Guests: Jim Warren, Dana Milbank, Michael Isikoff, David Frum, Bob Shrum, Russell Simmons
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Sudden death: the test of nerves between the non-partisan special prosecutor and uber-partisan Karl Rove goes into overtime. Did the president‘s top gun tell the whole truth in those four appearances before the grand jury? And if he‘s indicted, will the president stand by Rove or the Republican-appointed prosecutor people hail as a “straight shooter?” Let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Karl Rove spent more than four hours before the grand jury today in what may be his last chance to try and convince the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation that he did nothing wrong. For a presidency that depends heavily on the political maneuvering of Rove, the stakes are huge. And the questions loom large: Did Rove leak classified information? Was he able to account for the discrepancies between his version of events and that of “Time” magazine reporter Matthew Cooper? And was he part of a plan to destroy former Ambassador Joe Wilson? The White House is trying to convince everyone that everything is hunky-dory. But the calendar keeps losing pages, and according to the “Washington Post,” White House officials are bracing for the possibility of indictments. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is at the federal courthouse, where Rove testified today, and followed all the action.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): When Karl Rove left the courthouse, he wouldn‘t comment on the four hours that he spent with the grand jury. But lawyers suggest the length of his testimony indicates there was either a lot of ground the grand jury wanted to cover or a few issues the panel felt obligated to ask Rove about repeatedly.
(voice-over): It was not the short, brief appearance Karl Rove‘s supporters had been hoping for. Instead, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who arrived at the courthouse looking stern and say nothing, kept session with Rove going past the normal lunch hour and into the early afternoon.
This was Rove‘s first testimony since “Time” magazine reporter Matt Cooper testified it was Rove who told him that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked at the CIA. Lawyers for Rove acknowledge that in previous testimony, the president‘s top adviser told the grand jury he couldn‘t remember discussing Wilson with Cooper. Cooper, though, remembers the conversation two years ago well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT COOPER, “TIME” MAGAZINE: This is the first time I knew Wilson had a wife, let alone that she worked at the CIA and might have played some role in dispatching Wilson on this mission he took to investigate whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium in the African country of Niger.
SHUSTER: From the beginning, the central question has been whether officials in the White House went too far in trying to destroy a critic, and then tried to cover it up.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don‘t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I would like to know it and we will take the appropriate action.
SHUSTER: But now the message has shifted.
BUSH: I‘m not going to talk about the case. It‘s under review, so I‘m not going to talk about it. Thank you for asking.
SHUSTER: Karl Rove has known President Bush for 25 years and plays a crucial role in formulating administration politics and strategy. He has worked closely with Vice President Cheney‘s office. And though there are fears about Rove‘s future and that of Cheney Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, Press Secretary Scott McClellan maintains the investigation has not slowed anybody down.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House doesn‘t have time to let those things distract from the important work at hand. And that‘s why we remain focused on what the American people want us to do.
SHUSTER: But Republicans across Washington say keeping that focus has not been easy. On top of the CIA leak investigation, the White House has run into problems with the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination, and is under fire over outreach efforts to conservatives.
MCCLELLAN: You all want to focus on side issues like religion. We have said from the beginning—we have always publicly talked about—come on, Jim, we‘ve always talked about her record and her qualifications.
SHUSTER: And then there are the problems facing the GOP leadership in Congress. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is under indictment in Texas and charged with laundering campaign money and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been subpoenaed by federal investigators to turn over financial documents related to a questionable stock sale.
(on camera) At the moment, though, the focus is on Rove and possibly others in the White House. Rove‘s lawyer indicated today that prosecutors said they do not anticipate needing Rove to testify again. And there is every expectation, Chris, from the lawyers in this case that decisions about a possible grand jury indictment will be reached sometime in the next two weeks.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David.
Michael Isikoff is an investigative reporter for “Newsweek” magazine;
Dana Milbank is the national political reporter for the “Washington Post” and was at the courthouse today, and Jim Warren is the deputy managing editor for the “Chicago Tribune.”
Mike Isikoff, four hours—what do you make of that? That‘s a long time in there.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”: That‘s a long time; it‘s unusual. And remember, this is the fourth grand jury appearance.
Look, we don‘t know. It‘s secret; we weren‘t there. But the best case for Rove would have been a very brief appearance in which he has a few questions to clear up or clarify some matters that were either on the mind of Pat Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, or the grand jurors. And that‘s not, clearly, what happened.
Given that there were three grand jury appearances and given he has
basically testifying, we can presume, about the same set of facts, clearly
I shouldn‘t say clearly, because nothing‘s clear—but one can presume that he was taken over meticulously, piece by piece. Remember, Pat Fitzgerald is doing the questioning here. He‘s one of the best prosecutors in the country, a trained interrogator, and he has taken Rove bit by bit over each of his previous versions of events and trying to square that with the other testimony, having Rove square that with the other testimony. It‘s clearly ominous, but you can draw no firm conclusions.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jim, what would be—we know this case is really about—if you have to write an Encyclopedia Britannica entry for 20 years—to be read 20 years later—it‘s basically about an effort by the White House to protect itself against the charge that the war was corrupt, that it was fought on phony charges, there was no deal in Africa to buy uranium, and the president shouldn‘t have suggested there was, and these guys were in on this cover up, so they went out and destroyed this guy. But that‘s not necessarily a crime.
But why—I still don‘t get the part—why would they not tell the truth under oath? Don‘t they know that eventually the reporters were going to break or be broken, eventually somebody‘s going to come in and this prosecutor is going to know they were lying?
JIM WARREN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: If they did lie.
WARREN: Obviously, there was a fair degree of naivete. It‘s clear that they were taken aback, that Fitzgerald, who has been caricatured as kind of a Elliot Ness with Amherst and Harvard degrees, came in very aggressively with an incredibly comprehensive attack on them, starting off with subpoenaing and getting all their phone records. And I don‘t think they were as serious about where he might be going, in the same way that a lot of City of Chicago officials under Mayor Richard Daley, I think, could not believe that he would come in and, as he has in the last six months, decide that what they thought was old-fashioned political hiring was in fact a crime. Patrick Fitzgerald took a look at a guy who was hired for a job in the city of Chicago, looked at when the supposed job interview was, and cross-checked and found—oh! -- he was fighting in Iraq that day for his country, and he indicted.
He found another case of a guy whose performance on some job examination was inflated a little bit. That sort of stuff happens, right, for friends? He indicted. So I think there is a sort of strict constructionist, very severe attitude that it may shake a lot of folks in this town who thought, well, this is how business goes. You go after your political enemies.
MATTHEWS: Sure. That‘s what reporters will tell you. The fact is, that they hear all the time from people that want to whack somebody else, and you drop a dime on them.
Let me go to Dana. Could it be—not to in any way defend, but to
explain why somebody wouldn‘t tell the whole truth before a grand jury—
because the president said you better not fess up to having had anything to
do with this leak. In other words, even if you did so in a noncriminal way
you didn‘t have the information that somebody was undercover, you didn‘t do a number of things that are requirements of the law to be broken—but you were also told by your president, you better not have had anything to do with this leak of Joseph Wilson‘s wife‘s identity, or you are out of here. Is that what they were up against when they went to the grands jury, not to confess to something the president didn‘t like?
DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTON POST”: There certainly could be an element of that, because it was such an important issue and so central to the White House that they would not want to get the president in any trouble unless it were absolutely necessary. But these things happen all the time in these cases, that, you know, once again in one of these investigations, we are not talking about—at least, the speculation is, we‘re not talking about the original offense of the leaking of classified information. We are talking about perjury, obstruction, the other procedural issues along the way.
Now the president, in his Matt Lauer interview, may have made something of a tactical mistake, because he went out and said he thinks Fitzgerald is conducting a very professional investigation. So if it comes out and he does have some indictments against some White House aides, it‘s going to be very hard for President Bush to do what Clinton did to Ken Starr and turn and say this is some sort of a vengeful prosecutor, because he‘s already been out there and praised him.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any reason to believe that this president wants to position himself so he can trash the prosecutor? Just because Clinton did it doesn‘t mean that every president would behave like Clinton did when caught red-handed.
MILBANK: No, no, no, of course not. But he has actually eliminated that option from the arsenal by doing that. But of course, this was appointed by his own Justice Department. This isn‘t a special independent prosecutor in the way that Ken Starr was.
MATTHEWS: Well, if I were Karl Rove testifying, if I were Scooter Libby, who also works at the White House and works at the behest of the president, really, I‘d think maybe the president‘s siding with the prosecutor. I‘d say, look, if I‘m convicted—or rather, if I‘m indicted, I‘m out of here. This president is going with Eliot Ness on this one, not the indicted.
MILBANK: Well, that would certainly be the cleanest way to go for him. And he has left room to say that if somebody is ultimately convicted, that that‘s when they would be out of the administration.
But all the sort of speculation is that if an indictment comes, it is virtually impossible for that man—whoever that is—to remain in office.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t that be—Jim, you‘ve got to make (inaudible) wouldn‘t that be the running story every minute the clock ticks after indictments, that those guys are still doing public business in the White House, it would be a news story?
WARREN: Yes, I agree.
Which is why I think that if, for instance, Karl Rove were indicted—and I don‘t know that that‘s going to be the case—that he is gone within a few days and probably Karen Hughes—Karen Hughes gets moved over to the State Department to do what she presumably could very capably do.
But I also might note, one of the lawyers in the case suggested to me today that we‘ll have a few more answers come Sunday when Judy Miller, as early as Sunday, may write her lengthy take in the “New York Times” and we‘ll have some answers to the questions of what she told the grand jury about her relationship with Mr. Scooter Libby, in particular, Cheney‘s chief of staff—what did she tell the grand jury she said, what did she tell the grand jury that Libby told her.
And I think there‘ll be a few answers there.
MATTHEWS: Do we know if she had any conversations with the vice president?
WARREN: We don‘t know publicly, I don‘t think. Michael?
ISIKOFF: No, we don‘t. No, we don‘t.
The next thing to watch for...
MATTHEWS: The only reason I raise that is I get the feeling reading the letters that Scooter Libby sent to her about how glad she is she‘s out of jail and everything, it seems to me the only way they could repair that relationship—he having held out and said he wasn‘t the source, she having gone to the can for 85 days—is for him to say, “Look,” 10 months from now, five months from now, “I was doing this to protect our government, to protect the vice president in particular against any kind of charge and that‘s why I had to make you suffer.”
He can‘t say, “I put you in jail so I didn‘t go to jail.” How could he live with that?
ISIKOFF: That would be an awfully difficult argument or case to make, even if it‘s...
MATTHEWS: How else do you explain the continual friendship between a guy who never admitted that he was the reason she was in jail?
I just don‘t get the...
ISIKOFF: ... it was all a misunderstanding.
MATTHEWS: She had a phone somewhere and he had a phone.
ISIKOFF: Two points. First...
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got to come back with your points. More with Michael Isikoff, more on this developing leak story which could explode by next week with a set of indictments or a report or nada.
Dana Milbank will be back, as well as Jim Warren, and Mike Isikoff.
And this Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State Condi Rice and former FBI director—well, there‘s a guy that the Clintons don‘t like—
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Michael Isikoff, Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post,” and Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune.”
I want to start with Dana here.
I find big power fascinating. I find big personalities fascinating with all their weaknesses and strengths, and sometimes you can‘t always get the balance right.
Let‘s talk about the president here—a mixed bag obviously in many ways.
He can be stunningly on target with the public in terms of 9/11, where he still benefits from that moment at the World Trade Center. And he can be stunningly off balance with the public as he was with New Orleans.
Is he getting ready for one of those moments where he is going to have to decide on a very quick notice whether he is going to be a stand-up guy for his people or a stand-up guy for the prosecutor who‘s working for the government?
Is he ready to say, “Sorry, Karl, it‘s been a great relationship, but I‘m going with this, you‘re out of here”?
Same with Scooter—call the vice president and say, “I think you have to relieve your chief of staff,” and then announce quick new appointments and move on.
Or can he be a butcher, big question?
MILBANK: You know, and it‘s not the only decision of that kind of magnitude.
I mean, look at the Harriet Miers thing, does he go against conservatives for the first time in his whole career and stick with her, or does he relent and thereby cave in really for the first time as president?
So he‘s really got a lot of questions as to does...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re adding up the questions and I‘m giving you one to start with.
Based upon your—you‘re the best, I think, in terms of covering this guy. You are so courageous about what you write about, Dana, and you notice the little things that other people miss.
Is this president preparing himself—do you have any evidence in your reporting that he‘s preparing himself for an existential leap in saying, “Sorry, Karl, sorry, Scooter, I need a clean team here”?
MILBANK: He may be and he may have to do it.
But I—the reason I continue to bet that, that doesn‘t happen is because it—he has never done that before. And this president is very much a creature of habit, and loyalty is the central organizing element in his life. So he would really have to fundamentally change what he is.
Well, you know, it‘s happened before—not this has anything to do with Watergate, but, Jim, you have studied history. Richard Nixon, when he had to fire Haldeman and Ehrlichman for big stuff, he said that, “I prayed last night”—and I believe Nixon on this level, he can be spooky but I believe him—“I prayed last night that God would not let me wake this morning because I didn‘t want to have to fire my two guys.” And he did it.
WARREN: Well, I suspect that Bush prays in the same way—that he will wake up, whether it‘s five o‘clock, six o‘clock, gets off the treadmill, whatever, and there on his desk would be two resignations.
Come on, these are smart guys...
MATTHEWS: You think they‘ll make it easy on him?
WARREN: Yes. I mean, I would think—if this were to happen.
MATTHEWS: ... and give himself up?
ISIKOFF: They almost certainly—yes, if they know they are going to get indicted, they are going to have to resign.
Next week, you know, in some ways may be the most crucial week of the Bush presidency, because Rove and Libby will know next week whether they are going to get indicted.
ISIKOFF: ... DOJ policy is you get a target letter, and Fitzgerald plays by the book.
MATTHEWS: How far in advance? How far in advance of the grand jury?
ISIKOFF: Well, there‘s only two weeks left in the grand jury. So presumably he‘s got until—and he probably wouldn‘t want to indict the last day. Something could go awry, a bunch of grand jurors could get sick, he won‘t have a quorum. So that would leave three more grand jury sessions.
If he is going to go by the book, which Fitzgerald does—he plays by the book—he is going to let them know that they‘re targets. He‘s going to let them know next week if he is going to indict.
So the first thing to look for is, I would think, to see whether Scooter Libby is back before the grand jury on next Wednesday.
Remember, the reason Judy Miller had to return to the grand jury this week is because the new notebook, which were described in an additional conversation that hadn‘t been described by either Libby or Miller in their previous grand jury appearances. So, naturally, Fitzgerald says, we‘ve got new evidence. You‘ve got to tell me about this other conversation. Presumably, he would extend the same, you know ...
ISIKOFF: ... courtesy to Scooter Libby. The only reason he wouldn‘t appear is if Scooter Libby knows at that point, or his lawyers know, hey, he is going to get indicted. You don‘t put him before the grand jury. You don‘t put a target before the grand jury so ...
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s given some relevant information, so the likelihood is we will get letters or not letters next week.
ISIKOFF: Yes, we may not know it, but they‘ll know it.
MATTHEWS: But if the letters don‘t come next week it‘s a good sign for these two charges.
ISIKOFF: I would—that would be my analysis.
MATTHEWS: Good work. You‘ve given us stuff.
ISIKOFF: Well, I don‘t actually know anything here, Chris, I‘m just giving you my analytic judgment.
MATTHEWS: Thanks. So next week to be the week of the administration‘s moment in history, and I think it‘s one of those permanent moments. How the president responds like he did with 9/11 and how he didn‘t with New Orleans, this could be a chance to rebuild his administration really well or a chance to drift further. I think. Anyway, that‘s my political look at it. Anyway, Jim Warren, “Chicago Tribune,” Mike Isikoff, “Newsweek,” Dana Milbank, “The Washington Post.”.
Coming up, what effect is Rove‘s testimony and the leak investigation having inside the White House? We‘re going to keep talking about that. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum and strategist Bob Shrum will get into that. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today, key Presidential Adviser Karl Rove testified for more than four hours in the CIA leak investigation. Conservatives continue to pummel this White House for nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. And poll numbers show nearly 60 percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. What effect is the federal investigation having on the White House?
We are here with former White House speechwriter David Frum, and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum. I want to David Frum. I want to get this issue of Harriet Miers—you‘ve been involved with the debate over it. But let me ask you about these numbers.
Wrong track—now, we all, in this business, especially at NBC, love that number because it is an NBC/”Wall Street Journal” number. What it shows is that only 28 percent of the country, less than a third, think we are heading in the right direction generally as a country. How do you read that?
DAVID FRUM, FMR. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, the Supreme court is, obviously, a very, very small part of that. That is about gas prices. That is about uncertainty about the war. But, the polls I‘ve been following, because I‘ve been paying a lot of attention to the Miers case, show incredible doubt about this judge.
She is the least unpopular nominee since Robert Bork in 1986, ‘87 --
1987, I guess. She is 20 points less popular. People think she‘s—are 20 points less likely to think that she is as qualified as John Roberts. So that feeds in ...
MATTHEWS: Did you see the number in “The Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll that came out yesterday? I thought it was an interesting number because you are tough on her. But the American people seem more ignorant of her than tough. Fifty-one percent of the people—and fairly ignorant. I mean, I‘m not like I‘m knocking them. There‘s nothing people know about her. Fifty-one percent say they don‘t know enough to judge her.
FRUM: That is an extremely intelligent answer, because, in fact, the number of people who know enough to judge her is probably in the triple digits. There are probably fewer than 100 people in the whole country who know enough to judge her because there is so little that is known. That‘s the thing that is alarming about her.
MATTHEWS: So, is this cronyism?
FRUM: This is the president choosing somebody because he trusts her and close to her. And that‘s not a good enough reason. And that‘s why it has set off this gigantic shock wave through the conservative world because what is know about her is not good. It‘s known that she was in favor of racial quotas in the White House. It‘s known that she was a big defender of the American Bar Association.
MATTHEWS: So, she is more liberal than the president‘s base would like?
FRUM: Exactly. And more liberal, less qualified and too close.
MATTHEWS: A female Souter?
FRUM: Well, I don‘t want to compare it to anybody else, but let‘s just say that this is—that while there are all these brilliant, strong conservatives to pick, he didn‘t pick any of them.
MATTHEWS: Bob, I‘ve never heard the liberals so silent on any issue in my life. They are all watching. They are all watching. Is this the Napoleonic code that you never interfere when your enemy is in the process of destroying itself?
BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I haven‘t been silent about it. But I want to say, if David keeps this up, he is going to become better known for conveying the impression and driving it home of an axis of mediocrity in the Bush Administration than for coining the phrase axis of evil in Bush‘s State of the Union speech.
This isn‘t about qualifications. The fact is, the right wing that is braying about this supported Clarence Thomas who was one of the most unqualified nominees ever to the United States Supreme Court.
I have a friend who—just pure accident—who worked closely with Harriet Miers and this will not give necessarily comfort to David Frum. He says she is very intelligent, she looks at the cases on the merits, one by one. She is not deeply ideological, and while she is strongly religious, this person isn‘t sure she that she would vote to overrule Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the toughest law school in the country to get into, Bob?
SHRUM: Well, I think ....
MATTHEWS: OK, Clarence Thomas went to Yale law.
SHRUM: Yale, Harvard, NYU, there are a number of them.
MATTHEWS: No, but Yale is very exclusive, it‘s very academic, it‘s very small compared to Harvard. How can you say not qualified when somebody has cleared Yale law?
SHRUM: Oh, I just think Clarence Thomas on his record, which was not distinguished when he was at Yale Law School. On the record at the ...
MATTHEWS: And you think throughout history, he‘s the least qualified
candidate for the Supreme Court
SHRUM: I said the least qualified ...
FRUM: Let‘s not relitigate comparisons on him. Those of us who believe in him will say that what he had was he had a truly amazing personal story. And he has a backbone of steel. He is a man of incredible courage and character.
SHRUM: That‘s a wonderfully Ciceronian answer, David, say let‘s not relitigate it ...
FRUM: It‘s true.
SHRUM: ... and then start relitigating it. My only point is ...
MATTHEWS: I thought—Bob, don‘t you believe in affirmative actionrMD+DN_rMDNM_? Don‘t you believe a guy from Pin Point, Georgia who went to Yale law and graduated well shouldn‘t be considered eligible to sit on the high court?
SHRUM: I think there are a lot of people who went to Yale law, a lot of people who went to Harvard law and a lot of people who went to NYU law school who shouldn‘t necessarily be put on the Supreme Court.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK. I can accept that, but I‘m wondering about Clarence Thomas. Anyway, David Frum and Bob Shrum are going to stay with us. This ain‘t going to go away.
And later, hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons is coming here to tell us about the Millions More March here in Washington this weekend. We couldn‘t get Minister Farrakhan at the last minute. He‘s had a health problem. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We are talking to former White House Speech Writer David Frum and HARDBALL Political Analyst Bob Shrum.
David, what do you think—this is Friday night, let‘s be a little bit not silly, but a little bit speculative, do you think the president has it in him to dump his very close friend from this incredibly prestigious appointment?
FRUM: The president has changed his mind ...
FRUM: Yes, the president has changed his mind before. The president has this reputation for never changing his mind, that‘s not true. He changed his mind on the Department of Homeland Security. He changed his mind on the McCain-Feingold. He can change his mind. I don‘t know how it will happen.
MATTHEWS: But, this is a personal decision. He really, really knows her. And as you point out, he is the only person who really does.
FRUM: I don‘t think you can put somebody on the supreme court when there is not a single member of the United States Senate who thinks she belongs there. So, I don‘t think she is going to make it. The one thing I can see saving her, is if Patrick Fitzgerald does indict Karl Rove and if the White House fights. Though, I think Conservatives will rally to the president.
MATTHEWS: What I‘ve been trying to figure out why there was an avalanche of criticism of this woman, which began as early as I know, the president asked at 8:00 like, earlier this week, by 9:00, Laura Ingraham was out there, by 12:00 Rush Limbaugh, then all the other big names, George F. Will.
There was a quick assemblage, Charles Krauthammer, very quick assemblage of people in the conservative side of things. How did it happen so fast? Why did everybody—is it because Karl Rove wasn‘t involved in this decision?
FRUM: Well, it was a surprise, look...
MATTHEWS: Or is it the way it was made? Because was Laura out at the Camp David?
FRUM: Let me speak for myself. My blog is up at 9:00 a.m. that morning.
MATTHEWS: You were the first.
FRUM: There was no—they did not make any effort to brief conservatives, except for James Dobson, in advance. They took them by surprise. People were expecting—they had been told on Friday was there would a marvelous appointment.
They didn‘t say, you know, the president is not sure...
MATTHEWS: Another Roberts.
FRUM: ...about the numbers in the Senate, just, you know, brace yourself, you may not be completely happy. They said it‘s going to be a marvelous appointment and then people got this, and suddenly this was the no new taxes of this—the pledge to put Scalia and Thomas like judges on the court that was this president‘s read my lips, no new taxes..
MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, you know back in the Vietnam War days, the best and the brightest were accused of having gotten us in the war. The best and the brightest are evident in this debate. They are all against this appointment.
Is that was is going on here? Is this an intellectual vacuity charge that is being made here, that this woman just isn‘t up to the cut of the people making the charge against her?
SHRUM: Well, I think there is some of that, because at least one could wait for the hearings, to see if she how she does, whether she can answer the important questions about constitutional law, how she conducts herself.
But, I also think that a lot of the right, Pat Buchanan, for example, was spoiling for a huge ideological brawl in the Senate. I think the president, looking at the situation he was in, at the numbers you referred to earlier, 60 percent of the people thinking the country is on the wrong track, decided he didn‘t want that kind of fight.
And I think, you know, tomorrow, we are going to have this Iraqi election. I think the constitution will pass. The administration will proclaim we have turned the corner. I don‘t think it will work very well because we have turned the corner so many times, we now look like we are going around the block.
MATTHEWS: OK, last question, it‘s the toughest, but I‘m sorry to change subjects, but I have to David. If there are indictments against key White House officials, will the president ask for the resignations or will they receive them in some other way? Will they be gone?
FRUM: I can‘t answer that, but I do know—
MATTHEWS: Why is it hard? Because you don‘t know the president or you don‘t know the place?
FRUM: Because I don‘t know the state of mind of people there. I do know this, the conservatives will, if the White House chooses to fight, back them on this. Because the indictments just seem so ridiculous.
Because the core of the theory of the prosecution‘s case, is that if you are the White House and somebody makes up outrageous stories about you, you are not allowed to talk to the reporters and say you should know something about this person.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that, by the way. I completely agree with that. I think it‘s not even hardball. I think it‘s basic self defense.
Shrummy, do you think the White House will fight indictments or accept them, lay down the sword and say these guys have to go?
SHRUM: I think it‘s inconceivable that people who are indicted by a Republican special prosecutor can stay on the White House staff. I think it‘s ridiculous, I think they will have to go.
Number two, I think David‘s characterization of what happened here is completely wrong. The administration said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Iraq was buying yellow cake to make bombs in Niger.
Joe Wilson went over there, found out it wasn‘t true...
FRUM: Well, not exactly.
SHRUM: ...and the administration‘s response...
FRUM: Not exactly.
SHRUM: ...the administrations response was to attack Joe Wilson, attack his wife and attack Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Is that illegal?
SHRUM: I don‘t know whether it‘s illegal, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what we‘re talking about.
SHRUM: ...it‘s the real—no, the prosecutor can decide whether it‘s illegal or not arMDNM_nd then a court of law will decide whether it‘s illegal. But it‘s a scandal of going to war on the basis of lies.
FRUM: But that‘s not their—the indictment is—the indictment that they are being indicted for is for calling reporters and telling the truth what Joe Wilson actually said and did.
MATTHEWS: I would like to see that trial you are talking about. But, it‘s not this one. I would love that trial. Anyway, thank you David Frum. Thank you, Bob Shrum.
Up next this weekend, 10 years after the Million Man March, the Millions More March is coming to Washington. Will this weekends march have the lasting impact that the first one didn‘t? I will ask hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons after the break. This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March here in Washington, and tomorrow, some of the organizers of that march are hosting a sequel.
MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell takes a look at what has and hasn‘t changed in the African-American community since that first march 10 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Long live the spirit of the Million Man March.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
It was a day of atonement for African-American men, coordinated by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in 1995.
The Million Man March urged all those who attended to make positive changes in their lives for the good of society.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the most important days in American history.
O‘DONNELL: The message was simple: Don‘t come for a government handout, take responsibility for your own actions and work to improve yourselves and help change communities.
Minister Farrakhan concluded his remarks that day with a pledge for the masses.
REVEREND LOUIS FARRAKHAN, NATION OF ISLAM LEADER: From this day forward, will strive to improve myself, spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically and economically for the benefit of myself, my family and my people.
O‘DONNELL: They made pledges to correct many social and personal problems that day. And for many of the men, it was a watershed moment to go out and improve their lives with positive actions.
But now 10 years later, what has changed?
Today, the leading cause of death among African-American men between the ages of 15 and 24 is homicide. African-American births by unwed mothers is three times higher than the rate of whites. The African-American unemployment rate is more than twice that of their white counterparts.
African-American males are more likely to be unmarried or divorced than white or Hispanic men. They are two times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail.
And 10 years later, 23 percent of African-American families still live below the poverty line.
BOB HERBERT, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST: Their political clout has diminished. There is still a tremendous amount of discrimination in housing, in employment, for example. Terrible things are going on in the criminal justice system.
And they have not been properly dealt with by society, by government, by community leaders, and they have not been, in my view, properly covered by the media.
O‘DONNELL: Tomorrow, Minister Farrakhan is coordinating the Millions More Movement in Washington, D.C.
This event is spearheaded by a who‘s who of black leaders, including Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and is endorsed by the NAACP and other community-based organizations.
And unlike the Million Man March of 10 years ago, this event is all inclusive, with African-American men, women and children being asked to participate.
Minister Farrakhan says the new movement is a call to action for all black people and a way to once again address those same issues he helped put on the national agenda a decade ago.
I‘m Norah O‘Donnell for HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.
With us now is a bona-fide music, entertainment and fashion mogul.
Russell Simmons is the CEO of Rush Communications and is chairman of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.
Well, sir, you‘re going to be there tomorrow.
You‘re one of the leaders, probably best-known entrepreneur in the black community, right?
RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, HIP HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK: Well, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you are, and you‘re great.
And I just wondered if you were a man of power within this government
let‘s start with that. If you were a power in this government, if you were Karl Rove, if you were President Bush and you wanted to do something really good for race relations in this country, for opportunities for African-Americans, what would you do? What would you do differently?
SIMMONS: Well, the first thing I would do—and I‘ve had many conversations with members of this administration and the Republican Party, and especially more recently with Ken Mehlman, we talk about a war on poverty and ignorance. It‘s not only black people who are suffering.
The fact is that we are not addressing the needs of the poor.
And this movement, I hope, is something that will inspire them. There is two sides of course. There‘s ways to repair the past for African-Americans and there‘s ways to uplift all the people who are living in poverty, but there‘s also a spiritual component that is critical.
And what I got from the last two marches, because I—there was a march five years ago which was considered by some in the media to be a flop, and I stood on the stage and I saw what looked like 10 baseball stadiums full of people, a half a million people. That means it was even bigger than Dr. King‘s march—Million Family March.
And each time you get into a crowd that big and you make a commitment to move toward God, you‘re inspired in a way that I cannot describe. I certainly was and I know that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and people who watched were inspired and went to work.
Many people went to work by joining organizations. Many people adopted babies. Many people adopted people in the prison system. Many organizations got tremendous increases in their membership.
So it‘s an ongoing process—giving. Giving is something you do not just one time, or you start in one movement; you do it until you get in the box. So that‘s my feeling about it.
I mean, this third march is another great step, but we have to keep stepping and that‘s what I‘m hopeful will happen.
You know, Russell, I was there 10 years ago, I was wandering around with my notepad interviewing guys my age, regular guys, and they didn‘t come on buses, they didn‘t come in groups. They came as regular guys. They‘d all say the same thing to me, “I felt I had to be here. And at the last minute I just I‘m going to get in the car, get on the train, I‘m going to get here.”
These are the kinds of things they said. And one of them said, “I‘m not here because of the leader.” He wasn‘t there because of Farrakhan. He said, “This is one of the nicest things I have ever seen. I‘ve never seen this many blacks, so many different shapes, sizes and clothing.”
Another fellow said, “The black man has turned away from his responsibility and now he is turning back. We got off course. We‘ve got to stop killing each other.”
And this is a great line: “I hope this won‘t rub off like Earth Day when everybody recycles for a day and that‘s it.”
How do you create a moment that stays?
SIMMONS: You know, one thing about the leader is that he is an excellent speaker and we know that he means what he says. His heart is honest.
You know, many politicians speak and you want to believe them, but you know the history of most politicians in this country. Many—even African-American leaders, some who seem to have been compromised.
Now, you can say anything you want about Minister Farrakhan, but we know that he has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and that his heart—he‘s a person who would lay down his life, and people like that.
And then other leaders who were there are great speakers. And again,
in yoga we have something called satsang and sanskrit, and every religion they have it (inaudible) when you get together for one purpose, which is a common agenda to uplift people, that it is a spiritual transformation for you.
You have to feel it. So to have these people and have a dramatic kind of impact on their lives—they go home and they join organizations. They adopt children. They do all the things they did last time.
So all I can say is that this is a tremendous cause. I‘m thrilled to be part of this third march. I was part of the second one as well and I was at the first one. And I think it‘s a very worthy and special cause.
MATTHEWS: What‘s a more important cause for the African-American community: self-help, reform, moral rearmament, if you will, or ending prejudice from the whites?
SIMMONS: Well, you know, I‘m the chairman of an organization called the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. And Rabbi Schneider, who is my buddy, is the partner, is the president, I‘m sorry. And the rabbi and I did this poll, and the results will be coming out in the next few days. And they‘ll be—it‘s astounding, to find that we have such different views about race relations. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Whites think it‘s good, blacks think it‘s not as good?
SIMMONS: That‘s right. That‘s pretty obvious, but it‘s much worse. But the good news is that young people, much more tolerant, loving and compassionate. Much more.
MATTHEWS: You know, my daughter—I shouldn‘t talk about it, but she is in high school. We went to the PTA meeting the other night, and one of her teachers was black. You know, back in my day, we would have said something to our parents. We‘d said, my math teacher is black or something like that. Kids don‘t say that anymore.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t think it‘s worth noting. And it‘s not, obviously, but in our day, it was.
MATTHEWS: So some things are changing, at the edges, at least.
SIMMONS: Here‘s the good news—oh, Chris, I have to say, 50 Cent and Eminem are one and the same people. One was born and lived in the trailer park, and one was born and lived in the housing projects. They have the same struggle.
MATTHEWS: So you really do believe that, you think a white poor person doesn‘t have it easier assimilating and getting across into the middle class than a black person who is born poor?
SIMMONS: Well, if you‘re born in the trailer park—you know, poverty and ignorance is something—poverty is a great part of it in America today, it‘s a mind-set.
MATTHEWS: I wish I was as optimistic. When I saw those people down there sweating and scared to death they‘re going to die down in New Orleans, if those had been white faces, I got to tell you, there would have been a lot more anger against Bush in the white community, a lot more anger.
SIMMONS: We learned that from our survey, and we knew that to some degree. But you know, dwelling on that, that‘s why I think the minister‘s message is so good, because you get your foot from in front of yourself and move forward. That‘s the statement that really...
MATTHEWS: Well, can‘t wait to read the poll.
SIMMONS: ... and look inside and find—oh, yeah, it‘s very inspiring, what we can do, but it‘s very disappointing what we are in some cases, especially older people. But they will be gone soon. Young people are going to take...
MATTHEWS: I think blacks and whites look at things differently. And I think that during the O.J. case...
SIMMONS: Well, you‘ll see in the results of the poll...
MATTHEWS: ... everybody thought—blacks thoughts the whites were out to get O.J. I never saw it that way. But you know, I think it developed into that kind of a thing as the trial went on. And I think that people took sides based on, you know, the old tribalism. I‘m on this side, you‘re on that side kind of thing. We have too much of that.
SIMMONS: Well, thank you for having me again.
MATTHEWS: I think this march was great 10 years ago; I hope it‘s good tomorrow. Because a lot of regular guys came to stand up for who they are. Anyway, thank you, Russell Simmons.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, with Iraq‘s future at stake, we will get the latest on this weekend‘s important constitutional referendum. Boy, I hope something develops, as insurgents knock out the power in Baghdad on the eve of the big vote. Well, we‘ll see. This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This weekend, it‘s a crucial step for the future of Iraq. Iraqis will go to the polls for a referendum on the new constitution. But Sunni insurgents are trying to keep the constitution from being approved. Power, by the way, is slowly being restored after the insurgents sabotaged power lines that plunged much of Baghdad into darkness.
NBC military analyst and retired Army General Montgomery Meigs is just back from Iraq and joins us now.
Well, I don‘t know many generals just back from Iraq I can talk to like I can with you, General, so is it better than you thought it was going to be, or worse than you thought it would be? Please be blunt.
GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS (RET), U.S. ARMY: It was better. Commanders have a bit in their teeth, they have a mission, they understand what they‘re doing. They have a plan that‘s paying off.
Let me give you some data points, Chris. We have policed up 100, roughly 100 people connected to Zarqawi‘s networks, six of his lieutenants, 36 of his regional bosses, and another 56 of his foreign fighter shooters in the last 10 months. That‘s a statistic that hasn‘t gotten out. That‘s amazing.
MATTHEWS: But how many people have joined the insurgency and joined the terrorist organization since that time?
MEIGS: Oh, they do that, but the nice thing about getting the emir (ph) of Mosul three times, the fourth guy that steps up is just not as talented, he‘s not as well versed in it as the other guys were, and he will be on the way to Abu Ghraib very shortly, I‘m sure.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to leave that country with some success in the next couple of years, or are we there for the longest duration you can imagine? Are we just going to be there for—interminably amount of time?
MEIGS: The next 120 days are critical, to get that new government seated. By the way, I believe the constitution will be approved. Secondly, we are going to be there through that first government‘s term, about another four years, but not with the number of troops you see now. As the Iraqi forces come online—and they have come online—you‘re going to see us be able to draw down the troops to a certain extent.
Another data point for you. Recently in the battles around Tal Afar, which were very successful, killed over 100 insurgents, policed up another 400. Eleven Iraqi battalions in the fighting, three American.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, we have lost about 1,000 troops a year. Are we going to continue to suffer those kinds of casualties?
MEIGS: I don‘t think so. I think it will taper off as the new government gets into place and as the Iraqi security forces take on an even greater role.
MATTHEWS: Who is going to run—is it going to be like Iran? What is this new country going to look like over there?
MEIGS: It‘s hard to say. Iraqis had a pretty secular tradition. People I was talking to, they stressed the point that there is a lot of inter-marriage between Shias and Sunnis. I think that one is too close to call. We‘ll just have to wait and see.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, General Meigs. I do trust you, and I am glad to hear there‘s an optimistic voice coming back. Let me ask you one last question...
MATTHEWS: ... about this election. If it goes the other way, if the constitution is rebuked by that three districts or whatever the rule is, what will that mean?
MEIGS: It means that you have to rewrite the constitution with the new government that will be formed with the election in December. It‘s a minor setback. It means another one of these tedious deals, but the Sunnis will have voted, they will be in the play. That‘s not all bad.
MATTHEWS: OK, certainly not. Thank you very much, General Montgomery Meigs.
Join us again Monday for more HARDBALL, and on Wednesday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be with us. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan Abrams.
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