Guest: Bob Colacello, Elizabeth Bumiller, Henry Kissinger, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Joe Biden
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice faced some tough questions from Democrats at her confirmation hearing today. We‘ll talk to Senators Joe Biden and Kay Bailey Hutchison.
And let the inaugural week begin, all the pomp, politics, glitz and glamour running up to the second inauguration of George W. Bush.
Live from MSNBC‘s inaugural headquarters on the National Mall in Washington, let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, live from the National Mall here in Washington. We‘re getting ready for President Bush‘s inauguration on Thursday. But, today, Secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice was grilled about the training of Iraqi security forces and the Bush administration‘s exit strategy for Iraq. The most heated exchange came when Senator Barbara Boxer criticized Rice for making contradictory statements on Saddam Hussein‘s alleged nuclear weapons program.
The Democratic senator from California said Rice‘s loyalty to the mission of selling the Iraq war overwhelmed her respect for the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: If it served your purpose to downplay the threat of nuclear weapons, you said, No one said he‘s going to have it in a year. But then later, when you thought perhaps you were on more solid ground with the American people, because at the time the war was probably popular, or more popular, you say, We thought he was going to have a weapon within a year.
And this is—the question is, this is a pattern here of what I see from you on this issue, on the issue of the aluminum tubes, on the issue of whether al Qaeda was actually involved in Iraq, which you‘ve said many times.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. It is not my nature. It is not my character. And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity.
The fact is that we did face a very difficult intelligence challenge in trying to understand what Saddam Hussein had in terms of weapons of mass destruction.
And we knew, most importantly, that he had used weapons of mass destruction.
That was a context that, frankly, made us awfully suspicious when he refused to account for his weapons of mass destruction programs, despite repeated Security Council resolutions and despite the fact that he was given one last chance to comply with Resolution 1441.
Now, there were lots of data points about his weapons of mass destruction programs. Some were right and some were not. But what was right was that there was an unbreakable link between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.
That is something that Charlie Duelfer, in his report of the Iraq Survey Group, has made very clear: that Saddam Hussein intended to continue his weapons of mass destruction activities, that he had laboratories that were run by his security services. I could go on and on.
MATTHEWS: I asked Senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, about that exchange between Senator Boxer and Condoleezza Rice.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, there was double-speak. I think Barbara Boxer was correct. I think that—I hope the secretary—
Dr. Rice thinks there‘s a distinction between her, as she said, being staff for the president and being the secretary of state.
But I think there was double-speak. And we got a lot more. Look, either the administration does not have a thought-out policy on Iran, on the economy, international—our position relative to other nations in terms of the dollar vs. the euro, in terms of Iran and Iraq and Korea, or Dr. Rice is not being forthcoming.
I‘m worried it is the former, that they still don‘t have a policy with regard to Iran, with regard to Iraq, with regard to North Korea. And they may have a policy with regard to our position economically in the world, but she sure doesn‘t know it if they do.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about what seems to be her limited brief. She said she didn‘t have final authority on who she picked to work in her own department. Did that surprise you?
BIDEN: Well, not really, not with this administration.
Now, she did pick as the No. 2 person a guy who I think is solid.
BIDEN: That was good news. I don‘t think she‘s been handed so far any more Boltons.
BIDEN: Who is a very bright, serious guy, but a neocon on the other end of the spectrum.
So, it‘s going to—time is going to tell whether she gets her way in terms of her staffing or not. But it does surprise me. And the question is, look, you and I talked, among many others, but I think you were the first to ask me four years ago, three years ago, about the first Bush administration. And I said there‘s a San Andreas fault that runs through the administration. I don‘t know whether or not that fault is going to continue to exist or whether or not they‘ve all gone over to the neocon side. And I don‘t know whether she‘s going to weigh in. I just don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Do you know whether she knows anything about economics or she simply refused to talk about it because she is constrained from doing so?
BIDEN: I think it is because the administration has no international economic policy. They don‘t have a really functioning Treasury Department. They have degraded the secretary themselves.
And, in addition to that, I don‘t think that‘s her strong suit. I think she was—it surprised me that she seemed surprised by Senator Sarbanes‘s question.
BIDEN: How can you not know whether or not it should be U.S. policy to have the dollar be the world‘s currency, reserve currency, instead of the euro. I don‘t understand why that question has to be deferred.
MATTHEWS: OK, Senator, adding it all up, she said she wasn‘t with full authority—given full authority by the president, in so many words, to pick her own assistant secretaries and deputy secretary. She said that the economic issues were sort of outside her area of discussion.
But on the very human question put to her by your colleague, Senator Dodd of Connecticut, why do you think she refused to define torture? We‘ve been talking in the newspapers and on television for weeks now about water-boarding, about nudity, about public humiliation of prisoners. She wouldn‘t say what was torture and what was not. Why not?
BIDEN: I think it is because she has to deal with—I really don‘t know. But my guess is Rumsfeld-Cheney. I‘m not sure she wants to be on the other side of them, the former attorney general. I just don‘t know.
It is—just think of the message that sends around the world. I don‘t—I‘m a little concerned about this second round here.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to the hard-hearted part.
You were very particular, Senator, based upon your recent field trip over to Iraq. You said you have got—you had on-the-ground testimony from people that there‘s only 4,000 ready-to-fight soldiers on our side over there in Iraq. She used the figure 120,000 Iraqis ready to replace our troops, so we can go home someday. That‘s a hell of a gulf, 4,000 vs. 120,000.
BIDEN: It is simply not true that we have that number. As you listen to her answers after I asked that question, she talked about some not ready, some running away. We have to work harder on it, etcetera.
Petraeus, General Petraeus, who is doing the training now, is a very serious guy, needs considerably more resources and a significant amount of time. To use your phrase—and I should have been as articulate as you just were—when are we going to have Iraqi forces that can displace essentially on a one-to-one basis American forces there? That‘s part of the exit strategy. And right now, we are nowhere near.
BIDEN: Nowhere near even 100,000 forces as it relates to military or cops.
MATTHEWS: She responded in following up to Senator Hagel, who followed your questioning, I thought rather opaquely, to use a recent word everybody used.
MATTHEWS: She said she was waiting for the Gary Luck commission to tell us what to do with the Iraqis.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the fundamental element of our policy.
BIDEN: I agree.
MATTHEWS: And she said we‘re waiting for this commission to tell us how to create a security force to replace our troops.
BIDEN: Well, yes, I think it is reflective of the fact that she doesn‘t know. There is no policy right now.
And, remember, they sent another guy over three years ago, Hamre, the Hamre report. Hamre came back after being sent by the secretary of defense, the former comptroller of the Defense Department, comes back and says, hey, we‘re in real trouble. We only have a couple months here, maybe six months, a window of opportunity to get this right, laid out recommendations, none of which were followed by the administration. General Luck is a good guy. Why do we have to send him? Reflects on the fact that they don‘t have a policy that‘s working.
MATTHEWS: OK. They do—they do seem to have something up their sleeve with regard to Iran and its nuclear sites, because she was asked very clearly I think it was by you or one of the other senators...
BIDEN: It was by me.
MATTHEWS: ... about the Seymour Hersh piece in “The New Yorker” this week. I don‘t think she denied that they‘re sighting those targets.
BIDEN: In fairness to her, I didn‘t ask her to comment on whether it was true. I asked her to comment on, if it were true, and if it succeeded, would in fact it result in the overthrow by the Iranian populace of the existing government in Iran.
The reason I asked that question, it‘s fundamental. The question here is, are they operating on the premise that if there were a democratically elected government, they would forswear the seeking of nuclear capability? In my experience, of every expert I‘ve spoken with, this is a national issue. It is a little bit like the situation in Pakistan.
BIDEN: It almost doesn‘t matter who is in power, or India. The Iranians, the Pakistanis and the Indians, they all want that nuclear capability. So, once again, this sounds like that malarkey we heard before the Iraq war. We can parachute X number of people and decapitate Saddam, or the secretary of defense saying it would only take 30,000 forces.
Hopefully, these guys are talking to themselves. I pray to God the president isn‘t listening.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the stakes here as secretary of state. As national security adviser, she was subordinate to the president, and I guess in the way the White House works under this administration, subordinate to the vice president as well. Will she outrank the vice president once she becomes secretary of state?
BIDEN: On foreign policy, she should. In every other administration...
MATTHEWS: Will she?
BIDEN: I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s kind of extraconstitutional, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: To have a vice president who is the boss of the secretary of state? Can you imagine Spiro Agnew telling Kissinger what to do?
BIDEN: Well, I‘m not sure the advice would have been any worse than what we‘re getting right now.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Are you ready to vote for her nomination? Are you going to leave a proxy that says yea?
BIDEN: No, the answer is, yes, I will vote for her, because my standard is, look, the president should get to choose his Cabinet, assuming that the person is relatively competent and in fact has not committed any crime or moral turpitude, is a decent person. She‘s decent. She‘s bright. I‘m just worried she‘s not going to be independent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Can I ask you, Senator, would you have liked to have been up for secretary of state today, rather than Condi Rice?
BIDEN: Yes, because that means Kerry would have been president and not Bush.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much.
BIDEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on HARDBALL tonight, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll have more on the Condoleezza Rice confirmation hearings with Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tonight.
And up next, one of President Bush‘s closest allies on Capitol Hill, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special coverage of President Bush‘s second inaugural live from the National Mall, as you can see, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, with two days to go before the inauguration, we‘ll talk to one of President Bush‘s closest allies in the U.S. Senate, Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: You can see where we are. Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from the National Mall. We‘re right in the middle of the National Mall, as you can see, here in Washington. We‘re right near the Smithsonian. By the way, right across to my left is the most visited building in the country, perhaps, the National Air and Space Museum.
We‘re here talking right now with Kay Bailey Hutchison, senator from Texas.
You‘ve known President Bush many years. Are you going to run for governor of Texas?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON ®, TEXAS: Oh, I haven‘t decided.
MATTHEWS: You haven‘t decided yet. Would you come back and tell us?
We like to be up to date on these things.
HUTCHISON: I will. I will. I‘ll tell you.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what this means for the Bush family. Usually, when you have these dynasties, they don‘t quite make two terms, the Adams family, one term each, President Bush Sr., one term. What does it mean to get terms for a dynasty like this, the Bushes?
HUTCHISON: Well, of course, they say this is not a dynasty.
But, of course, they are people who have given their lives for public service. And it is terrific. For any president in our time to get a second term is really big.
MATTHEWS: Is George W. Bush an actual Texan, as opposed to his father, who was sort of an immigrant from the Northeast?
HUTCHISON: Yes. Yes. George W. Bush is a Texan. And he is Texan in...
MATTHEWS: Boots and saddles and all that stuff?
HUTCHISON: Well, it is his—it is his spirit. It is his way of looking at things. He is plainspoken. He is simple. He was very popular as governor because he was out with the people. People related to him.
HUTCHISON: Nobody thought of him as somebody that was standoffish.
He was right down home. Anybody who meets him really just loves him.
MATTHEWS: It seems like there‘s a sort of quiet familial debate going on inside the quarters of the Bush family. The father raised taxes in 1990 balance the budget. The son cut taxes. The father was very suspicious and arm‘s length from the Christian right. The son is very much almost a part of the Christian right. The father had problems with Israel. The son is very close to Israel and Sharon particularly.
The father didn‘t go into Baghdad. The son did. Is there something of a, I don‘t know what‘s the word, a Freudian rivalry going on between these two, an Oedipal rivalry going on now?
HUTCHISON: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: You say that, but, factually, it is there, though, isn‘t it?
HUTCHISON: The times are different. They are different people. The son is...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I‘m saying.
HUTCHISON: The son is his own person.
MATTHEWS: And he is different from the father.
HUTCHISON: He is different from the father.
MATTHEWS: How? The way I said?
HUTCHISON: Well, he is—he is much more plainspoken. He is more conservative, in the mainstream, conservative type way. And he is a person that has 9/11. And I think he has responded to that with absolute firmness, boldness, and no nonsense.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about nonsense, because there was some question of that in the hearings today for Condoleezza Rice.
Barbara Boxer of California raised the point showing quotes. She didn‘t just make an argument. She showed quotes whereby Condoleezza Rice argued that there was an immediate threat from the nuclear arms held by Saddam Hussein before the war, and later on, in which she was much more careful, saying, well, maybe a year from now, maybe later.
Do you believe that Condoleezza Rice hyped the nuclear threat from Iraq before the war?
HUTCHISON: Absolutely not. I do not think that she thought there weren‘t really nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, but she was looking for an excuse to go in. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Was she right to say we will face, rather than wait and decide whether to go in and wait for the smoking gun that people were waiting for, she said, well, the smoking gun is going to be a mushroom cloud. So, you can‘t wait. You have got to go because they‘re going to hit us with a nuclear weapon. That was her lingo going in.
HUTCHISON: Chris, What you have to remember is what they were looking at, at the time. They had just had 9/11. And they were not going to take a chance that there would be another 9/11 with a weapons of mass destruction. That would have been even more horrible than the first one. So, they were trying to be bold, in going to where the terrorism was. And it is a hotbed of terrorism. It was.
MATTHEWS: That‘s not what the president says or Condi—Condi Rice and the president, the whole Bush team, say, even if there weren‘t weapons of mass destruction, we still would have gone to war the same way. So, in other words, you were worried about the threat from mass destruction weapons. They said they would have gone as a matter of what? What would - - they say they would have gone anyway.
So, you were afraid of weapons of mass destruction. Why did the White House feel we had to go into war with Iraq after its—even if we didn‘t have the weapons facing us?
HUTCHISON: Well, I think they were trying to make sure that you didn‘t have more terrorists over here with weapons of mass destruction or other opportunities.
I mean, we were looking at Osama bin Laden. We were looking at, clearly, Saddam Hussein had been paying Palestinians suicide bombers‘ families.
MATTHEWS: Right. I know all that. That‘s regional. That‘s a danger to the region. But we went to war because of a threat to us.
HUTCHISON: No, it is not a danger to the region. It is a danger to us.
MATTHEWS: What was the threat to us?
HUTCHISON: That they would be coming over here.
MATTHEWS: With what?
HUTCHISON: They were trying to penetrate—with chemical.
MATTHEWS: The Iraqis. What were they doing, Iraqis, trying to do here?
HUTCHISON: The whole terrorist operation.
MATTHEWS: No, what were the Iraqis trying to do to us?
HUTCHISON: The Iraqis and other terrorist organizations were all intertwined.
MATTHEWS: You keep changing the subject, Senator. What did Iraq do to start the war with us?
HUTCHISON: They were intertwined with other terrorist organizations.
MATTHEWS: So do you have evidence of that?
HUTCHISON: Well, it is very clear.
MATTHEWS: There‘s evidence they were involved with Iraq—with 9/11?
I‘ve never seen this evidence and no one else has.
HUTCHISON: With other terrorist organizations.
MATTHEWS: Which ones?
HUTCHISON: Chris, these terrorist organizations have tentacles that go all over the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this.
Are you confident that we have the plan in hand right now to get out of Iraq at some point in the next couple of years? According to Condoleezza Rice now, we have 120,000 Iraqi soldiers ready to take our place. Joe Biden was just over there, the ranking Democrat on the committee. He said we have 4,000 real soldiers, the ones who will actually fight. That‘s a big discrepancy.
HUTCHISON: I think it has been very much harder than we thought it would be to train these Iraqi soldiers, because these insurgents are attacking everybody who is trying to stabilize Iraq. And so, some of the soldiers have been running. Some of them have quit. Some of them have been afraid to go to work. There‘s no question about that.
MATTHEWS: Suppose they never get their act together. Suppose the Iraqis never want to fight the insurgents.
HUTCHISON: I think they will get their act together.
MATTHEWS: What gives you confidence?
HUTCHISON: And we‘re going to stay the course.
MATTHEWS: What gives you confidence the Iraqis want to fight the insurgents and risk their lives and give their lives, like our troops are doing?
HUTCHISON: Because we have to get rid of the insurgents and wipe them out.
MATTHEWS: No, what gives you confidence that the Iraqis will do the fighting for us, so we get out?
HUTCHISON: That we do away with the insurgents, with the help of the Iraqis and the people who are going to be elected at the end of this month, who will not be in a perfect election, but they will be a beginning. And we‘re going to build on that.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ll be back with more with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison when we come back.
And later, a look at the pre-inaugural activities with NBC‘s David Gregory and Elizabeth Bumiller of “The New York Times.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special coverage of second Bush inaugural, live, as you can see, from this beautiful place on the National Mall.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
I know you‘re pro-choice on the issue of abortion rights, which is interesting, because we‘ve been getting a lot of word out of the president the last couple days through these series of interviews he‘s done that he‘s going to put aside some of those issues, like abortion rights, gay marriage constitutional amendments, and stick to Social Security reform and tax reform, the sort of secular issues.
What do you make of that?
HUTCHISON: Well, first of all, I don‘t characterize myself as pro-choice.
HUTCHISON: Because I don‘t think it is easy to categorize on that issue. But let me say...
MATTHEWS: By the way, I like that. I like your concern about the language, too. It‘s shorthand. I don‘t like it either. But go ahead.
HUTCHISON: Oh, no, I mean, it is so important and it is such a huge issue.
But I do think that the president is going to focus first on the war on terrorism, because securing America is his first responsibility. And I think he deeply believes that Social Security is going to go bust if we don‘t do something. And we can do it later, but it will be more expensive.
MATTHEWS: You know, 10 Republican senators lost their seats in ‘86 when Reagan tried to adjust the benefit levels.
HUTCHISON: I agree. I know that is true. I know that is right.
But the president sees that, if we don‘t do something now, we‘re going to leave it to others to do. And he thinks his responsibility as president is to address it.
MATTHEWS: The polls says he‘ll...
HUTCHISON: Now, maybe we won‘t be able to do it. But...
MATTHEWS: I‘m getting rushed here. I‘m sorry.
I want to give you a break to say something nice about the president, who about to re-inaugurated. All—the big poll that came out today, ABC/”Wall Street Journal” poll—or “Washington Post” poll—said people are confident, I guess it‘s both parties, that this president will be better in the second term than the first term. Isn‘t that impressive?
HUTCHISON: Yes, it is.
And I think that he has shown that he is disciplined, that he says what he is going to do and he does it. And I think people, whether they agree with him all the time, they are looking for that in a leader. And I think that is why he won. And I think people have confidence in him.
MATTHEWS: Kay Bailey Hutchison, a great senator from Texas, maybe governor someday. Who knows.
More of HARDBALL‘s pre-inauguration coverage live from the National Mall in Washington when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask not what your country can do for you.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So help me God.
BUSH: So help me God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love that opening. It reminds me of walking through the Jefferson Memorial with all those sides looking at you.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
If there‘s anyone who knows about the jump Condoleezza Rice is about to make from national security adviser to secretary of state, it‘s Dr. Henry Kissinger. He served as President Nixon‘s national security adviser before becoming secretary of state to both Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Let me ask you about this jump. What is it like, Mr. Secretary, to go from a staff position, even a senior one, to controlling a huge Cabinet bureaucracy?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it‘s a change, because in the White House, you have really only one client you need to be concerned with, which is the president.
In the State Department, you have a bureaucracy of thousands whose morale will—whose efficiency depends on their morale. In the White House, you deal only with the problems that con—or primarily with the problems that concern the president. In the State Department, you have to deal with the concerns of 180 nations, not all of which will concern the White House at the same moment.
So, you have to operate on a much broader range and you have to be able to keep a number of balls in the air while you‘re focusing on pulling down one of them.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about becoming a representative of the State Department. Is there a possibility, if not a probability, here that Condi Rice, having been an intimate adviser to the president, will become a spokesperson for the world community of diplomats, in other words, come back and say to the president, this is not what the State Department feels?
KISSINGER: I think what is likely to happen is that the State Department now will feel that they are tied into the policy process through the personality of the new secretary in a way that will produce a greater commitment and a greater enthusiasm.
And so I think that the distinction between what the White House might think and what the State Department might think will evaporate. And they will think of themselves as reflecting the president‘s views in so far as the secretary of state does, which she will.
MATTHEWS: What percentage of the State Department‘s foreign officers are Democrats and what percent are Republicans, historically? Isn‘t it overwhelmingly Democrat, usually?
KISSINGER: I would think they are, generally, on the liberal side. And they also have a very strong view that they have more experience in foreign policy and probably that some secretaries of state couldn‘t have passed the foreign service exam, in their opinion.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the Arabist tendency of the State Department? Will that clash with the—sort of the neoconservative bent of Condi Rice? She‘s sort of grown into that sort of point of view.
KISSINGER: No. I think, fundamentally, once Condi establishes herself, which she will, they follow the secretary of state. And if she asserts the leadership which she has in every other job, there won‘t be any problem of whether they‘re Democrats or Republicans. I have never found that to be a problem.
MATTHEWS: What about the open conflict now between Brent Scowcroft, who was once the mentor of Condoleezza Rice, saying that, although Condoleezza is pretty good on Russian issues, the old East-West kind of nexus, that her ability tapers off after that. That was a quote in “The Washington Post.” That‘s a pretty direct shot at the secretary-designate.
KISSINGER: Well, I don‘t know. Brent is a good friend of mine. And I know he thinks of himself as a good friend of Condi Rice‘s. And I didn‘t actually see that particular quote.
MATTHEWS: Well, it was quite particular.
KISSINGER: I think of him as a friend of Condi‘s, not as a...
MATTHEWS: Really? Well, with friend like that, he is out there shooting at her.
Let me—let us both take a look at this exchange between California Senator Barbara Boxer, who is a Democrat, and the secretary nominee, Condoleezza Rice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.
BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote.
But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.
RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.
BOXER: Well, if you can‘t admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.
RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.
BOXER: I‘m not. I‘m just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.
RICE: Senator, I‘m happy to continue the discussion. But I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Boxer, Mr. Secretary, was making the point. She was citing old testimony or public statements by Condoleezza Rice that, if we waited to go to war with Saddam Hussein over weapons of mass destruction, waited to see the classic smoking gun, it would turn out to be a mushroom cloud , and then later on tempered those comments.
Do you think that Condoleezza Rice was honest or that she overhyped the threat of nuclear attack from Iraq against the United States?
KISSINGER: Well, they are two separate problems.
One is the possession of nuclear weapons by Iraq. It was the general belief not so much that they—that they had weapons of mass destruction, not necessarily nuclear weapons. And I never heard any other view until we actually got in there and didn‘t find these weapons. So, the president acted on the basis of what he believed.
On the possession of nuclear weapons, how close they were believed to have been to the production, that they—I don‘t think they hyped it. I think they sincerely believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They thought it was a fundamental issue of national security, which they couldn‘t wait to find out whether they—there was no question of their being wrong in their mind.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much. Great having you on, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
KISSINGER: Always—always a pleasure.
When we come back, Washington is gearing up for Thursday‘s inauguration. We‘ll get a preview of all the pomp and the parties from “Vanity Fair”‘s Bob Colacello. He‘s the guy that wrote about Nancy and Ronnie Reagan in that latest book. Plus, NBC‘s David Gregory and Elizabeth Bumiller of “The New York Times”.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special inaugural coverage, live, as you can see now, from the National Mall. I‘m right down on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I ask your prayer that, in the years ahead, I may have God‘s help in making decisions that are right for America. And I pray for your help, so that, together, we may be worthy of our charge. Let us pledge together to make these next four years the best four years in America‘s history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Coming up, gearing up for President Bush‘s inauguration this Thursday. We‘ll talk to two reporters who cover the president every day, NBC‘s David Gregory and Elizabeth Bumiller of “The New York Times.”
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: With just two days now until President Bush is sworn in for a secretary four-year term, I‘m with two people who cover him every day, Elizabeth Bumiller, who writes great stuff for “The New York Times,” and NBC News‘ David Gregory, of course.
Elizabeth, let me ask you about the new chain of command, Elizabeth. In the first Bush administration, it was clearly almost a co-presidency by the vice president. His staff handled the paperwork, tremendous influence in terms of advising the president, tremendous overview of a lot of the ideologues around the president. Will he be No. 2 in the second administration or will Condi Rice as the new secretary of state be No. 2? Who will outrank who?
ELIZABETH BUMILLER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, I happen to think that Dick Cheney was always No. 2. It‘s not a view that‘s held by the president‘s critics. But I certainly think he will be No. 2 and Condi will be No. 3 in the second term.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that an extraordinary constitutional interpretation? Can you imagine Spiro Agnew telling Dr. Kissinger what to do as secretary of state? I can‘t.
BUMILLER: Well, I think Condi will work it out with the vice president. They‘ve had a—they have a working relationship. They‘ve had bumps in the past.
Also, we‘re leaving out Donald Rumsfeld, who will be extremely influential.
BUMILLER: And that‘s the real question, how that threesome will work, Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, and Condi Rice.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to David Gregory.
Well, isn‘t—is it really a promotion, then? I mean, if Condi Rice still has to sort of put up with Dick Cheney‘s thought processes and paper control and has to put up with Rumsfeld, in what way has she moved up in the chain of command, the food chain here, if you will?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say two things.
One is that this president obviously likes internal conflict, because he sets it up that way, and he‘s done it again here. Now, Condi Rice may be somebody that he has a very close relationship. And he does. And he was obviously close to Colin Powell as well. But she was really on the inside and was a tutor to him during the 2000 campaign and then became a real trusted confidante here who didn‘t have a different agenda.
Well, he has given her an agenda and said, look, it‘s a second term. We have got to have some kind of consolidation with the rest of the world, get people on board and circle the wagons here about Iraq and other things that we want to do. So, she has got to actually carry that portfolio forward, which is going to put her in conflict, naturally, with the agenda of Rumsfeld and Cheney, who represent a different wing of their foreign policy thinking.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard of a secretary of state who refused under Senate testimony to answer any questions about American economic policy, David?
GREGORY: Well, I haven‘t. But...
MATTHEWS: It was stunning today to have her—it was like “Blade Runner.” She was being asked if she had any information about—and it‘s like, she said, I can‘t meet that test. I‘m afraid to talk about economic policy. Has she been told or doesn‘t she know economic policy enough to talk about it? Why did she come in with such a small portfolio? How can you have a foreign policy without an economic policy as part of it?
GREGORY: Well, I don‘t know the answer to that question specifically.
But I do know she was obviously well prepared in a very narrow channel.
As you saw with Senator Boxer, I mean, she understood that she was going to be a punching bag for what critics of the administration think the administration did wrong and particularly the White House did wrong and what the president did wrong. And she was a conduit for a lot of that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Elizabeth, about the torture question.
A couple of the senators, somewhat with kid gloves today, tried to get her to say what her position is on torture, of course, the water-boarding technique, where it makes people feel like they‘re drowning, the public sort of nudity and humiliating a person sexually. She wouldn‘t venture even an opinion on that matter. And yet she is to be the president‘s chief counselor on foreign affairs as secretary of state. What does that tell you?
BUMILLER: It tells me that Condi is still operating as national security adviser until she is, presumably, sworn in on Thursday. She never let any of her views be known as national security adviser. It used to drive some of us a little to distraction.
And I think it will be interesting to see how much she changes. She‘s now taking over a giant bureaucracy. It will be interesting to see how much she takes on the views and advances that bureaucracy.
BUMILLER: But, right now, she is Condi. She is not telling us what she thinks.
MATTHEWS: Both of you, you remember that great movie where henry II name Becket, his best buddy, archbishop of Canterbury, and all of a sudden, Becket turns on him because he is now working for God and the church?
Is it possible, Elizabeth, that this woman, who has always been an intimate supporter of the president, will say, Mr. President, now I have to be secretary of state; it‘s a bigger responsibility; you‘re wrong on a couple of these things?
BUMILLER: Well, she has disagreed with the president in the past on -
· she will say she will let her views be known. But we don‘t exactly know the precise nature of what she has said.
But she can be quite—I‘ve seen—there are stories where she can be quite tough with him. But they‘re never firsthand. But I completely expect her to do that.
GREGORY: I think she‘s going to be tougher. But I think it is still a question about the balance, whether she goes into the State Department to clean house or whether she starts to reflect more of an internationalist, realist bent in foreign policy and confronts the president.
GREGORY: That‘s what we don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, David.
Elizabeth, it is great having you on the show. And, by the way, watch the rerun at 11:00 at night. You look really good next to the Capitol.
MATTHEWS: It is a great twosome. Thank you. I‘m serious.
MATTHEWS: Please watch tonight.
David will be with us tomorrow night and we‘ll have this—his interview with Karl Rove. I cannot wait to see Karl and David going at it.
When we come back, “Vanity Fair”‘s Bob Colacello. He‘s the guy that wrote about the Reagans. He‘s going to preview Thursday‘s activities. It‘s a big day here in Washington.
You‘re watching MSNBC‘s special coverage of President Bush‘s second inaugural live, as you can see, from the National Mall, where I‘m sitting right now here in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This is going to be fun.
Bob Colacello, a special correspondent for “Vanity Fair,” he‘s a veteran of the New York, Hollywood, and Washington social scenes. He‘s here this week covering the all-star spangled events during the president‘s inauguration. He is also the author of a great new book about the Reagans, “Ronnie and Nancy.”
Well, your book is great. It is not just about the glitter. It‘s about the power of the Reagans. Tell me, every inauguration seems to have a look. What is this one going to be?
BOB COLACELLO, “VANITY FAIR”: I guess it is going to be black tie and boots. That is the exclusive ball this year. But, compared to the Reagan inauguration, I don‘t think there is the excitement, the thrill that people, you know, had to be here.
MATTHEWS: Well, Nancy, for example, who you wrote about in your book and I know—she‘s really nice—she wears—she wore a real gown. I mean, that was dress-up night. You really put on the dog.
This one seems—I can‘t see Laura Bush—but, then again, I saw these dresses for his two beautiful daughters. They are pretty—pretty mature, pretty sophisticated dresses.
COLACELLO: Oh, yes. Yes, they‘re pretty nice dresses. I think Laura‘s dress by Oscar de la Renta looks quite beautiful. And Carolina Herrera is doing the dress for the Black Tie and Boots Ball.
MATTHEWS: Will this be as big a deal as Donald Trump‘s wedding or not? I don‘t know.
COLACELLO: I don‘t know. I think Donald is going to upstage them.
MATTHEWS: I heard that Melania has a $200,000 dress she‘s going to wear at that thing.
COLACELLO: It was in “The New York Post” today, picked up from “Vogue.” It‘s the first time a bride...
MATTHEWS: Made by little nuns in Venezuela somewhere.
COLACELLO: No, no, made in Paris by John Galliano of Dior, but it‘s the first time a bride has shown her dress before the wedding. It is bad luck.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s going to be on the cover of another magazine.
Let me ask you about the Bushes. You have got the old money of, we used to say growing up, the old money of Connecticut, Yankee money, George Bush Sr., and now Texas money. Is this like in that movie—what was the movie, flaunt it, you know, where the guy says, Zero Mostel said, if you got the money, flaunt it in “The Producers”?
COLACELLO: The Reagan inaugurals were pretty extravagant, lots of private jets flying in. The Democrats kind of came out of the closet with their big money in the Clinton years also.
COLACELLO: But I think what‘s different about this, the curious thing about the Bushes, it‘s almost because they were born on top. They don‘t seem to feel they have to make an effort to reach out to people beyond their group.
MATTHEWS: Is that true of George W. as well?
COLACELLO: I think both of them. I think both sets of Bushes mainly feel comfortable with people they already know. You know what was the great thing about Nancy Reagan?
MATTHEWS: So, old friends, not new friends.
COLACELLO: Old friends, not new friends.
Nancy Reagan got to Washington. She kept her California friends, the kitchen cabinet. But she reached out to the Washington establishment.
MATTHEWS: Kay Graham.
COLACELLO: Kay Graham, Bob Strauss, Tip O‘Neill.
MATTHEWS: But you are saying but this crowd doesn‘t.
COLACELLO: This crowd doesn‘t. And I think it is to their detriment. I mean, I like this president, but I wish they would reach out. Laura Bush everyone says is charming. She‘s smart. She‘s sweet-natured, but they never have anybody at the White House, except people they know.
MATTHEWS: I like the guy. I think people like Bush. He doesn‘t exactly mix. You‘re right.
COLACELLO: They don‘t even...
MATTHEWS: You know what I like about old money? I one time—I went upstairs to the White House, because the first Bush family let us up there, press night kind of thing. And I saw an old beat-up clock radio with a crack in it held together by Scotch tape. Now, that is old money, isn‘t it?
COLACELLO: Yes. And Nancy would have never allowed that in the White House.
COLACELLO: But I think it is important to reach out, to have state diners, have some foreigners in, have people from New York, have people from California. I don‘t know anybody who is coming down for this inauguration from New York.
MATTHEWS: What is the shame factor on a scale of one to 10 to have all this glitter and money spent at a time of the tsunami relief situation? Any?
COLACELLO: Well, in my opinion, there is always some disaster out there in the world. There is nothing wrong with the celebrating the election of a president.
Traditionally, though, second-term inaugurals have always been a little less...
MATTHEWS: Shorter speeches.
COLACELLO: A little played down compared to the first. Reagan did that. Clinton did it. This seems like it‘s going to be more, more.
MATTHEWS: Continued good luck on your bock, “Ronnie and Nancy.”
COLACELLO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a great book.
COLACELLO: Thank you, Bob Colacello of “Vanity Fair.”
I will be back in an hour for a special 9:00 edition of HARDBALL. Among our guests, a photographer-actor who documented his first tour of duty in Iraq. And he‘s about to go back to Iraq for another mission.
And tomorrow, we will be back right here at this great spot on the National Mall at MSNBC—I love this—inauguration headquarters with G.E. chairman and my ultimate boss, Jeff Immelt, and David Gregory‘s interview—and this is going to be great—with Karl Rove. He‘s fair game.
Wednesday night at 9:00, Tom Brokaw is back and only on MSNBC for our special, “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies.” We take a close look at four decades of presidential inaugurations. And, boy, does Tom Brokaw have great memories.
From the National Mall in Washington, I‘m Chris Matthews. Good night for HARDBALL.
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