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Hardball: Chris Matthews probes Sweet about Bob Novak.


I was a guest on MSNBC's ``Hardball'' hosted by Chris Matthews to discuss Bob Novak finally breaking his silence on his role in the CIA leak case. Matthews wanted to know if I thought Novak was the ``prince of darkness.''

The transcript of the Wednesday panel (click at the bottom ) shows my reply.

For those who have never seen Blogger Sweet in action, check out
to see a clip from the Hardball show.

to read the whole transcript of the Wednesday show go to
Here's the part of the show where I appeared.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Columnist Bob Novak breaks his silence in the CIA leak case. Does his story square with Karl Rove‘s? What does the leak case tell us about how the administration defended its controversial war in Iraq?

Plus HARDBALL does politics, of course. Bill Clinton gets set to stump in Tennessee for Harold Ford, who‘s running for the Senate down there and Rudy Giuliani hits the country for ‘06 and I think for ‘08.

Let‘s dig into all of it with the Capitol Hill‘s newspaper, “The Hill.��? The newspaper‘s called, A.B. Stoddard writes for it, Chris Cillizza‘s great. “Washington Times��? columnist John McCaslin writes about us sometimes. And Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun-Times��? covers nice folks out there like Bob Novak.Let‘s start with Lynn Sweet. Your colleague, Bob Novak, what do you make of his breaking of his silence—what do you make of his silence for three years on the leak case?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I think it was his story and it was fine for him to tell it when he felt like it. I know he was under a lot of pressure from other reporters to give them a story, but it was his to tell.

He said he finally broke his silence because he was he told by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, that his role in this investigation is over. So I don‘t have a problem with his timing. I was very expectant and long awaiting his column that finally came out today.

MATTHEWS: Is it a concern that others might draw, maybe not you, that whatever his motive and of course it probably was, I mean, I just assume was to keep a source secret, that‘s what everybody does, but that he knew that if he did blow the name of Karl Rove in the middle of the campaign last year, the president‘s denial of any role in this—the White House spokesman‘s denial of any role in this would have been very hurtful to the president? It would have looked like he was lying, because Karl Rove was out leaking.

SWEET: Well there‘s a difference here Chris between just telling what reporters and some of the press organizations thought he should have done, which is just at least confirm whether or not he had been before the grand jury, and then to spill names of people who were his sources.

He did not do that. He did not go before a grand jury and tell who his sources were without—except the two who gave waivers and gave permission. So I think there‘s two different angles that you‘re going at here.

MATTHEWS: Well let me go back to the one I started with. Let‘s go to Chris Cillizza. Chris, if we had known say October 2004, that despite what the president said, despite what his spokesman said that there was a massive leak from the White House, it was people like Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, of course all involved in it—I‘ve been counting there‘s six leaks coming out of there—in fact five there, one in the CIA—actually four out of the White House, one out of the CIA and one of the big mystery man out there so far. Would that have hurt the president‘s reelection if he was he caught not telling the truth?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Would it have hurt it? Yes, I think it would have.

MATTHEWS: You only have to hurt him one percent, everything changes.

CILLIZZA: Good point. I think it‘s hard for us here in D.C. to measure how much people are really paying attention to this, but yes, of course, it hurts it. When it looks as though the administration is submarining someone, solely because of their political partisan ties, there is an element of people who don‘t like that. And again 100,000 votes, like you said, in Ohio, go a different way and it‘s President John Kerry.

SWEET: But there are a lot of ways this could have come out, Chris. You know, Bob was one of many players that could have brought in Karl Rove‘s name. So he wasn‘t a central—he was not central to just being the person—he was one of many people that...

MATTHEWS: ... Well, a lot of people knew about his attitude of course, but the ones who knew about his leaking were the ones he leaked to, Matt Cooper of “Time��? and in a kind of supporting way, or affirming way, Bob Novak. A.B.?

SWEET: And Bob Woodward and Judy Miller.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I think that what we learned from Bob Novak‘s column today is that Karl Rove is a confirming source. The mystery man is the primary source. And what we learned is that Patrick Fitzgerald‘s got this job in December of ‘03 and just one month later or less, mystery man No. 1, the source No. 1, reveals that actually, the Valerie Plame revelation was inadvertent.

MATTHEWS: So he should have folded his tent right then?

STODDARD: You could make that argument.

MATTHEWS: OK, what about the possibility—I‘ll try this among all four of you, that this leak case began perhaps inappropriately, because it was perhaps a leak if it was done by Richard Armitage, who‘s a prospect right now as the primary leaker.

He‘s certainly no hawk, certainly no neocon, certainly not a guy trying to push the destruction of Joe Wilson or his wife, who may have done it inadvertently. But then as part of his investigation, this is what we think, Fitzpatrick discovered there were people like Scooter Libby who were pushing the story about Joe Wilson with abandon, they were doing it with purpose. Go, John.

JOHN MCCASLIN, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON TIMES: Don‘t forget, Chris, that the White House is still saying there was no leak out of the White House and Karl Rove had nothing to do with this. He was approached by Novak in this instance and he responded.

And nothing really new came out today or yesterday in Novak‘s column, because we already knew it was Karl Rove, he had already mentioned Karl Rove and Karl Rove I think was already fired twice because of leaking to Novak factor in the George H.W. Bush campaign.

MATTHEWS: All right, well you know a lot, but you also know the discrepancy between what Bob Novak, the so-called prince of darkness, says to—Karl Rove said to him, what Karl Rove is contending he said.

The prince of darkness says the guy really did confirm it. He said so you heard about Valerie Wilson, that is confirming by the way, guys. That is confirming. No forget that, he‘s a red herring.

He confirmed that the guy‘s wife was at the CIA and No. 2, now Rove and his defense, or rather his spokesman for his defense says no, I never said so you heard. I said I‘ve heard that too, which is not a confirmation, therefore you‘ve got to believe that Bob Novak is more likely telling the truth here than Karl Rove, because Bob Novak used him as his confirmation.

You can‘t say I heard the same thing, and that‘s a confirmation. It‘s not a confirmation to say I‘ve heard the same rumor.

SWEET: Well that‘s why...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Chris.

CILLIZZA: If I could quickly just point out, I‘m amazed—the thing that I read and I was amazed by this, is that they both can recount verbatim a conversation they had in 2003.


CILLIZZA: I can‘t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less oh you heard about him or yes, that‘s him.

MATTHEWS: You are so right. When you‘re lucky to remember is the tenor of a conversation, like the guy was really mad at me or he seemed to be enjoying it. But you rarely can remember words.

CILLIZZA: I just know as a reporter when I go through my notes, or I look through my notebook, I mean, I have—exactly like you said, I have the tenor and the tone of the conversation, but I wouldn‘t have that specificity.

MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you the reporter‘s advantage. Check me on this, reporters. You‘re scribbling away, the guy talking to you or the woman talking to you is not scribbling away. You have a record.

SWEET: That is enormous. That is enormous. It‘s not only a record, you‘re paid to be paying professional attention and taking notes and most people who we are talking being to are not.


SWEET: And I think Bob did leave a very kind of teasing clue there that I hope he will come back to and address at some point, because he said the substance of the recollections that he had and that Karl Rove had were the same, but the form was different. I thought that was just a tease for another column one day, that he could actually let us know what exactly that form was.

MATTHEWS: No, I think the way he recorded it was that he really did get confirmation from Karl Rove, and the way that Karl Rove supposedly remembered it was he wasn‘t a confirming source. He wasn‘t anything, he was just a rumor enjoyer. We‘ll be right back with Lynn Sweet, John McCaslin, A.B. Stoddard and Chris Cillizza.

You‘re watching HARDBALL. We‘ve got a quartet with us here. We‘re going to talk about the 2006 elections with Lieberman this August. That‘s the first big test of the war as an issue, August 8th, up in Connecticut, and then whether Rudy Giuliani is in this thing for the kill.

You‘re only here—you‘re only here—I‘m reading part of it from the prompter. HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I‘m here with “The Hill��?—that‘s the name of the newspaper up on Capitol Hill, A.B. Stoddard is her name; the‘s Chris Cillizza, the “Washington Times��? columnist John McCaslin that we all rely on because he‘s such an items kind of guy, and Lynn Sweet who works very closely with Bob Novak, the prince of darkness. Do you guys call him the prince of darkness over there or is that just for the other people to use?

SWEET: It‘s such a—I‘ll tell you, it is such an overblown title. I‘ve known Bob for years and I‘m here to tell you, he‘s only been nice to me. And I have never seen the prince of darkness side.

MATTHEWS: Tough on the outside, soft on the inside, right?

SWEET: He‘s very decent. He‘s very pleasant to be with. I hate to blow his image here, but he is quite charming actually.

MATTHEWS: I know. I think he is nicer to women in my experience, anyway.

SWEET: Oh, come on Chris. He‘s just—I don‘t think it is a gender thing. This prince of darkness is just a persona that he has, and I‘m telling you, if you know him, it is not like having a talk with Darth Vader. It is not. He‘s quite nice.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, now that you‘re all revved up there Lynn Sweet, my brother—and I always like to remind people of this, although I am not involved at all—is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican. He is a Republican.

And he spent the day—I just talked to him on the phone a couple of hours ago. He spent the day with Rudy Giuliani, and his son and both—they say this guy is so hot, so revved up, so juiced up right now politically that he is running. They think he is running for president. What do you think, Lynn?

SWEET: Well, Rudy Giuliani was just in Illinois before Pennsylvania doing a campaign stop for Judy Baar Topinka who is running for governor there. And he really cranked up the troops there, I think, from what I hear, even in ways that President Bush who was in last week for Topinka, who‘s running for governor—so I think he is, what, it‘s heavy exploratory, heavy testing the waters.

Whether or not, you know, he‘s going to boil, I don‘t know yet. It is way too early. Certainly, he is not the kind of Republican that a lot of the conservatives in the party could take a liking to.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he keeps winning these polls. I‘m going to go to John McCaslin. Everybody says that Rudy can‘t win, and every time I pick up a poll of Republicans or leaning Republicans, Rudy wins.

SWEET: Sure. At this point, it‘s just a beauty contest. It doesn‘t mean—you know, when they get down to certain issues, it‘s going to be a little rougher for him.

MATTHEWS: Beauty contest? You mean getting rid of the comb-over helped?

MCCASLIN: You said, Chris, that he was in Philadelphia. He was in Baltimore today campaigning for Governor Ehrlich. He was down with Asa Hutchinson, governor down in Arkansas last week.

MATTHEWS: Running for governor in Arkansas, yes.

MCCASLIN: Yes, it is interesting, he is turning to the governors now. And I‘ve been told by his top strategist that‘s it is more likely he will be running than not be running. And his biggest campaign will be in the primary. It wouldn‘t be if he were, say, facing Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: So he—what do you mean his biggest campaign? You mean his toughest challenge?

MCCASLIN: Toughest challenge would be in the Republican primary.

MATTHEWS: Let me go—you‘re laughing. I‘ve watching you on TV. Do you think he‘s running? I believe he‘s running, and he‘s going all the way.


STODDARD: ...a long time ago, when he went to campaign for Ralph Reed.

MATTHEWS: It showed he was willing to ...

STODDARD: You, obviously, want something in return if you‘re going to hang out for Ralph Reed this season, OK?

MATTHEWS: So if you‘re going to eat crap, that proves you‘re running for president?

STODDARD: Ralph Reed‘s in deep trouble. I think ...


SWEET: This is the minimum activity you have to do if you want to be taken seriously. He has to go out ...

MATTHEWS: Then you have to go down to Falwell‘s operation and that circus and play you‘re interested in that game.

SWEET: And raise a lot of money for other people. It is the minimum he has to do.

CILLIZZA: I just—I want to make a point. I don‘t want to disagree with A.B., but I would say that ...

STODDARD: But you‘re welcome to.

CILLIZZA: ...but I‘m going to. When I saw him do an event for Ralph Reed, I though maybe he is not running for president.



CILLIZZA: Because for the same reason, I don‘t know that the connection to Ralph Reed right now and the Jack Abramoff scandal makes sense.

MATTHEWS: It‘s got to make sense out there.

CILLIZZA: You don‘t go to Arkansas, you don‘t go to Illinois, you don‘t go to all these places to do that, but ...

MATTHEWS: You know why—you know, I want to end this, because I don‘t want to get out here on a limb. I‘ve already gotten on a limb. I think he‘s going to be the next president. How is that for a limb? But let me ask you all, isn‘t the job description to replace George W. Bush, who a minority of the people really still like, who‘s obviously got problems in Iraq. We all do as Americans.

Isn‘t the job description somebody who will be better than the president we have now on security, on homeland security, protecting this country? That‘s the job description. Not being nice. Not how many times you‘ve been married. Not where you stand on gay marriage, but the job description of the next president is to protect this country.

And that shows up in all the polls. I don‘t like all these people speaking for the conservatives in the Republican Party saying they‘ll never accept him, when the polling keeps saying the Republican majority wants this guy.

CILLIZZA: But I would—Chris, the one thing I would say is, and I think I agree with Lynn here is, the reality is, if you ask people about Rudy Giuliani, they say September 11, New York City mayor. Most people don‘t know that Rudy Giuliani favors abortion rights. Most people don‘t know that he favors gay marriage, and when they find out about it ...

MATTHEWS: You know what they know? You know what they know? You can walk through the streets when he was mayor, and come home alive. They know that, so don‘t say they don‘t know a lot about him.

CILLIZZA: I agree, but I don‘t know that Iowa caucus-goers vote on walking through streets of New York City and come home alive. I think they vote on things like abortion.

MATTHEWS: Des Moines then.

CILLIZZA: I don‘t know if Des Moines is the crime capital of the United States.

MATTHEWS: If anybody thinks that any president of the United States is going to change abortion policy on his watch, they haven‘t been paying attention to American politics. What they can do is talk a lot about it, but nothing ever changes. We have Roe v. Wade. It‘s going to be there in 10 years, in 20 years, and we have got to live with it. Go ahead.

SWEET: Chris, the fact that the Giuliani thing, what he has though is this New York moxie show business way. You put him in a room with somebody who is very nice and a decent speaker, like a George Allen, who are people going to listen to more? Mitt Romney who can be real funny and who is a very interesting guy and drop-dead good looking?

But still a lot of people don‘t know about him. He has got the name I.D. right now, and he is doing everything right just to run around and at least raise money for people so they‘ll have to give him an entry when he comes back the next time, calling for himself.

MATTHEWS: We all agree we has a political pulse right?

OK, let‘s go.


MATTHEWS: Lynn Sweet, thank you. John McCaslin, great roundtable.

Great quartet, A.B. Stoddard. Great. Chris Cillizza, thank you, sir.

Play HARDBALL with us again tomorrow when our guests will include Republican strategist Matt Dowd. He got Bush reelected. Well, I think Bush got Bush reelected. Can he do it for Schwarzenegger out in California? Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.��?





Way to hold your own on the Hardball show, Lynn. I am sure you can attest to this for more than I ever could; it is very frustrating to watch a show like Hardball and others when they don't let their guests complete their thoughts on a matter. I know there are time constraints, but I miss the old days when a news show didn't try to cram ten topics into a 1/2 hour show. Chris Matthews is far from being one of the better political commentators on the air.

The previous comments by Duffey and RLH are both right on the money. Novak is to journalism what Fox News is to news; he's just a right-wing shill posing as an independent reporter. As to Chris Matthews, he's just an idiot with a loud voice who doesn't know how to speak in a normal tone. In fact, I think that's his main qualification for the job: He can speak louder than everyone else on his show. Far better are the two hosts whose shows follow Matthews', Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 13, 2006 11:39 PM.

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