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The Hardball episodes that concerned Libby

Today at the Scooter Libby trial, there was discussion about a phone call that Libby made to NBC to complain about Hardball's coverage of the nuclear case for

Today at the Scooter Libby trial, there was discussion about a phone call that Libby made to NBC to complain about Hardball's coverage of the nuclear case for war.  Following are the transcripts from the shows that aired at the time Libby made the call. 

HARDBALL For July 8, 2003, msnbc


The HARDBALL debate: Should Indian Point nuclear power plant be shut down? In the "Political Buzz," why did Bush choose now to apologize for slavery?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOSTrug-: I`m Chris Matthews. Let`s play HARDB"Big Story" tonight, the Bush administration backtracked from the claim that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium in Africa. They said, for the first time, that the allegation never should have been included in the State of the Union speech. Did the White House manipulate intelligence on Saddam`s weapons of mass destruction program to justify this war? Congressman Curt Weldon and Congressman Rahm Emanuel debate that hot one.

Plus, the Reverend Al Sharpton will be here to discuss whether or not President Bush should send troops to Liberia and West Africa.

And later, the "HARDBALL Debate", Robert Kennedy, Jr. is coming here. He launched a new campaign to shut down a nuclear reactor near New York City.

But, does this commercial cross the line into fear mongering? That`s the "HARDBALL Debate".

But first, we begin tonight with the White House`s retreat from a claim made by President Bush in his State of the Union Address. NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell has the report.


ANDREA MITCHELL NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the president in Africa, the White House finally admitted that Saddam Hussein probably did not try to buy uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons as the administration had charged before the war. But the admission came after the president had left for Africa last night. After press spokesman, Ari Fleischer, had told reporters earlier in the day, quote, "there is zero, nada, nothing new here", and only after former CIA envoy, Joseph Wilson, who discovered the charge was bogus a year ago went public.

First on Sunday, in the "New York Times" and on "MEET THE PRESS".


MITCHELL: Was this the politicization of intelligence in order to justify a war?

JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER CIA ENVOY: Either the administration had some information that it has not shared with the public, or, yes, they were using the selective use of facts and intelligence to bolster a decision in a case that had already been made.


MITCHELL: Today the White House said, "We know now that documents alleging transactions between Iraq and Niger had been forged". So why did the president say this in his January State of the Union speech?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

MITCHELL: Wilson, today, said others also questioned the intelligence.

WILSON: It was not just me, but it was also others who had looked at this situation who had provided the same assessment.

MITCHELL: The White House blamed an October CIA report for ignoring Wilson`s information and not requesting the original documents on which the charge was based for more than a year. And today, before a House of Commons committee, Tony Blair defended his government`s original intelligence.

TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF ENGLAND: I believe we did the right thing. I stand 100 percent by it.

MITCHELL: Senate Democrats are investigating.

SENATOR JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I just have to believe that either the president knew it and that those around him knew it or if they didn`t, they sure have some questions to answer.

MITCHELL (on camera): The president`s own foreign intelligence advisory board and the CIA`s inspector general are also investigating. And tonight, at least two Democratic presidential candidates are asking what else don`t we know about the case against Iraq? Andrea Mitchell, NBC News at the State Department.


MATTHEWS: Congressman Curt Weldon is a Republican, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat from Illinois. Let me go to Rahm Emanuel first. Congressman, do you believe that someone in the administration played games with the information about possible purchases of uranium from Africa by Saddam Hussein before we went to war?

CONGRESSMAN RAHM EMANUEL (D)-ILLINOIS: Well, Chris, what I think, and everybody has to remember, this is the very information that the Secretary of State said he wasn`t going to use when he went to the U.N., which was two weeks after the State of the Union. If I was George Bush and if I was advising this president, I would say, by the time I come back from my trip to Africa, I want to know who was it that put that information --recommended I use that information.

If it wasn`t good enough for the Secretary of the State to the U.N., why is it good enough for my State of the Union? Not only am I addressing the nation. That was a State of the Union on the doorstep of war. That was an address that the entire world was watching.

And given that it`s the president`s credibility, I would like to know the name and the phone number of that staff person and people that put that in the State of the Union. I think the president is owed that to find out who did that and who gave it to him because the Secretary of State rejected that information in his argument at the U.N.

MATTHEWS: Curt Weldon, Congressman Weldon, do you think the White House allowed the president`s words in the State of the Union Address for this country to go to war under false pretenses?

CURT WELDON, (R-PA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: No, I don`t, Chris. I think some of the information the president received was not properly verified, and that has to be investigated and dealt with, but the motivation for the actions in Iraq was clear. I can remember telling Colin Powell in a private briefing he arranged for us, that we ought to be focusing more on the human rights record of Saddam Hussein. I mean, after all, it was this country that supported Bill Clinton in removing Milosevic from power for war crimes. Saddam Hussein...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but, Congressman, excuse me for interrupting. We didn`t go to war to make the world safe for democracy. We went to war because we were faced, we were told by our president, with a threat from abroad by Saddam Hussein who was going to send missiles our direction, use weapons of mass destruction against us, including potential nuclear weapons. Wasn`t that the reason most of your constituents supported this war?

WELDON: Well, it was the reason why members of Congress supported, along with the human rights record of Saddam. But in fact, as a member of the Armed Services Committee there`s no doubt in my mind, or most of my colleagues, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and had the capability to use them. I mean, his record shows he did use them.

MATTHEWS: Did he try to buy uranium from Niger in Africa or not?

WELDON: Well, I don`t know that, Chris. I don`t know that. But I was making...


MATTHEWS: Well, the White House put out the word today that he did not do that, that that is not accurate information.

WELDON: But, It`s OK for Clinton to go into Yugoslavia to remove a sitting president from power. That was OK.


MATTHEWS: Let me read a statement, Congressman, just to clarify the facts tonight. In a statement authorized by the White House. A senior Bush administration official said, quote: "knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq`s attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech.".

WELDON: Well, that`s probably true...

MATTHEWS: In other words, they have concluded that they should not have claimed there was a nuclear threat.

EMANUEL: Chris, this is a big consequence to the president`s credibility and to this country`s credibility. And the fact is, sometimes I -- listen, I don`t know which is worse. The fact is that there was information that was inaccurate in the president`s State of the Union or the fact we didn`t have a plan for the occupation as well...

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

EMANUEL: ... and that, in fact, that we have irritated our allies to the point we can`t get other people to come in there and do the occupying. And in 69 days since the May 1st speech ending this mission...

MATTHEWS: OK. Ron, Congressman...

EMANUEL: ... we have lost 70 people.

MATTHEWS: ... I agree with you completely about that question, about the occupation. I think it`s a very aggravating situation over there, and very questionable how long we are going to stay, et cetera. But I want to get back to this. Last year the CIA sent -- the Central Intelligence Agency sent ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate whether that country sold uranium to Iraq.

He, the former ambassador, concluded it was highly doubtful that such a transaction had taken place. And he told Andrea Mitchell on your "MEET THE PRESS" that he was, quote, "absolutely convinced that Dick Cheney`s office, the vice president`s office was aware of his report before the State of the Union Address."

I want to ask you, Congressman Weldon, does it disturb you? The possibility that the vice president of the United States, his office, learned that this uranium information wasn`t accurate, that Saddam Hussein did not try to buy uranium from Africa, and yet they let the president go ahead and say that in his State of the Union Address? Does that bother you?

WELDON: It bothers me that our president used information in his speech to the nation and the world that was not based upon solid evidence and was not backed up and corroborated by our intelligence agency. That bothers me.

MATTHEWS: Why would the vice president`s office, Scooter Libby or whoever is running that office -- why would they send a CIA effort down in Niger to verify something, find out there wasn`t a uranium sale, and then not follow-up by putting that information -- or correcting that information -- in the president`s State of the Union? If they went to the trouble to sending Joe Wilson all the way to Africa to find out whether that country had ever sold uranium to Saddam Hussein, why wouldn`t they follow-up on that?

WELDON: Well, that`s a question that needs to be answered. I don`t know the answer to that. I know Scooter Libby, and I would say this is a legitimate question that many of us have been raising about the specifics in the president`s speech and whether or not it was -- we were able to verify the information relative to the attempted purchase of uranium.

MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, let`s listen to -- Congressman Emanuel too. Let`s listen to what the former ambassador, Joe Wilson, said on "MEET THE PRESS " on this very subject.


WILSON: And my judgment on this is that if they were referring to Niger when they were referring to uranium sales from Africa to Iraq, that information was erroneous and that they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the president`s State of the Union Address.


MATTHEWS: Congressman Weldon, it is now in mid-July. This occurred in mid-January. Does it bother you it took the White House until the president was out of the country and to have someone release this information on background without direct attribution to some official at the White House. It looks to me like they tried to bury this bad information today.

WELDON: Well, that may be the case, and if that`s the case, that`s wrong. The facts are that we need to get to the bottom of what actually happened, when the White House knew the factual information, what involvement the vice president`s office had, and as a member of the Armed Services Committee and vice chairman of that committee, that`s a question I`m pursuing right now.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go ahead, though. Congressman Emanuel, let me ask you about a trickier question right now. It concerns our troops in the field right now in Iraq. What do you think the significance is to the security of our troops, that Saddam Hussein is out making broadcasts again, releasing tapes, demonstrating his proof of life?

EMANUEL: Well, look. Everybody -- I mean, the generals on the ground say it`s dangerous in the fact that it keeps -- I don`t want to use it like this, but it keeps hope alive, and it doesn`t allow us to get the population over there working with the United States forces, British forces, and helping build that country. It`s very dangerous because there`s always this luring fact that maybe, in fact, he will come back to power. So they won`t cooperate with us, and they`re willing to, obviously, to set targets on Americans, and as I said, 70 Americans have died since the war has been declared over.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Weldon, do you have the intelligence, one way or the other, whether Saddam Hussein or his henchmen are still calling the shots in the resistance over there to our troops?

WELDON: My best evidence and my best information is he is not calling the shots, but is he certainly playing havoc with the comments and connections he does have, but he is not, in fact, in a position to orchestrate any major national effort. But, he certainly is a man, and we have got to catch him. We`ve got to deal with him and we got to deal with his sons.

MATTHEWS: Would you consider that priority number one in that country to catch Saddam Hussein at this point?

WELDON: It certainly is at the top of the list. If not the top one, certainly number two. The security and stability of the country has got to be number one.

MATTHEWS: Why did we just offer a $25 million dollar reward for a guy. Why didn`t we just do it at the beginning of the war and skip the war. I`m not being frivolous here. Doesn`t it strike you, Congressman Weldon, with all your experience with the military, kind of a knock on the military to say we don`t trust you to catch Saddam Hussein, so we`re going to put a $25 million reward on his head.

WELDON: Well, the military`s purpose was not to catch Saddam. The military`s purpose was to remove him from power, remove the regime, and they did that. Now it`s time for those other resources we have, the intelligence community, to go in there and find Saddam and let us deal with him the way he should be dealt with.

EMANUEL: Chris, you are never going to get the occupation to work and also narrow down -- actually diminish the loss of American lives post this war and in the occupation unless we catch Saddam Hussein. It is the principle goal because every other element, whether it`s the occupation, building up the country and reconstructing the country, can`t go on functioning without that.

The population won`t work with us. We can`t get the economics going. We won`t be able to get the oil going. And then you`ll have ongoing terrorism from the sands.

MATTHEWS: Congressmen, I want to ask you both, last question, bottom line, does the United States Congress have a right to demand that the president tell them as a body, the Congress of the United States, how he got his information into his State of the Union Address which he gave to Congress, which was known to be inaccurate to the people in his administration? Does he have to explain that, Congressman Weldon, to the Congress?

WELDON: Well, I certainly think he has to explain that to members of the Intelligence Committee who are selected by us on an equal footing on both parties to have access and to have sensitive information relative to our national security. I think, at a minimum, the intelligence community should be privy to the date that it was used to provide those words in the State of the Union speech.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree, Congressman Rahm Emanuel?

EMANUEL: Two facts on that. One, he needs that information because our entire national security and credibility around the world...


EMANUEL: ... is dependent on it. And without that, people will question us in North Korea, question us in Iran and question us going forward.

MATTHEWS: It sounds to me, Congressmen, like a hawk in the vice president`s office, probably from Scooter Libby on down, got a hold of somebody like Steve Hadley and the NSC, and they put that in Mike Gurston`s (ph) speech, and the president went along with it without thinking.

EMANUEL: Chris, one other fact is..


EMANUEL: ... and this -- to me this is essential when we have -- why we have these investigations going on in both the Senate and House that should deal with the fact. And the other thing is, the president had ample material that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons in the past. Why you would go playing with the president`s most important speech to the world and to the country, and play with a fact that is questionable when you had all the other material...


MATTHEWS: Rahm, you and I have worked in the White House. This stuff has to be cleared. I want to hear from Steve Hadley of National Security Council Staff whether he approved this or not.

Well, Congressman Curt Weldon, thanks always for joining us. Congressman Rahm Emanuel, thank you both.

Coming up, Democratic presidential candidate, Al Sharpton, is coming here, on President Bush`s trip to Africa, and whether American troops should be sent to Liberia.

And later in the "HARDBALL Debate", Robert Kennedy, Jr. will be here to talk about an environmental ad that critics say is a scare tactic, and it crosses the line.

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re joined right now by the Reverend Al sharpton, a Democrat running for president. Reverend Sharpton, what do you make of the fact that the White House is retracting the part of the president`s State of the Union Address which asserted that Saddam Hussein was in the act of buying uranium from an African country?

AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that, first of all, people have been very, very mild about something very serious. We`re talking about the President of the United States who is now in Africa, in effect, lying on an African nation, misleading the American public, which hearing words like forged documents. Yet, we`re not hearing about going after who forged them.

We`re not hearing who in the White House is going to be fired. If no one is fired or no one pays for this information, then we can only believe that the highest level of this administration went along with this and thinks they can sweep it under the rug while we have the gulf stream of his jet going to Africa. For the president to have any credibility at all, particularly in Africa, heads must roll, or we need to call it like it is that they would say and do anything to justify a war that was not necessary.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about a big head. And former ambassador, Joe Wilson, said that this was cleared by the vice president`s office. They are the ones who sent him to Africa to find out whether it was true or not, whether it was action -- there was traffic in nuclear materials between the country of Niger and the country of Saddam Hussein`s Iraq. He came back and said there was nothing going on like that six months before the speech. Doesn`t the vice president`s office hold the greatest culpability here for not acting on that truth?

SHARPTON: They`re certainly the ones that we should begin looking at. Joseph Wilson`s op-ed piece in Sunday`s "New York Times" clearly started this rolling. Let`s not act like the White House came forward and said this on its own. Had not Wilson gone public, this probably would have never been admitted.

There needs to be an open, public Senate hearings and investigations on this. If this was Bill Clinton`s administration, we would have Republicans calling for impeachment hearings. No private discussion in the intelligence committee. This wasn`t a private speech made to the intelligence committee. This was the State of the Union Address made to the world.

We need to have an open and clear and public investigation, and someone should pay for this. This set the stage to cost human life and American lives.

MATTHEWS: If you were to be elected president, Reverend Sharpton, how long would you keep troops in Iraq?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I wouldn`t have sent them there.

MATTHEWS: I know, but they are there.

SHARPTON: And at this point -- at this point I would try and do what was not done. I would try to create a unilateral approach. I would try to work with the United Nations, and I would try to form some kind of way that we can work with forces around the world. Particularly when every day, our credibility is eroded. I think that the problem that we have both with continued engagement in Iraq and proposed engagement in Liberia is you can`t come up with fraudulent information and then expect people to have confidence in...


MATTHEWS: Are you hedging, Reverend Sharpton, on whether to withdraw our troops or not. You are saying you would keep U.S. troops in Iraq even though you opposed the war there. That doesn`t make sense.


SHARPTON: I didn`t say that...

MATTHEWS: Why keep troops in Iraq? You want to keep our troops in Iraq?

SHARPTON: I did not say that at all. I said that I would work with other nations to come to some kind of mutual agreement. That agreement may be an immediate withdrawal of everyone. I didn`t say what it should lead to. I think the unilateral decision-making needs to stop.

MATTHEWS: Why should the United States have 125, 135,000 troops with flak jackets on, walking around the streets of Baghdad right now? Tell me the mission.

SHARPTON: There -- Well, there was no mission, clearly, in my opinion, in the first place. And every day it seems to be more and more the case. I still don`t think there`s a mission, but I think that we have now toppled Hussein`s government and that we have responsibility to work with other forces to deal with the mess that we have left the Iraqi people...

MATTHEWS: How many more casualties will it take before you, Reverend Sharpton, start to blow the whistle and say bring the boys home.

SHARPTON: I`ll say it tonight. Bring the boys home, but let`s bring it home with a multi-national strategy toward repairing the damage done.

The boys can be en route home while we do that.

MATTHEWS: Here is what President Bush said last week on the attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don`t understand what they`re talking about if that`s the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.


MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s a good line, bring them on, Reverend sharpton? Bring them on.

SHARPTON: No, I think that that is the language you hear gang leaders talk in south-central L.A., not world leaders that are trying to convince the world that we are there to protect democracy and to establish a state. This kind of schoolyard bravado is beneath the dignity of the one superpower in the world. I think that it was reckless, and he owes an apology to his troops that are there and the families that are praying for their safe return.

MATTHEWS: But, isn`t that very much a part of our new - our president`s personality, this kind of cowboy bravado. You are asking him to not engage in what he seems to be very popular in doing.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think that this kind of cowboy bravado backed up with forged documents and with members of our government that have gone and researched things and can`t come up with it becomes empty after a while, and I think his popularity will begin to erode.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the tough question, whether we send troops to West Africa. Reverend Sharpton is coming back. Will he support sending the troops?

And coming up in the "HARDBALL Debate" on environment, an environmental group equates a nuclear plant with a weapon of mass destruction. Robert Kennedy, Jr. is coming here to talk about it.

And still ahead, the "Political Buzz" of President Bush`s trip to Africa.

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the reverend Al Sharpton who is running as a Democrat for the president of the United States. Reverend Sharpton, what do you make of this proposal that we join a multilateral force and go to West Africa and try to keep order there in Liberia?

SHARPTON: I think the only way the United States can go is part of a multi-national force, you -- a multilateral force that should be supervised by people like Kofi Annan and others. I do not think any unilateral move, particularly now when you have Charles Taylor even suggesting that we are taking sides there. Clearly, Taylor should be moved out, but you cannot appear objective when, clearly, there`s already been the accusation that we`re taking sides.

I think the president also undermined the fact that his trip could have taken a much higher moral tone had he not been so partisan. He should be meeting with Nelson Mandela and not be dealing with picking and choosing people based on how they agree to disagree with his policies if he is really trying to have a new day in U.S.-African relations. How do you go to Africa...

MATTHEWS: How do we avoid, Reverend, the situation we faced in 1983 in Lebanon and 1993 Somalia where our troops end up in the middle and end up shooting at people. They shoot back, and we do become part of the war.

SHARPTON: I think that part of the way you do that is by working with African leaders like Mandela and others who have the respect, and not going on the front line by ourselves, or not to appear to be taking sides for regime change, to have people that may serve our interests or business interests. I think, otherwise, we get caught in a trap, and I think that this president has to be very careful about that. Particularly with this Niger information that`s out.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much for coming back on. Please come again, Reverend Al Sharpton...

SHARPTON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... running for president as a Democrat. Up next "HARDBALL Debate". Robert Kennedy, Jr. on his fight to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York, but does his latest ad campaign go too far?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call Governor Pataki and tell him you want Indian Point as a nuclear plant shut down...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... just miles from New York City.


MATTHEWS: The debate over that ad is straight ahead.

You are watching HARDBALL.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This half hour the HARDBALL debate. Could terrorists really turn a nuclear reactor near New York City into a weapon of mass destruction are or are environmentalists just fear mongering? Robert Kennedy Jr. will be here for the HARDBALL debate.

But first, the latest headlines, right now.


MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL debate tonight, Robert Kennedy Jr.`s environmental group, River Keeper, is airing this ad, likening a New York nuclear power plant to a weapon of mass destruction.


ANNOUNCER: Indian Point is a nuclear plant just miles from New York City, and terrorists could use it as a weapon of mass destruction. The radiation from an attack could render New York City uninhabitable, permanently erasing New York from the map.

Call Governor Pataki and tell him you want Indian Point shut down.


MATTHEWS: Have they gone too far in exploiting September 11? Joining us is Robert Kennedy Jr., River Keeper`s prosecuting attorney and also Angie Howard of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Bob, is this an accurate depiction of what would happen if that nuclear power plant were hit by a terrorist?


MATTHEWS: Well, the...

KENNEDY: Absolutely. Every fact -- the thing that`s scary is not the ad. The thing that`s scary, Chris, are the facts.

Every single fact in there has been rigorously verified by government agencies, like the National Research Council, Brookhaven Laboratory, and the intelligence agencies.

Here`s what we know. We know that there are 17 times the stored radiation at that plant that was released at Chernobyl. We know that a terrorist attack could cause a spent fuel pool fire at the plant, and according to the federal agency, the National Research Council, 100 percent of the radiation would be released.

If that were true, around Chernobyl there was 1,000 miles uninhabitable. Brookhaven lab and Princeton University estimate about 3,000 miles around Indian Point would be uninhabitable.

MATTHEWS: So, when you blow up a nuclear power plant, you create a nuclear event. Is that right?

KENNEDY: There`s a release of radiation, Cesium 137, which is stored there, which would make it unsafe for human beings to live in that area.


MATTHEWS: Would it be a nuclear explosion like we just saw in the ad?

KENNEDY: It would not be an explosion. There would be a release of radiation. I don`t think that`s an explosion. I think that that`s a release of radiation.

MATTHEWS: Well, look at this person just coming apart there. Looks like they`re coming apart, these people.

KENNEDY: Well, there would be a release of radiation that, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 67,000 people would die immediately. 150,000 would be injured immediately.

You`d have trillions of dollars in damage. There`s been...

MATTHEWS: This is from one attack from one nuclear power plant.

KENNEDY: We are not against nuclear energy. When this plant was commissioned in 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory commissioner in New York State said it was insane to put a nuclear power plant that close to New York City.

MATTHEWS: How far away would you want? I want to get to Angie. How far away would you make a nuclear power plant from a big city?

KENNEDY: This one has more people, a denser population than any other one in the world.

MATTHEWS: How far away would you want to see power plants if we have them?

KENNEDY: 100 miles.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Angie Howard.

Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of what would happen if a terrorist were to attack a nuclear power plant near New York City?


MATTHEWS: Why not? What`s inaccurate?

HOWARD: First of all, a nuclear power plant cannot have a nuclear explosion.

Secondly, the radiation from any event at a nuclear plant would not be a catastrophe. These plants are robust. They are secure. And emergency planning that is in existence around the plants is there to protect the public.


KENNEDY: That is what the industry says, but, in fact, the actual security officers who worked within the plant say -- 89 percent of them say that the plant cannot -- that plant cannot be protected against terrorists.

Fifty percent of them say that -- these are the guys who are supposed to be defending the plant. Fifty percent of them say if terrorists attacked the plant, they would not stand their posts. They would turn and flee. They say they`re under-trained, demoralized, and that their employer, Entergy (ph), routinely lies to the public about safety problems at the plant.

MATTHEWS: Do you want to guarantee, Angie, that the security people around the nuclear power plant, like the ones near big cities, would stay and fight and try to prevent damage from getting worse, or would they run for their lives?

HOWARD: These are professional, well-trained, highly-motivated and highly-skilled individuals. They would stay on their jobs. They are prepared. They are trained, and they exercise to insure that they are properly prepared.

MATTHEWS: What happened at Chernobyl, and what happened at Three Mile Island? I mean, we`ve had nuclear catastrophes. Why are you so sanguine, Angie, that we wouldn`t have one when a terrorist was trying to make one happen?

HOWARD: Three Mile Island was not a catastrophe.

The facilities are robust. There is no difference in the type of fuel that is in the nuclear power plant, whether it is attacked by a terrorist or through normal operation.

These facilities are secure. These are facilities that the people who work at the facilities are prepared to defend their facilities.

MATTHEWS: How many guards do you have at Indian Point, watching that facility, roughly?

HOWARD: The number of guards is safeguarded information. That is not made public for part of the security plans.

These plants have had security plans for many years. They`ve had...

MATTHEWS: Have you beefed up since 9/11?

HOWARD: Absolutely. In fact, these facilities have had security regulations for many years. And over the years as terrorism events have occurred in our country, we`ve upgraded these plans from a standpoint following the first World Trade Center event, following the Oklahoma City bombing.

KENNEDY: OK. Here`s the facts.

The -- every plant in the country -- there`s 103 of them -- are subjected to regular mock attacks by the military in conjunction with the industry. In 47 percent of those attacks, the three attackers succeed in entering the plant.

In the case of Indian Point, the head of security there says that attackers in these mock attacks -- and the plant is given six months notice as of the time and the date of the attack -- that attackers almost without exception can walk into that plant.

MATTHEWS: What can they do?

KENNEDY: The head of security, whose name is Foster Zay (ph), who trained all of the security guards at that plant, who are great people, but they are not being given the equipment or the motivation or...

MATTHEWS: What can a person do? How sophisticated -- how hard is it to blow up a nuclear power plant?

KENNEDY: Here is what they would do. And Foster says that within 40 seconds you can go from the perimeter fence to the spent fuel pools and plant charges around the spent fuel pools.

If that happened in real life and it happened in the wintertime, 100 percent of the Cesium 137 in those spent fuel pools would be released. If it happened in the winter when the prevailing winds go down the Hudson, this is 17 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl.

All of it would go over New York City, and New York City would be permanently uninhabitable.

MATTHEWS: Angie, that scenario -- Do you believe in that scenario being possible, what was just described by Bob Kennedy?

HOWARD: No, I do not.

MATTHEWS: Why not? What`s wrong with his argument?

HOWARD: First of all, you cannot enter the facilities that way. They are protected. You cannot -- there are security facilities...

MATTHEWS: Why did almost half the people break through in the mock attacks?

HOWARD: They don`t break through. That is an erroneous accusation.

MATTHEWS: What`s your percentage?

HOWARD: I don`t have that percentage. That`s not something that is released. The exercise...

KENNEDY: It is released.

HOWRAD: The exercises that are done, in order to be able to insure that the facilities can adequately protect the facilities, are part of an ongoing training program that is done as a part of the overall industry`s preparedness.

These plants are safe. They are robust. They are made of -- the containment buildings themselves as well as the fuel pool facilities, by feet of concrete as well as...

MATTHEWS: Let me go to an economic question.

Bob Kennedy, this is a big nuclear issue. It`s an environmental issue, a hazard issue. It`s also an economic issue. Where do we get other electric power for big cities like New York if we don`t use nuclear?

KENNEDY: Again, we`re not against nuclear power.

MATTHEWS: This particular one.

KENNEDY: This particular plant is a huge mistake.

MATTHEWS: How does New York find energy?

KENNEDY: There is a 35 percent surplus of energy in New England. There`s a 35 percent surplus of energy -- or 30 percent surplus of energy in the Maryland-Delaware grid. They`re fighting to get that energy here. Supplying that energy is not going to be a problem.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Angie Howard.

"Political Buzz," the politics are coming up. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Coming up President Bush goes to Africa, and a Democratic challenger for president calls the president a phony. We`ll have an update on the battle for the White House when HARDBALL returns.


MATTHEWS: Time now for our battle for the White House update. President Bush began his five-day trip to Africa today by saying this about slavery.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this place liberty and life were stolen and sold. One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.


MATTHEWS: The president didn`t apologize for slavery, but he noted that Americans throughout history, quote, "clearly saw this sin and called it by name."

Meanwhile, North Carolina Senator John Edwards campaigned for president in New Hampshire yesterday and said this about President Bush: "He`s a phony. He is a complete phony. The way you tell a counterfeit and the way you tell a phony, you put the real thing beside it in 2004."

I guess that`s Edwards.

Edwards, however, has his own problems making the sale. Check out this headline from the "Charlotte Observer": "New Hampshire voters puzzled by Edwards` campaign." One local said, "I thought he was going to make a bigger splash."

Finally, a new poll out tonight shows that nearly 2/3 might vote for President Bush in 2004. That`s 2/3 of all Americans. Bush leads all the Democrats.

But which Democrats get the most interest among voters? Among the top four are two who aren`t even running, Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Time now for the "Political Buzz." "Newsweek`s" Howard Fineman is an NBC News political analyst and Tony Blankley is the editorial page editor of the "Washington Times."

Howard, I am always wondering why presidents do certain things. Why at this time in history did George W. Bush choose to more or less apologize for those 200, 300 years of slavery way back when?

HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK": Well, Chris, I think the whole Africa trip is a symbol of how the demographics of politics has changed in America.

It used to be, long ago, that candidates would make or presidents would make the kind of three-"i" trip. That was Italy and Ireland, and Israel or whatever.

Now the demographics has changed, and Africa is a required stop on any president`s itinerary in his tenure. And the president was going there doing that. And I think he was saying things that most Americans believe that indeed even his national security advisor, Condi Rice, expressed the other day when she said that slavery was the great birth defect in American history. And so the president was giving voice to that emotion and that moral sentiment in a presidency that at least says it`s guided by moral principles.

MATTHEWS: Is this aimed at moderate whites in the suburbs, who may feel guilty about race and like to hear their president talk like they feel? Or is this aimed at seriously trying to win African-American votes? Last time around, I think the Bush team got about eight points, eight percent of the black vote.

FINEMAN: I think it`s more of the former than the latter. If they can pick up some votes in Florida next time around, that`s great. Black votes, that is.

But he wants to show that he`s a compassionate conservative, and he wants to use the language of it, even if he`ll never go for a formal apology, let alone the reparations that some of the activist African- Americans want.

MATTHEWS: In other words, give the words but not the money?

FINEMAN: You got it.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Tony Blankley. Your thoughts about it; I don`t want to be too cynical, but I guess I am being that.

Who is the president really talking to? He`s not talking to the slaves. They`re all dead. He`s not talking to their immediate heirs. He`s talking to people today. I don`t think he is he talking to any real slave owners the in the United States. I don`t think anyone is around who ever owned a slave. So he`s he talking to?

TONY BLANKLEY, "WASHINGTON TIMES": I have a little different view than Howard on what is motivating the president. I put it to two factors.

One, the war on terrorism. The fact there`s a lot of terrorist cells throughout the Horn of Africa. He has a lot of goodwill by going into Liberia, if he ends up sending some troops there, and paying attention. So that`s one piece of it. I think it`s geopolitical.

The other piece...

MATTHEWS: So why is he playing Bill Clinton?

BLANKLEY: Let me just finish the point. The other piece of it is I believe his Christian conscience, you know, that`s the $15 billion in AIDS money that he`s helping in Africa.


BLANKEY: I don`t think it`s about votes because in fact, as you pointed out, the Republicans aren`t going to get any more black votes. And frankly, I don`t think it makes a big difference. I know the theory of the suburban whites, but between his statements on affirmative action and the rest, I don`t think that`s a factor. It`s certainly not a $15 billion factor. It`s not a five-day trip.

FINEMAN: I don`t agree. I disagree with Tony on the points about terrorism and failed states and the Christian mission on AIDS suffering in Africa.

We were talking about Senegal and why he gave such a strongly-worded speech there in what has become almost like the Blarney Stone of the 21st century. You know, people went to Ireland to, you know, pledge allegiance to that history.

This is the president, I believe, all presidents are going to do this now to pledge allegiance to our sense of guilt about that history of slavery in the United States by doing it in Senegal, which was the jumping-off point for so many slave ships.

MATTHEWS: Does this open the question of the campaign? Is this trying to -- maybe I`m being Machiavellian. Howard, does this trick Al Sharpton into raising the issue of reparations, which will kill the Democrats even more?

FINEMAN: Well, boy, Chris, that is a very interesting thought.

MATTHEWS: Does it sound like it`s connect the dots? "We`re guilty." And then Sharpton comes along, "Well, pay up." And immediately the Democrats lose 10 percent of the vote right there.

FINEMAN: Well, that would be a question that may be asked later on in this year. I think Jesse Jackson has had one forum. He may want to have another forum. It`s clear that George Bush would draw the line at any talk of reparations, which is a serious topic, by the way, in certain parts of American society.

MATTHEWS: I think it is a serious question. I think reconstruction was never done right.

Let me go to Tony Blankley. Are we going to Liberia, and are the conservatives in the Republican community going to back the war?

BLANKLEY: I don`t know. I think the fact that he sent the mission to investigate suggests that he is leaning towards that decision. I think the statement he made earlier this afternoon, that we`re going to participate -- I forget the exact word -- suggests we are going to have some sort of involvement, whether it`s going to be 1,000 Marines...

MATTHEWS: Are you going to throw your weight behind it, the "Washington Times"? Are you going to support the war in Liberia?

BLANKLEY: Many conservatives, I think, have very serious misgivings.

I did my lead editorial this morning in which I argued that if the president judges it our national security interests, we would support that decision. I think my editorial is a little controversial amongst conservatives, but I based it not on humanitarian grounds, but on being able to gain diplomatic advantage with friendly African states who we need to fight the war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

MATTHEWS: Howard, are the right-wingers, the more hawkish people in the Defense Department and the vice president`s office. Are they going to oppose sending troops to Liberia?

FINEMAN: I don`t think they`ll do it openly, but the sign that they may do it covertly is the fact that Senator Warner, the Republican on the Hill, very influential one, very close to the Pentagon, is basically saying he wants to have hearings about this and have them up front.

To me that`s an indication that there is at least mixed signals within the administration about it.

I think Tony`s theory of supporting the troops to Liberia as a kind of bank shot to help with other African states that could be harboring terrorists is an interesting one. I`m not sure it`s convincing to the people in the Pentagon.

BLANKLEY: Let me add one other thought, because I think this issue raises a bigger issue, which is we`re stretched too thin militarily, and we need to start talking about increasing the number of volunteers in our military, probably by about a quarter of a million, because we`re going to have other ventures like this, inevitably, given the world the way it is.


FINEMAN: Well, that will be real popular during the campaign.

MATTHEWS: I think the conservatives, the hawks, if you will, are afraid of stretching our military forces to so many countries, including now West Africa, will kill the argument for the ones they really believe in.

Anyway, coming up the White House is forced to retract a line from the president`s State of the Union address concerning Iraq`s nuclear program.

You`re watching HARDBALL. It`s hot and it`s coming back. This is the one that could hurt.



BUSH: The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons program, had a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.


MATTHEWS: That was President Bush`s January State of the Union address. In a statement issued last night, the White House had to retract a portion of that speech.

Quote, "Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq`s attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech."

We`re back with more "Political Buzz" from Howard Fineman and Tony Blankley.

Howard, I worked at the White House. Nothing gets through the president`s speech making equipment, is operational unless it`s been signed off by the National Security Council, by the State Department, by the vice president`s office, by the CIA.

How could all those institutions of government have signed off on something they knew to be false, because the vice president`s office sent the CIA down to Niger and Joe Wilson came back and said there was nothing to the story?

FINEMAN: Well, it`s all going to be a question of timing, Chris. It`s going to be the old, who knew what when?

MATTHEWS: Six months before the speech was given, they knew it wasn`t true.

FINEMAN: Well, some of them did. And I think they`re going to have to answer for it. So far, they`re lucky that there`s no indication that the president had any knowledge of it.

But I think it`s clearly a big political problem. Because this president has made it a point to try to be a straight shooter and to portray himself and his administration as one of people who talk straight, talk blunt, don`t tell what you they don`t want to tell you, but don`t knowingly lie.


FINEMAN: And that is crucial to Bush`s political identity. And that`s undercut to some extent, at least in his White House, depending on who knew the facts here when.

MATTHEWS: Then he should be ripped. He should be ripped about the fact somebody putting words in his mouth that aren`t true.

FINEMAN: He should.

MATTHEWS: Tony, your thoughts on this?

FINEMAN: Absolutely, I agree.

BLANKLEY: Well, look. I mean, it`s a big political fact if the president intentionally misled. I don`t think he did.

MATTHEWS: What about if the vice president`s office knew, having sent Joe Wilson down to Niger and found out that there wasn`t any such deal over uranium and allowed the president to say what they knew not to be true.

BLANKLEY: I`m not going to speculate. You stay vice president`s office. There are a lot of people in the vice president`s office. Might point is that an extraordinary amount of Washington`s energy is going over -- is being expended on an issue which is backward looking.

MATTHEWS: It`s why we went to war, isn`t it?

BLANKLEY: No. It`s one tiny piece.

MATTHEWS: Tony, let me be honest with you. I know a lot of people who are really doubtful about the need for that war. They didn`t buy all the human rights stuff. They didn`t buy all this other stuff about chemical.

But they were afraid that this guy was getting the bomb. And that`s the reason a lot of people watching the show said, "I don`t want that crazy guy to have the bomb." They were told by the president that he was building a bomb. And that`s why they supported the war.

BLANKLEY: To look at this politically, the polls have consistently indicated and continue to indicate the American public overwhelmingly is indifferent to this debate which Washington is having.

FINEMAN: But Tony, that`s not the point. The point here is...

BLANKLEY: That is the political point.

FINEMAN: Well, but the deeper political point is that George Bush has enjoyed a lot of intuitive, if I can put that it way, support from the American people on the theory that he`s basically a blunt, straight shooting guy.

BLANKLEY: And there`s no evidence to the contrary.

FINEMAN: I know. But that`s the image of his administration. I think Chris is right. I think the president should be upset about it. He should be upset about it big time.

BLANKLEY: Well, maybe he is.

FINEMAN: We don`t know and we need to find out if he is.

BLANKLEY: I mean, to speculate that he isn`t and then condemn him for what you speculate is not.

MATTHEWS: I want to stick with -- Just to recap, here`s what we know. Joe Wilson, a former ambassador in the United States government, was sent to Niger to establish there whether there was in fact an arms deal for nuclear materials between Saddam Hussein and the government of Niger.

He came back and reported back to the CIA at the behest of the vice president`s office, that there was no such deal. That office of the vice president, whoever is in there, Scooter Libby on down, or the vice president himself, never told the president that there was nothing to that, that that was a dry hole story. And yet, the president went on television, telling the American people it was true. Somebody`s to blame here, and it`s a very high level and it`s not speculating.

Anyway, Tony Blankley, as always, thank you for joining us. Howard Fineman.

Join us again here on HARDBALL at 7 p.m. Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests include Ann Coulter. Right now it`s time for the "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann.




HARDBALL For July 9, 2003, msnbc


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m Chris Matthews. Let`s play HARDBALL.

The "Big Story" tonight, President Bush goes on the defensive, saying war with Iraq was justified even though some intelligence he used to make the case was wrong.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is going to be, you know, a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history. And I can understand that. But I am absolutely confident in the decision I made.


MATTHEWS: As Democrats call for an investigation, how will the fallout affect the president? David Gergen, Ann Coulter, and Senator Jay Rockefeller are all here.

Plus, the "HARDBALL Debate" tonight with new signs showing Saddam Hussein survived the war. Can American troops finish the job in Iraq if they don`t capture or kill the former dictator?

And the battle for the White House, Frank Luntz will be here with new polls on President Bush and his Democratic challengers.

But first we begin with the fallout from the White House from its retraction of part of President Bush`s State of the Union Address as he made the case for war with Iraq. NBC News White House correspondent, David Gregory, is traveling with the president in Africa and has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The controversy over pre-war intelligence followed the president to South Africa today. During a press conference with President Mbeki, Mr. Bush dodged the issue of whether Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once thing is for certain, he is not trying to buy anything right now. If he`s alive, he`s on the run.

GREGORY: This week, the White House was forced to admit the Iraq- Niger connection was bogus. As a result, critics have sharpened their charge that the administration may have misled the public in making the case for war. Mr. President Bush included the alleged purchase in his State of the Union Address.

BUSH: Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

GREGORY: Officials said today it was only after the speech that they learned the paperwork for the purchase was forged. But critics say that`s because the CIA never checked the documents in the first place. On Capitol Hill today, leading Democrats pressed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on why it took the administration so long to learn the truth. Intelligence is always changing, he said.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don`t think that the fact that there is an instance where something was inaccurate ought to in any way paint a broad brush on the intelligence.

GREGORY: White House officials said today a completely accurate picture of Iraq`s weapons program has been nearly impossible to achieve, ever since U.S. experts underestimated Saddam`s nuclear designs after the first Gulf War. The president brushed aside calls for an investigation.

BUSH: There is going to be, you know, a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history, and I can understand that. But I am absolutely confident in the decision I made.

GREGORY (on camera): Although critics are increasingly questioning the president`s credibility on Iraq, White House advisors say Mr. Bush remains convinced the public shares his view that Iraq did indeed have a weapons of mass destruction program. David Gregory, NBC News, Pretoria, South Africa.


MATTHEWS: David Gergen was an advisor to four presidents. He is editor-at-large of "U.S. News and World Report". He is also author of the book "Eyewitness To Power". David Gergen, you have worked in the White House. You have worked in the speech writing operation. How can a president find himself delivering such bogus information and taking all this time to correct the fact?

DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": Chris, it`s incredible to me that they would allow that to get into the speech unless they actually believed it at the White House. As you know, the speechwriters don`t make things like that up. They rely on the National Security Council team. In this case, I`m sure Conde Rice was personally involved and gave her personal approval to what went into that speech.

It`s unfathomable to me that Conde Rice would approve anything that she didn`t believe. But it`s now it`s very clear that there were people down in the system who knew that that report was shaky at best, and faulty at worst, and probably wrong.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, David, there are two possibilities for that terrible bit of misinformation getting in the speech. The argument that the African -- there was an African deal to buy uranium for Saddam Hussein. One is that someone, basically people like the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the vice president`s office, the national security staff, all agreed to something they didn`t really believe was true. The other poss -- because they all have to check off every speech, as you know, especially State of the Union Address.

GERGEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: The other way is that someone had the clout to go to the president and get those lines put in the speech because of their own volition, someone who had that credibility with the president. Could it have been somebody on the NSC staff, could it have been somebody in the vice president`s office who went around the loop and therefore -- and if that`s the case, why isn`t the president furious at that person?

GERGEN: Well, I do think -- I don`t think anyone went around the loop, Chris, but I do think you`re right about it. Why isn`t the president furious? I don`t understand why he is talking about the rewriting of history and brushing this off, as the David Gregory report said. It would seem to me he should be very angry on the offensive not to defensive, to find out why someone within the system -- why the political leadership within the system.

Frankly, these were not civil servants who did this. There were people in positions of political appointments who allowed or seized upon something, distorted it or false -- allowed it to go forward, knowing it was shaky, or they didn`t do their homework. And some heads should roll.

MATTHEWS: Well, people like Elliott Abrams had the portfolio for the Mideast, and the National Security Council. You got to hear from them. You got to hear from heavyweights like Steve Hadley, got to hear from Scooter Libby, vice president`s chief of staff because -- Let me go to Senator Jay Rockefeller right now of West Virginia.


MATTHEWS: You`re investigating this. We know from the "WEEKEND REPORT" that Joe Wilson, the former ambassador in that part of the world, the Gabon (ph), had been sent at the CIA -- at the behest of the vice president`s office last year -- to find if there had been a deal with the government of Niger over uranium sales to Iraq. Came back and said there is no such deal. That information is in the hands of the vice president`s office, and they still let this go through the president`s mouth. How did it happen?

SENATOR JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D)-WEST VIRGINIA: I think that somebody in the group around the president decided they wanted to have that in the speech because this was the speech that was meant to convince the American people to -- you know, that we had to go into Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t that like selling a used car where you know something is wrong with the engine and you shine up the front of the car to make it look good?

ROCKEFELLER: To be honest, yes. And I think there is a lot of answering to be done for it. I think the intelligence community was fairly skeptical about that, and I think it was the responsibility of their leadership and others to go to the president and say you cannot put this in.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this statement that came out of the White House Monday, an unusual statement. The retraction of the president`s words. The president of the United States` words in the State of the Union Address were not retracted by the president. He didn`t say, I made a mistake. The press secretary, Ari Fleischer, didn`t say the president made a mistake. No cabinet secretary said it. This person called a senior administration official. Here it is, an unattributed statement from the White House that said: "Knowing all the awe know now, the reference to Iraq`s attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union Address."

That`s what`s so strange. Senator, don`t you find it strange that they won`t even honestly retract what they found to be bogus, that somebody anonymous has to do it?

ROCKEFELLER: I find that strange. I find that scary. And I find that very dangerous for the future. I mean, they -- if you`re talking about weapons of mass destruction, obviously of which nuclear is the most important of all, if that`s the case that you take to the American people to say, look, we`ve got to go in there under the doctrine of preemption, then you darn well better be sure that your facts are right.

And the intelligence community was skeptical on this, and, you know, the international agency, atomic energy group, they completely dismissed it. It was a fraud. People knew it. They went ahead with it. It had to be put in, I think, for the purpose of -- I say this just from my personal point of view -- of manipulating public opinion, and that`s very dangerous.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to David Gergen on the question of who may be culpable here, because we do have a paper trail, thanks to Joe Wilson, the ambassador. He said he was sent to Niger, the government in Africa that is in question here. There we have a picture of him. He was on "MEET THE PRESS". He also wrote a letter, an op-ed piece for the "New York Times" this weekend.

He made it very clear he was sent down there at the behest of the vice president`s office last year. Months, almost a year before the president`s State of the Union Address, he came back with the information that there was, in fact, no deal. Isn`t vice president`s office responsible, right now, to come out and say why they didn`t act on that information? Why the CIA, which also must sign off on presidential speeches, they didn`t come out with the information and clear the president so that he wouldn`t have to, in his own words, by the way, to use his words, revise history as he seems to be doing, saying that this was not a mistake.

GERGEN: Chris, it was my understanding that he went to the -- to Africa at the request of the CIA, not the vice president`s office. Vice president`s office was...


MATTHEWS: At the behest of the vice president`s office, the CIA was tasked by the vice president`s office to do it. Senator, isn`t that right?

ROCKEFELLER: That is correct.

GERGEN: Well, I thought what he said in "The New York Times" was -- in his piece, was that he was asked by the intelligence agencies for whom he had worked, they paid his way. He went pro bono in terms of his...


MATTHEWS: At the request of the vice president`s office. Right, Senator?

ROCKEFELLER: Absolutely correct.

GERGEN: Well, if that`s the case, if there is a paper trail back to the vice president`s office and if there were papers filed with the vice president`s office, that`s one thing. If it was filed with the CIA, that`s quite another. And I think we should be -- I certainly accept Senator Rockefeller`s characterization of the facts here, but I -- my understanding was that he was a former head - that he was a former state department person...



GERGEN: ... who had done CIA work...

MATTHEWS: ... he was a former (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

GERGEN: ... and he was reporting to...

MATTHEWS: That`s technically how it happened. Let me ask you the big question, gentlemen. I want to get into a very important -- A lot of people watching right now may say, so what. A lot of people may say this is wild, especially the critics of the war. But, those who supported the war, what does it say to them? Senator?

ROCKEFELLER: I supported -- I voted for the resolution.

MATTHEWS: What does it say to people who raised -- I know people -- very smart people who work in our network say what decided it for them was the nuclear piece. They could live with the possibility of this nut over there, Saddam Hussein, had some weapons he may have used on his own people and might be able to give to somebody bad. But the idea that he had nuclear weapons said, we`ve got to stop him. Is there still information that he had nuclear weapons outside of this fact?

ROCKEFELLER: They -- back in October of this year, the national intelligence estimate -- I`m just reading -- Baghdad had chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles, with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have nuclear weapons during this decade. I mean...

MATTHEWS: But do we have reasons for -- David, did we have a reason for fighting this war because of a nuclear threat?

GERGEN: Absolutely. I do think that the nuclear threat, and the sense of an imminent nuclear threat, was highly persuasive with the public. And that`s why the president himself should get to the bottom of this and take the lead in trying to provide the American people with a full account of the evidence and why he was persuaded this was so important. He clearly believed it.

But beyond that, if the president will not act, if the administration will not take action, then just as in Britain, there is now a cry for an independent investigation, there is going to need to be some sort of an inquiry here, and I think independent -- an independent inquiry has the makings of a better inquiry, even though despite the problems of the 9-11 commission is now experiencing.

But the American people deserve to know what was known by the administration and where they misled prior to the war. I do think most Americans trust their president, but that -- that trust is extraordinarily important to his leadership.

MATTHEWS: Senator Rockefeller, do you believe that Congress will get access to the information as to how the president could have come up with this argument about nuclear that turns out to be true?

ROCKEFELLER: I`m vice chairman of intelligence. We`re conducting an inquiry. Pat Roberts and I are determined to do that. I want to get Joe Wilson before our committee.

MATTHEWS: Are the Republicans aboard this inquiry?

ROCKEFELLER: Yes, they are. Yes, they are.

MATTHEWS: So it`s not going to be a partisan inquest?

ROCKEFELLER: No. On the armed services, there wasn`t an agreement. Pat Roberts and I -- Republican -- Democrat agreed.

MATTHEWS: What do you do if you found out the president knew about this and put it in bogusly?

ROCKEFELLER: Then I think there is very serious questions for the president, and enormously serious questions for the next 50 years of this nation in terms of the foreign policy.

GERGEN: Chris, can I add one thing? I want to quote from the "New York Times" piece that Joe Wilson wrote. In February, 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney`s office had questions. It strikes me from that piece -- what I understood that piece to say, was the agency was the one who requested Wilson to go make this report, not the vice president`s office directly. It came from the vice president`s office to the agency then to Wilson.

MATTHEWS: The vice president went to the CIA to get some answers, and they used Mr. Wilson to get the facts.

GERGEN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the chain.

ROCKEFELLER: If I can interject...

MATTHEWS: Yes, Senator.

ROCKEFELLER: I don`t think there is any question but the vice president asked the CIA to send him over. And this is a man who had served as an ambassador under Clinton as well as President Bush.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and David Gergen, an expert on the presidency.

Coming up, we`re going to get some best-selling -- hear from best- selling author, Ann Coulter. Get her take on these false reports about uranium from Africa, and what it means for President Bush.

And later in the HARDBALL show, we got the "HARDBALL Debate" coming up. The hunt for Saddam Hussein and what it means for American troops over there. Do we have to catch this guy to keep our troops safe?

You are watching it. HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, Ann Coulter on President Bush`s retraction on Iraq, and why she doesn`t think we should send troops to Liberia. When HARDBALL returns.



Senator TOM DASCHLE (D- SD) MINORITY LEADER: This is a very important admission. It`s a recognition that we were provided faulty information. And I think it`s all the more reason why a full investigation of all of the facts surrounding this situation be undertaken.


MATTHEWS: That was Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, on the White House`s admission that it cited faulty intelligence on Iraq`s nuclear weapons program in the president`s State of the Union Address this year. We`re joined right now by Ann Coulter, author of "Treason. Liberal Treachery in the Cold War to the War on Terrorism". Ann, where are you right now?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: What do you mean? Physically?

MATTHEWS: Good. Let me ask you about this question. What do you think of this latest presidential retraction of portions of the State of the Union Address?

COULTER: I think there is a lot of cloak and dagger assumptions on the basis of not very much evidence. It seems to me there was some faulty intelligence. It would be better to beef up our intelligence agencies so that doesn`t happen, but the idea that Americans wouldn`t have supported this without -- without hearing that State of the Union Address...

MATTHEWS: Now let`s get to that in a minute. Let`s get to that point in a second. Let`s stick on the one point here. You have got a very sharp mind. I have read your books. You are incredibly good at getting like a jeweler`s eye on a question. Let`s get to this jeweler`s eye question here.

The president of the United States said there was a nuclear bit of traffic, uranium from Africa to Saddam Hussein. He used that in his State of the Union Address. He then puts out a statement, or somebody does at the White House, saying that wasn`t true. High administration official. No statement from the president, no statement from Ari Fleischer, any of the cabinet secretaries. Why are they acting so weird about this?

COULTER: Because they know HARDBALL will jump all over them for it. They want to be very careful about putting this statement out. And presumably, they don`t know where the breakdown in the intelligence was yet.

MATTHEWS: Well, don`t they know who put the paper in front of the president? There is always a log kept by the communications director at the White House as to what goes into the president`s State of the Union and where it comes from and when it went in. They have these facts. Why don`t they use them to get the culprit?

COULTER: Well, because the CIA -- I mean, I don`t know who was at the CIA, based on what intelligence, confirmed by whom, checked by whom, reviewed by whom, then decided to put in front of the president. Ok, a mistake was made, but this wasn`t why Americans supported the war in Iraq. By large majorities, they supported the war throughout 2002. And I don`t think anyone thinks we deposed the Iraqi Abraham Lincoln by mistake.


COULTER: I mean, I don`t think anyone thinks this was a mistake. It`s unfortunate.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you know -- Ann, you know people like I do. There are a lot of reasons people had for supporting that war or opposing it, good and bad, I think, on both sides. But, one of the reason a lot of people in the center supported the war, who you would hardly call neo- conservatives or hawks or anything else. They were afraid that the United States might be targeted by nuclear weaponry. And they were very concerned when the president raised that, and said it`s not just chemical and biological that could be raised in the field, but nuclear that could be delivered here. Don`t you think that -- I will just ask the question, don`t you know anybody that was moved by that argument?

COULTER: No. I think they were moved by the argument made by Dick Cheney, the president, in that very State of the Union Address, and Condoleezza Rice, that by the time the threat is imminent, Chicago could be gone. We can`t really gauge these things that closely. Once Saddam Hussein threw the weapons inspectors out, it was a little hard to know exactly what he was up to. Consequently, we have to rely on intelligence. There can be mistakes in intelligence. But I think overwhelmingly, it was about 70 percent throughout 2002, Americans supported not waiting.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I knew this. Don`t tell me numbers. I know numbers up the kazoo. And I know about the numbers for this president. I want to ask you about the facts. And this is it. Preemptive war is an unusual thing for the United States to engage it.

Generally we`re a defensive country. To take the historic step to move first against a country, you have to have a different threshold. The threshold here, it seems to me, should have been evidence, hard evidence that they were developing nuclear weaponry that they could use against us. Do you feel that that threshold, given all you know now and the retraction from the White House, was met?

COULTER: I don`t think that`s a threshold. I think the threshold is whether this will serve America`s self-defense. We were dealing with a madman. He attempted to assassinate the president of the United States. He had used weapons of mass destruction in the past against the Kurds, against the Iranians. He obviously had the opportunity and the means and the desire to have weapons of mass destruction. And Americans thought that was enough, and I was one of them.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about another war front right now, move ahead on this conversation. I think we have gotten where we are going to get with this, tonight at least. You will change, I think, in the days ahead. But let`s just leave here.

By the way, good luck with your book. You`re doing well with the book. It is called "Treason".

Let me ask you about the bigger question here -- another war front. We`re in Afghanistan, we are still in Bosnia, we are in North Korea, we are in Germany -- South Korea, rather -- in Germany. Should we go to West Africa with our troops?

COULTER: My inclination is to say no. If we do, I think the argument has to be that there is some sort of strategic national interest involved. I mean, we do have a special interest in Liberia. There is that. It could be standing by allies. It could be that we need some sort of base to operate there. But I must say, I strongly disagree with Howard Dean`s position, that we should do it because it would be good for the world. It`s in the world`s interests. I think we should be deploying American troops only when it is in America`s interest.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about that when we come back, because I want your thoughts on Africa. I don`t think all the hawks are with the hawks on this one. I think there is a real division. I want to hear from you on the right. Ann Coulter, author of "Treason". She`s coming right back to talk about HARDBALL.

We also have the "HARDBALL Debate" coming up. Is it crucial for President Bush that Saddam Hussein be found and found quickly?

And still ahead, the "Political Buzz". New polls show support for President Bush is dropping a bit. How will this impact his fight for re- election? Not much, says Frank Luntz, who is very, very bullish on the president. He will be back in a moment too.

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with Ann Coulter. You know, it is -- I know you have noticed this, this sort of the split personality -- the split in rows. The real hawkish people, the defense department people lauded them, yourself, who really supported gung ho the war with Iraq, are very, very hesitant about this war in West Africa.

COULTER: I did not know that. I have not been keeping tabs. But I mean, I have to say before 9/11, I would tend to agree with the Pat Buchanan position. I don`t want to be the world`s policemen. We have to guard our own country and protect our own country. And as liberals have endlessly reminded us before we go into Afghanistan and Iraq, war is hell. I don`t think American boys should be dying unless it makes America safer.

MATTHEWS: Are you afraid of a replay of "Black Hawk Down" like we saw in Somalia, where a bunch of Africans are surrounding a couple of American guys and dragging them through the streets after they kill them?

COULTER: I haven`t thought of that either, although that`s always a possibility. War is hell. That`s why I think we should only go to war, only send in troops, and you never know what could happen once you send in troops, if this is absolutely in America`s best interests.

MATTHEWS: What about the American -- the president`s argument, it is the American argument, I guess, it`s not just humanitarian. It`s not just because a lot of former American slaves built a country over there with our strong support and they have been good to us on VOA, voice of America...


MATTHEWS: ... all those good things. But, that every time you let a country become a hellhole, like Afghanistan, like Somalia, like Sudan, it`s a breeding ground for terrorists. Terrorists just come in and take over, like in a bad neighborhood, they just own the place. What do you say to that argument, and we don`t want that to be the case in Africa?

COULTER: It`s not a bad argument. And Liberia -- we do have a special relationship to. But I wouldn`t want to extend it to lots of other countries. That is at least an argument that`s being made and why this is in America`s national defense interests.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have got to say, you have written a hell of another book again. It`s called "Treason". I don`t like the title because you`re talking about Democrats. By the way, have you found one person who you think is a traitor in the Democratic Party? Have you got a name yet? I have been looking for that name.

COULTER: I am refusing to turn this into a personality issue. It`s about ideas.

MATTHEWS: OK. It is not a personality -- hey, you`re very nice and very cute. And thank you for joining us here. A beautiful woman with great ideas I disagree with. Thank you very much, Ann Coulter...

COULTER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... but you`re a great writer.

Up next, the "HARDBALL Debate". Recent tapes indicate Saddam Hussein is still alive and causing trouble. How crucial is this that we find him?

And later, polls show President Bush`s approval rating is dipping slightly. But it`s not all good news for the Democrats either. They are causing more trouble by just being there. Frank Luntz will be here.

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: This half hour, the "HARDBALL Debate". With new signs Saddam Hussein is alive in Iraq, can America win the peace without capturing the former Iraqi dictator?

Plus, Frank Luntz and the latest polls on President Bush.

But first the latest headlines right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This half-hour, the HARDBALL debate: with new signs Saddam Hussein is alive in Iraq, can America win the peace without capturing the former Iraqi dictator?

Plus, Frank Luntz and the latest polls on President Bush.

But first the latest headlines right now.



COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe it`s important to do everything we can to determine his whereabouts, whether he is alive or dead, in order to assist in stabilizing the situation and letting the people of Baghdad be absolutely sure that he`s not coming back.


MATTHEWS: That was, of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell last weekend announcing a $25 million U.S. bounty on Saddam Hussein. But how important is it that we find Saddam? That`s the HARDBALL debate tonight.

Raymond Tanter is an msnbc analyst and a member of the national security council under President Reagan. And of course, Frank Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy and senator Jay Rockefeller -- we`re holding him over, he`s back with us -- he just returned from Baghdad.

Senator, you start off. You were over there. What`s the influence of the persona of Saddam Hussein today?

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Overwhelming. And I think he`s alive and I think his son is alive. But he dominates that country. People will not talk. If they are in the presence of just Americans and we were over there, they will not talk.

MATTHEWS: Is there a sense that he`s in the country?

ROCKEFELLER: Yes, very much so. I think it`s in that Sunni triangle, Baghdad, Tikrit, etc.

MATTHEWS: Why hasn`t the United States military conducted a house to house search for him?

ROCKEFELLER: I`m not sure if there`s a house to house search, but there is a large contingent of American military which is dedicated exclusively to the finding of Saddam Hussein.

MATTHEWS: And how do you explain the fact that we haven`t been able to locate him?

ROCKEFELLER: Because he could have changed, because Baghdad is six million people, because it`s a land where people can morph in and out. And he`s, you know, a master of denial and deception.

MATTHEWS: Do people act on the theory that he`s coming back in power?

ROCKEFELLER: I don`t think that`s necessary. I think they act on the theory that he`s still around and might extract retribution.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Raymond Tanter, who`s joined us tonight. He`s a former member of the Reagan national security council staff.

Mr. Tanter, should we put a lot of effort into catching this guy?

RAYMOND TANTER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Absolutely, Chris. It`s very important because Saddam Hussein -- not knowing whether Saddam Hussein is dead or not fuels the fires of the opposition, the remnants of his regime, the criminal elements he released from jail, the so-called holy warriors who came in from Syria and from Iran get all kinds of sustenance based upon the uncertainty whether Saddam is alive or dead.

Then you have these tapes that Saddam issues. And that also provides fuel to the fire, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Would you take the troops that are now stationed over there to keep people peaceable and to try to build a society? Would you take a bunch of those troops, 10,000 or 20,000 of them and deploy them to look for Saddam Hussein? There is a cost to making that a top priority. Would you pay it?

TANTER: Well, there is a cost. And I think that either you pay it now or you pay it later because we will be atritted away in some kind of war of attrition.

It`s not a quagmire. But this uncertainty is not only fueling the fires, it`s also decreasing American support for the war and increasing the likelihood that other coalition members won`t come in. India may not want to come in, Turkey may not want to come in.

So that`s what I think, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Frank, would you devote resources? It`s not just a B.S. conversation here. Would you take lots of men who are now trying to keep that country organized so it can move towards something that`s moderate and take them and send them out in the field and use them to chase after this guy?

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I think we are doing that, as the senator said. Whether the right number is 10,000 or 20,000 or 5,000 or whatever the number is we`re using right now, I think it`s up to the commanders in the field.

I think that does have to be a high priority, I think it is a high priority. It`s just that we`ve got to think about what happens if we don`t get him?

And I believe that there is a likelihood that over time, as people see he isn`t coming back, as people see things getting better, we`re going to see that fear diminish, we`re going to see this concern about opposition rising up again diminish, as well. It`s certainly not as good an outcome as taking him out, and that`s what we ought to be concentrating on.

MATTHEWS: The longer he gets away from us, Senator, it seems like the more he has impressed the people of his ability to get away with this.

ROCKEFELLER: And that`s correct. You know, when I was there a week ago -- we were in the north, south, central part -- nobody was really talking about insurgency. Now, one week later you`re hearing a lot more talk about insurgency, which may be controlled by him. There is talk that he has $100 million at his disposal.

MATTHEWS: But the minute he starts to assert command over anybody, isn`t he easier to trace?

ROCKEFELLER: He doesn`t have to assert command over them. All he has to do is to get the right people who hate enough -- and there are plenty of them, people who have been kicked out who work for him -- to come after us. And I think that`s why you are seeing more people getting killed.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Tanter.

TANTER: Chris, you have a good point. Once Saddam starts to move, once he begins to exercise command and control, then the National Security Agency can focus on him and pick up his intelligence and we`ll know where he is.

Remember what Joe Louis said about Billy Kahn, "he can run but he can`t hide." With Saddam Hussein, he can hide but he can`t run because once he begins to run, we`ve got him.

MATTHEWS: The trouble that Billy Kahn had him on points until the last rounds and he could have beat him if he hadn`t tried to knock him out. You got the one guy who didn`t run from Joe Lewis, the Irish guy. Come on, Tanter, you`ve got him wrong. Kahn stood up to him, he fought him.

Go ahead, Frank Gaffney.

GAFFNEY: This is the moment where we want to see this guy come up on the net, we`d like to see him organize, we`d like to see him be more visible through these various apparatuses. That gives you a shot at him.

This is -- As the senator said at the beginning, this is a fellow who`s made a career out of survival. And it`s entirely possible he will be able to stay underground or out of sight for the duration. We`ve got to work on contingency plans that allow us to operate there as effectively as we can, even if we can`t get him.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Tanter, why do you think that Saddam -- who is hiding, I think. That would be his primary mission, not to get caught -- why does he keep putting out tapes? Doesn`t that just sort of tease us into finding out where the tapes came from, where he is?

TANTER: Well, Saddam looks to take a page out of Osama bin Laden`s play book, in the sense that Osama stays alive metaphorically or physically, spiritually, if you will, by sending out tapes, video, audio.

MATTHEWS: Now the question, Mr. Tanter, do we have to find this guy to win?

TANTER: I think that political victory is very important, and you can only do that if you get DNA on Saddam.

ROCKEFELLER: We have to find him.


GAFFNEY: You win faster and more conclusively if you find him.

MATTHEWS: Do we have to find him, yes or no?

GAFFNEY: Yes, we have to find him but we also have to win.

MATTHEWS: OK. We have to find him.

Thank you Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia; Raymond Tanter of the Reagan national security staff and Frank Gaffney, an old pal here.

Coming up, Frank Luntz with the latest polls on President Bush and Iraq.

And later, former CNN executive Walter Isaacson talks about the state of the news business and CNN.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: Coming up, new polls show President Bush`s job approval rating has taken a dip. Frank Luntz will be here when HARDBALL comes back.


MATTHEWS: Time now for our battle for the White House update. A new update by the Pew Research Center has some warning signs for President Bush.

His job approval rating now stands at 60 percent, pretty high. That`s a significant drop from the 74 percent rating the president enjoyed on April 9, the day the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the daily violence in Iraq is bothering the public. Asked how well the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going, less than a quarter of the American people now say very well. That`s down from 61 percent in mid April.

Pollster Frank Luntz joins us right now.

Frank, what do you make of these numbers? They`re down but not down terribly.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: You know, it`s fascinating to me that even with Americans getting killed on a too frequent a basis in Iraq, that still the American people give the president 60 percent job approval rating. We`ve got the highest unemployment numbers.

You would look at general conditions and you`d say that the president should probably have fallen a little bit more than he has. The fact that he`s staying up at 60 percent is pretty remarkable, considering all these conditions that are going on right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s a lagging indicator, his popularity, that it will fall eventually if the bad news continues or is he resistant to bad news?

LUNTZ: Well, I think he is resistant to bad news because of his personality. You know, Chris, we`ve talked about this before.

Americans, even though we talk about issues, they are actually more interested in character traits and attributes. And the way this president communicates and how he can relate to an individual on a face to face, one on one basis, that holds him up. That allows him to remain more popular, even when the conditions around the country are not as positive as they might be.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to the character question, a topic we`ve been talking about tonight. That`s the question of whether there was, in fact, a nuclear threat from Iraq.

Do you think the evidence that`s come out -- in fact, the White House has retracted it, that there really is no evidence that the United States saw any traffic in uranium coming from Africa to Saddam Hussein, and the fact that they had to retract that and really with no explanation as to why it found its way in the speech in the first place, how is that going to affect people`s thinking?

LUNTZ: Well, remember, first I`m a pollster, so I don`t know about the evidence per se. It`s interesting that the way the Democrats have been responding to this has been very personal and going at the president`s credibility. And I can understand it from a political, from a strategic standpoint, but it would be more effective if more moderate Democrats came forward than those who had always been against the war.

It`s interesting that the approach that they`re using is basically so negative and so harsh that it undercuts their credibility on a legitimate issue that they have a right to question.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they should say maybe the president was misled here by his staff and even by the vice president`s office, and in fact, we should ask him, we should help him try to get to the bottom of it rather than attacking him?

LUNTZ: Exactly. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would not be accusatory. I would ask a lot of questions.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at some more numbers, Frank. They`re your expertise.

Two-thirds favor, 2/3 of the American people still favor -- this is making your point -- a major American effort to rebuild Iraq and establish a stable government there. There you have 2/3 of the American people, a number you rarely see on any topic, still saying pluck ahead, keep the troops there, get the job done. That`s pretty amazing.

LUNTZ: Well, it`s not really amazing because of the photographs that we saw. When Americans are really paying attention to the war, our military efforts were going quite effectively.

And we are prepared to -- it`s tragic, but we are prepared to accept some loss of life, provided that we are helping the people and provided that Americans see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And that`s the challenge for this Bush administration. Not to talk about what`s happening today or next week, but what is Iraq going to be like five years or 10 years down the road?

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at another one. Two-thirds of the people, again a big percentage, said the United States made the right decision to use military force against Iraq. I guess that number is standing up here.

Let me ask you about the economic issue. The president could be doing more to improve economic conditions. Well, that`s a fairly soft question, 62, 53. But, you know, that`s not even that high. The president could be doing more. In other words, 38 percent think he`s doing pretty well.

LUNTZ: That`s exactly the point. Here again, we go back to the attributes, the character traits. They have some faith in this president in his ability to manage, and they have faith in the people around him.

We know that this administration made some changes economically earlier in this year, and the American people are very patient.

The one number that bothers me or that would bother a pollster looking at this is the unemployment number. At what point do you know that it has peaked? The American people are prepared to accept even some unemployment, but they want to know that, again, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

One more point, Chris.

MATTHEWS: They care about the direction of the unemployment number. If it`s going down, they feel that they`ve gotten out of harm`s way. If it`s going up, they figure they`re next.

LUNTZ: Exactly, but there is even more important than the unemployment number, and that`s the stock number. And with the stock market now around 9200, a lot of Americans have gotten back 10 percent or 15 percent of the money that they had lost. That`s an even more important statistic. That`s a leading indicator.

If that market is up around 10,000 by March or April of 2004, this president will be very hard to beat.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that. I hope it is that high. I don`t think it will be.

Anyway, nearly 3/4 of the people now say that President Bush could be doing more to deal with health problems in this country. Is that still a strength for the Democrats?

LUNTZ: Well, it`s always been an advantage for the Democrats, but look what`s happening now with prescription drugs, that you`ve got the White House and the Republican Party that`s actually taken the lead.

More Americans today now believe that the Republicans are going to deliver prescription drugs than the Democrats. That`s an important issue that the Democrats look like they`re losing right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that most people -- look at the numbers we`ve got here. This is the Pew numbers we`re showing you all night tonight. Here is bad news for the Democrats. I don`t know. It`s hard to read.

Only 38 percent say the Democratic Party could do a better job than Republicans in reforming the U.S. health care system. That`s down. That`s way down.

LUNTZ: That`s way down. But there is a bigger point than this.

MATTHEWS: Down from 53 percent in March.

LUNTZ: That 2004 campaign is actually being very destructive to Democrats in Congress because Kerry and Edwards and particularly Dean, they are all moving so far to the left.

MATTHEWS: You know what, George Bush has done the same thing on health care he did on education. He`s stolen the Democrats` lunch.

Anyway, thank you, Frank Luntz.

Coming up, we`ll ask Walter Isaacson about his new book on Ben Franklin and the state of the news business. This guy used to run CNN. Interesting debate coming up with our old rival.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Water Isaacson is currently president of the Aspen Institute, a global think tank. Previously, Mr. Isaacson served as chairman and CEO Of our competitor network, CNN. He also was for a long time managing editor of "TIME" magazine.

He`s got a hot new book out, "Benjamin Franklin, An American life."

I`ve got to ask you about this new poll that`s just come out, Walter. It asked the American people if our Founding Fathers would be pleased with the country we`ve become after all these years.

Take a look at these numbers. Fifty percent of the country think that the Founding Fathers -- these are the people who wrote the documents, the Declaration of Independence, Constitution -- would be happy with us the way we are now, and 48 percent said not.

What does that mean to you? I have a theory. What do you think it means?

WALTER ISAACSON, "BENJAMIN FRANKLIN" AUTHOR: Well, you know hold ourselves up to great ideals. We`re the exceptionalist nation. We`re the shining city on the hill. Everybody from John Winthrop used that line to, to Ronald Reagan used that line so effectively.

I think that -- I mean, I`m in that camp that says Benjamin Franklin would be proud of us. We`re a pretty good nation.

MATTHEWS: You`re with the 50.

ISAACSON: I`m with the 50.

MATTHEWS: What are the 48 saying? Are they saying that we don`t measure up to their ideal that they heard about? Or what do they think? Or they just don`t like the way it is here?

Ninety-eight percent of the American people in that same poll say they`re very proud to be an American.

ISAACSON: Right. I think they`re worried about the values.

You know, one problem is we take our Founding Fathers and we make them out of marble and we put them on a pedestal. And they weren`t human beings.

The good thing about Benjamin Franklin is, he was a human being. He had some flaws, you know. He had problems with his wife, you know. He had an illegitimate father.

MATTHEWS: He was a terrible father, right.

ISAACSON: He was a great father for a very long time to his illegitimate son till his illegitimate son decided he was going to stick loyal to the British. And they had a rift. But yes, people said, "Well, isn`t that horrible?" You know people like that who have fights with their kids or something, so...

MATTHEWS: That kid was a Tory, right?

ISAACSON: He was a Tory, which is why he had that rift with him.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about something really important. We tried to get French on our side in this last war.

Assuming -- this is a big assumption -- that we were right in the war, would Franklin, who brought the French in on our side in the American revolution, saved us at Yorktown, win the battle for us, would he have been able to do it this time? Was that he good?

ISAACSON: He could have easily turned the French around.

First of all because he understood how to appeal to the French national interests, say, in your balance of power interests you need to be on the winning side here.

But secondly, he knew how to appeal to France`s ideals. Say, "OK. You`re a nation that cares about liberty. You were founded on liberty. Surely you understand the moral reasons we`re doing this."

And thirdly, Benjamin Franklin always felt that humility was an important virtue. And confided or he wrote, he said, "I wasn`t very good at actually mastering the virtue of humility but I was good at the pretense of it. I could fake humility." That`s all he would do. When he went to Paris, he would fake it.

If George Bush, who talked about the need for humility in foreign policy...

MATTHEWS: The Reagan library.

ISAACSON: Yes, the Reagan library, during the debates, that he ran and stuff. If he had just put on the pretense of a little bit more humility, a little bit of just feigning some humility, I think it would have gone a long way.

MATTHEWS: A big question in the United States. It`s a big issue with evangelicals and others. Was the United States formed as a Christian state?

ISAACSON: No. The United States was formed as a state that believed in tolerance. And Benjamin Franklin ran away from a theocracy which was Puritan Boston to come to your town, Philadelphia.

MATTHEWS: Which was tolerant.

ISAACSON: The city of brotherly love. Not only because of the Quakers but because you had Moravians and you had Jews and you had people - - And he donated. He was a religious man but he donated to the building fund of each and every church built during his lifetime in Philadelphia.

And when Jefferson is writing the Declaration of Independence, Franklin was the editor. Jefferson writes the line, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable." And Franklin takes the little pen and crosses it out and says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

We are based on rationality, reason and natural rights. It is not just an assertion of religion.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the editing of today. It is no longer "Poor Richard`s Almanac" or pamphleteering like Thomas Payne. He was, of course, underwritten and pushed forward by your guy, Ben Franklin.

But also cable. You ran CNN for a long time. You were fighting us on msnbc and of course also Fox. Who are the people that watch cable? What`s this new market of television all about? I don`t think it`s the same people that watch broadcasting.

ISAACSON: No. And that was one of CNN`s problems. CNN is a pure journalistic network. It tries and has ingrained in its DNA, good reporting, straight, et cetera. Whereas, I think cable is very good with provocative, opinionated stuff.

CNN, when I was there and now, still doesn`t want to have opinionated talk show hosts. They want to have news anchors generally. And you know...

MATTHEWS: Is cable more like the evening newspaper we grew up with? More opinion?

ISAACSON: Yes. Cable is definitely like the old newspapers when there were 12 newspapers or eight newspapers.

MATTHEWS: Everyone with a point of view.

ISAACSON: All with points of view. Every writer, every columnist having a point of view. And this is good. I think Benjamin Franklin would love the cacophony. He loved competition.

MATTHEWS: He was a man who believed in revolution. You think the idea of cable right now. I think it is a counter force in American life. I think people watch cable because they don`t like what`s on regular television. Do you find that?


MATTHEWS: ... up against it.

ISAACSON: I do and I think that`s also why Fox has done well, it`s sort a sense of, OK, a populist rebellion. But I do think that Franklin would have been against it. I`m somewhat against the conglomeration you`re now seeing in the media and...

MATTHEWS: The big owners.

ISAACSON: The big owners, and the allowance of a lot more big owners.

Franklin felt that the more voices you had, the more diversity you had, the more you were going to get. And when he wrote "Apology for Printer," his first issue of his newspaper, he said, "Look, you know, if you just want to see printed things that you agree with, we`re going to end up printing very little." We have to have papers that say everything. And people are smart enough to make up their own minds.

MATTHEWS: I have to ask you a question because I`m a huge fan of Ben Franklin, being from Philadelphia. But also, the older I get, the smarter that guy gets. You`ve got to read him. He`s so smart.

Let me ask you the big question here. Where would we be right now if we didn`t have Ben Franklin?

ISAACSON: You know, I think we would have been less democratic as a nation. He was the middle class shop keeper who in his bones, in his finger tips, believed in democracy.

A lot of those founders did not believe in democracy. They weren`t populists. They were elitists. It was fine but I mean, they were, you know, trying to make sure we didn`t directly elect a Congress or all those sort of things.

And every step of the way in the constitutional convention, Franklin is pushing for more democracy. And his mantra is let`s not do anything that demeans the spirit of the common man. Let`s not have any wealth qualification to vote, wealth qualification to be in office. He wanted to elect all of the judges.

And I think it was important to have somebody who actually had faith in democracy and believed in the middle class values. And he said you can`t have democracy without the middle class values.

MATTHEWS: He used to go to France and instead of putting on the costume of Louis XIV, whatever it was, the court of Versailles, he would wear American clothes. Right?

ISAACSON: Not only that. I mean, he was good as an image breaker. He never showed up with a ceremonial sword or a powdered wig. He was very good. He actually wore a fur cap.

Now, this was a guy who lived, as you know, on Market Street in your hometown of Philadelphia and on Craven Street in London his whole life. Once he goes way up to the frontier because he`s traveling to Canada. He buys a fur hat and he buys a frock coat and he wears it when he hugs Voltaire on the steps of the Academy and he wears it to the salons of Paris because he wants to be the uncorrupted frontier sage and he knows the French will laugh it up. And the women used to pat him on the head and stuff. It was great. He had a good time.

MATTHEWS: It`s great having you, Walter Isaacson. The name of the book is "Benjamin Franklin," right? Full title?

ISSACSON: "A American Life."

MATTHEWS: A great book.

Anyway, join us again -- Beautifully bound, by the way.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, come back and see us tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for more HARDBALL. Right now, it`s time for the "COUNTDOWN." Keith Olbermann.