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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for May 26

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Charlie Cook, Bob Shrum, Byron York, Richard Shelby, Jon Corzine

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The Senate fails to invoke cloture, as Democrats force a delay on a final confirmation vote on John Bolton as American ambassador to the U.N.

Let‘s play HARDBALL

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

John Bolton‘s nomination to be ambassador to the U.N. is still in peril tonight.  The Republican leadership failed to end the debate on his nomination and the battle over President Bush‘s most contested nominee will continue next month when Congress returns after the recess. 

Later, David Gregory on Palestinian leader Abbas‘ visit to the president at the White House today.  President Bush insisted that the new Palestinian state possess contiguous territory on the West Bank. 

But let‘s begin with the Democratic victory to continue the debate on John Bolton.  Will the Bush administration cave to pressure and disclose documents on how Bolton handled NSA intercepts and intelligence on Syria? 

I‘m joined Right now by MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell. 

Norah O‘Donnell, you‘ve got the headline. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, tonight, this showdown in the Senate over the president‘s controversial pick to be ambassador to the United Nations ended with Democrats succeeding in forcing a delay on that vote. 

Republicans fell just four votes shy of moving forward on a vote on Bolton.  Bottom line, this gets moved until June, when Congress returns from their Memorial Day recess.  This may signal a defeat for President Bush, for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.  The Democrats tonight did lose three Democrats who voted with the Republican to move forward and hold a vote. 

Those Democrats were Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Nelson of Nebraska and Senator Pryor of Arkansas.  Still, Republicans did not have enough to end the debate and move forward on a vote.  So, this will be put off for the future.  We heard Frist, very interestingly, say, as they wrapped up this vote, that this has been an interesting week, is what Frist called it, a week when he thought that they got sidetracked this week, obviously, because of the compromise over the nuclear option and then this delay in the Bolton thing. 

But Frist said, let‘s make clear.  We are going to try to move forward on this again when we return from the Memorial Day recess.  We also heard from the Democrats, Democratic Leader Reid saying, we‘re not here to filibuster.  We‘re here to get information.  And Democratic Senator Joe Biden said, we‘re ready to vote the moment we get back from our recess if the administration meets us halfway in providing some of that information they‘ve been requesting since the very beginning—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell.

Democratic Senator Jon Corzine voted against ending the debate on the Bolton nomination.  And Republican Senator Richard Shelby voted for cloture, for ending the debate.

Senator Shelby, I just want a definitional answer here.  Is this a filibuster the Democrats are pulling right now? 

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA:  Well, it is more than a little debate. 

I wouldn‘t call it a filibuster in the strict sense of the term.  We‘ll know when we get back, Chris.  I hope that we can vote on this.  We had 56 votes.  We had one Republican absent.  But we‘ve got to have some Democrats.  We had some today to bring it up for a vote, get past the 60.  And I hope we will when we get back.  I think this is a delay.  I hope it is all a delay and not a full-fledged stalling tactic we call a filibuster. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it, Senator Corzine, a situation, now that the Bolton nomination is in a cryogenic state, it is frozen, until you get these documents? 

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY:  Well, it is not a filibuster.  We‘ll leave this request for information, which is a perfectly legitimate one. 

As a matter of fact, Senator Shelby used to be the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  And the chairman this time and the ranking member asked for information that had to do with Mr. Bolton‘s requests for information when he was a deputy secretary. 

And we would just like to have that be reviewed, classified area, and make sure that there wasn‘t an interference on policy and pressure put on people that maybe is undue.  And we would like to have that information.  We ought to have a right to it to make our decisions about Mr. Bolton‘s nomination. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Shelby, it seems to me that, if you believe Harry Reid, the Democratic floor leader tonight, that Senator Frist also has asked for that information from the administration.  Did that surprise you, that your leader is asking for the same documents that the Democrats want? 

SHELBY:  Well, I didn‘t know that they were asking for the same thing.  But if there‘s relevant information and our leader and the Democrat leader are asking for it, perhaps, over the next 10 days, they‘ll be satisfied and we‘ll get to the vote. 

I do believe that Mr. Bolton is highly qualified, highly experienced.  And he‘s combative.  But I believe we need someone combative at the U.N.  and I believe he is the man for the job. 

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of combat, why did your party call this vote tonight if you didn‘t have the 60 votes you needed? 

SHELBY:  Well, I‘m not the leader.  Senator Frist is the leader. 



MATTHEWS:  Somebody—I don‘t think anybody is the leader tonight. 

SHELBY:  I figured, sometimes, you do call those vote and you see how many you need and who you need.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHELBY:  And that‘s part of all the vote counting.  I believe we will get Bolton confirmed when we get back.  I certainly hope so.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you might have a problem in your whip organization?  You thought you had 51 votes for the nuclear earlier option this week.  You didn‘t.  You thought you had 60 votes tonight for cloture.  You didn‘t.  What is Mitch McConnell doing for a living?  Why isn‘t your whip organization more on the mark here? 

SHELBY:  Well, I think Senator McConnell is a very good vote counter.  I can tell you this.  He works very hard.  And he has the confidence of a lot of us there.  And I bet you he had the vote count.  I think the vote was today to see where we really are. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Senator Corzine. 

Something put your party together in fighting shape tonight.  Your leader, Harry Reid, gave credit to Chris Dodd and to Joe Biden of Delaware and Connecticut.  Did they go around today and get people like Dianne Feinstein to hold fast? 

CORZINE:  You know, both Joe and Chris have tremendous credibility with our caucus and actually I think with the American people.  They are very dedicated to the national security of this country.  They want to do the right thing. 

But I don‘t think they believe we should go forward with this nomination when there are real open questions about whether there has been interference in the intelligence operations, particularly by an individual that some would say tried to shape, some would even say manipulate the intelligence that formed our decision to go into Iraq. 

And so the credibility of Senator Biden and Senator Dodd asking for this information, I think, united our party. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that John Bolton was one of the point people in building the case for war, not just in Iraq?  But didn‘t he build a pretty strong case that we needed to act against Syria by charging Syria with hoarding the weapons that Saddam Hussein was accused of having in the first place, then going on and saying, OK, Saddam doesn‘t have them, but Syria has now got them?

CORZINE:  This is the essence of what this debate and the information that I think Senator Biden, Senator Dodd and all of us really think ought to be examined. 

I—I actually believe that it would be good that the two leaders of both parties and obviously the folks who run the Intelligence Committee, the chairman, Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the ranking member, should be able to see this classified material and see whether there was interference and further manipulation of information that shapes our decisions on some of the most important national security interests we have. 

We‘re about to face Memorial Day.  We‘ve lost 1,660 men and women in Iraq.  And if there‘s someone that made that decision or helped us make that decision with manipulative actions, then I think we‘re not doing the service to our country by not asking those questions. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Shelby, do you believe that anybody in this administration, from Bolton all the way to the president, consciously manipulated information to build the case for war?

SHELBY:  No, I don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  And subsequently made the case for other military operations in Syria, for example? 

SHELBY:  I do not believe that.  I would hope no one would do this. 

There have been all kinds of accusations always.  At the end of the day, they make decisions of policy based on the information that they have.  And, sometimes, it is an interpretation of that information.  And when they say, go back, get me more or get this, oftentimes, some of the information is wrong.  Sometimes it is right.  But people have to make decisions. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, isn‘t the accusation against Mr. Bolton that he didn‘t misinterpret something, but he ignored the analysis he had at hand and made a case against the analysis he had at hand, in other words, purposely said something that wasn‘t backed up by his own experts?

SHELBY:  Well, I guess you have to define experts.  And you have to—even in the intel field that we all know—and I know—and, as I said earlier, I‘ve known Mr. Bolton a long time, since the Reagan days.  And he‘s—he‘s a great public servant.  He will make an outstanding ambassador to the United Nations. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you advise the president to stick with this nomination? 

SHELBY:  Absolutely.  And I hope he will.  And I think we‘ll get him confirmed when we get back.  I believe that there‘s a chance to knock out any impediments to his nomination.  We got 56 votes tonight.  We had one Republican absent.  So, we‘re about three short.  And I believe a good organization can get them.  He‘s a good man. 


MATTHEWS:  Would you be willing to advise the—would you to advise the leadership of your party, Senator Frist, to give, put more pressure on State, the State Department, to give the documents requested by the Democrats in order to get those three or four more votes you need? 

SHELBY:  I would leave that up to my leader, Bill Frist, and Senator McConnell.  They‘re dealing with this every day.  They know what they‘ve got to do.  And I believe they‘re going to get the votes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Senator Corzine. 

Your party has got the whip hand now.  You have got enough votes to stop this nomination from even coming to a vote.  Do you believe your party will stand fast and insist on these documents or else kill the nomination? 

CORZINE:  No.  I think that we will get this information, because I think more of the American people understand that there are serious questions about how information was handled and whether there was potential interference in the intelligence presentation of data to the policy-makers. 

The more they have questions about that, the more I think they will put pressure into the political system to make sure that requests for information, which is perfectly legitimate, particularly if you‘re going to do it in a—in a closed-door meeting or most secure operation, top secret, there‘s no reason that this information shouldn‘t be provided to the most senior leaders of our Congress.  That‘s what oversight is about.  And I think the American people will understand that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the people of New Jersey believe that this war in Iraq was worth fighting, given all the costs so far, and the lack of WMD to justify it in the first place? 

CORZINE:  Well, I‘ve seen the poll numbers most recently.  And the people in New Jersey believe that this was not the right decision today.  They actually did most of the time post the beginning of the war.  But now I think they‘re beginning to see that there has been very little burden sharing, that it has had a very high cost on our nation, and both in lives and treasure. 

And I think they are—they are concerned that they were not necessarily given all the information that they thought they needed, or were their representatives.  And if they were given whatever information they had, they feel like it might have been skewed to a bias.  And I will tell you that it has been further confirmed by a lot of people that I talk to in my home state and around the country, by the way, is this—this Blair-Bush meeting in the summer of ‘02, which really presaged what was actually going to take place the following March. 

There was a commitment to go ahead with this and I think it fits into a pattern that we were shaping the information to meet the policy that had already been decided upon. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Shelby, in the interest of equal time, do you believe the people of Alabama think this war has been worth the fight? 

SHELBY:  I believe most of them do.  There are always misgivings.  Freedom has a price.  It has a price of life in every—in money and everything that goes with it. 

But I believe, at the end of the day—and I would like to see it end as quickly as anyone—that we‘ll see that we did the right thing.  Freedom is important, freedom for the Iraqi people, freedom for us. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senators.  Thank you for taking the time tonight. 

SHELBY:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  After this big vote, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.

When we come back, we‘ll get reaction from the White House on the vote against ending the debate on John Bolton tonight from NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, reaction from the White House to the Senate vote to prevent a confirmation vote for John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador.

HARDBALL returns after this.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

John Bolton is the most disputed of President Bush‘s appointees so far.  And, tonight, his nomination is still up in the air. 

For reaction from the White House, we go to NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory. 

David, David, it must be a hot house down there tonight. 


They‘ve been watching this whole afternoon, grouped together with their legislative affairs votes, not knowing which way this was going to go.  It didn‘t go their way.  Scott McClellan told me just moments ago—quote—“Just 72 hours after all the goodwill and bipartisanship, it is a shame,” he says, “to see the Democrat Senate leadership resort back to such a partisan approach on a nominee that enjoys majority support.  We‘re glad to see that the Republican leadership will bring this back to a vote.”

I don‘t think they think this is gone, Chris.  I think they‘ll get him through eventually.  But this is another tough fight, another setback for them...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  On a nominee that this president and the vice president have certainly the stomach to see go all the way. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here the question is.  Are they going to now provide the documents that Senators Biden and Dodd have been asking for from the record of this nominee? 

GREGORY:  I don‘t—I just don‘t know the answer to that.  And I think that you certainly heard Republicans who think this is nothing but a smokescreen.  You‘ve heard some pretty harsh rhetoric from the White House as well.  The Democrats have had all the information that they need. 

I mean, this is going to be an important choice, on to what extent he wants to engage Democrats.  He claimed to be sitting on the sidelines in the filibuster—filibuster fight.  I don‘t think that that is—anybody really believes that.  So, he may be willing to just call their bluff on this and see if they can slow this down anymore.  They think they‘ve got the votes on this.  They‘ve thought that for a couple of weeks.  But, as I said, this is another setback for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they didn‘t have the votes tonight.

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And I wonder, David, is there any explanation at the White House why, twice in a week now, the Senate Republican leadership, which controls 55 votes out of 100, has gotten its count wrong?  They didn‘t have the 51 they needed for the nuclear option.  They didn‘t have the 60 they needed tonight.  What happened to the whip operation on the Republican side? 

GREGORY:  Well, it is a real concern. 

And they also are concerned about how all of this looks on their side.  They don‘t think that they necessarily came out looking so great in this filibuster compromise, nor did the Republican leadership.  And I think there‘s a larger concern.  And this may be on the Democratic side as well.  And they make the argument here, which is that the American people—and our poll reflects this—are simply tired of all this business in Washington being slowed down and them not getting anything done. 

Look, this president would like to be talking about Social Security right now.  He would like the big Hill debate to be Social Security right now.  Well, it is not even on the radar screen.  We‘re now getting caught up in judicial nominations, filibusters and failed cloture votes for the Republicans.  So, the White House is not at all happy about this. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to call this diddling a filibuster or what are they going to call it down there?  What are they calling it so far? 

GREGORY:  Well, you know, you heard Scott McClellan‘s statement.  They‘re not calling it a filibuster.  You know, I don‘t know if most people in America really care about the distinction. 

The bottom line is that the nominee is being held up for now.  It doesn‘t look like he‘ll go down at this point, but he is certainly being held up.  And even Republicans are uneasy about this nomination.  But there should be no confusion.  The president is willing to go to bat for John Bolton, the vice president willing to go to bat.  This was a very strong statement by this White House, to say...

MATTHEWS:  I know.  The vice president is gung-ho behind him.

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  But he may have broken his pick on this one. 

I want to ask you this.  Is the president willing to get his picture taken with John Bolton?  You know, I think about this in my mind‘s eye.  He hasn‘t really sidled up close to this guy and said, here‘s a man I need; here‘s a man I work with every day.  It is a conceptual support so far.

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to have his picture taken with the guy yet?  Is he going to do that? 

GREGORY:  Well—well, I think it is a good question.  And I wouldn‘t be surprised if he does after the vote goes through.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he hasn‘t done it yet.  He has...

GREGORY:  You‘re right.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me it‘s been an arm‘s-length support so far. 

It‘s been like what Ronald Reagan use to do with the pro-life people. 

GREGORY:  Well, I don‘t know if that‘s—I don‘t know if that‘s quite

·         look, I don‘t know if that‘s quite fair, Chris. 

I mean, this president stood up in prime time when asked about it in a press conference...


GREGORY:  ... and said, this is my guy.  He looked America in the eye and told them that.

I don‘t think it‘s unimportant ,the point you‘re raising, which is,

stand right by me here in the Rose Garden and let me tell Congress with you

by my side that you‘re my guy.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  He hasn‘t done that.  But I think he has stood behind him. 

But this is going to be a critical next few days and it may be even a week. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if they‘re flipping hamburgers together on Memorial Day, I guess that‘s an endorsement.  I‘m waiting to for that physicality I want to see. 

Thank you.  It‘s a great report.

GREGORY:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for NBC News. 

In a moment, “The National Journal”‘s Charlie Cook will be joining us on the winners and losers tonight—and I think you can figure it out if you‘ve been watching—on what happened to John Bolton.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With some tough analysis of tonight‘s vote to prevent a vote on John Bolton‘s nomination as U.N. ambassador, we turn to one of Washington‘s most trusted and astute political observers, Charlie Cook, political analyst for “The National Journal” magazine, a hell of a magazine, and editor of “The Cook Political Report,” a hell of a report.

Charlie, bottom line, bottom line here.  What is the matter with Republican leadership?  They had two votes this week they thought they would win.  They were going to do the nuclear option and kill the judicial filibuster.  They could not get it together.  They thought they were going to get cloture tonight to end debate on the—and bring up a vote and get that thing passed tonight for John Bolton.  They blew it again tonight.

Is Mitch McConnell blowing his vote?  What‘s going on here? 

CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  The question is either Mitch McConnell, the whip, are his counts wrong or is Senator Frist, the majority leader, the one that is ultimately responsible for these things, pulling the trigger prematurely and making bad decisions? 

MATTHEWS:  They let Specter go home.  Specter went back to Philly.

COOK:  Well, either Specter was either going to vote against them and they said, go ahead and go, or, B, they—or, B, they didn‘t—they thought they had the votes and let him go, in which case it‘s a supreme miscalculation. 

The thing about it is, I think Senator Frist has made a lot of mistakes.  I think his respect has gone down enormously.  And, in fact, “National Journal” magazine did a survey of Republican senators and congressmen and asked who was the most effective Republican in the Senate.  And he came in fifth place.  And no one came in third. 

MATTHEWS:  The Republican problem on Monday was solidarity.  The Republican problem tonight was the Democrat solidarity. 

COOK:  They thought they had more Democratic votes than they had. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did the Democrats pull together? 

COOK:  I think it‘s blood in the water.

MATTHEWS:  Because they could look bad out of this. 

COOK:  I think Democrats feel like they‘re on a roll and why stop now. 

And the thing about it is, the vote on—the vote on—on—on the nuclear option, or the compromise, both sides, both the liberals and the conservatives, lost.  The moderates won.


MATTHEWS:  Because you got those conservative pro-life judges approved. 

COOK:  Yes.  They still got more than they wanted.

But the thing about it is, liberals declared victory and were allowed to perceive—allow Democrats perceive as winning the fight, when they didn‘t win any more than the conservatives did.  They both lost.

MATTHEWS:  I thought Harry Reid was wrong in jumping up and down and claiming victory, but maybe did it rally their morale. 

COOK:  It‘s like in basketball where the ball goes out of...


MATTHEWS:  Is that what you think happened?

COOK:  No, the ball—you know, they touched it last.  It is like that. 

MATTHEWS:  So, where are we heading right now politically?  Do the Democrats have the willingness to be obstructors?  Because if they keep this going another couple weeks, after the Memorial Day break, and keep resisting this nomination, saying, we want more paper, we want more documents, does the public say, you guys are obstructionists; you‘re filibustering?

COOK:  They have to have the fig leaf.  And the fig leaf is, we want to see these documents.  We want this information.  Once the information, the documents, are out there, we‘ll vote. 


MATTHEWS:  Is there ever going to be enough documents for the Democrats? 

COOK:  Well, no, no, no.  Well, the thing is, you get enough, you embarrass the administration, then you let it go. 

MATTHEWS:  So, if you‘re smart, you‘re Senator Frist, you‘re calling up Condi Rice and say, Condi, give Biden and Dodd two hours or three hours or three days sitting over there looking through the morgue of documents.  Let them do it. 

COOK:  Give them the documents.  It will be embarrassing, but we‘ll get our guy and move on to the next fight. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens if they find some fish on this fishing expedition and they come back and say, we‘ve proven this guy did something wrong?

COOK:  Well, the question...


MATTHEWS:  Then all bets are off. 

COOK:  What Republicans are they going to lose that they haven‘t lost already?  I mean, I think if they‘re in for...

MATTHEWS:  They could lose this nomination. 

COOK:  Well, I mean, the thing about it is, I think that the Republicans that were inclined to defect have already defected. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, news-making question, Charles Cook.  Will the president show up at a photo-op with John Bolton over the Memorial Day weekend?  Will he show up and get his picture taken with this guy, for once? 

COOK:  Won‘t the president be out of town? 


MATTHEWS:  I think he—I think he is hedging his bets.  Maybe I‘m forcing issues here, but I think that the president, if he likes this guy, should be seen with him. 

COOK:  Yes, unless he doesn‘t want to be seen with him. 


COOK:  He‘s going to be someplace else.

MATTHEWS:  I think that Cheney wants to be seen with the guy.

Anyway, thank you.  I love these little aspects of politics, because, sometimes, it does come down to visuals.  Charlie Cook, you‘re the expert. 

In a moment, what does tonight‘s vote mean for bipartisanship in the Senate?  Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum, Byron York, what a trio, join us.

And tomorrow night, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver joins us right here on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Democrats won the latest fight in the battle over John Bolton‘s nomination as U.N. ambassador.  They forced a delay in his confirmation vote tonight in the Senate.

Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.  Bob Shrum is a former Democratic political consultant, now a senior fellow at New York University‘s Graduate School of Public Service.  Byron York is the White House correspondent for the great “National Review” magazine. 

We begin, however, with MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell. 

Norah, give us the full report on this amazing night. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, tonight, there was that Senate showdown that forced a delay in a vote on the nomination to be U.N. ambassador of John Bolton.  Democrats forced this delay and put off a final vote. 

It is the latest setback for Bolton.  The vote is now scheduled for June, after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess.  Republicans needed 60 votes in order to end debate and bring this to a vote.  But they felt four votes shy, even though there were some Democrats who defected and voted with the Republicans.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, after the vote, said that this was a disappointment.  He said also that this had been an interesting and challenging week, were his words. 

But he said that he hoped there was some sense that they could work

together in the future and planned to schedule to move forward on Bolton

when they returned.  The Democrats, including Democratic Senator Biden,

said we‘re ready to vote the moment we get back from recess if the

administration meets us halfway in providing some of the information they

had requested from the beginning, the Democrats still demanding that the

administration turn over some classified information about intelligence

intercepts that Bolton had requested while he was at the State Department -

·         Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell.

Pat Buchanan, if you were President Bush tonight, surveying the wreckage of one more vote he lost, would you say, OK, give them the documents? 




I—listen, Chris, I disagree with you entirely here.  I think the Democrats have stupidly overplayed their hand.  They have destroyed detente.  You heard George Allen give you the lead tonight when he said, the honeymoon is over.  Frist has had his nose rubbed in the dirt.  He has nowhere to go now but to do battle.  What this means is the nuclear option is back on the judges. 


BUCHANAN:  They have got to do it.  The Republicans have been humiliated. 

McCain and the seven have been undercut.  They got this wonderful deal with the 14.  The moderates are going to decide things.  So, the Democrats go right back to obstruction, right back to filibuster.  Everybody is going to see that as a result.  And Republicans got no choice but—as the mafia says, but to go to the mattresses. 

MATTHEWS:  But why would they accept a complete defeat?  Why don‘t they just say—well, Byron, you tell me.  Well, wouldn‘t the president be smarter to say, it is a narrow defeat?  We lost Bolton.  We‘ll get him in two weeks. 


MATTHEWS:  Pat says admitting a major defeat here. 

YORK:  First of all, first of all, they knew today, or as the evening began, that they were not going to win.  So, the choices were, do you just put off the vote, spend the recess wrangling about the papers and having this Bolton thing go out further?  Or do you have a vote that you are going to lose and then you can say...

MATTHEWS:  When did they tell that they knew they were going to lose tonight?  When did you first get that report from them or that information?

YORK:  I had—I was hearing serious doubts from them about 4:00 today. 

MATTHEWS:  That early.  So, they knew they weren‘t going to keep Feinstein.  They weren‘t going to keep some of the moderates. 

YORK:  Yes.  And before—well before the vote, within an hour before the vote, they knew they were losing some of the moderates, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Bob Shrum for a second.

Bob, this—I want to you take on, if you want, what Pat said, that this is a betrayal of the deal struck this week by the 14 people in the center. 

BOB SHRUM, FORMER KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  Well, first of all, of course, Pat wanted to take all the Nixon tapes when he was working for President Nixon out on the White House lawn and burn them in response to the subpoena. 

So, I understand he doesn‘t want to give any information that—that the members of the Senate have asked for.  I also disagree with him totally.  I don‘t think the nuclear option is back on the table.  I think this was a circumstance in which very reasonable people, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and apparently Bill Frist, said, can we have a little more information?  And we don‘t want to give it to the whole Senate.  We just want certain people with very, very—who are trusted all the time with classified information to look at it and to report back to us. 


MATTHEWS:  So you disagree with—by the way, you disagree with Frist?  Frist apparently, according to Harry Reid, in his telling of it, has gone to the administration and asked for these documents that the Democrats want to see before they allow a vote. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, Chris, you‘re right.  Frist has played ball with the Democrats.  He‘s played ball with Reid.  He has now had his nose rubbed in the dirt a second time.


MATTHEWS:  By the White House or by the Democrats?

BUCHANAN:  By—look, by Harry Reid and these guys. 

MATTHEWS:  But the White House is refusing to give him the documents. 

BUCHANAN:  Bill Frist—look at Frist‘s standpoint.  He wants to be president.  He wants to be a strong leader.  He looks like a fool twice.  He‘s been undercut.  He has nowhere to go, either to demonstrate toughness or strength or pack it in.  He made a statement today which was 100 -- about 180 degrees from what he made the other day, which was, look, we are going to get a vote on every one of these judges. 

You think flying back to Tennessee, what do you do he‘s thinking?  I think he is thinking, we‘re going to go to battle with these guys and beat them.  It is McCain who was undercut tonight. 

YORK:  Frist believed earlier that he actually had an agreement with Reid that there would not be a filibuster.  That fell apart in the afternoon. 

BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

YORK:  But the thing is, is that, as far as Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  Is this a filibuster? 

YORK:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s going on now?

YORK:  They held a vote to end debate.  It was defeated by the Democrats.  There‘s a filibuster going on. 

But Reid is—took—took special care to say, oh, no, this is not a filibuster.  And then he later said, well, it is the first filibuster of the Senate.  There may be no others.  There—and Biden has gone out of his way to say, this is not a filibuster, even though it is a filibuster.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Reid knows he has gone a bridge too far. 

YORK:  And what happened --- what will happen over the break...

MATTHEWS:  How do you know Reid knows that? 

YORK:  What will happen...

BUCHANAN:  Look at—I saw him up there in the—sort of the reaching out.  He wasn‘t the old guy.  He knows they got a deal.  And the deal, the big part could come apart for this little thing they won tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s being cautious and saying, all I want is these documents to share with the two senators who want them.  He admits the sensitivity of the documents. 

I‘ve never heard a senator say that on the floor.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m only going to—I don‘t trust the 98 senators that to see this stuff.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m only going to show it to Dodd and Biden. 

MATTHEWS:  Why isn‘t he saying, like he did the other night, that, we‘ve got them; that‘s the end of this abuse of power?

MATTHEWS:  He‘s learned his lesson.

BUCHANAN:  Because, listen, well, he‘s gone too far. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob, would you call this a filibuster, Bob Shrum? 

SHRUM:  I don‘t think it matters terribly much.

Republican Senator Shelby of Alabama said it wasn‘t.  I think there are many occasions when votes are delayed in the Senate.  Very often, there have been votes on cloture where they haven‘t passed the first time and they pass the second or the third. 

But Pat is totally wrong about something.  The nuclear option is not on the table.  I know that Pat wanted to set off the nuclear bomb in the Senate this week.  It didn‘t get set off.


SHRUM:  And I don‘t think those seven Republicans or those seven Democrats are going to go back on the agreement they made. 


BUCHANAN:  Bob, what do you vote—tell me what you vote cloture on, if not a filibuster, for heaven‘s sakes.  That‘s what a cloture vote is about. 

SHRUM:  Well, I don‘t actually...

BUCHANAN:  It shuts down a filibuster.  It failed. 

But, look, I am smiling tonight—and Chris will tell you, I was not smiling Tuesday night. 

SHRUM:  Pat, you asked the question.  I‘d be happy to answer it.


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Bob.

SHRUM:  I‘d be happy to answer the question. 

Look, Senator Shelby made it very clear.  The filibuster is something that is designed to prevent a vote from ever occurring.  This is not designed to prevent a vote from ever occurring.  And, I must say, I think Bill Frist had a really terrible week.  But, Pat, I‘ve never said anything as bad about a Republican as you‘ve said about him tonight.  I think he has handled a very difficult situation. 




SHRUM:  It is obviously—it is obviously—it is...

BUCHANAN:  If Shrum is praising Frist, Frist is in trouble. 


SHRUM:  Well, no, I could really...


MATTHEWS:  Let me let Byron get in here. 



MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Byron has to...


YORK:  First of all, some of the Republican moderates, like Lindsey Graham and Mike DeWine, have said the nuclear option is, of course, on the table if there is a filibuster in the future. 

MATTHEWS:  They were yes votes, by the way, for the nuclear option. 


YORK:  Exactly.  But they were talking about judges.  But now they‘re going to say, look, we had all these group—these moderates come together.  They say they saved the republic.  They stepped back from the brink; 72 hours later, Democrats are filibustering.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come back and—excuse me, Byron.  Let‘s come back and talk about President Bush and what he does.  I think he has been holding back from this battle.  Will he embrace John Bolton?  Will he have his picture taken with him?  Will he have—have hotdogs with him over the Memorial Day weekend?  Will he show solidarity?  Or will he hold back and say, Dick Cheney, this is your baby? 

We‘ll be back with Patrick Buchanan, Bob Shrum and Byron York.

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


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what is President Bush‘s next move on the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador?

We‘ll be right back with Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum and Byron York when HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum and Byron York. 

Here is Senator Joe Biden after the vote tonight the prevented the confirmation vote on John Bolton‘s nomination as U.N. ambassador. 


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  The issue here was about whether or not information that, on good faith, the majority leader, tried all—I shouldn‘t say all day, yesterday and today to get, but I think almost every senator here would acknowledge the is entitled to. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Pat Buchanan.  I guess you‘ve taken a position on this. 

Will the president now double the stakes and say, damn it, I‘m with this guy?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to be seen with him.  I‘m going to get my picture taken with him. 

BUCHANAN:  You have got a very good question.  

MATTHEWS:  I am going to be this guy‘s second in this fight. 

BUCHANAN:  You have got a very good point.  Why doesn‘t he have his picture taken? 

But you know George Bush by now.  George Bush is a stand-up guy for his people.  He went out in that 2002 campaign and put himself completely on the line, when no other president would.  He is out there.  He stands by his people.  He will stand by.  And it is the political thing to do, the right thing to do, stand by him all the way and let the country know it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why has he let it look like it‘s a Cheney nomination? 

BUCHANAN:  You know, I don‘t know the answer to that question. 

MATTHEWS:  He has.  Everybody says it.  He hasn‘t countered that...


BUCHANAN:  I think you‘ve got a very valid question that you‘ve asked 17 times on this show. 


MATTHEWS:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he have his photograph taken with him? 

If I were President Bush, I would either have him down to the ranch over the holiday or, when I came back here, he would be standing in the Rose Garden by me.  This is a good man and I want a vote on him. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Byron?  Is he going to show force?  I mean, he has got to make some move.  Either release the documents, double the odds or double the stakes by saying, damn it, take him or leave him. if you leave him, I‘m going to kill you for it. 

YORK:  Well, David Gregory reported that he did say in his press conference, this is my guy.  So, he has stood up for him.

Now, I don‘t know why there couldn‘t be some negotiation over the intercepts, because the intercepts, minus the names, have been shown... 

MATTHEWS:  Explain this for people.  In fact, I‘ve had a hard time figuring it out.  These are National Security Agency intercepts.

YORK:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And he wanted to know who—he wanted the intercept and see who was asking for them or what? 

YORK:  To see the names of who had filed these.  I‘m told that he asked for the names on about 10 different occasions.  I‘m also told that, in the time under consideration, the total number of request for names from the State Department was between 400 and 500.  Bolton was not the top requester or the second requester. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did John Bolton need to get information about who was -

·         what did he want to get?  What was he looking for?

YORK:  It‘s unknown at this point.  But we do know that the State Department showed some of the information to Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller on the Intelligence Committee and—without the names—and that they did not see a need to go any further on this.

MATTHEWS:  What is this about?  What is this—is this...


YORK:  It‘s about stopping John Bolton. 

MATTHEWS:  Does this suggest that John Bolton was trying to whip people in the bureaucracy? 

YORK:  Yes.  No, no, there—the—the stated reason for Democrats is that they say that this—this could show that John Bolton was—was exerting pressure on intelligence analysts to try to—to bend intelligence to his purposes, just the same—the same charge we‘ve heard all long.

MATTHEWS:  Bob, the easier-to-understand complaint or question about this nomination is that he was the chief drum beater for war and his way of doing that was not just support the Iraq war, which was administration policy and his job, but he was even pushing for a more aggressive stance against Syria, saying that Syria had in fact harbored the weapons that Saddam Hussein had opened and had flipped them over to Syria.  Therefore, we should be more aggressive, if not go into Syria, right? 

SHRUM:  Well, that‘s the question—that‘s the question people want answers to.  Those are the documents they want to see. 

What evidence was there about weapons of mass destruction?  What pressure did he put on people?  Now, George Bush is a very stubborn guy.  I‘m not at all sure he‘s going to give this.  And, Chris, if you keep suggesting that he have his picture taken with Bolton, he‘ll probably stubbornly refuse to do it for the next 10 years. 


SHRUM:  I think we‘re in a situation where we‘re seeing something, if we step back a little from this, that we see with reelected presidents all the time. 

They overreach.  We saw this with every president who has been reelected since Dwight Eisenhower.  They overreach.  They begin to get in trouble.  They begin to think that they can have their way on everything. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, wait a minute.

SHRUM:  I mean, the truth is, I wish—I wish the president would be debating Social Security all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  You are building up—you‘re equating John Bolton with packing the court, with Watergate? 

Pat, how dare he compare it to Watergate? 


BUCHANAN:  Wait a minute.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Shrummy and Pat Buchanan and Byron York.

This debate continues.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum and Byron York.

I want everybody to answer this question, because it is my favorite question.  It‘s not whether the president gets his picture taken with this guy, although I love that question. 

Is this a surrogate fight late for the war in Iraq? 

YORK:  Absolutely.  You know, the requests for information about Bolton have been about Cuba and Syria.  They really haven‘t been about Iraq.  But that‘s all this is about, is—is showing that the—that the administration cooked the books to go to war in Iraq.  So, it‘s an ex post facto fight.

MATTHEWS:  And this was the book cooker. 

YORK:  He was not the book cooker. 

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s the charge. 

YORK:  That‘s what they‘re trying to push, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob Shrum, is this a belated debate which maybe we should have had before the war after the war, when it is too late to really do anything about Iraq, except muck through it? 

SHRUM:  Well, it is at one level, because I think people, many of whom voted for the war, have some real doubts now about whether the intelligence was manipulated. 

I would point out that Senator Biden, who has taken the lead in asking for this information, supported the war resolution and has never retracted that support for the war resolution and thinks we have to finish the job in Iraq.  I think we ought to grant the sincerity of these people.  They‘re not asking that the whole Senate look at this.  They‘re asking that a very small number of people look at it, and that we ought to let that happen and then go forward with a vote. 

MATTHEWS:  To what effect, though?  What will they be able to prove if they have a voluminous amount of documents from the State Department that they seek the proof?  What will they—will they—will they destroy this nomination? 

SHRUM:  Well, I don‘t know the answer to that. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that their goal? 

SHRUM:  I mean, we—well, no.  I think their goal is to find out the facts. 

We‘re either in a situation where the administration, the president, as I said earlier, is being very stubborn, or there‘s something to hide.  This is not information that is covered by executive privilege.  The State Department keeps saying, well, it‘s just not relevant.  Well, it‘s not the State Department‘s place to decide what is relevant...


MATTHEWS:  Pat, you said during—Pat, you said during the break, which I will now reveal your deepest thinking—you said, if they have anything to hide, they won‘t release it.  If they have nothing to hide, they will release it. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  Bolton‘s is the scapegoat of the empire, like Breaker Morant. 

These guys, Democrats, would be more honest if they came up and said, we were had on the war and this is one of the guys that had us and we would like to have this debate.  Instead, they‘re going around about Syria and Cuba and all this and chasing the gal down the hall.  Bolton is a scapegoat of the empire.


MATTHEWS:  And what is wrong with that?  Isn‘t that what parliamentary systems are supposed to do, debate? 

BUCHANAN:  Why didn‘t—why didn‘t the Democrats come out and say so; we‘re taking this guy down because we were misled on Iraq?

MATTHEWS:  Because they‘re still afraid to challenge the president on a security matter, because they don‘t think they‘ve got it, right?


BUCHANAN:  So Shrum is wrong.  They‘re not sincere. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, as you said, Joe Biden still doesn‘t want to challenge the process that led us to war, the rationale that led us for war.  Hillary Clinton doesn‘t want to challenge it. 

BUCHANAN:  So they‘re killing this guy because they don‘t want to do what they ought to do. 


SHRUM:  Pat, they‘re actually—Pat, they‘re actually being fair. 

What you‘re saying is, because they feel they were wrong on the war—and I don‘t think all of them do—because they think they were wrong on the war, they ought to just take him down.  Instead, they‘re asking, let‘s see the evidence and then let‘s make a judgment. 

YORK:  And the White House was late to make the case that the president finally did when he had his nationally—his press conference, that the U.N. is a mess and needs to be fixed up. 

MATTHEWS:  Could it be that the reason the Democrats were unusually united, in fact, Democrats in disarray has become a cliche in this city, in this country.  They were united.  The Republicans weren‘t.  Could it be, Bob, that the latest polling shows that most people now believe, on reflection and looking at the casualty list, which is something like 12,000 wounded and 1,600 dead now, that the war was not worth it, and that‘s why Democrats, moderates, centrists are liberals, are willing to say no to Bolton?

SHRUM:  Maybe. 

But I hope, Chris, that what we‘re doing with Iraq now is looking forward and trying to see if there‘s a rational way to come out of there without leaving a complete mess, because the consequences of just walking away would be terrible.  But we are in the period that I call the rhetoric of redemption, when people are trying to figure out how to redeem this situation. 

And one of the reasons that some people have opposed John Bolton is, the last person you want at the U.N. trying to persuade our allies and other nations to help us...

MATTHEWS:  Ten seconds, Pat.

SHRUM:  ... is someone who shows such disdain for them. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Bolton—Bolton is the surrogate for Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you completely. 

By the way, we‘re going to be looking tomorrow for the pictures of the president with his nominee for the United Nations, John Bolton.  I‘m looking for that two-shot. 


MATTHEWS:  Patrick Buchanan, Bob Shrum, Byron York. 

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver is going to be my guest. 

And next on “COUNTDOWN,” what lake was created by damming the Chagres River?  Knowing that one—knowing that answer got a kid a $25,000 win.  Keith finds out what else our National Geography Bee champ knows next on the “COUNTDOWN.”



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