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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, May 11, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Roger Simon, Brendan Gleeson, Frank Doelger, Harold Ford, Chris Cillizza, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Dick Cheney sounds off.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Cheney goes nuclear.  What is Dick Cheney up to?  Why has the most powerful and most secretive vice president in American history become all of a sudden the loudest ex-vice president?  He was back at it yesterday, saying Barack Obama has made us less safe and suggesting the Republican Party would do better to follow Rush Limbaugh‘s lead than Colin Powell‘s.  Is he building a case in case we‘re hit again?  Is he shrinking the Republican tent so that only his side is heard?  Does he resent General Powell‘s popularity?  And why is he, not the man who claimed to be “the decider,” doing all the talking, acting, let‘s face it, like he was calling the shots all those years?


RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Isn‘t it nice to know that you‘re still loved and are invited out in public sometimes?  The reason I‘ve been speaking, and in effect, what I‘ve been doing is responding to press queries such as yours, is because I think the issues that are at stake here are so important.


MATTHEWS:  Much more on Cheney and his magical history tour in a moment.

Also, this next story reminds us of Lily Tomlin‘s famous quip, No matter how cynical you get, it‘s impossible to keep up.  ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos reports this weekend that members of John Edwards‘s presidential campaign knew about his affair with Rielle Hunter and devised a strategy to sabotage his campaign if it looked as if Edwards might actually win the nomination.  Talk about CYA.  They said they were Democrats first, but what good would it do to the Democratic Party to have its presumptive nominee go belly up just as he was about to sew up the nomination?  We‘ll look into this incredible tale later in the show.

And anyone who knows me knows I‘m a huge believer in the historic role of Winston Churchill.  HBO has a new movie on Churchill‘s leadership role in the Second World War.  The star of “Into the Storm,” the man who plays Churchill himself, Brendan Gleeson, will be sitting where Pat Buchanan is sitting now.

Plus, good news for Republicans.  Charlie Crist is running for the Senate down in Florida.  Conflict for Republicans.  Jim Bunning is running for reelection in Kentucky.  We‘ll break it all down in the “Politics Fix.”

And take it from me, Saturday night was the best White House correspondents‘ dinner ever.  President Obama was the comedian-in-chief, and I‘ll give you all the highlights when we get to them in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first: What is Dick Cheney up to?  Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O‘Donnell are MSNBC political analysts.

Here‘s Dick Cheney, making the case again that President Obama is making the country less safe.  Let‘s listen.


CHENEY:  They campaigned against these policies across the country, and then they came in now and they have tried very hard to undertake actions that I just fundamentally disagree with.

On the morning of 9/12, if you will, there was a great deal we didn‘t know about al Qaeda.  There was a need to embark upon a new strategy with respect to treating this as a strategic threat to the United States.  There was the possibility of al Qaeda terrorists in the midst of one of our own cities with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent.  It was a time of great concern, and we put in place some very good policies, and they worked for eight years.


MATTHEWS:  Classic Cheney.  I want to go to Lawrence on this.  Strategic threat to the United States—the United States was threatened strategically by this group called al Qaeda, in the way that the Soviet Union threatened us back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s—strategic threat, not a danger, a fundamental threat almost verging on an existential threat to the United States.  What is he talking about?  What is he talking about when he says they might have a nuclear weapon?  Where does he get this stuff from?  Is this scare talk or what?  I don‘t know what to make of it.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it is scare talk, as far as we know, Chris.  He continued in his list of things that they were reacting to in the White House.  He included what he called the “anthrax attack” on the United States, which, as you know, was a couple of envelopes that showed up, one in Washington, one in Florida, that had absolutely nothing to do with al Qaeda—nothing to do with al Qaeda.

This is the kind of fog that Cheney has been putting out for a while, a big blur of information that includes these threatening-sounding things.  That‘s the way he linked Saddam Hussein to 9/11.  He was constantly doing that in a fog of words that he would throw out in shows like this.  And so this was just more of that.

MATTHEWS:  This was for a purpose, to get us to go to war with Iraq.  That‘s why he sold this nuclear threat, this mushroom cloud.  He did it again and again, and it sold with the American middle.  He got what he wanted, the war he wanted.  Why does he keep touting this nuclear threat that no one‘s been able to find where it was?  Where was this nuclear weapon?  It wasn‘t in Baghdad.  We can‘t find it.


MATTHEWS:  Where was it?  Was it in some balsawood plane heading our way?  Nobody can find it.  But it got us into that war.  He achieved his goal.  And he‘s still pushing this line.  Why, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think this is a—something different.  He‘s talking about a terror threat of a nuclear weapon.  And you‘re right, I‘ve never heard him mention that unless he is talking about—you know, there was a lot of talk about the terrorists getting what‘s called a “dirty bomb,” which is not a nuclear bomb, it‘s a lot of radioactive material.  They‘d blow it up, and it radiates an area...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not a strategic threat.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s not a strategic threat to the United States.  But we did hear a lot about a dirty bombs in those days.

MATTHEWS:  A dirty bomb is not a nuclear explosion.

BUCHANAN:  I know it isn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not.  It‘s TNT explosion...

BUCHANAN:  Well, I know...

MATTHEWS:  ... of (INAUDIBLE) materials.  It can cause a lot of havoc in a downtown area.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  There‘s no doubt it‘s a problem.  It can ruin a part of a sidewalk.  There‘s no doubt about it.  But to use that as a cause for war...

BUCHANAN:  Well, he‘s not talking about cause for war.  He‘s talking about terror here, Chris, now.  But let me say this.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s still telling...

BUCHANAN:  What is Cheney doing?  I think Cheney‘s defending...


BUCHANAN:  He‘s defending his record.  Secondly, I think he genuinely believes we are threatened now more because of what Obama is doing.  He wants to get his case on the record.  Bob Schieffer is an outstanding correspondent with a national show.  He invited him on because he believes he‘s a serious man...


BUCHANAN:  ... even if he disagrees with him, and has got something to say.  And Cheney is going to say, If I‘m the only man in America who believes this, I‘ve got a right to be heard and I‘m going to say it.

MATTHEWS:  Is he betting on red?

BUCHANAN:  Is he betting on an attack?

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence, is he betting on an attack and hoping he can say, I told you so?  Is that the strategy here?


MATTHEWS:  What other purpose is there here?

O‘DONNELL:  I would...

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s not trying to change policy.  If he wanted to change policy, as Mika Brzezinski pointed out this morning on “MORNING JOE,” he‘d be talking quietly...


MATTHEWS:  ... to this new administration and trying to make his case, perhaps, sotto voce.  What do you think?  Is that unreasonable, that he would try to work in private channels to get this done?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it may be unreasonable in his case because he did not just leave office unpopular with the American people.  He left office extremely unpopular within the government, by professionals within the government.  There are people who have known Cheney from his previous job in government as defense secretary, and they will tell you—you‘ve heard this, Chris—that this was a different Cheney.  This vice president after 9/11 was not the person they used to know and they used to work with.

So Cheney doesn‘t actually carry any real respect in the Obama White House.  I don‘t see how he could have a conversation with Vice President Biden that Biden would take seriously after what has been revealed about—what we know about Cheney‘s misunderstandings of the world.  This was the vice president who said we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.  He couldn‘t have been more wrong about that...

BUCHANAN:  Let me pick this up...

O‘DONNELL:  ... couldn‘t have been more wrong about weapons of mass destruction, and on and on.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me pick up on that.  Why not sotto voce?  Because the Obama White House has said, in effect, You guys, what you did was dead wrong.  We‘re going to repeal it.  We don‘t want any part of it.  And we don‘t need to hear from you...

MATTHEWS:  But does he know something that Barack Obama, the president, doesn‘t know?

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Seriously, what does he know?

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, he does not, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  My guess is...

O‘DONNELL:  He does not.

BUCHANAN:  My guess is, is this...

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s silly.

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me speak, all right?  My guess is Cheney‘s got lines into the intelligence community, and a lot of folks in there are telling him this is outrageous...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t those people tell their superiors?


BUCHANAN:  David Ignatius...

O‘DONNELL:  This is—this is...

BUCHANAN:  Hold it, Lawrence!  David Ignatius wrote a column saying morale is in the pits at the CIA.  They‘re probably talking to Cheney.  Cheney‘s saying, I‘m going to make this public, if I‘m the last guy to do it.  He doesn‘t talk to the White House, Chris, because they don‘t give a hoot what he says and he knows it.

O‘DONNELL:  Look, we‘re not going to...

BUCHANAN:  The only outlet he‘s got is that media, and he‘s using it well.

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence...

O‘DONNELL:  Pat, we‘re not going to leave this segment with you lying to the American people, suggesting that the former vice president has information that the CIA will not reveal to the current president.  That‘s insane.  That‘s a ridiculous thing to assert.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not a lie if it‘s true.  Is it true?  How do you know it‘s true?

BUCHANAN:  David Ignatius said...

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s insane.  Stop it!

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me speak.

O‘DONNELL:  Stop it!

BUCHANAN:  David Ignatius says...

O‘DONNELL:  Joke.  Here‘s the joke.

BUCHANAN:  ... the morale is horrible there.  And the people they...

O‘DONNELL:  And they‘re lying to Obama?  Yes, great.

BUCHANAN:  ... those guys would go to would be Cheney, if they‘d go to anybody.


MATTHEWS:  Who do you blame?  Do you blame Leon Panetta?  You‘re blaming...

BUCHANAN:  No, I‘m not saying that Cheney‘s got it.  What I‘m saying is, if I were a reporter, I would suspect they are talking to him constantly...


MATTHEWS:  OK, let me—let me suggest an idea I‘ve noticed over the years about Dick Cheney.  And I don‘t buy this argument, Lawrence, that you said he‘s changed.  I‘ve never met anyone who has changed in my life.  People are who they are.  That‘s my experience with people.  Their character basically stays the same.

Now, Cheney‘s out—I think Cheney doesn‘t like anybody who thumbs his nose at him, whether it‘s Saddam Hussein or it‘s any Democrat in the street.  He doesn‘t like anybody who‘s on the other side of anything, and that includes Colin Powell.

Let‘s watch what he said here about Cheney—what Cheney said about Colin Powell this weekend.  This is the guy who led us in a couple of wars.  Here‘s what he says about his colleague, Colin Powell.


BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”:  Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn‘t have Rush Limbaugh speaking for them.  Where do you come down?

CHENEY:  Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I‘d go with Rush Limbaugh, I think.  I think—my take on it was Colin had already left the party.  I didn‘t know he was still a Republican.

SCHIEFFER:  So you think that he‘s not a Republican?

CHENEY:  I just noted he endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama.  And I assume that that‘s some indication of his loyalty and his interest.

SCHIEFFER:  And you said you‘d take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.

CHENEY:  I would.

SCHIEFFER:  All right.

CHENEY:  Politically.


MATTHEWS:  If the definition of the Republican Party, Pat, were loyalty to that guy, it would be a pup tent.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  A pup tent.


MATTHEWS:  The party‘s down to 1 in 5, and he wants to shrink it further.  Pat, you‘re laughing.  You know he has no constituency...

BUCHANAN:  I‘m laughing at what you‘re saying, Chris.  Look, what Cheney...

MATTHEWS:  He just—Cheney just threw Colin Powell out of the party!

BUCHANAN:  He did not!  What he said was, is Rush is a more loyal Republican than Colin Powell because Rush didn‘t like McCain and endorsed him, and Colin Powell turned his back on McCain, not only that, endorsed the guy who got his nomination by trashing the war that Colin Powell sold to the American people!

MATTHEWS:  Let Rush Limbaugh speak for himself.  He‘s hardy enough to do so, Pat.  Here he is, Rush Limbaugh today on the radio on Cheney.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Dick Cheney knows that there‘s really no such thing as a moderate.  Dick Cheney is one lone voice in the Republican Party.  What motivates Dick Cheney?  He‘s not hot for interns.  He has all the money he needs.  He‘s not a torture freak.  He doesn‘t want to run for political office.  Dick Cheney is motivated by love for his country.


MATTHEWS:  Well, he doesn‘t have—he‘s not hot for...

BUCHANAN:  Well, there you go, Chris!

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a relevant feature.


MATTHEWS:  That was an interesting sideswipe there.


BUCHANAN:  What would you expect?  I mean, Powell‘s in a fight with Rush and Rush is fighting back.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the Republican Party right now?  Is it big enough for Colin Powell, if he wants to stay?

BUCHANAN:  I think the Republican Party in the short run is in...

MATTHEWS:  Is Colin Powell welcome to stay with the party after voting for Barack Obama?

BUCHANAN:  Well, nobody has tried to kick Colin Powell out of the party!

MATTHEWS:  Cheney just did!

BUCHANAN:  No, he said, I think Rush Limbaugh is a better Republican.


BUCHANAN:  I do, too.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Lawrence...

BUCHANAN:  And Rush is a better Republican than me.

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence, Dick Cheney is wonderful, with that avuncular manner in which he seems to be speaking objective truth, when he‘s always speaking a partisan truth and doing it out of the side of his mouth in a way that suggests...


MATTHEWS:  Well, whatever.  I don‘t want to get into that.  But what do you make of this, Lawrence?

O‘DONNELL:  Look, if...

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell—would you rather have him as the Republican candidate for president if you were a Republican, or would you rather have Limbaugh?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes.  Colin Powell‘s a winner.  Rush is a loser.  Cheney‘s a loser.  And so the Cheney/Limbaugh party could command maybe 13 percent of the vote.  Every single position that Rush Limbaugh advocated in the last election was rejected by Republican voters in the primaries.  Rush was against McCain in the primaries.  Rush lost the primaries, then Rush lost the general election in a big way.


O‘DONNELL:  That‘s who Cheney wants to attach to.

MATTHEWS:  I want to go to one bite here because goes to the question which you and I have argued about—well, we never argue, Pat, but we think about it a lot.  We have a common interest in truth.  Here‘s Bob Schieffer, the host of “Face the Nation,” asking Dick Cheney, the former vice president, how much President Bush knew about the interrogation techniques used on his watch.  Let‘s listen.


SCHIEFFER:  How much did President Bush know specifically about the methods that were being used?  We know you—and you have said that you approved this...

CHENEY:  Right.

SCHIEFFER:  ... somewhere down the line.  Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY:  I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew—he knew a great deal about the program.  He basically authorized it.  I mean, this was a presidential-level decision, and the decision went to the president and he signed off on it.



MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?  What do you make of that?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, for a guy who‘s so careful in the choice of every word, to say “He basically authorized it” is very different from, He authorized it.  I would hate to find out down the road that there was something that the vice president authorized or the vice president passed along what he suggested was a presidential authorization to other people without actually having that presidential authorization.


MATTHEWS:  Did you ever hear...


BUCHANAN:  You‘re wrong.  He is dead wrong.

MATTHEWS:  ... describe the role of the person he ghosted the book for?  They always say, Oh, that was basically his book.

BUCHANAN:  Chris, that was right on the money.  What he‘s saying is, is Bush authorized it...

O‘DONNELL:  He did not say...

MATTHEWS:  He said “basically.”

BUCHANAN:  All right.  He authorized it and I—what he‘s saying is, I may have known more details than Bush...

MATTHEWS:  Why did he...


BUCHANAN:  ... which is probably true.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s not what he said, Pat.  Nice try.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re an expert at language.  You‘re a speech writer.

BUCHANAN:  Right.  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a columnist.  You‘re excellent at our language, our common language here.  Why would he hedge it by saying he “basically” authorized it.  Either you authorize it or you don‘t.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  He authorized—but he—he‘s giving Bush cover because Bush might not have known every detail that he and Scooter Libby and the rest of them knew.  He‘s giving him cover, for heaven‘s sakes!

MATTHEWS:  Oh, so he‘s being loyal here.

BUCHANAN:  He‘s being loyal.

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence, last word.  Is that loyalty or is that claiming, I really am the boss, that guy was the dauphin here?

O‘DONNELL:  I think he—I think Cheney has a lot to worry about in the potential investigations down the road here, including the potential for criminal liability.  And he does not know exactly what he can say about what he told the president or didn‘t tell the president.  There were an awful lot of one-on-ones, Cheney and the president.  No one else was there.  No one knows what Cheney told him.  No one knows how much truth was involved...

MATTHEWS:  You know, Lawrence...

O‘DONNELL:  ... in what Cheney told him.

MATTHEWS:  ... I believe that Dick Cheney would love that trial.

BUCHANAN:  Bring it on.

MATTHEWS:  He would love...

BUCHANAN:  Bring it on!

MATTHEWS:  ... to stand trial...

BUCHANAN:  He would love that!

MATTHEWS:  ... for defending the country with torture.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly!

MATTHEWS:  This would be a home run for him.

BUCHANAN:  He is inviting it.  Please put us into the briar patch!

MATTHEWS:  What a night that‘s going to be, Dick Cheney in the dock for torture, as his mouth curls up in that denial.  But he won‘t deny it, Pat.  He‘s going to admit it.

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  He‘s taking full responsibility.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a stand-up guy, Dick Cheney.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, it‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan...

O‘DONNELL:  The criminality here would not be torture.  It would be about a—basically, a coup d‘etat, in which this vice president usurped presidential authority, lied about it, lied about it to other people.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Thank you...

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s where your prosecution could exist.

BUCHANAN:  Bush authorized...

MATTHEWS:  Couldn‘t say it better myself.  Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Coming up: If you think you heard everything about John Edwards, get this.  George Stephanopoulos on ABC News is reporting now that Edwards staffers worried about his infidelity and had a “doomsday strategy” to sabotage his campaign—this is what they claim—if he got close to actually winning.  In other words, they took the paychecks, they lived off the fat of the land, they enjoyed the campaign with the theory if he got close to winning, they would screw him.  This is the most astounding CYA I have ever seen, and I do believe it‘s unbelievable.

Anyway, you‘re watching HARDBALL—not that they wouldn‘t have claimed it to George.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  There‘s even a newer twist to the John Edwards infidelity story.  ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos reports now that Edwards‘s campaign staffers suspected he was cheating and had a plan to sabotage the campaign, they say, if it looked like he‘d win the election.

Let‘s watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, “THIS WEEK”:  I‘ve actually talked to a

lot of former staffers about this, and it‘s amazing to me—I mean, they -

they had their doubts.  They believed up until December that this was not true.  By December and January, several people in his circle started to think, You know what?  This is probably true.  This may be...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You mean the affair.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  The affair.  It may be true.  And they actually had something of a doomsday strategy.  Several of them had gotten together and basically said, If it looks like he‘s going to win, we‘re going to sabotage the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my goodness!

STEPHANOPOULOS:  We‘re going to blow it up.


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to make of that. 

Roger Simon may.  He writes for Politico.  And “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst.

This is a hot one to step into, because it involves George‘s reporting.  I don‘t deny people say this to him, but would you believe what they said, or is this just CYA?  Because, damn it, if you‘re working for a guy, and you think he‘s cheating, and he‘s going to blow up the party if he wins the nomination, why would you work for him for one second longer? 



MATTHEWS:  One second longer?

FINEMAN:  OK.  It‘s a little complicated.  I think there‘s some truth to it. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the truth? 

FINEMAN:  I think this—well, first of all, I think this was definitely the sentiment among people who were not—who were not with hands-on management of the campaign, but who knew Edwards and the Edwards...


MATTHEWS:  How would they have sabotaged the campaign?

FINEMAN:  Because they knew it, and they would have leaked it.  And they would have—they would have confirmed rumors that nobody otherwise was taking seriously.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why were they working for a guy they thought would...


FINEMAN:  Listen, I mean, they were not—the people that I talked to were not directly working for the campaign, but they knew what was going on.


FINEMAN:  These are people who had worked...


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s not what George says there. 


FINEMAN:  I know that‘s not what he‘s saying.


FINEMAN:  I‘m saying what my reporting says.



ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  I think, it‘s so despicable, it‘s got to be true. 

I mean, you‘re taking the guy‘s money, you‘re cashing the paycheck every week, and you‘re plotting to knife him in the back?

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re telling him—you‘re giving him advice every day about how to win.

SIMON:  Yes.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  All the time, you‘re holding this hatchet in your back pocket, saying, I‘m going to cut your head off if you have a chance of winning. 


SIMON:  I mean, these are people who are saying, oh, they‘re too much on the high road to accept his bad immoral behavior.


SIMON:  But they‘re going to...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Joe Trippi, who has been on the show a lot, was a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign.  He wrote on a Twitter: “In case you missed it yesterday, regarding claims of an Edwards doomsday plot, complete B.S.—this is Joe Trippi talking—“Complete B.S., fantasyland.  Not true.”

George Stephanopoulos replied on his Twitter: “I stand by my report, which did not mention you”—that‘s Joe Trippi—“in any way.  Hope you‘re well.”

Another senior adviser to the Edwards campaign told HARDBALL—quote

“I don‘t doubt for a second that people told George this, but it sounds like revisionist history, since nobody on the campaign at the time knew the affair was true.”

FINEMAN:  Chris, Chris, if you listen closely to what Stephanopoulos

said, he said former campaign staffers and he said his circle.  He said the

the Edwards circle. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


So, I think there was some willful suspension of disbelief...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  ... looking the other way, on the part of people who were actually in the wheelhouse of the campaign...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  ... maybe including Joe Trippi and other people who are right there. 

Harrison Hickman, who was the pollster, claims—and he knows Obama -

I mean—excuse me—he knows Edwards longer than anybody—says that he didn‘t know it until the very, very end, until just before Edwards confirmed it on “Nightline.” 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So, you‘re saying these are people outside the inner...


FINEMAN:  Yes.  But it doesn‘t matter. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it does matter. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  If they weren‘t on the payroll...


MATTHEWS:  ... they were people that sort of—in his sort of...


FINEMAN:  Well, so far...


FINEMAN:  What I‘m saying is, so far, at any rate, in my reporting, I can‘t...


FINEMAN:  ... confirm that people actually on the payroll...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at something interesting.  Let‘s put this in perspective. 


MATTHEWS:  We were doing this in real time, covering this campaign back in New Hampshire.

Let‘s take a look at an interview I did with him where he does say something that might be somewhat related. 

Here‘s candidate John Edwards in the midst of this hell. 


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  God and my faith are enormously important to me, personally, have gotten me through—my faith in—in the lord has gotten me through some very, very difficult times in my own life.

But I don‘t think it‘s my job, as either a presidential candidate or president of the United States, to impose my faith on anybody. 


MATTHEWS:  What is this God stuff doing here in the midst of an affair, in the midst of a cover-up, in the midst of turmoil at the staff level, planning to sabotage, based on this?  And, all the time, he‘s doing this.

SIMON:  It gives God a bad name.  It gives religion a bad name. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I didn‘t know why he brought it up.  I don‘t know.

SIMON:  Every time a candidate brings it up and invokes the name of the lord to defend his actions, and then you find out later he‘s not acting within any religious proscriptions or dogmas, it—it under cuts him. 



FINEMAN:  I saw the whole arc with this guy.

I remember, when he came into town, he was a meteor rising.  OK?  He was charming.  He seemed to be on the rise, on the make, and so on.  He had Elizabeth Edwards with him there.

MATTHEWS:  Was he on the make then? 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Oh, well, politically.  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Just teasing. 



FINEMAN:  After 2004...


FINEMAN:  ... people who had been with him in that campaign, who had been with him for years, said, we don‘t want any part—one of the interesting stories here, as Roger and I both remember, a lot of people who were with Edwards initially wanted to have no parts of his campaign after 2006 and when he launched in 2006, 2007. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is that?  What changed them? 

FINEMAN:  Well—well, some people saw him with Rielle Hunter on the campaign trail.  I was talking to one person earlier today who said: “I saw him with Rielle Hunter.  And I said, Rielle Hunter is acting like his spouse.  I don‘t want to have anything to do with this campaign.”

So, some of the people who wanted to have nothing to do with the campaign...


FINEMAN:  ... and who didn‘t actually join the campaign are the ones who are saying now that they were going to pull the plug if he got anywhere. 

They‘re—that was irresponsible on their part, too.  I agree with Roger.


MATTHEWS:  Well, by the way, here is another quote from someone in the campaign, a guy who is on his campaign a lot, Mudcat Grant, the guy with the manner of the South.

FINEMAN:  Mudcat...

SIMON:  Saunders.

MATTHEWS:  Saunders.

SIMON:  Mudcat Saunders.

MATTHEWS:  Mudcat Saunders.

Here he is.  “I stand by Joe Trippi on this.”  Joe was just quoted here.  “People were crying when Edwards exited the race, and we weren‘t crying because it foiled a doomsday plot.  This is a fairy tale.”

FINEMAN:  That‘s not quite true either. 

SIMON:  Well...

FINEMAN:  Go ahead.


MATTHEWS:  What was—what‘s not true? 

FINEMAN:  It wasn‘t a fairy tale.  It was—it was buzzing around, is what I‘m saying.  It was buzzing around.

MATTHEWS:  No, this story that they planned to doomsday the guy is a fairy tale.

FINEMAN:  Yes, I understand.  I understand.

SIMON:  How come nobody in any of these things think the public can‘t handle the truth, thinks that John Edwards couldn‘t have said, look, yesterday, I told my wife I had an affair.  I was wrong.  She‘s forgiven me.  I‘m not going to drop out of the race.  I‘m going to continue to run...

MATTHEWS:  Because he would lose. 

SIMON:  ... because I—you don‘t know he would lose.  Maybe he would lose.  Maybe he wouldn‘t lose.

But why can‘t the American people be trusted to make that judgment? 

FINEMAN:  The point is, the people who are right next to a candidate...

MATTHEWS:  I like the sentiment. 

FINEMAN:  The point is that the people who are right next to a candidate willfully suspend their disbelief about the candidate. 


FINEMAN:  If they have committed to it, they think they can bust their way through on something like this.

But the people on the second or third ring knew it wasn‘t the case.  And they were the ones who, my understanding, were willing to step forward and sabotage it, if it came to that.  But they all thought it wouldn‘t get anywhere.  They were willing to let it collapse of its own weight.

SIMON:  But how about the people closest to the candidate didn‘t know as much as those in the second circle?

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s sometimes possible.  I think that‘s...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you. 

This is not a positive story for the world. 

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

Thank you, Roger Simon.

Up next: lots of laughs at Saturday night‘s White House Correspondents Dinner.  We have got highlights next in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL tonight. 

The “Sideshow” is right off the news. 

On Saturday night here, we saw the social mating of Washington and Hollywood, people in the political world in love with people in the magic kingdom of the movies.  The event?  The annual White House Correspondents Dinner.  I was there with my friend, our guest Whoopi Goldberg.  I loved saying hi—there she is—I loved saying hi to Whoopi‘s mom on the cell phone, by the way, also meeting HARDBALL fans like Colin Firth from “Love Actually,” and Jon Hamm of “Madmen,” and Samuel L. Jackson of “Pulp Fiction,” and Owen Wilson of the movie I have seen a zillion times, “Wedding Crashers.”  Yes, I‘m a movie nut. 

But here is the main event, President Obama himself. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I would like to welcome you all to the 10-day anniversary of my first 100 days. 



OBAMA:  I am Barack Obama. 



OBAMA:  Most of you covered me.  All of you voted for me. 


OBAMA:  ... to another thing that‘s changed in this new, warmer, fuzzier White House.


OBAMA:  And that‘s my relationship with Hillary.  You know, we had been rivals during the campaign, but, these days, we could not be closer. 

In fact, the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and gave me a big kiss...



OBAMA:  ... told me I would better get down there myself. 


Dick Cheney was supposed to be here but he is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, “How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.” 


OBAMA:  Michael Steele is in the house tonight. 


OBAMA:  Or as he would say, “in the heezy.” 



OBAMA:  What‘s up? 




MATTHEWS:  Well, Chairman Steele of the Republican Party called that shout-out just good love between two brothers. 

Now, while the president stayed cool with his routine, things got a bit hot when comedienne Wanda Sykes had things to say like this. 


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN:  Boy, Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails.  To me, that‘s treason.  He‘s not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. 

You know, you might want to look into this, sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on OxyContin, he missed his flight. 


SYKES:  Rush Limbaugh, “I hope the country fails.”  I hope his kidneys fail.  How about that? 



MATTHEWS:  Well, I would call that line over the line, Wanda. 

Anyway, time now for the “Big Number.”  And, tonight, it comes with the headline money doesn‘t grow on trees. 

As the White House preps the official release of up-to-date figures on its 2010 budget, we‘re getting a better idea of just how much this country is going to be in the red.  For every dollar the federal government spends this coming year under President Obama‘s plan, how much is it borrowing? 

According to the Associated Press, 46 cents on the dollar, almost half.  Under the White House plan, the government will have to borrow 46 cents for every dollar that they spend this coming year, tonight‘s incredibly “Big Number.” 

Up next:  One of the greatest leaders of the 20th century—I would say the greatest—my hero, Winston Churchill, he‘s the subject of a new HBO movie called “Into the Storm.”  And, when we return, we will talk to actor Brendan Gleeson, who plays Winston Churchill in this incredible new film, as well as the film‘s producer.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

A day of profit-taking, a day of financials in the red once again—today‘s sell-off dropping the Dow Jones industrial average down almost 156 points to 8418, the S&P 500 down nearly 20, and the Nasdaq down more than seven. 

Bankruptcy for General Motors appears more probable—that assessment from the carmaker‘s new CEO, who did say there is a chance it could still stay out of bankruptcy ahead of that June 1 restructuring deadline.  It all hinges on talks with GM‘s debt-holders that appear to be stalling.  GM is hoping for an agreement ahead of that deadline. 

Red ink rising—the White House today is projecting a record federal deficit of beyond $1.8 trillion.  That‘s more than quadruple last year‘s record shortfall.  That means the government will have to borrow about 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year. 

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


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  You once said to me, do you remember, when you first became prime minister, “I was born for this.”

You were, Winston. 

BRENDAN GLEESON, ACTOR:  Too many disasters. 


MATTHEWS:  My hero. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was an old clip, but actually a new clip, from a new film “Into the Storm,” an intimate look at Winston Churchill set against the backdrop of World War II.  The movie debuts Sunday May 31 -- that‘s a week and a—a week from next Sunday—on HBO at 9:00. 

Brendan Gleeson, the lad who sits across from me, he‘s a Golden Globe nominee for his work in “In Bruges.”  He stars in the film as Sir Winston himself.  He‘s here with us in Washington.  And “Into the Storm” producer Frank Doelger joins us from London. 

Frank, thank you for joining us.

I want this man here who played my hero last night to talk about Churchill and why he‘s relevant. 

GLEESON:  Well, he‘s relevant, I guess, because he epitomizes a certain aspiration of leadership a lot of people would share. 

And I had also, I guess, certain misgivings about the project before I started, coming from Ireland.  So, it‘s been a very interesting experience for me to—you know, to have a look at from across the other side of the table.

And I guess Churchill is relevant because all great leaders are called for in times of crisis. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What was distinctive about him, Frank Doelger, was, in 1940, when people and appeasers, like Halifax, who was the worst of them, and Chamberlain, who was not the worst, were ready to throw it in and let Hitler have Europe.  And we would have never been able to get in that war, even after the Japanese attacked.  Everything could have been different if this guy hadn‘t stood up. 

Your thoughts, Frank. 

FRANK DOELGER, PRODUCER:  Well, I think it‘s interesting, because what‘s fascinating about someone like Winston Churchill—and I think it was true of FDR and certainly true of John Adams, when I worked on the “John Adams” miniseries—that these were men who had very strong beliefs.  They used their ideas and they used their words to inform and to unite a nation, rather than dividing it. 

And I think Churchill‘s great gift was that he made people believe that victory was possible, and he made people believe that, if they stuck with it, they could accomplish great things. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it struck me again in the film, Brendan, was to watch the fall of France, and the fall of all the countries in Europe on the continent.  Every one of them fell to Hitler.  He was the only one left. 

And a lot of people would have cut a deal over Gibraltar.  They would given Hitler what he wanted, appease him again with a bunch of African countries, thrown in the Gibraltar, thrown in the British fleet. 

GLEESON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And he say, no way. 

Here is another clip from the film “Into the Storm,” where Winston Churchill learns that the Japanese have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. 


GLEESON:  One day, my father came into (INAUDIBLE) enormously impressed with the orderly ranks of my infantrymen. 

“Would you like to enter the army,” he says? 

“Oh, yes, sir.”  I said, “That would be splendid.” 

So, off I went to Sandhurst.  Well, I thought had he sent me there because he had discerned in me qualities of military genius.  In fact, it was because he thought I was too stupid for the bar. 

Yes, what is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Japanese have attacked the Americans, sir.  I have been listening on the wireless. 

GLEESON:  What? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Somewhere near Hawaii, sir. 

GLEESON:  God.  Why didn‘t you say something?  I should declare war on Japan. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Prime minister, you can‘t declare war because of something you heard on the wireless. 

GLEESON:  Don‘t tell me what to do, Coville (ph).  If I want to declare war, I bloody well will declare it. 


MATTHEWS:  Many times I was caught up emotionally in this film, as I am wont to do, as I told you before.  But I was really struck by—and this is important to everybody out there married.  Most of our viewers I think are married, overwhelmingly, in fact, based on some statistics in my head.  They‘re sitting watching this show together—one drags the other to watch this every night.  And I was impressed by the fact that Clementine, who doesn‘t get a whole lot of ink, was critical to keeping this guy‘s head above water. 

GLEESON:  Churchill was a massively complex person.  And he had to fight—among every other challenge, he had to fight the black dog, as he called it.  He suffered from depression.  And he had massive self-belief, obviously.  But then he had massive insecurities along with it.  Clementine was the person that his rock really.  It‘s almost cliched how much she supported him, and went in there with the scalpel when it was needed.


GLEESON:  And a lot of his speeches he would run by her, for example.  And she did a lot of work herself during the war.  She was head of a lot of various charities and things like that.  So she was a very active. 

MATTHEWS:  I was struck by that again.  Frank, you‘re thoughts on the research on Clementine Churchill, and standing up with this guy when he went through—I mean he knew if Hitler got England, he‘d be hanged if he was lucky.  That would be the best way to go for him, and probably would go the worst way.  These guys‘ necks were on the line.  The wife stuck with him.  And she wouldn‘t have been in any better shape, probably, if the Nazis got tot he island. 

DOELGER:  I think she shared his belief that it would have been wrong to make a deal with the Germans.  I also think that she shared his belief in the empire, and the belief that England was a great country, could still be a great country, and didn‘t want to face a future as a slave state. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want you all to watch this movie tonight.  I don‘t endorse many TV shows.  This is bigger than that.  It‘s on the Sunday after next.  It has Brenden Gleeson, who is fabulous, as Winston.  And Frank Foelger, thank you very much for this movie.  I think it‘s really important to show us what a great leader looks like, even in these days of the 21st century.  We ought to know who won the 20th century.  The good guys won because of Churchill.  Anyway, it debuts, as I said, the Sunday after next. 

Up next, how much mileage will the Republicans get on beating up Nancy Pelosi over what she may have known about torture, water boarding, and especially in those days of the war just ended, or in fact still going on, but certainly we got a new look at it in this new administration.  That‘s coming up next in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re back in time for the politics fix.  the fix that Nancy Pelosi is in regarding torture and what she knew and when she knew it.  Harold Ford is an MSNBC political analyst and the‘s Chris Cillizza joins us. 

When are you going to just be just the “Washington Post” Cillizza? 

I‘d drop this dot com stuff. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You can introduce me that way whenever you want.

MATTHEWS:  I read you in the actual newspaper.  You‘re a grown up.  I‘m so print oriented.  Let me go to you.  I want to start with you first, Chris, on this; and that is, is Nancy Pelosi winning the argument?  She‘s got a staffer involved who also was said to have been briefed on torture back as early as 2003.  She in 2002.  She‘s denying she got the details.  But it seems like they pasted her with this stuff, the Republicans, that she knew when they knew. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, first of all, Chris, let me send kudos; my colleague Paul Cane has been doing great work on these stories.  Look, any time a politician is talking about process, when they knew something, whether or not they knew it, that‘s never good.  You don‘t—especially when you‘re talking about something as controversial as these interrogation techniques.  You don‘t really want to be going back and re-litigating them. 

It‘s not good from solely a political perspective.  Is there long-term political implications here?  Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House.  She raises a lot of money.  And she sits in a very liberal district.  I don‘t see her losing even if a challenge from her ideological left—I just can‘t imagine her not getting—coming back to Congress for as long as she sees fit to do so. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Congressman Ford here.  How well does this affect—or does it affect her status in this big debate with the Republicans over torture?  The party base of the Democratic party—and you know the people that go to the whip meeting, the people that really are the rah-rah guys and women, they don‘t like this torture thing.  Do they feel that she‘s been touched by it, do you think?

HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Two things; one, she‘s often been picked on as speaker.  She‘s been accustomed throughout her political career of having to overcome odds.  This is another challenge she will face, too.  It‘s no surprise.  Nancy Pelosi opposed the Iraq war from the outset.  I happen to disagree with Speaker Pelosi in that vote. 

She has been outspoken in her concern and outcry about the techniques used by the previous administration to quell al Qaeda‘s growth.  These questions here, I think, are as much semantics as anything. 

I think the larger question from my party, however, is, is this really a debate we want to have?  I think if you ask the majority of Americans if they were opposed to the water boarding of some of these high-level terrorists or those who orchestrated terrorist attacks, I think you would be hard-pressed to find many Americans, many Democrats even, who would be that outraged by it. 

I hope we are able to move on from the conversation and get on the to the business that Leon Panetta is on, which is trying to fix our intelligence system to ensure that we are getting the best data, and that we don‘t run into the problem we ran into Iraq from the outset, which was going in to search for weapons of mass destruction when they had no weapons of mass destruction. 

CILLIZZA:  Chris, real quickly on the Congressman‘s point, there was a poll a week or two ago, an independent poll, that found—a media poll, that asked people whether they felt what had gone on at Gitmo was torture.  By a large majority of people said yes.  The next question was, did they think those kinds of techniques would be necessary in certain circumstances.  And a slimmer, but still more people said yes than no. 

So you have this weird disconnect.  People do think it‘s torture.  But they feel like, if it yields results, then perhaps it‘s the right thing to do.  And that‘s tough, especially as it relates to the Democratic party base, which they clearly believe that this is something that is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s interesting, Congressman, it seems like Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are caught trying to do two things at the same time.  You see her standing there in front of a million flags.  She‘s clearly trying to look as nationalistic as the Republicans.  I mean, national—patriotic, in other words, tough, anything that goes to defend the country—we‘re going to be tough as nails, opposing any enemy of any kind.  We are tough as the Republicans are. 

At the same time, seeming to express sympathy for prisoners, bad guys.  Is that a problem?  You seem to be suggesting it is.  You can‘t be both tough as nails and, at the same time, look like you worry about human rights violations.  Is that a problem politically or not? 

FORD:  No.  I think Eric Holder said this best when referring to the Ted Stevens case, in the aftermath, when he stepped forward and said the Justice Department, the United States would not move forward.  He said the most important thing at the Justice Department is not winning.  It‘s justice. 

In this sense, I think having the conversation about what happened and whether or not—at Guantanamo Bay.  And I‘m not as outraged as some are about it, because as much as I think some think some of those techniques were enhanced and might have risen to a level of torture, you have to remember when this was occurring.  This is 2002, 2003.  The country was in a different place, in a different space. 

If you were to say to me as an American, put aside my partisanship, that we have an opportunity to gain information that would prevent the destruction of an American city, to prevent killings in American cities, and we have to use certain techniques, I‘m one of those Americans that would have voted a certain way, Chris in that polling.  It might have been torture.  I‘m not as outraged. 

MATTHEWS:  You are veering into Cheney country here. 

FORD:  No, no, no. 

MATTHEWS:  The destruction of American city?  What evidence did you ever have that the enemy had a nuclear weapon that could blow up an American city?  Where did that—that‘s Cheney talk.  That‘s what he uses to justify torture.  We have no evidence that any enemy of ours had a nuclear weapon. 

FORD:  I said if thousands of people in America—don‘t get me wrong.  We can play the names associating me with one person or another.  I‘m just saying 2002 --

MATTHEWS:  You said blow up an American city.  What are you talking about?

FORD:  In 2002, 2003, remember where America was.  You remember our mindset.  If the American people were told that there were those that might have been held at Guantanamo Bay, that might have had information after our country was attacked on 9/11, I‘m certain people would have wanted them to take those—take certain steps.  I‘m not arguing at all that there was evidence that that would have happened.  Yet, Cheney has said that he hopes all of the data is released, and maybe at some point we‘ll have an opportunity to see that. 

The larger issue here I think is, where do we go from here?  I think the new director, Mr. Panetta, has made clear that seeking out and finding the best intelligence has to be the goal of the CIA.  And when we make a mistake, to admit we‘ve made a mistake.  George Bush and Dick Cheney never could admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction.  As a result, we‘ve pursued a path in Iraq that has weakened us in many ways in the Middle East and made it hard for this new president. 

MATTHEWS:  Those guys used the nuclear threat.  They said they had a weapon. They had a vehicle to deliver it here to America to get us to go to war with Iraq.  They used that again this weekend, the vice president, saying it was an excuse, a reason for torture.  I don‘t like references made to a strategic threat to the United States, a nuclear threat.  We know what happened on 9/11.  Everybody knows. 

But the way they sold that way, the way they‘re still selling that war, the way they‘re still selling torture is to say we faced a holocaust here in America, a city blown up.  That‘s why I don‘t like any reference to Cheney talk.  Because that‘s what it is.

We‘ll be right back with Harold Ford and Chris Cillizza with the fix. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Harold Ford and Chris Cillizza.  Let‘s talk politics again.  Mr. Ford, let me ask you about Charlie Christ.  Isn‘t it interesting that Charlie Christ, the governor of Florida, gets kudos for taking that stimulus money, and Arlen Specter gets bounced out of the party for voting for it.  And now this guy is coming to the Senate as a Republican with the money in his pocket for his state and Arlen got in trouble for taking it—for voting for it. 

FORD:  It gives you a sense of what the new Republican party is looking like.  It‘s Dick Cheney.  It‘s Rush Limbaugh.  When—in large ways, if you are really a Republican that wants to win, you‘ve got to think about Charlie Christ and a few others being the new face. 

As a partisan, I hope Charlie does not win down in Florida.  I know him.  He‘s a good guy.  But more importantly, I hope he doesn‘t become the face of the party.  If Cheney and Limbaugh remain the face, it‘s narrow, more southern, and it‘s unlikely they will be able to win a majority, or regain a majority in the House or the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Chris on this other tricky question.  Jim Bunning, the hero I grew up with in Philly, with the Phillies, the guy who threw no hitters in both leagues, in fact a perfect game; this guy has apparently a primary fight facing him from the secretary of state, Trey Grayson.  This isn‘t good for the Republicans, is it?  That we‘re going to be fighting it out.  He‘s going to run for reelection.  This guy is going to challenge him. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, Chris, this is a very strange story.  Jim Bunning a few weeks ago met with Trey Grayson, who is someone who has been under his wing, someone who he‘s nurtured, and said, start an exploratory committee.  Most people in the Grayson camp that I talked to thought that meant Jim Bunning wasn‘t running.  Low and behold, over the weekend, Jim Bunning says, I‘m running for re-election.  The Grayson people say, wait a minute.  We‘re in this race and we‘re going to keep running, because we don‘t think if Jim Bunning winds up being the Republican nominee, he has any chance of winning, which polls do bear out. 

Bunning has really struggled.  He doesn‘t raise a lot of money.  He‘s in this back and forth every day with Mitch McConnell, the minority leader.  It‘s a bad situation down there. 

MATTHEWS:  Good news and bad news.  Good news Charlie Christ.  Bad news a fight in Kentucky over the nomination.  Thank you, Harold Ford, and thank you, Chris Cillizza.  Join us again tomorrow 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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