On Sept. 25, the Hardball College Tour rolled into George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., for a special hour with retiring House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Armey is best known for being a key architect of theRepublican takeover of Congress in 1994, the first time a GOP majority ruled the House in 40 years.
RIDING THE wave of a “Republican Revolution,” the new majority promised less taxes, smaller government and more personal freedom. Armey has long championed the flat tax, a proposal which, if enacted, would allow you to do your income taxes on a postcard. After his nearly 20 years in Congress, we asked Armey about the war on terrorism, the state of the conservative “revolution” and what lies ahead for his future.
A folksy, plain-spoken Texan who loves bass fishing, Armey has represented the 26th Congressional District located in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex since 1985.
Some of his famous “Armey’s Axioms” include “If you love peace more than freedom, you lose” and “No one spends someone else’s money as wisely as he spends his own.”
Prior to his service in Congress, Armey was a professor of economics at the University of North Texas for 13 years.
Armey recently made news when he came out against the Bush administration’s policy of preemptive action against Iraq. That didn’t stop him, however, from saying of Saddam Hussein, “He is what we in Texas know as a ‘blowhard.’ He can’t help himself.” He also opposes elements of the war on terrorism, citing infringements on civil liberties. The show aired live at 9 p.m. ET from the campus of George Mason University — The Center For The Arts. For more information call (703) 993-8877 or visit the George Mason University website.
Dick Armey’s flat tax homepage
Armey’s Reading Room
To get news on the Hardball College tour delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Hardball Briefing. Click here to subscribe.
TRANSCRIPT TO THE SHOW:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Live from George Mason University of Virginia, tonight for a full hour the HARDBALL “College Tour” hearing from a Washington outsider who helped lead the conservative revolution in Congress, a college professor turned power broker, who’s known for saying what he thinks, House Republican leader Dick Armey. I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s play HARDBALL.
REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: How are you? How are you? How are you?
MATTHEWS: Here we are at George Mason University - Mr. Armey, thanks for joining us. House-we call him leader when we’re on Capitol Hill. Let me ask you the question ...
ARMEY: I should mention, though, that that’s what Bob Dole calls his dog, so don’t ...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this war that’s facing us down the road, perhaps as early as December. Why would a person who is extremely patriotic oppose this war?
ARMEY: Well it’s very difficult. First, I mean this is a complicated thing. I am extremely patriotic. I’m extremely conservative. I have raised questions about the war. One, is it a necessary venture for us to involve this nation in?
Two, do we have the right plan to execute it if it is necessary, and for me the most difficult one, do we reconcile a pre-emptive strike against even somebody who is as frightening as Saddam Hussein, against our great American tradition of non- aggression? And we are not an aggressive nation. We have not been.
So there are very complicated questions about this, and you can be just as conservative as possible and just as patriotic and have reservations about it. And the final analysis, though, we go back to our constitution, ably written by Virginians, that says that this government must defend this nation, and secure the blessings of liberty.
Where does the threat come from? How immediate is it? How serious is it? And what is the appropriate attack? That’s what we’re trying to measure out now.
MATTHEWS: The argument for this war is that we face an enemy that’s hostile to us and has weapons it can use against us and ultimately intends to use them against us. Couldn’t Israel use that same set of arguments to attack every Arab country in the world right now?
ARMEY: I suppose Israel could, but you use that argument with a certain amount of prudence, and I think Israel has been prudent, and I think the United States has been particularly prudent, and ...
MATTHEWS: Until now.
ARMEY: ... we cherish it if within our heritage. We just saw on September 11 of last year that which we said heretofore was unthinkable. That kind of attack on our soil, it’s an imminent possibility we live with every day of our life. Israel, bless their heart, they live with it every day of their life and more recurring terms than we do.
This is a different world from what we saw before when armies lined up on the battlefield. So you’re just going to have to make an adjustment in your understanding and I have to tell you, Chris, I am researching this as hard as anybody in Washington. I’m getting every briefing I can get, and when you get a good thorough factual analysis, you’ve got to come to terms with how real is the threat, and what is the appropriate response, and can you be swift and decisive in how you respond to it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the two threats. One threat faces us if we don’t attack Iraq. The other threat faces us if we do. Let me ask you about that second threat. Are you concerned-and I want anybody in this room to have a reaction to that, give it to us now in a civil fashion. Do you believe that by attacking an Arab country, taking the aggressive move against them, making the argument that they’re a danger down the road but basically that’s an argument, do you think that endangers us to face a world of Arab hostility and Islamic hostility in every capital in the world?
ARMEY: I think we always have that problem, and I think the president went to the United States and tried to encourage - or the United Nations and tried to encourage them to be involved. And the president has accepted the responsibility. We must demonstrate to the world, what should I say, consensus, understanding, that this threat is real, that it can be and is likely to be directed at the United States, our friends, but it also is a threat that can be directed in other avenues of the country.
If, in fact, Saddam Hussein is seen as a paper tiger that is, as I described him not too long ago, nothing more than a blowhard ranting within his own borders, then I don’t think there will be a world acceptance of any American action against ...
MATTHEWS: Let’s talk to someone-just ask your question the way you want to.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. I just wanted to say that you made the comment that the Palestinians should not be able to establish their own state, but instead they should be absorbed into the surrounding Arab states. I was wondering about what gives you the right to say that the Israelis deserve that state, however Palestinians do not, whereas they were living in that state for thousands of years?
ARMEY: Well, thank you for asking the question please.
ARMEY: No I - I have never taken the position that there should not be a Palestinian state. I am for a Palestinian state.
MATTHEWS: Where ...
ARMEY: The question is where is it.
MATTHEWS: In Palestine?
ARMEY: Not necessarily, in Israel. I mean, Chris, this is-is this not what we’re talking about? Is it Israel or is it Palestine? But here’s the question ...
MATTHEWS: No, but in the area it’s defined as Palestine, but also the area that includes Israel today ...
MATTHEWS: ... and Israel and Palestine next to it. Do you say that the new future, that the president is committed to a state of Israel, a state of Palestine within three years, do you say it should not be in Palestine, the Palestinian homeland?
ARMEY: I believe they should have a Palestinian homeland that is a territory of peaceful occupation, home, production, economy, schools, education, where they have respect for their neighbors and are respected by their neighbors. There are - I mean, we can make comparative historic arguments about is this piece of territory you’re looking at Israel’s or Palestine’s? What is the history of these? There are questions regarding that.
Israel, in my estimation, has been historically since 1948 more willing to accept Palestinians within its border if they will live peacefully than many other Arab states. The fact is there is a presumption that the - that the provision of a territory for a Palestinian state falls upon Israel to provide when the other Arab nations could also make a greater contribution than they have been willing to do to the peace, security, homeland of the Palestinians ...
MATTHEWS: The Jewish people, when the whole movement of Zionism began well over a 100 years ago, there was talk of maybe having a homeland for Jews in Canada or in Africa and they said-and this was quite, I think, emotional and historic-they said no, we want our homeland where we came from. We want to have it in the Jewish homeland of Israel, in what’s called by the Palestinians, Palestine.
Why should the Palestinians accept a homeland anywhere but where they were born and grew up and spent thousands of years? Why should they be forced ...
ARMEY: One of the first things you have to deal with is the fact that the United Nations created Israel, and it was based upon a historical analysis of Israel being the historical homeland of the Jewish people. It was done. It should have been done more peacefully than it was at the time. There should have been more cooperation at the time than there was. There should have been more acceptance of the Palestinians by surrounding Arab nations than there was at the time. And it can be worked out, but it cannot be worked out if it is thought that it can only be worked out at the expense of what is now known as Israel, and what has been Israel since 1948.
MATTHEWS: OK, but OK. Let’s go - next - next sir-why don’t you finish your question and then the gentleman behind you.
QUESTION: OK, so you say that the other Arab states should give up
their territory in order to make a Palestinian state, whereas they have
also had those boundaries since before 1948, so how-what gives you-
how are they going to give up their country when Israel is so new? Like
ARMEY: Well let me put it this way. Syria, Jordan, Egypt, other nation-states that are Arabic, have said we stand for the Palestinians. We want to be their champions. We are on their side against Israel. Why can’t they be on their side for giving folks a home within our boundaries, our borders? Why is it that the position is so rigidly held, there must be a Palestinian state and it must come from Israel? What is the position that says no Jews between me and the sea?
Now what I’m saying is, you have to be, if I’m saying I’m for a Palestinian state, I have got to say what will I put in to that creation, not what will you put in to it. There must be - I think I should have a new home and you ought to build it for me. That’s ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take the next question, sir.
QUESTION: How are you doing, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Armey? First, I’d like to point out to everyone here that I’m wearing the shirt that says “Free Palestine” and I’d like to point to all the people here who are wearing the shirt as well.
QUESTION: For those people who rise for a truly just cause that we might forget really what the Palestinian people are fighting for.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: What’s the question?
QUESTION: My question is, as you referred to ...
QUESTION: ... you referred in a previous episode of HARDBALL on how the Palestinian people in the West Bank, in the occupied territories that the Israelis hold, that their decision should come from, that their future is held in the hands of the Israelis. Now my question is a very simple one. Not to beat a dead horse, but let me ask you, do the Palestinians have a right to self-determination where they can decide what they want to do rather than other Arabs or Israelis wanting to do it?
ARMEY: And I can’t tell you how much I want that for the Palestinians. But the fact of the matter is, what I was talking about on Chris’s show that became so controversial was, in reference to what has been the consistent theme throughout the last decade or decade and a half, that if Israel will give up land, Israel will get peace.
Well, Israel tried that. They tried to give up land and the peace did not follow. My position then and my position is now, Israel should never be willing to give up land in the belief it will win them peace, because people that are aggressing against Israel are not seeking the land. They are seeking no Jews between me and the sea, and that is a false case that Israel has seen will not work.
Do I want the Palestinian people to have a free home of their own where they can live free and prosper and care for their children, educate them? Yes I do, but I want everybody that is in the Middle East that feels like they’ve got a child to arm or armed arrays or a protest to make to say we will all chip in on behalf of the Israeli - or the Palestinian people.
The fact of the matter is the Palestinians have had greater acceptance since 1948 by Israel than they have had from other Arab states, and that is something the Palestinians must come to terms with. The fact of the matter, there are other Arab states that have used the Palestinians as pawns ...
MATTHEWS: All right ...
ARMEY: ... in their war against Israel ...
ARMEY: ... and that must end.
MATTHEWS: We’ll be back more with Dick Armey, the House Republican leader, with his comments on the Jewish people. Back with more HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We’re back at George Mason University in the Commonwealth of Virginia with an amazing man who speaks candidly. I don’t agree with him on much, including what he just said, but that’s why you’re here.
ARMEY: Are you going ...
MATTHEWS: And you’ve been elected leader of the Republican Party of the House of Representatives, which is something I was never elected to, so let’s keep up this moment of incredible candor. You’ve managed to upset most of the Palestinian people on this side of the world tonight. Let’s start with the other people that are sons of Abraham ...
ARMEY: I just want to mention ...
MATTHEWS: No, we’re going to the other sons and ...
MATTHEWS: ... of Abraham here.
MATTHEWS: Here’s a quote from you this weekend. Tell me if I’m wrong.
“I always see two Jewish communities in America, one of deep intellect
pause - and one of shallow superficial intellect.” And then you went on to say, “Liberals in my estimation aren’t bright people. They don’t ...
MATTHEWS: ... they don’t-you’re pretty thorough here. They don’t think deeply.
MATTHEWS: They don’t comprehend”. Well let’s start with the first part. I don’t know whether this is even worth quoting because every community I guess is divided between the smart and the stupid. The question is the - the question is why did you say it?
ARMEY: No and it’s a good point, and it’s the one thing that I said that could give somebody a reason to object, other than a liberal, which of course they’re not going ...
MATTHEWS: But they’re not smart enough to know what you’re talking about.
ARMEY: They probably don’t-well, we just saw that two liberals in the House couldn’t figure out what I was talking about. But the question was posed to me, we had a very casual discussion, and it was a very comprehensive discussion over a lot of matters. It’s a very interesting point.
The question was posed to me by a Jewish American, who was a Democrat, and he said, I am a Democrat and I’m thinking about switching to being a Republican. But he says, “I’ve always been puzzled by why the Jewish community is divided between conservatives and liberals.
On the heels of that I said I, too, or I have always seem to. Now, then I went on to extol the virtues and the intelligence and the general good lookingness of conservatives.
ARMEY: But let me go to the other point.
MATTHEWS: So why did Democrats jump on this and make it into an ethnic slur?
ARMEY: Well because they were doing what I would call auto therapeutic rationalizations of social or political injustice. They-what you have to understand about politics is, you must never overlook the opportunity to be the injured party ...
ARMEY: ... and to feign moral outrage.
MATTHEWS: Is that what Tom Daschle did today on the floor of the Senate ...
ARMEY: Oh absolutely ...
MATTHEWS: ... and said the president ...
ARMEY: ... it was unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: ... his patriotism.
ARMEY: Yes, I mean it was-and Tom Daschle was doing exactly that, injured party. The fact of the matter, if you look at what the president said or what the vice president said that caused injury (ph), there is no basis for there. I mean what is the old line, there’s no there there.
ARMEY: But Tom Daschle ...
ARMEY: Well Tom Daschle basically, I think he felt a little crowded off center stage by the former vice president and the future of nothing, and decided he had to go down on the floor of the Senate and reclaim his turf. But the fact is, the matter, Tom Daschle had nothing to complain about, but it works for liberals because they have an echo chamber in the liberal press. Dick Armey says oh lord have mercy, what a mean world, they just hurt my feelings. Ninety percent of the people aren’t going to care and the other 10 percent are going to be glad they did it.
MATTHEWS: First question of this segment. Sir with the Merlin (ph) sweatshirt, jersey. Go for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Matthews, Mr. Army, it’s a pleasure. Mr. Armey, in your mind what type of evidence would be needed to justify a strike on Iraq?
ARMEY: The evidence has to be that Saddam truly has real assets of mass destruction, the means to deploy them, and that that is an imminent threat to American interests, including interest of our allied friends in the world, but particularly in injury to Americans.
Now this debate is not about Saddam’s character. If you have any doubt about his character, then you just haven’t been paying attention. But it does have to reflect back on what is going to be the character of America. So we don’t strike without a reason.
It must be real, and I believe if it is, in fact, a pre-emptive first strike, the burden of proof falls on us.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
ARMEY: But there is, I have to tell you, Saddam Hussein is more provisioned with dangerous materials, weapons of mass destruction of harm and means to deploy, than to have been characterized as nothing more than a blowhard within his own borders, and we have to get ...
MATTHEWS: OK, on that thought, we’ll be back with Dick Armey, the House Republican leader, with more HARDBALL at George Mason University.
MATTHEWS: John Kerry, he’s a Democrat with war experience. Does that make him the best candidate to take back the White House in 2004? We’ll find out when he joins us on the next HARDBALL “College Tour”.
Let’s go right to our next question - sir.
QUESTION: Well first I’d like to - first I’d like to congratulate Chris on your show. I believe it’s a valuable service and with regards to Mr. Armey, I want to congratulate you on condemning the bigotry toward Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities in the country post September 11. Now going directly to my question, this is two-parted. First ...
MATTHEWS: Just one part.
QUESTION: OK, one part. With regard to hypothetically if we do invade Iraq, what would be the agenda for both Iraq, the people, and its resources?
ARMEY: Right. The agenda that I think America would have in mind would be to remove Saddam Hussein and, we believe, liberate a lot of Iraqi people from real oppression, and to ...
ARMEY: ... secure safety ...
MATTHEWS: More later-more later from Dick Armey, but we’re going to get the highlights of his career and the most incredible statements of Dick Armey’s career. We are coming back.
MATTHEWS: I’m on the HARDBALL “College Tour” with Dick Armey. Let’s take a look at the highlights of this incredible guy next to me. As I said before, he’s one of the few politicians I know who actually speaks his mind. Here is David Shuster with the proof.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four days after the Starr report arrived on Capitol Hill, Dick Armey injected some much-needed levity into the scandal engrossing the nation. Quote, if I were in the president’s place, I would not have gotten a chance to resign. I’d be lying in a pool of my own blood hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying, how do I reload this damn thing? But many of Dick Armey’s one-liners have been less well received. Quote, Spike Lee is obviously more stupid than anyone can be by accident.
In 1995, Armey caught flak for appearing to use a slur while describing Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman.
ARMEY: I like peace and quiet and I don’t need to listen to Barney Fag, Barney Frank haranguing in my ear because I made a few bucks of a book I worked on. I just don’t want to listen to it.
SHUSTER: Armey called it an unintended mispronunciation and quickly apologized. Armey didn’t apologize when in 1993, he said this about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s efforts at health care reform. Quote, Hillary Clinton bothers me a lot. I realized the other day that her thoughts sound a lot like Karl Marx. She hangs around a lot of Marxists. All her friends are Marxists. Armey’s sometimes blunt manner isn’t the only reason he’s unlikely to ever serve as a diplomat. In 1998 while discussing the International Monetary Fund, Armey noted that he had not been out of the United States since 1986. Quote, I’ve been to Europe once. I don’t have to go again.
(on-camera): The next year, Armey did go again. But a few months ago he infuriated Arab groups with this pronouncement about the Middle East.
ARMEY: I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank. There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state.
SHUSTER: But despite some heavy criticism in one press release from Democrats saying the House will become a more civil and decent institution the day Dick Armey retires, Armey has more often than not refused to back down. And that’s won him as many friends as enemies, friends who respect his willingness to always speak his mind in a town where few are that courageous.
I’m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington.
MATTHEWS: I guess we’re back here. Let me ask you. I want to give you a chance to respond to that encouragement you’re getting from over there. I’m talking about the booing. Have you seen any Spike Lee movies that you liked?
MATTHEWS: Has Hillary Clinton ever given up her membership in the communist party as you’ve seen it?
ARMEY: I have to tell you, Hillary Clinton was - I was-that was a gaffe on my part.
MATTHEWS: So she’s not a Marxist?
ARMEY: No, but she was also such a great sport and really, I have to tell you one thing about Mrs. Clinton and myself. We’ve had a good relationship. We’ve not agreed on a thing. We’ve had some harsh words between us, but this is a person that can take it and she can give it out.
MATTHEWS: She proved that for about eight years didn’t she?
ARMEY: Oh, yes, she did. But the fact of the matter is the more fun.
MATTHEWS: Do you disagree with that? That’s unexceptional what I just said.
ARMEY: The more fun exchanges between Mrs. Clinton and myself were not shown here, though.
MATTHEWS: She’s a charmer, isn’t she.
ARMEY: Oh, she’s great. She called me Dr. Kevorkian one time in front of the whole Congress.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, I’ve got to ask you this, I have a whole bunch of questions here. What do you think, how do you pronounce F-R-A-N-K?
ARMEY: You know, that was probably the most, what shall I say, disappointing thing in all my-I was very tired. I mispronounced. But I did not intentionally slip a lip, by accident, Freudian slip, say Barney Fag.
MATTHEWS: Barney said all the times my mother yelled at me growing up, she never accidentally called me Barney Fag.
ARMEY: And Barney had a lot of fun with that, but the frank fact of the matter is, Barney could have, himself, said Dick Armey wouldn’t say that by virtue of some of the relationship he and I had had prior to that point. I’ll take my raps. I got a rap coming to me on the Hillary Marxist deal. I got that rap coming to me. Flog me man. I was way out of line. But on that one it was just a simple mispronunciation and I can’t find people who are offended by it that will believe me and I can’t find people who are entertained by it that will believe me. I seem to be the only guy who believes me.
MATTHEWS: It is an odd slip of the tongue. Frank, fag? I just can’t see how you slipped there. That’s a big slip.
ARMEY: I don’t want to hang on this, but here is the deal, Chris. You know me. When I got my foot in the mouth and I’m shooting it there, I’ll own up to it.
MATTHEWS: You did.
ARMEY: And when I feel like I’m not getting a straight rap, I think I’m getting a bum rap, I’ll call that too and in that case...
MATTHEWS: OK, let’s make some more, let’s create some more bum rap opportunities. What do you think of Newt Gingrich?
ARMEY: Newt and I worked very well together.
MATTHEWS: How did he get in trouble? Why did his career get sort of-he had about the career the length of a running back in football, not too long.
ARMEY: He did. He was in Congress for an enormous long period of time. He had a lot of good success. Newt had more aptitude for, interest in and ability in politics than he did in making.
MATTHEWS: How about the human stuff?
ARMEY: Newt had some people that he was very close to. I think Newt was fair, and I always said I got all the loyalty Newt ever had to give. I got no complaint on Newt. You know, my wife and I were heartbroken about the breakup of his marriage to Mary Ann. We think the world of Mary Ann. We felt disappointed about that. These things happens in people’s lives.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the marital thing, which is nobody’s business, I suppose, but as you point out, unless you care about the marriage. Bill Clinton, if it wasn’t for Monica, what would you think of his presidency and what do you think of him?
ARMEY: I have never thought-I’ve known Bill Clinton a long time and I’ve spent a lot of time with him, more than I wanted to. I have never been able to accept Bill Clinton as a mature, responsible adult.
MATTHEWS: What’s missing?
ARMEY: My characterization of Bill Clinton is that he is the most successful adolescent I have ever known.
MATTHEWS: How did he get from growing up with-he didn’t have a father. He grew up in humble circumstances, mother was a nurse and no special privileges, to end up going to Georgetown. He’s a Rhodes scholar. He’s at Yale Law. He’s president of United States on the first try. If he has so many character deficiencies, why was he so incredibly successful in the American system?
ARMEY: First of all let me just say, don’t ask me to explain Bill Clinton because I don’t have a degree in developmental psychology. I’m not capable of it. But you’ve got to admit, he was the luckiest guy you ever saw in politics. Now, go back to.
MATTHEWS: This fellow wants to ask you a question.
ARMEY: Let me just finish this thought. Go back to his first primary run for president and name the big shot candidates that would have beaten him silly that stayed out of the race.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but he had the guts to run.
ARMEY: That’s right. He got lucky.
MATTHEWS: That’s not luck. It’s guts.
ARMEY: No, no. He himself didn’t even expect to do anything but get his name out there. He got lucky. The fact of the matter is that George Bush 41’s presidency was lost in the fall of 1990. Everybody in the world missed that point except me.
MATTHEWS: Was he lucky in marrying Hillary?
ARMEY: Oh, yes. He married way over his head. He could never have survived without Hillary. She protected him from public opinion in ways that few women will ever do for any man.
MATTHEWS: Should she be the senator from New York?
ARMEY: No. She’s not from New York.
MATTHEWS: All right. Do you find that an odd development, a woman got in trouble, a woman defended her husband against misbehavior and is rewarded by the senator role from New York, a state she never visited, apparently?
ARMEY: I want you to follow me closely on this because it’s very historical. In the age of reconstruction, Yankee carpetbaggers came to the south. In the age of deconstruction, southern carpetbaggers went to New York.
MATTHEWS: Your response.
ARMEY: The English department understood that but no one else did.
MATTHEWS: Deconstruction. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask what responsibility does Bill Clinton’s inaction prior to 9/11, what responsibility does he have for what happened?
ARMEY: I don’t think it’s very easy. I don’t think you can assign him
this again, you have to remember, this was the unthinkable. A lot of people want to really lean heavily on former Senator Church (ph). There was some dismantling of our investigation, our CIA and so forth. The fact of the matter is, it would be very difficult for anybody to have been in a position to do this thing that I find so obnoxious, connect the dots. I wish we’d drop that expression. But there were scattered pieces of information around, but it would be unkind, unfair, and unjust to say anybody should have been able to have done that. And I think we shouldn’t put the rap on President Clinton. I have not criticized him on that ground. I criticize him on a lot of grounds, but not that. But it’s not fair to do that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question that’s always amazed me about being a congressman. Can you vote your conscience? For example, if you decide that you think this war is wrong but you’re a House Republican leader and you have a Republican president, are you free to you act on your conscience or are you forced as a politician to do what the president wants you to do?
ARMEY: No. I vote my conscience. I’ve had this before on a lot of occasions. My leadership belongs to the confidence. I mean if it comes to helping (UNINTELLIGIBLE) putting it on the floor. But when it comes down to that card...
MATTHEWS: Have you decided yet?
ARMEY: I take this card out of my pocket, I put it in. This represents.
MATTHEWS: Have you decided how you’ll vote (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the war yet?
ARMEY: No, I’ve got a lot of information, more than I had a month ago. I have more information to get. You have to take all the hard facts about your real circumstances that you’re facing, juxtapose that against the exact language of the resolution on which you cast a vote. Somehow that has to get welded together in your mind and you have got to come to terms with yourself but make no mistake about it. You had better understand, I had better understand, this will be the single most important vote I will cast in all my 18 years, and some mother’s son or daughter is going to be on a field of combat, playing out the consequences of that vote. We don’t in this case get careless about it. Don’t get casual about it. And don’t mix in other considerations. This is a serious issue.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We’ll be back with more of Dick Armey (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the HARDBALL “College Tour” at George Mason University in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
MATTHEWS: We’re back at George Mason University campus here in Northern Virginia. Let me tell you that all the kids out there and all the students including grad students all use e-mail like mad. That includes just about everybody my age too right now. E-mail. You want to find out what’s going on in politics. You want to find out what’s going on on this show, including what’s coming up next week, here it is. hardball.msnbc.com. HARDBALL, easy to spell, .msnbc.com.
Anyway coming up next week, we’ve got John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts who is a skeptic about this war, to say the least, in Iraq. He’s going to be at the Citadel, one of the great homes of militarism, you might say, in this country, strong military tradition, next Wednesday in South Carolina in Charleston.
I want to talk right now about this country we live in with you, sir. You have lived most of your life away from Washington, out in the sticks in real America, right? You are something of a hick and proud of it, right? I think it’s a good word. Remember, all the king’s men? Let’s talk about...
ARMEY: Let me try it on you. You’re kind of a hick.
MATTHEWS: No, there’s a format here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. Do you think there’s something wrong with back East in Washington, the big city, compared to the country? Honestly, or do you think they’re both morally and culturally about the same?
ARMEY: I think there’s some-no, I mean.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the big city is wicked?
ARMEY: No. The Beltway is a thing. I mean, really.
MATTHEWS: We’re outside the Beltway.
ARMEY: Washington, D.C., and those of us who make our living in Washington, D.C., are insulated from reality. Years ago I made the observation that a bad idea can only survive if it’s insulated from reality. Take a look at it. Almost all bad ideas that we’ve experienced in America were born in universities and moved to Washington. They can’t survive outside of Washington. State governments they can’t survive, because there are reality tests. So Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, these East Coast cities, that’s all America. They have the same difficulties, the same if you will budget constraints. Washington, D.C., is an insulated environment and it therefore becomes an environment that can foster, hold, embrace and cause to endure, bad ideas. So you have to think twice as hard, twice as long, twice as sharply, when you’re in Washington, because there are too many temptations to sloppy thinking.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the way that society has changed in my lifetime and your lifetime. The “New York Times” recently decided that like a lot of other newspapers, they’re going to instead of just doing marriages on Sunday, they’re going to announce same sex relationships as part of their news announcements, celebrating those relationships. What do you make of that? Are you for it or against it?
ARMEY: I don’t-you know I catch and release, so I don’t have to buy the “New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this question? You’re not dodging it, are you?
ARMEY: No, I’m not dodging. Frankly, I don’t think about newspapers.
MATTHEWS: Try just for a minute. Try to think about whether you think it’s appropriate in our society for people of the same sex to have their unions-I mean, assuming it’s a permanent union, it’s not a frivolous thing, announced.
ARMEY: It is not something that I would accept for myself. It is not something that I would notice in somebody else. I would not raise any objection to it. I would only ask that don’t call your personal sex life to my attention.
MATTHEWS: How many people here agree with the “New York Times” that we should announce, with some celebration, unions between people, sexual unions of the same sex? How many disagree? How many say it’s a bad idea? How many say it’s a bad idea? I’d say the ayes have it, as they say in the House. Let me ask you about what are your ideas that people may think strange. You want to outlaw the IRS, just get rid of it, right?
ARMEY: First of all, what I want to do is retire the existing tax code and replace it with a simple, decent, honest tax code, flat tax. It’s the best option. You will never eliminate the IRS But if you give America a civilized tax code, you’ll have a civilized collection agency.
MATTHEWS: More with Dick Armey coming back in a moment. The House Republican leader, he’s speaking candidly. He’s retiring.
MATTHEWS: We’re back. Let’s go to the next question. Let’s get going here, question (ph) for Majority Leader Armey.
QUESTION: This has nothing to do with the Middle East so you should appreciate it. How come, can you explain to me why insurance companies won’t cover birth control pill but most of them will cover Viagra for men?
ARMEY: I don’t-I didn’t quite understand the question. I haven’t read my own policy, but I can tell you at my age, I need neither coverage in my policy. But you’re asking a technical question about what insurance companies cover and don’t cover. I don’t know the answer.
ARMEY: Why do they?
MATTHEWS: Why do they cover-they don’t cover birth control but they cover Viagra.
ARMEY: You’d have to take that up with your insurance company. I don’t sell insurance.
MATTHEWS: OK. Next question. Come on. You’re up.
QUESTION: Mr. Armey, looking ahead to 2004, in your opinion who do you see stepping up to be the main counterpart to George W. Bush, probably from the Democratic party?
ARMEY: You mean the Democratic candidate for president?
ARMEY: You’re asking me to find somebody.
QUESTION: You know a lot more than all of us do.
MATTHEWS: Who would be the easiest to beat?
ARMEY: Oh, who would be the easiest to beat? I don’t know. Take your pick.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Al Gore?
ARMEY: At the risk of hurting him, in terms of the front running Democrats that I know, the person among the Democrats that I think are prominently there that I personally think is the most real person is Joe Lieberman. This is a real guy. As far as I’m concerned, there is among those people who are saying I would like to be a president, I’m a Democrat, there’s nobody in the same class at Joe Lieberman in terms of intelligence, ability and integrity.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts who’s going to be on HARDBALL tour in the Citadel next week?
ARMEY: You’ll have your chance to take a look at him. There’s a great Shania Twain song, “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”
MATTHEWS: Next question.
QUESTION: Mr. Armey, you’ve been in Congress for some time now. Do you think the Republican party is kind of signaling you that it’s time for you to leave? For one, shouldn’t you be speaker of the House by now instead of just House majority leader?
ARMEY: Well, thank you.
QUESTION: With all due respect.
MATTHEWS: That’s what people always say. They always say “with all due respect” before they level you.
ARMEY: Let me tell you, Susan, as my wife and I came to the decision I was going to retire and I’d like to put it this way. It’s my job to decide that it’s time for me to leave before my colleagues do. I think I did that. I have had the privilege of working with two great speakers. I would not trade Dick Armey as speaker of the House for Denny Hastert as speaker of the House on any day of the week. Denny Hastert is a great person. He’s an able man. He’s a decent human being. And I am proud that he’s speaker and I will never in my life ever, ever have a regret that he’s speaker and I get the privilege of being majority leader. It’s been a great privilege for me.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you if you’ve ever-Barry Goldwater, a hero to many people, including a lot of liberals in this country, Barry Goldwater once changed his mind on the Senate floor. He decided that 18-year-olds should have the right to vote. He changed his mind on that, because of the draft. Have you changed your mind on anything profound in the 18 years you’ve been in the Congress?
ARMEY: Well, I mean, I’ve made up my mind. There’s a lot of stuff I had to learn about and so forth. I’ll tell you a fun one. Somebody asked me about Buchanan. You whip on me about this. I had lunch, I had breakfast one morning with George Will. He’s a beguiling guy and he gave me a case of temporary insanity and I came out and said all right, all right, I’m for term limits. It was probably the dumbest position I ever took. Amazing the number of people that applauded me for my maturity as I went from a sane position to a stupid position. Then when I came to my senses, I moved back to where I really should have been, with Henry Hyde, opposed to term limits and...
MATTHEWS: So voters should have the decision to make up, to vote anyway they want.
ARMEY: All of a sudden I was a groveling, greasy little greedy politician. Yeah, that is probably in terms of having gone from one position to another position and then sort of getting my brains back together.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what, you’re one of the best guests we’ve ever had on this show. You’re honest and half the people in this room want to kill you. But that’s all right.
ARMEY: That’s all right.
MATTHEWS: That’s a good thing. Anyway, you heard it here. The guy didn’t play any games on us and I think it’s great. He is a candid guy and now you know what you don’t like and what you do like about Dick Armey. I want to thank Dick Armey. The HARDBALL “College Tour” rolls on next week, next Wednesday. We’re joined by Senator John Kerry at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina and then on October 9, the man behind “Basic Instinct,” the man who wrote it, Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas at Cleveland State University. October 16 John McCain from Florida in New York. We’ll be right back.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2002 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2002 FDCH e-Media (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and,
in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.