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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, April 24, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Michelle Bernard, Julia Boorstin, Pat Buchanan, Lois Romano, Jim Warren, Ron Brownstein, Jonathan Turley, Tyler Drumheller


Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

I don‘t think you‘re going to like this picture.  The simmering debate over American torture and whether to hold a “show us the worst” investigation heated up today with news of new pictures.  The Pentagon and military will soon release as many as 2,000 photographs of graphic prisoner abuse at U.S.  military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.  The advance billing is that the photos are not as bad as the ones from Abu Ghraib, but bad enough.

Word of the photos will surely increase calls for the kind of investigation ballyhoo President Obama has said he fears.  Even before the news broke, “New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman wrote today, “The only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.”  That‘s Paul Krugman this morning.  But that investigation would come with a price, an ugly and divisive partisan donnybrook.  Is that too high a price to pay for clearing our national soul?  We‘ll get to that hot debate a minute from now.

And let‘s just examine those so-called coercive interrogation methods for a moment.  Do they work in saving American lives, or do they yield largely unreliable information?  That‘s my question for a former top CIA official who‘s coming here.

Plus: What do Republicans do if they can‘t lay a hand on President Obama?  Well, apparently, they find other Democrats to attack, so they‘re going after Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano.  They‘re going after Kathleen Sebelius.  They‘re going after Nancy Pelosi.  They just keep going after these women in power.  And that‘s the question.  Why Sebelius?  Why the rest of them?  Why are they whacking at away at House Speaker Pelosi for saying she was never notified about the enhanced interrogation methods?  The Republican attack strategy in a few minutes.

And think you‘ve seen it all when it comes to indicted former governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, think again.  We‘re going to check out this gem.  I guess he‘s got a lot of time to hang around.  There he is, plotting (ph) to look good in this crazy promotion for an NBC reality show.  That‘s actually—there he is.  That is Rod Blagojevich.  That‘s not a simulation, although he is in a simulation.  We‘re going to have a lot on that.

By the way, we—not him, by the way, but we‘ve got a HARDBALL award to present tonight to probably the finest winner we‘ve ever given it to.  It‘s going to an American leader for standing up for what he believes in, a maverick—no, Senator, not a messiah—who takes stands that don‘t fit necessarily with his politics.

But first, this heating-up debate over torture.  Patrick J. Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and Professor Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University.

Professor Turley, I‘m just wondering what could happen now if 2,000 more graphic pictures show up of these horrible—hot-dogging of these prisoners over there, nudity, dogs, all the works probably to come, dog collars probably this time around again.  But the president says no truth commission.  The president says through his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, today, no independent counsel.  The president says no prosecution of the underlings.  What‘s that leave?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Well, it‘s a curious thing because the president just said the day before that he would not intervene or get involved in what is a decision for the attorney general.  And yet he‘s now making a statement through his spokesperson that is the ultimate decision of an attorney general, whether the Department of Justice itself needs to appoint a special prosecutor in order to prosecute.

Now, it‘s not clear what the president means by his statement.  But Holder would have to appoint a special prosecutor.  It would be ridiculous for the Justice Department to investigate itself because there are both career and political people at Justice that were allegedly involved.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Suppose we had Ramsey Clark as attorney general right now, a real flaming lib, who really wanted to get to the bottom of this and really wanted to hang some people high.  What crimes in the U.S. code could he try people for?

TURLEY:  Well, there‘s no question—there‘s no one has debated that it‘s a crime under the United States code, 18 USC code, to commit torture.  Nobody‘s debating that.  And more importantly, we‘re obligated in this country under article 7 of the Convention Against Torture, for example, to submit these cases for prosecution.  Indeed, recently a U.N. official said that we‘re probably in violation now because we helped write that treaty, and it obligates countries to investigate and prosecute.

So we‘re not supposed to be like Serbia, where we say, Look, this just isn‘t a good time for us to investigate torture.  It‘s an inconvenient thing.  It‘s going to be divisive.  None of that matters.  Under the treaties that we helped write, a country is morally and legally obligated...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how come the Bush administration never prosecuted anybody?

TURLEY:  Because they were violating the law.  It‘s not too surprising that the people...

MATTHEWS:  You mean they‘re all guilty.

TURLEY:  Well, it‘s not too surprising that the people that ordered a war crime didn‘t take these treaties very seriously.

MATTHEWS:  Patrick Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think what‘s going to happen

the commission is dead, but I don‘t think the president—this is up to Holder.  This isn‘t up to the president of the United States whether you appoint an independent counsel.

I think what‘s coming, Chris, is the liberal wing in Congress will go all out and have a committee investigation.  They will conclude that war crimes, torture was committed, war crimes, maybe people perjured themselves, and they will send this down to the Department of Justice.  And at that point, you‘re liable to get enough heat on Holder that he‘s either going to have to sit on this and say, I‘m not going to do it, why, (ph) if, as is true, these laws have been violated, or he appoints an independent counsel.  And frankly, I don‘t know how Barack Obama says, Don‘t prosecute him, and then prosecute him...

MATTHEWS:  OK, what is the precedent for a United States prosecution of torture?  Is there any...


TURLEY:  We helped create it.  We prosecuted...

MATTHEWS:  ... hear your history (INAUDIBLE)

TURLEY:  Yes, as long as they weren‘t Americans.  We prosecuted people after World War II for waterboarding, not just for torture, for this specific form of torture.  The U.S. Senate led the fight to prosecute a U.S. commander...

MATTHEWS:  You think this is...

TURLEY:  ... in the Philippines.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You have a point of view, and I appreciate that.  That‘s why I want you here.  But do you believe this is plausible, that Eric Holder, who‘s center-left—he‘s not very far over—will do this?

TURLEY:  Well, I think it is plausible, if he fulfills his oath.  He‘s obligated to do this.  This is insurmountable evidence...

MATTHEWS:  You want him to do this?

TURLEY:  ... of a war crime.  Of course I do because it‘s important for this country to keep its word.

MATTHEWS:  You want to see prosecution of people all the way up to Gonzales, all the way up to the vice president, to the president?  How high would you go?

TURLEY:  Well, you know...

MATTHEWS:  Because you know they‘ve signed off on this.  We all know that.

TURLEY:  You know, Chris, the thing that disturbs me most, the thing that I think is most grotesque, is not the thought of prosecuting high-ranking officials, it‘s that high-ranking officials ordered war crimes.  And if we need to prosecute it to show the world that we are not hypocrites...

MATTHEWS:  When did you first say that?

TURLEY:  When did I first say that we should prosecute?


TURLEY:  Back in the Bush administration.

MATTHEWS:  And why—I remember that.  Why did the—why do you think there was no call within the legal community to do what you‘re saying right now?  Why was this country so relatively silent?  You were out there alone.  Why was this country so silent on the possibility that war crimes were being committed in this country for eight years?

TURLEY:  Well, unfortunately, that was part of the distortive effect after 9/11.  And quite frankly, we lost our bearings.  And this really shows how dangerous torture can be.  When you hate someone enough or you‘re afraid enough...

MATTHEWS:  OK, so what you think is possible here...

TURLEY:  ... that you can violate the law.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, what he‘s saying...


MATTHEWS:  ... is that there was a cabal.


MATTHEWS:  The president, the vice president, his attorneys general, all the people working for him, all the—Addington, the vice president‘s people...


MATTHEWS:  ... all those people agreed without any dissension, including Condi and the rest of them...


MATTHEWS:  ... this was the right thing to do, torture these guys, and call it something else.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t—look, Chris, we know the facts.  They made a decision to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on certain individuals of al Qaeda to get information.  They got the legal opinions on that.  They went to the Security Council.  People gave Bush various kinds of advice.  The decider decided.

If you‘re going to investigate war crimes, quite frankly, you can‘t go after the CIA that just did it.  You immunize them.  You go up the line to the lawyers, and then you go in and get the people who decided.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of this?

BUCHANAN:  I think it would be terrible for the country.  And frankly, I believe if Barack Obama, if he had to do it, would—I think he‘s going to have to give a pardon, quite frankly, to the people who did it.  Here‘s what‘s going to happen...

MATTHEWS:  Can he do it without naming names?  Can he just say, I pardon...


MATTHEWS:  ... because Bush won‘t accept a pardon.

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s see the...

MATTHEWS:  Cheney won‘t accept a pardon.

BUCHANAN:  Nothing is going to happen...

MATTHEWS:  Will they?

BUCHANAN:  ... Chris—nothing is going to happen unless and until you get a congressional committee that brings these people up, gets names and sends this down to the Department of Justice.  At that point, it is Holder‘s decision.  And the president could say, Don‘t appoint a counsel or I‘ll fire you...


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s look at Senator McCain.  I trust him on this.  He‘s been tortured.  He has very strong credibility on this.  We‘re going to commend him on it later.  Here he is talking about the possibility of prosecutions in this regard.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  In banana republics, they prosecute people for actions they didn‘t agree with under previous administrations.  We‘ve got Bagram issues.  We‘ve got what we do with the Guantanamo Bay attorneys.  We‘ve got a whole array of problems associated with detainees.  And to go back on a witch hunt that could last for a year or so, frankly, is going to be bad for the country, bad for future presidents.


MATTHEWS:  Well, is this—what are we looking at as a precedent?  We don‘t have a precedent for this in our own country.

TURLEY:  Well, first of all, I‘m not too sure what the senator means.  A banana republic is a country that allows its leaders to commit crimes and doesn‘t prosecute them.  It‘s a country that doesn‘t subscribe to the rule of law.

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s a country in which, if you lose an election or you get overthrown by a coup, you get your ass out of that country fast because the guy that just got in there‘s going to kill you.

TURLEY:  No, the...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he‘s talking about.

TURLEY:  What happens is the test of the character of a nation is whether it‘s willing...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s saying that there‘s political retribution in third world countries against anybody that‘s been thrown out of power.

TURLEY:  It‘s not retribution to enforce the laws.


TURLEY:  That‘s the definition of a nation that is committed to the rule of law.

BUCHANAN:  You got the Fujimori case...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t accept what he just said.

TURLEY:  Absolutely not.

BUCHANAN:  You got Fujimori down in Peru, who‘s just been prosecuted and convicted for what he did done in office.  McCain is right about what is...

MATTHEWS:  But Fujimori is probably guilty.

BUCHANAN:  Well, he was convicted.  Obviously, he‘s guilty.  But let me tell you, I think the...

TURLEY:  So what‘s the problem?

BUCHANAN:  From the standpoint of the nation, you will rip this country apart!  Barack Obama won.  The decisions Bush had taken were rejected, basically, you can say by the administration.  Barack said, No more of that, that‘s over and done with...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s Paul Krugman.

BUCHANAN:  ... stop it.

MATTHEWS:  Admittedly, this man has a strong point of view, but it is a point of view in this country which has some prevalence.  The “New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman this morning, before we found out about these thousands of new pictures of abuse—“These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions, not out of vindictiveness but because this is a nation of laws.  We need to do this for the sake of our future, for this isn‘t about looking backward.  It‘s about looking forward because it‘s about reclaiming America‘s soul.”

BUCHANAN:  The polls today show that the American people still support enhanced interrogation techniques if you‘re dealing with al Qaeda types and if you‘re trying to stop 9/11.

TURLEY:  It doesn‘t matter whether a crime is popular.


BUCHANAN:  I‘m telling you it does matter whether you‘re going tear the country apart!


MATTHEWS:  Are you using the lingo of this administration?  You don‘t usually fall for other people‘s lingo.  Do you believe these are “enhanced interrogation” techniques or they‘re torture?

BUCHANAN:  I think—I think waterboarding...

MATTHEWS:  Is waterboarding torture?

BUCHANAN:  ... is arguably torture.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.

BUCHANAN:  I mean, I think, quite frankly...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why are you using their lingo?

BUCHANAN:  But look, because I think it arguably is.  I‘m not certain it is because I would have done the same thing Bush did.

TURLEY:  Oh, I‘m sorry to hear that, Pat.  But I got to tell you, I have more faith in this country than you do.  I don‘t think it‘s going to rip this country apart to enforce the law.

BUCHANAN:  To prosecute...

TURLEY:  This country is made of stronger stuff.  And you know what? 

Even if everyone‘s against this—and it will be unpopular for Obama. 

He‘s going to take a hit.  That‘s why he doesn‘t want to do it.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re a philosopher, as well as a lawyer, and both of you are philosophical people.

BUCHANAN:  Why did Bush pardon...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question because I think you can win this argument.  We do things that are awful out of necessity at times.  Now, let me give you an example.  When we were facing 9/11 in real time and there was another plane up there, we thought, which was being used, armed, basically, as a weapon and was headed towards somewhere here, the U.S.  Capitol, the CIA, the White House, there was a national recognition that the vice president, in this instance, would have had to call that plane to be shot down if we had a fighter jet available.

That is an evil justified by an end, which is to protect our national institutions, killing perhaps 200 innocent Americans who were on that plane.  So we do conceptualize the idea of doing bad things in extremis.  Is that wrong?

TURLEY:  No.  That‘s not...


TURLEY:  No, it‘s not.  It‘s not illegal.


TURLEY:  It‘s not illegal to take that plane down.

MATTHEWS:  But is it...


TURLEY:  It‘s not a violation of the law.

MATTHEWS:  ... try to get out of a person who has some information, you know he has it and you do anything you can to get it out of him.  Is that an evil?


TURLEY:  Of course it is, if you‘re torturing him!  It‘s against—

it‘s against-

MATTHEWS:  That‘s evil?

TURLEY:  Yes, it‘s against...


MATTHEWS:  ... to torture KSM.

TURLEY:  That‘s right.  We signed treaties saying that we would not torture people.

BUCHANAN:  All right...

TURLEY:  That is a commitment that goes to our basic...

MATTHEWS:  But you would blow up a plane with innocent people to achieve a good end, but you wouldn‘t...


TURLEY:  Under some circumstances...

BUCHANAN:  It is a violation of positive law.  It is not a moral evil.

TURLEY:  Of course it‘s (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN:  You got a right to kill people.  You mean waterboarding Sheikh Khalid Mohammed (SIC) is a worse thing than dropping two atomic bombs on people and burning 120,000 people to death, sending 40,000 more to death by radiation to convince the Japanese cabinet to change its mind?  What was worse?  I mean, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed...


MATTHEWS:  You got the floor right now.  What‘s worse...

BUCHANAN:  The point is...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s worse...

BUCHANAN:  ... it‘s not an evil...

MATTHEWS:  ... the atom bombs dropped on Japan or waterboarding Shaikh Mohammed?

TURLEY:  No, the atom bombs were dropped...


TURLEY:  No, the atom bombs were dropped in a wartime.  At the time, that was...

BUCHANAN:  We are in a war now!

TURLEY:  Let me finish, for the love of God!  Now, what we have under these treaties is an obligation that we helped write that said that we don‘t torture for any reason, not even if it produces intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you have this absolute attitude here?

TURLEY:  Because torture is morally wrong, but it‘s also unlawful.  If we didn‘t believe it,we shouldn‘t have signed those treaties.


TURLEY:  We put people to death for torturing people.  We prosecuted people for waterboarding.  The only novelty in this case is that it‘s Americans accused of being war criminals.  We have to decide if we‘re a nation of hypocrites or whether we‘re...

MATTHEWS:  But you do recognize...


MATTHEWS:  ... for most of our history, police have been beating up suspects...

TURLEY:  Yes, but could you imagine a police chief...

MATTHEWS:  ... we got to get information out of them.

TURLEY:  Could you imagine a police chief coming out like they‘ve done this week and say, yes, we beat that suspect, but we got good information out of it?


MATTHEWS:  Well, they did!  That‘s how they used to do it.

TURLEY:  We would never tolerate that, and we don‘t tolerate that...

MATTHEWS:  Not anymore.


BUCHANAN:  Jonathan—Jonathan, you are right.  You may be right on what the law says, but there is a higher moral law!


BUCHANAN:  That‘s what Dr. King was all about!

MATTHEWS:  I think this is an open question.  Pat Buchanan, Jonathan Turley.

Coming up—I wonder about absolutes.  We‘ll ask a former CIA chief official, by the way (INAUDIBLE) tell us.  And here‘s the next question.  Does it work?  Does doing this stuff to people get the truth out of them?  Does it save American lives, to get to our point here, that‘s coming up wit Tyler Drumheller, who is, in fact, an expert on this topic.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  While the question of whether we call it torture or things like “enhanced interrogation techniques” remains, there‘s a more basic question out there for a lot of people who are in the middle.  Does it work?

Yesterday, I spoke with Tyler Drumheller, who was the European operations chief for the CIA.


MATTHEWS:  Tyler, we have a Senate Armed Services Committee report, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, and the unanimous committee report that points to the higher-ups in terms of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the waterboarding, making prisoners naked for days at a time, the use of dogs, all of that.  Is it workable?  Is that something good to do to prisoners when we catch them?

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF EUROPEAN OPERATIONS:  In my opinion, no.  And it also—it corrupts and muddies the waters of the whole process because it—all these people talking about this is interrogation as a tool of intelligence—interrogation is a tool of the police or the military, who are better equipped for it, better trained for it, and certainly don‘t do this sort of thing.

But the real issue is—it implies if you don‘t use interrogation, you‘re not going to get intelligence to protect the country, when, in fact, the real intelligence—and they can‘t talk about it and they shouldn‘t.  The best intelligence is going to come from source information run by case officers in the field.  And this just sort of corrupts that process, in my opinion anyway.

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, the person who interrogated Zubaydah believes that all the good intel came from the more traditional means of interrogation, and this advanced or what he called “enhanced”—torture, I would call it, like waterboarding, didn‘t get anything at all that couldn‘t have been gotten by a continued use of the traditional question and answer approach.

DRUMHELLER:  I have a feeling that‘s probably true.  I mean, I don‘t know for sure.  And I guarantee you, when they release it, they will have gotten information from this because the people are going to tell you just about anything to stop it.  But the problem is, they‘re also going to keep telling you things, and it‘s hard to separate the good information from just what they‘re just creating.

But the other thing is, it‘s—the intelligence you get from an interrogation, any kind of interrogation, just a regular police interrogation, is always going to be dated.  What they got from Zubaydah, what they got from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were things that they had done days before, weeks before, months before.

I think people are under the impression that somehow, these guys were saying, -On the 12th of April, we‘re going to attack the airport in Los Angeles, when, in fact, that type of intelligence only comes from intelligence sources run by case officers in the field.  And I think this process hurts that.

And it‘s also when people say, well, now case officers—case officers will be afraid to operate because of this, that‘s not true either.  I think some may be a little nervous about it, but this has been going on with the agency for years.  But it‘s—it‘s sort of...

MATTHEWS:  Well, if this is your measured—if this is your experience speaking here—and you‘re a pro at getting information that we need for our security—why would so many people at the top of this administration, from Tenet, from the vice president, from the all the neoconservatives, as we like to call them, the ideologues who were really hard on this war in Iraq, for example, why did they all seem to agree that we had to go to these advanced interrogation techniques, this torture? 

Why did they all seem to go along with this?

DRUMHELLER:  Well, I think, for one thing, they were terrified of what happened.  Nine-eleven threw everybody off.  They felt guilty.  They felt terrified. 

They—and I can tell you, at the time, everybody really—I believed they were—there was a bomb in New York.  They were going to have anthrax over at Tyson‘s Corner at—in Washington.  There was going to be all these things.  And people just reacted. 

And then once they went down the—and there‘s always someone who says, well, if they just unleashed us, we could do this.  And, then, in this case, it went in that direction.  And then it‘s—it builds up a—a bureaucratic momentum.  And it sort of fit in with the idea that, OK, this happened because we were weak, and now we‘re going to be strong, and this is a sign that we‘re strong.


DRUMHELLER:  And I think it actually worked to—it worked to the disadvantage on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Your experience, does it tell you at—at all—did you ever hear of getting good information through torture? 

DRUMHELLER:  In my experience, I never got—I—I never heard of any information—before all this, information—see, Americans have no real history of torture, maybe on the battlefield or something in dire circumstances.

But we don‘t really have a tradition of this.  And, so, therefore—fortunately—and, therefore, it—there really is no background for it.  That‘s why it‘s better done by people, like the FBI and the military, who have the experience and the background to do it, and they—but they refused to do it.  And, so, the agency got stuck doing it.

And then they got—they got caught up in this.  But I suspect that the information that Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave, parts of it were very valuable, as a—a historical reference, identifying people, telling where people—who people were, and general plans, like we plan to do this, we plan to bomb this, we plan to bomb that.

But the idea—people need to understand, the idea that this—that any of these guys gave anything that says, next Thursday, we‘re going to do this, is not true.  And that is...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DRUMHELLER:  And I think that doing this, in my opinion, took away—and this was a debate inside the agency at the time—took away from the more classical approach to intelligence on this. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of all the gross stuff, the—making prisoners stay naked for days at a time, the use of dogs, all that stuff that we saw in graphic, sort of perverted extremes in Abu Ghraib, which obviously got completely out of hand?

But, all that, what is it all about?  Is there some censorial notion here of humiliation, of breaking a person?  What‘s the belief system behind all this stuff, this humiliation of people? 

DRUMHELLER:  Well, first off, you have to look—it‘s not going to...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not just torture.  It‘s something else going on here. 

DRUMHELLER:  Yes.  You have to—you‘re talking about a couple of different things.  One, the—the enhanced measures, or torture, or whatever that you talk about for these high-value targets, those were—those were a separate issue.  Those were conducted completely separate. 

Abu Ghraib was done by the military, a little bit of other people.  And, in Guantanamo, it was a whole other issue.  And I think, at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, you have the—you have the situation you always have when you have large numbers of prisoners of war, basically. 

There‘s always—there are people—again, people are angry.  They‘re trying to get the information.  And they—and they start down a road.  And they get caught up in it, and then people get committed to it, and it‘s hard to come back from that.

And it—it is—and it‘s an idea that, you know, we‘re going to show these guys that we have defeated them a little bit.

And it never works.  It...


MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Tyler Drumheller.

DRUMHELLER:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next, I present a HARDBALL Award to a fine American. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  I have got a HARDBALL Award tonight, one long overdue. 

In a week where torture has dominated the national political debate, no one deserves this honor more than he.  Whether you‘re a Republican or a Democrat, whether you think torture was a brutal necessity, in the wake of 9/11, or not, whether you believe this country should investigate those responsible, or we should move on, there‘s one man whose opinion is based on his own tragic experience. 

That man is Senator John McCain.  We all know his history.  While serving this country during the Vietnam War, he was captured and tortured.  McCain survived and returned to devote his life to public service. 

As a congressman, senator, and, most recently, as the Republican presidential candidate, McCain is called a maverick, but he‘s more than that. 

Here is what Senator McCain said about torture at our HARDBALL “College Tour” at Villanova last April. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  We should never, ever torture anyone who is in the custody of the United States of America, because...


MCCAIN:  For the future of this country, we have to make sure that we remain a nation that does not do things that our enemies do.

And I promise you, my friends, I will close Guantanamo Bay, and we will never torture another person in our custody again.  I promise you that.



MATTHEWS:  What a great crowd we had at Villanova that day last year. 

Senator John McCain was a major signatory to this historic Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees in U.S.  custody, which said—and I quote—“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 solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law”—I love that phrase—“redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.  Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hands of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority”—close quote.

So, tonight, we honor a man of honor, courage and truth.  I humbly and gratefully extend our HARDBALL Award to Senator John McCain, who should have been elected president in the year 2000. 

Anyway, up next:  As President Obama nears his 100th day in office, and with high approval ratings, what‘s the GOP going to do about it? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ended higher for the day, but lower for the week, snapping a six-week winning streak for the Dow and the S&P.  The Dow gained 119 points.  The S&P 500 added 14, and the Nasdaq soared 2.5 percent, finishing 42 points higher.

Financials continued their week-long gains, with the nation‘s big banks getting a private update on how they scored on those government stress test.  The Fed says most banks have enough capital for now, but recommended keeping even more on hand in case the recession gets worse. 

American Express finished more than 20 percent higher on the day, boosted by better-than-expected earnings and cost-cuts.  And as GM and Chrysler continued to struggle, shares in Ford Motor Company finished more than 11 percent higher.  Ford posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss, and said it has enough money to make it through the year without government help. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Almost—almost 100 days on the job, President Obama finds himself with a—these numbers are all pretty consistent now -- 61 percent approval rating the new—I love this now.  It‘s like Budweiser award.  It‘s the Allstate Insurance/”National Journal” poll.  He‘s also beating Republicans in Congress by two to one on the question of who do you trust to fix the economy.

Is that enough muscle to ram through health care plan?  And can Republicans come up with something to say besides, nah? 

Ron Brownstein is political director for The Atlantic Media, and Michelle Bernard is the president of Independent Women‘s Voice and an MSNBC political analyst. 

Both of you, starting with Ron, it seems like that they can‘t tag him.  And, in the old trick in politics, you tag somebody near him, but it seems unfortunate they‘re hitting three women here now.  They‘re going after Napolitano for one thing.  They‘re going after Pelosi for another thing.  They‘re going after Sebelius on another thing. 

What‘s with it?  Are they a little bit unaware of what it looks like?


don‘t—I mean, that‘s an interesting point, but I think the broader point

your—your original point about Obama and where he stands, I mean, right now, he is, I think, the most trusted, not only individual, but institution in the—in the American political landscape. 

I mean, the—the approval ratings we‘re seeing in our poll today, 61 percent, Pew the other day, I think, 64 percent, and the breadth of it, Chris—yes, there is partisan polarization, only about 25, 26 percent approval among Republicans, but 60 percent among independents. 

And one of the things that is fascinating about the poll that we put out today was that we were able to look not only at how much money people made and whether they went to college, but their occupations.  He‘s at 58 percent among people who own their own business, 53 percent among people who describe themselves as senior corporate managers, and 55 percent at people over $100,000.

MATTHEWS:  So, despite all the talk about—despite all the talk about taxing people at the high—at the high brackets, that‘s not scaring people off?

BROWNSTEIN:  Not yet, I mean, but—but let—let—there is a clear kind of fault line here, a potential pressure point for him, which is that those—part of what he‘s done, I think, here, clearly, in these first 100 days is, he‘s made inroads with high-status groups that traditionally have been Republicans.

But those groups are—their first tendency in these kind of economic conflict and—and problem is not to look to government, with one exception, health care.  We will—maybe we will come back to. 

But that is where the tension could be.  Can Obama hold the coalition that he has with the agenda that he wants to pursue?  That‘s—we‘re going to—I think that‘s going to be a balancing act for him, because, in many ways, many of those groups that are very positive on him today are still not looking first to government as the answer on a variety of these questions of economic security that we polled in the survey...


MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re saying—Michelle, that, although we‘re in an urgency situation, and the economy may get worse—we are always afraid it may well get worse—the public is willing to go to extremes to deal with this, support this guy now, but they don‘t want a change in their basic attitude?


MATTHEWS:  The country is basically bourgeois, basically against big government, basically sensitive to taxes, and, in the long run, they want to come back to that. 

BERNARD:  They absolutely...

MATTHEWS:  The true north is somewhere right-of-center, not left-of-center. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that right?

BERNARD:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  I know yours is. 


BERNARD:  And I think you‘re absolutely correct.  I don‘t know if—and I don‘t know if that sentiment is necessarily bourgeois.   

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking the question, by the way. 

BERNARD:  I just think it is where the country is.

There was enormous void the last 90 days of the Bush administration.  And look at how different things are.  I think that is one of the reasons why Obama is so absolutely looked upon favorably by most of the country, at least for the time being.

He stepped in.  We can‘t—you can‘t get rid of him.  You see him everywhere we go.  We sat on this program, saying, where is George Bush?  Well, no one is asking that about Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The history of this country is that...


MATTHEWS:  ... we‘re generally a little bit right-of-center over time, but, every once in a while, every 30 or 40 years, the ‘30s, the ‘60s, we make some adjustments in our social compact.  We adjust.  We create Social Security.  We create Medicare.  This time around, I think we will get the health care for everybody. 


MATTHEWS:  But, once we make those adjustments—and maybe we‘re like the Brits or the French and all the countries.  You make these adjustments that notch you a little bit to the left, and then you go back to your normal pattern. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, the phrase that...

MATTHEWS:  Is that what we‘re up to?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, the phrase that people have used is, Americans are philosophically conservative and operationally more liberal when it comes to government.

And, in fact, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Occasionally. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Occasionally.

But—but what—what this poll, I mean, our poll and other polling,

has shown there‘s not a sea change yet.  There—there‘s not this kind of

it‘s not 1933, in the sense that people‘s first instinct is to look to government. 

Health care is...

MATTHEWS:  Because we haven‘t had a prolonged enough hell yet. 



MATTHEWS:  If we have two or three years of this...

BROWNSTEIN:  Right, it might be. 

And, in fact, this is still—I still believe this is different than 1993.  I mean, you look—one of the things we have in our poll, 64 percent of Americans, across every income bracket, across every status level, believe they‘re exposed to more financial risk than earlier generations. 

Their first instinct, as I say, in many cases, is to believe, look, I‘m the one.  I have got to find a way to navigate through this.

But I think there—that presents an opening.  The reality is, people, I think, do feel the need for more tools to try to make sense of this.


BROWNSTEIN:  And that can come from government. 

MATTHEWS:  So, his peripatetic style, this president...


MATTHEWS:  ... doing something every day—one day, he‘s in Trinidad.  Next day, he‘s in Paris.  He‘s in Prague.  He‘s out West.  He‘s in the Southwest.  He‘s in the middle of the country.  He‘s in a poor-people neighborhood.

This guy is constantly doing stuff.  Does that appeal to the people‘s desire to shake things up?  In other words, they want a shakeup.  That‘s what you say, right?


MATTHEWS:  They want things moved around. 

BERNARD:  They—they want...

MATTHEWS:  They want health care fixed.  They want education fixed. 

They want something on energy.  They want movement.

BERNARD:  They want movement. 

The country wants to see change.  He came in on a ticket of change.  This is his first 100 days in office.  If you go back and you look at all of his speeches over the last 18 months, he‘s trying to deliver on everything he promised he would do. 

MATTHEWS:  This is where it matters, the biggest enchilada of the year, health care. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Health care.

MATTHEWS:  Twice as many Americans think they would better off, according to a new poll, if Congress, rather than worse off, if Congress does pass the health care.

In other words, people are not happy...


MATTHEWS:  ... with the way things are. 


MATTHEWS:  They want movement. 

BROWNSTEIN:  And here is a critical fact.

Among those who have health insurance—we were able to poll at that level—over 80 percent of the country does have health insurance—they have the same proportion.  Two to one, they say they would be better off than worse off. 

Chris, this is probably...

MATTHEWS:  Because of the E.R., because they know the emergency room is being misused.

BROWNSTEIN:  Because—because the system not working.

Also—no, because they also feel that the system is not working for them.  And when we ask people...

MATTHEWS:  Do you know how long you wait in an emergency room? 




MATTHEWS:  Two hours.


BROWNSTEIN:  Well, they‘re—they‘re—we asked people who had various elements of economic security.  And there was more interest in government taking a role on health care, by far, than—than any of the others.

And this—this number that you just put up is probably the key one to watch in the health care debate.  To keep the country with him, Obama has to convince Americans, particularly those with insurance, that, not only is there a societal benefit, but they—they and their family will be better off. 

Right now, you—you wouldn‘t say that‘s an overwhelming number, but it‘s clearly an opening.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, interesting.


BROWNSTEIN:  They‘re—and—and, by the way, that‘s true among upper-income groups as well.  They are more open to government being involved in health care.  It‘s not an area where they see themselves being able to handle it by their own initiative, exercising more, eating better. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle?

BERNARD:  But, I mean, I—I—I don‘t know if that number—I don‘t know how long those numbers are going to hold up.  I think...

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, that‘s the—that‘s the question. 

BERNARD:  And that‘s the question.  I don‘t know how long the numbers will hold up.  You know, he needs to find a way to appeal to people who are insured, that have private insurance, that are worried about whether or not their health care choices are going to be pulled down.  Everyone understands that we have a moral obligation to take care of the uninsured, but are we going to have better choices?  Are we going to have more access to treatment?  Are we going to have more doctors? 

I don‘t think that poll—those poll numbers are going to hold up. 

BROWNSTEIN:  That‘s the variable. 

BERNARD:  The plans being touted by the Democrats right now I don‘t think are good. 

BROWNSTEIN:  That‘s the critical variable.  Will the plan, as it moves through the legislative process, will people—will the broad cross section of Americans, particularly those with insurance, believe that they will be better off?  And it will be hard to convince them they will be better off if ultimately they conclude it will diminish their own choice. 

But if they see this as a way of establishing a foundation, where they know they are going to have health care, where they know their costs and so forth are going to be coming under control, then there‘s an argument he can win.  There‘s an opening for him here, it‘s not a guarantee. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a big danger sign: people in the burbs, people with health insurance, the 87 percent in states like Pennsylvania that have it, they‘re worried about rationing.  People who get older, my age and older say, wait a minute, I have had insurance all my life, and when I probably need a kidney or a heart transplant, I need something down the road, I am going to have to wait in line and somebody is going to say, sorry, you smoked for ten years, you‘re not getting one.  What happens then? 

BROWNSTEIN:  Already, Charles Krauthammer, other conservatives—any plan they are going to call rationing.  Part of what Obama has an opportunity here though to do, Chris, is to bring over parts of the health industry that opposed fervently Bill Clinton.  He‘s been working with the insurance companies and the Congress has, perhaps Pharma, the pharmaceutical industry, elements of the provider community.  That could give him a kind—

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you completely.  Everybody is going to be with him except the insurance companies.  Who wins? 

BROWNSTEIN:  If everybody is with him except the insurance companies, I think insurance companies could be with him.  There‘s a framework of a deal.  Everybody is required to buy insurance.  In return, the insurance companies are required to sell to everybody at a comparable rate.  It‘s called community rating guarantee.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a setup.  That‘s a slippery slope to single payer, isn‘t it? 

BROWNSTEIN:  No, the public plan is the potential—what the conservatives will see as a slippery slope. 

MATTHEWS:  Now to something simple.  The Republicans have lost another easy one, upstate New York.  Scott Murphy has won that seat formerly held by Gillibrand, the one who is now in the Senate from New York.  Michael Steele can‘t win. 

BERNARD:  That‘s the first thing I thought of when I saw the concession.  This is Michael Steele; he came out early; we were going to win this seat.  This is the third consecutive loss for Republicans in a Republican district in New York.  Could be bad news for Michael Steele. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this guy in trouble? 

BROWNSTEIN:  I don‘t think they can fire him.  They have bigger problems than Michael Steele.  They have a Congressional party that‘s defining itself, I believe, in a very narrow way.  They‘re facing the reality that‘s what left in the caucus—we talked about this—overwhelmingly conservative.  And the message that comes out is focused in a way that make it is hard to reach—

MATTHEWS:  Remember that book by James Fenimore Cooper, “The Last of The Mohicans?”  That‘s the Republican party in the northeast.  They can‘t win in the northeast anymore.  Thank you Ron Brownstein.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard. 

Up next, check out this video.  It‘s a bird, it‘s a plane, it‘s B-Rod.  Wait until you see this guy.  He‘s flying high.  There he is.  This is really him in real time.  This is a guy rehearsing for an NBC reality show.  He may not even be in it.  Look at him, this is him, B-Rod in action. 

Anyway, we‘ll talk about him in a minute.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

You can‘t beat it.  You can‘t beat it.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the politics fix.  Joining me the “Washington Post‘s” Lois Romano, and MSNBC political analyst Jim Warren. 

I want to start, Lois, this whole focus—we‘ve been on this story all week, because it‘s the hottest story around.  The American people don‘t like torture.  Some people know we have to do it.  Some people think we might have done it.  And we don‘t like it at all.  There‘s strong feelings on both sides.  But it‘s not what Obama wanted to do.  He doesn‘t want to spend an administration fighting about this.  He wants to get things done. 

LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, his hand is being forced by the liberals in the House.  But I think also it‘s going to become a runaway train now.  I think he‘s lost control of it.  So he can say all he wants, he‘s not going to have a commission, he‘s not going to do this, but the people who wanted this investigated, which are a lot of advocates—

MATTHEWS:  Paul Krugman of the “New York Times.”

ROMANO:  Well, whoever it is.  And these people now have a foot in the door, and I think that he can‘t control it anymore.  I think this is going to be a runaway train for him. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the old thing about in or out of the house.  Your parents always say in or out.  He can‘t seem to decide.  Sunday started with Rahm Emanuel saying we‘re not going to do it.  Then he said we might do it.  Then he said, the other day, to the cabinet we‘re not going to do it.  This is the first time he‘s been in this kind of a will he or won‘t kind of thing. 

JIM WARREN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think Rahm‘s notion of let‘s leave the past behind, let‘s look forward, I think is not terribly defensible.  It is on a kind of strict utilitarian, you know, fashion, in a way, sort of more expedient.  But for a guy of academic standing like Obama to basically say, well, we‘re not going to look into the past, we‘re going to bury this stuff, regardless of what might be there, I just don‘t think that was the position to take. 

Plus, I think there‘s going to be an investigation, whether there‘s going to be a formal commission, whatever, it‘s going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  You know the old gut thing about politics, dance with the one that brought you?  What got this guy nominated was the anti-war position.  Unlike Senator Clinton, he was against the war.  The gut people, the people that really hated this war and hated the policies and can‘t stand Dick Cheney, what he stands for, his policies, really, really, really want to nail these people and hang them high.  Has he missed the point here, Barack Obama?  Is he not dancing with the ones who brought him? 

WARREN:  Good point.  I was at the Political Scientist Annual Convention a couple weeks ago that was in Chicago.  And there are folks still crunching numbers.  They‘re still crunching numbers about why the Edwards people went the way they did, why the Hillary people went the way they did.  And one of the tentative conclusions is, in a way that I think we didn‘t quite see, the Iraq war and his position on the Iraq war was a key element—

MATTHEWS:  I saw that.  You saw that. 

WARREN:  Even more so than the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  You saw that. 

WARREN:  But there became a convention wisdom was that it was the economy, stupid. 

MATTHEWS:  He won the nomination over Senator Clinton, who said the same exact thing about the thing about the economy, because she had backed the war and he hadn‘t. 

WARREN:  Right.  To answer your question, it‘s what got him there. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you have to dance with the one that brought you, Lois? 

ROMANO:  You‘re talking about politics like it‘s a fixed thing and—

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s a gut thing. 

ROMANO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Either you like Cheney or you don‘t. 

ROMANO:  His gut is telling him this is not where the American people are.  Yes, that‘s how he got elected.  The American people are not there now.  They‘re worried about jobs and their homes and saving themselves.  And they don‘t know that they want this major distraction that‘s about to just consume us. 

Also, the Congress has to say—they have ask themselves, what are they asking for here?  We have now Nancy Pelosi being questioned about what she knew and when she knew it, and saying I couldn‘t have done anything.  That‘s questionable.  They could have done something about—

MATTHEWS:  What do you think—what do you think, Lois.  You start here.  You‘ve been through Watergate.  You‘re younger than me, but the Watergate went on all one summer.  Everybody, friends of mine, new every single one—they knew Herbert Comback‘s (ph) name.  They knew everybody‘s name.  We‘ve been through Iran Contra.  Everybody knew who Fawn Hall (ph) was.  Everybody knew who all these Oliver North characters were. 

We‘ve been through the thing with the Judge Thomas hearings.  We know everyone of those characters.  Is it in our interest to know every one of the prisoners, to have them hauled before national television, having these guys who are possible terrorists coming up and testifying on national television against their captors? 

WARREN:  And the alternative is what?  It‘s sort of turning our back.  If the shoe was on the other foot, and these were American soldiers, American citizens who were the victims of this stuff, and some other country was saying, well, no, we‘re not really going to look into this?  What would the American reaction be if this was our folks who were the subjects?

MATTHEWS:  What would have happened to Milosevic or somebody during the Kosovo campaign, one of those campaigns, grabbed one of our flied and water boarded him?  What would people like Pat Buchanan be saying?  What would Dick Cheney be doing?  We don‘t have to ask.

WARREN:  They‘d be saying string them up.

MATTHEWS:  So?  Your point?  You‘re saying we should hold the hearings?

WARREN:  You‘re not going to be able to avoid it.  I‘m surprised that the Obama position, I think, having done the most honorable thing, even if it was totally inevitable, as the Defense Secretary Gates apparently argued, internally, that these memos were going to com out.  Very honorable putting this stuff out, not redacting much.  But I think it follows from there that there‘s got to be a bigger accounting.

MATTHEWS:  So this is the one time where the no drama Obama made a mistake.  He thought he could expose this mess, pick the rock up, show the bug life underneath, and everybody would say, just put the rock back over it again.  He was wrong? 

ROMANO:  Right, he was wrong.  Now the Republicans are taking up what Cheney wants, which is let‘s show what we got from this.  But that opens up a whole other thing.  Do we really want to show what all of our sources and methods are of getting this information?  They‘re opening up a real can of worms here. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s hurting Pelosi.  We‘re going to come back to lighten your spirits, Lois, and yours, Jim.  We‘re going to come back and talk about Blagojevich, your governor, who was seen in this amazing picture on a green screen, as we call it in a television, where you put the guy on a screen with the green behind him, and then super-impose the jungles of Costa Rica or whatever, or the bugs and the snakes. 

Here he is, by the way.  We‘ve got pictures of him.  You‘re watching HARDBALL.  We‘re going to talk about B-Rod flying hig.  The guy looks like he is a guy caught on fly paper.  We‘ll be right back with B-Rod.


MATTHEWS:  This is Rod Blagojevich, the recent governor of Illinois, flying in this weird—he‘s actually hamming it up here, pretending he‘s flying like—this is him.  This is not—this is Rod Blagojevich.  It‘s one of these pictures, you say, I can‘t believe what I‘m seeing here.  And it was suspended, by the way, in front of what we call a green screen.  It‘s a promo suit for the show “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.” 

We‘re back with Lois Romano and Jim Warren.  Let‘s take a look at something he said at a press conference late today.  This is the governor, recent of your state, Illinois.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS:  This is a chance to be able to make a living and support my little girls and my family.  A judge made a decision that I shouldn‘t got to Costa Rica.  But I‘m not ruling out the possibility of being involved in some capacity.

MATTHEWS:  Some capacity.  OK, tell us what you know, Jim.

WARREN:  Can I seek refuge in either of your guys homes to avoid the embarrassment of being associated with a citizen of the state of Illinois, and the veritable humiliation of being a citizen of Illinois, which is only out-weighed, obviously, by the entertainment value? 

MATTHEWS:  Brother, you elected him twice.

WARREN:  I would not poo-poo the financial necessity here.  He‘s got several million dollars in campaign funds.  Right now, the judge is making quite clear he‘s not going to let him tap the funds, except for some sort of legal defense.  But not necessarily a 500, 750 dollar an hour rate of real big time lawyers. 

It‘s interesting, in open court, I think it was last week, he made clear that the folks who are putting that show on had offered him 80,000 dollars per episode.  Interestingly enough, reality TV fans, had assured him apparently of appearances on at least four episodes.  He wasn‘t going to get voted off, if that‘s what this show—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s over 300K, you‘re saying, that NBC offered him.

WARREN:  For a guy who has no income coming in, the wife has no income coming in, that‘s a whole lot of money. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s good per hour, too. 

WARREN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of this?  What is he going to be?  Is he going to win this case in court? 

WARREN:  The judge made clear last week—very serious judge, Republican, Harvard Law grad, Reagan pick in 1987, who himself has known a few cameras or two.  There‘s at least one David Mammoth (ph) movie in which Judge Zagel (ph) himself has performed, a movie called “Homicide.”

MATTHEWS:  You know why I want to cover this for the “Washington Post”.  I want you to go to Chicago and cover this case. 

WARREN:  The judge made clear that, Mr. Blagojevich, I don‘t think you understand the seriousness of your situation.  I don‘t think, he once he sees that, his views, the judge‘s are going to be diminished. 

MATTHEWS:  Lois, telling us about the journalistic potential of this story, this guy goes to trial and he‘s apparently going to almost defend himself. 

ROMANO:  The fabulous part about it, of course, is that he has no shame.  He‘ll talk to anybody.  He‘ll walk through any open door.  And, of course, the voters, as Jim said, are just cowering.  They can‘t believe that they put this guy—

MATTHEWS:  You like to cover it, wouldn‘t you? 

ROMANO:  Are you kidding?

MATTHEWS:  Lois Romano, my friend, Jim Warren, thank you.  You shouldn‘t be ashamed.  Illinois is a great state.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for THE ED SHOW with Ed Schultz.



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