Guest: Jim Taricani, Al Sharpton, Stephen A. Smith, Sheila Jackson Lee, David Dreier
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Conservative Republicans in Congress block President Bush‘s plan to overhaul intelligence agencies. The big question remains: Who does the president blame if we get hit again?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
All the work done since 9/11 to better prepare the U.S. to prevent another catastrophe has been focused on one remedy, intelligence gathering under the command of a single high-level official, the so-called national intelligence director. That central remedy is now in peril because of the opposition of the Pentagon and House Republicans, who are opposed to any effort that would separate military intelligence officers from battlefield commanders, forcing them to report to bureaucrats outside the chain of command.
Republican Congressman David Dreier of California a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security. And Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas also sits on the Homeland Security Committee.
Let me go to Congressman Dreier of California first. Who do we blame if something goes wrong again? Who does the president blame? In other words, who is going to be the boss of intelligence gathering the next time around?
REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA: You know, Chris, there has been such a mischaracterization since Saturday about what has taken place.
We, both houses of Congress passed legislation. The Senate primarily focused on the issue of intelligence reform. The House with HR-10 looking at a wide range of issues which will ensure our homeland security, focusing on obviously making sure that we strengthen our military capability, but also border security and several other issues.
This issue of pointing the finger of blame, there‘s a sense and what has been reported is that this is somehow over. The speaker of the House of Representatives made a conscious decision on Saturday that because we have not dealt with a number of issues, we can in fact do better. He had a choice. And when we sat together and talked about exactly what to do here, we could have adjourned the Congress sine die.
But he said, no, I think we can get this job done. The speaker is determined to get this job done. And when we talk about putting the finger of blame, we‘re constantly now over the last few days seeing the finger of blame being pointed on conservative Republicans. That‘s how you began this thing.
Conservative Republicans, and I consider myself one of them—I served as a conferee on this whole issue of intelligence reform.
DREIER: Conservative Republicans want to make sure that we have the securest possible way to ensure that we never again have another 9/11, focusing not only on this chain of command issue to which you referred but also something that to me makes so much sense, Chris.
We want to build—complete a fence that was begun under Bill Clinton in 1997. And it‘s something that we worked on in a bipartisan way. And there‘s a three and a half mile stretch that, because of the existence of the Bellsbury O‘Bird (ph), hasn‘t been completed.
I was just down on the border a couple weeks ago. And I will tell you that the people who are there, the Border Patrol, want to focus on terrorism. And they can‘t because of the fact that we have such an influx of illegal immigrants coming across the border. Little things like that which we believe should be included in the bill can in fact enhance the prospect of ensuring that we never again have another 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to you Sheila Jackson Lee.
Congresswoman, the question has come up whether we can have a unified command in intelligence gathering or we have to split it off for the Defense Department. A lot of people on the Hill, I think it is Duncan Hunter and others, who are trying to protect the prerogatives of the Defense Department in keeping its own chain of command secure.
How do we have a unified command for intelligence gathering and at the same time maintain the integrity of the military?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, Chris, first of all, I have the greatest respect for the sensitivity that Chairman Hunter has on the Armed Services Committee.
But my good friend and colleague David Dreier just did a very good job of a great cover-up over the Republican fiasco. All of the pretty words that were said have nothing to do with the responsibilities of the Republican majority that absolutely failed in its duty to pass a 9/11 bill.
DREIER: It ain‘t over yet.
LEE: Absolutely failed. And they failed because of political shenanigans.
And the reason, they had enough votes in the House and the Senate to pass that bill on Saturday, late into the night Sunday. We really didn‘t have to go home. Frankly, we should have been there working even today. I‘ve called for a vote on the 9/11 bill before Thanksgiving. But the point is, they did not want this bill to be passed with the majority of Democratic votes.
Let me share with you what their concerns were, which have already been solved. Frankly, everyone agrees that there should be no interruption in real-time intelligence in a time of war. The Pentagon has a valid issue. The Senate bill had language that would address the question at least to the basis of addressing the issues as it relates to Iraq and Afghanistan.
With respect to the immigration provisions, there was absolutely no crisis whatsoever. This was a kitchen sink opportunity for Republicans who hate immigration in the first place to throw all their anti-immigration language into the bill. They had asylum language in there—and I was not interrupting you, David, so don‘t interrupt me.
DREIER: I‘m not interrupting. I‘m just listening.
LEE: They have asylum language in there that took away all judicial review. They had language in there about driver‘s license that states had authority to deal with. In the new bill that the Senate passed out, or that the conferees agreed to, there is standardization of birth certificates of driver‘s license. There is some response to the deportation of individuals to countries that engage in torture.
So there were portions that were answered. The real crux, I just got through speaking to someone regarding the Southern border, which I happen to have just visited as well, along with having just come back from Iraq. I can assure that you we‘re concerned as Texans and Arizonans and Californians about the Southern border.
We now speculate that there may be something called the MSL Salvadorian gang that has had contact with al Qaeda. So this is a serious question. The point is, is that we need the 9/11 bill for a unified intelligence gatherer, someone who responds with the sensitivities of the Pentagon, someone who responds to the sensitivities of the Southern border, the Northern border on the question of human intelligence.
All the Republicans have done is fallen on the spear, yielded to right-wingers who do not...
LEE: ... and have this 9/11 bill. It‘s a shame and it‘s a fiasco.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Dreier, here‘s your chance to respond, sir.
DREIER: Well, but, Chris, it is clear, we want to get this done. No one has killed this bill.
LEE: Let‘s do it now.
DREIER: And you know what? We‘re ready to do it now. I‘m a member of the conference. We are working on it. Our staffs have been working on this issue. We very much want to get this resolved.
LEE: Why not Saturday then while we were there?
DREIER: Excuse me?
MATTHEWS: One at a time, please.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, one at a time. I want to do it the way you want to do it, one at a time.
LEE: All right. Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Dreier.
DREIER: We were working on this issue. I worked through the night into Saturday morning with Pete Hoekstra, who is the great chairman of this conference. I met with—I was with Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins on this conference Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon.
So the fact is, those of us who have been involved in this have been working on it. And we continue to work on it. We believe that the concerns raised by the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, need to be addressed as well as we can. I was prepared to support this measure. And I will tell you, I want to support it because I want to get everything we can. It‘s just that at this juncture, Chris, we believe we can do better and we have a chance to do that before we adjourn the 108th Congress sine die.
MATTHEWS: I want to go with you, Congressman Dreier, first. And I want to ask the same question to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Please answer this question.
Can we have the ideal sort of bureaucratic solution where the American people know there‘s a national intelligence director? They know if something goes wrong, they can point the finger to him. Congress can call him or her up on the Hill and challenge that person as to whether they‘re doing their job. If we get hit with another catastrophe, like 9/11, maybe but not that bad, but something like it, who will we blame, besides the president?
Who will the president blame? Is there going to be a national intelligence director who has responsibility for all intelligence gathering or will his command be split between him and the Pentagon chief, the secretary of defense?
DREIER: Chris, the national intelligence director...
MATTHEWS: What is the answer?
DREIER: The answer is the national intelligence director. That‘s exactly what should be done. That is the reason that the president has called for the establishment of a national intelligence director.
MATTHEWS: But Duncan Hunter doesn‘t want...
DREIER: Yes, he does.
MATTHEWS: He does?
DREIER: Chris, he does. He wants a national intelligence director who is going to be responsible for this. That doesn‘t mean that we can‘t have a structure with the chain of command, satellite information in fact getting back to those who are on the ground in the military. That doesn‘t diminish the fact that a national intelligence director would be responsible and is the person to whom we look as we look at the prospect of another threat.
MATTHEWS: Same question to you, Congresswoman.
Should we have one single intelligence director that you as a member of Congress can challenge and say, are you doing your job and, if something really bad happens, we‘ll know who to blame?
LEE: The president thinks so. And I agree with him.
One of the reasons why we had 9/11 was a failure of human intelligence. Every commission, every congressional hearing, our very fine ranking member, Jane Harman, has focused on that, and certainly the new chairman of the Intelligence House Committee.
But here‘s the problem. We should have the president tell Chairman Hunter and Chairman Sensenbrenner to stand down, because the fault lies in the obstructionist attitudes of individuals who don‘t believe...
DREIER: The president wants to get it done.
LEE: Who don‘t believe that we can have a compromise and deal with these other issues forthrightly and prospectively.
I believe there should be a national director. That is what the 9/11 Commission legislation, if you will, will bring about. That was a Senate with an almost unanimous vote. And the idea is that we do have one person who does not disrespect the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs.
DREIER: We have got an area of agreement here, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I think we have got an agreement here.
DREIER: We have got an agreement.
LEE: Tell them to stand down so we can vote on it.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, Congressman, when we come back, senior military commanders tell “The Washington Post” they may need more troops in Iraq.
We‘re coming back with Congresswoman David Dreier and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and also to talk about that scuffle down in Chile with the president and the Secret Service involved.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, “The Washington Post” reports that senior military commanders now say they may need more troops in Iraq. We‘ll get reaction from Congresswoman David Dreier and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson of Texas and Congresswoman David Dreier of California.
First, a fairly easy question I guess for both, but politics is so tricky these days.
Congressman Dreier, do you think the president and the Secret Service were within their rights down in Chile over the weekend to insist that we have metal detectors, even for the guests of the host country?
DREIER: You know, Chris, this is not a decision that the president of the United States makes. This is a decision that is made by those who have the responsibility of securing the single most powerful person in the world.
And I will tell you, coming from Los Angeles, I‘m as sensitive to the concerns in Latin America as anyone. But I do believe that it is appropriate, because with the challenges that we face when it comes to the global war on terror, anything that could happen that could possibly jeopardize the life of the president of the United States could potentially destabilize the entire world.
And so that I think that it is unfortunate. I‘m sorry that it happened as it did. But it is difficult to say that those people who were in charge of security made a wrong decision.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Sheila Jackson Lee.
Congresswoman, do you think the president of the United States, when he is on a trip abroad, should insist on his security measures, even if it offends local sensibilities?
LEE: Well, Chris, what happened in Chile evidences when there is a crack in your foreign policy armor, your relationships. Obviously, we know that Chile was one of those that did not support our position on the U.N. Security Council. And so, therefore, communication breaks down.
But I think it is extremely important where you have consistent security and certainly I think it is important that our Secret Service make the determination to protect the president of the United States. And if that required the possibility or the need for metal detectors to be present, we go through them here in the United States.
But, again, it becomes a foreign policy decision and a working relationship decision. And we just have to mend the feelings and do the job we have to do. We must protect the president of the United States.
DREIER: And his being there is doing that by meeting with the APEC nations. And we have a great relationship with the Chilean government. President Lagos is a great friend of the United States.
MATTHEWS: So you both agree on that. You both agree on that one.
MATTHEWS: As my father-in-law says, when you have made your deal, stop talking. You both agree we should protect the president of the United States. That‘s a bipartisan decision.
LEE: Yes, it is.
MATTHEWS: Even if it offends local sensibilities.
Congresswoman, you start first on this. Do we need a substantial increase in the number of troops in Iraq? I mean substantial by—I think General Barry McCaffrey, who is associated with this network now, talks about maybe up to 80,000, including 30,000 more Marines, 50,000 more Army soldiers. Do you think we need that kind of a quantum leap in our commitment if we‘re going to stay there?
LEE: Well, Chris, I‘ve been to Iraq at least three times. And so other members have been more times. I just went as recently as the beginning of October, sat down with the principals, including the prime minister of Iraq, interim prime minister and the interim president.
Frankly, in what I saw, clearly, I would side with the brass that were more silent maybe a year ago, 18 months ago, now becoming more vocal. Absolutely. I don‘t have the numbers at my fingertips of how many people were in Vietnam, but absolutely. We cannot ensure or secure Iraq or provide any safety for any elections if we don‘t increase the number of troops.
That‘s where the debate came on the so-called back-door draft. We have a back-door draft. And we need to ensure for people staying longer than they should, but we need to ensure that we increase the number of troops, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, we‘re running out of time. But should we have a substantial increase in our troops over...
DREIER: You know, the president of the United States laid forward a five-point plan last spring. We‘ve completed four of those. The fifth one is the January 30 election, which is scheduled to take place. And we‘re determined to have it take place.
I believe that General Dick Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, working with General Abizaid at CENTCOM, should make that decision. The president of the United States has always said that, when his commanders in the field indicate to him that we need more troops, he will do everything he possibly can.
LEE: And, Chris, they‘ve already made that determination since last year. And we‘re too slow. We don‘t have a political plan for Iraq. We don‘t have a successful plan at all.
DREIER: Yes, we do. It‘s been very successful.
MATTHEWS: When I read the headlines, I believe them.
Anyway, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.
LEE: Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
DREIER: Nice to be with you.
LEE: Good to be with you.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Congressman David Dreier of California.
When we return, severe punishment for players involved in an ugly fight with fans in Friday‘s Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game. We‘ll get reaction from “The Philadelphia Inquirer”‘s Stephen Smith.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: A shoving, punching, beer-tossing melee at the Pistons-Pacers game Friday, as the National Basketball Association handing out its harshest penalties ever. Here‘s what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fourth in the season.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Artest. And Ben Wallace is gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He won‘t get away. This is the first problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now Ron Artest going after a fan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went after a fan. Now it‘s bedlam in Detroit.
Stephen Jackson being held back by Eddie Gill. Oh, now...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody is beating up (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘ve gone berserk in Detroit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Stephen A. Smith is a columnist for “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and an NBA analyst with ESPN.
I‘m coming now to the city with the best behaved fans in America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of course, I know, and you know, Stephen, that the fans can be pretty rough. Did the fans in this case cross the line by throwing beer at a player on the court?
STEPHEN A. SMITH, “PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER”: Well, I don‘t think there‘s any question about it. That‘s exactly what they did.
And a lot of people in Detroit are saying, it‘s not us. It‘s not us. I‘ve been getting a bunch of e-mails and phone calls saying, it‘s Auburn Hills. They‘re 40 miles away. It‘s not us. But the Detroit Pistons‘ fans were clearly despicable in this. They definitely crossed the line. A lot of people should find them, deplorable in their behavior and what have you. But, again, at the same time, you can‘t absolve Ron Artest for what transpired. If you‘re a player, you can‘t go into the stands. You can‘t go into the stands.
MATTHEWS: Stephen, let‘s stick with the fans for a minute here.
It seems to me, at ball games like this in every sport, they make a point of not letting people buy their beer out of bottles anymore. They have to pour the bottle into the cup at the stand, because they know there are some nuts fans out there. They get completely out of touch with reality when they‘re watching a game. Do you think the fans in the NBA especially have been encouraged to participate too much?
I watch the Utah Jazz play. And I watch all these people out there in Salt Lake waving things all around, trying to screw up a foul shot. What happened to the idea of just sitting there and watching the game and letting the guy take the shot or make the play?
SMITH: Well, first of all, I don‘t want to say they‘ve been encouraged. They certainly haven‘t been encouraged by the NBA. The NBA just wants them to pay, come through the turnstiles and watch and cheer.
SMITH: But, at the end of the day, what it comes down to is that, unlike football, unlike hockey, unlike baseball, things of that nature, even tennis, there‘s such close proximity between the players and the fans that the environment encourages them to do such things, because the environment has them with within arm‘s reach and these athletes. And, ultimately, that‘s what the situation is.
Is there a false sense of security? A seven-foot guy who weighs 300 pounds in perfect physical case, who looks somewhat aggressive to start with, I wouldn‘t throw a beer in his face and start the encounter.
SMITH: Well, you would if the rules and regulations stipulate that if you come off the bench for any reason, that automatically incurs a suspension.
So, when you look at it from that standpoint, and you recognize that if they come off the bench to battle with each other and they are going to get suspended over something like that, you never believe or assume in your wildest dreams that a player will come into the stands. And even if they do, in this present day and time, with the exorbitant salaries these players are being paid, you know there are at least a few fans in the stands that actually want a player to come after them, because they see the money.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But how do they get the money?
SMITH: They sue.
MATTHEWS: What a fool I am.
Let‘s talk about the players. There are players in any sport—I remember the old days of Ted Williams. He let the fan know where he stood. There are ways you are allowed to signal the fans and let them know you don‘t like them. But what are the rules? Are they supposed to be like the palace guard at Buckingham Palace and take any kind of insult or distraction or the guys who guard our unknown soldiers at Arlington Cemetery, where they‘ll take any kind of distraction? What are the rules for how much you have got to take from a fan?
SMITH: Well, the rules are that, as long as there‘s no physical contact whatsoever, you pretty much have to take anything.
Now, if there are racial epithets thrown in your direction and somebody is spewing that from the stands, and what have you, and you‘re able to point that out to the security at the place, you can certainly contribute to having that fan dismissed. If they throw something at you, if they put their hands on you in any way, you can point that out to them and have them arrested.
One of the interesting things, Chris, that you may not have brought up yet is that, in light of this grievance that has been filed by the Players Association—you have to remember, when you collectively bargain, there are three issues that come to the table, salaries, benefits and working conditions. And the fact is the NBA Players Association is going to attack the issue of the work environment that was provided for these players.
SMITH: Because they‘re going to contend that it was inadequate security. And certainly right now, that seems to be a case that could very well work in their favor.
MATTHEWS: Any way there will be a punishment of the Pistons to make their fans stay away for a couple games or five games? There was all kinds of talk about punishing the fans.
SMITH: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I think that the NBA is going to leave that up to the law enforcement officials. Make no mistake about that.
SMITH: Because the NBA is very cognizant of the fact that you don‘t want to alienate any fans, because they‘re the ones that pay your bills.
Certainly, if the fans are going to be reprimanded or any kind of criminal action is going to be brought against them, make no mistake about it. That is something that the NBA may contribute to, but they‘re going to contribute to it very, very quietly, because they are not going to want to come out and insult the vast majority of fans out there, who are mostly innocent, by the way, because everybody didn‘t contribute to that melee.
SMITH: The NBA has a way of that. And they‘re smart enough not to affect their dollars.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s the rich people in the first rows anyway. It‘s the rich people in the first rows.
But let me ask you this. Will David Stern be strong enough to stand by his original judgment here of these very strong penalties?
SMITH: Oh, I don‘t think there‘s any question about it, not to mention the fact I‘ll add this.
Usually in light of situations where something like that occurs, you have a situation where an independent arbitrator comes in and negotiates between the two sides to reach an agreement on some kind of punishment or what have you.
SMITH: But since this was an on-court issue, the third arbitrator is
· there is no third arbitrator.
SMITH: It is commissioner David Stern. He is the...
MATTHEWS: He is the appellate judge.
SMITH: He is the final word. So it will be real interesting to see...
MATTHEWS: Such a deal. I like that deal. You get to be the guy who calls the slots. Then you get the guy to review the shots.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Stephen Smith, my best to Philly.
SMITH: All right, man. Take care.
MATTHEWS: Up next, WJAR reporter Jim Taricani, who faces prison time after being convicted of criminal contempt after refusing to name a source. Same old story. He joins me. He‘ll be joining me with his story.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, we‘ll be joined by a TV reporter facing prison time for not revealing a confidential source. Plus, the future of the Democratic Party now that the Republicans have consolidated their power.
But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Jim Taricani, a four-time Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist with NBC Universal-owned-and-operated station WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, was convicted last Thursday of criminal contempt for refusing to identify a source who gave him an FBI videotape showing a top city official taking a bribe. He faces up to six months in prison.
NBC‘s John Seigenthaler has this report.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the courtroom in Providence, Jim Taricani called the case against him an assault on journalism.
JIM TARICANI, WJAR REPORTER: I never imagined that I would be put on trial and face the prospect of going to jail simply for doing my job.
SEIGENTHALER: The 55-year-old investigative reporter for NBC-owned station WJAR in Providence now faces prison for refusing to say who gave him this tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really appreciate this. You‘re a busy guy.
SEIGENTHALER: Taricani aired it back in 2001. It showed Providence City official Frank Corrente accepting a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant, part of the Plunder Dome investigation into Providence City Hall corruption. Corrente and his boss, Mayor Buddy Cianci, were eventually convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Now Taricani says he is prepared to go to prison rather than reveal his source.
TARICANI: I absolutely feel that I did a public service by putting this tape on the air.
SEIGENTHALER (on camera): So you would have done it again?
TARICANI: I will do it again tomorrow.
SEIGENTHALER (voice-over): Federal Judge Ernest Torres has already fined Taricani $85,000, which he paid and NBC reimbursed. The judge found Taricani in contempt, declaring the evidence clear, overwhelming and undisputed that the reporter defied a court order.
Mike Stanton, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for “The Providence Journal,” says the case will have a chilling effect on journalists.
MIKE STANTON, “THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL”: There were things that were leaked to me in this case. And I sometimes look at Jim and I say, there but for the grace of God go I.
SEIGENTHALER: In a statement, NBC Universal lawyers said the company stands by Jim Taricani and vigorously supports his decision not to reveal the identity of a confidential source.
(on camera): One of the ironies in this case is that before Jim Taricani played the videotape on TV, the lead prosecutor in this case took the videotape home and showed it to some of his friends, in violation of the court order. His punishment, a $500 fine and a 30-day suspension.
(voice-over): On December 9, the judge will make a final decision on Taricani‘s punishment. Harvard Law professor Charles Fried says this is about the rule of law.
CHARLES FRIED, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: The Constitution does not say that because you are a journalist you get some kind of special privilege.
SEIGENTHALER: Taricani‘s lawyers hope the judge will consider the reporter‘s 1996 heart transplant and ongoing health issues in determining the sentence. Still, this journalist could end up in prison, just like the corrupt city officials he tried to expose.
John Seigenthaler, NBC News, Providence, Rhode Island.
MATTHEWS: Jim Taricani joins us now from Providence, Rhode Island.
Jim, what do you make of that report you just saw there? Do you think that was the full story or is there something would you like to add from John Seigenthaler?
TARICANI: Yes, I think it was pretty much the full story. I noted that John Seigenthaler pointed out that the federal prosecutor in this case did violate the court order himself prior to the trial starting, showed the tape at a party at his home to a couple of friends, got fined only $500 and suspended from working on the case for 30 days. And here I am facing prison.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this. Did you expect you would have to face this kind of penalty for what you saw as doing your job?
TARICANI: Well, I expected this issue would come up. I think it is sad that I‘m facing this type of penalty for just doing my job. And I thought what I was doing and what I did do was show this videotape to the people here in the Rhode Island market, which to me was just a vivid, very vivid, description of what public corruption looks like.
MATTHEWS: I was listening to Walter Cronkite on a tape this afternoon defending your position on this, saying that you can‘t be a journalist if you can‘t have sources and you can‘t sources unless you protect their identity. Is that your belief?
TARICANI: That is my belief, Chris.
Most of us, most of us reporters certainly would like to get all our information and all our information from sources on the record. But oftentimes, we can‘t. Oftentimes, these people fear for their lives or their safety. And sometimes, the information is so important that they feel it needs to get to the public. If we get it—and sometimes we have to promise a source confidentiality. Then we have to live by that promise. And that‘s how we make our living here. And it is my job as a reporter, I feel, to inform the public.
And without this tool of using confidential sources, sometimes, the public is the loser in the situation when they can‘t get the information that they are supposed to get.
MATTHEWS: Jim, the question I would like to put to you is, to help people understand who are not in our profession, is this something that is really deep in our culture, that you should be able to tell a reporter something in confidence because the reporter needs to have that confidence to get the information? Is it something, on the other hand, as sacred as a seal of confession, someone who tells their sins to a priest or another clergyman, knowing that they will never tell what they were told?
I like to use the analogy of a law enforcement officer who has an informant, which, in our terms, would be a confidential source. The informant may be a lowlife and may be a bottom-feeder, but the information is important. And so, once the law enforcement officer makes that promise to an informant, he has to keep that promise, because, if he didn‘t, he certainly wouldn‘t get any more informants.
And for reporters, just the same thing. Once we make that promise from a confidential source, we make that promise, we can‘t break that promise or my sources dry up. And, in the long run, the public is the loser in that situation.
MATTHEWS: Just to help explain the rules of backgrounding and—in this kind of information, there‘s deep background. There‘s background. There‘s not for attribution. And then there‘s off the record, whatever the hell that means exactly.
But, clearly, when you talk to a person and get something out of them that they know is very dangerous for them to be identified with, do you think it‘s vital for the journalist to say to the person, I will not ever give away your identity or hint at it in any way, and it has to be verbal?
I know other reporters do this. If we‘re working on a sensitive story and we‘re meeting with a source and we know that that source is going to want to remain confidential, before we even get the information, we come to an understanding. And, at that point, the source usually requires a promise of confidentiality. And if the reporter feels that the information is important enough that we give them that promise, we make that promise. And once it is made, it can‘t be broken.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that editors or news divisions heads or local news directors on TV stations should have the knowledge as to who the deal is with?
TARICANI: I think the knowledge they should have is the nature of the source, have we used them before, what kind of a background the source has, are they credible. I am not one in favor of passing on the source to news managers or editors. It just puts one more person that has the name of the source. And when it comes to deposition time, they don‘t have that promise of confidentiality with the source and they could break it and they could reveal the source against the wishes of the reporter and break that very sacred promise.
MATTHEWS: Why is this a case? Why is this an issue? You brought information which was—to the public that was obviously important to prosecutions in the case of the Cianci regime up there in Providence. Why does somebody want to get this? What is the background here? Why does somebody want you to go public on this?
TARICANI: Well, the judge in this case feels that the person who gave me the tape violated a protective order that was issued by this judge prior to the trial, when the tapes were revealed through indictment. And he feels that whoever violated that protective order broke the law.
And the only way that they can find out at this point, the judge says, is through me, because a special prosecutor was appointed to conduct an investigation as to who gave me the tape. And he told the judge that he had run out of all avenues. And the only person left that has that information is me.
MATTHEWS: But it doesn‘t seem to rise to the threshold of a case involving murder or rape or some really horrible crime that you can only get the conviction on if you get this information from you. What kind of a punishment would this person get if they were apprehended?
TARICANI: Well, it is hard to say, because I just don‘t know what the judge would do.
TARICANI: But the interesting thing about this case, it is all over. All the defendants in this case have been tried, convicted. They lost all their appeals. I played this tape February 1, 2001, nearly four years ago.
TARICANI: And so I really don‘t know what is to gain from punishing me at this point.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a good question.
Anyway, thank you very much, Jim Taricani.
MATTHEWS: It is great having you on. Good luck with your case, obviously. Thank you.
TARICANI: Yes. Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, the future of the Democratic Party. Where do the Democrats go from here after failing to win the White House once again and losing ground in both houses of Congress?
Reverend Al Sharpton, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi will all be here to join us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, with the Republicans firmly in power now, what is next for the Democrats? The Reverend Al Sharpton, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, and political strategist Joe Trippi will be here when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With the defeat of the Democrats almost across the board earlier this month, what can the party do to win back some of those so-called red states? And how can they be effective as an opposition party in the U.S. Congress?
For answers, we turn to three prominent Democrats, Oakland Mayor and former California Governor Jerry Brown, former presidential candidate the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is in New York tonight, and MSNBC‘s political analyst Joe Trippi, who ran the very successful in the early going Howard Dean campaign.
Let me go to Mayor Brown, first of all.
Let‘s assume that part of the problem is cultural. Peter Hart, the pollster for NBC, told me way long ago, months and months ago, that the Democrats had a big problem because there was a 27 percent gap between Republican churchgoers and Democratic churchgoers. You couldn‘t afford that kind of deficit among half the population who go to church. Is that a problem the Democrats can address or do they have to win on other issues?
JERRY BROWN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don‘t think they‘re going to get their non-churchgoing members to start going to church. So that‘s a loser.
I do think there are moral dimensions to decisions in this country that can be articulated with more grounding in tradition and traditional language. So there‘s room for greater moral clarity on the part of the Democrats. But more than that, George Bush has won I think on a feeling of, let‘s kick butt in Iraq. Let‘s cut taxes. Let‘s make everything wonderful by not doing stuff that will sustain us over the long term.
So, I think the Democrats shouldn‘t fall into the trap of this temporary victory by Bush, because the Iraq thing is a mess. It is his ball game. We hope it works out all right, but that doesn‘t mean that the Democrats ought to say, now let‘s go into Iran because it worked so well for Bush. It also doesn‘t mean that the Democrats ought to forget about the fact the dollar is weak, we‘re overcommitted as a country, we‘ve got the biggest account deficit, the biggest trade deficit, the biggest budget deficit.
There are serious problems that were ignored and swept under the rug in this last campaign. I think the Democrats ought to look for the long term, ought to be the adult party, yes, add a moral dimension, but talk straight to the American people, because we‘re facing some deep challenges that this last campaign for the most part didn‘t even touch.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, how do you shift attention to the issues of the economy raised by Mayor Brown, the issues of national security and the way that the Democrats might address it differently? If the people are focused on gay marriage, focused on abortion rights, and in a big part of the country, those are issues that are right at the front of people‘s consciences, how do you change the subject?
AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that you have to first stop allowing the Republicans to define morality.
I think that, at the end of the day, if we start challenging the fact that the executive branch of government, which George Bush was running to be reelected to, has very little to do with those issues, and that he‘s really trying to play a bank shot on issues that he may take a position on rather than issues that he has direct control, I think...
MATTHEWS: But doesn‘t he pick the federal judges?
SHARPTON: He picks the federal judges, but he says that he will not pick them based on their stands on these issues.
And, see, I think if we had pressed that debate, are you saying, therefore, Mr. President, that you will not appoint judges that take a position on abortion, he‘s going to say no. Then what are you saying to the people in the churches? What are you using this morality for when you‘re really kind of halfway leaning there to get what you can without making any executive commitments.
And I think we let them set the tone. We played the defensive. We ought to come on the offensive. I think there‘s a moral issue about people being hungry in America. I think there‘s a moral issue about the deficit. There‘s a moral issue about soldiers dying. I think we should have taken the morality question they raised, interpreted real morality and gone in the same churches with those messages.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Joe, there‘s a lot of people in this country, particularly you read about them in a place like Oklahoma, who are not wealthy people. They‘re hard up—in many ways, hard-up people financially. They don‘t have—they‘re struggling.
JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
MATTHEWS: And yet when you ask them which party to vote for, they are going to say, I‘m voting for the party that is going to stop all these abortions. I‘m voting for the party that doesn‘t believe in same-sex marriage, because that‘s my Christian belief.
And how do you tell a person, oh, forget what you care for in your conscience; think about these issues of living wages and other economic issues, which have a moral component? How do you do that?
TRIPPI: Well, one, I agree with both Jerry Brown and Reverend Sharpton. We did not talk about morality in any way on our side of the aisle. We just let them define it.
But the more important thing is that we didn‘t have any new ideas. We had no ideas at all in this election. Even Social Security was, we won‘t touch it. It is the same put it in a lock box. We all know it‘s not going to work, but there were no Democratic ideas to debate. And so, when you have no ideas to debate...
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t the Democrats talk about what has always been their bread and butter, bread-and-butter issues? I never heard a candidate talk about what it is like to try to raise a family on a limited income, what it is like to have two jobs where the parents never have time to even make love or hang out with each other, because all they do is work and worry. How come Democrats don‘t talk about real people? It‘s supposed to be the real people party.
TRIPPI: We didn‘t talk about that stuff.
MATTHEWS: All they care about is tort reform and protecting the trial lawyers.
TRIPPI: Well, that‘s what happened.
What happened is, if you have no ideas out there, nothing tangible that is going to really help somebody, then—and you don‘t talk about those ideas, then you get stuck in talking about things 35 years ago, whether it was Vietnam or talking about things like gay marriage.
MATTHEWS: But don‘t the Democrats raise money by pushing issues like abortion rights over and over and over again and opposing tort reform, raising money for the trial lawyers?
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t the Democrats guilty of raising the very cultural issues that drive middle America crazy to raise money?
TRIPPI: Right. And, actually, that is. You follow the money. And that‘s what the problem is. The real problem is, the Democratic Party only beats the Republicans in one category for money, contributions of $1 million or more.
TRIPPI: That‘s how far away from the grassroots the party got. Now, the Dean campaign...
MATTHEWS: And those were the bundle of money from the doctors—I‘m sorry, from the lawyers. You know where the money is coming from.
TRIPPI: Yes, but you don‘t need to do it that way anymore. And that‘s what we have to get away from.
And I‘ll tell you, the real amazing thing of everything—there‘s one thing every Democrat will agree on today, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The problem with the party is, the conservatives say it was nominating a liberal Northeastern liberal. The liberals will tell you, no, it‘s following the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council, and moving further and further to the right.
MATTHEWS: I think you start with the right answer.
We‘ll come right back. Do the Democrats have anything to sell anymore? We‘ll be back with Reverend Sharpton, Mayor Brown and Joe Trippi.
And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the Reverend Al Sharpton, Jerry Brown and Joe Trippi.
Let me start with Mayor Brown this time.
Mayor Brown, do you think Hillary Clinton fits the needs of the Democratic Party for a presidential candidate right now?
BROWN: Well, not on this year‘s election. But we‘re a long way from four years from now. So you don‘t want to fight this year‘s battle next time.
BROWN: And there‘s going to be new stuff. If George Bush does what he said he was going to do, bring democracy to the Middle East, he‘ll go down like Lincoln and Washington. I don‘t think he can do it. But that‘s his bold move.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a noble cause.
BROWN: If he makes it—if he makes it, OK, then, I don‘t know what is going to go on for the Democrats. But chances are, there are big problems.
And here‘s the real problem. And it doesn‘t fit into a sound bite. The country is overcommitted and underfinanced for the commitments it is making. And here at home, in cities, I can tell you, in places like Oakland, Los Angeles, I mean, people are suffering. Our roads, our transit is deteriorating. And we‘re still as dependent on energy, foreign energy as we were before. It is getting worse.
So the trouble is this, that Bush is promising more for less. We‘re going to give you more and you‘re going to pay fewer taxes. We‘re going to solve the problems of the world by killing these people.
BROWN: And I think that whole picture is wrong. But the alternative of some sacrifice, some maturity, some self-discipline, I don‘t think that‘s quite a winner yet. But it is the true thing to do.
And I think the Democrats are better off going for the long haul, because the initiative is with the president. So now is the time to rethink, to assert our basic principles and work on the fundamentals.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, do you think our overseas failures could be so manifest, so obvious, and our domestic economic situation so difficult for most people that the country would ever vote to bring Bill Clinton back to the White House with Hillary Clinton, the two of them back together, two for the price of one?
SHARPTON: I mean, first of all...
MATTHEWS: Would they ever let Bill Clinton come back and live in the White House, do you think, Reverend Sharpton, under any circumstances?
SHARPTON: I think that it‘s very possible. That will be up to the voters. I think that Hillary Clinton has first got to deal with reelection here in ‘06. But I don‘t think...
MATTHEWS: Where are you on that?
SHARPTON: Well, I think she‘ll be reelected.
MATTHEWS: Are you for her?
SHARPTON: I‘m for her run of reelection. I haven‘t decided...
MATTHEWS: Are you going to back her?
SHARPTON: I don‘t know what we‘re doing in ‘08. I think that what we better do is reorganize the Democratic National Committee, get chairmen and vice chairmen that know how to do exactly what Joe Trippi is saying, bring the grassroots back in. And we need to get a message and define the debate. That‘s what we need to do.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question, a preliminary question. Why are you as a New Yorker and a political leader in New York, why would you endorse Hillary Clinton for reelection if she‘s simply going to serve a year and then go bouncing out onto the campaign trail?
TRIPPI: Well, I would expect, then, before she run for reelection, she will announce whether or not that is what she intends to do.
But since she has served, in my judgment, credibly for the last five years, there‘s no reason I would not want to support her, unless she said that supporting her would be something very temporary. Then we would have to know at that point what she intends to do with that seat. But sitting here tonight, I support her.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. But she doesn‘t get to give that seat away. And the question is, would the voters of New York rather have six years of Sharpton or one year of Hillary?
SHARPTON: Well, I don‘t know if it would be six years of Sharpton. I didn‘t say I was running. I may run in 2008. I may convince Joe Trippi to run my campaign in ‘08.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to Joe. That would be an interesting match, the new and the more ostentatious, the inside and the outside.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Joe Trippi. Do you think that we‘re ready to go back or are the Clintons already yesterday‘s history?
TRIPPI: Look, I don‘t think anybody—look, I don‘t think we can even think about who is going to be our...
MATTHEWS: The trouble with not thinking is, you let—she becomes the dog in the manger. She becomes the only candidate anybody expects to be candidate unless she pull herself out.
TRIPPI: I think that, whoever is the nominee in 2008 is likely to be the nominee of a brain-dead party unless we start building, rebuilding this thing from the ground up with the grassroots and actually get some new ideas in this party and people who are going to stand up for what the Democratic principles are.
MATTHEWS: I agree. You‘re the great man, Joe Trippi. You are.
TRIPPI: That‘s what I think we need to do.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton, Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, California, former governor of California, and Joe Trippi, the mastermind of the Howard Dean campaign.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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