Guest: Paul Rieckhoff, Melanie Morgan, Steve McMahon, Ben Ginsberg>
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Boldly, President Bush pushes past critics in the Senate and gives John Bolton a recess appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. So, how do you make a permanent representative to the U.N. out of an appointment of a temp?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
After failing to get an up-or-down vote on John Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N., President Bush today bypassed the Senate on the first day of its recess and appointed Bolton to the post by himself, filling a six-month vacancy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators, John was unfairly denied the up-or-down vote that he deserves. As a result, America has now gone more than six months without a permanent ambassador to the United Nations. So, today, I‘ve used my constitutional authority to appoint John Bolton to serve as America‘s ambassador to the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The move comes a month before the Senate is scheduled to hold confirmation hearings on President Bush‘s Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts.
Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut was among those Democrat who spoke out against Bolton‘s appointment today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I just don‘t think he can do a very good job there. I think he‘s going to hurt the president, more importantly, going to hurt the country. I think the nomination is a bad one. I think the way he‘s arriving there is a—is a—is a very bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: NBC‘s David Gregory is at the White House.
David, you know, the president, doesn‘t he run the risk of looking like the little rich kid who is not winning the game; so, he says, it‘s my ball; I‘m going home with it?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have a theory about this, Chris, which is that every time somebody accuses John Bolton about being abrasive or abusive to subordinates or difficult to work with, as somebody who is just going to break all the china in the place, the president says, oh, yes, this is why I like the guy. This is exactly what I want at the United Nations.
GREGORY: And I‘m only half kidding. I really think that that is a big part of this, that the president—yes, he may be ruffling feathers here, but he doesn‘t mind. To deal with the United Nations, the president wants to do it in a pretty hard-line way.
MATTHEWS: But doesn‘t—well, let me ask you this about the nature of the appointment, because he can only be appointed through the beginning of the next session of Congress, which is in early ‘07, it‘s really only a year and a few months, how can he really be a permanent representative and have the stature of one?
GREGORY: Well, I think that‘s a big question.
It is a question that was posed to the U.N. secretary-general today. I mean, the bottom line is that the president has got some time to work with. He has a year up there. He knows he has got the president‘s authority. Everybody up there in New York understands that as well, that he can push the U.S. agenda. And then we‘ll see what happens.
I mean, if he can prove to some Democrats that he can work well with others up there, perhaps he changes some minds. Maybe that‘s not going to happen. But the bottom line this is that this is not an administration that thinks very highly of the United Nations. And the only real engagement they want to have at the U.N. is to try to clean the place up. And so, they‘re going to stand by the guy they think who can really do that.
And this is very much a statement, that the president was not going to be deterred from making in terms of his views of the U.N. and how it ought to operate.
MATTHEWS: How big a role has the vice president had in this appointment and this continuation to fight for him, to the point of naming him a recess appointment?
GREGORY: I think huge. And, in fact, it‘s the vice president who is very close to John Bolton, who has been a real stalwart for him throughout this process.
And I think it‘s perfectly clear that he made the argument to the president that you don‘t wobble on this one, that this is an important player in our agenda with the United Nations.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, David Gregory.
Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which held the nomination hearings on John Bolton.
Senator, let me ask you about the Democrats. The president referred to a handful of Democrats. Who is he talking about who held up this nomination?
SEN. NORM COLEMAN ®, MINNESOTA: Well, the bottom line is that there were 56 votes for cloture. So, the majority of the United States Senate supported ending the debate.
I think Bolton would have gotten more than 56 votes to be confirmed. So, a majority of the Senate supported John Bolton. And in most democracies, majorities actually get their way. Senate procedure allows a minority to block this nomination. And they did.
Chris, two other things. The bottom line is, you‘re forgetting there‘s a conference on U.N. reform, major conference September 14-16. The president is going to be there, make a major statement. Now he has got somebody who is there, who is his guy, who is going to work with him over these six weeks. This is an important period of time. We‘ve been six months without a permanent representative. The time was to do it now and the president I believe did the right thing.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Senator and former Majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, the United States senator from that state. Here‘s what he said. He opposed the recess appointment of John Bolton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI: I have advised against it. I think that he was not confirmed. And, if he went in there, he would be limit to like 17 months. Perhaps he would not be weakened, but it appears to me that he would. But I would recommend against a recess appointment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Senator Coleman?
COLEMAN: I disagree with my friend and respected colleague Trent Lott.
Bottom line is that this is an important moment. This U.N. is reeling from the aftermath of the investigation that we‘ve done on oil-for-food, and they‘ve reeling from the child prostitution in Africa, from the sexual harassment of top U.N. personnel. They finally understand they have got to make change, hopefully, get a John Bolton, who can force the Chinese and Zimbabwe and Sudan to understand that we have got to get rid of the odious Human Rights Commission.
And so, the time is now. George Bush is only going to be in office a couple more years. That‘s how permanent, permanent will be. John Bolton will be there during probably the most important time for the United Nations in many, many years.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s a value in itself in having someone to go up there and just waste the place, I mean, in other words, just give tough speeches, try to humiliate them, try to get them out and get them straightened out by just making fun of them, by basically trashing some of those Third World members that have contributed to this horror in some of these cases you mentioned?
COLEMAN: I don‘t think anyone—I don‘t think there‘s any basis for saying that‘s what John Bolton is going to do.
John Bolton, by the way, was a very effective assistant of state. He helped the U.N. get rid of its odious Zionism-is-racism resolution in 1991, when people said that couldn‘t be done. So, don‘t underestimate the skill of John Bolton. Is there a time to be tough? Yes, and he can be tough. Is there a time to be persuasive? Yes. He can be persuasive.
He‘s got a record of doing that. U.N. officials themselves have said that. Malloch Brown has said that. Kofi Annan has said that. So, I think it would be a mistake to simply John Bolton as a tough guy who is going to push folks around. But he knows how to get things done. The moment for reform is now. And if we miss that moment, shame on us.
MATTHEWS: Do you worry about him rattling the cage of the head of North Korea with comments like, he‘s a tyrannical dictator? You‘re dealing with a guy who is living on booze most of the time and delusions and movies and girlfriends provided for him.
COLEMAN: You‘re not talking about John Bolton now, when you say that, right?
MATTHEWS: No. I‘m talking about the head of North Korea.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s safe to rattle the cage of a crazy man?
I shouldn‘t say crazy man. He might hear this.
MATTHEWS: How about an unusual leader?
COLEMAN: Everything that John Bolton said about Kim Jong Il was approved by the State Department. There‘s not a record on it, not a single thing in the record—and I sat through all the hearings and read all the stuff—there‘s not a single thing that John Bolton said that wasn‘t approved by higher powers.
MATTHEWS: Tyrannical dictator, hellish nightmare on the eve of the six-nation talks?
COLEMAN: That‘s what he is.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. We know that.
MATTHEWS: The truth hurts so much with this guy...
COLEMAN: But, Chris....
COLEMAN: So your listeners understand, your listeners understand, there‘s not a single thing that John Bolton said during that entire process that was not vetted, that was not cleared, and that was not approved. So, he is a tyrannical dictator.
For whatever reason folks said, that‘s the approach we‘re going to use. And so, John Bolton wasn‘t off the reservation and wasn‘t speaking out of school. He was speaking truth and it was approved truth.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about his comment that we could lose the top 10 floors of the U.N. building and it wouldn‘t hurt? I hope he doesn‘t have an office on one of those top 10 floors.
COLEMAN: You sound like Barbara Boxer now, Chris. You know, the reality...
MATTHEWS: Oh, don‘t—no, no, no. Now we‘re at war. What did you just say? I don‘t think so.
COLEMAN: He was saying that comment to a group—he was saying that comment to a group of folks. It was a meeting in which they talked about one world government. And he was saying, hey, folks it‘s not going to happen. It‘s not going to happen.
The bottom line is that a lot of folks would say the U.N. has not been as effective as it should be. My investigation has shown mismanagement, at least, perhaps corruption at worst.
COLEMAN: And so, there are a lot of folks saying you got to make change in the U.N. That‘s what that was all about.
And the U.N. recognized it now. That‘s why they‘re holding this meeting on reform. That‘s why the president is going to be speaking there. And he has got a guy by his side who can help make that happen.
MATTHEWS: So, I shouldn‘t have quoted him? I make a mistake there, Senator? You just jumped on me because I quoted him saying it would be all right if they lost the top 10 floors of the U.N. Was I wrong to do that?
COLEMAN: It wasn‘t your quote. It was your comment that you said, how would you feel if you were on one of those floors? That‘s what Barbara Boxer said.
MATTHEWS: Oh, did she say that?
COLEMAN: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Oh, that was a mistake on my part.
COLEMAN: And the reality—wait. And the reality is, again, the context in which he said that was very clear. I think few would argue with it. And that is, we‘re not going to a one-world government. The U.N. is not going to dictate American foreign policy and how America defends itself.
On the other hand, we need to work with the U.N. John Bolton has showed the ability to do that. And I think it would be a mistake to mischaracterize simply as a tough guy or a bully.
MATTHEWS: Did it bother you that, when he filled out that questionnaire in the—before your Senate Foreign Relations Committee, your committee, that he failed to note, in fact, he denied that he had been interviewed as part of the inspector general‘s investigation of the initial causes for the war in Iraq?
COLEMAN: Yes, it does bother me. It bothers me any time somebody says something and it turns out not to be accurate.
On the other hand, if he was simply somebody that somebody talked to, but there isn‘t any indication he was involved central to the story, I have less concern. But does it bother me? Yes, it did. I wish it didn‘t happen.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the U.N. can still play the role that FDR and the other Americans at that time thought it could, of being the peacemaking organization to keep us from fighting war after war in the world? Can they ever play that role?
COLEMAN: Chris, I hope so. And I think that‘s the importance of this whole U.N. reform effort. That‘s what this is about, that we really do have to get rid of the Human Rights Commission.
We have to change the focus of the U.N., so they‘re not spending $169 million on their communications department and $24 million on their auditing function. We have got to do structural reform. We have got to do internal management reform. If it does that, then in fact the U.N. can live out what it was supposed to be. It‘s not doing that today. I would like to change it, because I don‘t think the U.S. can be the world‘s sole peacekeeper and the world‘s sole humanitarian provider.
So, we need an effective United Nations. It‘s presently scarred, presently tainted. Let‘s get about reform and hopefully it can get to where FDR thought it could be.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a perfect guest for HARDBALL.
When we come back, reaction from Democrats to President Bush‘s recent
· recess appointment of John Bolton.
Plus, what is the significance of the timing of today‘s Bolton recess appointment? That‘s ahead.
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MATTHEWS: Coming up, President Bush says John Bolton is the right person for the job. But Democrats call him damaged goods. The fight over John Bolton‘s recess appointment to the U.N. when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Bush‘s recess appointment of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador may be controversial among Democrats, but it‘s not without precedent. And the move has energized both sides as they prepare for the next battle.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After urging President Bush not to go through with this recess appointment, the reaction today from Democrats was harsh.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: This man, sadly, if we had a secret roll call, would not be approved by the Senate, both in the Democratic and Republicans side, serious misgivings about whether he has the qualifications for this important assignment.
SHUSTER: And some Democrats said the president‘s action is a stick in the eye, just as the Senate is preparing for confirmation hearings of John Roberts, the president‘s nominee for the Supreme Court.
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: This president has more disdain for the United States Congress than any president I‘ve seen in my 30 years there.
SHUSTER: The president‘s power to make recess appointments comes from the Constitution. And it‘s a power that dates back to George Washington. Our nation‘s founding father recessed John Rutledge on to the Supreme Court, only to see him formally rejected by the Senate after one term.
President Reagan made 243 recess appointments. President Clinton made 140. And, to date, President Bush has made 105. President Clinton‘s recess appointments included James Hormel, an openly gay man Republicans opposed to be ambassador to Luxembourg, and Judge Roger Gregory.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have tried for five years to put an African-American on the 4th Circuit, for five years. Now, on—and for all the reasons that I made in my—stated in my remarks, I think it is most unfortunate that it has not been done. And I am just determined to do it. It‘s just time to do it.
SHUSTER: For President Bush, recess appointments have gone to conservative Judges Charles Pickering and William Pryor, Labor Department Solicitor Eugene Scalia, the son of Justice Antonin Scalia, and Undersecretary of State Otto Reich, a key figure in the Reagan administration‘s policies toward Nicaragua.
But political analysts say Washington is more bitterly divided now than it has been in years. And the Bolton nomination fight was particularly intense.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: He has a record of trying to remove intelligence analysts who disagreed with him and he also attempted to exaggerate intelligence to fit his views.
SHUSTER: This spring, Democrats also played decade-old tapes of Bolton disparaging the U.N.
JOHN BOLTON, U.S AMBASSADOR TO U.N. NOMINEE: The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn‘t make a bit of difference.
SHUSTER: Republicans said his Bolton‘s skepticism of the U.N., combined with his hard-working style, would make him a perfect choice.
KARL ROVE, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: The United Nations is in trouble. It needs a strong voice from the United States to help reform this vital institution and make it relevant and meaningful and powerful for the time that we find ourselves in.
SHUSTER (on camera): John Bolton is now the first U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to be named through a recess appointment. The question is, will there be any fallout at the U.N. or any repercussions here in Washington when the White House and the Senate have to deal with each other again later this fall?
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Up next, more on President Bush‘s recess appointment of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador and the latest on the heightening CIA leak investigation.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
More now on the recess appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations.
NBC—NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us now.
Andrea, there are two paradigms for U.N. ambassador. There‘s Adlai Stevenson, the old liberal, who really came through during the Cuban Missile Crisis, because everybody in the world believed he wasn‘t a hawk. And then there was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who went over there and took on the Third World on issues like the issues of anti-Israel sort of rhetoric over there and he won those battles. What are we looking here, a smart diplomat or a tough talker?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think a tough talker.
But what he needs to learn and what I think he‘s been warned about from diplomats up there is that you need votes. And he can‘t go in with a mandate that the president has given him to shake the place up with some of those pungent sound bites and get along with enough people, especially because his own credibility was really on the line on some of the tough issues that he‘s going to confront, Iran, Iraq, North Korea.
So, since he‘s been accused of twisting the intelligence on exactly those issues, he needs some allies. And he‘s going to have to develop those allies. Now, he will have the Brits and some of the other traditional American allies. But he doesn‘t have a lot of goodwill up there. That said, John Bolton has experience. He was very successful in a previous incarnation in New York, when he was able to defeat the “Zionism is racism” resolution there back then.
And he‘s a smart guy. So, I wouldn‘t bet against him.
MATTHEWS: What about the European and the world press? Are they going to destroy him before he gets started for being a recess appointment?
MITCHELL: Sure. But Kofi Annan, look, doesn‘t have a whole lot of strength himself, especially with critics here in the United States.
Sol, while he would like to warn John Bolton, as he did today, that there are 190 other representatives, the U.S. has a certain special clout. And Annan is going to have to listen to him. I guess that, if Bolton had not said some of the things that he had said in the past, that the U.N. secretariat has 38 floors and you could lose 10 of them without losing anything, those kinds of quotes are going to kind of haunt him.
But perhaps he wouldn‘t have endeared himself to the Dick Cheney and George W. Bush if he hadn‘t said exactly those things.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s any danger in the world of causing a real war in North Korea again, another Korean war, by calling the North Korean dictator what he is? I mean, he calls him a tyrannical dictator and he says he‘s—it‘s a nightmare all over there, all true. But here‘s a guy on Jack Daniels most of the time in a world of delusion.
MATTHEWS: Is there any chance he might just rattle that cage too hard?
MITCHELL: Well, actually, Condi Rice in her on confirmation hearing had rattled that cage. And they‘ve walked way back from that.
What Rice is proving as secretary is that she‘s much more pragmatic as secretary of state than she was a national security adviser, on Iran and on North Korea. So, she‘s taken this posture. She‘s reflecting the president‘s view as adjusted for second term. And Bolton is going to have to follow that line. He can‘t really go off on his own. And, if he does, I think she‘ll reel him right back in.
MATTHEWS: How many months before Condi Rice has to apologize or defend John Bolton, his language?
MITCHELL: Maybe two.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell. Two months, it is.
I‘m joined right now by Steve McMahon, Democratic political strategist and longtime adviser to Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.
I didn‘t know he had been around that long.
MATTHEWS: And Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney and adviser to the conservative group Progress For America, and also a man whose card has been stamped by working hard to win the president‘s recount in Florida, right?
BEN GINSBERG, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t it seem too you that people like John Bolton and John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee, have all earned their spurs through this sort of red badge of courage down in the Florida recount?
GINSBERG: I think it was the other way around. I think, in Florida, we recruited the best and the brightest and people with—who we knew would be excellent in really a tough and historical setting. And that‘s where those guys came in.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Is that where John Bolton learned how to be so belligerent, down there in...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a tough shot. The Democrats who voted against Bolton and denied him an up-or-down vote in the Senate, weren‘t they just in a certain way trying to separate themselves from having voted for the war? This is their chance to basically say to the president and to the country, we‘re not part of this war policy of John Bolton and the president?
MCMAHON: I actually think it was their chance to stand up and say, we don‘t think that somebody who was an architect of a war, who was an architect of the misleading information that we got and that the world got, many of the world then later followed us into war...
MATTHEWS: If they bought his act before, why are they not buying it now?
MCMAHON: Well, because they have learned from their mistake.
I mean, obviously, when you lead a nation and a world into war, and you are—and you have the kind of record that John Bolton has, in spite of the fact that he went to Florida and fought in the recount, I think...
MATTHEWS: Is your party ready now to come out against this war or are they still going to play it both ways?
MCMAHON: I don‘t think the party is playing it both ways.
MCMAHON: I think that our party is going to hold the president accountable.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes they are. Support the troops. Support more armor.
MCMAHON: But, Chris, you can be against the war and be in favor of the troops.
MATTHEWS: Are you for the war, your party?
MCMAHON: You know, I think there are a lot of different...
MATTHEWS: You can‘t answer that, can you?
MCMAHON: Well, no. Our party doesn‘t have a position.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Republican Party has a position.
GINSBERG: Absolutely right. Where are you guys?
MCMAHON: Well, of course the Republican Party has a position. The president tells them what it is.
MATTHEWS: Have you got a party on taxes, on trade, on anything? I can‘t find the Democratic position on any issue today. What is your position on whether we should roll back the president‘s tax cut?
MCMAHON: Well, I think we should roll back the president‘s tax cut.
MATTHEWS: Does the Democratic Party believe that?
MCMAHON: I think the president—the Democratic Party has said, you know, the problem is...
MATTHEWS: The Republican Party is for the tax cut.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a beauty here is to this asymmetry. The Republicans know where they stand. The Democrats, they are still looking for an opportunity.
MCMAHON: No, no, no. The Democrats believe that the president has driven this country into a recession. The economy is on the wrong track.
MATTHEWS: So, therefore, what are you going to do about it?
MCMAHON: Well, I think that most Democrats think we ought to repeal the tax cuts for the very wealthy.
GINSBERG: The economy is taking off. Unemployment is down at 5 percent. You‘ve had sustained growth for the last two years. What are you talking about?
MATTHEWS: OK, I want to come back and talk about whether we have a Supreme Court that is going to change. Big news this weekend. Somebody says that they think that this guy, John Roberts, is going to end up being chief justice within six months.
Ben Ginsberg and Steve McMahon are staying with us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
Have you heard that one?
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Republican strategist Ben Ginsberg and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.
Ben, I have a sense this president wants this guy John Bolton to go up to New York. He‘s already up there. He‘s been booed on his way into the building today—and just give them hell.
GINSBERG: Well, I think—look, John Bolton is a principled guy with a lot of skills. He has the support of the president of the United States, the secretary of state, a majority of the United States Senate. Kofi Annan says he‘s going to work with him. The United Nations is doing important reform work. And John Bolton is the right guy. And he is going to go in and do his job and not pay attention to the carping from the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Is he basically going to waste the other side, the Third World people, and just blow them up every night?
GINSBERG: No, absolutely not. That‘s not his mandate and goal. His mandate and goal is to fulfill the foreign policy of the United States and that absolutely includes helping the people of the Third World.
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
MCMAHON: He is so good, isn‘t he? He is so good.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s like sending Frank Rizzo to the U.N. But that‘s just a thought, you know, a tough customer, a tough cop.
MATTHEWS: Or else, how about hall monitor.
MCMAHON: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: You know, one of these tough guys to go get these bozos in line. I mean, I‘m talking from the subjunctive mood of this administration.
MCMAHON: Well, he is obviously thinks he is a hall monitor.
You know, the president may refer to Karl Rove as the architect, but to the rest of the world John Bolton is the architect of a misleading the country, misleading the world into a war and then, you know, basically during his confirmation hearings he was asked whether he had ever been interrogated as part of an investigation. He didn‘t tell the truth about that.
I mean, this is an administration that basically is rewarding somebody for not telling the truth consistently over a long period of time and for belligerently abusing his staff.
GINSBERG: I don‘t believe, in the Senate debate, your party stuck by what you just said about blaming John Bolton for the war.
In fact, they sort of nickeled-and-dimed him on not giving him a fair up-or-down vote on much less relevant points. We don‘t have all the papers that we think we need. And they kept playing that sort of rope-a-dope game.
GINSBERG: There was nothing about John Bolton as the architect for the war. It was a much shriller, sort of less relevant debate that you guys did.
MATTHEWS: Couldn‘t the strategy of the president be, this guy is going to be his lightning rod? They will hate John Bolton. They won‘t hate George Bush: Bush is all right. And I sort of like him. This guy Bolton is no good.
The old Bobby Kennedy. You know, Jack Kennedy would send Bobby out there. Be mad at Bobby. That‘s your job.
Is that what this is about?
MATTHEWS: Nobody is going to like Bolton a year from now, are they?
MCMAHON: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not going to get reupped.
MATTHEWS: Is there any chance the Senate will confirm him?
MCMAHON: About a year-and-a-half from now, he won‘t be there.
MATTHEWS: Do you think—let me ask you a question, Ben Ginsberg. Will the United States Senate eventually confirm this guy to a full appointment?
GINSBERG: Yes, I think John Bolton is going to surprise people.
MATTHEWS: Will they? Will that happen?
GINSBERG: Yes, depending on the election results.
MCMAHON: Depending on..
MATTHEWS: What do you mean?
GINSBERG: Well, he—his term ends in January of ‘07. There are Senate elections in November of ‘06.
MATTHEWS: So, if your party picks up seats, he‘ll get confirmed?
GINSBERG: Yes. When we pick up the five seats to give us filibuster-proof, it will be easy. And without that, John Bolton‘s performance will do it.
MATTHEWS: What a standard you‘re setting. In other words, if they get a veto—what do you call it—a filibuster-proof majority...
GINSBERG: He‘ll go up and get confirmed anyways, because of the job he‘s going to do.
MCMAHON: Somebody said on one of the weekend shows—I think they‘re right—if it were a secret vote, John Bolton wouldn‘t carry the Republican caucus. And I think that‘s absolutely right.
GINSBERG: And if it were an up-or-down vote, he would have been confirmed, because he had a majority of support in the Senate.
MCMAHON: Do you think he would carry the Republican caucus?
GINSBERG: Yes. He had a majority of support on the cloture petitions. It wasn‘t enough to get 60.
MATTHEWS: Are we going anywhere in this CIA investigation? Here‘s the question I ask you. Will this end up in a simple report from Patrick Fitzgerald, the investigator, the investigator, the prosecutor from Chicago, or will he end up with some really serious indictments, Ben Ginsberg?
GINSBERG: I think we don‘t know, first of all.
But, no, it doesn‘t appear like right now that there are likely to be indictments, certainly on the leak. But there is, it seems, a lot going on underneath the surface and certainly a lot of speculation going on in Washington.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re not—you‘re betting against perjury indictments?
GINSBERG: I would...
MATTHEWS: Obstruction of justice indictments.
GINSBERG: I would suspect no. But, as I say, there‘s a lot going on. I don‘t think it‘s going to be perjury or obstruction if there are indictments at all.
MCMAHON: I think it‘s pretty difficult to have an investigation of this length at this cost, to put a “New York Times” reporter in jail for this length of time...
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t they go after the secretary of agriculture for years and go for like 300 years and they never got anything on the guy?
MATTHEWS: They got him on some basketball tickets?
MCMAHON: They never put a reporter in jail for something.
MCMAHON: In fact, it‘s never happened before.
MATTHEWS: But she‘s not talking. They don‘t have a witness.
MCMAHON: Well, they have got plenty of witnesses and they have got plenty of—they have got plenty of ammunition.
MATTHEWS: Steve, what is the charge going to be?
MCMAHON: I think you‘re going to see perjury or obstruction of justice.
I, frankly, don‘t think that, on a technical specific intent crime, like the one that was originally alleged, they‘re going to probably return an indictment, because it‘s a specific intent crime. But on obstruction and on perjury, it looks like there‘s plenty of room.
MATTHEWS: Joe Wilson says that Karl Rove will be frog-walked out of the White House. He means in chains. Do you think that is going to happen?
MCMAHON: I think that‘s unlikely.
GINSBERG: This investigation got so much scrutiny from the media when it started that, if you were going to do a no prosecution in this case, you would have to ask a huge number of questions, just as the prosecutor is doing, to be able to come up with that no prosecution.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think? I think they‘ve got a huge paper trail. They‘ve been interviewing people, interrogating them before a grand jury for months.
They have so many potential contradictions. And having watched what this fellow, Patrick Fitzgerald, did in Chicago a week ago with the Daley administration, where he took down the two top guys on patronage, which most people would say, isn‘t that what they do out there in Chicago? I think he‘s serious business. I would look out for this guy if I were on the White House staff.
MCMAHON: Yes. And, by the way, I was commenting on the frog-walk. I think Karl Rove may have a real problem on his hands. I don‘t think he‘ll be frog-walked.
I think, if there‘s any way the president can stand by his man, he will. But it‘s going to get maybe a little bit more difficult for him to do that.
MATTHEWS: Is anybody going to stay on the White House staff who has been indicted, Ben?
GINSBERG: I think, once you‘re indicted, it‘s difficult to keep anyone on a White House staff.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this is going to be they big second-term booboo of this administration? Like, they always seem to have one. This president hasn‘t suffered on yet. Iran-Contra, Watergate, Monica, they all seem to have a problem. You know, Sherman Adams with Eisenhower, the court packing by FDR. It‘s almost automatic, this second-term problem.
MCMAHON: And if you look at the way they‘ve handled this publicly, basically, if they handled it within the grand jury the same way they handled it publicly, by dissembling and misleading and in some cases maybe outright misrepresentation of the truth, it seems pretty likely that it‘s going to lead to some criminal activity, because this guy is there to do a job and he‘s not a partisan, but he‘s a very tough prosecutor.
In fact, he was originally an appointee of the president‘s father. So, this is not a Democratic witch-hunt. It‘s a very serious matter. And I think these guys may have some problems on their hand.
MATTHEWS: Ben, do you think a lot of fights that have been going on last couple of days, whether it‘s the nomination to the United Nations of John Bolton, the issue of the leak investigation, if you write the history now, 10 years from now, what the real fight is about is the recriminations over whether we should have gone to war, and that is what the fight is about?
GINSBERG: Well, I‘m not sure I agree with that.
It seems to me the overlook story is the real accomplishments of the Congress, bipartisan, on Friday and in the past week.
GINSBERG: You had energy. You had transportation. You‘ve had tort reform. You‘ve had bankruptcy bills. You got an economy that‘s going along pretty well. This has been an era of achievement for the president. And I don‘t think you‘re going to be going back looking at this period in time in that lens.
MATTHEWS: As a failed period?
MCMAHON: I think the story of this administration, especially this second term, is arrogance and abuse of power. I mean, basically, anybody who gets in their way, they knock down.
MATTHEWS: As bad as FDR in the second term?
MCMAHON: Worse, worse, Chris, way...
GINSBERG: As Clinton during Lewinsky?
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, we‘ve learned that perjury is a problem for public officials. And we learned it from a matter as unusual as Clinton and Monica.
MCMAHON: But, in fact, Ben, I think I sat on a lot of shows with you talking about that very subject. And you had a different—you were singing a different tune then, weren‘t you?
MATTHEWS: OK, we learned a lot tonight.
MATTHEWS: You say John Bolton will be confirmed by the United States Senate within a year?
MATTHEWS: You believe he will not be.
GINSBERG: At the end, at the end, when his term is up.
MATTHEWS: In early ‘07.
MATTHEWS: Because the Senate will be packed with Republicans by then.
GINSBERG: No, because he‘s going to do such a good job, he‘s going to deserve...
MATTHEWS: And you disagree with that?
MATTHEWS: And you believe there will be indictments coming out of this investigation of the CIA leak?
MCMAHON: I think it‘s more likely than not, yes.
MATTHEWS: You think there won‘t be?
MCMAHON: I think that there won‘t be of White House staff.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much.
I like differences of opinion here.
Thank you very much, Ben Ginsberg, Republican strategist, Steve McMahon, Democratic strategist, he said breathlessly.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a delegation of conservative radio—this is so hot—radio talk show hosts from around the country went to Iraq to oppose what they call the liberal media bias against that war. What‘s really going on in Iraq? We‘re going to hear from a radio talk show host who was there and an Iraq war veteran. They go to war.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, conservative radio talk show hosts say the media is missing the story in Iraq. That debate, it‘s a hot one, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This is going to be great. Melanie Morgan is a radio talk show from San Francisco‘s KSFL-AM 570. She‘s also chairwoman or chairman of Move America Forward. She recently returned from Iraq with a half-dozen other conservative radio talk show hosts, where they broadcast for a week in order to combat what she calls the mainstream media and liberals‘ attempt to undermine the war effort with negative news. Also joining us right now is Paul Rieckhoff. He‘s a veteran of the Iraq war and founder of OperationTruth.org, the nation‘s first and largest advocacy group for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
I‘m going to start with Melanie, just back 10 days ago. What did you smell over there? What did you see?
MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, it was 125 degrees in the shade in Iraq. And when you‘re wearing, like I was, 25 pounds of body armor and sweating through your clothes and trying to stay hydrated in the middle of a sandstorm, where we were trapped on a couple of different occasions, it was pretty, grueling tough work, and an assignment that made me have a tremendous appreciation of what our troops are going through on a day-to-day basis in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What did you—what did you get from the Iraqis? Do they like us? Do they dislike us? Are they neutral? Are they waiting to see who wins or what?
MORGAN: I think that many of the Iraqis, at least the ones with whom I spoke, felt very strongly that they appreciated the American presence there. They are obviously extremely concerned about the level of violence that is coming from the insurgency, but there‘s a reason for it. And you haven‘t heard this discussed in the mainstream media, because nobody has brought it up.
The reason why they are concerned is because they know that the upcoming August and December referential—the constitutional referendum is terribly important. The insurgency made a strategic and tactical error by not disrupting the last election back in January. They know that it‘s coming time around.
But if those elections go successfully, as the American military is hoping and planning for, as well as the Iraqi army, then we are going to start discussing the possibility of drawing down our troops. And that‘s something that I learned and reported on while I was in Iraq. And it wasn‘t until 10 days later I finally started seeing something in the front pages of the daily newspapers.
MATTHEWS: Paul, you helped fight that war. Your reaction to what Melanie just said?
PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATION TRUTH: Well, I think it‘s great that some reporters are headed over there and trying to get a taste and a feel for what soldiers like me lived every day.
And I was there for a year in Central Baghdad. And I saw the good, the bad and everything in between. And I think reporters need to really continue to go outside their area of comfortability, outside the Green Zone. But I think the reality is that Ms. Morgan, like most reporters, are really spoon-fed their experience there. They‘re provided with DOD contractors or military security personnel.
And what they get is a very narrow understanding of what the day-to-day life is. Not enough reporters are really going outside that comfortability factor and going beyond that to try to experience what we as soldiers experience.
MORGAN: What makes you assume that I stayed inside the Green Zone?
That‘s another thing that you‘ve written about me that is a lie.
RIECKHOFF: That‘s not what I said, ma‘am. That‘s not what I said, ma‘am.
RIECKHOFF: What I said was, you didn‘t get out of your comfortability zone.
If I could finish, I‘ll respond. I think that you were there for 10 days. And I think you got your feet wet. And that‘s nice. But then you went back to your comfortable house in the civilian world, and the soldiers stayed there.
MORGAN: Excuse me, Paul.
RIECKHOFF: And I think, if you really wanted to taste of that experience, you could spend more time there.
MORGAN: Excuse me, Paul.
I have spent 30 years as a correspondent. I was in Beijing when college students were being murdered. I covered their dead bodies. I have been to Beirut in 1983. I‘ve seen the dead and American wounded. I have had a long, extensive career. So, please don‘t lecture me about my comfortability zone.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Melanie.
Melanie, I want to get some reporting here, an opportunity to report.
When you talked to regular Iraqis, what were they telling you? Did you get a sense? I know you couldn‘t take a poll in 10 days, but what were they saying about our presence?
MORGAN: Many of the Iraqis were fearful because of the extraordinary level of IED, improvised explosive devices, that were going off and killing people.
But here‘s the fact of the matter. The day that I was there, there were 33 young schoolchildren who were killed about six blocks away from where I was located, because an American soldier had the audacity to hand them candy, because we were at the same time passing out soccer balls at orphanages. We talked to these people. They are grateful because we are feeding and helping to train these people to take over the responsibility for their government.
And it‘s a responsibility, Chris, that they are very eager to assume.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe there‘s a—to me—I‘m not over there. I haven‘t been over there. The question I want to know is, who is going to win this war based on fighting zeal? We saw for years, as you described and everybody else knows, for years, the minority in that country were the bullies of that country. They ran it because they were good, smart, vicious bullies. How do we know that those bullies won‘t eventually grab control again the minute we leave, Melanie?
MORGAN: We have no idea what‘s going to happen. I‘m not a psychic.
I can‘t read the future.
But what I can tell you is that, when I talked to the Iraqi general in charge of training troops over there, he was telling us some very good news. There are 60 percent troop strength now in terms of where they are trying to attain a goal of 100 percent readiness. They‘re at 60 percent. They‘re making progress every day.
And the fact of the matter is, is the Iraqis keep—no matter how many times they are killed and blown up by the insurgents, they come back and more people—three times as many people joined that line at the Iraqi police recruiting station after the previous bomb explosion, because they want to be invested in this country, in their country. You cannot—you cannot breathe democracy at these people without them breathing it in, inhaling it and enjoying and wanting it even more badly.
MATTHEWS: The same question to you, Paul. You know, in the beginning of World War II, the worst thing that happened in the century, the French army was bigger and more impressive than the German army, but the German army wanted to kill. It wanted to take land. It had revenge in its heart. It had that ferocity of the fighter.
The French did not. They wanted the thing over with. They wanted the phony war to continue. Do you think the Shia, who are the majority of the new government, have that fighting hatred, or whatever you want to call it, the zeal to defeat bullies this time? Or are we going to lose this fight?
RIECKHOFF: You know, I think that‘s the bigger question. And the bigger question is, are we winning or are we losing? Are we making more than we‘re killing? And I think that‘s the real question we have to answer. And day to day what I saw was that we were, in the macro perspective, making more enemies than we‘re killing. And this goes beyond Iraq.
MATTHEWS: How were we doing that? What did you see?
RIECKHOFF: By our occupation and also by our bullying tactics, by our failure to offer economic solutions and diplomatic solutions, our failure to have enough interpreters on the ground, our failure to provide a secure situation.
We‘ve never had enough troops on the ground. And when I got to Baghdad at the outset, we couldn‘t provide overwhelming force to establish security. And we‘ve been playing catchup ever since.
MATTHEWS: Should we have gone in, not gone in, or gone in with greater strength? Of those three options, what are you more comfortable with?
MATTHEWS: Go in, not go in, or go in with greater strength?
RIECKHOFF: As a soldier, it wasn‘t up to me whether or not we went in.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is now. You‘re a citizen. What should we have done?
I think, when we went in there and when we committed to doing it, we should have done it the right way. And Colin Powell called for overwhelming force. General Shinseki said we needed several hundred thousand of troops on the ground. And what we really need from the journalistic community and the administration is honest candor about, where are we now and how long are we going to be there?
And I think when Ms. Morgan she goes over there and cheerleads and really doesn‘t provide an accurate analysis of the long-term obstacles that we‘re up against, it‘s disingenuous.
MATTHEWS: OK, if you‘re president—last question, Paul—should we send more troops over there or bring them all back? What should we do?
RIECKHOFF: It depends on what you want to achieve.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you want to achieve?
RIECKHOFF: I think, if we want to lock down a security situation, it‘s going to take more troops.
MATTHEWS: More troops.
RIECKHOFF: And I think that‘s a political...
MATTHEWS: That is the conservative argument.
MATTHEWS: And we hear that from a lot of people.
MATTHEWS: Bill Kristol, John McCain. A lot of people think—Jon Kyl—more troops.
We‘ll be right back with Paul Rieckhoff and Melanie Morgan.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with radio talk show host Melanie Morgan and Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff.
Melanie, how do we get the straight scoop on what is happening in Iraq? Because people tell me that there‘s only two ways to go over there as a journalist. And I think your experience confirms this. You either go over there and stay in the Green Zone, or that part of the country which is very secure, and it‘s basically a compound, or you go out with a unit as an embedded—basically part of the unit, embedded reporter. You never really get to mix with the locals. How do you do it, to find out whether we‘re actually winning the war over there?
MORGAN: Well, that‘s exactly what I did.
I went out and visited with the troops. And I went outside the Green Zone, unlike what Mr. Rieckhoff has accused me of doing.
MATTHEWS: How do you get out there with the people?
MORGAN: Well, because you get out there with the troops. They take you in Humvees, in up-armored vehicles. And then you get out of the Humvees and you hand out soccer balls and you go to orphanages and you talk and hold babies and talk with the people who are taking care of them, all of these things that 14 members of our entourage did from Move America Forward.
MATTHEWS: Do people speak freely when there‘s a Humvee standing next to them?
MORGAN: Chris, let me just say one thing. Before Mr.—Mr. Rieckhoff has written that our group are a bunch of bigots, idiots and propagandists. And that‘s before he even cracked a sweat.
Now, I want to tell you that there is something very important, a message that is very important that I wanted to articulate here. Our men and women are living and dying in ghastly conditions. It‘s hot, 125 degrees. They are making peace in sandstorms. They are doing their dead-level best to make this policy that the Bush administration has put forth work.
I think that, as an American people, the stories that I tell from Iraq and that our fellow talk show hosts told, hopefully will engender a little bit more patience and endurance by the American people. I think we owe our troops that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the same question, Paul. How do you get the true scoop over there if you‘re always with the American troops? I mean, do you ever get to talk to the Iraqis? Maybe it‘s just a catch-22. They‘re too dangerous to deal with. But how do you get the story?
RIECKHOFF: The reality is, you don‘t.
And I think Ms. Morgan is really insulting all the troops who‘ve been there to assume that by going for 10 days and taking a full casually, leisurely trips outside the Green Zone, that she got a full taste of combat. I think the reality is much different. And if reporters really want to do some investigative reporting, they can fly into Jordan and go unembedded.
Now, there‘s a chance they might get their head cut off, but that‘s the reality that we face as soldiers every day. I think, really, the best way to do it is to talk to the troops coming home. We‘re ready. We‘re willing and able to come on your program and others and talk about our experiences and really try to educate the public about the reality of all sides of this conflict.
MORGAN: Well, guess what? That‘s exactly what we did. We stuck a microphone in front of all of the troops.
RIECKHOFF: You did it while they were on active duty.
MORGAN: ... and let them talk directly to the people of the United States.
RIECKHOFF: Ma‘am, you did it while they were on active duty.
MORGAN: Unfiltered by the mainstream media...
RIECKHOFF: Are you going to yell over me the entire show?
MATTHEWS: OK, her turn first.
Melanie, your turn. Take a minute, Melanie. Make your point.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. No interruptions, please, Paul. Give her a minute.
MORGAN: What I want to say is that we took our microphones to the U.S. troops. And if you think that what we heard from them are lies, then you are accusing the troops of being liars, because we did not filter or editorialize or in any way try to massage their message.
They gave us the story as they see it. And if you don‘t believe it, then you are doing a disservice to your fellow troops.
MATTHEWS: Let me go, Paul, before you start. What I keep doing here is asking people on and off camera who come on this program, high-ranking officers, enlisted, former officers. I get sometimes, not all the time, two different versions, the version they give me on the air and the version they give me the minute when we‘re off the air.
The version they give me when we‘re on the air is gung-ho, we‘re doing the right thing, everything is moving along. The version they give me off the air is, Rumsfeld is crazy. There aren‘t enough troops over there. We‘re not taking this seriously enough, or, we shouldn‘t be there, sometimes.
RIECKHOFF: Yes. Well, the reality is...
MATTHEWS: It isn‘t always a straight scoop when you go on television with people, because they want to be loyal to their units and to their service.
RIECKHOFF: That‘s exactly right.
And, Chris, I‘m no—there‘s no one more loyal to the troops than I am. I am still in the reserves. There‘s a likelihood that I‘ll go back, while Ms. Morgan is back at her radio show.
So, what I really want to do is educate the public about the truth of what‘s happening there. And I think the reality is that, when people like her go over there, there‘s a public affairs officer standing right next to that young soldier. And he‘s on active duty. And he wants to support the cause. And he can‘t speak freely. That‘s a fact.
MORGAN: That‘s not true.
RIECKHOFF: A young blogger was just reprimanded last week because he was a little too candid.
So when they come home...
MORGAN: That‘s not true.
RIECKHOFF: Let me finish, ma‘am.
When they come home, the cuffs are off and they can speak freely. Me and any other veteran who have just come home would be more than happy to come on Ms. Morgan‘s show and talk to her about the realities of war.
RIECKHOFF: But, otherwise, it‘s just—it‘s vacation journalism, where they go to war zone for a little while. They get their credentials. They improve their ratings and then they go back to the comfortable world of civilian atmosphere.
MORGAN: That‘s not why I did it.
RIECKHOFF: They have very little credibility on the war, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You know what I‘ve learned in this business? Don‘t question motives so freely, Paul.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Paul Rieckhoff.
Thank you, Melanie Morgan.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. We‘ll debate whether religious curriculums have any place in public schools.
Right now, it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN” with Alison Stewart, who is filling in for Keith.
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