IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Feb. 18

Guest: Marie Cocco, Byron York, Dan Flynn, Ron Silver, Hilary Rosen, Debra Burlingame, Kristen Breitweiser

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  President Bush names John Negroponte America‘s first director of national intelligence.  Is he the best man for the job?  And what can he do to make our country safer?  We‘ll talk to two 9/11 family members. 

Plus, the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over the hearts and minds of college students.  But can they get them to vote? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Ambassador John Negroponte has come to know the strengths and the weaknesses of the intelligence community as a career diplomat.  He worked alongside the CIA in Iraq.  But he‘s never worked for any of the 15 intelligence agencies he‘ll be overseeing.  Is Ambassador Negroponte qualified to be the national intelligence director?   

Kristen Breitweiser has serious reservations about his ability to become the top U.S. intelligence official.  She lost her husband, Ron, at the World Trade Center and lobbied hard for the creation of the 9/11 Commission.  And Debra Burlingame supports President Bush‘s choice for the position.  She lost her brother Chick, who was the pilot on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.  And she‘s a member of the 9/11 Families For a Secure America. 

Kristen, what‘s wrong with Negroponte as the first top intelligence person? 

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW:  I think, first off, you know, he certainly has a very distinguished career in the foreign service. 

But when you look at his resume, it is completely lacking in any real intelligence experience.  You‘re talking about this man being the No. 1 person in this country, having to fuse gets all of this information, present the whole picture to the president, so that we can effectively win the war against terrorists. 

And when this individual has absolutely no intelligence experience, I have serious reservations about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Debra, your thoughts.  Why do you like him? 

DEBRA BURLINGAME, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA:  I like him for a couple reasons. 

First, I would argue that he has intelligence experience as a consumer.  He knows very well from being on the ground in four different continents in his diplomatic life the importance of good intelligence.  He probably knows how the recognize it.  And he knows how badly things can go when you get burned by bad intelligence. 

The other thing I like about him is, I think it is being called a creative choice.  And I think it is—that that‘s true.  You have to remember, this is the global war on terror.  We have terrorists operating out of 60 different countries.  We have a situation now where a terrorist could be born in Morocco, trains in Afghanistan, has a cell in Amsterdam or the outer suburbs of Paris, get their intelligence from Syria, a passport in Saudi Arabia, and enters—or leaves—departs for the United States out of Madrid. 

That means that we have to have somebody who is very, very good at dealing with foreign, our foreign counterparts in intelligence agencies in all corners of the globe.  And those agencies have to deal with political situations on the ground that, as an ambassador, someone from the diplomatic corps, would be very, very appreciative of and understand. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you be—let me ask you, Debra, if we heard tomorrow morning that the New York—that the U.N. ambassador, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, has just been made New York City police commissioner, would that bother you? 

BURLINGAME:  Oh, yes, I think it would bother me.  But I think that‘s a completely different situation. 

I think the police commissioner has to micromanage in a way that this DNI is not going to be micromanaging.  Remember, we still have the director of central intelligence.  We are going to still have these heads of these other agencies.  You just need someone who is pulling them together. 

BREITWEISER:  Chris, can I just jump in?

Let me—let me just show the president.  I want to have the president have a say.  Here‘s the president making his case for why Negroponte would be good for the job. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  John understands America‘s global intelligence needs because he spent the better part of his life in our foreign service and is now serving in distinction in the sensitive post of our nation‘s first ambassador to a free Iraq. 

And his service in Iraq during these past few historic months has given him something that will prove an incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief, an unvarnished and up-close look at a deadly enemy. 


MATTHEWS:  Kristen.

BREITWEISER:  Listen, I just want to point out Debra‘s comment about him being a consumer. 

You know, just because he was an ambassador and he received a certain level of intelligence reporting, certainly not the top level, the most secret, the most classified.  But, more importantly, you know what?  I buy computers.  That doesn‘t mean that I‘m qualified to run Microsoft.  I think that this consumer argument on behalf of the president is absolutely hollow. 

With regard to him being able to stare the enemy eye to eye, I don‘t know quite what enemy the president is speaking about.  If he‘s talking about al Qaeda, which has now shown up in Iraq, after we have invaded Iraq, certainly Mr. Negroponte has done that.  Nevertheless, then every foot soldier in Iraq would be qualified for this position. 

I‘m just hopeful that Congress will deeply consider and think about this selection.  This is the one person in this country who will be responsible to keep us safe from terrorists.  And I hope that Congress uses their oversight abilities in this capacity to really make sure that he is the right person for the job. 

We know what Condoleezza Rice‘s qualifications were.  She was very much side on the—diplomatic side of things.  She didn‘t have intelligence experience.  And what happened with that?  We had 9/11.  I just hope that we‘re not repeating that same mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Debra, do you think it was fair of the president to compare the insurgents we are facing over there, largely Iraqis fighting in their own country against us, who they see as the occupying force, with terrorists?  And isn‘t that—he‘s acting like we‘re fighting Iraqis around the world.  The Iraqis didn‘t attack us on 9/11. 

BURLINGAME:  Well, let‘s be...

MATTHEWS:  The terrorists did.  Al Qaeda did.

BREITWEISER:  That‘s exactly it, Chris.  

BURLINGAME:  Let‘s be very, very clear.  The guy who is running the insurgency, al-Zarqawi is an al Qaeda associate.

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, no, no.  You didn‘t—you just—you didn‘t -

·         General Rick—Rick Myers, the other day, said that, overwhelmingly, the people we‘re facing over there are Iraqi remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime.  There‘s only a very small percentage who are outside people like Zarqawi.  He said a very small percentage.


BURLINGAME:  Zarqawi—you have to understand, though, Zarqawi, an al Qaeda associate who was in Afghanistan, who was injured, fled our troops, given safe haven by Saddam.  Where did he go?  He went to northern Iraq.  And he was running Ansar al-Islam. 


MATTHEWS:  But the insurgency we face over there every day, the IEDs, the blowing up of our troops, the blowing up of the Humvees, the RPGs being shot at us from 200 yards, the garage door openers igniting all those bombs against us, all that is—most of that, except for a small percentage, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, are Iraqis.  They‘re not terrorists from some other country. 

BURLINGAME:  Well, they‘re Baathists. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he says.  I‘m not an expert.  That‘s what he says. 

BURLINGAME:  They‘re Fedayeen.  They‘re Fedayeen.  They‘re Baathists. 

They‘re a variety of things. 

But what I‘m trying to tell you is that it still—it‘s the same result.  And the guy who is running it arrived well before our troops did.  And he was an al Qaeda associate who was not...


MATTHEWS:  Who‘s running what?  The guy who is running it, what being it?  I‘m sorry, Debra.  What is it? 

BURLINGAME:  I‘m talking about the insurgency.  I‘m talking about al-Zarqawi.

MATTHEWS:  The insurgency is not being run by outside people.  It is being run by Iraqis, according to the chairman of the chairman of the joint chiefs two days ago. 

BURLINGAME:  Well, they‘re trying to hunt—the stuff that I‘ve been reading, Chris, is that al -Zarqawi who has been—who is the No. 1 guy they‘ve been trying to—he is the one who has been communicating.  He is the one who has been sending the messages back and forth to—supposedly to bin Laden.  But the point is...


MATTHEWS:  But we‘re not—OK.  The ambassador to Iraq, the U.S.  ambassador to Iraq deals with the people in Iraq.  Overwhelmingly, the insurgency we face over there is Iraqi led.  It‘s people form Iraq who don‘t like us there, whether because of their connection to Saddam Hussein, their ethnic connection as Sunni Muslims against us or because they‘re mad at us for some other reason.  There‘s a very small percentage of the Iraqi opposition who are outsiders.  That‘s what Richard Myers, the head of the United States military, says. 

BURLINGAME:  Well, I will say to you that every report that I have read today has—there‘s been universal praise for the way John Negroponte in the last eight months has been able to deal with these warring factions in putting together an enormously successful election.  He is getting praise from the Iraqis. 

And Jane Harman, who was one of the architects of the intelligence bill, said, if this guy can handle the Green Zone in Iraq, he‘s going to do pretty well here on Capitol Hill in dealing with the various factions that he‘s going to have to deal with in consolidating these 15 different intelligence agencies. 

BREITWEISER:  The problem is, we don‘t need a peacekeeper over the intel community.  That‘s one part of the problem that created 9/11.  The whole problem that needs to be addressed, why we need a director of national intelligence, is because we had a national security adviser in the summer of 2001 who didn‘t know she was in charge of domestic security. 

MATTHEWS:  Kristen, give me your—give me somebody you would like to see as head of national intelligence. 

BREITWEISER:  Listen, someone who is not a...

MATTHEWS:  Anybody.  Give me a name.  Give me a name. 


MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got to give me a name.  You can‘t criticize the person the president put up unless you have got a better candidate.  It doesn‘t work that way.  You‘ve got to have a name.

BREITWEISER:  You know, I would like someone from the intelligence background. 

Like who?  Who do you trust?

BREITWEISER:  Some like Michael Hayden.  Why is not Hayden the DIA?  Why is he the deputy DNI?  How about Robert Mueller?  I would like someone with firsthand experience with intelligence information.  This is the person that needs to go to the fire hose of information, piece together all those millions of bits of information, figure out what‘s relevant, and present that to the president in an unvarnished way.  I don‘t see how...


MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a tough question?  You‘re at the heart of this.  You lost your husband.  You‘ve been fighting for a national intelligence director.  You‘ve been pushing reform the whole way.  But let me ask you this.  Are we better off having Negroponte than not having someone in that position? 

BREITWEISER:  I want someone in that position who will keep this country safe from terrorists. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but are we better off with Negroponte than nobody? 

BREITWEISER:  I would rather have a better person.  If Negroponte...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not answering the question.  Are we better off with somebody?


BREITWEISER:  Chris, that‘s not my decision to make.  It is Congress‘ decision to make when they go through the confirmation process. 

All I‘m saying is, I hope Congress considers whether or not he is the best person for the job. 

BURLINGAME:  Chris, can I just say one thing? 

MATTHEWS:  Sure, Debra, go ahead.

BURLINGAME:  When I heard this job description, I thought, they‘re never going to find someone for this.  This is—this is someone who is trying to handle two jobs.  How are they going to find someone who is qualified for both of those jobs? 


BURLINGAME:  And you‘re never going to find—the people who are qualified are not going to want to do it.  It is too much of a difficult task. 

And that‘s why I thought the president‘s choice not only of Negroponte, but you‘re going to need a diplomat, especially since we have the—the global aspect.  But also the fact that they have as the deputy General Hayden is a brilliant choice.  This is a guy who has had a whole career of intelligence ops. 


BURLINGAME:  And he will bring him up...


BREITWEISER:  He should be the DNI.

MATTHEWS:  Debra Burlingame—thank you, Debra Burlingame.

And thank you, Kristen Breitweiser. 


MATTHEWS:  A hot debate coming up.  We‘ll see this in the Senate whether they confirm or not. 

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton takes a hit from an unlikely source, liberal Hollywood big-time mogul David Geffen, who says she is too polarizing, she shouldn‘t be the candidate.  If Hillary is too polarizing for Geffen, how will she play in Peoria?

HARDBALL returns in a moment.

And a program note, this Sunday, Hillary Clinton is Tim Russert‘s guest on “Meet the Press,” a big get for Tim, along with John McCain, always a big get.  That‘s “Meet the Press.”  Check your local listings.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, one of Bill Clinton‘s biggest backers, Hollywood mogul David Geffen, says Hillary Clinton can‘t win the White House because she‘s too polarizing.  Is Hillary‘s ‘08 campaign dead in the water?

HARDBALL returns after this.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In a question-and-answer session Thursday night, Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who was a major supporter of Bill Clinton, said about a possible Hillary Clinton run in 2008 -- quote—“She can‘t win and she‘s an incredibly polarizing figure.  And ambition is just not a good enough reason.”  Plus, after only one week at the helm, Howard Dean is increasing enrollment at the DNC.  And is Hollywood playing hardball with Academy Awards host Chris Rock? 

To talk about all this stuff, Hilary Rosen, who worked closely with Geffen himself as the president of the Recording Industry Association of America.  She‘s now a Democratic strategist.  She‘s here with actor/activist Ron Silver. 


Let‘s not get too complicated about who David Geffen is and why he is talking.  But why is David Geffen dumping on Hillary Clinton, Hilary? 

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, a cynic might argue that Hillary Clinton would pay him to do so, because it‘s not so bad for Hillary Clinton to have Hollywood moguls complain about her. 

MATTHEWS:  This is inverse triangulation?  Is this the Sister Souljah wanna-be of our time? 

ROSEN:  I don‘t think that happened.  But if you‘re Hillary, you want to defy those labels.  And it‘s not bad for people...


MATTHEWS:  But why is the big Hollywood lib lab dumping on Hillary? 

ROSEN:  Well, I think that he—first of all, he sat out the last presidential race, too.  So he—whether or not he is involved is not going to be too material to a run by Hillary or... 


MATTHEWS:  Is he a hawk? 

ROSEN:  Is David Geffen a hawk? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I mean, why did he sit out?  What was his problem with Kerry? 

ROSEN:  Disillusioned with politics, as a lot of other people are.  It‘s just, when you‘re very rich and you‘re disillusioned with politics, it is more noticeable. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is he sneakily pushing here when he‘s dumping on Hillary?  He must have an alternate.

ROSEN:  I don‘t think he does have an alternate candidate, although I haven‘t talked to him.  I don‘t know.


ROSEN:  But Hillary Clinton I think is clearly going to be out there in the mainstream.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Is Hillary Clinton the best—the Democrats‘ best bet to beat whoever the Republicans put up?  Best bet to win?  Best bet? 

ROSEN:  Right now, I think she probably is. 

MATTHEWS:  The best bet? 

ROSEN:  Al Gore—Al Gore would be my first choice. 


MATTHEWS:  No, the best bet to win. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you know what I‘m saying here?  I‘m asking you to handicap this baby. 


MATTHEWS:  Not give me your heart on the table here. 

ROSEN:  This is not my heart.  I‘m cynical and I‘m tired of losing. 

I‘m a liberal tired of losing.  And I really believe that there is a...


MATTHEWS:  This is squirrelly.  Al Gore has had a tough couple of years.  But you think he can get back in this race and beat everybody, including the Republican candidate, next time? 

ROSEN:  Look, I think there are probably two Democrats in America today who have the experience on the stump and whose commitment and faith and values just is not contrived. 

There‘s a whole lot of talk about how Democrats are going to get their values back, how they‘re going to talk about faith, how the country is going to relate to them.  Actually, those two have done it and have lived it for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Al—Al and Hilary.

Let me go to Ron. 

RON SILVER, ACTOR:  Look, there are only four people left in Hollywood who talk to me.  David was one of them.  After tonight, God knows what he‘s going to say. 



SILVER:  I think he was wrong.  I agree with Hilary there. 

Hillary Clinton—when the Iowa caucuses were happening, Hillary Clinton was running to the right of the eight or nine people involved.  She is on the Armed Services Committee.  She‘s talking to middle America.  And if the Democrats have any template for success in the last 40 years, it was the Clintons.  They knew how the reach across the lines.  They knew how to go centrist, you know, like that.


MATTHEWS:  ... how to go both ways on the first Iraq war, too.

SILVER:  Yes.  Well, listen, he was smart—people give the Clintons a lot of pass on things.  During his first campaign, he went back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of an 18-year-old retarded black man. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SILVER:  And all the death penalty opponents had very little to say about that. 

They were very successful, the Clintons.  And I think Al From and the DLC and going toward the center is right.  And I think David is wrong on this one.  And I think Howard Dean is going to be a catastrophe for them, not on the organizational level, not on the money level.  But he is going to be involved in substance.

MATTHEWS:  When‘s the last time you voted Democrat, Ron?

SILVER:  Last time I voted Democrat was 2000. 

MATTHEWS:  You voted for Gore.

SILVER:  I was in New Hampshire.  I was up there.  I was up there in New Hampshire for Bradley.  And then I voted for Gore. 

ROSEN:  I think this race is actually going to defy a lot of conventions.  You have got Ron, who is likely to probably support Rudy Giuliani, if he runs, right?  You‘re going to have for the first time in the Republican...

MATTHEWS:  Hey, I‘ve looked at the numbers.  Rudy can beat Hillary. 

In fact, he‘s favored right now.

ROSEN:  You‘re going to have for the first time in the Republican Party a group of candidates who are socially progressive and fiscally conservative who are going to be credible and defy convention.  You‘re going to have in the Democratic Party people who are going to come across as more conservative. 


MATTHEWS:  Did you say socially liberal and fiscally conservative? 

ROSEN:  In the Republican Party?

SILVER:  We disagree on this one.  There has been an astonishing moral collapse in the Democratic Party and on the part of the left.  They are a negative party now.  They just say no to everything.  They are bereft of ideas.

MATTHEWS:  Example.  Example.

SILVER:  On anything.  On Social Security, what are they talking about?  This president has the courage to say, we have got to talk about this.  He was not the first one. 

ROSEN:  That‘s not a moral collapse. 


ROSEN:  Where is the morality in lying about the crisis? 

SILVER:  Oh, please.

ROSEN:  That‘s immoral.  I‘m not too worried about that. 

SILVER:  In terms of our strategic—this president has merged our moral values with our strategic interests in a stunning way.  And he‘s heir to a tradition...

ROSEN:  This president has used theology and ideology to push a conservative agenda beyond where..  


SILVER:  He‘s not conservative.  It‘s not reaction—he is quite progressive, in fact, this president. 

ROSEN:  I‘m quite—I‘m quite unaware of that. 

SILVER:  We disagree on this.


MATTHEWS:  More with Ron Silver and Hilary Rosen when we come back.

We‘re going to talk about Chris Rock and the Academy Awards coming up, a big fight over that.  I want to ask them about my favorite topic.  Why are people getting in the way of “Million Dollar Baby”? 


MATTHEWS:  And still ahead, colleges are thought of as hotbeds of liberalism, but conservatives have spent millions to change that.  Are they winning the battle of the campus?  Apparently.  And we‘re going to debate that one, too, a big fight card tonight.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Ron Silver and Hilary Rosen. 

You know, the Academy Awards are coming up a week from Sunday.  And I tell you, the fight has begun.  Maybe this is Don King stuff.  Why are we fighting over the emcee?  Chris Rock is a riot.  The word is out that he‘s made fun of the awards, because he says only gay black guys among black men are the only guys that watch the awards. 

Does this offend you? 

ROSEN:  No.  In fact, it delights me.  The thing that delights me the most is that the only place this has got any traction are on all the right-wing blogs, who are all of sudden offended on behalf of gay people...


ROSEN:  ... by Chris Rock.  So, I don‘t think his jokes are about gays or even offensive enough to like make “Will & Grace.”

SILVER:  It‘s just a shame that everything is politicized.  What happened to a sense of humor?  What about having some fun? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it is a joke. 

SILVER:  Come on.  Yes, of course.

MATTHEWS:  Obviously, nobody thinks that only—they would not be putting things on television if African-American did not watch them.  We all have to watch these shows in order to make any money. 

ROSEN:  Gil Cates, the producer of the Oscars, I think has already proven that he‘s chosen the right host, because the Oscars are being talked about as much now as they have been in years. 


MATTHEWS:  Remember the old joke about, which is ridiculous—because you and I probably like show tunes, right?

SILVER:  Yes.  We do.

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re straight. 

SILVER:  I was the president of Actors‘ Equity for 10 years.



MATTHEWS:  ... used to say about only gay people like show tunes.  And I love them.  Cole Porter.  If you don‘t like Cole Porter, you have got a problem. 


SILVER:  You like show tunes? 

ROSEN:  Yes. 





MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Howard Dean, the guy you like the least.  Howard Dean is the new chair of the Democratic National Committee.  How is he doing? 

ROSEN:  Well, you know, it‘s going to be a—I think it‘s going to be a slow start.  He‘s got a lot of organizing to do.  He‘s got a party to put back together.

SILVER:  A slow start?


ROSEN:  A slow start on the organizing side. 


MATTHEWS:  How about on the tongue side, just being able to say something intelligent, when he said the other day that—to a group of Black Caucus Members, elected officials, if this were a Republican group, the only black people here would be the waiters, basically, the hotel staff.  Do you think that was an up-to-date commentary about social life in America? 

ROSEN:  Not the most politic, contemporary comment about the Republican Party. 


SILVER:  As you said, how about secretaries of state?  That would have been a more appropriate comment.  And then he says, I hate Republicans.  This is the way he‘s starting off a civil dialogue? 

MATTHEWS:  Bipartisan...


SILVER:  I hate Republicans.

BURLINGAME:  I hate when Republicans do X is what he said. 


MATTHEWS:  There is some misquotation going on here. 

SILVER:  I hate Republicans.

ROSEN:  I don‘t think that...


MATTHEWS:  Well, how did that get—I heard that quote. 


ROSEN:  I don‘t think that we‘re going to worry so much about—you know, there‘s going to be a huge amount of scrutiny in everything he says, because that‘s just what he does. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think...


MATTHEWS:  ... he disconnects?

ROSEN:  I think he speaks, you know, un—very un-Washington.  He doesn‘t guard everything he says.  He—you know, he says what he thinks.  We‘re going to get really great things out of there was and we‘re going to get very human things out of there.

SILVER:  This is a guy that said he is not going to get involved in substance or policy.  Let‘s see.  He‘s been installed less than one week.             


MATTHEWS:  He just debated Richard Perle the other day. 

SILVER:  Exactly.  And they had a debate the other night, Richard Perle.

ROSEN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Somebody threw a shoe at Richard Perle.

ROSEN:  That debate actually was...

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t he expect to encounter an ideological difference with Richard Perle?  The guy is the biggest hawk in the country and he is the biggest anti-war guy.  Weren‘t they going to likely talk about that? 

ROSEN:  This—first of all, it was scheduled a long time ago.  The most important thing about the Richard Perle debate, though, was, actually, he pointed out four things to Richard Perle that Richard Perle had said two years ago about how the war in Iraq was going to go.  And they still haven‘t gone that way. 


MATTHEWS:  Who was it that said about Barry Goldwater...


MATTHEWS:  ... I should not have to wait until Thursday to know what the Republican candidate meant on Tuesday?

ROSEN:  If Howard Dean is out there calling the Republicans on some of their stuff, their mistakes, that‘s fine with me.

SILVER:  You know what?  You know what?  I would like to see a replay of Bill Clinton‘s 1998 speech on Social Security.  Because, without attribution, you would think it came from this president‘s mouth. 

MATTHEWS:  Change partners and dance.

SILVER:  You got it.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, thank you, guys.  Thank you, Silver.  Thank you, Rosen.


SILVER:  Silver, Rosen.

MATTHEWS:  Are college campuses changing from liberal bastions to hotbeds of conservatism?  Apparently.  We‘re going to debate that when we come back.  What a fight card.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There‘s a battle under way on American college campuses.  The fighters are partisan political groups with unabashed agendas.  They want to win the hearts and minds of college students.  Conservatives have a leg up in this fight, having funded conservative groups on campuses for years.  Now liberals are fighting back with their own funding.  Why do liberals feel threatened in all—of all places, campuses?

Dan Flynn is director of the campus leadership program for the Conservative Leadership Institute.  Ben Hubbard does the same for Campus Progress, part of the liberal Center For American Progress.

Let me ask you, Ben, why are liberals losing the fight? 

BEN HUBBARD, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, you know, I think what you see out there is that the conservatives have spent $35 million every year pushing their agenda on campuses.  They sponsor publications on over 80 campuses.  They pay for people like Mr. Flynn to speak on college campuses, subsidizing their travel.

And they sponsor hundreds of trainings across the country.  And what you see is that they‘ve really begun to win the battle of ideas after 30 years of organizing. 

MATTHEWS:  Against the professors.

HUBBARD:  Against—well...

MATTHEWS:  No, against the professors.

HUBBARD:  Well, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Because all the professors are liberals, aren‘t they? 

HUBBARD:  Well, that‘s—you know, there are more progressive professors on campus, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  So the Democrats start with an advantage.  They have got the teachers on their side.  And then the conservatives come in and organize against the teacher, basically.  Isn‘t that right?



MATTHEWS:  Is this about—are you in an uphill battle against the teachers?

FLYNN:  Sure.

If you look at the FEC records this recent election campaign, you have a split in the money given from employees at Harvard, say, 32-1, $32 for Kerry, $1 for Bush, Princeton, 300-1.  You can even look attention red states, places like UNC Chapel Hill 19-1.  At Dartmouth, infinity, because they didn‘t have a single professor that gave over $200. 

Meaning that there—if we were—we would be very silly if we relied on the campuses to give a fair hearing for conservative ideas.  And because we‘re serious about our ideas, we—that‘s why groups like Leadership Institute, Young America‘s Foundation, Accuracy in Academia, were started, because you are not going to get schools to give a fair hearing themselves. 

If you rely on textbooks, professors, guest lecture programs, you‘re just going to get the liberal view. 


MATTHEWS:  Why is that the case, do you think? 


MATTHEWS:  Why is it a naturally, almost innate reality of campuses that professors are liberals? 

FLYNN:  I think they live in an ideological echo chamber.  And they that—I went to Madison last week to speak.  And they looked at me as if I were like a zebra or something like that, the way I would look at someone at the zoo. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you would be a zebra at Madison.

FLYNN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t you go to some regular place like Kansas University or something like that, K.U.? 

FLYNN:  Well, I think unlike Ben‘s group—and I don‘t mean to pick on you, Ben—but, unlike Ben‘s group, we don‘t preach to the choir.  We‘re missionaries going out bringing in new converts.  And I just find the whole idea of a liberal group going to the campuses a bit redundant.  That‘s their home turf.

MATTHEWS:  OK, it is in terms of professors.

What is about it the students today?  I have a couple sons in college, both in college now.  And they have their political points of view.  But I don‘t see the kind of urgency that the liberals used to have in my time.  You would have vigils against the war.  I went to Chapel Hill in grad school.  You would stand in this main street, Franklin Street, and you would hold a candle against—not that it had any impact, but at least you fell like you were doing the right thing.  Why is there not anything like that on the liberal side anymore? 

HUBBARD:  Well, I think, we have taken our numbers for granted.  There are more progressive students on campus.  Conservatives are...


MATTHEWS:  Why do you say progressive?  Isn‘t that already a defensive word? 

HUBBARD:  Progressive, liberal.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s a word from back in the, what, the 1920s. 


MATTHEWS:  Lafalette (ph).  Why do you keep saying Teddy Roosevelt? 

Why don‘t you say liberal? 

HUBBARD:  Well, it‘s got—progressivism has a wonderful history.  If you want to go back to civil rights...

MATTHEWS:  Well, does liberalism have an unheralded...

HUBBARD:  I think it also has a strong history.

MATTHEWS:  Are you happy with the word liberal? 

HUBBARD:  I‘m happy to be called a liberal.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you use it?

HUBBARD:  Fine.  I‘ll be a liberal. 


HUBBARD:  know, conservatives are outhustling us on campus. 

And I think what we‘re trying to do is engage young people, speak to young progressives.  There‘s a lot of talented progressives out there who aren‘t getting the support that they need, the resources that they need to really balance the debate on campuses. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, there‘s a lot of support for Howard Dean among young people I saw myself, and maybe I shared some of that zest, although I thought he blew it at the end in terms of his behavior, maybe.

But he did have an ability to say what he meant, which conservatives do very well.  And Howard Dean was sort of a liberal version of a conservative.  He did not call himself a progressive.  He went out there and said what he believed about the war in Iraq.  When everybody else was saying hooray for the president, he was saying no way. 

Now, why didn‘t the kids who went out to Dean rallies and got T-shirts and went to rock concerts for John Kerry, why didn‘t they vote? 

HUBBARD:  Well, they did vote. 


MATTHEWS:  Seventeen percent turnout over...

HUBBARD:  Well, the turnout—they came out in record numbers this year.  It didn‘t increase as a percentage of the overall turnout. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

HUBBARD:  Well, you know, I think there was a lot of hype.  I think there was a lot of expectations for young people.  Overall, I don‘t think they lived up to it.  But we‘re living in a climate right now where people, I think, young people in particular, are feeling really disenchanted about the direction of this country and... 

MATTHEWS:  What don‘t they like? 

HUBBARD:  I don‘t think they like the fact that we were brought into a war based on false pretenses or that the president—that their peers are fighting and dying in Iraq right now.  So...

MATTHEWS:  So they really do care about the kids their age who are fighting in the war?

HUBBARD:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

I have a friend over there fighting right now.  And there‘s nothing more than I want than his safety. 

MATTHEWS:  Do conservative kids in college think about the kids fighting the war? 

FLYNN:  Oh, definitely.  Definitely.

And there‘s people who are of two minds on that, both on the conservative side.  And I think they‘re probably more unanimous on the liberal side in opposition to it.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Conservatives I think—I‘m a student of this.  You know this.  Conservatives are split.  Some conservatives are much more worried about U.S. interests and some are more Wilsonian and they want to go get involved.  They‘re pro—ideo—conservative, right?

FLYNN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a split that‘s real. 

FLYNN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  We should have that fight some night here. 

FLYNN:  Yes. 

And you look at the diversity of conservative students that I work with.  They‘re all over the board on a lot of different issues.  There are some core issues that they‘re all united on. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they moralists on libertarians? 

FLYNN:  Well, I think both.  I think young people, they tend—they tend to be a little bit more libertarian.  And then, when they grow up and they sort of face the realities of the world, they‘re a little less theoretic about things.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, when they‘re kids, they want to be libertarian, but when they‘re grownups, they talk about these kids?

FLYNN:  I think that may be part of it. 

But Ben made a point before about groups like Young America‘s Foundation or Leadership Institute sending speakers to college campuses.  You know, I‘ve spoken on over 100 college campuses.  And on two occasions the school brought me in.  On every other occasion, it‘s students groups that bring me in.  And that‘s sort of a lesson.

MATTHEWS:  If you went to campus today, Dan, and you looked around at the kids, regardless of ethnicity or gender, whatever...

FLYNN:  Yes.  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... could you pick out the conservatives the way they dress, the way they looked? 

FLYNN:  No.  You absolutely cannot. 

MATTHEWS:  Could you?  Can you pick out the liberals? 


MATTHEWS:  You could in the ‘60s, I can tell you that.  The liberals were easy to pick. 

FLYNN:  You will make a big mistake if you... 



MATTHEWS:  They had a certain point of view in their clothing, in their haircuts.  It was a point of view. 

HUBBARD:  I think the liberals are dressing a little better than the conservatives.  I went over to CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, conference yesterday briefly.  And I don‘t know.  I think that some of the dressing may...


MATTHEWS:  I used to speak at that group. 

HUBBARD:  Anyways, well...


MATTHEWS:  Well, what are you saying? 

HUBBARD:  Well..

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m thinking, in the ‘60s, there‘s a notion that being a lefty, you had to look almost like a Bolshevik to really make your manifest clear, right, your manifesto.  Today, are conservatives, are they a regular button-down types? 

FLYNN:  You know, you will make a big mistake if you get up in front of a college audience and try to—just by looking at them pick who is a conservative and who is a liberal.  You‘ll be shocked afterwards if you try to do that. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you have a Massachusetts background? 

FLYNN:  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Where from? 

FLYNN:  Arlington. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I like it.  Go ahead.

So, anyway, how is the fight—look, I would like to see next time around, in 2008, like everybody older, because it makes us happy to see a bigger turnout among kids.  It just somehow makes us happy.  Is it going to happen?  Are we going to get that same 17 percent of the electorate we got last time and the time before, same old, same old? 

HUBBARD:  Well, I think part of this job for a campus...


MATTHEWS:  Ben, I‘m asking a question.  Are you guys going to deliver? 

HUBBARD:  We hope to.  And I think, by speaking to young people, by giving them the support to strengthen their voices, to really engage them...

MATTHEWS:  Will women students—women—will they get out and vote for Hillary, for example, if she‘s the nominee?  Will that excite them, the possibility of the first woman president?

HUBBARD:  I think having a female candidate for president would definitely...

MATTHEWS:  Turn on the women. 


HUBBARD:  ... resonate among young—yes, young women.   

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it will? 

FLYNN:  No.  There‘s a fallacy. 

MATTHEWS:  The possibility of a woman voting for somebody of her gender for the first time and that person would win would not excite them? 

FLYNN:  Well, they‘ve had the opportunity to vote for women in the past. 


MATTHEWS:  With Dole?  Come on.  Give me a break. 

FLYNN:  What do you mean?  Give me a break about what?

MATTHEWS:  A real chance to win. 


FLYNN:  Hillary Clinton doesn‘t have a chance to win.                


MATTHEWS:  Oh, great. 

Does she have a chance to win? 

HUBBARD:  I think yes.  Yes.  I think, right now, she‘s probably the top candidate for...


FLYNN:  For the primary.  For the primary. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you like her? 

HUBBARD:  Yes.  I like Hillary a lot. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you think she‘s the best candidate for the Democrats next time? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it‘s a little early to be getting into that. 

MATTHEWS:  What, are you—are you a political junky or aren‘t you?  

Don‘t you have a favorite? 

HUBBARD:  I don‘t have a favorite yet.  No, I don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t have a favorite?

HUBBARD:  We just got over the last election. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not like it used to be. 


MATTHEWS:  Are you—a favorite?  Who is your favorite for the Republican nomination next time? 

FLYNN:  Oh, I don‘t have a favorite.  I like Rick Santorum as a guy that I... 

MATTHEWS:  He is going to run for reelection in ‘06.  He could be available, yes. 

FLYNN:  Sure.

I don‘t know if he‘s thinking of running.  But that is a guy that I like.  But I think it probably is true.  Who is even running?  I know there‘s guys that are out there with their names out there.  But I think with someone like Hillary...

MATTHEWS:  Rudy Giuliani is running against Hillary Clinton, but if McCain gets the nomination of your party, he is hard to beat by anybody.

FLYNN:  Sure.

I think a lot of the guys are going to be hard to beat.  And I think it‘s hard.  The Democrats are going to have a tough time, because the lesson that they learn after each election is sort of to take more of the poison that got them sick in the first place.  Putting up people like John Kerry, Massachusetts liberal, that doesn‘t play in the heartland.  And now they‘re talking about Hillary.  We live in a larger country than just sort of the blue states.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the new conservative voice of Massachusetts there, you just heard it, ladies and gentlemen.  That‘s what Massachusetts sounds like today. 

Anyway, thank you.  You‘re great.  You must do a great job. 

You have got to beat this guy.  He‘s tough. 

Dan Flynn, Ben Hubbard, please come back a lot.

When we come back, will President Bush‘s new national intelligence director have the power to make Americans safer? 

HARDBALL returns after this.

And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site,


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, will the nomination of John Negroponte as national intelligence chief make America safer?

HARDBALL returns after this.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Bush announced the nomination of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte this week as the new national intelligence chief.  Questions remain as to what authority he‘ll have and whether he‘ll be able to override other powerhouses in the administration Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

For answers, we turn to Byron York, White House correspondent for “The National Review” magazine, and Marie Cocco, syndicated columnist for “The Washington Post” Writers Group. 

Marie, Negroponte, good or not?

MARIE COCCO, “NEWSDAY”:  Oh, I think he‘ll be overwhelmingly confirmed. 

I think the president really wanted someone who has been politically loyal, who has really been in some tough troubleshooting jobs for this president.  But I don‘t think the issue is really his caliber or his qualification or even his closeness to the president.  I think that, whoever has that job, still has got an awfully hard job to do. 

We just found out a week ago, 10 days ago, that the FBI‘s computers still don‘t interact properly.  So, whoever is in this job has got to fix things as basic as that. 

MATTHEWS:  How do we fix things?  Because the problem with 9/11 is, we knew that the CIA director knew things about a guy taking flying lesson.  The president didn‘t know.  The FBI director didn‘t know.  Somebody happened to—something happened out—in Arizona, we got indications, flying lessons down in Florida, guys coming through in Portland, Oregon—or Portland, Maine, not being asked the right questions.  How do we coordinate?  How does any man or woman do that?

BYRON YORK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”:  Well, I think they‘re actually doing—doing that right now. 

I think that you are getting better coordination.  And the Patriot Act actually broke down some of the wall that people seem to think existed between—between law enforcement and intelligence. 

I think the problem—the issue with Negroponte—and maybe everybody doesn‘t believe this—is not whether he‘s going to be powerful enough, but whether he‘s going to be too powerful, because, if you listen to what the president said, he said, if Negroponte wants me to know this, then I‘ll know it.  And, if he doesn‘t, then I won‘t.  He basically gave Negroponte this enormous power...


MATTHEWS:  Is he the door-stopper?  In other words, if the CIA director wants to tell the president something or the FBI director wants to tell the president, do they have to go through Negroponte to brief the president? 

YORK:  The president gave that impression yesterday. 

And the problem with—the problem after September 11 that we learned was that there were not enough voices being heard.  And the idea of the solution being to make one voice be the only voice, that—it is not really the solution.  But that‘s what the September 11 Commission wanted.

MATTHEWS:  So this is an old-style—this is an old-style chief of staff, chief of staff John Sununu kind of thing.  You can basically close the door to alternative ideas. 

YORK:  You know, I thought this was a bad idea.  But it was—last year, during the campaign, it was not politically possible to say that the September 11 Commission and all the widows are wrong. 


Is Negroponte a straight shooter?  Or is he an ideologue, Marie?  In other words, would he be a neoconservatives who would push a war, take the evidence and try to turn it, or he would say, you know, Mr. President, all we got here is this and it‘s not enough to justify a war?

COCCO:  Well, first of all, I don‘t think we can justify any war right now because we don‘t have the troops to fight it. 

MATTHEWS:  But on this point...


COCCO:  So this idea that everyone is worried about bombing Syria and bombing Iran, we physically can‘t do it because we don‘t have an Army left. 

MATTHEWS:  But to my question, does this guy look like the guy who would give the straight—straight info to the president? 

COCCO:  Well, his record in Honduras, the controversy there over the abysmal human rights violations, part of the controversy is that he did not say he knew about it, even though the CIA was clearly and directly involved. 

So, it is a good question.  I can‘t answer it.  I know there‘s this one very telling incident in his record going all the way back to the Reagan years down in Latin America and the kind of abuses that were going on there that doesn‘t bode well.  On the other hand, he‘s now been confirmed twice easily with Democratic support, first as U.N. ambassador, then as ambassador to Baghdad. 

I think that the initial comments we‘ve seen out of people like Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, is that he is going to be overwhelmingly confirmed.  And we can only hope really that everyone involved in this, whether they‘re career people or political people, learn from not only the 9/11 experience, but also the debacle of the intelligence situation leading up to Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  You know...

YORK:  I think, one,administration official are pointing to his record as ambassador to the U.N. and as ambassador to Iraq. 

And the other thing is, they‘re selling him almost as a package deal with General Hayden. 

COCCO:  Yes. 

YORK:  Who has been the head of the NSA for ever and ever.


YORK:  And is a very, very—there‘s probably nobody who knows more about intelligence gathering in the government now. 


When we come back, we‘re going to talk about Social Security, something that affects everybody, and whether it‘s going to fly or not.  A lot of static up there now, a lot of flak against the president‘s program right now. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back for more with Marie Cocco and Byron York.

The president of the United States is pushing a plan to do two basic things with Social Security, allow people to take a third of the money they pay in payroll taxes now and put it into personal accounts.  He‘s also trying to reduce the long-term growth in benefits by tying it to prices, rather than wages.  That‘s the apparent plan.

This week, Tom DeLay—and then the president came along this week and started talking about raising the basis upon which we tax people.  It used to be—it is now $89,500 a year.  After that, you don‘t pay any more taxes on Social Security.  He‘s saying, why don‘t we get rid of that cap, maybe?  Byron...


MATTHEWS:  And then the head of the House Republicans, Tom DeLay, said no way. 

YORK:  And Dennis Hastert, too, speaker of the House.


MATTHEWS:  The speaker says no way.

YORK:  The president really kind of put more of his cards on the table this week, because he said, the only thing that‘s off the table is raising the payroll rate, the tax rate. 

In other words—and then he was specifically asked, is raising the cap on the table?  And he said, the only thing that is off the table is—so, it is clearly on the table.  The thing is, is that the House leadership...


MATTHEWS:  ... get this through.

YORK:  House leadership and people like Grover Norquist, very powerful outside lobbyists, head of Americans For Tax Reform, are saying, look, raising the cap is a tax increase. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it? 

YORK:  Absolutely. 

There are hundreds of members of the House and 45 members of the Senate who have pledged never to vote for a tax increase unless it is accompanied with a corresponding tax cut.  I mean, this is very hard.  But the logic of the White House right now—or the dilemma is, the only way they can get support in the House for this is to not raise the cap.  But the only way they can get support in the Senate is to raise the cap.  So, he has got a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  But I don‘t see how the president can redefine raising taxes.  If you‘re lucky enough to be making $150,000 a year, for example, your taxes will basically be doubled if you get rid of the cap, right?  The tax is on all of your income, instead of $90,000 of it. 

COCCO:  Well, the basis that you are taxed on is going to be doubled, but your rate is not going to be doubled.  Let me just move this back. 


MATTHEWS:  Your taxes will be raised.  This is the kind of talk that drives most people crazy. 


MATTHEWS:  If you raise their taxes, they know you‘ve raised their taxes. 

COCCO:  Yes.  This is a tax increase.

MATTHEWS:  You can talk all you about the rates are the same and all. 


MATTHEWS:  George Bush‘s father got in big trouble not for raising tax rates.

COCCO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He got in trouble back in ‘90 for raising taxes. 

COCCO:  And I was just going to bring up the same point, because I was in the White House press room on the day that the last president—the first President Bush came out with this grand compromise.  And the initial statement out of White House was that the deficit reduction plan included tax revenue increases. 

And, of course, this caused a storm in the briefing room...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Revenue enhancement.

COCCO:  Because it was taxes. 

Raising the cap is a tax hike.  The problem the president has is exactly like Byron just described.  You will not get conservative Republicans to vote for this.  You will not get moderate Republicans and any Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Or business.

COCCO:  Or any Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Or any business...


COCCO:  In the Senate to get on board with something that leaves that cap alone. 

He is in a vice, frankly, of his own making on this, because he had a choice when he came into office in 2001.  If he had used what was then the surplus and the projected surpluses to pay for his private accounts, he could have gotten it.  He could have gotten it then.  Now there‘s no money to pay for it. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  We have to get to that—we have got little time here.

I think politically—well, let me pose it to you and get your thoughts first. 

Is the president going to get through substantial change in Social Security this year? 

YORK:  I think he is going to get something, because I think there is a way to kind of cut it through the middle, because there are conservative Republicans who want personal accounts so much that they will hold their noses and agree to some raise in the cap. 

I do think there are people who will do that.  And then there are some in the Senate who might do the same thing.  I think that the president is determined to get something.  And I wouldn‘t be surprised if he does. 

MATTHEWS:  But does he give away the store by raising taxes for people who make more money?  Doesn‘t he stick it right to the people in the Republican Party who do make better incomes to say, all right, you‘re going to get something down the road that is called a personal tax—personal account, but, in the meantime, you‘re going to be paying so much more into Social Security, you‘ll never get it back when you retire?

COCCO:  Well, I‘ll tell you who he is going to also alienate.  And that‘s his tremendous support in the business community. 

The business community right now is pouring millions and millions of dollars into the move toward privatization.  Why is it doing that?  Well, because, right now, your employer splits this tax with you 50-50.  The employer pays half. 

MATTHEWS:  Payroll tax.

COCCO:  The Payroll tax.  The employer pays half.  The worker pays half. 

If you raise that half, if you do anything to the payroll tax that brings in more taxes, employers have to pay it, too.  But they‘re the biggest lobby group and the biggest supporters and the biggest funders of this privatization scheme.  So, I think he has got not only a political problem among members in his own party.  He has got this gigantic lobbying apparatus now that has been launched that literally would have to pay half of whatever tax increase there is. 

YORK:  Which is why you heard him say this week, we have got to tell people, and create political energy, there is a problem.  Otherwise, nothing is going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s his biggest problem.  He hasn‘t made the case of urgency.  He almost needs a 9/11 fiscally to make this point, to make a horrible example. 

YORK:  Well, he has said very frankly, if I can‘t convince people there‘s a problem, then this ain‘t going to work. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I want to thank you, Byron York.  He hasn‘t done it yet.  Marie Cocco.

Join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

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


Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.