Guests: Michael Isikoff, Julia Boorstin, Joe Wilson, Tom DeFrank, David Corn, Anthony Weiner, Zach Wamp, Chris Cillizza, Bob Kabel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bush‘s exit strategy.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Bushed. Ambassador Joseph Wilson blew the whistle on the bogus intel that the Bush people used to push the war with Iraq. A new movie, “Fair Game,” tells the story of what happened to him and his wife, Valerie, directly thereafter. Is this what you get when you stand up for truth against the White House operatives, war hawks, neo-cons and political hacks who gleefully beat the drum for war with Iraq?
Our top guest tonight, Joe Wilson himself to talk about the former president who‘s out there now defending his war and his self-described “sickening feeling” when he learned that those nuclear weapons did not exist, the ones he swore were there, the ones he used to sell the war. Also aboard tonight and right up front, investigative reporter Mike Isikoff, who reports that Bush didn‘t so much as burp when he heard those weapons weren‘t there.
And will Democrats stick with Nancy Pelosi and her team as their leaders when their party slips into the minority, or will there be a Democratic mutiny? The fight over who‘s in charge in the House tonight.
There‘s also a leadership fight be among Republicans, some of whom want to replace Michael Steele and find someone else to take the reins of the party, despite the fact they kept winning under Steele.
And a look at Hillary Clinton that might make—well, let‘s put it this way. Had you seen this Hillary Clinton back in 2008, I think a lot of people would have made her president. We‘re going to show you a taste right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your role now as secretary of state, you—you know, you have such high-level meetings. Have you ever said the phrase, “You‘ve just made a very powerful enemy”?
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: No, but I‘ve thought it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Much more of that in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
Let‘s start with ambassador Joe Wilson. He joins us from Santa FE, New Mexico. And also with us, an MSNBC News—well, our top investigative reporter, Michael Isikoff.
Joe Wilson, Ambassador Wilson, thank you for joining us. I saw the film last night. It was inspired. It is a great film. I‘m going to talk about it later tonight. I thought it was so well scripted, so well acted by Naomi Watts, perfect as your wife. I thought Sean Penn, my friend, was you. I tell you, those people were great.
Let me show right now something much more important, that‘s the issues behind the film. On WMD, the president is writing is now, quote, “No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn‘t find the weapons. I had this sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.”
What‘s your reaction to hearing the president say that, Ambassador Wilson?
JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, I think Mike Isikoff, who has reported on this for more extensively than I do, probably has a better take. But it was very clear to me and also to Valerie—it has been for a long time—that whether there were weapons of mass destruction or not, that was not the rationale for going to war. That was the excuse they used to mobilize support.
They wanted to go to war because—for whatever reason they wanted, whether it was to redo the politics of the Middle East, as Bill Kristol has said publicly, or to bring democracy to the Middle East or to overthrow Saddam, whatever it is, it had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction.
I was in Europe at the military command when we were doing the no-fly zone over the north. At that time, our generals were saying—this was in the mid-‘90s—that it wasn‘t worth the amount of time and money we were spending on it because there was no threat coming from there. That threat level didn‘t change from that time until the time we went to war.
MATTHEWS: Right. Mr. Ambassador, that is my view entirely. But you‘re the reporter on this case. What did the president do when he heard there was no weapons? Did he act as if that wasn‘t the reason he went to war because it wasn‘t all that important to him? How‘d he act?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Look, that—that
quote, which is probably the biggest news bite in the book, did leap out at me because David Corn and I reported on this when we wrote the book “Hubris,” and I think you‘ve got the quote, but—
ISIKOFF: -- David Kay, who was—
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is, David Kay, weapons inspector David Kay, describes the meeting in which he told President Bush about WMDs not being there. Quote, “There was no sign of disappointment from Bush. He was at peace with his decision to go war. I don‘t think he ever lost 10 minutes of sleep over the failure to find WMDs.”
So this book is not an honest recounting of what happened.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t—Ambassador Wilson says he didn‘t go to war over the WMD, so he wasn‘t shocked that they weren‘t there. Your reporting?
ISIKOFF: All right, just to flesh out that quote, that comes from a passage in “Hubris” when we‘re describing David Kay briefing Bush for the first time in July of 2003. The guy, David Kay, had been sent there to find the WMD, and he‘s for the first time telling Bush, I don‘t think we‘re going to find what you told the country we‘re going to find. He‘s trying to be gentle about it, but he‘s being complete. And he says—
MATTHEWS: And it didn‘t really bother Bush.
ISIKOFF: It leapt out at David Kay that Bush hardly reacted at all.
He showed not—
ISIKOFF: -- the least bit of concern. He—we—
MATTHEWS: -- Ambassador Wilson says that this was really a sales pitch, it wasn‘t the real reason for the war.
Let‘s take a look at a clip from the film, as I said, a fine film, whatever your view of the war. Though if you were against the war and were suspicious about the reasons given for fighting it, you will particularly enjoy the way it‘s laid out. Here is a—a clip from the film, “Fair Game,” where Valerie Plame—this is the part where she learns she‘s been outed as a CIA agent. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAOMI WATTS, “FAIR GAME”: “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife is”—
SEAN PENN, “FAIR GAME”: “Is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” He just went ahead and did it.
WATTS: Did this run overseas?
PENN: It‘s in the newspaper, Valerie. It‘s on the—
WATTS: No, no, that column. Does he—is he syndicated overseas?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the number of people that had a hand in outing her, you could argue in terms of reporting to the press, were, as you know, Michael—you are one of the reporters that knows all about this—
Fleischer said something to Pincus. Rove said something to Novak. Libby said something to Judy Miller. Everybody—and of course, Armitage said something to Novak and Woodward. So there were a lot of people out there talking.
ISIKOFF: Right. Yes, I mean, it was, it was—look, Dick Armitage at the State Department was the first one to disclose Valerie Plame‘s name to Novak, but the White House jumped on it very quickly on their own. Before Novak wrote his column, Rove was confirming it to Novak. And Ari Fleischer got out there and called Walter Pincus out of the blue and dumped this information on him. So there was definitely—and Judy Miller got it from Scooter Libby. So there was definitely a White House effort to use this information for whatever—
MATTHEWS: To destroy Joe Wilson‘s wife.
ISIKOFF: To discredit, to try to discredit (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Ambassador Wilson, your view watching the film and putting it all together, what‘s the historic importance of this to the country? I mean, 20 years from now, a kid in high school, a boy or a girl, trying to understand how we got to war with Iraq, a country that never attacked us, after we‘d been attacked by al Qaeda, which had been comprised basically of thugs from Saudi Arabia and some sharpies from around the world, but nobody from Iraq—how do you explain we went to war with Iraq?
WILSON: Well, I think you‘ve asked two questions. One is about the film, which I think is a timeless story of power, the abuse of power and how one stands up to limit power. And it goes back to the time of the drafters of the Constitution, at least in our country, when power and what to do with it was the central question and led—
WILSON: -- to separation of powers, led to co-equal branches of government, and the enshrining of the 1st Amendment.
With respect to the war in Iraq, I think it‘s very clear, and I think in the president‘s own memoir it becomes very clear that they were absolutely committed to overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and any—any piece of spaghetti they could get to stick up against a wall, they were going to use to justify it.
And the easy case to make that everybody—that was going to put the fear of God into everybody was this whole idea that we could not afford to wait for a mushroom cloud to come—or smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud. And that is the whole nuclear case, all of which was built on—on—out of whole cloth. And I think you see that in the movie in both the yellowcake story and in the aluminum tube story—
WILSON: -- which Valerie was involved in.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s some more of the president in his book. Quote, “Inaction would have had consequences to imagine—too. Imagine what the world would look like today with Saddam Hussein still ruling Iraq. The chance of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists would have increased. Instead, as a result of our actions in Iraq, one of America‘s most committed and dangerous enemies stopped threatening us”—
Well, the weapons he described—chemical, biological, nuclear—hadn‘t fallen into the hands of Saddam Hussein yet. I mean, this is—this is the outrageous part of this. Sure, we have to worry about weapons all over the world. I‘m worried about former members of the Soviet Union, those engineers over there that actually have weapons. They exist—about one of those guys selling one. I worry about people in al Qaeda who have money and educations that are floating all around the world that could do this kind of thing.
ISIKOFF: Well, look, Saddam did have a chemical and biological weapons program years earlier—
MATTHEWS: Right. That‘s in the movie.
ISIKOFF: -- and it was—and it was discontinued, you know, during -
in the early to mid-1990s and never resumed. The concern—and talk about evidence that was fabricated—the idea that Saddam was transferring weapons or sharing chemical and biological weapons with al Qaeda terrorists -- that ranks right up there with the nuclear program—
ISIKOFF: -- as something that was based on the flimsiest—
MATTHEWS: The meeting in Prague—
ISIKOFF: -- intelligence reports—
MATTHEWS: -- that never happened.
ISIKOFF: That—yes. That was—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take another look—
ISIKOFF: -- never substantiated.
MATTHEWS: Michael, let‘s take another look at the movie and then we‘re going to quit this because I think this is—this is an attempt by President Bush now in this new book to try to play the game that he really cared about weapons of mass destruction, that that was really the reason we went to war in Iraq, and he was so flabbergasted when he heard there weren‘t any weapons (INAUDIBLE) pointed out because of evidence there from David Kay, he was never flabbergasted. He was never disappointed because by all evidence—and as Ambassador Wilson just said—that‘s not the reason we went to war in Iraq. It wasn‘t the weapons of mass destruction. And in fact, he read during the time—anybody who followed this story, that was the sales pitch to Europe, to try to them to get in our side. That‘s why we ended up with the “coalition of the willing” because Europe looked at us and thought we were nuts.
In this clip, by the way—let‘s take a look at Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts. She‘s fabulous in this—after she‘s left the CIA. Let‘s watch this great scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATTS: I went to the agency and I requested security to protect my family. I was declined because, quote, “my circumstances fall outside budget protocol.” If this is a knife fight, sir, right now, we‘re fighting it alone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Wilson versus the White House, huh? But I feel as a friend I should tell you that those men, those few men in that building over there, are the most powerful men in the history of the world. How much of a stretch do you think it would be for them to take on Joe Wilson? Joe is out there on his own, Valerie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ambassador Wilson, I watched that movie. I was so stirred by it last night with my wife and my son. And I have to tell you that I did think, going back over the minor part I had in covering this and being involved to a very slight extent, trying to figure out exactly what it was like to be on your side of this thing, to know that you had the White House, the smartest people in the political caravan of the president, spending day and night figuring how to screw you. What did that feel like?
WILSON: Well, yes, it was all about survival. I don‘t—I frankly don‘t know how else one should respond. I suppose you‘d go underground. But it was very clear as you hear from the movie, one of the quotes was, “We‘re moving earth movers over Joe Wilson.” So it was very clear what they were doing, and it was either—either fight or flee, I suppose. And at the end of the day, if you don‘t have your reputation, you have nothing. So you might as well fight for it.
But I really think that if I was to sort of offer a lesson out of this movie, it really is that if Joe Wilson can stand up to power, then anybody can. And it doesn‘t have to be at the federal level. But it‘s what makes our republic strong is the willingness of its citizens to stand up and be counted and to hold their government to account. And you know, I‘ve been saying that now nor several years. The one group that seems to have taken notice and done that, of course, is the Tea Party movement.
MATTHEWS: You know what? I have to say that after watching the movie, I‘m not inspired to join the Tea Party. But I have to wonder if my daughter or my sons or anybody their age, in their 20s now, must be inspired to join the CIA and say, Here‘s a way to fight for your country under very frightening conditions. The heroic portrayal of your wife in that film—and maybe the movie did make some—some—some what do you call them—they built it up a bit beyond her role in terms of going around the world. I don‘t know. But the role that she played in that film was so stirring and so patriotic and so gutsy, I can‘t imagine any young woman walking out of that theater who has American blood in her veins not wanting to be one of the people like her.
Anyway, thank you. Congratulations on being married to Valerie Plame. What a part in life you‘ve got to play, sir! Thank you. And hell of a movie here.
WILSON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: A hell of a movie and a hell of a person that Naomi Watts plays so wonderfully.
Up next—coming up next—much—thank you, Michael, as always. You broke the story, as always. You broke every story I‘ve been living through my whole life, my friend!
Former President Bush from his book and his big interview with Matt Lauer, let‘s crack this case. Let‘s talk about the book. Well, it‘s the Bush exit strategy, and I guess it‘s the book. We‘ll get to his answers on the dark spots of his presidency—Katrina, torture, the collapse on Wall Street all on his watch. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Forget the idea that a senator like Joe Manchin of West Virginia is planning to switch parties. Fox News and the others on the right speculated that Manchin could jump ship and become a Republican after winning a close race in which he ran away from President Obama and Washington on many issues. But Manchin‘s spokesman says the popular governor is a lifelong Democrat and he‘s not switching.
HARDBALL back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m comfortable knowing that I gave it my all, that I love America, and that—and I know it was an honor to serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That‘s former president George W. Bush has kicked off, of course, his campaign to sell his presidential legacy with his new memoir, “Decision Points.” He‘s done a series of TV interviews, of course, and he attempts to explain in some of them the controversial elements that still hang over his presidency, including the realization that there were on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Here‘s what he told Matt Lauer of NBC about that discovery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, “TODAY”: “No one was more sickened or angry than I was when we didn‘t find weapons of mass destruction.” You still have a sickening feeling—
BUSH: I do.
LAUER: -- when you think about it.
BUSH: I do.
LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?
BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was the wrong decision, and I don‘t believe it was the wrong decision.
LAUER: If you knew then what you know now—
BUSH: That‘s right.
LAUER: -- you would still go to war in Iraq.
BUSH: I, first of all, didn‘t have that luxury. You just don‘t have the luxury when you‘re president. You know, I will say definitely the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power, as are 25 million people who now have a chance to live in freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, despite the little smile crinkling across his face there, that‘s not true because the Congress would have never approved the war if all he had said was, I‘m going to go over there and knock off a dictator I don‘t like. He needed the WMD argument. He needed the threat of mushroom cloud.
Tom DeFrank‘s the Washington bureau chief for “The New York Daily News,” and of course, David Corn is the White House bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and a contributor to PoliticsDaily.com, and most importantly in this regard, the author of the book “Hubris” about the whole effort to build up that WMD.
Tom DeFrank, we‘re looking at the president of the United States out on a rebuilding campaign. He‘s rebuilding his image. He‘s building the case now that the war of Iraq made sense, even though there was no WMD. And the proof of the pudding was that he was sickened in his stomach when he found out there wasn‘t any. But we have the evidence from people who were there in the room that he showed no signs of disappointment.
TOM DEFRANK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, even, Chris, on background, when you talk to White House officials at the time, nobody ever suggested to reporters that the president was remorseful or angry. There are lots of times when Ari Fleischer and others would say, He‘s angry about this or this didn‘t work out and they‘d talk about his emotion. But on this one, there was nothing that suggested what the president said in that interview.
MATTHEWS: Does that square with your reporting, David, that the president never made even a pretense that he had an emotional upset or breakdown or anything, as I said earlier, so much as a burp, when he found out the weapons weren‘t there because they were always the sales piece, and once we got into war, they didn‘t really matter. We were there.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: There‘s no public evidence, none of the reporting that Mike Isikoff and I did or any of the other great books on the time period in which Bush got angry, said anything publicly, privately about this. And while he‘s rewriting those days, he‘s also engaging in a whole ‘nother spin operation now. He‘s gone on—on the interview with Matt, in an interview with Oprah today. He has said that, well, we had to take Saddam Hussein out. It was good we took him out because Saddam had a capacity to build WMDs.
CORN: Not that he had them. He had a capacity.
Well, his own inspectors—Charles Duelfer led the Iraq Survey Group that went in after the invasion. And they produced a report in 2004 saying there was nothing, no capacity, that Saddam Hussein had shut—and Iraq had shut everything down years earlier.
So Saddam was in no position to pursue, develop, create, produce any sort of weapons of mass destruction. So, he‘s still trying to make the case that there was a WMD argument for the war because Saddam could have developed these and could have --
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, here he is out late this afternoon on “Oprah.” Let‘s take a look at him on “Oprah” here talking about how he was still right, whether we should have gone to war if he knew there was no weapons of mass destruction. He‘s still making a case. Check out this exchange. It‘s with Oprah. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And when we didn‘t find weapons, I felt terrible about it and sick about it and still do, because a lot of the case in removing Saddam Hussein was based upon weapons of mass destruction.
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”: Right. We wouldn‘t have gone to war had there not been a case for weapons of mass destruction.
BUSH: Well, he was a threat. The interesting thing that happened after he was removed is they sent—we had a team of inspectors go in, who reported that he was equally dangerous. We may not have found the vials, but he had the capacity to make weapons.
OPRAH: But yet you would not have made the decision?
BUSH: Well, I don‘t think—that‘s a question I cannot answer, because I didn‘t have that luxury. In other words, the decision I made was based upon what everybody thought was solid intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is screwy, David.
Let‘s back get to reality, because there‘s such a shell game going on here. Oprah Winfrey asks a very smart question. What would—have done if you didn‘t have the nuclear weapons, they weren‘t there? Then he switches to there were vials, which has something to do with biological. And then he never quite answers her when she says—she said it just right, I think, when she said, you didn‘t have the case. If you didn‘t have the case, you couldn‘t have had the war, but you had a case that seemed real, and that‘s how you sold the war.
It turns out it wasn‘t real, so there was no real moral case to go to war, in fact, which is the key to this whole war argument. It wasn‘t fact. It was fiction. And when he realized it was fiction or his whole game was overturned, it didn‘t bother him because he always knew it was fiction, because he had another reason to go to war. This is what gets you—well, people like me so passionate, because it‘s murky as hell why we did go to war.
My question to you.
CORN: Well, Chris, this is false with a capital F. He said that the inspectors went in and found that he was equally threatening.
No, they didn‘t. Does he not know? Did he not read the report? Did he not read “The Washington Post,” “New York Times” stories at the time? I wrote about this yesterday, and I‘m happy to put up a link in my Twitter feed so people can see the evidence.
What he‘s saying is 100 percent wrong. And he‘s getting away with it, at least to the degree that he‘s creating this spin story that, well, Saddam still posed something of a threat, even if we didn‘t find those WMDs.
He posed no threat. And at the time, there was a debate. There were
a lot of analysts who said he wasn‘t the WMD threat—this is at the time
that the administration was making out to be.
And the thing that he leaves out in all of this is, at the time, there were inspectors in Iraq. They were coming up with answers that there were no WMDs. And the process was ongoing. So, if he really cared at the time, he could have kept that process going and we would have gotten—finally found the answer that we know now, that there was nothing, no capacity. It was kaput. He‘s just making things up.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s remember something else. The enormous amount of manpower and supplies and cost that went into trying to find the WMD, when we could have been doing other things when we got into this country, like winning the hearts and minds and helping to build a government.
Instead, we deployed enormous resources, so that he could prove he was right, only to find out he was wrong. And then he says, well, nice try, or whatever. He didn‘t say anything.
DEFRANK: No, Chris, this is Bush trying to take his best shot with history. As his father might say, this dog won‘t hunt. But you can‘t—
MATTHEWS: Oprah is not buying it.
DEFRANK: Yes, but you can‘t begrudge him, because this is what presidents do.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MATTHEWS: I know. And it‘s not just about him. It‘s about our history. And we broke with our history of not being the aggressor in this case.
And you can argue it‘s old-time thinking, but we used to say the aggressors were the bad guys. The ones who invaded were the bad guys. The ones who defended were the good guys. Well, nobody‘s going to say Saddam is a good guy.
But invading other countries because we think they might, could have, should have some day, some day be a problem, that is not a justification for war.
Here‘s President Bush again—quote—“Dick”—of course, there‘s only one of those—“gave a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Controversy in which he said—quote -- ‘A return of inspectors would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box.‘ That made it sound like my decision had been made. But I was still considering my options. I asked Condi”—that‘s Condi Rice—“to make clear to Dick that he had gotten out in front of my position.”
Now, not to go after Dick Cheney here again, but the question is, the president seems to be offering up Dick Cheney as the super-hawk, the one who was out front, if you will, here, and it was just him following along in this case.
Why is he doing this?
DEFRANK: Well, because—I don‘t know. It diminishes President Bush to make that argument.
But it also—it—the dirty little secret of the last couple of years of the Bush administration was that there was distance between Bush and Cheney.
MATTHEWS: Yes. He downgraded him, didn‘t he?
DEFRANK: He did, indeed, and not publicly, but privately.
MATTHEWS: And why did he downgrade him?
MATTHEWS: Because he felt he had been given a bum steer.
DEFRANK: He felt like that he—that Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld had given him bad advice on Iraq.
DEFRANK: And, also, he felt like that, maybe, while their agenda coincided with his for the most part, sometimes, their agenda was—
MATTHEWS: I want to make a point here. George Bush Sr. picked Dan Quayle. And he wrote in his diary: I made a terrible mistake, but I can‘t admit it.
Maybe George W. should have said: I made a terrible mistake about the war in Iraq, buying Cheney‘s argument. I should have—but I can‘t admit it.
Because I think that‘s what we‘re hearing here. Your thoughts.
CORN: It seems really clear right now that what he‘s trying to do is portray himself as the guy who dealt with a hard problem, thought about it long and hard, and finally erred on the side of being more cautious than not.
But our book “Hubris” that I did with Mike Isikoff opens months before that Cheney speech, in which Bush is saying—Bush is telling Ari Fleischer: I am going to kick Saddam Hussein‘s mother-bleeping backside all over Iraq.
MATTHEWS: The guy was in over his head. Let‘s move on. He‘s in over his head. That‘s the real problem here. He‘s surrounded by ideologues that thought more about the Middle East than he ever thought about it for five minutes. He didn‘t understand all the various motives. He didn‘t even have a motive himself, except maybe the old man. They tried to kill him.
I wish somebody would do—maybe you got to put this guy in a lie-detector. I don‘t think you would find, sodium pentathol, he doesn‘t know why he went to war.
Anyway, thank you, Tom DeFrank.
Thank you, David Corn.
Up next: the lighter side.
I‘m serious. I don‘t know why I‘m being sarcastic. This is fabulous.
Wait until you see Hillary Clinton down there with these funny comedians. I think they‘re Brits, but they‘re in Australia interviewing her. This Hillary Clinton is one you get to see once in a while. I say if you had seen more of this, history might have been different.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
Tonight, we have got something for you that is really different. The interview you‘re about to see was conducted by a pair of Australian comedians. Their guest is the American secretary of state, our own Hillary Clinton.
For those of you who haven‘t seen this side of her, this will be a real eye-opener, maybe even a wow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start with a gift. It‘s potato chips or crisps.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s potato chips—or crisps, I think—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a flavor that the people of Australia invented. It‘s the gravy chip.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am thrilled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you should be, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: I cannot tell you how much this means to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a collector of chips? Is this your first
CLINTON: I am an eater of chips.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We recommend not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not those.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use by—well, it was use by two years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you try to eat them, technically that‘s an assassination attempt by us.
CLINTON: Shall I wait until I am out of Australian airspace?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your role great negotiation skills. Your husband also possesses those qualities. When you two can‘t agree on what to get for takeaway dinner, who wins out in that type of negotiation?
CLINTON: You know, we practice different models of negotiation around important issues like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CLINTON: If I were to say to him, what shall we have for dinner tonight, if he says to me, oh, I don‘t care, you choose, I know that‘s a really bad answer.
CLINTON: Because then I‘m stuck with the responsibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CLINTON: So I will come back and I will say, all right. Well, so how do you feel about Chinese—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, good.
CLINTON: -- or Mexican or Italian?
And if he says a second time, you know, I really, really don‘t care—then I will go choose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to make sure people don‘t know that overhear half of the conversation, because you‘ve got former a president talking to the current secretary of state, how do you feel about Chinese, Mexican?
CLINTON: Right. Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know. I don‘t really like Chinese.
CLINTON: Yes. No, no, no, that‘s right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That could be catastrophic.
CLINTON: Well, that‘s why we have our rooms swept every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your role now as secretary of state, you have such high-level meetings. Have you ever said the phrase, you have just made a very powerful enemy?
CLINTON: No, but I have thought it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. I don‘t know the political significance of all that. What I do have a strong sense of is this. Had more people seen that side of the former first lady and senator from New York, history might have gone down differently back in 2008.
Up next: Take me to your leaders. After last week‘s drubbing, should the Democrats keep Nancy Pelosi and her team as their leaders in the House of Representatives? That‘s a good question. It always is. The knives are out. They usually are.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A significant sell-off accelerating towards the close, the Dow Jones industrials tumbling at 60 points, the S&P falling almost 10 points, and the Nasdaq giving up 17 points.
We‘re seeing that correlation between the dollar and stocks again today, the dollar up about 1 percent against a basket of foreign currencies. Meanwhile, gold prices hitting another record before falling ahead of the close, moving in an astounding $35 range in today‘s session.
Financials were the biggest drag on the market. Bank of America giving back 2.5 percent after a solid run-up last week. In M&A news, Yahoo! shares surged 3 percent on a rumor it could be a target of a buyout bid from a group of private investors. Chevron shares are down slightly on plans to buy natural gas producer Atlas Energy for $4.3 billion.
And Sara Lee has agreed to sell its North American bakery business to Grupo Bimbo for $959 million.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Altmire, would you think that Nancy Pelosi would make a great leader for the Democrats in the next Congress?
REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I don‘t. I represent Middle America. You know Pennsylvania well, Chris. And if you look at the results in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, that‘s Middle America. That‘s the Industrial Midwest.
And we didn‘t fare so well last Tuesday. And I do think it‘s time for a change in direction. If you gauge effectiveness by a willingness to push forward legislation that‘s not popular with the American people and have literally multiple dozens of members cast politically suicidal votes, then, yes, Speaker Pelosi was effective.
But I don‘t think that‘s the direction we want to keep going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire on HARDBALL Monday. That‘s yesterday. It looks like Speaker Pelosi will stay on as the House Democratic leader without a formal challenge so far. The fight is for the number-two spot between Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn. But no matter who wins, is it good for Democrats to move forward with the same team?
And that‘s my question to Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Sir, is it smart to stay with the same team after you have been battered?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, it is the same team that took us from the wilderness of the minority in 2006 and 2008 and built a winning coalition.
Look, she was a speaker that was—
MATTHEWS: But you lost all the seats you won in 2006 and 2008, and more.
WEINER: Yes, but she did—yes, but you can make a list as long as your arm about why that would happen.
It certainly isn‘t because our speaker did the bidding of the caucus and passed health care reform, financial regulation, and help bail out the economy.
Look, the speaker acts on behalf of the body. And, overwhelmingly, Democrats were saying we want to try to solve these problems. I mean, of all the people that deserve blame here, I think Nancy is the last of them. The president didn‘t do a good job. The health care took too long. The Senate jacked us up more times than I can imagine.
WEINER: It certainly wasn‘t Nancy Pelosi.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are the Republicans jumping on her everywhere? Even in Philly, when I went home a couple weekends ago, all it was, was ads attacking—Republican ads or outside ads attacking Pelosi.
Even against candidates who were not even incumbents, they were blaming—blaming her—or blaming them for her. What do you make of this target practice on her? What is it all about?
WEINER: It‘s about what it always is.
Speakers get caricatured, your former boss Tip O‘Neill the same exact way, Newt Gingrich. It kind of goes with the territory.
WEINER: But the one thing we don‘t want to let happen is, we don‘t want to let the Republicans choose our leadership.
Yes, they may say that they‘re going to target her. And you watch. I mean, we‘re going to go after John Boehner. He‘s going to be the face of an unpopular Republican majority for the next couple of years. That‘s just the way it goes.
WEINER: But if you want to think about you and I would be sitting here a year ago saying that she was the most powerful speaker since Sam Rayburn. And I think that‘s still true today, as minority leader.
MATTHEWS: I think, if you ask my political analysis, Congressman, I think she‘s been the strongest speaker I can think of in terms of internal discipline. I‘ve never seen this kind of discipline by a party, a Democratic Party in my lifetime.
Let‘s take a look at this comment by Michael Capuano up in the “Boston Globe,” quote, ‘If the Red Sox came in and lost every game of the year and they keep the manager at the end of the year, that‘s a problem. That‘s what we seem to be on the verge of doing. The thing that amazes”—this is Capuano—“is the hubris that no one has stepped aside voluntarily.
Now, Michael Capuano is a progressive. He‘s a liberal, the old school. He‘s got Tip O‘Neill‘s old seat, Cambridge and surrounding areas. He‘s not one of these Southern guys. What do you think he‘s speaking out?
WEINER: Well, first of all, Michael Capuano is one of the smartest guys in the House and he‘d make a great speaker at some point as well. But, look, there is this sense that Nancy does have the opportunity, that she should have an opportunity to decide what the terms are that she leaves on.
But I just want to make sure it‘s very clear and I don‘t think Mike Capuano would say this either, to say that litany of losses was because of Nancy Pelosi, you could put anyone in that speaker‘s chair, if they had to deal with the tough hand that she had to deal with these past two years, she‘d get roughed up pretty good, too.
And I have to tell you something: she did the will of not only the Congress, but a lot of members of the American people who say the things that were necessary.
MATTHEWS: OK. One last question, yes or no. Is she staying primarily to keep Steny Hoyer out of that leadership?
WEINER: No, I don‘t believe that‘s the motivation.
MATTHEWS: --but you don‘t believe that‘s the real—if she had somebody that she‘d like, would she get out of the way?
WEINER: She‘s trying to box out Weiner. It‘s pretty clear.
MATTHEWS: You‘re—this is dodging.
WEINER: I‘m sorry. I don‘t want to dodge your question.
MATTHEWS: You know, the inside, is it primarily she doesn‘t think Steny Hoyer should be the Democratic leader of the House? Is that primarily why she‘s hanging in there?
WEINER: No, I don‘t believe that. I believe that she knows the path getting back to being the speaker. I believe she thinks she can do it and I think she can, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, sir. Thank you for joining us, Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Let‘s go now to Republican Zach Wamp of Tennessee.
Congressman Wamp, let me ask you about this whole question. You‘ve got a colleague down there, Spencer Bachus of Alabama who says that Sarah Palin cost you guys the Senate. Quote, “The Senate would be Republican today except for states in which Palin endorsed candidates like Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware. Sarah Palin costs us control of the Senate.”
Is that an honest, solid charge by your lights?
REP. ZACH WAMP ®, TENNESSEE: Well, normally, House members don‘t comment on what the Senate ends up like. So, I think that‘s—
MATTHEWS: He did.
WAMP: Yes, I know he did, but I don‘t really think it speaks for other House members. And certainly, Sarah Palin picked like 70 percent winners and I, obviously, don‘t think that‘s the case anymore than you could say Jim DeMint did and I don‘t think that‘s the case. Obviously, it was a big cycle.
MATTHEWS: Do you think she would be a great president?
WAMP: Well, she is like Newt Gingrich. She‘s got an unbelievable base. She‘s electric. But I don‘t think either one will ever be president.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about this woman, Kristi Noem. Let‘s take a look at her ad. This is a woman who there‘s a lot of talk, in fact, she wants it. She‘s from South Dakota, out west. She would like to be—even though she‘s just got elected to become a member of your party‘s leadership, I want to know if you think somebody of the Tea Party crowd should essentially be a member of the leadership, so Tea Party people be represented in the leadership of your party, to bring in so many members of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTI NOEM ®, SOUTH DAKOTA: Here on the ranch in South Dakota, we don‘t take a lot of polls or hold many caucuses. We do what needs to be done. That‘s what I‘ll do in Washington. Unlike my opponent, I‘ll vote to lower the national debt, vote against wasteful spending, repeal government-mandated health care and work every day to create jobs. Oh, and one more thing, my first vote won‘t be to make Nancy Pelosi speaker.
I‘m Kristi Noem, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what do you think of Kristi Noem? The new look of the Republican Party?
WAMP: Well, this is an eclectic class and I came in an eclectic class in 1994. But we need to remember ,Chris, that 13 members of my class lost two years later. And just based on the sheer size, you can look for the same kind of thing, but I think that some of these members may actually lose to Republicans because of redistricting, because the communities really got involved in taking out incumbents this year.
But these guys are going to have to get together. It‘s going to be an interesting thing. The Tea Party will pull our party to the right like the progressive pulled the Democratic Party to the left, but the country is still right of center. So, really, the country has a way of bringing everyone back to where they are.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Is the country—let me ask you about Michael Steele, speaking of the country. He‘s had a pretty good winning streak starting with New Jersey and Virginia and in, of course, to this past week. He‘s got a heck—if you give him credit as party chair for just the most amazing streak starting when he took over, a lot of pressure. He‘s almost like Joe Biden. He gets hit a lot for comments he makes not for success, one way or the other.
Do you think he should get re-elected as chairman of your party?
WAMP: He‘s been exciting. He‘s been electric. That‘s going to be up to the Republican National Committee themselves. There‘s a certain amount of fatigue, though, that goes with that job. That is a hard job.
WAMP: I think people ought to do it once and then maybe step aside.
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re a smart guy. Thank you, Congressman Zach Wamp.
I see why you‘re a congressman. You know how to talk.
Up next, much more of Michael Steele and whether he should stay on as party chairman. There‘s a movement afoot, I‘m told, to find an alternative to the often outspoken Mr. Michael Steele. Personally, I like him.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the next Senate Republican that Tea Party people are hoping to take down? How about Utah‘s Orrin Hatch? Hatch will be going for his seventh term in 2012 and a new poll out today shows a plurality of likely voters in Utah say they‘d vote him out of office, 48 percent say they would vote for somebody other than Hatch, just 41 want him back.
Wow. The time has come. Whoa! The (INAUDIBLE) is heading after this guy.
Tea Party activists say Hatch is too entrenched in the Washington establishment. Hatch‘s fellow Utah senator, Robert Bennett, lost his bid for renomination this year to a Tea Party candidate and Hatch could be next. I think he‘s thinking about it.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
One of the stars of last week‘s midterm blowout, you might say, is RNC Chairman Michael Steele. So, after an impressive record of wins, why is the GOP looking for possible candidates to run against him?
Joining me right now is Chris Cillizza, the managing editor of the PostPolitics.com. And Bob Kabel, he‘s the Republican Party chairman here in the District of Columbia.
First of all, I want to go to you, Mr. Chairman. Congratulations on being a true minority in Washington, D.C.
BOB KABEL, DC REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You are a minority.
KABEL: We are. We are.
MATTHEWS: The Republican Party in this town.
Why are you folks, or anybody, talking about dumping a guy—look at the record of success. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bo McDonnell in Virginia, Scott Brown in Massachusetts, then picking up six Senate seats, more than 60 House seats, more than six governorships, and then you‘re talking about getting rid of him. This guy was coaching a football team, you wouldn‘t even think about it.
KABEL: No. I mean, he is—Michael, I hope he runs. I think—I know he is still thinking about it. I have been a supporter—
MATTHEWS: Who is out to get him?
KABEL: There‘s—from day one, there has always been a group of people who didn‘t think Michael Steele should be the chairman of the RNC and some of them are still members of the RNC, some of them are off the committee. But I think the facts speak for themselves. I think with Michael‘s election victories and starting last year and then this year, I think he has a very excellent—an excellent chance of being re-elected.
MATTHEWS: What are—Chris, what are you reporting on this? What can you tell me about the story? Is there an actual move to dump him if he tries again?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, there is. Now, how coordinated that is, Chris, I think is you can leave that up a little bit. But, yes, I would say most people I talked to, there are 168 members of the RNC. These are the committee people who vote.
I think Michael Steele was probably between 50 and 60 pretty solid votes. He needs 85, just a simple majority to win. I don‘t know that he‘s going to get there. He may and he starts out ahead of anyone else. I think there is a desire among kind of the professional political class, consultants, strategists, people who are devising 2012.
MATTHEWS: Where is Karl Rove?
CILLIZZA: Well, I have not—let me say this, I haven‘t talked to Karl Rove. I don‘t think he is behind Michael Steele. But I don‘t know that for a fact.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t he trying to create a separate Republican Party structure? Isn‘t Rove out there trying to free boot and raise money and create a network of people that he can call the Republican Party as opposed to the RNC?
CILLIZZA: Well, Chris, he certainly—look, he was involved in the founding of American Crossroads as well as Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman. So, yes, in that way.
I would say thought, I‘m not sure that Karl Rove necessarily helps a candidate running against Michael Steele. I think the RNC, the committee people at least, are resistant to the idea of having sort of the big wigs, White House types tell them who it should be.
CILLIZZA: So, I don‘t know being Rove‘s candidate necessarily helps. I do think, though, there is a concern that Michael Steele for the fact you ran through his resume, he did have some wins, I think some people would say that Republicans won in spite of him, not because of him. I think there is a desire to have some—
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to the party professional here.
KABEL: No, I totally disagree with that. I mean, Michael—look where we were when he was elected office. We‘d lost the presidency. We‘d lost the Congress. We didn‘t have a president in the White House to basically tell us who the RNC chairman was going to be, that occurred for eight years. That‘s the way it always works.
So, the chairmanship is up for grabs. There were several people interested in it. Michael was very competitive from the beginning and he won. And he‘s done a superb job and the RNC has actually raised $175 million. They‘ve spent $175 million.
But that‘s what party committees do—they raise money, and they spend money and he won election after election after election. I think—
CILLIZZA: And I think—
KABEL: -- that the “Fire Pelosi” bus trip that he—that he organized and scheduled was one of the best things that happened in bringing the 60-plus Republican House members in.
KABEL: And it also, I think, endeared Michael Steele to a lot of the RNC members who maybe he had not gotten enough because he spent time with them and also the tremendous things for their parties.
MATTHEWS: You think nailing—nailing the target on Nancy Pelosi worked?
KABEL: I think she was, first of all, she was a major target to begin with.
MATTHEWS: But a lot of people never heard of her, did they? All these people hear of her?
KABEL: Chris, I think she was known very well.
CILLIZZA: People I think—Chris, I think over the last four years on the Pelosi subject, I think between ‘06 when she became speaker, all the attention she got as the historic first woman in ‘10, if you look at the polling, it would suggest, you‘re looking at 90-plus percent of people who knew she was, and in a lot of these districts, remember, these are swing moderate to conservative districts, she was deeply unpopular, just as a sidebar. But I do think people knew her.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you for that I need to be corrected. I‘m just amazed to see in local election that she becomes the key issue which she seemed to become.
Thank you, Chris Cillizza. Thank you, Chairman Bob Kabel of the Republican Party of Washington, D.C., intrepid as it is.
When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about Joe and Valerie Wilson and the fantastic new movie. And I mean it‘s first-rate movie, “Fair Game.”
You‘re you are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a stirring movie I saw last night.
I had heard of the first-rate script, the masterful performances by the leads, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. What I was not prepared for in “Fair Game” was the story itself, the wondrous dramatic courage of it all. The movie opens with this actually gutsy CIA agent out in the war of terror, trying to stop the spread of nuclear weapons from getting into dangerous hands.
I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer guts of Naomi Watts‘ character, anyone would be, especially in America, and especially someone who has children like we do, young adults and thinking how inspiring this must to be them, to have this pull to go out there and risk all for your country, like this young woman did.
The real-life Valerie Plame Wilson is the true hero of this saga. Her career fighting the dangers facing us, her discipline in keeping it secret, her readiness to honor a loving marriage in the face of it all, and then the crushing waterfall of betrayal, the decision by war hawks in this country, the neocon crowd holed up in the White House bunker who wanted to protect a case they‘d built for the Iraq war, that whole PR campaign that ramrodded out of the White House and the country‘s op-ed pages that ran roughshod over good journalism and all the other obstacles we need if skepticism and eventually truth is ever to survive the onslaught of propaganda, especially the war-whooping kind that was embraced by this country‘s establishment after 9/11.
This is one fine movie. While it will never be another “Casablanca,” “Fair Game” is perfect for our murky time. It‘s a great story of two people caught up in a dirty, ruthless campaign to justify a war that most Americans can see now was never justified either by fact or the fiction ordered up to sell it.
Want to understand Iraq and how we got there? Want a real look at the Bush White House and how they got us there? Want to see on the big screen what our nightly fights here are all about? Go see this movie.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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