high in Florida. You got almost 100,000 votes in Florida. You had success down there. You did promise beforehand you weren‘t going to go into contested states, right?
NADER: I didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t you promise that?
NADER: No. That‘s what that movie will show you beyond any reasonable doubt...
MATTHEWS: You never promise that?
What I said was, it‘s a 50-state race. I wasn‘t going to have any favorites. By the way, Gore won in Florida. Lots of people think Gore won in Florida, including reporters in your profession.
MATTHEWS: Well, it smelled like that when I was down there before the election.
MATTHEWS: But he didn‘t get the numbers.
And by pushing Gore to take more progressive policies, unlike what Lieberman wanted him to do...
NADER: ... social scientists have concluded that the Green campaign got more votes for Gore than drew votes from him.
MATTHEWS: By pulling him over to the left...
NADER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... you think you succeeded in making him more attractive to the middle?
NADER: That‘s been documented. Every time he went out after the oil, drug, insurance companies...
MATTHEWS: Yes, he did a lot of that. He was trying to catch you.
NADER: ... his polls—his polls went up.
MATTHEWS: There‘s no doubt.
MATTHEWS: You were pulling around 9 percent. He got you down lower than that because he was pulling from the left, right?
NADER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: I knew what he was doing.
MATTHEWS: But a lot of people think that pulled him away from the center.
NADER: That‘s—no, no. Basically, it‘s a false assessment of what happened in 2000. You repeated it again in the intro...
NADER: ... which you should be ashamed of.
MATTHEWS: No, no, I‘m not ashamed of it, because the original draft was much tougher.
NADER: The other thing is—the other thing is...
MATTHEWS: What I‘m saying is—I wrote, most people...
MATTHEWS: ... obviously, many people—I‘m talking, every time I talk to a real Democrat, in other words somebody who is really the kind of person who works for the Democratic Party, they blame you. They‘re quite clear about it.
NADER: Yes. That‘s because they don‘t want any competition. They want a monopoly of liberal and progressive voters. What‘s new, right? That‘s the same thing that you see...
MATTHEWS: Well, then you are admitting you are splitting the vote.
NADER: No, no, no.
If they took the agenda—we have a Web site open, still, votenader.org, from ‘04. You look at that agenda, and you ask yourself, wouldn‘t the old Democrats have taken it away, and gotten more votes, living wage, full universal health care, restructuring of the tax system, giving more voice to ordinary folks?
NADER: They didn‘t. And that‘s the reason they lost.
MATTHEWS: But, if you got robbed of an election, and you felt you had been robbed like Gore, and you saw a guy like you, as an attractive man of the left, and have gotten 100,000 votes in Florida, 20-some-thousand in New Hampshire, you would say, wait a minute. I got my votes shaved. This guy shaved me. He took off my percent. Look at these numbers. He took away my winning percentages.
NADER: What you are not looking at is a quarter of a million Democrats in Florida who voted for Bush. You are not looking at what Jeb Bush did with Kathleen (sic) Harris to steal the election.
NADER: By the way, ask Gore why he thinks he won the election and it
was stolen from him/
MATTHEWS: He may be more genteel about it.
NADER: We shouldn‘t do that. We should have more voices and choices.
MATTHEWS: Is it possible that Ralph Nader will be part of the Democratic coalition come next summer, that it‘s possible that the nominee is Barack Obama, for example? Is there a plausibility that you will be out there endorsing him come next November, if he were the nominee?
NADER: Because he doesn‘t have the agenda.
If Edwards wins, if he wins the whole nomination, and he doesn‘t back off, as they do when they win the nomination...
MATTHEWS: He‘s in contention for Green Party support?
NADER: Well, the people in Iowa and New Hampshire have to ask themselves one question. Who is going to fight for them?
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think Barack has got it?
NADER: It‘s enough that millions of voters vote for politicians who vote against their interests. We have got to get over that. This issue is about the voters.
MATTHEWS: I am amazed that you have now excluded Barack Obama from the progressive coalition.
NADER: He has excluded himself by the statements he has made, unfortunately. He is a lot smarter than his public statements, which are extremely conciliatory to concentrated power and big business.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
The name of your book is “The Seventeen Traditions.” It‘s about?
NADER: How my parents raised their four children. It‘s very helpful to parents today. And, tomorrow, the movie.
MATTHEWS: Good, the movie is called “The Unreasonable Man”—“An Unreasonable Man.” And you have pride in that title?
NADER: Well, it‘s not my title. It‘s not my movie. But it will motivate...
MATTHEWS: Are you an unreasonable man?
NADER: It will motivate people to become more active.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you, my—one of my heroes, Ralph Nader, despite what you have just seen.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Is the Clinton campaign at it again? Last week, it was cocaine. Now a top Clinton supporter is dropping something else on poor Barack Obama. They keep doing it. It looks like scorched earth.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new out there politically?
Well, finally, someone is actually doing something real about stopping illegal immigration into this country. And his name is Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat. Virginia is requiring from now on that all its drivers off up proof of their legal residence in our country before they can get a license to drive a car.
You might recall that nearly half of the 9/11 hijackers got their driver‘s licenses, their way of getting on those planes that terrible day, from Virginia.
Congratulations to Governor Kaine for attacking this problem at its roots. Nobody should come in this country illegally. Nobody should hire anybody who does. And, from now on, employers in Virginia, at least, will have no excuse for breaking the law.
What the hell is Bob Kerrey doing? Here‘s what Clinton-boosting Kerrey said about Barack Obama out in Iowa the other day—quote—“It‘s probably not something that appeals to him”—here, he is talking about Obama himself—“but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim, and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There‘s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims. And I think that experience is a big deal.”
Well, I, as a friend and somebody who likes Bob Kerrey, sincerely hopes that Kerrey is appealing to our optimism here, and not simply poisoning the well, like some of the other people have been doing against Barack.
Finally, it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.
What would it be like to have Bill Clinton back in the White House? Well, it‘s a question all of us have had to consider at one time or another, all of us. It‘s a less polite way of wondering whether Bill could pull another Monica.
Well, thanks to a new poll from “The New York Daily News” just out, we now know where America stands on that pivotal question. Fifteen percent of Americans worry that big Bill could cause more trouble if Hillary gets elected.
I take that as the latest wondrous example of my country‘s unrivaled capacity for optimism.
Fifteen percent, tonight‘s “Big Number.
Up next, we will take you inside the Iowa ground game, as the campaigns dig up one last effort at finding support out there.
Plus, we will pick the latest polls apart with Charlie Cook.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
More big losses today—the Dow Jones industrials fell 172 points.
The S&P 500 lost 22. The Nasdaq dropped 61 points.
Weighing on stocks, worries about the prospects of a slowing economy and rising prices, the situation known as stagflation. With inflation on the rise, it means the Fed won‘t be able to cut interest rates further to boost the economy. But President Bush insisted today, the economy is sound. Still, in a speech in Virginia, he said there are definitely some storm clouds and concerns because of the credit crunch and the mortgage problems.
And America‘s trade deficit narrowed in the third quarter to the lowest level in two years. Analysts credit the declining dollar with making the U.S. a global bargain basement.
And oil fell 64 cents today in New York, closing at $90.63 cents a barrel.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With just 17 days to go before the Iowa caucuses, the campaigns are hitting the pavement hard, searching for last-minute support for their candidates.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster went door to door in Iowa with some Edwards campaign volunteers.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s 23 degrees in Perry, Iowa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch the ice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re hitting ice.
SHUSTER: And this county is still reeling from a nasty winter storm.
MARKEYA MCDANIEL, EDWARDS VOLUNTEER: No wonder all those cars were in the ditch on the highway.
SHUSTER: But Markeya McDaniel, Phil Deets (ph), and Leo Hedden (ph), are United Steelworkers. Their union is one of a dozen backing John Edwards.
MCDANIEL: She is undecided. Put undecided.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She‘s 50/50, Hillary and Edwards.
SHUSTER: Providing organizational muscle and canvassing door to door.
MCDANIEL: What issues are most important to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care?
MCDANIEL: Health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-huh.
MCDANIEL: People we have encountered in Iowa, they‘re like, you drove all the way here from Indiana?
I mean, but it‘s been nice. I mean, I have had fun so far. We will be here the whole week. And, hopefully, we will convince some people to get on board with the Edwards plan and get him elected.
SHUSTER: Aside from the unfriendly animals and the fierce campaign competition, there are some confusing house numbers.
MCDANIEL: Orvi (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who?
MCDANIEL: Orvi Moore (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they don‘t live here.
SHUSTER: And several people are not home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will try the other one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not home.
SHUSTER: A half-hour into this effort, they hit pay dirt. One household after another seems receptive to the Edwards message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any issues that concern you and your family?
STACY VAUGHN, RESIDENT OF IOWA: I guess the biggest thing is the war in Iraq.
SHUSTER: Stacy Vaughn is leaning to Bill Richardson, and, yet:
VAUGHN: Oh, yeah. Anybody that braves Iowa winter...
VAUGHN: ... deserves some points.
SHUSTER (on camera): And does it mean that you would then sort of look at the literature and possibly as a second choice?
VAUGHN: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We take it—we take it very seriously, so, yeah.
SHUSTER (voice-over): Near the shadow of the town water tower, the canvassers head to the home of Denise Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If given the opportunity, do you know who you will be caucusing for?
DENISE JACKSON, RESIDENT OF IOWA: At this—I still don‘t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Undecided at the moment?
JACKSON: I‘m still undecided, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
SHUSTER: So, what is the impact of a face-to-face visit?
JACKSON: It makes you stop and think a little bit more beyond what you are hearing on the news or what you are getting in the mail.
SHUSTER (on camera): In small towns like this one, the canvassing is especially important, because, under Iowa‘s caucus system, rural areas are given more weight than urban ones. In other words, here in Perry, 25 caucus-goers carry as much impact as 250 in Des Moines.
(voice-over): And these canvassers are just the first of hundreds of union members who will be pouring into Iowa over the next two weeks to help the Edwards campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of just sitting on the couch saying, oh, man, I wish things would just change; it makes me feel like at least I‘m getting out and trying to help make a change.
SHUSTER: A change one house and one icy sidewalk at a time.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Perry, Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. Tomorrow, we‘ll be on the campaign trail up in New Hampshire with John Edwards. Time now to pick the polls apart with Charlie Cook, who writes “The Cook Political Report” and is an NBC News political analyst. Charlie is sitting with me. Let‘s take a look at these numbers.
Here we have the Real Clear Politics numbers. These are the average poll numbers coming out of Iowa. Huckabee at 34. Huckabee—Romney at 23, Giuliani at 10, Thompson. Looks like Huckabee is way ahead in Iowa.
Let‘s take a look at the Democratic side. We were looking at John Edwards. That one is very much in contention. Look at this, Obama 30, Clinton 26,. Edwards 23 percent. Charlie, let‘s talk Democrats. Looks like that is tight.
CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: That is tight. The thing is, I guess if you were going to say, where are all the pundits—if we had egg all over our faces, it would be John Edwards, because here‘s a guy that started off the year ahead, really seemed to fade as the year progressed. But he is hanging in there, and he is only, you know, seven points out of first place.
MATTHEWS: What‘s his plus?
COOK: I think he created a reservoir of goodwill back in 2004 that seems to last. He is sort of a guy from a small town. I think sort of the small town values seems to relate, where he is hanging in there, where we all had given him up for dead.
MATTHEWS: Is this the white guy playing it safe choice? I‘m being blunt. You‘ve got a woman and an African-American running. Is this Bill Clinton thing about rolling the dice working? Are you rolling the dice voting for him? Does that help? Is Bill Clinton cleverly shifting the vote away from Obama, even if it means going to Edwards?
COOK: The reason I‘m hesitant about that is that Edwards‘ vote—first of all, I think a lot of the guys that would have responded to an argument like that, white guys—I think they left the Democratic party about 20 years ago.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t mean ethnic problems with people—prejudice or whatever—I hate to judge it too severely. I‘m talking about people worried that it might be tougher for Obama or tougher for Hillary than it would be for Edwards to win in the general and beat the Republicans?
COOK: I think Edwards gives—listen to Ralph Nader. He gives the most unfiltered, liberal populist message in this race.
MATTHEWS: He‘s to the left of the other candidates?
COOK: Absolutely. I think that maybe the key, is that, you know, duh, a guy running to the left in a Democratic caucus.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, everybody is being safe here. Let‘s take a look at the latest New Hampshire. This is again the Real Clear Politics average, which we‘re using all this year. Up in New Hampshire, it tells you what the average of all the polls are. There you have—you have Hillary Clinton ahead of Obama, but—
I‘m sorry, we‘ll start with the Republicans up there. You‘ve got—look at that, Romney still substantially ahead at 32 to 19. You‘ve got Giuliani somewhere in the pack for second. Huckabee still in the running. In fact, if he wins in Iowa, he could move right up, right?
COOK: Yes. I think the biggest single determinant of what goes on in the Republican primary in New Hampshire is what happens in the Iowa Democratic caucus. If Hillary Clinton were to win Iowa and the Democratic nomination looks shuts down, you‘re going to have a huge influx of independents moving over into that Republican primary. McCain goes up. Hey, Ron Paul goes up.
On the other hand, if Obama beats Clinton in Iowa, and that‘s the sizzle race—that grabs the attention—that‘s when I think you would see independents flocking into that Republican—into the Democratic primary, and leave the Republican primary very, very, very Republican, and that helps Romney a lot.
MATTHEWS: Well, you said that the Democratic party may not have the most interesting race if Hillary wins in Iowa. If she doesn‘t, look what happens here. If Hillary loses in Iowa, which right now she‘s forecasted to lose, look at Obama. He gets that ten-point bump, he is way past her in New Hampshire, right?
COOK: Right. If Obama—there will be—the poor Republican winner in Iowa will be on page ten if Obama were to win in Iowa. It would just grab all the attention.
MATTHEWS: So let‘s ask you to make an unusually subjective judgment. If New Hampshirite gets to vote in the most—if they think there‘s a race on the Democratic side, they find that the most exciting vote to cast. It‘s more fun to vote in the Democratic primary if you have an independent vote than it is to vote in the Republican primary, if it‘s Obama?
COOK: Well, independents never split down the middle. They go for the sizzle race. And I think there‘s a higher percentage chance of the Democratic race being the sizzle race than the Republican side.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Charlie Cook. The sizzle race, Hillary against a, Obama against Hillary, if Obama wins in Iowa.
Up next, what‘s happening to the Clinton campaign? We‘re going inside that campaign with our politics fix tonight. There‘s something going on, maybe screwy. Maybe it‘s like Captain Queeg in the “Caine Mutiny.” Somebody is revolving those ball bearings around in their hands.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Now, it‘s time for the Politics Fix with our round table. Chris Cillizza is with the WashingtonPost.com. Chrystia Freeland is with “The Financial Times.” And Jonathan Allen is with the “Congressional Quarterly.”
Let‘s take a look right now at a comment made by Bill Clinton on the “Charlie Rose Show.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically we have to throw away all these experienced people because they‘ve been through the worst of the 1990s and they‘ve made enough decisions and enough calls that they‘ve made a few mistakes, and what we want is somebody who started running for president a year after he became a senator because he is fresh; he is new; he has never made a mistake; and he has massive political skills; and we‘re willing to risk it.
I—even when I was a governor, and young, and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic party, I didn‘t run the first time. I could have.
CHARLIE ROSE, “THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW”: That would have been 1988?
CLINTON: 1988. I had lots of Democratic governors encouraging me too. I knew in my bones I shouldn‘t run, that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn‘t think I was ready to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that, of course, is ridiculous. Chris Cillizza, the reason he didn‘t run, according to every book that‘s been written, is because he was warned about the bimbo eruptions and told you better not try it right away. Let‘s get to the reality here. It looks to me, Chris—you first—that Bill Clinton is out there on point right now. They‘re worried about Obama winning in Iowa, winning in New Hampshire after that; and their whole strategy right now is to break that guy‘s pick, to make sure he doesn‘t come out of this a hero in the next two, three weeks.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: You know, Chris, the problem always, I think, when you are talking about running against Hillary Clinton is the reality is you are running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. For all of Bill Clinton‘s foibles, he is probably still the most popular politician, certainly in the Democratic party.
MATTHEWS: So you think this attack on—his attack on Barack is going to work?
CILLIZZA: Yes, I do. I think people generally trust him and they—frankly, in the research that I have seen, they like him more than—him, Bill Clinton, more than they like her, Hillary Clinton. You know, I think a lot of us in the journalism world think that the argument you get two for the price of one won‘t work. You know, I was out in Iowa last week, Chris, and lot of people, the first thing they said about why they were supporting Hillary Clinton is because Bill Clinton is her husband. So don‘t underestimate the power that he still keeps in the party.
MATTHEWS: Chrystia, do you accept that, that he is OK and he works as an attack dog?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “THE FINANCIAL TIMES”: Actually, I think that it could backfire. I absolutely agree with Chris that Bill is a terrifically popular politician, as he himself suggested in that fabulous Charlie Rose interview. He is the most talented politician of his generation. But I think that there‘s something that rankles a little bit, particularly in the harshness of his comments. I think that‘s a danger for the Clinton campaign that having Bill out there front and center will remind people of the dynastic elements of Hillary‘s campaign, and will remind people that when she talks about her experience, a lot of it is as first lady; and maybe that‘s not all that relevant.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Obama countering what looks to be Bill‘s attack on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand there‘s a history of politics being all about slash and burn. I recall the Clintons themselves calling the politics a personal destruction, which they decry. And, you know, my suspicion is that that is just not where the country is at right now. They are not interested in politics as a blood sport. They‘re interested in governance and solving problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think Bill Clinton is leashed or unleashed here in his attacks? Is he being told to do this by the high command?
JONATHAN ALLEN, “THE CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: I think he is part of the high command, and I think he is doing the attacks with the ascent of everyone in the Clinton campaign. Of course, they‘re trying to go after Obama right now. But it falls apart when there are some disagreements between Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and her advisers on what‘s going on. Nobody wants the melodrama, the soap opera of the Clintons fighting.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, do you think that they‘re systematic in letting Bill do the attacks, show his teeth, trashing Barack Obama so Hillary doesn‘t have to do it? By the way, she wouldn‘t back him up today with David Gregory. You noticed that? Then, at the same time, leaking the fact that they‘re upset about the fact that he is a little out of control. Are they doing all this—
ALLEN: It‘s all orchestrated. It‘s all systematic.
MATTHEWS: Chrystia, do you buy this? This is all one big symphony. Let Bill Clinton show his teeth. Let Hillary look like a lady. And somehow hope it all trashes Obama?
FREELAND: I certainly think that Bill Clinton is part of the high command. But, again, I think they have to be careful, because you don‘t want a president who needs to be protected by her husband. You want someone who can take care of herself.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back on that point. More with that. We‘ll be back with Chris Cillizza to follow up. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table for the Politics Fix. I have to go back to John. I‘m looking at this thing and I‘m watching people like Bob Kerrey show up, who you used to think of as an independent force in American politics. You know, he gave up his Senate seat. He dated Debra Winger. A lot of things that suggests a really independent guy.
ALLEN: An officer and a gentleman.
MATTHEWS: Then he moves to New York and becomes president of the New School, a big school. And now he is out there sort of playing whatever for Hillary, saying things all about Barack Obama having a Muslim father and having Hussein for a middle name. You got to wonder if this isn‘t the invasion of the body snatchers.
ALLEN: I think what you have going on here is a lot of Democrats who are looking at possible jobs in the Clinton administration potentially. They look at—if they‘re on her side and not on Obama‘s side, he is going to have to forgive a lot of Democrats for that, anyway. If you get on the wrong side of her and she becomes president, you are out. Also, Kerrey is living in New York now. We know he wants to get back in the Senate. Maybe he will run for her Senate seat if she wins.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Chris Cillizza, are these the meal tickets lining up? Is that that what we‘re watching?
CILLIZZA: Think Jonathan is right to a point. Remember, though, that Hillary Clinton was always going to be the establishment candidate. I don‘t care who else ran. She was always going to be the establishment candidate because of her husband, because of the reach the Clintons have within the party. That works, but only to a point. All the weight of the establishment support behind her, and it feels like she‘s announcing three or four endorsements from elected officials a day—
All that weight is all well and good if you win. If you lose, that weight all of a sudden becomes a crushing weight on you.
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking about the moral weight on these people who are willing to do anything now. You got Vilsack out there, Strickland, Evan Bayh. Every day I pick up a paper, there‘s another quote from somebody who is a wannabe saying whatever the Clinton people told them to say, apparently.
CILLIZZA: Politics is politics, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me find some outrage here. Can I get some from Chrystia? I‘m not getting any from you. Chrystia, aren‘t you appalled at the willingness of these people to become castratos in the chorus here, or whatever they are? What do you call them? I don‘t know what they are. What do you think of these people?
FREELAND: I‘m not going to comment on whether they have been castrated or not, but what I do think is interesting is whether these stings are really going to work. In the Charlie Rose interview with President Bill Clinton, a really interesting point was when he accused journalists of being stenographers for picking up on that Barack Obama wanted to be president in Kindergarten line. Clearly the press reaction clearly bothers them.
And I am wonder if anything they‘re going to get as much mileage as they think out of comments like this Muslim one. So, you know, I think that it can cut both ways. You know, the Obama line about saying, I don‘t want to practice the politics of personal destruction. Maybe people will like that.
MATTHEWS: Are the Clintons so determined to destroy Barack Obama that they‘re willing to let Edwards win in Iowa?
ALLEN: They want John Edwards to win in Iowa if they don‘t, because Barack Obama, to them, is the long-term threat. John Edwards, they think they can beat. If they can‘t beat—if they can‘t win themselves, they want Edwards to win.
MATTHEWS: I think they would rather come in third to Edwards than second to Barack. Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza. Thank you, Chrystia Freeland. Thank you Jonathan Allen. In one hour, which presidential candidates are showing power this week? Join me for the HARDBALL power rankings at 7:00. And in the next couple of nights, we‘ll be up there in New Hampshire. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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