updated 4/12/2006 11:47:20 AM ET 2006-04-12T15:47:20

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Rocky Morrison, Sophie Hussain, Derek Rey, Jim Moran, Matthew Dowd, Robert Lowy, Mike Stephan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, WMD, regime change, nuclear weapons.  Not the echo of war but the eerie sounds of a new one.  First Iraq, now Iran, who will say no?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to day two of our ninth anniversary celebration.  HARDBALL is coming to you tonight from the campus of the University of Southern California where today I‘m moderating a panel on scientific innovation.  But right now on HARDBALL, we‘re talking about illegal immigration, the war in Iraq, the president‘s role in the CIA leak case and talk of a new American war action against Iran. 

First, brutal new poll numbers for George W. Bush.  The Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 60 percent disapprove of the president‘s conduct of the presidency, 47 percent strongly disapprove of how the president is doing his job.  Democrats now edge out Republicans on the big issues of Iraq, the economy and immigration.  This all comes in a congressional election year.  Will voters right up against the Republican party which has dominated Congress since 1994?  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After succeeding a president who once argued it depends on what the definition of is is, President Bush now depends on what the definition of classified is.  White House officials maintain that despite the president giving Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff Scooter Libby the authority to leak intelligence about Iraq, this statement two months later was accurate. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information.  If somebody did leak classified information, I‘d like to know it. 

SHUSTER:  White House officials emphasize the word “classified.”  They

say that when President Bush gave the vice president and his chief of staff

the green light to leak, and even though everybody else including the CIA

director had been kept in the dark, the information was technically

declassified.  And so, regarding the presidential denials in the leak case

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  He is being asked about classified information being disclosed. 

REPORTER:  I express my displeasure with this, (INAUDIBLE) particularly classified. 

MCCLELLAN:  That was in the context of people leaking classified information. 

SHUSTER:  But putting aside that debate, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has also released evidence Scooter Libby and Karl Rove who still works at the White House disseminated classified information about CIA operative Valerie Plame.  And on the basis of this presidential comment—

BUSH:  If somebody did leak classified information, I‘d like to know it.  And we‘ll take the appropriate action. 

SHUSTER:  Joe Wilson is on the attack. 

JOE WILSON, FMR ACTING AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ:  I find it appalling that the president continues to retain on his staff these multiple White House officials who were involved in leaking her name, beginning with Karl Rove.  I believe he‘s betrayed the national security of the country, I believe he and the others have betrayed the public trust of the country. 

SHUSTER:  White House spokesman Scott McClellan refuses to comment about Rove on the grounds that the overall investigation is still open.  Still, the legalisms and verbal gymnastics at the White House are a far cry from the George W. Bush who campaigned for president six years ago emphasizing honesty and straight talk. 

BUSH:  I do not reinvent myself at every turn.  I am not running in borrowed clothes.  When I act, you will know my reasons.  And when I speak, you will know my heart. 

SHUSTER:  Now, according to the latest poll numbers, most Americans feel that when the president speaks, he is dishonest.  Sixty-three percent of Americans believe the president did something illegal or unethical in the CIA leak case.  Only 28 percent say he did nothing wrong.  On Iraq, despite presidential claims that country is making progress—

BUSH:  The Iraqi people have begun building a free society. 

SHUSTER: -- approval for the president‘s handling of Iraq keeps dropping and now stands at just 37 percent.  Overall, the president‘s job approval rating has fallen to 38 percent, his disapproval a whopping 60 percent. 

There was no poll released today about the vice president, but in first pitch ceremonies at the Washington Nationals home opener—the boo‘s were much louder than the cheers. 

(on camera):  The strong feelings about Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush have prompted huge fears among Congressional Republicans over the midterm elections.  The administration‘s poll numbers are even lower than at the height of president Clinton‘s verbal gymnastics, a sign that the public sees the legalisms and parsing statements from the Bush White House as evens worse.  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Great report.  With us now in California is California‘s own Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator, who wants to censure President Bush for the NSA‘s domestic surveillance program and today SHE called on the president to apologize for, “declassifying information for political reasons during the Iraq war.” 

Let me ask you this, Senator, are you going to follow through with this?  Are you going to try to get him censured? 

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, I absolutely feel that we can‘t close our eyes to what this president has done.  You could ask me is it a smart, strategic move for the Democrats, I don‘t know if it is or isn‘t, Chris.  But every day you think it can‘t get worse and it gets worse. 

Now we see how hard the president himself tried to hurt Ambassador Joe Wilson, who told the truth about Saddam Hussein and the nuclear weapons program.  He told the truth that it wasn‘t happening.  And yet in fact, this president wanted to release information that even he knew, and the administration knew, was suspect.  And it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  How do you add that up?  We now know due to some good reporting, that the president made the case that there was a nuclear threat from Iraq based upon an argument from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which was challenged by the CIA, challenged by the State Department and all the other agencies and by the U.N.  He still went ahead and made that case in the State of the Union, and then as you point out, used it afterwards to knock down Joe Wilson‘s whistle blowing.  What can you do to challenge that kind of action? 

BOXER:  The first thing we should do, censure resolution aside for a moment, we should be investigating, we should be checking this administration.  That‘s the role of the Congress.  The trouble is, you‘ve got the Congress owned and operated by the Republicans, owned and operated by Karl Rove, and we can‘t even get the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate what has gone wrong with the weapons of mass destruction in the first place. 

You can‘t get them to do the second part of that investigation.  The question was, did the president use that information for political purposes.  They won‘t even do it.  And that‘s why Russ Feingold wrote the censure resolution and to be honest, when I first saw it I put my head in my hands and I said oh God, I don‘t want to go down this path—

MATTHEWS:  Did you feel like it was the old Watergate days?  Is that what you felt? 

BOXER:  No, I was to young.  No, but I thought back to Clinton and all the horror that happened to this country when we were doing this impeachment, we were doing these investigations.  But at the end of the day, I tell my people, these young people here, who count on me, I can‘t turn away from the truth.  And we have people dying in Iraq, as we speak in huge danger, it‘s a slow boil, civil war there, if not worse, and now we find out a lot of this was trumped up. 

MATTHEWS:  One thing we‘re finding out is how public opinion is moving.  I know you took your stand before public opinion.  Look at this new poll by The Washington Post and ABC news.  Just out, 45 percent say the president should be censured, 53 percent say he should not.  That means the 45 percent, is hardly a wacky position, it‘s close to being 50/50 now.  What‘s going on? 

BOXER:  I think people are so distressed and disappointed.  They didn‘t expect this from this president and he‘s in a free fall.  It seems as if this president will tell the people anything.  Now when he leaned forward and said to the American people, I‘ll never forget this, we never listen in on your phone conversations unless we have a warrant.  Chris, it wasn‘t true.  Why did he to have to leave his prepared remarks and go out and do that? 

Now he says, he attacked everyone who ever leaked classified information, and he leaked classified information.  So people are beginning to see something that‘s extremely disturbing.  They‘re looking at this president, and they don‘t believe him, and that‘s why I think he‘s in a free fall right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s purposely telling what he knows not to be true, A; B, he‘s being led by advisers who are ruthless and just want to get their policy followed, which we‘ve seen before in American history, truth doesn‘t always win the argument, or is he basically confused? 

BOXER:  I don‘t know the answer, Chris.  I only know that I told people in my state that I would fight for them and I would fight for the truth.  And that I would try to end this war and when you hear lie after lie after lie and you realize now that people understand it, it leads me to this election that‘s coming up and what I believe now is the only way to check this president, if you believe in checks and balances, you‘ve got to bring back the Democrats in charge. 

Now we‘re not perfect, that‘s for sure.  But I think the American people should give us a chance, because this guy is on a runaway train, now as you talked before, maybe toward another war, before we‘ve even completed this mission, and it‘s just—he needs to be stopped and he needs to be—

MATTHEWS:  What is your rudimentary basic thought right now about the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon five to 10 months from now.  What should be the U.S. policy right now? 

BOXER:  Well, if it was five to 10 months from now, I would have a different answer than I‘m going to give you.  But it is five to 10 years from now.  So my first thought is you take a deep breath.  I‘m on a bill that would begin sanctions on Iran if they keep going down this path.  There is a whole host of sanctions you can do with people visiting there, buying their oil.

But you need the world.  So we are back to where we were early in the Iraq situation.  We have to lead the world.  The trouble is, we have a president who is being shunned by this world.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think Iran wants a nuclear weapon if they want one?  Why would they—Israel‘s got one, Pakistan‘s got one, India‘s got one.  Is it prestige, is it to intimidate Israel?  Because I don‘t personally see how you use a weapon in that crowded Middle East without killing a lot of your people, if you‘re in Arab for example.  How do you drop a bomb in the Middle East without killing thousands and thousands of Arabs? 

BOXER:  Well it is mutually-assured destruction.  We used to call it MAD.  And so maybe that will mitigate what happens—but I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... I think just the weapon itself.

BOXER:  No, I‘m saying, if you look at Iran, if you look at India, all those countries, it is a matter of personal pride.  And it is a matter of strength and it is a matter of telling the people we have common enemies, and it‘s very, very, very dangerous. 

There is no question about it.  And I don‘t think there‘s any problem with having different scenarios.  But let me just say, to leak information, if that‘s what happened, we don‘t know how this happened, that we might use nuclear weapons against Iran, is stunning to me.

MATTHEWS:  Can the president of the United States as you understand the constitution, act without the authority of Congress in this regard?  Can we wake up tomorrow morning and see that he‘s already done it?

BOXER:  Well we know that‘s happened in the past. 

MATTHEWS:  No, he got authorization last time.

BOXER:  No, no, no, I didn‘t mean the past with this president.  The fact is that presidents believe they have the power to take action and then come back and get approval.  It‘s very, very dangerous.

MATTHEWS:  Any chance your Senate, even though it‘s a Republican-dominated Senate, would issue a resolution saying, “Mr. President, we do not believe your commander-in-chief authority extends to attacking Iran?”

BOXER:  No, I don‘t see that happening with the Republicans in charge. 

But what...

MATTHEWS:  ... Would you vote for such a resolution, saying the president has to come to you to get approval?

BOXER:  I‘ve always believed in the War Powers Act.  Now obviously there are circumstances where if we were attacked, no, then you fight back.  But on this preemptive idea, I always believe you come to the Congress and by the way, you have a debate. 

As we said, we‘re talking about five to 10 years away.  Chris, we need a new president.  Someone who knows the history of the world, someone who can use back door channels to avoid this.  I mean, my people, when I go in the supermarket, everywhere I go, if I walk...

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, Senator, but we‘ve got two and a half years with this elected president.

BOXER:  Yes, yes we do.  And there‘s only one thing to do, check him.  Check him at the polls in ‘06.  Give us Democratic control so we can stop the worst things from happening and get this country moving in the right direction again. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for having us—you didn‘t have us out here, but thanks for joining us out here.  It‘s a great school, University of Southern California.  We‘ve got all the students out here, around us, and some faculty people.

How is she doing, all right, or what, what do you think?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s dangerous because Cheney got booed at the ballpark today, you never know.  Anyway, must be a liberal campus.

Coming up, Iran‘s president says his country has enriched uranium for the first time.  Is the United States preparing a preventive act of war against Iran? 

And all this week, go to our Web site to watch the nine most memorable HARDBALL interviews of the past nine years, the ones we think are most memorable, from Zell Miller, the unmentionable Zell Miller to Donald Rumsfeld to George W. Bush.  You can vote for your favorite, just go to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.  This is the ninth anniversary of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY LEWIS, COMEDIAN:  Hi, I‘m Jerry Lewis, didn‘t you know it?  Please remember that it‘s the ninth anniversary of Chris Matthews‘ show, so watch HARDBALL, because it‘s a soft piece of good work.

TOM RIDGE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  Chris Matthews, happy ninth anniversary.  I always look forward to doing your show, getting interrupted once in awhile, but it‘s well worth it.  Can‘t believe you‘ve been doing it for nine years.  And I wish you nine or 19 more, whatever you want.  Congratulations and good luck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL from the campus of USC.

Today, Iran‘s president said this country had enriched uranium, openly defying the U.N. Security Council and the United States.  Well Iran‘s president says it‘s for non-military use.  The White House says this shows Iran is moving in, quote, “the wrong direction.”  So what happens now?  I‘m joined now by NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski.  So, what happens now, Mik?

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good afternoon, Chris. 

First of all, here at the Pentagon, I have to tell you that there are contingency plans for a U.S. military attack against Iran on the table.  But this building, the military, is very good at contingency plans.  They have contingency plans for the contingency plans and that‘s not a joke.  They really do.

But where are they in the process of contingency planning for Iraq?  Well, last week, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called a meeting with the top civilians here in the Pentagon and the top military leaders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to start a review of the options and at this point I can tell you, senior military officials say that at the beginning of this, all options are on the table, beginning at small pinpoint strikes against possible nuclear, some military targets, ground invasion using soldiers and Marines.

And yes, even the use of a small yield tactical nuclear weapon.  But I emphasize at this point that nobody is considering the use of a nuclear weapon, nobody is actively or seriously considering putting ground troops in Iran, should any action be taken. 

It would most likely be some kind of airstrikes, either pinpoint or massive airstrikes to take out some of Iran‘s military capabilities perhaps.  But again, this is all speculation.  President Bush calls it wild speculation. 

Today, Secretary Rumsfeld called it fantasy land.  They‘re talking about the specifics though, about the use of nuclear weapons in ground troops.  Overall, however, they are actively reconsidering the contingency plans for attacking Iraq—I mean, Iran, sorry.

MATTHEWS:  Well let me ask you about Iran and the question here, as the president said today, he referred to a preventive strike or preventive attack, rather than a preemptive one.  There‘s a big difference. 

Is he really talking about hitting Iran before it commits any act of war against any country?  We would hit it first as a possibility?  That‘s preventive all right.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  You sort of have to figure out what the threshold is.  This test today or the announcement that they have enriched uranium, it‘s like at a 3.5 percent level of enrichment.

For example, 20 percent level is needed to just get fuel rods for reactors.  To get enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, it has to be enriched to 90 percent.  And all the experts agree, including Ambassador Negroponte, head of DNI, who testified before Congress recently, that it‘s going to take at least five to 10 years before Iran is anywhere near capable if actually producing a nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why the hell would we—why would we commit an act of war—why the hell is a good phrase.  Right now with no act of war by Iran, why would we commit an act of war against them?  Now, who is pushing for this in the administration?  The usual suspects, the hawks? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  You know, interestingly enough, some in the administration will tell you that Dick Cheney is pushing hard for this.  Condi Rice is pushing hard for the diplomatic track. 

And I can tell you that sources here in the Pentagon say that Secretary Rumsfeld, as early as a year ago, was somewhat non-committal about possible military action against Iran, pointing out that Israel, of course, is very much interested in seeing that Iran‘s nuclear ambitions are nipped in the bud. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well they might have to do it themselves.  Anyway, thank you very much, Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Happy anniversary, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re here—hey, thanks to you Mik—at the University of Southern California.  With us, troops at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We‘re going to find out what it‘s like to be in ROTC here at USC.  You‘re watching the ninth anniversary of HARDBALL here on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the ninth anniversary edition of HARDBALL from the University of Southern California campus. 

Joining me now, Colonel Rocky Morrison, the commanding officer of the Navy ROTC program here, and two students in the program, Midshipman 1st Class Derek Rey and Midshipman 4th Class Sophie Hussain.  Sophie, do you mind me calling you Sophie? 

SOPHIE HUSSAIN, MIDSHIPMAN 4TH CLASS:  No, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you join the Navy? 

HUSSAIN:  I‘ve always wanted to join the Navy, sir.  It was just a logical step. 

MATTHEWS:  Logical from what?  Do you come from a Navy family? 

HUSSAIN:  I don‘t know.  No, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to you, sir.  Why did you join the Navy?  You were going to join the Marines, right?

DEREK REY, MIDSHIPMAN 1ST CLASS:  Yes, sir, but I did grow up in a Navy family.  Actually I grew up with a lot of family friends who were in the Navy and when I got to the NRTC unit, I learned a little bit more about the United States Marine Corps and there‘s no group of men and women I would like to serve with. 

MATTHEWS:  What does semper fi mean in English?

REY:  Sir, semper fi means always faithful.  Semper fidel, sir.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Let me go to Colonel—thank you, sir.  Colonel Morrison, thank you for joining us.  What‘s the difference between ROTC of today and what it was in your day? 

COL. ROCKY MORRISON, COMMANDING OFFICER, NAVY ROTC:  That‘s a good question I couldn‘t answer for you, because I was a PLC guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you were PLC?

MORRISON:  I was.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let me ask you this.  Do these kids all know they‘re going into action? 

MORRISON:  They do. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s different, isn‘t it? 

MORRISON:  That‘s different.  When I came in, it was at the end of the Vietnam era.  I got in and commissioned in 1982, so Vietnam had already wound down. 

MATTHEWS:  So when these kids are training, they know they‘re training to protect their lives and do their duty in combat, it‘s not a theory.  Do you know that? 

HUSSAIN:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Sophie, can you imagine yourself right now in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or maybe Iran? 

HUSSAIN:  Sir, I joined up to serve my country, I want to serve my country whether or not we‘re fighting a war or not, I want to serve my country regardless. 

MATTHEWS:  What about combat?  Are you ready?

HUSSAIN:  It‘s all part of the job. 

MATTHEWS:  Will you be ready? 

HUSSAIN:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  How about you, Derek? 

REY:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  Marines are—when you join the Marines, you know you‘re going into it, right? 

REY:  Yes, sir.  Sir, I believe the Naval ROTC and Colonel Morrison and officer candidate school has trained me very well.  I‘m really excited to get out there and I can think of no greater honor or privilege than it could be to lead a group of the young men and women of the United States Marine Corps, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you both see the enlarged notion of what our armed forces are dealing with today?  It‘s not just defending the country‘s shoreline, it‘s going out there and fighting these preventer or preventive wars, whatever the president is calling them.  Are you happy with that, the idea we‘re fighting in Iraq although they didn‘t attack us?  Or maybe fighting in Afghanistan?  We‘re already there.  We might go into Iran. 

HUSSAIN:  Sir, no matter what the mission of the Navy is at the current time, I will always be proud to serve my country as a midshipman right now and as an officer when I get my commission after I graduate. 

MATTHEWS:  But when you guys talk together, you men and women who are in ROTC, do you talk politics much about the war issues that are confronting you?  Because you‘re going to be in them.  You‘re not going to be talking about them in five years, you‘re going to be fighting these wars.  Do you talk amongst yourselves about these issues? 

HUSSAIN:  We do discuss politics, but there are opinions and at least as a freshman, I know I have a lot to learn still, so ... 

MATTHEWS:  How about a senior?  Does a senior out grade her?  Do you have a right to talk more about these?  You have political science courses here.  You talk about ...

REY:  Yes, sir, I‘m actually a political science major.  We talk a little bit about politics and policy in our class, but as midshipmen here, we‘re just trying to be students, we‘re looking to be trained as officers in the United States Navy or the United States Marine Corps, and we‘re just trying to do our best in that job, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Colonel, what kind of students are you looking for?  More engineers, technical people or political science guys like this? 

MORRISON:  Engineers if we can get them because of the technical nature of the business.  We take some political science, obviously.  But we like the kids with the hard sciences. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you use them for morale officers or what? 

MORRISON:  No, they earn their keep one way or the other.  They‘re all good kids.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you like engineers? 

MORRISON:  The Navy needs them for the submariners, also for dealing aboard ship ops and then there‘s a lot of technical expertise required.  Everything is computer based now and they have to be bright kids and we get bright kids. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like to be an instructor and a leader of young and men at a time when there‘s so much debate about the wars we‘re fighting?

MORRISON:  It‘s a privilege and an honor because I‘m here to help them learn to be better people and to lead the young men and women that they‘re going to be entrusted with. 

MATTHEWS:  When you pick up the paper in the morning and you read in the paper about the latest battles in Fallujah of wherever, in Baghdad, and you see how complicated it is with the one—the Sunni and the Shia fighting with each other, and us in the middle of it all.  Does it ever disturb you that this is too complicated a front to fight on? 

MORRISON:  No, it‘s training and doing the best you can.  You go out every day and do your best and that‘s what they‘re training to do.  And that‘s what the Navy and Marine Corps does.

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you for your service, sir. 

MORRISON:  Thank you, sir.  I appreciate that.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you in advance for your service, and I hope you get through it alive and I can see again as professors here someday or something ...

HUSSAIN:  Thank you.

REY:  Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS:  ... after you‘ve served our country.  Thank you all.  Thank you Colonel Rocky Morrison, Derek and Sophie. 

Up next on HARDBALL, what, if anything, should Congress do to stop illegal immigration to this country?  Pat Buchanan takes on Congressman Jim Moran.  This is going to be a hot part of the show.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s ninth anniversary only on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Hi Chris.  Happy ninth anniversary.  I knew you a long, long time ago, and I love the show, I love coming on the show.  You know that, so let‘s play HARDBALL.

BILL FRIST ®, TENNESSEE:  OK, Chris Matthews.  Happy ninth anniversary, and let‘s go play HARDBALL.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CNBC MARKET WRAP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re celebrating our ninth anniversary on HARDBALL this week and today and I‘m coming to you directly from the University of Southern California campus, it‘s beautiful out here.

This state, as many of you well know, experienced a tidal wave of protests yesterday by illegal immigrants and immigrant advocacy groups who want Congress to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country. 

Immigrant groups are saying this is the beginning of an Hispanic civil rights movement that will translate into a force at the ballot box.  According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 50 percent of Americans trust Democrats to do a better job handling the issue of illegal immigration, with just 38 percent trusting the Republicans. 

But when asked if the U.S. is doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country, a whopping 75 percent say no.  Will these street protests yield an immigration bill and what do they mean for the November elections this year? 

Democratic Congressman James Moran of Virginia gave a fiery speech at yesterday‘s demonstration at the Washington Mall and Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst. 

Congressman Moran, right off the bat, three quarters of the American people want to stop illegal immigration.  Where do you stand? 

REP. JAMES MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  Oh, I think we should limit illegal immigration, but the current system isn‘t working, Chris.  And of course, legislation has always been a reactive process.  What we have on the books now doesn‘t fit the reality. 

There‘s two million people, primarily from Mexico, trying to get across the border.  We apprehend 1.2 million, a quarter of them get in legally, another quarter get in illegally.  I think we ought to - we ought to increase the quotas depending upon the strength of our economy.  I think we ought to have biometric identifiers, instead of building a wall to keep them out, find out who it is that is coming in and if you did that, you could hold employers responsible and you could get people on an avenue to citizenship, which of course is going to stabilize our economy as it keeps our—stabilize our society as it keeps our economy strong. 

We can afford to absorb most of these immigrants that are working here.  Because that‘s the reality, they‘re working here, and they embrace the American dream a heck of a lot more than a lot of the people who by the action of birth are entitled to all the benefits of American citizenship.  I think you ought to earn your citizenship and these are the very people who are. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Pat Buchanan.  Your view on what Jim just said.  The Congressman just said? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  We had four million Americans who never graduated from high school who are out of work and these are the Americans whose jobs are being taken by illegal immigrants. 

Now when we say illegal immigrants, we mean very simply, they broke the law, they broke in line, they broke into our country, they‘re here illegally, and millions of them are demonstrating for the rights and benefits of citizens. 

And I would hope a government of the United States is not going to be intimidated by this and would answer them simply no.  You don‘t deserve and you‘re not going to get the benefits of citizenship at the expense of American taxpayers. 

What we ought to do is first, the president is not doing it, secure the borders and enforce the laws of the United States.  He can secure it with a fence, he can secure it by basically grabbing a couple of businessmen who chronically hire illegals, cheat on their taxes, cheat on their rivals and put a couple of them in jail and start reducing the magnets here. 

We ought to treat everybody here legally, according to the laws of the land, we ought to treat every American citizen like a fellow citizen, but if you come illegally, Chris, I don‘t believe you‘re entitled to the benefits of citizenship and if we don‘t follow the law we‘re going to lose our country. 

MORAN:  I‘m not opposed to enforcement, Pat, but the fact is, that most Americans are not willing to dig the ditches or wash the dishes or pick the crops or mop the floors.  That‘s why these folks are here, because they are doing jobs that most Americans wouldn‘t do and they‘re getting paid a lot less than most Americans would be willing to accept. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me answer you, Jim.  Seventy-five percent of all these jobs, ditch digging, construction work, bus boys, all the rest of them are done by American citizens.  Twenty-five percent or less are done by illegal aliens.  The truth is, Americans will do the job. 

But no doubt, businessmen like illegal aliens because they have no rights, they‘ll work off the books, they don‘t pay taxes on them, they can get away with this sort of thing.  We pass laws like minimum wage laws and other laws to protect American citizens and again, Jim, it is basically your constituents and frankly a lot who voted for me, $15,000 to $30,000 a year people who are hurt by illegal immigration. 

It‘s not folks who go to restaurants and get big $100 meals.  It‘s not the folks who take their cars to the car wash, they get the benefits of this.  The cost is paid by taxpayers and workers. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, let me ask you this, Congressman, because it comes down to what the Congress is going to do, not what you guys say here.  Is Congress willing to do the whole caboodle? 

Are they willing to put teeth in our immigration rules so if a an employer gets caught hiring illegal or off the books, he gets slammed with a really lifetime punishment, like $40,000 a shot so he isn‘t going to do it again.  And are we going to do something about border control and legalizing 11 million people here, because nobody is going to send them home, and number two are we going to have a legal guest worker program? 

Why don‘t we do it all, Congressman, all four of it.  Tough enforcement at the border and tough enforcement of employment and then give the guy a chance to become legal if they learn the language, do the work, stay out of trouble.  And fourth, do something so people can come in the country legally to work.

Why not do it all?  I don‘t get it.

MORAN:  You could do it if the business community would buy into it.  But the business community is not going to buy into the current system because they don‘t have enough workers if you restrict it to the approximate 400,000 that are allowed in legally.

The fact is our economy can and has to absorb almost twice that many people.  But if you did that, and if you identified everybody coming in, then I think the business community would buy into it, and be held accountable if they hired people that were illegal, because they could take their car, they could find out exactly, immediately who they are, whether they were supposed to be here.

But we have a broken system.  And I don‘t think we‘re going to get legislation because we‘re not going to get a balanced piece of legislation, Chris. 

The problem is that the House is not going to accept the more balanced approach of the Senate.  I‘m a co-sponsor of the Senate Kennedy-McCain bill, but I certainly oppose building a wall for 700 miles on a 2,000-mile border.  Certainly oppose criminalizing helping people who are in need and I oppose...

MATTHEWS:  ... I‘ve got to give Pat a chance, Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pat, will there be a bill, should there be or better to leave it the way it is?

BUCHANAN:  It would better to have no bill than to have a bill with guest worker and amnesty.  Let me tell you what‘s wrong with guest worker.  It‘s un-American.  We bring in here immigrants to came to Ellis Island, were fellow citizens.  They were on the road to citizenship. 

We‘re going to bring in trolls, the folks in Orwell‘s book, who simply are going to do our work, Chris, and they‘re not going to be fellow citizens?  That‘s un-American.  Secondly, as for the sanctions in businesses, the president is the executive officer of the United States.  The sanctions are in the law, the president is not enforcing the law, the Congress is not requiring him to enforce the law.  The president could punish these businessmen, Justice Department could do it tomorrow.

MORAN:  Well Pat is absolutely right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where you‘re right, Pat.

MORAN:  We shouldn‘t have a second class of citizens, they‘re not citizens, residents.  This is what Europe did and that‘s why you have such instability.  They‘ll bring them in for their labor but they won‘t allow them to be Frenchmen or Germans, or whatever.  If somebody is here, they ought to be on a path towards citizenship, learn the English language, abide by our laws and they are going to keep the American dream alive.

BUCHANAN:  We got the Buchanan-Moran bill.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Jim Moran, I‘ve got to say good night.  But thank you both, Congressman Jim Moran and Pat Buchanan, thanks for joining us.  It looks like there‘s not going to be a bill as it‘s going.

MORAN:  Why are you in southern California and we‘re stuck up on the Hill?  What‘s wrong with this?

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a wrong world.  Anyway, up next, he‘s worked for...

BUCHANAN:  Happy birthday, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... Thank you, guys.  He‘s worked for both President Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Matt Dowd will be here with us in just a moment, a real political expert joining us on our ninth anniversary on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Here to talk through the tough times is Republican strategist Matthew Dodd, who‘s currently working on the Schwarzenegger campaign out here.

Let‘s look at some of the president‘s rough new numbers.  Just 38 percent of Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing, 60 percent disapprove.  And 47 percent disapprove strongly.  Overall, a five-point reversal since last month.

And on Iraq, which continues to dog George Bush, the numbers are roughly the same. 

You know, it‘s a tough time for the president.  He‘s under 40 percent in a lot of these categories.  What‘s he got to do to get back in track?  He won his reelection, what‘s he got to do to get back up to that height he was at back in ‘04?

MATTHEW DOWD, SCHWARZENEGGER CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST:  Well I think it‘s very—it‘s not a speech, it‘s not a press conference and it‘s not a series of trips around the country.  It‘s going to have to be much more long term, substantive and I don‘t see it fundamentally changing over the course of the next three months, six months.

MATTHEWS:  Is he held down by Cheney?  Cheney‘s down in the twenties.  Most people don‘t seem to like him, they don‘t seem to know him and what they know, they don‘t like.  And it seems like a lot of people still think he‘s calling the shots.

DOWD:  I don‘t think it has anything to do with Cheney.  When Cheney was in the forties and the president was in the sixties, there was no relationship.  I think he‘s held back by fundamentally, people want to see a resolution on what‘s going to happen in Iraq and until that‘s resolved in their mind, he‘s going to be held down.  I think that‘s the reality.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s going to be like KrMD+BO_rMDNM_orea rMDNM_or Vietnam, one of those, or Carter‘s hostage crisis.

DOWD:  He owns it and the public views everything through the prism of Iraq right now.  And until that changes, I don‘t think you can adjust the numbers.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he knows that?

DOWD:  I think he knows that fundamentally it‘s his responsibility and he‘s got to deal with it and his political life is staked on it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this immigration issue.  It seems like the president came into office with the idea of building a legacy on demographics, to build a Republican Party that wasn‘t anglo or white, it was Chicano, it was Latino, a big Hispanic—you already had the Cuban Americans are largely Republican.  He was going to get the Mexican Americans and everyone else.

Is that conflict with basic conservative attitudes of leave things the way they are, any change is bad, cultural change is frightening to people?

DOWD:  Well I don‘t think you can be successful in politics because demographics is dynamic and you can‘t be static in politics.  The parties that are static end up losing, so when you have a population like Latino voters who are growing faster than any other group in the country...

MATTHEWS:  ... It‘s only eight percent of the country now.

DOWD:  It was two percent 20 years ago, so it‘s a 400 percent increase in the last 20 years.  It‘s fundamental, the Asian Americans in this state or in other places in this country is fundamental change.  And so if the Republican Party stood still and got the same numbers they got 15 years ago, they would be the minority party.  You have to change to adapt to that demographic change.

MATTHEWS:  Well does he meet both concerns, the grassroots Republican concern, which you saw in the House of Representatives, and his desire to build a bigger party?

DOWD:  Well, first, I disagree that some House Republicans stand for the grassroots Republicans in this country.  I think there‘s a lot of people that disagree with where they stand on criminalizing illegal immigration and basically saying we want to kick all the illegal immigrants out of the country.

There‘s most Republicans don‘t agree with that, just like...

MATTHEWS:  ... Well most would probably, speaking for them, would simply like illegal immigration to slow down to a reasonable number of people and not be this tsunami of people coming across illegally.

DOWD:  Most people in this country—the majority of people in this country would believe we ought to slow down illegal immigration in this country, but first we have to document who is here.  Everybody says there‘s eight million, nine million, 10 million people that are undocumented. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not an ID card for everybody?  What‘s wrong with an ID card? 

DOWD:  I think we have to do two things. 

MATTHEWS:  What about an ID card? 

DOWD:  The Congressmen can decide that, I‘ll just talk about the politics of it.  I think it has to be compassion and the rule of law and I think elements of both parties have staked out positions that one is just compassionate, one is just rule of law and the American public is right in the middle.  They want rule of law. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we get it all put together in a package of teeth and also heart? 

DOWD:  If the politicians in Washington follow the sentiment of the public, we would. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about an exciting figure.  We were out covering his campaign, Schwarzenegger, has he solved—has he healed the wounds of last November when he lost all those initiatives? 

DOWD:  I think his numbers show he‘s up eight or 10 points.  I think it‘s a long term thing, so I think by November we‘ll know the answer to that question, but I think he‘s done a lot to get back to where he was pre-the initiatives. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he still a star? 

DOWD:  He‘s a star, he‘s a movie star. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you people think of Schwarzenegger? 

(APPLAUSE AND BOO)

MATTHEWS:  Lets break it out.  How many like him?  How many don‘t like him? 

DOWD:  It‘s a good thing it‘s not a representative sample of the state. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s not representative? 

DOWD:  I think every governor in the state has been reelected for the last 70 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Cheney was booed at RFK today at the baseball opener.  He threw the pitch, he also threw a duster, which I‘ve thrown in the past.  It didn‘t hit the plate.  Do you think that‘s representative of the people? 

DOWD:  What, that he threw a duster?

MATTHEWS:  That he got booed.

DOWD:  His numbers show that he‘s not overwhelmingly popular. 

MATTHEWS:  Nixon decided to run against Pat Brown and he lost by a quarter million because Pat Brown was booed at the opening at Candlestick.  You can‘t go by booing.  Thank you. 

DOWD:  Glad to be here. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back at U.S.C. in just a moment with my guest appearance last night on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”  This is HARDBALL‘s ninth anniversary on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m out here at the beautiful University of Southern California. 

(APPLAUSE)

It‘s only April and it feels like the summer out here.  It‘s sunny, it‘s beautiful, just like you believe, Southern California dream world.  We have a couple of guys who are very political.  I‘ve got Mike Stephan who is the head of the Democrats here, the Democratic Club at the College at U.S.C.  And Robert Lowy, he‘s the Republican. 

Let‘s give you a chance to be on national television.  Speak for your party.  Michael?  What does the Democratic stand for for you? 

MIKE STEPHAN, CHMN. USC COLLEGE DEMOCRATS:  The Democratic party stands to me for doing the right thing.  They will do what‘s morally right and they are looking out for the best interest of the American people.  They are looking out for the welfare, the safety, and the prosperity of every American as you can see with the immigration issues and see with issues on national security and as you can see with them wanting to get rid of corruption in Washington.

They know what to do and doing it and that‘s why we are going to take back the House in November. 

MATTHEWS:  Republicans, what do you guys stand for? 

ROBERT LOWY, CHMN. USC COLLEGE REPUBLICANS:  Stand for fiscal responsibility. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the current deficit? 

LOWY:  You had to do it?  Didn‘t you? 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think the Democrats are any better at it by the way go ahead. 

LOWY:  The second would have to be national security.  I think 9/11 certainly was a wake-up call to everyone. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s ask about the war in Iraq.  Are you for capital punishment? 

STEPHAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Are for capital punishment? 

LOWY:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you for the war in Iraq? 

STEPHAN:  I‘m not for the war in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you for the war in Iraq?

LOWY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Are you for attacking Iran? 

STEPHAN:  I am for diplomacy at the moment. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you for attacking Iran? 

LOWY:  Only if diplomacy doesn‘t work.

MATTHEWS:  You both agree.  What about immigration, is it possible to put together a deal which includes some tough teeth on illegal immigration and also offers opportunities for people who want to become Americans? 

STEPHAN:  I think it is possible.  I think Kennedy‘s bill right now is doing much of that.  Personally, I think what we need to do is put tougher punishments and enforcement of these laws on employers. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that one. 

LOWY:  I think there is definitely agreement to be reached.  It‘s not being reached yet, but the Kennedy bill certainly has some problems. 

MATTHEWS:  We are going to go right now to me on “The Tonight Show” last night on Leno. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW:  The elections, there is a big turn over in the House and the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the Democrats could probably squeak the House. 

LENO:  Is this an impeachable offense? 

MATTHEWS:  No.  I think what you are going to see is though. 

LENO:  This is not worse than like having sex with—

MATTHEWS:  That was impeachable, it turns out he was impeached for it.  You‘re on to something here.  If the Democrats win the House of Representatives they get a little magic tool called the subpoena power and the minute you get 218 votes you get the subpoena. 

Richard Nixon got reelected he knew he was in trouble even though he got reelected as president the Democrats had the House again.  They had subpoena power.  On comes Watergate investigations.  Ted Kennedy and everyone is investigating.  I think if the Democrats get it, you are going to see Henry Waxman from here in Los Angeles, John Conyers of Detroit using the subpoena power to go after these guys. 

LENO:  How about Hillary Clinton?  There is always new focus groups and information.  What‘s the latest on her? 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s interesting.  Everybody thinks Hillary is smart.  Everybody thinks she is on top of the game.  She is a politician.  I think the words like calculating, know-it-all, get into it.  The word that keeps showing up in the focus group is but.  I like her but the. 

LENO:  You mean you like her butt, b-u-t-t.  Like with Paula, I like her butt. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We are going to be celebrating our ninth anniversary all this week.  I am here at the USC campus.  Tomorrow night, we‘re going to have Mitt Romney on.  A guy to watch, he‘s running for president next time, the governor of Massachusetts.   

Coming up right now is “COUNTDOWN”—I‘m sorry “THE ABRAMS REPORT” is coming up right now with Dan.  I‘m sorry.

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

END   

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