Guests: Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Mike Huckman, Lawrence Wilkerson, Chris Cillizza, Roger Simon, Rep. Brian Bilbray, Rep. Steve Israel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Scare tactics?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Fear mongers? Former vice president Dick Cheney is out there raising alarm bells that terrorists are coming to your neighborhood. Can even a popular president reassure the country that putting terrorists behind thick prison walls is the best thing we can do? Can the enemies of President Obama sell the country on keeping Guantanamo, which Defense Secretary Gates now calls a worldwide taint on America? Two U.S. congressmen will be here to take up both sides of this nasty argument.
And was the president shrewd to pump up Dick Cheney? Is he the enemy President Obama wants? Is it good for Democrats to have Cheney out there beating the drums of opposition? That‘s our hot debate tonight.
Plus, former chief of staff to Colin Powell Lawrence Wilkerson says that Cheney ordered the torture of detainees in 2002 for a political purpose, to prove that Iraq was involved in 9/11 and thereby justify a U.S. takeover of the country. In other words, torture was used, he says, not to head off some ticking time bomb attack on America, but rather to justify the Bush administration‘s plans to attack and occupy Iraq. Mr. Wilkerson will be here tonight.
And have Republicans overplayed their hand in going after House Speaker Pelosi? That and more in the “Politics Fix.”
And finally, why are the Cheney people denying what he calls himself? Why did a family member try to skip around the fact of how the former vice president pronounces his own name? Don‘t they have more important things to defend? Well, that‘s where it belongs. That‘s coming up in the “Sideshow.”
We begin with that nasty debate over where to put the bad guys who are now at Guantanamo. U.S. Congressman Israel‘s a New York Democrat and U.S. Congressman Bilbray is a Republican congressman from California.
Let me ask you, Congressman Bilbray, are you happy with keeping the bad guys, the suspected terrorists, whether we can make the case against them or not, at Guantanamo? Are you happy with that facility?
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY ®, CALIFORNIA: Absolutely, until we have a plan to show how we‘re going to handle them the other way.
MATTHEWS: Do we need a plan to get them somewhere else?
BILBRAY: Well, we need a plan before we move them. Let‘s say...
MATTHEWS: But do we need to get them somewhere else?
BILBRAY: I don‘t think we have to get them somewhere else unless public relations is your major factor, not—not national security. And I think that when we get into this, it‘s all fair to say that the concern here with Guantanamo isn‘t that it‘s a safe facility, it‘s not that it‘s a secure or a modern facility. It‘s the public relations problem is driving the agenda right now.
MATTHEWS: So you disagree with Secretary Gates, who says it‘s dangerous for us to have it there because it creates a taint on us worldwide.
BILBRAY: I disagree with the concept that the public relations are more important. I go with the FBI chief that said, Look, we‘ve got to make sure, before we do anything, we do it safe.
BILBRAY: It‘s just prudent.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Israel, what do we do here now? We‘ve got maximum security prisons in this country. I‘ve been in a minimum security, or I guess a medium one, a women‘s—that seems pretty safe to me. What do you think about putting people—we already got Sirhan Sirhan out in California, at Corcoran. He‘s been there 41 years. He killed Bobby Kennedy. He was an enemy of the country. He didn‘t like our Mideast policy, didn‘t like Kennedy‘s. We‘ve got something like a couple dozen of these guys, like Ramzi Yousef. We‘ve got Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker. They‘re all in federal prisons. Is it dangerous to put more there?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: No. Look, I don‘t—when Terry Nichols, who has 160 counts of murder against him for being an accomplice in the destruction of a federal office building in Oklahoma—when he went to a supermax prison, I don‘t remember Dick Cheney saying that it wasn‘t safe enough. I don‘t remember hearing a single Republican say that he should go to Guantanamo.
And frankly, I‘m not going to accept lectures from Dick Cheney on keeping the American people safe from detainees when he allowed Osama bin Laden to flee, when we could have captured him and imprisoned him. He‘s the absolute last person who should be lecturing us on how to keep the American people safe.
MATTHEWS: Just to remind us, since our memories do get fogged, when could we have caught Osama bin Laden and when did Dick Cheney allow him to escape?
ISRAEL: Well, look, this is an administration that...
MATTHEWS: No, just tell me when that happened, Congressman. When did that happen? Tell me about the circumstances.
ISRAEL: When we went into Afghanistan, and you know, Osama bin Laden was still there, we had an opportunity then. He was a target. We still haven‘t found him. We still haven‘t accounted for him. And I just object to the fact that Dick Cheney is engaging in these scare tactics, trying to scare people about detainees who may escape from a federal prison, a supermax facility, when in fact, it was this administration with its fixation on Iraq that allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Bilbray, your thoughts? You think it‘s not safe to put them in these supermax facilities.
BILBRAY: I think the old administration‘s gone. We need to work with...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about right now. Is it dangerous to put these prisoners, if we convict them, to put them in a supermax facility?
BILBRAY: We do not have a facility that was designed for holding the terrorists in this manner. And the difference is, Chris...
MATTHEWS: We got a whole bunch of them in prison now.
BILBRAY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I‘ve run jails. Jails are made normally to keep people in. They are not designed to keep people out. When you put this many terrorists, you do have a whole different threat that we don‘t consider. And...
MATTHEWS: What about the ones that are in there now, like Moussaoui, the guy that was...
MATTHEWS: Moussaoui‘s already in there. Ramzi Yousef‘s already in there.
BILBRAY: That‘s why you keep them isolated. You get the line (ph). In the ‘90s, we brought—we brought foreign prisoners into San Diego County. The whole place blew up because Miramar, the facility, was not designed for foreign nationals being put in high numbers in a certain area. There‘s a reality here, and all we‘re saying and all I‘m saying, as somebody who has actually operated jails, is, Get a plan, Mr. President. You made a commitment...
MATTHEWS: So you‘re not in principle against them coming to the United States.
BILBRAY: Not if you check it out that what are going to be the legal percussions (SIC). What are going to be the security...
MATTHEWS: In other words, you‘re worried about getting them in the country and having them go to an ACLU lawyer, is what you‘re afraid of.
BILBRAY: You‘ve got a whole...
MATTHEWS: Is that what you‘re afraid of?
BILBRAY: I‘m afraid of that...
MATTHEWS: How about that issue, Congressman Israel? Do you think there‘s a problem of bringing them to our territory, at which point, they might claim civil rights or legal rights or habeas corpus and be able to make a case that we have to release them? Are you worried about that?
MATTHEWS: ... kick them out of the country, I assume.
ISRAEL: For those of us who actually listened to what the president said in his speech yesterday at the National Archives, he created a very reasonable construct that protects the American people and at the same time doesn‘t surrender the rule of law. He said there are five standards that he‘s going to apply. And importantly, he said and reiterated he will not send anyone who has the potential of threatening the American people to an American prison. That‘s the construct he created. I think it‘s a reasonable construct.
These are tough and complicated issues, there‘s no doubt. But the fact of the matter is that he created this construct, and I believe that it makes sense. And I do agree with Brian there are still some details to be filled out, but it is a very good construct that we ought to be...
MATTHEWS: Are we a competent country, Congressman Bilbray? You begin to—you seem to be taking the assumption we‘re incompetent, that we can‘t deal with—we‘ve got so many murderers in prison right now, multiple horrible people—more horrible people in prison right now you don‘t want to meet, and by the way, these terrorists don‘t want to meet.
MATTHEWS: And I‘ve been told that the worst thing these guys want to confront is one of these hardened criminals in the United States because they‘re still patriotic enough to kill these guys, and they don‘t want to be around—they would love to get a hold of an enemy of this country.
BILBRAY: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Not to build a case for murderers...
BILBRAY: You can argue for them to move in. But the fact is, we are competent. Biggest problem—you‘ve always got people sitting on the outside, stopping the right things being done. I mean, you‘ve got...
MATTHEWS: But you‘re—aren‘t you using fear tactics? I mean, isn‘t this just fearmongering, Gee whiz, they‘re putting—look at this guy, Max Baucus up—I‘m not going to have any terrorist in big sky country.
MATTHEWS: Well, what is this about?
BILBRAY: This isn‘t scare—it‘s just common sense that before you move a prisoner from point A to point B, anybody...
MATTHEWS: So you just want to see the procedure, then you‘ll look at it.
BILBRAY: And I want to clarify...
MATTHEWS: You‘re not against it in principle.
BILBRAY: ... do they have special rights? We‘ve got—we‘ve got...
BILBRAY: ... foreign nationals in San Diego that are getting health care rights...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a guy who knows something about—here‘s Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who obviously was in the previous administration. Here he is, what he has to say about supermax prison facilities. He said it today. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The truth is there‘s a lot of fearmongering about this. We‘ve never had an escape from a supermax prison, and that‘s where these guys will go. And if not one of the existing ones, we‘ll create a new one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
BILBRAY: We‘ll create a new one at what price, at what location, at what time, when we have a brand-new facility that‘s surrounded on three sides by the Caribbean and one side by communist Cuba.
MATTHEWS: Here he is. Here‘s why not to keep it there. Here‘s Secretary Gates on Guantanamo and what it means to the world. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GATES: The truth is, it‘s probably one of the finest prisons in the world today, but it has a taint. It is—the name itself is a condemnation. What the president was saying is this will be an advertisement for al Qaeda as long as it‘s open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a question, isn‘t it. It‘s an advertisement for al Qaeda.
BILBRAY: It is a taint. It‘s a public relations problem and...
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s a—many people believe it‘s part of the recruitment effort of the enemy.
BILBRAY: Chris, we‘re talking about people who...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me let Mr. Israel—Congressman Israel, your thoughts on why Bob Gates might be right here when he says this is a bad thing for our side in fighting, which is basically a battle for the hearts and minds in the world, and this makes us look like the bad guy. That‘s what I think. Your thoughts.
ISRAEL: Well, it absolutely does make us look like the bad guy. You know, we are fighting for freedom and democracy and justice and the rule of law, and we have this icon called Guantanamo that violates all of those precepts and all of those premises, which is why we need to close it down, use the rule of law, keep the American people safe. That is exactly what President Obama has called for yesterday.
MATTHEWS: Does it scare you that Sirhan Sirhan is in prison in California, in Corcoran?
BILBRAY: No because he‘s an isolated guy down there and...
MATTHEWS: Does it bother you that Moussaoui‘s—that Moussaoui‘s out in Colorado?
BILBRAY: We had a plan...
MATTHEWS: Out in Florence. Does it bother you that Ramzi Yousef...
BILBRAY: Not one of those people...
MATTHEWS: ... they‘re all in prison?
BILBRAY: ... were moved from one facility to the other without a comprehensive plan of how...
MATTHEWS: Right. But it‘s already been done. There‘s a precedent.
BILBRAY: But that was for that person. When we did Sirhan Sirhan, there was a special plan done by experts to do that.
BILBRAY: It wasn‘t, Let‘s do it, no matter what. Right now, all that‘s being said is, Before you ask for money to move—shut down an existing facility and move people...
MATTHEWS: OK. Should...
BILBRAY: ... show us the plan.
MATTHEWS: ... the average American be scared about putting terrorists in federal prisons? Yes or no.
BILBRAY: I say no. They should be infuriated that their politicians and their leaders are worrying more about perception than reality. That‘s the problem.
MATTHEWS: Your last word, Mr. Israel, Congressman Israel?
ISRAEL: Well, I go back to Terry Nichols, a guy with 160 counts of murder against him, a terrorist, a domestic terrorist. Not one Republican, not one person in the Bush administration expressed any concern about the safety of a supermax prison.
This is a political issue. It‘s a weapon of mass distraction, and we need to get on with a coherent policy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Brian Bilbray.
Coming up: President Obama may have elevated Dick Cheney with yesterday‘s speech, that little match-up yesterday morning. Was that good for the president? Did he intend to elevate Cheney to—look at them! -- equal screens there, by the way, in a lot of newspapers today—equal billing? Is that what he wanted to give Cheney? Is that smart, to make him the face of the Republican Party? Well, he did it. We‘ll see if that‘s smart. We got Pat Buchanan joining us in a minute, and Lawrence O‘Donnell. I don‘t think they‘re going to agree.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Joining me right now, the stars, MSNBC political analysts Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O‘Donnell, on the political fallout of yesterday‘s duel between Barack Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney.
A strange day. As the dust settles, Mr. O‘Donnell, and you‘re looking at this from the left coast, your thoughts? Who won? What‘s the score?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Barack Obama won. I think if you looked at the “Washington Post” editorial, for example, it said that he created—he described a perfect outline for going forward from here, and that Cheney was just doing this hacking away at things, using false premises and setting up false choices.
And I think it actually works very well for Obama. I mean, imagine Obama trying to give that speech this week without Cheney setting it up. Cheney‘s comments for the last couple of weeks set up that speech to be much more important than we would have treated it without the Cheney frame.
MATTHEWS: Was it smart for the president to go to battle the same morning as the vice president, make it a match-up in the newspapers like he did?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think it was.
MATTHEWS: Pat—I want to ask Pat that question next. I‘m sorry, Lawrence. Go ahead.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it‘s certainly very good for Cheney to be on a head-to-head with the president of the United States. I don‘t know that the president should worry about that, but there‘s no doubt there was an enormous benefit to Cheney. I think there‘s tremendous...
MATTHEWS: Is he back? Is Cheney now going to be in our life for the next three or four months or years?
BUCHANAN: On the issue—I will say this. On the issue of national security, homeland security, Cheney will be the voice and spokesman of the Republican Party. He‘s become that, clearly. He knows it better than anybody. He‘s got it down cold. And on that issue separated out from the war and other issues, there is nobody better than he is (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Pat, is he fighting with Obama or is he fighting with Bush? Because Bush dropped a lot of this stuff four years ago. He stopped waterboarding people after ‘04. They basically began to think about ways to get out of Guantanamo many years ago. If you read the papers today, especially David Brooks‘s column, Cheney‘s really fighting an old fight he had with the moderates in the Bush administration. He was the odd man out then.
BUCHANAN: Well, there‘s no doubt about it, they moved away from him, but there‘s also no doubt about it that Dick Cheney has articulated and defended this case in a tough, aggressive way yesterday, that George Bush never did...
MATTHEWS: Can he win this argument if we don‘t get hit again? Lawrence, doesn‘t the success—his political success depend on a bad hit to us again?
O‘DONNELL: There‘s no option for political success for Cheney here.
Only Pat Buchanan can think that it was tough and aggressive...
BUCHANAN: He‘s doomed!
O‘DONNELL: ... when in fact, it was lying. All Cheney did was lie from start to finish. Editorial boards across the country are pointing that out, and only in Buchanan right-wing-land, you know, was Cheney successful.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me—look...
MATTHEWS: What do you make about him making it sound like Barack Obama, our president, is letting detainees, terrorists, loose in this country by bringing them to federal prisons? He‘s letting them loose. If you listen to Cheney, he‘s allowing them into the United States.
BUCHANAN: Well, it sounds like...
MATTHEWS: He makes it sound like they‘re going to be wandering around.
BUCHANAN: It sounds like Harry Reid and the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate. But look, there is a way Cheney can win. Cheney‘s at 37 percent. My guess is on national security, homeland security, if you ask, despite whether you voted for Bush/Cheney or not, did they do a good job of defending the homeland, I bet you‘d get better than 50 percent, Chris. And I think there‘s no doubt about it, Cheney is riding that rail and he‘s riding it himself right back into the national forum. Look, people want to hear him.
BUCHANAN: People—you‘d love to have him!
MATTHEWS: He may be better—he may be—I‘d like to have him here. I‘d like to get Cheney here. Let‘s look at Michael Steele. Now, this makes Cheney look good, Michael Steele. He makes a lot of people look good. Here‘s Michael Steele going after the president of the United States. Here‘s what he said today as he replaced, appropriately, Bill Bennett on the radio this morning. Bill took a break, and here he is, in for Bill Bennett.
Quote, “He was not vetted”—he‘s talking about the president—
“because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. Oh, gee, wouldn‘t it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn‘t it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to live in an America with a black president.”
Well, that‘s pretty—well, whatever it is. Lawrence, your thoughts on the thoughts of Michael Steele, the Republican national chairman?
O‘DONNELL: He just digs a deeper hole for himself every time he goes near one of these microphones, Chris. He‘s got no handlers who can tell him, Don‘t do this. He‘s the guy who needs the teleprompter more than anyone in American politics. He‘s got to limit himself to the teleprompter, stay away from mikes like this where he has to be extemporaneous.
BUCHANAN: The point is...
MATTHEWS: Would somebody please tell me—excuse me because I‘m one of the guilty here...
MATTHEWS: ... what‘s wrong about feeling a little better about America than learning and gaining fresh evidence that it truly is the land of opportunity, that an African-American can become president? What‘s wrong with feeling a little better about America because—is that a putdown?
BUCHANAN: Well, here‘s the...
MATTHEWS: What planet does this guy live on?
BUCHANAN: Well, what he‘s saying is that the media were in the tank for Barack Obama...
BUCHANAN: ... which is the simplest, most correct statement I have ever heard. Even Joe Biden said, Lookit, the guy‘s black, he‘s articulate, he‘s clean, it‘s a story...
MATTHEWS: Yes, and he was trashed for saying that.
BUCHANAN: And there were some...
MATTHEWS: By media.
BUCHANAN: Chris, there was some media guy that compared that pedestrian Philadelphia speech to the Gettysburg Address, if you can believe it.
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking to me.
O‘DONNELL: Hey, Pat—Pat...
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking to me! Look, I‘m allowed to (INAUDIBLE) generalize, but I don‘t have a limousine. And you know, I do think it‘s a little bit ridiculous!
MATTHEWS: But go ahead. Look, I‘ve said what I liked about him because he spoke about the racial divide in this country.
BUCHANAN: We all know, Chris, and...
MATTHEWS: And his foreign policy is very close to yours and mine, so I wouldn‘t knock him.
MATTHEWS: Barack Obama has a lot closer foreign policy to you than the neocons.
Your thoughts, Lawrence? This is Friday afternoon. It gets a little strange around here. But here we have a chairman of the Republican National Committee chiming in by mocking the American press corps by seeing some positive advantage in equal opportunity in this country.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
O‘DONNELL: What I—what I want to know from Pat is, did his friends in the right wing of the Republican Party support Michael Steele to be chairman of that party so they could say, hey, isn‘t it great that we have a black chairman of this party?
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, was it...
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, let me tell you...
MATTHEWS: Wasn‘t that a Simon says kind of thing, that you got the approval of the other party?
BUCHANAN: Lawrence has got a very good point.
BUCHANAN: I mean, I think Barack Obama‘s president in part because he‘s African-American, and Michael Steele is chairman in part because the Republican Party would like to have...
MATTHEWS: Were they filling slots?
BUCHANAN: ... an African—no.
MATTHEWS: Were they filling slots?
BUCHANAN: Well, no, they would say, look, he‘s an articulate...
MATTHEWS: Was it like Clarence...
MATTHEWS: ... Clarence Thomas? Was it one of those things? Was it like Clarence Thomas?
MATTHEWS: Filling slots?
BUCHANAN: Well, let me explain. What it is, is this.
You want to get somebody in there who is qualified and articulate and can really make the case.
MATTHEWS: Is Michael Steele qualified?
BUCHANAN: I think he is.
BUCHANAN: But, also, if he‘s black, that‘s an advantage. There‘s no doubt about it. If he‘s a woman, that‘s an advantage.
MATTHEWS: You used the word articulate to make fun of Joe Biden. Do you think he‘s articulate?
MATTHEWS: No, Michael Steele.
BUCHANAN: Yes, in a way, I do think he‘s articulate.
MATTHEWS: Hah! Hah~!
He has made one...
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry.
BUCHANAN: You haven‘t made one gaffe after another, Chris?
MATTHEWS: No, not every day.
MATTHEWS: But go ahead.
MATTHEWS: You know—you know what somebody to me the other day? That Joe Biden gets up every morning asking, gee whiz, I hope Michael Steele is on television today.
O‘DONNELL: Exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: It‘s getting a little silly here.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go back to Dick Cheney, who is not silly.
Dick Cheney—do you believe, Lawrence, as much as you disagree with his policy and his record, that this guy is back like gangbusters, that he‘s—I think he‘s been for—you could Freddy Krueger, but he‘s back for a long time, I think. He looks healthy. He looks rough and ready.
I think he‘s—he‘s got his family with him. They‘re all back. Your thoughts, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Well, we know—we—we know he‘s not healthy. We know he‘s living on a heart that was supposed to have stopped years ago. So, I don‘t know about the health thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t think—I think he looks pretty fit. I think we ought to be fair, right?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t like talking about that. I think he‘s got—he looks pretty fit.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead, Lawrence.
But, look, every time he gives one of these speeches, he has to lie. There‘s no other concept for him to advance. Let me read to you one of his lies from yesterday. He says that President Obama adopts the euphemisms that suggest we‘re no longer engaged in a war.
Now, President Obama said yesterday we are, indeed, at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. Now, the American public heard what Barack Obama said. The American public heard what Cheney said. They know that Cheney goes through his speech nonstop lying, and Obama goes through his speech fairly representing the argument.
BUCHANAN: All right, Chris, let me go back to your question.
Cheney will be back and will be very visible as long as the issue of domestic internal homeland security is visible, as it is now with the Pelosi thing and—and Guantanamo and all that.
BUCHANAN: If you move to health care, you will move to other guys speaking for the party.
MATTHEWS: Has this become the RNC party, the Rush, Newt, and Cheney party?
MATTHEWS: Are they speaking—that‘s what Howard Fineman said. Is that what has replaced the official Republican Party?
BUCHANAN: Howard has got a very good point.
MATTHEWS: Those three names have become the party?
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you why they are.
It‘s because at least they‘re standing up and fighting and going after somebody, instead of running on listening tours to find out what they believe.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Lamar Alexander you‘re about...
O‘DONNELL: Pat, they‘re fighting...
MATTHEWS: By the way, thank you, Mr. Vice President, for coming back.
And I know you share this feeling, Lawrence O‘Donnell. Welcome back, Kotter. Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Pat Buchanan.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell, from out West.
Up next—it looks like nice weather out there, although that isn‘t the right backdrop.
Anyway, thank you.
Dick Cheney, by the way, we‘re going to come back and talk about how he pronounces his name. Now, this is the most ludicrous discussion in the world, but it‘s been promoted again by a member of his family. We‘re going to settle that once and for all. We‘re going to hear from his family member how he does pronounce his name.
By the way, it‘s Cheney. Go to Wyoming. They will tell you.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: Today, on “MORNING JOE,” former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s daughter let pass an opportunity to clarify how to pronounce the former vice president‘s name.
Anyway, here is Mrs. Dick Cheney on National Public Radio telling us how to do it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You pronounce it at this point Cheney?
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes. And—and Dick‘s family always has said Cheney. Most people say Cheney. I think it‘s out of politeness. You know, they think it sounds better, maybe. And there are some family members who say Cheney. But, for us, it‘s always been Cheney. But people just don‘t hear it.
That was very interesting that you caught it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For what it‘s worth, there it is.
Next up: a look at retired life. Former President Bush was speaking at a high school graduation in New Mexico yesterday when he recounted a story of walking with his dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood, when he had to do what all dutiful dog-walkers—quote—“And there I was, former president of the United States, with a plastic bag in my hand. Life is returning back to normal”—close quote.
Well, good for him.
Speaking of graduations, our cameras caught a touching moment today, as President Obama greeted the graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis at the school‘s commencement.
Here is the president shaking hands with Jack McCain, the handsome son of John McCain, his 2008 election rival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John S. McCain IV.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael A. Maddis (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, and tell me this next scene doesn‘t bring a smile to your face. There they are, the U.S. Naval Academy‘s class of 2009, doing the traditional hat toss.
I will say this. No school does that better. I wonder how they get their hats back anyway.
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Remember this boneheaded comment from Texas Governor Rick Perry last month about Texas seceding from the union?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 13, 2009)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: We‘re still part of the—the union down here in Texas. And our folks would like to keep it that way, but we see some things going on that are peculiar. They‘re frustrating. And I think that Texans are—you know, we‘re an independent lot, and we would just as soon Washington not be mortgaging our kids‘ futures, and ours, for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here is a sugarplum for you. As Governor Perry rails on about Washington waste, it looks like his official home, the Texas governor‘s mansion, is heading for some sprucing up, courtesy—you guessed it—of the federal government.
The mansion was damaged in a fire last year, a case of arson, apparently. So, all in all, how much of this year‘s federal stimulus money, Washington money from your taxpayer dollars, will be used to put a roof over the governor‘s head? Eleven million dollars. Get a load of that, $11 million in federal money going to repair Rick Perry‘s governor‘s mansion. Whatever happened to the Lone Star State?
Tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Nancy Pelosi stands by her statement that the CIA misled her about the use of water-boarding. Did the CIA also mislead then Secretary of State Colin Powell? We will find out. That‘s one of the statements made by Larry Wilkerson, who was General Powell‘s chief of staff. And he‘s coming right here at this table to talk about it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And stocks finishing on a down note ahead of this holiday weekend, the Dow falling 14 points, the S&P 500 losing more than a point, and the Nasdaq shedding three.
President Obama signing the credit card reform bill today—it restricts sudden rate increases in fees that credit card companies can impose on consumers. But it will cut into profits for card-issuers. And analysts say issuers are likely to hit consumers with higher annual fees and lower credit lines.
A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that cigarette companies conspired to lie about the dangers of smoking. That ruling requires tobacco companies to stop marketing cigarettes as light, ultra-light, or low TARP, because they were found to be no safer than regular cigarettes.
And gasoline prices continue to rise ahead of the holiday weekend.
AAA says the national average for regular climbed nearly 3 cents overnight
surprise, surprise—to $2.39 a gallon.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Joining us right now is Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to General Colin Powell when he was secretary of state in the Bush administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, what do you make of this whole fight? I want to give you a wide-open here. What do we know about the way in which intelligence was used to get us into the war in Iraq? Let‘s start with a little history here. How was it used, misused, if you will, to get us in that war?
COLONEL LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF
STAFF: Let me just say first, Chris, that that was a very powerful segment you had with President Obama shaking hands with John S. McCain IV, and I appreciate it. That‘s what this country is all about.
MATTHEWS: Me, too. I agree.
WILKERSON: I have got my most intimate and vivid view of how intelligence was used because I was sleepless, virtually, for four days and nights out at Langley preparing Secretary Powell for his presentation at the United Nations.
I worked intimately with George Tenet and John McLaughlin and—and their handpicked analysts from WINPAC and elsewhere in order to prepare the secretary.
And I look back on that now with the knowledge I have now, and I realize that the secretary of state and certainly I were not told the complete truth about the intelligence with regard to Iraq, and that Secretary Powell‘s credibility was put on the line at the U.N., and that, if anyone gave the most convincing presentation for war with Iraq, it was he, and it was wrong.
That‘s very disturbing.
MATTHEWS: Was he duped?
WILKERSON: That‘s a strong word to use. We had so little...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, what was the motivation to giving him the bad information? Was bad information all that was available, or was it cooked up? Was it souped-up, as we used to say with old cars...
MATTHEWS: ... to make it sound bigger than it was.
WILKERSON: Both. Both. Some of it was souped-up. Some of it was made bigger than it was. Some of it was tailored very carefully, so it would be very powerful, when, if it had been put in context, it would have been extremely weak.
Some of the circumstantial stuff was made to seem more than circumstantial. It was twisted and shaped in a way that made it look definitive. It was a clever job.
MATTHEWS: Well, my belief is that we were sold on the war by people that wanted us to go to war. And they cooked up reasons as we went along. And they kept changing to get us in the war.
And I will never—well, I don‘t know if I will ever get to the bottom of why we went to that war, but the reasons don‘t add up.
Let me ask you this. Did you ever believe that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapon capable of reaching our shores, yes or no?
MATTHEWS: Did you ever believe that? After all the briefings, did you buy that argument that was at the heart of the Cheney argument; the mushroom cloud, it was going to hit us here; we were going to get hit with a nuclear detonation on this continent? Did you ever believe that they had a vehicle to get them here, get that weapon here, and they even had a weapon?
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that now?
WILKERSON: Absolutely not. Read Richard...
MATTHEWS: Well, then why did we sell it? Why did you help sell it?
WILKERSON: Well, read Ambassador Richard Haass‘ new book, “War of Necessity, War of Choice,” and I think you will get as good a shot into that as you might want.
Richard actually says—he was my boss for the first 18 months at the State Department—he actually says he cannot tell you when we made a decision to go to war. And I can‘t tell you either.
MATTHEWS: Well, why was there all this dancing around and everything in this country—that everything was—everything was one big choral group singing the same song; we are going to get to hit if we don‘t hit them; we have to occupy, take over, become the bosses of Iraq, or else we will be hit here by a nuclear weapon?
That is one hell of a sales job, Colonel.
WILKERSON: It is.
MATTHEWS: I just want to know what you feel was your role in it.
What was General Powell‘s role in it?
WILKERSON: Well, my role...
MATTHEWS: What role did he think he played in this?
WILKERSON: I won‘t speak for...
MATTHEWS: I think he played a huge role in it.
MATTHEWS: I think he helped sell it.
WILKERSON: I won‘t speak for Powell. I will speak for myself.
I‘m ashamed of it. And that‘s one of the reasons I‘m speaking out.
Call it Freudian. I‘m trying to gain some relief for myself.
Well, let‘s talk about some of the specifics here. Was torture used to sell us on that war, not to protect us from a ticking-time-bomb situation, which we all can argue about? And, by the way, I think it‘s a good argument, both sides of that. And I‘m not sure what the answer is, what we do.
But should we ever use torture to get somebody to say something that justifies a policy? That‘s apparently what happened with one of these suspects. He was tortured into saying there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and what happened to this country on 9/11.
WILKERSON: I agree.
MATTHEWS: If that‘s the case, we did something evil to accomplish something evil.
WILKERSON: I agree.
MATTHEWS: It wasn‘t that the ends justify the means. It was evil trying to justify evil.
WILKERSON: I agree. And think about this for a moment.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you know if that happened?
MATTHEWS: Did it happen?
WILKERSON: Yes, it did.
And the SERE techniques that were reverse-engineered in order to do this, think about this for a minute—they were used by North Korea. They were used by North Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: Yes, to get our guys to lie.
WILKERSON: That‘s how we got them, to get people to confess to war criminals.
MATTHEWS: Yes, “The Manchurian Candidate.”
WILKERSON: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: Yes. In other words, they—they got—they screwed with guy‘s brains. They brainwashed people, so they would lie against their country, not that they would believe it, but they would sell it.
I want to ask you, how do you know that we used torture to sell the war?
WILKERSON: I have a lot of contacts now, and a lot of people talk to me. And I have enough evidence for me to believe that we shifted priorities from the chatter, as it were, and trying to stop another attack in early or late spring of 2002, and the emphasis at that time began to be on establishing contacts between al Qaeda and the Mukhabarat in Baghdad. And that was the principal priority.
MATTHEWS: I was always suspicious of this war. I was always against it because I didn‘t think there was a reason for it. Let me tell you, when I heard reasons like we‘re going to war because we hear chatter, well, I begin to worry about that.
Let me ask you about the language which was used to—let me ask you about your role in this. The CIA briefed Colin Powell, your boss. They briefed you. Were they previously prepped by Cheney, the vice president, and his person, Scooter Libby, and by Addington and the others? Did they get over to Langley before you got there and put the case together that they were going to give to you. In other words, did they tamper with the evidence politically before you got it and before General Powell got it?
WILKERSON: Here is how I got flummoxed, I think: they handed me a 48 page—this came from the vice president‘s office, a 48-page script on WMD. I think John—
MATTHEWS: It wasn‘t the CIA. It was the neo-cons working for the VP.
WILKERSON: Yes, but we threw that out. Powell and I threw that out after about eight hours. And we thought we had saved ourselves from what would be otherwise unprovable assertions. It turned out that what was in the October 2002 NIE, National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, was just about as bad, because it had, in essence, been crafted from some of this same stuff over the years.
MATTHEWS: In other words, let me get back to the same question. Did the ideologues in the vice president‘s office, in the Defense Department—we all know their names, the people who wanted this war in the worst way. Did they get to George Tenet, who seemed to behave throughout this as more of a staffer than as a principal. He seemed to be behaving in a way that wanted to kow-tow to the people in the ideological wing of this administration.
Again, did they get to that CIA information before you got it?
WILKERSON: I think George Tenet bowed to the power that he was confronted with. I think he compromised his intelligence professionalism because of that power. I think John Mclaughlin (ph), his deputy, did the same thing. This is Shakespearian.
MATTHEWS: OK. You think so. What do you think about Nancy Pelosi? She‘s in a situation now where she has said, after a number of iterations, she‘s gotten to the point, and I think it‘s a problem for her, of finally saying last Thursday, eight days ago, that the CIA misled her. In fact, she let the word lie hang out there without really putting it down, which made it sound like she said they lied. Do you believe the CIA lied or mislead the Speaker on the issue that we‘re talking about, whether water boarding had occurred?
WILKERSON: I have no way of knowing, but I will point this out: Peter Hoekstra from my party, the Republican party, who is the ranking minority leader on the House Intelligence Committee, said this is about the ugliest thing I have seen about the CIA‘s misleading Congress over the shoot down in Peru in 2001 that killed the American missionary and her seven-month-old baby. The CIA hid reports from Justice, hid internal deliberations from Justice and Congress, and Hoekstra was furious and there‘s an investigation going on right now about that.
Historical precedent says that the CIA leadership often misleads the Congress. So this is not anything new, but I have no way of knowing—
MATTHEWS: Why would the CIA not try to get Congress hooked into the idea of torture? Why wouldn‘t they want Democrats especially, whether it‘s whoever, Jane Harman or it‘s the speaker of the House? Why wouldn‘t they want them to sign on to the torture? Why wouldn‘t they try to do it? I don‘t think it happened, but why wouldn‘t it be in their interests to get those Democrats on the Hill to say, OK, so then they could later say, look, you approved it? Wouldn‘t that be in their interest?
WILKERSON: With any other administration, I would agree with you. Whether it was Eisenhower and U-2s over the Soviet Union, or Kennedy and Cuba, or whatever. But with this administration, their last resort was to open this with the legislative branch, their very last resort.
MATTHEWS: I think I agree. I think the CIA was mishandled, misused, abused by this administration. And their last friend on Earth was Dick Cheney. I think that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and the rest of them in his office were at war with the CIA over who should have been blamed for the bad intel that led us into the Iraq war. And there was a fight that went on in this city. And you know; you watched it like I watched it, the leaking that came from the CIA, the counter-attacks from the vice president‘s office, which we all know about, were famous.
Thank you, Larry Wilkerson. Thank you, colonel, for coming on and thank you for your service.
Up next could the Republican‘s attack on Nancy Pelosi backfire? We‘ll to that.
Plus, much more on Obama versus Cheney coming up in the politics fix.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix, with the “Politico‘s” chief political columnist Roger Simon, and the “Washington Post‘s” Chris Cillizza. Well, you two political guys, this week, who won? Let‘s do it. Fight count. Who won? Chris Cillizza first.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: In a way—and I know the e-mail inbox is going to fill up when I say this. Dick Cheney in some ways did win. He got a very, very long well-covered hearing of his viewpoint. He laid out his comprehensive case. It got covered whether you agree or not.
MATTHEWS: Well-crafted speech. Roger Simon, who won the race?
ROGER SIMON, “THE POLITICO”: I‘m going to go for Obama. I think this was a briar patch thing. I think the White House picked this day, and they did pick this day on purpose, so that they would get the dual stories. They want Dick Cheney, who is 68, white, and bitter; he is the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: You believe in the Howard Fineman theory of the RNC is now Rush, Newt, and Cheney. Is that it? Do you buy that? They picked their enemies. They don‘t want to fight with McConnell. They don‘t want to fight with Boehner. They want to fight with these three guys out of office.
CILLIZZA: Yes, Roger is—Look at the numbers. I wrote about this yesterday. Look at the numbers. Barack Obama average 60s approval. Dick Cheney, the best he does 37 on a CNN poll, but most of them are 18, 19 --
MATTHEWS: Roger, you and I have covered these campaigns. Will Cheney now be the toast of the fund-raising circuit? Will he be invited to every Lincoln Dinner? You know the kind of thing, he‘s the guy they get for lunch at the Businessmen‘s Club. Will he be at the Detroit Economics Club? Will he be everywhere now?
SIMON: He will be. But money is not the Republicans problem.
MATTHEWS: But will he be a star?
SIMON: He is a star. He will continue to be a star. He‘s got a talking point, the same talking point they‘ve been using.
MATTHEWS: Does he need us to be hit again badly for him to win this argument?
SIMON: I don‘t want to go there.
MATTHEWS: If he‘s setting up that I‘m betting for disaster --
SIMON: His message is, as it has been since 2004, vote for us or die. That‘s the message of the Republican party, because we understand terrorism.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what they‘ve all said. (INAUDIBLE). After me, it‘s all over.
CILLIZZA: Dick Cheney and De Gaulle.
SIMON: It was Louis XIV who actually said that.
CILLIZZA: What you saw in the Cheney speech was as comprehensive a case as can be made. John McCain didn‘t make the case largely during the campaign. People like Dick Cheney—you can disagree with them all day long, he won‘t change his mind—believe that if the case he laid out had been prosecuted during the campaign, it at least would have been closer.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he would have better with the hard line?
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you, an analyst. Based upon the public‘s assessment of torture, of Gitmo, of the war in Iraq, if he had taken the hard line, you said they would have done better?
CILLIZZA: No, I don‘t think they would have done better.
MATTHEWS: John McCain ran as a reformer. John McCain promised change of a more moderate kind. If Cheney had said, leave it as it is, I‘m defending it, would that have worked?
CILLIZZA: No. Because people wanted change and Barack Obama embodied change.
SIMON: Republican voters had a chance to vote for pro-torture, pro-Gitmo candidates. They went for the other guy.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s where I think Cheney won: he posed the question of the safety of these terrorists—our safety when we bring them into our country. He used a lot of cute language like we‘re bringing them into the country; we‘re allowing them into the country. This is an old Kennedy trick. Remember Kennedy against Nixon, he said Khrushchev‘s in New York, like he‘s already here. That trick may have worked, because I think the country is spooked right now. I think the country is narcissistic, I got a terrorist coming after me. It‘s insane, but people are spooked right now. They‘re scared and I think Cheney played on that well. The Senate vote proved it.
SIMON: He did play it well, but I don‘t think that‘s going to be the national conversation in 2010 or 2012. He played it well, but you‘re right, it is a trick. We didn‘t set up Guantanamo because we were worried about our safety. We set up Guantanamo because we wanted to deny these people legal rights which the Supreme Court then said we couldn‘t do. So Guantanamo is just like a phony issue.
MATTHEWS: By the way, the president sits on his right to treat some of the detainees as permanent detainees because he can‘t prove his case against him, but they‘re clearly dangerous to this country. He‘s accepted the fact there has to be a separate category.
SIMON: That‘s a troublesome thing if you‘re a civil libertarian. That‘s why I think it was a courageous move, one I don‘t totally agree with.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I‘m a civil libertarian, but I think there are some of these guys who you can‘t make a case against, but damn it, they are coming to get us. You better not let them loose. One in seven.
SIMON: You‘re not a civil libertarian.
MATTHEWS: You‘re wrong. These are enemy soldiers, basically. I‘ll be right back with Roger Simon and Chris Cillizza. Purity. That‘s you. That‘s not me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have made the statement that I am going to make on this. I don‘t have anything more to say about it. I stand by my comment. What we are doing is staying on our court and not be distracted from it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, not answering questions about her statement last week that she was misled. In fact, she allowed the word to hang that she was lied to over water boarding. We‘re back with Roger and Chris.
Chris, I‘ve watched politicians for years and that‘s a defensive position there. You won‘t even repeat words, speak one word on a topic. Who warned her that was the best way to do it?
CILLIZZA: Whoever saw her press conference last week. No. Here‘s the problem, she holds a press conference. She brings the leadership with her to show that everyone is behind her.
MATTHEWS: But Steny was acting like her defender, and he‘s her biggest rival.
CILLIZZA: They talked for 25 minutes about essentially nothing.
MATTHEWS: It‘s called policy, by the way.
CILLIZZA: Well played.
MATTHEWS: All this stuff, health care, cap and trade, all of this stuff.
CILLIZZA: You cannot say—from a purely political perspective, you cannot say the nation‘s largest—as the speaker of the House, the nation‘s intelligence gathering service lied to me, and then one week later say, I‘ve said all I‘m going to say about it.
MATTHEWS: Roger, is she interested in having a full fledged investigation? An investigation would require two steps. Put her under oath as to what she was told, put the briefer under oath as to what he told her. This isn‘t a complicated investigation. See if there‘s any other witnesses?
SIMON: She no longer wants a truth commission. Maybe a half truth commission would be best for her. She damns herself with her own words. She says, I was misled about water boarding. They said they weren‘t water boarder. And so I did nothing. Then three months later, I learned they were water boarding so I did nothing.
What? She comes arguably from the most liberal district in America. She didn‘t have the guts to stand up against water boarding. I mean, there‘s no upside to this.
MATTHEWS: You mean back in 2002?
SIMON: Yes, and in 2003 when she knew about it.
MATTHEWS: She should have blown the whistle.
SIMON: Harmon wrote a letter. Pelosi wouldn‘t even write a letter to the CIA.
MATTHEWS: And Harmon is much more conservative than she is.
SIMON: Yes. And who look who wrote a letter complaining about torture. It was Harmon, not Pelosi. She was a tower of Jello on this thing. I mean, she did nothing.
MATTHEWS: I‘m afraid it looked like she was distracted. It looked like she was distracted back in 2002 and 2003. Nobody wanted to complain about security issues.
SIMON: That‘s called not having any guts.
CILLIZZA: Well, Chris, look at what Republicans have done. Granted, they have almost nothing to hold onto at this point. They don‘t have the majority anywhere and they don‘t have the White House.
MATTHEWS: They‘re shooting at the back of the column. They‘re hitting people like her.
CILLIZZA: And this is a problem for Democrats.
MATTHEWS: And I really like those jobs. I really like them. I think
she needs people that are sitting planning these meetings, these press
conferences, deciding what she has to say, vetting it, doing some rehearsal
not rehearsal, just getting it straight. This is not good organization.
Thank you, Chris. You‘re tough. You‘re tougher, Roger Simon. This is Memorial Day Weekend. We want to pay tribute, by the way, to our fighting men and women. Every time I meet a service person, I say thank you for your service. If I could meet all of you, I would say that, and I mean it.
Join us again Tuesday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. That means we‘re off Monday. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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