updated 3/31/2006 10:46:04 AM ET 2006-03-31T15:46:04

Guests: Joseph Biden, Howard Fineman, Amy Goodman, Hugh Hewitt, Hilary Rosen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  A caboodle of news tonight.  Jill Carroll is out of captivity, Bush is getting squeezed on immigration between the mink-coat Republicans who make money off cheap illegal labor and the cloth-coat Republicans who have to put up with illegal immigration.  And Iraq keeps on herding.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL.  After three months of captivity, newspaper reporter Jill Carroll was set free by her captors in Iraq today.  And in a remarkable interview, Carroll said her kidnappers treated her well and she was just happy to be free.

But Iraq remains a deep wound on America.  Today, President Bush zeros in on another danger zone, illegal immigration.  While he met with the president of Mexico in Cancun, Congress and the country clashed over how to stop illegal immigration.  And while Bush is away, the vice president will play.  Dick Cheney tried playing comedian last night to a roomful of journalists in Washington‘s annual right of spring, the Radio and T.V.  Correspondents Dinner and took this scripted shot at the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  By coming here, I could improve my relations with the press corps, you know, do a little bridge building, so let‘s go to work on this bridge to nowhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk to the top Democrat on foreign relations and presidential prospect, Senator Joe Biden in a moment, but first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After weeks of bad news across Iraq, today there was some good news in Baghdad.

JILL CARROLL, FORMER HOSTAGE:  I don‘t know what happened.  They just came to me and said “OK, we‘re letting you go now.”

SHUSTER:  American journalist Jill Carroll was released this morning, 82 days after gunmen in a bloody ambush killed her translator and placed Carroll in captivity.  The kidnappers repeatedly threatened to execute her unless all female prisoners in Iraq were released.  But today Carroll was brought to an Iraqi political party office and her arrival prompted calls to American officials.

Carroll said her captors treated her humanely.

J. CARROLL:  All I can say right now is that I am just happy to be free.  I was treated very well, that‘s important for people to know that I was not harmed.  They never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way and I‘m just happy to be free and want to be with my family.

SHUSTER:  Over the last 12 weeks, Jill Carroll‘s family repeatedly pleaded with her kidnappers to let her go.

KATIE CARROLL, JILL CARROLL‘S SISTER:  MY name is Katie Carroll.  My twin sister is Jill Carroll.

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi government officials, news organizations and religious leaders worked behind the scenes.  Today at the “Christian Science Monitor,” Carroll‘s freedom brought satisfaction and relief.

RICHARD BERGENHEIM, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:  As you can imagine, this is just one of the most exciting days for all of us.  We were thrilled to hear that Jill Carroll has been released and will be back with her family.  People all over the world have been praying and working for this.

SHUSTER:  In Mexico today, President Bush also expressed relief.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s really grateful she‘s released.  I want to thank those who worked hard to release her.  And we‘re glad she‘s alive.

SHUSTER:  Kidnapings of Westerners in Iraq have grown more common in recent months.  A week ago, British and U.S. forces freed three American missionaries who had been abducted in November.  A fourth, Tom Fox, was killed and his body dumped on a Baghdad street.  In the last two years, 39 journalists have been kidnapped.  Most have been released, but six rather beheaded or shot execution style.  Nearly two years ago, gunmen tried to kidnap Jackie Spinner, one of Jill Carroll‘s friends.

JACKIE SPINNER, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST:  I was very fortunate that they never actually got me to the vehicle where I was headed and this is just as I said, this is something that journalists fear.  We fear this more than anything because it‘s unpredictable.  We know we‘re targets, and you just don‘t know what the outcome will be.

SHUSTER:  Jill Carroll said she did not know where she was being held and had no idea what was going on in the outside world.

J. CARROLL:  One time they brought me a newspaper, so I got some news from a newspaper once, but that was about it.

SHUSTER:  But her conditions, she said, were fine.

J. CARROLL:  I was kept in very good, small, safe place, a safe room, nice furniture, they gave me clothing, plenty of food.  I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted.  Very good, never hit me, never even threatened to hit me.

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile it‘s now clear Carroll‘s family and the “Christian Science Monitor” rode an even greater emotional roller coaster than previously known.

The FBI revealed today that German authorities arrested a man on extortion charges after he claimed he was connected to the Iraqi kidnapers and said Carroll would be killed unless he was paid $2 million. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  There is no evidence money was paid to anybody to win Jill Carroll‘s release.  And administration officials specifically say they paid nothing.

In any case, Carroll‘s family said today they are elated she is free and look forward to her return.  The journalist will be coming home with a story of a lifetime: kidnapped in Iraq and alive to talk about it.  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat in the Senate on foreign relations matters is a presidential prospect for 2008.  Is that a good estimate of your strength, foreign relations and probably running for president?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about this good news we got in a bad news environment, Iraq.  We were all rooting for her, Jill Carroll got out.

BIDEN:  That‘s great, and I think this is a case where, in my view, who the hell knows why they let her go.  But I think the fact that so many clerics in Iraq signed on, called for her release, created a circumstance that made it a heck a lot more difficult for whoever is holding her, but it is good news.

MATTHEWS:  Were you surprised, Senator, how she came out today, and she‘s in good health, the doctors have checked her out and she‘s happy, she seems to harbor no ill will.  I don‘t want to overstate it, but she says she wasn‘t badly treated or anything.

BIDEN:  Well of all the journalists over there that I‘ve had occasion in my trip—I don‘t know her but in my trips there and what I‘ve heard about her is that she really sort of has gotten into the milieu of the Arab culture, of the Iraqi culture and it doesn‘t surprise me.

I think that‘s probably part of the reason why she also was released.  I think that‘s one of the reasons why the clerics stepped up to the ball and started.  So who knows, but it‘s—you know, I wish the rest of Iraq was going as well.

MATTHEWS:  What would you do, the Democrats came out with a plan just the other day, a bit late I would argue, but your party has a plan.  Does your party really have cohesion on this issue.  I mean, if you were to go on national television tonight and debate the president, could you clearly and articulately give the Democrats alternatives.  Is there such a thing on Iraq?

BIDEN:  On Iraq, there is a Democratic alternative.  And the bottom line of the alternative is that we‘re going to have to figure out how this president or the next president, whoever it is, how long it goes, turns around and gives—makes sure there‘s more autonomy for each of the sectors that are there, the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds.

You‘ve got to figure out how to divide up the oil revenues.  I think there should be an amendment to their constitution that we should be pushing and saying 20 percent of the revenues go to the Sunnis.  I think that would buy them off in terms of them having an autonomous state.  I think you should have each of the regions have like states used to have, their own laws governing everything except national security, border security and revenues.

MATTHEWS:  So a confederation rather than a republic?

BIDEN:  A confederation.  And because as you know, you‘ve been way ahead on this.  There‘s no possibility of a democracy if Iraq like we think of a democracy in Iraq. 

And I think you have to then in turn turn to the Iraqis and one thing everyone is saying now is that you have to say, “Hey guys, not stand up, when you stand up, we‘ll stand down.  If you don‘t stand up, we‘re going to stand down.  So get moving.”

You‘ve got to make these kinds of concessions, you have to make these kinds of changes, and I think Chris, we‘re going to be left with the reality of something the size of a brigade, somewhere in the region, to make sure that the terrorists cannot occupy territory.

So you don‘t end up leaving, no ability to go in back in Anbar Province and find out you have an al Qaeda training ground that is in full bloom like it was in Afghanistan.  So I think there‘s a realistic approach that says, get these guys on one page in terms of splitting of revenues, drastically draw down our forces in the near term because they‘re becoming as much a problem as they are an asset, leave if place enough to make sure you can deny territory to terrorists, and move from there.  I think that‘s basically where everybody is.

MATTHEWS:  Would the president accept that proposal?

BIDEN:  I think so.  I think that‘s where the president is going. 

Look, I watched you...

MATTHEWS:  ... Why can‘t you negotiate with him?  Why can‘t you as the ranking Democrat in the Senate ask for a meeting with the president, go down there and say, “We can deliver a bulk of our party and there will be no more complaining and carping about running the war if you can agree on a combined strategy here?”

BIDEN:  I‘m about to say something on national television could get me in trouble.  Eight, 10 months ago I did that before the last election, I went down to the president and said, “Mr. President, if you do the following things, not only will you get support.  Those of us who are supporting Kerry on this issue, because it‘s more important in the election will stand up and say you did the right thing.  We will stop the carping.”

Now look, you‘re always going to have 20 percent of my party and 20 percent of their party who the not going to be signed on to anything that is basically reasonable, but I just get the sense that these guys, they just have closed the doors.  And if you ask my Republican colleagues, ask them what they‘re getting back.  I‘m confident some of the serious Republicans are going down saying, “Mr. President, how about if you move boom, boom, boom and we‘ll all be on one page.”  But you know, the reality is, I think at least, he‘s already drawing down.  He‘s already moving along those lines and yet he says it‘s conditions-based.  What good has happened in 95 days to justify 35,000 troops being drawn down, other than they‘re already underway in this direction?

MATTHEWS:  Are you surprised or stunned even by the fact that the president in a press conference recently said, I‘m going to leave it to a future president—that could be you potentially—to solve this problem and get our troops out of there?  He‘s basically laying down the law and saying I‘m keeping troops in Iraq as long as I‘m president.  That doesn‘t coincide with what you say. 

BIDEN:  No, it doesn‘t, and it did surprise me number one.  And it did make me wonder whether or not he‘s on the same page that the rest of his administration seems to be, in the way they‘re moving. 

You talk to the generals out there, you talk to them back here, you talk to the people at State and Defense Departments.  The reality is we can‘t sustain 150,000 troops there without breaking the volunteer army.  The reality is that we‘re not going to be in a position to even sustain 130,000.  It‘s going to get down below 100,000 people, so I think what he‘s trying to do is get two pieces. 

That 30,000 or that brigade level I talked about being left behind.  Everybody left, right and center who thinks there is something at stake in Iraq, not a democracy, but a stake in a total loss in Iraq, thinks you have to have something like that around.  All I can figure is he‘s talking about that without looking like he‘s changing policy. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So just to sum it up, you is said you think the solution to the political problems of Iraq, the sectarian violence, the civil war that‘s incipient all the time, is some kind of a division of power so that it‘s reasonably based. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s more of a confederation.  Oil wealth is distributed among the three different parties ...

BIDEN:  Guaranteed.

MATTHEWS:  ... guaranteed, and we stick around the region simply to kill any building up of some terrorist camp in that country. 

BIDEN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s our role.  We‘re out of the business of stopping a civil war, we‘re in the business of stopping terrorism again. 

BIDEN:  The presumption—yes, but the presumption would be if you‘ve got that kind of agreement, there would not be a civil war.  Look, if you and I ...

MATTHEWS:  Can we come back? 

BIDEN:  Sure we can.  Sorry.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat on Foreign Relations, and a prospective candidate for president this time. 

And later, illegal immigration is splitting the Republican Party, but it could also divide Democrats.  Are both parties pandering to the pressure groups? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with presidential prospect, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. 

Just to finish up your thoughts, because you said it really well, I think, during the break there.  Basically, wars end when both sides realize they‘re not gaining anything from the war.  And you said the Shia, who are the dominant people in Iraq, would stop fighting because they realized what? 

BIDEN:  They realize that even if they dominate the Sunnis, it‘s going to be a cauldron of insurgency there for the next generation.  They can‘t completely shut it down and crush it and kill it.

MATTHEWS:  OK, and the Sunnis will quit fighting because ...

BIDEN:  The Sunnis have figured out they can no longer control the country, and if the best deal they‘re going to get is regional autonomy, making their own laws like states make their own laws plus, and a guaranteed 20 percent of the revenues. 

The reason—and you‘re going to have to work something out and that‘s where we can get the regional powers in, in terms of access to the sea, access to their ability to be to have some commerce beyond ...

MATTHEWS:  Do the Iranians want a civil war? 

BIDEN:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Do the Syrians want a civil war.

BIDEN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Do the Palestinian radical front people ...

BIDEN:  No, well, yes, look.

MATTHEWS:  Do they want trouble?  Some people just want trouble.  The al Qaeda people want trouble. 

BIDEN:  Oh, they absolutely want trouble, and I think—I think the jihadists want trouble, no matter whether they‘re Palestinian or otherwise and I think just so the people don‘t misunderstand, I think the Iranians like it just the way it is now, no civil war and us in there bleeding.

But if the choice is a civil war that they encourage, or no civil war, they don‘t want 17 million Shia on their border who are a Arabs, learning how to fight very well and equip themselves when they have got 55 million of their Shia out of 60 some hating them in Tehran.  That‘s not a good thing.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that this administration wants to end this war or do they want to continue this war, in the language they use, as the central front on the war against terrorism, that they need to have this front active so that they can say that they‘re fighting terrorism in Iraq? 

BIDEN:  I think they‘re split on it now because the public no longer thinks this is the war on terror.  They think this is the terrorist war, and so I think they‘re split.  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let me talk to something unsavory now, the issue of immigration.  Is there a Democratic Party position which accommodates the need to stop illegal entry, punish people who hire people at cheap wages illegally, and also gives hope to people who live here illegally and people who want to come here right now?  Is there a possible combination that hits all of those points? 

BIDEN:  I think there is and I think that the McCain-Kennedy Bill, Kennedy-McCain, the Specter Bill that came out, does that.  If you take a look, Chris, at what Frist is talking about—only enforcement—the enforcement provisions that sit inside the Specter Bill, or the Kennedy-McCain Bill, there ain‘t a dime‘s worth of difference to them.  They‘re the same amount of money, 12,000 new border agents ...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they will work? 

BIDEN:  I think they will work better if they actually, in fact, do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you scare an employer an in this country, whether he‘s an agriculture worker or a housewife, into not hiring an illegal because the punishment is so high that if you get caught, it‘s a huge embarrassment to your family and you may just get hit with a fine that will kill you? 

BIDEN:  Absolutely you can.

MATTHEWS:  You can do that?

BIDEN:  And that‘s what she should do.  Well, I think you should do that.

MATTHEWS:  Because you can‘t catch everybody. 

BIDEN:  No.  No, you can‘t.  And the last part of this is that the Democratic position also recognizes you have got 11 million illegal aliens here.  They have to have a way to earn their way into the deal.  This isn‘t amnesty.  They‘re required to take 11 years worth, they pay a fine, they have got to learn to speak English, they‘ve got to pass test ...

MATTHEWS:  I like the English part. 

BIDEN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I like the English part.

BIDEN:  Well, by the way ...

MATTHEWS:  If we want the problems of Canada right now, keep encouraging people to keep their foreign language.  English is going to unite this country potentially.  It always has in the past. 

BIDEN:  Let me put it another way.  I can‘t think of a country that has two languages as their accepted languages, that is doing all that well, including Switzerland and/or Canada. 

MATTHEWS:  It divides us when you can‘t talk to each other.  Anyway, thank you, Senator Joe Biden. 

BIDEN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve solved it.  You‘ve done it.  I just listen.

Up next, is Karl Rove keeping new blood out of the White House?  Is he making sure that nobody good comes in there so that he‘s always the top dog?  “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman will be here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today‘s “New York Times” reports that President Bush‘s new chief of staff, Josh Bolten, is looking to shake up the administration‘s economic team, and specifically wants to replace Treasury secretary John Snow. 

Will these changes be enough to satisfy Republicans who have grown frustrated with this White House?  And is Karl Rove really the man behind the curtain? 

Howard Fineman is the chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” and an MSNBC political analyst.  Let‘s do this quickly.  Does it matter ... 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Not a whole lot. 

MATTHEWS:  ... who works at the White House? 

FINEMAN:  Well, no, as long as George Bush is there, Dick Cheney is running foreign policy, and Karl Rove is running domestic policy, most of the rest of it is just deck chairs. 

MATTHEWS:  So not hiring would be the sign out. 

FINEMAN:  Yes, it doesn‘t matter that much because those three people I mentioned are the triumvirate that run everything. 

MATTHEWS:  Ninety percent of the Republican Party—I think it‘s fair to estimate—believe we ought to stop illegal immigration across this Mexican border.  Why isn‘t it going to happen?  They run the country right now, Republicans.

FINEMAN:  Because the Republican power structure is divided.  You have got the Chamber of Commerce types and big business and a lot of small business that wants the steady flow of workers, even if they‘re illegal immigrants, AKA undocumented workers, as they‘re now euphemistically being called. 

George Bush fancies himself and is a friend of the Hispanic community.  He talks to people who know what‘s going on there.  As governor, he wanted it.  So that‘s one side of the argument. 

The other side is the vast middle of working class America, which the Republicans have had pretty good success in appealing to on cultural and even economic stuff for the last 20 years.  Those people don‘t want this to happen.  They want the border shut, they want it to stop, but they don‘t have a specific lobby other than the conservative wing of the House of Representatives.  And that‘s the division. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know the old phraseology, the Republican Party going back to Nixon.  Is this a battle between mink coat Republicans and cloth coat Republicans? 

FINEMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Cloth coat Republicans live in the neighborhoods that are being changed, the culture is being changed right around them, the languages are changing.  They don‘t like it, they don‘t recognize, and the rich people say I can use a few more men out on the crew this week. 

FINEMAN:  Help on the crew, help in the yard, help with the nail polish, whatever.  But the interesting thing is those new cloth coat Republicans weren‘t even Republicans 20 years ago.  The Republican Party has spent years bringing these people into the party. 

That‘s who the conservative wing of the House think they‘re representing and are representing, but those people are the ones who are going to be squeezed and they don‘t have the lobbying constituency here.  I think it‘s going to be a standoff for a long time to come. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a good time where you can tell the Democrats who love, like all politicians, the cheap shot.  You can‘t say the Republican Party is run by the rich people, because the rich people are the ones who want to open the border basically. 

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  In fact, they‘d like to go down to Tierra del Fuego if they thought there was somebody working for half a buck an hour, bring him up.

FINEMAN:  Well, this is interesting.  Everybody is focusing on the divisions in the Republican Party.  I find the Democratic Party interesting on this too.  In the old days, the unions, the labor unions ...

MATTHEWS:  Do we still have unions? 

FINEMAN:  We do have some.  But the unions would have said wait a minute, all of our wage an hour workers who are doing pretty well here, are going to get killed with a wave of 11 million illegal immigrants.  We‘ve got to stop it.

But the union leadership today has said no, no, because we have so many Hispanics in our unions, because we know the stories of personal struggle and family travail, we‘re not going to oppose this.  As a matter of fact, we‘re going to get on board and shape it the way we want, so it‘s all those people against the cloth coats that you were talking aboutrMD+IN_rMD+BO_rMDNM_. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the country is going to get really ticked off at a government that won‘t do what they tell them to do.  A country without borders is not a country.  If you don‘t have a border—I‘ve never heard of a country in the world that doesn‘t have a border.  That‘s what defines a country.  If you don‘t enforce it, you‘re a joke. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Well, this is bigger—as I travel around and talk to people, this is a bigger issue around the country than people here inside the beltway in the elite understand.  That doesn‘t mean that that will will be reflected in legislation.  Often it isn‘t.  That‘s the story of Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, if you‘re a European trying to come to America and move here, or an African, West African, and you‘re waiting in line somewhere at a U.S. consulate nowhere, whether it‘s Albania or Nigeria, you‘re waiting in line dutifully.  You show up every day, you fill out the papers and you wait and you wait and you wait. 

Meanwhile, people are slam banging across the Mexican border every night with the searchlight on, and now we‘re saying put them ahead of you in line. 

FINEMAN:  I‘ll give you a good story about that.  I was talking—you know, the Capitol is full of tourists right now.  It‘s spring, it‘s beautiful, the cherry blossoms.  The Capitol is full of people, a lot of them new immigrant families.

And I happened to talk to a family from San Diego, who were American citizens.  They were from Egypt originally.  The guy is a Ph.D. from MIT, lives in San Diego.  He and his wife are furious about the flow of immigrants coming across the border.  Even though they built a fence down in San Diego, it‘s not enough to stop them. 

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re waving little American flags and the other people are waving little Mexican flags, because they get in here first. 

FINEMAN:  Well, some of them are waving Mexican flags.

MATTHEWS:  Then they get in here first.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  There‘s tremendous resentment out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Cynthia McKinney, a little light comedy here.  This woman is a tough politics, she‘s very proud and deserves to be.  She‘s been elected to Congress many, many times.  A Capitol policemen the other day didn‘t recognize her as a member of Congress. 

She walks around the metal detector like all other members of Congress, he comes after her, grabs her on the shoulder, she turns around and belts him with her telephone.  Who‘s right and who wrong?  I think this is one of those American experiences where ...

FINEMAN:  It‘s a cell phone. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is responsible?  I‘m sort of with her for the following reasons.  When I was a Capitol cop back 30 years ago and I sat there ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the cops would sit around and study the faces of politicians and you would know their names and you‘d know who they were.  This guy didn‘t recognize her, he treated her like somebody who was trying to sneak into the Capitol.  Who‘s right, who‘s wrong?  I love to ask these moral questions to Howard Fineman.

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘ve got to say there‘s a race component in this.

MATTHEWS:  Of course there is.

FINEMAN:  There‘s a huge race component in this, and whether it was former Congressman J.C. Watts or other guys and women, African-Americans have a special ...

MATTHEWS:  But we have 50, 60 black members of Congress. 

FINEMAN:  I know.  They have a special sensitivity to this, so I‘m willing to give her a piece of a break on it, but what she should have done is come out and said, you know, I lost my cool, I‘m sorry.  Instead she hasn‘t done that, and my understanding is that the Capitol Hill cop is going to file charges.  Now the leadership, unfortunately for them, there‘s no videotape of this.  There‘s no audiotape, but you‘re going to be hearing about this for weeks and weeks. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the trial.  Let‘s have it in trial.  This isn‘t high stakes.  Let‘s see the trial..

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. 

Up next, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says his job as leader of the party in the Senate is terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible for a guy running for president.  But his Republican critics say Frist is putting his own presidential ambitions above the interests of the body. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Bush‘s new chief of staff plans to shake things up we‘re told, at least a bit at the White House.  Will it make the difference the president is looking for and who will challenge Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat?  We‘ll get to that later in the show with Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. 

But first, radio talk show hosts in southern California were largely credited with rallying an estimated half a million people in Los Angeles over the weekend protesting proposals for tighter immigration laws in the U.S.  Radio airwaves are jammed this week with angry callers on both sides of the immigration debate. 

Two radio hosts with their fingers on the pulse are Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!” on Pacifica Radio and Television.  And Hugh Hewitt, host of the nationally syndicated “Hugh Hewitt Show” based in California and author of the new book “Painting the Map Red.”  Making my brown eyes blue, the fight to create a permanent Republican majority.  Welcome.

Amy, how do you see this illegal immigration debate as it moves across the airwaves?  Who‘s winning it?

AMY GOODMAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well right now what is absolutely historic, Chris, is the number of people out in the streets and the main corporate media in this country missed it.  The Spanish media of course was there, they were a part of it, but when you see it may well have been upwards of a million people who took to the streets in Los Angeles, tens of thousands of people in Chicago and Arizona, in Atlanta, Georgia.

I mean, we may be seeing the largest protest, not only around the issue of immigration, but in the history of the United States of America.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think this is good news?

GOODMAN:  Also, by the way, 40,000 high school students walking out in Los Angeles and tomorrow another major protest on the birth of Cesar Chavez. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain your joy then.  Why is this good for the country?

GOODMAN:  No, I think what‘s important is that we are hearing the voices of people who are so often marginalized, people going out in the streets, they are risking everything.  Because let‘s not forget what it means to be an immigrant who is undocumented in this country.  Look at the laws they‘re facing, the bill, 44-37 in the House that criminalizes immigrants.

And even Cardinal Mahoney took this on in Los Angeles, criminalizes those that would help them, like priests, like nuns, social workers.  This is a very frightening time and yet people—and it‘s not only immigrants, it‘s immigrant supporters, it‘s legal immigrants who have taken to the streets.  This is simply not humane what is being passed in the House.

MATTHEWS:  Hugh, your response to what you just heard?

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well it is a very dangerous time, it‘s a dangerous time when literally hundreds of thousands of people can come across a southern border, including people who mean to do tremendous damage here.  When a Beslan occurs, Chris, in Phoenix, when a Beslan occurs in San Diego...

MATTHEWS:  ... What‘s a Beslan?

HEWITT:  That‘s the massacre of the Russians by jihadists when they take over a school.  There were plans found about that sort of an operation.  That border fence we see there works in San Diego.  It needs to be extended the 700 miles that the House of Representatives passed. 

The Senate cannot go soft on that.  Now they can work out the details of guest worker and temporary worker.  I actually think that the sensitivity to this issue is really about the war and the Republicans have got to focus on the security issue, because in these times with the sort of people that we‘re up against, we cannot have a southern border that is permeable. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the problem of people who come here because they need jobs and they‘re going to get in this country any way they can?

HEWITT:  Well that‘s why fences work.  That‘s why Israel is building a fence. 

MATTHEWS:  Well no, well—Israel is a small country.  Let me ask you about our big country.  And you really believe that a fence will stop a person from coming here who needs a job?

HEWITT:  No, it will stop 90 percent.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you oppose the other bit of teeth, which is to say no illegal hiring any more?

HEWITT:  Because that diverts from the crucial issue here.  We‘ve got to stay focused on the war aspect.

MATTHEWS:  How does it divert, who‘s against it?

HEWITT:  Lots of people are against it because it can take jobs away from Americans who were otherwise going to take those jobs.  It can also lead those workers into...

MATTHEWS:  ... No no, why don‘t you grit both sets of teeth, the upper and the bottom and say, big fence and $40,000 fine if you hire an illegal?

HEWITT:  Well that makes a lot of sense, but No. 1 is the fence.              

MATTHEWS:  You believe one can be constructed that works.

HEWITT:  Yes, well, it will work 90 percent of the time.  Some opponents of the fence say there‘s always a ladder that can be built one foot higher.  Well let‘s see you carry a ladder through the desert that‘s 40 feet high.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Amy.  Are you for or against border enforcement?

GOODMAN:  Listen.

MATTHEWS:  Let me just ask you that one question.

GOODMAN:  You are not increasing the security of this country when you build these fences.  I mean, what Hugh Hewitt is proposing, I don‘t know, I didn‘t remember that of those 19 hijackers on 9/11, any of them came over the U.S.-Mexico border.  I also want to point out...

MATTHEWS:  ... We‘re not getting anywhere here.  You‘re talking about two different things here.  Let‘s skip terrorism for a minute, you skip talking about anything else.  I want to ask you all three simple question.  Do we have a right to enforce our border laws, if there were no terrorism in the world?

HEWITT:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Amy, do we have a right to enforce our border if there was no terrorism in the world?  Yes or no.

GOODMAN:  There‘s no question that we have a right to pass laws but we have to treat people humanely.

MATTHEWS:  No, do we have the right to enforce our border?  Can I ask a question and get an answer?  Do we have the right to enforce our border to keep people from coming in illegally?

GOODMAN:  Yes, there is a reason to have regulation but the fact is if you want to stop people from coming over the border, then the United States has to start dealing with fair trade in other countries south of the border so that people don‘t come here.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, you don‘t think we should close the border?

HEWITT:  This is why if illegal immigration is the problem, the Democratic Party can never be the answer.

GOODMAN:  A fence is not the answer.  It solves nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Well see, this is the problem, Amy.  People say they have a problem here, 90 percent of the Republican Party maybe.  Certainly a majority of Democrats believe that we have to stop people from pouring across the border, and we have to stop it and we have to find a way to stop it.

But if you don‘t share in that goal, no one is going to listen to you about reform or guest workers or long-term amnesty and all that.  They‘re not going to listen to that unless they say this person believes in what I believe in, stopping illegal immigration, because otherwise why have a conversation if you don‘t share goals?

GOODMAN:  Chris, I think we have to have a comprehensive humane immigration policy.  But I think right now, what the Republicans who passed the House bill, for example, are afraid of—they‘re afraid of the fact that in a couple dozen years, we‘re going to see a majority Latino population in Arizona, in Texas, in Florida...

HEWITT:  Nonsense.

GOODMAN:  ... in New Mexico. 

HEWITT:  They‘re afraid of a dirty bomb.

MATTHEWS:  But why shouldn‘t they—why shouldn‘t they do that?

GOODMAN;  And that‘s why the Republicans are so desperate they want to build a fence. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, why shouldn‘t they fear that?  They have a right to fear that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Cultural change is not something any society accepts easily, or even with any kind of positive feelings about.  Why would anybody accept a cultural change in their own state? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want Amy to answer this question.  Why is it wrong of anybody to say I don‘t want the town I grew up in to become overwhelmingly Mexican?  Why is that wrong?  You may not share that view, but why is that wrong? 

GOODMAN:  I guess I think about the United States as a country of immigrants, of people...

MATTHEWS:  Of course!

GOODMAN:  ... who have come here for refuge all over the world, and there is no reason to stop that tradition now.  It only enhances what this country could represent.  I am not saying that anyone at any time should be able to come over the border.  I‘m saying we have to have a comprehensive discussion about this, that is not led by punitive measures that criminalize human beings. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you live in a Mexican neighborhood? 

GOODMAN:  I live in an integrated neighborhood of many different people. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking a particular question.  Now, let me ask you this question, because a lot people in small towns in California grew up in a town, all of a sudden it‘s going from 20 percent Hispanic and nobody complained—it probably went to 30 percent, but when it becomes 70 and 80 percent or over 50, they say, wait a minute, I didn‘t move to Mexico;

Mexico moved to me, and I‘m complaining about it. 

Now, that‘s their point of view.  It‘s not my point view necessarily, but that‘s a point of view that apparently is reflective of about 90 percent of this country, and certainly 90 percent of the Republican Party. 

HEWITT:  No, that‘s not true.  Chris, that‘s not true.  I don‘t believe that. 

MATTHEWS:  All the polls (inaudible).

HEWITT:  I absolutely do not believe that.

GOODMAN:  I don‘t think...

HEWITT:  The culture issue is not the issue.  It‘s a security issue. 

I live in Southern California. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a security issue?

HEWITT:  Santa Ana is a large...

MATTHEWS:  But (inaudible), they don‘t cause the terrorism. 

HEWITT:  No, it is the largest concentration of Mexicans living outside of Mexico in Santa Ana.  I live five miles from there; it does not bother me in the least.  It does not bother most Californians.  It‘s—

California is a mixed society, majority minority society.  That‘s not the issue. 

The issue is the stress on social services.  It‘s wildly expensive,.  Health care is extremely expensive.  But more importantly, I think this immigration debate is being driven by the vast majority of Americans and certainly in the Republican Party by a concern that a dirty bomb is going to come over that border, and then it will be too late to change it, and then the wall will go up.  We can stop that.

MATTHEWS:  I disagree.  I think—I think it‘s ethnic, I think it has to do with the change in culture, realities of this town like Watsonville in California that overnight changed completely, and the people don‘t want that kind of change. 

HEWITT:  (inaudible) the Central Valley, I just drove through it, those vegetables have been picked for decades by Latinos.  It‘s not the culture issue.

MATTHEWS:  I disagree.

HEWITT:  It‘s the economy issue and it‘s the...

MATTHEWS:  If these were northern Europeans pouring across the border, nobody would care. 

Anyway, thank you, Amy Goodman.  Thank you, Hugh Hewitt.  We all disagree, I guess.

Up next, Hillary Clinton, Katherine Harris and Condi Rice.  Can women muscle out the men in the lead-up to 2008?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Here to venture through the wild political jungles out there, from the president‘s recent missteps to Hillary‘s big lead in New York, to John McCain‘s new best friends, is Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, back by popular demand.  Ed Rollins is in a traffic mess, he had a flat tire.  What a regular guy he is, you know.  I have to ask him, if somebody drives by, would John Kerry help you or would Hillary help you?  Anyway, let me ask, would Hillary Clinton stop if you have a flat tire? 

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  She would pull over and get the—get the...

ROSEN:  She would stop.  For any New Yorker. 

MATTHEWS:  She would get the jack out.  OK. 

Let me ask you about the president‘s—I‘m not going to spend much more time on this than I did with him, so I‘ll give you a chance.  Does it matter a dickens, a bit, at all, who is working on the White House staff?  To anybody besides the p? 

ROSEN:  No, I thought Howard was exactly right.  Karl Rove is running this show, and George Bush is the president, and until George Bush decides he wants it to be different, nothing is going to change.

Plus, the other thing is, the president‘s big problem right now is Iraq, and until he does something with the person—with Don Rumsfeld or Pentagon strategy or something there, nobody is going to pay any attention to any changes in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me repeat your arguments here. 

FINEMAN:  Go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  The president of the United States is in his second term.  He‘s had his chief domestic adviser—now, this is a job once held by people like Ed Meese and Stu Eisenstat, big names.  His chief economic—chief domestic adviser was just arrested for some very sophisticated shoplifting, highly sophisticated, a form of shoplifting.  His other guy, who‘s chief of his hiring policies at the White House, the chief of personnel, which is another big job at the White House, was arrested on sight (ph), OK?  The chief of staff to the vice president is facing now 30 years in prison.  Wouldn‘t you say the house is out of order and needs somebody to come around and say, well, you shouldn‘t be really shoplifting if you‘re going to work here, you shouldn‘t really be lying to the investigators and the grand juries if you work here, and you shouldn‘t be involved in complicated matters involving God knows what—Safavian?

FINEMAN:  Well, this is why I think it‘s interesting that Josh Bolten is the guy who was elevated, because they went from old blood to older blood.  Because I covered this thing from the beginning, when George Bush was running for governor and then he was assembling his presidential campaign, Josh Bolten was literally one of the first people to occupy space in the Bush for President office on Congress Street in Austin in 1999.  It was Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and Josh Bolten.  So he predates Andy Card.  Andy Card was the outsider. 

ROSEN:  That‘s right.

FINEMAN:  And so Bush is burrowing back into his identity, into the very roots of his identity. 

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s still in the bubble.

FINEMAN:  Yes, this is even more at the center of the bubble.

ROSEN:  And you know, Bolten has even more—I mean, Andy Card was an elected official for a little while, so you would think he had more of a relationship there, has an ability...

MATTHEWS:  (inaudible)?

ROSEN:  Legislature in Massachusetts.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  So he can somewhat relate.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a pol.

ROSEN:  Whereas Bolten is clearly a staffer.

FINEMAN:  However, people on the Hill like Bolten and Bolten is a good guy and he spent—like they had a retreat for the Republicans, Bolten stayed the extra day, they like him.

MATTHEWS:  I think he‘s a public servant.  The question is, is he a good political troubleshooter is a different question.  And Bush needs one, he needs somebody like you who knows everything that‘s going on and tells him. 

FINEMAN:  Who shows up.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back.  More than that, knowing what‘s going on.  Howard Fineman, Hilary Rosen, will be back. 

And a reminder, for the best political debate online, just go to Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to our Web site HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.  Let‘s turn to Hillary‘s new—by the way, this is Hilary Rosen here—Hillary Clinton‘s New York re-election fight.  The numbers are fascinating but they are not that surprising.  Hillary is clobbering both possible opponents, K.T. McFarland who‘s always welcome here and John Spencer.  What is he, mayor of Schenectady or something?  Mayor of something up there.  I guess he‘s mayor—oh, you‘re laughing, Howard. 

FINEMAN:  Because I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s Yonkers. 

FINEMAN:  I‘m laughing nervously.

MATTHEWS:  Hillary is going to win big, isn‘t she, Hilary?

ROSEN:  She‘s going to win big, but the thing to look at, I think, in this race is the people she is going to win over.  The Democrats are easy in New York, but what Hillary Clinton has been able to do in New York, in the rural communities and the farmers and the blue-collar workers, has been to make a case that she is about getting stuff done and helping make their lives better.  And I don‘t think this—you know, I don‘t think McFarland is going to hold a candle to damaging her.

MATTHEWS:  You really love Hillary, don‘t you?

ROSEN:  I really admire her a lot.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you love her?

ROSEN:  Because she is out there and she is proud and she‘s aggressive, and she is a politician who plays with the guys on their turf, and we need that.

MATTHEWS:  How is she going to keep her guy in line for the next 10 years?  Not causing trouble with the media, not making himself the issue?

ROSEN:  This is not a new problem for politicians and their spouses, OK?  Read Barbara Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  How does she keep him in line so he doesn‘t embarrass her the next 10 years? 

ROSEN:  Bill Clinton is a president who people admire and respect, and she is going to keep him on the issues.  And I think he‘ll stay there.

MATTHEWS:  She will keep him out of the press in his personal life?

ROSEN:  She is not going to have any control over that.  But I think that look, people admire Bill Clinton as president.

MATTHEWS:  I know, I agree.

ROSEN:  And so that‘s the focus.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a genius politically who has had a troubled personal history. 

FINEMAN:  He made a strategic mistake saying that everything‘s going to be cleared with Hillary.  Big mistake.  It should have been more benign neglect.

MATTHEWS:  So anything Bill Clinton says now, we will presume that Hillary approved it.

ROSEN:  She didn‘t really say that.

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s the word that was put out.

MATTHEWS:  You know, we had a 10-year sitcom with these two people.  Are we ready for another 10-year re-up of this program?  Hillary versus Bill, what Hillary said to Bill, how Bill‘s acting, whether Hillary thinks he‘s a right-wing conspiracy or she thinks it‘s Bill misbehaving again or is it Bill trying to one up her like at the Coretta Scott funeral?  Excuse me, he one-upped her.

ROSEN:  Remember two things.  First of all, no matter what happened with the Clinton impeachment, voters supported the president because they liked the economy, they liked the policy, they liked what was happening.  This country is ready for a different kind of president.  There is no question in my mind about that.

MATTHEWS:  More Clinton, back by popular demand.

ROSEN:  Not a bad thing.

FINEMAN:  Since I‘m playing Ed Rollins, let me just add that upstate New York is not what it used to be.  OK, I know that Hillary‘s going to get a lot of points for sweeping upstate New York that‘s supposedly conservative and Catholic and a red state in the middle of a blue state—not true anymore.  Upstate New York is more like Vermont these days than it is like the old New York.  So don‘t automatically assume that you‘re going to be able to translate that—Hilary will be able to translate that to other parts of the country.

MATTHEWS:  Flat land in Vermont, the liberals moved in there, the Bernie Sanders.

FINEMAN:  Exactly, it‘s changing, big time.

MATTHEWS:  So do you accept that fact, that upstate New York‘s liberal now and that Hillary is just benefiting from demographics?

ROSEN:  I think that there are areas of New York similar to areas of Iowa and Wisconsin and Florida that have gone—suburban sprawl.  And those are voters that are unpredictable.  And those are voters who are going to go on the issues.  And I think voters who are tired of George Bush and are going to be tired of the successor who tries to be George Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about—everybody thinks Hillary is the frontrunner.  Do you agree?

FINEMAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Front runner?

ROSEN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Most probable Democrat.  Who is the most probable Republican? 

FINEMAN:  Well, John McCain right now.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree?

ROSEN:  No.

FINEMAN:  Name somebody else.  Who else would you name, that‘s the problem?

ROSEN:  Well that‘s the problem.

MATTHEWS:  Do you ever think about the Republicans?  Let‘s take a look at one who...

ROSEN:  ... I think George Allen and Mitt Romney are making some progress. 

MATTHEWS:  I think George Allen might be a stretch.  Let‘s take a look here at John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®. ARIZONA:  I am the pro-life, pro-family, fiscal conservative and advocate of a strong defense.  And yet, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate.  They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters.  Why?  Because I don‘t pander to them, because I don‘t ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Pretty tough stuff.  And now that man who was excoriating the religious right and its leaders like Robertson, is now going to give the commencement address or whatever, he is going to speak at Liberty University, the home of, the pride of Jerry Falwell.  Howard, why is he doing it?  Why is he forgiving these people?

FINEMAN:  Because he wants to win the Republican nomination and he‘s trying to learn the lessons of 2000, which were very painful for him, which was that the religious conservatives in South Dakota destroyed his campaign.  And then he—and then he...

MATTHEWS:  ...  Why does straight talk become kiss butt?

FINEMAN:  Then he made a couple of speeches after that that got him in big trouble that produced videotapes like that.  And boy, all of McCain‘s advisers wish they could take those videotapes.

MATTHEWS:  So this is going to be the kiss butt traveling to South Carolina.  Go ahead, I‘m sorry.

ROSEN:  He runs from risks here.

FINEMAN:  I‘ve got to cover him, I‘m not saying anything.

ROSEN:  He runs some risks here because, a lot of—you know, getting too much support from the religious conservatives alienates the independents who—the wide swathe of independents here to top him.

MATTHEWS:  I know what you mean.  Howard Fineman, thank you buddy, Hilary Rosen, thank you.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL, our Friday night favorites are coming up, the Hot Shots, the HARDBALL Hot Shots, only on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  That‘s tomorrow night here.

Right now it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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