Guests: Bertha Coombs, Ron Reagan, Frank Gaffney, Rep. Alan Grayson, Pat Buchanan, Ron Brownstein, Leslie Sanchez, Steve McMahon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Cheney.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Release the tapes. When will Dick Cheney release his testimony in the infamous Scooter Libby case? When will we know how he defended his chief of staff‘s criminal behavior in the outing of a CIA operative, Valerie Wilson, that led to Cheney‘s top guy‘s conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice, and according to the prosecutor, left a dark cloud over Cheney‘s own head?
I ask that question because last night, Cheney and his chief of staff, both in tuxedos, received joint honors from a group of ideological allies, Cheney for being Cheney, and his chief of staff apparently for taking the rap, with a group called His Service Before Self. That sounds about right.
Apparently, Dick Cheney can‘t help himself. Last night, he accused President Obama of waffling on our troops in Afghanistan and declared that the White House, quote, “must stop dithering while America‘s armed forces are in danger.” Well, wouldn‘t it have been good if we thought a bit before sending U.S. troops into Iraq? Perhaps a moment or two of dithering could have saved tens of thousands of lives. All this avuncular “after the battle” advice from the man who saw our troops in Iraq get chewed up in a civil war. So what gives Cheney any credibility to criticize this president on war policy?
Plus: Congressman Alan Grayson just won‘t quit. Now he‘s promoting his new Web site, Namesofthedead.com, on the House floor. The site allows readers to post personal stories about deaths related to the lack of health care in this country. But it also links to his reelection Web site, where people can make donations. So did Grayson cross the line? We‘ll have him here to talk about it tonight.
Also: Is the White House really keeping a Nixon-style enemies list, or are Republicans just trying to smear the president by making him look like their guy? The HARDBALL strategists will break that one down.
Plus, a haircut for Wall Street. The Obama administration listened to the critics and finally cut the pay by 50 percent of executives whose companies take government money.
And it turns out that Bob Dole and Bill Frist are opposed to freedom.
Did you catch that? At least, according to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Her ideas on who belongs in and out of the party in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
Let‘s start with Dick Cheney‘s latest attack on President Obama. Frank Gaffney is the president of the Center for Security Policy, where Cheney spoke last night and was honored, along with his chief of staff, Scooter Libby. And Ron Reagan is with Air America Radio right now. Good morning, Frank. Good morning, Ron.
Let‘s look at what Dick Cheney said last night. This, I think, is the main thrust. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Having announced his Afghanistan strategy in March, President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete the mission.
It‘s time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America‘s armed forces are in danger.
Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy endangers then and hurts our cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, what do you make of this indictment by the former vice president against the president‘s war policy, tough words, “dithering,” “waffling,” basically endangering our troops by not making a command decision timely enough? What do you make of it?
RON REAGAN, AIR AMERICA RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, I‘ll tell you, many people on both sides of the aisle have concerns about where to go next in Afghanistan. I‘m very nervous, for instance, and a lot of people are, about whether there‘s a middle way here that we can see our way through in Afghanistan. And of course, Dick Cheney has every right to express his opinion about anything he wants to.
But I have to say, of all of the people on the face of the earth who lack credibility on this issue, Dick Cheney would have to be at the top of the list. He has gotten virtually everything wrong in terms of American war fighting over the last eight years, the eight years that he was in office. Iraq, a threat to the United States? No, it wasn‘t. Involved with 9/11? No. Saddam Hussein wasn‘t. Did they harbor WMD? No, they didn‘t. Could we ignore Afghanistan for years while we pursued this war in Iraq? No, apparently, we couldn‘t afford to do that. Our own generals are now saying it‘s in a downward spiral. So Dick Cheney has no, zero, credibility on this issue.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Frank. First of all, I opened the show tonight by talking about this case before the courts now. A judge is about to rule, apparently, that the testimony by—much of it by Dick Cheney in defending his chief of staff—both of whom, by the way, you honored last night. I want to ask you why you honored a guy who‘s a felon, a convicted perjurer and obstructor of justice and Dick Cheney? You said that his chief of staff was responsible for service before self. You know, that strikes me as a guy who took the bullet for Cheney. Your thoughts? Why are you honoring the a guy for protecting the boss in this regard?
FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: We honored Scooter Libby, as well as, Dick Cheney...
GAFFNEY: ... and a whole gaggle of guys who served their country with great distinction. And that is not perhaps one of the things that one would recognize him for, but I think the rest of the service deserves that kind of commendation.
MATTHEWS: But why would you put black ties on, all dressed up, and give awards to these people? I don‘t get it. The president wouldn‘t pardon him. George W. Bush didn‘t think he was innocent.
GAFFNEY: I can‘t justify...
MATTHEWS: You think he was?
GAFFNEY: ... the president‘s decision...
MATTHEWS: Do you think he was?
GAFFNEY: I have my thoughts on it, and my general feeling is that he got a raw deal, yes.
MATTHEWS: That he was innocent.
GAFFNEY: I think that he would...
MATTHEWS: Innocent of...
GAFFNEY: We know...
MATTHEWS: And he wasn‘t covering for the vice president.
GAFFNEY: We know who told the press...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m talking about obstruction of justice and perjury.
GAFFNEY: No, well, we know who told the press...
MATTHEWS: Right. OK.
GAFFNEY: ... about this instance, and I don‘t think it was...
MATTHEWS: OK, it just seems odd...
GAFFNEY: ... got a raw deal.
MATTHEWS: It just seems odds you guys keep giving awards on the right to anybody you like.
GAFFNEY: I‘m surprised that you think it‘s odd, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, I mean, getting on a black tie and bringing up a convicted felon and saying, you know, Here‘s another trophy...
GAFFNEY: They served their country in a lot of different ways with great distinction.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway (INAUDIBLE) let me ask you a question. Should we get the whole story on that case, ever, what the vice president‘s role was? Would you like to see his testimony made public? The judge apparently is going to rule in that direction.
GAFFNEY: I personally am in favor of transparency...
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Let me ask you about...
GAFFNEY: ... whether it‘s the president of the United States or vice president or...
MATTHEWS: The vice president won‘t leave town. There‘s a tradition that you leave town after you leave office. But he sticks around like Perle Mesta. He‘s, like, holding salons and all. Why does he accuse this president of dithering when the president is clearly trying to make the right decision? What‘s wrong with deliberation? Wouldn‘t a little deliberation have been a good thing before we sent all of those guys to their death in Iraq, thinking a little bit before you act? Your thoughts.
GAFFNEY: I think that that‘s a mischaracterization of what happened in Iraq, and I think it‘s a mischaracterization of what‘s happening now.
MATTHEWS: What‘s “dithering” mean?
GAFFNEY: Dithering means that you are signaling six months after you adopted a strategy with much fanfare, you appointed a general to go implement that strategy, you said at the time and repeatedly you were going to resource it properly, that you don‘t know what you‘re doing. You don‘t know what the strategy is. You don‘t know what resources it requires, and you‘re not sure how soon you‘ll be able to get it done.
MATTHEWS: OK, suppose new intel came in?
GAFFNEY: In the meantime...
MATTHEWS: New intel that Karzai...
GAFFNEY: In the meantime...
MATTHEWS: ... didn‘t win the election. He‘s not our leader. Could that be a factor?
GAFFNEY: It didn‘t have anything to do with the strategy. These guys made a strategy six months ago. But here‘s the point, Chris. What we‘re watching is an unraveling that is happening in no small measure because the guys on the ground there are guys perhaps, but certainly the bad guys and a lot of Afghans in between, are saying, We‘re not sure they‘re going to be here.
GAFFNEY: And people adjust accordingly...
GAFFNEY: ... and that‘s not good for our interests, if this is a war of necessity, as the president has said.
MATTHEWS: Ron, you get in here because I read the speech...
REAGAN: Yes, this...
MATTHEWS: I read—I read the vice president‘s speech, and I thought it was a very strong case for the need for us to be in there and defend the Afghan people against Taliban, the Taliban forces, who are coming back. The problem with this argument, it never really explains how we can ever leave. It‘s basically putting cement into a tree that‘s falling down—into the hole in the tree, putting cement into a dying tree and somehow saying, Well, we can‘t be the cement, though. We can‘t stay there forever.
Eventually, we‘re going to have to come out of that tree and the tree‘s going to fall down. So I don‘t get this strategy of being the Afghan defense force, which is what he seems to be recommending here.
REAGAN: I don‘t get it, either. And you might want to ask Dick Cheney, and maybe Frank can the next time he sees him, why, if putting more troops into Afghanistan is so important, Dick Cheney refused to do so when he was in office. And George Bush, his nominal boss, refused to do so. If we need more forces in Afghanistan to protect the Afghan people, et cetera, et cetera, and fight the Taliban, why was he so reluctant to do that in the first place?
And why was he so reluctant to not—to get the job done in Afghanistan in the first place, too? Why divert our attention to Iraq, a war that didn‘t need to be fought because Iraq posed no danger to the United States—why do that and ignore Afghanistan? Again, the man has no credibility.
And just one last point on Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney being honored last night by Frank‘s group. It‘s one thing to honor a convicted felon, it‘s another thing to honor an unindicted war criminal, and that is exactly what Dick Cheney is. He was as instrumental as anybody in the administration in pushing the torture policy that humiliated this nation in front of the world. So I guess you get a big prize for that, too.
GAFFNEY: Well, look, where do I begin? Iraq was a war of necessity. We were dealing with a terrorist-sponsoring regime that had access to weapons of mass destruction. We can debate that endlessly, if you like.
REAGAN: Oh, access? Now it‘s access. I thought we—I thought they had weapons of mass destruction, Frank.
GAFFNEY: They did have weapons of mass destruction...
REAGAN: The ones that we gave them in the ‘80s? The ones that we gave them in the ‘80s?
MATTHEWS: Let me interrupt for a second. Retired general Paul Eaton,
of the National Security Network, today issued this response to Vice
President Cheney‘s remarks last night we‘ve been talking about. “The
record is clear. Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were incompetent
war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for seven years with a crude
approach to counterinsurgency warfare best illustrated by, one, denying it,
two, ignoring it, three, bombing it. Our intelligence agencies called the
region the greatest threat to America. The Bush White House underresourced
our military effort, shifted attention to Iraq and failed to bring justice
· bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.”
So we didn‘t catch Osama bin Laden. That‘s their case.
GAFFNEY: It sounds like what we‘re going to do here is indict. All I‘m saying is...
MATTHEWS: Should we trust Cheney as an expert on war...
GAFFNEY: The guy who history will record as losing Afghanistan will not be Dick Cheney and George Bush. If it happens, it will be because of guys on this watch who apparently had access when they came into office to the counterinsurgency strategy that they said last March they wanted to implement. And now they can‘t figure out whether...
MATTHEWS: OK, Ron, that‘s a good question.
GAFFNEY: ... that‘s, in fact, the strategy they want...
MATTHEWS: Why did this administration shift...
GAFFNEY: ... to implement or not.
MATTHEWS: ... from its March strategy, which was counterinsurgency, to what looks like something like counterterrorism-plus? We‘re not sure where they‘re going to end up.
GAFFNEY: Or minus.
REAGAN: Well, I‘m not a mind reader, of course. I can‘t tell you exactly what President Obama is thinking. But I think, as you brought up before, we‘ve got a different situation now. You now have a illegitimate government in Afghanistan—well, if it was ever legitimate. But the election was a fraud, so we‘re now dealing with a government that the Afghan people doesn‘t believe in. Are we going to make that government our allies in order to defendant those very same Afghan people? That requires a little more thought.
GAFFNEY: Can I just say, Ron, you have got a sanctimony factor here that is extraordinary. I hope you‘re willing to take responsibility for what comes next.
GAFFNEY: If—if indeed...
REAGAN: Well, I would hope, Frank...
GAFFNEY: If indeed...
REAGAN: I would hope...
GAFFNEY: If indeed...
REAGAN: ... that Dick Cheney would take responsibility for what he has done in the past.
GAFFNEY: If indeed...
GAFFNEY: Attack, attack, attack. If indeed...
REAGAN: Well, Frank, when it‘s appropriate, I will.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me—let me...
GAFFNEY: ... are responsible for the dithering and the failure.
REAGAN: I‘m not responsible. Dick Cheney was during his eight years.
GAFFNEY: And we didn‘t lose Afghanistan during his eight years.
MATTHEWS: And let me...
REAGAN: Oh, yes, we did. I beg to differ, Frank.
MATTHEWS: This is the old...
GAFFNEY: Not after 9/11.
MATTHEWS: ... the old canard, losing Afghanistan.
REAGAN: ... nice guy, but you do yourself no credit by defending a man like Dick Cheney.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t own Afghanistan. Every time you go in and occupy a country, you‘re eventually going to have to leave. That‘s my problem with occupation as a means of defending the United States. Once you occupy a country, eventually you have to leave, unless you say you‘re going to stay there indefinitely.
GAFFNEY: Or unless you create conditions in which you can stay peacefully...
MATTHEWS: We‘ve been there eight years. What have we done for eight years?
GAFFNEY: ... as we are in Germany and in Japan today.
MATTHEWS: There were no American soldiers...
REAGAN: Is Germany and Japan anything like Afghanistan?
MATTHEWS: Stop bringing up...
GAFFNEY: There were people killed after VE day, as a matter of fact.
There were Americans...
MATTHEWS: Not in Europe.
GAFFNEY: Yes, indeed.
MATTHEWS: Not in Germany.
GAFFNEY: Yes, indeed. There were.
REAGAN: Chris, the point is—the point is...
MATTHEWS: When did this happen?
GAFFNEY: We had—we had all kinds of operations that were going on by revanchist groups that were still trying to kill Americans and others. Was it large numbers...
MATTHEWS: I have to go back and check this. There were no activities back in ‘45.
GAFFNEY: There certainly were activities. Was it a mass problem? No. Has it been a problem since? No. And that‘s what, ideally, we would like to have in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: How long do you want America to be...
GAFFNEY: But if we signal...
MATTHEWS: ... the gendarmes...
GAFFNEY: If we signal...
MATTHEWS: ... of Afghanistan?
GAFFNEY: I don‘t want them to be the gendarmes at all. I want them to be part of a stable government that can deny the Taliban...
GAFFNEY: ... and denies the al Qaeda...
MATTHEWS: Permanent occupation of...
GAFFNEY: No, being present to support them...
MATTHEWS: At least you‘re open about it. At least you‘re open about it.
GAFFNEY: ... Japan and Germany.
MATTHEWS: This is what I‘ve heard the neocons want, a permanent U.S. military establishment in the Middle East. That‘s what you want.
MATTHEWS: ... in Iraq, Afghanistan...
GAFFNEY: That‘s not in the Middle East. I would personally like to have Americans forward deployed because I think we wind up saving ourselves a lot of grief...
MATTHEWS: OK, and the way they...
GAFFNEY: ... rather than fighting wars here.
MATTHEWS: ... look at it is an occupation force, the way you use the term.
REAGAN: That‘s worked so well so far.
GAFFNEY: If we have, in fact, helped them survive what the Taliban is trying to do to them, I think they will be grateful to have us there, not regarding us as an occupation force that must be expelled.
MATTHEWS: So if you had a vote...
GAFFNEY: That‘s the question.
MATTHEWS: If you had a vote right now...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question because I don‘t know the answer. Best questions, right? If you had a vote in Afghanistan among the people who are not Taliban right now, would they vote for us to stay?
GAFFNEY: I think rather than have the Taliban...
MATTHEWS: Would they vote for us to stay?
GAFFNEY: Rather than have...
MATTHEWS: No. No. That‘s different.
GAFFNEY: ... the Taliban take over the country, they would. It isn‘t different! It is exactly the answer, Chris! You said you don‘t know what the answer is.
GAFFNEY: That is exactly the answer.
MATTHEWS: ... they would vote for an American army...
GAFFNEY: They would rather not be ruled by the Taliban again. And would you? Would you, Ron? Would you want to be ruled by the Taliban?
REAGAN: That wasn‘t why we went into...
GAFFNEY: Would you want to support the Taliban...
REAGAN: ... Afghanistan in the first place, Frank.
GAFFNEY: ... in its belief that it will dominate...
REAGAN: That wasn‘t the way...
GAFFNEY: ... the rest of the world?
REAGAN: That wasn‘t why we went into Afghanistan.
GAFFNEY: Would you want that, Ron? Ask yourself this. Would you want the Taliban to be victorious in Afghanistan? Because believe me...
GAFFNEY: It‘s not just the Taliban...
REAGAN: What does that even mean, Frank?
GAFFNEY: ... but Islamists worldwide...
REAGAN: What you are saying...
GAFFNEY: ... emboldened...
REAGAN: ... is utterly meaningless.
GAFFNEY: ... and empowered...
REAGAN: Frank, it is a red herring.
REAGAN: It is a red herring because you have no argument.
GAFFNEY: If that‘s what you recommend, Ron, you do have to take responsibility.
REAGAN: You have no argument, Frank.
MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, one of the great ironies...
REAGAN: Red herring.
MATTHEWS: ... of American politics is the group in this country...
GAFFNEY: Your father would be ashamed of you.
MATTHEWS: Oh, that‘s not fair.
REAGAN: Oh, Frank!
GAFFNEY: It is! It is!
REAGAN: You better watch your mouth about that, Frank.
MATTHEWS: The group in this country that most resembles the Taliban, ironically, is the religious right. Thank you, Frank Gaffney, and thank you, Ron Reagan.
REAGAN: I‘ll see you later, Frank.
MATTHEWS: Up next...
GAFFNEY: ... the Muslim Brotherhood, Chris!
MATTHEWS: The White House is calling it—well, what‘s it saying about it? It‘s calling out its political opponents.
GAFFNEY: It‘s the Muslim Brotherhood, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Republicans are saying they‘re keeping an enemies list. Are they? Are they becoming Nixonian, the Democrats? Is that a smart strategy for the Democrats even to make themselves vulnerable to the charge of keeping enemies‘ lists? Our strategists debate that one coming up next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. Gets hot around here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: I think it dishonors all those Americans who have lost their lives because they had no health coverage by ignoring them, by not paying attention to them, and by doing nothing to change the situation that led them to lose their lives. So I make this simple proposal. I propose that we identify them. I propose that we honor their memory by naming them. They themselves can no longer speak, but their families, the ones who love them, they can speak. And so I‘ve established a Web site called Namesofthedead.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Florida congressman Alan Grayson on the House floor earlier this week. His critics don‘t like what he was doing there. They also didn‘t like when he said Republicans want people to die quickly. With us now, U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson. Sir, thank you for joining us.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an interesting thing you do in politics. You stick your neck out and you challenge the other side. You may even break the rules. Was putting your Web site or whatever it was on the House floor a breaking of the rules, just to be technical here?
MATTHEWS: ... yes or no?
GRAYSON: No. No member of Congress has even filed a complaint about it. It‘s just Republican propaganda.
The same thing happened when I spoke up before. They made a big to-do about it. They said it was breaking this rule, that rule and the other rule. And they—nothing ever came of it. They—they just lie.
GRAYSON: They lie in order to distract people from the truth.
MATTHEWS: How they come up with a—how they come up with a real fighter to knock you off in your district? Are they going to try to get rid of you and put some money behind this guy?
GRAYSON: Well, I think the Republican Party will. They spent $2 million last year just to keep me out.
But we have established a Web site, congress—congressmanwithguts.com, a money bomb for November 2. We just put it up. We already have $100,000 in pledges.
MATTHEWS: Well, how did you get to be Captain Cojones?
MATTHEWS: How did you get this role? I mean, how did you discover this thing, this gutsy thing you do?
GRAYSON: I watch HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, that‘s the—no—no more questions.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—about the health care bill. I am trying to figure this out. I‘m sort of a practical political student, believe it or not. When I call this show HARDBALL, I‘m trying to figure it out all the time.
And I‘m trying to figure out what you guys in the House are going to do. Can you deal with all of the issues on the plate right now, abortion rights, where there‘s apparently going to be some kerfuffle on that? The whole question of how you deal with the public option.
Can you really come, as Nancy Pelosi, as your leader, has said, the speaker of the House, and get something actually done in November...
GRAYSON: We have to.
MATTHEWS: ... this coming sweet November?
GRAYSON: There is no choice, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Will you, though?
GRAYSON: Look, 122 Americans are dying every single day because they have no health care. That‘s the fact. We have to move ahead. Delay means death. There is no alternative.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at what John Boehner, the guy I always think of as the guy that just blew a putt on the 18th hole—here he is, John Boehner. He always looks like he just put down a cigarette, you know, and he just sort of blew a putt.
Here he is, John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House. Let‘s listen to his Jeremiah today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The White House and congressional Democrats know that their liberal special interest agenda is not very popular.
And now they‘re following a familiar pattern. When you can‘t win an argument based on the facts, launch vicious political attacks. And this Chicago-style politics is shutting the American people out and demonizing their opponents. They‘re writing a health care bill in secret, even though the president called for all of this to be out on an open table and have C-SPAN cameras in the room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s not Dan Aykroyd, by the way. That was a real congressman.
What do you make of this, the fact that this—that this guy—well, he‘s got cameras, by the way, chasing around the Oversight Committee. They‘re getting to be pretty rowdy on the other side. Is this going to be where one side accuses the other of trying to kill people, and the other side accuses the other of being not American, like Michele Bachmann is out there always talking about you guys not really being Americans and her own leaders, like Bob Dole, not really even being for freedom?
I mean, these charges are flying in politics today.
GRAYSON: Listen, if you watch him on closed captioning, any speech, the closed captioning reads this way: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
They‘re completely unfocused on anything that matters to anybody. They‘re the party of no and they‘re in danger of becoming the party of nobody.
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you like the leadership of your party?
GRAYSON: Yes. I believe Nancy Pelosi‘s committed to improve health care for America and save lives. I believe it‘s going to happen because she‘s going to make it happen.
MATTHEWS: Do you like the leadership of the Senate Democrats?
GRAYSON: Well, they got to move things along. We would have gotten this bill passed four months ago...
GRAYSON: ... four months earlier if it were just up to the House.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that you will pass a bill the president will be able to sign by Thanksgiving, or at least by Christmas?
GRAYSON: I can‘t think of a better Christmas gift from America...
GRAYSON: ... to America than health care for everyone.
We had an interesting development on this show. It got rather heated here a minute ago, Congressman. I don‘t know if you saw it. You might have been busy at the time. But let me tell you how it happened here.
Dick Cheney—and that‘s how you pronounce his name—was out last night in black tie, along with his—well, his felon former chief of staff, who I think took the bullet for him in that whole matter, perjury and obstruction of justice.
And he wasn‘t out robbing gas stations. His behavior was right there in the office under Cheney‘s leadership. Anyway, the prosecutor in that case said there was a cloud over Cheney‘s head. The—the prosecutor obviously brought the justice to that guy Scooter Libby. He got convicted of a number of counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The president even held his nose and would not pardon these guys, wouldn‘t pardon Scooter Libby. Here‘s this guy, with all his inglorious background, out trashing the president of the United States for dithering.
GRAYSON: Well, my response is—and, by the way, I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he‘s talking.
But—but my response is this. He‘s just angry because the president doesn‘t shoot old men in the face. Oh, by the way, when he was done speaking, did he just then turn into a bat and fly away?
MATTHEWS: Oh, God. We have got to keep a level here.
Let me ask this. Don‘t you have any Republican friends?
GRAYSON: Some of my best friends are Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson. Or I just dubbed him Captain Cojones. We will see if that sticks.
MATTHEWS: Up next: That old HARDBALL favorite, Michele Bachmann, she‘s back. She was the one calling her own—well, calling the Democrats un-American. Now she‘s calling some big-name Republicans—in fact, one of them who got hurt badly in World War II—sort of against freedom. She doesn‘t think they‘re part of the freedom agenda.
Boy, that party‘s getting narrow, one in five Americans now. If Michele Bachmann‘s in charge, it will be down to one in 10. We will be right back with that.
That‘s next coming up in “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was syncopated.
Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: friendly fire. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the conservative‘s conservative, is hitting back at calls from Republican stalwarts like Bob Dole and Bill Frist to work towards some sort of health care reform.
Here she is with fellow right-wing, well, jock, shock jock, Laura Ingraham.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW”)
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: God bless Bob Dole. He just came on our show. I have great respect for the man, and also for Frist.
I mean, look, Frist presided over a pretty disastrous situation in the Senate.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: They lost.
INGRAHAM: They lost.
BACHMANN: They lost.
INGRAHAM: And Bob Dole lost how many times on a national level? I mean, I guess I have lost count.
But, again, nothing against them personally, but that ideology and that Republican outlook has been a losing outlook. That‘s why President Obama wants more of us to be like them.
BACHMANN: Because we want a pro-freedom agenda. And he‘s trying to throw people around who he believes will—will increase a non-pro-freedom agenda.
INGRAHAM: OK. Tell me...
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The key words were a pro-freedom agenda. Got it?
Anyway, so, first, the congresswoman suggests on this show a while back that the media engage in some sort of purge of what she called anti-American elements in Congress, on the Democratic side of the aisle, of course. Now she speaks of purging Republicans for failing to defend the freedom agenda.
Didn‘t Bob Dole get himself blown to bits fighting the Nazis in World War II? What history books has Ms. Bachmann got on her shelf?
Finally, turn the music down. We now know loud music was one of the techniques used to torture prisoners. And while that policy has since been disconnected—or discontinued, rather, that is not enough for musicians like REM and the Roots and Pearl Jam, who are now calling on the government of the United States to release the names of all the songs used in the name of interrogation.
Some of the cringe-inducing tunes we already know of, well, there‘s Queen‘s “We Are the Champions.” I have heard that a few times too many, the rock-heavy “March of the Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails. Even songs from Britney Spears and “Sesame Street” have been used. I‘m pretending I know these songs.
One prisoner revealed to Human Rights Watch that he was subjected to Eminem‘s rap song “The Real Slim Shady” for 20 straight days.
Well, I would love to hear what music the CIA thinks drives people crazy. I hear enough of it through open car windows.
Anyway, does Obama keep an enemies list? That is what some Republicans are saying. They‘re saying that Barack Obama is like Richard Nixon. Is that true? Our strategists are going to debate that next. That‘s a hot one.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rallying today on a batch of strong earnings from some big-name bellwethers—the Dow Jones industrial average soaring almost 132 points. The S&P 500 was up 11, and the Nasdaq gained 14.
McDonald‘s got the ball rolling this morning, beating earnings expectations and predicting steady sales down the road.
Travelers Insurance just blew everyone away, quadrupling profits over the last year and raising its forecast for the rest of 2009. Meantime, Dow component 3M‘s earnings fell, but still beat estimates. The diversified manufacturer also raising its full-year outlook. In part, they said they have very strong sales of those masks to fight swine flu.
Good earnings news after the bell from American Express, which beat expectations, despite a sizable drop in profits.
And Amazon reported very strong sales and profits, driven largely by remarkable strong demand for its Kindle reading device.
Overall, more indications today that corporate profitability has stabilized.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, it‘s no secret that President Obama and his top people have been openly critical of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of the insurance companies, of FOX News, and, of course, Wall Street executives, not to mention Rush Limbaugh. They‘re after him all the time.
But does calling out opponents mean you‘re headed toward Nixon-era paranoia and drawing up enemies lists? That‘s what the Republicans are saying. In fact, one very respected Republican, the senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, thinks it could be exactly what the Democrats are doing.
Here he is with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News earlier today. Let‘s listen up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE: The presidency is a very valuable institution, and it‘s diminished when the president brings street-fighting and brawling into the White House.
I mean, the idea of a president saying, I‘m going to call you out if you oppose me, or—or—it‘s coming very close to adding up all of the people who are against him and turning it into an enemies list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, will the strategy that the White House is following of singling out people like Rush Limbaugh, like FOX News, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, work?
Joining me now is Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who has an interest in full disclosure here, as always. And he‘s done some work for the Chamber of Commerce, and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, whose new new book is called “You‘ve Come a Long Way, Maybe.” I love that, like instead of baby.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me—your thoughts first. The Republicans have been getting a whack—whacking here tonight. So, I‘m going to let you start.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, AUTHOR, “YOU‘VE COME A LONG WAY, MAYBE”: Well, thank you, Republican.
MATTHEWS: Is the president correct in singling out Thomas Donohue, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, people like Rush Limbaugh on the air, as his enemies, not saying, I‘m making them my enemies, but identifying them for as what they are, his enemy.
Are they his enemies?
SANCHEZ: I don‘t think it takes a rocket...
MATTHEWS: Well, are they his enemies?
SANCHEZ: Well, I don‘t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that the Chamber of Commerce is going to be against a lot of his policies that are...
MATTHEWS: Do they want him to fail as president?
SANCHEZ: No, I don‘t think that‘s the...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t?
SANCHEZ: No, I don‘t think...
MATTHEWS: Does Rush Limbaugh?
MATTHEWS: He has said he wants him to fail.
SANCHEZ: That‘s an old debate.
SANCHEZ: I think we have—we have got past that.
And let‘s not—let‘s not discount the fact there were some really high-level—I won‘t name their names—but Democratic political operatives who were counseling the White House to come up with these enemies, like Rush Limbaugh, especially at a time when Obama‘s approval ratings were starting to, you know, take a hit.
He‘s just starting to get his—his...
MATTHEWS: Was it smart?
I mean, but look, a school board president knows that they have an enemies list.
SANCHEZ: That‘s not...
MATTHEWS: Well, something‘s working here, because the Republican Party now is identified as their party by one out of five Americans now, one out of five Americans.
And this includes Utah and Mississippi, South Carolina, very conservative parts of the country. And, including them all, only one in five Americans say, I‘m a Republican. That seems to be very small. Something‘s working here.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Something‘s working, but I have got to tell you, I have been in—I have been in rooms with Tom Donohue at times when he‘s said to business leaders...
MATTHEWS: He‘s head of the U.S. Chamber.
MCMAHON: He‘s head of the U.S. Chamber—when he was head, we do not want this president to fail. We‘re going to disagree with him on some policies.
MATTHEWS: Whereas Rush Limbaugh has said that very thing.
MCMAHON: The Chamber supported the president‘s stimulus package, much to the chagrin of a lot of their members.
So, I mean, I think the Chamber is kind of an interesting diversion. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the people who are speaking for the Republican Party, or purporting to speak for the Republican Party, who are saying that they want the president to fail, which Tom Donohue is not saying, are the people that the White House I think are trying to define the issues around.
And, to some degrees, it‘s working. You mentioned, though, that one out of every five voters...
MATTHEWS: Are you sure it‘s working?
MCMAHON: Well, here‘s—but here‘s...
MATTHEWS: They‘re building the paychecks of a lot of people on the right, first of all.
MCMAHON: It‘s working for Rush Limbaugh, but it‘s also working for the White House in this sense. Rush Limbaugh doesn‘t have very high numbers. I don‘t think anybody, with all due respect to Mr. Donohue, in America knows who Tom Donohue is or really knows that much about the Chamber.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re getting to know him right now.
MCMAHON: They know Rush Limbaugh. They know Rush Limbaugh, and they don‘t like him very much. And so it‘s good for the White House.
But you mentioned the only out of every five voters is a Republican now.
MCMAHON: Do you know the number that is going up is 42 percent now identify themselves as independents, which I think is evidence that Obama, during the campaign, was right. People are tired of the divisiveness.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
SANCHEZ: But, see, that‘s the point.
Obama ran on the plan that he was going to be a different type of voice, the different tone in Washington. I mean, let‘s be real. Every presidential candidate pretty much runs on that, on the reform idea.
But it‘s done a couple of things. One, you mentioned it. It‘s a distraction, yes. Is it a distraction? Because of this effort, we‘re not seeing kind of the momentum on health care that maybe the president or the White House wants to see. Maybe they haven‘t articulated their plan on Afghanistan yet. Who knows.
But political operatives, we know this much, are probably behind that messaging. But with respect to independents, what it does do is and how it does hurt the Republicans is every time it is looking as if Rush Limbaugh is the voice of Republican parties. Many independents, moderates, suburban conservatives step away from the party because they don‘t like that type of rhetoric, that type of—
MCMAHON: That‘s what‘s working for the White House. John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and the people who are pretty well known and have pretty bad numbers, are the ones that are working for the White House.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at John Boehner, because he took a shot today. He made the point. Let‘s listen on this very thing. Let‘s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER: If you look at these attacks on people who question the administration, you begin to wonder what the real plan is. And it really does, to me, look like Chicago-style politics, like they‘re trying to demonize their opponents, and do everything they can to make them distasteful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. I have a different take on Chicago-style politics. It‘s not as awful as that. I think they‘ve just been very clever, your party, in acting as if they‘re the only governing party and pointing a lot of attention not to John Boehner—they never mentioned his name—or to Mitch McConnell. They never mention their names. They talk all about these noise makers out there. So that becomes the alternative.
What do you think, is that smart? By ignoring the Republican leadership, is that smart, and going after the enemy?
SANCHEZ: The only fraction of support it may have given them is pulling along these independents, kind of having them, you know, pull more in the middle. He‘s lot a lot of independent support. I will tell you this much, it‘s never a good strategy to elevate your enemies in that sense. Look at Lyndon Johnson. Listen to those tapes. That‘s not—
MATTHEWS: He wants—he seems like he wants to elevate Rush.
SANCHEZ: Johnson the head of the three networks were communist.
Let‘s put it in perspective historically.
MATTHEWS: He‘s not electing that guy.
SANCHEZ: They‘re going back to a strategy they think worked for them in the Spring of identifying radio hosts.
MCMAHON: It did work for them in the spring. You talked about they are acting like they‘re the only governing party; they are the only party that‘s offering solutions to the problem. What they are doing very effectively, I think, is defining the Republican party as the party of no, not so much, not so fast, not today. That‘s really been effective.
MATTHEWS: The dithering party.
MCMAHON: The dithering party, exactly, thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: You used the phrase yesterday.
MCMAHON: Divide and conquer is a strategy that works politically. It‘s not necessarily a strategy that‘s going to get more people into the Democratic fold. But it‘s a strategy that‘s going to win for them on Capitol Hill, unfortunately. And it‘s going to be one that will play out in election time.
MATTHEWS: As a pro, watching the White House, do you think it‘s a deliberate, middle of the night decision they made, Anita Dunn, their communications director, a real pro—do you think they put together a strategy, with Robert Gibbs and Axelrod and the president even, enjoying it and participating in it, to identify a group of surly people out there that they think they did can make themselves look good by attacking? Do you think they have this as a deliberate strategy?
SANCHEZ: They were all on the same message point. You can‘t speak to whether the president was involved in that. But it‘s definitely political strategy 101. They‘re identifying—why would they elevate the enemies that way? Again, does it point to distraction?
MATTHEWS: Do you believe they sat down and put this together as a strategy to say, let‘s go after Rush, let‘s go after Beck, let‘s go after the Chamber?
MCMAHON: I think it‘s a strategy. Whether or not it‘s affecting—I don‘t think, frankly—I think the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck strategy is more effective than attacking trade associations in town for doing their jobs. Frankly, most people in America don‘t know what trade associations do, and don‘t really care. They do know what Rush Limbaugh—
MATTHEWS: They ought to know.
MCMAHON: They no what Glenn Beck represents. They know what John Boehner represents. And the White House has been very successful making Republicans the party of no. They should stay on that tack, because it‘s working for them.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Last word.
SANCHEZ: No, they did this before. They‘re doing it again. Same old
MATTHEWS: It‘s great having you on, Linda—Leslie.
SANCHEZ: That‘s the Congresswoman.
MATTHEWS: And there‘s another, Loretta too. All Ls.
SANCHEZ: And we‘re not related.
MATTHEWS: Leslie Sanchez, thank you for joining us, and thank you, Steve McMahon. You‘re the Republican. He‘s the Democrat.
Up next, the Obama administration is slashing—I love this word—slashing executive pay packages at companies who haven‘t paid back bailout money. Apparently, they are going to cut these packages which include country club memberships down by half. Will that do anything to change the attitude on Wall Street? Will that teach people or just make them feel like victims?
We‘ll give the president‘s critics more fodder for those hyped-up socialism charges. HE‘s telling the rich people who bailed out their companies with government money they can‘t make as much as they used to. Is that socialism? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know, I‘ve always believed that our system of free enterprise works best when it rewards hard work. This is America. We don‘t disparage wealth. We don‘t begrudge anybody for doing well. We believe in success.
But it does offend our values when executives of big financial firms, firms that are struggling, pay themselves huge bonuses even as they continue to rely on taxpayer assistance to stay afloat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re back. That was President Obama using sort of a little soft soaping there, as he goes after the executive pay packages. Time now for the politics fix. Ron Brownstein is political director of Atlantic Media. And Pat Buchanan, of course, is an MSNBC political analyst.
Pat, it‘s interesting, when you want to put the knife in, you say it softly. He‘s very nice. It‘s almost, I do this more out of sadness than joy. I‘m taking away half your pay, buddy. I really feel a little bad about it.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the staff went in and said, Mr. President, we really got to hammer these guys. This is not going down well.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s so soft.
BUCHANAN: He‘s so soft. But let me say this: this is the problem you get into. Those guys, that is outrageous. You get into this problem as soon as you get taxpayer‘s money into private business. Then you have to run it.
Frankly, some of these big firms should have been allowed to go under. Let them pay the price and let them deal in the market with their own successes, their own failures, their own mistakes.
RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA: We did try that with Lehman Brothers, Pat. That didn‘t go so well.
MATTHEWS: How about a new rule, you can‘t have a lot of money unless you can explain why you have a lot of money. You know what these guys actually do? Do you know what they do to make zillions of dollars? Where is the brain going?
BROWNSTEIN: And it gets more and more esoteric and more and more complex. And the social utility of it is really unclear at times. It‘s interesting because the chief financial regulator in Britain, Lord Turner, gave a speech a couple weeks saying look, many of these new products that are being created are more about enriching bankers than—
MATTHEWS: Pitchfork Brigades have been out there for years, right and left. Right and left, they don‘t like it. We have one of our producers here; she‘s as tough on the left as you are on the right. Right? What‘s going on is I think if he hadn‘t done what he did yesterday, with this fellow doing what he had to do, the pay master—if he hadn‘t cut these guys off at the knees, he would pay the price himself.
BUCHANAN: He‘d pay a terrible price. But the real problem is, Chris, look, 40 percent of all the money being made a few years back was being made in the financial community of paper being moved around, all these hedge funds, all this nonsense. They don‘t produce real things.
Remember Sherman McCoy? What was the “Bonfire of the Vanity.” He couldn‘t explain to his kid, what do you do, dad?
MATTHEWS: He builds roads or actually he‘s arbitraging bombs, or something.
BROWNSTEIN: We now have this tremendously ambivalent relationship as a society with Wall Street, because we‘re all dependent on the stock market for our retirement.
MATTHEWS: I watch the it every night on this show. I watch the Market Report. And I want it to go up. By the way, back when I didn‘t have any money, I wanted it to go down. Screw those guys.
BROWNSTEIN: People feel better when the Dow is at 10,000.
MATTHEWS: Are more people rooting for or against the market right now?
BROWNSTEIN: They‘re rooting for the market. But it doesn‘t necessarily mean they‘re rooting for the market makers and participants. The broader point of the president here, though—look, on the financing, on the lobbying here against all the enhanced regulation—
MATTHEWS: Here are the companies, Citigroup --
BROWNSTEIN: It‘s back to business as usual.
MATTHEWS: Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, General Motors and Chrysler. The list is out there. Every one of the top 25 guys in each one of these firms is going to take about a 50 percent cut.
BUCHANAN: Personally, I just unloaded a lot of Citibank stock today, because I think it‘s about as high as it‘s going to go. Quite frankly, they‘ve got a lot of stuff on that books that‘s still rotten, Chris. You got this commercial property, which is coming down.
But again, they‘re a government-owned banks. They ought not to be paying themselves those salaries. If you work for the king, you take the king‘s shilling. You sing the king‘s tune.
MATTHEWS: Come next November, as we approach the election for Congress and all these 30 some senators are up for election, and all 435 members of the House and Senate—the House, rather—who will be making the largest pitchfork argument, the right or the left?
BUCHANAN: The right will have the populists with them. I think they‘ll be very much—
MATTHEWS: They will come out against Wall Street and big money?
BUCHANAN: Because Obama is in charge of the economy.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. And I think the left challengers will as well. The Republicans may have some vulnerabilities here as well. Today, the House Financial Services Committee passed the Consumer Agency that Obama wants. Every Republican but one voted no.
MATTHEWS: We just answered the question why he did what he did.
Because he can‘t take the heat. He had to go after these guys.
BUCHANAN: You got to, sure.
MATTHEWS: It‘s called preemption on the right wing. You know how they preempt these things, forward leaning? Guys like Frank Gaffney sitting there. They love the forward—we‘ll be right back with Ron Brownstein and Pat Buchanan to have some fun with Dick Cheney. He‘s back like Freddie Krueger. He keeps coming back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. By the way, Halloween is coming too.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Ron Brownstein and Pat Buchanan. You know, I‘m stunned occasionally by shamelessness in this town. The vice president left—he didn‘t leave town, did he? He just left office and his top aide got in huge trouble, apparently regarding pushing the cause, keeping secrets, and giving false evidence, false testimony. They were there last night, both in tuxedos, black tie, both getting awards from Frank Gaffney, our buddy here.
They just keep giving themselves awards, the American Enterprise Institute, all these front groups. Pat, they never stop giving themselves awards and giving speeches to each other. Look, there‘s Rumsfeld. This is the gang‘s all here.
BUCHANAN: Chris, that‘s what journalists do too.
MATTHEWS: These endless awards.
BUCHANAN: Journalist of the year.
MATTHEWS: Poor Scooter wants his law practice back.
BUCHANAN: That‘s Gaffney‘s folks. That‘s his crowd.
MATTHEWS: I know. There‘s Frank.
BROWNSTEIN: Part of the secret of conservative success -- 25 years ago, Sid Blumenthal wrote a book, right, “The Counter-Establishment.” There is a network, a web of institutions that support people when they‘re out of government, help them get the credentials to move into government. It‘s something that the left has tried to emulate in the last decade.
MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney, out there like he is, getting awards, giving awards, wearing black ties, celebrating his very being—is that good for the Republican party?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know. But I think it‘s good for Cheney. He clearly has become—he‘s a very powerful voice. And he‘s saying what he believes. And he is jamming Obama, and so are the generals at the Pentagon. And they‘re going to get those troops.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that will be the bottom line here?
BUCHANAN: Obama can‘t keep it at zero. He‘s not going to pull them out. So he‘s going to give them 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 at least.
BROWNSTEIN: I don‘t know about 40. Look, Democrats once thought that Cheney talking was unambiguously a positive for Democrats and hurt Republicans. But in this environment we‘re in, where part of the challenge for Democrats is a very mobilized Republican base, Cheney does, in fact, do that. Even if he does kind of drive away some of the middle.
For the White House, it‘s especially infuriating, because they believe the difficulty of the situation in Afghanistan is directly a function of Bush‘s failures to deal with the problems as it deteriorated, especially in his second term. So to hear Cheney come out now and blame them --
BUCHANAN: That‘s a fair criticism of the Republicans, Bush and Cheney. Gibbs made it, I‘ll say that. But Cheney is elevating himself into a direct battle for the White House. And that is not a bad thing for Dick Cheney. He‘s become the foreign policy defense voice of the Republican/conservative establishment.
MATTHEWS: This who lost Afghanistan canard, which began tonight perhaps here with Frank Gaffney—the trouble with that is it encourages any president, right, left or center, to keep troops everywhere. Because whenever you pull the troops out, you‘re accused of, quote, losing.
BUCHANAN: Don‘t send them in.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Pat. I agree.
BROWNSTEIN: There are these Shakespearian conversations between Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell in 1965 on the tapes, in which Johnson says exactly that: I can‘t see going forward. I can‘t see a victory at the end. But if I pull the troops out, I will be eviscerated by the right. I‘m saying, he had exactly that concern.
BUCHANAN: I‘ve got to put them in, Dick. And Dick says, this is a god awful mess, Lyndon. What are we doing?
BROWNSTEIN: So you don‘t want a president to have to make the decision on those basis.
MATTHEWS: Ron Brownstein, Pat Buchanan, gentlemen, thank you.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Americans. Welcome to “THE ED SHOW.” Is it time for a victory lap? Well, not quite. But we‘re real close.
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