Guests: David Gregory, Oriel Morrison, Rep. Michael McCaul, Rep. Donna Edwards, Matthew Continetti, John Nichols, Ron Brownstein, John Nichols, David Corn, Susan Page
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The scene of the crime.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
New York to try 9/11 killers. Like in the oldest of the mystery plots, the reputed mastermind of the attack on the twin trade towers, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and four other September 11 suspects are returning to the scene of the crime, New York City, for trial.
The news has stirred furious passions. President Obama says the defendants will be subject to, quote, “the most exacting demands of justice.” Republicans say Mr. Obama is bringing, quote, “plotters within our borders,” that he‘s sending a mixed message about America‘s resolve and that New York will become a terrorist target. All this at the top of our show tonight.
Plus, Palin-palooza. She‘s blaming just about everyone, from McCain loyalists to Katie Couric to gold old Charlie Gibson for all her catastrophic campaign problems. We‘ve got two guests, pro and con Palin, to go at it tonight.
Also, behind the scenes at the White House. We‘ve seen leaks from both sides on Afghanistan, from the hawks and the doves. They‘re leaking like the Titanic at the White House. Who‘s doing the leaking and why?
And did Hillary Clinton violate U.S. policy when she accused the Pakistanis of hiding Osama bin Laden?
And finally, has the GOP, the Grand Old Party, gone so rogue that it now considers Mark Sanford a better Republican than Lindsey Graham? Check out our “Sideshow” tonight.
We start, however, with the news that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects will be tried in federal court in New York City. U.S. congresswoman Donna Edwards, a Democrat from Maryland, Republican congressman Michael McCaul of Texas is a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mr. McCaul, I want you to start. What would you have done, had you been president and had to make this decision, along with the attorney general? Where would you try these guys? Or would you not try them?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL ®, TEXAS: Well, first let met say it‘s a sad day when the mastermind of 9/11 is brought on American soil, to the very spot where 3,000 Americans were killed. If I were president for the day, I would have tried these not as criminal defendants in the United States but treat them as enemies of war before a military tribunal, as we did in World War II. We were going down that path...
MATTHEWS: And then do—and what would you do with them if they were convicted? What would you do with them then? If you didn‘t execute them, what would you do with them?
MCCAUL: Well, I—it‘s my sincere hope that they do get the death penalty in this case. But I think bringing them...
MATTHEWS: But if they got some other penalty, what would you do with them then? It‘s a tricky question. I answer (ph) is because the whole thing‘s tricky. What do we do with these people? You see them as war criminals, some other people as criminal suspects. What do you do with them if they‘re war criminals? What do we do if this war goes on and on and on forever, basically, against terrorism? What do we do with these people?
MCCAUL: Well, again, military tribunal. They were getting ready to go forward. The president came in, stopped the process, said we‘re going to close down Guantanamo Bay. We should have gone forward with these top cases, where the evidence would be...
MATTHEWS: OK, what do we do with them?
MCCAUL: ... sufficient to convict and get the death penalty, execute them.
MATTHEWS: Well, if we don‘t get them on the death penalty, what do we do with them then—if they don‘t get the death penalty? A lot of them may not be guilty of the death penalty.
MCCAUL: Well, they‘re...
MATTHEWS: What do we do with them?
MCCAUL: I was a federal prosecutor in the Justice Department. They will either get life in prison or the death penalty. The risk of bringing...
MATTHEWS: OK, where would we put them?
MCCAUL: ... them in the...
MATTHEWS: Where would we—sir, I‘ve asked you three times. What do we do with them if we don‘t execute them?
MCCAUL: I—they should stay in Guantanamo (INAUDIBLE) that‘s the mistake...
MATTHEWS: So keep Guantanamo there.
MCCAUL: ... that was made.
MATTHEWS: OK. So you say...
MATTHEWS: ... the smart move would have been to keep Guantanamo there as a place a to put war suspects when we convict them, execute them there. If we don‘t execute them there, keep them there. That‘s your policy.
MCCAUL: Right. We should not...
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s smart.
MCCAUL: ... be importing them...
MATTHEWS: I mean, that‘s a view I...
MCCAUL: ... into the United States.
MATTHEWS: It‘s very clear, sir. I like clarity.
Let‘s go to Congresswoman Edwards. Your view? You‘ve got that one view, which is to keep them on Guantanamo. Keep Gitmo there. Prosecute them. If you can‘t execute them, if you get them on a lesser charge, keep them there until they—until they rot, I suppose. What are your thinking?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, let‘s start...
MATTHEWS: What‘s your thinking?
EDWARDS: Let‘s start with first things first, Chris. I mean, first thing, I think it was the right call by the attorney general and by the president to make sure that we go to trial in New York, in a place where we‘re actually used to these kind of prosecutions. And I think, you know, once we go through trial and there‘s a conviction, it sounds like, obviously, the death penalty is on the table, the federal death penalty. I‘m not a big supporter of the death penalty, but that‘s what the law is, and...
MATTHEWS: Well, what would you do?
EDWARDS: And I think that...
MATTHEWS: What would you do?
EDWARDS: You know what? That‘s what the law is. And I think that we
· this is the—this is the challenge here. We need to make sure that we follow our own judicial process, follow our own constitutional mandate, try these people, let the victims get their justice and the American people get their justice. And if they‘re found guilty, you know, they‘re put to death under the law. And if it‘s life in prison, I think that we can secure them, even here in our borders.
MATTHEWS: So you trust the jury system in this regard. You would trust a jury for a unanimous vote in all these cases?
EDWARDS: You know why I do? Because we actually have a history of federal trials and federal prosecutions for terrorism. I think something like 190 of these cases have actually been tried in the federal courts, with that number of convictions. And unfortunately, the military tribunals process, even with the revamped Military Commissions Act, actually hasn‘t worked. But our federal courts actually have worked. And so that‘s why I‘m actually really glad that the president and the attorney general...
EDWARDS: ... are moving forward in this direction.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what Rudolph Giuliani—who‘s clearly thinking about running for governor of New York. He put out this statement today. Quote, “Returning some of the Guantanamo detainees to New York City for trial, specifically Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, has now brought us full circle. We have regressed to a pre-9/11 mentality with respect to Islamic extremist terrorism. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be treated like the war criminal he is and tried in a military court. He is not just another murderer or even a mass murderer, he murdered as part of a declared war against the United States.”
Your thoughts on that, Congressman McCaul? Explain to me, as a former prosecutor, the distinction between somebody who kills as part of a war and someone who just kills because they‘re murderers.
MCCAUL: Well, in the Clinton era, we prosecuted Ramzi Yousef as a criminal defendant. It seems like we‘re going back to that policy. In my view, these—Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, these top operatives, are enemies of war and should be treated as such with a military tribunal. I completely agree with Rudy Giuliani‘s assessment in this case. And the admissibility of evidence is very different in a military tribunal versus a federal court, when you‘re dealing with intelligence. I think that‘s a better route.
Again, are they—are these people, the terrorists, enemies of war or are they to be treated as criminal defendants? This administration has now made its decision that they are criminal defendants, to be given all the rights under the Constitution once they touch base in New York City, and not to mention the security risk that‘s going to be placed on a city that has been consistently a target of al Qaeda.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congresswoman Edwards. Here‘s a problem. If you get into court and a smart defense attorney—I‘d think of it, and I‘m not even a lawyer. This guy was waterboarded 83 times, KSM, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He probably admitted all kinds of things under waterboarding. All that evidence is tainted. It‘s contaminated, even if you go find evidence elsewhere, based on that. A smart defense attorney can say it‘s all contaminated evidence. It‘s fruit of a poison tree, or whatever, whatever the term is. And you get the guy off.
EDWARDS: Well, I actually...
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t that happen if you were the defense attorney? Wouldn‘t you be able to make that case, that this guy admitted his guilt under torture, 183 cases of waterboarding? What kind of evidence is that?
EDWARDS: You know, they‘re going to be able to put up a defense, but I think I heard very clearly from the attorney general today that, in fact, there‘s independent evidence that he believes, as a former prosecutor, as a former high-level prosecutor, that will result in a conviction. And I think that on this one, we‘ve got, you know, really superior prosecutors who are going to take this case...
EDWARDS: ... all the way through. And I‘m actually convinced because of their record that the federal district courts and our federal judges actually can handle both the intelligence levels that we‘re dealing with and the trial and get a conviction.
MATTHEWS: But wouldn‘t you...
MCCAUL: Hey, Chris, the first...
MATTHEWS: ... as a defense attorney—let me ask you, Congressman, this question. Wouldn‘t you—forget—I know what you want to do, get these guys tried offshore and get them tried at Gitmo. That‘s your position. But if you were a defense attorney in New York City and you were on the other side of this fight, wouldn‘t you bring in Cheney? Wouldn‘t you bring all the guys who supported waterboarding and nail them?
MATTHEWS: You‘d use this as a show trial opportunity, wouldn‘t you?
MCCAUL: The first motion I‘d file is a motion to suppress the evidence obtained through waterboarding. Then I would file a ton of discovery to find out all the classified information, you‘re right, regarding Cheney, regarding—and this is going to turn into a real circus. I think the military is better equipped to handle this in a professional way.
The southern district of New York U.S. attorney‘s office is one of the
finest in the country. It‘s some of the best prosecutors. But the point -
· the minute we put them on American soil and they get constitutional rights, this will turn into a showcase, a circus. And again, I‘m concerned about the security of New York City and what‘s going to happen when these top al Qaeda operatives set foot in the United States. The majority of the American people do not want to see this happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you worried about there? Are you worried about we can‘t handle a bunch of troublemakers in New York? I think the—that‘s where I might disagree with you. Don‘t you think the American—the police, New York‘s finest, can‘t handle a bunch of bums causing trouble? I mean, what‘s the problem?
MCCAUL: I saw—I saw...
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got thousands and thousands of hardened murderers in federal prison right now. I don‘t but that—we‘ve got the scariest people in the world in federal prison right now, in maximum security.
MATTHEWS: These guys, once they‘re isolated, it seem to me they‘re—they‘re not anywhere near as dangerous as the guys we have in prison right now in this country. Americans can be much more frightening than these guys.
EDWARDS: Well, and Chris, I mean, the fact is that...
MCCAUL: Well, I saw—I saw Khalid Shaikh—I saw Khalid Shaikh Mohammed down in Guantanamo. That‘s another—that‘s very high secure. My concern about bringing him into the United States is not the security of the prison itself, but the mecca that that will create for potential either home-grown...
MCCAUL: ... or al Qaeda operatives to come to New York.
MATTHEWS: And bomb things. What do you think of that, Congresswoman, the fact that we might have—we might have a bombing target in Foley Square or someplace in New York...
MATTHEWS: ... a courthouse where all the bad guys are going to come and just declare a military target, if you will?
EDWARDS: You know, Chris, the federal courts have actually handled these circumstances before, high-level security that‘s required. It‘s been handled in Arlington, with prosecutions in Arlington, Virginia, handled in New York, in the southern district of New York. I think our federal prosecutors and our judges are entirely capable of meting out the justice that‘s deserved and that the victims‘ families deserve and the American people deserve to see carried out.
And so I‘m actually glad that we‘ve moved to this point. And I, in fact, think it‘s a step forward. The military tribunals have actually only handled three of those prosecutions. The federal district courts have handled and gotten convictions in more than 190 cases. They can do this. We can do this...
EDWARDS: ... and our federal prosecutors are going to get the justice that the victims‘ families deserve.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Congresswoman, and thank you, Congressman. By the way, one of the great things about America, no matter what side you‘re on in this argument, is that we have these arguments. This is a great country because we fight about this stuff.
MCCAUL: I agree.
MATTHEWS: Human rights matters, even in cases of the worst people in the world, but sometimes I think we got to treat them a little tougher than we treat your average criminal. Anyway, thank you.
Coming up: Here comes Sarah Palin. We‘re going to have some fun now, I‘m going to tell you. She‘s got a book out. I don‘t know if she wrote this thing or a ghost writer wrote it, but nobody‘s going to get a bigger ride than Sarah Palin. By the way, that‘s not Tina Fey, that‘s the real thing right there, the real genuine article. This woman, I think, is running for something like president. I‘m not sure. Can Sarah Palin do what Reagan did, unseat a Democratic president? I think she‘s got very high ambitions, and they may be in her case wildly appropriate.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Sarah Palin kicks off her book tour next Tuesday, where she‘ll try to reintroduce herself to the American people. Can she erase the memory of moments like this interview with Katie Couric on CBS?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: When it come to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this, to stay informed and to understand (INAUDIBLE)
GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I‘ve read most of them, again, with that great appreciation for the press, for the media...
COURIC: Like what ones specifically? I‘m curious that you...
PALIN: All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years. I have...
COURIC: Can you name them?
PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.
Alaska isn‘t a foreign country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow! “The Weekly Standard‘s” Matthew Continetti‘s author of “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” “The Nation” magazine‘s John Nichols contributed to the book “Going Rouge.” I think that‘s a knock on her.
Let me ask you about this new Sarah Palin—it‘s called the Palin-palooza next week, 20 some cities she‘s going to visit. What do you think the goal is besides promoting a book, Matthew?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, AUTHOR, “THE PERSECUTION OF SARAH PALIN”: I think the goal is to reintroduce herself to the American public on her terms, Chris. You know...
MATTHEWS: Not McCain‘s?
CONTINETTI: Not McCain‘s and not Katie Couric‘s, and trying to move beyond it, say, This is my story. She acknowledged in the Oprah interview, apparently, that that was a bad interview, not her greatest moment. So now she wants to...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Matthew. I‘m going to interrogate you a little bit here, a little rough treatment because it is Friday afternoon.
CONTINETTI: Always, sir.
MATTHEWS: What did she do wrong in that interview that she can blame Couric for, blame Charlie Gibson for? Why is it always somebody else‘s fault—Nicolle Wallace working for the McCain campaign? Why are there so many—so many suspects? It‘s like the Germans after they lost World War I. There‘s a “stab in the back” theory. I mean, what‘s all this “stab in the back” theory about?
CONTINETTI: Well, I write in “The Persecution of Sarah Palin” that this was a bad interview. I mean, it was probably the worst interview a politician gave...
MATTHEWS: Well, whose fault was it?
CONTINETTI: ... since Ted Kennedy did.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Roger Mudd doing...
MATTHEWS: ... greatest piece of journalism ever.
CONTINETTI: Look what happened to Kennedy, though. I mean...
MATTHEWS: That was Roger Mudd at his best!
CONTINETTI: What I‘m saying is one interview doesn‘t ruin a political career. You know that.
MATTHEWS: OK. It did with Ted Kennedy, ruined his presidential campaign.
CONTINETTI: It did, but now he‘s the lion of the Senate that we memorialized...
CONTINETTI: ... a few months ago.
MATTHEWS: OK, getting back to the question if guilt and innocence, did Katie—was she too rough in the interview, Katie Couric?
CONTINETTI: Parts of the interview, she had—Couric kind of staged, right, removed—kind of made the stage of the questions harder for Palin to answer.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at more of it and then we‘ll make a judgment here. We can‘t look at the whole interview, but let‘s take a look at (INAUDIBLE) Here she is on foreign policy in that CBS interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURIC: You‘ve cited Alaska‘s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a
foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land boundary that we
have with Canada. It‘s funny that a comment like that was kind of made to
· I don‘t know, you know, reporters...
PALIN: Yes, mocked. I guess that‘s the word. Yes.
COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.
PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our next-door neighbors are foreign countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that?
CONTINETTI: Well, I think she‘s—she‘s right. What‘s interesting, though, is one offhand comment that Alaska borders Russia, which is absolutely true—Alaska—we bought Alaska from the Russians—became a Tina Fey cartoon that “I saw Russia from my house.” And that‘s one thing I think most people know about Sarah Palin is that Tina Fey line, which Sarah Palin never said.
MATTHEWS: So Tina Fey‘s another one of the suspects.
MATTHEWS: It‘s growing, you know, this list!
CONTINETTI: There‘s a whole...
MATTHEWS: Charlie—the avuncular Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric, Nicolle Wallace, who worked for McCain—was McCain one of the guilty people? Did he hurt her?
CONTINETTI: Well, no. I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: Did he persecute her?
CONTINETTI: No, I don‘t think he did. He didn‘t persecute her.
MATTHEWS: But all his people did.
CONTINETTI: No, he put her on the ticket.
MATTHEWS: Steve Schmidt did.
CONTINETTI: There were people in the campaign who didn‘t know what they had with Sarah Palin, Chris. And they knew her weaknesses, but they didn‘t appreciate her strengths. By the end of the campaign, they knew her strengths. They let her out. She was much more accessible to the press by the end of the campaign. She was visiting all the places, stump speeches and such. And she was a great candidate. She helped the ticket.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this because I think she‘s—she‘s got a lot of pizzazz and I think there‘s a lot of sparkle, and potentially, she could win the nomination next time. That‘s what I believe.
CONTINETTI: I believe it, too.
MATTHEWS: Because in a room of boring suits, she could be the most interesting candidate and win the Iowa caucuses, where the evangelicals will have a lot to say. She may not win in New Hampshire, but if she holds her own up there, that gets her you South Carolina. And let‘s face it, you and I have been through this route campaign before. It‘s not a magical mystery tour. It‘s a very clear political set of hurdles you have to cross. She could jump them all.
CONTINETTI: You have to win two of those three states. If you...
MATTHEWS: And she could win it. So let‘s go...
CONTINETTI: ... do Iowa and South Carolina...
MATTHEWS: Let me go—let me go to...
CONTINETTI: ... she gets the nomination.
MATTHEWS: ... John Nichols. Before we get into criticizing her, John, do you think she‘s got—is she the genuine article in politics, or is she a paper tiger? In other words, will she look better four years from now than she looks now, or weaker? Will she make it or fade?
JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”: It‘s Sarah Palin‘s choice to make. And she still hasn‘t made it.
If you read the excerpts from her book, she is still whining about how she was treated in—in 2008. And that‘s what she did in the Oprah interview as well. She has not grown.
And, you know, Matthew wrote a very, very good piece in “The Wall Street Journal” in which he suggested that she might make a Reaganesque transformation. But, so far, she has shown very little evidence of seeking to make that transformation.
In fact, her recent speeches have shown no growth, no progression whatsoever. And that is, frankly, the evidence that suggests that she won‘t grow into the 2012 nominee or—or the sort of figure that you suggest, Chris.
MATTHEWS: All right.
I may get tough here. Ronald Reagan spent years doing commentaries, writing letters, putting on paper in his hand thoughtful arguments. They may have been complicated, but they were very thoughtful. He understood his conservativism. And, in fact, he is one of the people who really, along with Buckley, really built the notion of a modern conservative movement, based on lower taxes, less government, fighting the communists in a much more aggressive fashion.
He did that in a thoughtful way. You may argue with it, but he has a paper trail.
Does she have one? Matt, does she have a paper trail?
CONTINETTI: She‘s starting to. You go to her Facebook page, Chris, you have an answer to your question here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Matthew...
CONTINETTI: ... op-ed linked essays every day directly to her supporters. She is starting that.
And let‘s not forget some other things that people said about Ronald Reagan, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Is she writing this material? No, is she writing this material herself?
NICHOLS: She is not writing this material herself.
CONTINETTI: Of course, to the extent that any political figure writes the material.
MATTHEWS: Reagan wrote his radio commentaries and all those years of writing letters and he did a lot of putting words on paper.
CONTINETTI: Pointing the words on paper, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Where? Where has she done that? I‘m asking, where has she put something on paper?
CONTINETTI: It‘s her voice.
NICHOLS: Can I just suggest something here?
CONTINETTI: The very same things that were said about Reagan are being said about her, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you—no, the facts, not the P.R.
NICHOLS: No, it‘s not true.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any evidence, Matthew, that she has ever put a thought on paper?
CONTINETTI: She wrote the book, Chris.
MATTHEWS: She wrote this book?
CONTINETTI: She spent four months with her collaborator in the same way...
MATTHEWS: Oh, the collaborator wrote the book.
CONTINETTI: No. What—collaborator—it takes two to tango, Chris. They both did.
MATTHEWS: Who typed...
NICHOLS: ... wrote the words to the book.
CONTINETTI: I wasn‘t in the hotel room with them.
MATTHEWS: Well, when you write something, do you have a collaborator?
Do you have somebody you dictate to thoughts to?
CONTINETTI: I‘m not the most famous Republican woman in the world, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
But don‘t say she has put words to paper unless you have actually seen her do it.
CONTINETTI: I‘m going to ask Sarah, can I watch, next time?
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go, John.
NICHOLS: I hate to insert some—I hate to insert some reality here, but Ronald Reagan actually read stacks of magazines. He drove his aides crazy because he carried a small scissors with him to always cut articles out. The guy was constantly researching, constantly thinking, constantly analyzing, and, frankly, constantly writing.
There is no evidence that Sarah Palin is even minimally comparable to Reagan. And, in fact, if you want to look at the Reaganesque figure among the potential nominees in 2012, it is much more likely to be Mike Huckabee, who is somebody who actually is willing to go out and stir it up with people he disagrees with, who is able to think outside the box.
Palin is not thinking outside the box. She is so constrained to the most rigid talking points that, frankly—I hate to say it—aside from the pizzazz that you see, Chris, I see a figure who is—is really not ready for prime time.
MATTHEWS: Well, we will see what the books says.
Let me ask you the interview with Katie Couric. What was wrong with the question, “What do you read?” What was wrong with that question?
CONTINETTI: There was nothing wrong with it.
CONTINETTI: Obviously, she reads. She obviously reads.
MATTHEWS: Well, what was she afraid of answering?
CONTINETTI: She was offended.
NICHOLS: Matthew already did this question, yes.
CONTINETTI: Based on my...
NICHOLS: Can I offer a notion here?
MATTHEWS: Can you hear what is going on here. Matthew—we‘re having a conversation.
Let me ask Matthew a question, and then ask you a question, John.
CONTINETTI: Based on what I know, she was offended.
MATTHEWS: ... why didn‘t she answer that question?
CONTINETTI: She was offended at Katie Couric, based on what I knew. She thought that Katie Couric was presenting her as some sort of Nanook from the North, this Eskimo come down upon us. What, you don‘t read anything in Alaska?
She was so offended that she didn‘t give the right answer. She, of course, reads. Any politician reads.
MATTHEWS: What was her answer that she held back?
CONTINETTI: Well, she reads “USA Today.” She reads the Alaska newspapers. And she reads the op-eds and stuff that her campaign gives her on a regular basis. You can‘t be a major political figure and not read. This is just—it‘s absolutely...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that would have a better answer if she had said, I read “USA Today”?
CONTINETTI: Of course it would have been a better answer. I love “USA Today.”
Your response, John. Do you think that would have been a better answer, if Katie Couric—had said, I read “USA Today”?
NICHOLS: Well, it wouldn‘t have been a Reaganesque answer.
Look, Ronald Reagan read stacks of magazines. He—he subscribed.
He actually knew them inside and out. This woman, she had an easy opening.
That‘s not a tough gotcha question. That‘s a softball.
And that‘s a question that any capable politician could have answered in their sleep. The fact that she still is whining about it and drawing attention to it is to me remarkable.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, how well do you think she will do in the debates?
CONTINETTI: I think she‘s going to do very well in the debates.
CONTINETTI: I think she did very well in the debate against Joe Biden.
MATTHEWS: I do, too.
CONTINETTI: I think, if you look at—watch that debate now, she did very well. She made fewer gaffes than Joe Biden did.
MATTHEWS: Is she as smart as you?
CONTINETTI: Yes, she‘s smart. Clearly, she has got to be as smart as me.
MATTHEWS: Is she as smart as you? Is she as smart as you?
CONTINETTI: Of course.
CONTINETTI: ... toe to toe with her any day. She would beat me.
MATTHEWS: John, do you think she is smarter than you, or not?
NICHOLS: I think just about everybody is smarter than me, Chris.
But I will tell you this. She is not smarter than Ronald Reagan and she is not smarter than the Republican base. The Republican base favors Mike Huckabee by a 2-1 margin over her at this point, despite all of the spin and all the hype that she‘s gotten.
Let me ask you, John, forget your politics. If you were a Republican trying to raise some money in an election for next year, and you were trying to raise a quarter-million at the next lunch downtown business group, would you invite him—I‘m sorry—invite her or, say, Mitt Romney? Who would you invite to raise money? Who would bring the bigger crowd in her with $500 in their pockets? Who would you invite in the door?
NICHOLS: I would invite her. I live in Wisconsin. And she was just in for the state Right to Life folks and drew something like 5,000 folks.
MATTHEWS: OK. It makes my point.
NICHOLS: Of course, I would invite her to raise the money.
MATTHEWS: I know your answer.
NICHOLS: But I wouldn‘t want to have my—I wouldn‘t want her in my ads.
Your thoughts? Who would you invite...
CONTINETTI: If we went in a time machine—I would invite her.
But, if we went in a time machine, the same things that John is saying about Sarah Palin were the same things that the left was saying about Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. It‘s a fact.
MATTHEWS: You really like her, don‘t you? You really like her.
CONTINETTI: I do.
CONTINETTI: And I was skeptical, but the more I learned, the more I liked.
MATTHEWS: OK. Great. Thank you.
I‘m impressed. We will stay tuned. I have not trashed her. I am waiting to see, though do I question this intellectual part of her, though.
Anyway—not that you have to be an intellectual to be a politician. But you have to have clear thoughts about why you‘re running. And you have to be able to say them.
Matthew Continetti, thank you very much, John Nichols.
Their books are called “Sarah Palin,” the persecution of her, and “Going Rouge.” That‘s John Nichols.
Listen to this, by the way, this shocker from South Carolina. Republicans there say that Governor Mark Sanford is a better Republican than Lindsey Graham. What‘s that about?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow” on—I can‘t believe I‘m saying this—Friday the 13th, which it is.
First up, after a week in the Caribbean, Governor Jon Corzine is back in New Jersey. He met Thursday with the man who beat him last week, Chris Christie, you know, the guy that Corzine‘s campaign said threw his weight around, the guy that a Corzine TV ad implied was too fat to be governor.
Reporters asked the governor why his base didn‘t show up, why the Democrats didn‘t come out and vote. And Corzine said: “I don‘t know. It must be my beard.”
Hmm. I think New Jersey votes for Democrats out of habit most of the time and then, once in a while, it says, enough of you people.
Next up: the latest nonsense from South Carolina. Local Republican leaders are livid that Senator Lindsey Graham works with Democrats on things like immigration reform and climate change legislation. Well, one GOP county committee passed a resolution this week condemning Graham for—quote—“bucking Republican leadership and party solidarity for his own benefit.”
Well, here‘s the fun part. Apparently, South Carolina Republicans are madder at Lindsey Graham than they are at Governor Mark Sanford, the guy who disappeared to South America to see his mistress and admitted to spending taxpayer money to get there. One party official—actually, a state party official put it this way to Politico—quote—“They still understand what Mark Sanford is about. They are just disappointed by the girl. Lindsey just continues to anger the base.”
Hmm. I think Lindsey Graham is a classic Southern senator who calls them as he sees them. Some people down there can afford to play dumb on issues like climate change. A U.S. senator can‘t afford to play dumb.
And, finally tonight, time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
As we talked about earlier, Sarah Palin‘s book, “Going Rogue,” hits the stores next Tuesday. Reports are that she has a lot of choice words for people like Katie Couric and good old Charlie Gibson, along with some of the top people in the McCain campaign, like Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace.
But, according to the Associated Press, there is one name she made famous last year who is nowhere to be found in the entire book, former future son-in-law Levi Johnston. Hmm. Why wasn‘t he in there?
And that‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number”: zero, absolutely no mention of the father of her only grandchild in her upcoming book. Maybe her ghostwriter just plain forgot to mention the boy—tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”
Up next: What‘s behind that leak this week from the top diplomat in Afghanistan that said U.S. troops are just propping up a corrupt government? Somebody is leaking like mad out of the White House. It has become the Titanic. What is President Obama doing that constantly allows the people around him to keep talking out of the room? We are going to look at who is behind the leaking and why they‘re leaking so much out of White House.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
ORIEL MORRISON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Oriel Morrison with rMD-BO_your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rebounding today, with strong retail earnings helping to offset a drop in consumer confidence, the Dow Jones industrials climbing 73 points, the S&P 500 adding six, and the Nasdaq finishing almost 19 points higher.
Disney was the biggest gainer on the Dow, after beating expectations on earnings and revenue after the bell on Thursday.
On the retail front, shares in Abercrombie & Fitch soaring more than 10 percent today, the teen retailer turning things around after a rough start to the year, beating expectations by a strong margin.
J.C. Penney also moving higher on earnings coming out in line with expectations, the department store also raising its profit outlook for the holiday quarter.
In M&A news, British Airways has announced a $7 billion merger with Iberia.
And shares in Playboy Enterprises bouncing higher today on reports it‘s in talks to sell itself to the Iconix apparel brand.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Drip, drip, drip. What‘s with all this leaking during the first year of the Obama? What‘s doing it? Who is doing it, what do they have got to gain?
Look at what Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters just yesterday regarding the decision-making process on Afghanistan—quote—
“I have been appalled by the amount of leaking that‘s been going on in this process.” Mr Gates said—he added that he thought a lot of different places are leaking and that he was confident that the Department of Defense is not one of them.
Then he made a threat. “And, frankly, if I found out with high confidence anybody who was leaking in this Department of Defense, who that was, that would probably be a career-ender.”
David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine.
And Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for “USA Today.”
I don‘t know which one of you likes leaks better, but I never met a journalist who didn‘t need leaks, because leaks are the way we live.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: I‘m totally in favor of lake, especially to “USA Today.”
Well, let‘s talk about the method. It is very clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jack Kennedy only let a few people be on ex-com, that executive committee, because he didn‘t want anything out. He even said he had a cold. He did everything he could to keep quiet what was going on.
With this administration, we know where Mullen stands. We know where Gates stands. We know where Biden stands. We know where the former—the current ambassador stands. We know where the field commander stands, McChrystal.
PAGE: Secretary of state, secretary of defense.
MATTHEWS: We know every—we know Hillary Clinton‘s position.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Why do we know everything?
PAGE: Well, I think, for one thing, this debate has gone on for a while. And for another, there is a sense the president hasn‘t made up his mind. So, that means there is a certain strategy for all the players to get their positions out there.
Why did we hear just the other day that the current ambassador, former military commander over there, Eikenberry, Karl Eikenberry, believes that a very small footprint makes sense; don‘t increase the troop level? Who does that benefit?
PAGE: Well, I think it benefits the Biden—what we now call the Biden camp, which is people who want fewer troops to go over there. It is a counterweight.
MATTHEWS: But he works for Hillary Clinton. Isn‘t that risky of him to leak his position?
PAGE: Well, but he has a longstanding position of being skeptical about sending more U.S. troops there. And you have got McChrystal out there with a public position that puts Obama in something of a box by calling for a lot of additional troops.
MATTHEWS: OK. The first leak out the door was McChrystal‘s.
MATTHEWS: Who leaked McChrystal‘s position? McChrystal?
CORN: It could well be.
MATTHEWS: The hawkish position.
CORN: It could well be that he did that. It came to Bob Woodward at “The Washington Post.”
And, actually, I‘m in favor of leaks, not just because it is good for journalism. I think we‘re seeing a great debate.
MATTHEWS: It makes the president look like he is dithering.
CORN: Well, actually, I don‘t think so. And I think—I think the leak that came out this week, the Eikenberry memos, were indeed a very important counterbalance, because, until to now, the debate had really been framed over, how many more troops will Obama send in, a small amount, or do the full 40,000 from McChrystal?
Eikenberry, who is the ambassador there and a former commander of the troops, is saying: I don‘t think we need any more troops right now.
MATTHEWS: OK. What I found—let me just try my analysis.
CONTINETTI: But the public needs to know that, Chris, that there‘s a range of advice.
MATTHEWS: You make my point. If you like the president, if you‘re one of the top people around him, Rahm Emanuel, anybody really, Axelrod, anybody who really is serving the president‘s interests, would it not be in your interest to leak the fact that one of the people over there who was military commander recently disagrees 180 with McChrystal, and therefore the president would be reasonable to either reject McChrystal or meet him halfway. In other words, that would make sense.
PAGE: You know, it gives the president a little bit more running room.
MATTHEWS: So this leak is pro-Obama.
PAGE: This leak is pro a smaller deployment. We know that Obama has some reservations about the big McChrystal deployment. So it makes it more possible for him to go an other --
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense, as a journalist who writes every day for “USA Today,” which was recently mentioned on the—Sarah Palin‘s perhaps only reading material, which is fine. Not only; she reads the local papers. By the way, I would have said if I were her, if I were the politician, I read all the local Alaska papers. You got a problem with that? I would just play local politics.
What do you see as the battle of leaks here? Who is leaking back and forth? Is it the Defense Department leaking? Is it the White House leaking, in your thinking?
PAGE: Yes, it is. It‘s the Defense Department. It is the White House. It is the State Department. I mean—
MATTHEWS: At what level are they leaking?
PAGE: Well, I think usually the leaks tonight do not take place at the very top level. Usually it is someone --
MATTHEWS: Are they approved?
PAGE: They‘re approved by somebody. They‘re probably not approved by Barack Obama. I do think there is some risk that he looks a little bit like he is being pulled this way and that way.
CORN: At the end of the day, whatever decision he makes is going to trump the process that got to that decision. When he finally makes a decision next week, two or three weeks, that‘s what we‘ll be talking about. And whether he took eight weeks to do it or six and a half weeks to do it will disappear.
These are sort of phony issues that will go away. The big thing is how he make the decision and what the decision is.
MATTHEWS: Did he, after listening to all these leaks—everybody who watches this show reads the paper. They‘ve been watching this. McChrystal says we need 40,000 and we may need 80,000. Then along comes Hillary Clinton. She agrees with him. She is secretary of state. Then along comes Mullen, who is head of all security—Joint Chiefs, rather. He goes along. Then Gates, the secretary of Defense, seems to agree with him.
So now we‘re getting a sense of the hawkish position, if you will. Then Biden has always been there as the quiet vice president who isn‘t that quiet, because we know his position which is fewer troops, right?
MATTHEWS: Then along comes this guy, Karl Eikenberry. We never heard of this guy before. He is our ambassador to a country we‘re basically in a war on. You don‘t think of having an ambassador in a war zone. He is our ambassador. He works for Secretary Clinton. But he says don‘t listen to McChrystal.
CORN: Also, he is raising one of the key issues that has bubbled up in the past few weeks. And that is, what can the U.S. do in a country that is run by a government that is led by a hapless and perhaps corrupt figure? And these are coming up at press briefings. They‘ve been addressed. Now Eikenberry is saying it really matters.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s to go something that is local. If you read the papers, one of the top people at the White House, the council to the president, Greg Craig, who I really like, a big Obama supporter from day one, a liberal, and a top lawyer in Washington, with Williams and Connolly, is leaving the White House today. He issued his letter of resignation. What is that all that?
CORN: Well, there are lots of different stories.
MATTHEWS: There were a lot of leaks before this.
CORN: There were leaks that he was leaving. Now the White House is saying that he only agreed to serve one year. And that in October, when he said he would be staying longer, he was lying, in essence, because he didn‘t want to be seen as a lame duck.
Now, some people are tying this to the Gitmo decision. Obama promised to close Gitmo by January 21st. That‘s obviously not happening. He has been in charge of that. And the speculation has been, because he hasn‘t found a way to do it, there has been—
MATTHEWS: Who is the winner here and who is the loser?
PAGE: He is taking a fall for the mishandling --
MATTHEWS: Who is the winner?
PAGE: Bob Bauer.
MATTHEWS: He got the job. Thank you very much, David Corn. Thank you, Susan Page.
Up next, did Hillary Clinton cross the line by suggesting that a Pakistan government knows where al Qaeda leaders are hiding, including Osama bin Laden, and won‘t say and is hiding him from us?
Also, we have a big question. We have Hillary Clinton, who is coming on “Meet The Press” this Sunday. The person who is going to interview her, interrogate her, perhaps, David Gregory, is coming here as well. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Time for the fix, the politics fix, with the “National Journal‘s” Ron Brownstein, and, of course, David Gregory, moderator of “Meet the Press,” with an exclusive interview with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, scheduled for this Sunday. That is going to be big time.
I dare not ask you what you might ask her, because that‘s always part of the intrigue of turning it on on Sunday morning. But a couple things come to mind. I‘ve heard from one of our colleagues that there might be a little bit of a distance between the president and his secretary of state. Now, I want to ask you, did he intend to say to the prime minister of Israel that his steps in saying we‘re going to cut the growth of the settlements on the West Bank, but continue to grow some of the housing in the city of Jerusalem, as they define it, as unprecedented, sort of saluting him for that.
Some people believe that started a real problem with the Arab side. They believe we‘re being too congratulatory to Bibi Netanyahu, and that was off base. Is that the reading of foreign officials, that Hillary Clinton might be a little off base now from Barack Obama?
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR OF “MEET THE PRESS”: It is not clear just how far off base or whether that was indeed intended. Look, I think that‘s murky. I think these are important questions that have to be asked of the secretary of state. But there‘s no question, from the Arab point of view, it all comes back to settlements, as to whether there is going to be a peace process. So that‘s where the action is. So those kinds of statements are things that cause that kind flair up.
MATTHEWS: The other was the statement by—very strong, and a lot of people liked it. I liked hearing it too, where she directed her attack right at the Pakistani government, and said you people are basically lying. You‘re hiding the terrorists who went after us on 9/11, including perhaps Osama bin Laden, and you‘re doing it deliberately. It was an amazing sort of attack to an ally. Was that administration policy or was she a bit beyond her brief there?
RON BROWNSTEIN, “THE NATIONAL JOURNAL”: This was the question from the beginning. Because she has such a spotlight on her, any vibration that is in a different direction from the administration is watched so closely. I do not believe that she‘s getting out on her own on either of those fronts.
MATTHEWS: Is that the feeling of people like Rahm Emanuel in the White House?
BROWNSTEIN: I can‘t speak for Rahm. But I think the general feeling is that, if nothing else, it is an orchestrated kind of alternation of tone from different directions in the administration, rather than that she is out freelancing. I think she has made very clear that her intent is to be a team player for this president.
MATTHEWS: The question now, David—you have to figure this out, of course, when you interview her—is what is the team? You have her in one position, Gates with her, apparently, on a more hawkish line on Afghanistan. You‘ve got Mullen, the the chairman of the Joint Chief, and you have—who am I missing here? Jones, the national security adviser, all in the more hawkish position. On the other side, the Vice President, Joe Biden, for a smaller footprint over there, and now he‘s joined by the current ambassador—this is the great irony—who works and reports for Hillary Clinton, who says don‘t increase the troop capacity complement. So where are—how are you going to find out what the policy is?
GREGORY: Everything I‘m told is that there has been a laser-like focus in these debates about what the end game is. If you‘re going to have a maximalist approach—
MATTHEWS: Forty thousand more.
GREGORY: Who are we going to turn it over to? Do we have a real partner there? What‘s the end date?
Also, the economy is a huge factor in these debates in a way it hasn‘t been before, was not in the Iraq war. How are we going to for this, if we‘re going to be there another four, eight years? Who is going to pay for it? I think these are part of it. And because this question that is still unresolved of whether it is a central government that is a real partner, adding more troops, securing which part of the country and for how long are huge issues.
MATTHEWS: Is Hillary Clinton able, as secretary of state, to say she‘s for a counter-terrorism policy, as opposed to a counter-insurgency policy? Can she give you that kind of definition this Sunday?
GREGORY: I hope so. We do know a couple things. We know that she campaigned along with this president by saying that we didn‘t properly resource the right war, the Afghanistan war. OK. If you take that, you are perhaps for more troops.
The other piece of it is they never really pursued the kind of counter-insurgency program along the lines of what was done in Iraq. that‘s where the military is coming from, saying if you want to build all of this up, we need the time, we need the resources. If that‘s what the mission is --
MATTHEWS: It‘s the first time I‘ve heard someone raise, even as a journalist, the question, wars cost money. At some point, there‘s a cost benefit analysis you have to make. Can we afford a long-term commitment, which comes with the counter-insurgency policy?
BROWNSTEIN: What makes this so difficult, I think, is that we have an independent national security interest regardless of what we think of Karzai and how he is performing. Our interest is preventing a radical government from taking control of Afghanistan again, and using it as a base, allowing al Qaeda to use it as a base for attacks against us. So, in some ways, we are boxed in. We are limited even if we disapprove of the way he is handling his government. We have our own independent interests.
My guess is that Hillary Clinton is very much—remember when Tony Blair first ran in 1997. He said he was going to be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. Hillary Clinton, I think, is very much going to be in that same mode. She‘s going to be tough on Karzai, but also tough on the underlying challenge that we face.
If you look at where the Obama administration is going, all indications are he‘s trying to focus as much on the exit ramp as the entry, and also to look at—we talked about this before—how do you define this in the most—in the narrowest way that is sustainable that we can go forward and achieve?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ron Brownstein. We‘ll be right back with David Gregory. We‘re going to come back and talk about a somewhat lighter topic, Sarah Palin. Back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with David Gregory and Ron Brownstein for more of the politics fix. The latest news bulletin, just out now, former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery and racketeering. Jefferson is the Congressman who had 90,000 dollars in cash hidden in his freezer.
BROWNSTEIN: Indirect progenitor of the one Republican vote for health care reform in the House.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right, his replacement voted for it. Let me ask you about the Sarah Palin phenomenon. We can only judge these things fairly like a month at a time. This book is big-time. This promotion, I‘ve never seen anything like it, David.
GREGORY: It‘s extraordinary. She‘s extraordinary from that point of view. Not just the book; all this year it‘s as if she‘s a senator or something. She issues statements and posts things on Facebook as if she‘s an incumbent or if she‘s a candidate for something.
MATTHEWS: She has a position on the health care bill.
GREGORY: Position on health care, position on education. She‘s endorsing candidates in upstate New York. She is a player. The question is, does she represent that leading edge of the conservative movement in the midterm election, or is she positioning herself just to be a very interesting, successful—
MATTHEWS: I know a very good political expert we can ask that. Ron, you analyze the numbers a lot in the Republican party. Does she have a chunk with the Evangelical wing, with the outsider point of view? Can she beat the insider, like Mitt Romney?
BROWNSTEIN: There‘s no question she has a substantial floor. The question is, what is her ceiling? Right know—
MATTHEWS: What‘s her floor, 30 percent?
BROWNSTEIN: It‘s large. There‘s a portion of the party that, in polling, clearly is interested in her. She is such a visible figure, though, because right now she really straddles the cross roads between politics and celebrity. To some extent—I‘ve said it many times—I think the greatest risk to her is that she‘s seen more as a celebrity than as a political leader. This book does kind of take her in that direction.
She seems to be involved—for a candidate who has come almost out of nowhere and has really embodied the American dream in how quickly she‘s ascended, she has a lot of grudges. She has a lot of fights.
MATTHEWS: Is she smart to go after people? They‘re not big shots. Katie Couric is a big shot in the media, but not a big shot in terms of running the country. Is she smart to pick fights with Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric, people like Nicole Wallace?
GREGORY: I think there‘s a difference. Going after the media, how do you lose with that. I don‘t know. I don‘t think it makes sense to try to settle those scores. What Ron is getting to I think is the most important point. Sixty percent of people in the exit polls said she wouldn‘t qualify to be—
BROWNSTEIN: Qualify to be president.
GREGORY: So what is she doing to clear that hurdle if she does want to run for office? Is there anything in this book that is laying out a vision for government, a vision, a world view? Is this “Dreams of My Father?” I don‘t know. It seems like it‘s more toward, you know, grudges and—
MATTHEWS: Should she staff up and just hire people to do that for her?
BROWNSTEIN: You know, look, ultimately people make the judgment of you personally. In some ways, you never get the second chance to make the first impression. I think, like Dan Quayle, she‘ll have a hard time ever entirely undoing the judgments that were made about her.
But I agree, she is a force in the Republican party. She‘s going to continue to be one, and one who has an incentive—
BROWNSTEIN: -- define herself as the outsider.
MATTHEWS: In a room of boring men, she gets noticed. Thank you, David Gregory. Thank you, Ron Brownstein. Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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