Announcer: This is THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW. Today:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, anchor:
The Republican rebellion. For the first time since the fall of Saddam,
Republicans in Congress are saying the GOP can't win with GIs dying in
Baghdad. So, will the Republicans running for the White House join the
A coalition of one. Tony Blair was the president's most stalwart ally.
Sometimes he looked like Bush's only ally. Does George Bush now face the
And I am what I am. After trying to have it both ways in the Republican
debate, Rudy Giuliani has now decided to stand for abortion rights, even if he
stands alone. Can he still win as Mr. 9/11?
Hi. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to the show.
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Interview: David Gregory of NBC News, Time magazine's Richard
Stengel, BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay and Cynthia
Kay, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discuss Republicans
losing patience with the war in Iraq, Tony Blair leaving office
and 2008 presidential hopefuls
CHRIS MATTHEWS, anchor:
Katty Kay covers Washington for the British Broadcasting Corporation. David
Gregory is chief White House correspondent for NBC News. Cynthia Tucker is
editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a new winner of
the Pulitzer Prize. And Richard Stengel's managing editor of Time magazine.
First up, this week for the first time, there's a sign Republicans,
particularly those running in tough seats, are losing patience with the war.
Eleven House Republicans told the president that the Iraq war is killing them.
Republican Arlen Specter had some tough questions for Defense Secretary Bob
Senator ARLEN SPECTER: (Wednesday) What are the prospects for having some
light at the end of the tunnel to see some encouragement, which would enable
the Congress to have the fortitude to support the president.
Mr. ROBERT GATES: (Wednesday): I think that the honest answer is, Senator,
is that I don't know.
MATTHEWS: But the president is asking for more time.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: (Thursday) General Petraeus' report to
the--back--around September about what's taking place in Baghdad. My attitude
toward Congress is why don't you wait and see what he says.
MATTHEWS: Well, the big noise this week, David, is the White House, which you
cover, is the president was visited by 11 Republican congressmen and women who
say they're in big trouble politically if this war goes on. Does it have an
DAVID GREGORY reporting:
It does have an impact. There's two main points. First of all, these
Republicans said to the president, you are done as a credible source of
information about this war. It's all about your general on the ground.
That's significant. Second, he doesn't like timelines, they're giving him
one. They're saying September when Petraeus gives us the progress report. If
it's not better, we're done. And then you're left to say, `Well, what's
next?' That has had an impact inside. But there is a level, this president,
his top advisers, they get it. For a good while now, they had been resigned
to the fact that they no longer control the outcome here.
MATTHEWS: The outcome politically?
GREGORY: The outcome politically. The outcome militarily. And it all flows
MATTHEWS: OK. Richard Stengel, the president knows his poll numbers are
terrible. Why should it surprise him that 11 Republicans are so or a dozen
Republicans have cold feet?
Mr. RICHARD STENGEL (Time): I don't think it did surprise him. I mean, you
know what the White House is always like. They think members are panicking
about everything. Members are up for re-election every two years, so the
White House thinks, man, they need--they're always in trouble. I think they
didn't panic about it. I think they didn't like the fact that the Republicans
and Ray LaHood went out and boasted about how they took it to the president
and were so candid.
Mr. STENGEL: But look, he's more concerned about his legacy. He's more
concerned about whether he's going to lead a
Republican...(unintelligible)...like Hoover did many, many years ago.
MATTHEWS: You mean ruin the party for decades.
Mr. STENGEL: That's what he's worried about.
MATTHEWS: Well, I'm going--we'll get to that. But Katty, is he worried about
the fact that these Republicans may lose their seats? Or doesn't he care?
Ms. KATTY KAY (BBC Washington Correspondent): Well, if he--what David was
saying about having an impact in the White House, they're all starting to get
concerned about this. And yet there's President Bush comes out on Thursday
and gives the press conference which is all about warning people about the
cost of failure. His rhetoric is certainly not changing. It seems to me that
President Bush is absolutely still committed to staying the course, whatever
the course might mean in Iraq. He's going to leave there on his own terms.
He isn't sounding like a man who's worrying about Republican congressmen.
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, it seems to me that he was elected president. He won in a
Democratic process. He's not immune to it, but he's not running again and
maybe he doesn't care anymore politically.
Ms. CYNTHIA TUCKER (Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial Page Editor):
Chris, I don't think he does. I think he has--still has a Messiah-like belief
that he is absolutely right about this. I think that there is a religious
underpinning about this. He talks in private groups about prayer all the
time. I think he believes that this is something, the right thing for him to
do and that sometimes the prophet doesn't have honor in his own country or
White House or Congress, but he's going to do it anyway. And the only thing
that will change his mind is if those Republicans don't just talk to him, but
start voting the way that they're talking. And they have not done that yet.
Ms. KAY: The other thing that he's been saying repeatedly is there is one
commander in chief and he's making this distinction saying `I am the commander
in chief. This is how our country works. We don't have hundreds of
commanders in chiefs.'
MATTHEWS: He's not the only decider, however, politically, Rich, and you've
got a big cover this week on Mitt Romney.
Mr. STENGEL: Mm-hmm.
MATTHEWS: There's three front-runners, Romney's moving up into the top three
with McCain and Giuliani. Is there--possibly that Romney, who you've covered
this week, might begin to trim away from this war? For example, focus on
social issues? Can he just run a campaign that ignores Bush?
Mr. STENGEL: Well, our whole story is about whether there's a there there
with Mitt Romney. How much does he really believe, how much is just
flexibility and how much is really expedience? When it comes to the war, I'm
told he's going to be talking about on "60 Minutes" this week about the fact
that he--he's not so much against the war, but it's been run appallingly.
That it's been executed very, very poorly. Mitt Romney's autobiography is
called "Turnaround" and he's going to campaign on the fact that he's going to
turn around all of these different things. Some people are saying he's going
to turn around all of his different policies that are now not working for him.
Mr. STENGEL: But what he's going to say is, `I can execute better.'
MATTHEWS: That is not a supportive soldier of the president's.
GREGORY: Well, but here's the...
Mr. STENGEL: He's not, he's not.
MATTHEWS: If he runs on that, he's not running for Bush.
GREGORY: Chris, let me say--here's what's hard: Everybody wants some
distance from Bush in the management of the war.
MATTHEWS: That's what I'm asking.
GREGORY: Yeah. That's not the hard part. All the candidates will have that.
MATTHEWS: How about the idea of the war? Are they willing to say it was a
GREGORY: That's--right. The point is that, is the war a mistake because it
was mishandled to such a point that whether it was a good idea in the first
place, no matter--no longer matters. The issue is what's our posture in that
part of the world going forward, and what do we do about this big, bad threat
of Islamic fundamentalism? I mean, in some ways that's what Rudy Giuliani
wants to talk about exclusively. He doesn't want to talk about the war,
because he's still associated with 9/11. But that's what neither side is
really talking about a lot, which is what is chapter two? That's going to be
the hard part, and that's what's really going to define this election
Ms. KAY: It is also...
MATTHEWS: When's chapter two?
GREGORY: Chapter two is what are we--do we have troops over there? Who do we
take on next? What do we do about a nuclear Iran? And what do we do in
general about the next phase of Islamic fundamentalism. How do we transform
the region. George W. Bush did not get that part of it wrong, that the
region needed to be transformed after 9/11. It's the manner in which he did
it which was so heavily scrutinized.
Ms. KAY: The other problem for Republicans is, you start criticizing the
president too strongly and it can be counterproductive. Because so many
people in the country still have--the majority have a reverence for the office
of the president, and where as much they don't like...
GREGORY: And 75 percent of conservatives still back him.
Ms. KAY: Still support President Bush.
Ms. TUCKER: Well, yes.
Mr. STENGEL: Are you--as long as you don't criticize the office and you
criticize the execution, that's fine.
Ms. KAY: Yeah. It's a fine line to walk, because if you start criticizing
Bush too much, you will be seen by some Republicans as criticizing the
Mr. STENGEL: There are people defending the presidency. There's almost no
one defending Bush.
Ms. TUCKER: Just this week, the Republican governor of Georgia was on the
radio saying, `You ought to shut up about the war.' He is part of that base.
The Republican presidential candidates' problem is not just the war, their
biggest problem is their base. Their base still overwhelmingly supports the
war, doesn't want to hear much criticism of the president. And they are--and
Rudy Giuliani's problem, of course, is that they're strictly anti-abortion.
Ms. TUCKER: And they're a group of people who are impervious to the facts,
just like George Bush is.
GREGORY: You asked a fundamental question, though, which is what does Bush
care about politically at this stage. And I think one of the things he cares
about for the long term health of the party is not to be--not to have a
Vietnam syndrome for this generation of Republican politicians by getting out
the wrong way.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, the big questions, of the top three running on the
Republican side, which of them are sticking? It sounds like Rudy still
focuses on terrorism, basically, at home.
MATTHEWS: And Romney's still doing what he's doing, which is talk about
social issues. But let's talk about this guy, McCain. We asked The Matthews
Meter about John McCain. Twelve of our regular panelists: Will McCain split
with the president over the war by October? Well, nine Meter-ites say no,
McCain will not part with Bush even in the fall, three think he will.
David, you say McCain sticks with Bush.
GREGORY: Yeah, I think that's...
MATTHEWS: No matter what Petraeus says? No matter what?
GREGORY: Well, because--look, he thought there should've been more troops.
But I think McCain is going to stick to the idea that to pull out of Iraq, to
have a deadline for withdrawal of Iraq leads to chaos there. He's out there
on that. He's out there with a principled and unpopular position. I think he
sticks to that and rides it for all its worth.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, the same week that the president lost some Republican
allies, he also lost his key international ally. British Prime Minister Tony
Blair called it quits after 10 years. Blair started out as one of the most
beloved prime ministers in British history, but his popularity plummeted,
thanks in large part to his unwavering support for George Bush and the war in
Katty, a columnist wrote this week that Tony Blair is not only disliked by the
British people overall, he's loathed by his political party. Is that true?
Ms. KAY: He's not just loathed by his political party, he is loathed by the
British public. I think it's hard, sitting here, to really understand the
level of vitriol that the British feel for Tony Blair. And you know why?
It's because he stuck with George Bush so firmly. He became a superstar in
America and as he did so, he was being called "the poodle" back home. The
more he was loved on this side of the Atlantic, the more he was disliked on
that side of the Atlantic. And it wasn't a coincidence.
GREGORY: And yet one of the things that he, I think, did very
effectively--whether you agree with him or not--in this country is give
articulation to the broader context of what the war was about, the war of
ideas, the war against fundamentalism beyond the nuts and bolts tactical...
Ms. KAY: Without doubt, he was--he was the eloquent voice.
Mr. STENGEL: (Unintelligible).
Ms. KAY: He was the eloquent voice for George Bush. He was the diplomat for
the war in Iraq.
Mr. STENGEL: I don't know if you would agree with this, but look, since
World War II, the mantra of all British prime ministers is, `Stay close to
America on all international issues. And they have hewed close to America.
That is going to change with Gordon Brown, right?
MATTHEWS: How so?
Ms. KAY: It's going to change to some extent. Gordon Brown is a big
Americaphile. This is the man who will be Britain's next prime minister. He
comes to Cape Cod every summer for his holidays. He has very close ties,
particularly in the Democratic Party. We'll see a shift, but not a huge one.
Mr. STENGEL: (Unintelligible)...to China...(unintelligible)...away from
GREGORY: If so--but what's there to worry about? Because now Bush has
MATTHEWS: Friend in France.
Before we break, a lot of Blair's former fans wish he could've stood up to
what they stood up to Bush's bullying, like the fictional British PM in one of
my favorite movies, "Love Actually."
(Clip of "Love Actually")
MATTHEWS: Boy, it gets me every time.
Ms. TUCKER: Of course, it'd never happen.
MATTHEWS: Katty, you're the Brit here, but I get very Angophilic at that,
when I watch that movie.
Ms. KAY: I can see the tears in your eyes. I think it's so British that he
MATTHEWS: I'm...(unintelligible). I can't...
Ms. KAY: ...`Beckham's left and right feet' and debunked the
whole...(unintelligible). It's a sign of our times.
MATTHEWS: Well, he was trying to take the edge off what was a verklempt
moment for a lot of us.
When we come back, Rudy Giuliani's done trying to win over Christian
conservatives on their turf. He's going to stick to his pro-choice guns. But
does Rudy have a strategy? Write off the early primaries, but win big in the
mega-states like California and New York? Plus, scoops and predictions right
out of the notebooks of these reporters. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW. Be
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Love him or hate him, Rudy Giuliani's always had a
reputation for being a straight shooter. But when I asked him about how he'd
react to a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Yankee fan
switch hit like Mickey Mantle.
Mr. RUDY GIULIANI: (May 3) It would be OK to repeal, it would be OK also if
a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent.
MATTHEWS: Social conservatives weren't buying it. Richard Land of the
Southern Baptist Convention bluntly told me he'd never support Giuliani for
Mr. RICHARD LAND: (From "Hardball") I don't endorse candidates, but I'm
negatively endorsing--I could not vote for Giuliani.
MATTHEWS: Now Rudy has decided to forthrightly back abortion rights.
Mr. GIULIANI: (Thursday) I only ask them to respect my position as one that
comes from my conscience--because it does--and then, if they disagree with it,
you can vote against me.
MATTHEWS: Well, Rick, will they vote for or against him? Can he win on his
9/11 credentials, even if he's pro-choice?
Mr. STENGEL: You know, it's a general election strategy that he's embracing
now. The question is, can he get the nomination and get to the general
election? With all of those big states moving up, if Rudy ignores the early
states where the Christian primary voters are very conservative, he might
actually make some headway on February 5th. But the problem with Rudy always
is, can he actually get there or not?
MATTHEWS: Can he skip Iowa and then go right to Florida?
GREGORY: Well, I mean it's--I think it's difficult. Maybe there's something
unprecedented about this calendar, but others have tried it and it hasn't been
successful. The other thing that he may be banking on is that there's going
to be more independent voters in Republican primaries going back to 2000,
which is probably not going to be the case in a lot of these independents...
MATTHEWS: The unaffiliated?
Ms. KAY: Right.
GREGORY: Yeah, are disenchanted.
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute, is there really an evangelical candidate out
there? Romney's Mormon, he's not evangelical.
MATTHEWS: He's Mormon. And of course, McCain has always been seen as a
maverick, not liked particularly by the evangelicals.
MATTHEWS: Because they like public financing the other way. They don't like
it his way.
Ms. TUCKER: Well, that is precisely the problem with the Republican field as
it's--among the front-runners. Of course there are evangelicals in there,
they're just not among the front-runners. I think Huckabee would qualify, and
certainly Sam Brownback would.
GREGORY: But out of those top three, there really aren't.
Ms. TUCKER: But the top three, no there aren't.
GREGORY: Look, this is a post-ideological strategy of saying that in the age
of terror, after the Iraq war, that the Republican Party has to get right with
the fact that it's not going to win unless they can be competent...
MATTHEWS: OK. Can Rudy make the issue security, national defense...
MATTHEWS: ...and people have to say, `We'll go along with him on the other
Ms. KAY: If he can do it convincingly enough to say, `We are going to win on
MATTHEWS: Oh. In other words, `We can beat Hillary on this, or Obama.'
Ms. KAY: We can beat Hillary on this issue. And if you think about it, how
much does Hillary unite the right? An awful lot.
MATTHEWS: It's always been my thought that, in the end, that's the issue.
Ms. KAY: So if he's--it depends who he's up against. If he's up against
somebody like Hillary and the right then decides, `OK, we just fall in,' which
Republicans have a tradition of doing: falling in behind leaders.
MATTHEWS: OK. The church bus sees--it's looking--we're in the bus. We're
coming from church. Are we going to go vote if it's Hillary vs. Rudy? Are
we going to say, `No, we're going to sit this one out'? Because historically,
a lot of these people have sat it out. Richard?
Mr. STENGEL: Well, McCain's argument is that, `I'm the guy who can beat
Hillary.' The problem with the Giuliani idea is that security is now not even
polling in the top three of what Republican voters are concerned about. So
MATTHEWS: What's top?
Mr. STENGEL: Well, they're--they talk about education; in the midterms, they
were talking about, you know, honesty; they're talking about incomes; they're
talking about, even, oil prices right now. I mean, it's...
MATTHEWS: You don't think they're going to be talking about it in November of
2008? Bill and Hillary coming back.
Ms. TUCKER: Yes. Yes, but...
MATTHEWS: Seems to be that's going to be the uniter. Somebody said it here.
Ms. TUCKER: Christian conservatives are an uncompromising group. That's the
problem. It doesn't matter. They're not going--it will be difficult for them
to get behind someone who is not strict--a strict pro-life candidate,
anti-gay, just because that person is more likely to win.
MATTHEWS: We might have a third party on the right.
Anyway, I'll be right back with scoops and predictions straight out of the
notebooks of these top reporters. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW. Be right
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Katty, TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW.
Ms. KAY: Chris, the overlooked part of the vice president's trip to the
Middle East is when he actually went outside Iraq to Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates, Sunni allies of America, to try to persuade them to stop
helping the insurgents in Iraq. It's not cutting any ice. They see a rising
Shia Iran so much that they're going to carry on funding those Sunni
MATTHEWS: Wow. David.
GREGORY: I have a moment from the state dinner this week with the queen.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And you were there. So give it.
GREGORY: Where there was some discussion about whether the queen's
diamond-studded tiara was in fact real. I got a close look. And as I pointed
out, what's the point of being the queen if you can't travel with the real
MATTHEWS: And you judged those jewels to be genuine?
Ms. TUCKER: Chris, look for a revolt from active duty generals if September
rolls around and the president is sticking with this surge into '08. We've
already heard from retired generals, but my Atlanta Journal-Constitution
colleague Jay Bookman has lots of sources among currently serving military
officers who don't want to fall by the wayside like the generals in Vietnam
did, kept pushing a war that they knew was lost.
MATTHEWS: So on duty, in uniform, they will criticize?
Ms. TUCKER: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Whoa, that's something.
Mr. STENGEL: We've been talking about Republicans looking for someone to
fall in love with. And of course, Senator Thompson is hoping they'll fall in
love with him. He gave a speech after the Republican debate, and he was going
to be "I'm the guy now." It got terrible reviews. And then what happened
afterwards? His staff blamed it on the candidate for rewriting a speech the
staff gave him.
Mr. STENGEL: Curious messaging for a Republican candidate.
MATTHEWS: Who's in charge!
Mr. STENGEL: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: I'll be right back with this week's BIG QUESTION: What's your
advice for this year's grads?
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. THE BIG QUESTION this week: It's commencement
season, and what's your advice for this year's grads? Katty, they want to
Ms. KAY: For me, that's easy. Get a backpack, pick it up, fill it up and
travel. Get out there in the world. You did it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do it while you're young.
Ms. KAY: You went out and did Peace Corps.
MATTHEWS: I went to Africa for two years.
Ms. KAY: It's invaluable.
MATTHEWS: I'm with you on that. Do it while you're young and don't have
Ms. KAY: And many Americans think the world is a scary place, but if you go
out there and travel you'll love it.
MATTHEWS: Aussies do it. They always go out. Yes, sir.
GREGORY: I think graduation day's an important time to remember to thank the
people who helped get you there, to remind your parents that you love them.
Because for them, to see you at this stage of your life, having gone through
the difficulty of your younger years and your adolescence, makes them feel
pretty proud. And it's a good time to remember to say you love the people
MATTHEWS: You know, I have to tell you, as a parent, it works. I love
GREGORY: See...(unintelligible)...it working.
MATTHEWS: I love hearing it. Cynthia. Pulitzer Prize-winning Cynthia.
GREGORY: Yeah, congratulations, by the way.
Ms. TUCKER: Thank you. This is just very practical advice that came from my
own mother: Don't run up a lot of credit card debt. I absolutely support
Katty's advice, but you cannot do that if you've run up a lot of credit card
debt. It really limits your options.
MATTHEWS: OK. Richard.
Mr. STENGEL: I know it's an idealistic time, but I would say don't follow
your bliss. Do something practical.
MATTHEWS: You're Gordon Gekko, right?
Mr. STENGEL: No. Study science. We have a dearth of science graduates in
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. Oh, that's great. Not the money.
Mr. STENGEL: You know, go to grad school in physics or math or something
like that. We have--you know, more than half of our grad students...
MATTHEWS: The hard stuff.
Mr. STENGEL: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: Don't go the soft humanities route.
Mr. STENGEL: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: Speaking is the managing editor of Time magazine.
Anyways, thanks to a great roundtable. My advice is, if you want to be a
doctor, get in the best med school you can, and if you can't, get in the worst
med school. If you want to be a lawyer, go to the worst one. Do what you
want to do and don't let someone tell you you can't. That's my "Hardball"
Anyway, Katty Kay, David Gregory, Cynthia Tucker and Richard Stengel.
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Sign-off: The Chris Matthews Show
CHRIS MATTHEWS, anchor:
That's the show. Thanks for watching. And happy Mother's Day. And see you
here next week.
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