updated 6/29/2006 10:37:59 AM ET 2006-06-29T14:37:59

Guests: Tom DeLay, Claire McCaskill, Ed Rogers, Craig Crawford, Bob Zelnick, Mia Farrow

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Voting season, new polls shows Americans dying to vote.  The mood is anti-war and anti-Bush.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.

The flag burning amendment fails in the U.S. Senate.  As the Supreme Court upholds most of his pro-Republican Texas redistricting plan, the architect of it all, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is here tonight. 

Also tonight, we‘re zeroing in on decision 2006, and we‘re not alone.  President Bush is raising money for GOP candidates, and he‘s headlining a fundraiser tonight in the swing state of Missouri for senator Jim Talent, who is facing a strong opponent.  We‘ll meet his Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill. 

Plus, Steve Colbert and me—I teach him a few moves.

But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the latest election news on the year‘s hottest races. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Hoping to boost the candidate in trouble and help Republicans keep control of the Senate, President Bush today headed to Missouri for a fundraiser for incumbent Jim Talent.  Talent has voted with the White House repeatedly, and is now paying for his right stepping with moderate voters and independents. 

The latest poll show Talent losing to Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill by six points.  The number is a huge jolt, because Missouri until this campaign, had been trending increasingly Republican.  In 2004, for example, President Bush won Missouri by seven points, compared to just three points in 2000. 

But now, the president‘s approval rating in the Show Me State stands at just 39 percent, and political analysts believe that Talent‘s challenge could be an indicator of problems for Republicans nationwide. 

And there are now ominous signs for Virginia Senator George Allen. 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Thank you all so very much.  Let‘s keep winning, keep smiling, and standing strong for freedom.  Thank you all. 

SHUSTER:  Allen is considered a serious contender for the GOP‘s 2008 presidential nomination, but first, he must win reelection to the Senate.  And the latest poll shows Allen with just a five point lead over relatively unknown challenger, Democrat James Webb.  Webb is a Vietnam combat hero, a former Reagan administration official, and a critic of the Iraq war.  Here‘s what he said on HARDBALL during the Democratic primary debate. 

JIM WEBB (D), VA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I wrote in the “Washington Post” piece five months before we went in that this was not simply about WMDs, it was about turning our troops into terrorist targets and that there was not an exit strategy, because the principal architects of this war did not intend for us to leave. 

SHUSTER:  Democrats nationwide are taking note of Webb‘s tough approach towards Allen.  This week, after Allen‘s campaign criticized Webb for not endorsing a constitutional amendment prohibiting desecration of the flag, a Webb spokesman noted that Allen did not serve in the military.  Then he called the Allen campaign comments, quote, “nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards.” 

In Minnesota, the Senate race between Republican Mark Kennedy and Democrat Amy Klobuchar has not become so person, but it is still a tough race.  Seven months ago, President Bush went to Minneapolis to raise money for Kennedy‘s campaign. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He‘s the right person for the job.  He thinks right, he acts right, he‘s not one of these kind of politicians that takes a poll and then tries to figure out what to believe. 

SHUSTER:  Now Kennedy seems to believe President Bush is a vulnerability, because this week Kennedy removed pictures of the unpopular president from his campaign Web site. 

In Maryland, Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich, who defeated a popular Democrat four years ago, is now losing badly.  The latest “Washington Post” poll shows Ehrlich trailing Democrat Martin O‘Malley, the mayor of Baltimore, by 11 points among registered voters.  Among voters who say they are absolutely certain to vote, the Democrat O‘Malley is winning by 16. 

The most recent nationwide poll shows Democrats right now are far more energized about the coming election.  Fifty-six percent say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, the highest level the poll has ever recorded. 

And the poll found that if the election were held today, 54 percent registered voters said they would vote for a Democratic congressional candidate, just 38 percent for a Republican. 

(on camera):  On top of the polls, there is the issue of fundraising.  The latest data from the Federal Election Commission shows that contributions are surging to Democratic candidates and that Democrats have closed what had been a firm Republican financial edge.  The elections, of course, are still more than four months away, but fears in the GOP are growing. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  The Republican majority grew more in 2004 -- that‘s two years ago—in part because of the new districts down in Texas that helped Republicans win some seats.  Today, the Supreme Court said that that district map is legal, with the exception of one congressional district.  Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay was the man who helped draw that map and he‘s here now. 

Mr. DeLay, the Republicans enjoy about a 15 seat advantage in the House of Representatives.  Will they or will they not hold those?  Will they hold the House?

TOM DELAY ®, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Oh, I think they‘ll hold the House.  It‘s too early to tell by how much.  Obviously, we‘re a little behind in some districts around the country, but we‘ve got a long way to go.  This is just June. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Cook says it‘s about 35 seats in play.  Do you see it that way? 

DELAY:  Absolutely, 35 to 40. 

MATTHEWS:  So your party has to win almost a majority of them to hold. 

DELAY:  Another way of saying it, the Democrats have to win more than half of those, in order to gain the House, and that‘s impossible. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the money? 

DELAY:  Well, it‘s impossible because there‘s no tidal wave.  Secondly, the Democrats have nothing to offer.  You can‘t beat something with nothing, and their political strategy right now is pretty pathetic. 

MATTHEWS:  But a lot of nothings won in ‘80, a lot of nothings won in ‘74 on the Democratic side, a lot of nothings won in ‘94.  When there‘s a tidal wave, nothing is win, right? 

DELAY:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t have to be a strong candidate to ride a tidal wave, to body surf your way into a seat, do you? 

DELAY:  No, ‘94, there was something. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s your crowd.  That‘s your crowd.

DELAY:  Six to seven years of working very hard to present what the conservative movement could do for this country.

MATTHEWS:  Well, a lot of numb-nuts win in years when it‘s good for the party.  Let me ask you about the new polling we got here, that 71 percent of the people are anxious to vote—extremely or very anxious to vote.  Do you think they‘re anxious to vote the party that‘s in or are they anxious to vote the party out? 

DELAY:  I think it‘s too early to tell. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the poll was taken right now.  You know they‘re anxious.  What are they anxious for.

DELAY:  That‘s a snapshot in time.  It means nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  So the mood will change? 

DELAY:  The mood will change, particularly will change when people really focus on the campaigns and what people are saying and who the candidates are. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAY:  None of that is going on right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying they‘re dating the Democrats but they‘re not going to marry them?  I‘m serious.  Is that what‘s going on now, because it seems like they‘re flirting with the idea at least of voting Democrat this fall right now? 

DELAY:  Sure.  They‘re a little upset with—particularly our base, upset with the Republicans that are in control right now, but the Republicans have shown not only what they‘ve been able to accomplish, but where they want to take the country.  The Democrats are afraid to tell the American people what they‘re about. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe they don‘t know. 

DELAY:  They know, but they know ...

MATTHEWS:  Where do you think the Democrats are going to take the country?  Are they—how are they going to use the subpoena power if they get the majority in your House? 

DELAY:  They‘ve already held mock hearings to impeach the president of the United States.  They can‘t hide behind that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, didn‘t they get Conyers, the possible chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to promise he wouldn‘t do that? 

DELAY:  He‘s made promises before he hasn‘t kept.  He‘s the one that held the mock hearings to impeach the president and will be the future chairman of the judiciary. 

MATTHEWS:  And you say that‘s training for the real thing. 

DELAY:  It‘s telling their hardcore base exactly where they‘re coming from. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this other new poll I‘m looking at that says that of the people who are likely to vote right now, maybe this is just summer thinking, is a summer romance with the Democrats, but only 21 percent of the people, about a fifth, are anxious to get in those voting booths and vote for the president, or vote for a candidate favorable to the president. 

DELAY:  The president is not running. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but his people are. 

DELAY:  He‘s not.  And certainly if the president is down in the polls, it will have an effect, but I don‘t think a major effect, particularly in the House.  The House as we all know, and your old boss knew, it‘s all local politics.  It‘s about individuals.  It‘s about personalities. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, expect when there‘s a tsunami.  You had a tsunami in ‘94, there was a Reagan tsunami in ‘80 that picked up 33 seats.

DELAY:  No, no, that‘s ...

MATTHEWS:  There was a huge one in 1974 because of Watergate. 

DELAY:  That tsunami in ‘94 was set up five to six years before it ever happened.

MATTHEWS:  It was manmade?

DELAY:  Well, partly, yes, because we, for six years, offered an alternative for everything the Democrats brought to the floor. 

MATTHEWS:  So your plan was to get a president‘s wife to come in with a real left wing healthcare plan so that you could run against it.  Just kidding.

DELAY:  Well, that helped.

MATTHEWS:  It sure did help.  Let me ask you about this fight that‘s going on now.  J.D. Hayworth, one of your former colleagues from Arizona, basically says that the “New York Times,” its editors, obviously Bill Keller, the executive editor, is trying to kill the war in Iraq. 

He wants to end it and the strategy he‘s using is to out the administration‘s intelligence operations from bank checking to intel, to the National Security Agency.  Is that the motive of the “New York Times,” to end this war?   

DELAY:  Well, you don‘t have to attribute motive to the “New York Times.”  All you have to do is read their editorial page and read their biased articles ever since 9/11 to know where they‘re coming from and, frankly, I think there ought to be consequences for what they did. 

MATTHEWS:  Where do you see the bias in the “New York Times.” 

Obviously their editorial page is liberal and anti-war.

DELAY:  Are you kidding? 

MATTHEWS:  Oh no, I‘m just asking.  Give me some examples for the people that aren‘t familiar with the “New York Times.”  It‘s only read in a portion of the country.  

DELAY:  Get up in the morning and read the front page and you can see the bias all over the place. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, when they outed—when they went after the Clinton marriage and they talked about a third woman, when they went all over the Clinton marital problems and questions.  Do you think that was pro-Democrat writing?

DELAY:  That was an incident of time, but over time ...

MATTHEWS:  Right at the top of the front page.

DELAY:  The American people know that the “New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “The Atlanta Constitution,” “The Houston Chronicle,” most of the mainstream media is biased. 

MATTHEWS:  “The Philadelphia Inquirer,” “Baltimore Sun?” 

DELAY:  I don‘t read it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re liberal I think.  But you think “The Washington Post” is a liberal newspaper still? 

DELAY:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  On its editorial pages, it‘s totally pro war. 

DELAY:  It is a liberal newspaper and always has been. 

MATTHEWS:  But it is hawkish. 

DELAY:  At certain times, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Like now. 

DELAY:  Like now. 

MATTHEWS:  Well let me ask you, I haven‘t asked you the big $64,000 question.  What do you think about this issue between the United States government, led by the president right now and the executive branch and the “New York Times.”  This week we had Tony Snow, Jack Snow, Dick Cheney, the president, all firing squad against the head of Bill Keller, the head of the “New York Times,” was that overkill? 

DELAY:  No, it‘s right, they should have done that.  I wish they would do it more often.  When they disagree with the media, most politicians run for the hills.  I‘m very proud of the fact that they stood up and told the truth about what this was all about, how it endangers American citizens, how it undermines national security.  And for what reason?  For a news story?  I mean, we are at war and the “New York Times” better understand that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you treat that new story like outing or giving away a military operation in the field? 

DELAY:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Just as bad? 

DELAY:  It‘s just as bad.  Intelligence is everything, in winning a war, and gathering that intelligence, finding out who the bad guys are, so that you can go after those bad guys, is incredibly important. 

MATTHEWS:  The argument that was raised by “The Times,” I want you to shoot it down, you will I‘m sure, is that the only way Congress and the people know about these programs and can judge them, is to have them known to them, and the administration hasn‘t told the Congress about these programs, like checking on banking records, and electronic financial transfers, so the “New York Times” now has informed the Congress, and Congress, or Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he‘s going to investigate, because he‘s learned something he didn‘t know apparently. 

What do you think of Specter saying he‘s glad he knows it, because he can use the information to investigate the administration now.  He‘s a Republican. 

DELAY:  Listen, we have a process where members of Congress, representing the American people are briefed on these kinds of things, and the “New York Times” hasn‘t even alleged that this was illegal.  They just wanted to ...

MATTHEWS:  Why is Arlen Specter investigating him? 

DELAY:  Well that‘s Arlen Specter, you‘d have to ask him. 

MATTHEWS:  You consider him a RINO, don‘t you.

DELAY:  No.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a RINO right, a Republican in name only? 

DELAY:  You can ask him that.  The point is here is the fact that we

are at war, and you cannot fight a war when you have

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We are going to come back.  Excuse me.  Are you including the “L.A. Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” in your criticism, because they both ran, all three of them ran the story. 

DELAY:  Well, they ran it after it broke. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s not their fault. 

DELAY:  Not their fault. 

MATTHEWS: You like “The Wall Street Journal?” 

DELAY:  Not all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  You like them this time.  We‘ll be right back with former Congressman Tom Delay of Texas.  He‘s won a big one, at least most of it, in getting that Texas delegation put the way he likes it. 

And later Missouri Democrat Claire McKaskel talks about her bid to unseat Senator Jim Talent, one of the endangered species in the Republican party right now.  We‘ll be talking about with her tonight.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BRAKE)

MATHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with former House Majority Leader Tom Delay.  Mr. Delay, do you think that there‘s good politics to be had here by trashing a big New York newspaper like the “New York Times.”  Is that like going after the Yankees in baseball, everybody wants to beat the Yankees?

DELAY:  It‘s not politics.

MATTHEWS:  It isn‘t politics?

DELAY:  This is war.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think Karl Rove is behind this in saying, hey, put in more fire, shoot them again, keep this going a couple of weeks? 

DELAY:  Absolutely not.  This is war.  The “New York Times” has undermined our national security and there ought to be consequences.  It has nothing to do with politics. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re against leaking? 

DELAY:  Yes I‘m against it. 

MATTHEWS:  All leaking?

DELAY:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  So even this thing with the CIA shouldn‘t have been leaked? 

DELAY:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  SO, guys like Rove shouldn‘t have been talking to the papers and people like Scooter Libby shouldn‘t? 

DELAY:  I‘m not going to answer.

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking you. 

DELAY:  I‘m not a judge. 

MATTHEWS:  You said you‘re against leaking. 

DELAY:  You said something that Karl Rove is not being committed on. 

MATTHEWS:  Nobody denied it and nobody contested it.  It‘s public record that he leaked. 

DELAY:  It‘s just you saying that he‘s guilty. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not saying it‘s a crime.  I‘m saying he leaked. 

DELAY:  How do you know he leaked? 

MATTHEWS:  Because it‘s a public record now that he leaked.  That doesn‘t bother you? 

DELAY:  No.  You shouldn‘t be, leaking national security secrets at a time of war is outrageous. 

MATTHEWS:  But not the identity of a CIA agent? 

DELAY:  We can spend an hour on that.  Valerie Plame was not a CIA agent. 

MATTHEWS:  What was she? 

DELAY:  She was behind a desk over at Langley. 

MATTHEWS:  But was her classification under cover? 

DELAY:  Yes, but she was not an out in the field CIA agent.  That‘s what the law is all about. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what the law is about but it doesn‘t say that.  Ok, we have exceptions here.  Let me ask you about the president‘s plan.  It seems to me that Rove has been saying to the Republicans, you say it‘s not political, don‘t hide from the war.  Get out there and make the case. 

DELAY:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think it can be a winner politically, as well as in terms of its merits? 

DELAY:  Absolutely.  Talking about this war, all the successes going on, what the intentions of the United States are, what the victory might look like, what the future may look like, how we‘re going to win the war on terror and how we‘re going to get terrorists and fight them overseas rather than here, that‘s all a winner. 

MATTHEWS:  Fighting Iraqis or terrorists, which group? 

DELAY:  Fighting terrorists. 

MATTHEWS:  Anybody who is opposed to our activities in Iraq is a terrorist? 

DELAY:  Absolutely they‘re a terrorist. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody, all the Sunnis that don‘t like the Shia around the country are terrorists? 

DELAY:  A terrorist is a person who kills innocent people. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, but in political terms, what‘s motivating them. 

DELAY:  It‘s a coward that won‘t put on a uniform and fight a fight. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the decision by Maliki to try to bring in the people fighting us? 

DELAY:  I think he ought to be talking to people that live and want to see a future for Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Should he declare an end to the war over there, if he can pull it off.  If he can end the war between the Sunnis and the Shia, end the war, like all wars, release the prisoners? 

DELAY:  I‘m not going to tell him what he should or shouldn‘t do. 

MATTHEWS:  But he wants to do that.

DELAY:  That‘s up to him as he works through this. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we get out of there in a couple of years, two or three years?  Can we like get out of there?

DELAY:  I have no idea.  We‘re not out of Bosnia. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, it‘s not actual fighting going on there. 

DELAY:  There would be if we weren‘t there. 

MATTHEWS:  But right now there‘s fighting, can we get out of a hostile situation in Iraq or are we going to be stuck there for the rest of our lives?

DELAY:  We can not get out of Iraq until we win in Iraq and there‘s a strong secure government in Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  Most people believe that your party will never take us out of Iraq.  That we‘ll be in there for a long, long, long time because they have strategic objectives there.

DELAY:  Those are people that didn‘t want us going in in the first place.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see. You may be right.  You‘re right often.  Thank you very much, Tom DeLay.  Up next, decision 2006 rolls on.  President Bush won the state of Missouri twice, now a Republican senator in the “Show Me State” could be in troubled according to the polls.  We‘ll talk with his opponent Claire McCaskill, who‘s ahead in the polls right now about her chances of winning when it counts this November.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Bush is in St. Louis tonight to help Missouri Senator Jim Talent raise $1 million for his reelection.  But will that money be enough or is the president‘s visit actually hurting Talent with Missouri‘s independence and swing voters.  Democratic Claire McCaskill is Missouri state auditor.  She‘s also knocked off her party‘s sitting governor back in 2004 in a primary before losing the general.  And she‘s running for the United States Senate right now.  Why do you think you can beat an incumbent U.S. senator, Claire McCaskill?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE:  Well I just think Missourians frankly and I think most Americans have—there‘s kind of a laundry list.  I mean, you can start with incredible overspending, blowing the deficit out of control.  You can look at the incompetence after Katrina.  You can look at a war that has gone badly and turned into politics, as opposed to making us all feel good about our foreign policy.

You know, you‘ve got a senator who pretty much does whatever the president tells him to do.  He votes with President Bush 94 percent of the time, and I must say, I‘m not really happy with the Democrats either. 

I think my success will depend on whether or not Missourians feel comfortable that I can go out to Washington and be very independent and try to find some common sense, common ground. 

MATTHEWS:  Well you‘ve mentioned a lot of arguments that people made against the Republicans.  But you know, those arguments were made two years ago when John Kerry lost your state and he lost the country.  Why do those arguments win now, except for Katrina, which is new?

MCCASKILL:  Well, you know, I don‘t think people—you know, we are big supporters of the military in Missouri.  I think when all those retired generals—all of them start speaking out, people in Missouri understand that that‘s kind of a bold thing, Chris, when you have that many retired military people who have spent decades and decades and care very deeply about our country and about our military.  When they start saying, hey, we‘ve got a huge problem here, Missourians pay attention.  I think that has really made a difference on how most Missourians view the war and what we need to be doing.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s imagine a year and a half from now when it really comes down to whether we leave Iraq or not at all, or we stay there.  Can we leave Iraq if it‘s completely messed up?  Can we walk out of that country with a tottering government, with all kind of nests of outside terrorists, al Qaeda types who‘ve come into the countries since we came in?  Can we leave it in such an unhappy state?

MCCASKILL:  Well, you know, we all want to leave it better than we found it and unfortunately that‘s a real question right now, whether we can leave Iraq.  Obviously Saddam was a really bad guy, and we all wanted to get rid of him and we‘re all glad he‘s gone.  But what we‘ve got now is a mess.  Do I think we can pull completely out of there in a year?  No, I don‘t think we can.

MATTHEWS:  How about two years from now, can we pull out if things are bad? 

MCCASKILL:  I think we can redeploy within, give or take, a two-year framework, be nearby.  But here‘s the problem, if we don‘t begin letting them find the political solutions, and we all know it‘s a political solution that they‘re going to have to find.  If we don‘t let them begin finding their political solutions, we‘re stuck and with a price tag I don‘t think most Americans comprehend the kind of money that‘s being spent over there, which is another thing that I talk about a lot in the campaign.  How do we spend $350 billion and don‘t have armor for our guys?  I don‘t know how we do that.

MATTHEWS:  How do you—I don‘t want to pin you down with what other Democrats are saying, but you‘ve got a couple of Democratic senators, Durbin from Illinois and Carl Levin of Michigan out there saying, “We want to get out of Iraq.  Oh by the way, the government that stays behind when we‘re out of there should make sure that everybody stays in prison for life who shot at an American.”  How can we have it both ways?

MCCASKILL:  Well, I‘m an old prosecutor, so I‘m not big on letting people out of prison that have violated the law.  I don‘t know that we can get in the middle of that country‘s business as they try to find a way to peacefully live with each other. 

I do know this.  It really rubs me wrong and I think it rubs most people wrong that after all we‘ve sacrificed over there, all we have done, that that country would begin saying, “It‘s OK if you killed Americans.”  That bothers me, and I think it bothers most people.

MATTHEWS:  How do you end a war if you don‘t make peace?

MCCASKILL:  Well you know, I think that‘s the problem.  I mean, we went in there—you know, the height of irresponsibility is going into a conflict like that with the kind of problems internally that were there, without any plan for peace.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re like me, Ms. McCaskill.  It‘s easier to decide it was a bad decision to go in than to figure out what to do now.  It is so much harder to figure out how to get out of there than to decide it was a mistake to go in, which most people now believe it was.

MCCASKILL:  I think that‘s right.  And I think we‘ve got to continue to do the best we can to help build the infrastructure and I think when we think of infrastructure, we think of pipeline.  But we really have to build civic infrastructure.  You don‘t build a democracy with the barrel of a gun.

MATTHEWS:  Well, good luck in your race for the Senate.  May the best person win for the country.  Thank you very much, Claire McCaskill, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate out in Missouri.

We should mention that we requested Senator Talent to be a guest on the show tonight, but he was unavailable.  We‘ll keep trying to get him on, keep trying to do it honestly here and fairly.

Up next, HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum and former Bush 41 adviser Ed Rogers will be here to break down and build up Election Day.  All kinds of fun in coming here and good argument.  Are Republicans running with the president or away from him?  Can they run away from the war?  Can they run but not hide?

By the way, don‘t miss HARDBALL Thursday night when our guest will include Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish.  He‘s so popular up in the Philly area, the Delaware Valley we call it.  That‘s part of a special political round table on Decision 2006.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Decision 2006 is now only 132 days away and of course we do politics here quite a bit.  Can Republicans win by running on the record of the Iraq war itself?  Can they take a frontal assault from the Democrats?  Can Democrats take back congress despite being divided on how and when to end this war?  Bob Shrum is a HARDBALL political analyst and Ed Rogers is a Republican strategist and former adviser to the former President Bush. 

Bob Shrum, these newest number are showing the Democrats have an advantage in the numbers, if you look at them conceptually, people say are you going to vote Republican or Democrat, right now it‘s 54 percent Democrat to 38 percent Republican, so in the whole, in the main, but Tom Delay was just here and says you can‘t judge November results in June. 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well the real sleaziness of Delay‘s approach was exposed ...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get personal right away. 

SHRUM:  Look, how do you know when the guy is lying?  He moves his lips.  He sits there and he says that happily, that even if a majority of Americans vote Democratic for Congress, he‘s pretty confident the Republicans will keep the House.  That tell us what‘s wrong with Delay‘s kind of politics. 

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No, that tells us what‘s wrong with the Democrats.  They have a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t say if they all vote Democrat, they still hold the House.

SHRUM:  Non, he said even if a majority votes Democratic, they‘re not going to get the House.  And that is because of what, that he thinks what he‘s done in Texas is good for democracy.  Look, I think we‘re going to see a whole spat of this in the next few years.  Democrats reapportioning in the middle of a decade, Republicans reapportioning in the middle of a decade.  Sometimes it‘s going to help one party, sometimes it‘s going to help the other, but it‘s going to hurt democracy and it‘s going to discredit the process. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you accept the fact, Ed, that the redistricting in Texas is emblematic of a cheat here?   They‘re cheating. 

ROGERS:  No, not at all.  I don‘t think what happened in Texas is particularly significant. 

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s cheating.  Is it cheating?  Setting up a situation where one party gets more votes than the other but loses.

ROGERS:  The answer is no.  Is it cheating?  The answer is no.  Having said that, what the supreme court said is that all the state legislatures can redrawn the lines as frequently as they like and Republicans, we have to be careful what we ask for, because we‘re about to elect a bunch of new Democratic governors, that‘s going to happen.  So now we‘re going to have Democrat governors combined with some new Democrat legislatures and are they going to redraw the line on us.  And so the cycle starts.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s get to the heart of the question, will the president help your party and why is this guy Kennedy, the Senate Kennedy out in Minnesota, yanking the president‘s face off his web site this week? 

ROGERS:  Having the president of the United States as the incumbent party is a big net plus politically, if for no other reason he can raise money and give resources to the campaigns, that will be local elections. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is this guy taking his face off his reelection machinery? 

ROGERS:  I don‘t know about that specific incident, but I do know this.  The president of the United States in the midterm elections, popular or unpopular, doesn‘t drive votes.  I worked in the Reagan White House in 1986 and that didn‘t matter.  What matters was can you use the presidency to give these local campaigns resources.  Not can the president drive votes on election day, because it doesn‘t happen.  Popular or unpopular, history tells us it doesn‘t matter. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, is that right?  Bob, the president is down in St. Louis tonight helping Jim Talent hold his seat.  Is that going to help or hurt Jim Talent? 

SHRUM:  Well let me put it this way.  I think George Bush‘s picture is a lot more likely to appear in a McCaskill ad than it ever is in a Talent ad.  By the way, in 1994, I sat on television, I said these are local elections.  You don‘t have to worry about the national effect.  That‘s what people say when they have nowhere to retreat.  The problem is that the Republicans are behind by double digits on the economy, behind by double digits on health care, behind by double digits on Iraq and it got worse since last week.  Some of the press bought the Rove spin that having a debate on Iraq was going to hurt the Democrats.  Actually what‘s happened since that debate is the Democratic advantage on the issue of Iraq has gone up. 

MATTHEWS:  Lets take a local example because you and I live in this neighborhood and Bob has lived here a long time too.  But, let me ask you about this race.  George Allen has been on this show a lot of time, very affable guy, very likable guy, I know him a bit socially.  He comes on here, I would have said two months ago, this guy is going to win in a walk.  He‘s now being challenged by the former military guy Jim Webb.  I‘ll bet you Jim Webb is up in the high 40‘s already. 

ROGERS:  Well, Jim Webb could very well be in the high 40‘s, but if I were the Democrat nominee in the senate in Virginia, I would probably get 40 percent.  You a pretty high base for a Democrat to start from, plus Jim Webb is an energetic guy, he‘s the flavor of the month for the Democrat.  I hope the Democrats put a lot of money into Jim Webb‘s race, because he‘s going to lose.  George Allen doesn‘t have one symptom of what a losing incumbent senator looks like, and as I said, it‘s not going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s 46-41 percent for the incumbent right now, but there‘s like 13 undecideds out there.  That‘s a lot of undecideds at this point. 

SHRUM:  Listen Ed, when you and I used to do a lot of campaigns, if our incumbent had 46 percent and the other guy had 41 percent and he had just been nominated you would be very worried.  The problem George Allen has is he started running for president too soon.  He took this race for granted.  He‘s out of step with the emerging majority in Virginia as we saw in the governor‘s election last year on a whole series of issues from Iraq to health care to choice, so I think he‘s going to have a real problem in this election. 

ROGERS:  I am dismissive of the Webb candidacy.  If George Allen runs a good campaign and Webb runs a good campaign.  George Allen is going to win in a healthy clip.  Next time you‘re down here, Bob, we‘ll lay money on that. 

MATTHEWS:  I hate to be the young sport here, but everything is changing.  In this business of television news, and public appearance, everything is moving over to the internet, it‘s getting more and more crowded.  Let me ask you about, is the White House smart to start a peeing match with the “New York Times?”  Is that smart?  Jack Snow, Tony Snow, Dick Cheney, the president, firing squad against Bill Keller at the “New York Times.”

ROGERS:  I‘m not sure I agree with the premise of your question about a peeing match with the “New York Times.”

MATTHEWS:  What would you call it?

ROGERS:  But I do say this.  Is it right to talk about whether or not disclosing classified information is against the law or not.  

MATTHEWS:  These words that are being thrown around on the right, treason, espionage, twenty years in prison.

ROGERS:  Those words should not be directed at any given individual or institution.  Having said that, somebody gave it to the “New York Times,” there should be an investigation about how that happened.  The “New York Times” published it.  Are they culpable and complicit in aiding the terrorists? That‘s a fair question.

MATTHEWS:  Peter King was sitting here, the U.S. congressman—he said the difference between the “New York Times,” Bill Keller, and a communist, Alger Hiss, is simply a matter of degree.  Shrum, do you have a reaction to that?

SHRUM:  Yes, I do.  Listen, I haven‘t always liked what the “New York Times” has written about me.

ROGERS:  You‘re kidding.

SHRUM:  But let me tell you something.  For the administration to start throwing around words and Republicans to start throwing around words like treason, and giving aid and comfort to the enemy is not only totally irresponsible, it repeats the mistake Richard Nixon made for example on the Pentagon Papers. 

The “New York Times” has done a lot more good for this country than George W. Bush ever has.

MATTHEWS:  Were they right to talk about the Clinton—Bob Shrum, just to even this thing out, were they right to put a front page story about the Clintons and this other woman and all that on the front page?

SHRUM:  I thought Pat Healy‘s was fair and very carefully written.  I think Bill Keller went about the process of publishing this story in a way that was very fair and it went into deep conversations with the administration before he did it. 

You know, Chris, you will recall because you‘ve written about it that John Kennedy said one of the things he regretted most was that the “New York Times” did not publish the news it had about the Bay of Pigs, but instead listened to the administration, withheld it, and we had that disaster.  We‘re now in a disaster in Iraq and we need the truth.

ROGERS:  I wish that Democrat candidates would say...

SHRUM:  ... Democratic, Ed, you could use the word Democratic, Ed.

ROGERS:  Democratic, small “d.”  I wish they would say what you just said, that the “New York Times” has done more for America than George Wish.  I wish the Democrat candidates—Democratic—and I challenge them to say that.  Say what Bob just said.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll say one thing, they‘ll be around when he‘s gone.  Thank you, Bob Shrum and Ed Rogers, thank you.  And never argue with a guy with a barrel of ink.  Up next, can Republicans beat Democrats by beating up on the media?  More on this.  Will conservatives show up at the polls because they hate the “New York Times?”  Is that enough motivation?  MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford is coming here and former ABC correspondent Bob Zelnick‘s also coming.  This is going to be a big one.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Tomorrow, House Republicans will take another whack at the media when they put forth a resolution, a non-binding resolution to condemn media organizations that reported on a secret program to monitor financial transactions of suspected terrorists.  Is all this justified? 

Bob Zelnick worked for ABC News for 21 years, now he‘s a journalism professor at Boston University.  Craig Crawford is an MSNBC political analyst.  Bob, you start.  Assess the decision of Bill Keller, executive editor of the “New York Times.”

BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Pardon me Chris, I didn‘t hear the question.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think it was a wise decision?

ZELNICK:  No, I think it was an unwise decision.  I think that there should have been greater deference paid to the views of the administration, the fact that we‘re fighting international terrorism, the fact that financing international terrorism is tricky business, it‘s very important.  It‘s vital, and that if we‘re doing something to interrupt that flow and it‘s reasonably well-supervised and effective, I think the newspapers ought to keep quiet and defer to the judgment of the administration on this particular question.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Craig, what‘s your view?  The wisdom of the decision?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well the “New York Times” did that for a year in the warrantless surveillance cases, they deferred...

MATTHEWS:  ... And by the way, they may have helped this administration get reelected.

CRAWFORD:  And they deferred to the administration on that and I think it was kind of fool me twice, shame on me in the “New York Times” attitude.  But also this story didn‘t reveal that much new.  There was some—the extent of the program and significance of it.

MATTHEWS:  But if you read the letter of Secretary Snow to Bill Keller of the “New York Times.”  And I have no reason to believe that Secretary Snow is a dishonest man at all, he says, “Yes, they have resorted to a lot of personal couriers, rather than using delivery systems of money.  But we‘re still able to nab some bad guys by using this method.  Why have you outed us?”

CRAWFORD:  Chris, there‘s a parade of testimony on the Hill, speeches from administration officials, press conferences, and other news articles going back to 2001, even a month of after the 9/11 where the idea of monitoring—electronically monitoring these financial transactions was being done, back when...

ZELNICK:  I think...

CRAWFORD:  ... this administration was eager to publicize it.

ZELNICK:  I think the height of disingenuousness to say there‘s nothing new.  Here the leading newspaper in the country leads its paper with this article, it runs on for thousands of words, contains an intimate dissection of the Swift operation.  And I went back and looked at past writings on it, there was to mention of Swift.  There was just general assurances that we‘re doing a good job monitoring the finances.

CRAWFORD:  There was a 30-plus page U.N. report on this program back in 2002.  The administration had talked about this program over and over again.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Bob, you‘ve been in the business at a pretty high level with ABC.  I want to know the motive, what was the motive, Bob?

CRAWFORD:  The extent and significance—I mean, what was new was the extend and significance of the program was new in this article.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re talking about judgment here.  Let‘s face it, we‘re talking about one man mainly, Bill Keller.  What do you think his reason was for publishing, Bob Zelnick, that “New York Times” editor?

ZELNICK:  I think the “New York Times” is a paper that upholds traditional journalistic standards.  It believes in the public‘s right to know, and sometimes it gets in a situation where it believes too strongly in the public‘s right to know. 

I think the war in Iraq has shaped the media‘s attention and has convinced many that the administration can‘t be trusted and they‘re willing to err on the side of too much publication rather than too little.  I think it‘s understandable, I just think they‘ve made a bad decision.

CRAWFORD:  We‘ve seen too many examples now of this administration not fessing up.  In the NSA case for example, one reason the “New York Times” held off for a year is on the assurances of administration officials that they had plenty of safeguards.  To safeguard civil liberties—that has not turned out to be the case.

ZELNICK:  I supported...

CRAWFORD:  ... The question is, at what point does—this administration will not submit itself to oversight on any of these programs.  Not to the courts, not to Congress.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me...

CRAWFORD:  ... as a result, the media‘s the only way to get out the information.

MATTHEWS:  I want to understand it here, Bob.  What is the standard?  Is this an operation underway in the field of battle?  What is the standard for which it shouldn‘t print?

ZELNICK:  I think the standard for which it shouldn‘t print is endangering the lives of American soldiers.  If you‘re in the field of battle, that‘s certainly widely accepted. There are other situations in wartime where you don‘t print something you learn, if it compromises sources, methods, gives positions away. 

The “Chicago Tribune” in the famous case published the fact that the Japanese code had been broken during World War II.  Had the Japanese read the paper, it would have been very costly to U.S. lives and interests in the war. 

So I think in every case—I supported the “Times” in the NSA case because I don‘t think the administration ever made a convincing job, convincing argument, that they couldn‘t conduct this operation in the framework of court supervision.  I think they failed in that respect, and I supported the “Times.”

This time, I think the value to the public in terms of the right to know was far exceeded by the value to al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, of knowing what the administration was up to and I think the “Times” was wrong this time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Bob Zelnick.  Thank you at B.U., and thank you very much Craig Crawford.

Take a look at Stephen Colbert and myself last night on the “Colbert Report.”  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think I‘m winning this interview here.  I think I‘m beating Steve Colbert.  If we are down now in numbers.  I think if we were to take a poll right now, you would losing in points. 

STEPHEN COLBERT, “COLBERT REPORT”:  Do you want to arm wrestle? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me show you something.  Raise (ph) it.  Raise it.  Raise it.  Raise it.  Raise it.  Raise it.  I can tell you how to—you want to do that to me? 

COLBERT:  Yes, I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Good. 

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  How do you do this?  Wow, that‘s very aggressive.

MATTHEWS:  That was fun, because I got to play offense and defense. 

Defense is more fun, by the way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was an intellectual exercise. 

HARDBALL will be back in just a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Actress Mia Farrow spends much of her as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.  She just returned from Darfur, where she saw firsthand the plight of some almost two million children who continue to fight for life every day.

Mia, thank you for joining us.  What did you experience over there?

MIA FARROW, ACTRESS/ACTIVIST:  Well, in 18 months since I was last there the situation is, if anything, more deplorable and is disintegrating fast.  I have nothing good to report.

On May the 5th, a peace agreement was reached, the Darfur Peace Agreement, and that triggered off a lot of controversy in the—within the rebel groups.  Splits have hardened, mobilized, and they are armed and they‘re angry. 

What we have is a population of some two million in the camps, utterly helpless, about 98 percent women and children.  And, as we know, there is no safety for them.  The camps are invaded day and night by Janjaweed.  All the inhabitants of the camps have been—have experienced a high degree of trauma. 

I met a woman whose baby was torn from her back and bayonetted before her eyes.  Three of her five children were killed that day, and they and her husband were stuffed down a well.  Her house and village were burned and she held my hand and implored me to tell people what is going on.  I am here to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell us what the American people watching right now and what they‘re government can do.  Individuals can‘t do much.  What do they want or you want the government of the United States to do? 

FARROW:  Well, I—what has to happen and happen fast is a U.N.  peacekeeping force has to come in, a robust peacekeeping force of NATO quality.  Twenty thousand strong is what Kofi Annan recommended in January, and air support as well. 

And no one is talking about, you know, military takeover.  We are talking about a robust peacekeeping force to bring a much need security to the region, and safety for the nearly four million people that the World Food Program is now keeping alive. 

What you have is humanitarians risking their lives in difficult and dangerous circumstances.  Their own safety is in no ways insured, and they are really sustaining this very vulnerable population. 

So what we can do is two things.  We can support the humanitarian agencies.  UNICEF, for example, has only 20 percent of what it needs to continue its work in Darfur, and other agencies are in similarly strapped straits.  So support the relief agencies, and urge our leadership.  There is, of course, a lack of political will.  There is no oil in Darfur, only human beings, so ... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the African countries, would they be open to an European force or an international force? 

FARROW:  I think that they—everyone would have to agree that the African Union was sent in, they were poorly trained and inadequately equipped and supported in every way, and it‘s not their fault.  They have given it their best, but they have failed to provide any support for the people and any security for the people, so they need help, and they need it fast. 

MATTHEWS:  But will the African countries, some 60 countries plus, I believe, in that continent, will they welcome an outside force into their continent? 

FARROW:  I think, depending on how you want to word it, support from the African Union, or whether it requires a takeover, the language is irrelevant.  Now what we are seeing is almost a half a million people have been either slaughtered or died of disease and hangar.  Somebody has to come in there, and I think that the African Union will welcome the coming in of the U.N. 

MATTHEWS:  Who would we be—if we were to be part of an international force, who would we be shooting at?  Who would we be keeping from doing what they wanted to do?  Who would be the bad guys in this scene? 

FARROW:  Well, the bad guys are the government of Sudan, and their proxy Janjaweed, the armed Arab militia, and now there is turbulence among the rebel factions, so what we need is a peacekeeping force and we‘ve seen this be effective in southern Sudan and other countries.  We would need that nature.

MATTHEWS:  Mia Farrow, thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL tonight.

FARROW:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  A powerful message.  Thank you for coming.

Tomorrow night, a four-way “hardbrawl”—Kate O‘Beirne, Michael Smerconish, Eugene Robinson are going to come to pick apart campaign politics.  And we‘re going to have another guy to that fourth group obviously.

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

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

END   

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