Guests: Rudy Giuliani, Richard Holbrooke, Al Franken
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The 9/11 commission uncovers new evidence about al Qaeda‘s September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington.
Plus should we give Saddam Hussein to Iraq‘s interim government by June 30?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Today “The Washington Post” reports that the 9/11 plot was originally scheduled to take place in May or June 2001 but was postponed for several months because of organizational reasons.
New evidence gathered by the 9/11 commission shows that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, convinced Osama bin Laden to delay the date so Mohammed Atta and the other hijackers could better prepare. The date postponement is expected to be discussed tomorrow at the 9/11 commission‘s final public hearing.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani testified before the 9/11 commission last month. Here he is.
Let me ask you this, Mr. Mayor. Everybody in the country is buzzing about the security threats. Do you think it‘s a good idea for the Republicans to meet in New York?
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Given all the possibilities of al Qaeda targeting the city or whatever?
GIULIANI: The possibility of a terrorist attack could happen anywhere. New York is a target because New York is the largest city in the country. There are a lot of reasons why New York will always be a target. But there are a lot of other targets as well.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t this almost like a sting? You‘re saying, we‘re going back to where you guys did your worst business in history, our worst business done to us in history.
And we‘re going to meet there, with all the people coming from around the country: the president, the vice president, the cabinet, every Republican senator and Congressperson, all coming to New York in one night.
GIULIANI: Well, you know, we had to face this issue with the World Series right after and the marathon. We had a marathon with a million people on the streets within two months of September 11, 2001, where the fears were greater and the risks maybe even greater.
And what we decided then was we have to move on. We‘ve got to—we have to move on with life. The risk of a terrorist attack for the country is a great one. The risk of a terrorist attack for any particular individual is not nearly as great. And life has to go on.
And I think this is, you know, one of those demonstrations of how—we also after September 11 had the—the world summit meet here, the economic world summit meet here. And I think that was in January of 2002.
We‘ve had the U.N. general assembly here with 100 world leaders here at any one time since September 11, 2001.
So, you know, if you didn‘t do the Democratic convention, you‘d also have to cancel that. You‘d cancel the World Series, cancel the marathon. You‘d have to cancel all of the sessions of the United Nations.
GIULIANI: So this is something New York City has to live with. And I‘ll tell you, the wonderful thing about New York, we just put out economic numbers showing that it‘s in the middle of a tremendous resurgence.
MATTHEWS: Your city?
GIULIANI: New York City is back to a tremendous economic resurgence.
MATTHEWS: Will this help or hurt economically, the enormous cost of security that goes with having the convention here?
GIULIANI: It will help economically for two reasons. First of all, the other side of it is all the money that gets spent here by all of the Republican delegates who come here, all the people from the media, in addition to the fact that we have the media here all the time. You‘re going to quadruple that in the number of people that are here covering the convention.
So that more than—more than pays for the—what the financial costs of security are. And second it‘s a great advertisement for the city. It‘s a, you know, reason to come here.
I remember after September 11, 2001, I remember actually the first night I did it, I was in this building. I had done “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.” It was the first time “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” had come back, and I appeared with the police commissioner and the fire chief.
MATTHEWS: That was a great night. I remember that.
GIULIANI: It was OK to laugh.
In between the two shows I went out and walked along Broadway. And I saw all these people who came up to me and said, “I‘m here because you invited me to come here to show the terrorists.”
In some cases they said, “We‘re not afraid.” In some cases they said things I can‘t repeat on television.
GIULIANI: To show the terrorists that we‘re not going to be—we‘re not going to be jaundiced by...
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, what do you make of this latest development. There‘s always new developments on this front, but the fact that we now know through the 9/11 commission that bin Laden was micromanaging this baby.
I mean, he was saying, “Well, put it off until we got to get Mohammed Atta in place. We‘ve got to get him ready.” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the other suspected mastermind.
Doesn‘t it impress you now that it‘s pretty much being nailed down that bin Laden was the bad guy behind this, that he was not just the contractor? He was the manager, to some extent.
GIULIANI: Shows you what a deliberate act it was.
GIULIANI: I mean, you thought of it in the context of a criminal trial or it obviously was very premeditated murder, in this case a very premeditated act of war. Very much planned. He was very much on top of, and you get a sense of who the primary bad actor was here.
MATTHEWS: Does it bother you as a former investigator—former prosecutor up here, that the United States government apparently had intel about—chattering and that sort of noise levels that were resulting from that early planning.
And then when the planning was put off—or rather, the execution was put off to September 11, it didn‘t help us in terms of knowing what was happening then, but it did apparently cause a cloud of concern?
GIULIANI: I haven‘t—I haven‘t seem that information yet. I saw the earlier information.
Part of my feelings about this come about from maybe knowing how much intelligence we gather.
GIULIANI: And how much of a needle in the haystack this all is. Whenever these reports come out now, when we know the end of the story, they all of a sudden become very relevant.
GIULIANI: But at the time—at the time people were receiving this information, they were overwhelmed with information. And even the idea of threats on New York City, it‘s something that goes back to—because I was the mayor of New York City.
I mean, we had threats all the time. We had closed down the area around the federal courthouse, the area around the stock exchange, the area around city hall. I mean, we had done a lot of things to prepare for it, so just the idea that New York City was going to be attacked would not have alerted us to the specific thing that happened, the use of airplanes.
MATTHEWS: Well, the possibility of recidivist behavior. They wanted to get the World Trade Center in ‘93. They hit it hard but not enough. The idea that there were people, apparently of Mideastern background or look who were wandering around, taking pictures in that area around the courthouse.
The fact that there is—the president was briefed on August 6 to that effect. Did it bother you—I know it‘s hard to be nonpartisan completely...
GIULIANI: No, it isn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t you have liked to have seen that memo the president got for his presidential daily briefing?
GIULIANI: You know, there are many things you‘d like...
MATTHEWS: If you‘d had that, you would have acted on it, wouldn‘t you?
GIULIANI: I don‘t know—But we would have done what we were doing. That didn‘t say—that memo didn‘t say aerial attack on the city of New York. So the World Trade Center...
MATTHEWS: But the downtown focus?
GIULIANI: Yes, but downtown is very big.
GIULIANI: The World Trade Center was one of the most guarded buildings in the city of New York. It had barricades around it. It had the same kind of security—you have now in this NBC building, they had for—for the World Trade Center back then. The building was being guarded and secured.
The problem is it was being guarded and secured against bombing.
GIULIANI: Not against aerial attack. The memo that would be the one that you‘d want to see is the one that warned of aerial attack on specific targets. And then that would have been a memo that could have alerted the people who are responsible for air traffic to stop people.
MATTHEWS: You know, when you go to New York City—I love coming up here for work for NBC.
But when you go down to—basically down to 34th Street and you enter the—everybody takes that escalator that goes right, right down to Penn Station.
MATTHEWS: A huge crowd of people pouring down there every night after work, plus the big, more well-off commuter lines going out from that part of the town. Everything going in and out of the Madison Square Garden area.
How do you cut all that off for five days for the Republican convention?
GIULIANI: You don‘t cut it off, you secure it, even more than it‘s secured now. And there‘s a lot of security.
MATTHEWS: There‘s no way to check people getting onto that subway or getting off that subway.
GIULIANI: There‘s no guarantee anywhere.
MATTHEWS: But there‘s no way to check people coming in from Flushing or anywhere else, is there?
GIULIANI: You—you have electronic devices. You have a lot of security. You have a lot of police.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to put metal detectors in the subway?
GIULIANI: I think the city will do everything it has to do to secure the convention to make sure that it demonstrates, like it did with these other events that I‘m talking about, the world economic summit, the U.N. 100 world leaders here at any one time, the World Series, the marathon.
All of these things are opportunities for the city to show that people have to go about their lives normally. We can‘t let the fear of this overcome us. Otherwise the terrorists will defeat us psychologically when they can‘t defeat us militarily or even politically.
MATTHEWS: Are the police and firefighters, the first responders we‘ve come to call them, still getting the kind of personal, on the street respect they were getting right after 9/11 from the people?
GIULIANI: Yes. I believe that‘s very much sustained by the people. I think people—when they see that uniform, they see people who were running into the fire and remaining there, until every civilian was out.
And they know that hundreds of them gave us their lives in order to save thousands.
MATTHEWS: More when we come back with Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. Maybe he‘s got bigger things in his picture.
Coming up, will the United States turn Saddam Hussein over to the new Iraqi government? And is this country ready to assume power—is that country ready to assume power on June 30? We‘ll talk about that with former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
And later, MSNBC‘s Bill Press on his new book, “Bush Must Go.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, more with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.
We were just talking during the break about—I want to give you a chance to talk about last week. I think it was like a come home, America week. We wanted to talk about ourselves and pay tribute to a hero, Ronald Reagan.
GIULIANI: I think that Ronald Reagan would have very much appreciated both the ceremonies last week and all that happened. That‘s—that‘s what he always wanted to do.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, who wouldn‘t? As the vice president said, he was given the highest honors of the United States. Can‘t do better than that.
GIULIANI: All of which he deserved. And it‘s kind of a recognition that you‘re wondering whether he would actually get it, because there was - - there was so much dispute about him at the time.
MATTHEWS: If this had happened in 1988 on a dime when he left office I think there would have been more counter noise.
GIULIANI: But he—but he was a president of real achievement. I mean, it‘s hard—it‘s hard not to accept, whatever side of the political aisle you‘re on, the achievements that he had, changing the map of Europe, changing American domestic politics.
And then he was a nice man. So he was a man that you really—you really enjoyed seeing getting this kind of recognition. I worked for him for a couple of years.
MATTHEWS: OK. Back to HARDBALL. Today President Bush responded to Ron Reagan‘s remarks at his father‘s funeral on the topic of religion and politics.
First, let‘s take a look at what Ron Reagan had to say last week at the funeral.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON REAGAN, SON OF RONALD REAGAN: Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man, but he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.
True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here is President Bush‘s response just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m very mindful about saying, you know, vote for me, I‘m more religious than my neighbor. And I think it‘s—I think it‘s perfectly—I think it‘s important for people of religion to serve. I think it is very important for people who are serving to make sure there is a separation of church and state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A responsibility not a mandate. What do you think Ron Reagan was saying there?
GIULIANI: I think only he will know what he was saying. I think it probably is a mistake to try to interpret him, to try to understand whether he was referring to anyone or not.
I think he‘s stating what probably is the accepted wisdom about how you deal with religion with American politics. Which is that you‘ve got—you know, you have your own personal religion, perfectly acceptable to talk about it.
But it‘s a mistake to try to overemphasize that or make that too important because we have so many different religions and so many different views and people that aren‘t religious. And I think Ronald Reagan did understand that. I think President Bush understands it.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great having you on. We‘ll have you on many times in the future, I hope.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Up next, Richard Holbrooke on whether the United States should hand Saddam Hussein over to the new Iraqi interim government or not.
And later Bill Press and why he says—what his book cover says, “Bush Must Go.”
This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
U.S. and Iraqi officials are trying to decide when and if Saddam Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi custody.
Richard Holbrooke served as the United States‘ ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration. He‘s an adviser to the Kerry campaign.
Mr. Ambassador, should we turn over Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi government any time?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I don‘t think...
MATTHEWS: Or do we keep control of the guy?
HOLBROOKE: A full turnover of Saddam to the Iraqis is incredibly dangerous. They could lose control of him. They could lynch him. They could have riots. There could be terrorist attacks.
MATTHEWS: Could you have a Jack Ruby situation?
HOLBROOKE: The United States captured him. We declared that he was an international rogue, which he was, and I don‘t think we ought to relinquish full custody. The Iraqis should play a role in the trial, but I prefer the mixed international-local trial approach that we‘ve tried elsewhere.
MATTHEWS: Reading the president‘s words today, it seems that his main concern is not so much kind of a Lee Harvey Oswald, being killed by a third party or something like that. He seems to be concerned he might get released.
HOLBROOKE: I think, reading the president‘s remarks today, you have evidence of bad coordination between the White House and the new Iraqi president. That‘s all it was. What the president said was more or less correct, but they‘ve got another miscommunication with the proteges in Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the latest poll that came out today from the coalition people over there? This was our side more or less, saying that something like 78 percent of the people over there don‘t like us, and 55 percent thinking—the people of Iraq say that they‘d be safer if we left.
HOLBROOKE: You know, we‘re two weeks from the handover after a truly tragic year of what we unfortunately insisted on calling an occupation. We didn‘t need to do it this way. Ambassador Bremer decided to perform in a way that had the sole effect of uniting Sunnis and Shiites against us.
MATTHEWS: What did he do wrong?
MATTHEWS: Right. But what mainly, broad stroke. What did he do wrong that caused them not to like us?
HOLBROOKE: He demilitarized the military. He acted like Douglas MacArthur in a country which has a different style. He was too much visible. He was too much the emperor. It was an unfortunate performance.
His successor, Ambassador John Negroponte, a very close friend of mine, my successor at the U.N., is a much subtler man and I think he‘ll do a better job.
But we need—as we approach the handover, we need to recognize two things.
The occupation was a disaster. We were greeted as liberators and are no longer so viewed.
Secondly, what happens next is consequential to the United States, to our presidential elections and to the world, and we‘ve got to get it right this time. President Bush—Every single thing President Bush predicted that Ambassador Bremer predicted, that Rumsfeld and Cheney predicted, none of it happened in the last year. And now if they don‘t get it right we are going to pay a very heavy price. And I hope they do better in the next few months than they have up till now.
MATTHEWS: Were we right to go to war with Iraq?
HOLBROOKE: I supported the objective of...
MATTHEWS: I know but right now, in retrospect, was it a blunder?
HOLBROOKE: Chris, you and I lived through Vietnam, where the goal was a good one and it was badly carried out.
What did I take away from Vietnam, where I spent three and a half years of my life? A good policy badly carried out becomes a bad police.
Those of us who supported President Bush and his objective could never have imagined that he would conduct a policy so—with such a poor outcome. So it‘s hard for me to answer your question.
Based on what I knew then, I thought, as you did, as we all did, there were weapons of mass destruction. Getting rid of Saddam was a correct objective. But it was carried out so badly that the good objective became a bad policy and now we‘re faced with horrific consequences.
MATTHEWS: We have two countries in the Mideast that have war in the streets right now: Iraq—and that‘s headline material and people being killed from our country every day, it seems—and in Israel basically on the West Bank and Gaza. You see the hell going on there for months now, if not years.
Now there‘s a third front over there. That‘s Saudi Arabia. Do you believe that the attacks against westerners, the murder of westerners and kidnappings with—the last week or so, do you think it‘s the beginning of the final assault of al Qaeda forces to throw the west out?
HOLBROOKE: I don‘t know if it‘s the final assault, but I agree with what Ambassador Richard Murphy said on your program yesterday. This is a planned attempt to separate the foreign oil workers from the Saudi government as part of a process to get rid of the Saudi royal family.
It‘s a long-term process. It‘s very dangerous. The United States national interests would be incredibly badly affected if the Saudis came apart at the seams.
It is a very dangerous issue, and you‘re quite right to focus on it.
MATTHEWS: Were we wrong to keep all those thousands of troops in that Muslim holy land all the years since ‘91, since the war? Were we sloppy in not thinking about the impact of that?
HOLBROOKE: I have always believed that those troops should have been fazed out in the 1990‘s long before Khobar Towers and certainly after.
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t somebody tell Bill Clinton, the president at the time, that is a very menacing, aggravating, in fact aggressive move to keep troops in a country that sees itself as the holy land?
HOLBROOKE: I didn‘t work on the problem, so I can only speculate.
But my impression is that the Saudi government asked us not to leave.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about...
HOLBROOKE: But that doesn‘t mean we should have said yes.
MATTHEWS: That‘s—In other words, we could have been more sensitive to the people of Saudi than the government is.
HOLBROOKE: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the sensitivity of this question with regard to the vice president, without making any attacks on the guy or criticisms.
Does he have himself in a difficult situation with regard to the fact that his former company where he was CEO all those years and received a very healthy golden parachute when he left and he is now receiving an annuity, a substantial amount of money, that being received treated now apparently by some government auditors as, in fact, income, somehow connecting him not so much as current income as about he still has a financial interest in that country.
Doesn‘t he always now get pegged every time the United States gives a contract to—a big contract to Halliburton?
HOLBROOKE: Sure. Of course. The vice president has become a lightning rod on two issues. One is anything to do with Halliburton, even if he had nothing to do with it, always reminds people of Dick Cheney. People had never heard of Halliburton four years ago. Now, Halliburton means Cheney.
MATTHEWS: How does he get that off his back? Is there anything he can do now?
HOLBROOKE: He could—he could say that he won‘t take anymore compensation in options or anything from Halliburton. But he‘s not going to do that.
MATTHEWS: No, he‘s already contracted to receive that. Well, what about his...
HOLBROOKE: It‘s not just that, Chris. He doesn‘t really agree with the premise of your question. Dick Cheney believes he‘s done nothing wrong. The rest of the people of the United States have serious questions.
But you know Cheney; he‘s not going to move.
There‘s another point about Cheney. He is really more than a vice president. He‘s a prime minister of this country.
MATTHEWS: With tremendous influence over the president. Right.
HOLBROOKE: And we have never had—right. He‘s the prime minister. We‘ve never had a vice president like this. He—His power, his role is enormous, and his lack of accountability is a legitimate area for discussion beyond the Halliburton question.
MATTHEWS: Does the fact that we now know that there were meetings involving his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and Doug Feith, the undersecretary of defense, involving a contract for Halliburton contradict his denial of any role in those letting of contracts?
HOLBROOKE: I don‘t know enough about it to give a definitive answer, but appearances matter in Washington, as you well know. And this kind of meeting should not have taken place.
Recusal means recusal. And it would be correct—I‘ve been in the government. I‘ve recused myself on issues. All of us have been in that situation. And there should be a full recusal when it comes to Halliburton.
MATTHEWS: Is it the United States safer today than it was when Bill Clinton left office?
HOLBROOKE: I don‘t think so. I think our international position is severely weakened. Muslim risings against us from Morocco and Nigeria and Indonesia are weakening our international position. Our alliances are weaker.
And in the Mideast we‘re tied down. And one critical point, Chris, we are stretched too thin. That‘s why Senator Kerry keeps saying he wants to increase the number of military.
Because we don‘t—you know, we‘re just taking a brigade of troops out to South Korea to rush to Iraq. But the—and by the way North Korea is a country with real weapons of mass destruction.
So it‘s hard to argue that we‘re better off than we were three and a half years ago.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations.
Up next, Bill Press thinks President Bush doesn‘t deserve a second term. And he‘ll be here with his top 10 reasons why not.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour, Democratic strategist Bill Press on his new book, “Bush Must Go,” and comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Bill Press is an MSNBC contributor and he‘s author of a new book, “Bush Must Go: The Top 10 Reasons Why George Bush Doesn‘t Deserve a Second Term.”
BILL PRESS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Chris, good to see you.
MATTHEWS: Numero uno. What‘s the chief reason you believe that people, when they go to the voting booth in November, should choose against the president?
PRESS: There are a lot of reasons. I think the No. 1 is Iraq, what you were just talking to Richard Holbrooke about. I think it‘s got to be. It‘s the worst thing a president can do, in my judgment, is to mislead a nation into war or to lie a nation into war. This was a war that was unnecessary, certainly, no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear weapons.
MATTHEWS: Did you know no WMD before the war?
PRESS: I thought there were probably WMD there. No connection to Saddam Hussein, no direct threat to the United States, and, unwise, I think, because it‘s alienated us from our allies and it‘s just generated a lot more hostility in the Arab world and generated more terror, not less.
MATTHEWS: Do you think 51 percent of the American people agree with what you just said?
PRESS: I think over 51 percent of the American people agree with that. The last poll I saw showed that 56 percent of the American people say we should not have gone to war in Iraq in the first place.
MATTHEWS: But why should the American people, if there is 51 percent who believe the war was a blunder, why should they vote for a guy like John Kerry, who won‘t say that? He will not say it was a blunder. He will not say it was wrong to go to war. I can‘t—I‘ve tried so many times to get him to say that and he won‘t.
PRESS: Look, I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: You say you want people to believe that that‘s a reason to vote against President Bush. But the Democratic candidate will not voice those words, because he‘s still trying to hang on to those conservative Democrats or middle-of-the-roaders who do believe in the war.
PRESS: You are right. That‘s a mistaken policy. And I‘m not here stumping for John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: But are you suggesting we vote against Bush, which means you‘ve got to vote for the other guy, right?
Well, I‘ll tell you why, though. By the way, I‘ve written columns on this. And I hope John Kerry comes out and really, really takes a position of...
PRESS: ... look, we‘ve got to get out of there. We‘re going to accept the result of these elections. We shouldn‘t have gone in the first place. Bring our troops home, set a timetable. It‘s got to be a lot stronger.
But this election, most of all, Chris, is a referendum on George Bush.
You know that.
MATTHEWS: I know. I accept that, sure.
PRESS: Incumbents—incumbents running for reelection, it‘s always a referendum—the way I put it is, it‘s like, you have a small business, OK?
You hire a guy a few months ago had no experience, but you give him a shot, OK? In our political system, it‘s every four years. He had no experience. We gave him a shot. We realize, at the end of it, he didn‘t cut it. So bring in somebody else. Give John Kerry a chance.
MATTHEWS: What about Cheney, the V.P.? Do you think he‘s worse than Bush from your perspective?
PRESS: I think Cheney‘s becoming more and more of a millstone around neck of George W. Bush and they‘re going to have him cut him loose.
MATTHEWS: Well, if you want to beat Bush, why wouldn‘t you want to keep the millstone around his neck?
PRESS: If I want to beat Bush, I would say, please, keep Dick Cheney.
If I‘m the Republicans looking at Cheney, I mean, the Halliburton stuff I think is very damaging. He lied to the American people.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how. Explain.
PRESS: He lied to Tim Russert when he said—on “Meet the Press,” he said, I had no knowledge of and no connection with those Halliburton contracts in Iraq. Now, the latest thing...
MATTHEWS: And the facts are?
PRESS: The facts are, the latest thing we‘ve seen is that the Defense Department said, No. 1 -- this was a couple weeks ago—that they coordinated...
MATTHEWS: The Army Corps of Engineers guy, yes.
PRESS: Coordinated the awarding of those contracts with the vice president‘s office. And we just learned this latest one, that they informed the vice president that this contract was going to go to Iraq.
Either way, Dick Cheney lied to the American people. He also continues to lie, if you ask me, when he continues to say that there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Never proven.
PRESS: Colin Powell says it wasn‘t.
MATTHEWS: I know.
PRESS: Tony Blair says it wasn‘t. Even George Bush now says there wasn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Well, couldn‘t he be misinformed in these regards? Lie is a strong word. I don‘t use it. Why do you use it here? You have to really know a person‘s soul to say lie, don‘t you?
PRESS: I think you have to know that the person knows it‘s not the fact and he continues to repeat it. To me, that‘s enough to make a lie.
But, Chris, either incompetent or lying or misinformed, none of the three of them deserve reelection.
MATTHEWS: Can I move on to something where your expertise would be very powerful here?
PRESS: Let‘s go.
MATTHEWS: I want you to get—it‘s like the $64,000 question. Lean down. Think hard. Three seconds. Who would be the best running mate for John Kerry?
PRESS: I‘ve been saying John McCain all along. Today, I would say John Edwards. I‘ll tell you why. I think—let‘s go back to...
MATTHEWS: No, because I like that, because I think you‘re right. But go ahead. I‘m not sure.
PRESS: I want to come back to what you just said. You and I have both been yearning to hear more from John Kerry. I think John Edwards can articulate the vision, and did in the primaries, better than anybody else, including John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: And if you are right about the vulnerability of the vice president, he would be particularly good at that.
PRESS: He would be.
MATTHEWS: He would take off Cheney‘s kneecaps.
PRESS: He would clean Cheney up, clean the floor with Cheney in a debate.
PRESS: Boy, when he talks about two Americas, that‘s a powerful message.
MATTHEWS: Also, even if the economy gets a little better, it still works.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, my colleague, as we say in this business, colleague, Bill Press.
To read his excerpt—to read an excerpt of “Bush Must Go,” the new book you‘re looking at, log on to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Up next, Al Franken with his thoughts on President Ronald Reagan, the Democratic Party, and why talk radio is more conservative.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken on Ronald Reagan, John Kerry and conservative radio—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Al Franken is the host of “The O‘Franken Factor” on the liberal Air America radio network. He joins us now in New York City.
How‘s it going? Is there a market for liberal thought on the radio?
AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, thank God, there is. We got our first numbers.
First of all, let me first say that the thing I like least about the radio business is the radio business. But we did get numbers that I think I understand. And in our first Arbitrend numbers, in New York, which is our biggest market, we beat WABC, which is where Rush is, so, in the same period, among the 25-54-year-olds, and clobbered them in 18-34-year-olds. So, I know that sounds like a lot of jargon. But, in other words, there is a big audience there. And we‘re the largest provider of streamed audio on the Internet.
MATTHEWS: Are you secretly close friends with Rush Limbaugh?
FRANKEN: No. And I feel bad that he and Marta didn‘t make it.
MATTHEWS: Do you?
FRANKEN: Yes. That‘s tough.
MATTHEWS: He‘s going through a bad, rough patch there.
FRANKEN: He‘s had a couple of—he‘s the radio host most expert at explaining bad news to his listeners.
MATTHEWS: Was it Maureen Dowd that said the rat pack is back and he‘s one of them?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—let me ask you about this campaign.
MATTHEWS: The country took a week off. Was that a good idea?
FRANKEN: I think it was.
FRANKEN: It was—whether or not—whether it was—it seemed a little long. And I was worried about Bush, the father, with his parachute thing, because, if that didn‘t open, we would have had another week.
FRANKEN: And that would have been intolerable. And it would have been one week and then another week.
MATTHEWS: He gave the best speech of the week. And then he jumped 10,000 feet out of an airplane.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a hell of a week for an 80-year-old guy.
FRANKEN: Yes. No, he had a good week. I thought he—it was rare to see him emotional. I thought W. gave a good speech, too, except there was one little part I didn‘t like.
FRANKEN: Which was—it was the thing about, he didn‘t know bigotry or whatever, which I‘m sure was true of the man. But when he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in ‘80 and talked about states‘ rights, I thought that was really horrendous and a bad choice.
FRANKEN: And I probably wouldn‘t have put that in his speech.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the discussion by Grover Norquist and some of the other real gung-ho guys about putting Reagan on the $10 bill and that sort of thing?
MATTHEWS: ... making the Pentagon called the Reagan building? What do you think of that stuff?
FRANKEN: Well, I think that‘s—I would rather him be on—I was thinking of putting him on all the currency, just, he‘s on everything. And then it‘s just like, so the kids growing up will just think of him, oh, there‘s the money guy, because kids don‘t...
MATTHEWS: Coins, too?
FRANKEN: Everything, just everything has Reagan on it. And you just look at the numbers.
MATTHEWS: Driver‘s licenses?
FRANKEN: No, just every bill.
MATTHEWS: Every bill. Just keep it monetary.
FRANKEN: Either that, or I was thinking of putting him on the $1 billion bill. And that way, we can just pay off the interest on our debt every year.
MATTHEWS: You mean just start printing it, just start printing the babies with Reagan‘s name on them calling them billion dollar bills.
FRANKEN: No, we would have to—no, I‘m not saying start an inflationary overprinting of money. I‘m just saying, just billion dollar bills that we can pay off the interest on the debt on, you know, 300 a year, whatever it is that we‘re left with.
Rush Limbaugh once said that Ronald Reagan—we owe a debt to Ronald Reagan that we‘ll never be able to repay.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about the Democratic—do you answer hypothetical questions? People always say to me, I don‘t answer hypothetical questions. I don‘t want to ask you the question unless you agree to answer it.
FRANKEN: I only answer hypothetical questions.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a hypothetical question. Would John Kerry have been smart to somehow seduce John McCain into joining his ticket?
FRANKEN: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: Would that have been a smart move?
FRANKEN: Yes. I don‘t agree with the—you know, and there‘s going to be a lot of Democrats who would say, no, that would have been a bad idea because he didn‘t get him.
MATTHEWS: Because you can‘t have him.
FRANKEN: Because we can‘t have him.
FRANKEN: But I think that, no...
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t drive a Mercedes. I personally wouldn‘t drive one. That‘s what somebody says because they can‘t afford one, right? And if they could, they would.
FRANKEN: This is—oh, I see what you‘re saying.
I think that whoever the veep is, that Kerry should run as a uniter, not a divider.
FRANKEN: And he should run saying, I‘m going to restore honor and dignity to the White House. And I think he could say, those things may sound familiar, but I mean it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That sounds good. And how else can you explain that? If he can‘t get McCain on the ticket, who else would be a uniter, not a divider, as a ticket mate?
FRANKEN: Well, I actually do think that any of the Democrats he‘s considering—Edwards.
MATTHEWS: Come on. John Edwards will take Cheney‘s kneecaps off on Halliburton every day of the week.
FRANKEN: Oh, yes, but that‘s not...
MATTHEWS: How is that going to unite the country?
FRANKEN: Because—because he should be taken off at the kneecaps about Halliburton.
MATTHEWS: You‘re one hell of a uniter.
FRANKEN: No, but I‘m saying that it‘s uniting the country to be for, to go back to the ideal that we‘re all in this together.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
FRANKEN: And to rail against crony capitalism isn‘t a bad thing, isn‘t a divisive thing. It‘s a uniting thing.
But what we have now is a government where it‘s run by the cronies, by
· and so I think that railing—and McCain is against that kind of stuff, too.
MATTHEWS: He is.
FRANKEN: And McCain is against these huge tax cuts.
MATTHEWS: How many McCains are there out there? There‘s only one that I know of, maybe...
FRANKEN: Well, Chuck Hagel is a McCain-like...
MATTHEWS: Feingold. Feingold is a good guy. He is another guy.
FRANKEN: Oh, Feingold. There‘s a lot of good guys in the Senate.
I‘m going to give you the big three to choose from. According to the papers this week, there‘s three guys in the running right now. They‘re all men. They‘re all white guys, because it seems to be the list we go from anyway.
FRANKEN: OK, white men. OK.
MATTHEWS: Three guys.
FRANKEN: OK, that would a surprise. So you‘re talking Edwards, Gephardt and Vilsack?
MATTHEWS: No, Edwards, Gephardt and Clark still.
FRANKEN: Oh, Clark.
MATTHEWS: Clark is back in. Vilsack seems to be out.
FRANKEN: Oh, I don‘t follow these as closely as you do.
MATTHEWS: I do follow them closely.
MATTHEWS: Which of those three do you think is the most likely to be picked by the next convention?
FRANKEN: I‘d say Edwards is. They have to make a sort of threshold choice, Edwards or not. So I think that‘s a 50-50 on Edwards.
MATTHEWS: That‘s very shrewd. That‘s exactly where I think it is.
No, I really do think that‘s what he thinks, too.
FRANKEN: Thank you.
FRANKEN: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: I like the cut of your jib.
MATTHEWS: Now, that‘s what I hear that from inside. But go ahead.
FRANKEN: That‘s what you hear from inside. I hear that from inside, too.
MATTHEWS: Fifty-fifty on Edwards. Which way would you—if you were putting together the ticket, where would you go?
FRANKEN: I would go with Edwards.
I‘ll tell you why. The job of the running mate is to make the case for the guy at the top of the ticket. Well, who would you like to make the case for you other than one of the great trial lawyers in our country?
MATTHEWS: So he‘s the up-up man. He‘s the guy who‘s going to say, I give you John Kerry.
FRANKEN: Why didn‘t you say, I like that, too?
MATTHEWS: I‘m waiting because I want more explication there, because I think he complements more than supports. I think he would be the regular guy, humble upbringing, son of a factory worker, a father who lost his job, a good thing to take that case to Ohio, places like that.
FRANKEN: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And Kentucky.
FRANKEN: Two Americas.
MATTHEWS: And Missouri, where people do feel that kind of pain in real economic life in a way that Kerry never could or would go through that kind of experience. He‘s much better born, learned how to—he benefited from wealth...
FRANKEN: But not anywhere near as well born as Bush.
FRANKEN: No. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, do you think that he would be wise to pick a person who voted for the war, supports the war even now, and is from North Carolina? Do those pieces of the thing add up?
FRANKEN: Yes. Yes, I think they do.
And I think—I think any of the three choices you talked about are good. I love Gephardt. I think he‘s—there‘s no one...
MATTHEWS: Not enough juice there?
FRANKEN: Jews? I think Jews would love him.
FRANKEN: Oh, I‘m sorry. It‘s this IFP.
MATTHEWS: This is not a Woody Allen movie.
No, I think there‘s plenty of juice there. I think that he is—one of the things I know about Dick Gephardt is, there is no one who has met Dick Gephardt who doesn‘t like him.
MATTHEWS: That‘s true.
FRANKEN: And I think—and, also, I think he is the embodiment of every white-bread, good value in America.
MATTHEWS: Ronnie Howard.
FRANKEN: Ronnie Howard, not enough experience in government. Great director, but no.
MATTHEWS: You‘re suggestible.
Anyway, we‘re coming right back with Al Franken. Liberal radio, can it work?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Here‘s more of my interview with Al Franken. I began by asking Al why he believes talk radio is mostly more conservative.
FRANKEN: Well, I think there‘s a couple of reasons for it. But one of which is, to their credit, they did it. And Rush did it. And Rush did it about, what is it, 12, 13 years ago.
And, you know, music was all going to FM. And the AM spectrum was more abundant. He...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a weaker signal, isn‘t it, AM? Why was it sitting there?
FRANKEN: I think it just—the music sounds better on FM. So everyone is going to FM. And he just created this thing, which is, you know...
MATTHEWS: No guests, just him, for three hours, incredible power.
FRANKEN: Yes. Unbelievable. His format in radio is called non-guested confrontation.
FRANKEN: Literally. That‘s the name of it.
MATTHEWS: Do you know why he has no guests? He told me once.
FRANKEN: He doesn‘t like people?
MATTHEWS: No. He was doing guests for years and not making it in the business. He finally went up to Sacramento and he couldn‘t get any guests up there, because they all go to San Francisco. They‘re doing the book tour. They go to San Francisco.
MATTHEWS: So he made the best of a bad thing. He said, you know what? If I‘m not going to get any guests, I‘m going to write the show, because guests distract me.
MATTHEWS: They just want to sell books, push causes. I want to tell people what I think is in the news. And it‘s pretty smart, how he handled this.
FRANKEN: There‘s something to be said for that, but we have a lot of guests. I can‘t do what he does.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t talk for three hours straight.
FRANKEN: I haven‘t tried it yet. I don‘t think I—I also don‘t—
I‘m not a bloviator in the way that he is.
FRANKEN: I also—I do think that he distorts the truth and says offensive things and lies a lot.
MATTHEWS: But other than that, he‘s a talented man.
FRANKEN: But—yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this about this. My theory—and let me run this by you.
MATTHEWS: Because you‘re on the air and you‘ve learned this.
My theory is the people that are listening to radio during the day—not in drive time. Everybody is drive time.
MATTHEWS: But, during the day, they tend to be salespeople. They tend to be people that have to make sales budgets. They have to work out there. They‘re out there all by themselves. They‘re lonely a little bit. There‘s nobody really with them, except the boss calling up once in a while, have you made your quota?
The wife and kids don‘t really respect what they do. They don‘t get it, how much hard work they put in.
FRANKEN: So you‘re making a case, this is...
MATTHEWS: And I make the case that he supports them. He talks about feminazis. He talks about the enemy. He always builds up basically the working guy, the Willy Loman in the car, the guy trying to make his quota. He says, you‘re the good guy. You‘re the guy pulling the train out there.
And that‘s why they like him. He‘s a support group.
FRANKEN: I think that‘s a theory that sounds good.
MATTHEWS: Well, what is it? Well what do you think?
FRANKEN: I know from our audience, and, as I‘m saying this is—I don‘t know the radio business yet as well as I should.
But from what I can tell from the people who are blogging in and calling, that we‘re actually getting a different audience than the normal talk radio audience. We‘re getting a younger audience.
MATTHEWS: Are they turning you on in their home?
FRANKEN: No. They‘re at the office. There are a lot of people streaming at the office.
MATTHEWS: What, are they screwing around? Why are they listening to the radio instead of working?
FRANKEN: They can do both.
MATTHEWS: You‘re like that guy that Kevin Spacey played in “American Beauty,” just sitting around, screwing around, wasting time.
FRANKEN: Some people do it at the office. But I think there are some people who have the kinds of tasks that you can listen to the radio.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I realize. If you‘re running a diner, for example, you like a little stimulation, conversation.
FRANKEN: Yes. If you‘re a craftsman.
FRANKEN: We have an incredible number of craftsmen.
MATTHEWS: If you work in auto body shop, it wouldn‘t hurt to have some intellectual stuff coming in your head.
FRANKEN: No. No. And they‘re very liberal, auto body shops.
FRANKEN: No. I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: But office workers, it would seem you have to have your head trained on the paper in front of you, the screen in front of you.
FRANKEN: You would think.
MATTHEWS: You‘re draining off that value added, that marginal utility of the working force. You‘re lowering their efficiency.
FRANKEN: Yes. Productivity is going down every day.
MATTHEWS: Every day your market goes up, every day your rating goes up, a little less production.
FRANKEN: No. We have people—we had a guy today call in from Tennessee. And we heard roosters. So he was at home. He was retired.
FRANKEN: And he was a veteran. And I said, is that a rooster? And he said, yes. And his name was Billy Bob. So we have the Billy Bobs.
MATTHEWS: Are you getting that rural audience?
FRANKEN: We‘re getting people from all over the place. And I guess it‘s from streaming. And streaming is getting it on the Internet. I know that you‘re...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know that
FRANKEN: Yes, I know that you‘re...
FRANKEN: Yes, you just—you don‘t know anything about it. The Internet is this big thing. It‘s a huge thing.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s my knock on radio. All day long, basically, you get one point of view. It‘s basically ditto-heads. Look, I get along. I understand this stuff. But it‘s basically one point of view.
FRANKEN: Well, that‘s why we‘re on.
MATTHEWS: But suppose you had a real debate show and it was you against Rush for like two or three hours. Would that work? And would it get an audience for it, an honest debate of two smart people going at each other? Would that work on radio? And why doesn‘t it get tried, so you hear both sides all day long? Do people not want both sides?
FRANKEN: I don‘t know. That would be an interesting show. And I don‘t know if anyone is doing it. I think that there are little shows that do that.
MATTHEWS: Remember the old days, like Gore Vidal fighting it out, duking it out with Bill Buckley?
FRANKEN: Well, remember, we used to also have—we had a law saying that you had to...
MATTHEWS: Equal time.
FRANKEN: Give equal time.
MATTHEWS: The fairness doctrine, yes.
FRANKEN: Yes, the fairness doctrine. And then that went away. And that opened it up obviously for Rush, too. Once the fairness doctrine went away, you didn‘t have to offer equal time.
MATTHEWS: But remember Nicholas Von Hoffman fighting it out with James J. Kilpatrick on “60 Minutes”? There was great debates in the old days.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder if it would work. I‘m not sure would it work, because I think some people want to hear it from one side.
FRANKEN: They have “Hannity & Colmes.”
MATTHEWS: Yes, I don‘t count that among the...
FRANKEN: Yes, I don‘t either. But there‘s a couple reasons for that and maybe I won‘t go into them.
MATTHEWS: No, actually, it‘s almost like the old—what do you call it?
FRANKEN: Harlem Globetrotters?
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s the Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.
The Washington Generals are supposed to stay within 15 and always lose.
FRANKEN: I mean, actually, this is something I‘ve learned about their format is that they‘re not allowed to argue with each other.
FRANKEN: No, really.
MATTHEWS: Is that right?
FRANKEN: Yes. Yes. I‘m talking to Alan about this, because I say, why don‘t you—and he said, well, that‘s not our format. We‘re not allowed to argue with each other.
MATTHEWS: The format is, you lose?
FRANKEN: No, the format is, they have a right-wing-movement conservative who is willing to lie, Sean, and a kind of reasonable Milquetoasty, middle-of-the-road, moderately liberal guy.
MATTHEWS: What, Mr. Peepers meets Godzilla? That‘s the format?
FRANKEN: Well, it‘s a guy who—it‘s the oddest combination. And then they call it fair and balanced.
And, also, Alan is forced to read things like, what is Kerry up to and why are people mad at him about it? We‘ll be checking in. I‘m the liberal.
MATTHEWS: Hey, that‘s great
MATTHEWS: We love you. Anyway, thank you.
FRANKEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Al Franken, you will take on anybody. Thank you very much, Al Franken. Good luck with more success.
FRANKEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests will include 9/11 commissioner James Thompson.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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