Guest: Daphne Barak, James Garner, Tony Blankley, David Gergen, Mara Rudman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Build-up to Boston. Less an week before the Democratic convention, a new poll shows the presidential race remains locked in a tie. Plus, former national security adviser Sandy Berger, under investigation for taking classified documents, quits the Kerry campaign, but the political battle rages on. And a preview to the 9/11 report from Senators John McCain and Saxby Chambliss.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger removed himself as an adviser to the Kerry campaign. On Tuesday, Berger said, quote, “I made an honest mistake. It‘s one that I deeply regret. I dealt with this issue in October, 2003, fully and completely. Everything that Iv‘e done all along in this process has been for the purpose of aiding and supporting the work of the 9/11 commission, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply absolutely wrong.”
I‘m joined right now by Arizona Republican senator John McCain.
Senator McCain, what‘s your smell test tell about this case?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It tells me we are in a very highly charged political period. I‘ve known Sandy Berger for many years, and I know him to be a good man. I, however, would like a better explanation of how these documents were taken out and why, and I believe that this investigation should be completed as quickly as possible. And I think he did the right thing by removing himself from the Kerry campaign.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that he‘s capable of stuffing materials in his socks, under his trousers, that sort of a thing, in a very—a very nefarious fashion?
MCCAIN: Everything I‘ve know about him in my dealings with him were very straightforward, and they were on issues of policy. And we had our disagreements. I had my disagreements with the Clinton administration, but I saw nothing in his conduct that would indicate that he would be capable of such behavior. But again, I‘d like to see this investigation completed, so we‘ll know all the facts.
MATTHEWS: Would it be helpful, Senator, if it‘s possible, to declassify the documents he‘s accused of taking out of that—of the archives?
MCCAIN: I think that‘s part of the scenario. We should know what it was that was taken out, and unless it has some kind of urgent national security sensitivity, I would hlpe that we would be made aware of that. I think it would give us a better idea of how serious this situation is because he has admitted removing some documents.
MATTHEWS: What would be worse, he removed documents to destroy them and keep them from reaching public light as to the role the Clinton administration played or didn‘t play in fighting terrorism after the millennium incident back in—back in the—in the Clinton administration, or that he simply took the documents to help make a case for the Kerry nomination, the Kerry presidency?
MCCAIN: He says that he took the documents in order to help facilitate his work with the 9/11 commission. I have the quaint idea that perhaps we ought to give someone the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But I do believe that this—all this publicity argues very strongly for a rapid completion of the investigation and all the relevant facts being made public as quickly as possible.
MATTHEWS: Is this fair game for the Republicans?
MCCAIN: In this day and age, my friend, everything is fair game.
MATTHEWS: Do you think—in a McCain world in which you ruled, would the Republicans be using this as cannon fodder?
MCCAIN: I would be using it exactly as I just stated. We need to have the investigation completed. There needs to be a full and complete explanation. We are dealing with issues which are highly classified, and information which is, and there‘s a lot of explaining that needs to be done. I can only tell you that my work with Sandy Berger over a long period of time—as I said, it‘s hard for me to imagine this kind of behavior, and I know him to be an honorable man. But the investigation has to go forward. I‘ll just withhold judgment.
MATTHEWS: Remember how in the last campaign, a week before the presidential election itself, we found out that George W. Bush had been picked up for driving under the influence something like 20 years before, and it dropped a week before the election? Do you think this is the same drop, timed to hurt the other side?
MCCAIN: I don‘t—I don‘t know, Chris. Clearly, if the investigation has been going on for a year, the question arises, How come it was leaked now? But I thought it was terrible to—the timing of the leak about former (SIC) President Bush‘s conviction 20 years before, and I think it may have hurt him in the election. I thought it was very unfair, the timing of that information being released.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your sense of the presidential campaign right now, if you had to describe it as a political reporter?
MCCAIN: I think it‘s gridlocked. I think that it‘s very partisan and very bitter, probably the most bitter and partisan campaign in recent history. And we may be talking about a small number of votes in six or seven swing states. There‘s going to be a big fight over the undecided votes, and I don‘t think anybody can predict how it‘s going to come out. But I think events in Iraq will have a significant effect on the outcome of the election, and I am very, very guardedly optimistic about the fact the last few weeks, things seem to have been improving somewhat after the Iraqis have taken over their own government.
MATTHEWS: What do you like that you see over in Iraq right now, Senator?
MCCAIN: I‘d like to see more Iraqis standing up to these terrorists and murderers and thugs that are disrupting their ways of life. I‘d like to see a better trained and better equiped Iraqi military and police. And I‘d like to see, most of all, a reduction in the United States casualties.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the new prime minister over there is doing the job right now?
MCCAIN: I‘m very impressed with the work he‘s doing so far. I think he‘s a tough guy, and they need a tough guy in charge. It‘s too early, but everything he‘s done so far and said so far and—I‘ve been very impressed with him. But we‘re a long way from testing—testing his leadership so we could reach any conclusions.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve lost 896 people over there from our side, from the American side, who‘ve died over there in that struggle.
MCCAIN: I think it just went over 900.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just checked again, and it said it‘s incorrect, that report.
MCCAIN: I see. OK.
MATTHEWS: I just want to give you the latest, 896. Do you think that‘s about what we should have expected going in, this level of casualties, and it‘s not something they really quibble about, it just comes with a war?
MCCAIN: I think we should have expected larger casualties in the initialo phases. We won an overwhelming and rapid victory that exceeded all expectations. I think we should have expected much lower casualties in the last months because we didn‘t—we made some serious mistakes that caused us to be unable to get the situation under control in a way that we should have done, starting out with allowing the lootings and including, most importantly, not having enough troops over there to really bring about about a pacification and allowing, to this day, sanctuaries, such as at Fallujah, where terrorists are operating almost openly, and in some cases openly.
MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds a little bit like the Democratic platform. I just read it last night. Maybe I‘m one of the few people in America who‘s actually read the platform. The platform says we should not go to war, America, unless we have a plan for peace afterwards. Is that your belief, or is that asking too much of a military campaign?
MCCAIN: I think two things. One, we did the right thing by going there. There‘s no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein would be contemplating or using weapons of mass destruction, if he had them. This latest information concerning Nigeran yellowcake is helpful, bolsters that argument a little bit. I also believe that mistakes are made in every conflict. They certainly were in Korea, World War II, Vietnam and other wars. The trick is to fix those mistakes and get back on track. And I think, to some degree, we are back on track, although I still don‘t think we have enough of the right kind of troops over there.
MATTHEWS: Based on the latest intel from Britain, as well as from America, do you believe the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein, was trying to get uranium?
MCCAIN: I think the indications from British intelligence is that there were some overtures made or attempts made, and they stick by their story. That relieves a lot of pressure off the 16 words from—the famous 16 words of the president‘s State of the Union message, and I think gives, again, some authentication—it‘s not a complete vindication—don‘t get me wrong—of our intelligence failures, but it is at least an authentication that that aspect of Saddam Hussein‘s activity indicated that he would continue, as I firmly believe, attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the White House, and particularly Ari Fleischer, was wrong to say the president should not have included those 16 words in the State of the Union?
MCCAIN: I think Ari was probably right because we didn‘t have total confirmation of the evidence. but I think that there‘s a little bit different spin on this issue in the last week or so than there has been for several months. And that‘s got to be helpful to the president.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We‘ll be right back with Senator John McCain to talk about the presidential election. Coming back, we‘re going to talk about the battle for the White House. And later: The 9/11 commission report will be released tomorrow. We‘ll talk to Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who‘s a member of the Senate intelligence committee.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with more with Senator John McCain. The latest Pew poll, Senator, shows that President Bush and Senator Kerry are in a statistical dead heat in the race for the White House. Kerry and Edwards are at 46 percent, Bush-Cheney are at 44. What do you make of that? Here we are in July, and it‘s even.
MCCAIN: I think we‘re in a very close race, and it wouldn‘t surprise me if you and I are having a conversation a day or two before the election and looking at the same numbers. It‘s—the amazing thing about this campaign is that so many voters have made up their minds so early, and the big fight, as I mentioned, is going to be over this 10, 12 percent undecided.
Chris, could I just make one additional comment to our previous conversation during the break?
MCCAIN: We will have an overstressed military. We still have guard and reservists that we‘re asking way too much of, and we need to expand the Marine Corps and the Army very badly. And I worry about an additional crisis someplace in the world and how we‘d be able to handle it.
MATTHEWS: The Democratic platform calls for 40,000 more regular Army troops, do you support that?
MCCAIN: Both Armed Service Committees here, in our authorizatoin bill, the House called for 20,000 additional Army and 9,000 additional Marines, and the Senate the same. It‘s a bipartisan view here on capitol Hill that we need to expand the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at another thing in the Pew poll. It shows that Americans, when asked about which party cares more about people like them, say the Kerry—the Democrats 50 percent, the Republicans 30 percent. Is that just an endemic advantage for the Democrats that they‘re more caring than Republicans?
MCCAIN: I think it‘s somewhat endemic, but I also think that we need to be more as a party of concern of working men and women. To some degree justifiably, we side too often with the corporations. I think the pharmaceutical companies here have an incredible, inordinate influence which hurts our ability to help people who need prescription drugs at a lower price.
MATTHEWS: If you were one of those regular people out there, just regular voters, and you looked at Dick Cheney and you looked at John Edwards, who would be more caring, do you think, to you?
MCCAIN: You know, look, I like John Edwards, and Dick Cheney and I have known each other 20 years. Dick Cheney is an incredibley qualified individual. You know, as I said in a—just a joke, you know, when I introduced him last week, he‘s not just another pretty face. But there‘s also no doubt that John Edwards is caring and engaging. I think that people, if they look at Dick Cheney‘s credentials and his experience, then I think that‘s going to weigh very heavily. When they look at the fact that John Edwards is a very attractive young man, I think that‘s going to influence them also. I think it‘s going to be one of the most interest debates that we‘ve ever seen in a vice presidential campaign.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that Kerry was right in picking Edwards, as a Democrat? Do you think he made as smart Democratic decision?
MCCAIN: It‘s very hard for me to second-guess those judgments, but they seem to mesh well together and seems from the polls to be somewhat helpful, although some predicted there would be this huge bounce, and that didn‘t happen. But—look, you know, This is such a personal decision made by the presidential candidate that it‘s hard to make a judgment. And I think that judgment‘ll be rendered whether Kerry wins or loses the presidency.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s any chance that the White House, the president particularly, is going to make an overture to you before the election? I mean, I talk to everybody, I hope, and I hear people say a Bush-McCain ticket would be unstoppable.
MCCAIN: Well, I think that‘s about—the chances of the president abandoning Dick Cheney are about the same as a snowball in Arizona. They have a very close working relationship. There‘s a—he‘s the deputy commander-in-chief. He really is, very appropriately so, given his background and experience. I think he‘s been the president‘s right arm, in many respects. And I just wouldn‘t envision that scenario and...
MATTHEWS: Is the Pentagon too low a bid for John McCain?
MCCAIN: Chris, I‘m very happy in the United States Senate. I‘m 2very happy being somewhat of an independent conservative voice, and I hope that I can continue to influence national policy in the United States Senate. It‘s all very flattering. I am entertaining overtures from the vegetarians, as we speak.
MATTHEWS: I think they are going to come to you, at some point.
Anyway, thank you very much, Arizona senator John McCain.
MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.
MATTHEWS: Up next: The 9/11 commission‘s report is out tomorrow. We‘ll hear from Senate Intelligence Committee member Saxby Chambliss. And later, more on that Sandy Berger investigation with Berger‘s former chief of staff—she‘s coming on—and former White House adviser David Gergen.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today the Kerry campaign sent out a memorandum asking whether Vice President Cheney and Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie engineered a smear campaign against Sandy Berger. The memo says that Cheney and Gillespie met with Senate Republicans yesterday at their weekly lunch, and afterwards, quote, “Senator Saxby Chambliss, Gordon Smith and Rick Santorum, among others, launched a scurrilous effort to smear the Kerry campaign by making the absurd argument that Sandy Berger gave classified documents to the campaign to use in a port security speech.”
Republican senator Saxby Chambliss is a member of the Intelligence Committee. Senator Chambliss, what do you make—did you go to that lunch the other day with Dick Cheney to meet with the top Republicans?
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I was at that lunch, and Senator Kerry...
MATTHEWS: Did they give you guys in structions or guidance to go out and whack the Kerry campaign for the Berger accusations?
CHAMBLISS: Well, absolutely not. Senator Kerry has a different understanding from what took place at that Republican luncheon than I do, and I was there and he wasn‘t. I never talked with Vice President Cheney. I never talked with Ed Gillespie about this. I knew about it just because of what I saw in the press reports, and I followed up on it with other individuals who had some knowledge about it. And I was simply asked by Senator Santorum to come out and talk a little bit about it.
CHAMBLISS: Very frankly, I‘m a little bit surprised—well, I‘m not real surprised...
MATTHEWS: Well, it clears it up...
CHAMBLISS: ... this is politics.
MATTHEWS: It clears it up if the fact is that you were never encouraged to make this sort of salient (ph), this approach to the campaign debate, then they‘re wrong.
CHAMBLISS: Yes. They‘re absolutely wrong. And let me just say, as I said yesterday, look, I know Sandy Berger. I like Sandy Berger. I respect him. He‘s been a great public servant. I had dialogue with him both pre- and post-9/11. Have great respect for his opinions. And Chris, this thing is just weird. I really don‘t understand why somebody of his statue (SIC) would do something like this and...
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think he did?
CHAMBLISS: Well, obviously, he removed documents, classified documents from the archives building. Now, that we know because he‘s admitted to doing that. He says it was sloppy. That‘s not sloppy work, Chris. You‘ve been a Hill staffer. I‘m sure you had access to classified documents. We all know that we deal with classified documents in a separate way from what we deal with any other documents. And you don‘t sloppily—whether he stuck them in his pants or sock or in his briefcase is immaterial. But the fact of the matter is, he removed them. He returned some of them, and the dog ate the rest of them. You know, that‘s -- that‘s a serious breach, Chris, and I just hope the facts do get looked at in a hurry, and let‘s get to the bottom of this.
MATTHEWS: Do you know that he used those documents to make—to develop a case for the Kerry campaign on port security?
CHAMBLISS: No, I don‘t. Again, as I said yesterday, it was reported in the press that the documents related to airport security and port security. Now it seems it may have been related to the ‘99 millennium case. Doesn‘t really make any difference. The fact of the matter is that politicaly, John Kerry‘s Web site and John Kerry himself openly said, Sandy Berger is a national security adviser to my campaign. And he, in fact, held a number of news conferences with Sandy Berger relative to national security issues. I don‘t know whether any of these classified documents were given to the Kerry campaign or not. I don‘t think Senator Kerry would utilize documents he knew to be classified. But for whatever reason, Mr. Berger took them out, and he utilized them somehow. He owes an explanation for what he did do with them.
MATTHEWS: Do you suspect that he was trying to destroy evidence?
CHAMBLISS: Well, again, it‘s just weird, Chris. I mean, a guy like Sandy Berger just doesn‘t do this for no reason whatsoever. And whether he and Bill Clinton wanted to remove this document, which obviously wasn‘t very favorable to the Clinton administration, from the permanent files and the archives or not, I don‘t know. I mean, it would be pure speculation, but I just...
MATTHEWS: What we‘re talking about here is not particularly speculative. The questions of Sandy Berger‘s conduct is, of course, at the heart of this, but also, the matter itself involves documents dealing with reports put together by the administration of Clinton on whether—what we learned by the attempt by those people that came down as terrorists to try to blow up the Los Angeles airport. Do you want—do you think it‘d be good for the country to simply have those papers declassified, so we can end this dispute in time that so the voters would know what we‘re talking about?
CHAMBLISS: Well, Chris, I‘m one of those, as you know, who‘s been very critical of the redacting that‘s been done by the CIA Of a number of reports that we put out. And here again, we‘ve got a classified document that will be considered for redaction and release. I come down on the side of giving as much to the American public as we possibly can, be it in a report like we just released on the Senate intel committee or be it what‘s in this particular document. I haven‘t seen the document. I don‘t know what‘s in it. I don‘t know how really sensitive it is, or whetehr it‘s just a document that is critical of an administration and their intel policy. If that‘s the case, certainly, it could be redacted. But if it does contain sources and methods and other issues that are really sensitive and would involve our intelligence community and might do some harm to somebody, then certainly, we ought not to release it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator Chambliss. Later, David Gergen and Sandy Berger‘s former chief of staff, Maura Rudman (ph), on the investigation surrounding Sandy Berger‘s removal of documents from the National Archives.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger calls it an honest mistake. But Republicans want answers. We‘ll talk to Berger‘s former chief of staff, plus David Gergen and Tony Blankley.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
And it gets trickier and tricker. Mara Rudman served as chief of staff to Sandy Berger.
What do you think happened when your old boss when into the National Archives and looked at documents dealing with the Clinton administration‘s handling of terrorism? What happened in there that has caused this incredible row?
MARA RUDMAN, FORMER BERGER CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first, I can tell you that Sandy would have been absolutely focused on absorbing all the information he could to prepare himself as best he could for the 9/11 Commission, to be able to give them the best answers and explanations.
He can get so completely absorbed in his task at hand, which is
absorbing the information that he needed to absorb, that I easily can see -
· and I understand that statement he made, which is that he was taking notes. He took those notes with him.
MATTHEWS: Are you allowed to take notes?
RUDMAN: In fact, it‘s against National Archives procedures. He‘s acknowledged he made a mistake in doing so.
MATTHEWS: No, he didn‘t mistakenly take it. His hand didn‘t start writing by accident. He chose to write notes.
MATTHEWS: Knowing he wasn‘t supposed to do it.
RUDMAN: No. He—you are allowed to write notes. You are supposed to ask for permission to take the notes out of the Archives.
MATTHEWS: And he didn‘t do that.
RUDMAN: It‘s a violation of Archives procedures. And he‘s acknowledged...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that—do you think that was an accident, that he didn‘t that?
RUDMAN: He has acknowledged that that was an error in judgment on his part.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean, an error in judgment?
RUDMAN: That he should have asked.
MATTHEWS: I wish I knew what that means.
RUDMAN: Generally, it means that I wished I had asked.
MATTHEWS: That you did something wrong and you shouldn‘t have done it?
MATTHEWS: It sounds like something broke in your circuitry, when, in fact, I could show this to these people on the way out the door, but, you know, if I show it to them, they may say I can‘t take it out. Otherwise, why wouldn‘t you show it to them?
RUDMAN: I think Sandy has acknowledged that, if he was doing it again, he would do it differently on that point.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do it differently once he was caught?
RUDMAN: No. I believe that, again, he wished—I think he wished that he had asked permission. And he says that.
And, again, the focus of the investigation is not the notes. And his attorneys have said that several different times.
RUDMAN: But the real focus here should be on the substance of what Sandy was doing and the substance of what the 9/11 Commission report is trying to do. And I think it‘s very unfortunate in the last two days the focus of the very serious how do we protect the American people, the serious, bipartisan work of that commission is being lost because of this.
MATTHEWS: Why are we having a criminal investigation of a man for taking stuff out of a room that he shouldn‘t have taken out of the room? You‘re saying that he is being prosecuted, he‘s being persecuted unfairly?
RUDMAN: I am distinguishing between the investigation that may be going on and the political furor that has surrounded in the last two days. And those are two very separate things. The investigation, as you know, has been ongoing for nine or 10 months.
MATTHEWS: Stop. If you had heard about someone else, say, on the other side politically or anywhere else, someone on the Republican side, that someone had gone in the National Archives during the Watergate affair, for example, and had turned out to be taking stuff out of the room that they weren‘t supposed to, would you assume they were bad guys?
MATTHEWS: You wouldn‘t?
RUDMAN: Not in what I know about Washington and how Washington works.
And knowing what I know now, no, I wouldn‘t assume that. I would want to see where the investigation led. And I would tell you one thing. I would look really carefully at what the timing was on when these stories came out.
MATTHEWS: But you know in Washington, oftentimes people who are in the Congress especially are offered opportunities to look at papers. And they are under strict rules. It‘s almost like in the movie “Citizen Kane,” where you go into to look at this big room with this big high ceiling and these big books and you look through these old clips. And there is somebody watching you. You‘re not supposed to touch anything, hardly. I did it in the Nixon Library. You can‘t take anything out of there once you go look at it—out in California when I was working on a book.
I‘m going to ask you this. Wouldn‘t Sandy Berger, your old boss of four years, know that this is something that‘s a no-no? It‘s clear as hell you are allowed to look at these documents. You are not allowed to take notes out unless you check them on the way out. And you certainly aren‘t allowed to grab the documents themselves and take them out the door. You believe that was an accident on his part?
RUDMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: He accidentally put documents that he was told not to take
them out of the room, put them in his socks or whatever? What do you make
of all this
RUDMAN: He didn‘t put them in his socks. He put them in—he put them in a leather portfolio that he had brought with him. It had a number of business papers.
MATTHEWS: So this story about the socks and the pants is all wrong?
RUDMAN: Absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong.
MATTHEWS: How do you know?
RUDMAN: Because I know Sandy Berger. I know what he said. I know
how he operates and I know what this is about. And this is about—the
story about the socks and the story about
MATTHEWS: So you believe that is a person who is just deranged making these charges?
RUDMAN: I think it is a person with a very political motive and objective.
MATTHEWS: Who works in the Archives?
RUDMAN: I don‘t know where the story came from initially. It was Senator Saxby Chambliss who I heard first talk about it. And I‘ll remind that you that Saxby Chambliss is also the senator who had a horrendous campaign against triple amputee Senator Max Cleland, where he put a picture up with him with Osama bin Laden and with Saddam Hussein. And this is the gentleman who is making these kinds of allegations. So I think you should look at the context.
MATTHEWS: So you are saying he isn‘t to be believed?
RUDMAN: I think that his rhetoric is questionable on this.
And I certainly would believe Sandy Berger and what he has said in the public statements he has made any day over that kind of allegation.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the possibility that—well, let‘s start there. Do you think he would unconsciously put something in his pocket, unconsciously? Because that seems to be his implication, unconsciously be taking notes that he knows he is only allowed to take and memorize or get cleared to get out of the room, unconsciously put them into his pocket. You believe he did that?
RUDMAN: I believe he could—in fact, I‘ve seen Sandy take notes on various pieces of paper and not be able to find them and not know where he put them and do it kind of without some careful thought about where a piece of paper went.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s not what he is saying. See, this is the problem with your defense of him. You are saying two things are possible. One, he accidentally took the material out or he intentionally took it out and wishes he hadn‘t. Which is it?
RUDMAN: No, I‘m saying—and I think he has said two different things.
MATTHEWS: Well, which is it?
RUDMAN: Let me answer the question.
I think he said two things about two different types of material.
With respect to the notes, which I always—often saw him take notes on index cards—he is acknowledging that he took those out, that should have asked permission before he did. That was a question of violating Archives procedure.
With respect to the documents that are missing, the memorandum that are in question, he did not realize he had taken those out.
MATTHEWS: Why did he go back a second time and take out the same document again?
RUDMAN: It‘s not at all clear. You are kind of saying things as facts that there have been a variety of different press accounts about what happened.
MATTHEWS: The report in the paper, which I read in all the newspapers, is that the National Archives officials basically set up a sting. They saw him take one document out. They gave him the same document again, a different version of it perhaps, and he took that out. That is the accusation, which doesn‘t sound like an accident.
RUDMAN: Yes. Listen, I haven‘t read those reports.
What I have read and what I pay attention to is the statement he made and the fact that there was concern or there is concern that a document was missing. As soon as he was notified the documents were missing, he absolutely cooperated. He turned over in fact the document, all the notes that he had, even though those weren‘t asked for. He turned over the documents that were in his possession.
He opened up his house and his office and everything else. So those are the facts I know. With respect to the document that is missing that he believes that he inadvertently discarded at this point, that is—that he has acknowledged was a concern, is a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Do you think in the interests of protecting the reputation of the Clinton administration, he would do something he wouldn‘t normally do?
MATTHEWS: He wouldn‘t take a drastic step of trying to destroy some evidence?
MATTHEWS: You‘re sure?
RUDMAN: Absolutely, without question.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re a great person to have on the show. And I wish you would work for me sometime. You are very loyal and you are probably, the best that you know, telling the truth.
RUDMAN: No, listen, I am telling the truth. And I know Sandy Berger.
MATTHEWS: But you were not there.
RUDMAN: I was not there.
MATTHEWS: You‘re offering character witness, basically.
RUDMAN: But I know Sandy Berger. And I know—and I have worked—he is a man of tremendous integrity, and I know that.
MATTHEWS: And Saxby Chambliss is not?
RUDMAN: I haven‘t worked for Saxby Chambliss. What I observed of him would make me question that.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Mara Rudman, who worked as chief of staff during the National Security Council days in the Clinton administration.
Anyway, coming up now, David Gergen and Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, former White House adviser David Gergen and Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times” on the Sandy Berger investigation.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, the Kerry campaign put out a memo attempting to tie Dick Cheney to the Sandy Berger investigation leak—quote—“The timing of the Berger leak has been criticized by Republican elders like David Gergen”—he‘ll love that—“as being particularly suspicious, given the fact that the 9/11 Commission is poised to release its report on Thursday. But the argument that the timing was politically motivated and coordinated by the White House was just made stronger by some very disturbing reports about Dick Cheney and Ed Gillespie.”
The memo went on to discuss Cheney and Gillespie‘s lunch with GOP senators yesterday and the implicated that they orchestrated the line that Berger was somehow pilfering the documents for Kerry‘s campaign.
Joining us right now is the Republican elder mentioned above, David Gergen. He was an adviser to four presidents, including Bill Clinton. And Tony Blankley, the editorial page editor of “The Washington Times.”
David Gergen, since you‘ve been brought into this, are you confident being used as a voice for the Democratic campaign?
DAVID GERGEN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I guess I‘m most insulted by being called an elder.
MATTHEWS: I thought you might be. What about being called—and being called David Gergen?
GERGEN: Well, listen, I was very uncomfortable to be cited in this.
I have stood up for Sandy Berger. I believe in his innocence. And I believe this whole affair is a lot more innocent than it looks.
MATTHEWS: What is your inside knowledge as to the innocence of Sandy Berger with regard to removing these documents from the Archives?
GERGEN: Well, I have to rely upon the people—I have talked to Sandy. I have talked to his lawyer. I have talked to his press person and I‘ve talked to others.
And, as you know, Chris, I have worked with Sandy. He is a friend. But I have the utmost faith in his integrity and I also believe he is one of the heroes in this war on terrorism. He was the fellow who went down to the bunker just before December 31, 1999, and directed a group of government officials who stopped a major terrorism attack against this country, the precursor to 9/11, when the terrorists were trying to come in here and blow up LAX airport on December 31, the eve of the millennium, as well as blow up other things.
And they were very successful. And this whole episode now revolves around the after-action report that he asked Dick Clarke—yes, that Dick Clarke—to draft afterwards.
GERGEN: And so—but I have to say, I also—after listening to the Republican response yesterday and now the Democratic and the Kerry response today, I must say, they told us the campaign was going to get dirty and they were right.
MATTHEWS: Well, the messiness includes the press.
Tony, I can‘t—it‘s almost like a Rorschach test on the press. “The Times,” “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” no reference to kind of the weirdest charges made in this, that he jammed some of these papers in his socks, that he jammed them into his pants, by the way, not in his pocket, but into his pants. Those charges you see in the tabs.
In the broad sheets, “The Times” and “The Post,” you don‘t see those charges. What is going to on in press coverage here? We are not getting a consistent line here.
TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”: Well, it is curious.
“USA Today” led with the story above the fold. On the other hand, “The New York Times” buried it on page, what, 14 and 17, with a very small story. “The Post” gave it a bigger story, but on page two or three. Look, I think, when these scandals break, whatever it is, whether it is a real scandal or not, we‘ll find out, everybody goes to the corners they choose to want to defend. And I did a little column today on that. And no one is being—or a lot of people are not being terribly sincere.
The fact is, there‘s been a lot of extraneous matters...
MATTHEWS: But you accuse Gergen in your piece of being a bit clubby by saying, as he just said rather well, that I worked with the guy. I know him. He is part of the government I served under, the Clinton administration. Therefore, I have reason to trust him. You find that not a strong enough basis for a defense, that you simply worked with somebody.
BLANKLEY: Well, there‘s nothing wrong, as I said, that it is probative to give character evidence, and that is what it is. You say, I‘ve known the man. He‘s been a good man all his life. That is probative. It‘s not usually persuasive, because, in fact, a lot of people who we all may be friends of ours, people we have worked with over the years get into trouble one way or the other.
BLANKLEY: And the fact that they‘ve done it—had a wonderful life doesn‘t mean they didn‘t slip up.
BLANKLEY: There are some very admired men in this town who at some point in their career took a step wrong. But I think there is a lot of extraneous matter going on here. Who put the story out, whether it was leaked by the Republicans, leaked by the Democrats?
BLANKLEY: Go ahead. Sure.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to David, because you‘ve made a point on it.
David, you find it suspicious, the timing, am I right?
This investigation started last October. Sandy Berger said the last time he sat down with Justice lawyers was in April. He hadn‘t heard from them in weeks. There is—CBS reported last night that one Justice Department person was saying that no charges were likely to be brought. His lawyer told me that he went to the Justice Department early on and said, gentlemen, let‘s—I‘ll respect you. You respect me. I will expect no leaks, especially around the time of the 9/11 Commission report.
Here we are on the eve of the 9/11 Commission report and it has leaked. But let me go on and say something else, if I might, Chris. I very much respect and agree with what Tony Blankley has just said. We don‘t know all the facts here. And we do know we need to get them on the record and then make assessments. I think he is absolutely right about, people go to their corners.
What I do find—it‘s not just suspicious—but in the reporting of it, what I think is getting lost in a lot of the reporting—somebody may be lying to me. I don‘t think so. I trust the people I‘m talking to. I especially trust Sandy Berger. But they‘ve assured me that what was lost here—and he did slip up. There is no question about that. But what was lost were copies, not originals, but copies of documents in the Archives.
And those copies—I mean, those originals have been given to the 9/11 Commission. There‘s been no break in the paper trail. Nobody has—quote—“pilfered” something in order to either compromise the investigation or to hide things from the commission. But the reporting you see in some of the tabs in particular is, documents were stolen, as if the 9/11 Commission and nobody else has ever seen these things. That is simply not true, according to what I‘ve been told.
MATTHEWS: If those facts are straight, that those were taken—those simply were documents, faxes, Xerox that were taken.
GERGEN: Copies. Copies.
MATTHEWS: Then in fact the worst you could say is, he was taking stuff out he couldn‘t memorize when he was sitting there with. He wasn‘t capable of just memorizing whole bits of material. And he was using it to help the Kerry campaign present its brief for the election. It does exclude the possibility he was trying to destroy evidence, doesn‘t it, if those facts are straight?
BLANKLEY: Look, I started and ended my column by saying, we should reserve judgment until we know all the facts, because exactly as you‘ve said, inconsistent facts.
Even his lawyers, his two lawyers, described facts slightly differently. In the early stages, a lot of information comes out that turns out not to be right. So we absolutely need to reserve judgment. But there are two separate things. One is, what did he do and the other is the motive. We pretty much know, because he has pretty much said what he did.
BLANKLEY: And we don‘t know whether the motive is entirely innocent, which it may well be, or some other motive.
And until we find out the motive, we don‘t know whether this is simply a personal difficulty for one man...
BLANKLEY: ... or whether it‘s a high political story.
MATTHEWS: Is your sense, both of you...
GERGEN: Yes, but, Tony?
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, David.
But, Tony, the only thing I disagree with you on is, I think that there—it is being reported two different ways in terms of what he actually did. And some of the reports say he took documents, as if he took the originals and destroyed them. His lawyer says he says he only took copies and the originals are still there, there is no broken paper trail, there is no compromise of the investigation.
It seems to me those are hugely different in terms of what conclusions you draw about how important this is.
MATTHEWS: There is another piece of this that grabs everyone‘s attention. It‘s not simply that he put something into a briefcase or an attache case and took it out with his other papers he may have had with him.
It‘s the idea of stuffing papers in his socks and jamming them into his pants pockets, his trousers, so they fall down towards his socks. There‘s discussions in paper today about whether he was wearing white socks or not because, otherwise, what was the white doing down around the bottom of his dark suit?
BLANKLEY: Look, CNN, which is not a tabloid, was reporting that they have some source, government source, saying he was putting it in his socks. There is a big difference between putting something in your pocket, which you can do almost inadvertently...
BLANKLEY: And stuffing it down a trouser or in a sock, which obviously bespeaks an attempt to be covert.
We just don‘t know what all these facts are. And it is going to take a little while for an authoritative version of the facts to come out. And then the big question, why did he do it?
MATTHEWS: These wacky stories always start in August, where nine days or so earlier this year, gentleman, this is exactly the kind of story, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s problems, that always seem to creep up at this time of the year.
We‘ll be back with David Gergen and Tony Blankley. By the way, this is more serious than what Arnold said.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with David Gergen and Tony Blankley.
Tony, one of the ways to resolve this quickly, because you can‘t wait for these investigations to finish, is to just take these documents, have somebody at high level make a decision, we‘re putting them out, so people will know what he took. Would that help?
BLANKLEY: As I understand it from the media, these are highly classified documents and they may have stuff that would have to be so redacted that you wouldn‘t be able to tell the significance of it. I don‘t think it‘s likely that the stuff is going to be put out any time soon, given that it‘s an assessment of our methods of operations on terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go back to this story. It has to do with the two people that came down from Canada in an attempt to blow up LAX, right?
And apparently, there was—according to the descriptions, there was an after-action report by Richard Clarke that I guess Mr. Berger had ordered. And it assessed in some way the performance of the Clinton team in handling that, either good or bad. And we don‘t know what the details are yet.
And those are the documents that apparently he took either inadvertently or vertently a number of copies of. And it‘s a little curious, because surely he would have—the suspicious level that he is trying to cleanse the file seems implausible to me, because surely he would know there would always be an original somewhere being held somewhere.
MATTHEWS: Maybe he didn‘t.
BLANKLEY: Maybe he didn‘t. Maybe that was a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Maybe he was hoping he could go back again and again and again until he removed all the copies.
BLANKLEY: But sometimes, there‘s a relatively more innocent theory that explain things. That‘s human nature.
I could imagine that he may have felt, look, I have got a pile of
stuff I‘ve got to study. I don‘t have time. And he takes it back with him
not to be sneaky, but he wants to either go over it quietly in his living
room or have his
MATTHEWS: Well, you don‘t jam it in your socks, though, if that were your...
BLANKLEY: Well, no, you might be wanting to sneak it out, but not for any bad purpose. You just feel, oh, these technical procedures aren‘t for me. I‘m a former top guy. I don‘t know. I‘m just theorizing. But the point is, there could be theories as to why he intentionally did it without intending to do anything malicious.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to David.
David, Tony hasn‘t said it yet, but, in his column, he makes an interesting point. He talks about how, in establishment London or establishment Washington, there is a tendency to protect everyone you know through your government service automatically, a good—an old boy system.
Do you think you might be guilty of that? Simply, you‘ve worked with the guy. You trust him, because you‘ve never seen him do anything wrong. You know how they always go to people who are car bombers or crazy people and all the neighbors say, he was a very quiet man. He never caused any trouble. He was very nice to the children in the neighborhood and he is the guy who is a crackpot.
GERGEN: Well, Chris, look, maybe I‘m guilty of that. Maybe I have fallen into that trap.
But I had worked with some folks on Watergate, like John Dean. I never try to defend them. I have worked with people like Ollie North. And while Ollie is a great patriot, I didn‘t try to defend what he did.
GERGEN: In Iran-Contra.
And I—and in this case, I have known Sandy Berger a long time.
GERGEN: Whether he is Democrat or Republican, there are some people who serve this country well. He served this country. We ought to be thanking him for what he did on the millennium, not trying to make him into a goat.
I just want to add to this, though, I think both sides are now exaggerating and engaging in sort of the grotesque politics that amounts to a cannibalism. For the Republicans to go after him as this sort of national security crisis and sock-gate, for goodness sakes, there‘s one employee who says this out of the Archives. He‘s denied it.
Can anybody imagine Sandy Berger stuffing things in his socks? He is sloppy. I‘m sloppy. But I can‘t imagine him stuffing his socks. But I have to tell you, for the Kerry campaign now to raise this, well, saying Dick Cheney is behind this, look at this suspicious lunch he had, that is ridiculous, too. What are they talking about?
This is the kind of politics that—the kind of exploitation of a situation that turns everybody off. Tony Blankley is right. We need to get the facts out here. My bet, because I know him and I have worked with him, my bet that this is a lot less—innocent than it looks and he‘s a man of enormous integrity. But I think Tony is right. Let‘s get the facts out and then we‘ll see where it goes.
MATTHEWS: I hope it doesn‘t drag out. That would be the worst, if this thing drags out.
GERGEN: Yes, I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: One of these long investigations we keep hearing about that never get there.
Anyway, thank you. Great to have you on the show tonight, David Gergen and Tony Blankley.
Join us again tomorrow night—or, actually, tonight, at 9:00 Eastern for a special edition of HARDBALL tonight live, “The 12 Missed Chances That Could Have Prevented 9/11,” what a show tonight, what timing. The commission report comes out tomorrow. We‘ll look at the signs that were ignored and the broken policies and procedures that left the door open for the most devastating terrorist attack in American history or any history. That‘s one hour from now, at 9:00 Eastern tonight.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.