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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, April 23, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Rep. Mac Thornberry, Roger Simon, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Ed Gordon, Chris Cillizza

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Who ordered the torture?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight, exposing the torture chambers.  Can we stand the truth?  Can the American people stand to know who approved the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists?  Should the big shots be brought before the courtroom of national opinion and be forced to admit what they did in a desperate, perhaps, misguided effort to get the truth from those who hate us?

Democrats seem united.  They want us to know it all, as the Senate Armed Services report concluded, that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, for example, was not the work of a so-called “few bad apples” but resulted from the guidelines laid down by those at the top—the nudity, the use of dogs, the whole effort to humiliate prisoners, so soften them up for interrogation.  The Democrats also want to know who approved the waterboarding.  They don‘t like torture.

Republicans are divided.  The Republican senators on the Armed Services Committee, including ranking member John McCain, voted for that Senate report that put blame for the abuse of prisoners up the chain of command.  Other Republicans, like Senator John Ensign last night, tried to dismiss the committee expose as a “Democrat report,” in spite of Republican senators who signed the report.  Republicans are also divided over waterboarding, with former POW John McCain again totally against torture of any kind.  But generally Republicans, including McCain, don‘t want what he calls a “witch hunt” to find out those who approved the methods.

Whether we call it torture or enhanced interrogation techniques or coercive interrogation, whatever we call it, here‘s the basic question.  Does it work?  There would be no argument, no debate about this if we knew for certain that information gotten that way was unreliable.  Case closed.  Why do it?

But if you knew that by putting someone‘s head in a vise, the way they do in the movies, that you could save hundreds of American lives, well, that creates a moral dilemma.  We know innocent people die in war, but we don‘t argue that all wars are wrong all the time.  So tonight, let‘s get to the bottom of it, two views on whether torture works and some tough questions for both guests.

Plus, it seems no one in Washington can wait to talk about the success or failure of President Obama‘s first 100 days, so the debate has started on day 94.  That‘s today.  The Associated Press has a poll out today with some very strong numbers for the president.  The White House is falling all over itself to shape the debate.  And of course, “Time” magazine‘s Joe Klein is with us tonight.  He has a piece saying, quote, “Obama‘s start has been the most impressive of any president since FDR.”  Pretty high praise.  Joe joins us in a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, listen to what the Republican leadership is saying.  Here‘s House minority leader John Boehner today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  The meeting comes, as we all know, as we near the 100-day mark.  And I think if you look at the first 100 days, you can sum it up pretty simply—spending, taxing, borrowing, and ducking the hard choices.


MATTHEWS:  Is this any way to go after the enormously popular president?  Well, we‘ll bring on the HARDBALL strategists, a Republican and a Democrat, to go at that one.

And you can believe, if you will, Rod Blagojevich these days.  He‘s actually said he wants to star in that reality show of NBC because of the good he could do for society.  That‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight.  And of course, it‘s going to be funny.

And finally, some needed life advice to those graduating from college next month and to their very worried parents about how to help their sons and daughters strike out for themselves in these tough times.  It‘s in my new book, appropriately called “The HARDBALL Handbook.”

We start with the hard question tonight, whether stuff like waterboarding works.  U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry‘s a Republican from Texas.  He sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, there was an article in “The New York Times” today, an op-ed, a former special agent of the FBI, and he questioned a high-ranking al Qaeda official.  That was, of course, Zubaydah.  And he says in “The Times” today, quote, “It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative.  I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August.  Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.  We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.  There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah that wasn‘t or couldn‘t have been gained from regular tactics.”

Now, here‘s an expert, FBI guy, no sweetheart.  He engaged in interrogations, tough ones.  And he says the good stuff about KSM, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was gotten by the regular methods, not by waterboarding, et cetera.  Your view?

REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Well, I don‘t know of anyone who was involved in the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who disagrees with the fact that we were getting nothing from him before the enhanced techniques were used.  We got a lot of information after they were used, and that information prevented another attack.

So in some carefully controlled circumstances, used by professionals, we know they can be helpful.  That doesn‘t mean that all these people who are tossing around words like torture and...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like the word torture.

THORNBERRY:  No.  I don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

THORNBERRY:  I think people are too free with the use.  I recommend folks go on the Internet and read these memos because you will get a real feel for the carefully controlled, doctor-supervised...


THORNBERRY:  ... circumstances under which these things were used.  I think the...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘re consistent with the Geneva Conventions?  Because our own services believe that these are among the methods used by our enemy, for example in North Korea by the Chinese communists, that violate the Geneva Conventions, and that‘s what they trained them to resist.  Now, to be consistent, if we say they broke the Geneva Conventions by using them, the Chinese communists, are we breaking them?

THORNBERRY:  Well, we know...

MATTHEWS:  If we use the same methods.

THORNBERRY:  We know for sure that we did use these methods in training our own folks on how—on what (ph) to happen in case they are shot down over enemy territory.

MATTHEWS:  And are captured by people who, in the language of the DoD, do not abide by the Geneva Conventions.  So if we say that is our judgment about the behavior when followed by our enemies, does it apply to us?  Are we breaking the Geneva Conventions when we waterboard?

THORNBERRY:  Again, if you go back and read the memos, under the carefully controlled circumstances—and all of those memos talk about if it‘s used in just this way, just this length of time, under just this supervision, it is permitted.

I‘ll tell you, the—even the more serious issue, though, is are you going to protect those guys that relied upon that legal memo, or are you going to hang them out to dry?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think the president has said he‘s not going to hang them out to dry.

THORNBERRY:  Well, but then he goes back to the White House and changes his mind and says, Maybe we‘ll prosecute some of the people who wrote the memos.

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s different.

THORNBERRY:  Well, but if you are...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s wrong with going after the policy makers if the policy broke the law?

THORNBERRY:  Well, here‘s the key.  You‘d have a pep rally at CIA to try to improve their morale.


THORNBERRY:  And then, by the time you get back to the White House, you say, Well, maybe we‘ll go after some of these people after all.  What does that do to the morale of people who are out there risking their lives?  It cuts their legs out from under them.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the most important thing about America, our morality or our morale?  What‘s more important?

THORNBERRY:  Here‘s what I think.

MATTHEWS:  What?  Is it—is it more—you suggest that the most important thing in the world is the morale...

THORNBERRY:  I didn‘t say the most important thing in the world.

MATTHEWS:  ... of our CIA agents.

THORNBERRY:  No.  I think it is—their morale is important in keeping this country safe.  And you‘re already seeing as a result—I think President Obama could do whatever he wanted on keeping these techniques or stopping them...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think you‘re wrong.

THORNBERRY:  No, that‘s a different...

MATTHEWS:  What we‘re hearing from the agents, from the officials at

the CIA, who‘ve dedicated their lives to being spies—they say they don‘t

like being blamed for policy.  They want the policy makers blamed.  Why

aren‘t you willing to blame the policy makers, if they did something wrong

the policy makers—not the agents, the top guys?

THORNBERRY:  No, but here‘s what‘s wrong, is to tell these CIA agents, Here‘s the policy...


THORNBERRY:  ... under a memo that comes from the Justice Department.


THORNBERRY:  They ought to be able to rely on that.  Now, to go back and question that and drag all this out again, it makes all of those agents less likely to do anything else, and it makes...

MATTHEWS:  But we‘re already doing that...


THORNBERRY:  It makes other countries less likely to work with us.

MATTHEWS:  But Congressman, the new president of the United States, elected by the American people, says we‘re not going to waterboard anymore.  So every CIA person knows we‘re changing our policy.  So what‘s wrong with blaming people who set up a different policy?  They‘re not being blamed.  They know the policy‘s changed.  The question is, Was the old policy American or not?  You say it was.

THORNBERRY:  No.  No.  Here‘s what I think.  I think those are issues that were debated in the last campaign.


THORNBERRY:  We can continue to have a perpetual campaign against the Bush administration...


THORNBERRY:  ... but if we do that, we are going to miss out on doing what we need to do to protect the country in the future.  And that‘s what this smacks of.

MATTHEWS:  Does it bother you that Republican members of the Senator Armed Services Committee, your parallel committee, all of them signed onto a document, which just came out the other day, that basically pointed to the higher-ups as responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib?

THORNBERRY:  Oh, I think there‘s no doubt there was systematic failure in the prison system...

MATTHEWS:  Not just a few bad apples.

THORNBERRY:  ... systematic failure in the prison system that allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib to occur, and it was—has been devastating to this country.  There is no doubt about that.

MATTHEWS:  Should we investigate the civilians at the Defense Department who advocated that way of treating prisoners?

THORNBERRY:  No.  They—no civilians at the Defense Department advocating doing what they did at Abu Ghraib.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what this report says.

THORNBERRY:  No, it says there were systematic problems, where they did not properly supervise their people and that these improperly supervised people thought they could do it like the experts could.  Now, that‘s a problem.

MATTHEWS:  Let me read to you this...


THORNBERRY:  ... devastating for the country.

MATTHEWS:  This is what the report says, signed by McCain and all the other Republicans, as well.  “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of a few bad apples acting on their own.  The fact is that senior officials in the U.S. government, civilians, solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearances of their legality and then authorized their use against detainees.  These efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate information, accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hands of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

That‘s a pretty damning report by both Republicans and Democratic senators.

THORNBERRY:  Sure.  I don‘t think anybody can contest that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were horrible for our larger purposes in the world.  That is a different question from saying, OK, now we‘re going to give al Qaeda and the world our playbook, and we‘re going to tell them that we won‘t belly slap or we won‘t have sleep deprivation or the other specific...

MATTHEWS:  But we already know this now.  It‘s in the report what‘s—everybody in America knows that we waterboarded.  Everybody knows we waterboarded.  Everybody knows we paraded people around naked, that we used dogs to scare people.  That‘s all in this Senate report, and it‘s already been released, Congressman.  The public knows this.

THORNBERRY:  You‘re confusing two things.

MATTHEWS:  OK, which two?

THORNBERRY:  Well, the systematic problems at Abu Ghraib are indefensible.

MATTHEWS:  But they come from the top.

THORNBERRY:  What we‘re—no, they did not...

MATTHEWS:  According to this report by the Senate committee, they all come from the top.

THORNBERRY:  You can say that the secretary of defense and the president are responsible for everything that goes on in their administration.  But my point is, if you go on a witch hunt and try to blame every person in the chain of command, you are going to lose some protection that we need in the future, and that is not fair to any of the professionals who were involved.

The way to deal with these problems is through elections.  We had one.  President Obama won.  Now, if he wants to continue to campaign, obviously, he can, but he will make it much harder to protect the country or have any semblance of bipartisanship on the other big issues that are facing us.

MATTHEWS:  Let me read you some of the report.  This is from the chairman of the committee, Carl Levin, the other day.  “Claims such as those made by former defense (SIC) secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to an unauthorized act of a few bad apples were simply false.”  Let me to through this.  The dogs, all those awful pictures—we can show them again tonight—of the way dogs were used to intimidate prisoners.  Quote...

THORNBERRY:  You understand this is different from the torture and the



MATTHEWS:  This is where the cover-up, I believe from the beginning, came from the top.  And now the Senate committee, a bipartisan report, said all this crap came from the top.  Listen to this.  “The Army dog handler at Abu Ghraib told military investigators in February 2004 that, Someone from military intelligence gave me a list of cells for me to go see and pretty much have any dog bark at them.  Having the dogs bark at detainees was psychologically breaking them down for interrogation methods.”

Now, people like Cambone, the civilian leaders of the Defense Department, went from Gitmo.  They went over to Iraq and they spread the word, You got to soften up these prisoners, and they softened them up by humiliating them with dogs, by making them pose—hang around nude for weeks at a time.

All this stuff came from the top, and it‘s all in this report.  And now you‘re saying it‘s just some systemic problem.  You‘re not blaming the politicians, is all I‘m asking.  Who do you blame?

THORNBERRY:  It is a systemic problem and...

MATTHEWS:  Who do you blame?

THORNBERRY:  I don‘t know.  You know, I think we have a lot of blame gaming.  I think there has been an incredible amount of investigation on Abu Ghraib and who was responsible...

MATTHEWS:  Not enough.

THORNBERRY:  Maybe.  People have lost their jobs.  People have gone to jail because of it, and I think that‘s appropriate.  That‘s a different thing.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I was on this show, Congressman, for weeks listening to the stonewalling from this administration, week after week.  It‘s just a few bunch of country people like Lynndie England.  They‘re not that educated.  They‘re just regular people.  It‘s all—they‘re crazy people.  No, the big shots had nothing to do with it.

And now we find out from the top of the Senate Armed Services Committee, people like John Warner, who love the military—he said this stuff came from the top.  Word by word, every detail came from the top.  It‘s all there in the report.

THORNBERRY:  I don‘t think anybody says every detail of how to handle...

MATTHEWS:  You want the dogs?  You want the nudity?

THORNBERRY:  ... these people...

MATTHEWS:  What picture do you want explained by the rulebook?

THORNBERRY:  ... came from the top.  I don‘t think that you can say that the secretary of defense ordered dogs to be used...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘ll repeat again.  “The abuse of detainees”...

THORNBERRY:  ... on some of—no, I heard what you said.

MATTHEWS:  ... “in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to a few bad apples.”

THORNBERRY:  Yes.  And I don‘t think—that‘s not what I said.  There were bad apples, and there was a systemic failure to supervise them.


THORNBERRY:  And you had amateurs...


THORNBERRY:  ... who were trying to use serious techniques that professionals could, under carefully controlled circumstances, use.


THORNBERRY:  What we‘ve seen this week are those carefully controlled techniques described in the memos and given to our enemy.

MATTHEWS:  At the time it happened, Congressman, everybody in the Republican leadership, the Defense Department on down, played this stonewall of, Oh, we would never have had prisoners stacked up naked.  We would never have dogs humiliating people.  We would never do any of that.  It turns out it was all in the rulebook.

THORNBERRY:  I‘ll tell you, Chris, I will not defend...

MATTHEWS:  OK, we got to go.  We have to go.

THORNBERRY:  Let me just say, I won‘t defend the lack of information Congress has gotten on some of these issues in the past.


THORNBERRY:  What I will say, though, is 30 times congressional leadership, Republicans and Democrats, were briefed on these very techniques...

MATTHEWS:  I think you have a point there.

THORNBERRY:  ... so if there‘s going to be a big investigation...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to that.  Let‘s get to that.

THORNBERRY:  ... it needs to go to everybody.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, thank God for John McCain, who was a POW, who‘s completely against this torture and completely signed onto this report by the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Thank you, Congressman Mac Thornberry from Texas, Republican.

Coming up: It may be only President Obama‘s 94th day in office, but that‘s not stopping the political world from grading this guy on his first 100 days.  We‘re going to do it just as fast as anybody else.  We‘ll talk about how he‘s doing and find out why “Time” magazine‘s Joe Klein says this is the most impressive start by any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  This coming Wednesday marks the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, so it‘s time already for the big Goldilocks question—too hot, too cold, or just right?  Roger Simon is “Politico‘s” chief political columnist and Joe Klein‘s a columnist with “Time.”  He has the cover story, by the way, in the new issue on President Obama‘s first 100 days.  It just came out.  There it is.  And he argues that President Obama‘s off to the best start of any president since the 1933 inaugural of FDR and the New Deal.

Joe, take it away.  Why is he the best since FDR?

JOE KLEIN, “TIME”:  Well, first of all, we have to establish that 100 days is really a kind of flimsy journalistic conceit.  Most presidents don‘t even have a coherent first 100 days.  Very few have.  Roosevelt certainly did because he turned around the policies of the Hoover administration.  Reagan did, even though he was shot during that time, because he turned around the policies of the Carter and Democratic administrations before.  Johnson did because he got an—Lyndon Johnson did because he got an awful lot accomplished legislatively.


KLEIN:  But Obama has not only turned around the policies of the Bush administration on the domestic side, he‘s dealing with a financial crisis, the most serious since the Great Depression, but unlike Roosevelt, he‘s also had to turn around the policies in foreign policy.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me...


MATTHEWS:  Let me interrupt there.

First of all, the numbers we have got right now are fascinating.  According to the Associated Press—I want Roger in on this now—the president‘s job approval is at 64 percent, which is pretty healthy.  But it‘s interesting.  His foreign relations numbers is almost at 70 percent.  It‘s up to 69 percent.

These trips, what he‘s taken abuse for, like he‘s listening to Daniel Ortega whack away at him for 45 minutes...


MATTHEWS:  ... apparently, on net, helping him. 

SIMON:  Oh, absolutely. 

And people are seeing that we have a president who is using words that haven‘t been used by an American president in a long time, words like “humility.”  And we see a president who is reaching out to the rest of the world...

MATTHEWS:  So, cowboy struts don‘t work anymore?

SIMON:  They don‘t. 

And he‘s reaching out to the Muslim world.  They—you know, that—everyone thought, oh, that would be a big negative.  But, you know, one out of every five people on the planet is a Muslim.  And Americans feel, you know, we need to be understood.  And, also, he‘s challenging the rest of the world. 

He is saying, look—he made this direct when he was in Ankara, Turkey, with the students, saying:  Look what my country has done.  It has elected for president a guy who wasn‘t rich, wasn‘t—didn‘t come from a powerful family, has a—you know, a strange name.  What can your country do? 


SIMON:  You know, instead of just hating us, why don‘t you give us credit for what we did?  And what is your country going to do to match that?  I think it‘s a very powerful message.  People like it.  Americans like it. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe Klein, you—like all journalists, you probably love this question:  Are we headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?

For the first time in five years today, according to the Associated Press, which is as objective as well, first time in five years, more people believe we‘re going in the right direction than the wrong direction. 

That is a pretty good bell-ringer for this fellow.  Even Congress, which is generally not liked, is up to 38 percent, doubled in the last couple of months.  So, Congress is even looking up a little better than they usually are.  They‘re up to 38 percent, which is sky-high for them, up from 21 percent, as I said, doubling.

What do you make of the fact that people generally seem to think that something is going well, even though the economy is still ditching along at the bottom? 

KLEIN:  Well, because, the—you know, the president‘s been pretty—very, very clear about what he wants to do.

And he seems kind of a, you know, nice guy, a charismatic guy.  He‘s more fluent than—than Bush, who was kind of tongue-tied.  And they—they really wanted to have this change. 

Now, but you have to say that, aside from the stimulus bill and the budget, which is still being reconciled, not much has happened yet. 


KLEIN:  And the real challenges are to come. 

He has set the predicate for what he wants his administration to be about, but there‘s an awful lot that can go—go wrong.  As I said, 100 days is a really flimsy conceit. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a—it‘s a conceit.  It started, actually, with Napoleon coming back from Elba. 


MATTHEWS:  Not a great standard, is it? 


MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t last much longer than 100 days. 

SIMON:  Well, we had to send him to Saint Helena to... 


MATTHEWS:  That was a hell of a way...


SIMON:  I mean, Joe is right.  It‘s very hard to judge the 100 days in the 100 days. 

And there‘s a huge caveat.  I mean, there‘s no sign yet that any of the trillion dollars allocated for recovery and bailout—and a lot of it hasn‘t been spent—but there‘s no sign yet that it‘s really improving the economy.  I mean, the most you can say is, the economy is getting worse more slowly.  And we are feeling good about that.

MATTHEWS:  That could be a good sign. 

SIMON:  It is a good sign, but it‘s not enough.

MATTHEWS:  If—if it bottoms out—if we bottom out in unemployment, or high unemployment, by the end of the year, the stock market starts to come back six months before that, we could have the beginnings of green sprouts, as they‘re called...

SIMON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... perhaps by late summer, right?

SIMON:  Right. 

And—and jobs is driving everything. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  It doesn‘t matter how low your mortgage rate is, if you don‘t have a job to pay for it.  It doesn‘t matter what health care costs, if you don‘t have a job and you don‘t have health care.  I mean, it‘s jobs, jobs, jobs.

And I think President Obama realizes it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me ask you.  You‘re at the—I don‘t want to knock it, but psychobabble is part of the things I always try to do.  We all try to figure out this guy. 

Joe, you are a genius, and not just at fiction—nonfiction, but fiction...


MATTHEWS:  ... figuring out these guys. 

In fact, I still think your portrait of President Bill Clinton in the anonymous—in “Primary Colors” is gifted.

Let me ask you, what is it that this guy has got?  I mean, I always compared him to sort of like Ray Milland in the movies, totally calm...


MATTHEWS:  ... not matter what is going on.  If he‘s caught making a mistake, like Ray Milland gets caught trying to kill Grace Kelly in the movie, no, problem.  I‘m moving on. 


MATTHEWS:  What keeps him so calm? 

KLEIN:  Boy, it sure beats me. 


KLEIN:  I will tell you, this is a...


KLEIN:  This is one cool customer. 

You know, one of his aides said to me that he‘s not a very sentimental guy.  You know, if—if you‘re not doing the job for him, he will cut you loose.

But I think the—the fact that he is calm under fire has really meant a lot to this country, where you have seen a lot of screaming going on the last seven or eight years.  And he‘s not a screamer. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s funny, because President Bush, at his best, after 9/11, when he stood there at the World Trade Center with the firefighter, that was personal.  Everything with him is visceral and gut. 

SIMON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS: “You punched me in the face, I‘m punching you back,” which we liked at the time. 

This guy doesn‘t seem to have that heat level. 

KLEIN:  No.  And, also, on foreign policy...


I want to—let me let Roger get in this on this point.


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead. 

I‘m sorry. 

SIMON:  Calm and cool is—is who he is and what he is, but you‘re right.  There can be a downside.  Sometimes, you can be too cool.  Sometimes, you need highs.  It‘s good the avoid the lows.

MATTHEWS:  Do you like the guy who does him on “Saturday Night Live”?

SIMON:  Yes, it‘s wonderful.

MATTHEWS:  Keep it cool?

SIMON:  Yes. 


SIMON:  It‘s wonderful.

But, I mean, he‘s hearing from his party now, and others, that maybe you‘re a little too cool on torture. 


SIMON:  Maybe we should heat up a little bit on what we want to know about that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s been a hell of 100 days.  We will have a final wrap on it next week.

Thank you, Roger Simon.

Thanks, Joe Klein. 

Joe Klein, good luck with the cover of “TIME” magazine.  I guess it will be out on streets in a couple—they‘re out by Friday, right? 

KLEIN:  Yes, tomorrow, Friday. 

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow.  That‘s Friday, yes.


MATTHEWS:  Up next, we have got some pointers coming up on how to win in life with your college graduates.  I have got a couple graduating, one in graduate school, one in grad college.  I know what you‘re worried about, fellow parents of my age.  You‘re worried about the launch. 

Well, I have got a book I have got coming out as of two days ago, which is out now, called “The Hardball Handbook,” which was packed with every trick I have learned from every politician I have ever met about getting ahead.  It‘s somewhat amoral, some of it, but it works.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



Well, let‘s face it, this is a tricky time of year, especially for parents my age.  Graduation is coming, and we worry, when we don‘t have something else to worry about, about how our kids, are how they are going to do out there.  How in the world are going to get out where they want to get in this tough world, especially right now?

Well, what we do is fall back on what we have learned ourselves over the years.  I have written a whole book now on what I have learned.  It‘s called “The Hardball Handbook.”  And that‘s exactly what it is, a manual of how to deal with people, based on my decades of watching the most ambitious people in the world get where they want to get.  I‘m talking about the pols I have on this show.

Consider these the basics.  First of all—and they all have to do this out there—get in the door.  You can talk all you want about getting into a business, TV, high-tech, whatever, but the first thing you have to do, boys and girls, is get a job, any job.  Just get in the door.  Get a seat at the table. 

Quote: “You cannot win if you‘re not at the table.”  That‘s, as my friend Ben Stein once wrote years ago, you have to be where the action is, so get a job. 

When I first came to Washington, just back from the Peace Corps in Africa, I didn‘t know a soul in this city, certainly nobody with any clout, to hire me.  I knocked on hundreds of doors.  I got a job answering mail for a United States senator and writing short speeches during the day, and as a member of the U.S. Capitol Police at night.  That moonlighting got me my start, top jobs in the U.S. Senate, presidential speechwriter, top aide for half-a-dozen years to the speaker of the House, huge opportunities later in journalism. 

None of that would have happened if I didn‘t take that first job writing during the day, carrying a gun at night.  And isn‘t that a scary thought?

Anyway, but that‘s the first rule, get in the door.  It‘s how you learn the ropes, how you meet people, how you get to be there when the lightning strikes, when that job you wanted all along comes open.  So, get in the door.  Get a job, any job. 

Second rule, any—the—the way to learn is listen to this new president.  Stay positive.  Watch Barack Obama.  He‘s always optimistic, because optimism sells.  Look at the pictures of him during the campaign, a big picture of hope next to his face.  Listen to him right now, after he won that first race in Iowa, Barack Obama. 


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They said this day would never come. 


OBAMA:  They said our sights were set too high.  But, on this January night...


OBAMA:  ... at this defining moment in history...


OBAMA:  ... you have done what the cynics said we couldn‘t do. 



MATTHEWS:  Be upbeat, just like him.  Deep down, people want to believe that we‘re headed to a better direction, that there‘s a brighter future ahead. 

That‘s why we want, every one of us, wants upbeat people around us, especially people working for us.  So, if you‘re upbeat, you‘re going to get hired. 

Rule three, not everybody out there is going to like you or go for you.  Take Bill Clinton.  Every time he‘s faced rejection, he‘s come back from it.  He once said: “You know who I am?”  He once said this to Newt Gingrich.  “I‘m that big rubber clown doll you had as a kid.  And, every time you hit it, it bounces back.  That‘s me.”

Well, that‘s Bill Clinton.  Watch how he keeps coming back.  Not everybody is going to like you out there.  If—by the way, if everybody liked you out there, it would be a day at the beach.  And life is not a day at the beach. 

Finally—so, get a job, get in the door, be optimistic, and recognize not everybody is going to say yes to you.  But, finally, ask.  I always tell my kids this simple rule.  I tell it to everybody.  If you want something in life, if you really think it‘s important to you, go out there and ask for it.  If you don‘t ask, don‘t complain. 

People like to be asked.  Every door that opens for you, remember, every door in life that opens for you for a job is opened by some other person.  So, you have to ask them. 

“The Hardball Handbook,” it‘s out.  I‘m asking you, buy it, read it, and give it to somebody you‘re rooting for.  That book is going to get them where they want to get.  I mean it.  I never do this, but it works. 

Up next:  With Republicans on the skids, the top Republican in the House of Representatives is ratcheting up the attacks on President Obama, right at the 100-day mark.  Is this the best way to deal with a popular president? 

Our strategists are going to argue that one, from both sides of the aisle, a D and an R.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finished higher, after a wobbly session on Thursday.  The Dow Jones industrial average did manage to gain more than 70 points, with a rally towards the close of the day, S&P 500 up just eight, Nasdaq higher by a little more than six. 

The White House says that a published report that the government could

present a bankruptcy filing for Chrysler as early as next week is—quote

“speculation,” but adds that all contingencies are, indeed, being looked at. 

Shares in American Express are on the rise in the after-hours trading session, after a better-than-reported—or better-than-expected earnings report.  The credit card company AMEX finished the regular trading session almost 8 percent higher on the day. 

Microsoft‘s earnings fell 6 percent, but were in line with what Wall Street expected.  This marks the first quarterly decline in the company‘s 23-year history. 

Amazon beat Wall Street‘s expectations, reporting an 18 percent rise in profit.  Amazon were up about 2 percent at the close, and continue to climb higher in the extended-hours session.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Obama had a big meeting with House and Senate leaders today from both parties at the White House. 

Listen to what House Republican Leader John Boehner said, however, after the meeting.  Apparently, the charm offensive ain‘t working. 

This is before the meeting. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  The meeting comes, as we all know, as we near the 100-day mark.

And I think, if you look at the first 100 days, you can sum it up pretty simply: spending, taxing, borrowing, and ducking the hard choices.  We believe, over the last three months, we have offered a lot of better solutions than what has been proposed by the administration. 

Unfortunately, they have decided to go it alone, on a partisan basis, over these last three months. 


MATTHEWS:  He is the most lugubrious guy in the world. 

Anyway, is that the winning strategy for Republicans, John Boehner‘s?

Let‘s bring in our strategists, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris for the offensive.

Has that guy, John Boehner, got the lift of a driving dream?



MATTHEWS:  Is this the guy you want to put the hope banner, hope poster on, or what? 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I guess Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney were not available today, so they rolled out John Boehner. 


MCMAHON:  Huh?  Huh?  Huh? 


MATTHEWS:  Yield the floor to Todd.

MCMAHON:  It‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  Todd, what is the Republicans‘ strategy on the 100th anniversary of this guy‘s presidency -- 100-day anniversary?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You know, just today, Boehner and Eric Cantor sent a letter to the administration, saying, look, we want to help you honor the commitment that you made during this campaign to change the way Washington works, to work—to run this town in a bipartisan manner.  Here are three big issues that we‘re committing to working with you on. 

The problem is...


MCMAHON:  What is it?  Cutting taxes, cutting taxes, and cutting corporate taxes, right?

HARRIS:  Helping people refinance their houses, cutting taxes...

MCMAHON:  The Obama administration, check.  They have done that one.

HARRIS:  Cutting—cutting taxes for small business...

MCMAHON:  Big business.

HARRIS:  ... and helping people put money away for their retirements.


MATTHEWS:  So, basically, they‘re all tax cut programs.


HARRIS:  No, they‘re not all tax cut problems, but the point...

MCMAHON:  Something new from the Republicans, let‘s cut taxes, right?

HARRIS:  Oh, yes.  God forbid we should cut people‘s taxes and—and reduce the size of government. 

The—the point is, from day one of this administration, they have been held hostage by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  The—the administration completely outsourced writing the budget and the stimulus package to congressional liberals, who shut out Republicans, did not let Republicans.


HARRIS:  It completely is true, Steve.  Did not let Republicans in the room, and then sounded the alarm when Republicans who were never brought in on the beginning didn‘t vote for any of the.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask this question.  We‘ve got to—one issue I care about, health care.  Do you think that this president—this new president who has got a pretty good track record going here, is willing to sit down in a room before he writes his health care bill with some Republican.


MCMAHON:  Yes.  By the way.

MATTHEWS:  Is he willing to sit with them before he writes.


MCMAHON:  Excuse me, Todd.  Todd, can I just have one second?  There is a weekly meeting up on Capitol Hill which the White House has representatives at which there are representatives from just about every affected industry and interest and includes the two Tax and Health committee chairmen, Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy‘s staff.

And this is a very inclusive bill.  They‘re trying to reach a consensus.

MATTHEWS:  On health.

MCMAHON:  .  health care reform bill that includes Republican voices, that includes industry voices, that has—that is written by Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s happening. 

MCMAHON:  . with guidance from the White House.  I think it‘s happening.  The people up there who served in the Clinton administration before.


MATTHEWS:  Is it happening? 

HARRIS:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  Todd, are we working—are the two parties working together on health care? 

HARRIS:  No, it‘s not happening and if it were, you wouldn‘t have.

MATTHEWS:  Was he wrong? 

HARRIS:  Yes.  You wouldn‘t have whispers.

MCMAHON:  No, Todd.  Todd, it‘s every Thursday.  It‘s every Thursday, Todd.

HARRIS:  Hold on, you wouldn‘t have whispers—if this were actually happening.

MCMAHON:  Do you want to come?  Do you want to go?

HARRIS:  . you wouldn‘t have whispers coming out of the administration that they were going to try to tackle health care reform through the budget reconciliation process, which means they don‘t need 60 votes, they need 51. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that true? 

MCMAHON:  A Democratic majority is what they need.

MATTHEWS:  Is that true?  They‘re going to do it without Republicans?

MCMAHON:  Well, here is what I think is true.

MATTHEWS:  Or is that so?  Is that true? 


MCMAHON:  They learned a lesson.

MATTHEWS:  Is he right?  I keep asking you guys.

MCMAHON:  Yes, yes, he‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, if you‘re going to try to jam it through without Republicans, how can you claim to be bipartisan?

MCMAHON:  I didn‘t say they‘re going to do that.  Here is what they‘ve done. 


HARRIS:  You did.

MCMAHON:  Well, hold on, can I just explain this?  Here‘s what they‘ve done.  They have basically said by September we want a health care bill.  We‘re going to follow the normal Senate rules between now and September. 

If the Republicans don‘t come along—and by the way, they saw what the Republicans did on every single thing that the Obama administration has sent up so far, not now, not enough, not so fast, don‘t do it. 

They‘ve become the party of no, and the White House has said, we want to work with you, but we‘re prepared to work without you if we have to.  I think it‘s better for the White House and for the country if it‘s a bipartisan consensus bill. 

I think the White House understands that, but if the Republicans don‘t come along, I think the White House is committed to getting health reform done this year. 

HARRIS:  There are very thoughtful Republican senators, Senator Enzi in particular.

MATTHEWS:  I know that.

HARRIS:  . who have been working very hard on this issue.  If the administration jams health care reform through the budget reconciliation process, it‘s going to be nuclear war, not just with people.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  One other issue—I do agree, but I‘ve heard that.  I was just out in Wyoming last week.  I missed a show because I spent all day with the students out there.  And I had my ears open.  I heard about Enzi does want to do health care.  He‘s trying to get—been trying to spread the word.

MCMAHON:  There are a number of Republicans who want to do health care.

MATTHEWS:  . that the Republicans want to do this.  What else can be done in a bipartisan way between now?  We have had 100 days, no bipartisanship, none.  Nothing on stimulus, no bipartisanship there.  I don‘t know where there has been bipartisanship.  So will there be any and where would it be? 

HARRIS:  I think if you look at Afghanistan policy, you look at what the administration has proposed, you have a lot of Republicans, Senator McCain, a lot of others, who are cheering efforts to increase our troop load in Afghanistan. 

To the degree that there‘s any sniping on that policy, a lot of it actually coming from the left.

MATTHEWS:  Will we get an immigration bill? 


MATTHEWS:  Will we get an immigration bill?


MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Why not a bipartisan bill? 

HARRIS:  I just don‘t—I don‘t think that in this political environment, in this economic environment right now, I think that the strains both from the right and the left would be too much.

MCMAHON:  No, no, no, not from the left.  Not from the left.  Not from the left.


HARRIS:  You think labor is going to roll over and let an immigrant.


MCMAHON:  John McCain has become a maverick again, and he wants to pass immigration reform.  And what‘s happening to John McCain, the Minutemen are putting up a primary opponent.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he can beat that guy. 

MCMAHON:  Well, yes, he can beat him, but every single Republican.

MATTHEWS:  Simcox?  He‘ll beat him. 

MCMAHON:  It‘s a message to every Republican, if you stand up for immigration reform, we are going to primary you. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that the national Republican Party put Simcox, a Minuteman, up against him?

MCMAHON:  No, no, no.  But you saw what happened when they tried to move it last year, Chris, the Republican Party, the right revolted.  And you know, you get Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and other voices on the right that are in open revolt.  And pretty soon you have the Republicans going and apologizing for doing what is the responsible thing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t understand.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  I think we get—I know it‘s Rush—the president, by the way, is not going far left on health care.  He‘s not saying free health care for everybody, some rich guy is going to pay for it.  He says affordable health care. 

MCMAHON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  On immigration, there is a way through this.  Just make sure that people who hire people in this country do so legally.  There‘s no phony hiring anymore.  We‘ll deal with the people in the country already. 

Everybody knows we have to deal with the people already here.  And everybody knows the problem is down the road.  Are we going to do it legally?  Are we going to do it effectively?  Why don‘t the two parties do the rational thing on these things like health care and immigration instead of constantly dickering back and forth? 

MCMAHON:  They should do the rational thing.  And you say that everybody knows we have got to deal with the people here.  Not everybody knows that.  The Republican right thinks.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re not going home. 

MCMAHON:  . they‘re going to build a fence and throw everybody over here.


MATTHEWS:  Not everybody believes that. 

HARRIS:  And in every sit-in, SEIU and every single labor leader, you know, if it hadn‘t been the right screaming loud about immigration reform, it would have been on the left. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to tell you something, nobody is sending the kids home because the kids are Americans.  All right? 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s over.  So let‘s stop these stupid arguments.  Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, I had you on to argue, now I get mad at you. 


MATTHEWS:  By the way, in case you missed it, Todd was on the “TODAY” show with mom talking about a very serious thing, identity theft. 

MCMAHON:  Boy, doesn‘t he look great?  Doesn‘t she look great? 

HARRIS:  Look at my mom. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Matt talking about me? 

HARRIS:  Yes.  A little shout out for Chris Matthews. 


MATTHEWS:  What was that like, being on there with Matt? 

HARRIS:  It was very special to be on with my mom.  We went through—my family has gone through hell for the last two years.  But it was very.

MATTHEWS:  How much was involved? 

HARRIS:  They stole $20,000 from us, but then when my mom called the police to report it, the police blamed my mom and actually sent my mom to jail.  And we spent more than $50,000 in legal fees fighting this. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I had no idea.  I wouldn‘t have been kidding about this.  You poor guy, your poor mom. 

HARRIS:  Yes, yes.  But we got through it, thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you.  I‘m with you.  You‘re with him on this one, I hope. 

MCMAHON:  Oh my God, of course.

HARRIS:  My mom loves Steve. 

MCMAHON:  I talked to his mom yesterday.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Check it out on  You can watch the whole segment, 

Up next, the torture debate.  Should there are an investigation?  We‘re going to get to this and finish this off perhaps tonight.  Should we find out what happened?  Can we stand the truth?  Jack Nicholson still has the best question, right?  Can we stand the truth?  Who ordered the thumbscrews and the waterboarding and the rest?  When we get back, I bet on Cheney, just a bet.  Anyway, next on the “Politics Fix.” 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, “B-Rod” speaks out, complaining that the judge blew his shot of becoming a reality TV star down in Costa Rica, poor B-Rod.  The “Politics Fix” coming back on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)                

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Politics Fix.” Joining me, is Chris Cillizza of the, and Ed Gordon of “Our World with Black Enterprise.” 

Ed, I haven‘t seen you in a while.  I want some fresh insight.  This torture thing, I was stunned and impressed by the Senate committee report of just this week.  It has been vetted, it has been declassified after months of examination by the Pentagon. 

Unanimous ruling by the Senate Armed Services Committee, including signatories like John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, real hawks, all agree that all of this hell that went on at Abu Ghraib came from the top. 

ED GORDON, “OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE”:  I don‘t think there‘s any question, Chris.  And those of us who followed it from the beginning found it hard to believe that a rag-tag group of folks at Gitmo and Guantanamo Bay and other places would take this full-bore and run with it. 

I think what we see now is the chickens coming home to roost.  And we see with Boehner and others, people trying to find their footing now, the president particularly with the idea of him trying to make the United States look better on the world stage, will, I think play masterfully to his hand. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris, it seems like the Democrats are united.  They want exposure, they don‘t get hurt on this, only Republicans get hurt it seems.  And yet the Republicans seem a little bit split on this. 

They are not at all happy with what happened at Abu Ghraib.  They‘re not at all defending the fact—they‘re saying it‘s a few bad apples anymore, at least those on the committee and those who have read the report.  So they just seem to be—they don‘t want a witch-hunt, is what McCain says, speaking authoritatively as a former POW. 

What does the Republican Party want done with this whole question of torture? 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  You know, Chris, I think they want to exorcise this demon in some ways.  And they‘re trying to find a way to do it.  The problem with some kind of investigation on the Hill, as we found out on any number of past investigations on Capitol Hill, is it can expand out into all sorts of areas that were not anticipated. 

It could bog Congress down, it could bog the Obama agenda down.  You know, you mentioned Democrats being largely united.  I would say the base of the Democratic Party wants more exposure, they want everything out, they want this thing tried and they want people held accountable. 

I would say the Obama administration is a little bit more equivocal about it, because they want to keep moving forward: economy, environment, jobs.  And they know that the potential of this is to look backward. 

You always hear the Obama administration saying, we‘re looking forward, not backward.  This is backward-looking, but it‘s something that the base very much wants. 

GORDON:  Chris, the key here is how many rocks they overturn and to see how, in fact, pervasive this is or was, that‘s the true key here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the questions is, do you think, Ed Gordon, it‘s good for America and the eyes of the world with a brand new president who seems to be setting a new tone for the world and not just for us, to have a whole summer coming up of Watergate-style hearings, where you have one prisoner - - first we have prisoners coming in and testifying.  Is that good for the country to talk about the torture? 

GORDON:  Not good for the country to talk about the torture, but it is good for the country and this president, if in fact you believe that we‘re going to take back the moral center that we believed, and in fact, we held on the world stage for so long. 

You‘re going to have to clean up some of these corners.  And that‘s what he‘s doing and been able to do by virtue of his traveling abroad. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, speaking of trials, we‘re going to go back and talk about B-Rod.  Rod Blagojevich was on the “TODAY” show this morning talking about the bad court decision, as he sees it, keeping him from going down to Costa Rica and engaging in a big reality show. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR:  I know what the truth is concerning me, and I know you‘ve done absolutely nothing that—illegal.  I never intended to violate any law, and that when the full story comes out and the truth comes out, I expect to be fully vindicated and clear my name. 

And in the meantime, I have to support my children and my family, and if that means going into a jungle and having to eat some bugs, it‘s just a testament to how much I love my kids. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That was the unashamed ex-Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, this morning on the “TODAY” show.  We‘re back with Chris Cillizza and Ed Gordon for more of the “Politics Fix.”

One thing I can bet, Chris and Ed, this fellow wants to go into court, he wants it to be on television, he wants to defend himself, and he wants us all to watch.  Because he‘s looking for that one or two jurors that—all he needs for a mistrial and then he is home free, perhaps. 

What do you think, Chris Cillizza?  You first. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, Chris, I‘ve believed for quite some time, the last three or four months with Rod Blagojevich, almost everything that he has done, and I would put the appointment of Roland Burris in that as well, is aimed at influencing this jury trial that we expect to come. 

You know, I used to think that there were significant political implications on Illinois Democrats with Rod Blagojevich, but he has become so outlandish, the reality show, some of the other things, that I actually think people are just going to dismiss him entirely and there won‘t be as much of an impact as a result down-ticket on people who have the “D” after their name in Illinois. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘ve just been told.

GORDON:  I think he‘s right, Chris, that.

MATTHEWS:  . Ed, that it‘s not—he can‘t apparently have cameras in the court, although I‘ll bet he appeals for them.  Federal courts don‘t do that. 

But I‘ll tell you, it‘s going to be a story the whole time he‘s on trial.  Your thoughts?

GORDON:  I think he‘s right.  And I think we do a disservice, quite frankly, to continue to cover this until the endgame comes.  You know, he really has taken this to heights of the generation of the reality television star. 

He is walking away from what is possibly the disastrous end of a political career, and walking right into radio programs, going to eat bugs on “Survivor,” or whatever else he can come to.  And quite frankly we play a part in it by continuing to cover it. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, Chris, just.

MATTHEWS:  No, I do.  I do, Ed, you don‘t.  Ha! 

CILLIZZA:  Chris, just look.

GORDON:  I do, too, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m going to continue to, despite your wonderful advice right there.  I find this one of the most colorful stories in American politics, here‘s a two-term governor, a major figure out of a major state, and this guy is not going away, and he might be innocent, OK?   

GORDON:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Ed, thought?  Ed Gordon.

GORDON:  Absolutely, that‘s why I say we should wait until this plays itself out.

MATTHEWS:  Chris Cillizza, Ed Gordon, we‘ve got to go.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:0 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 



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