MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Monday, October 17, 2005
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As we have reported, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is looking into whether Vice President Dick Cheney was himself involved in outing the identity of a covert CIA official.
Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware is a ranking member on the
Foreign Relations committee. He also sits on the Judiciary Committee. Two
Senator, back two years ago around this time of year, when the leak case first broke, Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that, if proven, these charges would be worst than Watergate.
Do you agree-the outing of a federal agent working undercover?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think it's pretty serious stuff and it only relates to Watergate in terms of how high up it goes, not in terms of the nature of the offense. But it's significant.
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine, in your long experience as a legislator in conducting a major legislative office, your own, as senator from Delaware and all the committees in which you've chaired-can you imagine a principal, a vice president not knowing that he's been under target by someone like Joe Wilson, accused in the press by Joe Wilson of knowingly giving the president bad intel and covering up intel that might have stopped us from going to war and not got involved in his own defense through the use of his staff?
In other words, do you believe the staff of the vice president, headed by Scooter Libby, did this all by themselves without ever telling the vice president, hey, look, boss, we're out there working to kill this guy who's been attacking you.
Do you believe that's credible?
BIDEN: Chris, you and I got to Washington at the same time back in the early 1970's and I learned a phrase later after that called plausible deniability. I never knew what that meant before. plausibly deniable that the chief didn't know the specifics, but I find it difficult to believe that Karl Rove does not have a long leash that the president allows him to go on and Scooter Libby doesn't have equally have a long leash to the vice president.
These guys are-these meetings, Rove and Libby are known as we say, no pun intended no hardball players. You look what they did to McCain in South Carolina. You look what they've done-I mean, these guys go after people who take them on and they go after them in ways that are-the record is pretty self-evident, that is, tougher than anybody, but maybe Johnson. And I wasn't there when Johnson was president.
So, is it possible the president and vice president, assuming Libby and Rove did this, either one of them, is it possible they didn't know the specifics? Yes. Is it possible that they didn't know that this is the kind of thing that Libby and Rove might do? No.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. We all know growing up that Becket, a man was killed under the orders of Henry II who had put him in his office as chancellor-rather as Archbishop of Canterbury. And the line from the king was...
BIDEN: Is this a Catholic thing?
MATTHEWS: Yeah. The line from king was, will no one rid us of this meddlesome priest? Do you think it was that kind of command from the top, don't tell me how you do, just erase this guy.
BIDEN: I'm confident-I don't know, but I'm confident the way, again, just the modus operandi of the principles is, you know, someone goes after them and they go back in return.
But again, I really don't know the facts. This is all premised on the assumption that Libby and/or Rove actually outed the CIA operative, that is Joe Wilson's wife. And I don't know that for a fact.
MATTHEWS: We don't either. We know nothing there. All we know the term of the grand jury runs out next week. And he's got three more meetings with that grand jury. And people tell me, like Michael Isikoff of "Newsweek" that that means he's going to have to notify the targets by the end of this week in all likelihood. So, let's just ask this question, because it's in the air right now. If anyone is indicted in the White House or not indicted, but let's say if someone is indicted, do they have to resign or be forced to resign?
BIDEN: Well, I would think they would resign instantaneously. I can't imagine them, whether or not they have to-and quite frankly, I don't know I'm not sure there is a law that says they must resign. I'm embarrassed to say I don't know that for a fact. You'd think having been around after Watergate I'd know, but I don't know that.
MATTHEWS: I don't think there is a rule.
BIDEN: But I think practically, yes.
MATTHEWS: They are putting out the word that they are going to try something different. They are going to offer themselves up for a leave of absence, something that would keep them on the White House payroll and formal officials in the United States government in the office of the President, but not be performing their duties. Would that be satisfactory to the government and our constitution to have indicted people still on the White House staff?
BIDEN: It might be in the constitution, but not to the people of the United States of America. I can't fathom even-not even-I can't imagine this president allowing that to happen. If he does, it would be-rank among, I think, among the least smart things he has ever done.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of least smart things-and by the way, we're only talking about this, because this is in the press this week that that's what is being considered by these people if they are indicted, to then simply take a leave of absence at their own initiative.
Scooter Libby, the chief of the staff of the vice president, sent a letter to Judy Miller, the "New York Times" that spent all those months, actually in jail, keeping the secret of her relationship with him, her conversations with him, which were off the record or on background. Here is a letter he sent to her while she was in jail.
Quote, "the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."
Do you think that was coaching of the reporter, which he finally agreed to a deal to come out of prison that say, OK, if you're going to come out, I'm going to give you a license to talk, I'm going to releave you of our confidential relationship, if you say what everybody else says, like a synchronized swimming, that I didn't give you the identity of this woman, I may have said, of course, it's his wife. But I won't say her name or former last name after marrying-or before marrying. I won't say that she's operating undercover. Is that coaching?
BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way, the idea that Judith Miller, one of the leading investigative reporters in the country in jail is not reading the paper and Scooter Libby has to write her a letter telling her what other people are saying, I think is kind of...
MATTHEWS: Is it code-is it code for shut up? Is it code for be quiet? Let me ask you another one. He says that out in the Aspens where they're changing now and out in Wyoming or whatever, they turned in clusters, the Aspens, because their roots connect them. I mean, I'll say this, sounds like Luca Brasi talk. It sounds like sleep with the fishes. You know, our roots are connected, senator. People don't talk like that unless they want the other person to know we are in this together. What could it possibly mean, senator? This is the question.
BIDEN: I have no idea. It could mean any and all of the above. I mean, look, this is an unusual crowd.
MATTHEWS: They speak in a different language.
BIDEN: I think you're right.
MATTHEWS: Maybe it's neocon for we are all in this together. We'll see. We will be right back with Senator Joe Biden. You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator Biden.
Senator Biden on the foreign relations committee. You have spent a lot of time-you were just spent in Iraq. This election as it's going so far, does this promise an early return of our troops at some Christmas coming up, this one, next one, the one after? What does it tell you?
BIDEN: Well, I think it does. Look, we blew it at the front end by not having enough troops in there once we went in prematurely. And now the idea of more American troops or American troops staying after this parliamentary election is not a tenable position.
So, I think what happens here, Chris, is they either begin to get it together and to see a political solution in their future-the Sunnis, or, in fact, this completely breaks down. In either case it means, the U.S. presence in that region, and the number are in there now, becomes more of a liability than an asset. so, I think by a year from Christmas, I think and pray God, we'll be significantly down in numbers.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about Harriet Miers. The right wing, the very conservative-some of them are dumping all over, the intellectuals, the best and brightest who love war with Iraq don't like her one bit for some reason.
But the conservatives on the cultural side, the Christian conservatives, if you will, are all seeming to get to the word that this women is one of us. She's going to be a pro-life justice not just a pro-life believer.
But, like all of us, or most of us, you and I certainly don't like abortion, but to actually operate on the court as someone as someone who tries to outlaw it by getting rid of Roe v. Wade.
Do you think there are some signals being sent to the supporters on the right that she's going to be OK on that issue?
BIDEN: Well, there sure is. I mean, now I hope they send them to the whole nation.
I find this kind of strange Chris, no one thought it was appropriate for me to try to plum and others what Roberts' view were on these constitutional issues but now they seem to think it's totally appropriate to guarantee people by saying look, she is a born-again Christian, therefore she is going to be fine.
I mean, all the code being sent, I guess, whether it is true or not, to the right is the president assuring them that this woman thinks exactly like he is. The implication being that,like he does implication being, that he would be-she would be his version of him on the court.
So that's clearly the message being sent. I don't know if it's true.
I know nothing about the woman other than what I have read.
MATTHEWS: I only have a couple of seconds. Well, lets talk about another woman. Is Hillary Clinton the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for 2008 for president? Prohibitive favorite.
BIDEN: Absolutely, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Has she got it knocked-locked?
BIDEN: No, a lot can happen in two and a half years, I would have to
even though I'm going to seek the nomination. In all probability, I'd have to say, she is the Mount Everest that has to be climbed and I think it is totally beyond my control or anybody else's. It is totally in her hands.
MATTHEWS: Are you Edmund Hillary, Senator? Can you climb that mountain?
BIDEN: Well, time will tell. If the odds are that she is the overwhelming, overwhelming favorite for the nomination.
MATTHEWS: But she doesn't have it locked?
BIDEN: I don't think so, I don't think anybody has it locked this early out.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, good luck Senator. Thanks for coming on
BIDEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It's great to have you on.
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