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Softball: Behind the Scenes at Hardball

Jun 05 2000 09:24:20:000AM

MSNBC: 'Hardball' Video Clip of George W. Bush Interview

By Ned Martel
Chief Political Correspondent

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Voter.com) - The political talk show "Hardball" can sometimes reveal a political player's soft side, as happened this week when the show's host, Chris Matthews, and George W. Bush shared some unusually  candid moments off-camera, but not off-microphone.

Later, when asked by the traveling press corps about Wednesday's comments,  Bush looked slightly startled and asked reporters just what was said. On  another flight, he elaborated: "I said, 'I hope this mike wasn't live. I had a feeling that was on."

Among Bush's statements during "Hardball's" commercial breaks:

He expects Al Gore's campaign manager, Tony Coelho, to be fired. Coelho is under investigation by the State Department for an alleged conflict of  interest involving a private foundation he established. "They're going to  dump him. I-I. Mark my words. Oh, they'll dump him, like-There's no loyalty  in those guys," Bush says.

On the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Rick Lazio and first lady Hillary  Clinton in New York Bush expects, "He's going to win. I think he's going to  win, if he doesn't make a mistake or treat her as a victim. If he doesn't  treat her as a victim."

Of President Clinton, Bush says: "He's a pretty charming guy."

He inferred that unlike the 1988 election when the incumbent vice president
(his father) defeated a governor (Micheal Dukakis) in a landslide, Election  2000 will more resemble that of 1960, when John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon in the closest election in U.S. history, following a series of televised debates.

He dismissed the idea that Sen. Fred Thompson's reportedly swinging bachelorhood might rule him out for consideration as a running mate. "Too frisky a lifestyle, don't you think?" Matthews asks Bush of the Tennessee Republican. Bush responds: "I don't think so. Do you?"

He engages in a long discussion with Matthews about how they both quit  drinking.

He indicates that one reason he allowed the postponement of a rapist and killer's execution, pending a DNA test, was that the accused "may have had a friend over" at the time of the crimes.


Members of the press corps who follow Bush seemed startled by the candor  exhibited by the governor, and perhaps more so, Matthews, when "Hardball"  broke for commercials and video clips.

Matthews said later that he is always aware his microphone is live for his  show's feed to CNBC's headquarters in New Jersey and said he uses off-camera  moments to "loosen up" guests. "My strength is I say what I think," Matthews  said, and regular guests on his show are well aware of their host's  loquaciousness.

Matthews added, "Generally most pros know" to be careful of what they say during commercial breaks. He would certainly include Bush in that category, he said.

Bush kidded with reporters that if Matthews' intent off-camera was to  provoke him, it may have backfired.

Voter.com, with the help of several other reporters, transcribed the  off-camera moments in the Bush-Matthews' meeting. The conversation has many  inaudible moments, even after a review of three separate recordings.

Information about context and tone is given where appropriate.

That said, we post this document of a major candidate speaking frankly with  a major pundit, edited for clarity and relevance, captured in their own  words:

OFF CAMERA #1:

 ...[Conversation picks up with a discussion of possible vice presidential  candidates.]

 Chris Matthews:

 ... They're all out there, especially Ridge [referring to Pennsylvania's  Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, a Bush confidant].

 George W. Bush:

 Who? [feigns no recognition, and then laughs] Oh, yeah.

 CM:

 Combat veteran, Catholic, working-class background.

 GWB:

 Good man.

 CM:

 Harvard education.

 GWB:

 I'm not telling you. [laughs-implying he's not giving in to Mathews's  attempt to reveal Ridge's standing on Bush's list of VP possibilities.]

 CM:

 Pro-choice. Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel we're looking at. We're looking at 'em
 all. Trying to guess you by an inch.

 GWB:

 You're doing pretty good. Maybe ahead of me.

 CM:

 Fred Thompson, too frisky a lifestyle, don't you think? [referring to  reports on the social life of Tennessee Sen. Thompson, a bachelor.]

 GWB:

 I don't think so. Single guy. Do you?  ...

 GWB:

 [To live audience] This guy [Matthews] is from Philadelphia, isn't he?

 CM:

 You've been trying to chuck off that Yale thing forever, haven't you? About  30 years now. Clinton's been trying to hang onto it for his life, you've  been chucking it off. He thinks he was born at Yale Law.

 GWB:

 [Laughs] Exactly. ...

 CM:

 More on that later.

 GWB:

 Did you actually go to college?

 CM:

 Who?

 GWB:

 You.

 CM:

 I went to one of those schools you'll be crying for this fall: Holy Cross.

 GWB:

 There you go. [Laughs] Great school.

 CM:

 A place you'll be doing your mea culpas up there: "I love Catholics! I love  'em!"

 GWB:

 It's a good school.

 CM:

 It's great. Edward Bennett Williams.

 GWB:

 He went there?

 CM:

 Clarence Thomas, Bob Cousy, Michael Harrington, the Socialist leader. me.

 GWB:

 And Chris Mathews. [little laugh]

 CM:

 Bob Wright, head of NBC - head of NBC altogether. Two years ahead of me.

 COUNTDOWN TO TAPING 
 OFFCAMERA #2


 [Conversation picks up with a discussion of Ricky McGinn, a convicted
 murderer and rapist whom Bush recommended for a 30-day reprieve from his
 scheduled execution to allow DNA evidence to be reviewed.]

 CM:

 [Unintelligble] - that they say DNA is perfect. I don't think anything's  perfect.

 GWB:

 This is the case--

 CM:

 Semen and pubic hair and all that, as opposed to the blood [referring to the
 DNA review, which will examine whether McGinn committed the sexual assault.]

 GWB:

 What happened is--he may have had a friend over.

 CM:

That's another possibility. And you hear-  [Conversation overlap. Unintelligible.]   You can't care what standard---[Unintelligible.]  I read all the clips on this this morning. This guy, this guy was acquitted  on one murder.

 GWB:

 Bad guy.

 CM:

 Yeah

 GWB:

 The good news is that he won't be let out of prison. These death penalty  cases, Chris, they create a lot of-they create a lot of action down there.
 ...

 [Conversations picks up with a discussion of their alma maters]

 CM:

 Holy Cross and [unintelligible]

 GWB:

 They're kicking the crap out of Yale, by the way, when they play them all  the time in football. ...

NEXT OFF CAMERA

 CM:

 We've done almost half the show.

 GWB:

 Let's just keep going.

 CM:

 [speaks with control room] Let me just finish with this and we'll see if we  have time.

 GWB:

 Oh, I thought you were talking to me. [Laughs.]

 CM:

 We'll do that.

 GWB:

 I saw little--Tommy O'Neill the other day, by the way. [referring to the  former Democratic Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts and son of late U.S. House  Speaker Tip O'Neill]

 CM:

 Nice guy.

 GWB:

 He is.

 CM:

 Nicest guy in the family. I worked for Tip for six years, and he was like-he  was the only guy who ever thanked me, which is nice. Tommy was great. Tommy  is nice guy.

 [garbled, but lands on the subject of Tip O'Neill]

 GWB

 He was a wonderful man. He was a wonderful man.

 CM:

 And he loved your dad.

 GWB:

 And he loved him. Vice versa. ...

 GWB:

 How did you know Bobby? [another mutual acquaintance]

CM:

Tony! We'd worked together, Tony. [the reference is to Tony Coelho, Vice  President Al Gore's campaign chief.] That's another weird overlay. Isn't  that weird? Boy, Tony's getting more heat than-

 GWB:

 They're going to dump him. I-I. Mark my words. Oh, they'll dump him,  like-There's no loyalty in those guys. .... 

CM: 

You should see Newsweek [referring to the news magazine's current piece  on the turmoil within Gore's campaign]. There's [unintelligible] And you  know what, that means Gore's lettin' 'em do it.

 GWB:

 Sure. Either that or no control.

 CM:

 [talking to people who can't be heard]

 Sell it. Sell that car. [referring to commercial]

 The first time I got a job on one of these shows, the guy took me out for a
 so-called dinner, it was really a drink to tell me, "Hey, Chris, this isn't  public television."

 He's from network. "All we want is ratings, buddy."

 GWB:

 [Laughs] "This isn't public TV. That's a great line." ...

 NEXT OFF CAMERA: ...

 [On air, Matthews had told Bush about a question a man on the street gave  him about teen-age boys getting locked up for long prison terms on their  first offense.]

 GWB:

 First of all, I really don't think every kid gets thrown away for 10 years.

 CM:

 No, but he was saying--

 GWB:

 He's right though.

 CM:

 He said it's a pattern.

 GWB:

 How does he know?

 CM:

 He's got a kid he's raising in the city. It's the idea of, 'Why do you want  kids educated in prison by the other prisoners?'

 GWB:

 You don't. But why do you want people being preyed [on] if they can't learn
 their lesson?

 CM:

I know.

 GWB:

What's wrong with being educated in the first place?

[Unintelligible exchange]

CM:

I'm all for vouchers. We can do vouchers.

GWB:

I'd like to do 30 minutes with you just on education.

CM:

I'd love to do vouchers.

GWB:

It's more than vouchers.

CM:

Ted Forstmann. I think it's all great. [Referring to a businessman who  created a national scholarship fund for underprivileged children.]

GWB:

Ted's a good man. Have you had him on?

CM:

Ted's terrible on TV. He can't talk, but he's a great guy. He cannot talk on  TV.

GWB:

Have you had Lazio [Rep. Rick Lazio, Republican challenger to Hillary Rodham
Clinton in New York's Senate race] on yet?

CM:

No, we're trying to get him. ... We haven't had him on yet. He's a killer.  Have you seen his numbers? They're incredible. He's leading practically.

GWB:

He's going to win. I think he's going to win, if he doesn't make a mistake or treat her as a victim. If he doesn't treat her as a victim.

CM:

Who knows?

GWB:

You know what I'm saying?

CM:

New York is so liberal. Five million registered Democrats.

GWB:

[Speaking about Roland Betts, an entertainment mogul who is a Democrat and
lives in New York] He's a great friend of mine and one of my business  partners in the [Texas] Rangers, who's really liberal, but a great friend.  And he says, you know, a lot of his friends are not going to vote for  Hillary by virtue of the fact that she's a newcomer to the state.

CM:

I'm no fan.

GWB:

I know it.

CM:

Clinton I have mixed feelings about.

GWB:
}
He's a pretty charming guy.

CM:

He is something else. He's the best I've ever seen. My wife. It's the same  old story: My wife wouldn't forgive [unintelligible: either "one minute" or  "one millionth"] of his behavior, but she loves him. ...

COUNTDOWN TO TAPING

[On-air, the two briefly discussed the fact that they both stopped drinking
years ago. They continue the discussion off-air:]

NEXT OFF CAMERA:

GWB:

There is something you learn as a pilot called histotoxic hypoxia.  Histotoxic hypoxia.

Hypoxia is a condition that-with altitude, you don't get enough blood to  your blood vessels. Well, histotoxic hypoxia is when you drink, the alcohol  crowds out the oxygen in your cells.

CM:

Especially when you go to the mountains. You go to Colorado ... and drink  wine ...  Your whole body hurts.

GWB:

Yeah. Well, that's histotoxic hypoxia. ...

GWB:

Did you just quit?

CM:

Six years ago.

GWB:

Just quit?

CM:

Cold turkey.

GWB:

That's what I did. ...

CM:

... I was heading in the wrong direction.


COUNTDOWN TO TAPING

NEXT OFF CAMERA


GWB: [Unintelligible with reference to Arizona]

CM: I love that state, nothing against you.

GWB: Why?

CM: [Whispering] The best-looking girls in the world.

GWB: Really?

CM: I don't know what it is about the people. I think it [unintelligible]  like 'em and they're all beautiful. ...

[They resume talking about drinking]

GWB:

No, you did the right thing. And I tell you, I feel great about it.-

CM:

... Somebody said, "You don't really quit until you quit."

GWB:

I woke up the next morning, clean and sober.

CM:

Did you?

GWB: You know what helped a lot? I'm a disciplined person. I'm not so sure I  was disciplined as a young man, but I'm disciplined. You watch, you watch  how disciplined I am in the campaign.

CM:

The first debate will be fascinating. If you play defense, it's a little  hard. If you play defense [unintelligible] that'll be the headline. ... "We didn't hear anything from Bush." "He can't move that fast." [Gore] He's  going to get in there and [talk about] a woman's right to choose five times.  Five times, he'll say it.

[Unintelligible, lowers voice to a whisper]

He's a ferocious competitor, for his level.

Look at the tapes.

GWB:

I have.

CM:

He's not exactly original. But it's not like originality wins you any  prizes.

GWB:

Well, that's the thing. That's not what you're supposed to be. There's more
parallel--  I was reading an article that said this'll be like the '88 campaign. This
is  going to be more like the '60 campaign [in which John F. Kennedy narrowly
defeated the incumbent vice president, Richard M. Nixon and their
televised  debates were crucial to the outcome] ...

CM:

I spent a lot of time studying that debate. Did you read it? [Matthews'
book  about the rivalry between Kennedy and Nixon]

GWB:

Yeah, I have read it. I read a hell of a lot more books than you give me
credit it for.

CM:

O.K. O.K. I'm glad you read it.

GWB:

You know what really irritated me? When you saw me at a school one time, and
I said Churchill's my favorite guy. I turned on a TV show afterwards-maybe  it was this show-Michael Duffy or somebody, who the hell knows. "You know,  Bush is totally scripted to tell Chris Matthews he liked Churchill." [Speaking in voice of talking head he's citing]

CM:

He did that on Paul Begala's show. [Unintelligible]

GWB:

Do you think I'd take time out of my life to research what the hell you  like?

But I agree with you: A great man. He's a great man. You know why he's a  great man? He made people laugh.

 COUNTDOWN TO TAPING
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