MATTHEWS: Are you going to win?
MURTHA: We're going to win, we've got the votes.
MATTHEWS: You've got them?
MURTHA: We've got the votes.
MATTHEWS: Eyeball to eyeball, you've got them?
MURTHA: Eyeball to eyeball.
(transcript via MSNBC, where they have the full video posted.)
MATTHEWS: The president after the election, Wednesday, moved
quickly. The president, he quickly said he had taken a "thumpin'." I
like the way he handled it. He said, look, we lost, they won, let's
talk. He invites you -- he invites Steny Hoyer down to the White House
with Nancy Pelosi. Were they trying to set up Steny, your opponent, for
this leadership post by bringing him down with her, or is that just
MURTHA: No, I think that's just protocol. I think the fact that
I've been the one out front on this issue, I've been the one talking
about it, I've been the one that knows the military, my background on
the Defense Subcommittee, my background in the military, all those
things make me the person to be able to challenge the White House,
challenge the Bush administration. They will not be able to compromise
on something that is unacceptable to the Democrats if I'm in charge.
MATTHEWS: OK, your tactic is to -- as you're running, what is your
big pitch to members as you grab on the floor right now? You were up in
the air. Guys who -- women who haven't made up their mind, what do you
say to them right now? They're watching, a lot of them, in their
offices right now. What are you saying that makes you better than Steny
as the leader?
MURTHA: I say I know more about the military, I've had more
contacts with the military, I've talked to the troops more often out in
the field, I've talked to them in the hospitals. I know we can't win
this militarily. I know we have to find a solution that has to be a
diplomatic solution. I know we have to force the White House to
acknowledge the fact that they lost this election.
I spoke on 143 shows last year. That didn't mean anything compared
to the election results. The election results showed that they
understood something. They were going to get rid of an incompetent
secretary of defense. But having said that, it doesn't change policy.
As I said to the national security adviser, look, I appreciate you
getting rid of Secretary Rumsfeld, but that does not mean that you
change your policy. We have to see a change in policy in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about what's being said against you. Not just
by your opponents, but in the newspapers. Let's talk about Abscam.
Back 26 years ago, I went through the numbers. Five members of the
United States Congress, a United States senator, Pete Williams from New
Jersey were convicted of accepting money from these undercover FBI
agents, posing as Arab guys trying to make an offer to congressmen so
he'd cut a deal, put some money in the pockets of these people.
All these people are convicted, you weren't. Does that mean you're
MURTHA: Well, I'll put this way. I had 24 percent unemployment, I
was looking at investment. I told them I wanted an investment in my
district, they put $50,000 out on the table. I said I'm not interested
in that, I'm interested in investment. The ethics committee cleared me
completely, unanimous vote.
MATTHEWS: When they said, when they offered you the envelope of
$50,000, did you think that was a bribe?
MURTHA: It wasn't an envelope, it was a drawer full of cash.
MATTHEWS: Was that a bribe?
MURTHA: No. As far as I was concerned...
MATTHEWS: ... No, what did you see that as? Why did you say I'm
MURTHA: Well, I said I'm not interested because I just didn't feel
like it was the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
MURTHA: Well, what the hell, I'm not going to take cash from some
Arab sheikhs. They weren't Arab sheikhs, they were FBI agents.
MATTHEWS: But you didn't know that.
MURTHA: I just said this is not what I'm interested in. I'm
interested in you folks investing.
MATTHEWS: I've heard you, I've seen this tape on YouTube now,
everybody has seen it. A million people apparently have seen this
tape. You said I'm not interested, and I assume you think it was
something you shouldn't have done, as you just said. It wasn't the
right thing to do, right, sir?
MURTHA: Well certainly, that's exactly.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well then why did you say at this point, then?
MURTHA: Listen, I wanted to negotiate with them about investment in
the district, that's what I was interested in. It's the only thing I
was interested in.
MATTHEWS: But what do you mean when you said I'm not interested at
this point. I'm not interested maybe at some point?
MURTHA: No, no, listen.
MATTHEWS: That's on the tape.
MURTHA: I know, but what I said was I want to continue to talk to
you guys, I want investment in the district. That's all I was
MATTHEWS: But did you smell corruption in that conversation?
MURTHA: Sure. I saw these guys were trying to corrupt me and
MATTHEWS: ... Did you think they were legitimate emissaries for an
Arab big shot or did you think they were...
MURTHA: They were the slimiest guys I've ever seen.
MATTHEWS: Well why didn't you walk out of the room the minute you
MURTHA: Well listen, they said they were going to invest in the
MATTHEWS: I understand the constituent service part of it. I
understand that. But the tricky part of this is to say I'm not
interested, which meant you didn't want to have anything to do with
these slime balls, as you saw them, but then you said "at this point."
Was that just a way of finessing your way out of the conversation?
MURTHA: Exactly, exactly. I deal with people like this all the
time. I wanted to find a way to move towards a negotiation to investment.
MATTHEWS: Did you know they had already paid two other members off?
MURTHA: I had no idea.
MATTHEWS: Even when they were talking about we've give 50, the one
guy, 50 to the other guy?
MURTHA: I ignored that completely. I paid no attention to that at all.
MATTHEWS: It didn't mean anything to you?
MURTHA: It didn't mean...
MATTHEWS: ... It didn't mean Thompson and Murphy were involved?
OK, you weren't charged, right?
MATTHEWS: You weren't reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee, so
what do you think your record should be, all these years later, 26 years
later, what do you think that should say to people about your attitude
as a member of Congress today? What have you learned from that? What
should they think about it? And thirdly, is this a legitimate issue in
this campaign, as you see it?
MURTHA: Well, I've been elected 10 times since that happened. It
has come up almost in every contested election, its come up. And I
think the public...
MATTHEWS: ... you mean back home?
MURTHA: Back at home. They understand what I was trying to do.
They're the ones that didn't have the jobs. They're the ones that
wanted investment in the district. They're the ones that understand
better than anybody else, and I think the people up here understand
also, that this was something that was set up by the FBI in order to
entice people and send them to jail.
MATTHEWS: Well, it worked in a lot of cases. They put five guys,
six guys away, including Pete Williams.
MURTHA: They did put six guys away and I said I want investment.
That's what I wanted.
MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about the Congress today and I have --
watching this and having worked up there, and we were old friends, we
still are friends, I'll admit that, I don't mind admitting it. Let's
talk about the system today. When a congressman -- when you pass a bill
on the Hill that says you can't take a lunch, a hamburger from, a steak,
or a trip, whatever, do you think that makes the Congress cleaner?
MURTHA: Let me tell you. There's a lot of crap going on in
Congress all the time. Guys violate the law, some do. But the problem
we have is a few people violate the law and then the whole Congress has
to be changed.
MATTHEWS: Okay. Is it Mickey Mouse, or, as you said, apparently at
this meeting with the Blue Dogs the other night, total crap to tell
people you can't take a lunch from somebody? Where do you draw -- where
is your position on ethics right now?
MURTHA: Let me tell you, I agree that we have to return a
perception of honesty to the Congress. I agree with what Nancy's trying
to do. The crap I'm talking about is the crap that people have violated
the law, the crap that the kind of things that have happened with
Abramoff, the kind of things that have happened with some of the members --
MATTHEWS: But that's not what you said. Didn't you say it was
total crap, what she was proposing?
MURTHA: What I said was, it's total crap, the idea we have to deal
with an issue like this, when -- and it is total crap that we have to
deal with an issue like this when we've got a war going on and we got
all these other issues -- $8 billion a month we're spending --
MATTHEWS: So when this came up in the Blue Dog meeting the other
night, you felt that that was a ridiculous -- you thought that wasn't
the right issue to be talking about right now.
MURTHA: Exactly. I -- what I've been trying --
MATTHEWS: And that's really what you meant when you said total
crap, because this is all over the wires as if -- it sounds to me like
you're saying, I think all this goo-goo, good government stuff, is a joke.
MURTHA: And I wonder --
MATTHEWS: Do you think that? You're laughing; do you think it's a
MURTHA: No; I wonder who said that. That's what I'm laughing about.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you're wondering about which person it was --
MURTHA: I wonder -- it was, I think, somebody that may not be in my
MATTHEWS: No, it is -- it was identified as a Steny Hoyer person,
in fact, in one of the other wire services.
MURTHA: What I was --
MATTHEWS: What do you think -- how do you like -- here's -- you're
old school. We're in the 21st century. How do we avoid Abscams? How
do we avoid problems with people like Bob Ney, putting stuff in the
Congressional Record for a client, things like, you got Duke Cunningham
taking a million bucks and boats and all this other stuff -- how do you
MURTHA: Transparency. I think that's the only way to stop it. And
I think the regulations that Nancy's in favor of were very important. I
don't mean to imply that they aren't. I'd say very clearly, the crap
that goes on is the thing that worries me. The thing that worries me
is, we're diverted from the real issues.