Guest: Hilary Rosen, Ben Ginsberg, Ed Gillespie, Emily Rooney, Gail Shister, William McGowan, Morton Dean, Byron York
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, Dan Rather gives up the chair; 24 years to the day he took over as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News,” Dan Rather signs off. Was America‘s longest-running anchor a victim of conservative hatred or was he a biased liberal?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Dan Rather signed off from the anchor chair for the last time tonight.
Here‘s part of what he told his viewers on tonight‘s “CBS Evening News.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE CBS EVENING NEWS”)
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: We‘ve shared a lot in the 24 years we‘ve been meeting here each evening. And before I say good night this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it‘s been my honor to work over these years.
And a deeply felt thanks to all of you, who have let us into your homes night after night. It has been a privilege and one never taken lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Dan Rather‘s sign-off comes two months after the damning verdict of an investigation into his report on President Bush‘s National Guard service.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster takes a look back at Rather‘s career.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the twilight of his career has been marked by the document slap...
RATHER: I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry.
SHUSTER: Dan Rather, by his own admission, has never been one to back down.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would have remembered that. I don‘t remember that.
RATHER: Then how do you explain that you can‘t remember it and the other people at the meeting say he was apoplectic?
BUSH: Maybe I wasn‘t there at that point.
SHUSTER: Rather joined CBS News in 1962. One year later, on that awful day in Dallas, he was the first to report President Kennedy had been killed. Rather was soon promoted to White House correspondent.
RATHER: Do you have any fresh, new ideas about getting peace in Vietnam?
SHUSTER: Then, at his own request, Rather reported from Vietnam. In 1968 on the floor of the Democratic Convention...
RATHER: But don‘t push me. Take your hands off of me, unless you plan to arrest me.
SHUSTER: And Rather repeatedly displayed his tough, aggressive style during Watergate.
RATHER: Tell us what goes through your mind when you hear people who love this country and people who believe in you say reluctantly that perhaps you should resign or be impeached?
SHUSTER: In 1974, in Rather‘s hometown of Houston, there was this.
RATHER: Thank you, Mr. President, Dan Rather with CBS News.
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you running for something?
RATHER: No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?
SHUSTER: And, in 1981, he took over from Walter Cronkite as the an core of “The Evening News.” Rather not only reported the news. He made it. In 1987, he famously walked off the anchor set because of a network decision to stay with tennis.
A year later, Rather tried to corner Vice President George Bush on the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.
RATHER: I don‘t want to be argumentative, Mr. Vice President.
BUSH: You do, Dan.
RATHER: No—no, sir, I don‘t.
BUSH: This is not a great night, because I want to talk about why I want to be president, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me.
RATHER: And, Mr. Vice President, these questions are...
BUSH: And I don‘t think it‘s fair to judge a whole career—it‘s not fair to judge a my whole career by a rehash of Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?
SHUSTER: Through the ‘90s, Rather always seemed to be in the middle of every major story.
RATHER: The hurricane has been hitting full force right in here to Panama City Beach.
SHUSTER: But no storm has been quite as challenging as the document controversy. Conservatives, who have long hated Rather, are thrilled to see him leave under a cloud. And it‘s a cloud made worse by some of Rather‘s own colleagues, who now say his ego and style will not be missed.
(on camera): And so, Dan Rather‘s 24-year career in the anchor chair finishes the same way it started, with drama and controversy. But, whether you liked Dan Rather or hate him, there‘s no denying that his career has been legendary.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Big night in journalism.
Joining me tonight, former CBS News and ABC News correspondent Morton Dean.
Sir, thank you.
Byron York, White House correspondent for “The National Review,” and William McGowan, author of “Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism.”
We‘ve got to go to the veteran right now, Morton Dean.
Take a look at Rather‘s career. We had a brief summary there. Was he a liberal posing as a journalist or was he a journalist doing his job?
MORTON DEAN, FORMER ABC/CBS CORRESPONDENT: I think he was a journalist doing his job, although I would summarize what happened tonight with respect to Neil Armstrong by saying, one small step for CBS News, one giant leap for Rather‘s conservative critics.
DEAN: It‘s a big night for the conservatives.
MATTHEWS: Well, did they get their pound of flesh? Was this a campaign being run against him or was it a series of, well, career moves, going up against Nixon, going up against George Bush Sr., a continual battle royal between himself and what seemed to be a predictably Republican opponent?
DEAN: Well, I think it‘s a combination of all of the above, Chris.
It was time for him to leave. He was going to leave in a year anyway.
And, of course, what happened with the Bush papers, the alleged Bush papers about the president‘s National Guard service just accelerated things.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the mistake, well, the snafus, a G.I. term, and it‘s too small to use here perhaps—let‘s say horrid snafu—that had CBS going with a story with a typewriter with some typescript that could have hardly come out of the 1970s and with this source, Bill Burkett, who I have to say wasn‘t the greatest source in the world, was that his fault or was it Mary Mapes‘ fault, his producer?
DEAN: Well, I don‘t know, but it was a massive screw-up and I would imagine both of them are to be blamed.
Obviously, Dan was the correspondent and Mary was his most trusted lieutenant.
DEAN: So they‘re both to blame.
MATTHEWS: Do network anchors get too much sway and too much scope in how much they cover for? In other words, is it wrong for Rather to be on “48 hours,” to be on “60 Minutes Wednesday,” it‘s called, to be on the nightly news and evening news every night, unable to have the in-depth control of the story that a journalist needs?
DEAN: Well, you said it, and I think you‘re absolutely correct.
I think the network anchor people have become all too powerful. They hold sway over almost the entire direction of network news organizations now, and I think that‘s one of the problems.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Byron, do you know Rather at all, Dan Rather?
BYRON YORK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”: I‘ve never met him, no.
MATTHEWS: I met him a number of times. And I think some of the shots against him are wrong.
He doesn‘t seem establishment when you meet him. He doesn‘t seem to be one of the boys. He‘s very much a loner. And he is still a Texan. Now, do you think he‘s a liberal posing as a journalist or a true journalist?
YORK: I think he‘s a liberal journalist. I don‘t think he‘s posing as a journalist.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean?
YORK: Well, he‘s been a journalist for all his life, so I‘m not going to say he‘s not a journalist. But I...
MATTHEWS: So, he does get the story?
YORK: But I do think there is...
MATTHEWS: You mean he does get the news to the people?
YORK: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, what does he do that shows bias?
YORK: I think there‘s the issue of bias that you can see in a lot of the most controversial episodes of his career.
The adversarial encounters with Nixon and with George H.W. Bush I think suggested a kind of adversarial stand that went beyond just being an aggressive...
MATTHEWS: You mean, when he said, are you, Mr. President?
YORK: Exactly, went beyond an aggressive reporter, the way he—his behavior in the Bush Air National Guard story, and, most importantly, his belligerent defense of it after it was clearly wrong. And then I want to read you one more...
MATTHEWS: Why would that show bias? It might show stupidity, but why bias?
YORK: Well, he...
MATTHEWS: He stuck with a story that might have been wrong.
YORK: He attributed political motives to the people who were criticizing him and he absolutely refused to look into what was going on.
And, in 1993 when Bill Clinton had just entered office, Clinton congratulated the new Dan Rather-Connie Chung team. And Dan Rather said—quote—“If we could be one-one-hundredth as great and you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been together in the White House, we would take it right now and walk away winners.” That‘s a very different sort of...
MATTHEWS: Could that have been a folksy way of being courteous?
YORK: Well, you know, you could say, thank you, Mr. President. It‘s quite an honor. You‘ve been very kind. You don‘t have to go quite that far.
MATTHEWS: Let me go—let me go right to Bill McGowan.
Your thoughts on the charge that Dan Rather has been liberal all his career and he simply went down trying to get a Bush?
WILLIAM MCGOWAN, AUTHOR, “COLORING THE NEWS”: Well, I think Dan Rather is liberal. I think his newscasts and his journalism is governed by the same liberal political orthodoxy that governs the other network anchors in their broadcasts as well. I don‘t see why...
MATTHEWS: Whoa. That was a broad brush, sir. Do you mean to tell me that—which anchors do you say are biased?
MCGOWAN: Well, I would say that the problem of bias is something that also happens at other networks as well at ABC and NBC.
MATTHEWS: No, you said other anchors are biased. Which ones? Which ones are biased?
MCGOWAN: I don‘t think—I think, when you look at...
MATTHEWS: Name names.
MCGOWAN: When you look at Brokaw‘s and you look at Jennings‘ broadcasts, I don‘t think you see any more or any less political bias than you see of Rather‘s. So that‘s my point.
MATTHEWS: Give me an example of Tom Brokaw‘s bias.
MCGOWAN: Well, I think some of the stuff that NBC News did that I documented in my book on gays in the military, on the abortion issue.
MATTHEWS: Well, how was it biased?
MCGOWAN: Well, I think they give—they give the liberal political side and they did not the conservative side very much truck.
MATTHEWS: So, they came out against—or came out for gays in the military on “NBC Nightly News.”
MCGOWAN: It‘s hard to say it‘s that clear-cut. It‘s more that they just haven‘t given a fair and balanced perspective on it.
MATTHEWS: You sound clear-cut. Well, Bill, you sound clear-cut as hell. You just broad-brushed all network anchors as liberals.
MCGOWAN: I didn‘t broad-brush them as liberals. I say they have the problem of liberal political orthodoxy governing their broadcasts.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s the difference between what you said and...
MATTHEWS: ... that you said the first time quickly?
MCGOWAN: I don‘t think you can line them up as political liberals or conservatives, but I think you can look at, over time, the influence is definitely there.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s three versions you‘ve given us.
MATTHEWS: First of all, they were governed by orthodoxy. The other is, they‘re all liberals. And now it‘s this new paradigm you‘re throwing at us. Do you believe that all the network anchors today are liberals?
MCGOWAN: I don‘t think I would go that far as to say they‘re liberals. I would say that they are liberal-minded.
And the problem with their broadcasts, which is really where the rubber meets the road...
MCGOWAN: ... is that there‘s a surfeit of liberal political orthodoxy without balance from the other side.
MATTHEWS: Morton Dean, do you accept any part of that?
DEAN: Well, I really don‘t.
And let me put it this way. I have worked as a network journalist at CBS and ABC for about 40 years. And perhaps you guys won‘t believe this, but I never once was told by anyone, including the anchor people—and I had many arguments with both of those anchor people—never once was I told how to cover a story.
MATTHEWS: How about in the banter? I believe that, Morton. But how about in the banter in the newsroom before the show was put together, the program was put together? Did hear, let‘s get that schmuck Nixon, let‘s get this guy, we‘re going to get him tonight? Did you ever hear that kind of banter that suggested bias?
DEAN: Yes, but I also heard, let‘s get that schmuck Clinton and let‘s get that schmuck Carter. I think that‘s what newsrooms do and that is what reporters say.
YORK: OK, in any newsroom, in any newsroom...
MATTHEWS: What an honest man.
We‘ll be right back with Morton Dean, Byron York and Bill McGowan.
And, later, “Philadelphia Inquirer” TV critic Gail Shister. Plus former ABC executive producer Emily Rooney says Rather should have left a long time ago.
And don‘t forget, next Monday, the HARDBALL College Tour returns in a big way. I‘ll be joined by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger live for a full hour from Stanford. And the next day, next Tuesday, I‘m going to sit down with the legendary Clint Eastwood for the full hour at his ranch in Carmel, California.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, did Dan Rather stay behind the anchor desk at CBS News longer than he should have? HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Morton Dean, Byron York and Bill McGowan.
Bill, let me go back to you and give you a chance.
What is your sense of the role of the evening news or the nightly news anchor? Is it to be totally dispassionate, totally straight or to somehow simply give the news and we have to allow the fact that everybody has some political point of view behind the way they look at things?
MCGOWAN: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the ideal here?
MCGOWAN: I think the ideal is to acknowledge that you might have political biases, but to strive mightily, both in your own thinking about issues and stories, and also have enough people around you that reflect the diversity of opinion and experience...
MATTHEWS: Right. That sounds good.
MCGOWAN: ... along the political spectrum.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Morton Dean.
Let me ask you about—you know, Walter Cronkite, I had him on years after he retired. And he said, all right, I‘m a liberal. Now, my brother, who is a very conservative guy—he‘s Herb—he says, you know, I like Cronkite. He‘s the best newsman. I don‘t care if he is a liberal. I still think he‘s the best news reporter.
Do you think the public should be more sophisticated and accept the fact that everybody who votes does has some predilection politically? And everybody, we hope—don‘t we hope that our news people care about what‘s going on in the country and have some sort of position, even if they don‘t express it?
DEAN: Yes, I think that anchors ought to be passionate about the issues they cover. I mean, how can you be dispassionate about covering stories dealing with the impoverished and the homeless?
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a point of view, though.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sure there are some people that don‘t have that point of view, that say, you know, sink or swim, buddy. That‘s another point of view about the poverty-stricken. I mean, I agree.
But you‘re saying it‘s OK to have that sort of Edward R. Murrow sensitivity about injustice.
DEAN: I absolutely agree with that. But that doesn‘t mean that one has to wear his political—or her political feelings on his or her sleeve.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Byron, what do you think?
YORK: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: Should he be a eunuch politically and just come out there like almost a machine and say there was a thunderstorm over Mount Saint Helens today and there‘s a train wreck today and, oh, by the way, this election is going to hell in a handbasket?
YORK: I think that the evening news, they have a special responsibility to try to play it completely straight. It‘s a mostly straightly scripted broadcast.
A lot of the incidents of what people believe is Rather‘s bias came out in live conversations, either interviews, coverage of live events, conventions, that kind of stuff. But I think with—Walter Cronkite for years has been saying he did not like the newsmagazine-ification of the evening newscast. He wanted them just to be straight newscasts.
MATTHEWS: Can we be straight about Cronkite? I know he‘s God, and I watched him all that—I loved him and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But, you know, every time he said the name Goldwater, he said it as if the guy was some sort of insect.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to tell me—Morton Dean, you must remember the way he said the word Goldwater. Barry Goldwater said today—
OK, he‘s a loony rMDNM_tune. He didn‘t say that about, President Lyndon Johnson said today. It‘s, Barry Goldwater said. This idealism of the past...
YORK: I was quoting what he said about what the evening news cast should be.
YORK: Should it be a magazine show or should it be a newscast?
YORK: Well, I think you have to—well, it was a good story. I think—but you—I think you have to be really straight on the evening news.
MATTHEWS: OK, Morton Dean, it‘s great having you on. Thank you very much.
DEAN: It‘s good to be here.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your...
MATTHEWS: Thank you, again, as always.
Byron York, as always. I love your reporting. You‘re a great reporter.
YORK: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: And, Bill McGowan, it was good to play HARDBALL with you.
Thank you very much, Bill.
MCGOWAN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Please come back.
Still ahead, I want the—I want the whole list, by the way, of the liberals.
Still ahead, more of Dan Rather‘s legacy with two television critics, “The Philadelphia Inquirer”‘s Gail Shister. And these are two very different views coming up here on Dan Rather. And former network news executive producer Emily Rooney.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Dan Rather signed off from the anchor chair for the last time tonight.
Joining me from Philadelphia, “The Inquirer” TV critic Gail Shister. And, in Boston, host of “Beat the Press” on Boston Public Television, Emily Rooney.
Emily, the question, was Dan Rather biased toward the left?
EMILY ROONEY, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “BEAT THE PRESS”: I don‘t know. I feel like you just hashed that one over. A lot has been said about that.
I agree with what Bill McGowan said. I think all of the networks were liberal and certainly during the ‘80s and ‘90s. There‘s been a big sea change since then. But I think all of them had a liberal bias, every one of the anchors. Probably—Peter Jennings couldn‘t vote because he was Canadian, but they probably all went Democratic.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Gail Shister, why was Dan Rather a lightning rod for the right?
GAIL SHISTER, “THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER”: Well, first of all, I‘ve got to correct you. I‘m not a critic. I‘m a columnist.
SHISTER: I‘m critical about you. I‘m critical about you, because you need it. You need it.
MATTHEWS: But, as you observe, as you observe—I know I do. I need that spanking once in a while.
As you observe the passing TV scene, what strikes you about Rather‘s personality, performance, journalism that seems to attract the vehement hostility of the American right?
SHISTER: I think one of the things that makes him a lightning rod for criticism in general is that I think he‘s just sort of an eccentric person and I think that attracts attention in and of itself.
In a way, he‘s sort of a magnet for weird mishaps.
SHISTER: I think, if these kinds of things happened to Jennings or Brokaw, they wouldn‘t get as much attention. They seem to happen a lot to Rather.
And it‘s also—you could argue it‘s a question of timing. You know, the presidents he happened to have offended and taken on all happened to be Republican. So, he‘s—well, put it this way. He‘s an easy target. He might as well have walked around with a bullseye on his chest.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Emily, the private Dan Rather, the public Dan Rather, what is the difference?
ROONEY: I don‘t know.
You know, I think a lot of people really don‘t know Dan Rather. If you‘ve read a lot of the pieces that have been written in the last couple of weeks, even the insiders, people who work with him very closely at CBS, said, what you see is what you get. I was struck by the fact that, tonight, when he started reading his close and was thanking all the people and then he dared to go someplace that he‘s been so criticized for, the sweater vest, the, “Where‘s the frequency, Kenneth?” and suddenly he goes into that courage thing.
I think, in the end, it worked out. But I felt my toes curling and I thought, oh, my gosh. He‘s going to go right back where he‘d been.
ROONEY: And some of the things that Gail just pointed out, one of the oddities. And yet he dared revisit that for his close.
You know, Gail, I‘ve known him a long...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Your point. Go ahead. Go ahead, Gail.
My point is, I would like to answer that. I‘ve known Dan Rather for 22 years. And I think I have a pretty good insight into him. You have to remember, this is a guy from Texas whose father dug ditches, who didn‘t go to a very good college, who grew up in a house that was on stilts.
And I think he—he was so tightly wound that, every day, he kind of woke up, looked in the mirror and couldn‘t believe he had the job. I think that that‘s part of it, that part of the reason he comes across so tightly wound. I do know that, off camera, he‘s a total throwback, in the sense that he writes handwritten notes to people a lot.
SHISTER: That‘s pretty unheard of. He remembers birthdays. He‘s an unfailing gentleman. And it is, in a way, representative of an era that is not around anymore. You‘re not going to see that anymore.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the guy I know, by the way, the gentlemen—the pure gentleman and very personal and a loner and not part of the establishment.
Emily, did he stay in the chair of the anchor too long?
ROONEY: Absolutely, he did.
He has been mired in third place for well over a decade, well into—
I don‘t even—maybe even 15 years. And going back to something that Morton Dean said a few minutes ago, you cannot understate the power of a network anchor. They‘re right up there with a network news president, with a president of the entertainment division.
They make decisions about hiring and firing producers and correspondents.
ROONEY: They‘re not one of the guys. They‘re one of the power brokers. And he‘s not going to be there deciding, well, I think we ought to replace me because I‘m third place.
Of course they should have made a move on him. It wasn‘t working for them. It didn‘t—it hadn‘t worked for years and it‘s not—and he wanted to be remembered as a great reporter. He should have taken himself out of the anchor chair and become again a great reporter. And, actually, I think it‘s too late for that.
Thank you very much, Emily Rooney.
SHISTER: Can I—can I jump in on that?
MATTHEWS: Yes, quickly, Gail.
SHISTER: Could I jump in on that, Chris?
SHISTER: OK, quickly, I—it‘s not in Rather‘s DNA to take himself out of the game.
I fault the CBS management as much as Rather. They knew what was going on.
SHUSTER: They are the ones who didn‘t develop a bench.
MATTHEWS: OK. They certainly didn‘t.
Thank you very much, Emily Rooney.
Thank you very much, Gail Shister of “The Philadelphia Enquirer.”
Up next, is President Bush losing the fight over Social Security? And did he overplay his hand after winning reelection? Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is going to be here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, President Bush‘s plan to change Social Security still hasn‘t gotten off the ground. I‘ll ask former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie whether President Bush may be overplaying his hand.
But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Bush is receiving high marks for the democratic changes unfolding now in the Middle East. But, on the domestic front, his plan to reform Social Security is struggling right now. Did President Bush overplay his hand after winning reelection?
We have got an expert here, Ed Gillespie. He helped get the president reelected. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee, did a bang-up job during the 2004 presidential election. So, let‘s try to bang him up a little bit right now.
Do you think the president deserves credit as a man, as a leader, for what‘s been going on in Lebanon, in the Palestinian territories, in Ukraine, all those countries where we‘re having elections now?
ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, let‘s start with credit with those people, what the people in Lebanon and the people in the Ukraine, people in Egypt who have taken to the streets as well in support of democratic reforms. But the president certainly created an environment there where freedom can prosper.
GILLESPIE: By making sure we had a democratic—democratically elected government in Afghanistan, instead of the Taliban, which fostered terrorism, by making sure that there‘s a democratic government in Iraq. There was a lot of skepticism about the ability for the Iraqi people to have an election on January 30. They turned out in the same percentage as American voters did, and they relish the freedom there.
And I think you‘re seeing it spread across the region. I noted, in “The New York Times”‘ editorial page last week, they said that it‘s a truly astonishing and surprising development. It is truly astonishing, but to those of us who understood what the president was saying in the course of this—of this election, as 51 percent of Americans did, it‘s not that surprising. It‘s exactly what he said would happen.
MATTHEWS: How do we know this whole outbreak of democracy, which I‘ve said I—who can‘t like it? It looks fabulous.
MATTHEWS: It‘s what happened to Eastern Europe.
MATTHEWS: How do we know that‘s going—but Eastern Europe was really done by the Eastern Europeans without us being there.
How do we know that this is going to survive our presence? Once 100,000 troops or 150,000 troops come out of the Middle East, and we leave a small garrison somewhere, what do you make—what makes you think that this move toward democracy is going to sustain itself?
GILLESPIE: Well, Chris, let me challenge your premise, but I don‘t believe that—that the freedom and the fall of the Iron Curtain was a result only of the—of the people who were oppressed there.
The fact is, our policies and Ronald Reagan‘s policies and former President Bush‘s policies also created a condition that allowed for that to happen.
MATTHEWS: What was that?
GILLESPIE: Well, it was the—the—getting tough with the Soviets, moving away from...
MATTHEWS: And how did that move the Hungarians to open up the Wall, break down the Iron Curtain into Berlin?
GILLESPIE: You couldn‘t sustain the economics by not supporting that oppressive system.
GILLESPIE: And by tying human rights to our economic policies. The same when it comes to totalitarian regimes in the Middle East and tying our policies to the fostering of freedom and not oppression and also obviously not a system that also fosters terrorism and terrorists. And the president has the right...
MATTHEWS: But wasn‘t it the pope and Lech Walesa and all those guys?
GILLESPIE: Of course the pope, of course.
MATTHEWS: Weren‘t the people in the Middle East who did the heroic struggle that changed everything there?
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking...
GILLESPIE: No, no, I began by saying they deserve the credit, but we created conditions through our policies that helped them be able to do that.
MATTHEWS: Will those conditions remain once we bring our troops home from Iraq?
GILLESPIE: I believe they will. That‘s the whole point, is that, once we allow—once we have created conditions that allow for the Iraqi people, the Afghani people, the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, the Egyptian people, the Saudi people to engage in democratic processes, that fosters stability and peace.
GILLESPIE: The president has been right all along with his policies.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a good case. But how do you know that will prevail once we‘re back home?
GILLESPIE: Well, no one can know with certainty. But I believe that that is the—that is what will happen. It‘s what happened when we saw after World War II as well. When we brought our troops home, those democracies were stable democracies and self-governing and peaceful.
MATTHEWS: But didn‘t—we have historic precedence. The Crusaders went over there and ruled for almost 130 years. And they won. They won the Crusades. We never noticed that, because, after time, over time, the Islamic people regained their countries again, took them back, and kicked us out.
GILLESPIE: Sure. And the Islamic people have their countries now, but what is new and different is the notion of freedom. And if you saw the Iraqi people vote, they made clear...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about...
MATTHEWS: OK, tough question for any person in politics.
MATTHEWS: In or out of office. We have over got 11,000 people wounded, about half of them very seriously, lifelong losses of limbs, etcetera, serious damage, 1,500 killed in action over there. Was that worth the price of what we‘re seeing now?
GILLESPIE: Well, look, I...
MATTHEWS: Tough call, but is it worth it?
GILLESPIE: Of course it‘s a tough call. And you don‘t want to see any family lose a son or a daughter or any person lose their lives.
I appreciate it, Chris, your going over there and thanking these men and women for their service.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ve been over to Pendleton and places like that and Walter Reed. But it‘s a tough—but you have got to believe one way or the other the war was worth what we‘re seeing come out of it or not.
GILLESPIE: I believe that this policy is right. And I believe when you talk to the men and women in uniform, they will tell you that they, too, believe that this policy is right.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know that‘s true.
GILLESPIE: And they are serving a high cause that is worth the sacrifice.
MATTHEWS: I know that‘s true.
Let me ask you the toughest question politically. You know the Hill. You worked up there when I was there and later on. And you‘re younger than me. And the fact is that you know a lot about the Hill. Are the votes there to divert money from the Social Security payroll taxes that we have to pay now under law or else go to jail to personal accounts? Are the votes there?
GILLESPIE: I think the votes will be there to allow for people to direct a portion of their payroll tax into a personal retirement account that will grow at a greater rate than T-bills grow at right now.
MATTHEWS: Two hundred eighteen in the House and 60 in the Senate?
GILLESPIE: I believe—well, 60 in the Senate, I don‘t know, because the Democrats are right now taking a unified no position. They‘re against everything.
GILLESPIE: I think there‘s a great political risk to them in doing that.
MATTHEWS: All right, we can argue that, but if they do—if they keep that up, if the Democrats keep it up in the Senate, we‘re told by reading the papers—and you know the House leadership better than I—that the House leadership will not move a bill as long as the Senate is not there, there‘s not enough votes in the Senate.
GILLESPIE: I believe that you have Republicans united behind a single-policy approach by the spring and that, once that happens...
MATTHEWS: You mean the guys—even the men and women in Florida?
GILLESPIE: Once that happens—yes, I‘ve...
MATTHEWS: They‘ll come behind it?
MATTHEWS: They are going to risk their careers?
GILLESPIE: Look, I‘ve...
MATTHEWS: Katherine Harris, etcetera, are all going to risk their careers?
GILLESPIE: I‘ve worked on campaigns where candidates have taken a strong position in favor of personal retirement accounts. Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina in 2002, a state where 26 percent of the voters 65 or plus on Election Day, she took a strong stand, explained it to the voters. The voters understand, first of all, that this doesn‘t affect those at or near retirement. We‘re talking about people coming into the work force and saving this program for future generations.
MATTHEWS: See, I remember, as you do, in 1986, when 10 Republican senators lost their seats over the Social Security issue. And 26 Democratic seats were lost—or Republican seats were lost in ‘82 over the issue. The history shows Republicans lose when they fight over Social Security.
GILLESPIE: I think you can fight the last battle. Every general can go back and fight the last battle. I think that is generally...
MATTHEWS: It‘s called military history.
GILLESPIE: I think that is generally a mistake in politics.
MATTHEWS: You think?
GILLESPIE: And the fact is, the demographics has changed here.
My son is 14 years old. He just is going to high school next year, but 14 years ago, we started saving for his college fund, knowing that, 18 years from now, we‘re going to take a hit financially. And we had better be prepared for it.
GILLESPIE: Thirteen years from now, the Social Security trust fund begins paying out more than it takes in, a financial calamity to the most important social program in our country today. We better be prepared as a country to deal with it. The president is showing strong leadership and the Republican Party is. Democrats are at political risk in just saying no.
MATTHEWS: Who will be the Democratic nominee next time for president?
GILLESPIE: Well, in my estimation, and I don‘t know if this will help or hurt or not matter at all, but I believe that the de facto nominee for the Democratic Party today is Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re raising tons of money on that, aren‘t you?
GILLESPIE: I am...
MATTHEWS: The Republicans.
GILLESPIE: I‘m not. Somebody out there might be. But...
MATTHEWS: Well, you think the Republicans could do well by scaring the country with the fact of her coming, the de facto...
GILLESPIE: I don‘t know that that scares people, frankly. Look, I—that‘s my political assessment. I would also tell you that I don‘t underestimate Hillary Clinton. I think she‘s a formidable political force in this country today. And I wouldn‘t...
MATTHEWS: What is—what is the sweetness between the Bushes and the Clintons right here?
MATTHEWS: It‘s like they‘re like a little dueling happy little dynasty. They‘re all getting their pictures taken together, in tsunami land together.
GILLESPIE: Well, I do think—I think that—I think President Bush was right to encourage former President Bush and former President Clinton to get together to help. This is an incredible event that took place, the tragedy.
MATTHEWS: There‘s more to it than that. They‘re having golf tournaments to raise the money. There‘s a lot of—a lot of the backslaps.
GILLESPIE: They‘re doing things to raise the money, which they ought to do.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think they‘re—you don‘t think they—you don‘t think they look happy together, these two families?
GILLESPIE: You know, I think one of the things that made them both very effective political leaders is that they‘re not haters.
GILLESPIE: You know, I mean, Clinton disagrees. The president disagrees, but they don‘t hate the other side. We can disagree on things.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s like—I think it‘s like Astaire and Rogers. One gave the other side class. The other one gave the other side sex appeal.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Ed Gillespie.
GILLESPIE: I‘m afraid to ask which is which.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, Hillary Clinton takes another step towards the center.
And next week will be a big week here on HARDBALL. On Monday, the HARDBALL College Tour returns with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the full hour at Stanford University.
And then, on Tuesday—I can‘t wait—I‘ll sit down with Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood for the whole hour out in Carmel.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, has Dan Rather been a biased newsman? That debate is next. Plus, Hillary Clinton makes a big move to the right.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Ben Ginsberg is a Republican election lawyer, and a big one. Hilary Rosen is a Democratic activist and former head of the Recording Industry Association of America, which is absolutely irrelevant to this conversation.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Hilary. You‘re laughing because you know you‘re winning. Social Security, how does the president win that issue if all the polls show 2-1 that the people are afraid to give up their guaranteed income?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the president, I think, isn‘t even sure what he‘s for anymore.
Last Friday, he said, oh, no, we want to do these private or personal accounts in addition to Social Security. But the reality is that his proposal is ultimately a replacement.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not changing Social Security. That‘s not changing Social Security.
ROSEN: But his proposal is to eliminate traditional Social Security and move people into the private sector. He can‘t have it both ways. I think that they‘re starting to worry themselves about what it is the people are thinking.
MATTHEWS: Let me go—let me—Ben, you‘re a lawyer. I want to ask you a question. You‘re not a tax lawyer. If you don‘t pay your taxes in this country, it‘s not an option ploy. You go to jail, right?
BEN GINSBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: So, we‘re—when we go to work, you got a payroll tax you have to pay, in addition to your income tax, for working, basically, 6.2 percent—or 6.2 percent. And the employer pays the same amount. It‘s 12.4 percent.
If the employer doesn‘t pay the money and you don‘t pay the money, one of you goes to jail. Now the president says, you still have to pay that money, but you‘re allowed to get it back in a personal account, which will be all yours when you turn 65 or sooner if you die or whatever. Your family gets it. Is that selling, that idea?
GINSBERG: Well, I think it‘s selling the idea, but let‘s...
MATTHEWS: It is selling? How come it doesn‘t show up in any poll?
GINSBERG: Because—because this is a gradual process.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s not selling?
GINSBERG: Let‘s remember where we were 30 days ago; 30 days ago...
MATTHEWS: It was popular 30 days ago.
GINSBERG: Thirty days ago, the Democrats said there was no problem at all with Social Security.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no, that‘s another issue.
GINSBERG: Now you‘ve got—now you‘ve got the Democrats moving to the point where they admit there‘s a problem.
MATTHEWS: ... accounts the solution?
GINSBERG: And the personal accounts—well, it‘s going to part of the solution. What this is all about is putting the whole program in a solvent way, where people buy into the—into the system...
MATTHEWS: How do those personal accounts—do those personal accounts, like I just described them, solve the problem of the fact there‘s going to be so many more retirees than there are workers in the next 20 or 30 years?
GINSBERG: It doesn‘t solve it alone. But it lets people...
MATTHEWS: Does it solve it at all?
GINSBERG: Yes, because it lets people vest into the system in a way they‘re not now.
People don‘t believe that there will be anything there for them when they retire. That‘s my kids‘ viewpoint of it.
GINSBERG: Personal retirement account also allow people of that generation to have a real stake in the system and in sanctity. And that will help restore the solvency to it, if the Democrats will get off the bench and actually come up with a plan, instead of sticking their heads in the sand and defending...
MATTHEWS: But why should they get their fingerprints on your plan by joining with an—aren‘t they smarter, Hilary, to just say, you guys blow it, then we‘ll come in and cut a deal?
ROSEN: And that‘s actually what‘s happening, because support hasn‘t gone up for the president‘s plan. It‘s gone down.
So, what is happening is, the Republicans are now starting to say, oh, everything is on the table. Well, you come with everything on the table. We promise everything we‘re saying is on the table. You drill down to the exact issue, which is that private accounts don‘t address the—the problems in Social Security.
MATTHEWS: The president wants to borrow...
ROSEN: They‘re irrelevant to them.
MATTHEWS: ... between $1 trillion over the next 10 years. That money is being borrowed on the world market. You know more than I probably. The world market is the Far East.
Why—how can the president defend, Ben Ginsberg, giving a check to an older person who is watching right now in their 70s or 80s with yen in it, because the money is coming directly from the Far East? How can you justify a plan like that?
GINSBERG: But that‘s a misstatement. The president...
MATTHEWS: How so?
GINSBERG: Because it‘s been made clear that none of the changes to Social Security are going to affect any 70- or 80-year-old people.
MATTHEWS: The money going into their checks every month is from federal borrowing overseas.
GINSBERG: The money is still U.S. Treasury money.
MATTHEWS: It is?
GINSBERG: And the way the—the way the international markets work is...
MATTHEWS: It‘s borrowed money.
GINSBERG: ... that there‘s borrowing back and forth and trades back and forth. We‘re in a global economy now.
GINSBERG: We‘re in a global economy now, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Why are you laughing? You know we‘re borrowing the money from the Far East.
ROSEN: Well, and, in fact, we‘re looking down the road at something worse, because this—the big problem with where the president and the Republican leadership want to go is to borrow even more, so that...
GINSBERG: There is a problem. There is a problem with Social Security.
MATTHEWS: Let me make your point for you.
GINSBERG: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: If the Democrats, were in power right now, and they had the presidency in both houses and they had 60 votes in the Senate, what would they do?
ROSEN: I think, first of all, they might say that Social Security is not the most immediate problem on the table right now.
MATTHEWS: And they wouldn‘t do anything.
ROSEN: No, they might do something. But they would it more holistically.
MATTHEWS: What would they do? What would they do?
ROSEN: People in 30 years are going to have a problem. We have got 45 million people without health care right now.
MATTHEWS: You want to change the subject.
ROSEN: No, no, it‘s not changing the subject.
MATTHEWS: If Democrats owned the store right now—Hilary Rosen, I‘m asking a question.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking a simple question. If the Democrats controlled the United States government, lock stock and barrel, what would be their solution to the obvious problem of Social Security funding?
ROSEN: The Social Security problem is whether there‘s going to be enough money for people as they retire, as the baby boom generation ages. So there are two things you do.
First, you make sure that there are other investment vehicles and other investment options for people, whether that‘s more money into the system for people who are, you know, already rich and they don‘t have to pay into the system anymore once they get passed a certain amount of money, or...
MATTHEWS: Raise taxes?
ROSEN: It‘s not raising taxes. It‘s simply saying, once you‘re rich, you don‘t get exempted from paying into Social Security anymore.
MATTHEWS: Pay more taxes...
ROSEN: Which is what happens at...
MATTHEWS: You try telling that to somebody who is going to have to pay more taxes that it‘s really not more taxes, Hilary.
ROSEN: No. See...
MATTHEWS: In the political business...
ROSEN: If you make $200,000 a year, you still have to pay.
MATTHEWS: It depends what your definition of is is.
ROSEN: Just like someone at $50,000.
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton...
MATTHEWS: ... Republicans to present herself as a moderate on the cultural question. And a new poll has her leading again in the Democratic field in 2008.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Hilary Rosen and Ben Ginsberg.
Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton teamed up with conservative senators to announce legislation to look into the effect, catch this, of media on children. This is Hillary Clinton worried about the media. Senator Clinton also spoke to the Kaiser Family Foundation this morning on the need for parents and government to pay closer attention to what kids watch and play.
Well, is this one of those old things where Hilary says, I‘m concerned with matters of children? You know how she always says, it‘s important to children? Is this the same old liberal thing? Or, Hilary, is she up to something and moving over?
ROSEN: And moving...
MATTHEWS: Is she moving over with Tipper Gore and all that stuff about lyrics and all that? Is she getting in with the right here?
ROSEN: The truth is, while I argued...
ROSEN: I argued with her about this issue over—over many years.
This is not a new issue for Hillary Clinton. This is not sort of a...
MATTHEWS: Well, you mean you thought she was wrong.
ROSEN: I thought she was wrong. I think that they‘re wrong in their approach on attacking the media for what is really a problem in life today. But...
MATTHEWS: So, she‘s a fraud?
ROSEN: But this is her real issue.
MATTHEWS: So, she‘s a fraud?
ROSEN: No, no. This is an issue for her.
MATTHEWS: She believes that what in our culture is dangerous to people like Chelsea when they‘re growing up? What did she see happening?
ROSEN: I think there‘s a perception among politicians today that they can, you know, be—play a part in how people live their lives and how—what people think about government and the media if somehow they‘re in there trying to influence what that media is. But they can‘t.
MATTHEWS: Well, look, we watch television all day around here, you know, with—there‘s about 20 TV sets all the time here on HARDBALL. And all I see people is making out in bed naked all day long on the soaps.
MATTHEWS: OK. I don‘t know how you can get any worse than that in prime time.
MATTHEWS: That‘s all they do.
MATTHEWS: And so that‘s the mothers watching that all day.
MATTHEWS: Just a minute. That‘s the mothers watching.
Then we have got hip-hop, with all the rough stuff and the violence being encouraged—I don‘t care what anybody says—in those lyrics.
MATTHEWS: Where do you say it‘s not there?
ROSEN: Parents are...
MATTHEWS: Are you taking a position against Hillary? Where‘s your position here?
ROSEN: No, no. I think they‘re wrong to blame the media for the problems that exist in society.
MATTHEWS: Why not? Why not?
ROSEN: But this is the truth.
MATTHEWS: Why not? You have got to blame somebody.
ROSEN: Parents are unhappy about what is going on in media. Politicians are trying to be relevant to those parents‘ lives. But government can‘t control the media.
MATTHEWS: My daughter, do you know what she likes? She likes “American Dreams,” because it is wholesome and it‘s about the ‘60s. And it really is almost retroactive. It goes back to an age of innocence, relative innocence.
She loves “The Brady Bunch,” which was made, what, 30 years ago, because there‘s nothing on that is like this.
MATTHEWS: The kids are looking for innocence in your television world. And you‘re defending here. Hillary is right.
ROSEN: They‘re right about what?
GINSBERG: This was a responsible act by all of those senators.
MATTHEWS: So you like Hillary on this?
ROSEN: That‘s the problem.
GINSBERG: Yes, I like Hillary on this.
GINSBERG: I like Rick Santorum on this. I like Sam Brownback on this. I like Joe Lieberman on this. This was a good move for all of them.
MATTHEWS: In a free society, how do you torque sleeves in another direction? How do you set down—how do you set down...
GINSBERG: You do this by what they were doing, which is sort of trying to lead by example on something like this.
ROSEN: It is grandstanding. It‘s using the bully pulpit. It‘s all of that stuff.
MATTHEWS: Hillary is a phony? Hillary is a phony?
ROSEN: No, I think very genuine about it.
MATTHEWS: I thought you were her pal.
ROSEN: Look, I‘m going to say something nice about Sam Brownback. I think he believes this sincerely. I‘m not saying that they‘re being phony. I‘m just saying, I think that there‘s no way for the government to regulate what‘s going on here. And they know it as well as anybody else.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about...
MATTHEWS: I want to give you a chance to be a friend of the media here.
MATTHEWS: Dan Rather.
MATTHEWS: He‘s been round a long time. You‘ve watched television a long time. Do you think he‘s a straight reporter? Do you think he gave it to us straight all these years?
GINSBERG: I think there were times when he veered badly off course.
MATTHEWS: To where? That he was politically biassed?
GINSBERG: Yes, I do.
GINSBERG: Here‘s the perfect example. The perfect example was when the National Guard story came out and the swift boat charges came out at exactly the same time.
Now, one, the National Guard paper, CBS got all over, reported completely. The swift boat charges, CBS and Dan Rather never bothered to ask a question of one of those...
MATTHEWS: What were the swift boat charges?
GINSBERG: That John Kerry should not be commander in chief because of the way he acted when he got back.
MATTHEWS: Just to get—I want to get to the facts here. What did he do wrong?
GINSBERG: The facts were the man who served with John Kerry...
MATTHEWS: Did not like the fact that he came out against the war afterwards.
GINSBERG: They thought he did not have the character to be commander in chief.
MATTHEWS: Because he came out against the war.
GINSBERG: Right. But the point was—the point was that CBS...
MATTHEWS: That was the point.
ROSEN: That was the point.
GINSBERG: No. The point was, CBS never bothered to do any reporting of the swift boat vets, never talked to...
ROSEN: They didn‘t have to. They were debunked instantly.
GINSBERG: They were not debunked instantly.
ROSEN: By facts.
GINSBERG: They haven‘t debunked to this day.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think of Dan Rather? You‘re going to say he‘s a straight reporter right down the middle?
ROSEN: I think he was a straight reporter. But this is the...
MATTHEWS: Down the middle? Down the middle?
ROSEN: Down the middle, as I experienced it.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Cronkite was down the middle?
ROSEN: You know, I don‘t recall experiencing him in the present time.
MATTHEWS: Do you really think Cronkite was down the middle? He told me once he was a liberal. I always thought he was a liberal. He‘s not dying it. Why are you?
ROSEN: I‘m not denying it. I‘m saying...
MATTHEWS: Was Cronkite a liberal?
ROSEN: I don‘t think I watched his newscast. I was too young.
MATTHEWS: Was Cronkite a liberal? Can you tell? Is Rather a liberal? Can you tell?
ROSEN: I don‘t that Rather is a liberal.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Hilary Rosen and Ben Ginsberg.
Join me tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
And don‘t forget, next Monday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins me for the full hour live from Stanford University. And, next Tuesday, I‘ll be joined by Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood for the whole—full hour.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.