Entire transcript of DeLay show
Using my LexisNexis skills, here is the entire transcript from the Tom DeLay segment on Hardball from late January. I apologize in advance for any formatting errors, but I've spent enough time trying to re-format it already.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: It's election time. Will Tom DeLay hold on in Texas? Will Rick Santorum remain a senator from Pennsylvania? Will Hillary Clinton confirm her crown as leader of the Democrats? And bottom line, will George W. Bush, who led the country into Iraq, be punished for an unpopular war? Tonight it begins. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Tonight we're kicking off our official "Decision 2006" coverage of the midterm elections and the stakes are big for both parties. President Bush is coming off the worst year of his presidency from continued problems with the war in Iraq, a failed response to Hurricane Katrina and trunks of political corruption within his own party.
Tomorrow night the president will fight for his party`s future from the bully pulpit in his make it or break it State of the Union address. MSNBC and MSNBC.com will have full coverage of the speech, from the speeches to the politicians, to the blogs.
The Democrats are focusing on what they call a culture of corruption and point to the Abramoff scandal as proof that the Republican-controlled Congress has been bought off by lobbyists. But polls show most Americans care more about national security, an issue Republicans continue to control. With a new "Washington Post" poll showing two-thirds of Americans feel safer now than they did before 9/11.
The bottom line is, Americans may agree with Democrats on the issues, but the party suffers from a lack of leadership and lackluster direction. More on the political battle lines being drawn in a moment, but first we launch "Decision 2006" tonight with the most important race in the country.
The Lone Star state of Texas has 32 congressional districts. This November, one of the most closely watched races in the country will play out near Houston, where Congressman Tom DeLay has won easily for 20 years. Today the man known as the hammer, however, faces what could be his toughest fight ever.
REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: I am very, very proud of the record of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
GERALD BIRNBERG, DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN, HARRIS COUNTY: If we can get rid of somebody as entrenched as Tom DeLay has been in this 22nd congressional district, that says Democrats can win anywhere in the nation.
ERIC THODE, GOP CHAIRMAN, FORT BEND COUNTY: Tom DeLay, over the last two years, has re-dedicated himself to making sure that the district knows exactly what's going on, what his office is doing, and what his presence in Washington means for district 22.
MATTHEWS (voice-over): It's shaping up to be a heavyweight championship fight for one of the most powerful, most polarizing Republicans in the country. As House majority whip and later House majority leader, Tom DeLay was a Republican superstar who led the Republican revolution.
His problems began in 2005, when he was indicted in Texas by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, on charges of money laundering of campaign donations.
RONNIE EARLE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, TRAVIS COUNTY: If Tom DeLay has not committed a crime, then he has nothing to worry about.
MATTHEWS: Republican rules back in Washington forced him to resign from his role as majority leader. Then came the Abramoff scandal in Washington. His friendship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who just pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, is another hot potato for DeLay, as is a trip he accepted to Britain in 2000, with golf at St. Andrews in Scotland, that was underwritten by clients of Abramoff.
In the midst of this political firestorm, Tom DeLay was calm and confident when we met in Texas recently. He's a veteran of some of the toughest political battles in Washington and he says he knows who`s out to destroy him.
DELAY: Democrats have been planning this for a long time. They announced their politics of personal destruction two years ago. Their character assassination is part of their strategy. They don't have an agenda, and so they're trying to get the House back by destroying people in their families.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel, Congressman DeLay.
BOB STEIN, POLLSTER, RICE UNIVERSITY: The number one problem is the congressman, himself. Any other Republican would probably win this seat, handily. But right now, Tom DeLay has got a problem and it's all about Tom DeLay.
MATTHEWS (on camera): Do you have to have an acquittal before the election to clear this air?
DELAY: I would like one, but my constituents know what's going on here. They`ve looked at this case, they understand it. They've been very, very supportive. They know what Ronnie Earle is, a runaway district attorney that's abusing his power.
MATTHEWS: The Abramoff thing in Washington, does that bother you?
DELAY: I think it's really unfortunate that they broke the law and they've been found guilty breaking it. I had nothing to do with that. I've done nothing wrong. I haven't broken any laws.
MATTHEWS: Are you worried that the Democrats will be able to use pictures like golfing in Scotland to bring you down?
DELAY: Sure, they'll try all that. I mean, they want to lie about what's going on. I'm very involved in the international affairs against the religious persecution in China or getting persecuted Jews out of Russia. I've been involved in a lot of foreign affairs. Yes, when I go over somewhere for that, I take a day off or half a day off, and I play golf.
MATTHEWS: But there's no religious persecution in Scotland?
DELAY: No, but Margaret Thatcher was in England and I met with a lot of conservative organizations.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that's unfair to say that you went over there on a junket?
DELAY: It's incredibly unfair.
MATTHEWS: Why? Who paid for the trip?
DELAY: A legitimate conservative organization.
MATTHEWS: But wasn't there a pass-through?
DELAY: No, there was no pass-through.
MATTHEWS: They came up with the money themselves?
DELAY: That's exactly right. They raise their money themselves.
MATTHEWS: That public policy group?
DELAY: Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: So you don't have any problem with that trip?
DELAY: None at all.
MATTHEWS: Nobody's asked you about it down here?
DELAY: Not really, no.
MATTHEWS: Is Tom DeLay corrupt?
NICK LAMPSON, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE, 22ND DISTRICT: I won't answer that question, I don't know. I think that's up to a court, part of the ethics committee. I would certainly hope that the values that I grew up with would not bring the kind of challenges to me ever that have been brought before him.
My grandfather bought this piece of land, my mother's father did, and farmed it.
MATTHEWS (voice-over): Nick Lampson is a former four-term Texas Democratic congressman who says he's the right person right now to beat DeLay in November.
(on camera): Would you be running against Mr. DeLay for this seat if he wasn't in trouble? Or is this an opportunity that you jumped on because of all his ethics bad news?
LAMPSON: I made this decision back in May and it was well before there was an indictment.
MATTHEWS: We've got a poll that shows that half the people, only half the people who supported Mr. DeLay last time, are going to vote for him this time. Do you think it's that bad for him right now?
LAMPSON: I can tell you that it`s very good for me.
I`ve wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood...
MATTHEWS (voice-over): ... Though born and raised in Texas, Lampson owns property over 100 miles away from the 22nd District. He moved here last April, paying rent to his aunt, so he could live in her house and vote in the district.
DELAY: He lives in Beaumont. He's the only Democrat they've been able to get to run and he claims a local address for his home. I`m sure we'll be able to explain that to my constituents.
MATTHEWS (on camera): You're a Democrat.
LAMPSON: I`m a Democrat.
MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about that, OK? Is President Bush an honest man?
LAMPSON: Certainly. I've campaigned with him, I believe that he...
MATTHEWS: ... So he's not part of this culture corruption the Democrats are all talking about?
LAMPSON: I`m not going to make any kind of an accusation like that.
MATTHEWS: So you don't think there is a culture of corruption -- we hear that from Nancy Pelosi, we hear it from the Democratic leaders. There's a Republican culture of corruption in Washington.
LAMPSON: The culture of corruption has existed, in my mind, among some people. And it doesn't matter to me whether they are Democrat and Republican. If somebody's broken the ethics or the law, then they need to be punished for it.
MATTHEWS: You're asking the voters here to elect a Democrat to Congress, to send a Democrat, a person -- will you vote for Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco to be speaker of the House?
MATTHEWS: Is there a question?
LAMPSON: No -- if she's the one that is...
MATTHEWS: ... Well she's the leader of the Democratic Party in the House, so you will have to vote for her if you're going to be a Democrat.
LAMPSON: I could be comfortable doing that. I`m looking for good ideas and I want those ideas not to be to the left or to the right. If we can move our district forward and do the things for my constituency that will make a difference in their quality of life, which I've already proven I can do.
I am very comfortable trying to stick with issues that -- and the values of Texans here in southeast Texas that I was raised with and that I believe I am very much in sync with.
MATTHEWS: Tom DeLay, you're not in this business for the money.
MATTHEWS: You live modestly.
MATTHEWS: You commute back and forth from Washington to Houston, Texas.
MATTHEWS: Why? What drives you ever day?
DELAY: What I believe in, the Constitution of the United States. Ronald Reagan got me involved in this. It's -- I fight every day for what I believe in. A strong national security, protecting American family values. I want to see this country led in a different direction than when I found it, when I got into politics 20 some years ago.
MATTHEWS: Will Tom DeLay hang on to his seat or will the hammer go down swinging? Charlie Cook of the "Cook Political Report" will be joining us when we come book. And HARDBALL's coverage of tomorrow night's State of the Union gets an early start tonight at 7:00 Eastern. NBC`s moderator of "Meet the Press," Tim Russert will be with us with the results of a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. It`s fascinating. You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): President George H.W. Bush wove some humor into his State of the Union address with a little help from the first lady.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much for that warm reception. You know, the big buildup this address has had, I wanted to make sure it would be a big hit, but I couldn't convince Barbara to deliver it for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Our decision 2006 coverage starts tonight. It`s early in this midterm election year, but already there are many hot races shaping up.
Charlie Cook is a NBC political analyst of course and publisher of "The Cook Political Report."
Charlie, we just interviewed Tom DeLay down in Texas. I mean, we had it on tape there obviously. And a couple points came up. I want you to tell what you think might be decisive.
When I asked him about Scotland--let`s take a look at this tape--when I asked him about Scotland and whether he was over there fighting religious--little sarcastic--religious repression in Scotland, here was his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Are you worried that the Democrats will be able to use iconic pictures--that's probably a fancy word--but graphic pictures, like golfing in Scotland to bring you down?
TOM DELAY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I'll bet sure. They'll try all that. I mean, they want to lie about what's going on. I'm very involved in the international affairs whether it be Israel or against the religious persecution in China or for Taiwan against China or getting persecuted Jews out of Russia.
I've been involved in a lot of foreign affairs. Yes, when I go over somewhere for that I take a day off or a half a day off, and I play golf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, they skipped the part in that tape about where I asked is there religious repression in Scotland. That is the problem.
CHARLIE COOK, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there might be a good answer for your question, but that wasn't it. I mean, I hope the next time somebody asks him that question, there's a little bit better answer because that just didn`t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: He said he met with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who`s been out of office for more than--well over a decade and is a very elderly woman. And that's England, by the way.
COOK: Not Scotland.
MATTHEWS: It's a little weak. Well, we'll see. Let me ask you about the other guys with problems. Nick Lampson is a former Congressman. He was knocked out of his seat largely, I guess, through the redistricting by Tom DeLay. He`s traveling 100 miles for this seat.
He's established his residence, his voting residence, his tax residence, I suppose, at his aunt's house. That is where he received us, and, by the way, told us that was his home. Is that going to be a problem, carpet bagging?
COOK: It can be. It can be.
The thing is right now this race is Tom DeLay against Tom DeLay, and when it is DeLay versus DeLay, DeLay loses. You ask if in a poll DeLay versus a Democrat and he's way ahead. You ask DeLay against Nick Lampson and Lampson, the Democrat, is ahead.
But when it becomes really a race between DeLay and Lampson and they start making Lampson's voting record in Congress an issue and basically the opportunism and carpet bagging and all that, this is going to be an awfully, awfully close race.
MATTHEWS: I asked him if he was comfortable, Mr. Lampson, in casting his first vote as a new member of Congress for Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. I got to imagine that`s a problem in Texas.
COOK: Yes, and the answer was kind of a blur. Yes, you do want to do that.
MATTHEWS: But don't voters know that if you elect a Democrat, they vote for Pelosi, they vote for Harry Reid if they are Senators, that comes with the business?
COOK: Actually, I've seen southern Democrats who didn`t vote the first vote. Remember Buddy Roemer refused to vote for Tip O`Neill? I mean, sometimes...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that is the formal way you identify your party is who you vote for leader. That's how it`s done.
COOK: But somehow Roemer got committee assignments.
COOK: So, I mean, you know, where there's a will, there is a way. But the point is these kinds of questions are going to come out in the campaign, and it's not going to be Tom DeLay versus Tom DeLay. And that's why I think this is going to be a lot more competitive race than some of the polls today suggest.