'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Feb. 9

Guest: Fran Drescher, Ron Silver, Dustin Ferrell, Travis Eichelberger, Mark Burnett, Terry McAuliffe

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, U.S. troops injured in Iraq awarded Purple Hearts are now being asked to give them back. 

Can Howard Dean help the Democrats turn red states blue?  We‘ll ask outgoing Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe. 

Plus, reality TV producer Mark Burnett.  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

A crushing blow was delivered to 11 Marines who received their Purple Heart nearly two years ago for their service in Iraq.  The Marine Corps has now decided to revoke the honor because their injuries were not caused in action against the enemy.  Corporal Travis Eichelberger was one such individual.  He endured a broken pelvis and crushed intestines, intestines, when an Abrams tank ran over him.  But because the injury did not occur in actual combat, the Marines have now decided to erase the decoration from his record. 

And 1st Lieutenant Dustin Ferrell‘s Purple Heart also suffered the same fate.  He actually had the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps pin his medal on his hospital gown only to be notified two years later that it was wrongly awarded to him. 

Corporal Eichelberger and Lieutenant Ferrell, welcome. 

Lieutenant, I want to start with you. 

Tell us the story of your record in Iraq, what happened to you all the way through. 



I was in Iraq for about a day and a half, actually.  I had been in Kuwait for a month.  And on the third day of the war, having crossed there, we were in a convoy heading towards Nasiriyah.  To make a long story short, I don‘t remember the accident.  I woke up and people were all around me.  And I was pretty messed up.  I broke most of the bones in my face.  I required a tracheotomy pretty soon after being evacuated because I couldn‘t breathe, and also dislocated my hip.  Originally I was told...


MATTHEWS:  When were you notified that you were going to receive the Purple Heart, sir? 

FERRELL:  When I arrived in Bethesda on the evening of the 30th, the next morning, on the 31st, the assistant commandant actually came to see me and told me right then that I was going to be awarded the Purple Heart.  I would say I had about three minutes notice and didn‘t know prior to that whether I would be awarded the Purple Heart or not. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened to the other Marines that were hit with you? 

FERRELL:  There were three other Marines in my vehicle.  One died instantly upon impact in the accident.  The two others were eventually evacuated to Bethesda, Maryland, with myself.  And they were also awarded the Purple Heart. 

MATTHEWS:  When you received the Purple Heart, did you understand that you are supposed to get the Purple Heart for wounds taken in action against the enemy? 

FERRELL:  I would say, like most people, my understanding of the Purple Heart was that it was for being combat wounded.  I did not know the specifics of that. 

I didn‘t know the actual criteria.  But I assume that the general came and told me that I was going to be awarded the Purple Heart, I had no reason to question that. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you think it was because of enemy action or because you were in a combat zone? 

FERRELL:  I was originally told that an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade, had hit my vehicle.  And I only later discovered that we had actually run into another vehicle.  At that point, my understanding was that, because we were in a combat zone, we still rated the metal.  Obviously, that turns out to be incorrect. 

MATTHEWS:  When did you get notified that you were going to have to turn it back in? 

FERRELL:  I received a letter on December 14 of 2004, some 18 months after being awarded the Purple Heart.  I was given no notice prior to that that there was even a consideration that they would revoke it.  And it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.  Like I said...


MATTHEWS:  They just told you, this is the deal, this is the deal. 

There‘s no appealing this. 

FERRELL:  I had a cold letter saying an administrative error was made.  Effective immediately, your Purple Heart has been revoked.  We understand your disappointment.  Thanks for serving in our war. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you feel? 

FERRELL:  Disappointed beyond belief.

Like I said, I hadn‘t asked for the Purple Heart.  And I knew I had been through a tremendous deal and a pretty tough accident.  But I never lobbied for the medal.  I‘ll put it that way. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FERRELL:  When it was given to me and I was allowed to wear it to Marine Corps birthday balls and then to have it taken away, whether it was intended or not, that was a dishonor for me, because I had been honored with that award for nearly two years. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the word?  What‘s the buzz, the scuttlebutt among your unit and the guys you served with about this?  Do they think it was fair or unfair or what?  

FERRELL:  My current unit has been very supportive.  I would say when I spoke to people who returned from Iraq in June of 2003, they were very supportive.  It was always understood and I always understood that I hadn‘t gone into Nasiriyah and done some of the things that my brothers in arms had to do after I was evacuated. 

I hadn‘t been fired upon.  I hadn‘t fired a shot in anger. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FERRELL:  Having said that, I think everyone supported it. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it embarrassing to know that you have people out there who gave you credit for having received the Purple Heart and now know that it was taken back? 

FERRELL:  It is.  Immediately, when I got that letter, I felt like I just had to shoot out a bunch of e-mails and phone calls to my alma mater.

MATTHEWS:  To beat the news.

FERRELL:  To friends and family.  I‘m sorry?

MATTHEWS:  You wanted to get the news first—you wanted to get the news to your friends first. 

FERRELL:  That‘s correct. 

And to see that it has been revoked—and I didn‘t know how it was going to come out.  I just felt like I had to explain, hey, this was not my doing. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FERRELL:  This was not due to anything that I‘ve done.  There was no fraud involve.  I was very simply given this award in good faith. 

MATTHEWS:  And you, at the time, did not know whether it was an accident or you had been hit by an RPG.  In fact, you thought you had been hit. 

FERRELL:  That‘s correct.  And, again, I had no reason to believe otherwise.  I went on what others said.  I had my jaw wired shut for about six weeks.  So, I wasn‘t doing much speaking then. 


MATTHEWS:  You look like you‘re in good shape right now, Lieutenant.  You look like you‘re in good shape right now.  How long did it take to get back to the shape you‘re in now? 

FERRELL:  It took several months.  I think I was sitting on the couch and just didn‘t eat solid foods and that sort of thing.  I had some discomfort with my hip.  So getting back into exercise took a while.  It‘s been a long process.  And I‘m still doing dental work, actually.  And...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  No matter what the Marines say, thank you for your service, by the way. 

FERRELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Marine Corporal Travis Eichelberger. 

Give us your account and tell us your story, the whole way that the lieutenant did. 

CPL. TRAVIS EICHELBERGER, U.S. MARINE CORPS:  It was basically almost the same exact deal, just with a different accident than the lieutenant. 

I was in Kuwait for about a month and then in Iraq for about a day and a half.  And we took a rest outside Nasiriyah.  And I laid down and laid my squad down.  And we stayed at about 50 percent security there.  And I told a buddy of mine, the guide of the platoon, that I was going to lay down and sleep for a couple hours and he could wake me up and then he can go to sleep.

And the next thing I know, he was pulling me out of the way, attempting to pull me out of the way.  And an M1-A1 rolled over my pelvis from about my belly-button to below my knees. 


MATTHEWS:  How many tons is an Abrams tank? 

EICHELBERGER:  Sixty-five, 67 tons. 

MATTHEWS:  And it all went over you. 

EICHELBERGER:  Yes, the left track went over me completely. 

MATTHEWS:  You must have been like a pancake. 


I remember, after it happened, I actually remember looking down and seeing my clothes just twisted around me and ripped.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Could you feel at all?  Or was it shock? 


EICHELBERGER:  I think I was in shock, because I didn‘t feel anything.  And I told actually my buddy, Sergeant Clark (ph), right there beside me that I told him, I think I‘m OK.  And I attempted to move and kind of fell on the rest of my back.  And then...


MATTHEWS:  So you guys were along the roadway or you were in the road itself?  How did this guy ride over you? 

EICHELBERGER:  It wasn‘t really a road.  We came into a kind of stop. 

It was kind of open desert right there. 


EICHELBERGER:  And we stopped. 

And the vehicles were actually following each other to the best of my knowledge.  They were off to our right about 50 to 75 meters.  And they were getting into whatever kind of movement they were getting into to maybe refuel, if I remember right. 


MATTHEWS:  Where were you medevaced to, Corporal? 

EICHELBERGER:  I was medevaced to a field hospital in Kuwait.  And by then, I was highly under the influence of painkillers. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll bet. 

Where was your main—where was your main treatment given to you?

EICHELBERGER:  My main treatment was given to me at Landstuhl, Germany, at the medical center there. 

MATTHEWS:  When did you hear about—how long were you being treated? 

How much time did you spend just trying to deal with these injuries? 

EICHELBERGER:  I spent 10 days in Landstuhl.  And I got to—

Lieutenant Ferrell and I were actually on the same flight from—to Bethesda, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  And how long at Bethesda Naval? 

EICHELBERGER:  What‘s that?

MATTHEWS:  How long were you at Bethesda Naval? 

EICHELBERGER:  I was there from March 30 until April 19 of 2003. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you this.  When were you awarded the Purple Heart? 

EICHELBERGER:  March 31, the morning, the same morning Lieutenant For Ferrell was. 

MATTHEWS:  So you—did you understand that it was a combat injury?  Or did you have the same understanding that it was possibly a combat—or you understood it was a combat zone injury? 

EICHELBERGER:  I understand that it was a combat wounded. 

And I was a 20-year-old corporal at the time.  And just like Lieutenant Ferrell said, to the best of my knowledge, when a four-star general walks into your room, I‘m guessing you pretty well deserve the award.  It‘s not—you don‘t tell assistant commandant that your feelings are off the bat. 


MATTHEWS:  What were your feelings that you got the word that you were going to have it withdrawn, they were going to take it back?

EICHELBERGER:  I do actually remember telling my dad that I was not quite sure if I was supposed to have this award. 


EICHELBERGER:  But him and I both agreed.  We had talked about it.  And he doesn‘t quite understand the military like I do, but I said that was the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.  So I‘m pretty sure I‘m supposed to have it, because my story is pretty black and white. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes. 

EICHELBERGER:  A friendly tanker that ran over me.  And there‘s no way to confuse that, really.  So...

MATTHEWS:  How did you get the word they were going to yank it back? 

EICHELBERGER:  I actually got the word from a friend of mine in Washington, D.C., when I was stationed up there.  He worked in the mailroom and he told me he was going to send me a piece of mail that had something to do with my Purple Heart.  So I waited in the mail for it. 

And then Lieutenant Ferrell actually called me at my home in Kansas and told me, asked me if I had received the letter yet.  And I said no.  And he told me the extent of the letter.  And we started talking back and forth on the phone until I finally received the letter. 

MATTHEWS:  How is your outlook health wise? 

EICHELBERGER:  My outlook on life is great.  I‘ve recovered just fine. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a resilient fellow, having been run over by an Abrams tank. 

EICHELBERGER:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, I want to thank you for your service. 

EICHELBERGER:  No problem. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean it.  And I think these things are all so odd, the circumstance.  You‘ll be back.  Let‘s come back. 

Lieutenant Ferrell had to go, but you‘re going to stick with us, I understand, Corporal.  So we‘ll come back and talk to you more about how these things happen how things get recorded as Purple Hearts and then unrecorded. 

We‘ll be right back in a moment after this.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the Marine Corps takes back Purple Hearts from two Marines injured in Iraq.  Reaction from retired Marine General Bernard Trainor when HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with Marine Corporal Travis Eichelberger, who earned a Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq.  And later his Purple Heart was revoked.  General Bernard Trainor is retired from the Marine Corps and an NBC News analyst. 

HARDBALL called the Marine Corps about the revoked Purple Hearts.  And here‘s what they told us—quote—“We recognize that this is a painful and disturbing situation for these Marines.  In order to protect the sanctity of the medal, these measures were necessary.  We are reviewing the method in which these notifications were made and we‘re looking to improve these procedures so that, should similar circumstances arise in the future, Marines will be notified in a more personal and compassionate manner.”

Well, that‘s nice talk from the Marines.  What did you make of that, General Trainor?  Does that—what does that mean exactly? 

RET. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, it means that there was a mistake made.  And there‘s no question about it, Chris.  It certainly is painful and embarrassing for all parties concerned. 

But the strict criteria for the medal has to be maintained in order to maintain the dignity of the medal. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain to the people watching, what is the distinction between being hurt on a combat—on a military operation, a Marine operation in Iraq?  Is it just simply that, if you‘re hurt even by collateral action or a mistake, you accidentally shoot yourself—any kind of wound suffered during contact with the enemy; is that the key? 

TRAINOR:  Well, the whole thing is set out in public law and very strictly applied. 

The individual is not really involved in the thing.  It is the enemy. 

An individual who is injured or wounded is not recommended for the medal.  But if he has been injured or wounded as the result of enemy action, then he is entitled to the Purple Heart automatically.  Now, to have that verified, he has to be treated by a medical officer and it has to be made a matter of official record. 

The very fact that you‘re in a combat zone does not qualify.  It has to be as the result of enemy action. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose Corporal Eichelberger had been run over by an Abrams tank while in action, while facing enemy fire?

EICHELBERGER:  Oh, there‘s no question he would have received it. 


MATTHEWS:  So the exact same wound suffered during—when you‘re under fire from the enemy qualifies you for the Purple Heart?

TRAINOR:  Yes.  Let me give you an example. 

As a matter of fact, it is in the regulations, that—suppose a man is taking a heavy crate off the back of a truck and there‘s a mortar round.  An enemy mortar round lands in the vicinity and he drops it on his foot and breaks his foot.  Well, that was the result, because he was started by the enemy action.  And he would get the Purple Heart; 100 meters away from them, another guy is taking a crate off and there is no enemy activity.  He drops it on his foot, exactly the same thing.  He does not rate it. 

So the thing, it is the enemy action.  And it‘s a direct or indirect result of it.  If those tanks were swinging into action, instead of refueling, which apparently was the case, from what the corporal said, then he would have been entitled to it because the tanks were reacting to the enemy. 

MATTHEWS:  Not to rip off an old scab, if General—if John Kerry in the Navy as a lieutenant, if he was injured by something he shot.  If he was shooting his weapon into the distance under the side of the river and somehow he got hurt by that firing, he would still qualify as well, right? 

TRAINOR:  Well, I think that‘s a matter of judgment.  Of course, that thing became a matter of great dispute during the campaign. 

But if he was in enemy action and he took action against the enemy in response to the enemy and in the process his own round hurt him, I think that probably would qualify. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Corporal Eichelberger. 

What did you make of that—of the military‘s—the Marines‘ explanation to us tonight? 

EICHELBERGER:  I completely agree with it. 

My biggest deal on this whole thing was exactly what they said to make a better way to research and make sure our boys get their Purple Hearts that they‘re supposed to have.  If I don‘t deserve a medal, I definitely do not want to wear it, because the last thing I want to do is, A, deface the integrity of the medal, and, B, deface the Marine Corps in any way, because I‘ve given them four and a half years of my life and I love the Marine Corps. 

You know, I‘ve made great friends and had fun and was in the infantry, everything I wanted to do through high school.  So I definitely agree 100 percent. 


MATTHEWS:  Is there any other way you would like to have been notified that they were going to retract it?  Or if it‘s bad, it‘s bad and it doesn‘t matter how they tell you? 

EICHELBERGER:  It is bad. 

It‘s a horrible situation.  And whichever way they tell you, it is going to be horrible.  But the letter was—it was very informal and just kind of told me about it.  And the very last sentence just is stamped.  It says is—your Purple Heart is hereby revoked and then stamped by the secretary of the Navy and—which is fine. 

But, then again, I‘m different from a lot of people.  And there‘s a lot of people that have—in support of me that feel that there‘s another way.  And I do feel that other people need to be treated in different ways.  So...


Corporal Travis, again, thank you for your service.  Corporal Travis Eichelberger, thank you very much for joining us. 

And, again, I want to thank General Bernard Trainor for joining us. 

TRAINOR:  Chris, may I say one more thing? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, go ahead.  


TRAINOR:  One more thing.

You noticed, both of these Marines, it was the early days of action, one day, three days, first into it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TRAINOR:  There‘s always confusion at the beginning of a battle until the rhythm sets in.  And I think that‘s where the administrative mistake was made. 


MATTHEWS:  General, we‘ll be right back in a moment with HARDBALL.

Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Terry McAuliffe will step down this weekend after four years as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  A longtime Washington insider and close friend of the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, McAuliffe passes the baton to his likely successor, very likely successor, Howard Dean, who ran against the party establishment and has ridden a wave of grassroots rebellion. 

Is Howard Dean a rebel? 

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  No.  I think Howard Dean is going to be a great chair. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is wrong with being a rebel? 

MCAULIFFE:  I mean, a rebel against the party?  I mean, a rebel out there...

MATTHEWS:  Against the establishment, the way things are usually done with the contributors calling the shots. 


MCAULIFFE:  Go out there and raise some heck every single day. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you think contributors have too much influence in the Democratic Party, that they set the policy? 


MATTHEWS:  For example, the trial lawyers. 

MCAULIFFE:  First off, no one involved in the Democratic National Committee, Chris, sets any policy. 


MCAULIFFE:  People think the party is involved in policy.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t there muscle in people that give the money? 

MCAULIFFE:  Sure.  I mean, obviously, they can get in and have their meetings up on the Hill.  Absolutely.  There‘s no question they can make their case.

MATTHEWS:  So why do most Democrats oppose tort reform and caps on findings?


MCAULIFFE:  I would go up and talk to folks up in the Senate and the House who actually vote on this kind of legislation, Chris.  The chairman of the DNC doesn‘t vote on any of these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you do.  You raise money for them. 

MCAULIFFE:  No.  I raise money from them.  I don‘t raise money for them.  I raise money from them.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you, so you think the party system still works in America?  You think we need political parties anymore? 

MCAULIFFE:  Oh, I think the exercise we went through in 2004, Chris, we had the largest grassroots operation in the history of the party, knocked on 11 million doors, 255,000 volunteers.  It was spectacular to see the people come out.  John Kerry got 59 million votes for president. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did he lose? 

MCAULIFFE:  National security. 

I think when those buildings—those planes went into those two buildings on 9/11, I think the die was cast.  I think people, when they went and voted, thought that George Bush would keep them safer than John Kerry.  We should have done a more effective job of delinking Iraq from the war on terror.  But it came down to national security. 

MATTHEWS:  You think Kerry was going catching—at connecting with the average person in this country economically, the person who makes $30,000 or $40,000 a year?  Do you think he connected with that person in terms of their dreams and their problems?

MCAULIFFE:  Well, I think, clearly, if you look at the exit data, independents supported John Kerry overwhelmingly, youth voters.  If the youth voters were the only voters, John Kerry would have got... 


MATTHEWS:  So you were happy with his ability to connect with the average person?

MCAULIFFE:  Listen, John Kerry got 59 million votes for president. 

It is hard to beat an incumbent president.  In fact, it has never been done, Chris, in the history of our country, an incumbent president at war.  John Kerry got very close.

MATTHEWS:  You know, the poll that asked people, if you get a flat tire, who is going to stop for you, Bush or Kerry, that Bush, the Republican president, won that?  How do you figure?  How can a Democrat not win on real day-to-day compassion and still be a Democrat?

MCAULIFFE:  Well, obviously, there are 59 million people who actually thought that John Kerry...

MATTHEWS:  But more people thought that George Bush would stop and help with a flat tire than John Kerry.  Isn‘t that a problem?  Isn‘t windsurfing a problem? 

MCAULIFFE:  Chris, you know what the problem is for most Americans?  They had seen their 401(k)s shattered.  They had lost their health insurance.  They didn‘t have a quality job.

You know what?  They don‘t care who is fixing tires.  They see the largest budget deficits in the history of our country.  They see a foreign policy where nations have turned against us.  That‘s what it‘s about.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you.  Let me make a proposal to you, Mr.

McAuliffe, as you leave.

MCAULIFFE:  Sure.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I want to know if you approve it.  There are certain people in the Democratic Party who are excellent in this medium, sitting in that chair or by remote, Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, Jennifer Granholm, Rod Blagojevich.  These are governors from the Midwest.


MATTHEWS:  Bill Nelson, Bill Richardson, Ed Rendell, Feinstein of California, people like that.  Hillary.  Why don‘t you make a point of pushing the people who are good on television making the party message clear to the country on television?  They‘re some of the most reticent people in the world to go on TV and they‘re the best people you have. 

MCAULIFFE:  Well, we had a huge surrogate operation.  We tried to get people on television all through the campaign.  You‘re right.  There are many times...

MATTHEWS:  Why isn‘t Chris Dodd on television all the time?  Why isn‘t Feinstein on television?  Why aren‘t they always over the place—the president guess on TV every night because of the way we set up news around this country.  You always have a White House correspondent. 

Why don‘t the Democrats get their TV operation together?  It is so easy.  It is free. 

MCAULIFFE:  I couldn‘t agree with you more that we need Democrats out on television every single day, drawing the distinctions between the Democrats and Republicans. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What we get are the people who are desperate to get on television who aren‘t necessarily your best spokespeople. 

MCAULIFFE:  Right.  Right. 

Listen, Chris, all I can tell you is, we try to get many of these folks out on television doing what we need to do. 

We had a very effective surrogate operation in the 2004 campaign.  Our message got out.  There is a reason why 59 million people came out and voted for John Kerry.  George Bush—if we had changed 60,000 votes in Ohio, John Kerry would have been inaugurated last week. 

MATTHEWS:  Describe your pluses and minuses.  Give me both, please, for Howard Dean as the next chair.  What are the pluses?


MATTHEWS:  What will he bring to the table?

MCAULIFFE:  First of all, the chair of the party, raising money is a big piece of your business, because you have to fund the operations around the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCAULIFFE:  Mobilizing, firing up the grassroots across the country. 

I think Howard Dean will do an exceptional job at both of those. 

MATTHEWS:  How about the high-tech stuff?  Is he going to be good at moving money through the Internet? 

MCAULIFFE:  Well, the good news—he‘ll be excellent at it. 

The great news for our party, Chris, you have got to remember, four years ago, when I came into this job, we were $18 million in debt.  We did not have a single voter file.  We had a dilapidated headquarters. 

Today, as you know, we‘re debt-free for 24 straight months, first time in 100 years, new headquarters, new technology. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great stuff.

MCAULIFFE:  We outraised the RNC for the first time ever.  We raised a quarter-billion dollars in small donors.


MATTHEWS:  Give me one fear you have about your successor. 

MCAULIFFE:  I don‘t have any fears.

MATTHEWS:  No fears? 

MCAULIFFE:  Listen, Chris, you know me.  I‘m a half-full kind of a guy.


MATTHEWS:  He was your candidate? 

MCAULIFFE:  I ran the process, so none of them were my candidate. 

But you have to be unified. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCAULIFFE:  To win elections, we have got the money now, which will never be a crutch again.  We have got the technology.  We‘ve got the voter files.  We‘ve got the issues.  If we‘re unified, we win elections.  Let‘s all come together as one. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what else you have?


MATTHEWS:  Howard Dean.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing, as you just saw, the outgoing former chairman, about to be former chairman of the DNC. 

MCAULIFFE:  You should have run.


MATTHEWS:  Still to come, reality television mogul Mark Burnett on his success in life—and, boy, what a success he‘s been—and how he gets the big names, Donald Trump and now Martha Stewart, to come on and be stars of his shows.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

If you‘ve seen any prime-time network TV in the past couple of years, you‘ve seen the work of Mark Burnett, first with “Survivor,” the show that made the phrase the tribe has spoken a cultural catch phrase and now with his hit NBC show “The Apprentice,” which made Donald Trump a TV star and you‘re fired his signature tag line.  And coming up, a reality show starring Martha Stewart.  So how did he do it? 

Mark Burnett tells you in his new book, “Jump In Even If You Don‘t Know How to Swim.”

Mark, old pal, thanks for joining us. 

This book is obviously going to be well—do well.  And the reason is because you know how to figure out how to put Martha Stewart on TV.  How did you do it? 

MARK BURNETT, PRODUCER:  Well, you know what?  I saw her in her worst legal troubles and everyone was dissing her and saying she was finished. 

I thought, she as a brand was being undervalued and her stock was certainly undervalued.  I was also looking to expand “The Apprentice” franchise and thought a woman was the right idea.  It all came together.  I reach outed, met with Martha.  I was one of the only people, Chris, who reached out with a positive idea in the worst of her legal troubles.  And she said yes right away.  And we made a deal before she was incarcerated. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it really because, back when you were a nanny, that she was your role model on how to raise—take care of a family? 

BURNETT:  Mary Poppins, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me—I know—we‘ll get back to that. 

You know, Martha Stewart like you and a lot of us had these incredibly rocky lives and arcs, be going up, down, up, down, up maybe for a couple years.  And you‘re certainly on the upward curve.  You started out as a British paratrooper, right?

BURNETT:  Yes.  Yes, that‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  And then how did you get over here and how did you get into Hollywood making incredible TV shows like the “Survivor” and “Apprentice”? 

BURNETT:  After five years in the British paratroopers, ending up in the Falkland Islands war against Argentina... 

MATTHEWS:  You won that one, didn‘t you?

BURNETT:  Yes.  We won.  We kicked their ass in that one, yes.

MATTHEWS:  That was a close call with the Argentine navy, wasn‘t it?

BURNETT:  With a lot of help from Alexander Haig, yes.


BURNETT:  And I came over here because I was—actually heard of great work in Central America, in Nicaragua, for ex-soldiers of special units. 

I got sidetracked along the way, decided to stay in Los Angeles, needed a place to live, some money and a car.  And the only job available that week was child care, Beverly Hills.  I took a job as a nanny, which should have been for two weeks, ended up being nanny for a year and a half. 

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t imagine your—what was your interview like when you went for this job?  I‘ve been a wild goose, fighting wherever, a soldier of fortune, pick up a paycheck.  And, by the way, I‘m a Brit.  I‘m just here on a green card and I need to work with kids. 


BURNETT:  It‘s a sitcom.  It‘s crazy. 


BURNETT:  But you know what it shows you, honestly?

When you have a need, and if you‘re a good salesperson, which I think I‘m a pretty good salesperson, you can sell yourself.  And I also applied myself.  I did a great job as a nanny.  I think that‘s what Martha, by the way, is doing in jail, is focusing day to day on doing the best she can on that day.  So whether you‘re a nanny, cleaning streets, working at McDonald‘s or...


BURNETT:  ... TV, do a good job. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

It people don‘t know about Martha Stewart.  They see this sort of perfect Connecticut farmhouse, the smell of bakery goods in the window, the pie always ready with the birds trying to nip at it.  And she‘s wearing a perfect apron and never sweating a drop.  And yet she came out of, what, the Newark or Jersey City tenements.  And she had a rough, sort of Stanley Kowalski background with a tough situation at home. 

BURNETT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And she lived in a real crap hole.  And everybody doesn‘t understand how far this woman has come.  No wonder she‘s making this comeback. 

BURNETT:  Also, to carry on what you‘re saying is, she was on our planet Earth the first ever female self-made billionaire, the first ever, before Oprah.  From that, what a great story. 

You don‘t get there, as you know, without being tough and without being able to bounce back.  Martha is going to bounce back, in my opinion, bigger than ever. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re her balloon to bounce back. 

But let me ask you, does she order pizza for the whole prison or what? 


MATTHEWS:  I wonder what it is like to have billions of dollars and have everybody on the row know you have those billions?  That must be amazing.

What is this show going to be about?  Let me ask you this.  Is she going to talk about her life inside in this new show? 

BURNETT:  Well, there‘s no way to avoid that subject. 

But the show won‘t be about prison.  I‘m not going to film her in there or coming out of there, and not going to deliberately make it part of the show.  I think to not mention would be kind of crazy.  It‘s like having an elephant in the corner and you‘re ignoring it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BURNETT:  But one show is “The Apprentice.”  So she‘s going to be looking for an apprentice.  I think they will be really, really—well, we‘re always seeing thousands of really qualified young men and women who are applying to work for Martha Stewart. 

And on her daily syndicated show, which I‘m doing starting in September, I‘m really taking her old show, which is, as you said, cooking, housewares, flowers, but I‘m doing it in front of a live studio audience.  So she can interact with people. 

That came out, Chris, of me watching her old show, which was kind of flat, comparing to her interviews on various talk shows.  She comes to life with a live audience and people.  That will show who Martha really is and make it do much better. 

MATTHEWS:  What is your demo, Mark?  What group of audience do you get?  Do you get people my age?  Do you get people in their ‘30s?  Do you get kids?  Who do you get watching your show?

BURNETT:  Well, “The Apprentice” is—interestingly enough, is in upscale demos.  In 18 to 49, the coveted demo, “The Apprentice” is No. 1 by far.  In that demo in income above $70,000, it‘s the No. 1 show in the country. 


MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.

They‘re looking at it for real advice.  This is not just voyeurism. 

They want to find out what they can learn, right? 


And the No. 2 show in the country in that group is actually “West Wing,” funnily enough, both on NBC. 


BURNETT:  “The Daily Show.” 

I‘m sure being mainly female, because it is 11:00 in the morning probably,  around that time, people who are at home and homemakers and the same sort of audience that probably Rosie had in that time slot. 

MATTHEWS:  Tough question, do women control the TV clicker?  Can they grab it from their husband and say, I‘m watching this?



MATTHEWS:  I‘m serious.  Or does he control it?  Or do they have two rooms with two different TV sets on? 

BURNETT:  Any smart guy is quite happy to let his wife control the clicker. 


MATTHEWS:  He is smart to let her? 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that may have a double entendre there.  But let me just move on from there.

Let me ask you about the book.  In this book, what‘s the best advice to somebody who wants to make it in America like you have? 

BURNETT:  Well, the best advice is, look at me.  No education, $600, some vision and tenacity. 

I think you need to decide, though, what is it that really gets you going, what inspires you, excites you, and only work on things you‘re truly excited about, and then be congruent.  Let your actions reflect how you feel.  If you‘re doing something just for money, you will fail.  There‘s no way. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, hey, Mark, I took that advice about 40 years ago. 

That‘s what I‘ve been doing. 

BURNETT:   I know.  I know.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m doing what I love to do.  And best to Roma, speaking about beautiful.  What a gorgeous girlfriend you have.  Anyway, I guess that‘s part of your lifestyle. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  It‘s great having you on, Mark Burnett.

This book is what everybody wants to read about, how to make it like you did, “Jump in Even If You Can‘t Swim.”

When we return, actress Fran Drescher and actor Ron Silver.  Plus, MSNBC‘s own Ron Reagan will talk to us about the new postage stamp honoring his father, President Ronald Reagan.  There it is.

And if you want to keep up with HARDBALL, there‘s no better way than signing up for the daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.



MATTHEWS:  Here to talk politics and art is an esteemed panel of artists and broadcasters.  Ron Reagan is the co-host of MSNBC‘s new show “Connected Coast to Coast,” which will debut February 15 here on MSNBC.  Fran Drescher is a TV actress and author of “Cancer Schmancer.”  She is also a member of the artist advocacy group The Creative Coalition.  Also with us is the film and TV star and HARDBALL friend Ron Silver.

I have to go to Ron first. 

What do you think about the stamp honoring your dad? 

RON REAGAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think it is great.  I think he probably would have enjoyed it.  He actually liked some of that stuff, the stamps and...

MATTHEWS:  Was he a philatelist?

REAGAN:  A philatelist?  Can we say that on cable television? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, FDR was a philatelist.

REAGAN:  No, he actually was not a stamp collector.  But I think he would have liked this.  And the likeness is actually not bad.  A lot of these things, they just don‘t like the person.  But his is pretty good. 

MATTHEWS:  How long do they stay issued?  Once you make—is it like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where they keep issuing them in perpetuity? 

REAGAN:  You know, that‘s a good question.  I don‘t know.  Maybe our philatelist friend Ron Silver would have the answer to that. 


RON SILVER, ACTOR:  Well, I was a child philatelist.  I don‘t know if that is an indictable offense. 


SILVER: I don‘t have an answer for you, Ron. 

REAGAN:  I don‘t...


MATTHEWS:  Alone or with others?


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what the priest always asks.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Fran Drescher—I love this. 

Welcome to the show for the first time. 

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS:  Thank you.  I‘m glad to be here.  I always watch you. 


MATTHEWS:  I sat next to you in a restaurant in L.A. one time down in Santa Monica.  And somebody said, do you know who was sitting next to us?  I should have recognized the voice. 

DRESCHER:  You didn‘t know.  Exactly.  That‘s what I was thinking. 

MATTHEWS:  You have a more grating voice than I do, don‘t you?


DRESCHER:  Well, meanwhile, people—I was just at the National Art Gallery.  And said somebody to me, laugh for me. 




MATTHEWS:  I can‘t do that when I have to. 

Let me ask you about Johanna‘s Law.  You‘re here lobbying for it.

DRESCHER:  Yes, I am, in addition to being here for The Creative Coalition and the correspondents congressional dinner. 

I‘m here talking to legislators about Johanna‘s Law.  And that is a law that is geared at educating women and their doctors about the early warning signs of gynecological cancer, of which I‘m a survivor.  But it took me two years and eight doctors to get a proper diagnosis.  And I was very lucky, because my particular cancer was a very slow growing cancer.  So—but Johanna unfortunately had ovarian cancer. 

And 70 percent of those women find out in the late stages.  And 80 percent of them die.  And this is because the early warning symptoms for most gynecological cancers mimic far more benign illnesses.  So, like myself and Johanna, we were both diagnosed with something else.  For me, it was a perimenopausal condition that I didn‘t have. 

For her, it was IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, which is very common.  It almost seems identical in the beginning.  And I think that we‘re all victims of a medical community that is bludgeoned by insurance companies and insurance lobbies with very deep pockets that bludgeon doctors into going the least expensive route of diagnostic testing. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought doctors were very careful these days to give you as many tests as they can to prevent malpractice problems. 

DRESCHER:  Oh, no.  No, no.  Not at all. 

They subscribe to the philosophy, if you‘re hear hoofs galloping, don‘t look for a zebra.  It is probably a horse.  But if you happen to be a zebra, you‘re royally screwed.  They would much prefer treating you for the more benign thing and then watching and then seeing. 

But with something as virulent as ovarian cancer, you can‘t wait.  And that‘s why so many women get diagnosed in the late stages.  Plus, we don‘t even have any kind of a cancer screening test for ovarian cancer.  And that‘s just pathetic. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to your concerns, foreign affairs.


SILVER:  ... gynecological cancer and now you‘re going to ask me about the National Endowment For the Arts?


MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you about the president.  He gave Joe Lieberman a real nice kiss the other night.  Have you got anything like that? 


SILVER:  .... nice hug.  No.

MATTHEWS:  Have you gotten anything like that?


SILVER:  I got a Ronnie, thumbs up. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that what you got?

SILVER:  And only my mom calls me Ronnie. 



SILVER:  But it was very sweet.  It was very gracious, yes.

MATTHEWS:  It was a moment. 

Are you happy with what‘s happening in Iraq? 

SILVER:  I‘m thrilled. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you worried about what might happen in Iran?

MATTHEWS:  So you were that Sunday.


MATTHEWS:  I was very—I was taken.  I like elections. 

SILVER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I like elections.  And they mean a lot to me.  I think the difference between dictatorships and not dictatorships is, you get to vote. 


MATTHEWS:  And I do like the Sharansky argument.  If you can go out in the public square and scream your mouth off at a government, that‘s a free country. 

SILVER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And if you can‘t, it‘s not. 

SILVER:  Well, you started asking about Iran.  That‘s going to be very considering with what Condoleezza Rice is doing now, because they‘re talking about opportunities, shared values.  They‘re not talking about beating up the bad guys.  They‘re saying, what are our common values?  How do we enhance it together?

I think this is going to be a stunning second term. 


SILVER:  If it doesn‘t get screwed up like a lot of second terms. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we can prevent a standoff with Iran if we can move their government, move the people toward a more democratic...

SILVER:  No, because I‘m skeptical about it.  I don‘t see what the EU3 is actually going to accomplish. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does it end up, a fight with Iran over its nuclear...

SILVER:  I don‘t know.  At the moment, I would hope not, but...

MATTHEWS:  Everybody says we can‘t find them even if we want to knock them out. 

SILVER:  Well, that may be.  And I don‘t know how good the intelligence is, but bringing it to the U.N. for some sanctions, international sanctions, might work.


When we come back, I want to talk to Ron about that embrace the other night at the State of the Union, whether we still look at it the way we looked at it last week.  We tried to figure that out that night.

Secondly, I want to talk to you about stem cell, Ron, and everybody else.

HARDBALL back with a lot of contentious issues with Ron Silver, Fran Drescher and Ron Reagan—and we like contention—in just a moment.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger—I‘ve always loved that name—our HARDBALL political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


MATTHEWS:  We are back with actors Ron Silver and Fran Drescher and MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan. 

Ron Silver, what are you going to do on “West Wing”?  What‘s the secret you‘re keeping from us?

SILVER:  I can‘t tell you, but I am going out to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Big development?

SILVER:  I have not done it in about a year and a half.  And they‘re try to reconfigure the show.  So it‘s going to be kind of interesting.

MATTHEWS:  You are sort of a combination Dick Morris and Karl Rove, aren‘t you?

SILVER:  Combination Dick Morris and Karl Rove, I can‘t imagine what...


SILVER:  I‘m thinking of like cloning Dolly.  What would that look like?


MATTHEWS:  I think Karl Rove is a lot cleaner, actually, just guessing.  And, actually, his career has been much less mixed than the other fellow.

SILVER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But big season coming back?  Is this the last season for “West Wing”? 

SILVER:  I don‘t think so.  I think they have tried to gear up for another season, a lot of changes.

MATTHEWS:  It gets to me sometimes.  What I like about it is the reverence for the presidency. 

SILVER:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  ... great stuff.

SILVER:  It is done very well. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ron Reagan and ask you about stem cell.

You‘ve been the battler for that one.  I notice the British have cloned an embryo, a human embryo, something illegal and many people think unethical here.  What do you think? 

REAGAN:  Well, there‘s a lot of confusion around this. 

Actually, some of the people who are against embryonic stem cell research should embrace what we‘re calling therapeutic cloning.  The real name is somatic nuclear cell transfer.  In a nutshell, what you‘re doing there is, you are taking a cell from your body, let‘s say from the inside of your cheek or something like that, and you‘re fooling it into thinking that it is an embryo. 

In other words, you‘re putting it in an egg that has been denucleated and you‘re getting it to divide.  And you let it do that for a little while, a week or so.  And then you can harvest stem cells.  Now, there‘s no human embryo involved.  No sperm has met egg, never going to be implanted in a womb.  It‘s never going to become a fetus.

MATTHEWS:  But could it become potentially a human being? 

REAGAN:  Well, there‘s the rub, and that‘s what concerns people. 

If, under very different circumstances, if you were to take that collection of cells that is in a petri dish and is going to never leave and you were to implant it in a womb, theoretically, the possibility exists that it could develop to term.  It could become a fetus and be born as a human being who would be a clone. 

Now, there‘s actually a somewhat slim chance of that actually being able to be pulled off like that, but that‘s not the idea. 

MATTHEWS:  What would stop people from using that as a means of child-bearing? 

REAGAN:  Well, it wouldn‘t—it would be a very ineffective way of doing things.  There‘s in vitro fertilization and other techniques to accomplish that.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

REAGAN:  People don‘t realize that it is very difficult to clone something, particularly a mammal.  They had to try a number of sheep before they got Dolly.  And Dolly herself had problems.

MATTHEWS:  But what about the person who really likes themselves and would like to multiply exactly as they are?


MATTHEWS:  Then they get to meet all their identical new mates in life? 

REAGAN:  Well, clones are not the identical—aren‘t just a copy of the person that went before them.  They just—they are a physical copy, but that‘s about it. 


REAGAN:  You wouldn‘t be the same person. 

MATTHEWS:  Have we come to an agreement, by the way, that the other night, when that wonderful Iraqi woman who came over to the State of the Union and sat in the balcony was in fact legitimately and properly embracing the mother of the guy lost over there, the Marine sergeant? 

REAGAN:  Oh, I never disputed that. 

I expressed on your show personal discomfort with using people like the Norwoods as a sort of prop in a speech, however well-meaning it might have been. 


REAGAN:  That just makes me personally a little uncomfortable. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should just close that shop up there, that balcony during State of the Union addresses? 

REAGAN:  Well, I‘ve sat up there a few times myself.

MATTHEWS:  Your father opened that shop with Lenny Skutnik, the guy that swam out and he couldn‘t swim and saved that woman in the Potomac. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

Heroes, I have got no problem with.  But these poor people were just in desperate pain. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

REAGAN:  And I just—I‘m uncomfortable with using people like that. 

MATTHEWS:  But I talked to the dad, Mr. Norwood.  And what a guy.  And he said that he had paid his own way;.  He had paid his cab to the hotel.  It wasn‘t—he was not part of any theater. 


REAGAN:  Oh, no, no.

MATTHEWS:  He saw it, he was there to honor his son. 

REAGAN:  Oh, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  As well as Mrs. Norwood.


REAGAN:  I have nothing bad to say about the Norwoods. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got to go to Fran and give her a shot here.

SILVER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Fran, Hollywood took a beating from the right.  It still does.  Joe Scarborough loves to do it occasionally, my colleague here.  Do you think helping with the tsunami relief has helped build the bridges between Hollywood, sometimes the Hollywood left and the right in this country? 

DRESCHER:  Gee, you know, I would not make that connection at all. 

I think that that was an example of people reaching out to other people in a time of crisis.  And, certainly, I think, if anything, the airwaves I wouldn‘t say sensationalized it, but sort of took that out of balance compared to many other disasters that happen around the world that we don‘t hear about, like in Africa.  But it is not to diminish the needs of the people during the tsunami disaster.  And...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want this salute from the right, do you?  You don‘t want to be appreciated in Hollywood for having support from the right. 

DRESCHER:  You know what?  I‘m an advocate.  And I speak to all sides.  I had dinner last night with Senator Arlen Specter.  This morning, I had breakfast with Senator Hillary Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good guy to meet if you like all sides.  He‘s good at that.  He had the Scottish verdict in the Clinton case.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Fran.  Please come back. 

DRESCHER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re great.  Please come back.  I like a person with a laugh even louder than mine.

Anyway, thank you, as always, our friend Ron Silver, another reversal of fortune.

Fran Drescher, Ron Silver, Ron Reagan, as always.

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, the Reverend Pat Robertson, he says the media doesn‘t really understand what evangelical Americans want from the political process.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.



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