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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews"

MR. MATTHEWS: Let's turn now to Republican Congressman Pete King.

Peter, I was listening to you on one of the other networks early this morning coming to work. You are so tough. You don't have a whole lot of sympathy for this governor that just stepped down today, do you, sir?

REP. KING: No, Chris, I really don't. And I've been in politics 30 years. I don't think I've ever, ever gotten involved in anything involving a personal matter, criticizing another politician for what's called a personal scandal. But this was different.

First of all, it wasn't personal. He put at least $80,000 into a criminal enterprise. That's what this was, a prostitution ring. They have invariably ties to organized crime. And he was doing this while he was attorney general and while he was governor.

Secondly, as Mike Taibbi said, his reputation -- I mean, I never knew anyone who was more of an avenging angel, who was so unforgiving of others and so self-righteous. I mean, he destroyed innocent people. He went after some guilty people, but he also tried to destroy innocent people, going into their personal lives.

To me, this was a case of a guy being totally vindictive. And that's why it's no -- it's reality that no one came to his defense because of the way he's conducted himself. And he was already under criminal investigation in New York for using the state police to go after the Senate Republican majority leader. He had the state police following him around. And that was disclosed by a Democrat attorney general, Andrew Cuomo. So this is a guy who really was so driven and so vindictive, and now it's come back to bite him.

MR. MATTHEWS: Let's try to find something good here, some sort of velvet around this cloud here or whatever. Could it be that the Republican Party statewide in New York needs to come back? I mean, I grew up, you grew up, Peter, with a moderate Republican Party. It was able to take the Democrats, defeat them year after year for governor of New York, all the way through all those years with Rockefeller, for example, capable of winning statewide elections for Keating and Javits and even Jim Buckley winning as a conservative.

Is that party going to come back in the face of this abuse of power?

REP. KING: Don't forget Al D'Amato also won three times in New York.

MR. MATTHEWS: Right.

REP. KING: It can. I mean, this gives the Republican Party an opportunity. But also, at a different level, David Patterson, the new governor -- I spoke to him this afternoon. Chris, he's a neighborhood guy. He's a great guy -- African-American; 90 percent blind, I think. He's certainly legally blind; a decent guy. It's going to give politics in New York an opportunity to be conducted on a more civil level.

But, yes, I think it will give Republicans an opportunity to regroup, because we were really under siege. We lost a state senate seat last week. The Democrats were one seat away from taking over the state senate. They've lost that opportunity now because the lieutenant governor will be gone; he becomes governor, and he won't be able to cast the deciding vote that would have put us in the minority.

So now it gives us an opportunity to come back. We need more than Eliot Spitzer's scandal to come back, but it gives us a chance to mobilize, get retrenched, and win some elections in November. I think John McCain at the top of the ticket is going to help us with getting those Reagan Democrats back.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay. Well, Hillary Clinton, who's the senator, and obviously the political colleague, if not the ally, of Spitzer -- I don't think they're that particularly close -- but is this going to spray out and hurt her at all? I mean, I can imagine Blagojevich going down in something like this in Illinois and that hurting Barack Obama. In fact, I can imagine the Clinton crowd going after him heavily on this. No one in the Obama campaign is going after Hillary about Spitzer.

REP. KING: Yeah, I don't know whether Obama is going to do it or not. But as a practical matter, Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer were never close. He very reluctantly endorsed her last year, while David Patterson, the new governor, was actually standing right next to her on the night of the Iowa primary. So she's a lot closer to David Patterson than she ever was to Eliot Spitzer. No one was close to Eliot Spitzer.

MR. MATTHEWS: I think it's a great opportunity for a blind person to show what they can do. A friend of mine is blind, Dave Ticky (sp), an amazing professional. It is a great opportunity to display some real self-reliance and professionalism for the blind community in this country. And I'm glad you said what you did, Pete.

Thank you very much, Congressman Pete King of New York.

REP. KING: Okay, Chris, thank you.


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