Guest: John Kiriakou, Melinda Henneberger, Michael Smerconish, Andy Stern, Rep. Chris Van Hollen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Go for broke.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
A tricky operation. President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress
here are in a last-week push to convince wavering Democrats to vote for
health care reform and trust the voters to learn its benefits by November.
Let‘s start tonight with the Democrats‘ number one election leader and a
big-time labor leader helping to win this for the team.
And look at this, tea party protesters out on the lawn of the U.S.
Capitol today, making their case with some very ugly images. We‘ll get to
And as we head toward a big vote at week‘s end, are we seeing a bump
in public support for health care reform? We‘ll have the results from a
new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll tonight.
Plus, the question we‘ve asked before—does torture work? We‘ll
talk to a CIA officer involved in the capture of a top al Qaeda leader. He
says torture is immoral, but sometimes is necessary.
Also, should groups who blame gay sex for causing wars be allowed to
protest at the funerals of dead American service people? An appeals court
says yes. Our guest tonight says no.
And I‘ll finish tonight with a word about General David Petraeus and
his declaration today that it‘s time to reconsider “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
We begin tonight with Andy Stern, the president of SEIU, the Service
Employees International Union. Andy, thank you for joining us. You‘re a
big guy in labor, and you‘re possibly the future of the movement, right?
You‘re the future of big labor.
ANDY STERN, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION: The members are
the future of the movement.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let me ask you about this bill. This would be a
time, it seems to me, where progressive legislation, however refined or
unrefined it is, will change history.
STERN: Yes, I think this is a total history-making moment that very
few of us get to see in our lifetime and participate. It‘s time to get it
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at some of history itself. I‘d
like to start this week every night with this because I think it‘s very
important to do what you just said and show it with the help of television.
Let‘s start with a little history.
Here are the presidents that we have known so well from growing up. I
think I just missed Roosevelt, but Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman,
Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. By the way, we‘re going to get Jack
Kennedy to join this list as we get the tape in.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to what they said about health care over the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have
accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of
security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station
or race or creed. Among these are the right to adequate medical care and
the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
HARRY S. TRUMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must also act
promptly to improve the health of our nation. The women of our country
particularly know that in many areas, there are not enough doctors or
hospitals and that many families cannot afford the medical care they need.
RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will establish a
new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American
in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I am
announcing the formation of the president‘s task force on national health
reform, chaired by the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, every time I see that picture, Andy, I think
about how young Clinton was when he was president.
STERN: He was...
MATTHEWS: ... and so was Hillary Clinton when she was first lady.
Let me ask you about this, the way it looks historically. I mean, it‘s
hard—you know, it‘s sausage factory time. We argue about different
pieces of the bill, but in the end, my argument is once you get it, it
never goes away. I‘ve never seen a country have a national health care
plan that got rid of it.
MATTHEWS: They improve it, they enhance it, they figure out how to
make it better.
STERN: And I think we saw that in Civil Rights. You know, we passed
the Civil Rights bill of 1957. No one remembers it, but it was what we
built the 1964 bill on and we‘ve built ever since. And I think this bill
is a huge step forward, and it is totally a foundation to keep building.
MATTHEWS: What do you tell your rank and file that have decent
contracts that they‘ve been able to work out, where they do have health
care already? What do you tell the guy or the woman who already has it, We
need this bill?
STERN: I think we tell them, one, Aren‘t you tired of paying for
health care and not getting a raise in your paycheck? Two, Aren‘t you
worried that you‘re paying $1,000, $1,500 for someone else‘s health care
because they‘re not insured...
MATTHEWS: You mean at the emergency room.
STERN: Yes because they‘re shifting the costs onto the people that
STERN: And finally, we say to them, Something can happen to everyone
in America, and we all should be secure.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about this happening this weekend? I
figure, knowing Nancy Pelosi, she is so smart about her party and her House
of Representatives—I‘d bet the vote‘ll be Saturday night around 8:00...
MATTHEWS: ... one of those crazy—when Jackie Gleason used to be
on, some strange time of the week where everybody‘s antsy and has that
weird early Saturday night feel you get in your stomach, you know what I
mean, before you go out, that weird upset you get. What does tonight
yield? What‘s going to happen?
STERN: I don‘t know. Whatever it is, it‘s going to be a great night
for this country. It really is.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) do you think Saturday night makes sense?
STERN: I think “Saturday Night Live” would be great.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the vote. You think 216 is in?
STERN: I don‘t think it‘s in yet, but I think it‘s getting closer.
MATTHEWS: What are the elements of it? Does he needs more liberal,
more progressive members or conservative Democrats? Who are the ones that
are the ones he has to bring in, Jim Clyburn and the others?
STERN: I think it‘s really more of a question of...
MATTHEWS: You mentioned Jason Altmire‘s got to decide.
MATTHEWS: From Pennsylvania.
STERN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And there are some others.
STERN: Kissell in North Carolina. I think they all are in
MATTHEWS: How about Kucinich? He‘s a man on the progressive side of
things. Is he really going to hold out on this thing?
STERN: I hope not. Dennis has fought his whole life for improvements
in health care. This would be criminal...
MATTHEWS: And Gale Kildee came out, pro-life Catholic came out—
pro-life—pro-life Democrat came out. He‘s for it.
STERN: Yes, and Maffei up in upstate New York. So you‘re starting to
see a trend in the right direction, but we‘re not there yet.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at the shots being taken at your
position on this. Here‘s—well, here‘s President Obama Monday. This is
a positive statement. I‘m going to get to what Mike Pence, the top
Republican, is saying and Boehner is saying, as well. But first of all,
here‘s the president making a case for a bill that‘ll probably come to a
head this Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want us to look
and see what is the best thing for America and then do what‘s right. And
as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership! And I
know these members of Congress are going to provide that leadership! I
don‘t know about the politics, but I know what‘s the right thing to do!
And so I‘m calling on Congress to pass these reforms, and I‘m going to sign
them into law! I want some courage!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is he peaking right?
STERN: Yes, I think he‘s right—hitting the right note in the right
MATTHEWS: The shirtsleeves out there, yelling...
STERN: It is...
STERN: And it‘s time. And it‘s about people.
STERN: It‘s not about policy or process, it‘s about people.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Andy.
STERN: Thank you...
MATTHEWS: It‘s great. A major leader in labor, by the way.
Let‘s turn now to U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen in Maryland. He‘s
chairman of the DCCC, meaning he‘s the one who‘s supposed to get Democrats
here elected. You must be the one, Congressman, that worried Democrats,
the waverers, are coming to you and talking to you about what this will do
to them in November. What is your pulse right now among the X many
Democrats you need to bring in by Saturday?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIRMAN: Well, Chris, I am
talking to a lot of members, and what I‘m hearing from them is as they go
home, they‘re hearing more and more from people who have seem those
premiums going through the roof, whether they‘re families or whether
they‘re small businesses.
And I‘ve got to tell you, when the insurance industry starts running
ads in the districts of these people, the people watching those ads are
beginning to ask themselves, Now, why is it that the insurance industry is
against this bill? And they‘re coming to the right conclusion, which is
they‘re against this bill because when this bill passes, they‘re not going
to be able to discriminate based on preexisting conditions. They‘re not
going to be able to find the fine print in the insurance policy and say
when you‘re sick, Sorry, too late. They‘re not going to be able to run up
these huge bills.
And so there‘s a reason the insurance industry is running all these
ads, and people are waking up to it. People are pretty smart. They know
why the insurance companies are fighting these things so hard, and that‘s
actually saying, Hey, do I really want to spend another eight years like
the last eight years, where the premiums doubled?
MATTHEWS: Yes. What do you think of this full-page ad that some
group is running in “Politico,” the political newspaper of the day? I got
up this morning, I‘m reading it, drinking my coffee, and there is two full-
page ads of supposedly the casualties, the Democratic casualties of the
health care fight. They‘ve got people like—everybody who‘s retiring
this year supposedly has been defeated. Everybody who says, This is the
end of my career, has been defeated because of health care. What do you
think of the honesty or dishonesty of that ad?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Chris, here‘s the thing. The Republicans—I
think they‘re making a big mistake. They‘ve made this debate all about
politics. They‘ve made it all about taking back the House for Republicans,
and they‘re measuring the curtains.
VAN HOLLEN: But that‘s not what it‘s about for the American people.
The American people don‘t really care how this is going to affect whether
the Republicans are measuring the curtains or not. What they care about is
how this is going to affect their insurance policies and their health care.
And the more the Republicans focus just on the politics of it, the less
they want to focus on the substance of the bill, the more the American
people are scratching their heads and saying, Hey, what‘s going on here?
So I think by putting this in purely calculated political terms, as
they‘ve been doing, they‘re making a big mistake because it‘s become all
about them and whether they take back the Congress, not about the American
MATTHEWS: Do you have a roll-out planned right now between now and
November, if the bill passes this weekend, that‘s going to tell people like
seniors, retired people, that the doughnut hole is going to be filled, that
they‘re going to get their prescription benefits that they haven‘t been
getting before, people that really need drugs to survive, that working
people that don‘t have health insurance are going to get it with some
subsidy help? When are you going to start bragging a little bit to the
people that benefit from this bill? I hasn‘t seemed to start yet.
VAN HOLLEN: Yes, we do, Chris. Well, right now, there are a number
of groups like Families USA that are running ads, many of them beginning
today, to talk about the positive aspects of this bill. But you‘re right,
what‘s very important is once we get this passed, to really hammer down on
some of the very important provisions in here, provisions that have gotten
lost, frankly, in the back-and-forth discussion on process and in all the
disinformation that‘s been out there.
So it‘s very important because as you know, when you ask Americans
about the components in this bill, they‘re all thumbs-up. They‘re for it.
So we need to keep pushing that. It‘s very important.
And you know, if the Republicans want to make November about repealing
health care reform—about saying to insurance companies, OK, go ahead and
discriminate again based on preexisting conditions, or, OK, it‘s OK to jack
up the premiums and we‘re not going to have anybody minding the store, I
think that they‘re making a big mistake. I mean it‘s almost—if they
decide to make that focus, bring it on.
MATTHEWS: Dennis Kucinich has called a press conference tomorrow
morning at 10:00 o‘clock to announce his decision. Do you know what it is?
VAN HOLLEN: I do not know what it is. I‘m hoping that...
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s Republican congressman Mike Pence. I think we
know what his vote‘s going to be this week. Here he is, lashing out at you
guys over procedure. I‘m not sure procedure‘s a big selling point, but
here he is. Let‘s listen, Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: Liberals in Washington, D.C., are so
desperate to pass this government takeover of health care, they‘re willing
to trample the historic role and rules of the Senate to do it in the form
of reconciliation! And if reconciliation tramples the rules of the Senate,
the “Slaughter house” rule insults the intelligence of the American people
and tramples on the Constitution of the United States of America, and it
must be rejected!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a strange—you just missed this,
Congressman. There was Mike Pence, who‘s a smart guy, but he‘s reading
notes as he‘s giving this sort of Huey Long stemwinder. I think if you‘re
going to show passion, don‘t keep looking at your notes to know what the
next line is.
But what do you think about him out there, railing against you on
procedure and this “deemed to have passed” approach you‘re taking?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, first, the fact that they‘re talking about process
and procedure instead of substance, I think, again, is not answering the
questions that the American people have out there about their health care.
I mean, they‘re not talking about the procedures that the health industry
uses to deny you health care, or to say, Sorry, we‘re not going to cover
what was in your health care bill.
But here‘s the important point, Chris. They‘re trying to create the
impression that what we‘re doing in the House is passing the Senate bill
without the changes to the Senate bill. For example, we‘re getting rid of
the Nebraska deal. And that is why we‘re using a procedure that our
Republican colleagues have used and others have used, because we want to
make it very clear that we‘re talking about an amended version of the
Senate bill, amended with some of the provisions the White House has put
VAN HOLLEN: ... including some from our Republican colleagues that
have been added recently.
MATTHEWS: How‘s my congressman going to vote on this bill this
weekend, do you know?
VAN HOLLEN: I think your congressman is a big thumbs-up. We just
need another—we just need another 215, and we‘ll be there!
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, brand-new numbers from our NBC News poll, “The
Wall Street Journal” poll, as well. We‘ve got something to talk about
here. It‘s an interesting mix of numbers here. It‘s not the bad news
you‘ve been getting before. It‘s about health care reform. If you‘re for
it, this news is pretty positive. Chuck Todd joins us to talk about it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We have a brand-new NBC
News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, as I said. It‘s out tonight with some
good news and some bad news for President Obama on health care. Thirty-six
percent now say his plan is a good idea. That‘s 5 points better than
January. But 48 percent still say it‘s a bad idea. So not that good, the
news. And the president‘s approval rating in the same category, it‘s up a
bit at 41 percent. That‘s 3 points better than it was January. But still,
it‘s on the down side, 57 percent still disapprove of his performance.
NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck
Todd joins us right now—it‘s on the health care issue—joins us now
with more. I like getting up and watching the show of yours in the
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Oh, good.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great on the treadmill.
TODD: There it is.
MATTHEWS: It‘s good for people.
TODD: Good (INAUDIBLE) treadmill.
MATTHEWS: Lose a couple of pounds every couple days and get to see
you and Savannah. And I want to talk about—because we just got these
numbers in now. If you‘re setting in the White House and you‘re David
Axelrod or one of the smart guys there, are you happy with these numbers?
TODD: You‘re not...
MATTHEWS: Have they begun to move in your direction or not?
TODD: ... but they do feel as if these are improved numbers. They
know that they‘ve done a poor job selling this thing. Whether you want to
talk about Congress getting involved in process stories—you know, this
TODD: ... the latest being how they‘re doing—how they‘re going to
the House is going to pass the Senate bill, or the fact that it seems as
if the president himself was stuck figuring out how to sell...
TODD: ... health care, and now of course, it‘s all about health
insurance. And ever since he kicked it into campaign mode, you have seen
evidence, little upticks in at least Democrats rallying around their
president. And that‘s perhaps the most important part of this movement.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know—you know, on this network—on this
network, if you listen to this network, there‘s a lot of debate on MSNBC
about this health care bill, left versus center left, whatever...
MATTHEWS: ... for or against it, all points. Same with CNN. But
there‘s another network, Fox, out there, where there‘s absolutely no
debate. It‘s just trashed every single day. Has there ever been a bill in
history before the Congress where an entire network on television has
blasted it every day for more than a year, this kind of negative, negative
I just wonder whether we‘ve ever seen anything like this.
TODD: Well, I‘ll say this. You know...
MATTHEWS: Forget if it‘s Fox. Has it...
TODD: No, I mean, I think that what‘s been different about this bill
and I think that the lessons learned here for Congress is going to be—
there is a greater engagement on the process of how bills...
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t it a lot of it just...
TODD: ... become law.
MATTHEWS: ... negative?
TODD: Some of it‘s negative. I‘m not saying it‘s—I‘m just saying
some of it‘s negative. But I look at this—we asked about the
TODD: First of all, we were stunned that some 40 percent were
following this filibuster aspect...
TODD: ... of the story very closely. That‘s a huge chunk of the
electorate. And guess what? Of the people following the most closely,
they were evenly divided about whether to go reconciliation or not go
reconciliation. So there‘s a lot of focus on saying, OK, well, this side
TODD: ... has been negative the whole time. But guess what? The
public is hearing two messages. As much as I think we get stuck in here
and think, Geez, he‘s only getting pounded on this, on health care, he‘s
clearly having some effect on getting his side of this message out...
TODD: ... because we‘re seeing a more evenly divided electorate in
TODD: ... than we had seen, for instance, three months ago.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at some more health numbers here now.
No matter which way a House member votes—this is trouble—it‘s a
net negative to—in our poll here. If a House member votes yes, for
example, on President Obama‘s plan, then 28 percent say they‘re more likely
to vote for that member in November, 36 percent less likely to vote for
him. So, that‘s a losing proposition.
MATTHEWS: OK. Now here‘s...
TODD: Look at the next one.
MATTHEWS: ... a member who votes no on Obama‘s plan.
MATTHEWS: ... another losing proposition. It‘s still bad. Thirty-
one percent say they‘re more likely to vote for that person, 34 percent
So, you look at these numbers, it says, I‘m damned if I do, damned if
TODD: You cannot finger in—you can‘t finger in the wind this one.
You can‘t sit here and say, well, boy, my constituents say X, or the polls
are telling me X.
MATTHEWS: Well, what does that mean, if you‘re going to vote against
the person no matter how they vote?
TODD: Well, it shows that what you have in this health care debate
is, we have polarized the electorate.
And the fact is this. Democrats are going to punish Democrats for not
voting for this thing, and Republicans are going to punish Republicans for
crossing the aisle.
MATTHEWS: I got you.
TODD: That‘s what we have here. This has become, whatever you want
to call it, red vs. blue. But this is polarized argument. It‘s no longer
It‘s about—the president has made the argument himself behind the
TODD: You want my presidency to succeed? You want us to have a shot
at taking up the next issue? You better not—because the only person
that can defeat him in this are Democrats. This would be Democrats
defeating Democrats, if this thing goes down.
And, so, that‘s where you‘re seeing this rallying around the flag a
little bit in the poll numbers and that we‘re seeing.
TODD: And Peter Hart, our—he said, if he was putting his
Democratic consultant hat on, he would say, that‘s the argument he would
make, which is, hey, guess what? You will get punished more by the base of
the party for voting against this thing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at these numbers. There these
numbers are dreadful. Seventeen percent of the American people, according
to the “Wall Street Journal”/NBC News poll, approve of the work Congress is
Of course, you would have to ask, who are they?
TODD: Right. Who are the 17 percent?
MATTHEWS: Who‘s happy?
TODD: You would assume it‘s the members of Congress themselves.
MATTHEWS: And their families, and their immediate families.
TODD: You‘re right. Right.
MATTHEWS: OK, 77 percent, four out of five dentists don‘t like this.
This is like the old commercial.
Let‘s take this -- 38 percent say their own member of Congress should
get reelected. That‘s not bad, three out of five. But 51 percent say give
somebody else a chance.
Now, I would think that number would be really tough, but it‘s not
that bad. If you think 38 percent, but the reelection rate of Congress is
about 95 percent.
TODD: Except, if you look at it over this five-year trend, Congress
started tanking right after, right in that Katrina, you know, when it was
the Republican control and you saw this tanking.
And, ever since, we have had an electorate that‘s been very upset with
TODD: Congress isn‘t popular in general.
MATTHEWS: But when are they going to dump a member? They don‘t.
They vote 90...
MATTHEWS: ... percent for incumbents.
TODD: Well, right now, this is more of a split on this one.
TODD: And the fact is, we‘re seeing some evidence that it may not be
the usual 95 percent this time.
MATTHEWS: I think it is, because all the districts are gerrymandered,
and people end up voting ethnic, or they vote for the guy or the woman who
seems like them. And it‘s all been gerrymandered.
TODD: I will say this. The one loser in this entire health care
TODD: ... not the insurance company—we could sit here—not the
Republicans, not the Democrats. It‘s been the institution of Congress.
This spotlight that has been put on them has put them in the worst
possible light, because it‘s arcane, in many ways. And you know what? The
public doesn‘t like the way Congress...
MATTHEWS: OK. Why is the public like this one? Thirty-one percent
say it‘s good for one party to control both the Congress and the White
House. But 60 percent, twice as many, say it‘s better to split, to have
the Democrats control the White House, for example, and the Republicans
control the Congress.
TODD: Well, you have got to go inside the numbers. Number one is
that 31 percent is mostly Democrats. So, Democrats want Democrats in
What you have is that what makes up the other portion of it is
obviously Republicans don‘t like that they‘re not involved. And so they
know they can‘t get the White House right now.
TODD: So, they look at that.
The other chunk of these voters, though, are independents. And the
fact is, they are the folks that, when you ask them deep down inside, the
correct answer is divided government. They don‘t always vote that way.
This is one of those polls where I think you get a correct answer. Well,
of course I—I like this idea of one party checking the other.
And the fact is, our election results show no one party has controlled
all three, House, Senate and the presidency, for more than, I think,
something like a four-year period at a time. Every time one tries to do
it, it seems as if the public upends it, whether it‘s, you know, they—
they flip the Senate or they flip the presidency.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Are people who say they want divided government
really saying they don‘t want any more government?
TODD: No, when people say divided government, I think they say they
want a—those are the folks, when they say that, they want a slowing down
of some things...
TODD: ... because it—I think they truly do believe that they want
some government to work. But they want this idea that it—they don‘t
want an extreme move in one direction or the other.
MATTHEWS: You‘re very mild-mannered.
TODD: No, I just think that they...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think that there‘s an attitude that, if you
divide the government, you weaken it, and that‘s what they want, the
weakened government, so it won‘t do anything to them that hurts them, like
TODD: No. No, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: ... programs?
TODD: No, I think that those folks are—that is—there is a
MATTHEWS: I like the way you broke this down to show the fact that a
lot of people who say they like divided government really want a piece of
the action back, meaning conservatives. They want something back.
TODD: Yes. This is a case of right now. They look at the political
MATTHEWS: I like the way you analyze this stuff. Thank you, Chuck
TODD: Thank you, sir.
Up next: Senator Lindsey Graham compares Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
other House Democrats to Japanese kamikaze pilots, complete with sake.
Well, I‘m waiting to hear from the Japanese Embassy on this one.
Anyway, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: Bring on the clowns.
Kentucky Republican Trey Grayson has a Web ad against his opponent in
the May Senate primary. Rand Paul happens to be a Duke University alumna -
Talk about wasting our time and lowering our collective I.Q.s. Here‘s
what voters are supposed to be thinking about in that race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TREY GRAYSON CAMPAIGN AD)
TREY GRAYSON ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Trey Grayson.
There are big differences between Rand Paul and me. But, in Kentucky,
during March, there‘s one really big difference.
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Rand Paul, and I‘m
a Duke Blue Devil.
GRAYSON: I‘m proud to say that I‘m a University of Kentucky Wildcat.
I‘m Trey Grayson, and I approve this message, because I will always
cheer for the Big Blue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Does Grayson have any pride at all? Rand Paul got into
Duke Medical School, Duke being one of the top schools in the country. Is
that something to make fun of?
Grayson, who comes across here as an idiot, is out there hawking
bumper stickers, meanwhile, that say, “Beat Duke. Vote Grayson.” How
about this one, “Grayson Thinks You‘re Stupid”?
Remember that the job of United States Senate is the job where you get
to decide whether we go to war or not. It‘s an important job.
Stop screwing around, buddy.
Next: Senator Inhofe, the gas man.
He was on the Senate floor yesterday railing about his favorite issue,
the need to ignore scientific warnings about what we‘re doing to this
planet. In his speech, Inhofe compares climate activist Al Gore to an
ostrich, trying to hide from reality.
You‘ve got to see this one to before it. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: When it comes to—to practicing
good science, Gore stands alone. He wants the world to put its head in the
sand and pretend nothing is happening.
It kind of reminds me of the story of the two boy ostriches chasing
the two girl ostriches through the woods. And they‘re catching them. And
the one girl ostrich said to the other one as they came up to a clearing,
what do we do? And they said, well, let‘s hide.
And, so, each of the girl ostriches stuck their heads in a respective
hole, and the boy ostriches came galloping up to the clearing and one
looked at the other and said, where did the girls go?
Well, this is what we‘re looking at here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think what we‘re looking at here is a real problem.
Anyway, if I were Senator Inhofe, I would try to avoid ostrich
references. Talk about sticking your head in the sand.
By the way, Senator Lindsey Graham came up with a really colorful
analogy of his own yesterday. He compared House Democrats to Japanese
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: They‘re scrambling to round
up the votes. And Nancy Pelosi, I think, has got them all liquored up on
sake, and, you know, they‘re making a suicide run here. This makes no
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For the record, it would be a suicide run for Democrats to
come this far and not pass the health bill.
Anyway, I like Senator Graham. At least his metaphors show a little
Anyway, that said, I wonder if he has heard from the Japanese Embassy
yet—which brings us to tonight‘s “Number.”
What are the chances that the Democratic health care bill will be
signed into law by June? Well, according to the online traders, the
bookies over at Intrade.com, wow, 70 percent, pretty high. The online
bookies book Democrats‘ high hope of passing health care reform at 70
percent probability right now. That‘s tonight‘s very bullish “Big Number.”
Up next, we are going to talk to a former CIA interrogator who says
water-boarding is at times both necessary and immoral. How does that
square in our fight against al Qaeda, against the terrorists?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BRIAN SHACTMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Brian Shactman with your
CNBC “Market Wrap.”
The Federal Reserve‘s mildly optimistic take on the economy giving
stocks a lift today, the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 43 points,
the S&P 500 up nine, and the Nasdaq moving 15 points to the up side.
The Federal Reserve keeping interest rates near zero, but highlighting
the increased economic momentum, citing a firmer job market and an upbeat
reading on business spending.
Investors also pleased with smaller-than-expected drop in new housing
starts, this despite February‘s crippling snowstorms.
When it comes to individual stocks, chip-makers Intel and AMD were two
of the top gainers, after Intel released a new line of powerful energy-
efficient chips for servers. Also, Harley-Davidson shares revving up
almost 7 percent on unsubstantiated rumors that the company is the target
of a takeover.
And General Electric soaring 4.5 percent, after the company‘s CFO said
he expects increased earning and a higher dividend next year—GE, of
course, the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou, who helped capture the first
big al Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, in 2002 -- that‘s eight years ago—he
talked about the capture and subsequent torture in a 2007 interview with
ABC‘s Brian Ross. Let me recount it to you.
Brian Ross—quote—“So, in your view, water-boarding broke him?”
John Kiriakou: “I think it did, yes.”
Ross: “And did it make a difference in terms of...”
Kiriakou: “It did. The threat information that he provided disrupted
a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”
Ross: “No doubt about that? No doubt about that?”
Kiriakou: “No doubt.”
Well, in those words, people who support the use of torture found
their validation. But former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou says it‘s not
that black and white. His new book is “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life
in the CIA‘s War on Terror.”
John, thank you.
How long were you in the CIA?
JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Almost 15 years.
MATTHEWS: Undercover most of it, right?
KIRIAKOU: Undercover most of it.
MATTHEWS: What was your personal experience watching torture, or
knowing about it?
KIRIAKOU: I never actually saw Abu Zubaydah or anybody else being
But, when the reports were coming in, a lot of us in the agency were
conflicted, morally, politically. We weren‘t sure if it was legal. Of
course, we were told it was legal in the end. And once intelligence
started coming in, we assumed, after Abu Zubaydah had been water-boarded
once time, because that‘s what the reporting indicated, we thought it was
MATTHEWS: What do you make of water-boarding?
KIRIAKOU: I think it‘s...
MATTHEWS: I mean, 83 times, Zubaydah...
MATTHEWS: At what point after you‘re tortured and you believe you‘re
going to drown do you know you‘re not going to drown? Or is it a non-
intellectual thing, that you know you‘re—you may know intellectually
you‘re not going to drown, because they have done it to you 82 times so
MATTHEWS: The 83rd time, they‘re probably not going to drown you.
But what does it do? So, does it just—your whole body rails against it?
What makes you start talking?
KIRIAKOU: It‘s extremely painful, especially in the abdominal
muscles, because you‘re tensing your muscles trying to get out of the way
of the flow of the water. And you end up pulling those muscles.
And, so, it‘s very, very painful, very uncomfortable.
MATTHEWS: And, in this case, Zubaydah, he spoke, he talked, he gave
us valuable information?
KIRIAKOU: He did.
MATTHEWS: How do you know this? Tell me how you know this.
KIRIAKOU: Well, from the reporting that we got from the fields.
Now, we didn‘t know that he had been water-boarded 83 times. Last
year, the CIA inspector-general‘s report came out from 2004, heavily
redacted. But it still confirmed that Abu Zubaydah had been water-boarded
before the CIA actually received written permission to do it.
So, my view now, in retrospect, is that he had been water-boarded 83
times, but the people in the field actually carrying out the water-boarding
did not report it. So, those of us at headquarters, seeing the one report
that finally did come in, believed it had happened once, and that he had
cracked and provided...
MATTHEWS: Do you think if a person in this country were guilty of a
murder would admit it under water-boarding?
KIRIAKOU: Oh, I think...
MATTHEWS: Would they admit it under water-boarding, knowing—
knowing that they were going to get the gas chamber or whatever?
KIRIAKOU: Oh, I think so. I think somebody would admit to kidnapping
the Lindbergh baby under water-boarding.
MATTHEWS: If they did it.
KIRIAKOU: Even if they didn‘t do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, if they didn‘t do it, what good is the
KIRIAKOU: Well, that‘s the thing, is you have to vet the information.
And in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the third prisoner who
was water-boarded, Nashiri, it turned out that the information they
provided was not true. They—they simply provided what they thought the
interrogator wanted to hear to stop the water-boarding.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about the classic case. Dershowitz --
what‘s his name, Dershowitz, Alan Dershowitz, a very smart lawyer up at
Harvard, has made the case—he‘s very tough on terrorism.
And he‘s made the case that in these—sort of 10-minutes-to-midnight
situation, like in “24” or something like that, where you know somebody‘s
got some information about a bomb that‘s about to go off and blow up the
Empire State Building or whatever, that it would work.
Do you believe it would work? Would you get the information from
somebody that would allow you to make the phone call, get somebody to stop
that from happening?
KIRIAKOU: I think the chance it would work is—was worth it in 2002.
For example, Osama bin Laden told us after September 11th that al Qaeda was
planning another attack that would be so spectacular, it would dwarf what
they did on September 11th. We had to take the man at his word. So when
we caught up with Zubaydah, we really believed he had that information.
The decision was made to water-board him, in order to save additional
MATTHEWS: What did we get out of the agency? What did we get out
of him? Did we find out there wasn‘t such a plot?
KIRIAKOU: It turned out that there was not such a plot.
MATTHEWS: It took 83 times to find out there wasn‘t such a plot?
KIRIAKOU: Well, who knows? Did the information come after the
MATTHEWS: Why would you keep doing the torture if you got
information that you thought was—
KIRIAKOU: Because I think people were panicked at the time, and
they just couldn‘t bring themselves to stop in case that information came
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at your book here, you‘ve got right
now. You write about Brian Ross, that interview you did back several years
ago. Quote, “what I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple of
counts. In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the
arts of deception even among its own.”
KIRIAKOU: I think that‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Meaning they didn‘t tell you.
KIRIAKOU: Meaning they didn‘t tell anybody at headquarters who
wasn‘t specifically read into a compartment, indicating they were water-
boarding him 83 times.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk morality here. It may not be relevant here,
but it is to a lot of us citizens. It may not be to agency people. First
of all, is it relevant to agency people? Do they make moral decisions?
KIRIAKOU: They have to make moral decisions every single day.
Agency people are trained to lie for a living. They lie to everybody.
They lie to convince people that those people are their best friends, to
the point where targets are willing to commit treason for a CIA case
officer. It‘s a part of the job.
So there‘s a certain morality to it. You have to be able to
separate lying for work, for the betterment of the country, and lying just
for the sake of lying.
MATTHEWS: How about the morality of torture?
KIRIAKOU: Absolutely. When I was—
MATTHEWS: What is the bottom line for most officers in the CIA? Do
they think it‘s wrong?
MATTHEWS: Do they think it‘s expedient?
MATTHEWS: You sound like you think it was expedient.
KIRIAKOU: I think in 2002, it was useful.
MATTHEWS: And you also say it would be useful in a ten minutes to
KIRIAKOU: It could be. This is the thing though, Chris, this is a
very gray issue. It‘s not black or white. Its an issue that intelligent,
well-informed people disagree on.
MATTHEWS: Should the president of United States authorize the use
of torture in fighting terrorism?
KIRIAKOU: I think no.
MATTHEWS: But you say it was necessary.
KIRIAKOU: I say in 2002 it was necessary.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not unique in this contest against the bad guys.
Similar situations, Zubaydahs in the future will be picked up.
KIRIAKOU: Listen, we‘ve had eight years, though, to improve
relations with foreign governments, who have sources inside al Qaeda or
other terrorist groups. We‘ve presumably had eight years to improve our
own capabilities against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
It‘s not 2002 any more. We had our chance in 2002. It‘s over.
We‘re supposed to be better at our jobs now.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line, was the intelligence service, especially the
CIA, pushed around by Dick Cheney to make the case for the war with Iraq?
KIRIAKOU: Absolutely. Absolutely. I come to that conclusion in
the book, too. Dick Cheney, the Office of the Vice President, the Office
of the Secretary of Defense, pushed faulty intelligence, fraudulent
intelligence, produced by Ahmed Chalabi and his --
MATTHEWS: Chalabi, that guy, that crook? He may be the next prime
minister. He‘s over there still trying to take over the country.
KIRIAKOU: He very well could. He sold the White House and the
Defense Department a bill of goods and it took us to war.
MATTHEWS: I love the way that Cheney goosed everybody over there
into saying stuff that isn‘t true, and then started using him as a source.
Kiriakou, thank you, John. It made my day. Anyway, thank you. Cheney,
again the problem.
Up next, free speech or hate speech; the Supreme Court will rule on
whether a group that says gay sex is the cause of war should be permitted
to protest out the funerals of America‘s fallen soldiers. In other words,
when your kid gets killed in a war, you have the special treat of having
one of these characters show up at the funeral.
Well it‘s a free society. But boy does this test it. This is
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, you think that was a tough fight over torture?
Wait until you get this one: should an anti-gay group, a group that
believes we have wars because of gay sex in this country, be allowed to
protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers? That‘s the question at the
heart of a Supreme Court case.
A father of a fallen Marine sued an anti-gay Kansas church group for
protesting at his son‘s funeral. The church group says that the deaths of
soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are God‘s punishment for America‘s
tolerance of homosexuality. And a federal appeals court dismissed the suit
against the group on First Amendment grounds.
Radio talk show host Michael Smerconish wrote about this case in his
column this week, and Melinda Henneberger is an editor in chief of
Michael, I usually read you as the man of common sense. You‘re a
lawyer, a trained lawyer. You practiced for many years. What do you make
of the reading of the Constitution which is so—what‘s the right word—
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first let me tell
you that the father that you just referenced, coincidentally, called me
while I was in the green room five minutes ago. And he said, be sure you
tell Chris Matthews just how ugly it was on the day that I buried my son.
Not 30 feet from the vehicle entrance of the church, they were holding a
placard that showed two guys involved in anal intercourse, having nothing
to do with my son giving his life in service to his country.
To answer your question, that same Constitution allows us to
regulate speech in certain cases. Think about obscenity, think about
fighting words, yelling “fire” in a movie theater, think about defamation,
Chris. So the First Amendment right is not absolute. And I would argue—
and I hope they‘re successful. I think it‘s a tough case. But I would
argue that they‘ve got the right to peaceably assemble to bury their son in
a private service.
MATTHEWS: You know, the issue of free speech and what constitutes
protected speech—I know when you talk about burning the flag, for
example, I think Clarence Thomas, a man of the right, doesn‘t think that
should be protected, because it‘s inciteful. It has a whole history. Not
burning the flag. I‘m sorry, burning crosses, which is the whole historic
way of white southerners, when they used to really repress black people.
They used that as a tool. And he argued that isn‘t speech. It‘s something
else. It‘s much more violent.
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well, this is so far
outside the bounds of human decency. I won‘t claim to be a First Amendment
scholar. I think probably they do have the right to assemble somewhere
nearby. But the political effect has got to be that this is so despicable
a thing to do, to disrespect the family at the time of loss, the family of
our war dead, that I think that is only going to create even more sympathy
for gay rights groups, by showing people who oppose that to look like
haters, to look like people with no compassion or empathy at all, with no
So I don‘t know the law. I would suspect that they both have
protections. The family has the right to worship and to have this funeral
in private. But I think the protesters probably somewhere nearby have the
right to express themselves as well.
MATTHEWS: Who are these people, Michael? I mean, you saw the sign,
“Fag-Nation” there. You see the hatred behind that sign. You see these
people. I mean, I don‘t want to jump to conclusions. But it seems to me
they have their own problems, I mean real problems. That they would travel
any distance to hurt a family that has just lost someone who has fought and
died for their country, in a manner that has nothing to do with your
attitudes about sexuality or tolerance or anything else—nothing to do
with it. Here the young man whose funeral it was. I just wonder, who are
SMERCONISH: It‘s Rod Surling kind of stuff. Chris, it‘s Rod
Surling kind of stuff. I mean, this is off the charts. These are people -
according to the father—he just said to me, you know, another point
that needs to be made is the connection that they draw between September
11th and our society, in their view, becoming too permissive of same-sex
relationships and homosexual rights.
In other words, by the illogic of this group, bin Laden orchestrated
the flying of the airplanes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon and
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, because God had somehow intervened, because the
United States is too permissive of homosexual rights. What else do I need
to tell you?
MATTHEWS: So OK. I actually have to tell you, I‘m usually able to
say something about everything. I don‘t know what to say about these
people. Michael, I congratulate you on your column and the fact that you
come out against this. I sympathize with the father of the fallen. The
gold-star mothers that have to put up with this in addition to losing—
it‘s unimaginable to lose a child. It‘s unimaginable to lose a child.
It‘s unimaginable to have them—I guess if they‘re going to die young and
die for their country, it‘s unimaginable, the whole thing, in terms of
dealing with it ahead of time, and dealing with it afterwards, and worrying
with them when they‘re in service overseeing and sweating that out, and
then getting the bad news, and then finding out they have to go through all
this, and live with it all their lives.
Then to have these evil people claim that God‘s on their side when
they show up. I don‘t know what to say. Do they hate gay lifestyle or gay
behavior that much they would hurt someone else?
HENNEBERGER: It‘s such a minority view among Christians. It‘s such
a fringe group that it can only hurt other groups that oppose gay rights.
I mean, I think—
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m not—Let‘s think about this on terms of law
enforcement, Michael, without using anything we can be blamed for. I think
you have to be, if you‘re one of those group—somebody has to look upon
this as something that‘s simply endangering the public peace. Forget the
speech part of it. This is endangering the peace. This is not going to go
peaceably, this kind of behavior.
SMERCONISH: It‘s hate speech. Chris, we differentiate in this
country between someone who is a graffiti artist and someone who spray
paints a Swastika on the side of a temple. We recognize hate speech in
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Melinda Henneberger, thank you, as always.
It‘s a difficult topic. Michael, congratulations on knowing the right
When we return, I‘ll have some thoughts about General David
Petraeus, who today said it‘s time to reconsider—to really consider
repealing the military‘s Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell rule. You‘re watching
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with evidence that things change in
this country and in the progressive direction. Today, General David
Petraeus said the time has come to consider a change to Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell in the US military. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has previously
told us on the Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon is already taking
the first steps toward repealing the rule, allowing men and women to serve
in the armed services without having to mask sexual orientation.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, has
endorsed repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, as has General Colin Powell, who
could well be the most respected leader in the country.
I like the way Admiral Mullen puts it. He said the issue comes down
to one of integrity. People shouldn‘t be ask to say, as a condition for
serving their country, something about themselves they know is not true.
That‘s no way to start your service, especially in standing up to our
So times change. As I said, as is so often the case, in the
progressive direction. This question of whether a gay person can serve his
or her country in harm‘s way has, to those who know the military life
firsthand, never really been the issue. People have served in the
military, been in combat, know that gay people have served with them, know
that they chose to risk their lives, know they faced the same tests of
courage that all fighting people must.
The issue has never been whether to allow this service, this
courage, this sacrifice to be openly accepted. That is the issue. To be
recognized as just as valuable to our country as in other. It‘s powerful
to watch how minds and hearts change on such a matter.
It could be that we‘re watching common sense come to bear, or the
human experience of seeing that sexual orientation is no guide to guts. Or
it could be that there is in this country a growing empathy for people who
are born different in one way, but who love our country just the same, and
want to serve exactly as much as those gallant others we have recognized
over the past two centuries as our greatest heroes, the best of our
As I said before, one of the great things about America has been
this consistent pattern of ours to become a better America, ever more ready
to extend freedom and respect and, in this sensitive matter, our shared
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Catch us again
tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. It‘s St. Patrick‘s day tomorrow.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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