December 15, 2003 Monday
HEADLINE: HARDBALL for December 15, 2003
BYLINE: Chris Matthews
GUESTS: Joseph Lieberman
Interview with Joseph Lieberman.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University, HARDBALL's "Battle for the White House." Tonight, our series of interviews with the Democratic candidates for president continues. Here's Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: For the next hour, a pro-war Democrat who says that Saddam Hussein's capture has energized his campaign. My guest tonight, Senator Joe Lieberman, candidate for president of the United States, senator from Connecticut. Let's play HARDBALL.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, Hey, hey! Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Great audience.
MATTHEWS: Say hello to Joe Lieberman. A perfect storm awaits you here tonight.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I'm waiting. That's a heck of a way to walk into a room. Thank you all.
MATTHEWS: Let's look at how you answered a question on "Meet the Press" yesterday. The question, what should we do as Americans to Saddam Hussein now that we've got him?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: This man, Saddam Hussein, this evil man, has to face the death penalty. The international tribunal in The Hague cannot order the death penalty. So my first question about where he is going to be tried will be answered by whether that tribunal can execute him, which is what he surely deserves. And if it can be done by the Iraqi military tribunal, fine. But if it cannot, he should be brought before an American military tribunal and face the death that he has brought to hundreds of thousands of his own people, and 460 plus Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Senator, to expand on that. Do you believe that if the Iraqis decide not to condemn this man to death, based upon all the evidence of history, should we bring him here for a trial after that and execute him here after a trial?
LIEBERMAN: Chris, the clear preference is to have him tried in Iraq. I mean, his crimes in a broad sense were crimes against humanity. But they were really largely crimes against the Iraqi people. Hundred of thousands, some say over a million Iraqis killed by him. We've already found graves there with an estimated 300,000 plus bodies. I'll tell you one story quickly came out in the last month or so in one news report. A group of kids at a high school did what kids all around the world do at a high school. They put graffiti up on a wall against the regime. And they were all carted off and executed.
So this person's-this man's crimes must be depicted for the people of Iraq and the people of the world.
I read an encouraging note today that the Iraqis believe that the tribunal that they're setting up now will have the power to impose the death penalty. Surely that's what he deserves. But the Iraqi people ought to hear about his crimes. And the world should, first.
MATTHEWS: Just to make it clear, you would like-you would subject him to a second trial if the trial in Iraq does not yield the death penalty?
LIEBERMAN: No, I think we could work this out so that from what I hear from the people in Iraq, that they want the Iraqi tribunal to have the power to impose the death penalty. It's Iraq that ought to try him. And I just think it would be an outrage and an injustice if this man were allowed to live, considering the death-if the death penalty is appropriate for anybody in the world, and I believe it is, it is for Saddam Hussein.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at one of your opponents. Perhaps the frontrunner today looking at the polls, Howard Dean. Here's how he answered the question when he sat in that same chair December 1.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How about Saddam Hussein? Should we try him and execute him?
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Again, we are allowing the Bosnian war criminals to be tried at the International Court in The Hague. That suits me fine. As long as they're brought to justice and tried. And so far we haven't had to have that discussion, because the president has not been able to find either one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we've repeated that statement all day yesterday on the show, and he stands by it, apparently, that he should go to The Hague where he would not face the death penalty.
LIEBERMAN: I disagree. Wes Clark apparently has said...
MATTHEWS: Same thing.
LIEBERMAN: ... the same thing. He should go to the international court.
MATTHEWS: What does that say about the different way you people look at it? You compared to these two people who opposed the war and oppose the death penalty, in effect?
LIEBERMAN: I guess you'd have to say it to them. I mean, it says two things. One is, that I support the death penalty. Two, it says that I believe the Iraqi people who suffered from Saddam Hussein most have the right to try him. And of course, I believe he should face the death penalty. You know, there's, I read something years ago where somebody said, if you show too much mercy to those who are cruel, you will end up being cruel to those who deserve mercy. The justice system cries out. The voices of those who were killed by this man, including the 460 Americans who lost their lives cry out for the kind of justice that would have to result in his death. And I hope it happens.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the second goal of having him in custody, if it is a second goal for you. How much should we work to try to get something out of him? Four questions I would like to get the answers to as a reporter. One, what role did he play in 9/11, if we can get it out of him, using sodium pentothal, whatever else. Secondly, what weapons of mass destruction does he have hidden somewhere, maybe in Syria, somewhere else. Third question, what role did the United States play in his war against Iran? And fourth, what warning did we give him, if any, not to invade Kuwait. Do you think it is important to try to get the answers to those questions?
LIEBERMAN: First, I should ask you whether you're available to go over there and question him, Chris.
I mean, you may be tougher than the guys we have doing it right now.
MATTHEWS: Are they your curiosities? Do you have any curiosities about what he might tell us?
LIEBERMAN: Of course, I do, but I don't believe he is a reliable witness.
MATTHEWS: Well, under sodium pentothal. If we're going to fix his teeth, which looks like we're going to do, we might as well put him under sodium pentothal and get some answers.
MATTHEWS: Like that dental check done to me the other day.
LIEBERMAN: While we're giving him access to more health care than the American people have under George Bush, we might as well...
... give him sodium pentothal.
Yeah, let's try to get what we can out of him. Of course, those are definitely important questions. But let's subject him to the trial for the crimes that he's committed. That ultimately is what this cries out for. And it will bring closure to this dark period in Iraqi history. And I think encourage the Iraqis to go on to build a modernizing, democratizing country. The best thing that could happen in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: You saw Nuremberg, you're a lawyer, you've probably taken a good look at what went on there. A lot of information did get out of those trials. We learned a lot about what wasn't done in the '30s, that should have done to stop Hitler before. Even Gehring came up with some information before he killed himself. Do you think those hearings should be something that we really try to develop into some truth-telling opportunity or just basically try him and execute him?
LIEBERMAN: No, no, I think it should be truth-telling. I think we should lay out for the world the record. The man was a homicidal maniac. He was a brutal dictator. He had a plan. He had a plan to dominate the Arab world, which would have been terrible for the Arab world, terrible for the rest of the world. He wanted to restore Baghdad to its position in ancient-that it had in ancient history as the capital of the Arab world. He would have had his hands on the world's oil supply. He supported terrorists.
I mean, I could go on and on. We have got to set out the case, particularly the case about what he did to the Iraqi people. That is critical here. It is critical for the next madman who would try to do what he has done.
MATTHEWS: The split second you woke up yesterday morning and you heard this news, what was your feeling?
LIEBERMAN: I got called by a staff member. And I felt exultant. I mean, I felt jubilant. And you know, the first words I said were, hallelujah, praise the Lord. I mean, this is something...
MATTHEWS: Is this kind of almost a religious thing, to capture this guy with you?
LIEBERMAN: It is not religious...
MATTHEWS: It's spiritual.
LIEBERMAN: Well, it's not-I can't say I didn't pray for it, but most of all, I worked for it. This is very much in the realm of the Earth, not the spirit. And what it is is that I believe I know evil. This guy was evil. I laid out the case briefly a moment ago.
I supported the Gulf War. I watched him through the '90s, continue to brutalize his people. And I just-I couldn't wait for the day-and I worried about what he would do to the United States. After September 11, I just stated it as directly as I could. I worried that a time would come if we didn't knock him down, take him out, that he would-he would sponsor some horrific act against the American people, like September 11, and I didn't want to look back and say, why didn't we take him out when we could have?
If you'll allow me, it may be spiritual in the most-in the ultimate sense, which is-which goes to the civil religion of America. The Declaration of Independence, that we've all got those rights. Everyone of us, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the endowment from our creator. That's what Jefferson wrote. But notice that the grant from the creator didn't just go to Americans. It's a universal declaration of human rights. And of course, in the most profound spiritual sense, what Saddam Hussein was denying the humanity of the hundreds of thousands of people that he slaughtered without cause, without any cause.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you.
Let's go to first question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that Saddam Hussein has been captured, what are the prospects of having a Democrat in the White House?
LIEBERMAN: I thought you were going to ask me if I thought he was going to endorse somebody else.
MATTHEWS: That would help, wouldn't it?
LIEBERMAN: I think the prospects, I understand your question, I believe. I think you're asking really, does this make President Bush somehow unbeatable? The answer is no.
I mean, the answer is-why am I running for president?
I'm running for president because I love America and I hate what George Bush has done to it. He has mismanaged our economy, three and half million people out of work, two and half million more people without health insurance, million of others who can't afford it. Two and half million more people fell out of the middle class in the poverty. A scandal, 35 million people in poverty in the richest country in the world. And around the world, yes, I supported the war against Saddam Hussein. But in so many other ways, because this president has conducted a one-sided arrogant, unprincipled in the sense of not being true to American principle, foreign policy, we are less secure today than we were before. So we've got, you know, thank god Saddam Hussein has been captured. We are safer as a result of it. I disagree with what Howard Dean said today. Of course we're safer as Americans with Saddam Hussein captured. But there's plenty of other reasons why the American people should want a new leader in the White House to give us a fresh start.
MATTHEWS: Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think is the criteria that Al Gore used in selecting you as his running mate and what criteria will you will use in selecting your running mate.
MATTHEWS: What do I think are the criteria that Al Gore used as selecting me as running mate-I wish he would have used them this year in who he decided to support. Look, I'll forever be grateful to Al Gore for the extraordinary opportunity he gave me. And he talked to me about this on the night that I flew to Nashville after my selection was announced to the press before it was announced to the public the next day. And he said he had used three criteria, and they're good one and I would attempt to use them myself.
The first is who do I think would be prepared in the case of an emergency to assume the powers of the presidency and just as important, who do-is this person someone that the American people will conclude could be president in a crisis. I appreciated the thought, that I pass that had hurdle. The second is do I generally degree with this person that I'm choosing? Not totally but generally do we have the same priorities.
And how do I measure the person, the man or the woman?
Is it somebody I trust, that I feel I could work with?
I thought those were really three good criteria. There was probably another one which Al didn't mention, which was can this person help me get elected. Having gone through experience once in my lifetime of getting more than 50 million votes on a national ticket, 500,000 more than the opponents and not winning the electoral college, I don't want to do that again. So, next time we win both.
MATTHEWS: OK, We're going to come right back with Joe Lieberman asking about the impact on this election for president of this captured Saddam Hussein. We're coming back HARDBALL's Battle for the White House at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
MATTHEWS: We're back with Joe Lieberman. I feel like Howard Cosell saying, you know, you're a hawk in a dove party.
What does it feel like, you know? I mean, it's tough, the Democrats as a party, very skeptical about the war. You've been resolute. You were a co-sponsor of the resolution, you and Dick Gephardt and Edwards. But you stuck to your guns. This is a very positive development to capture Saddam Hussein.
How will it affect your campaign?
LIEBERMAN: First, let me say that I always felt that being strong on defense was part of being a Democrat. I remember Truman, remember Kennedy, bear any burden, pay any price to protect liberty and freedom around the world, et cetera., et cetera. Clinton kept the military strong and knew when to use it, particularly in the Balkans to stop aggression. I don't think that's inconsistent with being a Democrat. I don't think it will affect my campaign.
MATTHEWS: The argument of course is over what is defense and what is offense.
LIEBERMAN: Well, sure and that's why we have a debate going on here. I don't know how it will affect my campaign. I can tell you this, for 12 years, I've felt that Saddam Hussein was a ticking time bomb, and eventually, if we didn't stop him, he would blow up in America's face. Secondly, when the war resolution was debated last fall, I supported it without any illusion that it would not be controversial in the Democratic primaries. But I did it because I thought it was right. In the end, I took an oath to do what I think is right for the security of the American people. So, it's going to bee debated, and it clarifies the choice that the voters have in the Democratic primaries. Particularly between Howard Dean, Wes Clark and me, who of the major candidates, took the most diametrically opposite positions. Howard consistently opposed and I respect him for that. Wes Clark, you know, took about six different positions.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's play HARDBALL here, because I think you're playing it. Let's take a look at what you're saying the other day on "Meet the Press Again" about Howard Dean and what would have happened under a dean presidency to Saddam Hussein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: Howard Dean throughout this campaign has said he wasn't sure that Saddam really represented a threat to us. When at one point, he said I suppose the Iraqis are better off with Saddam Hussein gone. I would say this, and this is a choice the voters have to make in the primaries. If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today, not in prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think that's a fair shot?
LIEBERMAN: It is because if Howard Dean and Wes Clark had their way, we wouldn't have authorized the war, it wouldn't have occurred, and obviously Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Today, Howard Dean said in a speech he gave on foreign policy that the capture of Saddam Hussein did not make America safer. Now, with all respect, I mean, by saying that, I think he himself has climbed into what I might call a spider hole of denial. I mean, the fact is that this guy-you can agree or disagree. So this is-I respect his point of view. We have a different point of view. We are going to put it to the voters.
MATTHEWS: Is it also fair to say that if Howard Dean were president, those 455 soldiers died over there would be alive today?
Isn't this pretty stark politics to be talking about this?
Would you agree to that, those guys would be alive if Dean were president?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, of course. Those people gave their lives. As I said yesterday. After the capture of Saddam Hussein, we're now, giant steps forward in making sure that those dead did not die in vain.
I got to tell you, we've lost some people from Connecticut. And I carry around with me in my briefcase a mascard (ph) that I got from the family of Anthony Dagostino (ph), from Waterbury, Connecticut, who died a few days short of his 21st birthday. Heartbreaking. But his family writes to me and says he was our only child, our only legacy. But we feel he died in a noble cause, and please continue to do whatever you have to do to make the world safer. That's what the American people and American military and their families are made of. And the truth is, with Saddam Hussein gone, I believe that we have saved the lives of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousand of Americans who eventually, he would have brought to death.
MATTHEWS: OK. You're watching HARDBALL with Senator Joe Lieberman. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator Joe Lieberman. We've been talking about the incredible, exciting capture of Saddam Hussein. But here's something that went on Saturday night, live. And that's the real Joe Lieberman, the real Chris Matthews. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: Joe Lieberman, you couldn't get an endorsement from your former running mate. You have got to feel more betrayed than the people who paid $10 to see "From Justin to Kelly."
CHRIS PARNELL, ACTOR: Well, Chris, it did sting a little when my former running mate endorsed Howard Dean. And yes, I was disappointed when my wife, Hadassah, endorsed Wesley Clark. And yes, I was a little miffed when my rabbi announced he was supporting Al Sharpton.
If you're looking for someone who can energize the party, Joe Lieberman is that cat. I am a hard core, hip hop, rock 'n' roll candidate. But I bring in the noise and provide it as fiscally responsible. I shall bring in the funk as well. And that, my fellow American, is faux chisel (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk," that is an act of Broadway, bring in the noise, bring in the funk.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, you know, that guy was the guy...
MATTHEWS: Chris Parnell.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, Chris Parnell. He was in the hot tub with Al Gore that night that Al...
MATTHEWS: Right. That Russian embrace...
LIEBERMAN: ... hosted...
MATTHEWS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you were having a good time.
LIEBERMAN: I know. When it came on, I looked at it and I said, what am I doing there? I thought it was me. And then when Al-after the hot tub scene, I turned to my wife and I said, sweetheart, Al is not running again.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, a year ago, a year ago you two guys were in the hot tub together, you've grown apart.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah. But I'm still grateful to him and more determined than ever.
MATTHEWS: OK, next up on top.
LIEBERMAN: To fight for what is right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, if elected president, how do you intend to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in the Middle East?
LIEBERMAN: Well, look...
MATTHEWS: We got 30 seconds.
LIEBERMAN: Oh, boy.
MATTHEWS: We'll come back.
LIEBERMAN: Let me get a start at it. There's only-this is a heartbreaking conflict which hurts people on both sides. And it now becomes part of the war on terrorism, too. There's only one acceptable solution to this, and that is the two-state solution. Israel and Palestine. The first thing that has to happen to get back on the track is that the new Palestinian leadership, which is much better than Yasser Arafat, to put it mildly, has to make clear that they're going to make 100 percent effort to stop the terrorism against Israelis. And once that happens, then the Israelis have to be asked to respond. The United States of America, what would I do...
MATTHEWS: OK, we've got to come back, I'm sorry. We have got to come back. More on the Palestinian fight with Senator Joe Lieberman. Back with more from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL's "Battle for the White House." Howard Dean says the capture of Saddam Hussein does not make Americans safer. What does Joe Lieberman say about that? But first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: I feel like Don King with one of the contenders. What do you think about what Dean had to say? Howard Dean, the front runner.
Here he is today at his speech today on the "Today" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Let me be very clear. My position on the war in Iraq has not changed. The capture of Saddam is a good thing, which I hope very much will keep our soldiers in Iraq and around the world safer but the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That's Howard Dean speaking in Los Angeles today.
What do you make of that, not made us safer?
LIEBERMAN: I profoundly disagree. The guy is a brutal dictator, a homicidal maniac, hated the United States of America, was clearly supporting terrorists. The guy was aimed at us eventually, certainly at Americans. We are most profoundly safer. Look he invaded two other countries around him, including Kuwait that brought in there in 1991. We are most profoundly safer with Saddam Hussein captured. If Howard Dean is really unable to see that, notwithstanding the position he took on the war, and I respect that. He might have thought it was not worth the war. But now that it's happened, with Saddam captured, why doesn't he think we are safer.
MATTHEWS: One reason is because 9/11 would have occurred with or without him. He would have dead five years ago, we would have still had 9/11.
LIEBERMAN: We're not talking about safer from...
MATTHEWS: Terrorist attacks.
LIEBERMAN: Those are two different threats.
MATTHEWS: When has Saddam ever attacked us as a terrorist? when has he ever supported terrorists against us?
How is he a danger to us today?
Maybe in the future, you could argue.
How do you know we're safer because of his death?
LIEBERMAN: Because-number one, he offends the principles of human rights that we talked about. He killed hundreds of thousand of people. Two, he invaded his neighbors. So long as he was, there he created instability in the Middle East, most immediately for the Arab countries around him.
MATTHEWS: But we backed him in the war against Iran. We were on his side. We gave a very unclear signal about whether to go to Kuwait or not didn't we?
LIEBERMAN: Incidentally, I want to be real clear about the connection with terrorists. I've seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I never could reach the conclusion that he was part of September 11. Don't get me wrong about that. But there was so much smoke there that it made me worry. And you know, some people say with a great facility, al Qaeda and Saddam could never get together. He is secular and they're theological. But there's something that tied them together, it's their hatred of us. So I believe that he represented a serious threat to us. We are safer. I believe this is one of the standards that this kind of statement that Howard Dean has made, the kind of statement he made suggesting even though he later said it was just the rumor, repeating the rumor that George Bush was told that by the Saudi that's we were going to be attacked in September 11 type fashion, that's not reasonable.
MATTHEWS: Did he say that the Saudis told him there would be an attack on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon?
LIEBERMAN: It is irresponsible for a candidate who would be president to spread that kind of story. John McCain and I created the September 11 commission to find out the full truth about that. George Bush has been dragging his feet and his White House has failed to adequately cooperate. But you know, that, the positions that-when he said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East to get back to the question before. We take sides with those who share our values, our democratic values. Who share our interests. We have Israel and we have Arab allies in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: If you were to write history, you are a student of political history. That's when first learned about you. You were, a hell of a student of history, especially political history. If you had to write down for the first grade school textbook, for 10 or 20 years from now, why did the United States attack, occupy, take over and capture the leader of Iraq, what would be the reason would you give in that book?
What act of war did Iraq give against to us justify that act of war against them?
LIEBERMAN: He was a ticking time bomb. All the thing I said. Brutal dictator, invaded countries, wanted to control the Arab world, supporting terrorism, enemy of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Aren't there a lot of people like that around?
LIEBERMAN: Nobody who ever used chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction.
MATTHEWS: What act of war against us justified our act of war against him.
LIEBERMAN: He invaded his neighbors.
MATTHEWS: That's an act of war against us?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, it was because of our belief in the stability-the importance of a stability in the Middle East to us.
MATTHEWS: But the Iraqis fought Iranians. We're not against countries fighting other countries or invaded them. We rooted for him. We routed for him when he attacked Iran. And we where offended that he attacked Kuwait because it was one of our suppliers.
Where's our standard-I want a consistent standard when we go to war, what is it?
LIEBERMAN: Two thing to say. One is this guy had 12 years to keep the promises he made to the United Nations Security Council. So one way to see this war.
MATTHEWS: The U.N. never authorized us to go after him. They never told us we could do it. They said no in the Security Council, but we still did it. So you can't operate under the authority of the U.N.
LIEBERMAN: Who's interviewing who here?
MATTHEWS: I'm trying to get an answer. I want to know what act of war they committed against us to justify our act of war against them.
LIEBERMAN: We don't need an act of war. You need to feel there's imminent danger and I believe there was imminent danger. Lets talk about...
MATTHEWS: What was the danger?
LIEBERMAN: Let's talk about two principles here. One was that this guy was international criminal. As recently as last fall, the United Nations said, Hans Blix said we still believe he has weapons of mass destruction. He told us during the 1990's, he had enough chemical and biological, not nuclear, as the president said, chemical and biological to kill 10s of millions of people. He never accounted for that. Hans Blix wasn't for the war but he wanted to keep the inspections going because he never was told that. The fact is, I viewed this war against Saddam as final battle of the Gulf War. Because what's the world going to be like, talk about international institutions, if we let an international gangster, a criminal, dictator like this, snub his nose at the United Nations. The fact is that he didn't comply with the resolution that was adopted last year. And then a lot of the other nations in the Security Council went lame on us and didn't want to do this.
Second point, real important, war against terrorism. We now have an opportunity to do what can be critically important in building up the majority of people in the Muslim world who are not fanatical, violent, al Qaeda type extremists by showing them here in Iraq, Arab Islamic country, that the result of what we've done is to create a country in which Arabs and followers of Islam can live better, freer lives. The battle to win the war against terrorism, on terrorism is in the first instance, a war to capture and/or kill al Qaeda and bin Laden, everybody else. But in the larger sense, and this Bush, President Bush has totally missed, it is a war to win the hearts and mind of the Arab and Islamic worlds. And I'm for an international martial plan for the Muslim world. It begins here. Probably the best thing we can do to win the war on terrorism, to take a big step forward in that, is to make the life of the people in Iraq as humane, full of opportunity, and freedom as they want it to be.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it is consistent with our American history to go into another country and by force of arm, force them to adopt our form of government?
Is that consistent with our form of history?
LIEBERMAN: I throw away this notion that somehow the people in the Arab world, people Arab or Islamic don't believe in democracy.
MATTHEWS: But by force.
LIEBERMAN: They're monotheists just like we are. They have the same belief system and the same idea of the humanity of every individual as we do. By force to eliminate a threat to us and to them, an act of great consistency with American principles. I wouldn't do it all the time. I didn't support the Bush declaration of pre-emptive military action. It was foolish.
MATTHEWS: What happens if the Indians do what we did?
What happens if the Pakistani's do it, act pre-emptively because of a threat they perceive down the road?
LIEBERMAN: I think we have acted in a way here to create a more stable world. And a world in which we, if we hold together, obviously, President Bush failed miserably to have a plan.
MATTHEWS: What was his biggest mistake?
LIEBERMAN: Biggest mistake. The mistakes go back to the beginning of the administration, and you would have a hard time convincing these people, in the Bush administration of it. And that's part of why we're in trouble in the world today.
MATTHEWS: What offending the world community on Kyoto?
LIEBERMAN: Kyoto. I mean, you have no idea how deeply felt is the concern about global warming in the rest of the world. I travel the world. They were outraged. They know we're the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution. And when he said we're pulling out, it said we're an irresponsible nation. When he pulled us out of the arms control treaties, when NATO voted for the first time in its history to invoke Article 5, which said that an attack against one is an attack against all, said they'd go to war with us in Afghanistan, and the Bush administration said no thanks. They didn't want anything multilateral. That set the rest of the world.
So by the time he got to Iraq, nobody was going to give this country under George Bush the benefit of the doubt. By the time Saddam was overthrown, no plans, no preparations for what to do. We should have sent an Arab administrator there instead of Paul Bremer. We should have gotten the United Nations (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: We all believe in democracy here, Senator. If you were to walk into a voting booth right now and you had to choose between the D and the R, and the R was Bush and the D was Dean, how would you vote? If you had to vote right now...
LIEBERMAN: All right.
MATTHEWS: This is HARDBALL. The D is Dean.
MATTHEWS: And the R is B.
LIEBERMAN: The D is going to be Lieberman, but I've said before...
MATTHEWS: If you had to choose.
LIEBERMAN: All right. I've said it before and I'll say it again tonight. I will support the Democratic nominee for president 2004. No problem.
MATTHEWS: Dean Nye.
JOSEPH NYE, DEAN, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Welcome to the Kennedy School, Senator. Almost all the candidates on the Democratic side, whether they agree or disagree with the war, believe that the way the Bush administration went about the war squandered a lot of our soft power, our ability to get what we want through attraction rather than coercion. If you look at the Pew polls and other polls, it shows that we lost about 30 points per country in Europe, including countries that supported us in the process of the war. And the record in the Islamic world is even more dramatic in terms of the drop. If you're an elected president, what specifically will you do to restore America's soft power?
LIEBERMAN: Your analysis is right on target. The fact is that we are a military superpower in the world today. But we're not, if I can put it this way, a moral superpower. We're not seen as the leader of the world community because of all the steps that I've described that this president took.
What would I do? One of the first things I would do as the president of the United States, get America back into the leadership of the international effort to do something about global warming. That is important.
Reconnect with NATO. Very important. Send an emissary. Going back to that earlier question. High-level emissary, full time to the Middle East to work with the Israelis and Palestinians to try to nurture trust and get back on the road to peace. And announce and lead an international Marshall plan for the Muslim world. We cannot let the bin Ladens of the world plunge us into a primitive religious conflict, which is what they want to do, at the beginning of the 21st century. And I think we do it by standing on our principles and reaching out and being tough about opening up the Islamic countries of the world so that the people there live better and freer lives.
MATTHEWS: More with Senator Joe Lieberman when we come back. Some hard questions and some soft ones.
MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator Joe Lieberman. Senator Lieberman, before the incredible capture of Saddam Hussein, the big story in American politics was Al Gore's endorsement of the other guy.
LIEBERMAN: I thought you were going to say Howard Dean's capture of Al Gore.
MATTHEWS: That, too.
MATTHEWS: But-and a lot of people felt for you, because they felt that you had been snubbed, because you had been so loyal to him and you had waited your turn and you waited for Al Gore to decide not to run before you began your campaign.
However, our producers are incredibly good at digging up research. And they have unearthed July 2002, Associated Press. Quote: "When asked whether Lieberman would support Gore if he runs another economic populist campaign, in other words, swerving to the left, and there's no other new Democrat in the race," you said in response, "that's an alluring question I won't answer right now."
LIEBERMAN: I was being a tease. I always said...
MATTHEWS: Well, you weren't saying you would endorse Gore under any circumstances.
LIEBERMAN: No, no, no, no, but I said over and over again that I would endorse Al Gore and support him wholeheartedly if he ran again. I have no regrets about having waited until he decided that he wasn't going to run to get into it. That was the right thing to do. So I have no regrets about it. I'll forever be grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me in 2000.
And I'm going on. I mean, obviously, I wish that I had known other than from the media when he had announced the decision last week.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, sure.
LIEBERMAN: But I'm more determined than ever to continue to fight for what's right for my party and my country. That's what this is all about.
This is about the future. And it is not about Al Gore or my future, it is about the future of the American people.
MATTHEWS: How can you have worked with a man who is going so 180 from you? Isn't it better that you weren't together, that you weren't politically married, because you would have been squabbling so severely?
LIEBERMAN: Are you suggesting we should have had family counseling?
MATTHEWS: No, I'm saying you were right not to get married, because the hitch would have been pretty rough. Because you're pro war. Al has now become totally anti-war. He is going off with Dean. You couldn't be more 180. Imagine if he were your president, you were vice president, and you thought you had him aboard your thinking, and all of a sudden he went the other way.
LIEBERMAN: Look, I said after what happened last week that I was surprised because Al endorsed somebody who has taken positions that are so different from positions he's taken in the past. I mean, trade for instance. Remember, he had that big debate with Ross Perot where he supported NAFTA and middle-class tax cuts, which he and Bill Clinton fought for. And Al was on the Armed Services Committee, very strong on defense.
He got a right to change his position, obviously. But I have said that this decision clarifies the choice that voters have in the Democratic primary. And Howard Dean in so many ways would take us back to where we were as a party before Bill Clinton transformed us.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is Al Gore doing this? Why is he going in reverse? You know, you think he is. Why do you think he is?
LIEBERMAN: You would have to ask him. That's...
MATTHEWS: Is he going through a Bulworth moment here?
LIEBERMAN: You would have to ask Warren Beatty about that.
MATTHEWS: OK, next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lieberman...
LIEBERMAN: Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to teach seventh grade. So I'd like to know, if you were elected, what would you do to ensure that every student is prepared to succeed in the new global economy?
LIEBERMAN: That is such a great question. And thank you for it.
I can't think of anything more important the president of the United States could do than to make sure that exactly your goal happens. Most of education is run by local school system. But the federal government plays an increasingly important role in two ways. Setting standards. Making sure that kids are not just passed along at the end of the year because they're a year older, but that they've learned something. And most of all, the federal government has carved out a responsibility here.
The sad reality is that there are two system of education public school in America today. One for poor kids and one for everybody else. And that is a denial of the promise of America, right?
So George Bush campaigned against unfunded mandates. But he hasn't done anything to pay the local schools for the money they're paying for special education. I would fully fund special education. No Child Left Behind signed the bill and a month later, left behind George Bush, $6 billion that was promised in that bill.
First act I will do as a matter of budget priorities, fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act. We have to set a standard that every child in America really does get a world class education.
Look, I'm the first in my family to go to college. Why did that happen? A great public school system. I want every child in America to have that chance.
MATTHEWS: We can't leave our network behind here. Senator, we have got to go to a break. Back with the fun questions. Favorite movie, favorite music, favorite comedian.
MATTHEWS: OK. We're right back here at Harvard. This is a-we got a great write-up, Senator, in "The Crimson" today about the appearances here. This is one of the great experiences of my life coming here. This has been so much fun. I love it.
LIEBERMAN: I got a revelation to make to you. I finally got into Harvard here by coming with you, because they put me on the waiting list when I applied. Imagine that!
MATTHEWS: Your time has come. Let me ask you, this is a HARDBALL question. What is your favorite movie? All time.
LIEBERMAN: Favorite movie, tie between "The Godfather" and "Field of Dreams." Love them both.
MATTHEWS: Favorite book.
LIEBERMAN: Favorite book, it's too predictable.
LIEBERMAN: The Bible, right? Favorite book of fiction, the great American novel by Robert Penn Warren called "All the King's Men." Great novel about American politics.
MATTHEWS: Huey Long. OK. Do you have a personal philosopher or favorite? You don't have to have one.
LIEBERMAN: You know what? Thomas Jefferson. Really, a good guy.
MATTHEWS: You guys are unbelievable. You're unbelievable. The pander bear has arrived.
LIEBERMAN: How about-Chris Matthews? No.
MATTHEWS: No, but Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson. How about somebody leftie (ph), somebody weird?
LIEBERMAN: I can't say that since my days at that other institution that did accept me, Yale, I can't say that I've read-what was that?
MATTHEWS: By the way, Howard Dean's favorite movie was "A Beautiful Mind." Did you like it?
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, I thought it was a great movie, but it wasn't my favorite.
MATTHEWS: He also said, I think, David Hume was his favorite philosopher.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, no, no, contemporary, you know Michael Novak (ph)? He's great, he's a contemporary philosopher, great, great thinker.
MATTHEWS: Sure. Yeah.
I have got to ask you, one of the funniest men in public life, being yourself, because I do get up and listen to Imus in the morning, and you are always hilarious.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: You won Washington's funniest celebrity contest, which is like the tallest building in Topeka. But...
LIEBERMAN: That's what my daughter said, called me up the next morning, said, dad, you being the funniest person in Washington, that says a lot about Washington.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, who is your favorite comedian? All time going back.
LIEBERMAN: All time? Sid Caesar. "Your Show of Shows." Contemporary, Jon Stewart. And in the category of best comedian in a presidential campaign, Al Sharpton.
MATTHEWS: OK, question up there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lieberman, shortly after 9/11, a conservative group called ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, created an academic blacklist, listing professors who had criticized President Bush and calling them unpatriotic. ACTA had two co-founders, Lynne Cheney and yourself. Although you've since disassociated yourself, how did a Democrat like you ever become mixed up with a group like that?
LIEBERMAN: Incidentally, one of the reasons I...
MATTHEWS: Five seconds.
LIEBERMAN: ... the big reason I disassociated myself was that list. The reason I got into it originally, they were concerned about efforts to stop freedom of expression on the campus. People taking controversial news articles and burning the college newspapers.
MATTHEWS: Joe Lieberman opposes blacklists of any kind. From Harvard University...
LIEBERMAN: You got it.
MATTHEWS: ... Great, thank you. Thank you, everybody.