Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

Location: Unknown

MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Thursday, July 21, 2005


MATTHEWS: Wonderful.

Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell, who is Israel right now, reporting on the incidents the other day in Khartoum.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona joins us now.

Senator, you just watched that report from Andrea Mitchell. What do you think of the Sudanese president?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: They're a bunch of thugs.

You know, they're not only a bunch of thugs. Usually, thugs have the ability to put out a little bit of a P.R. performance. And these guys can't even do that.



MATTHEWS: But they were kissing her. And they had their best clothes on, and then they pushed her guy around and pushed Andrea around.


MCCAIN: It's fairly obvious that they have a pretty primitive notion about the role of the press in Sudan.

But, you know, one thing that-that Andrea pointed out, I bet you a lot of Americans don't know that we have contributed $2 billion, and a lot of it went to that government.


MATTHEWS: ... enough.

MCCAIN: You know where it ends up.


MCCAIN: In Swiss bank accounts and other places.

But this is-this is serious. And it reduces one's level of confidence about Darfur to zero. I mean, these are really bad guys. It's been going on for a long time. And what I worry about-and this is really serious-is that we said never again after the Holocaust. We said never again after Cambodia. We said never again after Srebrenica. We're always saying never-we said never again after Rwanda.

Are we going to say never again after Sudan? I'm afraid we are, unless the American people get engaged in this issue and demand that the Africans send forces. And we'll do the logistics. We'll do the supply. We'll pay the tab internationally. But we've got to get an international peacekeeping force in there, preferably African troops, and get this thing, this genocide that is going on, to a halt.

Many people, including you and me, have seen the satellite pictures of the villages in Darfur. They're all burned out. You can see where once there were huts and homes and everything. They're completely burned out. There is a calculated, planned, orchestrated genocide going on in Darfur, and we ought-and it's in Africa-and we ought to stop it, and we ought to do something about it. And this latest manifestation I hope will focus some attention on the kind of thugs that are running things.

MATTHEWS: Couldn't do better, could they?

Anyway, thank you.

Let's talk about the United States Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts. This is the first time I think you've had a chance to go at length on this topic. Was it a smart appointment so far?

MCCAIN: Brilliant.

MATTHEWS: Brilliant?

MCCAIN: I think it's a brilliant call. This judge is highly regarded by everybody that's known him. I don't know how he stayed conservative after spending all those years at Harvard.


MCCAIN: But he's clearly...

MATTHEWS: A smart guy.

How do you keep-how do you find a brilliant appointment in a country where 40 percent of the country or 45 percent call themselves pro-choice on abortion rights, believes the Constitution protects that right, and 40 percent or so, maybe less than that, on the other side say, no, we don't think the Constitution ever says that? How do you find a judge to meet both constituencies?

MCCAIN: I think it's based on a respect for his record, his demeanor, his-the way he is going to present himself to hearings, the way that he did when he was up for confirmation before, where he was confirmed to the appellate court by a voice vote, a voice vote. Now, three Democrats voted against him out of the Judiciary Committee, but I-did you-I'm sure you, like most Americans, saw his remarks after the president introduced him the other night.

It's beautifully done, his reverence for the court, reverence for the Constitution. And, again, the president said when he campaigned for reelection that he would appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States. There is no doubt that this nominee will do that.

So, if you have got a complaint-I'm talking about the left and the far left-then win the next presidential election, and then your guy can appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg-or your woman-your man or woman-excuse me-can appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Breyer and others that are to the left. That's-that's the way the system works.

MATTHEWS: But that's tough talk when you are trying to get the Democrats to allow a vote, right? I mean, you can't be that brutal, can you, just say Democrats, roll over, it's our choice?

MCCAIN: No. But I...


MATTHEWS: All it takes is 41 Democrats in the Senate out of 45 to kill this nomination by filibuster, right?

MCCAIN: Well, would you have expected Republicans to have filibustered Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was former, I believe-helped with the ACLU, I believe, counselor or something like that? Elections have consequences.

And I voted for both Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg, because I believed that President Clinton won the election. Therefore, there was no overriding reason-even though I was aware of a left-at least left-of-center philosophy-that there was no overriding reason to vote against the nominee.

MATTHEWS: That's not the way senators like Chuck Schumer on the other side look at it. They believe they have a right to vet these guys or women and decide whether they should be on the court or not, because whether they like them or not or like what they have to say.

MCCAIN: Well, I think there's a varying spectrum in the United States Senate, as we all know. And there is no doubt that Senator Kennedy, Senator Schumer and a couple others are on the end of that spectrum. And that's there right to be...


MCCAIN: politically.

MATTHEWS: Where are you on that spectrum, Senator? Are you in the middle? Are you on the right or where are you?

MCCAIN: Clearly, on this issue, I am to the right, because I believe that we should have judges that strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

And then, as importantly, the president of the United States campaigned saying that. I mean, the American voter was very well aware of what kind of judge the president of the United States was going to appoint and they decided to reelect him.

Maybe that wasn't the reason, but they knew that came with the deal.

MATTHEWS: We'll be right back with Senator John McCain to talk about what this nominee has to say under testimony. How much does he have to give to get this job?

And still ahead, the latest on the White House-CIA leak investigation. What does a top secret State Department memo tell us about who in the White House knew Valerie Wilson's identity and when and what did they do with that info?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, Senator John McCain's reaction to the White House-CIA leak investigation.

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We're back now with Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain, there's two ways to look at this new nominee for the Supreme Court. He has amazing credentials. Everyone recognizes that, even the liberal Democrats.

One is, he argued the case for the administration on an abortion issue, where he basically said he didn't believe that the Roe v. Wade decision held up under constitutional scrutiny. At the same time, he believes in precedent. He believes that, once a law is passed and once a ruling is made by the Supreme Court, and over 20 or 30 years, like this one, it should be left to stand.

What-what-what-what's paramount there? Does he believe in precedent, or does he believe in going back and being a strict constructionist?

MCCAIN: I think that it's pretty clear that the court's not going to revisit Roe v. Wade, per se. But there will be other issues, such as parental notification, such as when the viability of a fetus is-you know, we've learned that, because of medical technology, a fetus is viable at an earlier and earlier stage, which, by the way, has contributed significantly to the pro-life position.

So, I think there's other aspects of the abortion issue, which I think will continue to surface in the United States Supreme Court.

Let me just mention what the left is going to do, real quick. First, they're going to challenge the documents. In other words, they're going to want all the documents that...

MATTHEWS: His memos.

MCCAIN: ... he did, his memos when he was working for the president of the United States.


MCCAIN: That is clearly an attorney-client privilege. But it worked with Estrada for the Democrats, and it worked with Bolton, right? So they will try that.

Second thing, of course, will be the abortion issue, as just-we just discussed. They'll try and attack him from that position. And third of all will be the issue of answering questions sufficiently before the Judiciary Committee.

Well, on the third issue, if you look at the confirmation hearings of Justice Breyer and Ginsburg, they literally answered no really controversial question on the basis-I think legitimate-that they're not going to comment on cases that will be coming before the Supreme Court.

But those will be the three lines of attack that you'll see from the left at Judge Roberts.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask a John McCain question.

Justice-Justice O'Connor, Sandra Day O'Connor, was on the 5-4 positive end, the majority end of a decision which said you can't outlaw abortion, even through the means of what's called partial-birth abortion, if the woman's health is in danger. Are you with that side? Which side are you on? Do you think a woman's health should be paramount in determining whether she has a right to an abortion?

MCCAIN: I think it depends on the stage of the pregnancy, and I know we're splitting hairs here. But there's a point-there's a point where the woman's health is, obviously, in the later stages of pregnancy, is-gains in greater and greater importance.

But I believe that if Roe v. Wade itself were repealed, we would go back to the states. And the states would make decisions according to the standards that they want to prevail within their states. So, if Roe v. Wade were repealed, that wouldn't have the Draconian effects that some view it. And I'm, being a states rights guy, that would be fine with me.


MATTHEWS: It would be OK with you if some states said that a woman couldn't have an abortion, even if her health was in danger?

MCCAIN: I think...

MATTHEWS: Because that's what Nebraska did in that case.

MCCAIN: My position-my position is life of the mother, obviously.

MATTHEWS: Life, but how about health?

MCCAIN: Again, it depends on-you'd have to get down into health. I think it has to be right now on the basis of life of the mother. That's my position.


MATTHEWS: But even when a woman is told by her doctor...


MCCAIN: Rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

MATTHEWS: ... that, if you deliver this baby, it's going to do damage to you internally. It could be real damage.

MCCAIN: The life of the mother is the position that I hold. Now, I think you could have discussions about when that life is in danger, then when it isn't, long-term effects, short term.

What we worry about is that every doctor is saying-I'm talking about the pro-life position, which I hold-is every doctor is saying, "Go ahead and have an abortion because..."

MATTHEWS: You don't feel good.

MCCAIN: Yes. You don't feel good.

MATTHEWS: You don't feel good about having this baby.


MCCAIN: That's why...

MATTHEWS: But that's the hardest thing, isn't it, for men or anybody to decide from outside, whether the doctor really has legitimate concerns about his patient's health or he's some sort of Park Avenue doctor who will do anything because somebody asked him to do it and if he likes his patient.

MCCAIN: Which is why we come down to the position life of the mother.


MCCAIN: Then you-then you don't get into this equivocation.

Look, this is-can I just add, finally, this is a tough issue.


MCCAIN: As males, all of us, at least most males that I know, are not totally comfortable with it, because we're never going to have to make those kinds of decisions. But I believe...

MATTHEWS: Well, it was during the war, the Vietnam War, which you served so nobly in. There were people who got out of the draft because they had doctors who were like Park Avenue doctors-and I hate to mention geography, but doctors that will take care of their rich patients, who said the kid can't serve because he's got a headache or the kid, you know, or might have high blood pressure today or the kid may be this...

MCCAIN: Bad knee, yes.

MATTHEWS: ... traumatized by the experience. And regular doctors say, "Tough, kid. You're going." So...


But I don't think there's any doubt that-and you look at, for example, Senator Clinton's recent comments, that technology, knowledge, better health situation has swung to the side of the pro-life people.

MATTHEWS: I know that.


MCCAIN: I'm-I mean, and I'm pleased about that.

MATTHEWS: OK. We'll be right back with Senator John McCain to talk about this leaked memorandum and what's happening in this prosecution, perhaps, of the White House staff.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator John McCain.

This prosecutor in the leak case, the CIA leak case, has just gone after the city organization, the machine, you might call it, in Chicago. He is tough. He's throwing the book at the people out there in the Daly administration out there, his number two and number three guy. What do you think he's going to do with this case involving the White House and the leak case?

MCCAIN: Could I just mention I remember when Senator Peter Fitzgerald was responsible for his appointment, and it was opposed by literally the entire political establishment in Illinois. And...

MATTHEWS: They had reason.


MCCAIN: Yes. That's right.

MATTHEWS: Well, he is-he is one tough prosecutor.

MCCAIN: He seems to be a very tough guy. I've never met him or anything.


MATTHEWS: Well, now he's got his sites on the White House staff and the vice president's staff.


MATTHEWS: And he's got a new memo that was apparently sent to the president and to the secretary of state on the trip to Africa, in-two years ago in July of 2003, which laid out the role of Valerie Wilson, the wife of Joe Wilson, the ambassador, went down to Niger, or Niger.

And here we are again with evidence of maybe a major crime, of misusing top-secret information.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it's interesting. The most fascinating aspect of this is Judith Miller of "The New York Times," who never wrote a word...


MCCAIN: ... is in prison. Nobody understands that. No one has explained that to me quite-to anybody's satisfaction.

MATTHEWS: And she was reporting stories helpful to those pushing the war, ironically.

MCCAIN: Exactly. So, this is full of riddles that we won't know until we-until Fitzgerald comes out with his report.

Now, I understand that the grand jury expires in October, so it's very likely that he'll come to some conclusions by then. But I...

We all know why Karl Rove spoke to the reporters, because at least we know this, that he believed that Wilson was putting out false information concerning whether Dick Cheney sent him to Africa, which he didn't, whether there was actually some contacts between Saddam Hussein's regime and Niger on yellow cake, which the British still maintain that there was, and several other aspects that were, just simply-according to a study by our Intelligence Committee, were false, statements that Ambassador Wilson made.

And so, it's understandable why Rove would say to a reporter, "Hey, look, the vice president did not send Wilson to Niger. It was done at the recommendation of his wife," etcetera, etcetera.

Now, whether, during that period of time, Karl Rove or anybody else in the White House leaked her name, I don't know the answer to that. I really don't. Now, they...


MATTHEWS: If it-so, if he did, do you think that's serious enough to fire him? The president, in the first instance, said they had to be taken care of, in the second instance, said, if they've been proven guilty of a crime. He's lowered the bar for acceptable behavior.

MCCAIN: Well, look, I can't be responsible for the comments of the president, but I do believe that every American has the right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Now, Karl Rove has stated that he did not do anything wrong and break any law. I take him at his word.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the White House-do you think that Karl Rove is guilty of any tough behavior, or hardball behavior against you in the race in South Carolina in 2000?

MCCAIN: Politics is not beanbags. I think that I-that they played rough with me. I think there were times-dare I say it-that my campaign played rough, too. I mean, politics is a tough game. You know that better than any-than the two of us.


MATTHEWS: Do you think-let me get back-I want to talk to you when we get back, because is this a tough-interesting question here about what actually happened on that trip to Niger and whether the president here is keeping to the standards he announced a couple years ago.

Up next, more with Senator John McCain about this big White House sting, about the leak.

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We're back with Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Senator, during the president's State of the Union address of 2003, he said in 16 famous or infamous words that they had British reports, British intelligence reports, that Saddam Hussein was buying yellow cake, buying uranium.

Subsequent to that, the director of the CIA, George Tenet, apologized and said that should not have been in there. The number two person at the National Security Council, Stephen Hadley, said it shouldn't have been in there. He took a hit for that. Both of them were-one was given the Medal of Honor, George Tenet, appropriately or not. And Stephen Hadley was promoted. The president and vice president were both reelected. The only person who seems to have gotten targeted for blame was the guy, Joe Wilson, who said that shouldn't have been in there, the man who was on the right side of the argument.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think it's very important to note that the British to this day-we got that information from British intelligence.

And, to this day, the British have not retracted their views that there were attempts made, at least, at contacts concerning possible purchase of yellow cake from Niger.

Now, maybe they never came to fruition, etcetera. But the British have never renounced that they-that they reached that conclusion, so it's not quite black and white.


MATTHEWS: But why did the-why did the president retract it? Why did they all say he made a mistake?

MCCAIN: I think that both of them retracted it because they did not have hard evidence that it was the case, OK? They didn't have the evidence. They got it from the British.

And so, you don't want to make a speech, especially to the American people, saying something that is-that is not incontrovertibly true. There is still a question about whether there were contacts from Saddam Hussein with Niger. And there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein, throughout his career, sought to acquire and even use weapons of mass destruction.

MATTHEWS: But do you think it's been proper for the vice president, all those months leading up to war, on "Meet the Press" especially and other programs, making the case that we faced a nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein?

MCCAIN: I am convinced that the president of the-that the vice president of the United States had information that led him to that conclusion, as did the British, French, German, Israeli and every other intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had those weapons of mass destruction.

Was it wrong? Yes, it was wrong.


MATTHEWS: But we do know on the record that the vice president raised that question with the CIA. Subsequent to him raising the question about this Niger possibility of the uranium, because of the story that ran in the Italian press or whatever, he said, check this out. They checked it out.

Why do you think they never came back and told him they found out there was nothing there after the Plame-after the Wilson trip?

MCCAIN: Perhaps-I don't know the-these inner workings. We're getting into minutia that I don't know anything about.


MATTHEWS: But if you raised a question with the CIA...

MCCAIN: Yes. Right. OK.

MATTHEWS: ... they would come back to you with a response.

MCCAIN: My response is, the British stood by their conclusion that there had been contacts between Saddam Hussein's people and Niger concerning yellow cake. I am sure that's one of the reasons why-that-that this-the credibility of this charge lasted as long as it did. But I also understand why it was said, look, that we shouldn't have had that in there because we didn't have incontrovertible proof.

MATTHEWS: You are known to have a higher ethical standard than most politicians.

MCCAIN: I hope.

MATTHEWS: That's a fact.

MCCAIN: But...


MATTHEWS: I want to know what your ethical standard would be here if it is shown that somebody in the White House, the vice president's staff or somebody on the president's staff, whoever they are, intentionally leaked an undercover agent's identity as a way of either just pushing them back or punishing them, whatever the motive. Do you think the standard should be, did they break a criminal act or not?

MCCAIN: I don't know, because it depends on-look, I can't be the president of the United States. I trust this president. I believe that he will do the right thing.

And, right now, the status of this situation is, is that Karl Rove still publicly denies that he did leak this name, OK. And I believe he has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And, again, as we said earlier in our conversation, he was trying to refute allegations that Ambassador Wilson made that turned out not to be true. And he knew they were not true. Well, I'm talking about Karl Rove knew they were not true.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's talking about...

MCCAIN: Because the vice president did not send Ambassador Wilson to Niger.

MATTHEWS: No, but he raised the question to the CIA.

MCCAIN: And Mr.-Ambassador Wilson said that the vice president did.




MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: But he did raise the question, and the CIA sent somebody down to check on it.

MCCAIN: He did say that.

MATTHEWS: Nobody ever said he authorized the trip. They said that-

I thought Wilson's argument was that the vice president raised the question about this purchase of uranium ore from the government of Niger.

MCCAIN: My understanding...


MATTHEWS: And the CIA then subsequently sent Wilson down there to check it out.

MCCAIN: My understanding is that Wilson intimated that it was the vice president that sent him there.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's a hard case to make.

Let me ask you, did you like your role in that movie? Let's take a look at your role in this movie, which I am determined to see, the "Wedding Crashers."

We're showing this picture now. It looks pretty clean so far.


MATTHEWS: Looks pretty clean so far. There's...


MCCAIN: Congratulations, Kathleen.


MCCAIN: And, Bill, congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Thank you, Senator.

JAMES CARVILLE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: They just grow up so damn fast, don't they?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's the truth, yes.


MATTHEWS: There's James Carville. There's Senator John McCain.

Well, do you feel like...

MCCAIN: Seven seconds. I think I ought to get a nomination for Academy Award for the best cameo appearance. That's clearly-how do you do and congratulations.

MATTHEWS: Do you recommend this film that you participated in, the "Wedding Crashers"?

MCCAIN: When the film was being made, it was not rated. I was told that it was probably going to be PG-13. But it was not. Some have said-and I don't want to sound defensive here-that I criticized R-rated movies. I've not criticized R-rated movies. What I criticized was a period of time when Hollywood was marketing R-rated movies to children.


MCCAIN: And we had hearings on it. And they stopped that practice, as far as I know. I'm for the ratings system, so that parents can know.

MATTHEWS: So, what age would-what age would this appropriate for, this movie? Me, I think.

MCCAIN: I haven't seen-I haven't seen...

MATTHEWS: Should I be allowed to see it?

MCCAIN: I haven't seen the movie, but from what I've been told, that it is-it deserves the R rating that it has.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it's a little gross.

MCCAIN: That's what I-again, I haven't seen the movie, but I...

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway. You know what? I think it's great you did it.

MCCAIN: I do like...

MATTHEWS: I'm with you on this one.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I'm not sure I'm with you on the Wilson case, but I'm with you on this one...


MATTHEWS: ... because I think movies are fun.

Anyway, thank you. And, by the way, grownups should go see grownup movies. That's my view.

Anyway, thank you, John McCain, senator from Arizona.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top