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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, August 25, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest Host: Ron Reagan
Guests: Brian Sullivan, Ed Rendell, Bryan Norcross, Martin O`Malley, Charlie Savage, Clarence Page,
Jordan Striker, Kent Scheidegger, Nia-Malika Henderson, San Stein

RON REAGAN, GUEST HOST: Why Republicans might really fear Hurricane

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Ron Reagan, in tonight for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight, the eye of the storm. Hurricane Irene is heading
up the East Coast and is likely to be nonpartisan, hitting Democratic and
Republican districts alike.

My question tonight: After the damage is done, are Republicans going
to reject federal aid because the U.S. has a spending problem? Are they
going say no to FEMA because government is the problem, not the solution?
What happens when ideology collides with reality?

Plus, look who`s talking. Former VP Dick Cheney has a new book out
and, as he puts it, there are going to be heads exploding all over
Washington. Oh, that Dick! Among other things, Cheney goes after Colin
Powell -- again -- after Condoleezza Rice -- again -- and writes that he
thought it would be a good idea to bomb a nuclear plant in Syria. Regrets?
He seems to have none.

Also, there may be controversy over how good Rick Perry`s economic
record is, but we can all agree that Perry is number one in one area,
executions -- 234 in 11 years. That`s more than the next two states
combined since 1976. True, Texas is big, but as Perry wrote in his book,
if you don`t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don`t
come to Texas.

And the Sarah Palin-Karl Rove smackdown goes another round. Rove says
Palin has a, quote, "enormous thick skin," that she gets upset if you
speculate about her and upset if you don`t.

Finally, both sides now. Mitt Romney weighs in on both sides of two
more issues. That`s in the "Sideshow."

We start with the latest on Hurricane Irene. For that we go to the
Weather Channel.

BRYAN NORCROSS, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: And good afternoon, Ron. It is
a very difficult day here. We`ve been watching hurricanes a long time, and
this is a very bad one. A slight glimmer of barely a little bit of good
news this afternoon is now the Hurricane Center is thinking that this storm
may not intensify quite as strong as they were thinking, but even
forecasting that is very difficult.

In any case, it looks like a direct hit on the East Coast of the U.S.
from North Carolina all the way up into New England. Let`s go ahead and
look at the satellite picture. I`ll locate it here for you. There you see
it. It`s just now about to clear Great Abaco in the northern Bahamas.
It`s a very large hurricane and forecasting to get even larger as it moves
to the north.

Now, what we`re looking at here are the various computer model
solutions (ph), in other words, simulations of the atmosphere. And you can
see that all of them indicate either directly over North Carolina --
(INAUDIBLE) worst case hit there on eastern North Carolina -- or just
offshore -- it makes no difference -- and as a major Category 3-type
hurricane. So we`re very fearful -- this happening on Saturday -- for a
very bad hit on North Carolina.

Then points north, and all of the metropolitan areas in the Northeast
are included in this, including the New York City metropolitan area.
Exactly how close to the coast it goes has everything to do with how bad
the hit is. But the forecasts are very unified in a significant hit on the
population centers all the way from Norfolk on through Washington,
Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and on to Boston.

So we are thinking here that this may be the hurricane of a lifetime
for many people in the Northeast. It`s certainly, a textbook kind of storm
that we`ve looked at forever. We`ll watch it continuously, of course, here
at the weather channel -- Ron.

REAGAN: Things going to get windy on the East Coast! Many thanks.

For more on Irene and whether the GOP will play politics with the
storm, let`s bring in Martin O`Malley, the governor of Maryland and the
chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, and Ed Rendell, former
governor of Pennsylvania and now an MSNBC political analyst.

We reached out to over a dozen coastal Republicans today, by the way -
- governors, senators, congressmen. Governor Chris Christie`s office told
us they`ve asked for federal funds in the past and will do so again. The
others either haven`t gotten back to us or said it`s too early to say.

Welcome, Governors.

Governor O`Malley, if the worst should happen in Maryland and things
get pretty bad there and disaster that strikes, would you be willing to
take federal disaster relief?

GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there
are some things that we only can do effectively when we do them together.
And one of those things is protecting lives and protecting property from
sort of monster hurricanes like this one, Hurricane Irene that`s bearing
down on us.

And you know, Ron, in closed doors, all governors, regardless of
party, will all tell you that FEMA`s operations have been greatly improved
in recent years. And it`s something that all Americans, I think, should
take pride in, that there are professional people now in charge at FEMA who
are on top of these things and doing their very best even with the extreme
weather conditions that we`re facing as a nation.

REAGAN: Is the fact that most states are simply incapable of handling
a major natural disaster like this -- is that the reality?

O`MALLEY: Well, you know, you say "incapable." I mean, all of us --
all of us gear up to -- to handle things in the normal course of business.
But when things become outside of that norm, when you have monster
hurricanes or earthquakes or monster tornadoes, well, that`s when we do
expect that our federal strength will come forward.

You know, we`re stronger together as a nation. We`re stronger
together as a country. And that`s why we do call upon our federal
government for support to protect Americans within our borders when
situations or these sorts of natural disasters overwhelm the normal level
of funding that all of us support in state and local governments.

REAGAN: Governor Rendell -- or I can call you Ed because you`re no
longer a governor.




REAGAN: Many Republicans governors have jumped on the GOP bandwagon
about, you know, federal spending is a problem. We`ve got to -- you know,
I don`t want any federal money coming here. Does all that go out the
window when the roof starts blowing off the house?

RENDELL: Well, it should. First and foremost, a governor`s
responsibility is to the people of the state. And as governors, we can do
preparedness, we can do response, we can use the National Guard, we can use
the state police. In Pennsylvania, when I was governor, we were very
effective in dealing with natural disasters.

But when it comes to helping people get back on their feet,
businesses, homes, home owners who have been just obliterated by a natural
disaster, there`s state and local funding is available that has to match
the federal funding but there`s no feasible way you can do it without
federal funding. So these governors ought to be accepting federal funding.
They ought to put ideology aside. Will they? Who knows.

And I`d like to, Ron, focus on a comment that Governor Perry said in
his announcement speech when he was announcing his candidacy. He said, I
promise you I will do everything in my power every day to make the federal
government as inconsequential in your lives as possible.


REAGAN: Yes. Go ahead -- I was going to say, that sounds nice on a
sunny day, when --

RENDELL: Absolutely.


REAGAN: -- you know, on a nice lawn --


RENDELL: I have a question for Governor Perry. If he were the
governor of Virginia and a small business owner saw his factory ripped
asunder and the only way that we could come close to giving him the money
to build it back up would be federal funds, do you that small business
owner wants the federal government to be as inconsequential in his life as
possible? No way.

REAGAN: You`ve got to wonder.

RENDELL: No way.

REAGAN: Yes. Governor O`Malley -- I`ll call you "Governor O`Malley"
because you`re still --


REAGAN: Eric Cantor`s office -- Eric Cantor, of course, the House
majority leader, Republican -- his office released a statement today
saying, "The majority leader has consistently said that additional funds
for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts."

So in other words, I guess if your house is blown away, you`ve got to
give up your Medicare if you want any help. Does that make any sense to

O`MALLEY: No, it doesn`t make any sense. I mean, this is not a time
for ideology. Look, we have a -- we have a killer hurricane that`s bearing
down on the population centers of the East Coast. Effective governance
really matters most when people`s lives are in jeopardy, and that`s what`s
happening right now.

This is not a time for ideology. Look, we need to all come together.
We need to weather this hurricane and we need to rebuild after it, and we
need to protect people`s lives. And this sort of ideological obsession I
really think has no place right now. We need to be focused on getting
people out of the path of this hurricane and weathering this thing as
safely as we can.

REAGAN: I don`t know the answer to this question, and it just
occurred to me. We were talking about Governor Perry earlier. They`ve had
quite a drought down there in Texas for some time now, which I guess
probably does amount to a natural disaster. Has Governor Perry taken any
federal money to handle that? Does anybody know?

O`MALLEY: Well, they all do. I mean, they all do, and then they beat
their chests and say that this was horrible, this was awful, and big-
spending Washington. And the truth of the matter is, Ron, there is not a
state capital governed by either a Democratic or a Republican governor that
would be standing right now, were it not for President Obama`s courage in
passing the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That is what has allowed us to
provide essential services in public health and public safety and public

And you know, and that`s why I believe we should have a federal
government. We`re stronger together. And we need to act together and act
like a nation, especially when we`re under threat or digging out of a deep

REAGAN: And Ed, federal disaster relief is not some newfangled idea
that President Obama has come up with, is it?


REAGAN: I mean, it`s been around a while.

RENDELL: And it`s been used by Republican presidents and Democratic
presidents alike. You know, the hypocrisy on this stuff and what Martin
pointed out about letting ideology infect us here -- it`s usually not done
by governors because governors have to govern. We have to give practical
responses for people`s problems.

But the hypocrisy was best shown on stimulus. Not one House member,
Republican House member, voted for the president`s stimulus bill. Only
three Republican senators did. Did that stop Republican senators and
Republican House members from showing up at ground-breakings for bridge
repair or a road repair or a new construction that was paid for by
stimulus? Not on your life. They were there smiling from ear to ear. So
it`s hypocrisy run wild.

REAGAN: And do you suppose, if -- all the Republican candidates that
I`m aware of have, of course, talking about, you know, no federal pending
and got to cut spending and all that. If we did have a Republican
president next term and some disaster struck somewhere in the United
States, as it almost surely would, do you think that that Republican
president would deny federal funds to that state?

RENDELL: Of course not. As president, again, you have to govern.
It`s a little different than pontificating like Representative Cantor`s
office did. And by the way, everyone tells me he`s such a bright guy.
That was a dumb statement. Good Lord! Good Lord.

REAGAN: Yes. Pretty much defines "tone deaf," doesn`t it?

RENDELL: Yes. Can you imagine saying, Well, OK, Virginia, I can`t
give you disaster relief until the Congress cuts an equal amount of funding
from the federal budget. That`ll work.


REAGAN: He said that after Joplin, Missouri. I guess he`s sticking
to his guns. We`re going to have to leave it there. But I hope you guys
stay dry and stay safe there on the East Coast.

RENDELL: Well, let`s pray that that hurricane veers out to sea at the
last moment.

O`MALLEY: Absolutely. Absolutely.

REAGAN: Thank you, Governor Martin O`Malley and former governor Ed

Coming up: Dick Cheney is settling scores with a new book that is
going to make a lot of people angry. Does he express any regret? What do
you think?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: Americans` views on the economy have dimmed this summer, but
take a look at this new Associated Press poll out today. More Americans,
51 percent, say that George W. Bush is mostly to blame for the down
economy, while 31 percent say it`s Obama`s fault. In this poll at least,
the number of people who say President Obama deserves to be reelected has
held steady. Maybe that means we`ll see a little more of Bush-blaming from
the president in the campaign.

We`ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This book is going to make a lot of people

going to be heads exploding all over in Washington (INAUDIBLE)




REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Vice President Cheney certainly knows how to hype a book. His
autobiography, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," is due out
next week, and based on early reports, it looks like the former vice
president is unrepentant.

Joining me, "New York Times" reporter Charlie Savage, who`s seen the
book and reported on it in today`s paper.

Welcome, Charlie.

CHARLIE SAVAGE, "NEW YORK TIMES": Hi. Thanks for having me on.

REAGAN: Somehow, my advance copy never arrived, so I don`t know what
that was all about, but --


REAGAN: I haven`t read the book, but you have. What sort of portrait
does Dick Cheney paint of himself in this book?

SAVAGE: Well, having speed-read the book for the last 24 hours, he --
in one level, it`s a pretty standard Washington memoir. Whether you`re
liberal or conservative, these books have a certain familiarity. The
author was right about everything. When the people he was working with
agreed with him, they were brilliant. And when they disagreed with him,
they were fools. And that`s certainly true of this book.

But Dick Cheney is no ordinary Washington politician. He is a genuine
world historical figure. He`s had one of the most remarkable careers ever
in Washington, starting with being chief of staff to Gerald Ford, a major
Republican congressman in the `80s, secretary of defense during the first
gulf war, and then the most influential vice president in history. And so
he was an eyewitness to a really extraordinary panorama of American
history, and his book is far more interesting than most Washington memoirs
for that reason.

REAGAN: I gather that he portrays himself more or less as the guy in
charge on 9/11.

SAVAGE: Well, he was the guy in charge on 9/11. There`s just no
doubt about that. President Bush was away from Washington. There were
communication problems even keeping in touch with what was happening. Dick
Cheney was in the command bunker under the White House, and he was the one
telling the government what to do and managing that crisis that day.

And from the days that followed and his -- drawing on his deep
experience in national security matters, he was the chief architect of the
Bush administration`s response to 9/11, whether that was open warfare or
the intelligence system, whether that was asking the questions and pushing
for what led to the warrantless surveillance program, which he takes credit
for here, or what he calls the "enhanced interrogation program," which led
to the huge dispute over torture when that became (SIC) to light.

REAGAN: Your "New York Times" article on the book reads, and I`m
quoting here, "In discussing the much disputed 16 words about Iraq`s
proposed hunt for uranium in Niger, Mr. Cheney said that unlike other aides
he saw no need to apologize for making that claim. He writes then that
Condoleezza Rice, Ms. Rice, eventually came around to his view. `She came
into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk, and tearfully
admitted I had been right.`" That`s what he wrote.

Condoleezza Rice isn`t going to be happy reading that, is she.


SAVAGE: Well, it`ll be interesting to see. I think she has her own
memoir scheduled for the pipeline. So we`ll see whether --

REAGAN: Maybe she can have --


SAVAGE: -- she was right about everything.

REAGAN: Yes. Yes. That`s right.

I mean, to -- I mean, we had to cram an awful lot of nuggets into that
brief space. So what Cheney was talking about there was, number one, the
British really did think that Saddam had been pursuing uranium in Africa.
So the sentence was technically correct, and that by apologizing for it, it
would just sort of enflame the controversy, which he says did happen once
the White House admitted that it had been wrong to include those words in
the speech.

So, he was making a tactical argument that it would be better not to
publicly apologize for something that was technically accurate as a matter
of managing the political crisis that surrounded it.

REAGAN: I see.

Well, I`m sure that my copy of book is going to be arriving on my
doorstep any day now right from the vice president`s office. But I can`t


REAGAN: Thank you, Charlie Savage, in the meantime.

With me now is "Chicago Tribune" columnist Clarence Page.

Clarence, welcome.


I`m still waiting for my copy to arrive, too, by the way.

REAGAN: I know. I don`t know. We`re -- somehow, we`re off the list.
I don`t know what`s happening here, Clarence.


PAGE: Maybe the hurricane slowed up the postman. I don`t know.


REAGAN: That must be it. That must be it.

Is this sort of vintage Dick Cheney, the Dick Cheney we know and love
in this book, do you suppose?

PAGE: It was so familiar, wasn`t it?


PAGE: For those of us who have been keeping track of what the highly
placed leakers were saying all along in the Bush administration, this will
not strike anybody as -- as blockbuster news.

It tends to be confirmation out of Dick Cheney`s own mouth or a
keyboard or whatever of what had been reported in various ways. There are
familiar foes, rivals here, George Tenet, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.
We knew he`d gotten in disputes with them in the past. And he just kind of
gives his side of it here.

And Democrats, I think, are going to be somewhat delighted that he`s
bringing up these old issues like water-boarding and standing by them. His
-- his own mission, he feels, is to polish his image and avoid indictment,
I guess, by being very firm.

But he`s been firm all along on this, and I think going into the
presidential campaign, the Obama administration can`t help but be happy
that he`s reviving those aspects of the Bush years that most folks would
like to put behind us.

REAGAN: Well, speaking of that, NBC News` Jamie Gangel had an
exclusive interview with Vice President Cheney. Here, she asks him about
torture. Have a listen.


JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: In your view, we should still be
using enhanced interrogation?


GANGEL: No regrets?

CHENEY: No regrets.

GANGEL: Should we still be water-boarding terror suspects?

CHENEY: I would strongly support using it again if circumstances
arose where we had a high-value detainee and that was the only way we could
get him to talk.

GANGEL: Even though so many people have condemned it, people call it
torture, you think it should still be a tool?



REAGAN: You see, Clarence, he never backs off of that sort of thing.
I guess we don`t expect him to.

PAGE: Right.

REAGAN: But the fact of the matter is -- and people know my feelings
about this pretty surely -- he`s a war criminal.


REAGAN: Torture is a crime, and this is a guy who can`t travel to
Europe anymore for fear of being -- ending up in The Hague. Does he deal
with that, do you suppose, in the book?


PAGE: Well, I can`t say how he deals with it in the book in detail,
just from reports that have come out.

I think in real life he probably is avoiding trips to Europe, I
imagine, like Henry Kissinger and others who are on the lam from that
branch of international justice, if you will. But as far as back here in
the States, he probably hasn`t got much to fear.

The Obama administration has made it clear they want to move on. They
don`t want to go back with the Justice Department and go after the Bush
administration on legal areas like this. But with a campaign coming along,
again, you have got a polarized electorate. Nothing he says here
apparently would offend Republicans.

It will offend a lot of Democrats. Will it fire them up to want to
come out and support Obama more? That`s the kind of question we`re asking

REAGAN: Yes. Not to hammer the point at all, but any neutral reading
of let`s say the U.N. Convention Against Torture makes it pretty clear that
if you support water-boarding and you enact that sort of a policy, you`re
guilty of a war crime. So that`s --

PAGE: Well, it is.

And you have got people like John McCain and various other folks who
are hardly what you would cause wusses on the war issue and all, John
McCain, of course, you know, a former POW who himself was tortured, and
there are just so many arguments against it, and so few actually showing
that it works, if you will, that it has really been useful, that the public
would rather not be associated -- not have our country associated with it.

REAGAN: Mm-hmm.

Clarence, here`s Jamie Gangel asking the vice president how President
Bush might react to the book. Have a listen to this.


GANGEL: Do you think President Bush will feel betrayed that you have
revealed these private conversations?

CHENEY: I don`t know why he should.

GANGEL: You don`t think so?


GANGEL: You have always said that you believe the president deserves
to be able to trust the people around him.

CHENEY: Right.

GANGEL: By revealing these differences, you don`t think you`re
betraying that trust?



REAGAN: Clarence, there does seem to be some sort of a breach between
the Bush camp and the Cheney camp. Do you have any insight on that?

PAGE: Not particularly.

I think that, obviously, there are philosophical differences. But I
don`t see, from what`s been reported so far, anything that would get the
Bush folks that upset. I guess, like a lot of people, I suspect Cheney
knows a lot more secrets that are a lot hotter than this that Bush folks
would rather not let out, that I don`t know that this is going to cause
that much upset. We will see.

REAGAN: All right, Clarence Page, thank you, as always. Appreciate
you coming by.

And you can see all of --

PAGE: Glad to be here. Thank you.

REAGAN: You bet.

And you can see all of Jamie Gangel`s exclusive interview with former
Vice President Dick Cheney on a special edition of "Dateline" Monday,
August 29, at 10:00 Eastern on your local NBC station.

Up next: both sides now for Mitt Romney. Once again, he`s found
himself on both sides of a couple of issues.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up: We knew he was bizarre, but this is just too much. As
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi fled his compound in anticipation of the
arrival of opposition forces, it appears he left behind a very telling
photo album filled with snapshots of an unexpected crush.

Who`s the unlucky lady? Why, former Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice. As strange as the finding surely is, there were some warning signs.
The two did cross path as few times during Rice`s stint at secretary of
state. And, in 2007, Gadhafi spoke of her in an interview with Al-Jazeera,
saying, "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives
orders to the Arab leaders. Leezza, Leezza, Leezza, I love her very much."

That`s what we call creepy.

Moving on, both sides now it seems to have become the go-to strategy
for GOP candidate Mitt Romney. The problem is, people do notice when you
say one thing, contradict yourself, and then later on come up with some
kind of hybrid opinion to play to both sides.

Let`s kick it off with the hot topic of global warming. Here`s what
Romney had to say back in June.


getting warmer. I can`t prove that, but I believe, based on what I read,
that the world is getting warmer. And, number two, I believe that humans
contribute to that.


REAGAN: OK. So humans at least play a partial role in global warming
-- until yesterday, that is.

Let`s listen.


ROMNEY: Do I think the world`s getting hotter? Yes. I don`t know
that, but I think it is. I don`t know if it`s mostly caused by humans.


REAGAN: And there goes that one.

But we can`t leave it at that. How does Romney feel about the
financial regulations laid out in the Dodd-Frank bill? Here`s what the
candidate had to say just last month.


ROMNEY: I will give you more details as the campaign goes on, but
this bill was -- was too overreaching and too massive and has contributed
to a slowdown in lending.


REAGAN: Well, the details finally came in yesterday as Romney spoke
with business owners in New Hampshire.


ROMNEY: I would like to repeal Dodd-Frank and -- and --


ROMNEY: -- and -- yes. Yes.


ROMNEY: Recognizing that some provisions make sense.


REAGAN: So, should we change around a few things before or after the
bill is repealed? This could only get worse if he tries to elaborate.

Up next: Republican presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry has
surpassed George W. Bush in the number of executions he`s overseen in
Texas. Were there any mistakes along the way?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


"Market Wrap."

Investors threw it into reverse after three days of gains, the Dow
giving up 170 points to close near session lows, the S&P and the Nasdaq
also down.

European fears, remember those, rearing their ugly heads again.
Stocks began moving lower after a surprise sell-off in the German stock
market, despite the fact that all three rating agencies reaffirmed
Germany`s AAA rating and a stable outlook.

Bank of America in the spotlight again, this time because Warren
Buffett said his firm would invest $5 billion in Bank of America. It`s a
much-needed vote of confidence for the bank. You remember, Buffett did the
same for Goldman Sachs at the height of the financial crisis.

And Apple is down slightly after tumbling about 5 percent in overnight
trading. It was all word on Steve Jobs` retirement as CEO.

And don`t forget of course everybody anxiously awaiting Fed Chairman
Ben Bernanke`s big speech tomorrow in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, not to mention
new IMF Director Christine Lagarde`s U.S. debut at the same event on
Saturday. That`s where QE2 was announced last year.

And that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- back to

REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Rick Perry`s emergence as a Republican front-runner is casting a
spotlight on one of the more controversial aspects of his time as Texas
governor: his strong advocacy for the death penalty.

It in 11 years in office, he`s overseen the executions of 234 people,
more than any other governor in modern times, according to "The Washington
Post." In fairness, Governor Perry has served over a decade in that state,
in a state that has led the nation in executions since the death penalty
was reinstated in 1976.

But critics point out that in his entire tenure, he has only once
recommended a death penalty conviction be changed to life in prison and he
vetoed a bill that would have precluded mentally retarded people from being
executed. He also strongly opposed a Supreme Court decision in 2005 that
spared people who were juveniles at the time of the crime from being

Last year in his book "Fed Up," Perry had this to say about the --
about critics of the death penalty: "If you don`t support the death penalty
and citizens packing a pistol, don`t come to Texas."

I think the Texas tourism board is using that as their slogan now.

Joining us now to debate Governor Perry`s death penalty record are
Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation, a victims` rights advocacy group, and Jordan Steiker, a
professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Welcome to you both, gentlemen.


REAGAN: Jordan, a lot of the discomfort about Governor Perry and the
death penalty centers around the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who
was convicted I guess in 1991, if I remember correctly, of setting his home
on fire and thereby killing his two children.

Later -- what -- well, why don`t you tell me, what was troubling about
this case, from your point of view?

STEIKER: Well, there were really three things that were troubling
about Governor Perry`s involvement in the case.

First, at the time of Willingham`s execution, it`s pretty clear that
the governor`s office had substantial information that the arson science
that was used to convict and sentence Willingham to death was junk science.

So there was an opportunity that Governor Perry had at that time to
prevent a wrongful execution. Subsequent to that, his office hasn`t
released any information about what was told to Perry prior to that
execution. And so there is some concern that maybe Governor Perry had been
told you`re about to allow for the execution of an innocent man, and went
ahead anyway.

So there`s a transparency problem about what information was known to
Governor Perry at the time of the execution.

REAGAN: Kent, do --


REAGAN: Oh, I`m sorry. Go ahead.

STEIKER: And I was going to say, the third and probably the most
visible issue that`s arisen with the Willingham case has been the effort of
Governor Perry`s office to pretty much stonewall the investigation into
that case.

There was a forensic science commission that was looking into the junk
science that was used in the Willingham conviction. And, at the time -- at
about the time that a report was going to come out that -- that
demonstrated that -- the inaccuracies of the science, Governor Perry
quickly switched the head of that commission and put in a political ally,
who at that point pretty much delayed any information, so that there would
be no public accounting or reckoning for what happened in that case.

REAGAN: Kent Scheidegger, are you, too, troubled by the Cameron Todd
Willingham, or do you see it differently?

I see it differently.

And I think, actually, Mr. Perry`s entrance into the race may be a
good thing, because it will get more people focused on this case. And I
think, if you looked at the totality of the case, there`s plenty of other
evidence aside from the disputed forensic evidence to demonstrate that
Willingham was in fact guilty.

As far stonewalling the investigation, we had a forensic science
commission that was exceeding its jurisdiction and I think it`s appropriate
that the commission be reined in to what the Texas law permits it to do.
So, I don`t think that`s really a case of stonewalling.

REAGAN: Kent, Governor Perry does appear to approve of the execution
of mentally retarded criminals, also juveniles. He thinks the juveniles
should be executed as well. Does that take him outside of the norm of what
most Americans think is just?

SCHEIDEGGER: No, I don`t think so. I mean, the law at the time of
these cases was that the minority status of the person as well as any
mental deficiencies could be considered by the jury, must be considered by
the jury. All the evidence can be presented to the jury and the jury was
required to weigh that against the other factors in the case. Whether we
should have that kind of rule versus a bright line cutoff is an issue that
reasonable people can disagree on.

I happen to favor the 18-year cutoff myself but I don`t hold it
against Mr. Perry that he takes the other position. I think it`s a
reasonable position.

REAGAN: You think it`s a reasonable position that if somebody commits
a murder when they`re, let`s say, when they`re 13 years old, that they
should be put to death?

SCHEIDEGGER: Thirteen, that is not the law. Never was at the time.
At issue, we`re talking about 17-year-olds for the most part.

REAGAN: Seventeen-year-old, but 17 would be OK -- you think that`s a
reasonable thing?

SCHEIDEGGER: If the person can be put to death the day after this
18th birthday for the crime, I don`t see any problem putting him to death
it was the day before his 18th birthday for the same crime under the same


Jordan, do you think that it`s possible, possible, that Governor Perry
actually presided over an execution when he had reason to believe that the
man being killed might, in fact, be innocent?

STEIKER: I think it`s certainly possible. I think we really don`t
know in part because the person who has that information is the governor
and his office, and they`ve chosen not to disclose whatever memories were
prepared in advance of the Willingham execution. And indeed, there are
other inmates who were executed in Texas where there were some substantial
doubts about whether they had the right guy.

REAGAN: Kent, let me ask you, we only have a little time left here.
I gather that you support the death penalty.


REAGAN: How many innocent people should it be permissible to kill in
order to exact vengeance against the guilty?

SCHEIDEGGER: Well, I wouldn`t phrase it that way and that`s not the -

REAGAN: That`s the way -- but you know it`s inevitable that innocent
people will be killed because humans are imperfect and so are there
systems, including the death penalty system. So that`s inevitable. So,
how many people?

SCHEIDEGGER: It is inevitable that innocent people will be killed if
we don`t execute people.

REAGAN: You don`t know that. You don`t know that.

SCHEIDEGGER: Oh, we know that that has happened in fact. It happened
in Texas.

REAGAN: You don`t know that. No, you don`t know that. You`re saying


SCHEIDEGGER: No -- it`s actually happened. It`s happened on multiple
occasions, where people have committed crimes --

REAGAN: All right. You`re saying a criminal may, in fact, get out of
jail and kill, but I`m talking about the state. The state has somebody in
their custody. They have complete control over them. They`re going to
kill them. They may be innocent. Eventually, they will be. Somebody is
going to be innocent and be executed.

How many of those people is it OK to kill just so you can exact
vengeance on the guilty?

SCHEIDEGGER: It`s not just so we can exact vengeance. It`s for a lot
of other good reasons, including incapacitation.

REAGAN: Well, how many innocent people is it OK to kill?

SCHEIDEGGER: I didn`t say it was OK to kill any number of innocent
people --

REAGAN: You`re going to kill them as long as you have a death
penalty. If you have a death penalty, innocent people will die.

SCHEIDEGGER: The other side has been searching and searching for one
case and they haven`t been able to prove one yet.

REAGAN: Well, Cameron Todd Willingham is a pretty good case and
actually, Amnesty International has about 185 cases in the United States.

Thank you, Jordan --


SCHEIDEGGER: -- Amnesty International for anything.

REAGAN: Well, I guess you just revealed yourself.

Thank you, Jordan Steiker and Kent Scheidegger.

Up next, another round in the Sarah Palin-Karl Rove smackdown. Is
this a Palin strategy to stay in the headlines or can she simply not resist
to fight?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: A growing rift between labor and the Democratic Party was on
full display today. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters labor
groups are planning to build up their own political organizations rather
than contribute to the Democratic Party, in advance of the 2012 election.
Trumka said he hopes his effort will help keep union-backed candidates more
accountable for promises made on the campaign trail.

We`ll be right back.


REAGAN: We`re back.

The he said/she said tussle between Karl Rove and Sarah Palin is
gaining speed. It began with what seemed like a fairly innocent
observation by Rove on Saturday.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: She has a schedule next week that
looks like that of a candidate not a celebrity. And then, this video that
she released yesterday, you know, she made a surprise appearance at the
Iowa state fair. And now, she released a video seems saying see you
September 3rd.

You know, look, either -- this is her last chance. She either gets in
or gets out after this visit next week. I think she gets in.


REAGAN: On Monday, Palin`s PAC put out a statement blasting Rove. It
reads, "Any professional pundit claiming to have inside information
regarding Governor Palin`s personal decision is not only wrong but their
comments are specifically intended to mislead the American public."

And last night on FOX, Rove hit back where it hurts -- Palin`s ego.


ROVE: Look, if she doesn`t want to be speculated about as a potential
presidential candidate, there`s an easy way to end speculation -- simply
say, I`m not running. It is a sign of an enormous thin skin that if we
speculate about her she gets upset. And I suspect if we didn`t speculate
about her, she`ll be upset and try to find a way to get us to speculate
about her.


REAGAN: Enormous thin skin. Well, she won`t like being called
enormous, I can tell you that.

Joining me now to talk more about this delicious political smackdown
is Nia-Malika Henderson of the "Washington Post," and Sam Stein of the
"Huffington Post."

Welcome to you both.

Nia, why should Sarah Palin be upset about people speculating about
her president`s ambitions? Isn`t that what she wants?

exactly what she wants. If you look at this Iowa video, very slickly
produced. And, of course, she`s going there September 3rd. There in the
run up to the Ames, Iowa straw poll.

And this is what she needs. She needs sort of continued speculation
about whether or not she`s going to run to keep the interest in her around,
and also to remain relevant.

Of course, we remember in 2009, she could, with a single Facebook post
or a tweet, really dominate the national discussion and really frame a
debate. Remember her talking about death penalty, so much so that the
president actually had to respond to it. That has really changed over the
last two years because you`ve got now a field of Republican hopefuls who
really dominate the conversation.

So I do think this is her pitch to try to remain relevant. We`ll see
what she does in Iowa, in September. But of course, I think one of the
things that`s happening is that time is running short. She is going to get
some deadlines where she would have to essentially say she is going to do
this thing or not.

REAGAN: That`s a good question.

Sam, when is too late -- when is late too late to get into a
presidential race? She is running out of time here, isn`t she?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, you would say that there was an
opening a couple weeks ago, then Rick Perry sort of galloped into the field
and immediately became the its front-runner I think sucked up a lot of the
oxygen -- a lot of the same oxygen that had Sarah Palin jumped in, she
would have taken. And so, yes, I think Karl Rove is actually right here --
the timeframe narrowing for her to actually make an entrance.

But he is also right in the sense that this type of speculation is
what she thrives on. I mean she sells books off this stuff. She gets a
continued access to any media platform she wants off this stuff. And so,
for her to then go, turn around and play the victim card here, which is
something she has done frequently in the past, is sort of ironic.

With regards to the calendar, you know, we are actually running into
some sort of time period here, actual election in Iowa will happen either
in late December or potentially late January, early February. So, we --
it`s time to start campaigning.

REAGAN: Nia, this bad blood between Rove and Palin, is this really
just sort of a stand-in for the rift between the Tea Party and the old
establishment Republicans?

HENDERSON: In some ways, it is. And you`ll see that, I think, play
out a lot with Perry and Romney, and you`ve seen it already when he talks
about private sector experience and he says, well, you know, Romney has had
this private sector experience at Bain Capitol, but I`ve had it on the
family farm.

So, yes, I think that`s something you`re going to see play out. Perry
will try it make it seem like Romney is like a John Kerry of the Republican
Party and out of touch elitist. So, yes, this is a real rift.

And -- I mean, one of the things -- with the last election, you saw a
real rift, almost 50/50 split between the folks in terms of who they voted
for, a split between lower educated or Republicans more churchgoers; high
school graduates and a split between college graduates. So, I think this
is something we`re going to see play out and that obviously Palin is
playing into here with her fight with Rove.

REAGAN: Sam, we just have a little bit of time left here. But it
seems to me that the polls are not really running with Sarah Palin at this
point. Most people seem to be kind of over her.

STEIN: Yes, I think that`s part of the problem, is that she doesn`t
generate the type of hype that she once did. And so, where as she was the
voice of the ant anti-Obama crowd in the past, now, there`s a bunch of
people to fill that void.

One thing to consider with Karl Rove`s element here is that he -- you
know, he`s still very much protecting the party that he built and as well
as the Bush legacy. And a huge swath of the Tea Party faction stakes claim
to its independence from the Bush administration. They openly criticize
the out of control spending.

I think Rove looks at that and says, listen, you know, the eight years
that I was there, or six years, in his case, weren`t that bad. And he
actually feels the need to go and defend it. And so, yes, there`s been an
open tip between him and Palin, and also between him and Perry who when he
was asked between the difference of him and George W. Bush, said, well,
Bush went to Yale and I went to Texas A&M. I mean, that`s the big
distinction there.

REAGAN: I`ve always seen Sarah Palin is a little bit like Gingrich.
She`s just running for the attention.


REAGAN: We got to leave it there.

Thank you, Nia-Malika Henderson and Sam Stein, as always.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with what I really think about Mitt

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: "Let Me Finish" tonight with Mitt Romney.

The former Republican front-runner has changed his mind again. That
might not make headlines above the fold. Romney switches his opinions more
often than Newt Gingrich swaps wives.

Romney seems to treat his own beliefs like clothing purchased at
Nordstrom. He tries them for a while, then if somebody complains that he
doesn`t look good in green, he trades them in for something new. This is a
guy, after all, who pretends to not approve of his own healthcare policy.

Back in June, that`s June of this year, Romney seemed to accept -- if
only in a hazy noncommittal kind of way -- the overwhelming scientific
consensus that laws of physics still apply here on planet earth. That if
you pump heat trapping gasses into our atmosphere, they will tend to trap
heat. "I believe the world is getting hotter and I believe that humans
have contributed to that," so said Romney, way back in the misty before
time, two and half months ago.

Since then, he`s discovered that science, reason, even the laws of
physics have no welcome place at the current Republican table. With the
exception of Jon Huntsman who seems driven either by vestigial self respect
or a keen urge to commit political suicide, today`s ambitious Republicans
tend to see fact as annoying obstacles blocking the view of their more
colorful fantasies. We don`t need no stinking science. Take your reality
based community and shove it.

So, Romney, sensing the danger posed by his tepid embrace of reality
is once again calling on his greatest talent, vagueness. Does Romney still
think the planet is warming? Yes, he admitted yesterday. I don`t know
that, but I think it is. I don`t know if it is mostly caused by humans.

In other words, you may suspect that I credit scientists` warnings of
droughts, floods and over calamities arising from an overheated planet, but
rest assured, if elected your president, I`ll do nothing about them. What
a profile in courage.

Republicans, Romney included, may regard the natural world as akin to
Wall Street, something endlessly manipulable (ph) by moneyed interests.
Nature, of course, makes her own plans. And as someone once pointed out,
she always hits last and she always bats a thousand.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.


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